Over a hurried breakfast yesterday I received an sms asking me to read the Star opinion page – a letter by Dr Kamal Amzan. I do not read the Star but I decided to go online. After the first paragraph, I recalled reading a similar Malaysian Insider article that YB Kit Siang posted in his blog on 11 July. It was by the same author but today’s Star version was minus the first 6 paragraphs and the ending was somewhat different. I do not wish to dwell on this because it is not important. The tone of Dr Kamal’s piece is thoroughly refreshing after the rabid tirades from Big Mouth Ibrahim and the pseudo Malay charlatan Ribuan Tee.
I produce the Malaysian Insider article as posted by Saudara Lim Kit Siang.
Aren’t we all Malaysians?
By Dr Kamal Amzan | The Malaysian Insider
July 11, 2010
JULY 11 — When I was in standard one, my religious teacher asked the class ‘Is it okay for Muslims to worship praying idols?’ To her shock and horror I stood up and said, ‘Yes!’
I was asked to stand on the chair and my parents were called to school on the very same day to see the headmaster. At that moment I didn’t know why. I can vaguely remember words like naughty, hyperactive, less — Muslim used in their conversation.
I still remember the expression my teacher had on her face. It was a cross between Simba the lion cub and one of the gargoyles you see in the cartoon, ‘The hunchback of Notre Dame.’
I know. It was scary. Imagine the trauma I had to go through then.
Some 20 years ago, my grandparents (from my Chinese side of the family) brought home some roasted meat and claimed that it was chicken. I remembered stuffing myself one after the other because it was very good. I ate so much that my tongue was numb and red (from the colourings) afterwards.
Later, the shock and horror were on the face of my parents when they came home. The chicken was not actually chicken. Apparently it doesn’t even have wings to begin with and were not available in the Halal version. (Thank god we can now find many Halal outlets selling such delicacies.)
These were few of the many memories I had when I was young, when religion and race were of no importance to me. It was so unimportant that I thought my father was Chinese and my mother was Malay and my grandparents Indians until I was about 5 or 6. And the fact that we speak Chinese, English and Malay at home did not help clear the air at all.
So if you think you were confused as a child, think again.
And as we approach Aidilfitri this year, I was reminded of the past when I collected both green and red packets from my family members. It doesn’t matter whether it was Aidilfitri or Chinese New Year, red and green packets were part of the celebration.
We had Chinese kiam chai theng (soup made of pickled vegetable) and Malay rendangon both occasions and life was great.
I was brought up as a Malaysian first and a Malay second and not the other way round. And I’m proud of it.
Racial identity is so important to many Malaysians. And after 49 years of nationhood, one would think that we would be more mature and wise in terms of racial relationships. But somehow we are more and more worried that we would lose our identity if we are not careful.
We see parents squabbling on whether ethnic and religious schools are better than national schools and not wanting their children to mix.
We see Malaysians debating and arguing whether it is appropriate teaching English and Science in school. Never mind the fact that it is the lingua franca of this planet.
We hear individuals not wanting to celebrate Raya and other celebrations together, citing religious reasons and wanting an end to our Kongsi Raya tradition.
Why are we so worried about becoming less Malay, Chinese and Indian? Aren’t we all Malaysians?
Have we not realised that the fundamental nature of our country and society does not lie with a single racial entity, but as a whole?
If the Malays, the Chinese, the Indians or any other races were to stand alone, they cannot claim to be Malaysian. They are simply Malays, Chinese, Indians and other races, period and should not claim to be citizens of this beautiful country.
Sorry I digressed a bit.
But to continue with my story, I still celebrate both occasions regardless of what some people think. And to be frank I will continue to celebrate both occasions, and will definitely give my children ang pau and qing pau (green packets) on both occasions. (Please note that I do not have any children)
My grandparents (from my Chinese side of the family) passed away more than ten years ago. But somehow it seemed like a longer time to me. I miss them, especially at times like this. They somehow made each celebration a momentous occasion. Somehow.
But as my mom always says, let us count our blessings.
We have always been able to observe Ramadan in peace, and soon celebrate Raya with our loved ones (sorry to those who will be working). And definitely later in the year we’ll celebrate Christmas, and then Chinese New Year early next year.
At the risk of sounding corny, I should also add that we should be thankful to live in such a peaceful country. And in this world and age, they both are a very rare commodity. We should cherish it and maintain it at all costs. For better or for worse, for richer or poorer till death come knocking on our door.
I offer no apology for saying all this and more.
To all Malaysians, Happy One Malaysia.
* Dr Kamal Amzan is a Malaysian at a hospital in Kuantan, Pahang.
You can read the Star piece HERE.