Despite The Star suspending indefinitely two senior editors earlier this month over the Erykah Badu issue, pressure is mounting for the government to come down harder on the English publication.
Up to yesterday, I still received text messages from some bloggers and reps from several Muslim NGOs voicing out their disappointment that Home Minister Hishammuddin Tun Hussein was being 'too lenient' with them.
What else do they want? Star2 senior editor Lim Cheng Hoe and assistant editor Daryl Goh who approved Badu's photo to be published last month, are already on holiday. Its as good as losing the job for them.
Close down The Star? Is this what Perkasa, pro-Umno bloggers and the Muslim NGOs want?
Its editorial boss Wong Chun Wai has replied the 'show cause' letter sent by the Home Ministry. Plans were introduced to enhance the level of understanding among The Star's non-Muslim staff about the 'sensitivities of Islam', including other measures to ensure that such a 'stupid mistake' will not be repeated.
However, as much as the Muslims want others to understand and respect Islam, how many Muslims have made the move to understand and respect other religions? While we want the non-Muslims to identify and 'learn' the Arabic characters for Allah and Muhammad, are we sensitive enough to learn about theirs?
The two non-Muslim editors have been made victims of extreme minds. But are we suppose to blame the non-Muslims when we the Muslims too are not interested to understand the characters of other religions?
While the Muslims were outraged by scattered incidents deemed to insult the religion, the non-Muslims in Malaysia usually have to stage a silent protest when some Bibles and holy books of other religions were subjected to ill-treatment by some 'nasty' Muslims.
Perkasa, the pro-govt Malay NGO has been so loud in demanding stringent action on the Star. The Home Ministry came under tremendous pressure to suspend the newspaper, and worst to the extend of revoking its printing permit or close it down.
The leaders of Perkasa have forgotten that it was The Star who came to their rescue over the 'white ang pow' by coming up with a defensive article that 'the red ang pow ran out on that particular day'.
I am not defending The Star for such an error. The fact that its editorial did not have a specialist to monitor the photo before it goes to print, cannot be accepted. But the fact that other newspapers that made similar or more or less the same mistake as The Star and then got away with only a minor 'show cause' letter by the ministry, made The Star a perfect platform for individual politics.
Sadly, even some Umno leaders rode on the issue by condemning the newspaper as racist and anti-Islam.
Is The Star as such? Being a pro-government newspaper and has shown undivided support for Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, is it fair to label it as anti-Malays or anti-Islam?
And is it fair to blame Hishamuddin for not imposing a 'death penalty' on The Star? Did the duo or bosses at The Star simply committed the mistake for some reasons? Personally, I don't see any ill-intention here as they know very well the consequences awaiting them.
If I am in Hisham's shoes, firstly I will take up the case as a serious. Issue a show cause letter to The Star, get them to explain the mistake and the course of action to be taken in order to avoid its recurrence.
However, after series of similar errors, The Star deserves to be suspended but such a decision will not only affect the life of its 4,000 staff but will also subject the government to the Opposition's criticism.
Secondly, Hisham could be weighing the political impact on Barisan Nasional should The Star is punished severely. As the newspaper belongs to MCA, the BN component party will not be at ease should the publication is suspended. In BN, even Umno needs MCA and this means, anything that shaken MCA interest will have a direct impact on the ruling party.
And finally, Hisham could also use the proper channels to defuse public anger and outrage over the issue. The Malays and Muslims need to be told that despite the error was unintentionally committed by the respective Star personnel, the ministry has taken a fair action against it.
But still, we can't avoid those extreme minds from mind-boggling Najib or Hisham. In a multi-racial and multi-religious Malaysia, we need moderate minds to bring our rakyat together.
The Malays in Umno must be aware that Umno cannot form the government by its own without MCA, MIC and other component parties. With the Opposition onslaught gets more mean, are we suppose to sacrifice the hope of millions of voters for BN to win the next general election, just to boost our ego for things like this?