Today, on Merdeka Day, let’s invite the new PM to demonstrate his concept of a nation that is one family.
DURING his maiden address to the nation on Aug 22, Malaysia’s new Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob introduced his idea of the “Malaysian Family”. I agree 100% with his words, that we are all a Malaysian Family and thus must help each other, trust one another and work together to save and rebuild this nation. What an apt call in these trying times of Covid-19 and great economic duress!
Well, I would like to call upon the PM to walk his talk and do two simple things that cost RM0bil. I am certain that with these two simple and free acts that will not cost the taxpayers a single sen, he will stand out above all other PMs in our nation’s history.
First, let me provide some background. Every year we spend millions of taxpayers’ ringgit to pay for a ministry that should never have needed to exist, the National Unity Ministry. Every year we spend millions more of taxpayers’ money on creating heart-tugging advertisements showing our so-called “unity” in television masterpieces of short films and videos. There’s also the expense to put up billboards showing different hands clasped in unity or beautiful women in gaily coloured traditional dresses. Oh, I almost forgot, we also pay millions of ringgit for public university research centres that claim to be “experts” on unity while producing tonnes of academic papers and a few books for schools and universities.
What have we got after 60-plus years of investment? A big fat zero in return. The virus called Covid-19 has done more to foster a sense of unity as people of different races and religions have stepped forward to feed the destitute and help those displaced from homes regardless of what race or religion they are. The different races are also united in mourning the more than 15,000 people who have died in less than one year.
So what are these two magical acts that I want the PM to carry out that can remove racial, religious and even political barriers? Senang saja.
First, what if a Malay prime minister were to deliver a speech on the great contributions of Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and people of other religions (leaving out Islam this one time) to this nation? And what if he were to deliver it in a cathedral or church in Kuching? There is a particular church I like for its architecture as its roof imitates the pyramidal (pyramid-like) roofs of traditional Malay mosques. Perhaps the PM could repeat that speech in a Gurdwara in Sabah and a Buddhist or Chinese temple hall in Ipoh.
This act would send a momentous and resounding message to all citizens that this Prime Minister believes in the spiritual construct of religions binding humankind and our nation. It would signal that Umno has grown up from the naughty boy who likes to play up racial and religious sentiments and allow Malay extremists to accuse Malay statesmen and academics of being Christian sympathisers or Chinese chauvinists. I have been accused of being both these things when I spoke at two churches in Kuala Lumpur and at Dong Zong (United Chinese School Committees’ Association of Malaysia) headquarters.
After 60 years we have gone nowhere despite the billions that have been spent and the tonnage of academic papers and research produced on “unity”. All it takes is simply the faith of one person who believes that Islam is a mercy to humankind and it engulfs all in its wings of compassion.
What is the second magic act I think the PM must do to solve the racial and religious problems of six decades? Lagi senang!
What if the Prime Minister were to be the guest of a non-Malay citizen whose religion is other than Islam?
In Islam, any guest, regardless of race, religion or lifestyle, will be honoured with three days of shelter in the house of a Muslim and invited to eat his food. What if the PM and his wife were to stay overnight and have dinner and breakfast in the home of an opposition leader who is not a Malay and not a Muslim? How will that affect the future narrative of Malaysia’s religious and racial relationships?
What if we Malaysians demand that all 222 Members of Parliament do the same as the PM, what kind of Malaysia will it produce?
Today, on Merdeka Day, why don’t we citizens invite the Prime Minister to walk his talk of “we are one Malaysian Family” and change this country forever with two acts that cost zero ringgit that will forever bury the National Unity Ministry and all the “unity” research centres in public universities?
Compassion, acceptance and respect for each other in a nation of many races, religions and lifestyles begin simply with the simple act of being a guest in two special houses, the house of man and the house of God. Salam Merdeka!
Prof Dr Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi is Professor of Architecture at UCSI University. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.