Below is his personal observations of the the issues at hand that i personally think, warrant further and deeper reflection by all.
I was attending one of the talks held by a political party here in Penang. The speaker is graduated from Harvard University, was mainly talking about the reason of the victory of Obama, and how it can be reflected into Malaysian context. The speaker was excellent when he discussed lots of things that happened on the ground in America. However, what I saw was the eagerness of the audience on reflecting the situation in America that can be truly reflected on Malaysian context, maybe because they see that to achieve the level of maturity in politic, is for Malaysia to be like America.
A non-Malay Prime Minister of Malaysia?
To give the example of the eagerness, during the Q&A (question and answer) session, one of the audiences stood up and asked the question whether we can see a Non-Malay as a Prime Minister of Malaysia in the future? The speaker was quite smart when he said the question was also a race-based question. Yes, in my opinion, we don’t want a Malay or non-Malay Prime Minister. Instead, we want a Prime Minister who can represent all Malaysia, and be just to everyone. However, in the context of Malaysia, that are the same context with Britain, Spain, France and Germany, the Prime Minister must come from the dominant race, for the political stability. I will explain along the article below.
Let me share it with you. In America, they can claim to have an absolute equality because no one can claim they are the aborigines (of course not the Red Indian in this case), who started to build the country of America. There are Hispanic, American English, African American, and few other minorities. When no one has started building it from the beginning, so everyone was supposedly the outsiders. Therefore, everyone can be claimed as equal.
The equality enjoyed by the minorities in the Islamic Empire
The equality of the people was much alive during the Islamic Empire of Islam, starting from the Abbasiyyah, Umayyah in Spain, and Uthmaniyyah in Turkey. The question of selecting the Caliphate (Caliphate is more like the Secretary-General of the UN or the President of the EU) was not a problem whether it came from a majority or minority, since it was a monarch style. Therefore everyone was supposed to be equal to the law, where caliph was the most dominant amongst the people. However, this can lead to an autocratic and dictatorship when there was no check-and-balance and separation of power. Therefore, the system was superbly evolved from time-to-time, where the intellectual scholars (the ulama’), who did not have any political interest, will have the power to fire the caliph if they found the caliph was not competent to rule. In Uthmaniyyah Period, the same level of Ulama to the Caliph was called Sheikhul Islam.
However, the problem nowadays, some of ulama take this position not as a trust from the people, but rather a privilege.
In short, everyone was supposed to be equal, and there were no question of majority and minority, where everyone was subjected to their religious and cultures court. If it did involve the civil issue, they will be judged under the caliph’s law. (Still remember Undang-undang Kanun Kesultanan Melayu Melaka?)
You can see the system flourished most in the Umayyah Spain, where in the city of Toledo, the Jews, Christian and Muslims were building the houses next to each other. You cannot even distinguish the architectures of the mosque, synagogue, and church, except for the bell, the cross and the dome. They had built the religious place together in harmony without much prejudice.
During the Umayyad Spain time, the people from different races and religion has already achieved a great complexity and marvelous advancement of architecture, arts and sciences together when they had settle the much of the problem of power (politics), economy and languages.
The system has been used and evolved for a thousand year and has shown the success.
(This is a very brief explanation from the history of Islamic Empire).
A non-native British Prime Minister?
Another good example is Britain. Gordon Brown is a Scottish, which is part of Britain. Even though they have practice a good equality in democracy, however the exclusive Nationalist Party has gaining more seats. This is simply reactionary from the natives, as the native English sees more and more people who does not share their culture and religion, which is why they tend to become more exclusive. Do you think the minorities or the others who already become the permanent citizen can be the Prime Minister of Britain or Spain or President of France or Germany? I don’t think so.
In America, for more than 250years, the minorities are the one who fought for the equality. They just not demonstrating, provoking the government to provide the right, but they also engaged with the majority, and also speaks the majority’s language, which is the English language as their first language.
So how the minorities can be heard in Malaysia?
As I always think, this is not a one party’s work. It must involve both the majority and the minority. Like the minorities in America, they try to engage and speak the language of the majority. Even now, they still want to engage and solve the problem that affecting the majority, as they see the majority’s problems are their problem as well.
Bangsa Malaysia or United Malaysia?
There are two main actions that can be achieved in solving the problem. The first concept Bangsa Malaysia, is by having the same homogeneous identity in one country. It might see as practical ideally, however, it is against the nature of the people who want to maintain their culture and beliefs as their identity. We cannot simply coerce the various identities in a country into one identity, as the history has shown the failure in Turkey (the Kurdish issue) and Germany (The Aryan nation concept). Don’t forget the world war also!
The European people have learn much from this failure during the world war that happened before. That is why they come out with the concept of European Union, where they will be united in politics, economy and solidarity, at the same time appreciating the differences in religion and culture as a variance, not as a contradiction.
European Union in Malaysia?
What is more practical is United Malaysia, where everyone in the country takes Bahasa Melayu as their first language, and also putting the same effort for the justice and solidarity. This can be compromised by having letting their mother tongue and culture preserved and practice.
in the quran, Allah says about the differences;
O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).
The everyday practical way of unity
This morning I went to a Kampung to have my breakfast. I ate at a restaurant, owned by the Indian Muslim (Malay by constitution). While they sell the food, they let the Chinese to sell the drinks. Yes, business is the key word. In business, the main element is to satisfy the customer and have an optimum profit. Therefore, the Malay and the Chinese will work hand-in-hand without prejudices and understanding better when they go along the business.
Other ways to tackle the issue of unity
In other issues, the minorities need to be cleverer. They should be more concern with the issue of majority.
For example, the issue of Palestine is a global issue and problem, which really touches the majority Muslim in Malaysia. Therefore, why the multicultural political parties like DAP and Gerakan, and also Chinese based and Indian based party does not condemn the Israel attack on Gaza? Why can’t they organize a demonstration that can unite them with the majority? Even the European people are supporting the peace between the Palestine and Israel.
During the demonstration I went today, i didn’t see any Chinese or Indian except the press and the Chief Minister of Penang, Lim Guan Eng. So why we are not sensitive in this issue?
How many minorities NGO and political parties have done any social work in engaging and helping the people in FELDA, poverty kampung area and rural area? This is the core of the muslim area, where they rarely travel and meet other people rather than their race.
How many minorities NGO and political has organize talk with the Muslim majority in the Balai raya and the mosque? The multicultural DAP has won the parliamentary area in my hometown. However, I never see her even once coming to my area and have a conversation with the locals.
I don’t believe votes can change much of what we want in our country. Look what happen after the last election, where the relationship between the races has become worse than before with much prejudices. In addition to that, with the global economic problem that will affect us in months to come.
It must start with engagement, understanding and education. If the minorities in America speaks English as their first language and engage with the majority, why can’t the minorities in Malaysia do the same thing?
As much as I will engage with the conscious and enlightened minorities to fight for their rights, I do hope that they will do the same thing.
I do believe many young Malays want to end this problem. However, clapping one hand will not sound anything (bertepuk sebelah tangan tidak akan berbunyi). I believe all of us should do the same.
After all, we need time for the change to happen. I believe if we are sincere and trust each other, the concept of United Malaysia is achievable in the future.
Let’s begin the change within ourselves!