Sarawak – a place like no other where atheists, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and Hindus can come together and have a decent meal at most kopitiams without looking over our shoulders for any ‘moral policemen’ who may be passing by or raising eyebrows from across the room.
That thought did cross my mind one morning as I met up with a Muslim friend who loved the laksa at Foody Goody Kopitiam, Stutong.
Why did he choose to come here?
Mind you, we were at a ‘non-halal’ eatery where pork-leg rice and kolok mee were openly sold and my classmate was bringing a Malayan colleague for breakfast.
My Muslim friend gave me a ‘straight-to-the-face’ answer that it doesn’t bother him the least to be eating in a ‘non-halal’ kopitiam with his fellow Muslim brother.
“I had just withdrawn money from an ATM – does it bother me whether the money dispensed is ‘halal or not’?”
Same for this kopitiam.
“It doesn’t bother me – why you? So long as I don’t eating anything that’s not halal, it’s okay,” he stressed.
That’s a Sarawakian Malay speaking – a classmate since Primary One. Why did these issues crop up of late?
His unexpected reply caught me by surprise – with so much truth, yet with much self-denial by many others.
Isn’t money the dirtiest of them all?
From gambling to gaming to pubs and illicit activities, does the money dispensed by these ATMs automatically become ‘clean’ overnight? Not to mention ‘corruption money’.
Of course not!
But then, why does it become an issue when we sit together to have a meal and pay with the very same ‘unclean’ money withdrawn from the ATM?
As the oft-quoted saying goes, ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do’, so should we Sarawakians walk the talk – when bringing our Malayan Muslim friends to eateries.
We should be brave enough to get them to do it ‘the Sarawak way’ of mixing freely oblivious to race or religion.
We should endeavour to show them that it is alright and absolutely normal to do so.
We should refrain from allowing them to impose on us the ‘cans and cannots’.
Of late, this ‘holier than thou’ behaviour and attitude is slowly but surely creeping into our shores, as my friend remarked
Sarawakians are unhappy and resentful of being lumped together as ‘one of the thirteen states’ as we consider our ‘negara’ as an equal founding partner of Malaysia.
Yet we have often preferred to keep quiet when our Malayan visitors tried to impose their culture and practices on us.
To accede or not, that is the question.
Only we ourselves can provide the right answer – if we had been doing it right for countless years, how can it suddenly become incorrect or improper of late?
We had obviously been doing it right as evidenced by our harmony and unity of being blind to race and religion.
My friend shared that polarisation of race and religion can be felt in Malaya despite the government’s attempts to downplay such issues.
Let them not grow roots in Sarawak by continuing to do what we do best – eat, drink and mingle with all, oblivious to race and religion.
We are different for a good reason.
Continue to be different so that we can remain the same – ironic it may sound.
The Sarawak spirit of unity and harmony in diversity.
We should hold our heads high to be doing the right things and doing them right – all along.
High five, SARAWAK!
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New Sarawak Tribune is a Sarawakian news portal that highlights Sarawak-centric news and other stories of relevance to Sarawak.
Today, New Sarawak Tribune focuses on happenings in Sarawak’s cities, towns and small places no matter how remote these are and events of relevance in other states of Malaysia and other countries.