Maestros of disunity

  • Comment
  • Wednesday, 09 Feb 2022

YOU might have missed this piece of news while enjoying sumptuous feasts or visiting friends and relatives during this festive season.

Let me reproduce an excerpt of what was the most clicked content on the second day of the Year of the Tiger.

Nur Hazah married her Chinese husband Daniel last year, and this was her first Chinese New Year since her marriage.

Everyone in the family was filled with joy as they celebrated the festive season with their new relative.

Naturally, they started to share pictures of the mouthwatering food they feasted on in their family chat group.

But in the midst of the merrymaking, someone cautiously asked Nur Hazah whether it was OK to post those non-halal delicacies.

"Of course! No problem with me!" she answered spontaneously.

The merrier the family, the more pictures they shared.

However, the question that would have seemed a gesture of care and respect prompted her to wonder if her own religion had been too demanding that triggered them to ask such a question.

She thought about it the whole night. The circumspection on the part of her husband’s family in not infringing upon her religious taboos made her, a Muslim, reflect on her occasional lack of empathy for other people’s faith and cultural differences while constantly reinforcing her own taboos and demands on people, and the fact that even though they had their religion and culture, they had never once intervened in her day-to-day practices as a Muslim.

"The Malays always enforce their belief on other people’s cultures even though those cultures have never interfered in their day-to-day living," she thought and subsequently made a lengthy Facebook post exploring the issue.

"I think it is absolutely necessary for me to write this. As Malays, we often demand that things unfamiliar to us adapt to suit our faith and position, but we have overlooked one thing very important: even these people who embrace different religious faiths, cultures and customs from ours have never trespassed upon or interfered in our day-to-day living," she wrote.

It has since won her plenty of Likes for her moderate thinking.

"How nice if everyone thinks like you!" a social media user commented.

After the post was adapted into a news story, it became an instant hit on the second day of CNY, with many readers praising Nur Hazah for her openness.

Among their comments:

"So different from our politicians. Ordinary citizens always know how to take care of other people’s feelings."

"Absolutely right! Politicians only know how to divide the nation!"

"Extremist politicians, go through this twice, and learn from this young Muslim lady!"

Politicians who regularly issue extremist, aggressive and arrogant remarks that they are the masters of this land and the rest are pendatang (immigrants), make harsh comments and every now and then, and tell people to go back where they came from – we know who they are, and I don’t want to list them here to spoil our festive mood!

Many are bound to have come across the unpleasant experiences of being forcefully told off during their growing years, at school, in the workplace or even family members, especially by people with a powerful lust for dominance over others by enforcing their wants and arguing that they are doing it for our own good.

The same is also rampant among people of different ethnicities, faiths and even nationalities.

Blatant displays of disrespect often spawn nasty sequels. No one will gain from a relationship marred by an absence of respect.

I have received plenty of good wishes from many non-Chinese during this festive season – people from the Istana, PM’s Office, government departments, politicians, businessmen, fellow journalists, PR practitioners as well as those I have interviewed or helped before.

They sent their messages either in English or Bahasa Malaysia.

In a way, this makes me see true friendship vis-à-vis politicians who customarily drum up sensitive issues, hypocritically chanting slogans of unity and harmony without doing anything substantial to promote them, putting up banners with festive greetings and distributing cartons of mandarin oranges in their constituencies.

Nur Hazah has taken the first step while more and more moderate Malay compatriots now share her liberal attitude.

Hopefully, this will create an opportunity for us to instil change at the start of the Year of the Tiger, so that politicians who regularly manipulate the religious narrative and raise seditious issues will not get a chance to survive in this beloved country of ours.

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