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Just when we think we’ve heard it all, someone finds a way to take racism and bigotry to a whole new level.

In some of the most blatantly racist remarks we’ve heard in a long time, former law minister Nazri Aziz, speaking at a political rally in Semenyih late last month, asserted that the chief justice, the attorney-general and the finance minister were incapable of upholding the constitution or acting fairly simply because they were non-Malay, and because they had not taken their oath of office on the Koran as he put it.

He also went on to dismiss the holy books of other faiths as little more than “dictionaries” not worth swearing upon.

Offensive, disturbing & insulting

His message to the Malay masses in Semenyih and beyond was clear: non-Malays are not only unworthy of high office but every senior appointment that is given them directly threatens the Malay race and Islam. It must surely rank as among the most offensive, disturbing and insulting remarks ever made by an UMNO politician.

And such is the political environment in Malaysia today that even Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, long considered one of the more moderate voices in UMNO, couldn’t resist pandering to the gallery by suggesting, also in Semenyih, that should anything happen to Dr Mahathir the DAP could seize power given their “control of key ministries.”

Hadi Awang, who often spews the same nonsense about non-Malays holding high office, did the same thing when he rushed to kiss Mahathir’s hand recently, hinting that he was acting out of noble motives – to defend the faith and protect the Malays from a possible DAP-inspired coup against Mahathir.

All but the most gullible, however, saw it for what it was:  a blatantly obvious attempt to curry favour with Mahathir in the hope of protecting himself from the MACC. Thus far, it doesn’t seem to have done him much good.

It is also amusing that one moment UMNO and PAS accuse Mahathir of being a DAP puppet and the next moment hail him as the only one who can keep the DAP in check. Political opportunists, will I suppose, say anything or kiss anyone’s hand if it serves their interests.

It staggers the imagination, as well, that men like Nazri and Tengku Razaleigh would think that despite controlling all the levers of state power, in spite of overwhelming majorities in parliament, the judiciary, the armed forces and the civil service, the Malays are still so weak and vulnerable. How does one even deal with such mind-boggling levels of insecurity and paranoia?

Staggering hypocrisy

It is ironic, too, that Nazri should accuse non-Malays of being untrustworthy because “they do not use the Koran” when it is people from his own party that are now facing prosecution for some of the most egregious crimes of corruption and abuse of power in our history. They posed as defenders of the faith while happily defrauding the faithful. They pretended to fight for the race while racing to enrich themselves. Now we even have religious leaders driving around in Porsches. The level of hypocrisy implicit in so much of the bigotry we hear is simply stunning.

It also shows how easily men like Nazri manipulate facts to suit their twisted arguments.  He disparaged non-Muslim appointees like the Attorney-General and the Chief Justice because they did not take their oath of office on the Koran but omitted to mention that in Malaysia it is not the practice to do so.

If he had cared to watch Prime Minister Mahathir being sworn in at Istana Negara last May, for instance, he would have discovered that Mahathir did not swear on the Koran. And neither did he (Nazri) when he took his oath of office. The fact is, both Muslims and non-Muslims take the same oath of office by reading from a prepared text but, of course, racists never allow little things like the truth to get in the way of a good racist spiel meant to incite and provoke.

UMNO and PAS have taken racial politics to a new low. National unity now lies mortally wounded; will Pakatan Harapan rise to the challenge and save it?

[Dennis Ignatius | Kuala Lumpur 5th March 2019]