Making mountains out of molehills in Malaysia

CROSS OVER 'CROSSES': Like the writer, Malaysian Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin is tired of oversensitive Malaysians. Last month, he tweeted a selfie in front of houses in Langkawi with cross-shaped air wells which created a stir on social media. He remarked: "We waste too much time on stupid issues."


    Jan 15, 2016

    Making mountains out of molehills in Malaysia

    FOR a country that loves having laws to govern everyone's behaviour, Malaysia's people are very peculiar in how they ensure that people follow them.

    For some people, we Malaysians bring the full force of the law to not only punish them, but to also make an "example" of them to others.

    For others, we sometimes wilfully ignore the law and let them do what they want.

    Then, there are the people who ignore court orders because they say it conflicts with some other law. Why they don't get charged with contempt of court, I don't know, but I don't have to be a lawyer to think this is weird.

    Then, there are people who stretch (the meaning of the) laws to... do other things.

    Like assuming that fathers are the only parents of a child and therefore what they say goes.

    Additionally, there are people who make things up because it's a law that exists only in their head.

    A Muslim parent whose child goes to a Chinese school talked about how it was not enough for the religious studies teacher that there is halal food available in the canteen, but that the Muslim kids had to sit apart from their non-Muslim friends as well.

    Does she think that non-halal food can be breathed in?

    Some people will undoubtedly say that children have a habit of sharing food and utensils, so some may inadvertently eat some non-halal food.

    But even sharing all-halal food isn't very hygienic either and is something parents should teach their children not to do.

    Thinking about this story, I realise how common sense has slowly been taking a back seat over the last few years.

    Some people can really get hysterical over the most ridiculous things.

    The unnecessary hoo-ha over the eventually false story of pig DNA in chocolate comes to mind.

    Then, there is the obsession with the cross appearing everywhere. Apparently, if you live in a house where there is something that looks like a crucifix on the roof, you will change your faith as easily as you change your underwear.

    It never ceases to amuse me how, while Muslims find it so difficult to convert anyone else, all it takes to convert a Muslim to some other religion is the sight of a crucifix, a statue, hearing a song, drinking some water and even, as I was once privileged to be told, looking into the eyes of the Pope.

    Our faith is a delicate thing, which we hang on to by the thinnest wisp of a thread, vulnerable to whatever "infidel" breeze might blow our way.

    As it happens, I spent 12 years in a convent school where there were crucifixes everywhere, including a giant one on the roof of the school.

    Not a single one of the Muslim girls who studied there has left the faith. But maybe our generation are stronger than the people today.

    I don't understand why we are not ashamed to admit our faith is weak and that we should constantly protect it.

    Other people do not seem to have the same problem.

    I talk to young foreigners about the practice of Islam in Malaysia very often and, as far as I know, none has converted yet.

    I may have dispelled some stereotypes about Muslims, however, particularly the one about us having no sense of humour.

    Logic is not our strong point either.

    I saw a video where a uniformed man was briefing some academics on how to spot terrorists.

    He talked about their distorted beliefs about religion and their literal reading of the Quran.

    I thought he was doing a fair job until he decided to give some examples of people to be wary of.

    All of a sudden, he cited some of the most progressive people in the country as those most dangerous.

    The sheer illogicality was breathtaking. I think even the terrorists would be puzzled, because the very people he mentioned in the same breath as terrorist ideology are not exactly popular with the angry, head-chopping crowd either.

    The people wreaking havoc in Syria these days don't believe much in women's rights, for example.

    So does it make sense to label women's rights advocates as terrorists?

    But maybe the illogicality and nonsense are deliberate. Our people tend to look up to those in authority so perhaps when they say that black is now actually white, and good is now bad, we will simply believe it.

    That approach assumes that our people are all mildly intelligent and have shaky values to begin with. But it seems to work.

    Maybe, ultimately, that's the only thing about how we are governed that makes sense.


    The writer is a human rights activist who works on women, children and HIV/Aids issues. The views expressed here are entirely her own.