LAST week, an expatriate lady asked me this question: “What happens if your plane’s navigational systems get messed up? How do you guys know how to land?”
So I told her that if this ever happens, we’d still be able to use a compass and a wristwatch to bring the plane directly overhead the airfield, before looking for a giant lit cross. That cross will bring us directly to the runway.
“Wow!” she said. “You are a truly a great captain.”
Okay, I made up the second part.
But I did get the “Wow!”
Anyway, I appreciate these little exchanges. They put things on a lighter note.
The thing with this particular one about “following the cross”, however, was the timing.
Because of what happened in Selangor the previous week, one of my wise-cracking stewards suddenly remarked, “Follow the cross, unless you are in Selangor!”
I had to chide him for that, yet had to agree. There were some jokes about how the infamous cross protestors might jump out of the plane if they find out that every plane follows a giant lit cross just before landing.
Apparently, this is called “staurophobia”, i.e. a phobia towards the cross, crucifix or any other shape depicting two lines intersecting at right angles.
Now I don’t know if that Taman Medan fracas had anything to do with a genuine phobia.
Yet that was the reason stated by their chief protestor.
That stunt, intended to intimidate Malaysian Christians from singing hymns on Sunday, hit the front pages.
With a stinging rebuke from the Home Minister!
Malaysians from all walks of life wasted no time expressing their disgust, including digging up dirt on the personal behaviour and less-than-holy lifestyles of the said protestors – including naughty visits to seedy places like casinos.
Even the whitest skullcap failed to save the chief protestor from the resulting humiliation.
The “Let’s attack Christians this week” strategy backfired so much that he had no choice but to alter his story and be the hero instead.
Apparently, he was there to prevent the others from “inciting racial tension”. Thanks to his speech about equality, justice and harmony, tragedy was averted and Malaysians could forget the whole thing, link hands and sing kumbaya.
Or 1M4U if you find kumbaya a bit too Christian for your taste!
Still, the honourable Home Minister was less than impressed, relegating the chief protestor’s claims of heroism to little more than sedition – a cowardly attempt to “engender feelings of ill-will or enmity between the different races, and/or religions in Malaysia”.
Yes, that’s what the Sedition Act says about people who choose to protest a completely silent and harmless religious activity simply on the basis of religious symbolism.
But for a minute, let’s give the chief protestor the benefit of the doubt. He claimed that the protest was to calm fears and soothe nerves after his kith and kin got “alarmed” at the sight of a cross which greeted them as they opened their windows in the morning.
He went to the extent of telling everyone that his group “panicked” when they saw the cross.
So, going by his claims, we are left with no choice but to conclude that his group had suffered from staurophobia – or an irrational fear of the cross.
Now, if panic describes a sudden, overpowering fear (which in this case, affected many people at the same time), what can we further conclude?
Obviously, the protestors must have suffered some sort of mass delusion that day, since phobias imply an irrational or imagined fear of something – although many found it strange that fearful people could still grin and pose for pictures after all that rabble-rousing!
So, what do we do next?
Do we need to entertain their claims of “panic” that’s supposedly aroused by churches displaying crosses?
Or do we safely assume that it’s just an excuse to justify despicable behaviour?
If anything is to be learnt from this disgraceful episode, it’s simply this: Since the threat to these people is not real but only an imagined one, the authorities can send them for evaluation.
With proper counselling, I believe they can become useful citizens of our country.
God bless the protestors of Taman Medan.