Sunday, October 29, 2006

When elephants fight...

When elephants fight - if Malaysia hasn't got enough problems on its hands with two of its big shots going at each other in public (actually, its one going at the other, who has been rather, though characteristically, quiet, perhaps till now), Malaysia has to contend with its auxiliary religious police who are running amok while the elephants battle each other. Like the saying goes, when two elephants fight, the mouse gets up to mischief.

The first mischief is the religious police conducting witch-hunts for Muslim couples committing 'khalwat' or close-proximity. There now seems to be two laws in the land, the civil law and the religious laws. What is frightening is that the religious law is an authority to itself, seemingly untouchable by the more established civil law. In a boo-boo of embarrassing proportions, it was reported that one such religious police squad barged into the home of an elderly American couple intending to charge them for khalwat. It seems that catching the couple at their age for committing the close-proximity sin is decades too late. But this is lost on the fervent religious police, who can think of nothing but to enforce the Prophet's teachings. This poor couple had intended to get a permanent house in Langkawi, where the incident took place. Now those plans are dead. 'Malaysia - truly Asia' now has a sinister ring to it.

As if this were not enough, we hear that Malaysia has also set up an authority, primed by some government minister/department, to suss out people who mix Bahasa-Melayu with English in their speech (and most likely, written too). Call Bahasa Rojak, Malay language purists are now on a crusade to cleanse the language of Malaysia to its purest form.

Now, any linguist worth his salt will tell you that there is no such thing as a 'pure' language - only purely stupid purists. I used to hear Malaysia Ministers, Dr Mahathir included, mixing Bahasa Melayu and English in their speeches and recorded conversations, and appearing proud of it. Of course, they are not the only ones. actors and actresses in made-in-Malaysia Malay movies also do the same, so much so that I was beginning to get used to this lingua innovation as an accepted part of the way Malaysians are going to speak.

Apparently somebody thinks otherwise, and so we now have, besides the religious police, also the language police running around to prey on Rojak speakers, providing some intermittent amusement while the two elephants plan their next moves.

Well, that's not all, really. There is also the case of those lies, damned lies and statistics. I wonder what Malaysian leaders will pull out of the rabbit's hat next? Look at it another way, even if the leaders are not doing their jobs (and I an not implying that they aren't), at least they are providing a seemingly endless stream of comic relief.

See also:

Image source: