Najib needs to win over extremists in Umno, just as he calls on the moderates of the world to defeat the extremists in the world.
The Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak made a good speech at the United Nations which we could not fault. As reported in The Star today, the prime minister said there was a need to marginalise the extremists, and the “global movement of the moderates” of all faiths was needed to work together to make this a success.
Najib also said these extremists had held the world hostage with their bigotry and bias, adding that “we must choose moderation over extremism... We must choose negotiations over confrontation. We must choose to work together and not against each other. And we must give this effort utmost priority, for time is not on our side”.
What is interesting however, is the message and choice of words used by the Prime Minister bore remarkable resemblance to the speech made by DAP Secretary-General and Penang Chief Minister, Lim Guan Eng at the DAP National Convention held in Ipoh, January this year where Lim was slammed by Umno for calling for a “middle Malaysia”.
Then, Lim has called for resolution of religious disputes “not through confrontation but consultation and not by force but by negotiations” with a specific reference to the use of “Allah” controversy.
Lim had said that “we are not a nation at war with itself. What we are witnessing is UMNO is at war with the values that stand for openness, logical reasoning and mutual respect. When BN talks of international benchmarks, questions are raised as to why the global Islamic practice from Middle-East to Indonesia allowing Christians’ usage of the word “Allah”, not applicable in Malaysia.”
We had called for a Middle Malaysia which prefers co-operation not conflict, consultation instead of confrontation and an inclusive shared society rather than an exclusive separate society. And to embrace Middle Malaysia, Pakatan Rakyat must be seen as moderate and inclusive and distance and differentiate ourselves from our exclusive, racist, extremist opponents.
It is therefore “rich” coming from the Prime Minister to call for global moderation when he has failed to decisively clamp down on race and religious extremism, especially those from his very own political party.
Najib has no locus standi to preach global moderation when today Umno is still adamant on eliminating the rights of the other Abrahamic faiths to use the term “Allah”, his government's refuses to deal with racist school principals decisively and the National Civics Bureau continues to preach race supremacy as highlighted in the speech of its Deputy Director which was supported by Puteri Umno. What is perhaps worse is Najib's complete lack of willingness to openly condemn extremist organisations like Perkasa due to political expediency as the latter is constituted by Umno's own members.
We must applaud Najib's speech at the UN and support all and any effort to promote moderation and combat extremism. However the Prime Minister's pretty speech will be only deemed worthless if he refuses to steer his own party towards moderation, to achieve a middle Malaysia.