By Azrul Mohd Khalib
OCTOBER 19 — I am sure that many of us who have read the death threats made towards Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, Maria Chin Abdullah and her sons, as well as Mandeep Singh have been horrified at its contents and dark promises of terror.
Determining whether or not these messages actually originated from the local chapter of the Islamic State (IS) is necessary, but what is important at this point should be how we respond to such threats.
The Police DiRaja Malaysia (PDRM) will need to take this threat seriously and investigate, doubly so when it comes wrapped in IS imagery. I hope that they will investigate and seek to prosecute those behind these messages. Nothing justifies employing such barbarity. There are no ifs, buts or caveats which provide an exception as to why such tactics of intimidation are acceptable.
We need to support the PDRM in their investigation of this incidence and all other instances of this kind. There can be no tolerance of this kind of behaviour. Neither hate speech nor terror threats are free speech.
The terrible and chilling violence of the accompanying photos represents a new downward development in the deteriorating and increasingly polarised Malaysian political scene. Unfortunately, this low point was not unexpected and we cannot pretend to be surprised that it has come to this.
Just last weekend, a couple of female journalists were assailed and manhandled by supporters of the Red Shirts/ Umno while covering a Bersih convoy in Kuala Selangor. Convoys in Perak, Kedah and Sabah earlier this month encountered thugs and mobs who attacked vehicles, employed tactics of aggression and intimidation, and did not hesitate to physically attack individuals despite there being no threat and no provocation.
“Rasakan!” “Padan muka” “Tahu pun nak mintak tolong dari polis!” “Di mana ada baju kuning, di situ akan ada baju merah!”
There’s a fair amount of schadenfreude and satisfaction by certain quarters observing the harassment and confrontations experienced by this group calling for free and fair elections, a clean government, the strengthening of parliamentary democracy, the protection of the right to dissent, and the empowerment of our sisters and brothers in Sabah and Sarawak.
There is a resounding silence from this country’s leadership and little in the way of condemnation or denunciation of the increasing incidence of thuggery, violence, threats of harm and intimidation, and hate speech by those clothed in the bright colours of the ruling party.
Surprisingly, there has also been a certain amount of acceptance and tolerance from society in general in response to these repulsive images and text.
Sure, the usual civil society activists, members of the opposition, and various NGOs have spoken out. But where is everyone else? Malay Muslim society especially should be outraged and be the first to denounce what is being done supposedly in their name and their religion.
Perhaps it can be argued that most people haven’t seen these Whatsapp messages. However, when presented with copies of the latter, the response has been largely silence, indifference or mutterings of “no comment” when opinions are sought.
This silence comes at a cost. That cost is the normalising of hate-filled, violent and ugly displays of bigotry and prejudice. Today, it is towards someone wearing a yellow t-shirt fighting for an idea and a vision for a better country. Tomorrow, it could be towards someone who is of a different ethnicity, culture, race and religion.
Our esteemed and respected Islamic religious leaders have also been conspicuously quiet on this subject. While they have been eager to fight for the imposition of draconian religious laws, the right to peer into our private lives, and claim confusion over sausages and hot dogs, moral policing appears to be verboten on topics such as grand corruption and the misuse of religion to justify race-based threats and heinous acts of violence.
They are not stupid. They know that this is wrong yet they continue to be silent. Why? Violence has no place in religion. Violence, after all, has no religion.
Who among our religious and Malay leaders will be courageous enough to denounce these acts of cowardice and terror? What will it take for them to break their silence?
Arresting the supposed ringleader might seem like action but continued silence and failure to condemn or denounce will send the wrong message. It may provide inspiration or permission for those bent on taking it a step further into bloodshed.
Terrorism is defined as “the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal; the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.” What has been experienced by Maria Chin Abdullah and her sons, Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, and Mandeep Singh, is terrorism.
We as citizens of this country will have to pay the price for silence and our own failure to speak out and condemn such acts. It should not take a drastic and dramatic incident before we are moved to do so.
Our response to cowardly threats which aim to intimidate, restrict and curtail our rights and freedoms should be full-throated and unequivocal.
My thoughts and support are with Maria Chin Abdullah, Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, Mandeep Singh and their families.
We must stand together with them.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.