More than the colour of an angpow
FEB 1 — Call it as you see it, Ibrahim Ali has a knack of keeping himself relevant.
I don’t know what he was thinking when he merrily gave white angpows to elders during a Chinese New Year gathering hosted by Perkasa (you didn’t see this coming either, did you?) but I am inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt only because I find him so amusing.
Sorry, Ibrahim Ali but you stopped being scary to me when you said you were going to bring awesome kung-fu panda masters (I might be paraphrasing) to stop Malaysians clad in yellow from congregating one fine July 9, 2011, and then decided to stroll around Lake Gardens at the last minute.
It’s ok, I would have totally done the same too.
People tell me that it’s likely a conspiracy to remind the Malay population that Ibrahim Ali is giving the finger to the Chinese community. It’s quite ingenious you see, throw a Chinese New Year gathering for the elderly and then insult them at the same time!
However, I have my sympathies because I’ve been there myself, unintentionally creating ethnic faux pas along the way.
Let me tell you a story, set in a faraway town of Krau, Pahang, many years ago, where I was based on a fieldwork stint for camera-trapping tigers. My male colleague and I were invited for a village function, and I was following the lead of my colleague who was shaking hands with the men in the room.
As I approached an elderly man clad in white, I stuck out my hand and smiled at him.
The kind man stared at my hand, and stared at me. I felt the whole room blanching.
Uncertain, I kept my hand out, and felt my smile slipping into an almost plea.
He took my hand and shook it gently.
My colleague later dragged me to the other side of the room where he hissed, “What’s the matter with you? Don’t you know that’s the imam? You are not supposed to touch him, much less shake his hand!”
He added, more insultingly, “Aren’t you a Malaysian? Don’t you know these things?”
This Malaysian has since collectively offended other ethnic groups, including folding my banana leaf funeral-style, patting people on their heads, and never, ever being able to finish my glass of tapai/tuak (“Aren’t you an Orang Asal? Don’t you know how to drink?”).
Maybe because I am kind, or maybe because I think Ibrahim Ali is just a misunderstood (or very crafty) angry bear, but this is how I imagined the scene going down:
Ibrahim Ali: CNY open house! Woohoo, let us show that Perkasa is benevolent to all those unfortunate not to be Malay. Oh, let’s give them money!
Minion: Ok! Hmmm. We forgot to buy red packets, but look, we have these white envelopes lying around. Let’s use them!
Ibrahim Ali: Save the environment! Save the whales! I could cry because people will see how good we are.
Minion: They will totally love this. I know it.
I could just be an inconsiderate, insensitive blundering Malaysian, but I am more inclined to laugh off the antics of Ibrahim Ali and his ilk rather than being outraged.
After all, there are so many things about Malaysia to be outraged about, or to cry over and it makes me sad that the colour of an angpow is more newsworthy than say, 13 Orang Asli recently arrested at Gua Musang, Kelantan for defending their ancestral lands.
Twitter makes a good barometer of how people are feeling over a particular issue and I was interested to see how much energy was spent denouncing Ibrahim Ali over the last few days rather than denouncing the latest arrests of Orang Asli protestors (and their lawyer) over the weekend.
And in the end, who wins?
Ibrahim Ali by a long shot, for keeping himself in the eye of the public yet again (because there is no such thing as bad publicity especially for a politician, so I hear).
You win this round, Ibrahim Ali, for making me write an entire column about you.
Yet your antics remind us that we should keep creating a huge fuss over sanctioned discrimination of various marginalised groups in Malaysia, who do not have a strong voice, like you and me.
We should keep standing up against the offensive racist statements (and sometimes threats) that you and your organisation, Perkasa, issue periodically.
We just need to articulate issues that truly matter, and to me, it has to be more than the colour of a packet filled with money.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.