As promised humour.
Q: “So, you want to become an American?”
A: Yes, sir. Yes, sir, three bagsful, sir.
Q: That much?
A: Yes sir.
Q: How do you happen on that much?
A: Wool, sir? I pulled it off my eyes sir.
Q: What will you tell the Americans?
A: Only the truth, sir. I will tell them I am an ethnic minority. Not at all well-connected and unfit for government subsidies, scholarships and loans.
Q: Why are you going to America?
A: To better myself. I am going to America to see the Lady of Liberty.
Q: What prior relations have you had with her?
A: None whatsoever, sir. But she stands arms stretched out to welcome me, sir.
Q: Are you aware that you are lying?
A: I am not lying, sir.
Q: There is a foul odor…..
A: I think perhaps, the truth stinks, sir.
Q: Why are you not anti-American?
A: How can I bite the hand that is feeding me, sir?
Q: So, you eat. Do you keep the fast?
A: As best I can, I try not to eat in public, sir.
Q: So you eat in private?
A: Three times a day. During the fasting months, I observe the religious police, sir.
Q: Have you encountered police brutality?
A: Only one black eye.
Q: You are black all over. I cannot see your complaint. Our folk are very emotional ..what to do, we are born that way. We have to forgive and forget. Can you forgive the officer who gave you the black eye?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: Can you forgive America for invading Iraq?
A: What is there to forgive, sir? The Americans did us a favor. At a cost to themselves they rid the world of a mad, mad man …cut off the head of the great snake that…
Q: That is America?
A: Oh, no! Sir. I mean Saddam, Sir, he is a great snake…I cannot breathe when I think of him.
Q: Why do you not go to the UN? Why the United States?
A: Like the little red hen, sir, the American President went to the UN. Not I, said the dog, the cat, the pig….if the UN cannot help the President of the US, why would it bother with an individual like me?
Q: So you are in a disagreement with dogs, cats and pigs?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: Have you ever been against the prime minister of your country of origin?
A: We are 22 years, sir, and going strong. It is like marriage, sir, to a wife I can neither honestly love nor divorce. If she is always, (pardon the use of an American expression) bitching about the neighbors, then once, twice, three times, I can try to exert what authority I have as a husband but after that, it is up to the God who put us together sir. We have good relations, when I shut-up, sir.
Q: What is your position on Israel?
A: I have no position on Israel sir. Do they have one on me?
Q: Don’t turn the tables on me like that. Just answer the questions like this- yes sir, no sir.
A: Three bagsful, sir. I have no position on Israel, sir. I love America, that’s all, sir.
Q: Where the infidels gather! Why do you people flock there as if it were a place of religious pilgrimage?
A: Religion does not feed me, sir. I hunger for….
Q: Rice not good enough? You want bread?
A: Yes sir. I mean, no sir. I mean man does not live on bread alone, sir.
Q: Are you a believer?
A: Yes sir. If it weren’t for God, sir, I would not have these legs to stand on, this mind to think and this mouth to…
Q: Offend the national religion?
A: No sir. I just want to go to America on an airplane sir.
Q: You have indicated that you have a wish to go to America on an airplane. Why an airplane?
A: It is a commonly used means of transportation, sir. I can go by ship, if you’d much prefer, sir.
Q: Ship. Why ships?
A: America is a safe harbor, sir. Please let me go.
N.B: Charges filed as follows: Proselytizing an unknown God.
Blaspheming the known.
With UN intervention, the first two charges were dropped in the interest of multiculturalism. In the interests of internal national security and to avoid unnecessary confusion, terrorism charges were dropped. It’s not about you. Or is it?
©2004 Anushka Anastasia Solomon.
Notes & Thoughts:
In his book, The Future of Freedom, Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad, Fareed Zakaria writes; “The trouble with thundering declarations about “Islam’s nature” is that Islam like any religion, is not what the books make it but what people make it. Forget the rantings of the fundamentalists, who are a minority. Most Muslims’ daily lives do not confirm the idea of faith that is intrinsically anti-Western or antimodern.”
Mr. Fareed Zakaria also states that there is no simple link between Islam and repression. Given my life experience as a non-Muslim Malaysian woman writer/poet, in multireligious/multicultural Malaysia, I have to wonder then why so many bans on speech, religion and freedom in Malaysia? Why the current inability for Islam to let Ms. Lina Joy convert out of the faith she was born into? And why Dr. Mahathir Muhammad, the former Malaysian Prime Minister, spoke for 22 years against the west and expressed publicly his predominantly Muslim Government’s anti-Jewish policy while taking stringent punitive measures against powerless individuals who conflicted with his idea of reason?
I have not travelled as much as or studied as much as Mr. Fareed Zakaria. I like and respect him, having heard him speak in Denver. But the subject of my humour above is the reality of what happens in moderate Islamic Malaysia when a non-Muslim wishes to leave the country to pursue American education/ ideas of freedom/liberty. (Muslims are already conversant with Malaysian government policy having received tutition in the closed religious classes they attend) Young 18 year old non Muslims educated in the National Language in Islamist Malaysia are usually not conversant with the anti-Jewish sentiments of the Malaysian government, and are like all 18 year olds, naive and idealistic. I certainly was. Non Muslim Malaysians also do not qualify for the ‘Bumiputera‘ scholarships even though, they too are ‘sons and daughters of the soil‘, having been third, forth and fifth generation Malaysians.
The multipronged approach to building strong liberal democracies that is advocated by the Princeton Project on National Security ought to take into consideration these factors as well. Education and awareness can create a means of dealing diplomatically with an Islamic government.
For example, US universities and colleges need to require students from Muslim countries to take several compulsary credits on democracy, liberty and means of peaceful reform as part of their American degree requirements. These academic credits have to be taught on campus in the US. This would engage American and International students in a fruitful dialogue and fulfill the true purpose of Higher Education. An intensely writing based curriculm would also cause Higher Education to cease to be the soulless/valueless transfer of technology. The creation of minds capable of addressing the challenges and complexities presently before us is a valuable tool in fighting terror/repression/violence and propaganda.