What’s so funny about peace, love and understanding?

There is a school of thought in Malaysia that says you must avoid certain topics, subjects etc…because it may be sensitive to other people.  If we did talk about such things, then it is feared that there would be a racial riot, civil unrest, bloodbath a la May 13, 1969 and all.  This thought has been enforced by the authorities in Malaysia to an extent that our parents were conditioned to keep shtum.

But we also became increasingly polarised, with efforts at cultural integration rarely going beyond lip service. Where do we retreat to? The familiar community fold. Familiar, but fraught with suspicion of the outsider, the “other”. All because we didn’t know each other. Tak kenal, maka tak cinta kan?

There is a lot of things wrong with being insular. It usually gives birth to fundamentalists and rednecks, not to mention incestuous hillbillies.

So things became ugly once upon a time. Before my time. But I hear this was because of politicians, some chest thumping and inflamed insecurity.

41 years have passed after that episode and you would think that we Malaysians of different races and faith would know each other better by now, to sit down and have a rational discussion about issue of mutual importance, without fear of some guy getting his machete out.

Yes we can do that, never mind what your political party hack tells you. To begin this process of forging greater cohesion between the different communities living in Malaysia, we have to know what’s right, and true. Not history as written in our textbooks. That, we know now, is full of holes.

This was what I came back with, from the Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia roadshow at the KL Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall last weekend. It was good to hear lawyer Jahabardeen Yunoos speak against discrimination, quoting verses from the Quran to strengthen his argument. What was even heartening to hear was his call to celebrate the diffferences, rather than use it to separate us from each other.

It was wonderful to have filmmaker Fahmi Reza take us back to the years before Merdeka when multi-organisational cooperation existed despite differences in class, race, religion and ideology. When the goal is a common one, we could come together as a unit, it seems.

Then lawyer and popular blogger Art Harun spoke about the intentions of our founding fathers. It was rather thought provoking how he took us back to the Reid Commission report and illustrated how “special position of the Malays and the natives of Sabah and Sarawak” has become over the years the “Malay rights”. Insidious indeed. Remember what I said about repeating lies often enuff so that it becomes gospel? Well there it was. Visit his site for a footage of his talk.

Lawyer and SABM Haris Ibrahim asked if this nation is in distress. I didn’t think we even needed to see the slide presentation to know that it is indeed. He drew attention to the distressing 1805 deaths in custody since 2003. This country needs some check and balance and the fact that most of the institutions that traditionally served that purpose has been compromised

SABM’s Jayanath Appadurai brought the audience back to kinder times when people did not look at each other through the myopic eyes of race and cultural divide. He probably yearns for it, as I yearn for my growing up years in my kampung.

The SABM roadshow will continue at another venue on February 6. Yes, Ipoh, here we come! For more info, check out the SABM page.

See you there!


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