Why would anyone flee Malaysia?

Zurairi AR
The Malay Mail Online
November 2, 2014

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 2 — When I returned home to Malaysia from a studying stint abroad in September 2008, I inevitably went into a so-called “reverse culture shock”.

Back then Malaysia had just undergone a botched attempt at a regime change by Anwar Ibrahim following the 12th general elections, leaving so many hopes dashed. (The same would repeat itself after the 13th general elections).

Everything seemed horrible to me back then: People minded other people’s faiths too much, superstitious hogwash was all over the newspapers, people could not even bother stopping at zebra crossings to let pedestrians walk… everything left me feeling slightly depressed.

Six years on, much of the feeling still lingers on. Perhaps even worse, as I get myself directly exposed to Malaysian politics with all its racial and religious madness. It takes a certain masochism for someone to read news headlines every day, what more write them.

The thought of leaving Malaysia for a less claustrophobic land has indeed crossed my mind. As surely it has some of you readers.

I can understand why blogger Alvin Tan and activist Ali Abd Jalil just packed their bags and decided to try their luck elsewhere, the US for the former and Sweden the latter.

Former law minister Zaid Ibrahim suggested last week that more Malays would flee the country because of the repressive atmosphere. — Picture by Saw Siow FengFormer law minister Zaid Ibrahim suggested last week that more Malays would flee the country because of the repressive atmosphere. — Picture by Saw Siow FengIt is true that both had been convicted in heavy legal cases and turned fugitive. Tan was slapped with multiple charges over his now-defunct sex blog and controversial Hari Raya greeting involving pork dish bak kut teh: For pornographic images and sedition, among others.

Ali faced multiple counts of sedition charges for allegedly insulting royalty, and had been in and out of prison as the police kept rearresting him.

But perhaps more tellingly, they were square pegs in Malaysia’s round holes.

Tan was not only open about his sexuality, but had blogged and recorded his sex life. Ali was vocal about alleged abuses of power and law by a few members of certain states’ royal families.

And Malaysia just does not like its square pegs. Malaysia abhors those who speak out of line, and dare to look the status quo in the eye and say what exactly is wrong with it.

The talk of “Malaysia, where love grows” during the recent Merdeka celebration rang empty for some Malaysians. What love were they talking about?

And how can you love a country which does not love you back?
As days go by, racial and religious tensions continue to rise. Some might argue that this is not especially true among the common people who continue living harmoniously with each other.

While it might be true that the fires are being stoked by certain personalities and certain groups, they are far from fringe voices.
What it points to however is a lack of certainty and assurance being offered by Putrajaya to counter these voices, which inadvertently gives a perception of tacit approval.

As mentioned in an article by Amrita Malhi, a research fellow with University of South Australia’s International Centre for Muslim and non-Muslim Understanding, the rise of Muslim fundamentalism points to an administration unsure of majority support, especially after the divisive 2013 polls.

Former law minister Zaid Ibrahim suggested last week that more Malays will flee the country soon from this repressive atmosphere.

The reality is, there are already many Malays living their lives abroad, free from judgments which are being put on them solely for belonging to an ethnic group. They are free to live their own lives, in so many aspects.

Sure, I envy them. Hearing stories from its High Commission, Canada sure sounds like a good place to start anew.

But I have chosen to stay. Warts and all, Malaysia is my only home, and I do not wish to see it turn worse. I know the role that I have to play in sustaining the pushback against growing assault against freedom and liberty.

After all, I take solace in the efforts of my brave allies and comrades who dare to speak up.

I have said it many times: It is exciting times in Malaysia. Just on Friday, women’s rights group Sisters in Islam filed a judicial review against a Selangor fatwa declaring liberals and religious pluralists as “deviants”.

And earlier in October, publisher ZI Publications challenged a Selangor Shariah law which outlaws books authorities find “counter to Islamic teachings”. In May, a group of transgenders challenged a Negri Sembilan Shariah law prohibiting cross-dressing.

No more can religious authorities go unchallenged and continue to trample on the liberties and rights which justly belong to Malaysians, as enshrined in the Federal Constitution.

These brave Malaysians are not using man-made laws to challenge God’s laws. Instead, they are merely using federal laws to challenge man-made state laws — which should never override the former, regardless whether they have anything to do with Islam or not.

We are casting off our shackles link by link. And as part of the media, I have the best seats in the house to watch this thriller unfold.

Now, why would I want to leave this country when I can try to do some good here? I hope you too can find a role of your own, and just remember that we are never really alone.

  1. #1 by Noble House on Tuesday, 4 November 2014 - 4:04 am

    Today as I look around the country, I wonder what we can do to make a difference. There were times that a simple act of kindness or sharing our thoughts is deemed to be offensive. Opinion seems to be split, either you love it or hate it…

    We are living as though with our senses in deep hibernation and preferred not to be disturbed. Like hypnotism, we will awake and remember nothing. I suppose anyone who has been scared at sea or lost in the woods and come home can handle the balance between a system that creates us and takes us away or maybe doesn’t.

    Yes, we are never really alone; perhaps, waiting for “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn”?

  2. #2 by Bigjoe on Tuesday, 4 November 2014 - 8:21 am

    Ultimately the reason why Malays will leave this country is not repression and stiffling but the truth is the high-wire economic act that UMNO/BN has created IS UNSUSTAINABLE..Time and again, UMNO has wasted opportunities to restructure the economy fundamentally.

    Until now, UMNO/BN has wasted state resources, abuse institutions and systems and hawk away our future in order to keep their high-wire act going. Now they are raising taxes and increasing inflation in order to keep the act going believing they are better at it than they were before – unwilling to admit they have just been lucky for a long time, the system is UNSUSTAINABLE in the long run.

    When the high-wire act falls apart, those who stay are those with the right skills, talents and character to rebuild – not those addicted to entitlement and self-rigteousness.

  3. #3 by Justice Ipsofacto on Tuesday, 4 November 2014 - 10:24 am

    Dear Zu,

    Listen. And just follow these instructions and things will become clear to you.

    1) Get a cup (any cup and any size) and fill it with water (any amount).

    2) Get a small slip of paper (colour and size does not matter but not too tiny) and a pen (any colour).

    3) Copy these words down on that slip of paper – dont miss out any words: “Umno, the supreme grand master of the universe, creator of Time and GOD of all gods.”

    4) Now burn the slip of paper and put it into the cup with water.

    5) Shut your eyes and drink the water.

    After that you confusion will all go away. Its easy. Its guaranteed.

  4. #4 by boh-liao on Wednesday, 5 November 2014 - 11:05 am

    Confused? NO know where 2 FLEE 2?
    Visit Bangsar area, right now, would C banners advertising Migrate to Australia seminar, go n listen lor

  5. #5 by digard on Wednesday, 5 November 2014 - 6:24 pm

    A noteworthy and well-written article!
    Plus, I command you on your staying power.

    What I, however, can’t see is the light at the end of the tunnel. You returned to Malaysia in 2008; we arrived in 1997 and left in 2012. What we, you and us, have seen was the same. And the direction of the ship MY did all but turn worse.
    Mostly, in our view, the pressure was turned up on the Malays; both in economic and religious terms. When we came, a Malay could hardly do wrong, in 2014 a Malay can hardly do right. (S)He will be ostracized except (s)he succumbs completely to the interpretation du jour of Islam, concocted by a government in full fear of losing its grip on power. By a cocktail mixed from lack of self-confidence versus some (perceived) traits of the ‘nons’, fear of the economic future, fear of the hereafter, and fear of becoming an outcast from a group that spins its nets ever tighter around everyone’s daily life and practices; including religious rituals and an ever less open-minded religious perception.

  6. #6 by boh-liao on Thursday, 6 November 2014 - 2:56 pm

    Why would anyone flee Malaysia?
    In fact, it should b Y NOT?

    Reading what went on @ our Fed Court where our UmnoB lawyer presented submission full of dubious n below standard evidence (taken care of by a mata2 known 2 b unreliable n who admitted intentionally broke d chain of custody; provided by chemists who also admitted not following accepted legal procedures) n arguments 2 try 2 convict a suspect, rakyat must feel veri insecured in dis apa-apa pun boleh 1DERful land

    Simple issue like seems like penetration, sounds like penetration, but NO actual penetration CAN also b presented 2 try 2 convict a suspect

    Based on a whole bunch of unreliable evidence n dubious individuals, AGC still pushed 4 a higher jail term

    Scary la, HOW NOT 2 flee M’sia?

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