February 26, 2007

Who will air your dirty laundry?

There is a very cili padi article being circulated on the net, written by one Aussie (http://www.michaelbackman.com/LatestAgeColumn2.html). In it, he describes what is happening in our "boleh-land", on how we are wasting our country's resources such as the "RM95 million of our taxpayers' money that will be spent on space travel with little obvious technical benefits"; money that could otherwise be used for our ailing education system. Some Malaysians are very angry at him. A friend who read it says he has Tall Poppy syndrome. Mind your own business, says another.

Some of us don't know whether to be angry or to give him the thumbs up. Perhaps it's time someone said so publicly and so "tepat (accurately) at that." But why, oh why, must a Mat Salleh write it?

In the past, Alice Walker and Audre Lorde were black women who spoke out against the violence and silencing that black women faced in their community. For that they have been branded as traitors to the black cause, as if the cause is just for men. Minority women were saddled with double discrimination. First, by being a minority, and secondly, by being women.

Muslim women are in the same quandary. When they speak out against the constraints on Muslim women, they are branded as Western agents and traitors to Islam. In the Chinese community, covering up shameful deeds is called "saving face". Injustices happen in every community, and when such injustices happen, more often than not, the oppressed - or victims - will not have the luxury to choose who will help their cause. When there are few or none within their community who will hear them or give them a voice, who are we to blame if a foreigner does that instead?

By silencing those who seek justice, or simply being pathethically aphathethic ourselves, we would be allowing more opportunity for others to highlight the problem, and in the process, to unfairly emphasise negative aspects in our society. Why give reasons for others to appropriate our causes, others who may not really care for us, but are using our causes for their own agenda?

When there are any negative stereotypes of your religion or race being perpetuated, perhaps what is more effective in countering such prejudices, apart from just reasoning alone, is to speak out and actually do something to set things right. It is disappointing that there is a large proportion of "educated" adults who have not or do not at least speak out against injustices perpetuated by those within their own community. How many men out there are brave enough to speak out against sexism? I can think of one. How sad.

How many non-Muslims have spoken out against Islamophobia? And how many Malays spoke out against the polarising effects of speakers at the recent Umno meeting bent on using demagogy to fuel their short-term popularity?

Not many, unfortunately. Our "fight" is not against any perceived group of people; it is against injustice, as simple and as naive as that may sound. When we begin to create an atmosphere where we seek to understand and address concerns and realities of all communities, instead of just our own, perhaps then it would be easier to build bridges.

Do we want foreigners to air our dirty laundry for us? Not if we want to allow others to inflate their sense of ego, and certainly not if enough of our leaders show that they are listening to the rakyat. Until then, as they say, padan muka.

Published in The Sun, Mon, 27 Nov 2006 (http://www.sun2surf.com/article.cfm?id=16223)

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