“How do you even love a country that does not love you back?”, asked writer Zurairi Abdul Rahman (pix) of his bangsa Malaysia audience who were mainly non-Malays.
Zurairi AR, as the Malay Mail Online columnist is better known to the reading public, claimed he understood the sentiments of Malaysians who wished to emigrate.
Zurairi said he sympathised with those who wanted equality, want for our country to be secular, and don’t want anyone to be treated as a “second class citizen”.
He shared this with listeners numbering around 90 who came to the Hari Raya open house commemorating the launch of ‘new’ NGO Bebas.
While Bebas had been introduced to the Malaysian activist world some time earlier, nonetheless yesterday’s event at Kelab Sultan Sulaiman in Kampung Baru, Kuala Lumpur marked its “official launch”.
Minorities encouraged to seek greener pastures
Zurairi told his listeners that they do not owe Malaysia anything.
The following is a passage quoted verbatim from Zurairi’s speech:
“Tetapi saya faham. Jika anda mampu, seriously by all means, never look back. Pergilah. Tiada apa yang menunggu anda di sini selain orang tua-tua dan sanak saudara… dengan perkembangan teknologi zaman sekarang, bukan susah nak bersua lagi. You don’t owe this country anything. Masa depan keluarga dan keturunan anda mungkin lebih baik di negara orang. Tiada sesiapa yang akan cuba mentadbir hidup anda, how to live your lives”.
(Translation: “But I understand. If you are able, seriously by all means, never look back. Just go. Nothing awaits you here save your elders and relatives… with the current growth of technology, it isn’t hard to keep in touch. You don’t owe this country anything. Your future and that of your descendants might be better in another land. No one will try to administer your lives or tell you how to live your lives”.)
Zurairi also added that he is someone who’s willing to admit to posessing the “privilege’ of being born a Malay male of a Muslim background, and at the same time he acknowledged that for minorities however, “every day is a struggle”.
In other words, Zurairi is implying that non-Malay, non-Muslim minorities do not posssess (the same) ‘privilege’ in Malaysia.
Does Zurairi furthermore believe that Malays do not have to struggle at all in their lives?
Taiwan is ‘progressive’ for allowing gay marriage
Zurairi also recounted his encounter with one Wade Kardaal, a Taiwan resident at the Asian Humanists Conference held in Manila last month, and alluded to the fact that Taiwan’s apex court had just legalised gay marriage and was thus “progressive”.
Below is the relevant extract from Zurairi’s speech:
“Seperti yang anda tahu, Taiwan baru-baru ini meluluskan perkahwinan untuk semua, bukan semata-mata untuk golongan hetero. Ini satu pencapaian yang tak tersangka di rantau kita, satu negara Asia, yang nampak kerdil tapi sebenarnya jauh lebih progresif”
(Translation: “As you all know, Taiwan recently legalised marriage for all, not just for hetero(sexuals). This is a remarkable acheivement for our region, an Asian country, seemingly small but actually much more progressive”)
Zurairi had said that according to this Taiwan residenthe spoke to, to be a better humanist “first you have to be a better man” and “for our (Malaysia’s) context, becoming a better man means becoming a better secularist, activist and human rights defender”.
The MMO journalist lamented however that his writings tended to be read largely within the confines of his liberal supporters.
“I have been writing 10 years. For those who write, it is easy to think that you are making a difference with your writing. But the reality at the grassroots is different. Sometimes what we write and read are all shared by the same echo chamber,” he confessed.
Despite his disappointment and depression, Zurairi still expressed his hope that the Malaysian ‘bebas’ freedom fighters would keep the “fires of change” alight for generations to come.
A fellow speaker at the event, ex-Bar Council chair Lim Chee Wee noted the failure of the government to consider the Bar’s proposed bills on National Harmony or otherwise repeal the Sedition Act 1948 due to the pressure of some Malay civil servant retirees.
Meanwhile, Bebas co-founders Azrul Mohd Khalib and Boo Su-Lyn talked about a “new beginning free of racial politics and identity”, and about equality and freedom of religion respectively.