Sunday, May 20, 2007

The tolerance of Malays

I grew up in a Malay village where in between the rumah kayu there were Chinese houses. Those Chinese were already there when I came into this world. Over the years I have gotten used to them. Their world was my world, too. We celebrated our religious days side-by-side. We visited each other regularly. We cared for their young whenever they were too harrassed to cope and they did likewise, looking over our children. We grieved over their losses and they, ours.

They are old now. Their children have drifted to the bigger cities only to return during cheng beng and Chinese New Year. They have not changed and neither have we. The fast-changing pace of life beyond the village borders was worlds apart as far as we were concerned. We just did not merely tolerate them. We ACCEPTED them as much as they accepted us, Malays.

Now, in the 21st century they say much water have flowed under the bridge. I see things have changed some what. Our children return on special occassions as much as theirs. Their brief sojourn in the village during the balik kampung time have impacted our peaceful existence that have continued for so long.

Now I see certain restrains whenever I catch up with my Chinese neighbours. I wondered why there are changes, reservations even a hints of enmity at times. I have, on several occassions overhead some attempts at "re-indoctrination" by their children late in the nights. Yes, over the years, being cared for by them and mixing with them had imparted certain degree of familiarity with their language. I understood almost whatever they say in their language.

Their children have begun to question many things; among which are the entrenched constitutional provisions relating to Malay rights, privileges, etc. Such things, which their parents have accepted with open hearts are just not acceptable anymore although the reality still dictates the need.

This is the backdrop against which we see today the birth of arrogance, bigotry and racist overtones .

Today, I have on many occassions chanced to stumble upon cases of non-Malay employers hiring maids of the Malay stock, albeit of a different nationality. Being born and bred of very humble beginnings where at one time decades ago, the colour of our skin or the choice of our religious convictions were not obstacles to our living in peace and harmony, I view such flagrant disregard of human rights very seriously.

Although there are some employers who respect the rights of their maids, there are others who could not care less. They treat their maids only slightly above the station accorded to animals and sometimes even below that. Their Muslim maids are not allowed to perform their prayers , observe fast during ramadan, forced to handle pork, among other things. No, I'm not being extreme as I openly share the moderate views forwarded by the good mufti of Perlis recently.

These maids, being naive and frighten cant say much as they really need to survive and landing a job in Malaysia, no matter how humble it may be, is a godsend.

Many of us are aware of such going-ons but prefer to keep silent although we feel dismayed over such disregard for human rights.

If the Malay-led government can accept/tolerate Malaysians who are non-Muslims by allowing them their right to practice their religious convictions freely, why are some non-Muslims doing such unkind and inconsiderate things to their Muslim maids? They may not be Malaysians but they are Muslims no less and humans, too. Please allow them their privilges accordingly.

To me, these are among the things that can fuel anger, retaliations, arrogance and bigotry among Malaysians of various ethnicity. It will be like a vicious circle. The Malays will be even more defensive and the non-Malays will up their ante even more. So, wither solution?

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