By Fathol Zaman Bukhari

On Friday June 1, two pro-Malay activists were forced to make police reports denying their involvement in alleged death threats and declaration of war against the new Pakatan Harapan (PH) government. The threats were directed at Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir.

In a Facebook posting that went viral the originator calling himself, “Ayahanda Fadzley Mohd Yusof” claimed that Malaysia is currently in turmoil caused by a witch hunt. The Facebook posting called for “Zionist Prime Minister Dr Mahathir” to be jailed, labelled Defence Minister, Mat Sabu a “clown” and insisted that Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Wan Azizah unfit for the post because she is a woman.

The post claimed that it received the support of right wing and pro-Malay elements such as the Red Shirts, Pekida and the Malaysian Muslim Consumers’ Association. Even fugitive Jamal (Jamban) is mentioned. It made veiled threats at ruling coalition Pakatan Harapan and called for the return of Barisan Nasional (BN).

Rani Kulup, a former army warrant officer and a dandy with his fanciful uniform and trademark dark glasses, made yet another police report claiming that his outfit, Martabat Jalinan Muhibbah Malaysia, was wrongly linked to the complainant. A guy by the name of Fadzley Mohd Yusof lodged a police report claiming the viral post was not from him as he is a PH supporter. He is worried for his safety following the posting.

So, what is the fuss all about then? Well, if you feel a perceived rise in racial sentiments then you are not alone. The feeling is being shared by many.

On Monday, May 28 a group calling itself Hindraf 2.0 made 25 demands to the Institutional Reforms Committee, of which my friend and former colleague, Brig-Gen (Rtd) Mohd Arshad, is a member. Among the demands were land schemes, business opportunities, repatriation of illegal workers and one that irritates the Malays most – opening up of Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) to everyone not just the Bumiputeras. The reaction was spontaneous. The UiTM alumni association which is usually silent on many issues, including 1MDB and Rosmah’s huge collection of Birkin and Hermes handbags was up in arms. It started a petition opposing the opening of the institution of higher learning to non-Malays.

Nonetheless, it remains a travesty and an irony that UiTM accepts international students but not Malaysians other than Malays.

Dr Mahathir’s subsequent announcement of a committee to review and reform federal Islamic agency, Jakim riled Malay Muslims not used to (till now) having their privileges questioned. Pas kingpins Nasruddin Hassan and Ahmad Dusuki Rani questioned why Jakim when vices like 4-D Sports Toto, Magnum and the Genting Highlands casino are allowed to proliferate. It does not matter that the comparison is not only odd but laughable considering that no one is forced to part with their hard-earned money. It is entirely one’s choice but these so-called holier-than-thou Malay Muslims felt otherwise.

They don’t appreciate the fact that these gaming entities are part and parcel of a thriving economy, decadent though it may be. Magnum, Sports Toto and the Genting Highlands casino don’t impinge on the rights of those who don’t gamble or bet. Unlike 1MDB, a fake sovereign fund account whose objective was to launder money for use by the high and mighty of the land. Fortunately, the crooks have been identified and actions are presently being preferred against them. And mind you, all of these culprits are Malay Muslims.

A country with a sizeable Muslim population requires a federal agency of Islamic affairs to oversee and regulate seemingly petty tasks like the fixing of prayer times, halal certification, regulating of mosque and religious officials, drafting Friday prayers’ sermons and administrating pilgrimages and tithes. What it does not deserve is being placed under the Prime Minister’s Department to be used as a tool to control and manipulate the country’s citizens, especially Malay Muslims. Nor should it be allowed to espouse anti-human rights and impose anti-liberalism policies on Muslims in its bid to enhance its Islamist credentials. There is no necessity for Jakim to go beyond what it is designed for.

And surely the agency does not require an inflated annual budget of almost RM1 billion so it could focus its attention on “converting the LBGT”, inspecting the genitals of a perceived transgender celebrity, raiding budget hotels and brothels to flush out Muslim couples committing khalwat (close proximity) and apprehending Muslims who do not fast.

After a month of efficient house-cleaning and creating a new and now “reformed” Malaysia, PH has touched some raw nerves with those who resisted change. The Malays have been mollycoddled for over six decades by Umno to the extent that many consider the party their Saviour and protector. Other parties, particularly Democratic Action Party (DAP), they insisted is being led by chauvinistic Chinese whose singular objective is to wrest control of the country from them. This feeling is so entrenched in the Malays. A liberal-minded Malay like yours truly finds it difficult to convince his brethren that the Chinese in DAP meant no harm and they have no hegemonic tendency.

The Malay psyche is not something difficult to fathom. It is the result of years of indoctrination (brainwashing) by a political party that is long on hopes but short on ideas. Fear mongering is Umno’s forte because the party believes that Malays are under threat. That their religion and their sultans are being assailed and belittled by imaginary goblins and make-believe enemies. The delay in endorsing Tommy Thomas, an Indian, as the new Attorney General to replace Apandi Ali exemplifies this fear.

Anyone other than a Malay and a Muslim is considered unworthy to assume any sensitive appointments which are only reserved for Malays. But on hindsight it is the Malays who have let the nation and their own kind down. Najib Razak, Rosmah Mansor, Apandi Ali, Rahman Dahlan, Tajuddin Rahman, Khalid Abu Bakar, Jamal (Jamban) and all the obscenely-paid heads of government-linked companies are Malays. But this is of no consequence to a race that makes up over 60 percent of the nation’s population.  They continue to feel threatened. I call this a self-confidence deficit.

Pakatan Harapan’s major challenge in the months to come is to continue with its reform agenda while, at the same time, prevent divisive and malicious ethno-religious sentiments from flaring up before the next general elections. A tall order indeed for Tun Dr Mahathir and his multi-ethnic but highly motivated team. Time is running out on them. But with people like Lim Guan Eng, M. Kulasegeran, Dr Maszlee Malik, Tony Pua, Hannah Yeoh, Gobind Singh Deo and Anthony Loke around I am prepared to stick my neck out.