The Three Faces of Malaysia

Art Harun

In just 10 days this year, I witness with absolute disbelief three faces of Malaysia.

A non-Muslim lawyer – apparently, he is an MCA man, whatever that may mean – allegedly wrote a letter to the Prime Minister and carbon copied the letter to some other parties. In the letter, he complained that he has been awaken from his nightly sleep, even at 5.45am, by the azan (Muslim’s call for prayer) which is broadcast loudly from the nearby mosque every morning.

He obviously found the azan annoying. Not to mention disturbing. That’s because the azan would wake him up from his sleep at 5.45am.

I am not going into the issue on whether in Islam, it is mandatory or even encouraged that azans be broadcast loudly over the loudspeakers, especially in areas where non-Muslims are known to reside.

I am also not going to delve into the practice, by some mosques and suraus, of not only broadcasting azans but also morning lectures and recitation of the Quran loudly over the loudspeakers. This is because the letter written by the lawyer was only about azan.

Let’s start from the obvious.

We live in a multi-ethnic-faith country. On Fridays, non-Muslims have to endure traffic jams in areas where mosques are located and near such areas. Muslims would be parking their cars – some double park and some even triple park – near the mosque during Friday prayers.

On Sundays, Muslims and non-Christians would have to endure traffic jams in areas where churches are located when Christians, in turn, do the same in order to attend their Sunday mass.

Off and on, Muslims, Christians and people of other faiths, have to endure some Hindu celebrations. Take the Batu Caves processions for example.

Then we have the Buddhists or Chinese celebration. Loud drums and firecrackers for example.

As a people, we accept those kind of things as part of our daily metropolitan life. Even if some of us do not accept them, we tolerate them. We do so out of respect for our friends and their faith. We do not question them. We do not oppose their acts.

We don’t do so although sometimes we are inconvenienced by such acts. But the colours of our life and the conscious joy of knowing that by not objecting we are deliberately partaking in this beautiful celebrations of life far outweigh the inconvenience that is caused to us and our daily life.

Frankly, I find the lawyer’s complaint about the azan rather unreasonable, if not downright rude. If he was complaining about the loud recitation of the Quran or the whole morning ceramah being broadcast  from 6am, I might say a different thing. But to complain against the azan is, I think, unreasonable.

This is the face of Malaysia which is becoming more and more conspicuous nowadays. More and more pronounced. More and more frightening. The face of intolerance.

This is sad. Because Malaysia used to be one not only in display but in substance. And really, if no effort whatsoever is taken to address this underlying cross-race-faith intolerance or un-acceptance, a bigger and uglier disaster awaits all of us, I am afraid to say.

If I find the first act unreasonable and sad, the response the act was almost, in current climate, predictable. After Friday prayer, about 100 members of Pekida demonstrated outside the mosque. Banners were unfolded. Effigies were burnt. I mean, why am I not surprised?

Muslims around the world just love burning thing. In Malaysia, we not only burn things (this is not restricted to Muslims as the recent burning of the book Intelok would prove), we spit and stomp on things. We even severe a cow head and carried it all over town, blood and all.

(If I am permitted to digress here. Why is it that Muslims only demonstrate and burn things when non-Muslims are perceived to have insulted Islam? Muslims are not seen to have done so when fellow Muslims kill other Muslims. Like when the Shite kill the Sunnis and the Sunnis bomb the Shite mosques and kill 67 non-Sunni Muslims, for example. I don’t understand.)

That the demonstration reeks of political motivations is obvious. YB Nurul Izzah, the PKR Memeber of Prliament for the area concerned, was asked what her stand was on the issue. Her calm and collected response and call for calm was, in my opinion, a measured one. And the correct one too.

If anybody needs proof that the next General Election is not going to be fought on issues affecting the economy and well being of the nation, he or she just need to look at the utterly sickening issues being churned out over the last two weeks.

Umi Hafilda. The azan issue. The Selangor state secretary issue. These are the three main issues creeping out from the bowels of our politicians in the past two weeks.

Yes. Forget about how Petronas’ money is being used. Forget about what economics plans we have to counter our over-dependence on the US economy. Forget about how in a country hosting and boasting of the largest oil palm company in the world there seems to be a shortage of cooking oil. Forget about the real issues.

Because I foresee the next General Election is going to be the worst General Election in terms of utter madness and gutter politics. Mark my words. Zaid Ibrahim’s photo-shopped picture with some bottles of brandy during the Hulu Selangor by-election would be chicken feet as compared to what will be forthcoming in the next GE.

Thus the second face of Malaysia over the last week was predictable. And there is no hope of it going away. All that we can do is to pray hard. Pray hard that it would not affect our sanity.

The exact aftermath of this whole azan issue is almost comical. According to a certain Minister, the issue was resolved when the “MCA man” has agreed to move out from his home.

Yes, ladies ad gentlemen, in Malaysia, that is how we solve problems. If you do not like it, you leave.

At this juncture, it would not be out of place to quote what Zaki Azmi, the Chief Justice, said last week. He said he is so proud of the judiciary as it is now the best in the Common Law countries. He is even prouder because, according to him we do it “the Malaysian way.”

Yes. The Malaysian way.

And that, to me, is the frightening part of it all. The Malaysian way. We do not have space technology. No problem. Buy a seat on a space tour and call our participant an astronaut. Better still, get a space agency to certify that he is an astronaut.

Industrialisation anybody? No problem. Form a company. Use someone else’s engine. Knock it into some old chassis. Impose APs and stratospheric taxes for export cars. Make our “national cars” cheaper than the rest. There you go.

The Malaysian way.

Back to the issue at hand. Yes. The “MCA mystery man” has agreed to move out. And so the problem is solved.

What about his deep seated intolerance of the azan and his underlying anger? What about the mobs who demonstrated, burning effigies and carrying wild banners, displaying a serious disability to engage in a civil manner? What about the larger picture of current Malaysia in a boiling broth of inter-race-faith discontent?

No. Problem is solved. Move on please.