(In response to Shanon Shah's recent article about Dr. Farish Noor's "The Hybrid-Malay Malaysian Dilemma" in the The Nut Graph, here, my old friend, retired ambassador Dato Kadir Deen, sent this thoughtful note to his son Umran in London. Umran had asked, "Aren't we all hybrids?")
Many, if not most of us are. Our family is definitely hybrid. Farish's story reminds me somewhat of my own circumstances when I was growing up.
I was born smack in the middle of Chinatown in Ipoh, spoke Cantonese (and swore!) as fluently as any Cantonese child and lived there until my teens. My mean Chinese neighbours (but most were good ones and you know some that I'm still friends with even today) used to call us "chee san" (pig worshippers because we don't eat pork) and a whole lot of other things. First school I attended was a Malay school, where I was called a "Mamak" or "Bengali" because of my skin colour and features (we are hybrids you see!).
I later went to the Anglo Chinese School (ACS) and in my class of 40 there were only 4 Malays. We were often picked on until we made some good Chinese friends who helped us defend ourselves. In fact I became a bit of a thug myself, captained the school rugby 1st. team when I was in Form 3 and not many would dare pick on me. I remember a Chinese teacher who didn't like me who once said to me: "You stupid Malays shouldn't come to school, like elephants you belong to the jungle!".
Later when I went to university in England I also experienced racism. Even when I worked as a diplomat in 8 different countries I would come up against racists. So my experience in life tells me that no one race has the monopoly of racism, we are all exposed to it.
Like Farish I would like to see a Malaysia where every Malaysian child, irrespective of race or religion, can aspire to be the Prime Minister.