Syerleena Abdul Rashid urges Malaysians to muster the courage to tell the conservatives and bigots that we have had enough and that we are ready to take ownership of this country.
Malaysians used to be more tolerant than we are today.
Once upon a time in a not-so-distant past, we used to visit one another’s open houses freely without worry. The idea of what was halal or haram was mutually understood, and we didn’t have holier-than-thou organisations to tell us that we couldn’t mingle with fellow Malaysians who professed different religions because they were a threat to our own faiths. We ate and drank together while some of us even played mahjong until dawn.
But now, our society has swayed from tolerance and respect to antithetical values that condemn logic and defend non-negotiable conservatism. Traditionalists may twist the articulations of conscience to justify their causes but their narratives are often arbitrary and sometimes quite laughable.
Consider the controversies that surround our society: for instance, the recent furore over a K-Pop act, school principals not allowing non-Malay students to wear the baju kurung, arguments over “domesticated genes” and so on. The voices of the absurd and the one dimensional are becoming louder with each passing day, only because they have been sanctioned to spread intolerance by the powers that be.
We now live in a time when violence and persecution is encouraged. Our differences are magnified and played out incessantly – ideas that we are different and should remain different have been drilled into our heads, and as a result, our behaviour and how we speak to one other is reflective of the prejudices they encourage.
Such factions only want us to hate people who are different and require us to harass those who think differently. They do this because they fail to understand the unique dimensions of human relations, but mostly because they have a very shallow understanding relating to the philosophies of religion.
Unfortunately, the current situation in Malaysia seemingly paints a picture where we can no longer talk about or initiate discussions on the very things that make us unique and diverse. Those who do or attempt to do are quickly labelled as out of touch with reality or just seditious; but without understanding, the wedge that keeps us apart will only pry harder until the imminent social breakdown occurs.
These factions have mastered the art of turning language into a weapon; terms such as ‘liberal’, ‘pluralism’ and ‘moderates’ have all become expletives. Never mind if such words exist in our Rukun Negara; their intention is only to create fear among the gullible. But no rational argument or logical excuses are presented; reason and logic materialise through the medium of language and thus, the death of reason simply requires the destruction of language and the cunning play of words.
Never forget that Malaysia is a democratic nation, even if past and present incidents may show otherwise. Never forget that Malaysians can still depend on our Federal Constitution, even if certain factions have taken advantage of public ignorance. Their goal is to purge this country of everything except what is beneficial to them and their ilk.
Malaysians must always remember that true democracy supports the notion that decisions are achieved through rational debates which enhance society’s understanding and allows us to exchange any grievances that might arise.
Conservatism basically accuses anyone who disagrees as simply denying the fundamental order of the universe by providing arbitrary narratives. The lack of dialogue replaces reason with authority, and when such uncertainty is established in our culture, democracy corrodes over time, making it possible for such factions to dominate our minds.
As Malaysians, we should ask ourselves, what sort of nation do we really want? Are we content with allowing the conservatives, the ultra-traditionalists, the right wing, the elite, the cronies, the opportunists and the bigots to bellow their sermons of hate, intolerance and fear?
Or can we – as a nation – muster the courage and strength to tell them that we have had enough? Are Malaysians ready to take ownership of this country? I know I am. Are you?