(Cross-posted at Brown Pundits)
A couple of race- and religion-related controversies in Malaysia this week.
8TV decided to axe a series of public service announcements after claims that they were racist against Chinese-Malaysians. The ad campaign was aimed at teaching non-Muslims how to behave respectfully during Ramadan, and portrays a young Chinese woman speaking in a loud and crass fashion at the market and eating in public. See for yourself:
(8TV is having a lot of these clips deleted from Youtube; try here if you can't see it.)
I wouldn't call this racist, but it is laughably pathetic nonetheless, particularly the bit when a shocked Malay man shields his daughter's eyes from seeing the woman's armpits (blurred for good measure). There are plenty of influential Malay voices in the media, government and religious spheres who love to play the victim card ad infinitum - cultivating the perception that the non-Malay, non-Muslim minorities are somehow trampling all over Malay rights and religious sensitivities.
Also this week on the topic of respectful behaviour:
The Football Association of Malaysia has apologised to Chelsea after the London club complained of anti-Semitic abuse in their tour match against a Malaysian XI recently, directed at Israeli winger Yossi Benayoun. Yet it is an apology that seems disingenuous in the face of the Malaysian State's attitudes towards Israel.
I've watched highlights of this game, and while I couldn't hear anything racial, Benayoun is audibly booed every time he touches the ball, something the other Chelsea players are not subjected to. Benayoun himself is a likeable footballer who is completely uncontroversial aside from being Israeli.)
“The FA of Malaysia would like to strongly register that we do not condone any form of racism in football,” the statement read. “If such an incident did happen we would like to apologise to the player concerned and also to Chelsea FC. From our initial observations, if such an incident took place, it would have involved a small section of spectators at the match. This surely does not reflect the feelings of the majority of fans in this football-loving country.”
Of course, Malaysians should probably reflect on a history of anti-Semitism in the country. Last time Chelsea toured Malaysia in 2008 there was talk that then coach Avram Grant and defender Tal Ben Haim would not be granted visas to enter the country. Former PM Mahathir Mohamad once claimed that the Jews ruled the world by proxy. And it was only a couple of weeks ago that government-backed newspaper Utusan Malaysia made the ludicrous claim that the recent rallies for democracy in KL may have been the work of Jews.
Since the two countries have very little to do with each other in practical terms, and most Malaysians will never actually meet a Jew, this feeling originates solely from the fact that Malays are Muslim and therefore lots of them just assume that disliking Jews is part of their religious duty.