I am a Malaysian and you better believe it

Raja Petra Kamarudin

I pride myself in being a true Malaysian. And there are many reasons why I adopt this most pompous attitude. And this is also why I look down on and treat with utter contempt those who harbour racial tendencies and go around thinking that their race and religion are the best and all others are crap.

I know Muslims have been taught and have been brought up into believing that Islam is the true religion and all others are misguided. True, as a Muslim I too believe in Islam; if not I would not be a Muslim. But this is no excuse to look down on all those of other religions or to insult them in any way. And while I do not tolerate Muslims insulting non-Muslims, I equally do not tolerate it the other way around.

As Kofi Annan said last year, “We are all children of Abraham.” Prophet Muhammad, in turn, said that there were 124,000 Prophets through the ages and God has sent a Prophet to every community, sometimes more than one at any one time. This means, no matter of what ethnic background or religious persuasion you may be from, present or past, God ‘recognised’ all and regarded all as ‘his people’.

So, does this not make all mankind brothers? Since Islam says all are descendants of Adam, then we are all related, one way or another. The only difference between us is the colour of our skin and the manner in which we pray to God. But is this reason enough to launch hostilities?

I was brought up the English way and did not really understand or practice Malay customs until I was in secondary school. In fact, I did not properly speak Malay either until then and I spent quite a few miserable years in the Malay College Kuala Kangsar being teased about it. ‘Mat Salleh Sesat’ was the irritating nickname they gave me back then.

Well, you can’t blame me really, for I spent my primary school years in the Alice Smith School, a school for children of Mat Salleh expatriates. There were only two Asians, if I could be considered that, I and Sarah Chin, a sweet Chinese girl who was my first girlfriend at the age of ten (well, some of us do start young).

In the Alice Smith School I went by the name of Peter Kamarudin, the name I am known by in my family till today, and not Raja Petra Kamarudin. (Petra and Peter means the same thing though; rock — one is Latin and the other Greek). Every morning was spent saying grace and our year-end concerts were about Jesus, the Three Wise Men, and so on, basically stories from the scriptures.

My first exposure to Malay and Islamic culture was in the Malay College. I was then 13 and it was certainly a culture shock for me and something I found great difficulty adjusting to. The constant teasing did not help much and I longed for familiar surroundings again. Ever wonder why I left a mere three years later for the Victoria Institution (VI) where I could be amongst Chinese, Indian and Sikh kids? My best friends in VI were Karim Kadir, Azizul Rahman, Onn Roslan, Rajadurai, Gurmit Singh, Lim Yong Boon, Teh Yim Seng, and a few other Malay, Chinese and Indian kids.

As a digression, Rajadurai was called ‘Tengku’ and I was called ‘Ang Mo Kwee’ (Red Haired Devil). Yong Boon was ‘Chee Chai’ (pig boy), Gurmit plain ‘Bai’, and Yim Seng ‘Taiko’ (big boss). Taiko decided what mischief we got up to for the day such as releasing the air in the head prefect’s motorbike tyres and so on.

Understandably, our gang was the terror of the school and we had to make daily trips to the headmaster, Murugesu, for our quota of six cuts. But we were thick friends and somehow we did not see each other as Malays, Chinese, Indians or Sikhs but as just comrades. We did everything together; skipped school, learnt how to smoke, went to see Rose Chan at the BB Park, even got into fisticuffs with the other gangs (yes, I can still deliver a wallop of a punch till today).

Sigh…now those were the good old days as far as I am concerned.

Anyway, we eventually left school, got married, pursued our careers, and just totally lost contact thereafter. I heard Rajadurai got murdered, stabbed to death. Onn died of lung cancer a couple of years ago while I don’t know where the rest are.

My family is a mixed bag as well. We have Portuguese, Chinese, Indians, English, Welsh, Malays, Filipinos, Siamese; and the Malays being of various ‘Mamak’, ‘Baba’, Arab, Bugis, Minangkabau, and so on, ethnic backgrounds. Our ‘family religion’ too varies. We have Catholics, Protestants, Muslims and Buddhists in our family.

Two of my cousins married Filipinos, one on my father’s side and the other on my mother’s side. One is Christian and the other Muslim. My wife’s sister is Buddhist who married a Thai. My wife’s mother is Muslim while her father Catholic. My two sisters married Englishmen and one of my brothers-in-law is Christian. My wife’s cousins married Chinese, Indian, Malay and Portuguese and some are Muslims and some Catholics. On my mother’s side they are all Protestants. (Have I missed out anyone?)

So, you see now why I say I consider myself a true Malaysian? And do you also see why I am pompous about my ‘status’? And do you now know why I look down on bigots and treat them with utter contempt?

Then I started Malaysia Today on 13 August 2004 and added this blog where readers are free to comment and debate without fear or favour in a no-holds-barred fashion. Then I see comments from readers where Malays insult non-Malays and vice versa, and Muslims insult non-Muslims and vice versa. And it upsets me.

I can no longer tolerate this so-called freedom of expression. I do not regard this as freedom of expression at all. In fact, I think it is downright impertinent and immature. How can I allow these racial and religious insults to continue? What if one of my relatives either on my mother’s or my wife’s side surfs into this site and read what is being said? And I am responsible for this website so I am ultimately responsible for the insults.

I am probably the biggest believer in freedom of expression. After all I did suffer Internal Security Act detention in 2001 because of this belief and I did start this site for that very purpose. But Malaysians must understand where debating stops and insults begin. And, if they don’t, then they do not deserve freedom of expression and I shall end this experiment with no hesitation.

I am prepared to give Malaysia Today a second chance. I lose nothing from closing it down (or at least closing the blog) as I earn nothing from this site. In fact, it costs me money to run this site as I need to pay the writers. Those who lose are those who would like a platform to express their views and opinions and to have a sounding board to reveal all the excesses, abuses and transgression of the powers-that-be.

So, it is your call. The ball is at your feet. If Malaysia Today can help unite all Malaysians of different ethnic backgrounds and religious persuasions into one solid race, then I will continue. But if all Malaysia Today achieves is to divide Malaysians even further, then I will pull the plug. Umno and Barisan Nasional are already doing a great job at promoting racial and religious polarisation. It does not been Malaysia Today’s help.

So what is it going to be guys? Will we use Malaysia Today to find a common ground and come together or are we going to use it to start a race or religious war? Can we start debating on where we concur rather than harp on where we differ? And there are a lot of concurrences if we look deep enough. It is just we are not looking hard enough.

And to all those Malays, Chinese, Indians, Portuguese, Arabs, Indonesians, Filipinos, British, Americans, Australians, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists who think they are better than the rest, I have only one thing to say to you: got to hell and please don’t contaminate Malaysia Today with your bigotry!