By Mohsin Abdullah
A nice and proper way to start new year greeting to all Chinese, especially those I know personally, is by reminiscing the good old days when I had the pleasure of celebrating amidst harmony,love and happiness.
But I hope it's not rude or against Chinese customs or culture to give a not happy picture to mark a happy occasion.
For starters. I’m sorry if I offend anyone. It’s not my intention to do so. Please bear with me.
It's like this. A couple of weeks ago I was with my wife and her siblings having breakfast in a café in Kuala Lumpur. Also with us was my sister-in-law’s granddaughter who has a development disorder, a sort of Down syndrome. She’s 18 but looks like a kid. She can talk and move about on her own, though.
The café we were at was not too spacious. Hence the seats around one table are quite close with the ones at the next table.
Anyway, as we were sipping coffee, hot chocolate and enjoying the toasts, croissants and what not, when this niece of mine, yes the one with the Down syndrome, had to go to the rest room, she stood up and in doing so she pushed her chair against the chair of a Chinese lady sitting at the next table. It was just a slight knock. Nothing catastrophic so to speak.
But the reaction of the Chinese lady, or should I say woman albeit not old, caught us by surprise. Despite my Down syndrome nice apologizing profusely the woman was visibly upset. No, not upset but angry. Very angry.
In fact, her entire family (and there were many of them of all ages) were also angry and were giving my niece dagger sharp stares. If stares can kill, my niece would have been killed. Pardon the expression.
And all them, except for small children with them who were too young to know what was happening, were murmuring, rumbling and grumbling in Chinese.
Although my family and I do not speak Chinese, we could sense they were talking obviously not nice things about this niece of mine. About the Malai.
My wife intervened and told the Chinese family it was just a minor thing by a girl who is has got Down syndrome. And she had said sorry many times.
And by that time my wife, tolerating and patient that she was, could not help but said to the Chinese family that we had never been racist and never had any dislike for the Chinese. But this time we had a distinct dislike for this family who are Chinese. Not all Chinese but only them.
Long story short as we were at the cashier paying our bill, some Malay folks who were also leaving told us that Chinese are racists and they simply hate Malays.
I suppose that Chinese family must have had some bad experiences with Malays previously or were very angry at incidents involving Malays and even the pro-Malay policies of the government for them to have such hatred for the Malays. Yes, it was hatred which I myself felt it.
A sort of tic for tac, just like when a Chinese company wanting only Chinese to work for them. Malays would react but the Chinese would say that in Malay companies, especially in government service, it's always a Malays-only policy that is being observed. So, they ask why can’t Chinese take care of Chinese when the Malays take care of the Malays? There are many other examples, incidents etc. naturally.
And the accusation has always been -- you started it first. Accusation leveled at each other with the Malays saying the Chinese started it while the Chinese saying it’s the Malays who started the ball rolling. It is nothing but a vicious cycle.
The fact of the matter is that there are racists among all of us. There are bad Malays as there are bad Chinese. And that applies to all other communities.
I hope I do not sound “preachy” or like I am giving a sermon when I say we should not generalize.
Of course, politicians love to fan racial and religious sentiments for their own benefit. It is us who should call them out. It is us who should reject divisive politics although I admit many among us lap up all the racial and religious rhetoric lock, stock and barrel. Sad to say the least.
Hence we come to this new year. the Year of the Rat. Can we eradicate racism totally? No.
Will the new year see an end of racial and religious division among us? If we generalize things, the answer is also a “no”. But as said earlier, we must not generalize.
There are many good Malaysians. We have seen Malaysians of various communities living in harmony who want to continue living in harmony. There are many among us who are color blind. If not total then it's partial, good enough for now. And let's leave the bad apples to their own to rot.
Therefore I look forward to the Year of the Rat to fight racism and not fall prey to lies, innuendos and insinuations with regard to race and religion. The haters will continue hating and fan sentiment. We just have to reject them.
I read an article online at thechinesezodiac.org which says the Year of the Metal Rat is going to be a strong, prosperous and lucky year for almost all Chinese zodiac signs.
And I quote: ”Everyone will show determination regarding their goals, aspirations and even their hobbies. This is great year for founding and evolving.”
I know you don’t need a Malay to tell you this but I’ll say it anyway. I learn long ago from my Chinese friends at St John’s Institution Kuala Lumpur and my many family friends, that the Rat is the first sign from the 12 animal cycle of the Chinese astrology. Hence, for this reason 2020 is considered a year of new beginnings and renewals.
Let's pray for prosperity and good health, and together we chart new beginning, particularly which concerns race and religion relations. Let's renew ties that we had lost if indeed we have lost it.
I am proud to say I’ve never lost my love and affection for all Malaysians (minus the racist and bigots) regardless of race and religion and will continue to love and cherish friendship with all. God willing.
GONG XI FA CAI everybody, from my family and I.
(Mohsin Abdullah is a veteran journalist and now a freelancer who writes about this, that and everything else.)