Commentary by Wan Hamidi Hamid
OCT 2 — Teresa Kok must be wondering why some Malays are adamant in portraying her as a Chinese chauvinist, villain of peace and enemy of Islam. With her impeccable record as the most hardworking wakil rakyat and the Member of Parliament with the highest majority votes in the country, she must be at a loss to fathom the attempts to assassinate her character.
From the blatant lies that she had opposed the azan (the Islamic call to prayer), to her wearing a skirt inside a mosque, the Seputeh MP has to live through the nightmare of racial politics almost on a daily basis.
Despite repeated denials of the azan issue — for which she was detained under the draconian Internal Security Act for seven days — Kok is still being chastised by some quarters linked to Umno, including the Malay daily Utusan Malaysia.
For the three-term MP, who is known among her close friends as a devout Catholic and a staunch believer in multiracialism, the detention without trial-ISA was not enough for her detractors. After her release, some extremist elements threw a Molotov cocktail into her parents' house.
To make matters worse, a whole lot of text messages were sent around justifying the violent act. The saddest part of the story is that some Malays actually believe that Kok is guilty of insulting Islam — which she is not.
The problem is those who believe the lies probably read one particular newspaper that is prone to promote racial supremacy. There are other Malay-language newspapers with higher circulation than the one espousing racist tendencies, yet they are not keen on resorting to false news. They seem to know the danger of playing up baseless racial accusations.
So what gives? Despite the many possible answers, it is likely that Umno, particularly in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, which suffered one of its worst election defeats, is venting anger in the only way some of its leaders know — racism.
Already many Barisan Nasional component parties are unhappy with recent racial episodes.
Now that the Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) has left BN and Gerakan is mulling a similar move, the situation is critical for Umno-led BN. The fact that Umno is more concerned with its leadership transition, thus ignoring its partners, is likely to be a push factor for component members in the federal ruling coalition.
The tussle for the top leadership in Umno is expected to bring out the nastiest and dirtiest of tactics, especially when the party divisional meetings – the real backbone of Umno – begin next week.
As reflected during the branch meetings of the last three months, Ketuanan Melayu, or Malay supremacy, was the keyword among the grassroots leaders and members. Although top leaders have defined it as the struggle for the betterment of the Malays, others took it literally to mean the superiority of the Malays over other Malaysians.
This is especially true in the case of Teresa Kok when attempts to demonise her, despite being based on slander, continue to spread among the racist political element of the usually moderate and fair-minded Malays.
To this racist minority, Umno hegemony is their game, never mind that the basis of BN is racial harmony. They couldn't care less about muhibbah so long as their supremacist definition of the Malay is accepted by all.
Their only problem is that they are in the minority. Even Kok acknowledges it. She knows many more Malays accept her, not only as an MP or a Selangor state executive councillor, but also as a fellow Malaysian.
But spending a stint under the ISA and suffering the trauma of her parents' home being fire-bombed is not an easy experience to live with. She is hoping that more Malaysians, especially the Malays, speak up against racism and those who perpetuate the dangerous trend.
Even in high places she has good Malay friends. Former de facto Law Minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim quit the government in protest against Kok's arrest under the ISA and has even written an open letter to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to abolish the cruel law.
Kok has always been a popular figure with the Malay grassroots in the Klang Valley.
Immediately after she was released from the ISA, she attended a number of breaking-of-fast ceremonies, including at the Cheras Baru mosque, the one which she was accused of going into wearing a skirt.
The truth of the matter is the event was organised outside the mosque and Kok was wearing a long skirt covering her knees, similar to skirts she wears in Parliament, the Selangor state assembly and her state government office. She did not even enter the mosque.
But racists with agendas do not let facts get in the way of a good distortion in their favour. It's never too late, however, for some of these people to reflect on the good month of Syawal to ask for forgiveness from those who have been wrongly accused.