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Kolum Straight Talk - 24 July 2020

Wake up from the lie we are living, Malaysians!

 

A much unused phrase has been bothering me quite a bit these days. It comes to the fore each time I find Malaysians twisting religion and race to justify their vile chat and actions that appear to be taking Malaysia towards a disastrous destination.

 

Most are aware there is so much religious and racial toxicity and hatred being spread through the social media. And yet, we don’t stop to think before we forward the hurt and pain these clips may cause to individuals and groups. Polarisation has always been there but I believe it has reached a very unhealthy level.

 

Disconnecting yourself from this media may be a solution but that will make you look like the proverbial ostrich burying its head in the sand, oblivious to the reality that is taking place around you.

 

This has prompted me to ask myself if all Malaysians are living a lie daily. Are we? Go on, ask yourselves this pertinent question. The phrase simply means one pretending all the time that he or she feels or believes something when actually you do not feel that way.

 

A recent visit to a government agency recently got me wondering if all the religious and racial hatred being spewed on the social media is true or if it is a result of the politicisation of race and religion. I want to believe the latter because I have good and close friends from all racial and religious denominations.

 

The agency was manned by 100% Malay/Muslim civil servants. I observed this when I read the organisational chart on the wall at the entrance. To my pleasant surprise, I was treated extremely well by all the officers I met. There was so much respect which I reciprocated with much happiness.

 

The staff manning the reception even offered me a glass of warm water when he heard me clearing my throat. Of course he must have known I was an Indian and a Hindu, no doubts about that.

 

On a similar vein, my relatives in the professional category of the government service relate such heart-warming stories of how colleagues of different faiths and ethnicity co-exist in the same workplace with respect and dignity.

 

But once they get on to on to the various social media platforms, they tend to verbally abuse even colleagues from other faiths knowing pretty well that these are in public domain. It’s the political religion and race that drives them to do this unsavoury act.

 

Many politicians have been no different with their chameleon nature of putting up a different front each time they face a different gallery. Their double-speak is being exposed daily in the social media. What a bloody lie they live!

 

I experienced this personally once when one of my friends in a WhatsApp chat group accidentally posted some insulting comments on another race which was actually meant for his race-based group. What does this show? This proves that many of us are living two shades of lives in Malaysia.

 

The various NGOs which were formed according to race and religion too are no better. Some are formed by former politicians or those linked to the various political parties in the country. They have no qualms about hurting their fellow Malaysians of different faith or race. They do it with so much ease, to be honest.

 

It’s the same in every aspect of the lives of Malaysians. Deep inside they think they are justified in doing this because they are merely defending their respective race and religion. This makes me conclude that many of us have chosen to live a lie, trying to show that all is well on the outside when there is so much distrust and hatred deep inside.

 

Now, this is extremely dangerous. These feelings are further heightened with little Napoleans in government departments making statements that cause some anxiety among Malaysians who want nothing but peace.

 

Are they part of the “Deep State” in the Malaysian government service that is attempting to cause some racial and religious tension that their political masters want them to do? Hard to tell, but you cannot rule that out totally.

 

These nefarious elements are chipping away at the very foundation that made Malaysia what it is today. As a result, some Malaysians are giving up and planning to migrate but again, this is not a long-term solution.

 

Early in my life, growing up in a kampung in Butterworth within a Hindu family surrounded by Muslims, Confucians, Buddhists, Christians and others, I was totally oblivious of any sense of superiority or inferiority based on religion. That was the way we were brought up.

 

I learnt how to recite mantras in my mind when listening to the Azhan prayers from the mosques in those days. Still do actually. Of course I knew that the places and forms of worship were different. Clearly we knew the differences between the races. We were different in many ways but we shared a great deal in common. 

 

Progressively, race and religion became politicised. The racial and religious divide was ripe for picking by irresponsible politicians. It was effectively used to entrench power. They did it shamelessly, some saying that it was the call of their religion to stamp their authority. And they also reasoned that it was better to support a corrupt leader from their faith instead of a clean one from another. Astonishing to know some people buy this stupidity.

 

Anyone who believes that favouring one segment of a population over the rest of the nation can ensure peaceful lives and wellbeing, got to think again. A divided nation cannot be a happy nation. At best it is a fool’s paradise.

 

Let’s rewind to the 60s, the period before the defining May 13 racial riots. Religion and culture were largely left alone, when no one chose to politicise them.  We actually coexisted peacefully. Most of us did not merely tolerate our differences in race, religion and culture. We accepted them and enjoyed watching others practising their own, sometimes joining them too.

 

I learnt how to eat belacan in my neighbour Kamal Pasha Jamaluddin’s house. He went on to become a senior police officer and kept in touch with me. I learned how to play scrabble and carom in my classmate Datuk Noorazman Abd Aziz’s house whose mother served us with drinks and food. He went on to hold several key positions in government financial institutions and till today, still makes it a point to meet old classmates of all races.

 

These are precious bonds that I do not want to lose. I am sure there are thousands of other Malaysians who have similar stories to tell. This is the Malaysia I grew up in, a far cry from today’s toxic nation.

 

Most importantly, I’d be living a lie if I hold racial and religious prejudices against them in my heart just because some politicians and irresponsible bigots are stirring up some primordial sentiments that I buried along the way as I mingled with Malaysians of other faiths sincerely.

 

Let’s open up, be sincere and not be swayed by mindless leaders who are hell bent on tearing this country apart. Let us all stop living a lie and wake up and face the truth that we have to be Malaysians first if we want the nation to be great.

 

God Bless Malaysia!

 

K. Parkaran is a freelance journalist and media advisor currently. He was the Deputy Editor in The Star and a Senior Producer with Aljazeera International before.

 
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of DagangNews.com

 

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