“Wong An Wah” trendsetter cautions against stirring the hornet’s nest

JENNIE (not her real name) was casually scrolling through social media earlier this week when she saw a screenshot of a rather bizarre Facebook post.

It was just after last Saturday’s (Nov 19) elections, and a netizen’s school-going child was apparently told by one of their teachers that Malaysia would see the “end” of Islam because of those who voted for Pakatan Harapan (PH), a coalition which is often touted as being anti-Islam and anti-Malay.

This, the netizen said, was in line with the same “script” that other school teachers were supposedly telling students: that with a PH government, Muslim students would not be allowed to don tudungs and girls would be forced to only wear pinafores to school.

But perhaps the most ludicrous of these claims was that PH’s prime minister candidate – and Malaysia’s eventual 10th PM – Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim… is Chinese.

This led Jennie to tweet her now-infamous statement on the social media platform almost one week ago: “Who started the rumour that DSAI (Anwar) is Chinese? Bodohhhhhh he’s Anwar Ibrahim, not Wong An Wah.”

Her tweet has been retweeted almost 14,000 times to date, liked by over 32,000 netizens and was even a trending topic on Twitter at one point. 

Recalling what was going through her mind at the time, Jennie said she didn’t think twice about tweeting what she said – she just immediately felt the need to remind people that Anwar, a Malay-Muslim, is “obviously” not Chinese.

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim addressing the media at the Prime Minister’s Office (Photo credit: Sadiq Asyraf)

“Wong An Wah is actually just a random Chinesification of his name, no thoughts behind it,” she told
FocusM in a recent interview.

However, Jennie, a 26-year-old working in the tech industry, has thought a lot about the “malice” of such sentiments being issued just because Anwar’s PH coalition was slated to return to govern the country once more.

“Most people who make these suggestions seem to believe that stuff like that (eg. women needing to take off their headscarves) will happen, even though logically, we know it won’t.”

Jennie noted that Anwar himself is Muslim, “quite pious” and was the one who introduced headscarves as part of the school uniform in a private school he founded with Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (ABIM) way back when, which was eventually replicated in public schools.

“But I think it’s similar to the Korean popular music (K-pop) community believing that concerts may be banned if Perikatan Nasional (PN) took over,” she added, “which seems likely given PAS’ track record, but we don’t know their priorities.

“I don’t speak for all the K-pop lovers here but some of us were quite fearful (about the prospect of a PN government),” she said.

The social media persona has one thing to say to those who come up with such rumours and seemingly want to rock the boat of race and religious tensions in Malaysia: “This attitude is not slayin’, bestie.”

“If you don’t want friends, just say so – don’t stir up problems just because you can,” she added. “These negative consequences, like striking unnecessary fear, can do much harm in the long run, like (lead to) racism and extremism.”

And although her tweet has gone viral, turned into meme-worthy content and even made it to the news, Jennie doesn’t think it has prompted a serious discussion about problematic race and religion rhetoric; it just made people laugh.

“These rhetorics won’t stop until we address the question of why these assumptions happen,” she said. “Who is fueling them? Why do kids think that voting Anwar (means) not being able to wear tudung?

“It is beyond logic, but kids believe in Narnia, so this belief could be a school thing. Obviously, someone is telling them (all) this.”

She also said while it was not an ideal way to cater to their “insecurities”, that Anwar told his maiden press conference as PM on Thursday (Nov 24) that Malay rights and the position of Islam will be protected during his time in office was “one way of stopping the fire”.

Looking to the future, Jennie does foresee a day when a non-Malay ends up becoming PM but laments that she will not live long enough to see it.

“I want to, but it is unlikely if we base it on the US or UK, which had non-white presidents and PMs recently; these countries are much older than Malaysia (the US is 248 years old while England’s first PM was elected around the 1700s),” she noted. 

“(Whoever) he/she/they (may be), the future non-Malay PM will probably also be Muslim because it is more acceptable here,” she added. – Nov 27, 2022

Subscribe and get top news delivered to your Inbox everyday for FREE