Changing Again?

Posted by M ws On Friday, July 20, 2012 2 comments
The following article by Josh Hong was first posted in Malaysiakini at this link. I am sharing this for the benefit of those who have yet to subscribe to the news portal.

Anwar Changing, Again
by Josh Hong

For all my support for a two-party system and consistent opposition to Umno hegemony, I am proud to say I have never been a blind follower of Anwar Ibrahim. In fact, I don’t even consider myself an “Anwarist”.

Those who lived through the eventful days of the late 1980s - when Mahathir Mohamad won against Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah for the Umno presidency under most dubious circumstances and sacked top judges to save his own skin, culminating in 106 innocent men and women being put behind bars under the notorious Internal Security Act - will remember Anwar was firmly behind the tough guy.

Mahathir may not have been a dictator in the classical sense but there is no denying that his Machiavellian statecraft left incurable scars on Malaysian politics: the emasculation of the judiciary, a corrupt and trigger-happy police force, biased bureaucracy, and a sharpened racist and religionist agenda. It would not be unfair to say Anwar was part of it.

(And I am still wondering why some ostensibly liberal Malaysians would still choose to work for Mahathir by joining his Perdana Leadership Foundation.)

The first half of the 1990s saw Anwar (left) metamorphose into the Renaissance Man. It did give hopes to the country initially, and many were quietly awaiting the exit of Mahathir that would usher in a refreshing political atmosphere. All this was brought to an abrupt halt by the financial crisis of 1997/98 that also triggered the severest political crisis in Malaysia’s history.

I had always been sceptical of Anwar’s chameleon character, but decided to put aside my differences with him because I then regarded the autocratic regime of Mahathir as a far greater threat to Malaysia’s future. My position has remained unchanged over the years: if you have an issue with your opponent, fight him/her in a fair manner and on an equal footing, and safeguard the dignity of his/her family.

Most important, spare the people the ordeal of skullduggery.

Still, one would have hoped that six years of political and judicial persecution might change Anwar, but it now appears that the man is stepping deeper into the morass of unprincipled politics as he gets closer to the corridors of power.

Forced into a corner, Anwar sought to prove his moral/Islamist credentials by stating publicly that “homosexuals should be discriminated against to protect the sanctity of marriage”. His open statement not only undermines his image as a progressive alternative to Najib Abdul Razak, but also ups the ante with Umno in the race over who bests represents Islam, with the aspiring prime minister now declaring war on LGBT, liberalism and pluralism.

Deeply divisive issue

I fully respect Anwar’s opinion on the deeply divisive issue. However, as a leader who aspires to take the country into a new era with some kind of paradigm shift, he ought to have been wise in choosing his words.

For instance, he could have made clear by saying “I disagree with homosexuals personally for religious reasons, but I am more opposed to discrimination against them”.

Instead, he went a step further by endorsing those who are constantly on a lookout to portray homosexuality as a root cause of social ills!

And Anwar’s opportunistic stance is a direct attack on my sexuality, as well as the green light for Malaysians - religious and moral fanatics in particular - to openly discriminate against me and countless other people like me.

The LGBT communities have long been a victim of political shenanigans. In the context of Malaysia, it is a surety to win conservative votes, be it Muslims, Christians or moralists.

I would have no issue with this had it come from PAS. After all, it is a party founded on the premises of preserving and enhancing Islamic values. But for the de facto leader of a so-called ‘reformist’ and ‘forward-looking’ party to say likewise is a betrayal of trust, for I know there are a sizeable number of LGBT people among PKR’s supporters. But Anwar now seems to have made up his mind that they can be expended in order to secure more conservative votes.

Why is granting rights to LGBT persistently interpreted as destroying the fabric of society? Especially in Malaysia, even the right for LGBT to live as normal citizens would be a challenge to the ‘social consensus’. Why should people be so afraid of LGBT that they perceive them as an imminent menace to the heterosexual institution of marriage?

No, you are not required to prove why it should be so, but the LGBT communities are constantly told to ‘behave’ and ‘lie low’ without a valid reason.

The irrational fear of LGBT is an emotional reaction that requires no explanation. As long as the Quran or the Bible says it is harmful, so must it be. No evidence is necessary, because more rights for them would entail less rights for us, period.

But isn’t this us vs them mentality precisely the cause of our political malaise over the last five decades, during which time Barisan Nasional has been pitting one ethnic group against the other?

Imagine if Malaysia had its own segregation law that banned the Chinese and the Indians from front-row seats? This was what “keeping a low profile” exactly meant in 1950s America.

So is Anwar suggesting that, to ensure his entry into Putrajaya, he is ready to propose a law as such vis a vis the LGBT communities in Malaysia? It is his right to advocate that, but I am certain the whole world is watching. Anwar must therefore be careful not to allow his dwindling credibility to drop as far as that of Najib’s.

JOSH HONG studied politics at London Metropolitan University and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. A keen watcher of domestic and international politics, he longs for a day when Malaysians will learn and master the art of self-mockery, and enjoy life to the full in spite of politicians.

2 comments to Changing Again?

  1. says:

    walla There is another dimension that is not religious, political or humanizing.

    It has to do with plain vanilla tactic framed as a question:

    does officially condoning LGBT accelerate its proliferation per se?

    The dilemma is this question has yet to be answered independent of those three dimensions.

    However, i would agree Hong's wordcraft:

    “I disagree with homosexuals personally for religious reasons, but I am more opposed to discrimination against them”

    appears to me naturally right - but that is because the humanizing element in me resonates and empathizes with people denoted as LGBT.

    After all, they did not choose to be born as so. Neither do we choose to be born otherwise.

    Whatever the color and preference of a human, life is too short and troubling not to help people flourish so that they can contribute in their own ways to society.

    And they can't do that if members of society are prejudiced against them for the traits and behaviour they may depict that appear through no fault of their own.

    Forcing the LGBT to willfully change themselves so as to adhere to norms set by others must have not worked before or has only partially been successful to the extent psychological scars are embedded which would be worse on society.

    Let all of life be all about love, kindness, compassion and wisdom. Life itself is short, in fact a miracle.

  1. says:

    masterwordsmith What a sensitively beautiful response you have shared, Walla! Thank you.

    Like you, I applaud and agree with Josh's stand on this LGBT.

    From a religious viewpoint, it is wrong but yet, that does not make them less human. Neither does it give us the moral right to condemn them.

    In the 1980's, I was pretty moralistic in my LGBT stand, telling some of my gay friends how they had sinned and had gone astray. Quite unfeelingly, I pressured them to go be straight until one of them asked me this question.

    "Paula, imagine yourself going to bed with your best girlfriend. How would you feel?"

    I was outraged by that question until he said, "Think. Your reaction mirrors what I feel when you asked me to go straight. I did not ask to be gay. I was born this way and had fought it for more than 15 years from the time of realization."

    Stunned, I realized that while we may have our own views about LGBT, it depends on how we treat them.

    I do not think condemnation, discrimination or segregation is the answer. Treating them ith kindness without condoning their sexuality is the way to go. After all, they are human like us. Who are we to judge?

    It is better to counsel and guide them.

    I know my friend tried his best to turn straight. When he was overseas, he went for electric shock treatment, hypnosis, counselling and even tried to get the services of a pr*tit*tue but ended up talking to her the whole evening. Till today, he is still gay but that does not make him less human. He is answerable to his Maker.

    There is a difference between crime-breaking behaviour and that which goes against the moral/value/religious system in a society.

    In Malaysia, I believe the issue is that LGBT preferences is both break laws and contravene values/morals/ethics/religious beliefs and practices.

    Therein lies the problem.

    And the other is how the issue has been politicized.

    Take care.

    Bes wishes

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