A student-parent-counsellor allegory on why non-Muslims M’sians are not backing the Palestinian cause

THERE was an article in FocusM recently that wondered out loud about why the Chinese community in Malaysia do not stand together with the Malay Muslim population in solidarity with the Palestinians.

I don’t think it is the Chinese alone but the non-Muslims population as a whole that doesn’t stand together with the Muslim population in Malaysia with regard to the Palestinian cause.

I think this is the case because we don’t think that the Malay Muslim population actually stands in solidarity with the Palestinians. They say they do, but we don’t actually think that they do.

Now you might think “but what do you mean, Nehru?” To this, I will try to answer the question by means of an allegory.

In the way I see it, the Palestinians are like a university student. The Muslim world both in Malaysia and other parts of the world are like their parents while the non-Muslims in Malaysia are like a student counsellor who works in the university.

As the student counsellor, we can clearly see that the student can’t handle the course that they are taking. In their first year itself they were struggling.

By the time they entered their second year, they were already addicted to all sorts of drugs and bad habits to cope with their inability to handle their course and by the third year, they have failed so many subjects that the stress they are experiencing is even making them contemplate suicide.

They don’t think they can finish the course and even if they can, they are not looking forward to the life that their graduation offers. They are filled with shame, regret, anxiety and depression.

They clearly look like they are in a dire need of a drastic change. If they don’t change, we can clearly see that they are going to either drive themselves insane or kill themselves.

Not wanting to be part of problem

As their counsellors, we can’t advise them to drop their course. We can’t because we know what the student is going to say. They are going to say: “We can’t, teacher. Our parents are counting on us. We must make our parents proud. Our parents will be disappointed in themselves if we cannot be what they wanted to be.

“Even if it kills us, even if it takes away every ounce of happiness that we have in our lives, we will make our parents proud of themselves or die trying.”

We can’t tell their parents to stop pressuring their children to do something that is just killing them just for the sake of their pride either. We can’t because we know what their parents will say, too.

They will say: “No, no, you misunderstand, teacher. We are not doing this for our pride but for the good of our child. Our child will only have a future if they finish this course. We have provided our child with everything they need to complete this course.

“We have suffered and sacrificed to provide everything that our child needs to finish this course.  We are not the enemies here. We love our child. Please help us motivate and encourage our child to finish this course!”

If you are student counsellor, of course you are not going to do what the parents suggest and motivate and encourage their children to drive themselves insane and look forward to killing themselves.

But other than giving your best advice, what can you do?  These are not your children or parents. You have to know your place and position.

We can’t always be a part of the solution. Sometimes, the only thing we can do is not be a part of the problem but by being the silent watcher in order not to make things worse.

The reason why the non-Muslims in Malaysia are not standing in solidarity with the Muslim in Malaysia with regard to the Palestinian cause, by my reckoning, is because we do not want to be a part of the problem or make the problem worse. – Nov 15, 2023


Nehru Sathiamorthy is a roving tutor who loves politics, philosophy and psychology.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

Main pic credit: Sahsa Chou

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