I often sought among Malaysian leaders, men I could look up to. When the former Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir came into power, in 1981, I was a young girl, naive and idealistic. I read his book, The Malay Dilemma, and of all his anti-corruption efforts in the national newspaper, the New Straits Times, and bought all his arguments about the Malay-Muslims. As the privileged daughter of a Hindu Tamil, I often argued for ‘Malay rights and privileges’ at home as I felt it was a just cause given Rudyard Kipling’s “The White Man’s Burden”. As I grew up, however, I read further, reflected more and travelled to the United States where I saw and began to admire an alternative government and study a complex multicultural/multireligious society. The African Americans in the United States and the constant flow of new immigrants, their struggles…and finally, and almost always movement from stories of tragedy, pain, poverty and exploitation to triumph caused me to wonder about the spirit within the nation.
America. Americans. If a nation were to be defined by its leaders, there would be of course none who are perfect but the more I read of the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, the more I admire him. The more I read of Dr. Mahathir’s opinions in speeches and public texts, the less I found in him to admire. While the President of the United States’s religion caused him grief and struggle and a conscience that was afflicted as it ought to have been, Dr. Mahathir seemed to gain much of his popularity through rhetorical speech that was exclusionary. There was simply no place in his public opinions for one such as myself – a Malaysian Tamil girl vulnerable within the Hindu-Tamil culture for the private practices of the Hindu religion, the dowry and its’ preference for males and secrecy in worship.
Even if I were to have no other dreams but love of God, King and country and sought no honors or wealth but the safety of dwelling in the land, I understood that there was no place in Malaysia for me. Malaysia was being led on a path that ensured annihilation of her people, if not from outside, then certainly from within. Racial/religious politics has the ability to do this swiftly without the use of weapons/violence and is far more insidious for it is a corruption of man’s soul. Reflecting on this the other day, I realized something that struck me also as amusing, so I got up and wrote it down.
“If a man feels the need to wear his religion on his sleeve, then he has something to hide, something up his sleeve.”
This refers to all religious hypocrites throughout the ages. Even though Dr. Mahathir likes to demonize the Jews, I like to believe that he is a man well-intentioned towards his own faith. But he has failed to study how those whom he regards his enemies have overcome their own human struggles and humiliations as a people to stand clothed today, in dignity and honor. Both Dr. Mahathir and the current Prime Minister, Mr. Abdullah Badawi stand at the crossroads of faith. They can take a radical step to win over the Chinese Malaysian community by accepting and acknowledging a simple truth that does not conflict with the worship and practices of any true God or continue to reproduce for posterity the mistakes of a past generation and a past history.
Proverbs 11.”The Lord abhors dishonest scales
but accurate weights are his delight.”
The Chinese Malaysian community in Malaysia has produced two men who are exemplary in addressing the practical and living matters of our faith, integrity and scholarship in multicultural/multireligious society. I have not publicly expressed my admiration for former MP Lim Guan Eng and would like to take now a moment to do so. My criteria for men has always been not their religious fervor/their physical appearance for that like a romantic/sexual passion waxes and wanes but the integrity with which they stand on matters. These are the men I consider to be the best minds of our generation.
Former MP Lim Guan Eng – for coming to the defense of the 15 year old Malay-Muslim Malaysian Girl and gone to prision for her
Dr. Lim Teck Ghee who has resigned from his position because his ‘bumiputera‘ employer, Mirzan Mahathir, of the Asian Strategic and Leadership Institute, failed to defend its report on “Corporate Equity Distribution: Past Trends and Future Policy.”
I also applaud the actions of the Chinese Malaysians- see Newspaper ads back Lim’s courage– who have acted in support of the integrity of his scholarship and values.