What’s Next, Malaysia?

Malaysian flag. Image by Eric Teoh/Flickr.

As expected, the National Front (BN) coalition won Malaysia’s May 5 election, but not without widespread allegations of electoral fraud, including the use of Bangladeshi migrants as illegal voters and other gerrymandering tactics. The opposition People’s Pact (PR) coalition leader Anwar Ibrahim refused to concede defeat and held a protest rally on May 8, attended by about 100,000.

The election’s outcome and the immediate responses by BN leadership threaten to undermine the powerful example of Malaysia as an Islamic country with parliamentary democracy and a parallel legal system of civil and Islamic laws. Even though the US has recognized the BN win, the White House has called on the Malaysian authorities to investigate the claims of election irregularities. It is imperative that the United States spoke out on this issue as it still plays a huge role in promoting democracy through fair elections.

Government History Human Rights

Syrian Kurds – A Struggle in the Face of Government Repression

Kurdish area in the Middle East, CIA/University of Texas Libraries (1986)

On 21 March of this year, Syrian security forces opened fire on a crowd of over 5,000 in the northern town of Ar-Raqqah. The crowd had gathered to celebrate the Kurdish New Year as three people, including a 15-year-old girl, were killed. Over 50 were injured. Yet this incident was just the last in a long list of examples of the repression of the largest national minority in Syria – the Syrian Kurdish population.

Kurds in Syria occupy the lowest social rank among the country’s minorities. Estimated at approximately 1.7 million, the Syrian Kurds make up roughly 12 percent of the country’s population. Yet the Kurds living in Syria are not recognized as an ethnic group in their own right, and many not even as Syrian citizens. Their cultural and civil rights are withheld from them, while their political parties and organizations are forbidden.

Uncategorized Religion

1 Malaysia No More?

Church in Malacca, Malaysia, photo: HKmPUA /flickr
Church in Malacca, Malaysia, photo: HKmPUA /flickr

After a tense weekend, the Malaysian online news media is teeming with commentaries on the controversy regarding the use of the word ‘Allah’ by Christians in Malaysia and the subsequent arson attacks against Christian churches in and around the capital.

The camps, quite predictably, are divided along the pro-Malay, pro-government camp, made up primarily of pious Malay Muslims, devoted to the concept of a Malay-dominated Malaysia and opposed to the use of ‘Allah’ in non-Muslim contexts, and Malaysians (Muslims, Christians and Hindus) who wish to see historically divisive Malay-dominance dismantled and genuine pluralism embraced in its place.

Although Prime Minister Najib Razak was quick to condemn the attacks, even twitteringIt’s been a difficult weekend for all. I share your outrage. We must stand united & not allow these incidents to break us,” outrage and dismay over the government’s pro-ban stance is boiling over. So far venting from the pluralist camp has been confined to cyberspace, although it is not so clear how long non-Malay calm will last if ethnic rifts continue to deepen.