By Kee Thuan Chye
What could have possessed a young Malay woman to go into an uncontrolled rage over a small accident, to the extent of shouting racist remarks at the 67-year-old Chinese man whose car had grazed her Peugeot’s bumper? What could have driven her to repeatedly hit his Toyota with a steering lock and screaming as if he had knocked down and killed her loved one?
Why was this follower of the Muslim faith behaving like a banshee and a thug in the month of Ramadhan, a month of fasting and forgiveness, and demanding on-the-spot recompense of RM2,000 for a small dent on her car’s bumper?
Why did she yell at the man, “You think you are Chinese, you are better than us! You are very stupid!” and later, before getting into her car to drive away, justify to bystanders that she had behaved as she did because “dia Cina” (he’s Chinese)?
A day after the incident, in a bid to express regret for her deplorable behaviour, the young woman, Siti Fairrah Asyikin Kamaruddin, explained she had gone ballistics over the minuscule damage to her car because the Peugeot was “a birthday gift, it took a lot of hard work for me to afford it”. As for her racist stance, she attributed it to her having once been cheated of money by a Chinese person.
How has it come to this? Is this an illustration of the racial angst and animosity that has been building up, especially in the last several years, encouraged by the race-baiting of newspapers like Utusan Malaysia, NGOs like Perkasa and Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma), teachers in national schools, Umno members at the party’s general assemblies and even a few Cabinet ministers?
Is this also a manifestation of the negative effects of affirmative action that has gone on for too long to the detriment of a race that has most likely developed an inferiority complex from being constantly told by its own leaders that it cannot compete on its own, that it cannot stand up without crutches? To the extent that its members would think that the Chinese are “better” than them?
Pummel me if you think I’m wrong, but I suggest that on both counts, the answer is “yes”.
I also think it’s alarming that this racial hatred has filtered down to the man-in-the-street.
We saw the irrationality of Siti Fairrah Asyikin’s explosive outburst and experienced its unpleasant effects, thanks to the video shot and posted on the Internet by a concerned netizen. It should put us on our guard against future occurrences. It should warn us of the dangers of inciting racial hatred.
The Government should take note of this incident and do what’s needed to restore racial harmony. The police should bring to book those who have acquired the habit of spouting hatespeak. They should be keener on investigating these elements for committing sedition rather than wasting time and effort on investigating Khalid Samad.
The PAS MP for Shah Alam merely urged the Selangor State Government to remove the executive powers of the Selangor Islamic Affairs Council (Mais). Nothing wrong with that. It didn’t cause the ire of a whole lot of people, more likely that of mainly one man, i.e. the Sultan of Selangor. Why should that have so much clout to initiate a sedition probe? What Khalid said is not even seditious.
Thank goodness when it came to Siti Fairrah Asyikin’s road rage, common Malaysians showed good sense. Internet users used their resourcefulness to ferret out her identity through her social media accounts and expose her. The video of the incident was uploaded on YouTube and it went viral. On Twitter and Facebook, Malaysians, regardless of race, condemned her shameful act.
They could not bear to see her unjust act of hectoring a defenceless elderly man and hitting his car with a steering lock while he did nothing to retaliate against her. All he could say to bystanders about his bumping her car was, “I didn’t do it on purpose.”
What’s more, he later declared that he had forgiven her for what she did. Despite the police having advised him to lodge a report, he refused. On top of that, he was slapped with a fine for failing to yield when exiting a junction and causing the accident.
Sim Siak Heong believed in turning the other cheek. “I am a Catholic. In our religion, and in all religions, it teaches us to love the ones who wrong us,” he said. “So I won’t lodge a report against the woman.”
Eventually, Siti Fairrah Asyikin, after suffering the barrage of criticisms from angry Malaysians, came out apologising for her “personal mistakes and anger”. She asked them for their forgiveness. “There is time in your life that you should forgive others,” she posted on her Facebook page. Indeed. She should have given herself that piece of advice before she got hysterical.
“I just want people to remove all my videos. Respect my privacy and consider this thing happen to your family,” she wrote. Now she thinks of family. What was she thinking of when she went on her rampage?
The Inspector-General of Police, Khalid Abu Bakar, has promised to do the right thing against Siti Fairrah Asyikin. He described her as “fierce” and said, “Her actions can be considered as those of a road bully and we will take action against her.”
He assured, “Regardless of whether (Sim) makes a police report, we will investigate because we have watched the video.”
For the sake of upholding the law and something even more important, he had better keep his promise.
Sim may have forgiven Siti Fairrah Asyikin, but she still needs to feel the lash for setting a horrendous example in public and for the racist things she said. This is not about an eye for an eye. It is about clarifying that it is not the business of the State to forgive but to carry out its duty. Siti Fairrah Asyikin has to be charged for her actions in order to send out a strong message to others that you cannot behave like a bully and a racist and get away with it.
Otherwise, those who resort to future road rage and display of racist sentiments may be encouraged to cite this precedent of non-action. And ask for forgiveness to escape prosecution.
Siti Fairrah Asyikin has got her three minutes of fame. Or is it notoriety? Now it’s time for her to face the music.
To end on a happy note, I have to say that what the road rage incident illustrated is the usefulness and effectiveness of social media in galvanising people to publicly expose wrongdoing. In case some Cabinet minister should ever say again that social media is harmful to Malaysians, we should point out to them that in the Siti Fairrah Asyikin incident, it brought sensible Malaysians together to dox a person who had behaved abominably and to demonstrate their abhorrence of racism.
Well done, Malaysians!
* Kee Thuan Chye is the author of the new bestselling book Can We Save Malaysia, Please!