“First they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

The above quote is attributed to Martin Niemöller who was a German pastor. He was an anti-Communist and initially supported Adolf Hitler but after Hitler gained power, Niemöller became disillusioned and opposed Hitler, leading to his arrest and imprisonment. In keeping with the terrible lessons from the many genocides and crimes against humanity, we should all speak up for each other.

We in Malaysia are now facing a strange scenario, whereby a non-Malaysian by the name of Zakir Naik seems to have taken control of Malaya. He has made statements dictating ‘what is good and what is not good for Malaysia,’ and even to the extent of asking Malaysians whose families have been here for generations to leave. Many have warned authorities of Zakir. However, they have fallen deaf under BN and PH.

In fact, both governments seem to have been hell-bent on accommodating him. Fortunately, the Sarawak government had the foresight and barred him from entering Sarawak. Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was reported to have said that the “controversial preacher Dr Zakir Naik has overstepped the boundaries of Malaysia’s multicultural and multireligious environment with his public comments on politics and race.” But why has the political leadership waited for him to even reach the boundary? It was so obvious even to the ‘blind, deaf and dumb’ what was going to happen. I strongly believe that we should always speak up against racism. Our voices must not be silenced.

It can act as a hand-brake towards a slippery slope of hate, distrust and destruction. What I find indeed shocking is that despite all the historical evidence we have, many are still standing by and allowing it to happen under the guise of religious sermons. There are already welldocumented cases in countries such as Germany where hate speeches led to hate crimes and subsequently to mass killings. It really is the time for the federal leadership to make a stand. What is also surprising is former opposition leaders who used to harp on equality, racial harmony and religious understanding are irrationally silent. During such challenging times we need leadership that is inclusive.

We need leadership that leads the nation, not just one race. We need leadership that discourages religious strife and stands strongly against extremism. We need leaders who can be clear-minded and the ability to move forward without any hidden agendas. Surely a guideline should be given that all religious sermons should only focus on spreading the positive aspects of their own religions. There should be no negative comparisons with other religions. Therefore, anyone who says that this is a Malayan problem and not get involved would be practising the well-known Malay proverb bagai katak dibawah tempurung.

The spores of hatred are drifting to Sarawak and we must not let the rot set in here to grow in the minds of Sarawakians. I am sure some would disagree with me on this point, but denial will not make this problem go away. We should not face a situation whereby one day we look back and say something should have been done earlier. It would be too late.

The prime minister a few days ago said that we in Sarawak should think as Malaysians. To be honest, I prefer to think like a Sarawakian and perhaps the prime minister should have said that Malayans should think like Sabahans and Sarawakians. Former chief minister, the late Pehin Sri Adenan Satem always mentioned that bigots are not welcomed. Chief Minster Datuk
Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg also ‘walks the talk’ on racial harmony and unity and looks into the welfare of all. Let’s keep matters here based on Sarawak First and remember to make the right choice to keep Sarawak unified and safe.