Merry Kerismas!

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 Malaysian constitution.

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 Malaysians.

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 without equivocation".

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.

But 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 general assembly.

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.