Thursday, November 12, 2015

Decoupling ‘nationalism’ from ‘gov’t loyalty’

Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman

Malaysians are well-accustomed to the occasional guilt trip which is done in the name of nationalism to forge one’s political powerbase. Essentially, it’s the politicisation of nationalism.
PPP president M Kayveas, in defence of 1MDB, said, “I am referring to everybody who criticises continuously without fail. They have to stop and think how much they love this country or whether they love this country or not.”
This comment was made due to his ignorance in conflating 1MDB with nationalism.
This is not the first time that nationalism has been used to deflect accountability.
During the previous election, we have seen both the current and former deputy prime minister using nationalism as a means to an end. YB Zahid Hamidi, our Home Minister, even went as far as demanding that the disgruntled opposition leave Malaysia if they’re dissatisfied.
We saw the very same barrage of criticisms levied against Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud (photo), a UiTM alumnus who aligned herself with DAP, a party purportedly to many of her sceptics as ‘anti-Malaysia’ and not anti-BN.
Nationalism, from its original definition of love of one’s country, now has morphed into a love and allegiance to the government of the day. It seems that to most hardcore government supporters, if anyone dares to speak against any government programmes or leaders, he or she will be labelled as “unpatriotic” or “ungrateful”. It’s a bloody day for democracy when legitimate dissent is equated to an unpatriotic attitude.
Quite depressingly, this was also the same tactic employed by Adolf Hitler to consolidate power in Nazi Germany. His Nazi identity was concealed behind the façade of nationalism. Obviously, Malaysia is far more progressive. However, the similarity in tactics is disconcerting.
This is a damaging culture which Malaysians should challenge. A culture which can only be uprooted if we move as a collective.
Marrying nationalism to government loyalty means that our nation’s name will be used as a shield to deflect legitimate criticism.
It means that our nation’s name will be politicised and used as a tool to ferment divisions at the expense of national unity.
It means that our nation’s name will be used to magnetise blind acceptance and faith.
It means that our nation’s name will be used as a hammer to suppress political dissent.
A nation which belongs to all
Most critically, it means that the sanctity of our nation, a nation which belongs to all regardless of race, religion and political beliefs, will be contaminated by self-interested party goals. Goals which in no way reflect the diversity of beliefs in our beautifully diverse Malaysia.
Yes, I owe my allegiance to my nation.
Yes, I am indebted to the hardworking rakyat who built this nation.
Yes, I am obligated to partake in the nation-building process.
But no, I am not obliged to enslave myself and my conscience to any political party.
If the beautifully diverse Malaysia really can be encapsulated in party politics, then we’re not as diverse as we thought we were.

SYED SADDIQ SYED ABDUL RAHMAN is a part-time lecturer at Universiti Islam Antarabangsa (UIA) Malaysia and is Asia’s best debater, winning the United Asia Debate Championship in May 2015.

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