Indonesian comedian’s tweet on why Indonesians shouldn’t support Malaysia’s Malay-first rally goes viral

Protesters gather during a rally organised by Muslim politicians against the signing of the UN anti-discrimination convention (ICERD) at Merdeka Square in Kuala Lumpur on December 8, 2018. (Photo by Mohd RASFAN / AFP)
Protesters gather during a rally organised by Muslim politicians against the signing of the UN anti-discrimination convention (ICERD) at Merdeka Square in Kuala Lumpur on December 8, 2018. (Photo by Mohd RASFAN / AFP)

Those who keep abreast of happenings around the region may be aware that Malaysia had their own “212” moment over the weekend, specifically the huge “Malay-First” rally protesting against the ratification of an anti-discriminatory convention that has been dubbed “812” in some quarters to denote the date of the rally (December 8).

The main message of 812 was that the far-right among the country’s Muslim Malay majority are in total opposition to a plan by the government, which took power in May after defeating the scandal-mired old regime, to ratify the UN’s International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) even after the government had already abandoned its plan due to pressure from conservative politicians and Malays.

Regardless, that message resonated well among Indonesia’s own conservative Muslim majority, many of whom took part in the 212 protest on December 2, 2016, in which hardline groups protested against then-Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama due to the highly politicized allegations that he had committed blasphemy against Islam.

One of those whose opinion has gathered steam online was comedian/actor/former MTV VJ Arie Untung, who tweeted that the “power of togetherness” brought Malaysians together for 812, possibly unaware that the rally’s idea of “togetherness” did not include people who are of different races and faiths.

Photo: Twitter
Photo: Twitter

Comedian Ernest Prakasa, always one to voice his disapproval of any sort of discrimination, posted a reply to Arie’s tweet, which has now gone viral.

The 812 demo is against ICERD. The Malaysian government wanted to eliminate discrimination, but was opposed by these people. So, are you personally for ethnic discrimination? You are often hired by [media giant] MNC, and Hari Tanoe [its founder] is [ethnically] Chinese, FYI.

While supporters of both Arie and Ernest inevitably used the viral tweets as a platform for even more racial and religious debates, it’s nice to see that some truly understand the meaning of togetherness and the dangers of protests like 212 and 812.

I like your tweet. I’m Muslim and I have Chinese friends and we can still eat together. Chinese, Sundanese, Javanese, Bataknese — we’re all Indonesians, one family

At any rate, Arie has not responded to Ernest’s reply as of the time of writing so we don’t know whether or not he knowingly approved of what essentially amounts to racism. But, hopefully, Arie’s tweet and all the backlash against it will help Indonesians realize that highly politicized events like 212 and 812 are about all about division and polarization at a time when we should be focusing on diversity and protecting pluralism.

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