I'm in a real tizzy about the Malaysian "teapot cult" Today, there's more news, as their founder Ayah Pin has disappeared. and the police are looking for him so that they can charge him with more crimes. In reading a bit more about Malaysian politics, I got a little peek into how Bush's hegemony works the world over, and a little more outraged about the level of hypocrisy among the contemporary right wing.
As I wrote yesterday, Malaysia, a Muslim country, has recently become an ally of the US, although the former prime minster has made some pretty harsh critiques of Bush and the Iraq war.
I found this article from 2002 by John Gershman that describes Malaysia as the US's "new best friend." He surmises that the US wants to remain friendly with Malaysia for two major reasons: Malaysia is repressive of Islamic fundamentalists, and therefore Bush sees them as an ally among "moderate Muslim nations "and second, Malaysia is the number one arms buyer in Southeast Asia. Currently, while Malaysia disagrees with US policy on Israel and Iraq publicly, the prime minister expressed his wish to be involved in the "reconstruction" when he appeared at the Whitehouse a year ago.
We spend a lot of time criticizing the Bush-Saud connection, and it's true, the Bush-Malaysia connection is not as strong. Nonetheless, I find the connection between the admin and the Malaysian govt. at the moment to be a particularly strident example of the administration's hypocrisy. While the attack on the "Sky Kingdom" group, led by Ayah Pin, was made by a mob, this Malaysian newspaper (which itself has been raided under the internal security act) suggests that the govt. not only "tacitly approved" the attack, but instigated it by arresting Sky Kingdom members and referring to the peace-loving inter-faith group as a threat to Malaysia's internal stability.
Malaysia, while moderate, has a state religion, and Pin's sect has been proclaimed "deviant" and its members arrested. As the Independent's Jan McGirk explains:
The Malaysian constitution enshrines tolerance of religious minorities. Yet some 22 Malay sects are considered deviant forms of Islam, and authorities keep close track of their 22,800 members. They have launched "morality raids" on nightclubs and on homes and businesses. Officials have been throwing the book at Sky Kingdom after the sect found its way into newspaper headlines.
(Well, that part there sounds like what the Christians would like to do here, so maybe it's not so hypocritical)...but look at this next bit:
Last year, some Muslim followers of Pin tried to sue for freedom of religion and took their case to the Federal Court, generating a lot of media coverage on the way. But the nation's top judges managed to avoid making a ruling on the issue.
You would think that those Bushies, who are so gung-ho about the importance of freedom of religion, would have some comment about these actions. However, what we see instead is realpolitik and denial, as the Heritage Foundation in 2003 responded to proposed legislation to cut off funding to Malaysia with the argument that there is religious tolerance there and that the country is our ally in the war on terror.
Worse yet, right-wing Republicans and their stooges have written attacks on jailed Malaysian dissidents that are happily reprinted in the Malaysian press, as this paper "Malaysia today" comments about attacks made in the Washington Times, and then in the US congress on Anwar Ibrahim. It's interesting (and creepy) to see how far the arm reaches, as the Malaysians wondered about Amy Ridenour...
...Ridenour was the head of an unknown right wing, mama-papa think tank in Washington, who had no knowledge of Malaysian politics, Anwar, or Islam. The mystery was why such a person would suddenly show such interest in Anwar and Malaysia.
FAC News reported that many in Malaysia believed that 'Malaysian interests' were trying to buy influence in Washington to smear Anwar. It seemed logical to believe that Ridenour was part of that plan. But all we had then were rumours and suspicions. (you can find the FAC news article here.)
Finally, if you want to see yet another view on the complicated relationship between Malaysians, Bush and the Malaysian government, check out this article by John Hilley, author of "Malaysia: Malathirism, Hegemony and the New Opposition"
Am I just late in catching up to all this, or have you all been watching the shennanigans involving Malaysia all along?