Malaysia must not tighten rules on CNY as Brunei has done

by Mariam Mokhtar

OUTSPOKEN: It will be a sad day if the mullahs and our leaders decide to impose strict restrictions on Chinese New Year celebrations, as in Brunei. Where could the young ones, including the Malays, savour Chinese culture and be part of the multicultural scene?

Open houses, a typically Malaysian trait, are not just the preserve of the leaders, who make a big show of their open houses, with grand claims that 50,000 people attend. They pretend to be multi-cultural for a few days of the year, but the rest of the time, are consumed with hate and division.

Only a naïve politician would think that the rakyat attend their open houses, because they love them. The rakyat who bother to go, are only interested in clawing back some of the money which the leaders have taken, without their permission, to pay for the meals.

Does anyone honestly think that the leaders would throw open their doors, if they had to pay for the meals, the transport, the chemical toilets, and the added security, from out of their own pockets?

Many years ago, before Umno and Umno Baru had destroyed the country, open houses in the community, between friends, neighbours and work colleagues, were more genuine.

Today, many of my Chinese friends have given up waiting for their Malay friends to visit. The leaders and mullahs, have corrupted Muslim minds. Even the Malays with a sound education are swayed by the divisive talk of the mullahs.

They are told that visiting Chinese homes is forbidden. The mullahs imply that the food, crockery and cutlery will be contaminated, even if a halal caterer has been commissioned to supply food.  Some conservative Muslims refuse to be served by Chinese waiters.

When I was a teenager, the excitement of celebrating any festival, including Chinese New Year, would start early in school.

We would exchange cards, mostly homemade, with our closest friends. We would share cakes, and laugh at the messages in our fortune cookies. Back then, no teacher stopped us from eating from one another’s lunch boxes, or warn the Malays, not to mingle with the non-Malays.

As the long holiday period approached, the roads into the town centre, would be grid locked, so we, like every other family in town, would be stocking up on essentials, like rice, sugar and cooking oil.

Moreover, our local shopkeeper Ah Fatt would close shop for two weeks, so we had no choice. If we had critical repairs on cars, we made sure this was done either before or after the workers returned, from their two-week break.

For some odd reason, our family received hampers and beautiful bouquets, from our Chinese friends. The bakkwa would be excluded, but the odd bottle of whisky, brandy and Wincarnis, would always find its way into the hamper.

One makcik, in our family, could never resist a glass of Wincarnis, saying that it was medicinal. “Ahhh…Good for the blood, and heaty,” she would cackle, after her fourth glass.

She then said she had to balance the heatiness of the Wincarnis, with some cooling Pimms, “It looks like Chinese tea. Why worry!”

The arrival of the lunar new year, can never be missed. At the stroke of midnight, the whole road would burst into a cacophony of machinegun fire from the firecrackers. In the distance, fireworks would light up the sky.

The air would smell of gunpowder and be so thick with smoke, that one could almost slice it. At least the evil spirits were driven away.

In the morning, we too, would be up early, to make the rounds of the open houses. The entrance to some homes would be carpeted red, from the previous night’s firecrackers. There was always an array of dishes which represent the major communities.

It was also amazing to see how much money one could collect in angpows.  Of course, we had to make a show of politely refusing when the red packets were pressed into our hands.

The lion dances were a treat, especially if they visited one neighbour’s house.

Was food a problem? No. Our Chinese hosts would separate the halal food.

Today, our lives are ruled by doubt, distrust and division.

How I wish we could restore the golden days of community spirit, courtesy and common decency.

Gong Xi Fa Chai!

Mariam Mokhtar is “a Malaysian who dares to speak the truth”.

-The Ant Daily

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