Ugly comments on beauty pageant

Those who participate in this event almost always promise to bring about world peace, end strife and help starving children, but what they have been more successful of doing is lift the spirits of young and old men everywhere and, lately, provoke controversy.

Recently, four Miss Malaysia World finalists made the news and sparked heated debate. This time, the furore was not over their proportions, vital statistics or intelligence quotient but rather the fact that the four should not have been in the contest in the first place.

The four girls are Muslims and there is a fatwa against their participation in beauty pageants. Outraged Netizens attacked the girls and all those who supported their participation on social media, and those on the other side of the fence threw back some choice words as well. Discussions on the subject turned ugly and racialistic as they usually do these days on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere. The girls succeeded in causing temperatures to rise, but not in the way intended. It did not help that several other issues were also simmering in the public sphere.

Attention-seeking couple Alvin Lee and Vivian Tan, now known as Alvivi, had around the same time posted that grotesquely inappropriate Ramadan greeting on their Facebook page. The duo deserve all the public odium and contempt for further unravelling the already tenuous situation among the races, as do all others who set out to incite and inflame.

The other cases involved allegations of headmasters, teachers, doctors and public university student selection panels being racist, all of which had sparked stomach-churning vitriol in cyberspace, even before it could be proven that the accusations were true.

It appears we are moving further away from that ideal -- the one where the nation's multiracial, multi-religious populace lives together in blissful, hand-holding harmony. This has been painfully apparent, especially post-GE13 with the perceived Chinese swing towards the opposition.

Can anything be done to rectify matters? How can greater muhibah and understanding be forged among the races? Can we go back to the way we once were when things were simpler, the people more tolerant, not as eager to offend, and less judgmental?

The simplest solution, as some have proposed, would be to eliminate all school systems save one -- a single school system to check racial polarisation.

There are, however, impediments to the establishment of a single school system, other than merely the Education Act 1996, which guarantees a place for Chinese and Tamil schools in the national education system.

The main obstacle is the nation's socio-political realities, which render the idea not just impractical but impossible. Even though it is logical.

As it is, even talking about it can inflame emotions and elicit threats of police reports and charges of sedition. Would it be prudent to further agitate and exacerbate the situation when there are so many divisive issues at play in the public domain? Would it be worth it, if it divides the people more than it unites them?

Besides, why blame vernacular schools when the problem lies with national schools? Students, especially non-Malays, have been steadily abandoning them for various reasons through the years.

Since a single school system is not expedient politically at this point, what should be relentlessly pursued is the strengthening of national schools. For now, or at least until there emerges greater political will to push the single school system ahead, memperkasakan sekolah kebangsaan remains the only remedy.

As for the four ex-Miss Malaysia World aspirants, they could have easily saved us all the angst by giving the beauty pageant a wide berth. Why would they want to participate in an event that does nothing to uplift the integrity of women? It's nothing to stand tall over, religious considerations aside.

Despite paying lip-service to feminist keywords, such as empowerment and self-confidence, such contests, in effect, do nothing concrete for women. They only reinforce this message that looks are the most important quality in women.

Did the four beauty queen wannabes really think they could help bring about world peace if they were crowned the most beauteous in the land?

On the contrary, all they have done is set back by several years efforts towards national reconciliation.