Panicked about ICERD: Are we normalising racism?
Malaysians are once again dragged into an episode of heated racial and ethnicity debate, inviting emotional and fearmongering speeches at the mention of the ratification of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) in the Parliament.
Following the adverse response and race card played by certain quarters that claims ICERD ratification will rock their boat, the only honest question any sound mind with the correct understanding of ICERD and its objective should ask would be; does by not ratifying ICERD means we are normalising racism?
ICERD in a nutshell
ICERD is an anti-racism treaty, which eliminates racial discrimination and promotes understanding among all races.
Article 1 defines the term “racial discrimination” but what’s interesting is that Article 1 and 2 surprisingly states affirmative action, that is in line with Article 153 of the Federal Constitution!
Article 2.1 reads:
“States Parties shall, when the circumstances so warrant, take, in the social, economic, cultural and other fields, special and concrete measures to ensure the adequate development and protection of certain racial groups or individuals belonging to them, for the purpose of guaranteeing them the full and equal enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms. These measures shall in no case entail as a con sequence the maintenance of unequal or separate rights for different racial groups after the objectives for which they were taken have been achieved”.
Now, are the protesters aware of this aforementioned clause? The fact that ICERD actually recognises Article 153?
Just because the convention is named by some words like “elimination” and “racial discrimination”, people are as always, quick to jump and panic, without reading and understanding the content in full details.
Granted, the United Nation only published it in their four official languages; Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish -hence Pakatan Harapan government should have taken proactive measures to have the instrument translated and published in Malay language, for the masses’ reference.
As a result, ICERD was interpreted falsely, misleading so many people with claims that it covers royalty, religion and to the extent of LGBTQ in Article 5(d)(iv) when it says “rights to marriage and choice of spouse”.
Addressing the Hard Questions:Any Revision in the Federal Constitution upon the Ratification?
It is clear that the Malays are concerned the most about this Ratification.
We understand their worries, moreso when it has been exaggerated by the Opposition party. The ratification eventually became their political propaganda, which they fed the Malays with fear, coupled with assumptions and attempts to create anxiety and tension in racial harmony.
Among the hard questions raised are the status quo of the matters in relation to the following Articles of the Federal Constitution:
“Malay Supremacy”, Article 153, Jus Soli, Social Contract and Islam being the Religion of the Federation.
It would take us back to History 101, the time when the Federation of Malaya officially became independent of the British Empire in 1957, to realign our understanding on how the aforementioned matters are related to one another, and; how some of us might have misinterpreted the whole concept all along.
Let us frame our perspective correctly; Article 153 has always been about the special position of Bumiputras. It can be interpreted in many ways, up and open for debate but the bottom line is, special position does not necessarily entail entitlements or supremacy.
“Malay Supremacy” is in fact a new vocabulary circa 1986 and was made famous in the 90s. It has neither been endorsed in the Federal Constitution nor the cabinet.
The term was coined and cited by a race-based party that has used it as a “tool” to stay in power over the years. Clearly, racial politics was the only way for them to survive, until recently.
Such term carries nothing but a controversial meaning and promotes a concept that divides the multiracial society and harmony in Malaysia. Come to think of it, what does it really mean by “Malay Supremacy” – in what way and what sense?
It is like claiming entitlement to something as good as a myth, with almost vague understanding of what “Malay Supremacy” really is, hence throwing assumption that that is what Article 153 meant on Special Position of Bumiputras. Or simply because everyone else is saying it that way?
This is Malaysia, a country where all of us has been living in harmony, abiding social contract of the Federal Constitution for the past six decades.
Power hungry parties should be utmost cautious and mindful of the possible impacts when they came up with terms that insinuates racism because it could easily break the nation apart.
Islam and Racial Superiority
Muslims have been taught and reminded over and over again in the Holy Quran that there is no race superior than another.
One of which is the following Surah Al- Hujurat, verse 13:
“O’ Humanity! Without doubt We have created you from a male and a female and have made you into various nations and tribes, so that you may come to know and understand one another. Definitely the most honoured among you in the sight of Allah is the one who is the most Allah-Consciousness. Surely Allah has full Knowledge and is All-Aware.”
Islamic tradition known as Hadith too states that in one of the final sermons, the Prophet Muhammad, Allah’s Blessings and Peace be upon him, said:
“There is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab, nor for a non-Arab over an Arab. Neither is the white superior over the black, nor is the black superior over the white — except by piety.”
This hadith is not only straight forward but clearly put the concept of “Malay Supremacy” into question. It is totally contradicting to the teachings in Islam; being the Religion of the Federation that were upheld by the same people who believed in “Malay Supremacy”, to say the least.
So, it begs further questions to our bewilderments, is the claim for “Malay Supremacy” really in accordance to Islamic teaching? To pronounce that the Malays are more superior to other races when “Malay Supremacy” literally means the Malays are the lord and assume proprietorship of Malaysia?
The term, literally and logically thinking, does not make sense and is way beyond irrelevant in this day and age. No one is questioning Article 153 but the “Malay Supremacy” concept was viciously propagated into Article 153 and can be very cancerous in racial harmony.
Historically speaking, there are “Malacca Sultanate” in our history, translated as “Ketuanan Melayu Melaka” and “Monarchies of Malaysia” also translated as “Sistem Beraja”. However, these two applied only to the royals.
This matter is not supposed to be sensitive to any party as the concept of “Malay Supremacy” has been falsely engrained in the Malays’ understanding for years, a concept created out of nothing, thanks to some leaders’ careless and desperate attempts to gain support from the Malays.
This has to be corrected but by the looks of the news on the demonstrations held, provocative statements and nauseating hate speech delivered by certain quarters; the future of Malaysia in maintaining unity, peace and racial harmony, is worrying, is alarming.
In one video shared online, it was seen that a wedding in Padang Temu, Melaka, had a group of people playing kompang to “Anak Kecil Main Api”, a song that became famous for its lyrics associated to a race-based party and their assemblies.
Yes, a wedding of a married couple, but political elements are being thrown in it for obvious reasons, using the wrong platform for politics. Let that sink in.
Reservations to parts of ICERD are allowed as long as they are not “incompatible with the object and purpose” of the treaty.
To put the Malays’ worries into perspective, human rights lawyers have come forward and highlighted that this international instrument allows members of the convention to place reservations i.e. reserving rights to apply our own policies on certain matters.
When asked by Pengerang MP Azalina Othman whether the Article 153 will be abolished if ICERD is ratified, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department P. Waytha Moorthy has given the assurance that the government will not abolish Article 153 and the natives including those from Sabah and Sarawak is safeguarded and protected.
However, the Prime Minister’s Office has released a Press Statement on 23 November 2018 stating and reassuring that Pakatan Harapan Government will not be ratifying ICERD.
In addition, it was also stated that the Government will be protecting the Federal Constitution which upholds the social contracts that has been agreed upon by all races, from the beginning of the formation of Malaysia.
Having said that, after over 179 signatories entered into this anti-racism treaty, and Malaysia deciding not to ratify it, one can’t help but wonder if does it mean that we are normalising racism?
Or does it go to say that we are not recognizing the fact that racism is happening in Malaysia?If we all know that there is still a racial discrimination at certain degree happening in our country, then what is the Government doing about it?
Is the Government acting under the influence of the pressure group or in the interest of the country’s racial harmony?
-And all of these were decided without taking further consideration that the objectives of ratifying ICERD would give greater good to the country at international level?
Has the Government, the Minister of Communication particularly, done enough preparation to educate Malaysians upon bringing this convention to the Parliament?
What preparation has the Government done to encounter false claim like there is now, and to mitigate all worries we hear from our Malay friends?
How much has the Government played their role in giving their assurance that no one’s rights will be reduced in any part of the Federal Constitution?
Finally, is this the best Malaysia Baharu can do in the name of REFORMASI?
Malaysia Needs to Heal from this “Racial” Disease
My hope for Malaysia is that, we could one day, truly see everyone beyond their skin colours, birthplace, family origin and religious beliefs.
Growing up, I remember going to my neighbours’ houses for various festive celebrations. I can attest that it was a healthy upbringing for anyone to experience when you get the chance to interact with friends from other races and understand other cultures better.
Never had I been taught that the Malays are more superior than other races just because that is what was assumed in Article 153.
It is rather sad to see Malaysia Baharu going backwards when we have a party “rising” up to defend something they created by their own interpretation.
Even after ICERD is not being ratified, it is expected that this racial issue will still be played over and over again by certain quarters.
It is definitely high time for Malaysians who believe in humanity, love and respect for each other, to stand together firmly, so we do not let this racial issue poison us all.
“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” ?Audre Lorde, Our Dead Behind Us: Poems