Published: Thursday September 24, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Thursday September 24, 2015 MYT 7:19:28 AM

A week that saw many old taboos broken

Last week was pretty groundbreaking when it came to getting rid of old taboos, even though they came from unexpected quarters.

IN the past week we’ve seen many taboos being broken.

The taboo on assembling in public to demonstrate was of course already broken some time ago, but until last week it was taboo for any pro-government people to do the same.

Then there was the taboo on laying hands on the police.

That was broken too when red-shirted demonstrators last week injured some policemen because they were stopped from going into a certain area of Kuala Lumpur.

Of course some people immediately disassociated themselves from these unruly demonstrators.

This was a privilege they didn’t allow anyone from Bersih to do.

Then there was the taboo against calling people names.

When I was little, the Malay word for pig was considered something nobody well brought-up ever mentioned in polite company.

This has stood for so long that someone decided to substitute it with the Arabic word “khinzir”, just so you could talk about the same animal without offending anyone’s sensibilities.

Last week that taboo was broken when some two-bit BBQ fish seller called a whole community pigs.

Obviously with the intention of insulting them and then disingenuously explaining that it can’t be offensive since the target community loves eating it.

What would be the point of insulting people with supposedly non-insulting words?

Then some genius broke yet another taboo, by associating his religion with something not just negative but despicably so.

These would be the same people who insist that Islam is a religion of peace while threatening other people and then claiming that racism is OK in Islam.

Has there ever been a peaceful but racist society anywhere in the world?

Does this person realise which infamous figures he’s keeping company with?

He might as well have said “I’m a totally nasty person and proud of it.”

So yes, last week was pretty ground breaking when it came to getting rid of old taboos, even though they came from unexpected quarters.

I suppose the old Malay pride in being well-mannered, soft-spoken and dignified is now dead and gone too.

Which is rather ironic considering that this undignified show of force was meant to uphold Malay ‘dignity’.

The interesting thing was that all of this may be for nought.

Before the red rally, a survey showed that a majority of Malays didn’t support it.

Last week’s shenanigans probably converted no one to the cause.

Few people were clear what it was about apart from some vague idea about protecting Malay dignity.

I’m quite sure if someone in the middle of the crowd had started chanting “Tolak GST”, the entire Padang Merbok would have joined in too.

After all, they are the ones most affected by rising prices.

Not much dignity if you have to cut back on essentials for your family.

Meanwhile more sensible Malaysians decided to celebrate Malaysia Day for what it really is: a day of togetherness and unity in diversity.

Some of us had a picnic in KLCC park complete with balloons and cake for Malaysia’s 52nd birthday.

Total strangers dropped by and sat under the trees, made friends with one another and chatted about anything and everything under the sun.

It was clear that we all had no problems with one another despite differences in background and that we all truly loved our country.

We ended our picnic by singing the national anthem.

Something that was missing at Padang Merbok.

In another part of town, a whole day of festivities showcasing every culture in Malaysia was met with great enthusiasm.

People tried different foods, watched cultural performances, witnessed a full Peranakan wedding, listened to music and basically spent time with one another in a warm togetherness.

Our hearts burst with pride when Sean Ghazi sang a beautiful rendition of Tanah Pusaka.

This followed once again by the whole crowd singing NegaraKu.

Like midnight last August, everyone there owned the anthem, regardless of which Malaysian community they came from.

All of us were determined that Malaysia Day was a day of joy, fun and happiness and not one of anger and violence.

We wanted our photos to be of people genuinely enjoying themselves and at peace with one another.

We went home feeling good about ourselves.

I don’t know if the other crowd felt the same but I do hope that ‘fun’ would at least be one of words they would describe their event with.

One major difference between the red rally and previous yellow ones was easy to discern.

If you don’t mass-produce placards and banners and you make your own because you believe in a cause, the chances are you’ll come up with some truly witty ones.

Amidst anger about current issues, we could still laugh at such creativity.

Instead of laughing at people.


Marina Mahathir is a human rights activist who works on women, children and HIV/AIDS issues. The views expressed here are entirely her own.

Tags / Keywords: Marina Mahathir, columnist

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