MARCH 19 — Every time some politician makes an ill-advised remark about race or religion, there will be the inevitable deluge of comments reminding him where his true allegiance belongs. If the politician speaks out for the Malays or Islam, the chorus will be: “Remember, you are beholden to Malaysians, not the Malays/Muslims,” and if the politician speaks out for the non-Malays or non-Muslims, it will be, “Remember, you are beholden to the Malays, not the non-Malays.”
What infuriates me is that I agree with both sides — and yet they are both so insufferably smug in excluding other Malaysians and Malaysian concerns from their vision of what Malaysia should be.
It should be abundantly clear to all that when you serve the Malays, you are serving Malaysians, and when you serve the non-Malays, you are serving Malaysians. Yet this basic fact eludes so many of us.
When a Malay youth cannot find employment or education, that is not a Malay problem — that is a Malaysian problem. When a Hindu temple is torn down, that is not the desecration of a Hindu place of worship — that is the desecration of a Malaysian place of worship. We, as Malaysians, need to champion the solutions to these problems together, because who else will do it? Surely not the Singaporeans or the British!
But who among the non-Malays talks about the plight of the Malays or the Bumiputeras? If ever we talk about their problems, it is to make an insulting joke about their supposed ignorance, or to dismiss them as know-nothing bumpkins. Do we ever take seriously the problems Malay youth have in their schooling, or ponder how to help them into the mainstream of the modern Malaysian economy?
And how often do the Malays talk about the problems of the non-Malays? Is there ever recognition of the difficulties non-Malays encounter in obtaining public scholarships or government work? Is there ever a discussion of the non-Malays’ fear of Malay culture encroaching on their own traditions and way of life?
Some politicians, both from Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat, are valiantly trying to change our culture of ignoring other communities’ interests. 1 Malaysia, as much of an empty slogan as it is, is all about this idea, if nothing else.
Admirably, Pakatan politicians have made clear that they practise what they preach. Teresa Kok gives money to mosques; Lim Guan Eng attends Muslim festivities which his predecessors in the Penang government shunned. Meanwhile, Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat defends Bumiputera Christians’ usage of the word “Allah,” and Malay leaders from all Pakatan parties denounce the unfair treatment of the non-Malay communities.
But all this will be for naught unless we, the Malaysian rakyat, change. Why aren’t we taking responsibility for the Malaysian problems in our country? Why do we still not bother trying to find out why other Malaysians differ with us so strongly on an issue? Why are we content with dismissing them as arrogant ignoramuses, instead of recognising and working out our valid differences?
When a church is bombed, that is my problem. When a mosque is vandalised, that is my problem. When a Malay youth becomes a Mat Rempit, that is my problem. When a Chinese youth joins a triad, that is my problem. When a Penan girl is raped, that is my problem. When an Indian father becomes an alcoholic, that is my problem. Until we can all say and truly believe these things, where is our Bangsa Malaysia?
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.