Najib Warns Malay Base of Threat to Islam If Opponents Win Power

  • ‘What will happen to our race’ if UMNO toppled, Najib says
  • Opposition says Najib diverting attention from scandals

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak warned his ethnic Malay support base that Islam would be threatened and they would be reduced to “beggars” should the opposition take power.

The majority Malay population shouldn’t become complacent about picking the nation’s leaders, Najib told members of his United Malays National Organisation in a speech on Thursday. He identified the ethnic Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party as UMNO’s biggest rival in the next general election, which must be held by mid-2018.

“What will happen to our race” if UMNO is toppled, Najib said at an annual party gathering. “Malays will no longer have anywhere to hang their hopes, they will fall and lie prone, and will be considered lowly and be vagabonds, beggars and destitutes in their own land.”

Racial and religious issues are increasingly coming to the fore of politics in the predominantly Muslim nation, which Najib’s ruling coalition has led since 1957. In the last election in 2013, his alliance won by its slimmest-ever result as Chinese and Indian voters deserted it.

The opposition has since tried to lure UMNO’s support base of Bumiputeras -- Malays and indigenous people -- who are discontented with rising living costs and disillusioned over allegations of graft surrounding Najib. That has proved difficult, due to divisions among opposition groups and an electoral map that favors the ruling coalition.

‘Dangerous’ Secularism

“If the country falls into the hands of the DAP, which champions extreme liberalism and a brand of secularism that’s dangerous, the rights and privileges advocated and defended by UMNO over the years -- including its institutions -- will become extinct and disappear," Najib said. “Malays and Bumiputeras will be engulfed in a nightmare.”

The DAP’s constitution says that it would uphold the federal constitution, which includes provisions on the position of Islam and the rights of Bumiputeras, said Tony Pua, the party’s publicity chief.

“Najib is using racial rhetoric and lies to demonize DAP to divert attention from his multitude of scandals,” Pua said.

Najib has already weathered more than a year of negative headlines over multi-million dollar political donations and alleged embezzlement at a state investment company, and strengthened his grip on power by silencing detractors. He has denied wrongdoing and said he wouldn’t step down, while the attorney general cleared him of graft earlier this year.

The premier was a teenager when riots erupted between Malays and Chinese in Kuala Lumpur in 1969. His father Abdul Razak Hussein became prime minister the following year and responded with a program to reduce Chinese dominance in business by giving preferential treatment to Bumiputeras. Those programs still exist today.

The UMNO-led government will continue to be fair to all races and religions, Najib said.

“We hope Malaysians will continue to choose us forever,” Najib said.