Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Nut Graph: Chef Wan and friends fast for diverse Malaysia

Chef Wan and friends fast for diverse Malaysia

15 Sep 09 : 8.00AM

By Shanon Shah

Updated on 15 Sept 2009 at 10am

PETALING JAYA, 15 Sept 2009: A beloved chef, a renowned compere and a respected entrepreneur are but only a few of the notable Malay Malaysians reclaiming the meaning of multicultural Malaysia come Malaysia Day tomorrow.

"Malaysia has become a very scary country. Why can't we just love people for what they are, regardless of the colour of their skin? Have we not learnt from the experiences of Rwanda, Bosnia and the Holocaust?" Chef Wan told The Nut Graph in telephone interview.

Chef Wan (Pic by Roland Tanglao @ Flickr)

"Malaysians have to learn to respect each other. Those [Malay Malaysians] who want to hurt Indian and Chinese [Malaysians], they should ask themselves this. If we cubit ourselves, do we not hurt? Then why do we want to pinch them? This logic should also apply vice-versa," he said.

In the light of the protests threatening violence over the relocation of a Hindu temple in Shah Alam, and in order to take part in an inclusive gesture to uphold what Malaysia means, Chef Wan will be participating in the Fast for the Nation, Peace for Malaysia event on 16 Sept.

Other Malaysian personalities who are also participating include activist, blogger and The Nut Graph columnist Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, compere Datuk Mahadzir Lokman, entrepreneur Anas Zubedy, and popular artistes Reshmonu, Rafidah Abdullah of Gol & Gincu and 3R fame, and DJ Roshan from Mix FM.

Responding to communalism

The inclusive fast was triggered by the recent protest in Shah Alam, in which a group of Malay-Muslim Malaysians opposed the relocation of a Hindu temple and dragged around a severed cow's head.

According to Anas: "When a certain group of people offends another group of people, I always feel it is important for other members of the 'offensive group' to come forward and say that it is unacceptable. In this case, the offending group consisted of Malay Muslims."

He said that this is why he, as a Malay-Muslim Malaysian, has spoken up about the cow-head protests, and why he is involved in the inclusive fast.

In a telephone interview with The Nut Graph, Anas also explained that his company, zubedy (m) sdn bhd, already has a tradition of holding at least one multifaith "puasa day" every year.

"On this day, everyone at zubedy will fast and berbuka together. We can fast in any way — the Buddhist way, the Muslim way, or some people forego food but not water. The point is we do it in solidarity with each other," he said.

Anas is also known for taking out a full one-page ad on behalf of his company on 16 Sept every year to commemorate Malaysia Day.

"This year, seeing that Malaysia Day falls during Ramadan, we decided to do a joint Malaysia Day and 'puasa day' celebration, and this was even before I learnt about Fast for the Nation, Peace for Malaysia," he explained.

Walking the talk

However, Anas said those participating in the inclusive fast were not in positions of authority and power, and as such, parties such as the cow-head protesters were unlikely to take them seriously.

"This is why I believe that our royalty and all our mufti must also speak up and say that what the protesters did was wrong. (Prime Minister Datuk Seri) Najib (Razak), (PAS spiritual leader Datuk) Nik Abdul Aziz (Nik Mat) and (Parti Keadilan Rakyat adviser Datuk Seri) Anwar Ibrahim should all also come up with a joint statement saying the protesters' actions were unacceptable," he said.

The participants (Pic courtesy of Sivin Kit)

According to Anas, only in this way would all Malaysians understand that the protest and the ensuing fracas were not part of Islam or the Malay culture.

Mahadzir, a multilingual compere with decades of experience, also said it is important to not just talk about an inclusive Malaysia, but to practise it.

"I grew up having Chinese and Indian [Malaysian] neighbours babysitting me when my parents went out. Everyone was an uncle or auntie even if we weren't literally related, regardless of race," he told The Nut Graph in a phone interview.

He admitted to being confounded by the rise in communalism in Malaysia.

"I once heard even my own younger relatives talking in a not-so-harmonious way about other races. I had to sit them down, not to scold them, but to explain my own multiracial upbringing," he said.

Mahadzir will be among the many personalities aiming to share their pre-dawn meal together at 5am at Lotus Restaurant in PJ State cinema tomorrow. The organisers encourage members of the public to hold their own inclusive fasts and to break fast together, preferably with vegetarian food, wherever they are.

Details of the event can be found at

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