Yin asks “How has our country become so intolerant?”
Not far from where I lived, was Kampong Java, a Malay kampong in the heart of Ipoh. There were many transgenders there. They were left pretty much alone. The religious authorities did not harass them. They went about their life like others in the community. I am sure they were teased by some naughty boys but that’s about as far as it went. There was no Jakim.
That is a distant memory in a ‘foreign country’. We did things differently there. We live and let live.
Fast forward 50 years . . . a very short time in a nation’s history.
Welcome to Malaysia Baru!
No, not the Malaysia Baru we had hoped for when we voted in 2018.
This Malaysia Baru is not much different from the Malaysia Lama of corrupt politicians, racial bigots and religious extremists we have since the ascendency of Mahathir.
Today’s Malaysia Baru is just as intolerant of anything or anyone which do not tick the boxes dictated by those in power.
If anything this country has become more racially divided and religously intolerant than at any time since its founding.
The story of Kamila Kamaruddin, a St Michael’s (Ipoh) boy caught my attention. (Rebuilding Malaysia/Malaysiakini).
She, a talented award winning doctor cannot come back to contribute to the country simply because she is a transgender.
How has our country become so intolerant?
We cannot accept differences. We hear only one voice – that sanctioned by the religious establishment. Other views of Islam are branded as deviant and are forbidden.
Our Malay leaders (in whose hands real power resides) see everything with race tinted glasses. They don’t want a Malaysian nation; they insist on a Malay one.
Why do we want to make people in our own image? Are we so perfect that we want clones of ourself? Are we not bored with looking ourselves in the mirror that we want to see us in other people?
What has happened to our country when citizens can be abducted in broad daylight and the police professes not to know anything about these enforced disapearances – never mind that Suhakam has accused the Special Branch of being involved.
The disappearance of Joshua Hilmy a Malay who converted to Christianity begs the question what happened to the freedom of religion guaranteed by our constitution. More importantly for Muslims; what happened to Prophet Mohammed’s edict that there is “no force in religion” (Bacqara 2:56).
When the public’s demand for answers is met with a shrug of the shoulders by the prime minister, the country is in a sorry state.
When the people we elected to govern do not protect us but instead turn on us; we are in trouble.
Kamila Kamaruddin is only one of thousands who are persecuted for just being herself. She is news because she is an award winning physician who is contributing to the National Health Service in Britain (when she could have helped – and wants to help – her own country).
But what about the transgender at the satay stall near where I live. I don’t see her anymore. Has she also ‘forcibly disappeared’? Put in a rehabilitation centre somewhere to recant her difference?
We aspire to be a developed nation yet we retain laws which hark back to more barbaric times.
We don’t sign international conventions on discrimination (ICERD) because we discriminate.
Discrimination on race, religion and gender issues, just to name three, is state policy.
We will eventually acquire the infrastructure and GDP of a developed nation, but unless we also acquire the mentality we will always remain a third rate nation.
Our discrimination has cost the nation thousands of lost talents. People like Kamila or other Malays who do not like what is going on in the country and will not return.
And of course, the victims of racial discrimination like the Chinese and Indians who will never return because they see no hope for change.
A headline in Free Malaysia Today caught my eye “Malaysians top ‘plane people’ seeking asylum in Australia”
It is old news that the non-Malays have been leaving the country for decades. It is estimated that over two million Chinese have left. I can’t remember the number for the Indians.
Malay conservatives probably look on this as good news after all what they want is a Malay nation.
But what would be interesting is “How many ‘refugees’ are Malays? How many are fleeing an increasingly intolerant Wahabist Islamic country?
I salute Kamila Kamaruddin and others who have stood their ground and not be bullied into conforming.
Being yourself is a right no one can take away or demand that you change (to what they want you to be) against your will. It is a human right guaranteed by the United Nations.
You can prevent one Kamila from coming home to practise but there are a thousand more Kamilas at home.
I do not recognise this country I am in. This is an alien country of racists and religious extremists. This is not the country I was born into. In my country the people were happy and they mix with each other and religion did not intrude into one’s life. No one will knock on your door in the night demanding to know if you are married to the person with you. You do not get caned for drinking or persecuted because you are different.
As the Tunku said, you are answerable only to Allah, not Jakim.
In the country I grew up in the garden has a hundred flowers of all colours. They grow amongst each other.
In this country I am in now, only one flower is allowed in the garden.
Let a thousand Kamilas bloom and a hundred thoughts contend, I’d say.
Will we ever see that old country again?
“NO” is the short answer. Not if we have to choose between UMNO/, PAS and PPBM/PH without a real choice.
Not if the much trumpeted Third Force is all hot air and no substance.
An old friend and academic told me he is “Pessismistic that it can happen in my lifetime”
Those who left must know something we don’t. There are many places where you are not judged on your skin colour or your religion. Being a ‘refugee’ is not so bad is it?
Alas, if all we are doing is spitting in the wind – it only gets you wet – may as well “jump plane”.
(The views expressed are those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of Rebuilding Malaysia.)
Letters from Ward 5, Tanjong Rambutan