Opinion

A necessary conversation

Dina Zaman

Dina Zaman writes to find answers. Sometimes she doesn't. If she's not spending too much money on books, it's household items. She would like everyone to be happy.

MAY 5 — Being out of KL even for a few days provides for greater clarity. May 5 was just less than 48 hours away, and thanks to budget airlines, one can come back home for a few days to vote.

It was a conversation with my nephew and niece when I was back that made me realise that things have gone worse for schoolchildren. We chat a lot about a lot of things but this conversation was very unsettling.

I had been advising my nephew to read, study harder, the normal advice aunts give their nieces and nephews, so he’d have a great future.

“And what, Nana. Be like the Chinese?”

I blew my top. I shouldn’t have because he’s young, and I love that boy. But to hear such words from someone so young?

What’s wrong with being hardworking, I said. Even the Prophet Mohammad said Muslims had to be hardworking! There were also very hardworking and talented Malays! Who’s been telling him all this nonsense?

He squirmed in his seat.

“You tell me which teacher or friend said this to you and I will come to your school and scold them.”

“Oh Nana please no! Already Achik (my youngest sister) comes to pick me up in sexy clothes. I don’t want you to come to my school to scold people!”

My niece chirped. “Are you Chinese, Nana?”

What the hell was this, Racism Day in KL?

“I’m a monkey, my dear. What about you?”

She giggled. “I’m Spanish, Nana.”

Facebook and the upcoming polls have revealed the racist in many. Let’s not even talk about the Malay-Chinese-Indian “divide.”

I see many postings denouncing Malaysians who are of Arab descent: who are they to talk about politics, they’re bloody Arabs, who are they to talk about rights, they’re not Malay, they’re Arabs.

I have always felt and said that the next debate and divide in this country will be about religion. And it will not be about Muslims vs non-Muslims, but among Muslims. 

It will be a battle among the Sunnis, Shiites and there is a significant uprising among the young, quiet though it may be, that is anti-Wahabi/Salafi. This “argument” will not be pretty, but it is needed.

When I brought this up among one or two people who do a lot of work in activism, they brushed me off. Well, race is inter-related to religion so when all the racist policies are gone, we won’t have problems any more yadda yadda yadda.

There is so much rhetoric in our debates about everything political and religious in this country, but there is little reality.

I’m a pragmatist. And maybe I see things that I shouldn’t, so yeah, maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about. I also think that the conversation we have is rather middle class, and hey I’m one of them too. 

We need to bring the conversation back to real people, people who live outside of the cities in Malaysia. But hey, what do I know? I’m not an activist or intellectual, I just write what I see and what people tell me.

At this moment, I can only sigh and hope for better things to come for all of us, and my niece and nephew’s generation. I can’t wait for May 5 to vote for that, and then leave the country again, where I can think, and go off on my adventures.

* The writer is now blogging at presenttensemedia.wordpress.com.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

 

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