Actually, in Malaysia, we would say – WHY SO SENSITIVE LAH?
Yes, we Malaysians, tend to add the word: “LAH” at the end of our sentences. It’s how we roll.
So, what is this overtly sensitive thing that we run the risk of becoming?
There have been a few high-profile controversies in Malaysia – one in particular involved a Singaporean resort operator who had allowed a group of Buddhists to use the said resort’s surau (the place of worship for Muslims) for meditation. The Singaporean resort operator was arrested and has had his Malaysian Permanent Resident (PR) status revoked. This case has generated quite an uproar that even the local municipal has ordered that very surau to be demolished, because it has been “contaminated” by non-Muslims. You can read all about it here.
There are those who think that the Malaysian Authorities and some fractions of the Malaysian Muslims have been too harsh in their judgement. In fact, a fellow prominent Malaysian Muslim, Puan Sri Jamilah wrote an article to address this “overly sensitive” climate in Malaysia, and it was published in The Star newspapers (a local Malaysian newspaper) on Saturday, 24th August 2013.
Her complete article entitled, “Need we be so sensitive?” can be read here.
This is what she asks of all Malaysian Muslims ~ “Why then have we become so unloving and so unmerciful? By we, I mean the Malaysian Muslims. We have become super sensitive, a reflection of how, some say, insecure we have become.”
However, it is not just happening in Malaysia, is it? This “overly sensitive” bug seems to be pandemic.
It is happening all over the world, especially when it touches on a particular race or religious issue. An example of another controversy is the one surrounding Seth MacFarlane’s Dads sitcom. You can read all about it here.
Or, you can watch the trailer posted below and judge for yourself.
How did your “sensitivity meter” fare after watching the above video? Did it make you mad? Do you feel that even presented in a comedic setting, it is still racism?
My question is simply this – have we really become overly sensitive as we progress as a nation, and as humanity? Or, are we justified in our reaction?
Each individual will, naturally, hold their own views on this subject matter, imbued by their very strong emotions. Especially, if we change the “race” in question.
For example, what would happen if a group of Muslims have used a Buddhist temple instead? Would there be a huge backlash if we had changed the Asian joke component to a Caucasian one in the Dads sitcom? How would the viewers respond then?
Think about it, please.
Here, I would like to highlight the story Puan Sri Jamilah shared in her article about a time when her son requested permission from his school to “claim a small “spiritual space” in the chapel by reciting the Takbir.” (To learn the meaning of “Takbir”, please go here.)
She wrote, “Without the blink of an eye, the school was happy to accommodate that request, even though the school’s Muslim’s population was less than 1%. They were not offended by the request, they thought it was an excellent idea, at the very least to remind parents that even though they were an Anglican school, there are students of other faiths as well.”
She added, “The majority of the parents had never heard a Takbir before but they applauded and congratulated him and none of them indicated any hints of being insulted. They wanted to know more about the spiritual significance of the wordings and what it meant to all of us.”
My personal opinion of the whole matter is this – for the Malaysian case cited above, I think the Singaporean resort operator may have acted in poor judgement, even if he sincerely did not think of it as wrong. Hence, it was not deliberate on his part.
And for the Dads sitcom, it may be comedy done in poor taste – even if Seth MacFarlane had the intention of making fun of how one culture perceives others. Hence, MacFarlane may not have meant it to be racist per say.
However, it is really our response to or judgement on something or someone, that affirms what kind of people we are.
Because our response or judgement reflects our faith, beliefs, values, morals, upbringing and education. Sometimes, it even reveals the maturity of our minds, as well as our security in who we are.
There is definitely a huge difference in being overtly sensitive and being emphatically sensitive.
Overtly sensitive comes with the territory of intolerance. Thus, there is very little room for understanding and compassion. We would end up being very harsh, rigid and merciless in our judgement as a result of it. Needless to say, it produces negative consequences. If not, disastrous.
Where as, being emphatically sensitive is generated by the virtue of kindness. It is the desire to see from the other person’s point of view in order to better understand. The result would most likely be positive, because it promotes mutual respect and appreciation. Above all, it cultivates forgiveness.
That said, I am not advocating that we simply stay silent and not care about anything or anyone. Please understand the difference.
When there is real injustice done to someone, or a group of people, we should most definitely stand up and speak for one another. When we see someone being mistreated or abused, we should definitely help. When there is misunderstanding and confusion, we should offer clarification to dispel animosity or hostility. In other words, we should all work in unison to build better harmony and unity wherever we go. Because our intention should always be inspired by peace and not hatred or violence.
Those who continually engage in divisive speech, actions and thoughts would never uphold peace for himself/herself or anyone else. Entities and individuals who invest in schismatic regime or policies will not have humanity’s best interest at heart. They are not working for peace, but fulfill their own agenda. Therefore, how could these entities and individuals be entrusted with the nation’s welfare? Just look at what is happening right now in Syria.
Empathy allows us to live harmoniously with one another.
It goes beyond just sympathizing with one another. In fact, it mirrors the very quality that is encouraged and promoted in every single religion in the world. And that is, KINDNESS.
At the very core of each religion, is loving kindness. Yet, not many of us practise it as often as we should. Especially, in times when it is severely needed.
There can be no understanding, when empathy is absent. There can be no mutual respect without first understanding. Hence, forgiveness will have no room to flourish in our hearts and intolerance becomes our default defense mechanism.
This is why living together as a nation and humanity, as a whole, becomes challenging and abrasive.
I, for one, am very glad that someone like Puan Sri Jamilah has taken it upon herself to write that article and publish it in a national Malaysian newspaper for all to read. I applaud her fearless act.
I dare say that if the article were written by someone of another race, the impact would not be as powerful and the message would be lost. Hence, Puan Sri Jamilah‘s fearlessness is motivated by the greater good for all, and is not self-serving.
This is why I keep emphasizing that good people of every race in every nation should stand up and speak for each other in order to promote stronger unity and better harmony.
The video below illustrates exactly what I truly mean.
“A House divided against itself cannot stand.” ~ Abraham Lincoln
In the same respect, a family estranged will never know peace or experience harmony.
Doubt not that we are all part of a larger family, united by our diversity as well as our hopes and dreams for a better world.
Our courage should always lead us to becoming better individuals for ourselves, and our loved ones. Because only in our fearlessness of upholding good virtues, can we leave behind a better world for our children, and our children’s children.
In our strive to becoming inspiring icons of humanity, we will create a legacy of greatness for all.
So, start your brand of fearless living and love the life you live.
Peace to all!