Thursday, November 19, 2015

When Love Strikes

I have had nightmares for two days this past week. They are almost similar in context: I am either crying or distressed over discrimination faced by Muslims in the West following last week’s terror attacks in Paris. These events and the subsequent outpouring of hate by misinformed individuals just brought back the memories and fears I had growing up. After 9/11 I thought it would be impossible for me to reach my dream in the West, if not for an official ban by the government, then by unofficial bigots on the streets. However, when I did reach America eight years later, I was surprised to find a people that were eager to learn more about my religion. More than that, I found them to be kinder, gentler, more compassionate, more conscientious, and more Islamic in action than Muslims in Malaysia. I was in love.

Of course, there were occasional bouts of incidents which are obviously steeped in Islamophobia. And though we should condemn Islamophobia, there is no running away from the fact that these terrorists did profess to be Muslims and invoked the name of God before killing themselves. These supposed Muslims kill hundreds and thousands of innocents for no reason other than professing a different faith. But I know better than to call this a religious act of war. This is a political game they are playing. The only reason they are attacking the West is because of their own disenfranchisement, caused by decades of mismanagement by the political establishment at home. Why shout “Allahu Akbar” then? Because it is the easiest rallying call.

I see it around me all the time. People get so emotional that their judgement gets clouded. In the end, the terrorists win. What these cowards want by blowing up themselves is for the cycle of hatred to continue: the West blames Muslims, Muslims get angry at the West, some radical Muslims took it too far and blows up a Western landmark, and Islamophobia continues. This is what the coward terrorists want. Why should we give in? We should stop the cycle and start spreading love. Stop the hate. When people start to question, why mourn the loss in France but not in Beirut? Who says we don’t? If the media did not cover those horrendous attacks in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Palestine, would you be aware of them? So who is cherry-picking? The media’s report or your consumption of news? I understand the frustration when the death of Muslims does not get front news, but you have to be naive to expect otherwise. In the newsroom, there is a difference between deaths during wars and occupation, and attacks during peace time. 

While it tore me inside to read and watch the action of a lone man pushing a Muslim woman in front of an oncoming underground train in London, it also gave me hope when the many other passers-by came to help her. (A side note: following a spate of similar events while I was in London, I always, always, stand with my back against the wall while waiting for a train.) Then, I read and saw the images of French men and women giving a blindfolded Muslim man a hug in support of his—OUR--religion. I bawled like I’ve never bawled before. There are many of these nice westerners that show so much kindness to my fellow brothers and sisters in faith while I see ignorant Muslims around me speak of hatred to Chinese, Indians and Jews, when Islam is clearly a religion of peace.

I would like to end this by sharing something that has only previously been shared with my husband. Once in a London tube on the way to school, an old lady with a head cover stepped into the carriage I was in, carrying a backpack. Not any backpack, but a sturdy one that is usually carried by teenagers, not grandmas. She immediately started talking about what if today would be our last day on earth. Immediately images of my parents flashed by me (I am not exaggerating) as I tried to imagine how they would feel if there is no body for them to bury. Yes, I honestly thought I was going to die in a suicide attack that day. That was the closest I felt to death. The ride to the next station felt like eternity. I stepped out--trembling--even though it was a few more stations to school. I know it may sound silly to some as nothing ended up happening, and I’m pretty sure an old preacher rides the tube all the time. But the fear of seeing a person with a backpack talking about the last day on earth in a tube in London is too real for me to shake off even today. I just can’t help thinking about those who did not have the opportunity to assess their surrounding before death comes with a blow.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A comic for the nation

Multitude of emotions washed over me earlier this afternoon as I continue to refresh my internet browser for the latest update from the Palace of Justice. Words cannot do justice to how I was feeling—embarrassed, mainly—over the fact that I was at a Starbucks nearby and not standing with the people.

I am weak and a coward. I dare not jeopardize what I have built for myself and my family to show solidarity with the people. Instead, like most Malaysians, I sit behind my laptop, struggling to wax poetic over the political situation in the country. But unlike many Malaysians, I am an academician, with a purpose and responsibility to ignite change in my limited capacity. Most importantly, unlike you, sir, I lack the courage to face the injustice pervading our nation today. For that, I salute you.

I admit that I don’t really like you as a person or politician. It does not mean that I am in favor of your nemesis either. It just means that I have yet to find a political figure that I fully trust to lead the country. I don’t even like the people in your party. I find them arrogant and mainly interested in superfluous politicking, making them no different than those they criticize day and night.

However, I respect the foundation that put your party in motion more than fifteen years ago. I support the fight for justice, I support the need for a liberal society, and I support the effort to create a harmonious society. Therefore, all I can say is, “Be patient, sir.”

Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but I believe that your name will soon be written in our history textbook in the same light as our founding fathers. Yes, you made mistakes while within and without the government, just like any other political and civil leader before you. You are, after all, a fallible human being like the rest of us. But it is your courage that has paved the way for later generations to push forward for reform and for a better Malaysia.

Be patient, sir, for I believe that your struggle will bear fruit in a few more years as we see a generational shift in the make-up of the country. My generation, which has witnessed your ups and downs, will not forget all that you have sacrificed for us. My generation, though narcissistic, dependent, and unemployable, is ready for a new Malaysia that will come from this verdict. It shall not be in vain. This is not a call for the youth to band together in a renewed movement, for I am not an activist with the interest of crashing the gates on injustice. I am just an academician with an eye for patterns of cause and effects, and what I see is a renewed spirit for change that will continue for years to come. Will we soon be successful? I doubt it because of the many institutional challenges blocking our way. But will the people surrender? I don’t think so.

Sir, I hope you will be patient in knowing that you are the Mandela and Suu Kyi of Malaysia. And just like them, I hope your future is brighter than the bleak prospect you’re currently facing.

Be fearful, don’t, as fear by your opponent is the catalyst for your predicament.