Saturday, November 19, 2011

All Malaysians must strive to bury religious and racial differences


Hi Pete,

With my comment under your article "Let's get it straight", I was trying to put across a subtle, subliminal message but, judging by the responses, I obviously failed big time to hit the target. I will be more direct in future!

My underlying message was: "All Malaysians must strive to bury religious and racial differences and work at becoming fulltime Malaysians". After all, peaceful cooperation is a two-way street, and blaming each other for the jams will get everybody nowhere!

Anyway, please allow me to elaborate, based on the way I see things from an interested outsider's perspective:

1. UMNO have deliberately kept the religion/race cards in constant play (and today, even more so), solely to ensure that (i) Malays are always driven to vote for UMNO and (ii) non-Malays will be confused as to the intention of the Malay elements of the opposition parties, so that retaining UMNO will seem a far safer option to non-Malays than voting for the unknown, possibly far worse political scenario. In this, UMNO is conducting an extremely Machiavellian game, knowing full well what it is doing.

2. As all past visitors to Malaysia will tell you, for so many reasons Malaysia used to be a great place to visit, the principal reasons being (a) the wide variety of cultures and food to be experienced across the length and breadth of the country, (b) the ease of travel and communication, (c) the cleanliness and attention to beautiful landscaping everywhere, and (d) the politeness and respect with which Malaysians used to treat not only each other but foreigners too. All those attributes within Malaysia combined to create a society possessing an exquisitely unique flavour, which I can only describe as "Malaysianess". All foreign visitors to Malaysia will know exactly what I mean by that – Malaysia's southern neighbour is nice enough, but Singaporeans just don't seem to generate the spontaneous warmth that at one time existed everywhere in Malaysia, plus Malaysians generally dress so much more colourfully than Singaporeans and aren't, well, boring……..

3. Having said that, today Malaysia is not as nice, safe or friendly as it once used to be. The warmth at the Immigration Department coming by road from Singapore has disappeared completely, almost as if visitors from the south are no longer welcome. Taxi drivers in KL constantly bitch about the GOM in general and about the discrimination shown to non-Muslims and non-Malays in particular, the courtesy level shown to foreigners has dropped considerably, the streets aren't anywhere near as safe to walk along as they once were (in some of the less salubrious areas you can almost feel the resentment in the air against those with money), and some former tourist spots in KL seem to have been deliberately abandoned and left to become run-down (particularly in the predominantly Chinese and Indian areas).

4. In the process of deliberately playing the religion/race cards, UMNO have carefully avoided making "Malaysianess" the desired objective, contrary to what they should have been doing for the past 50+ years.

5. The Malaysian people should not let UMNO get away with having deliberately trashed "Malaysianess". In fact, it seems as though UMNO specifically concentrated on fomenting strife between (i) Islam and other religions and (ii) Malays and other ethnic groups. Malaysians themselves must therefore urgently resurrect "Malaysianess" from its half-burial if they are to stand any chance at all of voting UMNO out in the next GE!

6. To achieve the goal of resurrecting "Malaysianess", all Malaysians (including the current opposition politicians) must, regardless of ethnic and religious differences, start to develop trust in each other and work together to openly discuss the framework for the fair and just society that is so much needed in Malaysia. If ordinary Malaysians in the street (non-politicians) cannot begin to trust those with different religions or cultures to be committed to building a better Malaysia for all, then there will be no political change through the ballot box possible within the next 100 years! So the concept of "Malaysianess" must be worked at very hard if it is to stand any chance of succeeding – it won't work if it is only a half-hearted attempt!

In my view, whole-heartedly adopting "Malaysianess" doesn't mean burying the differences between the various religious and ethnic groups - it means accepting those differences and showing compassion towards (and complete tolerance of) all others who don't follow your religion, customs or whatever, and recognising in word and deed that all Malaysians are equal in every respect.

My above comments are driven by the fact that, of all the countries in the world, Malaysia probably still stands the best chance of demonstrating that Islam is perfectly capable of offering all its citizens equal opportunities and equal justice in a well developed country that would be the envy of most others, including those supposedly well developed countries in the west. However, right now Indonesia is doing its best to show the world what Islam can do, and it is making great headway ("Look At Us Now!"). Malaysia ought to be able to get there far faster, because it has the very useful advantage of the English language at its disposal!

Sadly, the main thrust of the responses to my previous comment is that, at best, Malaysian Muslims can't be trusted by the rest of Malaysian society to do the right thing, and that my comment is therefore somehow "theoretical". However, I consider that there is nothing "theoretical" about building national unity! It has to be done, or else society will disintegrate! In particular, if something is not done quickly to redress the negative perception about Malaysian Muslims (or to put the situation right if, indeed, that perception is indicative of the way things really are now going inside Malaysia today), then I fear that Malaysia has some extremely tough times ahead. This will mean that Indonesia will be allowed to stand far taller than Malaysia, despite Malaysia's magnificent Twin Towers and its very unique but currently eclipsed "Malaysianess".

Nobody but Malaysians can resurrect "Malaysianess" – Malaysians must become re-united through their own efforts! But, sadly, right now I can't see anybody at all recognising the need to promote "Malaysianess", let alone someone dedicated to driving those unification efforts. That is a pity, because I am confident that there must be many moderate Malaysian Muslims who are sitting on the fence because they are ashamed of the discrimination they see at play by the GOM, but who are afraid of changing their allegiance because of the anti-Malaysian Muslim rhetoric they see every day, especially in the comments posted in MT.

And just because ordinary Malaysians didn't create the religious and racial problems currently being faced in Malaysia, it doesn't mean that they can afford to sit there and do nothing, as if it isn't their problem. It bloody well is their problem, because UMNO made sure it is!

Anyway, now perhaps you can see why I tell my Malaysian friends here in Abu Dhabi (regardless of their ethnic background or which religion they follow) that, if they are not willing to close their eyes to religious and racial differences in Malaysia and embrace "Malaysianess" whole-heartedly, they themselves are therefore part of the problem and can't ever expect a solution for the religious and racial divide that they themselves help to perpetuate!

Warmest regards to you and Marina,

Wally

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