Yesterday I wrote about the #WeAreMajulah team. A group of cynics trying to whip up Nationalist fervour by jumping on the bandwagon of the #JeSuisCharlie movement that sprung up as a result of the Paris Charlie Hebdo attacks.
For those of you have forgotten, Charlie Hebdo is a French satirical magazine that was attacked at its office in Paris with 11 of its editorial staff and journalists and one policeman murdered by terrorists for publishing posts attacking Islam or caricaturing the Prophet. It is clear that the team are alluding to the Charlie Hebdo attacks and the way the French and people all over the world came together to protect the right to freedom of speech. This included many Muslims who also adopted the moniker in solidarity, just like the Muslim policeman who was killed trying to stop the terrorists.
In the wake of the killings a global movement sprung up on Facebook and Twitter. It adopted the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie to express solidarity with the murdered cartoonists and journalists. Many of those who adopted #JeSuisCharlie did not even agree with the opinions expressed by the cartoon and the journalist but simply wanted to stand up for the right to be offensive as a part of the right to freedom of expression. In doing so they were following in the tradition of the French philosopher Voltaire whose biographer writes that Voltaire would have said something along the lines of:
“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”
In fact Divian Nair’s emotional, folksy and overly melodramatic account of how a terrorist can be thwarted only if Singaporeans come together as one to stop him, is more directly inspired by accounts of the 7/7 bombers in London and the would be 21/7 bombings in London. In other words the “story” that Nair tells is patched together from first hand accounts from victims and witnesses in London who describe seeing the bombers and the look in their eyes, nervousness and so on.
The ending to the real 21/7 story thank goodness is that the bombs failed to detonate which leaves us with many intact witnesses
One of those witnesses, Angus Campbell was undoubtedly a hero. He was given a medal afterwards. I think Singaporeans should take a close look at the account of this man who has faced a terrorist with a bomb in his rucksack in real life. We can surely learn more from him than from some random Talk Show host.
If you wanted to custom build a hero to be travelling on a train opposite a terrorist when his detonator goes up in smoke then you would build Angus Campbell. So did he rally the people in the carriage to jump on the terrorist or did he himself charge at him ? Did he F***
Angus Campbell is a firemen and a former soldier. As he says in his own words “I know smoke”. If you wanted to custom build a hero to be travelling on a train opposite a terrorist when his detonator goes up in smoke then you would build Angus Campbell. So did he rally the people in the carriage to jump on the terrorist or did he himself charge at him ? Did he F***!
The transcript of a BBC radio programme allows Angus to tell us in his own words
ANGUS CAMPBELL: It was a very hot day and it was just a normal, relatively boring, journey in. We entered the tunnel and we hadn’t gone very far and there was an explosion.: I recall the carriage being full of smoke. I’m quite good on smoke, I know smoke and it was white smoke and I couldn’t quite understand. Pandemonium broke out. People started screaming.
( BBC Reporter) VINE: You then look over here and Ramzi Mohammed is about here, is he?
ANGUS: Yeah, he is, once I’d cowed and turned away and then come back, the carriage is full of smoke and he’s now looking directly at me and there’s a huge amount of smoke coming from his back, and there’s a huge amount of smoke coming from the debris that’s on the floor.
VINE: And there’s a child and that’s your priority.
ANGUS: Yeah… well no, my first reaction is to run away, so I stand up, I make to run away.
In case you didn’t read that: my first reaction is to run away, so I stand up, I make to run away.
But Angus goes back and helps a mum and toddler in a pushchair to move to another carriage and he challenges the terrorist but from the end of the carriage. Later when the terrorist runs down the platform a 70 year old man tackles him. You can read the transcript here:
My point is that in these real situations the vast majority of people panic scream and start thinking they are going to die and that is perfectly natural. Even our hero Angus made to run away at first.
I do speak with some experience. On 7/7 I was working in London. (I was reluctantly exiled because everyone was too scared to hire me in my home country) It took me over 4 hours to walk home that day and there was no cell phone network. Everyone was afraid. Everyone was anxious. But the next day all those Londoners decided to get back on the buses and the trains and go straight back to work.
What they didn’t do was to come together with glue and talk about all being the same although there was a sharp rise in Islamophobia following the attacks. They remained stratified and diverse and multicultural and unequal and uniquely individual. Because the actual glue that sticks Londoners together is a belief in democracy and freedom.
Long before that in 1965, my mother was working in MacDonald House at the offices of Donaldson and Burkinshaw when a bomb exploded. Another near miss we’ll never forget.
In attempting to hijack the #JeSuisCharlie movement for their own purposes, #WeAreMajulah are doing the movement a grave disservice and attempting to fool Singaporeans. We are as far from Je Suis Charlie as can possibly be imagined but #WeAreNotDaft. For in Singapore we have no right to be offensive or even mildly critical of Lee Kuan Yew and his descendants. This was made abundantly clear in the Amos Yee case.
Amos made critical remarks about Christianity like Charlie Hebdo had done about Islam, but much milder and nothing that Richard Dawkins would not say or any gobby teenager. He published a cartoon, also like Charlie Hebdo, crudely depicting a man and a woman having sex onto which he pasted the heads of Lee Kuan Yew and Margaret Thatcher.
Many Christians in Singapore and abroad said that they stood by his rights to make those comments even when they were offended – but most weren’t. Exactly the view that many Muslims had put forward about the Charlie Hebdo journalists.
So Amos Yee was our Charlie Hebdo and though not murdered, he was arrested and kept in prison for two months on remand despite being only 16 years old. Because of his courage in refusing to admit his guilt and refusal to agree not to re-post his video and cartoon, he was sent to a psychiatric hospital, in a chilling analogy with the way the Soviet Union used to treat dissidents, where he was kept chained to a bed for forty-eight hours.
The prosecution were pressing, and the judge looked disposed to grant their request, to send him for reformative training for eighteen months where he would be locked up with hardened criminals and gang members.
It should be a matter of National Shame that during most of this the majority of Singaporeans were silent about the treatment that Amos was receiving. He was even physically assaulted by a man outside the court who received a shorter sentence than Amos. Bertha Henson of The Middle Ground even went so far as to say that she experienced vicarious pleasure seeing Amos getting slapped.
It was only after I repeatedly spoke to Amnesty about Amos and applied some pressure that they adopted him as a Prisoner of Conscience (JBJ was similarly adopted in 1986). Along with Human Rights Watch and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who issued similar statements, this resulted in the AG backing down from pressing for Amos to be sent to reformative training and his sentence was reduced to 4 weeks backdated to the time of his arrest.
This is the really uncomfortable fact about #WeAreMajulah. They are borrowing movements from other countries and attempting to use them to galvanise patriotic feeling and National pride in a deliberate attempt to influence and advance their own political agenda.
For sure, they are NOT seeking to defend our cherished freedom of speech or the right to be offensive because we do not have any of these rights and freedoms. They speak about Liberte but they are practising quite the opposite because they say on their website that ‘WE ARE MAJULAH’ does not condone sedition or unqualified cynicism. What does that even mean? One thing that glues many of us Singaporeans together is the very logical belief that Sedition is an outdated colonial law that should be struck off the law books as it has been in the UK.
It has become a trick of the PAP’s to call any criticism “cynicism” to suggest that anyone who is critical of them is somehow unworthy and not deserving of respect. Also they have succeeded in convincing many Singaporeans that criticism is sedition and therefore illegal. As we all predicted any kind of dissenting opinion will soon become illegal. #WeAreMajulah are there to try and advance and reinforce this perception.
The rest of their movement can be summed up as a plagiarism of the London Blitz spirit often referred to after the 7/7 bombings. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-11213968
And of course gross fear-mongering. It’s Lee Kuan Yewism 101 and his fear-mongering of The Barbarians at the Gate. We saw that fear mongering in full swing on National Day and during GE2015 and call me paranoid but I see an unbroken line to this group. The next phase of the offensive has been rolled out.
Reading the Majulah website I get the distinct impression that they know something we don’t. There are repeated references to crisis and adversity. Either they know a terrorist attack is likely and that we are ill prepared for it or they know the economic down turn will hit very hard. Either way it’s clear that you will be accused of lack of Majulah or that you are lacking in Interwoven glue if you dissent, just as Germans who refused to say Heil Hitler were regarded as traitors.
The more of us who believe in it, the more interwoven the glue is, the stronger we will be in the face of any adversity.
Maybe I shouldn’t worry so much. Maybe they are just a group of ego maniacal loons with a far right wing agenda. We’ll see. If they get MSM coverage and allowed to speak at schools and events then we’ll know for sure that they are a government put up job.
In any event, it is a gross disservice to freedom and the #JeSuisCharlie movement for these people to call themselves #WeAreMajulah and claim to be lions. A better name for them would be #WeAreMinions or #WeAreSerfsOfTheLeeFamily.