17/1/2013 – As at the time of this writing, the infamous Syarifah Zohra’s Listen-Listen-Listen seminar was viewed by more than 250,000 netizens. Thousands of comments pronged into Syarifah Zohra’s little known Suara Wanita 1Malaysia (SW1M) facebook, mostly in support of Bawani KS, the second year law student being vindictively attacked and humilated in front of some 2300 student population of Northern University Malaysia (UUM).
The overflowing moral support from the public towards an innocent student, confronted by a supposedly more mature, older and self-proclaimed ‘better-educated’ forum speaker is unprecedented in Malaysian history. While news of the speaker-versus-student confrontation spread like wildfire in the people’s alternative media (i.e., MalaysiaKini, MalaysiaToday, Free Malaysia Today, and the like), it did not receive due recognition in mainstream newspapers.
Critics claimed that this incident is solid prove how the ruling government of Barisan Nasional (BN) attempts to entrance influence–or brainwash–young, unsuspecting public university students into submission. Through the eyes of a number of liberal critics, the focus of the UUM’s seminar, held on Disember 8, 2012–judging from its content and speeches–amongst others, were:
1) To obtain a pledge of allegiance from the students to reject gay and lesbianism culture;
2) To relay the message that complaints, discontentments and public protests (one such as BERSIH) are bad, and should not be supported.
Therefore, since Datuk Ambiga, the former Malaysian Bar Council President-now-turned BERSIH Chairman, supports gay and lesbianism, Ambiga and BERSIH should both be rejected.
At least two other similar seminars–having Zohra as key speaker–have been conducted in the month of November at Sultan Idris Teachers Training University (UPSI) and National University of Malaysia (UKM). The main sponsors of earlier seminars, as evident in the banners posted, were JASA (a special affairs unit of the Information Ministry which places many, of not most, pro-BN and BN party members), and KIMMA (an Indian Muslim pro-BN political party whose President has been officially appointed as a Senator by BN).
“Since KIMMA’s entry into Barisan Nasional is still under evaluation, it is pertinent that the former shows some form of commitment to BN. What better means than to subterfugely retrieve and sway votes from the young, innocent Malay university students? It would be like taking candies from unsuspecting toddlers.
The task may have been given to Zohra, who was the Deputy Women Chief of KIMMA. That would explain how the little known organization (SW1M), have adequate funding to sponsor a free seminar, packed with freebies,” explained a political critic cum academician.
“What was distrubing was the (university) administration’s willingness to subject its to a single-sided political propaganda. This is both appalling and unacceptable. If the university truly wanted to encourage intellectual discussion, at the very least, they should have also invited Ambiga to present her views, in person. We cannot teach these youngster to attack anyone without giving the person a chance to defend him or herself,” he continued.
Ever since excerpts of the seminar’s video was uploaded via YouTube, several pro-Zohra parties offered explanations, which to most appeared as ‘twisted answers’, offered as an afterthought, to correct a wrong.
First, the title of the seminar itself. SW1M’s banner as posted in its website clearly indicated the forum’s title as, “Are college students aligned with politics?” In fact, during the seminar, Nurul Izzah (vice-president of PKR) and Ambiga (chairperson of BERSIH NGO) names were mentioned. Zohra had in fact, admited in the video that she had called Ambiga as an anarcist and a protest-starter; and that she’s not willing to retract from that statement.”
Whereas, Muhammad Syahmi Zakaria, the adviser to the program, claimed that the title of the program was about ‘women and politics’. Ambiga’s name was picked up as an example, because she is known to be a supporter of gay and lesbianism movement.
Second, a SW1M’s facebook administrator claimed that Zohra had every right to belittle Bawani openly and took the microphone away since question-and-answer time was over. SW1M attempted to support Zohra’s unprofessional behaviour by claiming that Bawani had not only went out of the topic of the forum, but also took everyone’s time expressing her lengthy comments.
Third, SW1M strongly believes that Bawani deserved to be ‘listened’ to (no, its not what you thought. Haha) Being ‘listened’ to, by SW1M’s definition, is not to be heard. Instead to be told, “Listen, listen, listen, listen, listen, listen (11 times, am i there yet?)… When I speak, YOU listen!”
What Zohra, SW1M and to some extend, Syahmi failed to understand was the real reason behind public’s uproar and discontent. How could an older, supposedly more mature speaker, no matter how highly educated she may think or claimed she was, snobbishly belittled a young, enthusiastic woman seeking for answers? What gave Zohra the right to castrate a fellow human being, simply because she was at the time, in a position of ‘power’?
If indeed Bawani had taken the audience’s time, then why was Zohra’s unrelated answer (on animals) took longer than the questions posed by the former?
Why did Zohra did not show compassion to a fellow woman (a young, eager-to-learn student, no less), when she claimed that Bawani ‘had the littlest education’ in front of the latter’s peers?
Why was it alright to the panels to talk about Nurul Izzah and Ambiga, yet the same courtesy was not extended to forum attendees? Once a topic or name have been raised as argument, the opposing counsel would have the right to rebuttle on the same topic. Any first year law student would have known that fact.
But most importantly, she could have tactfully cut the conversation short by saying, “I’d really like to anwer your question, however since time did not permit us to do so, perhaps I can answer you in private?”
No, none of the excuses offered by Zohra’s team thus far, are acceptable. The excuses are after thoughts to justify an outlandishly rude behaviour. Although she may promise the Sinar Harian tabloid to provide more answers in due time, the only answer the public are waiting from her is, an apology.
An apology to Bawani for her rudeness. An apology to UUM, UPSI and UKM students for attemping to sway their political preference by danggling tablets as carrots. And an apology to the Malaysian public for attemping to offer, one lie after another.