Watching this Ramadan advertisement which has since been retracted makes me wonder how far apart race relation has drifted in our nation. We are ultra sensitive when actors from different race backgrounds are portrayed in roles that suggest some form of compromise. In this video the obviously Chinese girl was shown to be overly zealous, buddy and insensitive in the presence of Muslims during their holy month of Ramadan. The reaction? A call to be polite, discreet, courteous and considerate. Which in itself a good universal trait. Except that we tend to read between the lines. If this video is screened as part of public education series it would have fulfilled its purpose without creating an uproar. Personally I find it all unnecessary if we look at the message objectively.
Firstly, this is Ramadan. To the Muslims it is a very serious period of self reflection and pilgrimage of life. Some take it very seriously, others obligatorily but non-Muslims are to respect their Muslim counterpart as much as we ask them the same. This is a sign of maturity in race relationship that we sorely lack.
Secondly, we have a girl who hugged a pakcik, asking for discounts. Totally poorly mannered, even in this modern society, and in normal time, definitely in bad taste during Ramadan. If the actor had been a Malay instead the reaction would be different. But the implications, unfortunately, is that Chinese, especially the teenagers, are badly brought up to be disrespectful of the older people, in particular of other races, and sadly during their holy month. It sends the message that their parents are at fault or equally uncouth. And the video unwittingly widens the rift between some Muslims and non-Muslims.
Yet the reminder was gentle and kind and I believe done without malice. It said that while it is good that you are part of our Ramadan celebration but please to respect our tradition and show some good manner and respect. I believe it is a fair reminder and request.
We are already been poisoned by some of our politicians that continually pit the Malays against the Chinese and Indians and vice versa to the point that we look upon each other with suspicion and fear. Let us see the advertisement for what it tries to teach. Show respect and goodwill. I think if we take away our prejudice and celebrate our commonality and joint destiny in our beloved homeland, we can see humor and value in the ad, and learn how to grow up and be better human beings in the process. Let us not stretch our race relationship to breaking point by letting trivial matters burden the larger goal of growing our nation.
I want to wish my Muslim colleagues and friends to forge goodwill and friendship. Most of us are stuck in Malaysia and likely to die here. So let us make the best of what we have and build each other up.