The New Ketuanan Racism: The People of the Book
by Shuzheng on 09 Apr 2011 1 Comment

The People of The Book as Interlok Characters: Bobbie, Georgie and Teresa


Living in a borrowed culture, the [Malaysian], more than most, needs writers to tell him who he is and where he stands. Here the [Malaysian] writers have failed. Most have so far only reflected and flattered the prejudices of their [religious] groups. Many a writer has displayed a concern, visible perhaps only to the [Malaysian], to show how removed his group is from blackness, how close to whiteness… – V.S. Naipaul, The Middle Passage


The words ‘West Indian’ in Naipaul’s actual text were replaced with ‘Malaysian’ so that, although published in 1962, his observation reads not just remarkably familiar. It’s applicable 50 years later. To say the passage is about black and white skin racism is wrong, however. There are two operative phrases: ‘borrowed culture,’ and ‘how removed his group is from blackness, how close to whiteness’.


Malaysians living in borrowed culture – Anglophile Chinese and Indians in particular, the Malays and the natives of East Malaysia – never fails to be true, today or in 1957.


The Malays – meaning, those previously native to Indonesia (Anwar Ibrahim) plus those from the Indian sub-continent (Mahathir Mohamad) – live on borrowed Arab Islamic culture. The Chinese/Indian Anglophiles (Thomas Lee, Bob Teoh, Hannah Yeoh, the Anil & Terence Nettos) live on borrowed White Christian culture, through which they serve a White-moneyed class. Consider, for example, the case of Steven Gan. He had his Malaysiakini start with financing from the National Endowment for Democracy, an innocent, scholarly name for an organisation that instigates regime change in the Third Word by funnelling American tax money from Congress. Bersih was financed in this way. Church groups likewise.


This says there are, of course, differences between the two categories, Anwar’s kind of Malays on the one side, Anglophiles on the other.


Where they’re fundamentally the same is, in Naipaul’s words, how far they seek ‘to remove themselves from their coloured skins and how close they want to whiteness’. The Bobs and the Hannahs seek an Anglo-Saxon White – and this is not merely about skin colour but also ways of thinking, language and especially religion. The second category, the Syeds, the Alis and the Anwars long for an Arab whiteness.


Hence, the problem as Naipaul sees it didn’t begin as racism. Rather, it was the consequential effect from a kind of ‘insidious spiritual persecution’ wrought by colonialism on the colonized. Naipaul explains this in a letter to Patricia Hale, a white woman and wife whom he, wise enough, later dumped:


-        Put yourself in my place for a minute . . . If my father had 1/20 of the opportunity laid before the good people of British stock, he would not have died a broken, frustrated man without any achievement. But, like me, he had the opportunity—to starve. He was ghettoed—in a sense more cruel than that in which Hitler ghettoed the Jews. But there was an element of rude honesty in the Nazi approach; and they at any rate killed swiftly.


-        The approach of the Free World is infinitely subtler and more refined. You cannot say (in) a foreign country: I suffer from political persecution. That wouldn’t be true . . . But I suffer from something worse, an insidious spiritual persecution. These people want to break my spirit. … They want me to know my place.


This persecution is not without a legacy of consequences. Among which, the thing that stands out is the how the oppressed actually appropriates – indeed copy – the behaviour of the oppressor. That is, after the Bob Teohs and the Anwar Ibrahims have been put in their places, they learn to put others in their places.


Classic among these examples is, of course, Mahathir Mohamad who simply loves to oppress Chinese and Hindu Indians and he does so by, first of all, repeating endlessly he is a Malay, the only heir to a land called Malaysia and, therefore, entitled to do anything he wants to the pendatang Chinese and Hindus.


Abdullah Hussain, the Malay author of Interlok, can be forgiven for the things he writes of the Chinese and Indians in his novel. After all, he has only to say, it’s fiction. What he can do instead is to point the finger at Anwar Ibrahim who, then (in his Abim and Umno days) and now, wanted so badly to exalt Malay culture, language and Islam that the only insurmountable problem he had was the idea of the Malay itself.


If Malay-ness, whether as civilization or as culture, is so great – ketuanan – why brag? It would be self-evident. Malay culture wouldn’t be borrowed; its civilization would be tropical, based on rice-farming, and not imported from some desert place riding on camels; it would be indigenous going far back, beyond even the prophet. Ibrahim Ali’s Perkasa is, therefore, not by accident, the direct offshoot of that Anwar ketuanan racism, or Anwarisma. The Interlok is a literary consequence. Because Malay culture has so little going for it, except by constitutional force, Anwar, by joining Mahathir Mohamad, was left with the only way he knew how to extol Malay virtues. And that is by putting the Chinese and Indians in their places.


The oppressed becomes the oppressor.


All that says the entire Malay being is an artifice, made-up, existing purely on the force of constitutional law, nothing original, cobbled together from disparate influences here and there. This leads to a kind of racism that parallels the way America or Australia, Anglo-Saxon countries, were founded – first by subjugating the local population, that is, putting them in their places. Mahathir had recruited Anwar not for managing the finances of the country. Together, they understood and carried out the ways of the oppressor: shaft the Malay language onto the Indians and Chinese; their hired hands call them names (prostitutes and pariahs); their administrative apparatus curtailed the teaching of Tamil and Chinese; and Anwar’s dakwah underlings ridiculed the Hindu gods as worthless stones by the roadside.


The plot in Interlok is, therefore, traceable to a calculated, historical and constitution-inspired pattern of Anwarisma (Anwar fascism) and PAS/Umno racism.


Against this background, why then do Eli Wong, Tian Chua, Thomas Lee, Steven Gan, Bob Teoh, Josh Hong and in particular the DAP evangelical legislators (Teresa Kok, James Ngeh, Tony Pua, Anthony Loke, Hannah Yeoh, all the Anglophiles so ‘close to whiteness’) stare at this established pattern of racial bigotry and subjugation with a blind eye?


Thomas George, Interlok Character One


Enter now the good Reverend Thomas George. You wouldn’t know it at first glance, but re-read that letter (linked above) to Malaysiakini.


He is a character straight out of the Interlok novel, and he is not even Malay but an Indian who had bought into a White man voodoo belief of a Jew walking on water and turning water into wine. Other than skin colour (which he can’t shed, so that, like Lim Kit Siang, he dismisses it as irrelevant racism), Thomas George has no trace left of his Indian-ness, not even in name.


Or, for another example, take Bob Teoh who has no traces left of his Chineseness. But, like Abdullah, like Mahathir, Bob and George deign, in Naipaul’s words, ‘to show how removed they are from blackness, how close to whiteness’. In plain terms, Abdullah turns Arab while Georgie and Bobbie become gweilos. The oppressed appropriate the manner, habits and speech – even the gods of the oppressor. They become the oppressor. …


Pause here and switch thoughts for a while to Florida in America.


After a girl named Nadia Bloom went missing for four days in an alligator-infested Florida swampland, a local church congregation mobilized teams of searchers to find her. And James King, the man who did eventually find her, had with him a machete, a GPS-equipped BlackBerry and a bible while slogging through the marshes, quoting the scripture and calling out Nadia’s name. King would later said, “God sent me and pointed me directly to her.”


Finding Nadia was later pronounced by the entire congregation as a ‘miracle’. It’s a familiar word, even in Malaysia. It’s the same miracle delivered by a White man’s god that DAP’s Hannah Yeoh and her boss Lim Kit Siang talked about when the people of Sibu elected a DAP candidate.


Inverse the logic of the miracle, it would mean that if Nadia wasn’t found or found dead, she’d be classed as a miscreant and was punished by the good Lord Jesus Christ, even if she’s just eleven years old. In Sibu, Hannah Yeoh might just call the Chinese idol-worshipping heathens (the same label employed by Thomas George and PAS members) who had just voted for evil. Again, it’s the same language, concept, idea and theology sprinkled daily onto the web pages of Malaysiakini, Malaysian Insider and Malaysia Today, hangouts of the Anglophile chattering and evangelical class.


The Christian (hence Anglophile) penchant and adroitness to mobilize the masses – committees actually – to save a life applies equally in the opposite direction: to hunt down somebody, anybody, deemed guilty of a crime. Committees formed spontaneously “for the purpose of pursuing the guilty one and delivering him to the courts.”


Alexis de Tocqueville, visiting America in 1831, spotted the same combination of religious insanity and collective despotism nearly 200 years earlier and surviving to this day. In Europe, Tocqueville wrote,

-        “the criminal is an unfortunate who fights to hide his head from the agents of power; the population in some way assists in the struggle. In America, he is an enemy of the human race, and he has humanity as a whole against him.”


James Wood, the British literary critic adds:

-        “In France, the innkeeper might find a back door and a change of clothes for the miscreant; in America, he will lead a quasi-religious tribunal against him.”




Teresa Kok, Interlok Character Two


It’s in the same vein of collectivism, a White-mob style lynch actually, Teresa Kok takes her Christianity to a mass tribunal. “The Government,” she declares, “has desecrated and defaced the Bible.” That kind of instigation is no different to a lynch session each time a PKR or DAP mob surfaces in the pages of Malaysiakini and each time DAP’s Lim Guan Eng is criticized, rightfully, as utterly hypocritical:

-        “Initial news that the Government had agreed to release copies of the Bible in Bahasa Malaysia which had been impounded in both Port Klang and Kuching was greeted with joy. However, this joy soon turned into grief and mourning… We call on all Malaysians … to come together in unity to reject any attempt to restrict the freedom of religion in our beloved country. We invite all Christians to remain calm and to continue to pray for a dignified and respectful resolution of this issue. As Sunday 20 March 2011 marks the 2nd anniversary of the impounding of the Bibles at Port Klang, we call on all those in Malaysia and elsewhere to dedicate themselves to a day of prayer and quiet reflection.”


In another way of phrasing, Teresa was calling a race war, but the Vatican agent, Bishop Ng Moon Hing, is political enough to veil it in such terms as ‘all Malaysians’, ‘freedom of religion’, ‘beloved country’ and so on.


Why should Hindus and ‘idolators’, people so often spat upon by the Teresas, by the Georgies and the Bobbies take the side of the Christians in a war with Muslims? Why shouldn’t the bible be stamped ‘For Christians Only’, if the Christian motive for its distribution is honourable? Teresa Kok and Thomas George dare not touch Muslims and Malays for conversion but, at the back, go around proselytizing a voodoo Jesus to Chinese and Hindus that they condescend to.


Bob Teoh labels these two communities (plus the Orang Asli, the idolatory Kadazans and Dayaks), as ‘non-Christian, non-Muslim’. Meaning, they are not ‘People of the Book’. In adopting the term ‘People of the Book’, Bobbie ingratiates himself and his fellow Christians to the politically powerful, the Muslims.


If Malaysia is a Christian state, Bobbie wouldn’t need to do that. But, in Malaysia, doing that would serve two simultaneous purposes. One, he could get the Bishop’s bible released nearly tax free and without conditions. Two – and this is the bigger catch – it creates an imaginary class of enemy, that is, people outside the Abrahamic faiths, that is, the non-Christian, non-Muslim.


Bob Teoh, Interlok Character Three


By turning Chinese and Hindus into non-Christians, non-Muslims, Bob Teoh gives moral, legal and religious weigh to an already existing political stratagem to pull together Anwar’s Malay-Muslims and DAP’s Anglophile Christians – The People of The Book. This idea has found a testing ground in Sarawak and is openly flaunted by DAP’s mouthpiece Thomas Lee. The strategy has among its objectives this, the Common Policy Framework of the Pakatan.


CPF says in effect that if Christians, 10 percent of the population, in alliance with half the Muslims, non-Umno Malays, about 30 percent, and throw in remnants of DAP’s traditional base, the heathen Ah Hoes and KTemocs, then Pakatan will have the majority government. Putrajaya in their pockets!


This – creating a strawman enemy – is standard Malaysian political stratagem: Umno uses non-Malays, PAS uses non-Muslims. Thanks now to Bobbie, the DAP has just reaffirmed its political position to use non-Christians and non-Muslims for the bogeyman role.


That says, to marshal The People of The Book for Putrajaya, Pakatan needs a strawman to direct their energies. PAS has already branded Umno members as kafirs while the DAP has openly positioned itself as a righteous Christian party in opposition to the non-Christian, non-Muslim MCA and MIC (Thomas Lee, again). It explains why Lim Guan Eng is keen to be known as Caliph Lim, why the DAP has prohibited gambling in Penang, why the Ngas and the Ngehs of DAP Perak ingratiate themselves to PAS members, why DAP MPs speak regularly in the mosques.


Umno and Barisan has much to understand.


No, if Teresa and the Vatican’s Bishop Ng still won’t collect their voodoo books within three months, Hisham is well-advised to throw the entire consignment into the Malacca Straits, all disposal charges billed to the Christian Federation.


To Hisham: On the next bible shipment, slap it with a 1,000 percent excise duty, on top of which add 10 percent sales tax, 50 percent import duty, 5 percent stamp duty, plus all warehouse charges to be paid by the Christian Federation – with penalty for late collection, on an hourly basis. After that, Hisham, you distribute to the natives of Sarawak bibles for free, and tell them why. These are the true ‘holy’ books untainted by Anwar and DAP fascism, with a foreign, Vatican agent in tow named Bishop Ng. (The Vatican is a foreign sovereignty and has no business dictating publishing rules in another sovereign state such as Malaysia.)


The Future of the Interlok


Pakatan – Anwar, Guan Eng, Hadi Awang at the helm – dragging the entire country from race-based to religion-based politics build an incendiary pyre more insidious and dangerous than 54-years of Umno racism rule. Bob Teoh has revealed how that fire has just been lit. Such a rule, should it come about, recalls the endless civil wars ongoing today in Nigeria and Sudan, and to the disintegration of Yugoslavia.


For Hindraf’s Uthayakumar to conclude that he has no problem with Pakatan in Putrajaya – an open admission that it is a lesser evil than Umno – is to accept the People-of-The-Book politics. Uthaya is mistaken. Going after ‘Umno racism’ was a miscalculation. But, paradoxically, Hindraf and Kita must win because there is no greater anti-dote to Bob’s voodoo Christianity and Pakatan’s colonial White religious politics than to reassert your native culture, the first to destroy it with rationale then to counteract the second with the bedrock of traditions, customs and the allegiance to them.


To see where Uthaya is mistaken, return to Tocqueville.


During a stop on a boat trip in America Tocqueville saw a group of Choctaw Indians, with drums and dogs, emerged from the wood. They were led by a federal agent who, in accordance with the Indian Removal Act of 1830, was charged with transferring them to Indian Territory, in what is today Oklahoma. Tocqueville noted that which was, in effect, an

-        “expulsion—one might say the dissolution—of the last remnants of one of the most celebrated and ancient American nations.”


That, too, was an act of Mahathirism – the Great Malaysian member of the chosen People of the Book – preceded by 200 years. As with peopling Australia and America with White people, Mahathir would justify peopling Malaysia with Muslims (in Sabah especially) by saying the natives have lesser ‘rights’ than the People of the Book. To Mahathir, natives don’t have Islam, no Allah, therefore no civilization and no government.


Being in the category, ‘not the People of the Book’ is to suggest the same idea: not chosen by their Arabic and White god, Chinese and Indians have even lesser rights or no rights at all. Thomas George has expressed that idea in another, but theological form: Chinese and Hindu Indians have only idols, that is, religion. They don’t have God, upper case ‘g’. And without God, they don’t have much going for them; for example, hell waits. They are therefore inferior. Christians and Muslims have God, however, and so they are special, the Chosen Ones, with which they have certain social, political and religious status not entitled to Chinese and Indian infidels. This is exactly Ketuanan fascism.


Bob takes that the idea a step further, that is, doing the actual work of the White colonial master. After the Sarawak natives have been converted, he’d like to keep them in the jungle – a kind of Garden of Eden setting Bobbie had picked up from gweilo missionaries and liberal do-gooders. But in Sarawak, this Eden is justified in the term Customary Native Rights (CNR) or Native Custom Land.


CNR, in effect, reserves some part of the state of Sarawak to the Dayaks but closes off the rest, especially the towns. It reminds of Indian reservation land in America, and of Hindu Indians cloistered into rubber estates to live and die until, when development arrived, they are finally booted out, penniless, jobless, with little education and without skills.


Eden could never last – it was biblical fiction after all – and when it broke up both American and Hindu Indians pay an excruciatingly painful price. Even today.


Continuing on his note, Tocqueville wrote of the Chowtaw Indians:

-        In this great throng no sobs or cries were heard; they were silent. Their misfortunes were long-standing, and they felt them to be irremediable. All of the Indians were already in the vessel that was going to carry them, but the dogs still remained on the bank. When the creatures understood at last that they were going to be left behind forever, they burst all together into a terrible howl, and plunging into the icy Mississippi, they swam after their masters.


James Wood noted of Tocqueville’s observations:

-        “The extermination of the Indians has been done ‘tranquilly, legally, philanthropically, without spilling blood, without violating a single one of the great principles of morality in the eyes of the world.’ An even greater threat to the republic, he thought, came from the institution of slavery. Christianity, he (Tocqueville) argues, had abolished ancient slavery, only to reintroduce it in the sixteenth century: ‘but they accepted it only as an exception in their social system, and they took care to restrict it to a single one of the human races. They thus made a wound in humanity less large, but infinitely difficult to heal.’”




Also see:

INTERLOK and the Rot of Racism: Offending Malaysian Indian psyche, Waytha Moorthy Ponnusamy, 27 Feb 2011

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