By The Gorgeous Palah Chingu * The opinions expressed in this post are strictly the author’s personal opinions.
I am Malaysian and this is my deepest confession. Truth be told, I never have any Chinese or Indian friends when I was in primary or secondary school. I grew up in a Malay-centric community and my communication with other races is limited. Having both parents that grew up in a middle class Malays, they preferred their children to be friend with a similar race only. To blatantly say that is racism would not be entirely true. I did understand why actually. They wanted their children to have friends with similar races simply because of religion. Having a friend with a different races and religion would require them to have high level of tolerance and understanding. I am not saying that my parents didn’t have high tolerance but they would simply prefer to avoid the situation rather than face it. Right now, it was nice seeing when our generation can interacting and be friends without taking the factor of race or religion. We forged our friendship because we shared the same interest, hobby or like some of my friends will say ‘we became friends because our wavelength matched with each other’. We knew the differences of our religion. Still, we are human being first before the whole rule of religion and races divided us all. We won’t simply say and stated that their religion is wrong, their belief is ridiculous or their faith is absurd and they also won’t do the same to us. We maintained the fine line between our religions with the value of respect and acceptance. To do so in the first place, we need to have an open mind. Sadly, we have less number of open minded Malaysian compared to the number of Malaysians who loved watching TV3 Drama ‘Suami Ku Playboy’ every evening. It was sad indeed.
I still remember that I spent my time with one Indian girl when I was around 5 years old. Her house was located near the park so I always saw her whenever I go there. I don’t remember how we became friends at that moment but we did. We played ‘cooking/house’ game as some called it and sometimes, we played that game at her house. Her family greeted me well and never treated me as an outsider. I did play with some of her friends other times too. It is funny that I can vividly remember the time we spent together but I can’t remember her name. That is one thing I regretted the most until now. I still remember how her mom packed me some of ‘laddoo’ and some of cookies (that they served during Deepavali that I am not very familiar with) to bring it home. I gave it to my mom and the next day, my mom reply the package with other foods. I am so happy when her mom did that. That means I am her daughter’s friend and I am matter to her. However, when I am entering my pre-school, I lost contact with her. I don’t go to the park anymore. Even when I go to the park, I can’t find her there. I don’t go to her house anymore. I want to go to her house but I was scared to knock and asked of her. The friendship sort of breaks away and I don’t know why (to be exact, I forgot why). Whether we had our biggest fight or we sort of drifted from each other because we both go to different pre-school or we just find a better playmate (considering our age at that time only 5 years old), I still can’t figure it out.
Then, I moved on. Being educated in National School, you were supposed to mix with other races. At least, that’s what people would think when they heard the term of ‘National School’. I went on from standard 1 – standard 6 without making any non Malay friends. Not that I am complaining but I wish I could have done more to have one at those age. The funny thing about National School in Malaysia, You were supposed to have all the races in the school together and we should be united by one language. In my case, the possibility of finding non Malay students in my national school is not more than 10 percent. From my humble observation, those 10 percent make up the population of Chinese and Indian students who their family lived among Malay community and can speak very good Malay. The rest of them would prefer to go to the vernacular school rather than National School. To see that the future generation of Malaysian entering National School and unites under 1 education system rather than let our own education system separate us in the first place would be my sole dream for future Malaysia. I will be glad if we can put Mandarin and Tamil language as a compulsory language subject (rather than learning language like Arabic or French that only god knows when we will use it) and required to be educated at National school.
After finished with primary school education, I went to boarding school for my secondary education. As my UPSR result was mediocre, I conceded to my parent’s decision to go to Islamic Boarding School. I don’t know how to say this without sounding harsh but man that was the worst decision ever. I knew I freaking thrived there. I excelled both PMR exam and SPM exam there. The reason I was studying so fucking hard back then because I just wanted to get out from there. The rules are no joke there. The Gender roles are emphasized there and with the dual syllabus, you might as well die. Again, I’ve had no chance making any non Malay friends there because there is none. It is Islamic Boarding School. I wasted 5 years there. Yes, I was an excellent students but I also one of the problematic students. I was caught praying in dormitory for how many times (I lost count and yes, don’t be shocked, it is a crime to do so if you are in my boarding school), I slept at dorm when I was supposed to go to the prep school and my juniors abide orders because of my seniority (not in a hardcore way, I can assure you). Wardens knew my name and School’s prefects were aware of me. To cut short, I did make some good friends and memories there but if I can rewind back those 5 years, I will say no to the boarding school. At the age of 18, I still did not have any non Malay friends unfortunately. That’s pretty irony considering we are always talking about how we are multicultural society, we are proud to have so many races in our country but here I am, only mingle with my own race.
In 2012, I went to U********* ***** Malaysia to do my Master degree. Actually, when I went there, I was pretty excited. I can have classmates from other races and the idea of it makes me looking forward to it. In 1 year of doing my master degree, I already have Indian and Chinese friends in addition with the experience of getting to know some friends from Palestine, Maldives and Thailand. We did so many pot lucks in class and there is no notion that we can’t eat each other foods. We placed trust to our non Malay friends that they understood our ‘Halal standard’ and to our Indian friends we knew that they don’t eat beef and we tried our best not to serve it when they are around. If circumstances cannot be avoided, we apologized to them. I remember 1 event when one of my classmates brought pizza over and she forgot to order 2 different pizzas in order to serve those who don’t eat beef. She apologized to my Indian classmates and they said it was okay and don’t worry about them. We may not share similar standard in our food but we all go crazy with durians. One of my classmates went to durian orchard and brought some to class. We ate like a mad people. We can’t say the same to the foreign students in our class though. They seem to hate the odor and the taste of the fruit king but we Malaysians never get enough of it. For the first time ever, my face book friends consisted of so many races and nationality and I loved it. I just felt like I am finally being a Malaysian.
When the issue of ***M failed to be sensitive to other religion, it makes me feel sad and angry in the same time. I completed my study in ***M for 4 years. ***M students consist of Natives from Sabah and Sarawak and Malays. For Malays, Our religion is Islam and we are Muslims. For Natives from Sabah and Sarawak, there are quite number of Non Muslims among them. Majority of them are Christians. This is what I wrote in my face book when the news about it broke out.
“Let’s reenact this situation, but this time another person gives you 10 reasons why Muslims should be Christians?” How does it make you feel? Will you feel okay with it or will you find it offensive? I bet 10/10 that most Muslims who read my status will find it highly offensive. That why you didn’t do it to other people. The last thing people wanted is you to criticize their religion. That’s why we have a freedom of religion in the first place”.
The first one to comment my status is my friend, Cloud whom I known of for 3 years, my housemate for 1 year and also one of ***M students. She said she was sad when this thing happened. Being a Christian and a native from Sabah, she was speechless. Then, it followed by my other friend, Jane who also a Christian and a native from Sarawak expressed her heartbreaking over this news. Where is our freedom of religion? Where are our tolerance and respect for (non Muslims and their religion) that Islam preach and urge to its follower to practice? This kind of thing should not happen at all in the university. We are a country that practices Islam moderately and we should remain that way. We did not force our religion and belief on non Muslims and we expect they also did not do that to us. We interact with each other but when it comes to religion, we don’t cross each other boundary. That’s the country I hope Malaysia can be in a long run.
When Malaysia’s news is crammed with racial remarks stated by the president of ISMA, one of the NGOs in Malaysia, I was puzzled. Are you in a right mind when you are making those statements? Are you high? Are you temporarily insane? Who are you calling immigrants or trespassers? For all I know, they are legit citizens. They are Malaysians just like us. I seriously dislike this kind of organization that didn’t do any fucking research and just stated whatever they like. This kind of organization will be a threat to our peaceful country and disrupting our racial harmony. I’ve many Indians and Chinese friends that are kind and nice to me that when this malicious statement was released, I felt so ashamed. I don’t know where to put my face. I have Chinese and Indian teachers from my primary school days that taught me how to differentiate herbivore and carnivore in science subject and how to do division and multiplication in Math subject. I have Indian and Chinese Lecturers that teaches me English, Politics, Ethics and Research methodology. I just can’t imagine their feeling when they listened to that statement. I am sure that they will be devastated. I still remember one of my lecturers said this to one of my politics class right after lecture ends,
“Imagine you went to a country X 50 years ago. Right now, after 50 years, you are growing old, your children already have their own family and you have more than 10 grandchildren. You have established your family in country X, denounce everything behind in your homeland and let it be your past, you pledge your loyalty to country X and earned your citizenship. However, until now you still battle with the perception of people calling you an outsider and treated you like a second class citizen, how would you feel?”
I tried to put it in my perspective and it is not nice. You wanted to feel belonged somewhere but there are so many things occurred that won’t let you feel the sense of belongingness. You wanted to love the country and to be proud of it but there are so many occurrence that questioned you whether you are truly part of this country. In my opinion, as a Malaysian we should try preserving our nationality (by not being an apathetic public). We should preach what we already told the world, we are one of the harmonious countries. As we are proud of being a multi racial country, we might as well should maintain that reputation and status. As to end this writing, I reiterate once again that ‘I am Malaysian and this is my deepest confession’.
P/s: As to answer some of my friend’s status in the facebook asking why there are demands of wanting to enter ***M while proclaiming that it’s not even good university. Dear friends, you misunderstood the whole point. What they asked is the equal chance or opportunity of being selected to enter into the institution. The selection process should not be based on race but instead it should be based on the meritocracy itself (Dont bash me yet, i know the admission into the institution is protected by the constitution). Equality is what they demanded in the first place. Again i am just stating my humble opinion. You (whoever you are) are welcome to agree and disagree.