01 September 2007

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at
http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com Please.
Wednesday August 29, 2007

A truly Malaysian dinner


We were all mixed up – Chinese, American, French, Irish, Javanese and I don’t know what else – and we ate the same food and enjoyed the same entertainment.

MY aunt celebrated her 80th birthday recently and her daughter, my cousin, had a party to celebrate.

Held at a hotel with an eight-course Chinese dinner, the evening gathered everyone from my family as well as my aunt’s and her daughter’s.

This meant that the relatives present that evening were Malays, Chinese (because my aunt is Chinese) and my cousin’s American in-laws.

I wore a Nyonya-style sarong kebaya in homage to my aunt’s heritage while my best friend, who is married to my cousin, wore a cheongsam. There were baju kurung, sari and dresses, while men wore batik shirts or suits.

To me, that room was Malaysia. I looked around that room with pride because all these people were family or related to me by marriage. And we were all mixed up. We ate the same food and we enjoyed the same entertainment.

At the same time I felt sad because I knew there were people outside that room who would have clucked in disapproval.

There are people who think we should not greet people of other races and religions. Yet that would mean I couldn’t greet my own relatives.

There are people who think we should not share meals with people of different faiths. But isn’t it when we share a meal that the best spirit of warmth and understanding among friendly conversation is born?

In my family I have relatives who are Chinese, American, French, Irish, Javanese and I don’t know what else. But we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about race and nationality. I never thought of my aunt as Chinese until her party, at which time I felt proud.

There may be people who think well, it’s okay to accept all these different races into your family because after all, they had to become Muslim. Well, that is true.

But the foundation of our respect and love for each other is not the fact that we all have the same religion but because the same ties of loyalty and unity that every family enjoys bind us too.

After all, there are certainly mono-religious and mono-ethnic families that quarrel and break up too.

I kept wondering if families like ours would be possible in 50 years if some people have their way. Would our society be as welcoming of other races as we have been?

I worry about the type of supremacist ranting that we hear these days and think who in their right mind would want to marry into families of another ethnic group?

After all, marrying may change your religion, but it doesn’t change your race. Wouldn’t you always wonder if your in-laws thought you were inherently inferior?

I conducted a small poll recently to ask people how they felt as our 50th Merdeka nears. An overwhelming 84% said they felt sad because we were going backwards. I can well understand that.

I had to take my daughter out of a national school because I felt that she was not learning to be Malaysian there. How ironic is that?

As an impressionable young child, she was learning very early to differentiate everyone by race and religion, with the underlying assumption that hers was superior to everyone else’s.

Her friends were doing the same. It was not the environment I wanted for a child who has siblings who are only partly the same race as her.

If race and religion are the primary criteria for one’s choice of friends, what about values like honesty, loyalty and mutual respect that are normally the ones that we look for in our friends?

Do they become secondary? Do we have to assume that the only people who will treat us well and who deserve our respect are those who, by total chance, share the same ethnic genes and faith as us?

A Malay father was telling me how the Malay teachers in the Chinese school his kids go to treat them. He taught them to always greet their teachers respectfully when they see them.

But those particular teachers refuse to return the greetings. Is this what good Muslim adults should be teaching children?

We celebrate our 50th anniversary of independence in a couple of days, yet we have not freed ourselves from mindsets that are narrow, communalist and intolerant.

Some people are threatening to wipe out our entire legal history by throwing out our present legal system and substituting it with one that has rarely been applied with any true sense of justice.

Today, there are people who think our present Constitution was a mistake. If these moves mean we have progressed, then we are living a joke.

I am going to celebrate Merdeka with a little neighbourhood tea party. After all, our little street is a microcosm of the Malaysia we love. So why not get together?

Maybe in the future, gatherings such as this will be forbidden. I will surely grieve then.