I’m sure you’ve heard people saying “If you don’t like this country, leave”. But here’s the crucial question: what exactly is the kind of Malaysia that you’re supposed to like, which you must leave if you don’t?
The official version of Malaysia is that it is a multiracial democracy born this day in 1963, not long after a few other British colonies became independent.
Most of us are Malaysian citizens by virtue of being born to Malaysian parents (or at least to Malaysian fathers!). Some were naturalised after due process or playing a few football matches, and many others through the abuse of power of some powerful, well connected crooks.
Those latter actions were obviously wrong. Regardless of the identity cards they hold, the recipients are not Malaysians. They are clearly among those who should “leave”.
Our nation, along with many other former British colonies, came into being in the middle of the last century when nationalism, often boosted by socialism, was in tune with the post-war exhaustion of the colonial powers.
Indonesia had objected to the formation of Malaysia. Its president, Sukarno, started an armed attack, the “Konfrontasi”, which failed. The Philippines claimed Sabah, reverberations of which are still felt to this day.
The majority of Malaysians are Malays, a mix of many local and not so local peoples, bound together by customs and Islam.
The immigrant peoples, mostly Chinese and Indians, joined the Malays and the indigenous people, in becoming Malaysians. Of the indigenous people, we have the many Orang Asli tribes in the Peninsula and the larger groupings such as the Ibans and the Kadazan-Dusuns in East Malaysia.
But even among them, we also have the seafaring Bajau Laut of Sabah, people who have no papers that determine citizenship of a political state as today’s world demands, but who could claim to be as Malaysian as anybody else.
If we go back further, we’re all part of the long trek from the Rift Valley of Africa across the land bridge that extended to Australia. So, we’re all pendatangs to this land – migrants from Africa.
Singapore left Malaysia in 1965, and seemed to be doing all right. We had a major race riot in the Peninsula in 1969, with many repercussions felt to this day. The Bornean members of the federation meanwhile felt deprived of their rights as founding members of Malaysia – in essence being colonised by the “west” all over again!
But overall, we prospered as we’re blessed with bountiful natural resources, hardworking people and relatively good governance.
Things, however, started to slide in the 1980s.
Politics, which had been focused on nation building in earlier days, became fixated on tribalism and religion. Well-intentioned affirmative actions implemented after the May ’69 riots to ensure the economic rise of the Malay people, or officially the Bumiputeras, became much abused.
Like strong medicine, it can cure or it can harm if taken for too long. After a while, it became a bitter pill to swallow for the non-Malays, whilst it became a soporific, hallucinatory drug for the Malays.
Malay politicians started treating the many extra-constitutional affirmative action privileges as rights, and mostly ignored responsibilities. They battled for what was easy (quotas, discounts, special rights) instead of what was necessary but hard – education, health, self-sufficiency etc.
Islam has penetrated deeply into Malay politics. It’s not the Islam that led the early Muslims to conquer Europe and set up civilisations still admired to this day, but rather the Islam of ritual piety and culture wars.
An example is the recent new political issue about the apparently insidious and well- planned efforts to destroy the faith of the Muslims by bringing in…foreign musical concerts!
Jakim has been invoked as gatekeeper against such “invasions”. Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka are likely to be roped in to ensure that performances, if any, are only in Malay. Special Advisors to the PM will be appointed, and GLCs will be granted monopolies to organise such concerts. That is the Malaysian way.
If this puts Islam in a bad light, remember the ones who shout the loudest and the harshest in any religion are always the ones most frightened and insecure. It’s exactly the same here.
I have no idea who this Billie Eilish person is, who recently performed here and created so much controversy. I don’t know which football team he plays for, but I’m happy many enjoyed watching him perform, and that the country gained some respite and revenue.
Good for you Billie, and that Japanese chap Odori-San, and the German gentleman Herr Oktober and whoever else who comes here and follows the laws of the land.
Most of the Muslims I know have strong faith and aren’t intimidated by people having fun. My late parents would’ve said Billie Eilish is not quite their taste, but go ahead and watch her if you like.
The leaders busy churning up emotions are those who want to impose the rules and norms of Afghanistan or North Korea in Malaysia, against our own multiracial norms and mores, and especially against our laws and constitution.
They invoke the threat of the wrath of God because of this permissive culture. They would cite any natural disaster as proof of such wrath – which is easy because many of our natural disasters are caused by people like them destroying our own hills and rivers anyway.
Wrath of God? I give you Exhibit #1 – Afghanistan. They haven’t had peace for decades, maybe even centuries; can barely feed themselves, treat women like chattels, and are often visited by natural disasters like the recent earthquake. Those indeed do sound like the wrath of God.
Perhaps it would be good to have Billie Eilish go and play football there. The Afghans won’t have to worry about the wrath of God. After all, He can’t be any angrier with Afghanistan already.
We should be the ones to challenge those of our fellow Malaysians who want to emulate Afghanistan and North Korea, and who like to tell us to leave. Instead, we should tell them – if you don’t like Malaysia, you leave.
Editor’s note: Billie Eilish O’Conner, an American singer-songwriter, performed in Kuala Lumpur in August as part of her world tour.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.