In a posting titled “The Rohingyas” on his blog, the former prime minister said the troubles of the ethnic minority were not unique but representative of the predicament facing Islamic nations the world over.
“Almost all Muslim countries and people are in trouble today. The latest are the Rohingyas of Myanmar,” he wrote in his latest blog entry.
“They are being forced to leave their own homes and country, to flee in leaky boats, overloaded and prone to being wrecked and they would be drowned (sic). All countries refuse to help these unfortunate creatures and they and their leaky boats get pushed back into the sea.”
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar over sectarian violence with Buddhists. Malaysia alone is host to some 80,000 such refugees from the country.
But Dr Mahathir said this was in part their own doing, claiming that Muslims across the world were being “bullied” from a failure to stand up together and for themselves.
“The weak of today are the Muslims. And the Muslims are weak because they choose to be weak,” Malaysia’s longest-serving prime minister wrote in his latest entry.
According to Dr Mahathir, this weakness was born from the complacency that Muslims have allowed themselves to be lulled into with wealth and resources.
“Since the Muslims care not for each other or for Islam anybody can beat any Muslim to death in full view of the other Muslims.
“We Muslims in Malaysia think this will not happen to us. So why should we care about what happens to the Rohingyas. It is their problem, not ours,” he added.
Although the former prime minister makes no mention of it in his entry, the message bore hallmarks of the call for Muslim unity that has formed the basis of attempts to get Umno and PAS to co-operate supposedly for the sake of the Malay community at large.
Muslim unity is a common rallying cry from the Malay nationalist party, which appears to view the elusive goal as a panacea of sorts to the various problems facing the country’s largest religion.
It is often used interchangeably with Malay unity, given the constitutional requirement that Malays must also be Muslims.
On Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin resurrected calls for unity talks between the two rivals, coincidentally following a fresh agitation from the Islamist party’s ulama (clergy) class for it to reassess its partnership within the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) opposition pact.
“It is important for the country’s Muslims to be united because the Muslims still face many challenges. There is a need to work together or otherwise we would have problems.
“That is why (when it comes to) talks about Umno and PAS, we have no problem with that,” the Umno deputy president said at a forum at the International Islamic University here on Tuesday.
This came after members of PAS’s ulama approved a resolution at its Multaqa Ulama Se-Malaysia convention on Sunday that the party should reconsider the “harm” of its continued links to partners PKR and the PR pact.
Party sources later told The Malay Mail Online that the call was likely alluding to the ongoing legal tussle over “Allah” between Muslims and Christians here stemming from a 2009 court decision upholding the latter’s constitutional right to use the Arabic word.
Unity talks between PAS and Umno have continually surfaced after Election 2008, when Barisan Nasional (BN) lost its parliamentary supermajority to the then-fledgling PR pact.
It came to a head in December 2010, when top leaders from both parties met quietly in a Christmas Eve dinner hosted by the Terengganu Palace to discuss the issue of Malay-Muslim unity.
The engagement collapsed when PAS ― chiefly spiritual advisor Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat ― adamantly expressed support for non-Muslims’ right to use the word “Allah”.
But the “Allah” issue does not split just the two rivals; the ulama class in PAS also share Umno’s stance that the term was exclusive to Muslims, leading to schism within the party.
And with the recent losses suffered by the Islamist party’s progressive leaders during the May 5 general election, the previously dormant issue may resurface as the conservatives push their way back into the limelight ahead of the PAS elections.