Spending our first holiday season away from North America, Diane and I have a lot to be thankful for. Having successfully sold our house and almost all our possessions, we took a big leap of faith and followed a dream of early retirement in Southeast Asia. Having never even visited Penang or even peninsular Malaysia, the first six months have come and gone with only minor inconveniences. Always interesting, often frustrating and most certainly quite rewarding, expat life is nothing like anything we’ve ever done and differs greatly from vacations. Having said that and almost always avoiding political topics, I nevertheless feel compelled to share my take on the tumultuous times we’re living in. Saddened by the recent terrorist attacks in France, we’re greatly disturbed by the messages being sent to the voters in the supposed leader of the free world. Once a bastion of freedom and democracy, the hatred, xenophobia and racism spewing out of the mouths of almost every American political candidate running for president in 2016 is so offensive it makes me ashamed to be an American citizen.
Recently, a letter to Donald Trump from Michael Moore entitled “We’re all Muslim” made the rounds on the internet. Normally not a fan, I read it anyway and it helped ease my concern that every American voter is so angry that they’d even entertain thoughts of “banning all Muslims” from the country founded on the principle of religious freedom. Before anyone sends me hate mail, let me clarify: I am a non-Christian agnostic raised without much religion and neither condone or condemn any religion as better than any other. Nobody denies there’s evil organizations out there and the threat is real. But allowing the 2016 election’s main agenda of a return to perpetual fear by an entire citizenry egged on by a far right contingent of conservative politicians fearful of losing power does a huge disservice to a generation tired of reliving the tragedy of 9/11 for an entire century.
Knowing most expat blog readers are open-minded, my holiday wish is a return of sanity to a political system gone horribly awry. Understanding I can’t pull the weight of MIchael Moore, I’m offering an Open Letter to the American Voters from a fellow citizen living in a peaceful Muslim nation. Basically there’s no “East Versus West” except in the minds of your idiot candidates and my proof is six months of residency in “enemy territory“. Sadly, I’m unable to share this on Facebook because most of my FB friends would immediately condemn me for speaking out against hatred and fall back some warped idea that respecting all religions is somehow unpatriotic.
Dear American Voter:
My wife and I voluntarily moved to Malaysia this year to begin our retirement. For many, your knowledge of this scenic and beautiful nation might be limited to CNN’s highly biased and mostly non-factual coverage of an airline that disappeared and a government too ignorant to figure out what happened. Others may be curious and even want to visit but you probably won’t. Despite no active warnings to Americans about terrorist related activities, you’re no doubt scared. Although the state we live in (Penang) is largely dominated by Chinese, the nation is a “Muslim country” and your government therefore discourages you from visiting. You’re told “they’re all coming to get you” and “another 9/11 is imminent”. At the risk of educating even one person, we’d like to share a bit of life in one of the most peaceful nations on earth. At the risk of shocking many of you, we took the picture below at a recent trip to the mall.
Notice the young teens and their mother texting. Just like your kids. Contrary to popular opinion, Malaysians (Muslims) enjoy a middle class lifestyle like yours. They’re not “coming to get you“. In fact, they know almost nothing about you and are all shockingly appalled and bewildered when someone tells them 300 million people hate them. They wear head-dress. Many of you wear your Sunday best when you go to church. So what? Historically speaking, Muslims lived peacefully with Christians, Buddhists and Jews in western Europe and everyone got along once until the Spanish Inquisition put a stop to that. Oddly enough, there are lots of churches in a Muslim nation. And more Christmas music than politically correct California. You see, people in moderate Muslim nations spend most of their time working and enjoy their holidays at the beach. Just like you. Malaysia encourages legal immigration and doesn’t even profile you at the airport for looking Christian. Imagine that.
My wife and I chose not to own a vehicle. Taking the bus allows us to integrate with the population that includes Muslims, Indians, Chinese and mostly European expats. This may shock you but the pictures below show how most Malaysian Muslims spend their mornings and weekends. They commute and sit in traffic. Just like you. Unlike most Americans, they give up their seat when an elderly person gets on the bus. And would you believe they even do this when a non-Muslim needs a seat? (Gasp). When we visit the mall, the mostly Muslim salespeople go out of their way to be polite and are probably less likely to commit a violent crime of any one than their expat counterparts. On weekends, they gather in the parks to play free concerts. They’re not organizing rallies to drum up the next terrorist attack against Americans. Believe it or not, Islam has nothing to do with holding back women’s rights. Governments and cultural norms control that, mostly for political gain, not religion. Everyone here works, schools are open to anyone that wants an education and they even occasionally hold hands in public. Yikes.
Malaysia’s population is almost 40 million. About 65% are Muslim. They’re overwhelmingly peaceful, law-abiding citizens that have better things to do with their time than follow politicians, right-wing radio hosts and media organizations that spread innuendo, lies and hatred. We know this not because we’re pro Democrat, left-wing or anti-Republican. We live it every day. With two billion Muslims on earth, the notion that “they’re all terrorists” is simply an outright lie. What passes as media in America is sinful and running an entire election platform on hatred instead of addressing real issues like bilateral cooperation of all nations to fight ALL forms of terrorism is an injustice. Even allowing Donald Trump to get this far is shocking to most of the world and hopefully sanity will prevail.
Of course Malaysia has problems and not everyone is a model citizen. Most of you knows for a fact that the ratio of Americans killed by gun violence outnumbers those killed by terrorism by an astoundingly ridiculous margin but that’s OK because the second amendment somehow means it’s OK to murder children in cold blood as long as it’s done by a white guy. I won’t argue gun laws here but will shock you one more time by informing you there’s NO GUNS PERMITTED in this Muslim nation except law enforcement and the military. So I’d like Mr.Trump to explain just what they’ll all kill us with.
Imploring everyone to speak out against racism and return America to the proud world leader it once was, please share this letter to every presidential candidate. (except whatever idiot said “We’ll leave Malaysia alone”). Thanks for reading.
Peace, Love and Happy Holidays from us to you !!