Handling the religious far right

After a couple of outbursts, the Islamists have turned quiet! They formed an Umno-PAS pact and protected that strange religious speaker Zakir Naik in the name of Islamic brotherhood and called for a boycott of non-Muslim made food.

I don’t know if they were putting nation first or their own agenda, but the government kept a cool head although many non-Muslims were hopping mad that Naik got off the hook with just a slap on the wrists.

The far right, no matter what their religion, can’t be rid off. They will always be around and rear their ugly head whenever it suits them. It’s best to keep them at arm’s length and monitor their activities to pounce on them whenever they break the law. And ignore all their ravings and rantings because that’s what it really is: unreasonable unthinking outbursts that have no place in a modern, progressive 21st century society.

But, the strategy must be to NOT take their leaders seriously. Whenever they make their ridiculous statements, counter it with beneficial ones as in the case of the boycott of non-Muslim goods. Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng very gently advised them not to make the boycott calls and the Cabinet followed with a call to “buy Malaysian” goods.

The strategy must have worked because the Islamists made a quick about turn with one NGO urging Muslims not to boycott non-Muslim goods and after that, the issue died down.

Maybe, their leaders whose vision is narrowed by 14th Century blinkers have yet to realise that their far right religious views have repercussions on the economy and if they are truly responsible for the development of the nation, they should seal their lips and stop inciting the people.

The economy is struggling to grow and incendiary statements and calls to boycott will spook the business community which will take steps to hedge their interests against any trend to restrict markets. Perhaps, that was why the Malaysian ringgit (RM) depreciated in those couple of weeks the Islamists created all that noise!

No doubt there were other factors like the US-China trade war, but the RM was hovering at 4.18/9 for a while until the Islamists opened their mouths! Then, the RM began to dip and went as low as 4.27. When the noise from the far right stopped, the RM began to recover to 4.18/9 now.

The far right leaders carry clout only because they are aware that politicians are trying to win over their supporters. Bypass this group and target the millions of Malaysians out there who appreciate the efforts to build up this nation. Free breakfasts for all Malaysian primary school children, the national fiberisation and connectivity plan, the nationwide water audit, the development of Proton and Felda revamp will benefit all Malaysian.

Malaysians need to realize that the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government is doing its best and be more patient in wanting to see tangible benefits in their hands. More and more Malays especially need to realize that the non-Malays are waiting patiently and expectantly for them to throw in their support behind PH so that jointly all can move forward and progress.

As the PH parties continue to target the non-religious far right, hopefully, more Malays will join them. Who knows, when they see their fellow Malays progressing, more far right supporters will become less far right and join the rest! Their parties will lose support and their leaders can be ignored and, at best, just tolerated.

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