‘Rat route’ to being Malaysian

Mustafa K. Anuar

Malaysians of diverse backgrounds can unite around vital values of compassion, empathy, justice, freedom and shared humanity. – Pixabay pic, April 23, 2024.

IN the spirit of Eid Mubarak and muhibbah, many Malay-Muslim families had conducted open houses for relatives, as well as neighbours, colleagues and friends of diverse backgrounds.

It was the season to be merry and inclusive, which had also often become the subject matter of corporate advertisements in celebrating the blessed festivity. A few video clips tried to pull the heartstrings of viewers.

But what happened in Ladang Bikam, Perak recently is presumably a rarity that also deserves public attention and appreciation, especially in the current political environment where there are more efforts aimed at burning – rather than building – bridges across ethnic and religious divides.

The incident involved a group of 15 Chinese men in the vicinity who helped clear an alternative road, or a “rat route” (“jalan tikus”), as it is called by those who are familiar with such a phenomenon, to bypass a stretch of the PLUS highway in Perak that was clogged with vehicles heading southwards to Kuala Lumpur.

With an excavator and eager helping hands, the men managed to level the dirt road within 15 minutes to enable celebrating Malays, who went back to kampung for Hari Raya, to pass through in the darkness of a particular Saturday night.

Such a kind gesture would have been passed off as sheer humanitarian spirit under normal circumstances, without much hype on social media. But, as intimated above, we live in times when such acts are largely uncommon and deserve applause.

To be sure, such positive vibes between the Malay travellers and the Chinese villagers are what true Malaysians ought to be. This should not be construed as making a mountain out of a molehill.

The spirit of helping fellow Malaysians in dire straits without being bothered about their ethnic and religious backgrounds is crucial in reinforcing ethnic bonds and discarding racial bigotry and suspicion.

This may sound bizarre, if not pathetic, but it is hoped that such a heartwarming act could open the eyes of certain bigots in our midst that not all Chinese are bad just as not all Malays are corrupt.

It is all the more reason that such an effort should be welcomed as it was spontaneous and, more importantly, without intervention of politicians.

If politics of the past is anything to go by, things can go awry when it involves politicians, particularly those who desperately seek political mileage by any means.

We have witnessed, for instance, the 2021 floods in Shah Alam, Selangor, when groups of Malaysians from diverse backgrounds came to the rescue of the flood victims. Only compassion and concern prodded them to do the needful and humane thing.

There are obviously important takeaways from the above mentioned incidents.

As humans, Malaysians, irrespective of origins, face at some point in their lives hardships, misfortunes and challenges, many of which require concern and help from fellow citizens as well as certain state institutions.

Incidentally, it shouldn’t necessitate you to have the right feng shui in your place before you are considered eligible for assistance.

To be clear, Malaysians of diverse backgrounds can unite around vital values of compassion, empathy, justice, freedom and shared humanity. The emphasis should be on our commonalities, not differences.

Concerned Malaysians should tread this path for the sake of building a harmonious, just and progressive nation.

The 15 ordinary men on the “rat route” and others of similar ilk have shown us the way. – April 23, 2024.

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