Alfian Sa’at: Calvin Cheng Getting Too Big For His Boots

Last one before I wash my hand of this tawdry ex-NMP, ex-price-fixer, ex-young-PAP and current has-been-yet-wannabe affair. Uh, yucks:

I have been off Facebook for almost two weeks, trying to find some quiet time. The grief comes in waves and the feelings are still raw.

Imagine then my shock at reading Calvin Cheng’s post, trying to link me and my writings with radicalised youths, calling me a ‘domestic agitator’ who deserves to be detained without trial once ‘red lines are crossed’ (of course with draconian instruments like the ISA the definition of this ‘red line’ is meant to be conveniently arbitrary).

Was this a response to something recent that I posted? No. It was a response to the recent ISA arrests of some Muslim youths. And somehow Calvin Cheng found it necessary to tar me with the same brush, perhaps in the hope of threatening me to keep silent, or not raise questions about certain issues that make him uncomfortable—or that he doesn’t have the capacity to rebut robustly and convincingly.

The suggestion that I might be linked to Muslim extremism would be hilarious if not for the fact that Calvin Cheng thinks that it is a valid charge. He probably has no idea about how I’ve been attacked by those from the Wear White campaign and accused of being a ‘secular fundamentalist’. He doesn’t know that my play, ‘Nadirah’, was about interfaith understanding, and that my play ‘Parah’ critiqued Malay-Muslim ethnocentricism in Malaysia. These details don’t bother him, because he probably thinks that when you want to get a Muslim person to shut up, then you go full on McCarthy and try to associate him with terrorism. Which is its own kind of racism.

I have at various times tried to record the experiences of being a Malay minority in Singapore. And they have all been above board–it’s there in my plays, my books. These works have been funded by government bodies, which have very strict guidelines on anything that might cause racial and religious discord. Online, I don’t join clandestine closed groups and polemicise in echo chambers. The very fact that my posts are set to public means that just about anyone is free to tell me whether I have indeed crossed a line, like for example if any of my points about Singapore not honouring the ideals of multiculturalism is seen as vile hate speech against the Chinese. Calvin Cheng would have ample opportunity to engage me on these matters. And if indeed he had reasonable arguments to offer, then I would most certainly temper my posts. But he has chosen not to, and instead snipes at me without specifying which of my writings fall into the category of ‘terrorist propaganda’—which is what those youths (in MHA’s account) had been exposed to.

I actually think that this Calvin Cheng has had me in his gunsights for a while now. I don’t write exclusively about race, and I’m sure my writings about Amos Yee or Lee Kuan Yew must have pissed him off in some way. So he seizes the opportunity to lambast me based on some current event and spectacularly misfires.

The online world is a strange one. For some reason some of the most articulate social commentators—Alex Au, Andrew Loh, Carlton Tan, Howard Lee, Vincent Wijeysingha, Kirsten Han, Lynn Lee, Joshua Chiang, Gwee Li Sui, Imran Mohd Taib, Sudhir Thomas, Loh Kah Seng, Thum Ping Tjin, Isrizal, Martyn See, Chris Ho, Donald Low (whose smackdown of Calvin Cheng really revealed what an intellectual pygmy the latter was) etc—tend to be critical of the establishment. And in the other corner, we have Jason Chua and Calvin Cheng. It must be terribly frustrating and lonely. Once I get past my annoyance, I realise that what I really feel for Calvin Cheng is pity. Pity that the sheer paucity of people in his corner has led him to think that he is bigger than he really is. Pity that his responses in the wake of his slander has run along the lines of yapping taunts like ‘come sue me’, ‘come slap me now…you don’t have the balls’, ‘take a queue number’, ‘make me take down the flag from my profile (if you think I dishonour it)’. Pity that in shooting his mouth off, he’s succeeded in shooting the messenger–oh, and his own foot.


Source: Alfian Sa’at

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