DAP and UMNO – Between Racism and Ethnic Nationalism
Beyond doubt, terms ‘racism’ and ‘Malay rights’ have become the most UTTERED, WRITTEN, BLOGGED and DEBATED terms in Malaysian political scene of today.
As late as yesterday, DAP’s Lim Kit Siang labelled Tun Mahathir as ‘the number one racist in Malaysia’ after Tun Mahathir cautioned the Malays a day earlier that ‘Malays would lose power if Pakatan Rakyat (PR) defeats the Barisan Nasional (BN) in the next general election’.
Tun Mahathir is not the only one being labelled as ‘racist’ by DAP leaders and bloggers. However, its still a pale shadow compared to attacks, mockery, insults and verbal abuses being thrown at Ibrahim Ali, the President of Perkasa, for his stands on MALAY/BUMIPUTRA RIGHTS. Despite UMNO top leadership ‘diplomacy’ in commenting on racial-related issues, many, including DPM Muhyiddin Yassin are not spared with accusations of being ‘racist’ too.
Whilst, for Malays like Ibrahim Ali of Perkasa, they are not interested in taking away anything from the non-Malays/non-bumiputras. They are only interested in defending certain rights accorded to the Malays/Bumiputra as allowed for in our Constitution. To them, their stands in upholding the MALAY RIGHTS are in accordance with the Federal Constitution, and has nothing to do with ‘racism’.
Before we form opinions on the issue of RACISM, lets have a quick look at certain ‘academic discussion’ on the term ‘racism’, so that we remain ON THE RIGHT TRACK as the debate intensifies. Are Lim Kit Siang and DAP subscribing to a correct understanding of the term ‘racism’ or are they MISUSING the term, by labelling others as ‘racist’ to further their own ‘racist ends’.
Let us first look at the definitions of RACISM, by universally accepted dictionaries.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, racism is defined as ‘a belief or ideology that all members of each racial group possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially to distinguish it as being either superior or inferior to another racial group or racial groups’.
And, according to the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, racism is defined as ‘a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority or inferiority of a particular racial group, and that it is also the prejudice based on such a belief’.
Looking at the two definitions, I can not help to wonder, who are the TRUE RACISTS. The way I see it, DAP and their Chinese leaders, bloggers and supporters have been the ones ‘indirectly’ harping on the SUPERIORITY of the Chinese over the Malays. Just look at the SUPERLATIVE TERMS being used to praise Lim Guan Eng for ‘transforming’ the northern state of Penang. And, that’s still nothing compared to their ‘worshipping’ of Singapore as a CHINESE SUCCESS STORY.
Are Lim Kit Siang, Lim Guan Eng, DAP leaders, bloggers and supporters the TRUE RACISTS loitering our once PEACEFUL, POLITICALLY STABLE and ECONOMICALLY PROSPEROUS country, with their wild imagination that the Chinese are BRANDED SUPER RACE, and only ‘their species’ , or Malays guided by them, are fit to rule the country.
On the contrary, are Tun Mahathir, Ibrahim Ali and Perkasa really ‘racists’ as labelled by DAP, Lim Kit Siang, and their bloggers and supporters? Let me, at this juncture, highlight certain discussion among scholars of sociology, human and political sciences. In scholarly literature in those fields of studies, there are certain terms being used to describe ‘efforts to defend certain race rights within certain territory’ like ETHNIC NATIONALISM.
ETHNIC NATIONALISM is usually contrasted with CIVIC NATIONALISM. Ethnic nationalism bases membership of the nation on descent or heredity—often articulated in terms of common blood or kinship—rather than on political membership. Hence, nation-states with strong traditions of ethnic nationalism tend to define nationality or citizenship by ‘jus sanguinis’ (the law of blood, descent from a person of that nationality) while countries with strong traditions of civic nationalism tend to define nationality or citizenship by ‘jus soli’ (the law of soil, birth within the nation-state). Ethnic nationalism is therefore seen as exclusive, while civic nationalism tends to be inclusive. Rather than allegiance to common civic ideals and cultural traditions, ethnic nationalism tends to emphasise narratives of common descent.
The theorist Anthony D. Smith uses the term ‘ethnic nationalism’ for non-Western concepts of nationalism as opposed to Western views of a nation defined by its geographical territory. Ethnic nationalism present in many states’ immigration policies in the form of repatriation laws. States such as Armania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Finland, Germany, hungary, Italy, Ireland, Israel, Romania, Serbia and Turkey provide automatic or rapid citizenship to members of diasporas of their own dominant ethnic group. For example, Italy allows citizenship almost entirely on the basis of jus sanguinis (having an Italian Ancestor). Israel’s Law of Return, grants every Jew the right to settle in Israel and automatically acquire citizenship. In Germany, citizenship is open to ‘ethnic Germans’ (e.g. descendents of Germans living in the former Soviet Union).
There is certain degree of similarities, in term of history, between Malaysia and the countries listed above. Malaysia is part of the old-time MALAY ARCHIPELAGO with its rich history, culture and civilisation. To the Malays, MALAYsia , which literally means ‘Malay State’, is still essentially a MALAY LAND, despite having almost 40% of citizens whose forefathers were IMMIGRANTS mainly from China and India.
From the above discussion, I wonder whether the POLITICAL MESS developing in the country, in particular after 2008 General Election, is a bye-product of SHEER MISUNDERSTANDING of the term ‘racism’. DAP and the Chinese are making accusations against UMNO and NGOs like Perkasa, based on their perception that UMNO and Malay NGOs are promoting ‘racism’.
While, UMNO and Malay NGOs are making stands against ENCROACHMENTS by others into their TRADITIONAL RIGHTS, as allowed for in the Federal Constitution. Are their stands in defending their RIGHTS a form of ETHNIC NATIONALISM?