Atchafalaya Swamp

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Muhibbah Tag

This post is long overdue, and apologies to Chegu Naz for my belligerence and my 'slack-ness' in contributing my not-so-worthwhile thoughts to this much abused term.

I say much-abused because when someone mentions 'Muhibbah' the only thing that comes to mind is a quaint halal restaurant serving superb Chinese dishes nestled in the leafy suburb of Taman Tun, Kuala Lumpur.

I don't believe in this Muhibbah business because it's shallow. If you believe in God or even if you're a Darwinian it is a fact that your genes and mine are compatible. That's why a virile
Cinapek from Kampong Cina Tring Ganu can mate with a Kikuyu tribe lass in Kenya and still cause the sperm and egg to fuse into a zygote. Why? Because we are all 100 percent genetically compatible. There is no difference at all except for some superficial skin and facial features.

Otherwise deep inside we're all the same. So it is an affront to God to say that we're different and we need to bridge this so-called divide between the races.

We're all one race. The Human Race. Period.

And I don't want to bore you about my best friend being a Cinapek (it is, actually) because since I was small I never grew out of that phase where skin color color was a factor in choosing mates to play rounders with or climb trees. In this I am lucky. I never had elder who said, "Eh, don't go into their house,
ada anjing". Maybe because my grandfather who brought me up in a kampung with three mongrel dogs in the compound had something to do with it.

One of my joyous early primary school memory was this: One fine day we bundled these yelping canines into the backseat of my Atuk's Morris Minor to take to the orchard for
kebun duties. The durian season was in full swing. And coming home later only to incur the wrath of my Ustazah grandmother who swore that she will never step in the car for fear of defiling herself. After that she never got in the car at all to be taken by Atuk for her Madrasah duties (she taught the Koran at a small mosque nearby). From then on she walked the two kilometers or so, and never did she step into the Morris Minor again.

So somehow the love of dogs and my early upbringing caused me to look beyond skin. Eventually I was given a lab retriever (the best there is when it comes to family dogs) with the shiniest orange coat you ever saw. It was given to me by an Estate Manager who had to leave Malaysia in a hurry and I was the lucky recipient. Not only was it a pure breed but it was also properly trained. His name was Johnny. He knew not to step into the house and where to do his business. Of course he understood commands like Sit, Roll, Fetch or Shake Hands, Johnny. The saddest day of my life was when he died of poisoning. I believed some disgruntled neighbor gave him an egg laced with the bad stuff. The neighbors in the kampong were all Malay. And this is where I admit to you that I lied (sort of) in the first few paragraphs of this posts. I am a racist. Yes, but directed against my own. From then on I view all Malays with suspicion. With Chinese or Indians I have no quarrels at all, no Sir.

Here I will relate two recent episodes in my life to illustrate my animosities towards my own kind.

Some time back my wife and and I were caught up in a traffic jam in the back lane of a major shopping area in Batu Road road. We were already late and naturally I was upset so I got out of the car and walked a few cars up to a white gleaming Pajero whose door was open. Out in front was the middle-aged Malay driver arguing with a pot-bellied Indian man with red bloodshot eyes and helmet on his head, the straps flapping, arms flailing. I also noticed an Indian girl of about five cowering by her father's Kapcai. There was no real accident, only perhaps one of the two had not given way thus giving way to name calling and fist waving until they both decide to stop their vehicles to cause this unnecessary jam.

As I surveyed the situation I instinctively 'knew' the Malay driver must have been at fault. So I got to the Indian and drew him aside amidst a slew of 'Malayu kurang ajar' and 'celaka punya Malayu' under his breath. I also thought I smelled a whiff of something . . . so the situation could get get uglier. The Malay stood there looking smug with the righteous look of someone born with a golden spade in his Bumi mouth.

I pulled out my Dunhill and offered the Indian one. I knew I had to defuse this fast. As I lighted his cigarette, he said, "Damn that Malayu driver, just because he has a big car he can do what he like and cut this way and that without looking. My daughter almost fell off."

aner... relax laa. Forget about that stupid Malay. He think only he pay road tax ah? We motorcyclist also pay. Now go. But I sure give him also some shit don't worry. So next time he will think twice."

The Indian man picked up his daughter and left. The Malay driver was already in the driver's seat while I glared and mouthed 'stupid Malayu'. Again he gave me the same condescending look like he gave the Indian.

I felt good but not for the right reasons. I was able to do this because the Indian guy had assumed that I was Chinese. Now this is the closest thing to muhibbah for me since someone had looked at me but saw no color, or a wrong one.

And then not too long after something else happened at a parking lot near my house. The car park in the big hypermarket was full so cars had to circle my many times to find an empty lot. There is a protocol to these that some people care to break.

I was in my car with my mother, blinkers on while patiently waiting for a car to leave. As soon as the car exited, out of nowhere a Proton Wira swerved violently from the opposing side (wrong way as the lanes are marked one way) into the empty lot. What-tha-ff...

I honked and the passenger side opened to reveal a middle-aged Malay man. So I got out of the car and said in my colloquial Malayu, "Hoi! tak nampak kaa saya signal? Saya sudaa lamaa tunggu".

And I thought that was that but instead of apologizing (I saw a
tudunged woman through the rear window in the driver's seat --the wife? First or Second?) he grew boorish and claimed he didn't see my signal at all. Which was an outright lie as my turn signals were still blinking. This was getting too much so I came nearer to the man. He menacingly jabbed a condescending Bumi finger and now I knew why.

He said, "Lu ingat lu samseng kah? Nanti saya panggil polis!" (Are you a gangster? I'll call the police!).

Now I'm really losing it (to the tune of KFC's 'Im Lovin' It').

The guy thought I was a Chinese in my shorts, blue Asadi slippers and slanty-chinky eyes. So that's why he thinks he can run roughshod over me.

So I fought back. I shouted, "Kurang ajaa . . . bodoh punya Malayu! Lu bagus reverse. . . SIKARANG!" (Uncouth stupid Malay, reverse the car . . . NOW!)

With that he meekly got in, backed out and I got my space.

About two hours later I found myself summoned to a nearby police station for questioning. Apparently he did good on his threat and called the police while I did my shopping. So when I returned to my car there was already a policemen waiting to lead me to his boss, an ASP XXX at the station. But I knew there was no harm done as there were no physical contact or damage to property. Only harsh words were exchanged.

At the station, me and the ASP eventually had a good laugh. Ironically ASP XXX was Chinese. But the ASP needed to meet me and be sure before he tore the report the idiot wrote up. Of course that coward had already left thinking of his sweet success in making my life miserable.

And what was the laugh about? ASP XXX laid out the report for me to read.

Seorang lelaki yang berseluar pendek, di percayai keterunun Cina . . ."

The Chinese ASP said he thought we Malays had gone crazy. The guy's report stated that I called him a stupid Malay and that he was in fear of me as
a gangster or Chinese triad member out to do him harm. Is this Pakcik's racist paranoia for real or what?

ASP XXX shook his head and said, "That crazy old man said you are Chinese gangster. You called him a stupid Malay. What's wrong with you all?"

And thus ends my contribution to the Muhibbah tag.


Kata Tak Nak said...

The long wait was worth it. Every second of it. Many Malays believe that this country, heck this Earth as their godforsaken ground. Don't get me wrong many non Malays suffer the same malaise.
Have you heard of these?

Sapa accidents tu? Mati ka? Melayu ka?

Rumah hang masok pencuri ka? Cina ka hindu ka Indon ka? As if Melayu don't do such acts.

The same goes the same with the other races. The problem is that we forgot what you had mentioned earlier on in your post, if they were to f**k the other fellow they could produce babies. That's how close we are related.

I love your post.

acciaccatura said...

assalamualaikum mat salo,
heeehee... seronok yang ini.
i remember during the time when i was still carrying my violin around, many asked me the same question, "You Filipino ah?"
Muhibbah sangat dah tu!

Mat Salo said...

Makasih Chegu, does this mean I get an 'A'? Hehe...

Wa'alaikumsalaam E. Apa? Orang Melayu tak boleh bawak violin ke? On second thoughts, you sure you're not Filipina or Champa..? Ha-ha.

Great-grandmother's side somewhere? I think it'll be a long way to see real muhibbah. And it has to start with the end of race-based politics...in my humble view at least.

cakapaje said...

Salam bro,

Wah! Lu Milayu ka? Wa ingat lu Jipun juga mali o! :)

Good to see you back in action!

Mat Salo said...

Thanks bro'. Got tons of comments for you and others but dunno where to start.. Wa'alaikumsalaam.

Mior Azhar said...

Salam Bro,
Amazing yarn as usual... really sometimes Melayu can really be bodoh, right?
Anyway, your entry sort of reminded me of Tommy (or is it Johnny?) which was a mongrel owned by my maternal grandfather. I was very small then but I remembered it well. Then when I was in primary school, my aunt pun jaga another anjing (this time at my paternal grandmother pulak)... these dogs knew how to behave... they never come near the house let alone masuk rumah. Anjing can be very setia.

J.T. said...

Hi Mat Salo

I like this posting. How much "muhibbah" do we have when actions around us speak otherwise? I always thought there was some sort of muhibbah spirit going around in simpler times. Then again, maybe that spirit was (and is) only alive among friends and acquaintances. (that too, I think sometimes some acquantainces just tolerate each other face to face). :)

Hantu Laut said...

Mat Salo,

I love this piece.Authentic.Well done.

Aru you back on the rig?

Zabs said...

Salam MS,
What an entry!!!So that was the whole story at the car park, which you mentioned partly in your comment in my blog quite some times ago.
Salm muhibah to you.

tokasid said...

Salam Pak MS:

It had been a long wait(not only the muhibbah tag)but it was worthwhile.Acute observation of the Malays.

On dogs, well most ppl do like the doggie even if they are not a dog person.I am more a cat person.Have 9 cats at home presently.

My experiences with dogs had all been unpleasant since childhood( selalu kena kejor yob..itu yang teman phobia giler ngan dogs ni) and another factor of dislike towards dogs is the realization of having to samak regularly.

You are right about the behaviours of the Middle class Malays( and the offsprings of the upper class) and some of the ordinary Malays. They can be so arrogant to others even to other Malays who uses vehicles of the lower brands than theirs.

I sometimes use my kapchai if I were to go to Melaka city alone on weekends. Certain areas will be busy and there will be a traffic crawl.There had been numerous occassions when Malays using Harriers or Lexus or Wish ,at traffic lights or during these crawls will lower down their side mirror and yell to you(after honking): Oii...tak reti nak ke tepi lagi ke?

Or sometimes: Oii grago( not a word you use infront of a Malaccan Portuguese)..lalu lah sikit. Bodo punya Serani.
( as I am dark skinned and when wearing the half-helmet I might look like a Serani.At least that is what the shouting implied).

Not only that, you will notice, the Malays like the Indians and Chinese when they are in their own groups, you are definetely gonna hear remarks against other races. The Malays will say something about the Chinese and Indians. The Chinese and Indians will do the same. These small talks actually make fear and hatred towards the others more,eventhough not the surface level( which everthing seems fine).

It is here that leaders of each races and communities must play a bigger role. But we also know that most political parties uses these 'fears and hatred' to gain support and their relevance to their political survival.

We know that most political parties(race based) when they have meetings at the grassroot levels, the subject of displeasure towards other races will crop-up and the discussions can be intense.Their resolutions will be: We must defend our race at any cost.

Can we deny it? Don't think so. If we remember correctly the Lee Kim Sai-Pemuda UMNO episode back in the 80s is not in the Muhibbah spirit. Do you think that incident flamed up at the top level without it starting at the grassroots?
Fortunately, Preber Adam decide to run amok during that time and in a way diffused the racial tension caused by Lee Kim Sai-pemuda UMNO episode.

Everyone of us is a racistat one point or another. But we must be able to control that feeling.
Do we have a choice at all to which race we are gonna be born into?No.
The Quran had clearly stated that ALLAH invented the different races and ask us human to interact with each other.To learn about others' culture and be tolerable to each other.

We are still a long way from that.

Hj Irlan said...

Mat Salo... lu melayu ka?
haiyaaaaaaa... wa ingat lu cina macam wa... mata lu sepet macam mata wa maaaaaaa...

Raden Galoh said...

Salam bro MS...

Now I know how you become 'in-love' with dawg...hehehe

Me? Same situation with Doc TA lar...so paranoia with dawg..sebab pernah kena ligan maaaa... tu psl gua kata chihuahua pun gigi tajam...

Love this post. So original from your heart...

zorro said...

SALUTE, SALUTE My Swampman. Just you! Straight talk, nothing sloppy, slushy, nor sobby. Damn proud to have you as a friend. When will I see you again?

Zawi said...

mat salo,
Salam Bro. This reminds me that I still owe Fauziah Ismail this muhibbah tag. After reading this great piece by you, I lost all the enthusiasm of writing anything resembling a muhibbah theme. I will have to ask Fauziah to excuse me from having to write it. After all it's so loooonng overdue hhehehe.
This post of yours sums up the failure of the present leadership in bringing together the various ethnicities and religious beliefs available in Malaysia. We are so proud of our plural society and tell the world how united we are when in reality we are nowhere near there or from ever achieving it as long as we are identified by race. If we are really interested to unify them all why bother to identify us by our ethnicity at all?

Kerp (Ph.D) said...

totally, totally worth the long wait. it was moving, hilarious and sad in one posting. i think its easier to be a racist at your own race because of the clear visibility we get for being us, looking deep inside our own heart and soul...admit it, it was ugly!

and that guy who reported you. 2 words; Racist Cunt.

*been a while since i had a meal at Muhibbah. Been a fan since their jalan Ampang days to Benteng along the street in Tmn Tun before they moved to their current premise, a proper shophouse.

Akmal said...

Salaam bro.
Worth the waiting bro.
This one is from my own observation. Malay on the road somehow different from Malay off the road. Putting aside those unforgivable, beyond redemption 'real stupid ones', even those who are courteous at other places may turn to someone else on the road. Some sort of munafik and hypocrite, I may say.

Mat Salo said...

Doc TA!

Walauu.. a very powerful comment lah bro and 100% spot-on. Sometimes orang Melayu kita ni, esp. the so-called middle to upper classes sikit think they can do what they like. In reality they're the ones that got no class. Ada lak panggil you grago, ha-ha. Ka-ni-na..

Coba bukak helmet tengok and show your MMA card --kapcai or no kapcai, sure ternganga punya.

You're right bro, in religious terms at least, we still got a long, long way to go.

Tapi bab anjing aku kena disagree sket. I dunno bro, from small I always have an affinity for these canines. Kalau bola masuk umah ada german shepard pon I'm they one tasked to climb in and retrieve. Bukan nak cakap besaq bro, I have been in many encounters where I just selamba pat these animals to the horror of everybody else. Yang problem nya depa pulak excited nak lick sana sini. Part ni kene lak cari tahnah. Tapi ada lak mazhab cakap sabun Fab pon okay. Betoi ke?

Ini dah gadoh besaq ngan bini sebab nak cari umah besaq sket nak bela impotnya golden retriever. Mak lak sumpah tak nak datang umah lagi kalau betoi. Mampuih. He...

Mat Salo said...

Hj Irlan: Ke arah haji mabrur.. ahlan wahsahlan bro.

Take a close look at the mirror: you sure takde darah jepang, mother's side twice removed?

Bro' Mior: looks like your both our
"maternal grandpas satu kepala. And I'm sure you loved him to bits too!

JT: You're right there sis. Mostly it's just tolerance I think. But I know there's instances (rare, sadly) where there was genuine friendship and respect. I mean, come on, when was the last time you hear a middle class Malay / Chinese /Indian family invite another race into their homes? Yang ada probably during festive season. Maybe it's the complicated times we live in. Ah, how I wish for the simpler days...

Dalilah: Aiyoo for a dawg lover lover like me, I feel such a rugi besar for you to have never experienced a true bonding with an animal. The feeling is indescribable. They're such loyal creatures to a fault. pernah gak si Johnny tu aku balun sebab nakal pecah pot bunga nenek or something. He just stood there with such sad, forlorn eyes dan terima saja terajang. A cat yang kuat mengada dah lama cabut lari! Now you make me sad teringat...

Pak Zabs: Salam muhibbah jua Pak. Ontahlah, but for the record I can't stand cats and I don't know how anyone thinks they're cute. Banyak mengada macam baguih jer... Hehee.. Sorry yer cat lovers out there.

H-L: Thanks Sir, but I look at myself and the whole so-called "Malay" race in Malaysia and see plenty of shortcomings. Not insurmountable, but this is going to take some serious introspection.

Unker Zorro: Thanks. Yes I know it's straight from the heart, just the way you like it --straight up, no chaser. Ha-ha. Sir, I was back and sms'd you a CNY greeting but the time home was too short and everybody was away for the hols. Unfortunately the timing off the elections is a poor one for me. I'll only be back only in early April. See you then Unker..

Bung Zawi: You summed it well when you said, "If we are really interested to unify them all why bother to identify us by our ethnicity at all?". Touche. That's why there are plans for the Bangsa Malaysia movement helmed by Haris Ibrahim.

Akmal: You've made a very astute observation bro. But it's true of some of the races too and stresses that come with living in the city; traffic jams and such. Yeah, but you're right --a lot of people turn into monsters when they're behind the wheel.

Kerpie: Damn right, what an A-hole. Menyusahkan everybody. In fact that Cinapek ASP pon kene tarok ngan aku: Apahal layan orang gila tu? The cop said, "Eh, I got to make sure laa that you're not some chinese triad gangster . . . who knows you kuar pisau or something" Ka-ni-na...

Farina said...

"ASP XXX shook his head and said, "That crazy old man said you are Chinese gangster. You called him a stupid Malay. What's wrong with you all?""

i think we could all learn something fr wht the asp said. ;)

yup, in Msia usually this 'racist' thing comes from within. sad isnt it?

jaflam said...

Mat Salo,
Enjoyed your geretak and poker charge episodes. I don't blame them for backing down with your fierce face, kamakazie glass and tanned Chinese skin you do look like Tried Chief .... heheeeee.

Since I come from mixed parentage, live in the Chinese community during my childhood, goes to Malay, Chinese and English school, I don't have much problem with MUHIBBAH things. In fact I always called myself a true Malaysian - a melting pot of Malay, Chinese and distant Indo bloods here and there. If we start thinking about being human first then race and others ..... the world will be a more wonderful place to live.

I remembered being chased by two Chinese at Wang Chai, Hong Kong at 1 AM. I ran but was cornered at the end of the road. They were scolding me for not stopping and showed their Police IDs. I told them I am Malaysian and could not understand their Chinese instructions and further more thought that they were gangsters trying to mug me. They got angrier and said that you Malaysian were all the same stubborn and loyar buruk. With my long hair and jeans they must have thought I was the gangster ..... mistaken identity.

Mat Salo said...

Farina: Yup you said it right, girl. That Chinese ASP fella sure could teach us a thing or two. We Malayo's have a lot of introspecting to do...

Bang Jaffar!

Ha-ha. I'm sure you got plenty of these stories to tell, Sir. And I bet each one is a killer. Only it's not time to reveal them yet, eh? Now, don't want to scare the the audience, do we? Wan Chai... Bangang police hongky tu! They say honky chinese ni arrogant, betul ke? Aaah, I'm being racist again... ;)

Hj Irlan said...

Salam Mat Salo,

I'm actually 50% Palembangite, 25% Javanese and 25% Chinese. Thus, explains my 'oriental' good looks. My grandparents came from Indonesia... the only Malaysian perhaps is my Chinese grandmother. Geographically, I'm more Indonesian rather than Malaysian! hehehehe...

Bottom line is, I can never be racist b'coz I'm multi-racial myself! With my current Pak Haji image now, people would think that I'm a convert. Apa-apa pun I'm proud to be a Malaysian!

As for the dog thing, it's okay as long as it's dry.

den said...

haha..think about it, i seldom see u wear long pant nor shoes, slalunya sluar tiga suku dan beach sandal, u cant blame him for thinking u tat u r a chinese ma!

it's your folk MS, u created the racist pblm :P

Mat Salo said...

Hj Bikini - dry pon okay wet pon ok. Same-same no samak. Opposite baru samak. But samak is such a small price to pay bro'.. :)

Pak Den - Betoi tu boss, my folks, as you put it, and I setuju whole-heartedly -- are to blame. Take care boss..