JAN 7 — When a friend informed me about the desecration of churches and mosques in Malaysia on January 7, 2010, I felt extremely angry, disappointed and worst of all, helpless. I had been reading about the “Allah” issue for a few days while juggling my university assignments at graduate school overseas. The shock and anger from the news made me forget about the horrible freezing winter. As I started to think about my beloved Tanahair, I asked to myself, “God, why?”
To me, Malaysia is like a beautiful hidden treasure in the deep sea. It has so much potential. It has so much richness and opportunity, but is also filled with many “eggshells” that one must carefully tread around, especially on religion and race. Growing up in Malaysia, I wondered why I did not feel at home despite living my entire life there.
As a child, I was convinced that something was wrong with me. I could not talk to anyone about my thoughts. When I sought guidance from my teachers, I was scolded for asking certain questions and expressing certain opinions. However, as an adult at graduate school overseas, I discovered there are many people who shared my thoughts and ideas. The same questions I was discouraged from asking in Tanahair are commonly discussed as part of university courses where students were expected to answer by thinking critically. For the first time in my life, I felt I was normal. It was then I realised the answer; it was because I could not be myself in Malaysia.
As I learned more on the desecration of houses of worship in Tanahair, I felt a big urge to do something about it. I did not want to feel helpless anymore. I wanted to express my emotions and thoughts about the issue, although it was a difficult thing for me to do as a quiet and private person. I thought of writing something but nothing sounded right. I felt like giving up many times.
Yet I asked myself: why is this happening, what does this mean, do words define God, do words define who I am … are words how people define themselves? As I thought about the Creator’s beautiful creations, I felt a sudden feeling of calmness. I started composing a song in Malay. In the song I asked the questions that I felt were on the minds of the Malaysian people.
After finishing it a few minutes later, I recorded it and wondered how I could share this song with other Malaysians. I did not have a YouTube account at that time and realising that YouTube only accepted videos, I felt nervous at the thought that everybody would be able to see my face. I asked myself: “If expressing my thoughts and opinions on this issue would ruin my songwriting career, a career that I am trying so hard to do, a career that has barely started, would I still do this?” The answer was a resounding “Yes”. I went ahead and uploaded the video to share the song with my friends and family.
A few days later Bernama TV News called at 2am to interview me about the song. To my surprise many people supported the message of my song. I also found out from a friend that Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, the daughter of ex-Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, mentioned the song in her article written for The Star newspaper. For the first time, I did not feel alone anymore, knowing that many other Malaysians shared similar thoughts with me.
My aspiration for Malaysia is for all Malaysians to have freedom — freedom of religion, freedom of speech and the freedom as an adult to marry whomever they love. Most of all, I aspire for each Malaysian to have equal rights regardless of one’s race whether it is Indian, Kadazan, Chinese, Malay, Dayak or mixed-parentage like me. — loyarburok.com
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.