How DAP rep Syerleena stood up to bullies and overcame fear

Saturday, June 23 2018

How DAP rep Syerleena stood up to bullies and overcame fear

How DAP rep Syerleena stood up to bullies and overcame fear Published 4 minutes ago on 23 June 2018
By Opalyn Mok Seri Delima assemblywoman Syerleena Abdul Rashid speaks to Malay Mail during an interview in George Town. — Picture by KE Ooi
GEORGE TOWN, June 17 — Vocal about social issues, newly-elected Seri Delima assemblywoman Syerleena Abdul Rashid has faced harassment and was labelled “anti-Malay” and “anti-Islam” since she joined the DAP in 2013.
The reason? Simply because she is Malay, Muslim, a woman who doesn’t wear tudung, and is a member of a predominantly Chinese party that was previously in the Opposition but is now part of the federal government after the 14th general election.
“The attacks were nasty and I couldn’t understand how people can be that vicious. And my parents were also quite worried,” Syerleena told Malay Mail in a recent interview.
The first few times she was attacked online when she first joined DAP back in 2013, it was a frightening experience for her.
Syerleena also faced death threats on Facebook and Twitter. These attacks could be over any issue she stood up for, most of which were not even religious issues.
She was also spammed with viral messages accusing her of an agenda to destroy the Islamic religious council and to destroy other Islamic institutions in the country.
“Who would want to destroy the Islam institution in the country? I get all these just because I represent a party that has been demonised as anti-Islam for over six decades,” she said.
The constant attacks over the years eventually stopped scaring her. Now 38, she is able to look back and realise that her faceless critics were wielding words to beat her down mentally.
“It kind of made me stronger, made me realise these were just words. So when we confronted them, they get scared because these are just people hiding behind the computer screen,” she said.
Syerleena said she has never viewed herself through lenses coloured by race or creed. She related growing up in an environment where she was taught that “people are just people”.
‘We never saw race or religion dividing people and I am aware that I will be attacked when I join in politics because of my liberal beliefs, because I was not in tudung.
“All these should not be important. It is just appearances. What is more important is how we treat people,” she said.
Prior to becoming a politician, the Universiti Sains Malaysia graduate with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphics Communications was director of a sports recreation company and a personal trainer.
She was an active member of Aliran, a multiracial social justice group founded in 1977 that also regularly publishes a monthly magazine to increase political, social and economic awareness.
She was also part of an anti-human trafficking non-government organisation.
She joined DAP after the 2013 general election because she was spurred by an anger that Barisan Nasional (BN) was still in control of the federal government back then.
“I read up on the political parties and I decided to join DAP because of its principles and everything in the party is based on merits,” she said.
She said she was not very keen on the politics upheld by Umno and she found PAS too strict and radical, especially in the way the party treated its female members.
By joining DAP, she hoped to encourage more women to come out and join political parties.
“We need more female representatives. We need more women to come out because in politics, you will be attacked. But there is nothing to fear actually. These are not real,” she said. Related Articles