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More than just anti-ICERD

  • Participating in the rally may not be just for ICERD but could also be a convenient outlet for these people's frustration and disenchantment with realistic life. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily

Sin Chew Daily

All eyes are on this Saturday. Will some half a million people take to the street of Kuala Lumpur this weekend? Will there be a riot?

Or, the anti-ICERD rally will only see a paltry turnout?

I think half a million is more of a psychological warfare strategy than a scientific projection aimed at getting more people to turn up.

There hasn't been a rally in Malaysia that has more than 100,000 participants. Even for Reformasi and Bersih rallies, 50,000 is almost a ceiling number.

Given the current lukewarm political atmosphere, to get 500,000 people to show up this weekend is at best an unrealistic dream of Ahmad Zahid and Hadi Awang.

But that does not mean we can take things lightly.

Firstly, we must not underestimate PAS' power in mobilizing the crowd. Although the party does not win the most seats in elections, it has an impressive crowd base, including many die-hard supporters.

As long as the top leaders pass down an order, the party's machinery will be fired up and people will start to blindly follow the Pied Piper of Hamelin.

This is not just the powerful clout of PAS but the might of religion. Commanding the ultimate spokesmanship of Islam, PAS' motives and purposes will never be questioned by its followers.

Indeed, a characteristic of this religion is total submission, not suspicion.

In its essence ICERD (the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination) has nothing much to do with religion, save for a slight mention of "religious equality" which has been exploited by Hadi Awang claiming that ICERD is going to undermine Islam's status in this country. This implies that there is no way Islam can be equal with other religions here.

Once ICERD is interpreted as being anti-Islam, the collective emotion of Muslims will be instantly incited, hence the swollen anti-ICERD force.

Secondly, Umno will go all out for it. In the absence of vested interest being an opposition party now, Umno has nothing to fear in playing up racist issues, and ICERD is seen as a political asset that will strengthen the party's rightist and conservative Malay base.

Claiming to have three million members, Umno has more than 2,000 branches nationwide with a common goal of opposing the sitting government.

Thirdly, the rally is not just to protest ICERD; nor celebrate the government's decision of not ratifying it. More than anything else the organizers want to make use of this rally to express an acute sense of insecurity in the Malay society and to blast the PH government.

ICERD will not threaten the status of the Malays, a fact that many Malays are well aware of. The thing is: Malays unhappy with the current environment need a good excuse to vent their frustration.

Sluggish economy, declining palm oil and rubber prices, worsening unemployment, rising cost of living, etc., all these are not new problems but have aggravated after PH came into power.

Participating in the rally may not be just for ICERD but could also be a convenient outlet for these people's frustration and disenchantment with realistic life.

While there may not be half a million people in the street tomorrow, tens of thousands should be more than enough to demonstrate a powerful force to energize Umno and PAS still struggling to recover from the post-electoral depression.

The organizers promise that the rally will be conducted peacefully, but it is not easy to control a huge crowd especially if a handful of ill-intentioned trouble-makers make it into the crowd.

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