Monday, February 9, 2009

Once upon a time...

It was very hectic for me the whole of last week. But as I was leaving the office on the very last day before the long weekend, a very good Chinese colleague of mine popped over at my desk and uttered, “Amir, happy Thaipusam, hope you have a good one!”

I was absolutely speechless as I sat there smiling away at him thinking how this is the second time someone wishes me for something I don’t celebrate, in which the first was during Deepavali last year.

Now, I was in no way offended by those obviously sincere well wishes. There was nothing offensive about it. None at all! But it occurred to me just how little we know about each other, even amongst Malaysians. IF this were to come from a stranger, I would perfectly understand especially since I look the way I look (a.k.a STUNNING!!). But coming from a fellow Malaysian friend who knows my name, I expected him to know better. He obviously knew my name, and most Malaysians would know that Amir is a Muslim name. Colleagues from the older generations tend to get it right, based on experience.

It saddens me to think that current generations (my generation not spared) have a rather parochial interest and an even a narrower viewpoint. How many of us actually knows what Chap Goh Meh signifies? How many of us could detail the concept of Trinity as per what the Christians believe? How many of us knows what the Quran is all about? It doesn’t make you less of a Muslim if you know the basic tenets of Hinduism. It doesn’t make you less of a Hindu if you know the basic tenets of Christianity. It doesn’t make you less of a Christian if you know the basic tenets of Buddhism. And it doesn’t make you less of a Buddhist if you know the basic tenets of Atheism. Open your minds people! Learn about other religions so that you learn more about yours.

We speak so much about national unity, and how we need the different races to respect each other. But believe me you when I say that having respect between the different races/religions do not even come close to the harmony that we all yearn for. It is merely accepting the cordial existence of the many races that we have. We will not achieve racial harmony just because the ministers, or even the prime minister for that matter, ask us to unite. There is no such thing as “Thou shalt have unity” and therefore everyone unites. Its hard work people, and it starts with taking an effort to understand the people around you especially those with different sets of beliefs. Knowing what other religions are all about. And learning keenly the cultures and traditional practices of the many races in Malaysia. But most importantly, doing all the above sincerely!

I shudder to think what may happen in the future if this goes unabated. It may seem like insignificant everyday occurrences, but it isn’t. Start taking small baby steps to get to know others better, and come what may, we will be prepared!