Why I left for our ‘poorer’ neighbour

The Malaysian Insider
May 25, 2011

MAY 25 — Contrary to most Malaysians who work overseas, I chose a less popular destination. I have been based in Jakarta for the past year and a bit. Most people look down on Indonesia as the poorer neighbour, much like the way Singapore looks at us. However, after living here, there is much to like, and below are some of the reasons why I prefer life here and do not plan to return anytime soon:

1. Indonesia is the most populous Muslim country in the world. However, you will find that most Indonesians are very open about their religion and respectful of the rights of others. Muslims here have no problem with patronising outlets that sell alcohol or non-halal food, even if they choose not to have any. In Malaysia, the Muslims make a big fuss over small things which they claim are not halal. You may argue that there are fanatics here, but the number is small relative to the population. Just look around Malaysia. Everywhere you look, you get fanatics.

2. The work ethic and culture here is better than in KL. People here are less racist. In Malaysia, you identify companies as Bumi companies, Chinamen companies, Indian companies and so on. Here, it is easy to work with people no matter what ethnic group. Again, you may mention the race riots during Suharto’s era, but the problem is practically non-existent in everyday life nowadays. People here respect talent and ability no matter your background, religion and skin colour.

3. There are unlimited opportunities here for those who want to do business. No such thing as Bumiputera quota, etc. If you see an opportunity, you are free to pursue it. Where Malaysia could once boast of being a strong regional player, our government is now coming here to woo Indonesian investors. I have dealt with local Indonesian companies for a number of years and all dealings are reasonably fair and transparent. This is unlike Malaysia where Bumiputeras are highly favoured no matter how incompetent.

4. Free and open press. It’s no secret our mainstream media is heavily self-censored, and Utusan is openly inciting racial hatred. Here, the Jakarta Globe and Jakarta Post are two publications that are highly regarded for their unbiased reporting and open criticism of the government. We are able to keep ourselves informed without having to log onto alternative news portals.

Of course, Indonesia shares some of Malaysia’s current shortcomings including widespread corruption, and the country is still very poor, but they are on the way up and it is only a matter of time before Malaysia is the one exporting maids to Indonesia.

There are those who will criticise my points above, but I believe the majority have never set foot in Jakarta and understand very little about the place. If you feel proud to be a Malaysian citizen, and look down on Indonesians, just remember that internationally, especially in the US or Europe, people generally put us on a similar standing as other Third World countries regionally.

  1. #1 by waterfrontcoolie on Wednesday, 25 May 2011 - 11:11 pm

    I do like to recall an occasion when I was in Jakarta. A Malaysian Muslim was with me, we were staying at a hotel with an Indonesian name. When we came down for afternoon tea, my Muslim freind was obviously offended by the presence of roasted pork being sold at the corner. He called the waiter and asked if the hotel was locally owned, meaning Muslim owned. The waiter confirmed it. He then asked why were they selling Kerbau-pendek? The waiter replied that he himself was a Muslim, he served to anyone who wanted to eat it. ” Apa salahnya bapa? , he asked. ” Dihotel ini, 80% pelanggan kami datang dari Jepun, Taiwan, Hong Kong dan Singapura. Mereka pasti di beri apa mereka minta!!”
    I had a quiet laugh, here a Malaysian senior executive being told by an Indoneasin waiter how to behave towards people of other religion!!
    It is so sad that we have people who seem to think what they believe should be imposed on others. Yes, please look at the mirror!!!

  2. #2 by hang tuah on Thursday, 26 May 2011 - 12:14 am

    years ago a boarded a cathay pacific flight from hong kong to kuala lumpur. seated beside me was a 60+ years old pakistani muslim businessman. we chat through the flight. when comes the dinner the hostess pass me the menu. i saw bbq pork rice in the menu. i am too tempted to order it but i do need to consider the sensitivity of the businessman religious belief. politely i asked him sir do you mind if i order the bbq rice. he told me go ahead u can order anything u want inclusive of beer and liquor. although islam prohibited me to consume those stuff it is not a sin sitting beside a non muslim friend who eat and consume it. i am awestruck with his reply. he even shook my hand before we left our way at the air port.

    such a tolerance u can see it in sarawak and kelantan as well. in kelantan one of my haji friend who is 50+ years old and pray 5 times a day without a missed insist me to stay at his house and have dinner with his family on the same table during my visit to the state. u can see the thai, kelantanese, indian and chinese sitting in a coffee shop run by a chinese and chatting and joking harmoniously among themselves.

    how good if we can see such a tolerance in other states of malaysia.

  3. #3 by Indon Planter on Thursday, 26 May 2011 - 12:51 am

    Very true M/s Waterfrontcoolie.

    I too work in Indonesia and during events when we have “makan bersama”, we have “A” section and “B” section of the buffet spread. “A” stands for ayam, or a general substitute meaning “halal” food to cater for the Muslims, and “B”, yes you’ve guessed it, is “babi”, and is served for the rest of the guests. Nobody take offense and everything is well. Imagine this in Malaysia, well, we can expect headline in Utusan – kenduri yang menghinakan umat Islam, follow by Ibrahim Ali’s call for Jihad.

  4. #4 by monsterball on Thursday, 26 May 2011 - 3:36 am

    I am so glad more find Indonesian Muslims are sincere and practical.
    I take 6am morning walks in small town where I bought a house..and all sees me…greet me with respect…when I greeted all “Salamat pagi”
    I am the only Chinese in that town….living amongst kampong folks…and I feel so safe.
    There are plenty Chinese Indons…opening medicine…furniture….TVs….clothing shops and they all keep to themselves….but very friendly to all too.
    Indonesians have much to be admired.
    They do not beg.
    They will do all sorts of work..shining shoes…sell fruits…lots of small stalls….selling everything that are cheap.
    Take a tour to one of the inactive volcano…beautiful small clean towns and excellent clean fresh cheap food.
    Ask any Indonesian Muslim…and almost all hates our UMNO B politicians…using Islamic religion to poison minds.

  5. #5 by donng55 on Thursday, 26 May 2011 - 7:08 am

    Dr Farish Ahmad-Noor, a political scientist from Indonesia and a consultant of Institute of Strategic and International Studies, made the following comments when interviewed at the ISIS International Affairs forum on “Jihad revisited? Shifting dynamics of radical movements in Indonesia” on 13 June 2007:

    1. “During the Suharto era, the Muslims expanded on cultural Islam rather than dogmatic politics-based Islam. After that, it (Islam) was taught in a scientific way.”

    2. “In comparison, Islam in Malaysia is politicised and there is no independent space for it to be in the public domain,” he said. “Indonesia had a big number of moderate scholars that even if a few radical groups emerged, the mainstream groups would quickly silence them.”

    3. “While banning militant groups worked, there was no deep understanding of religion at the public level, and the state would continue to be the ‘Big Brother.’ ”

    4. “What if one day the state is replaced by a fanatic prime minister? There will be no mode of civil defence underneath. This is where Indonesia is different from Malaysia. The rejection of terrorism in Indonesia did not come from the state but from the people. They didn’t want to see mosques or churches or Bali or Jakarta bombed.”

    5. “Malaysia, in the 1920s, was more open, with people discussing the applicability of syariah law in the modern world and the role of Islam in politics.”

    6. “Why is the interpretation of Islam so narrow in Malaysia when historically and culturally we (Malaysia and Indonesia) are similar?”

    Mayhap Tun Mahathir can enlighten us all on how the ‘differences’ came about and why our government under his watch allowed them (the differences) to take root.

  6. #6 by HJ Angus on Thursday, 26 May 2011 - 8:45 am

    In Malaysia the ruling elites are trying to use Islam to retain power. It is a dangerous practice and extremist groups are being used for stirring racial and religious unrest.
    And the authorities just ignore them!

  7. #7 by wanderer on Thursday, 26 May 2011 - 9:31 am

    I manage two overseas student hostels in Australia. Recently I received a group of Indonesian students and wanted to stay in the hostel. Most of them were Muslims, except for two who were Christians. I reminded them that they
    will be sharing the cooking utensils and fridges with other students who keep pork in their freezers…especially, Vietnamese students who cannot do without pork! They told me, it was not an issue, they do not make such a big fuss like the Malaysian Muslim politicians. They signed up for two years for their Master degree.
    Is the teaching of Islam varies from different countries?…I am not qualified to comment.

  8. #8 by Taikohtai on Thursday, 26 May 2011 - 12:39 pm

    BTW, I believe most UMNO cronies follow the dictum when in Rome, do as the Romans! But at home, they expect others to do as they are told. Cheers Mukhriz, another San Miguel please!

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