Posted: 25 Jul 2013 01:21 PM PDT
Is there such a thing as an ideal state of unity in Malaysia?
There is no such thing as an ideal state of unity, it's constantly evolving. Society evolves to the state of ideal when they give and take differences, or when they draw the strength of these differences to bring them together in an evolving and continuous forum of multiculturalism. This must be done through peaceful dialogue and education. The only powerful means to personal and social progress is education.
So education is the answer?
It is vital. We must implement education based on ethics, creativity and a vision that can see the good in human beings no matter who they are. Race is merely a construct; to imagine someone as this race and that race has limitations and dangers.
Are there connections between racism and conservatism?
These are two very different, difficult concepts to define. Racism is an excess of self-identity, you become ethnocentric and, in the extreme, you go to the point of ethnic cleansing. Conservatism can mean that you conserve your cultural identity and you take pride in the ethics of conserving it.
How much does class have to do with the separation of races in Malaysia?
It has always been about class. The artificial divisions of race are used as a political tool to divide and conquer – it was a British colonial strategy. I think Malaysians are beginning to see that it's not about racial differences but about class. If you look at the protests around the world from Wall Street to the Turkish protest against neo-liberalism, they're always about class.
Is this realisation about class especially prominent post-GE13?
GE13 was the beginning of the coming together of people who do not wish to look at politics based on race. It's about transitioning from the old order to a new one. The old regime is now trying to use their ideas to build a new perspective of their own governance, because after 50 years, you have to move on and look at the reality of what it is. And the reality is that it's a problem of social class.
Posted: 25 Jul 2013 12:17 PM PDT
Two articulate writers, both lawyers, both Muslims, both patriots, have commented on the Pristina primary school incident, which I too have commented on.
Art Harun's piece is titled "Once we were beautiful."
Art reminisces about his schooldays in a mixed race, English-stream primary school in the sixties. He names some of his Chinese, Indian and Malay teachers. He affectingly recalls being corrected by some of them. He notes it was then normal not to fast till year 5 and it was even normal, not disrespectful, to snack while walking about.
Art recounts his move to a "mixed" boarding school. He studied, played, ate and made mischief with friends who weren't Malays. Inter-communal mixing was normal.
Art laments that "non-Muslims don't send their kids to national school anymore," preferring vernacular and private schools. He points out that now national schools require students to recite morning prayers, have walls adorned with Quranic verses and are filled with Malay/Muslim students.
Art's point about the state of our schools today is:
"The small number of non-Malay kids also gives a sense of false superiority complex to the Malay kids as well as teachers. Thus, my race and my religion are more important than you, your religion and everything else.
Art says the superiority complex is the reason why "many national schools" close their school canteens during Ramadan, though that's not the publicly offered reason.
Art's view: Seri Pristina is only one of many national schools which close their canteens during Ramadan; canteens are closed because of a Malay superiority complex. The superiority complex arises from the "Islamization" of national schools and non-Muslims who've responded by sending their children to other schools. We used to be beautiful, and were journeying on a joyous path to victory. Not anymore.
Datuk Zaid Ibrahim's piece is titled "When will kindness prevail?"
Zaid's first sentence is cautious. He says "if the reports . . . are correct."
Then he marches on assuming the reports are correct. He uses words like fiasco, ugliness, marred, furore. He says he's unsurprised at the predictable responses of Ministers. He reminds us of the 2010 incident when the Principal of a school in Johor made racist remarks against her Chinese and Indian charges. [What action was taken against her? Where is she now?]
Zaid gets to his explanation quickly. He says:
"What has happened is the result of heightened Malay-Muslim consciousness, promoted by politicians and Islamic bureaucrats who-under the cloak of race and in some cases religion or both – want to be identified as champions of their race and religion."
Zaid shares his vision for Malaysia: a nation of equals. To this end, he encourages non-Malays and non-Muslims to stop being overly respectful of Malays and Muslims. He encourages them to stop staying "in the background" and instead stand up for their rights. The astute politician adds that he recognizes this is the rightful aspiration of the young. Then he says:
"The real culprits for the present day distortion are the Malays who always blame the Chinese for their shortcomings, and the false Muslim preachers who teach the Muslims to have an all-consuming fear of God but then conveniently forget that Allah commands us to look after our fellow beings more than ourselves.
What ails the country are these false teachings and false ideologies that are bereft of human decency and dignity, making meaningful relationships among the people of this country difficult to achieve."
Zaid's view: Seri Pristina is one of a continuing series of abuses of non-Muslim students by Malay/Muslim authorities; the root cause of the abuses is the inclination of Malay/Muslim leaders to blame "the Chinese" for weaknesses in their own communities; it's made worse by non-Malays/Muslims resorting to submission instead of respectful challenge. Zaid wants the Prime Minister to "remove the distorting prism that guides our present actions purely on the basis of race or beliefs."
I salute Art and Zaid, both Malay/Muslims, for writing on this subject and for sharing their opinion that the root cause of this incident is an unchallenged, crude form of race/religion.
I am surprised that they both quickly assumed the worst, i.e. that only non-Muslims were required to use the shower room as a makeshift canteen. I attribute their quickness to their greater watchfulness over developments amongst Malays/Muslims.
I still maintain that everyone should be assumed innocent until proven guilty. The Head Master is as worthy of due process as the next suspect. [See my The Reason Cops Shouldn't Abuse Suspects.]
It's worth recalling the issues in the Seri Pristina incident, which incidentally, have not been addressed by the Deputy Prime Minister (who is also the Education Minister) and the Deputy Minister for Education:
I am an Indian, though I like to think I am neighbour first.
I don't know what right I have to speak for Indians, just as I don't know what right Art and Zaid have to speak for Malays/Muslims. I suppose we speak because we can and because we feel it is part of our civic responsibility.
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