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The Sin Chew I know

  • From my perspective, many many things that Utusan did were completely un-Islamic but many many things Sin Chew has done merit a Muslim's praise.

By Professor Dr. Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi

The statement of Mohamad Sabu comparing Sin Chew with Utusan as two news media fanning racial sentiments is the subject of my column piece today.

I am not sure if Mohamad Sabu can read Mandarin or not but most assuredly, I can’t! Hence, if Mohamad Sabu cannot read Mandarin, then I would say that his statement cannot be taken seriously but that his allegation borders on pure political sandiwara to appease his Malay audience.

Of late I find that Mohamad Sabu has changed from the fiery no-nonsense speaker I knew from 20 years of Reformasi to a mouse waiting for his ‘boss’ to say or throw tidbit.

That may be okay 1.5 years ago as he was still learning the ropes and also trying to stabilize the PH cabinet. But after 1.5 years even he is quiet on the Zakir Naik issue as a Muslim reformist. Either Islamic reformation is dead or Mohamad Sabu has lost his charisma and courage completely under the new emperor’s dress code.

I only knew about Sin Chew for barely a year. When my article about being raised in a Chinese school went completely viral, I was invited by several Chinese dailies to interviews and also to republish my articles in Mandarin.

My present editor called me one day and invited me to be a columnist by translating many of my English articles from Free Malaysia Today and my Malay articles from Sinar Harian. Sometimes I would write specific articles for Sin Chew by request, like the Merdeka day article and this one specifically.

Malaysia is still divided by cultural languages and much of our problems come from miscommunication as well as traditional mindsets of all the cultures, particularly the Malays. Couple that with naughty Malay politicians fanning racial and religious cards, this drama will last several more lifetimes and there may not be an end in sight.

I know how to solve our racial and religious problems within 15 years but my programs and suggestions have been ignored by both the Malay and non-Malay leadership of the PH government. If my programs are not taken seriously, then we should wave goodbye to Malaysia.

Back to the accusation of Mohamad Sabu, I think there are two things that the minister failed to take into account in his brash statement of accusation.

Firstly, Sin Chew has appointed several non-Chinese columnists like Mariam Mokhtar, Azmi Sharom and myself. This in itself shows the commitment of the daily. Unlike Utusan or Sinar Harian with many columnists all of whom are Malays, I read what these columnists say, and I think much of it smacks of racism and bigotry. Mohamad Sabu should really have special officers who should summarize and analyze the dailies in Mandarin to brief him before he shoots his mouth from his hip.

I have also been invited with the likes of Siti Kassim and Sisters in Islam on video shows streamed live to the audience. I do not remember whether any of the Malay dailies have invited controversial figures of the Malay community like myself, Siti and Marina Mahathir. I think even Amanah might find our views uneasy for their still conservative Islam.

Secondly, from the historical point of view, I have come to understand that Sin Chew has been shut down a few times, unlike Utusan. I have also come to understand that Umno began to use Utusan as their official mouthpiece abandoning the integrity of journalism which I am most familiar with in the Mahathir, Badawi and Najib eras 20 years running.

The same cannot be said of Sin Chew. The fact that Sin Chew was shut down showed its strength in the Chinese community that perhaps interfered with Umno's domination of the Malaysian-Malay agenda rather than ‘fanning racial’ sentiments.

Finally, after a change of government, why is it that Sin Chew still survives and Utusan is floundering? If, like Utusan, Sin Chew was appropriated by Gerakan or MCA, it would also be in the red with the total rejection of both political parties by the Chinese and other communities. Utusan could not survive without political patronage. Sin Chew can because it has never been subjected to any direct political ownership.

Mohamad Sabu should either learn Mandarin and judge for himself or brush up on history of media industries in Malaysia before subjecting himself to mistrust of the citizenry on his Islamic fairness and historical justice.

From my perspective, many many things that Utusan did were completely un-Islamic but many many things Sin Chew has done merit a Muslim's praise.

Can the minister see that himself or is it that his party Amanah has substituted its ‘Islamic-Reformist flag’ with a ‘Malay-Nationalsitic’ one? Hmmm…I wonder.

(Professor Dr. Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi is Professor at UCSI University.)


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