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Friday, August 24, 2007

Malaysian bloggers: a new hope for Malaysia?

There is currently a "war" between the authorities who accuses bloggers of spreading lies while bloggers claim that what they published are truth which were never revealed in the mainstream mass media because of the authorities tight control. Some claimed they have documents to back them up. Raja Petra of Malaysia especially have screenshots of the documents on his site. When the former Mentri Besar (Chief Minister) of Selangor called him a coward because he hosted his blog oversea to escape the law, he even offered to produce the evidences at UMNO's own turf. The fact that the authorities are trying to catch Raja Petra not based on what he wrote, but on the comments in his blog seem to lend credibility to his accusations. Leaving aside the arguments, how much exactly can the bloggers' influence the general Malaysian population, particularly the Malay rural community?

According to M.C.M.C. (Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission) there are
13,528,200 Internet users as of Sept/2006 representing only 47.8% of the population. And these I guess are urban dwellers whose votes are heavily diluted by the unfair delineation of the electoral constituency with some estimating that a rural vote is worth 10 to 20 times that of an urban dweller. With this scenario, what possible effects that the bloggers' writing can influence the coming election? The situation seems bleak.

But listen to what Saidul A Shaari of Malaysian government officials VS Malaysian bloggers… The event is a blessing in disguise for the Malaysian Malays?. I as a non-Malay who unfortunately do not have much opportunities to go the the Malay kampungs (Malay villages). Saidul attended several Malaysian Malay matrimonial ceremonies (kenduri kahwin) located far from the city and deep in ‘kampungs’ in the past few weeks and was pleasantly surprised to hear those village folks talking about some of our well known Malaysian bloggers! After much listening here and there, he conclude that the publicity generated by our current war of words between authorities and the bloggers had benefited the Malaysian Malays in two (he said three, but I only found two) particular ways:

1. The Malaysian Malays now knew more about what is really going on in the country. All the while, their source of information was nothing more than the tightly controlled mainstream media but now they have another alternative - Malaysian blogs!
The Malaysian Malays are now more inclined towards reading news and information dished out by alternative newsprint media such as Harakah and online alternative news media such as HarakahDaily and MalaysiaKini. They would go and check every single news splashed on mainstream news media against the alternative news media. Looks like the Malaysian Malays today are becoming more aware of the things going on around them. Finally they have the intelligence to do some comparison. Unfortunately, I don't hear Raja Petra of Malaysia Today mentioned. But still, MalaysiaKini is a good source of real news.

2. The Malaysian Malays also found out much to their shock that the non-Muslims in Malaysia do not like their community and their religion, Islam. They were surprised to see that the non-Muslims in Malaysia openly criticized and condemned Islam from some Malaysian blogs that they were reading. Saidul said the Malaysian Malays in general should not blame the non-Muslims for disliking them. They cannot really blame non-Malay, non-Muslim for even hating the Muslims. Some of our non-Muslims in Malaysia even knew more about Islam than some of the Malaysian Malay Muslims. They have bought books on Islam and tried to learn and understand more about Islam. They even read our Holy Quran to learn more about Islam! When they are done with their readings, they suddenly found that the Malaysian Malays in general are not really practicing Islam as what has been taught in Islam. Hence, the Malaysian Malay Muslim are actually giving bad impressions to the non-Muslims. It is all due to their own faults. Some of the better known Ulamas and Muftis had spoken about this but unfortunately their calls for all Malaysian Muslims to go back to Islamic basics and keep the remembrance of Allah close to their hearts had been suppressed by the authorities.

Due to the grossly unfair delineation of the electoral constituencies, the rural folks are the ones who ultimately decide who sits in the Parliament, assuming that the elections are free and fair. Dare we hope that this awakening that there is something rotten in our country will eventually bring some changes?

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