Will You Stand Up for Me?

A very close friend of mine surprised me with a question yesterday.

He asked, “Fa, I know we are close and I also know you love me to bits. But in the event non-Muslims are ordered to leave Malaysia one day, what would you do?”

I smiled and brushed his question aside, “That will never happen, Matt. You are as much a rightful citizen of Malaysia as I am.”

“With everything that is happening now, I don’t have that confidence anymore, Fa. But tell me please – if my family and I are chased out of this country, will you stand up for me?

“In a heartbeat,” I said.

Still unconvinced, Matt asked, “What if you know for certain that your family would be in danger if you stood up for me and my family?”

I paused. The image of my children and my parents came to my mind as I continued to stare into his blank face.

“Precisely.”

“That’s not fair,” I became defensive. “Safety of my family comes first. I’m sure you would do the same too if the tables were turned.” I felt the need to justify my response.

“Nah. I don’t have the confidence that the people I love so much will fight for me and my family. In the end – Muslim friends, colleagues and neighbours will not be willing to risk their comfort and safety to help a Cina like myself.”

“That’s not fair, Matt. You cannot say that. I am not the bad person here,” upset with his reply, I lashed out.

“It’s okay Fa, I am not blaming you. If we were in China and you were the minority asked to leave the country, I would think twice before standing up for you too. It’s very human,” Matt replied.

My conversation with Matt hit a chord. It got me thinking.

“Will the Muslims stand up for our non-Muslim brothers and sisters?”

You see, a society is a complex system which is based on a structured framework. Each part of the system has to work together to preserve solidarity and stability in order for it to work efficiently.

But a society like ours needs more work and effort simply because we are vastly diversified. Between our different religions, races and languages, comes hundreds of years of history of how we ended up being a part of this land.

To expect people to ignore our differences and focus on our similarities isn’t an easy task. And its obvious that even our government is not doing enough to make our highly complex society any simpler to understand, much less appreciate.

Just look at what we teach our children in school.

While Muslim students attend religious classes to learn Islam, non-Muslim students learn Pendidikan Moral (Moral Studies). Shouldn’t Muslim children also be learning about Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism while non-Muslims, Islam? Is that not how we can create some sort of mutual understanding and a path towards achieving a society that practices better tolerance?

Yet our government seems more focused on the “divide and rule” system. Perhaps it is about time we ask them “why”.

Every now and then when we begin to unite and bond as one great nation, some racial- or religious-laced incident takes place, threatening our solidarity and, having a domino effect, we fall apart. Why are we so fragile? Are we going to snap every time someone steps on our toes?

Matt’s question makes a lot of sense now. I understand his worries.

Matt is like me in so many ways – he was born and raised in Malaysia; his family and friends are all here; every memory he has, is linked to this country. This is where he belongs. This is his tanah air as much as it is mine.

How excruciating it would be for me if I was made to feel I do not belong in my own home.

Perhaps if I was more vocal in assuring him of my support; perhaps if every Muslim stood up for their non-Muslim friends, there would be greater solidarity among us. As we team up to fight against evil and injustice, we should also hold each other’s hands and look out for each other too.

Like other non-Muslims, Matt is a minority, but that does not mean he has to be enslaved by the decisions of the majority Muslim population. You see, while people think the majority has more power and the ability to control the powerless, I believe being a majority means having to be more responsible.

Yes, as the majority, it is the responsibility of every Muslim citizen in Malaysia to protect and care for our non-Muslim brothers and sisters. We must show our support and convince them that we will look out for them. And I must convince Matt that I will stand up for him.

It is my wish that the majority Muslims of Malaysia will stop participating in matters regarding our nation in a passive manner. Our strongest weapon is our voice. Let our voices be heard.

Let us give our non-Muslim brothers and sisters a reason to have faith in us again. Let us give them a sense of hope.

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