I WAS one of those who visited the Sri Maha Mariamman temple in Section 19, Shah Alam on 4 Sept. The visit, comprising a small group of about 30 Malaysians, was initiated as an act of solidarity with the Hindus on the receiving end of the now infamous cow-head protest a week earlier. We brought with us some flowers and kuih, and were very warmly welcomed by the temple committee members and other worshippers there.
We were invited to sit alongside the worshippers as the prayers commenced. Not long after, we began to discuss the issue of the temple relocation. They explained that the issue had been ongoing for almost 20 years, and were eager for some sort of resolution that would be practical for all the parties involved. It was evident that what should have been an easily resolved issue got blown out of proportion by certain parties, and became an unnecessary burden on the temple committee.
And yet, they were calm in explaining the harassment that they’ve had to endure for many months. For instance, being refused permission to repair the temple that gets flooded after every heavy downpour; having to get a police permit for special mass prayers during Hindu festivals; or having a zinc fence suddenly appear where their parking lot used to be so that devotees could not park their cars. It almost seemed like they have accepted such injustices, and one could not avoid feeling a deep sense of shame at this.
While I was aware that the temple committee were very appreciative of our visit, it did not feel as if it were an extraordinary gesture, or that it was surprising for Malaysians to go out of their way to support other Malaysians. It just felt biasa for different races to mingle, without question. This was the real Malaysia.
From our little visit alone, it was painfully obvious that the apparent “racial tension” that we’re constantly reminded to be fearful of is nothing but a divisive tool to support our race-based politics. The defence by our very own home minister and other supporters of such a bigoted and violent act as the cow-head protest is clear evidence of this.
How shameful it is that the people who are supposed to govern and protect us could sit side by side with these protesters and condone such hateful behavior. Is it so hard for our politicians to simply acknowledge that these protesters do not represent Malaysians, regardless of race or religion? Doesn’t it also benefit them to safeguard the interests of all Malaysians, rather than the bigoted few? Are these the people our children are supposed to look up to as role models?
But Malaysia is not fooled. It isn’t hard to see right through such political games, and realise that it really isn’t about one race or religion against another. You’d only have to walk the streets of this country to see temples, mosques and churches standing side by side without much fuss. You’d only have to speak to its citizens to see that many of us don’t see each other as “pendatang”. As the late great Bob Marley sang, “You can fool some people sometimes, but you can’t fool all the people all the time.”
As we celebrate Malaysia Day this 16 Sept, I hope we can all stand up and say that we do not judge our neighbour based on race or religion. That we accept and wholly embrace our differences and similarities. That we are all secure in our identities that we should not feel threatened by the “other”. That we refuse to be divided along racial lines and be used in this way as a means of political gain. That we are all, simply, Malaysians.
16 Sept 2009
Vivienne Lee says
You’ve put it in a nutshell Nez! What a succinct and well-written piece. If the generation after mine can adopt this line of thinking â€” reasonable, rational and analytical â€” then there truly IS hope for Malaysia after all.
Juana Jaafar says
Congratulations, Ineza. Young people should write more!
This is brilliant stuff. And I don’t think Malaysians are fooled!
There should be a movement by the people and NGOs to celebrate Malaysia Day instead. Arts festival, exhibitions, seminars to flaunt our Malaysian-ness. We should raise flags on 16 September. Never again let East Malaysians wonder whatever happened to 16 September?
Let the government celebrate 31 August but the people celebrate 16 September. The government can be racial but the people don’t have to be.
I wish there were more people like you guys [and gals]! I am a Sarawakian, and I know what the real 1Malaysian might look like. =)
habsah abang saufi says
Inez, I am not surprised to see you taking after your mother. Nonetheless, congratulations on a very well written article, and on a subject that most young people would not take interest in. Hope to read more from you.
Read something like this and think ya la, let’s forget the past. Let’s give it to the young ones who don’t know and don’t care why things are the way they are, and let them start from scratch as they see it. Year Zero. As for those few recalcitrants who do these horrid things, we should abolish the ISA but keep the jails.
I salute your courage and wisdom in facing such a sensitive issue. I pray that some day, all Malaysians can be like you. May God bless you and your friends who took the trouble to come to this temple on 4 Sept 2009. Peace be with you.