When you come right down to it, nearly everything in this country is defined around racial lines. From the little residential clumps we gather ourselves into to our voting habits, there are elements of racialism that permeate the things that we do.
Awareness of one’s race and the race of the others around oneself is not of itself racist. Skin colour, facial features, cultural behaviour and so on are things we naturally take notice of as our brain struggles to file away a new acquaintance into an easily archived category, and until the day we fully assimilate and there is no real race except “Malaysian” left in this country, we will take notice of another person’s race. The extent to which that matters in the scope of our interactions with each other is up to the individual.
Multiculturalism’s worst enemy has always been the archaic concept of race in and of itself. When awareness of differences becomes the point of focus of a certain segment of any community, that’s when confrontation begins.
Malaysians by and large have coexisted in an easy peace on the ground level, but the raging turmoil of racism in the battles for control of Putrajaya are beginning to fracture us along very uncomfortable lines, even as we cling to each other in an effort to understand what is happening to the country we all love.
From the grenade attacks in Puchong to the infuriating and deeply depressing appearance of the words “kafir harbi” in our national consciousness – and all the violence that has come in between – it is clear that there are elements out there using racial statements to justify acts of violence. Already, the Nusantara branch of the Daesh is launching attacks on non-Muslim Malaysians, and there is an uneasiness among the non-Muslim community as it struggles to understand how the face of the country is changing.
Because all Malays are constitutionally defined as Muslim, there will always be racial undertones to the utterance of “enemies of Islam” since non-Muslim Malaysians can only be of a different race. Like it or not, that is the sick logic of some, and because ideas like “kafir harbi” have now become part of the national consciousness, groups that are identified as non-Malay, such as the DAP, can become targets of violence.
We are headed down a dark path unless there is a serious effort at reconciliation between the races. We cannot continue to define every aspect of our lives, consciously or not, around the idea of race. What we’ve already seen will pale in comparison to the outcome of continued escalation in racist rhetoric thinly defended as misquotation or misinterpretation.
We must stop addressing our lives in racial terms. It is clear that it can only destroy us.