European prejudices can take root among Asian elites. Take for example the short book ‘The Jews of the Orient’. Its author was Vajiravudh,
King Rama VI of Siam who succeeded King Chulalongkorn in 1910. Vajiravudh had been
educated at Sandhurst and Oxford. He was a passionate Anglophile and a prolific
author: he translated both Agatha Christie and three plays of Shakespeare,
including ‘The Merchant of Venice’.
In ‘The Jews of the Orient’, which had a
powerful impact on the development of chauvinist Siamese/Thai nationalism, the King claimed that
the Chinese exhibited all the notorious (and mythological) traits of European
Jews: they cultivated clannish international networks; were reluctant to
assimilate; they were clever and greedy financiers; they despised their hosts...
‘The Jews of the Orient’ invested Asian
anti-Sinitic tropes with European stereotypes of Jews.
A century after the
Siamese King published his poisonous tract, and six decades after the European
Holocaust, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad addressed the Islamic
Conference on 16 October 2003: Jews, he proclaimed, ‘ruled the world by proxy’:
he called for a ‘final victory’ by the world’s 1.3 million Muslims – we cannot,
he told the Conference, be defeated ‘by a few million Jews’. Malaysian Foreign
Minister Syed Hamid Albar backed his boss: ‘I'm
sorry that they have misunderstood the whole thing. ... Please forget about
anti-Semitism [sic] ... The PM's message is to stop violence, which is not the
answer for us to succeed in our struggle. People may not be very happy but this
is the reality: the Jews are very powerful.’ For how many Muslims did Mahathir speak?
According to one Malaysian blogger, Mahathir is too friendly with Jews - he's not anti-Semitic enough!
Here's one example, which should be read in heavy moral inverted commas:
'How is it that Mahathir is still alive and kicking after having seriously offended the “most powerful people in the world” (the Jews), not once but repeatedly? It is because, he has been a stooge of not only the US but also the Jews, and he was excused by them for his over-zealous efforts to deceive Malaysians and the Islamic world about his anti-Jewish and consequently anti-Israeli stand.'
Here we have curdled medieval fears of 'Jewish plots' - and a Manichean fantasy of a final victory. Racial poison can travel a long way.
Labels: anti-Semitism, Chulalongkorn, King Rama VI, Mahathir, Vajiravudh