I am Muslim, and I am Malaysian: The story behind the #Iam26 petition


Tariq Ismail, Malay Mail Online

This is a call to Malay Muslims. This is a call to Malaysians.

For centuries since the Malaccan Empire to modern times, the Malays have lived and worked with other races. Our culture has been a melting pot of Chinese, Indian, Arabic and Indonesian and this is what makes Malays unique to the world.

Age old adats are still practised today and one Malay adat stands out above the rest — RESPECT. It has been ingrained within us since childhood to respect our elders, our neighbours and each other. But before we begin to respect one another we must first respect ourselves.

I grew up a spoilt brat within my own four walls as a result of my upbringing. I went to the best schools that were afforded to me and my lingua franca whilst growing up was English and Malay. But what held me together, and I thank both my parents and late grandmother Toh Puan Norashikin for this, was religion.

Without going into too much detail of how my religion was taught to me back then, there is one fundamental core that I subscribe to and which I wish to share with everyone — both Muslim and non-Muslim alike.

Apart from Quranic reading, I was always taught by the ustaz that Allah is supreme, the Quran is His word and only He judges. It is to Him we ultimately return to.

It is thus, that when Lyanna Khairuddin approached me with a petition to support the G25 I began to reflect back on what it means to be a Muslim. Here was a science lecturer who wanted to know more about Islam but was scared to ask due to the venom and hate that surrounds Islam today and much of it emanating from those who claim to defend Islam. She asked the same question that I have pondered myself every day for a year — Why is Islam perceived in such a negative manner by so many – including those defenders of Islam?

My being a Muslim and my own beliefs aside, I live in Malaysia. I was born here, my children were born here and it is here that we will live our lives out and, ultimately, die.

It is therefore in my personal interest as well as the interest of every Malaysian that Malaysia should remain peaceful, free from ethnic tensions and prosper.

In order to do so, we must become an inclusive society and anything that drives any divisions between Malaysians of different ethnicities or religions MUST be avoided.

Whatever one’s personal feelings may be, I feel it is imperative that all Malaysians cast aside any tendency to vent those feelings in a manner that may offend or threaten other Malaysians.

Insensitive statements by politicians, NGOs, illegal demonstrations, even irresponsible Facebook posts and teh tarik talk are all things that damage our nation and thereby hurts us ALL, Muslim and non-Muslim alike. It is only a question of degree.

We must realise that we are partners; brothers & sisters; and that we are all in the same boat together.

We are one and what hurts any part of us hurts us all collectively and instead of engaging in speech and activity which hurts us, we should resume the task of nation building and we need to build on each other’s strengths while recognising each other’s weaknesses.

Above all, we need to recognise that by focussing on the negatives, we compromise our unity and risk our nation being reduced to a shambles — to the detriment of us all.