I know a bit about “maruah” especially after spending years with our orang asli or orang asal in this country. When you have lived amongst them, in the mist of the rainforests like the Temiars and Bateks do, watching them raise their family, with what most of us would call with and from nothing, you will come to appreciate dignity like none before. Theirs is a life where left to their own devices, untouched in both their daily life and environment by outsiders’ intent to change or convert them, their self-sufficiency to survive and thrive is dignity personified.
What it tells you is that, we, all of humanity are born with dignity. And that dignity is equal. Born naked and bloody, screaming to be rid of our umbilical cords that bound us dependent on another human being. Once that dependency is severed, you do not need to demand for dignity – it is part of your being from the day you are born irrespective of your circumstances. Dignity is in fact innate to our being. What is not is the loss of said dignity. It is lost by our own actions and by the actions of others that tramples upon the dignity of other human beings.
And so, it goes with a people, a society, a Nation; your dignity is innate. The day we as a Nation was born, we were accorded that dignity for we exist. So, this theme – whither the dignity of Malaysia is something we must ask ourselves what we have done to either retain, elevate or destroy the dignity that we had.
One of the first acts or mistakes during the birth of this Nation is differentiating our very people by law in terms of race and religion. Even that race and religion were defined in very strict terms. Imagine doing that as parents to your children.
Malaysia was born in the 20th century. Somehow, we seemed to have missed the boat that Nations that were thriving and progressing were evolving and letting go of their worst instincts of colonization and divisions. Imagine that by 1957, there were no longer a World War, the United Nations was already almost a decade old, and the pariahs of the world are two states that divided its people based on race – South Africa via Apartheid and Israel via religion – a nation defined for Jews.
And yet there we go, making a distinction, seemingly innocent at that moment in time in the name of dignifying a religion as official and defining a race that is meant to have some special considerations due to their way of life/customs and again the religion they profess. This is the original sin of the Nation of Malaysia.
The curse of race and religion being put in law has made us a society of US vs THEM, when it could have easily been ALL OF US and what you profess is yours to treasure in your heart and be your guide. Today, in this 21st century apartheid no longer exists, even Israel has equal Muslim citizens, almost 18%, and increasing diplomatic relations with its neighboring Arab countries including Saudi Arabia.
But Malaysia seemed to be getting more and more racist and exclusivist in its religious policies day to day and year to year. We are by any measure today one if not the most racist and religiously bigoted Nation on earth. Which other Nation reserves 90% of publicly funded university places to one race, even one that is 100% exclusive to only one race. In 2015 Malays make up almost 80% of the civil service. Which other Nation on earth today has such disproportionate and institutionalized policies on race compared to its actual population demographics but Malaysia?
Where is the dignity in that?
Where is the dignity in funding a single religion’s affairs using every taxpayer fund when its own Constitution mandates that others of different religion must never be compelled to fund those that are not theirs? Where is the dignity in not allowing ordinary human beings to practice their religion of choice in their own way but must follow that in accordance to what is gazzetted by law in accordance to so called Muftis and Majlis Ulamaks of the State. Nothing in my Quran has ever mandated such a practice. Where is the dignity in forcing others to follow your version of religion?
I don’t know about the withering of the maruah. But I for one cannot see any semblance of maruah in any of the above. It is the very essence of subjugation of humanity.
Where we could have allowed everyone of us to be equal in definition of citizenship and slowly ensure that the last 60 years the divisions of race and religion does not define our society and income and status, we have actually managed to make it the very feature of our society.
Where is our Dignity? That is the answer.