“I would urge every person of faith (in this room) to take personal responsibility to move religion back to where it should be, on the side of right, and on the side of the rights of people.
There are many inspiring stories around the world. In Philadelphia, where I’m now on sabbatical, I visited the leading human rights group that stands in defence of Muslims in in the US, the Council on American Islamic Relations.
CAIR in Philadelphia is headed by a white Jewish American, its legal officer is an African-American Christian, and a Muslim is its education officer (main photo). So its three full time employees are a white Jew, a black Christian, and a Muslim immigrant. And they are fighting for Muslims’ human rights. This is what religion is capable of. It is capable of coming together in interfaith struggles to pursue social justice.”– Singapore’s Public Intellectual George Cherian
Q: To what extent do you think a civic impulse is workable only insofar that we have don’t have religious groups that are seeking to expand?
A: We can tell how open this IPS dialogue is, when we can actually talk about religion, which is a third rail in many societies.
I still think that, despite the worrying rise in aggressively exclusive religious groups around the world that have also inspired groups in Singapore, politically it is not as serious a problem here as it is elsewhere. I study intolerance and hate around the world, so relative to the stuff that is going on in other parts of the world, we are in pretty good shape.
And I’m convinced that one reason why is that no matter how worrying some of these trends are within any one faith group — or more accurately within sub-groups within major religions — there’s a limit to how much damage will be caused as long as those force are not aligned with party political forces. That’s when it becomes very potent elsewhere, when it becomes in the interest of a political party to court and partner with some of these exclusive and intolerant religious movements. And that makes sense in countries with a dominant religion, whether it’s India or Indonesia or Myanmar or the US or most of Europe.
It simply does not make sense in Singapore. A political party could try it, but it would not succeed, because even if you court the 40% Buddhist population out there, you’re going to alienate the 60% that make up everyone else. The same applies to other religions. And that does give us some assurance that there is a limit to how much religious divides can translate into electoral advantage.
Of course politics is more than elections. So religious forces can influence how debates are handled. And yes, in that sense we are in a worrying phase globally as well as in Singapore. For whatever mix of reasons, which sociologists of religion will be better equipped to explain, the centre of gravity in many of the world’s religions is at the more intolerant and exclusive ends of the spectrum.
It’s important to realise that this wasn’t always the case. I’m convinced this moment will pass. It is up to us collectively to make sure this moment passes. It is especially up to those who are the most devout in your respective communities to make sure this moment passes.
It was not too long ago that religious groups were at the forefront of progressive change around the world. Think of the major successes in human rights and democracy over the last 200 years. Most of them were fronted by religious organisations. The Quakers in Britain helped to get rid of slavery. Think of the church’s role in the Philippines’ People Power movement or the American civil rights movement. Think of religion’s role in Indian nationalism, which we benefited from as well. So there is a strong history of religion being on the side of tolerance and expanding human rights.
It is depressing to see how this strong tradition of religions standing up for the rights of others, including the rights of other faiths, has somehow been relegated, and instead the wind is at the backs of those who are more exclusive. I would urge every person of faith in this room to take personal responsibility to move religion back to where it should be, on the side of right, and on the side of the rights of people.
There are many inspiring stories around the world. In Philadelphia, where I’m now on sabbatical, I visited the leading human rights group that stands in defence of Muslims in in the US, the Council on American Islamic Relations. CAIR in Philadelphia is headed by a white Jewish American, its legal officer is an African-American Christian, and a Muslim is its education officer (main photo). So its three full time employees are a white Jew, a black Christian, and a Muslim immigrant. And they are fighting for Muslims’ human rights. This is what religion is capable of. It is capable of coming together in interfaith struggles to pursue social justice.
One of the proudest achievements of Singapore is to host the world’s oldest interfaith organisation, the Inter Religious Organisation. This is one of the resources we have. Sadly, though, that’s not where the action is, so to speak, in public life. Sadly, the agenda has been seized by a minority of leaders and members within the world’s great faith groups, that are pushing intolerance and exclusivity. That needs to change.
Anwar Ibrahim–The Asian Renaissance Man or The Mutant Malay Ultra? –PD Voters Beware
by Patrick Teoh
“Anwar Ibrahim is still very much a man for all audiences, but one who knows who he can be champion for. In a nutshell – the ultimate politician. Beneath the mellow facade lurks a very ambitious and impatient man. Making him more potent is the popular notion that he has been badly wronged. And that the time has come for him to claim his crown.”–Patrick Teoh
Who is Anwar Ibrahim? I am going to share the experience that someone close to me had, firsthand, to shed some light on what we are dealing with.
My niece was awarded a scholarship for further studies in the UK. There was an orientation event before she left. She found herself in a school hall, packed with hundreds of young, eager Malaysians. She was one of just 11 non-bumis present. The guest of honour addressing the crowd was Anwar Ibrahim, then the Minister of Youth, Culture and Sports. He was full-on Ultra with his motivational speech.
The long, loud and spittle-spewing spiel was inflammatory, incendiary, and outright seditious. It was all about these young inheritors of Tanah Air using their Allah- and UMNO-given rights and opportunities to arm themselves with all that’s necessary to make sure the Pendatangs do not rob them of their rightful place and position in their country.
With his stature and his oratorical style, Anwar had the full attention of the young and impressionable audience. My niece wasn’t sure how her fellow awardees actually felt because she was too traumatised to make sense of the situation. She remembered that she very hastily got away from there. And she cried herself to sleep for a quite a few nights, too fearful to share what she had gone through, with family and friends.
Years later, having settled in London, she went to one of the roadshow sessions that Anwar held during his Reformasi days. Seeing the chance, and thinking that he must be a much-changed man by then, she went up to him, reminded him of that speech and asked him: Why? Without batting an eyelid, Anwar replied: Ahh, that’s politics.
For sure, Anwar has benefited a lot for being such a forceful leader and champion of his race. His dramatic fallout with his boss, Dr Mahathir, and his subsequent jail time, along with advancing age, have mellowed him. But has the man changed?
Judging by his recent speeches, Anwar Ibrahim is still very much a man for all audiences, but one who knows who he can be champion for. In a nutshell – the ultimate politician. Beneath the mellow facade lurks a very ambitious and impatient man. Making him more potent is the popular notion that he has been badly wronged. And that the time has come for him to claim his crown.
There is a lot of resistance to that trajectory. But the deal had been struck. If and when Anwar ascends to the throne, will he rely on the failsafe strategy of race-and-religion in his bid to obtain and retain power?
Would this ambitious but beleaguered politician be opting for a divide-and-conquer strategy, taking the country down the path to fundamentalism, and keeping a large part of the population placated, ignorant and compliant?
It’s all familiar stuff – highly workable, failsafe, and easy to achieve – the perfect gameplan for a man in a hurry, someone who is a bit short of the intelligence, substance and conscience that define a real leader of a multiracial country. We are acutely short of such leaders but that should never be the excuse to settle for someone who will choose the fast and easy way to achieve his ‘My Time is Now’ ambition.
A leader like Anwar must have a system of check and balance firmly in place, to prevent him from resurrecting the structure of UMNO that would enable him, his family, and his cronies to get their stranglehold on the country. We have seen how it is done. This time around, we can make the difference. We have to. Yes – Patrick Teoh
Patrick Teoh (born 16 October 1947) is an actor and radio personality in Malaysia. A career in radio, TV, stage and movies spanning more than three decades has earned Patrick the nickname of “Voice of Malaysia”, bestowed by his fans and the Malaysian mass media.
Caitlyn Jenner is a trans woman, ‘asexual for now’; Rachel Dolezal identifies as black. Who owns your identity, and how can old ways of thinking be replaced?
by Kwame Anthony Appiah
In April 2015, after a long and very public career, first as a male decathlete, then as a reality TV star, Caitlyn Jenner announced to the world she was a trans woman. Asked about her sexuality, Jenner explained that she had always been heterosexual, and indeed she had fathered six children in three marriages. She understood, though, that many people were confused about the distinction between sexual orientation and gender identity, and so she said: “Let’s go with ‘asexual’ for now.”
Isn’t it up to her? What could be more personal than the question of who she is – what she is? Isn’t your identity, as people often say, “your truth”? The question is straightforward; the answer is anything but. And that’s because a seismic fault line runs through contemporary talk of identity, regularly issuing tremors and quakes. Your identity is meant to be the truth of who you are. But what’s the truth about identity?
An identity, at its simplest, is a label we apply to ourselves and to others. Your gender. Your sexuality. Your class, nationality, ethnicity, region, religion, to start a list of categories. (Raise your hand if you are a straight, male, working-class, Afro-Latinx evangelical US southerner.) Labels always come with rules of ascription. When we apply a label to ourselves, we’re accepting that we have some qualifying trait – say, Latin or African ancestry, male or female sex organs, attractions to one gender or another, the right to a German passport.
More important, there are things we believe we should feel and think and do as a result. Identities, for the people who have them, are not inert facts; they are living guides. Women and men dress the way they do in part because they’re women and men. Given that we connect these labels with our behaviour, it’s natural to expect other people to do the same. And that means we’re going to have to tell other people not just which labels they can claim, but what they must do if they are to fit our labels. So identities don’t just affect our own behaviour; they help determine how we treat other people.
At the same time, all the ascription conditions here are contested. Are you a trans woman if you haven’t transitioned? Is someone with seven European great-grandparents and one African one truly black? Would a Daughter of the American Revolution who renounced her American citizenship still be an American? So are the associated norms of behaviour: is a reform Jew less Jewish than an orthodox one? Is an effeminate man less of a man? Because identity, in the sense we typically use it these days, is a social category – something shared with vast numbers of other people – everything is up for negotiation and nothing is determined by individual fiat. In this sense, identity is at once loose and tight.
To say that the borders are contested is also to say that they are policed. Boys who default from gender norms of behaviour are deemed “sissies”; girls are “tomboys”. Some old-guard radical feminists, such as Ti-Grace Atkinson, Marge Piercy and Faith Ringgold, have suggested that trans women aren’t really women. Black authenticity, too, is a perennial battleground. Here’s Pusha T on Drake, in a recent, widely publicised rap beef: “Confused, always felt you weren’t Black enough / Afraid to grow it ’cause your ’fro wouldn’t nap enough.” Latinos sometimes hurl the insult “coconut” at other Latinos who “act white”, suggesting that deep down they’re not Latino at all.
So, in a liberal spirit, we could wonder: why not ditch the guards and adopt an open-border policy? Why not agree that people are whatever they say they are? We could follow the lead of Humpty Dumpty in Alice in Wonderland:
“I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory’,” Alice said. Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t – till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’” “But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument’,” Alice objected. “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”
By the logic of Humpty Dumpty, everyone should be able to assume whatever identity they choose. There’s glory for you.
Or maybe not. Like all the words in our language, the identity labels we use are a common possession. Were everybody to follow Humpty Dumpty’s example, we simply couldn’t understand one another. If Toni Morrison isn’t a black woman, the term isn’t doing any work. The ability to apply identity labels in a broadly consistent way is what allows us to use them to tell people who someone is, and so, in particular, to tell others who we are ourselves. It’s because there’s some agreement about menswear that “man” is a useful label when you’re shopping. And labelling ourselves only helps others if it can guide expectations about what we will think, or feel, or do. “Lesbian” isn’t much use if you’re looking for a partner on Bumble unless it signifies a woman who might be open to sex with another woman.
If identity continues to vex us, we should bear in mind that this usage of the term is historically recent. Until the middle of the 20th century, in fact, nobody who was asked about a person’s identity would have mentioned race, sex, class, nationality, region or religion. When George Eliot writes in Middlemarch that Rosamond “was almost losing the sense of her identity”, it’s because she is faced with profoundly new experiences when she learns that the man she thinks she loves is hopelessly devoted to someone else. Identity here is totally personal.
Then sociologists such as Erik Erikson and Alvin Gouldner introduced the modern sense of the term in the 1950s and 60s. In recent decades, identity has exploded as a political theme; identity groups, especially marginalised ones, sought recognition and respect precisely as bearers of an identity. Yet talk of social identities – the identity of “identity politics” – often rubbed up against these earlier notions of authenticity. Hence the faultline I mentioned. Don’t try to tell me who I am: this motto will have power as long as Eliot’s sense of an innermost self contends with the modern sense of identity as a vehicle and vector of recognition.
Not all identities fit their bearers like a glove; sometimes we’re talking oven mitts. Over the years and around the world, taxi drivers, putting their expertise to the test, have sized me up. In São Paulo, I’ve been taken for a Brazilian and addressed in Portuguese; in Cape Town, I’ve been taken for a “Coloured” person; in Rome, for an Ethiopian; and one London cabbie refused to believe I didn’t speak Hindi. The Parisian who thought I was from Belgium perhaps took me for a Maghrebi; and, wearing a kaftan, I’ve faded into a crowd in Tangier. Puzzled by the combination of my accent and my appearance, once our ride is under way, taxi drivers regularly ask me where I was born. “In London,” I tell them, but that’s not what they really want to know. What they mean to ask is where my family came from originally. They’re wondering about my ancestry and all that might come with it.
The answer to the question of origins is that I come from two families in two places pretty far apart. My mother was English, a countrywoman at heart, who in the 1950s was working for an anti-racist organisation in London that supported colonial students. It was called Racial Unity. That was how she met my father, a law student from Ghana (then the Gold Coast). He was an anticolonial activist, the president of the West African Students’ Union, and a British representative of Dr Kwame Nkrumah, who was to lead Ghana to independence in 1957. You might say she practised what she preached.
My father raised us with stories of his family, and one of the names he gave me, Akroma-Ampin, was that of the illustrious 18th-century general who founded his lineage. In a sense, though, it wasn’t really our family. Just as my mother’s people, being patrilineal, thought you belonged to your father’s family, my father’s, being matrilineal, thought you belonged to your mother’s. I could have told those taxi drivers I had no family at all.
“Identities,” the cultural theorist Stuart Hall once observed, “are the different names we give to the different ways we are positioned by, and position ourselves within the narratives of the past.” Yet it’s also true that the labels can sometimes displace the narrative. In the case of my “racial” ancestry, efficient identity experts come up with a summary: black father, white mother, grew up in Ghana and England – got it. I recall attending a sports day, a few decades ago, at a school in Dorset I’d attended as a preteen, and meeting the now elderly man who had been headmaster in my day. “You won’t remember me,” I apologised, as I introduced myself to him. Hearing my name, he brightened and took my hand warmly. “Of course I remember you,” he said. “You were our first coloured head boy.” That wasn’t a formulation that would have occurred to me at the time; but inasmuch as identities are social, my formulations weren’t the only ones that mattered.
And precisely because social identities continue to be shadowed by that precursor sense of an innermost self, the dance on the borderlines of identity can be delicate. Shaun King, the Black Lives Matters activist, speaks, dresses and wears his hair in ways that are marked as black. When reports circulated that both the parents cited on his birth certificate were white (though, not his biological father), his wife responded with an artful online post, calling his story “beautifully difficult”, and declaring: “What’s white about him is white, and what’s Black about him is Black and always has been from the time he was a child.” In other words, accept the mystery.
Mostly, people have. But there are limit cases. A much-loved episode of Donald Glover’s TV series Atlanta presents a mock reported segment about “Harrison Booth”, a black teenager (birth name: Antoine Smalls), who identifies as a 35-year-old white man. Preparing for his transition, he wears a button-down Oxford shirt, wanders through farmers’ markets, plays golf, and asks a bartender: “What IPA do you have on tap?”
In the real world, the German model Martina Adam has announced that she has transitioned to black (with the help of melanin-promoting hormones and various filler injections) and, citing a baptismal ceremony she underwent in Kenya, is to be called Malaika Kubwa. The public response was no more supportive than that which greeted the retired baseball great Sammy Sosa when he dramatically whitened his once dark visage.
There is a rich imaginative literature on African American “passing”, a groaning shelf that includes James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex‑Colored Man (1912), Nella Larsen’s Passing (1929) and Philip Roth’s The Human Stain (2000). There’s also a rich tradition of such passing; millions of white Americans have unsuspected black ancestry. Going from white to black isn’t nearly as common. But most people knew how they felt about Rachel Dolezal, who, carefully permed and tanned, had officially identified herself as black and spent a year running the Spokane chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, until she resigned amid suspicions that she’d fabricated reports of hate crimes she’d suffered. When her white midwestern parents outed her and sparked headlines, one black commentator suggested that Dolezal embraced “an a la carte blackness, in which you take the best parts, and leave the pain aside”. Dolezal now says she identifies as black, but not as African American. That’s a bid, though; it doesn’t count if there are no takers.
That identity is contested, then, doesn’t mean it’s up for grabs. We don’t own our words; other people get a say.
Identity norms are enforced in myriad ways, and the work that goes into entrenching them reveals their vulnerability. The fact that identities need to have some common meaning doesn’t require that we leave them just as they are. It’s obvious that conceptions of gender half a century ago suited some people better than others. No doubt many middle-class women were and are perfectly happy as managers of households and primary caregivers for children. (No doubt this arrangement suited many men, too.) But it left lots of women unsatisfied. The women’s movement challenged ideas about the proper places of women in the home and outside. Now, in much of the developed world, we mostly agree that sharing parenting more equally doesn’t make a woman less of a woman, or a man less of a man, and though the ideal of workplace equality remains unrealised, it is no longer controversial.
Being a real man or woman once meant being straight. That suited many people, but it was deeply unsatisfactory for those women and men who found their erotic attractions were to people of their own sex. A movement gained momentum in the North Atlantic world, and engaged in a long project of reshaping the general understanding of gender, so that being homosexual was no longer a defective way of being a man or woman. But in those long struggles, the advance guard of these movements couldn’t simply declare a new meaning for womanhood or manhood. They had to negotiate with others, women with men but also with other women, gay people with straight people but also with one another, to try to reconfigure the shared understandings that shape the opportunities available to us. The trans movement is a predictable extension of these earlier struggles.
When people responded to Jenner by saying she was just a man pretending to be a woman, they weren’t just being discourteous and unkind: they were taking the meaning of the words “man” and “woman” as fixed and non-negotiable and insisting on their right to use them as they always had. That’s what Republican legislators in North Carolina were doing when they passed a law in March 2016 denying trans people the right to use public bathrooms of the identity they claimed for themselves. When the Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump declared that Jenner could use any bathroom she chose at Trump Tower, Jenner, who supported him in the race, took him up on his offer, posting a video of herself entering a women’s room. It was an argument about rights, but it was also an argument about language.
At the same time, talk of the “LGBTQ community” sometimes runs aground because it seems to treat gender identity as akin to sexual orientation, and many trans activists are especially concerned to head off any confusion between the two. That’s why many transgender people would like to remove the “T” in “LGBT”. In the words of one Belfast-based trans woman columnist: “It’s not a sexuality. It’s a gender. It makes no more sense being included with LGB than if you were to add ‘female’ in there.” She explains that she’s now heterosexual, and asks, “when talking about issues that concern sexuality why is transgender included?” When trans women such as Jenner or the Wachowskis, the illustrious film-making siblings, decline to identify as lesbian, they may be responding to a sense that their gender identity should be considered separately from their sexual or affectional orientation.
“What I want to do is to widen the bandwidth of gender,” says Alex Drummond, the Cardiff psychologist and author and a trans woman, who decided to keep her beard, while also forgoing surgery or hormones. Drummond, who identifies as lesbian, told BuzzFeed: “If all you ever see is trans women who completely pass and are completely convincing as natal females, then those of us who just don’t have that kind of luck won’t have the confidence to come out.” (Most trans women have not had genital surgery, according to a recent survey by the American National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.) Her project of “gender queering” hasn’t met universal acceptance; one trans woman writer has likened her to “the older, oversized bully” who “throws himself into the toddlers’ sandpit and kicks everyone else out”. Did I mention quakes and tremors?
But a conversation – a negotiation – has begun, gloriously. Every day, men negotiate with one another about what masculinity means. And not just men. “Man” and “woman” are part of a system of interacting identities. Nor, for that matter, can black and white and Asian and brown racial identities be negotiated separately by black and white and Asian and brown people. That’s why we have to resist the liberal fantasy in which identities are merely chosen, so we are all free to be what we choose to be. In truth, identities without demands would be lifeless. Identities work only because, once they get their grip on us, they command us, speaking to us as an inner voice; and because others, seeing who they think we are, call on us, too. If you do not care for the shapes your identities have taken, you have to work with others inside and outside the labelled group in order to reframe them so they fit you better; and you can do that collective work only if you recognise that the results must serve others as well.
There will soon be 8 billion of us on this planet, and the chances are slim that every one of us will find that the particular set of identities in the society into which we are born perfectly fits our needs. Conflicts are inevitable, because a system of identities that fits snugly around me will not perfectly suit everyone else. Changing the old gender system that gave pride of place to the middle-class female homemaker and the male breadwinner involved making some people uncomfortable not least because, in the new configuration, their existing options were no longer seen as the unique and honoured ideal. The old racial system that we have gradually tried to dismantle in the United States offered something to all white people, namely the sense that, however little money or power or status they had, they were, at least, better than black people. This was not, evidently, great for black people. Not a few white people were discomfited by it, too; their sense of justice was offended by it – they didn’t want whiteness to mean that. In some of the darker recesses of the internet, meanwhile, enthusiasts for the idea of Anglo-America as the home of the white race make it plain that the old dispensation suited them better. You might think there is no space here for compromise.
But in our renegotiations of race, there are in fact compromises available. White people are entitled to ask that they not be assumed to be bigots or blamed for the racism of other whites. They can choose to distance themselves from the privileges of whiteness by refusing them when they see them – and by learning to see them more often. Black people can recognise that, since the system of racial identities is made by all of us, it’s absurd to blame individual white people for the privileges they experience. Privilege is not something an individual is guilty of. But, when it’s unjust, it is something you ought to help undo. And in that process you’ll discover that our identities can only become more livable for everyone if we work on the task of reshaping them together.
So, too, when Caitlyn Jenner offered to “go with ‘asexual’ for now”, she was recognising that to get to where she wanted to go, she might have to compromise with others. It may not have been the best offer to make, but she was right to see that she had to start the bidding. Let’s see what we can negotiate tomorrow.
• Kwame Anthony Appiah’s The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity is published by Profile. To order a copy for £12.74 (RRP £14.99) go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99.
The Malay:In Timidity, he only survives, In Malay Leaders, he trusts and In Poverty and Ignorance, he stays, and In Desperation, he runs amuck.
COMMENT | We may have achieved our second independence, at GE-14, but we can only claim to have attained true Merdeka when the Malay mind is liberated from its mental cage. The Malay sees, but fails to observe. He hears, but does not listen.
It was hard work trying to persuade the rakyat to kick UMNO-Baru from power, but we succeeded in removing the mental block that made many think change was impossible; but many of us have realised that it is even harder to convince some people to think and act as Malaysians.
After GE-14, I have had many conversations with Malays, from all walks of life; the conversations have been most revealing and confirmed many of my suspicions. Contrary to popular belief, it is not the uneducated, or the rural folk who pose the greatest danger to our community.
The well-heeled, widely-traveled urbanites, and the so-called enlightened middle-class Malays, who have easy access to the internet, do not seem to be willing to empower themselves, or to seek the truth and improve themselves. Why is this?
One young Malay law student in a local university said, “The Malay is comfortable, so why should he work hard, or change his behaviour? Remove his sources of comfort, and he might be forced to act. He will be reluctant at first, but in the end, he may realise what is good for him.”
A Malay mother said that it all boils down to choice. “The Malay has made a choice, even if you disagree with his decision. You may think that he has done nothing to improve his sorry plight, but that is still his choice. You may not think he has done enough, or done anything, but as far as he is concerned, he has already made his choice. You may think that he is in blissful ignorance, but again, that was his choice.”
A young single mother said that she was too busy trying to provide for her family to care. “In my case, I have no choice. The syariah court has chosen not to enforce the law, so I and my three young children are forced to suffer.
“My ex-husband does not pay maintenance for his children. He is comfortable, but we are not. He has enough money to take on a new bride, and when I complain to the syariah court, I am told that his choice to remarry is provided for in Islam.”
One former teacher, who is from Penang, described how some Malay parents in her circle did not value education and allowed their teenage children to stop schooling.
Follow his injunction and Malaysia will be destroyed, Mr. Prime Minister of Malaysia.
“It starts off with the child playing truant. After a certain number of days absence, the child’s teacher will visit the parents, and try to persuade them to send their child to school.
“In most cases, the parents will say that they uphold their child’s decision to leave school, because it is a waste of money and time. They may also claim there will always be a place in the warung (hawker stall), for the child to make drinks or take orders, and help in the family business.
“If we teach the parents the value of education, we see some positive results. More importantly, we will have helped the child to choose a better future,” the former teacher said.
Decades of brainwashing
Decades of brainwashing have created a powerless, and helpless, Malay. He is a victim of his circumstance. He finds it difficult to talk to other races. He finds it hard to forgive. He thinks it is impossible to love those who are not of his race, or religion or creed.
At times he cannot differentiate between right and wrong. He is afraid to offer an opinion. He does not think he should apologise. His culture tells him that he cannot question his elders, or others, and so he bottles things up, until he can no longer stand it – and he then runs amuck.
He spends his life keeping score, and covets the few privileges accorded to the non-Malays and then claims that these are not fair, because he has been deprived of his rights.
Our collective silence has created a nation in which the Malays and non-Malays have become strangers. Many Malays have been so molly-coddled that they have become de-sensitised to the needs of others. They are easily offended. Many non-Malays are fearful of being branded “interfering”, and keep quiet.
It is not all doom and gloom. There is hope. We need to show the enslaved Malay – not tell him, but show him with our deeds and actions, how he can be set free from his mental shackles.
One way is by talking to him. Next time, you attend a dialogue or forum, drag a Malay to the event. Engage him in conversation. Initiate simple discussions.
If you say you have no Malay friends, then find one. Anyone who claims he has no Malay friend is contributing to the problem.
MARIAM MOKHTAR is a defender of the truth, the admiral-general of the Green Bean Army and president of the Perak Liberation Organisation (PLO). Blog, Twitter.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.
Steve Oh’s Message to Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia’s 7th Prime Minister
“There is no independence in the true sense of the emancipation of a nation until the people are free to think, act and exist in a total state of freedom.
May God bless Malaysia still. May Mahathir live longer still and have the humility to walk with God and the people, act justly and have the wisdom of Solomon to govern the nation.
May the government carry out its duties with diligence, honesty, fairness and utter competence. Merdeka then is meaningful.”
COMMENT | Merdeka 2018 is momentous.
I hope for the sake of Malaysia, it will be the final time citizens celebrate their national day with the exhilaration of deliverance from an oppressive political yoke still fresh in their minds.
In 1957, the country was set free from British colonialists. There was a similar euphoria. But the fledgling nation, after deposing the affable first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman, was recolonised by a new group of myopic local leaders led by Razak Hussein that included Mahathir Mohamad, Musa Hitam and other UMNO young Turks . The neocolonialists imposed upon the people a yoke heavier than the British yoke.
Fast forward to 2018, and the nation will reverberate once again with freedom and shouts of acclamation on August 31.
After May 13, 1969, she was hijacked and subjected to a lifetime of abuse. Race, closely accompanied by religion, constricted the nation. The nation still forged ahead economically but became tangled in draconian laws and discriminatory policies; was pitifully abused, serially raped and treacherously plundered. Polarisation of the people was purposely planned and executed.
It is treachery of the worst kind when a government led by Najib Razk betrays the trust of the people, divides and steals from them and tries to get away with deception, conspiracy and lies.
Preaching unity and the usual platitudes, it carried out an agenda of subversion, undermining the rule of law and brought the nation to the brink of economic and social disaster. The courts of power became the circuses of clowns, and like Nero the Roman emperor, fiddled away the nation’s future.
Many became cynical, others despondent, yet many never lost hope and worked for change. Still others prayed.
Then the “miracle” the people had worked and prayed for took place on May 9 this year. The nation was emancipated from the abusers, the rapists and the thieves. The treacherous king of kleptocrats now faces justice and the long arm of the law. Those who are culpable will be punished.
The blood spilled and lives taken of innocent victims will be vindicated. The masterminds of the much-publicised slayings of Altantuya Shaariibuu, Kevin Morais (photo) and Hussain Ahmad Najadi, among others, will face justice. The true kidnappers of Pastor Raymond Koh and others will be revealed.
Like many others in a religious Malaysia, I believe in God and the universal law of reaping what you sow. Nothing escapes the truth of time. In time, the truth will surface. And the guilty will be shamed. They will never evade divine justice.
God answers prayers still. For nearly 30 years, even in a faraway land, without fail when I water-hosed my potted plants, I asked God to destroy the evil that had gripped the nation. God answered. He has changed the course of history and saved Malaysia from certain ruin.
Many unsung heroes cried to God for deliverance and he heard their pleas. Often, over the years, I wrote in Malaysiakini of the “higher official who watches over the officials” and will intervene to achieve his purpose. I make no apology for my utter confidence in the God of Justice.
A Good and Decent Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Badawi turned out to be considering the plunder of the Malaysian state under Najib Razak
Malaysia is a unique nation and deserves to succeed. Former Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi hit the nail on the head when he lamented the nation’s “third-world mindset” despite its “first-class infrastructure”.
What will derail the nation is not the cessation of Chinese railway projects but the constricting ideas of the misguided. I’m glad there are “watchmen” – including women – over the country who sound the alarm against the extremists.
The danger of religion is that it can be abused to lead a nation down the slippery slope. To the credit of concerned Muslims like those in the G25 group, their voice of reason resounds through the corridors of power and the public arena.
When religion slices through the heart of a nation and splits it in two, when self-proclaimed defenders of faith become a threat to those they purport to protect, it is time for the state to act and rein in the bigots.
When my father died two years ago at 96, I did not shed a tear. Deep in my heart I know he lived a full life and, in faith, I shall see him again in the place I know. I miss him nearly every day.
Yet, three days ago, the tears welled in my eyes and I felt a tautness in my heart after watching a video I received through WhatsApp.
It was a social experiment organised by Media Prima that took place in the vicinity of Pavilion Shopping Centre in Kuala Lumpur. A giant elevated electronic screen positioned above the crowds came to life with the audible sounds of a talking man and stopped the passersby in their tracks. The presenter asked them some simple questions, one after another.
“Who likes nasi lemak?” ‘Who has a close friend from another race?’ ‘Who knows how to sing the national anthem Negara-ku?’ They were asked to gather in a marked square if they answered in the affirmative. In the end, the square was filled with the biggest group of Malaysians of all races.
I saw in the video the heartfelt joy of diverse Malaysians – young men and women of different races and religions – unified in their love for their country. They were evidently overjoyed to share so many things in common despite their ethnic and religious differences. The only other time I saw a similar display of spontaneous kinship across race and religion was at the Bersih 5 rally.
Successive governments, leaders, groups and individuals have harped about the uniqueness of Malaysia. Yet the nation still flounders and has yet to come to grips with the devil they know that threatens to derail the nation – the abuse of race and religion. Leaders have yet to act decisively and concretely against the perpetrators of the doctrines that divide, that destroys and that is against the spirit of national unity.
Malaysians know who the devil is that tears the nation apart. Their political sponsors have been sent packing from Putrajaya.
The fire has been put out. But the cinders are still smouldering, their smoke choking the nation and threatening to start bonfires here and there. The nation’s threat lingers and loiters at the corridors and closets of power.
The 1957 Merdeka freed the nation from a foreign yoke. The 2018 “Merdeka” freed the nation from the home-grown yoke.
Will a future “Merdeka” free the nation from the yoke of race and religion that constricts, divides and destroys the unity of the nation?
Believe it or not, the Pavilion event revealed the truth about Malaysia, that the diverse religions and races do co-exist in harmony despite the differences.
Rid the nation of the subversives – those who use race and religion as political weapons to gain the political ascendancy – and you end up with a Malaysia united, prosperous and peaceful.
It is time the new government be bold, be true and be honest in dealing the devil of disunity a fatal blow. Who will it be? Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Pakatan Harapan de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim, or some eminent Malay leader?
The metamorphosis of Merdeka is a long journey. It is a historic event as much as an ongoing process. Getting out of jail is one thing, staying out of jail is another. Gaining independence is one thing, giving the people their independence is another.
There is no independence in the true sense of the emancipation of a nation until the people are free to think, act and exist in a total state of freedom.
May God bless Malaysia still. May Mahathir live longer still and have the humility to walk with God and the people, act justly and have the wisdom of Solomon to govern the nation.
May the government carry out its duties with diligence, honesty, fairness and utter competence. Merdeka then is meaningful.
Happy Merdeka 2018, Malaysia!
STEVE OH is the author of the novel “Tiger King of the Golden Jungle” and composer of the musical of the same title. He believes in good governance and morally upright leaders.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.
A new Malaysia was born after the spectacular 9thMay General Election. Nothing seems to be more profound to me than breathing a new air of liberation from the corrupt and despotic regime. But the long journey of a New Malaysia has just started. This requires a great effort by this multicultural and multi-religious society to work sincerely for change. Like what Mahatma Gandhi used to say: “Be the change you wish to see in the world”.
Dr. A Farouk Musa and Din Merican share a common vision of a Malaysian Muslim who can learn from “all the different races, religions and cultures” and is “able to celebrate diversity and the differing thoughts and opinions.”
We should be able to learn from all the different races, religions and cultures. What more of different civilizations. In order for us to progress as a nation with a Muslim identity, I envisage a more tolerant Muslim society. A society that is able to celebrate diversity and the differing thoughts and opinions. The ability to be able to respect the others of their beliefs; of their cultures, and their life styles. The ability to exercise the rational faculty rather than believing in rhetoric and fear-mongering. The ability to stand up as a proud nation that embraces pluralism and being equitable to everyone irrespective of race and religion.–Dr A. Farouk Musa
I envisaged the change in the mindset of the people especially my Muslim brothers. It is time for us to work for a better future than to regress into the nostalgic time 1400 years ago. Remember that what the Prophet had laid for us was the foundation and framework of a just and equitable society. When his suggestion forbidding cross-pollination of dates that led to a poor yield the following year and later confronted by his companions, he said: “you know more of your worldly issues”. Meaning to say that this worldly issues regarding agriculture, economy, politics, science, technology and so on, are all for us to find the best solution and to progress. He was not appointed by God to teach us all these. It requires our intellect to decipher what is the best solution to all these worldly issues. The act of some Muslim brothers to look into the compendium of hadith to find the answer and solution to worldly problems is not only defeating, but futile in nature.
This is the main change in mindset that I would like to see especially in my Muslim brothers. The ability to utilize the intellectual faculty that was endowed by God rather than searching into the texts. The Qur’an teaches us to use our intellect. The Qur’an did not provide us with answers to all our woes. The Qur’an gives a parable to this invocation via the story of a raven that showed Cain how to bury Abel. The Qur’an says” Then Allah sent a crow scratching the ground to show him how to cover the dead body of his brother. He said: Woe is me! Am I not able to be as this crow and cover the dead body of my brother?” (5:31). Now, if human could learn from a raven on his worldly matter, why was it so difficult for us to exercise our God-given faculty of intellect to find the best solution to all our human problems in our beloved nation?
We should be able to learn from all the different races, religions and cultures. What more of different civilizations. In order for us to progress as a nation with a Muslim identity, I envisage a more tolerant Muslim society. A society that is able to celebrate diversity and the differing thoughts and opinions. The ability to be able to respect the others of their beliefs; of their cultures, and their life styles. The ability to exercise the rational faculty rather than believing in rhetoric and fear-mongering. The ability to stand up as a proud nation that embraces pluralism and being equitable to everyone irrespective of race and religion. A plural society that would put differences aside and work for a common goal to make this country a better place to stay for us and our future generations.
Dato’ Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa is a founder and Director at the Islamic Renaissance Front. This essay first appeared at The EDGE, Special Report on August 27, 2018.