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.
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.
812 itu demo menentang ICERD (International Convention on The Elimination of Racial Discrimination). Pemerintah Malaysia mau menghapus disriminasi, tapi dilawan oleh orang2 ini. Jadi, elo pribadi lebih pro ke diskriminasi etnis? Lo banyak job di MNC, Hari Tanoe itu Cina, FYI. https://t.co/Qkglhaf6tF
— MILLY & MAMET – 20 Des’18 (@ernestprakasa) December 10, 2018
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.
Aku seneng twitmu bang. aku muslim dan aku punya kawan cina, kita ttp bisa makan bersama. Cina sunda jawa ngapak batak ttp orang indonesia, masih satu rumpun keluarga yg sama
— indra mawan (@rantauIM) December 10, 2018
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.