Over that most contentious of issues in Malaysia today – religion and race – we never had a chance! Our race is an accident of birth and if you are a Muslim, then your religion was decided for you by your parents minutes into our first intake of breath and of life after birth.
I will not dwell upon religion for it has always been by contention that that part of my life is my own and it will stay my own. But race…..ahhh that is something else!
My first conscious introduction to race was when I arrived at The Malay College in Kuala Kangsar to start Form One in the early 1960’s.
That we students were all Malays was nothing out of the ordinary for me because I knew then that there were already Chinese Schools, Indian Schools and Malay Schools…and there were called Chinese, Indian and Malay Schools because they had Chinese, Indian and Malays students in those schools.
But in MCKK our Headmaster was NJ Ryan – a Mat Salleh and soon when classes started, a parade of memorable non-Malays appeared in our classroom to give us lessons in History, Geography, Science, Mathematics etc. Even in the Gymnasium, we were taken through our paces by a non-Malay! During choir practice a very pretty non-Malay lady taught us “What shall we do with a drunken Sailor” which we all sang with much enthusiasm because we were then unaware that being drunk for Muslims was a no no! Ignorance was bliss! I imagine that in these days of rampaging Muftis and invasive Jakim, songs like “What shall we do with a drunken sailor” would be consigned to the abyss of religious “non-halal” no no’s!
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And we Malays in MCKK were talking in English, reading English books and having English language movies for our viewing pleasure every week! All this I took in my stride as being normal and at no time did it ever make me forget that I am a Malay because in the dormitories, in classes, at mealtimes, during sports and in our foray into the royal town of Kuala Kangsar, everywhere I looked and all around me were Malays!
After I left MCKK for the outside world the belief that the other races were part and parcel of my life have never left me. Just as it was in MCKK, in the outside world too I adjusted to the realities that we depend on others for many of our needs and our wants.
As a Malay I never had feelings of inferiority or inadequacy when I look at what the Chinese and the other non-Malays have achieved for themselves in Malaysia and elsewhere in the world. To each his own.
I know that there are many many others out there who have worked tirelessly for world peace, did their bit to eradicate poverty and some have dedicated their life to ensure that justice will prevail even among the very poor, the under privilege and those most in need of it….and in their presence I may stand in awe at their life work but in truth I still consider them to be my equal …..as fellow human beings. For me we are all equal in the face of life and in death. And what comes between that first breath of life and eventual death is a circumstance of life over which sometimes we may have control over but most time don’t.
That is why the present conundrum in Malaysia involving race and religion disgusts me. And that it is being driven by a Malay dominated government to divide and rule our people for its own selfish political agenda shames me to the core. Today hatred has already taken roots within us….hatred that has its beginning in the politics that Umno now calls its own for they have decided many decades ago that they will use race and religion to divide and rule us all. And so far they have been successful in this most odious of political endeavours….but for how long more will this be so?
We Malays need to take a long hard look at ourselves and see what we have become after many decades of Umno rule.
We must also understand how others see us from their own perspective.
If we are to do this for our own gain and be the better for it we must do so with clarity and vision and without fear or favor to ourselves and to our race. We cannot have this be an exercise in futility nor allow any negativity in this process to affect our own sense of belonging to a race that is rich in culture and noble in it’s bearing. I am proud to be a Malay and I have always been for I know that we are indeed a race whose values and passions for social etiquette and respect for others weighs heavily in the way we conduct our selves and in how we deal with those around us.
The Malay saying ” Biar putih tulang jangan putih mata” – essentially meaning no retreat, no surrender – describes the Malays of old most adequately but time and Umno have done much to politicise and corrupt the Malays of today. The Umno Malays who now strut among us with arrogance and hubris are the Malays that others have rightly defined to be the essence of the emerging new Malays….a disquieting development from the Malays that we once were.
From memory, still vivid and real for I have lived with them and among them, I remember the early Malay leaders as leaders first and were politicians by default and not the other way around. They have not become leaders because of politics but were in politics because they were leaders. You cannot say this of the Malay politicians that we now have in Umno today.
From the Penghulus that I have had occasioned to have known to those who were in government and public service right up to those who were the leaders of state and religion – the Sultans – the Malays who have been privileged to be in those positions undertook their responsibility to lead with a sense of duty and an awareness that they must lead by example. And they were aware that they were beholden to not only to the Malays for their public office but to all Malaysians over whom they held sway. Their duty was to all Malaysians.
And these Malay leaders were noble and regal in carriage, words and in their deeds and by examples in the things that they do. They deservedly earned not only the respect of their own race but also of all Malaysians.
In those days being a Malay meant that you were indeed the deserved “bumiputra” and no questions were asked nor needed to be answered by anyone as to weather the Malays were indeed the son of the soil and that others were “pendatangs”. The grace by which the Malay leaders and the Malay themselves dealt with these realities of life and politics was not lost upon the “others” and we all soon easily settled into being a nation where everyone had a sense of belonging and felt a sense of duty and a love to make that nation into one that was home to all of us.
Maybe there were already pockets of racial and religious strife among Malaysians even then. Maybe there were already those whose pursuit for political power were financially driven. Maybe there were already those who were in government who made it their business to advance their own cronies, their relative and friends in the civil service and other government departments….but if there were it was nothing more than the fact that as humans we all are partial to errors of judgement and have our druthers in the things that we do. These sometimes fatal flaw in the character of any race, any leader were never driven by the political agendas of any political party hell bent on grasping and holding on to power through the “divide and rule” doctrine over our people.
“Divide and Rule” came with a vengeance when Mahathir took office as Prime Minister and today we see the ruination that doctrine has perpetrated over all Malaysians regardless of politics, race and religion and none more so personify this ruination as in the person of our “leader” and I use the term “leader” loosely here – as Najib Tun Razak and his spouse, Rosmah Mansor.
All that is wrong with the Malays. with Malaysian and with our nation today is manifested by the words and action of these two.
All that is wrong with our nation today – greed, arrogance, hubris, an odious sense of entitlement, no sense of accountability and responsibility for their actions- all this and more can be seen in the deeds and all that these two do in the name of government and politics and sadly, in the name of being Malays.
If they lead by example then we have already been led into a world that these two are much familiar with: where cash is king, Hermes, donations, do as I say not do as I do and a litany of lies, broken promises and anything said for the advancement of their own and Umno’s political agenda where the ends justify the means. That is where were are today.
That is why my people, the Malays, need to take a long hard look at theme selves and what they have become after sixty decades of Umno rule and, more worrying, where to is Najib taking us Malays, together with the others in the foreseeable future.
I know what kind of Malay I have become.
That I have chosen to leave Malaysia and live elsewhere tells a story that is familiar with the many millions that have left Malaysia – both Malays and non-Malays – that we believed that the grass is greener elsewhere. Rightly or wrongly we have chosen to state our case by our deeds – walking away from our country of birth and abode in numbers large enough to cause concern for the government of the day and for what our exodus from Malaysia will do to the country’s future.
The jury is still out on this but for me personally the move to Australia, while harrowing and fraught with doubts of my own sanity for doing so, has proven to be a decision that has given me and my family the life that I have personally wanted for them and for me….all coming to fruition as I and my wife enter the twilight of our lives almost free of worry as to what the future will hold for us.
But in these matters …to each his/her own …..and the deed is done. Without question Malaysia and Malaysians are the loser when one of their own chooses to live elsewhere and take with them all that they have in terms of abilities and belongings to the country of their choice.
Now I want to talk about what how the Malays are today in Malaysia.
What do you think the Chinese and Indians are talking about the Malays in the privacy of their houses and in places where they think no Malay are listening? How are the Malays regarded by the other races? Do the other races respect the Malays for what they do as Muslims and as Malays? Or do they laugh and make fun of the Malays for what they perceive. rightly or wrongly, the Malays have become?
Is it true that the Malays paint all Chinese in the hues of money grabbing business people who are driven by one concern and one concern only – making money to the exclusion of doing any good?
Is it true that the Malays regard the Chinese as being Godless and without the limitations that religion imposes upon their disciples : to do good and have within themselves the ability to care for others and understand that each of us are our brother’s / sister’s keepers?
And have the Malays given up on expecting the Chinese to be Malaysians and to be able to live with them, work with them and exists in harmony and tolerance with them?
I guess all of the above will be true for some Malays and not to others. It will be impossible to quantify and qualify their thinking and sensibilities on these issues because again, to each his own….but if were are to take our cue from what the Malay leaders in Umno are saying in public and privately…then all of the above are true.
Now what do the other’s think of the Malays?
Do they despair at our preoccupation of wanting to impose our religion upon them and doing all we can to deprive them of their right to worship whomever they choose?
Do they look upon the attempts of Malays to do business, whether by their own efforts or with the “help” of this Umno led government as being pathetic and without merit? Doomed to failure as they are certain that the Chinese can always, overtly or covertly, compete with any Malay businessmen and triumph in the long run?
Are the Chinese resigned to being second class citizens secure in the knowledge that no matter what, they will overcome? As they have done in education, in business and even in politics and government?
Again like the Malays all of the above can be said to be true of some Chinese and not true in others.
What is true is that these stereotyping of the Malays and Chinese have become so common place that it now rules the perception that each have of the other in almost everything that they do.
Hatred has already taken roots within us and the sadness of it all is that those whom we hate are our own….whether they are Chinese, Indian, Malays or any others….all are Malaysians.
If you too hate those who are of a different race and a different religion from you then you are part of the problem that we now have in our nation.
We Malays may never do business as good as the Chinese for they have had a head start many many centuries ago.
The Chinese may never fully comprehend the Malay preoccupation with respect for our elders and our readiness to accept and invite others into our world – even at the expense of our own well being and interests.
The Indians have always been loud and demonstrative in what they do but they are good people at heart.
We altogether with the many others who call Malaysia home…we must once again learn to live without hatred…for if we cannot then I for one will never be able to go back to the place I call home. And many of you will leave the only home you have ever known ….and all this for want of leaders who are different from the ones we now have!
These leaders we will only have when we understand what I understood when I left MCKK many many years back ….After I left MCKK for the outside world the belief that the other races were part and parcel of my life have never left me. Just as it was in MCKK, in the outside world too I adjusted to the realities that we depend on other for many of our needs and our wants…..