I read with amusement that a “Datukship” has recently been awarded to Shah Rukh Khan, the famous Bollywood actor. According to the AFP report, the move is to boost tourism in Malaysia because Shah Rukh Khan’s 2001 film has successfully boosted the popularity of Malacca, a historical city in Malaysia. Nonetheless, the announcement creates furors among some quarters in Malaysia. But unlike those others, I applause the recognition. If the Malaysian Prime Minister could accept an honorable Ph.D. recognition from an Australian University and the US-born Bruce Lee as well as the Australian citizenship holding Jacky Chan could champion Chinese cultural identity through films, wouldn’t giving out an honorable recognition like the “Datukship” to Shah Rukh Khan actually bring honor and glory to the country?
After the March 8, 2008 election, many have argued and foreseen the emergence of a new Malaysia. However, when the ruling government shows its resistance to cope with changes and resolves to the age-old ethnic politics, social commentators started to write about sinophobia. Yet, the cosmopolitan gesture of awarding Datukship to Shah Rukh Khan is outshined by a recent development to ban or to outlaw yoga practice in Malaysia. The assault on Indian and Hinduism in particular yield a deeper reading and reconsideration of the so-called Sinophobia in Malaysia. Of interest, wouldn’t a Hindu-phobia would be a better classification?
I have once argued and defined the dominant ethnic group in Malaysia as “Indians who are trying NOT be to Chinese”. My dearest friend argues the contrary. To her, they are “Indians who are trying to be Chinese”! In both formulations, the local natives have turned against Hinduism that has had great influences on their cultural practices since centuries ago. This form of denial is not new in Malaysia. Yet, the current betrayal is unacceptable to any kind of cultural practices and ethnic sensitivities. Yet, such distinctive thing is very well alive in the “everything and anything” phobias Malaysia.
Who should be responsible for this assault? I think the Indians should take the initial responsibility because for their generosity to share Hinduism! In contrast, as I have read, when the brutal Mongolian expanded their power outwardly and conquered China and India, they only took from the locals. The barbaric tribe did not leave behind anything or help to rebuild. But, the earlier Indians share everything with the world. For example, besides sharing Hinduism to the natives of Southeast Asia, the great religion of Buddhism reaches all over the world and encapsulates many from the Japanese to Richard Gere! It was just a few centuries ago that the Indians brought Islam to Southeast Asia.
Nonetheless, all of these are too easy to be forgotten. When the Chinese pray for peace and prosperity, especially those who go all the way up to a specific location in Bangkok, Thailand, do they really think Buddha will seriously bless them when they denial his originality? When Islamaphobia is running high in the West, many are too willingly to jump the bandwagon of criticizing the West and pretend to be the victims.
If Hindu related elements in Malaysia are to be banned, they are much more things need to be outlaw than Yoga. For example, certain patterns in the Batik, foods such as curry, and even the Royal color – Yellow are not natives.
Yes, all these should also be outlawed but not the injustice in the society. This is the way of the so-called “Truly Asia”. Every week, the Malaysian tourism board is heavily promoting the country as “Truly Asia” in Australia. So we have sandy white beaches to lure the tourists. Is Australians going to swim directly to these beaches? No, they come through the airport, which, when needed, their entry records could be conveniently erased! Yes, tell them that we, the “Truly Asian” country, can do anything. When it is necessary, we could denounce the past and bend over backward in the blink of your eyes.
We, not only are Truly Asia, we are also like the Mexico to the Americans. We are so tolerance until we can tolerance injustice! We are so progressive until we progress ahead of anything and anyone! Yes, Malaysia boleh (Malaysia is able). We have outdone the Mongolians because we can be more brutal and be proud of it. Yes, Malaysia memang boleh (really can). We can also erase the Indian traces so that the Royal color comes from the color of Pahang River and the patterns on the Batik emerge in the dream!
Yes, leave it to Malaysia to repay the Indians who had sailed across the Indian Ocean to spread their belief and cultural practices. We are too happy to give out a Datukship but ashamed of a cultural heritage.
Should I tell the Indians to keep Hinduism and Buddhism to themselves? Or, maybe it is more appropriate to shout “India! India!” across the Indian Ocean? Maybe it will scare away any incoming impurity!