I’m quoting a BBC news report on this one. It was headlined “India teacher investigated for telling pupils to slap Muslim peer”.
The report said the police in India are investigating a video that showed a school teacher telling her pupils to slap their seven-year-old Muslim classmate.
The incident happened on Thursday, 24 August, at a private school in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.
The boy was filmed in tears as he was slapped, allegedly for getting his times table wrong.
The video went viral on social media (I’ve seen it, and am sure many fellow Malaysians too) and has triggered widespread dismay and condemnation.
India’s opposition leader Rahul Gandhi blamed the government for stoking religious intolerance.
According to the BBC, rights groups have warned that hate crimes and violence against India’s large Muslim minority have increased since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office in 2014.
Uttar Pradesh has been government by Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP since 2017.
Gandhi, himself a Hindu, said the party had contributed to religious tensions felt across India.
“This is the same kerosene spread by the BJP that has set every corner of India on fire,” the BBC quoted him saying.
As said earlier, I had the heart-wrenching “opportunity” of watching the video via two WhatsApp groups.
An old friend commented that if anybody is a fan of Modi and his brand of Hindu nationalism, “you could attempt to rationalise it every way from here till any Sunday. I’ve seen it done before.” Sunday because he made his comments on Sunday, last Sunday actually.
The fact remained, said this friend of mine, that this was barbaric, unconscionable, and “let us not lose sight of the fact this is the product of Hindutva”.
I agree and if I may add, we are talking about Hindu nationalists, not Hindus per se.
According to Wikipedia, Hindutva, translated literally as “Hindu-ness”, is a political ideology encompassing the cultural justification of Hindu nationalism and the belief in establishing Hindu hegemony in India.
As my friend sees it, we have the same branding in Malaysia, i.e. “Ketuanan Melayu” and “racist Islamofascism”.
And he went on to say, “How long before we see this in Malaysia, the victim being a non-Muslim? And who will stop it?”
There are Malays accusing the “other” Malays of being “not Islamic” for not accepting their views on Islam.
Now here’s the thing. We are now a nation divided. Yes, we are not at each other’s throats. Thank God. We are not plunged into violence. Alhamdulillah! But divided nonetheless along racial and religious lines, because of the divisive politics played by politicians out to gain power using the shortest route possible, i.e. by fanning racial and religious sentiment, carried out mostly by Malay-Muslim groups.
We have seen it played out during GE15. We have seen it again during the six state elections on 12 August.
Remember the findings of the social media monitoring initiative, the one led by the Centre of Independent Journalism, that in several instances prior to the polls, according to their analyses, messages on social media warned voters that “kafir harbi” would take over if Muslims were not united?
Who were the instigators? Your guess is as good as mine.
“Kafir harbi” refers to non-Muslims who are against Islam, as opposed to “kafir zimmi” who are non-Muslims living peacefully within an Islamic nation and whose rights are protected.
We are now familiar with the so-called “green wave” showing Malay-Muslims on one side and non-Malays and non-Muslims on the other.
In a way, that’s the true “reading” of the situation. In reality, that puts Malay-Muslims on one side, and on the other side are also Malay-Muslims. That would be the complete picture.
Obviously, there are Malays accusing the “other” Malays of being “not Islamic” for not accepting their views on Islam. Hence, the divide among the Malays.
Thus, we know how the Unity Government is in great need of Malay support, thus causing concerns among non-Malays that it might go conservative to win the hearts and minds of the Malay-Muslim community to remain in power and win future elections.
Aggravating their concerns is the fact that the government is taking some measures which non-Malays see as pampering to the Malays, like the empowering, rather giving, Jakim, the Islamic development department, a larger role in policy-making; and the introduction of “Imam Al-Nawawi’s 40 Hadith” module in public schools.
The Education Ministry has clarified that the module is intended for Muslim students only.
Whether it was an afterthought after non-Mulim pushback, the fact is that non-Muslim students will not be affected. That should put worries of non-Malay parents at rest.
As a Muslim, I do not agree that the module be taught at national schools even to Muslim students. This is for another day.
Anyway, while I can understand non-Muslims’ concerns of what they see as “Islamisation”, I must say there are instances when the worries are a bit unnecessary, like the Prime Minister frequently donning baju Melayu with capal (Malay sandals) to go with the attire, and he presiding over the conversion of a Hindu youth to Islam a few weeks ago. This is also for another day.
FMT columnist Joe Samad said Malaysia is becoming more sectarian in outlook.
In his column published on 27 August, he said, “This new development is expected when the central government is weakened by political strife and years of neglect in developing the poorer states with education policies focusing on religion rather than the real world amidst rampant corruption and cronyism.”
To Tawfik Ismail, son of the country’s second deputy prime minister Tun Dr. Ismail Rahman, the current issues concerning race and religion stem from the misinformation relayed to the people.
“Because a lot of the problems about race and religion are a matter of knowledge; a matter of what we are told and what information we are processing in our mind,” said Tawfik during a recent interview with The Star.
When asked by the newspaper about the current state of the people’s unity and existing pockets of extremism among some segments, Tawfik said there is a need for leaders and the people to look into history to determine the country’s direction.
I would read that as it’s up to the government and the rakyat to make it work. And God willing, what is happening in India with non-Muslims being the victims as feared by my dear old friend will not take place in this country of ours. Together we will see to it.
Selamat Hari Kebangsaan Malaysia!
(Mohsin Abdullah is a veteran journalist and now a freelancer who writes about this, that and everything else.)