"I love you when you bow in your mosque, kneel in your temple, pray in your church. For you and I are sons of one religion, and it is the spirit. " Khalil Gibran.
There, he said it. The spirit.
This is the essence of ourselves that makes up our souls in the light of God. People liken religion to faith - but they are two different things.
There has been a lot happening these last few days in Malaysia which makes me question my choice to live here. Firstly, to live in Peninsular Malaysia, which seems to be rife with racial tension and bigotry to an extent I was not aware of in Sabah, where I am from. Perhaps that is because I only spent my childhood there before leaving for schooling, and was therefore unaware of the politics of race. I do remember, it didn't matter what religion or race my friends were. No one cared.
However, my most recent visits back home have brought to light the phenomenon of the "malayification" of Sabah culture. I don't mean Islamization, because many of my people (kadazan dusuns) have converted to Islam in the past, including some members of my family. I mean the incidence of the permeation of the malay culture into the kadazan way of life. I'm not saying it's good or bad, just observing a fact and preparing to comment on a related phenomenon.
Having knowledge of this happening in the remote state of Sabah, lets me see what is going on here on the Peninsular, particularly in KL, in a different light. The latest outrageous incident involving a cowhead and protests against the relocation of an Indian temple from one suburb to another, has left most of us disgusted, especially since the perpetrators supposedly represent the Muslim Malays of Malaysia.
[If you are unaware of this incident, about 50 Malays, including children, marched a severed cowhead up to a government building, stamped and spat on it and denounced the move of the Indian temple into their part of the suburbs. (If you are not aware, this is a sacrilegious act against Hinduism) The general public were later to discover that a) the 150 year old temple had preceded the suburb's existence by about 130 years, b) the temple had been meant for relocation for over 20 years and it had been long past due and c) it was being relocated to an industrial area at least 200 metres from the nearest residency. The protesters at the time, and at later forums of discussion (hah!) claimed the temple would disrupt their community life, and encourage more crime. Hindusim encouraging more crime? How easily this shows the ignorance at large here.]
To me, this is not about religion at all. If those protesters, and the silent observing community as well, have any clue about the Hindu religion, and yes, even any clue about the Muslim religion, they would know that the location of the temple is not the issue at all.
This is about race.
This is about those Malay men and women working themselves up into a rage because they do not want strangers in their own back yard.
I tell you though, if this was a church with a predominantly white congregation, this would be a totally different story. I say this because the root of this racial tension is really about self-esteem. If you as a race (and I do not speak about all individuals of one race, I speak of this particular group representing an existing faction of their race) feel threatened in your tiny world, who do you pick on except those you have decided in your mind are weaker than you? Who else except those you look down upon? Nobody wants to say it, especially not those of us who are intellectually aware of the subtexts in this drama, and are reluctant to point out the ugly truth for fear of upsetting the victims further. I say pointing it out is acknowledging the victim's unfair treatment and highlighting the cowardice of their bullies.
And if you have this problem of self-esteem, you do not insult those you feel inferior to. Now I've said it. Despite the rhetoric of anti-western sentiment, we are all living the extremely western ideal of capitalism. And, like it or not, this country owes a debt to its colonisers because they left behind a system which we have never replaced, and we have used it to try to compete with other western giants on a global scale. If you do not agree with that, then let's look at another world force that apparently we positively adore: the Arabs. Why, KL practically licks the ground in preparation of their vacation season, and we let in some of the rudest, most boorish tourists and allow them to trample loudly all over the place. They're perfect: they're Muslims who spend.
People, open your eyes. If a woman kills her friends' reputations with slanderous gossip, her Jubah doesn't make her a perfect Muslim. If a man insists that it is more important to not be tempted by food during the fasting month, than it is to be tempted by bribery, sex or malicious intentions, he is a hypocritical Muslim for only caring for outward shows of faith. If a man wears a skull cap, but beats his wife at home in between his five prayer routine, he is not a good Muslim. If a woman teaches her child that he cannot speak to one kind of race because they don't eat the same way they do, she is already denying Allah's decree of tolerance and the seeking of knowledge. If a man teaches his daughter that she must fast or else, but them subjects her to humiliation whether it is verbal or sexual, he is not a good Muslim. These are all hypocrites who twist and use their sacrosanct religion to honour their own base desires and urges to control others, and create little mini-mes in their image. I say this is ungodly and the worst of sins, because it is an act against the decrees of God.
It is the goodness, the actions and the honourable intent of a person that makes them a good Muslim - and not what they wear on their heads, or what they say out loud in the name of God.
So, all those protesters and their eventual supporters who were marching in the name of their religion were simply using it as a way of expressing their closed-minded, bigoted, intolerant, un-Islamic - and I truly believe un-Malay - prejudices. If you were until now, undecided about what happened a week ago, I hope that you will actively seek out more knowledge about what you may have simply accepted as truth because someone told you so. Being mindful, thoughtful and considerate - how much closer to God's tenets could you get if you are constantly applying yourself to knowing the truth?
I simply pray that people do not allow their emotions to rule their thoughts in these matters.
On another note, what is it with the authorities sitting back on this whole issue and feebly calling for calm, and then swooping down and arresting another group who attended a candlelight vigil promoting the peaceful resolution of this very issue?
How can anyone not see that this is a political stance with a racial slant? They fear upsetting a few angry Malays more than they fear the consequences of abusing civilians' rights under the conventions they have signed on a world scale.
I am sickened to the core.
I feel abandoned morally by my leaders and am heartsick that this is the future my children face. Who is to say, that because they have a famous father, or because their mother was not malay, or because they speak english as a first language, they will not be ostracised themselves, despite the fact that they are beautiful souls with not a shred of evil in them? I don't want that for them, never.
Do you want that for your children? I hope to God it doesn't stay this way.
Bitter and unhappy,