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The Great Malaysian Story | Azrul Mohd Khalib | The Malay Mail Online

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/opinion/azrul-mohd-khalib/article/...

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Opinion

The Great Malaysian Story


August 31, 2013 Azrul Mohd Khalib works on HIV/AIDS, sex and human rights issues. He is becoming cynical and is in danger of losing his sense of humour and mind. He also runs and is battling an addiction to the "A Song of Ice and Fire" book series. Azrul can be contacted at azferul@gmail.com.

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08/09/2013 11:40 AM

The Great Malaysian Story | Azrul Mohd Khalib | The Malay Mail Online

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/opinion/azrul-mohd-khalib/article/...

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AUG 31 So its August 31 again and we are able to once more celebrate the independence of Malaya. We will go ooh and aahh at the well-oiled routine of the choreographed performances by schoolchildren and performers, the parade and fly-by of military hardware and uniformed personnel, the reading of the Rukun Negara, the procession of colourful floats and their equally colourful entourages. Another entry in the countrys proud story and history. But for many of us, this 56th anniversary will mark a year that has been characterised by events which have rendered us either into a state of apoplexy, hysterical outrage or lobotomised apathy. Its a bit like the Animal Farm these days. Pigs, cows and dogs have made appearances. The sheep are ever present and can be relied upon to be compliant and blindly loyal. Indeed, this has been a year where we have rediscovered that all Malaysians are equal but there are some who are more equal than others. I was enjoying a note written by my friend Zafirah Zeid the other day, who regaled a bit of her secondary school experience at one of the great incubators and bastions of the Malay mind, MRSM or the Maktab Rendah Sains Mara (Mara Junior Science College). My brainier cousins got into MRSM. I instead went to another public boarding school, Sekolah Menengah Sains Selangor. Go SMSS! Anyway, Zafirah, like many others of mixed ethnicity and heritage, experienced the micro-environment of institutionalised racial supremacy which is nurtured, cultivated and is prevalent in many of the best schools in the country. This is where you are taught early on that everyone needs to know their place in society and must be placed into a box or category which is acceptable (e.g. Melayu, Cina, India, Orang Asli dan Lain-lain), leaving people like her wondering which to tick and why it even matters. Where do you place Chindians, for example? And then there is the indoctrination on how it is important for a certain ethnic group to be dominant in all matters, and for all others to acknowledge, respect and kowtow to that fact; how this group must defend itself from real and imagined ethnic and religious enemies; how there is nothing wrong being a racist or a bigot and one should never apologise for it; and learning that to divide is better than to add. Biro Tatanegara lite. Shaping the beliefs, mindsets and attitudes of our future leaders, thinkers and workers but also increasing the possibility of creating young Ibrahim Alis and Zulkifli Noordins of the future. Gives you a warm fuzzy feeling, doesnt it? This is where the trouble starts. In some of the best schools in the country. Places where we are supposed to impart knowledge, expand horizons and young minds, build bridges and friendships. I sometimes think that instead of writing our stories and living the future, we are stuck in this time warp of yesterday. We are prisoners of our minds where some of us are still fighting for independence, finding an identity for ourselves, looking at other ethnic communities with dark suspicion or finding ghosts and enemies where there are none.
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08/09/2013 11:40 AM

The Great Malaysian Story | Azrul Mohd Khalib | The Malay Mail Online

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/opinion/azrul-mohd-khalib/article/...

Perhaps we imagine ourselves to still be in a time when our masters were white, wore pith helmets, and ordered scotch by banging on the table and saying Hey, boy! Kasi satu lagi, ini macam! Cepat! Bodoh! (a line forever immortalised in a late 80s drama Tuan Brown). Only when we wake up from the nightmare, do we find that our masters are now of brown skin, still drink the occasional tipple or two, hiss at things like pluralism and compete to see who is holier by persecuting people of other ethnicities and faiths, and sexual minorities. Maybe we see these masters when we look in the mirror each morning. The players have changed but the game and storyline remain the same. Our silence allows for a minority to continue to seek and hammer their dominance over everything from national politics and governance of our country to deciding whether the air around a char siew pau seller stall is halal and safe to breathe. I loathe loonies such as Ridhuan I-am-so-Malay Tee Abdullah, his pal Ibrahim I-am-more-Malaythan-everyone-else Ali, and old-time favourite Rais Yatim (who cautioned Malay girls against inter-racial marriages, and once stated that women wanting to go abroad should obtain permission from either their company, husband, brother or other family member to protect them from becoming drug mules) but I have to acknowledge that they too are part of the Malaysian story and the fabric of our society. Much as we want to, we cant write them out or ignore them. If you are not angry yet when these characters open their mouths, you should be. These are the sort of people who are writing our story. Problem is we are allowing them to. They, and we, are responsible for the Malaysia we have today. Tunku Abdul Rahman once recommended that we encourage interethnic marriages. I think he had the right idea. The more diversity we see around us and in our families, the less we think of the need to be racially superior or that we are special and somehow divinely chosen. We must throw away the go-along-to-get-along mentality and realise that a new Malaysia must involve throwing off the chains of racism. Not everyone can migrate and escape to Australia, Canada or some other country if and when things get ugly or Talibanised. Most of us are in this country for the long haul and we are going to be building families and communities together. The concept of the nascent #SaySomethingNice 17-day campaign that was announced last week is rooted in precisely that. Recognising that there is a need for change and working towards it together. We certainly need more than 17 days but some of us need to start somewhere and this is as good a start as any. We are now at an existential point in the countrys lifetime. We need a new narrative for Malaysia. A new story. One that is not determined on whether the writers are Malays, Chinese, Indians and Lain-lain. But writers who identify themselves as Malaysians, writing as Malaysians, for Malaysians. People who dont give a flying cow what ethnicity a person comes from. To quote Zafirahs note, we can either conform or refuse. With luck, our sons and daughters will do what she did: toss the racism and bigotry into the garbage, take the good stuff and walk forward colour blind. Are we going to write the Great Malaysian Story? Or allow others to write it for us? Have a great Merdeka weekend! * This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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08/09/2013 11:40 AM

The Great Malaysian Story | Azrul Mohd Khalib | The Malay Mail Online

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/opinion/azrul-mohd-khalib/article/...

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