I am not a racist. My friends make up of people of all ethnic and religious backgrounds. I get along with all of them fine.
After all, I’m color blind. I join them in celebrating the festivals they celebrate. Sit around the same table enjoying the food, the joy, and the brotherhood.
I’ve been saying this and lots more for ages, reminiscing the good old days when we Malaysians were one. That would mean the 1960s and 70s.
Until now, I’m friends with Malaysians of all races and religions.
But then I’m not the only one who has said this and am still saying this.
Even people much younger are looking back to “their” good old days with pride.That would mean the 1980s and 1990s. While at it, they bemoan the current situation.
How many times have old folks like me heard young folks say “during my time we never had this racist rubbish. We were friends no matter what the race and religion”?
But to us old folks, the “good times” they are talking about are “bad times” with racism rearing its ugly heads, unlike “our times.”
And I bet if we were to ask folks today, they would say their yesteryears were the best – racism-free.
So, taking all that to account, then just who are the racists?
Judging from things said throughout the years by different generations, logically we should not have had any racist at all. But we do.
Here’s the thing. Racism is alive and kicking. It always has been.
Yes, we are not at one another’s throats. We tolerate one another. But there’s this mistrust, wary of the perceived threats posed by the “other side.”
A Malay can be friends with a Chinese, but does not really love his friends. The same goes with a Chinese with his Malay friends.
We know why, the so-called justifications for behaving that way.
There’s always “us” and “them.” It is the same story with the “others” as well, not just a Malay-Chinese thing.
Of course, we have truly genuine Malaysians who love their fellow Malaysians regardless race and religion.
But as a Malay, I must admit that it is the Malays who are projecting their “Malayness,” much to, should I say, the displeasure of the other races, especially of late.
What more when we have certain political parties fanning racial sentiment to win votes.
Sad to say many Malays fall for such a ploy. Being Malay is not the issue. The problem is when the Malays harp on or are fed with all sorts of things to uphold and believe in “Ketuanan Melayu.”
“Ketuanan”comes from the word “tuan” or “master.” We know how a “master” go about doing things and how they behave.
Masters see themselves above others. Hence the Malay supremacy.
Are there Malays who are not “into” Ketuanan Melayu?
Of course there are. But it’s the “ketuanan” folks who are loud and bold, and hurting the feelings of others. Instilling fear even. That is putting it mildly.
There was a report in The Malay Mail a few days ago which highlighted a survey by the Pew Research Center involving Malaysia and five other countries in Asia.
The survey found out that 86 per cent of Malaysian Muslims (I would read that as Malays) polled are in support of making Shariah code the “official” law in Malaysia or other countries where Muslims are the majority.
Need I say who the majority are in this country of ours?
But in comparison, just 64 per cent of Muslims in Indonesia felt the same way. Ask me, and I would go with that 64 per cent Indonesians.
Incidentally, with around 278 million people, Indonesia is the most populous Muslim country in the world.
The same report also found that most Buddhists surveyed supported basing laws on religious doctrines with 43 per cent Buddhists in Malaysia backing such an “official” law where they are the majority.
Can this be seen as Muslims and Buddhists can be friends but “my religious laws must reign supreme”?
Moving on to another aspect of the same survey. When it comes to “celebrating” each others’ festivities, 81 per cent of Muslims surveyed in Malaysia said one cannot truly be a Muslim if one celebrates the Buddhist festival of Wesak, while 79 per cent said the same for the Christian festival of Christmas.
I’m proud to say I will never be part of that 81 or 79 per cent.
Anyway, the corresponding proportion for Christians in Malaysia was 53 per cent for Wesak, followed by 35 per cent for the Muslim festival of Hari Raya Adilfitri.
Buddhists in Malaysia were more open towards the view that one could still be a Buddhist if one celebrates other religions’ festivals. But 28 per cent said one is not a true Buddhist if one celebrates Hari Raya, while 23 per cent said the same for those celebrating Christmas.
Additionally, 28 per cent of Hindus said one cannot be truly Hindu if one celebrates Christmas, while 21 per cent and 20 per cent said the same for those celebrating Wesak and Hari Raya respectively.
But having said all that, majority of Muslims, Buddhists, Christians and Hindus, at least those interviewed for the survey, said “disrespecting their country disqualifies someone from their religions.”
The survey also found that six in ten Malaysians polled agreed that diversity improves the country, with most of them, rather the majority among all major religious groups, accepting those from different faiths as their neighbors.
Yes, we can dismiss the findings as “just a survey” involving specified people. Their opinions, we can say, are merely theirs as they do not speak for all of us.
Still, the finding in particular with regards to “diversity improves the country” and the willingness to accept people of different faiths to be their neighbors warms the heart.
Malaysians want to live with one another side by side. All is not lost. There is still hope yet.
To all Malaysians, Selamat Hari Malaysia!
(Mohsin Abdullah is a veteran journalist and now a freelancer who writes about this, that and everything else.)