Dean Johns | Dec 19, 07 9:59am | Malaysiakini
I was on the point of heading this piece 'Merry Christmas' when
it suddenly occurred to me that this greeting might not be considered
politically correct any more in Barisan Nasional's Malaysia.
Not that its prohibition would offend my faith, as I'm a confirmed and
devout atheist. But I'm also a true believer in religious tolerance,
and thus found myself as shocked and dismayed as many others were when,
during the parliamentary debate on Budget 2008, the Parit Sulong BN MP
Syed Hood Syed Edros and his Sri Gading colleague Mohamad Aziz called
for the removal of the cross and Christian statues from mission schools.
This suggestion struck me as bigoted in the extreme and also against
the spirit, if not the letter, of the freedom-of-worship section of the
I had also heard that mission schools and their devoted staffs of
priests, brothers, nuns and lay teachers had contributed greatly to the
development of the nation by educating successive generations of young
But what I hadn't realised was that these young Malaysian graduates of
Christian schools have proven a decidedly mixed blessing to the country.
It was the redoubtable Parliamentary Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang
who opened my eyes to this shocking realisation. In a scathing speech,
he lambasted Syed Hood and Mohamad for their assault on the cross and
Christian statues, and demanded an explanation from Deputy Education
Minister Noh Omar as to "why the Education Ministry was condoning such
extremism by its silence when such statement should be denounced
So far so good. But then Lim went on to remind the deputy minister that
mission schools had "produced many Malay leaders", including Deputy
Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, Education Minister Hishammuddin
Hussein, Perak Regent Raja Dr Nazrin Shah and the Sultan of Selangor
What an astonishing roll of honour! On the positive side, from all I've
heard about Raja Dr Nazrin, he'd be considered a credit to any
educational system. And while I know nothing of the Sultan of
Selangor's character or academic achievements, at least I'm aware that
he can't be held personally responsible for the dismal administration
of his state by the Umno-appointed Menteri Besar.
Najib (left) and Hishammuddin? I guess no school can be held entirely
to account for the way its students turn out. But that being said, the
buck has to stop somewhere. So I'm blaming the mission schools for
producing a defence minister responsible for dodgy arms deals and
underlings charged with the killing and C4 'disappearance' of a
Mongolian interpreter; and for turning-out an education minister who
sees himself as more demagogue than pedagogue and does nothing but wave
the keris and play the school bully.
Two graduates of such gruesome calibre are grim testament indeed to the
ghastly effects that can result from teaching that crosses the racial
and religious divide.
So, to punish mission schools for turning out delinquents and dunces
like Najib and Hishammuddin, maybe the cross should be banned from more
than school emblems and premises.
As long as we're talking education here, what about eliminating all the
crosses that Malaysian kids of all creeds are forced to encounter in
reading, writing and arithmetic, like the letters x and t and the +
sign? Just ban everything
Then there's the question of statues. And not just Christian ones, as
the Mufti of Perlis has recently reminded us in proclaiming a fatwa
against the public display of graven Buddhist images. As long as we're
considering statutes forbidding statues of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Buddha
and lord knows what other sacred identities, let's also think about
banning plastic replicas of Colonel Sanders, Ronald McDonald, Mickey
Mouse and other such secular icons.
And while we're at it, let's also rid the nation of the millions of
life-sized, all-too-anatomically-accurate fiberglass females that
shamelessly flaunt themselves in fashion-store windows.
All those pictures of the prime minister and other politicians should
be banished from posters and the walls of public buildings, too, as
they are obviously shrines to the country's god-forsaken BN government.
Considering this is Kerismas week, it's also timely to consider banning
representations of possibly the most objectionable idol of them all,
Santa Claus. That grossly obese, ridiculously-dressed Mat Salleh
symbolising all the traditional festive evils of gluttony, alcoholic
over-indulgence and rampant credit-card abuse.
Which brings us to the observation that, what with all the corruption,
cronyism, injustice, electoral fraud, media repression and religious
and racial intolerance the government has once again demonstrated this
year, Santa may well decide to give Malaysia a miss altogether.
Especially since he and his reindeer might well be judged by the police
to constitute an unlawful assembly and get themselves tear-gassed and
thrown into jail along with the Hindraf 5 and other victims of the
Hindraf and Bersih protests.
In any case, Christmas could well be cancelled or find itself in
conflict with some simultaneous government-sponsored event, just as
Deepavali was officially ignored, overshadowed and insulted by the Umno
It seems that the BN will stop at nothing these days to try and
polarise Malay voters to rally to its support, from portraying peaceful
protests as race-based riots to demonstrating the superiority of the
keris over the cross.
But from what I can see, more and more people are waking up to these
pernicious divide-and-rule tactics, and starting to see all the
keris-waving for what it truly is: just more of the old double-cross.
So here's wishing Merry Kerismas to all members, supporters and cronies of BN.
And Merry Christmas to all those millions of Malaysians who stand for
goodwill to men, women and children of all races and creeds.