LETTER

Being Malay Muslim fast becoming a disadvantage

Hazlina

Published
Modified 28 Nov 2008, 8:29 am

The Malaysian government went on a drive a few years ago to entice Malaysian professionals working abroad to come back to this beautiful country to work and live.

The government feels that they are losing our educated, progressive and well-exposed citizens to other countries; not benefitting our country in the long-term. They however, found out that their marketing has not been quite so successful.

Isn’t it obvious why? Apart from the intention to pay pittance to your own citizens, would anyone in their right mind return to live here amidst the repression, the racism, the sexism and the need for the religious authorities to exercise their ‘godliness’ at every single move you make?

At a drop of a hat, making a lot of sweeping statements and issuing fatwa and whatever else at their whims and fancies? Isn’t there anyone to rein them in?

As a working professional, I made a decision some time back to finally return to Malaysia - with a vision in mind - to want to start my business in my own country.

I felt the need to bring my professional and personal experience home to benefit my countrymen and women, to assist young Malaysians regardless of race to achieve their utmost capability on the global stage, to possibly share ideologies and philosophies of life with the initiative to grow and make informed decisions and choices.

Unfortunately, it has been difficult at every turn. First and foremost, there is the stumbling block which is the lack of communication skills especially in English. Even proper spoken Malay is halting and not many speak Mandarin. I’m beginning to think we have language barriers in this country.

Second, a lot of students, graduates and working professionals are uneasy discussing ideologies. They lower their voices and widen their eyes in alarm over the audacity of discussing anything seemingly ‘radical’. Is this coming from the fear we live under the threat of ISA looming over us? The threat of being a ‘common’ citizen as opposed to being ‘well-connected’?

Third, there are so many terms that we need to be careful about using. It never occurred to me that many words have become ‘sensitive’ over the years. ‘Sensitive’ to Muslims only, mind you.

A simple example. I asked a Chinese friend what he was cooking today and he did not want to answer me. It took me about three days to figure out why. He did not want to mention the word ‘pork’, ‘bacon’ and you know the rest. Over the phone? It has become unreal.

Malaysian society has become a backward society. Instead of progressing, we have digressed tremendously. We have become a country of people afraid to have ideas, afraid to explore possibilities, afraid to look beyond the obvious, afraid to offend, afraid to have friends of all races, in summary…afraid to live.

Gone are the days when we as kids had sleep-overs at our friends’ houses regardless of race and of course, waiting by the dining table for Auntie to cook her famous chicken vindaloo and another Auntie to cook her famous char koay teow . Our parents then never bothered to ask if the chicken was halal or the koay teow was bought from a Muslim vendor.

But let’s not digress. Back to my main point. Being a Malay Muslim is fast becoming a complete disadvantage in Malaysia.

I cannot enter a beauty contest. Well, not that I want to but the choice has been made for me. My point is, if Malaysia is a multiracial country then all races should be given the opportunity to be represented on the world stage. Why only limit it to some? Why hide our Malay beauty? Oh wait. For the Muslim men only to savour, of course.

I cannot adopt a child without naming the real father. Don’t you think abandoned babies need a home and without having to emphasise their abandonment their whole lives? Would you as a human being, like to live like that?

If I were to marry someone outside of Malaysia, a foreign man – he will have great difficulty applying for a work permit, visa or citizenship.

I am fast feeling that I cannot do exercise the way I want to. My choice – Pilates, yoga, you name it. Come to think of it, I don’t see too many Malays exercising in the gym. Economics maybe? Not quite. The gym doesn’t cost that much. Is that possibly why there are so many fat Malay men and women around?

Would the religious authorities one day ban stretching for women? How about lunges, splits, and spinning classes – well, after all Muslim women on bicycles could lose their virginity – research for six months, please.

The list goes on.

There are many Malay professionals like me who wants to flee the country now. We have encountered difficulty living here, not being able to express ourselves fully. At every turn, we are at a disadvantage. We feel stifled and unable to breathe. And we have to listen to idiotic comments from politicians’ day in, day out.

Politicians who insist they are representing us and speaking on our behalf. Well, not people like me, that’s for sure. I don’t want to be Muslim first and everything else second. I want to be all encompassing. And I know there are others like me who feel the same way.

And wait, don’t you feel like protecting the sweet, slight policemen in Chow Kit? Poor things, they are surrounded by criminals. Give them a hug and protect them by all means before these big bad criminals come to say ‘Boo!’

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