Malaysian Olympians being paraded on an open-top bus during National Day celebrations in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday. They did the nation proud winning medals on the international stage. Pic by Ghazali Kori

A controversial local academician, who has been accused of being a hate stirrer umpteen times, is in the news again.

Instead of joining other Malaysians in celebrating the success of our athletes who won medals at the recently concluded Rio Olympics, this professor chose to criticise them.

Branding them as “ultra kiasu” — as he often refers to the Chinese Malaysians in this country, Professor Dr Mohd Ridhuan Tee Abdullah claimed that the “ultra kiasu” athletes competed for monetary gain rather than patriotic reasons.

He went on to say that the “ultra kiasu” athletes were more involved in individual sports rather than those which required teamwork as they were after money.

Ridhuan, who is a lecturer at Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin, said sports had become a business and a tool to gain fame for this athletes.

Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has since condemned Ridhuan for his sweeping statement questioning the patriotism of our athletes who did the nation proud winning medals on the international stage.

“His views are wrong and irresponsible, I was disappointed and upset when I read what he said.

“I know our athletes. Maybe he has never met them. Regardless of race and background, they fought for the country.

“Maybe he (Ridhuan) should refrain from commenting about sports because he does not know much about it,” Khairy was quoted as saying.

It is ironic that this controversy concerning the sportsmen exploded on our National Day celebrations.

It was the same day our Olympic medallists were joyously feted for their success in Rio De Janeiro, with no less than the prime minister himself hailing the country’s many moments of unity, thanks to these sportsmen.

While it remains to be seen if Khairy’s open rebuke against Ridhuan is going to be followed up by other authorities, it is interesting to see how Malaysians in general are reacting to Ridhuan’s labelling of our sportsmen heroes as nothing but a bunch of “ultra kiasu”.

All the sane thinking ones have rightfully scoffed at the bigoted lecturer, shaking their heads in disbelief over how he could even contemplate trying to convince other Malaysians that our Olympians’ success was borne out of greed rather than for the love of the country.

It is ironic that even after 59 years of independence we still have lecturers at our varsities trying to poison the minds of their fellow countrymen with their racist and prejudiced views of the different communities in the country.

Sadly, there are many others out there who are also of the same mindset as Ridhuan and his ilk. There are many Malaysians who think nothing of profiling other race groups.

Even foreigners from certain countries are not spared from being profiled by some of us.

It’s done subconsciously all the time, and consciously sometimes.

Take for example cases of serious crime. Talk of a murder or a shoot-out, the first question coffee shop talk would inadvertently lead to ís whether a certain race is involved.

An accident happens, and the question on everyone’s lips would be which particular race the victim belongs to.

Ever heard of some of the names our enforcement authorities use for their operations against Africans in the country? For the enlightenment of those who don’t, it’s often connected to the colour of the skin or typical profile of a particular community.

We’ve also heard how many condominium managements in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Penang have barred those from certain ethnicities, mainly Africans, from renting or owning units in their properties.

The reason cited for this is that “these people are nothing but troublemakers who would only cause problems in the neighbourhood.”

This is no secret.

We all know race and religious profiling is commonly practised right here in our own backyard.

However, I guess while such profiling probably happens the world over, it becomes absolutely abhorrent when the patriotism of our athletes is questioned just because they are of a certain race.

Khairy certainly did right in telling Ridhuan to just keep his mouth shut as he did not know what he was talking about. Let’s hope others will follow suit too.

Sharanjit Singh is a veteran journalist who feels less talk and more action is needed to save planet earth from mankind

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