The difference between compromise and cowardice

Erna Mahyuni
The Malay Mail Online
June 25, 2014

JUNE 25 — Let the Allah issue rest, someone said to me. “In the end, when we stand before Him, none of this will matter.”

This is a very Malaysian way of looking at things. Don’t talk about this — too sensitive. Don’t stage a play or make a film about that — too incendiary.

We step on eggshells all the time, trying not to anger that person or this person.

But let us be frank here; there only seems to be one race we seem to be very afraid of offending while there seems to be no problem kicking around cow heads or throwing Molotov cocktails at churches.

We cannot keep sweeping things under the carpet in fear of civil unrest. We cannot keep banning books and films and telling minority religions to stop “threatening” the majority faith.

The reality is that yes, there are people who are dangerous. People with guns, people with bombs, people with absolutely no qualms resorting to murder just to further a cause.

But now, more than ever, we need dialogue. We need to start talking to each other about the things that scare us the most; we have to start listening to opinions that disturb our own way of looking at things.

Most of all, Malaysians have to learn to agree to disagree. Instead what we get is schoolyard namecalling where we insult each other instead of trying to understand where the other person is coming from.

I am really getting rather tired of people saying that I am obviously sex-deprived which is why I will not shut up about current affairs. Please leave my genitalia out of the discussion. Wherever my head is, it is certainly not there.

Even more disturbingly, I keep getting asked how to “unite” East and West Malaysians. The short answer: fire and blood. Have a foreign power declare war on us and I am sure patriotic fervour will reach epic heights.

The long answer is unity, my friend, is overrated. Unity is a false construct, the problematic belief that all citizens should and must want the same things. It is very obvious that I want a secular state and it is very obvious that PAS wants an Islamic one.

All citizens should respect the law of the land and yet also have the right to object to the imposition of a second set of laws. All citizens should have access to basic rights and be able to question government directives without being thrown into detention.

The opposite of unity is not anarchy; it is the existence of choice. A state where differences are acknowledged, where we are not pigeonholed or forcibly brainwashed into obeying a government or ruler.

Diversity and differences are not things to fear, and yet fear seems to be the only bargaining tool our government uses without reservation. Vote us or the country will fall apart. Vote us or the minorities will take all your rights. Vote us because the other side are devil-worshipping hedonistic LGBT supporters.

We have to stop being so afraid all the time but we are such lily-livered cows sometimes, it is almost embarrassing to be Malaysian. Wake up, this is Malaysia. There are no death squads roaming the streets. You are not going to be shot in your beds by government enforcers for having an opinion. It is perfectly normal to want to punch your neighbour in the mouth for being a bigot, but it is not all right to actually use your fists.

Talk about the things that scare you. Talk. Think. Read. Understand. Only light illuminates darkness and keeping people (and issues) in the dark helps no one.

I know it’s a lot to ask but the next time someone tells me to shut up to “keep the peace”, I will perhaps suggest a spinal transplant is in order. We can’t find backbone in government so we might as well start growing them ourselves.

  1. #1 by winstony on Wednesday, 25 June 2014 - 9:09 pm

    We should all learn a lesson from the clear and present danger now facing the Iraqi state.
    When Saddam was the dictator, his government was as exclusive as any government could be.
    The Shi’ites and Kurds were oppressed.
    Now that the Shi’ites formed the government, it seems that it’s their right to resort to the same oppressive measures against the Sunnis and the Kurds.
    Because of this gross divisiveness, the whole country is wide open to the extremists from ISIS.
    And the government is obviously incapable of turning the tide.
    This shows that divisive policies not only don’t work but those who divide may well ended up losing the country!
    Remember the adage?
    United we stand, divided we fall!
    What’s happening in Iraq may be thousands of kilometers away but the lessons are very, very clear!!!
    An all inclusive government is the only sane way to go.

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