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Wednesday July 13, 2005
By MARINA MAHATHIR
My name is Zorga and I am from the planet Zurk. I am an Earthologist specialising in a country called Malaysia. This is my blog.
Earth date: July 5, 2005. Landed in Kuala Lumpur today and as usual, I begin my research by reading the local newspapers. Malaysian laws immediately mystify me. In this country, one is not allowed to spend money to build large replicas of household items. This will invite hostile attention from the authorities. However, one is perfectly free to spend enormous amounts of lucre building very ugly replicas of jungle plants or large over-decorated high-rise buildings and gaudily-decorated homes.
That was the first of the mysteries that befuddle me. One of the nice things about Malaysia is the fact that her people are of various origins and believe in different faiths. This has made this country quite famous because in other places, people kill one another just because they don’t believe in the same things.
But the funny thing is, just going by what’s in the paper, nowadays you can get arrested if you sit down and have nice friendly chats with people who have different beliefs from you. It’s OK if you shout at them and tell them that they’re wrong and stupid but if you enjoy a cup of tea with them, and listen respectfully as they explain why they believe in what they believe in, then that’s no good.
As an Earthologist, I study many things about this planet. Even though many people around the world don’t seem to like people who profess different religions from them, there are groups of people who think the only way for there to be peace is for them to sit down and discuss what they do or do not have in common in an atmosphere of mutual respect. There is an organisation called the World Conference of Religions for Peace where imams, bishops, rabbis, priests and monks work together to find ways to promote peace in the world rather than the awful violence and killing that currently goes on, sometimes in the name of religion. I suppose that none of these eminent religious people can come to Malaysia since if you entertain anyone not the same faith as you in your home, then you could be arrested for deviation. Actually that would probably put rather a lot of Malaysians in jail.
It’s extremely peculiar. In all my years of studying this country, I have never seen such strange things happening. There seems to be more people keen on prosecuting others for thinking differently from them than ever before. The even weirder thing is that the ones they really go after are those who are actually of the same faith. It’s like joining a club that you can never leave when you decide you don’t like the rules anymore. It’s very hard to study this new development when the authorities do not actually give compelling reasons why these people are bad. It would be good to know, but so far I would put them down as eccentric. Perhaps there are new laws against eccentricity. They haven’t crashed planes into buildings or blown themselves up in public places yet as far as I can tell.
On my planet Zurk, the authorities once quelled a cult that seemed to be threatening our way of life. But then there were three million members and we are only 10 million Zurkites after all. Here in this country, if a cult has less than one hundred members, they are already deemed a problem that will eventually destroy society. But there is a famous singer with millions of fans here and abroad who only has to say what colour her favourite lipstick is and the shops will completely sell out of that colour. Yet nobody thinks that she’s a bad influence on anyone. And politicians need to get several thousand followers by whatever means they can to get anywhere and hardly anyone wonders about that either. I really have to figure out this strange culture.
It’s very worrisome. I have become rather fond of Malaysia ever since I started studying them. Malaysia was one of those interesting places where people were really moving forward in every way, including in their thinking. With education, they seemed to leave ignorance and superstition behind. But now they suspect evil in everything. Some people can’t have much to do with their lives.
This country used to be such an easy place to be in. Now you just don’t know who they are going to pick on next. Hopefully it won’t be Zurkites.
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