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One Man's Meat

Published: Saturday August 16, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Saturday August 16, 2014 MYT 7:12:06 AM

Happy to be a poster boy

Being moderate should also mean reclaiming our sense of humour, and not viewing everything through racial lenses.

WAH, Phil, you are the poster boy for Moderate Malaysia,” a friend WhatsApp-ed me on Tuesday.

She was referring to The Star’s Voices of Moderation poster that included moderates such as Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, Zainah Anwar, Karim Raslan and Azmi Sharom.

“Since when lah you are a moderate?” she teased.

Clever me, knowing that it was a “trap”, answered, “I’m a moderate bah. I drink moderately.”

That silenced her as she didn’t have any ammunition to tease me. “Lol!” she messaged.

I replied in emoji (a small digital image or icon used to express an idea, emotion, etc, in electronic communication), sending images of “lol” (acronym for laughing out loud) and “beer”.

On Twitter, friends and strangers tweeted me the “thumbs up” emoji after they saw The Star’s Brave Views, Bold Ideas campaign poster that was launched on Sunday.

The campaign encourages Malaysians to espouse such views but tempered by the voice of moderation.

Under the campaign, The Star promised to keep discussions open, rational and moderate while showcasing liberal, moderate and balanced voices.

On Wednesday, Capital FM 88.9 Head of Programme Non (Aanont Martin Robert Wathanasin) interviewed me on the subject.

Non asked me what moderate Malaysia was. Instead of answering him directly, I told him that I’m finding that Malaysians are becoming ultra-sensitive.

In the Malaysia that I grew up in, we were able to laugh at each other’s “racist” jokes.

Chong Hion Hoak would laugh when I made fun of Chinese, Justus Kumar would laugh when I made Chindian (Chinese/Indian) jokes and Rozana Nordin would laugh when I made (to think about it I never asked her what’s her ethnicity – Bajau perhaps) ...

Now you have to tiptoe. Now you need to be politically correct in public, especially on social media. It seems we have lost our sense of humour.

It also seems that we see things in Malaysia through our own racial lenses.

Pop quiz: when you watched the video in which Kiki (Siti Fairrah Ashykin Kamaruddin) committed mischief with a steering lock by hitting the bonnet and front windscreen of Sim Siak Hong’s car, did you see it as an altercation between two Malaysians? Or between a Malay and a Chinese?

Some – hopefully a small minority – saw it as a fight between a Malay and a Chinese. They hit back by showing a video of a Chinese bashing a Malay who was allegedly a snatch thief. They even accused the police of being biased towards a certain race.

(Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said the actions taken in some cases were different because they depended on various aspects of the investigations.)

Back to my interview with Non of Capital FM 88.9. He asked me to describe moderate Malaysia and I gave Ranau as an example.

In June, I was in Ranau, a district in my hometown Sabah where the majestic Mount Kinabalu is located.

Most of the people of Ranau are Kadazandusuns, of whom half are Muslims and the other half Christians.

In Ranau, the people can’t afford to have religious problems, as no family is 100% Christian or 100% Muslim. They’ve learnt to respect other religions as their own family members are of different religions.

They don’t have an attitude that I call, my milkshake is better than yours (my point is not really connected to the lyrics but you get the picture).

On Sunday, The Star’s Facebook page posted: “What is a moderate Malaysia to you? #moderateMY? #thestarMY?”.

Here is what ordinary Malaysians had to say.

Samuel Effron: “Keeping an open mind and being able to live with other people regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, and/or sexual orientation/gender identity. Focusing more towards progress for a better nation. Keeping beliefs to oneself and not forcing it upon others.”

Janice Lim: “Tolerance of all races regardless of religion.”

Yasas Liew YL: “Treat your brother just by the same standards as you want to be treated lor. Don’t little bit quote sensitive la, hasutan (incitement) la, as if your opinion alone is important. Accept that the world is diverse and live with peace in that understanding and love.”

Yamashita Kazuko: “What’s a moderate Malaysia to me? If people could just respect each other and their custom as well religions, not being unreasonable, not being racist, not throwing insults at each other, having a broad mind, having dignity in keeping their rationality in check, and treating everyone equally, we will be able to live in peace that way in this country.”

Hazee Haleem: “A moderate Malaysia is one in which the shouts of a few do not keep others silent out of fear for their lives and livelihood.”

Napsiah Wan Salleh: “A moderate Malaysia is where thoughts and policies are neither conservative nor liberal.”

John Renaud: “Freedom of thought, speech, expression.”

Linggatharani Kesavan: “A society that doesn’t engage in radical behaviours. Like burning of flags or terrorising fellow citizens.”

Malah Manoheran: “No racists, no extremists, no terrorists.”

These comments reinforce my belief that we live in a moderate Malaysia.

That racist voices that you hear amplified in the media represent a small majority of Malaysians. My advice is when you read their statements, don’t get too excited as they don’t represent the rest of us.

Since most of us are moderate Malaysians, let me share a joke about a priest, a rabbi and a bobohizan (Kadazandusun for “priestess”) ....

> The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

Tags / Keywords: Philip Golingai

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