How does the rest of the world view us?

Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s mask slipped at the end of October, souring our ties with France. It slipped again yesterday, when PKR accused him of trying to prevent Pakatan Harapan from returning to power.

So, when will he stop stoking the fires between the different religions and races, and just slither gracefully into retirement? When will he stop undermining Harapan?

His supporters are just as bad. They forget that he is a divisive influence and a master manipulator and they ignore his selective amnesia, like the time he claimed he could not recall if he was in Malaysia or in Beijing when the order to attack Memali was given in November 1985.

Mahathir is not the only Malaysian leader who fails to realise that his deeds, and words, have consequences.

When a missile fails to hit its intended target, falls short of the objective and hits a village, ordinary people are injured or killed, and their property destroyed. 

After French President Emmanuel Macron criticised Islamic radicals for their terrorist acts, Mahathir’s remark was like a rocket attack that failed to hit its target. 

Mahathir’s gaffe has caused Malaysians to be treated with suspicion in most parts of the civilised world.

Some Malaysians working and living abroad said that their friends and work colleagues wanted to know what Mahathir meant by his reckless tweet, in which he said, “Muslims have a right to be angry and to kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past”.

A former civil servant berated me for censuring Mahathir and said, “Why didn’t you read his other tweets? Why pick on that one remark?”

‘A former PM should choose his words wisely…’

I said that I had read his entire blog post a few times and maintained that he was acting irresponsibly. A former PM should choose his words wisely because they will inspire some deranged people. Most people will think he’s an idiot.

I then asked, “Do you think you can reason with a terrorist?”

Silence.

I added, “Do you think an extremist would have read Mahathir’s other remarks and tried to rationalise his responses?”

More silence before a curt response: “You’re being unfair to Mahathir.”

I did not tell this former civil servant that my inbox was full of questions from friends, most of whom live in Western Europe and America.

One said, “Did Mahathir really say that? I admired him for standing up to the West, but this is unacceptable. With his careless remark, he has just shot down the image of Malaysia as a moderate Muslim nation.”

Another said, “My friends at work know I am from Malaysia. I wear the tudung, so they know I am Muslim. Ever since Mahathir made his remarks, there has been a frosty atmosphere at work.”

A third said, “After each Islamic terrorist attack, my friends say that only evil people will kill in the name of the religion, but now they ask me why my former PM is advocating violence.”

Mahathir’s remarks have hurt Malaysia’s reputation, in the same way that the convicted criminal, Najib Abdul Razak, who stole from the rakyat, has almost bankrupted the nation. The rakyat has to deal with the effects of our leaders’ actions and minimise the damage done.

How do other nationalities see us?

So, how do other nationalities see us? The common theme in other countries is our food. We have a wide variety of good food, but only serious observers of Malaysia will have commented on the more fundamental aspects which plague the country.

Malaysia is touted as a multicultural nation, and as Mahathir admitted, “…we have avoided serious conflicts between races because we are conscious of the need to be sensitive to the sensitivities of others…” 

However, this has not stopped one MP from making disparaging remarks about the Bible, and it was several weeks before he apologised. Woe betide any non-Muslim who dares to criticise the Muslims.

Many countries have laws which prevent discrimination, but in Malaysia, affirmative action policies pit bumiputeras against non-bumiputeras. 

There may not be open and violent opposition about these discriminatory policies, but there is a quiet resentment about non-bumiputera Malaysians who are denied many of the benefits that bumiputeras enjoy. 

The polarisation of the different Malaysian racial groups exists even in overseas universities.

At an embassy function in one of the North American cities, an established Malaysian chemical engineer hoped to contribute to the Malaysian economy by investing in a manufacturing facility in Malaysia. 

A minister told him to discuss the matter with his aide, and the ensuing conversation followed along the lines of “What’s in it for me?” Needless to say, the engineer terminated his plan to return.

Some Malaysians left the country to discover their true potential overseas, where they could flourish without the accompanying baggage of the 4Rs – race, religion, royalty and rasuah (corruption).

Sadly, many of these displaced Malaysians have turned their backs on Malaysia.

Although some would like to return and invest in the country of their birth, they will not return while irresponsible leaders, like Najib and Mahathir (and those who follow in their footsteps), are still around.

Rebuilding Malaysia
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