Is this really "Our Deepavali"?

I might probably get flamed a lot for this post. Maybe get hated too. Or maybe I could be just oversensitive. It could be just my own thoughts without merits. But I can't help but to feel that something is missing from this year's Deepavali video from Petronas. Before I tell you what's missing however, I would want you to give it a try. Watch the video, and tell me if you noticed anything odd about it.

Like every year, Petronas has once again came up with a touching video that resonates in our heart about unity and love. It's a touching video, no doubt but if you paid enough attention to the video, you would have noticed that something was missing in the video.

With the exception of the cashier at the Petronas station, there were practically no other Malay characters taking part in the celebration of Deepavali in the video. I don't know whether the decision to keep most of the characters in the video as non-Malay (from the supporting cast in old folks home to the crowd at Batu Caves to even the house at the end of the movie) is intentional or not, but I couldn't help but wonder if it's to "preserve" cultural sensitivities itself.

It's kinda sad though to see how the video sort of portrayed that only Chinese and Indians could take part in the Deepavali celebrations, with the only Malay character observing from the sidelines as a cashier. I mean the video could have at least portrayed Malay friends visiting the Indian girl's house at the end to substitute for it right if you're concerned with the Batu Caves scene.

But I understand. A lot of debate has been stirred up in the past one week about the whole Allah issue in regards to the Muslim and Christian faith, and a lot of commentaries have been made about how if you have faith in your own beliefs, you would not be so easily swayed by what other faiths try to tell you. But my issue is not with this.

You see, there would be another equal uproar as well if the Chinese man in the video had been a Christian instead. I don't know about other Christian denominations but from where I came from, we were discouraged too from participating in other religion's activities. It is something that is frowned upon, something that we shouldn't do for reasons until today I still cannot understand (it borders on giving away a wrong image or defiling ourselves, I'm not sure which).

You see, my issue here is about religion itself. For two religions that aims to spread message about unity and love, sometimes I find it ironic how in the end it ends up distancing us instead. Somehow it is used to draw lines, to tell others that we are different from you and that we need to stay different from you. It's like an exclusive club where only the self righteous can enter. And when the religion is further politicized, particularly here in Malaysia, you have people and organizations running around everywhere telling others here and there that this cannot be done, that would offend the believers and they have to respect our rights.

Funny how when the religion first got started, for example when the Christians underwent persecution during the first few decades after Jesus's death or when Nabi Muhammad was first trying to establish the Islam faith in Mecca, you don't hear about the believers complaining about having people of other faiths practicing their beliefs. In fact, the act of trying to suppress the faith of others is almost always linked to power. It seemed that the more power you seem to have, the more insecure the people of your religion will be. Somehow, things that used to be fine are not and suddenly, we have to mind this and mind that, lines are suddenly drawn up, ownership are being claimed where there was none in the past, all for the sake of what?

Pride, power?

I don't know about you, but this Allah issue reminds me of the time when Malaysia tried to lay claim to numerous other stuff like batik, laksa, Rasa Sayang, pendet and even Hainanese Chicken Rice, only this time it only involves people living in Malaysia, but that could not stop me from wondering, why?

Maybe both issues have different reasons behind them but one thing is for certain, all this politicization of religion has divided us. Maybe this is what the government has intended to do all along, to fall back to the simplest rule of staying in power, divide and rule. I mean if our forefathers have no issue with keeping with their own beliefs while sharing the joys of others, why are we so protective of our own belief? Why are we so eager to act as the guardians of our faith, so eager to use words like war and employing an under siege mentality? Why can't we realize that if we are true to our own beliefs, no amount of force can shake it and we don't need someone else, be it the government or organizations to protect our religion for us? Because ultimately, faith is a personal issue and no matter how many safeguards we put in place, if we are weak, even a gentlest wind can blow us away?

As for me, I cannot help but to feel sad after watching the video. Somehow, I felt that Malaysia now is divided. Divided in a way that only Chinese and Indian can celebrate Deepavali. So what's next? In the words a friend, a Hari Raya advertisement with no non-Malays in fear of confusing the people?


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