I got tagged by two fellow bloggers, A Voice and Bigdog on the same topic. No prizes for guessing.
Muhibbah. Defined by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka as perasaan persahabatan dan kemesraan (feeling of friendship and camaraderie or closeness).
I have it aplenty, I’d like to think. Looking back at more than three decades of human interaction with people of all shapes, sizes, colour, race, religion and whatever other ways of classifying or segregating the human race…I found that Muhibbah pretty much describes it, but I wasn’t doing it consciously.
It is not easy to co-exist with people who don’t share the superficial sameness that is identifiable. Anyone with some though will tell you that. However, trade, travel, and basically what we today call globalisation but has been happening for millenia, brings us into contact with people who are in many ways different.
A certain level of understanding and tolerance would make interaction easier, and maybe one day head towards wome kind of harmony.
It is a known fact, however, that it is the minority in any of these equations who will try to fit in and learn things that help him assimilate. I was one, and I assimilated. I learnt about this unique plural society I was born into, and it helped that I had a lot of positive experience growing up.
I was born a few years after 1969, and since my family was settled in a rural area, none of the hate reached us anyway. So I’d like to think.
My parents however, must have been privy to race-related hate and God bless them, they kept their cool and NEVER taught us to hate. So here I am today, after 14 years in the city of Kuala Lumpur and still I don’t know how to hate a fellow human being for his colour, race, religion or political beliefs.
Tolerance? Hah! I was raised a Hindu and everywhere I went, saw a lotta beef on the table. No one bats an eyelid when it comes to our sensitivities. Except for a caring Uncle Samad and Aunty Ruby in whose house I stayed for a year in my late teens. Throughout the time I stayed with the Samads, I didn’t see a single beef dish on the table. His daughter Ina was by best friend. I would not have minded so much since I was obviously menumpang, yet not a day went by that I was made to feel anything other than a daughter of the house.
When I went climbing a mountain in my late teens, I had collapsed on reaching the top. When I opened my eyes, I was lying on the lap of a fellow climber while a Chinese girl was offering me a steaming bowl of Maggi. Times like that, the issue of race and religion never crept in. We were just people sharing the same circumstances.
Somehow it struck me though that most of my Muhibbah moments happened way before I came to Kuala Lumpur. And I’ve been here 14 years now.
Why is it that in the cities, things are more clearly drawn along racial, religious or political lines? Maybe social inequality is one reason. But I’m not sure it isn’t the fact that politicians play up these sentiments for their own gain.
I was working in the mainstream media for more than a decade and I did see a measure of racism and a twisted brand of racial agenda protectionism going on. And this is below the surface of the fact that all of them are somehow owned by parties affiliated to the ruling coalition.
I refused to be part of Malaysia Hindu Sangam because when I was a young adult, they were more concerned by ad-hoc measures. I had to learn the Hindu philosophy on my own, and take what part of those ancient teachings that would help me be a better human being.
What worried this group was more the fact that more and more Hindus were embracing Christianity (mostly through the work of evangelists) and Islam. What I feel they should be doing is to teach the young Hindus what their religion and way of life is all about. Religion is a very personal thing, and if a guy finds solace, belief and salvation in a faith, it probably because he didn’t find it in the religion he was born into.
However, personally I am increasingly finding that the more you learn, the more you see what’s going on around you, the more you would be turned off by atrocities wreaked by monsters in the name of religion.
I have a friend who was a staunch Catholic who gave up on his faith because in his opinion, have the evils in this world was done in the name of religion. I have another Christian friend (she adopted the faith a decade or two ago) who said she would actually rejoice if some power was to arrive in Malaysia and wipe out the entire Malay population. I was appalled. See, the same Bible-thumping chick for whom Jesus is salvation, has no problems with genocide. Do the math.
I would like to think there are a lot of people like that here and their conviction is fed further by mindless acts of people in authority. In general though, the people, I think should be educated to see each other as equal, and kids be taught respect in school.
My niece is just seven years old and she goes to a Chinese school in Johor. She told me once, “We must respect and be helpful to everyone.” I asked her who taught her about respect, she said, “We learn it in Moral class.” She really took the lessons to heart too. God bless her teachers.
Reminded me of the time when I was 11 years old and a Malay classmate said, “My father said it doesn’t matter if you are good or bad. Since you are kafir, you and your kind are all going to hell.
I actually asked this Ustaz in school if that were true. I’ll never forget what he said till today. He said, “God decides who goes to heaven and hell. God decides who is a Muslim. God knows who has Iman, not man.”
God bless him. Because of him, I still seek to understand other people’s faiths, and love people regardless of what color, race, whether they are atheist, monotheist or polytheist.
I consider myself lucky.