The recent debate on the Education Ministry move to implement the learning of Jawi in the national Bahasa Melayu curriculum has been discomforting.
It is actually an idea that stemmed from the previous administration. Jawi or khat is actually a form of writing, a script that can actually be used for any language.
Following this, an entire race debacle started. I have seen hateful racist comments on most, if not all social media platforms.
Veteran politician Lim Kit Siang, who said learning Jawi doesn’t make him less Malaysian, came under fire, receiving hate comments particularly from Malaysian-Chinese.
Then, the service centre of a DAP state assemblyman was egged because he claimed the party has disappointed and betrayed the Malaysian-Chinese community.
I am angry with what has been happening. As a youth, I’m disappointed.
We pride ourselves in our diversity but we let six measly pages turn into a racial dispute and distract us from major issues. We hold on to our egos disguised by culture, in fear of losing because learning another language means we’re less of who we are. As if our ethnicity depletes the moment we open our minds to other cultures.
We are so quick to point out the racism in others, but we don’t see our racist response towards others. We only want to celebrate cultures in a specific way or if others’ cultures meet our “required” standards.
A friend once shared an article with me about privilege from ‘Language and Silence: Making Systems of Privilege Visible’ by Stephanie M. Wildman and Adrienne D. Davis. The authors pointed out how there are different forms of privilege.
We are able to be both the oppressed and the oppressor at the same time. For example, racial “preferences” when it comes to renting out rooms or homes. When I was looking for rooms to stay in Kuala Lumpur, many signs read “Chinese only”. Yet, we call out the compulsory learning of khat, claiming it to be “Islamisation”.
The questions we need to ask ourselves is do we want to continue having the same arguments? Or do we take tangible action to learn how to respect one another, living with genuine love and harmony?
As a nation, are we ready to step out of our comfort zone and call ourselves out on racism so that we may grow? Or shall we settle for mediocrity by just tolerating one another?
If we continue to let the barriers of our race dictate when and how our country moves forward, the younger generation will experience a much larger effect of racism than we ever will. One that scarily, has the possibility of bloodshed.
This Merdeka month, I hope you know that this is not what Malaysia means. This distraction shouldn’t keep us from moving forward. It is a challenge we should have overcome decades ago. Our personal agendas for “our own kind” must be thrown out of the window so that we can work together for a Malaysian Malaysia.
I believe that a great country consists of not just great leaders, but the people who stand united, collaborating to achieve goals together. It is the small habits that shape our society. We must constantly strive to create better habits for our nation. Even the most basic ones matter, such as disposing of our garbage properly.
We have the power to change the nation. We decide how we move forward. We will never be perfect, of course, but taking an extra step to be better will provide us a bright and sustainable future.
Lastly, as Malaysians, we must never lose hope. Don’t let the amount of negativity you see now, cloud your mind and tell you “hopeless la Malaysia, confirm cannot wan.” If we give up, then only confirm cannot wan. There is still hope for change – but only if we believe we can.
To end, here’s a quote from our founding father, Tunku Abdul Rahman:
“We are all Malaysians. This is the bond that unites us. Let us always remember that unity is our fundamental strength as a people and as a nation.”
This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13. Main image by Halim Henry Berbar.