When will kindness prevail?

B Y D AT U K ZA ID I BR AH IM , SPE CI AL T O T HE MA LA YSI AN IN SID ER J UL Y 2 4, 20 13 L AT EST UP DA TE : J UL Y 24 , 2 01 3 0 4: 48 PM

Securi ty guards patrol at the entrance of Sekolah Kebangsaan Seri Pristana today. - The Malaysian Insider pic by Nazir Sufari, July 24, 2013.Another

school fiasco has taken place if the reports about the

schoolchildren in Sekolah Kebangsaan Seri Pristana in Sungai Buloh are correct. The children were required to use the changing room next to the toilet as a makeshift canteen because the canteen itself was closed for the fasting month. Predictably, the DPM has ordered a probe and probably the other education minister will express some regret over the incident. This is not the first time such ugliness has marred our school halls. In 2010, the principal of Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra in Johor made it to the news for making racial remarks against her Chinese and Indian students. Typically, in such incidents after the furor has died down all is forgotten.

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Then another incident unfolds because Malay and Muslim administrators do not think non-Malays and non-Muslims are important enough to be treated with respect and dignity. What has happened is the result of heightened Malay-Muslim consciousness, promoted by politicians and Islamic bureaucrats who-under the cloak of race and in some cases religion or both-want to be identified as champions of their race and religion. But by invoking false ideologies of patriotism and Islamisation, they have invaded the public space and filled the minds of the people with so much indoctrinal nonsense that some Malays and Muslims have forgotten basic human decency and moral values in their interpersonal relationship with others. The process has numbed the conscience of these administrators, a condition described by our Malay elders as "hilang hati perut". It means they have lost their sense of fairness, empathy and understanding and can no longer appreciate the consequence of their actions on others who do not belong to their group. They simply no longer care enough. These false champions of their race and religion then blame non-Malays and nonMuslims for being insensitive. Just this morning a deputy minister blamed the Chinese for organising a beauty contest knowing about the fatwa issue, implying the Chinese must also follow the fatwa. Some silly bloggers may have given them the ammunition to justify what they say, but by and large, non-Malays and non-Muslims have always been respectful of Malays and Muslims for as long as I can remember. For many years after independence, the Chinese and Indians have always stayed in the background and known their place under the Malaysian sun. In fact, their reluctance to be involved was interpreted as apathy and unwillingness to be involved in nation-building. Now, the younger generation wants to have a say and for that they are accused of being ungrateful.

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Suddenly, these young Malaysians are being labelled as unpatriotic. A special course on nationhood has been invoked by no less a figure than the Regent of Perak, implying that non-Malays and non-Muslims are found wanting in their sense of national loyalty. On the contrary, I believe that, if at all, the ones who need to undergo a course on nationhood are Malays and Muslims who have forgotten that there are Malaysians who are unlike them. I am tired of listening to some of our so-called leaders hand out their prescriptions for what ails the country. The non-Malays and non-Muslims must stand up for their rights; because only then will we have a country of equals. The Malays will also benefit from this situation where people are treated as they should be treated, with fairness and equanimity. The real culprits for the present day distortion are the Malays who always blame the Chinese for their shortcomings, and the false Muslim preachers who teach the Muslims to have an all-consuming fear of God but then conveniently forget that Allah commands us to look after our fellow beings more than ourselves. What ails the country are these false teachings and false ideologies that are bereft of human decency and dignity, making meaningful relationships among the people of this country difficult to achieve. So on his 60th birthday, can we have our PM (Prime Minister) say and do something that will right the moral compass of good behaviour between Malays and nonMalays? Remove the distorting prism that guides our present actions purely on the basis of race or beliefs. Can we agree that Malaysians of whatever group are human beings first, and that they deserve equal and fair treatment? Advanced countries put a premium on developing a caring and compassionate society and so should we.

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Success certainly cannot be measured by GDP (gross domestic product) and per capita income alone. - July 24, 2013.

Wanted in Malaysia: Empathy
N EW S A NA LY SI S B Y T HE MA LA YSI AN IN SID ER J UL Y 2 4, 20 13 L AT EST UP DA TE : J UL Y 24 , 2 01 3 0 1: 03 PM

How did Malaysia come to this point? Where billions have been spent on national unity programmes, Bangsa Malaysia initiatives and grandiose 1Malaysia schemes and yet EMPATHY for each other is so glaringly missing from daily life. The Oxford Dictionary defines empathy as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Some may see it as "standing in someone else's shoes" or "seeing through someone else's eyes". Whatever the definition, implicit in it is a feeling of compassion for another. If the feeling of empathy courses through the veins of Malaysians, we would be very slow to ridicule the religious practices of another or even place each other in racial pigeonholes. Very slow. Because we would feel the hurt that a wayward word or action could cause another group of Malaysians. In addition, we would be quick to condemn or disapprove of behaviour not in keeping with our national psyche. That is why the incident at SK Seri Pristina in Sungai Buloh is disappointing, depressing and frankly, deflating. Why couldn't the headmaster put himself in the shoes of the non-Muslim students and see how wrong it was to make them have their canteen break in a shower room during the fasting month? Why didn't the afternoon school supervisor put himself in the shoes of the parent who complained about the insensitive and unsatisfactory eating arrangement? Why didn't any of the teachers tell the headmaster or school supervisors that no Malaysian child should be treated in this manner in his own country?

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Anecdotal evidence suggests that an increasing number of Malaysians have grown calluses in our hearts and that as long as hardship or injustice does not affect our kin, it is not something to be concerned about. Unfortunately, in the Malaysia of today, our speed of response and empathy is dictated by race or religion, not citizenry or the simple fact that offering a helping hand or fighting for the cause of another is the right thing to do. Perhaps, it is a by-product of looking at everything in this country through racial and religious lenses and believing that everything is a zero-sum game. Perhaps it is a natural progression from a country where racial polarisation has reached a point where colour of skin trumps place of birth. Today, the children at SK Seri Pristina will be allowed to consume their food in the canteen. Not because the school administrators suffered an attack of conscience but because they are obeying an order from the Education Ministry. No empathy here just a grudging respect for the power on hiring and firing which the ministry possesses. In slightly over a month, the Malaysian government will put on another grand parade to celebrate Merdeka, roll out a couple of heart-tugging Petronas advertisements of Malays, Chinese, Indians, Sikhs and Kadazandusuns smiling and hugging each other. Increasingly, that picture of postcard-perfect happiness and love for each other only belongs in postcards and in advertisements. In most parts of Malaysia, empathy is missing. - July 24, 2013.

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