Chan Lilian in ‘trouble’ over her Christianity, actually
By all accounts, the crux of Chan Lilian’s contentious tweet lies in this line: “i think all Christians shud march for all the persecution they had done to us and our Lord”.
Quite frankly, I doubt that the police cyber crime unit can pin any concrete intent to her fairly ambiguous “sharing of thoughts”. After all, her sentence does begin with “I think …”.
Many others on the social media network had in the run-up to Bersih 2.0 encouraged their friends to march, and notable personalities published their appeal to solidarity with the event organisers. On the radar of overall efforts to drum up support for the July 9 rally, Lilian’s tweet hardly registers a blip.
Therefore, a logical analysis infers that it is not Bersih but the Christianity component of the tweet that is being scrutinized in the police investigation on Lilian for sedition.
PAS steadfast with Islamic state
Blog House Malaysia secretary Tony Yew who lodged the police report against Lilian has said that he is against his religion being “used by some to garner popularity”.
Like Lilian, her fellow Catholic Tony comes across as rather vague too. However, we can examine the back story to see the role that religion plays in our domestic politics, which is what the Tony-Lilian brouhaha is really all about.
PAS is Parti Islam Se-Malaysia: the ‘Islam’ in its name an unequivocal declaration of the party’s raison d’etre and dakwah.
The PAS constitution states that Islam is the party foundation and their aim to create [a system of] governance in which the values of Islamic life are implemented.
Their over-riding objective then — stated unambiguously — is to make Islam the guide to politics and statehood where the supreme laws are the Al-Quran and Sunnah, and where the Syura Council’s role is to guarantee that PAS does not veer from these highest laws.
Hence, the hotly contested arena in Malaysia is doubtless political Islam.
PAS’s main adversary Umno has for decades been shouting the slogan ‘Untuk Bangsa, Agama dan Negara’ (For Race, Religion and Country’). Islam in Malaysian politics is old hat. What’s new is Christianity being brought into it, particularly after the March 8 last general election.
That Lilian should have her unfortunate brush with the police stems from the route that her party adopted.
DAP soliciting Christian votes
Of late, it is the Christian faction in DAP that has been at the forefront in public profile.
Among their politicians wearing religion on their sleeve are Lim Guan Eng and his wife Betty Chew who is herself a state assemblyman, Teresa Kok, Hannah Yeoh, the cousins Ngeh Koo Ham and Nga Kor Ming, Tony Pua, Anthony Loke, Teo Nie Ching, the Sarawak newly elected/re-elected state representatives, etc.
Comparatively and off the bat, you’d be hard-pressed to name prominent DAP leaders who are non-Christians to match the extensiveness of the Christian name list.
YouTube has clips of the party on the stump in the recent Sarawak state election where Christianity – the ‘Allah’ word, confiscation of Malay bibles and other grievances – was a major campaign issue. These Christian leaders, including those who hopped over from the peninsula, trade in religious currency similar to their Pakatan counterparts of PAS.
Guan Eng’s Wesak Day official message this year is illustrative of how his main preoccupation is with his own faith. It is a 421-word greeting in which ‘Buddha’ is not mentioned even a single time despite the auspicious day being one to commemorate the Gautama, Prince Siddhartha.
In contrast to ‘Buddhist’ which is mentioned only twice (“Wesak Day’s theme as announced by the Malaysian Buddhist Association … reminds us that love and blessings is not just for Buddhists but for all mankind”), the word ‘Christian(s)’ is mentioned eight times.
Delivering the above festival greeting in his capacity as DAP sec-gen, Guan Eng’s message all but ignored Lord Buddha.
Christian impetus to politics
We should next review the context in which Guan Eng mentions Christian. In the second paragraph of the May 17 message, he said, “DAP calls on all Malaysians to stand up … against extremists …”.
These extremists, he said, wanted to see Malaysia burn with hatred and violence. These extremists, by his reckoning, are not the Christians surely. So who was he referring to?
A big clue can be found in the third paragraph of Guan Eng’s Wesak Day message that is wholly devoted to the plight of Christians. He said:
“Malaysians are shocked and outraged at the inaction by the Home Ministry against Umno-owned paper Utusan Malaysia, for publishing dangerous lies of a Christian conspiracy with DAP to set up a Christian state, that is clearly intended to incite hatred against Christians. The BN government has also refused to act against Perkasa’s Ibrahim Ali for making Christians an object of hate by calling for a crusade (perang jihad) against Christians. Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishamudin Tun Hussein Onn even refused to call Ibrahim Ali an extremist for launching this crusade against Christians.”
The political thrust of Guan Eng’s Wesak Day greeting is most apparent in the fifth paragraph: “Are non-Malays and non-Muslims an easy target to be blamed and kicked around …?”
It follows on from the earlier paragraph where Guan Eng had said that “DAP is willing to work with all Malaysians including non-Umno component members in BN to oppose this crusade …” Those whom he alludes to must necessarily be mostly non-Malay (i.e. fellow Chinese in MCA and Gerakan, Indians in MIC and PPP, Sabah and Sarawak natives in the BN Bornean parties, etc).
His religiously flavoured vocabulary — “to oppose this [Utusan and Ibrahim Ali, read Malay] crusade” — can’t be missed.
Umno retaliates by upping the ante
In a separate Wesak greeting, this time with Guan Eng wearing the hat of Penang chief minister and delivered on May 16, he additionally said: “Even though Christians and not Buddhists are targeted by Umno and Utusan Malaysia this time, what is there to stop Budhhists and Hindus from being the next targets in future”?
And he proceeds to quote from pastor Martin Niemoller’s famous poem on the Nazi persecution. This raising of the alarm, as the discontent unfolds some more, segues into the tweet by Lilian, i.e. “all the persecution they had done to us and our Lord”. With Lim Guan Eng being Chan Lilian’s boss, it becomes apparent as to how her own so-called ‘lament’ has been coloured by his Christian crusading politics.
Meanwhile, as recently as a week ago, Prime Minister Najib Razak in an address to some 200 BN supporters made this riposte: “We wish to tell our friends, the Malaysian Christians . . . if they respect us, we will also respect them.” He’d fired the salvo on July 22 upon his return from a visit to the Vatican and audience with the Pope.
We see here the PM, instead of steering the country away from religious politics, is fencing with the Christian opposition.
It looks as if both sides of the political divide have consciously elected to play to the religious gallery. Umno is pitted against DAP with PAS caught between a rock and a hard place.
Umno’s satellites in the ruling coalition are not oblivious to the Christian turn DAP politics has taken. On May 18, a Penang Gerakan Youth leader lodged a police report against Guan Eng, accusing him of “mixing politics with religion” with regard to the DAP Wesak Day greeting a day earlier.
As of now, the several ‘Allah’ cases are still in the courts. The bible confiscations and seizure of other Christian materials in Bahasa Indonesia by customs are yet to be resolved.
The upshot is the Christian community’s simmering resentment handily makes for political capital in the bid by DAP to gain protest votes.
Lilian a bit player in the game
Against this backdrop of the win-at-all-cost electoral tussle, Chan Lilian is but a pawn.
Nonetheless, her milking public sympathy by portraying herself as “just a housewife” doesn’t wash. She is, as we know, working in the office of the Penang chief minister-cum-DAP secretary-general. Her job makes her a political operative with the DAP party machinery behind her, and no innocent bystander.
And another thing. The Pakatan supporters would have you believe that her loose Twitter talk – allegedly restricted to subscribers, some 900 of them – is solely a private affair. No, it isn’t.
If some religious cult were to hatch a dangerous plot even within a small group of a dozen adherents, the police would not consider their communication to be confidential in nature and having no bearing outside the immediate circle.
Nonetheless, the sedition charge against Lilian is overblown. So what if she had really shared her thoughts on marching in a rally albeit that she adamantly denies this.
Participation in Bersih is not the reason for the at-your-doorstep attention that police are paying her. If it were, the almost 1,700 people arrested plus Marina Mahathir as well as the rest who have openly acknowledged taking part on July 9 would be ahead of Lilian in the queue.
Let’s be clear here. Police interest is in the alleged religious incitement, not any purported instigation to pound the pavements wearing yellow. And of course it’s political, what else?
Related post: Chan Lilian’s series of denials