'The Hijra Children' plan is one way out of racism
I wish to propose a radical programme that I think can eliminate or significantly decrease racism in Malaysia within a span of 10 years.
Believe me, I have thought long and hard about programmes after programmes and although the idea that I am proposing seems extremely drastic, I really think we, as concerned citizens of this country, probably have very limited choice.
With the airing of the film ‘Tanda Putera' to a select ethnic group, the deafening silence from the prime minister about Ibrahim Ali's Bible-burning calls and Ridhuan Tee Abdullah's misguided thoughts on Thaipusam, I see a long, dark road ahead for our children and grandchildren.
Now the screening of ‘Tanda Putera' to students of Universiti Islam Antarabangsa Malaysia (UIA) is being proposed, and perhaps UITM or other universities are next.
There seem to be a serious and concerted effort to drive the racial divide in this country ever deeper and ever farther apart.
This does not bode well for our children's future.
Even if a new government were to come in power over the next few weeks, I sincerely doubt that the evil head of racism will not only lurk from behind but would also lunge ahead and tower above all of us in a matter of a few years ahead.
Thus, I propose to outline my drastic programme which I call ‘The Hijra Children' that will seal the bonds of thousands of different families from different faiths and race as a single and new family structure.
The Hijra, in the Muslim annals, called for drastic sacrifice on those that emigrated from Mecca to Medina leaving all status and belongings towards a new life.
The Hijra, also saw the sealing of the bonds of new families between the immigrants and the Ansar or the ‘helpers' by none other than by the sacred pronouncements of the Prophet Muhammad himself (may peace be upon him).
Likewise, we, from all the different faiths and races, will have to do the same, not literally, but symbolically.
I will outline my programme only after I set the scene of racism in this country and why I think we are at the precipice of despair and destruction.
Throughout my 26 years at UTM, I have thought and observed families, friends, colleagues, teachers, ustaz, leaders and generally the Malay communities, listening to their gripe about ‘those non-Muslim people in our country', especially, those ‘orang-orang Cina'.
I have been in university meeting rooms of academicians, teachers rooms, teh tarik warung, Hari Raya gatherings, offices, seminar halls and, especially... masjids or mosques where such conversations, tirade, calls and accusations were thrown at none other than those ‘orang-orang Cina' or ‘orang-orang Kristian'.
I am not afraid
You see, fellow Malaysians, I am not afraid of the rude voice of an Ibrahim Ali.
I am not afraid of the ‘showmanship' of a Khairy Jamaluddin.
Heck, I am not even afraid of the ‘old man' himself... Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
These men can spout all the poisonous statements about racism to further their own sad and selfish economic and political agendas, but it would never have mattered so much if there were no one to listen to them.
I am, however, afraid of the racist teacher in our children's school.
I am afraid of the racist officer in the education department.
I am terrified of the ordinary Malay who goes to the mosque five times a day and makes the pilgrimage for more than one time, yet they would lend their ears to those leaders who spout racial hatred.
I am truly frightened of the university students who clapped to urge Sharifah Zohra Jabeen Syed Shah Miskin to berate KS Bawani simply because she was a non-Muslim.
Political leadership cannot influence the masses, if the masses, know what the true teachings of Islam is... that in the eyes of Allah, only those who are of good morals and kindness are the blessed. And not because his name was Ibrahim or Tajuddin.
My first thought of eradicating racism was to change the curriculum of education for our children (and I did that in a previous article).
But then, when I thought of the overwhelming number of Malay teachers in our schools, I think we would have great difficulty convincing these educators about the evils of racism.
I had also thought of changing the madrasa curriculum and teach the new ustazs that Allah and the Prophet loved all human beings and especially those who are inclined towards kindness and goodness to all.
But there are so few, if any, religious scholars who can interpret the Quranic verses outside of the historical contexts that they were referring to.
I thought of the call to balance the number of police force, military, teachers and the civil servants but it will take a few generations for voluntarism to take effect.
And there is no guarantee that the serving line officers and civil servant leadership will not drag their feet in implementation.
I have written many, many articles telling Malaysians that the National Service Training Programme's (PLKN) objective of race integration is a joke... but a dangerous joke because many innocent lives were lost which I, to this day, blame the PLKN leadership and political patrons.
Thus, my thoughts had reached a blank wall on how to expedite the eradication of racism in Malaysia.
It was then that I thought of the programme I named ‘The Hijra Children'.
A three-month 'contract'
If I had my way, I would form a committee to vet 5,000 middle-class and upper middle-class families who have a 14- or a 16-year-old son.
These 5,000 specially selected Malay, Chinese and Indian families will undergo a short course on cultural tolerance and respect.
At the end of the course, these volunteer families will give up one 14-year-old or 16-year-old son and adopt a similar boy whose faith and race was different than their own.
The ‘adoption contract' is for only three months.
The parents who have adopted a child must ensure that the child fulfills his religious and cultural obligations, such as going to the mosque, church or temple, etc.
The dietary specialties of each faith like the Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist must be strictly adhered to.
The families are encouraged to visit one another in order to maintain contact with their children.
These 5,000 volunteer families are encouraged to adopt two or more boys, one for a three-month period, at a different time.
I would suggest a modest honorarium be given to the family who participate with this programme to be used to accommodate the new changes in their lives.
Just imagine, in one period of three months, how many lives would have been changed?
If one parent has four siblings with their own families, four parents would be 20 adults and if each pair have five children of their own, no less than 100 lives would be touched by this exchange of sons.
If I adopt a Christian boy, I would take him to meet my brothers and sisters and also my wife's brothers and sisters.
I would take him to Batu Kurau and show him my father's and mother's families in order to show that I have an adopted ‘son'.
My wife would do the same.
In that case, we would have changed slightly the perception of 200 individuals.
My adopted son's real parents would do the same and add another 200 individuals.
Thus one pair of sons in the exchange programme would touch 400 lives.
What is the total for 2,500 pairs of sons? 1,000,000 lives.
One million lives would have to change their racist perception because they now have a new family member.
This programme can be done with ‘no money' at all or a small honorarium of say RM5,000 per adoption.
For 5,000 families, this would cost the government only RM25,000,000.
We do not need to spend two billion ringgit on that worthless programme called ‘National Service'.
The RM5,000 can be a trust fund for the son's education to honour his participation in the programme.
Is this such a ‘radical' proposal? Is this such a ‘silly' proposal? Can we think that we could ‘give up' our sons to another family of different faiths and race? Is this action really so strange? Well... I think not.
We can do this
I have heard of stories where Chinese families have ‘given up' their sons to Malay families to protect them from the vicious Japanese soldiers who prey on the Chinese race.
The ‘Blind Side' is an inspiring story of how a White Christian family adopted a poor Negro boy into their wealthy surroundings and nurtured him as their religion had taught them.
And furthermore, the Prophet Muhammad himself had sealed the bonds of brotherhood between the Meccan immigrants and the Medinan helpers.
We, Malaysians, can do this programme ourselves.
If the new government will not lend their weight, then with the help of NGOs like Islamic Renaissance Front, OHMSI and the like, we could do it our way.
No political interference or agenda at all.
Just parents who think that their children and grandchildren should be well deserving of a newer Malaysia.
We will of course still have to change our education system and content.
We will still have to have our inter-cultural and inter-faith dialogue towards teaching each other on the richness and value of our religious and cultural heritages.
But the new Malaysia needs a family network and a new generation of racist-less mindset.
The old Malaysia is too tiresome and getting extremely dangerous for our children's future.
The Hijra Sons will shine a new light and pave the way towards a Malaysia free of racism.
MOHAMAD TAJUDDIN MOHAMAD RASDI is professor at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia's School of Architecture. An eloquent writer, he has authored over 30 books, including his latest, ‘Why Listen to the Vice-Chancellor?'