A few days ago, I visited a family living in a PPR flat in Kuala Lumpur. I was there to conduct an interview for a mini documentary on the People’s Housing Programme.
After the interview ended, we began chatting. That was when the ‘kakak’ living in the unit shared some personal stories with me.
“Kakak duduk sini dah bertahun-tahun. Sejak flat ni dibina, sejak itu lah kakak duduk sini. Dah tu, flat ni la antara flat PPR yang paling awal dibina kat KL ni.” (I have been living here for years. Since the time this flat was built actually. This is among the earliest PPR flats built in KL, mind you.)
“Cantik rumah kak. Pandai kakak jaga,” I said, impressed by the way she kept her home. (Your house looks nice. You take good care of it).
“Yalah, ingat nak duduk sini selama-lamanya, jadi kita pun jagalah dengan baik. Mana tahu kena pindah,” she said, pouting. (Of course, I thought I’d live here forever, so I took good care of my home. How would I know we’d be asked to leave?)
I asked her why she was moving out.
“Bukan akak yang nak pindah. Tapi disuruh pindah! Kononnya tanah ni dah dijual. Tauke baru dia nak buat kondominium mewah.” (I don’t want to move. I was asked to! We were told the land out flat sits on has been sold. The new owner wants to build a fancy condominium.)
“Habis? Macamana dengan penghuni asal? (So? How about the tenants?), I asked, somewhat shocked.
“Kitorang dapat offer. Dia kata boleh ambik duit dan pindah keluar ataupun beli unit kondominium mewah tu nanti dengan 50% diskaun. Masalahnya mana nak cari duit nak beli kondominium setengah juta? Terpaksalah pindah.” (We received offers. They said we could either take their money and move out or buy a unit of the fancy condominium at a 50 per cent discount. The problem is, where do we find half a million to buy a condo?)
“Tentu susah kan, dah duduk sini berkurun, sekarang nak kena pindah pulak,” (I bet it’s tough to move out after living here for ages), I said, trying to console her.
“Memanglah. Akak dah biasa dengan semua orang yang duduk sini. Lagipun semua orang yang duduk sini Melayu, tak campur-campur. Senang.” (Of course. I’m used to this place. Especially since everyone here is Malay, we don’t have to mix with others. It’s easier).
I was stunned at her last line.
“Esok nanti bila akak pindah, mana tau kena duduk tempat yang campur-campur. Susah. Kalau macam kat sini, semua Melayu, senang. Tak ada masalah.” (When I move out, I may have to live in a place where I have to mix with others. It’s difficult. Like over here, everyone is Malay, easy. No problem at all).
I gave her an awkward smile. The kind of smile I usually give when my mind goes totally blank.
On my way home, I remembered a friend of mine from a kampung in Kedah. Even though she had been living in KL for some twenty years and had friends of all races and religion, she had some peculiar traits – such as only allowing her kids to swim in the pool and play in the playground when no non-Malay kids were around.
I once asked her why – she simply said she did not trust non-Malays.
I wonder if most Malays are like my friend and the ‘kakak’ – while acting friendly, and treating people of other races and religions respectfully, they continue to harbour a deep yearning to keep certain things exclusive.
Perhaps this could explain why many Malays support this kind of exclusivity even as they chant support for movements like “Bangsa Malaysia” and “Malaysia for Malaysians”. Even in forming new parties meant to break the dominance of the older parties, the Malays continue to protect their exclusivity. It is as if they HAVE to be among their own kind or else —
Why is that so? I really do not understand it.
I remember reading a story about the Prophet Muhammad SAW not too long ago. One day, while the Prophet was resting, he witnessed the funeral procession of a Jewish man – the Prophet instantly stood up in respect. When his followers asked him why he stood, the Prophet replied – “Is he not a human being?”
Similarly, the Prophet dealt with people of different religions as he did with his own followers. He sat with them, spoke to them, visited them in their homes, opened his own home to them and even hired them to work with him. There was never tension or estrangement in Prophet Muhammad SAW’s dealings with the non-Muslims.
According to the Prophet, accepting people of different faith and respecting them was a sign of strength, not weakness. Mixing with others was the best way to make non-Muslims familiar with Islam and with Muslims as a people. It also broke down barriers between people and created opportunities for them to learn about each other properly.
The Prophet knew how society functioned, hence he acted accordingly.
Funny though, our Malay brothers and sisters also know how our society functions, yet prefer their own pact. Why?