I don’t know why I chose “fractured” for the heading of this article to describe the state of affairs we Malaysians are in now.
The appropriate or rather the right word to use, I suppose, is “divided.”
Perhaps I wanted to “soften” the title. But soften this article itself I cannot.
I need to be honest with myself. Hence, I say here that we, as citizens of this beautiful country, are divided frighteningly after the recently concluded GE15.
Not that we were perfectly united before this. We have had our “divisiveness,” but not like the sad, and I say it again, frightening current state of affairs.
The voting on Saturday 19 November 2022 resulted in peninsular Malaysia carved distinctively into Perikatan Nasional territory and Pakatan Harapan bastion or kingdom, if you like.
As we know, PN swept Kelantan and Terengganu and won comfortably in Kedah and Perlis as well as a couple of seats in Penang.
That created a north and east coast “region” ruled by PN. Needless to say, it’s a predominantly Malay/Muslim region.
Again, needless to say, the Malay-Muslims there voted for the coalition comprised of ultra-Malay Bersatu and hardline Islamist PAS.
And those residing outside the east coast states went back in droves just to vote for PN. Why? We’ll come to that a bit later.
Then we have Pakatan Harapan winning big in the central and southern peninsular i.e. the PH “kingdom” comprising multiracial, multireligious communities.
Therefore, we have predominantly Malay/Muslim in the PN states on one side while Chinese, Indians, others, and don’t forget even Malay-Muslims on the other side who voted overwhelmingly for PH.
And of course, we have the Borneo block, i.e. Sabah and Sarawak.
Now the earlier question posed. Why did the Malay-Muslims vote for PN? Or I’ll rephrase it – why was or is PN a big deal for a substantial number of Malay-Muslims?
Bersatu talked of defending Malay rights and everything related to “Ketuanan Melayu” although the so-called “concept” was trumpeted originally by Umno, while PAS spoke and continue to speak on “the right way to practice Islam.”
Hence, PN’s election campaign strategy succeeded. For instance, allegation of a Jewish/Christian conspiracy worked to their advantage.
That and the alleged Christianization of Malays worked had many a Malay spooked and angry. We know who said what about this.
So too “DAP is communist” mantra. Communism is seen by Malay-Muslims in the same light as atheism. Not believing in the existence of God is a big NO among Malay-Muslims.
Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, the PAS president, knows this all too well. And he gleefully sang the “DAP communist” tune.
That and the constant hammering that Malays in PH are DAP’s stooges, the Malay-Muslims, especially those in the east coast, simply connect the dots, so to speak.
Not helping matters for PH (in fact akin to shooting their own foot) was the speech by Super Hew at a PH ceramah a few days before polling. That riled up the Malays. No elaboration needed.
Back to Hadi. He had also accused non-Muslims as being the root of corruption in this country. But I can’t say for sure if such remarks have earned him and his party political points among the Malays, but they sure have harmed his and PAS’ image among the non-Malays. That’s a given.
Anyway, midway in the GE15 campaign a PAS youth leader openly “decreed” voting BN and PH is a ticket to hell.
Although he later apologized, I think there were amongst the Malay-Muslim populace who swallowed such rhetorics. Just like allegation (ridiculous it may be) that mosques in Penang were not allowed to recite the azan or call to prayer.
Let’s not forget about the “noises” made by PAS with regards to Malaysian made whisky named “Timah”. Also, the announcement by then Kedah Menteri Besar from PAS last year that his administration would not approve new licenses or renew 4D gambling outlets licenses.
Add that to PAS protesting the Bon Odori, Oktoberfest as well as concerts in particular involving international artists, all according white skull capped PAS “ulama” are detrimental to the Islamic faith.
Thus, PN has a formula to rope in the votes from the Malay-Muslim electorate.
As proven in GE15, the Malay tsunami hit the north and eastern region of the peninsula, much to the delight of Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Hadi and co.
But Malays in the central and south region of the country do not buy into such political gimmick as they see it. And many joined the non-Muslim communities in voting in PH with “harapan” or hope of a tolerant, progressive, just and fair multiracial and multireligious Malaysia.
Whether one is to believe it or not, that is the aspiration. That is a fact.
Across the sea we have Borneo. Sabah and Sarawak have their own needs, demands and aspirations which can be different from their fellow Malaysians in the peninsula.
So, I say it again. We are divided, particularly in peninsula, among the Malays in Malay-majority states and non-Malays in mixed population states. Malays notwithstanding.
The Malays who support PH are accused by the “other” Malays as “liberals”. And in their eyes, “liberal” is a dirty word and is sinful.
The greatest fear, as I see it, is the divide between us gets wider, the mistrust worsens and hostility arises. This must not be allowed to happen no matter the political differences and inclinations. The county is already hurting!
As I write this, the country has yet to get a government. And when a government is in place eventually, it is their duty and responsibility to ensure the current divisiveness does not turn for the worse. This, other than the economy, must be top of the agenda. It must go hand in hand as a priority.
But it is not only the government that must right the wrong. Every one of us must do our part in whatever way we can to bridge the gap and ensure harmony among the various races and religions.
I don’t know if politicians who are so used to playing racial and religious cards to garner votes can discard their time-tested tactics.
But for us the rakyat, support whomever you want, but must agree to disagree, peacefully and harmoniously.
(Mohsin Abdullah is a veteran journalist and now a freelancer who writes about this, that and everything else.)