LIKE many other years, 2016 was personally a year of ups and downs. The highlight of my year was securing this column; allowing me to continue writing following the closure of an online portal back in March that used to feature my articles.
There are many things to be grateful for, yet there are also many sad occasions. The loss of The Star’s Executive Editor, Soo Ewe Jin, after barely six months of my working with him, made me feel robbed of time and opportunity to know good people, good Malaysians.
2016 was dubbed “the year the 80s died”.
As I write this column, my newsfeed is filled with condolences for Carrie Fisher, most famous for her role as Princess Leia in the original Star Wars.
I was quite impacted by this, seeing as Princess Leia was a role model in what was a boys-only movie franchise in my childhood.
Fisher’s passing came barely two days after the world learnt of George Michael’s death on Christmas Day. It is bittersweet to imagine there’s an afterlife superstar-studded concert featuring Michael, Bowie, Prince, and many other greats the world lost this year.
What I consider a new low for this year was Donald Trump being democratically elected as the next President of the United States. From my own experience as a US State Department Fellow in 2015, I am fearful, anxious, and still uncomfortable that Trump will follow President Barack Obama.
Then there is the news from Aleppo, Palestine, and Rakhine state. It somehow seems hypocritical of us Malaysians, who are willing to rally and demonstrate for these causes, but are not willing to learn from the lessons of such wars.
While solving wars or genocides seems complex, there is no denying that those affected are human lives and those of us with power to make things better or with potential solutions, should strive to do so. While those of us whose actions potentially hinder progress should learn to sit quietly.
2016 also saw a few frustrating news items doing their rounds on local media. The exposé of online paedophilia by The Star’s R.AGE team should not just increase public awareness, but also push the public to demand action, either through pushing for comprehensive sex education at an early age or for implementation of anti-grooming laws.
The law on child marriage in Malaysia needs to be revisited. While there has been a push from women’s rights groups over the years, there still exists the loophole for child marriage under syariah law (where a child under the age of 16 can be legally married with permission from State authorities) that unfortunately, more often than not, is abused.
2016 also proved a confusing time for most Muslims in Malaysia. In addition to the tabling of the 355 Act – now to be tabled as a Government Bill in the next parliamentary sitting after being originally a Private Member’s Bill by an opposition party, Muslim Malaysians saw our intelligence challenged over the use of the word “pretzel dog”. That is, after we had fought over which chocolates are halal.
We also saw a widowed mother of three being detained with no clear charge for her offence(s). Meanwhile, a tweet stating one’s opinion could result in a police raid at our private residence in the wee morning hours.
In her commencement speech at Monash University’s recent convocation ceremony, Jo Kukathas broke down the reality for the graduands in two simple words: “Be afraid.” While I agree that we all need to be pragmatic when it comes to living our lives, being afraid should not make us ignorant, uncaring or vengeful.
After all the lows that 2016 brought, we should take Michelle Obama’s advice to go high. If Trump indeed goes on with his plans to have Muslims “registered” or build his wall around the US, we should respond by showing to him and the world that a moderate Muslim-majority country can be great and inclusive.
by LYANA KHAIRUDDIN.