Once we were beautiful

– Art Harun
The Malaysian Insider
July 24, 2013

I am blessed.

So are many of my friends who are of or around my age.

So are many who are older than me.

As a child of the 60s, I went through my formative years in an English-stream school. It was a big school in town.

And there were hundreds of us Malays, Chinese and Indian boys (it wasn’t co-ed).

Our first headmaster was a Chinese gentleman who was as fierce as they came those days.

When he left, he was replaced by an Indian gentleman, who also was as fierce.

My first class teacher was Ms Leong, all long haired and short skirted.

And yes, armed with a wooden ruler, she would knock my knuckles for failing to properly write the number 8.

My first English sentence, learnt on the first day at school was to be uttered after raising my right hand, “Please teacher may I go out?”

That was to be said if any of us had to go to the toilet to do the normal stuffs we all do in the toilet (and not to eat).

Then there were Mr Linggam, Cikgu Aziz and wife, Sharom, Mr Lee the karate guy, Mr Khor, Cikgu Mutalib and various others.

We were a happy bunch. We played together, ate together, learned together and of course, at times, punished together.

And we were equal. In standard 5, I began fasting.

The school canteen stayed open for the whole month.

No renovation. No closure. Muslim and non-Muslim kids, who did not fast, ate as usual.

If they bought a proper meal, such like nasi lemak or mee goreng, they would eat at the canteen.

If it was some kind of snack, they would just eat while walking around, in the class or where ever.

No fuss. No issue. No problem.

My impressionable years were spent in a boarding school. It was the same scenario.

All of us, regardless of race or religion studied together, ate together, played together and at times, getting one or two rotan together.

Visiting a non-Malay house was not a problem.

Eating there was not a problem too. Sharing food with non-Muslims was not an issue.

Things have however, sadly, changed.

And change for the worse. Nowadays, non-Muslims don’t send their kids to national school anymore.

They prefer to send the kids to the vernacular schools.

The ones who could afford would send their kids to private schools.

National schools are almost invariably filled with Muslim/Malay students.

National schools would recite prayers before class begin in the morning.

Quranic verses and hadith would adorn walls in the canteen, school office and even classes.

Ustaz and ustazah would even ask school kids to raise their hands if their parents do not pray 5 times a day.

In secondary schools, the tudung is not compulsory for girls – according to the Ministry of Education’s circular, if I am not mistaken – but girls without tudung would be viewed askance by schoolmates and teachers alike.

Due to the small number of non-Muslim/Malay kids in national schools, the Malay kids do not have the opportunity to mix around and integrate with non-Malays in their formative and impressionable years.

The small number of non-Malay kids also gives a sense of false superiority complex to the Malay kids as well as teachers.

Thus, my race and my religion are more important than you, your religion and everything else.

Hence the closure of the school canteen during Ramadhan.

This is prevailing in many national schools. Apparently, this is done to “respect” the Muslim students who are fasting.

Forget the fact that non-Muslims do not fast and they, like any other human beings or animals, have to eat and drink.

Forget the fact that there are Muslim kids who do not fast.

Anybody who just about mentions the word “food” would have been taken as insulting Islam.

On Facebook last week, there were two guys admonishing a hotel which advertised its breakfast package on its page.

They viewed it as disrespectful.

But to be fair, the two were widely condemned by other Muslim facebookers.

The eating-in-the-changing-room debacle yesterday is just the surface of a far unhealthier trend in Malaysia.

Beneath that surface is a society which is fractious, intolerant, selfish and uncompromising.

The obvious question is how did we, as a nation, become like this? As a nation we started so well.

The Federal Constitution was agreed upon by consensus between three major races anchored to give-and-take and win-win camaraderie.

There was a blemish in 1969 but that was quickly nipped in the bud and we soldiered on.

In football, we were in the Olympic final in 1972 and 1980.

By the law of progression, we should be in the World Cup by now. By contrast, Japan and Korea, whom we used to beat, were already in the quarter-finals of the World Cup.

We now struggle to beat the likes of Vietnam and even Singapore.

Like our football team, the state of our racial integration and inter-faith relationship has moved in reverse gear.

Years of political posturing utilizing religion and race have now begun to show its ugly consequences.

The so-called Islamisation that we embark upon, which is shorn of any meaningful spiritual understanding of the religion, but rather born out of political necessities, convenience and mired in political one-upmanship has now produced a nation which is unsure of itself and a people who are fractious, angry, suspicious and at odd with each other.

We need to take a real good look at ourselves and examine our ways. And we need to reboot our operating system if we want to avoid a total crash. And we need to reboot fast. – July 24, 2013.

  1. #1 by optimuz on Wednesday, 24 July 2013 - 1:55 pm

    very true indeed! And if we are honest enough, we are all guilty of contributing to this state of affairs.

    We scream this and that but rarely have any introspection. We want this and that but rarely give anything away.

    It would seem we will soon cross the rubicon and cause irreversible damage to this country.

    I urge you Uncle Kit to re-think some of the stances have been taken for political expedience sake and bring this country back to sanity.

    • #2 by cemerlang on Wednesday, 24 July 2013 - 10:49 pm

      Something started the ball rolling. What’s or where’s the catalyst ? Does the world expect Malaysia to be an example of a pure Islamic country ? Everything works together towards a common goal in the world. Shouldn’t a model Islamic country be somewhere in Arabia because that is where the origin of Islam comes from ? Why should be it somewhere so far away ? Or total control of the whole country. Take Kelantan.

  2. #3 by sivasundram on Wednesday, 24 July 2013 - 2:10 pm

    Reeboot? This will not happen as long as Mahathir and his legacy is alive and kicking.
    Change UMNO and the next government must have the political will to change the status quo to pre UMNO baru, and only than can change take take place.

  3. #4 by cinaindiamelayubersatu on Wednesday, 24 July 2013 - 2:34 pm

    selamatkan lah malaysia negaraku tercinta.sudah terbukti selama pimpinan kerajaan oleh seBarisan Najis diketuai umno baru a,malaysia makin mundur dari maju.yang maju hanya segelintir sahaja-Mahakaya Ling Samy dan rakan rakan.


  4. #5 by bryanbb on Wednesday, 24 July 2013 - 6:23 pm

    as a minority , all we ask for a sense of mutual respect to be extended in the spirit of genuine courtesy to each other ,esp to our children as they attend schools and also teach mutual respect to them.

  5. #6 by sheriff singh on Wednesday, 24 July 2013 - 6:29 pm

    Did it all start in 1979 with the Ayatollah?

    • #7 by Loh on Wednesday, 24 July 2013 - 7:54 pm

      No, it started in 1969 with Mahatollah.

  6. #8 by 1elderly voter on Wednesday, 24 July 2013 - 7:31 pm



  7. #9 by good coolie on Wednesday, 24 July 2013 - 9:02 pm

    Yep, it started with the the Iranian revolution.

    • #10 by cemerlang on Wednesday, 24 July 2013 - 10:51 pm

      But now they want to go from being hardline to moderate.

  8. #11 by Bigjoe on Wednesday, 24 July 2013 - 9:22 pm

    The whole matter is rather simple, the Headmaster WAS RACIST AND MAHATHIR MADE HIM THAT WAY…Period…

    • #12 by cemerlang on Wednesday, 24 July 2013 - 10:56 pm

      A school has spaces, rooms to look for before opting for the last resort to be in a changing toilet room. They can also set up a tent in their compound or playground or field just like a open stall. There are plenty of options instead of bad excuses.

  9. #13 by Noble House on Thursday, 25 July 2013 - 4:08 am

    Yes, those were the days! And if I have to live my life for just once more I would ask to live it all over again. But sadly, the younger generation today would not get to know the true history of this nation when we are dead and gone. The country today is run by insane people leading us on a train to nowhere. How do you stop it?

  10. #14 by ringthetill on Thursday, 25 July 2013 - 6:33 am

    Anyone over the age of 45 years old can understand this writing and feel the loss. The delicate fabric of beautiful times was destroyed within 30 years, no thanks to the politicians. They are obsessed with their greed for power, wealth and popularity, all at our expenses. Malaysians must learn NOT to respect and REJECT all politicians on both side of the fence who cannot act and do good to us all. Learn to speak up with fear. Do not hero worship such people. I doubt we can regain the times where goodwill, honesty, caring and beautiful inter-community spirit prevail.

  11. #15 by lee tai king (previously dagen) on Thursday, 25 July 2013 - 9:26 am

    And what is worse?

    We will be getting 5 more yrs of that umno-nonsense.

    Kuli, could you just move it? And quick, pls.

  12. #16 by yhsiew on Thursday, 25 July 2013 - 10:13 am

    This is what BTN indoctrination could to a once beautiful country!

  13. #17 by yhsiew on Thursday, 25 July 2013 - 10:14 am


    This is what BTN indoctrination could DO to a once beautiful country!

  14. #18 by sotong on Thursday, 25 July 2013 - 12:38 pm

    Long time ago, the country is already ugly with bad leadership and divisive and damaging politics………no reasonable person will trust the government anymore.

    Once the trust is broken, it is impossible to fix.

  15. #19 by Anti Corruption on Thursday, 25 July 2013 - 1:28 pm

    Yup, those were the days. We all respect our teachers whether it was Cikgu Hassan, Mr. Loh or Miss George. We played chatek as partners between the races and had fights after school but made up soon after. We had sports day, teams competed among themselves by the names of blue, green, yellow and red houses. Ooohh, those were the days.

  16. #20 by lee tai king (previously dagen) on Thursday, 25 July 2013 - 2:19 pm

    Our system is badly broken and it is in dire need of mending. No. Overhaul, actually. Useless parts must be removed and discarded.

    Lets us throw umno in the bin.

  17. #21 by tak tahan on Thursday, 25 July 2013 - 10:54 pm

    No any overhaul will do when the the main and most mechanics at large are the little Napolean and ignorant folks supported by racist scumno.Uncle Kit,heard of any brutal happening in Taman Mewah,Kamunting(toddy n ketuanan neighborhood) few days ago?It happened time and again around that area.Recent ground news-worst to come…it’s so sickening to know this racial incidents and hope this would be settled once and for all..also can check this out in the Chinese paper on last monday

  18. #22 by tak tahan on Thursday, 25 July 2013 - 10:57 pm

    Uncle Kit,delete this after you’ve read

  19. #23 by riverman on Friday, 26 July 2013 - 1:32 am

    I am not sure what you felt is shared by our Muslim brothers or not.
    They may like what is happening today. Perhaps they felt today’s is much better than yesteryear.
    Many ethnic group/individual is not tolerable towards others need – that is the issue here. And this is rakyat jelata. Could we blame them … Hmm.
    But we don’t expect our leaders to do or think like rakyat jelata. Even if they think like that, leaders shouldn’t act like one.
    I hope our highly qualified ministers, who speaks a lot about unity,tolerance etc act like one. Hmm by the way do you think our Chinese leader has many Malay friends during their developing years or our UMNO leaders has many Chinese friends during their childhood or do they themselves mix with other races……

    Whatever it is, this whole thing is an evolution – we may attempt to change for good , only time can tell. Fates is destined.

    The river is back!

  20. #24 by Bamboo on Sunday, 28 July 2013 - 12:15 pm

    1elderlyvoter, I thought I was been over sensitive. Yes, I have the same experience, Malays avoid eye contact with non Malays nowadays. During my school days in 70s and 80s, school canteen stayed open during the fasting month with or without operator selling foods. It will take great effort from political leaders(definitely non Umno) to undo the damaged ketuanan practices prevalent in all fabric of Malaysian society.

  21. #25 by Bamboo on Sunday, 28 July 2013 - 12:19 pm

    … political leaders( definitely non Umno) and us coming together to undo the ketuanan practices prevalent in all fabric of Malaysian society.

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