It’s always about mutual acceptance and respect because in the end it’s not about winning arguments, but our relationship with each other, a little note on Azan.
There are some days while chilling, or relaxing with some friends of mine, I would tend to share what I’ve experienced as a student in a racially segregated environment. I’ve had 11 years of it, and there are many, both good and bad, but I am inclined to censor myself depending on my audience, as some people cannot accept it as it is or derive a different value from what I want to convey.
One of my closer colleagues, whose honesty and humour I value highly, said this to me, “You weird, weird girl. Why are you like this when anyone else would be similarly indoctrinated?”
He pretty much described my inner insecurities accurately when I was much younger, that I simply didn’t fit in. I wasn’t a nicely drawn little box that can be placed in a little label, and boy did it make a lot of people unhappy. Even now.
Difference in race and religion does not faze or fear me because on a personal level, I have relatives who are of different ethnicity and religion. To many of the population in Malaysia, (and I’m not limiting my observations to the Malays, mind you) their daily interactions are mainly with those of a similar race and religion, except for the occasional shopkeeper, maid or random people on the street, who are quickly forgotten as they move on with their daily lives.
Another friend of mine illustrates this quite succinctly. In one of the sessions we had in Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM), one mother of three came up to me and said:
“I live in a Chinese community. All my neighbours are Chinese. My children are home schooled so they mostly interact with Chinese children. I thought that I should only protect my community, because no one else would. I never thought that there would be Malays who believe that people of all race and religion should be treated the same.”
In short, the idea of racial harmony and acceptance had never occurred to her, this mother of three. Perhaps, we are all thinking about the same things and sharing the same concerns. Perhaps it could possible to share everything and have a win-win situation.
It is important to think of how this country could change, if people are the same and I don’t mean the 1Malaysia humbug. If we could think in that way, even with the difficulties that are foreseen for implementation on state level, it could be done. Intrinsically, people want to be accepted and respected for who they are as individuals as well as a community.
This can be seen in Haris Ibrahim’s remarkably bold attempt with Malaysian Civil Liberties Movement (MCLM).
For me, I am blessed in the sense that despite my upbringing, I have met wonderful people in my life who showed me in the little ways that makes them the way they are, that everyone has something in common. We fight, we laugh, we angst, we geek out, and through all of that, race has never crossed our minds as part of the problem. It’s human behaviour, and a part of life. It’s always about mutual acceptance and respect because in the end it’s not about winning arguments, but our relationship with each other.
Perhaps, things would be different if we understood each other’s needs, and find a way that is most agreeable. Instead of insisting about Malay pride, or Chinese people, or Indians or the other minorities, we should be grateful that we are blessed with a diverse culture in this beloved nation. This can be seen in the Azan issue where a minor comment with regard to its volume was blown out of proportion and deemed disrespectful to Islam, when in truth, the person was not against the Azan, but its volume.
Similarly, what if a Catholic priest’s sermons in Latin is on loudspeaker? (e.g. for the sake of of illustration, in the scenario that it is within its scriptures, which by the way, it is not), I’m sure a Muslim neighbour would not mind it, but will insist that it be in a tolerable volume as to not disrupt his life.
The most beautiful thing in the world is that no matter how different we are, the colour of our skin, the deities or God that we serve or lack thereof, the activities we consider as fun or boring, there is always several, and I daresay more than five things we would always have in common with each other.
Oh, by the way, the mother of three? She’s currently one of our kakis in SABM.
Azira considers Orion as her guardian warrior and prays to Astraea for guidance. She still harbours enduring hope to see the demise of state-enforced race-based policies in Malaysia. She is often found at Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia