What You Think

The flip side of a disaster — Tay Tian Yan

NOVEMBER 10 — This is a real story that took place in Penang during last weekend’s monster floods.

Local residents of a low-lying Chinese village scurried for their lives as the floodwaters rose in the middle of the night.

They were prepared to seek refuge at a temple on higher ground just outside the village, but the water level rose rapidly to chest level, abruptly stopping their advance.

A bilal at a nearby surau came to offer a hand, inviting them to take shelter inside the surau.

The villagers were hesitant. They had never stepped inside a mosque before and were worried about possible offense their presence could mean to some.

But, the water level was rising fast, and the bilal kept calling out to them.

A total of 49 Chinese and Indian villagers put up the night on the second floor of the surau, some half naked due to the rush.

If not for the bilal’s insistence, no one could tell what would eventually happen to the villagers.

He later said, “I knew some people would condemn me for what I did, but I would feel more guilty if I let them wander aimlessly in the dark.

“I don’t care what people would say. Most importantly these people must be out of danger!”

His name is Sapno Tukijo. Indeed, some have expressed their frustration over what he did, including Zamihan Mat Zin who had been reproached by the Johor Sultan over the Muslims-only launderette controversy.

Zamihan hit out at Sapno on Facebook for allowing non-Muslims into the surau, some inappropriately dressed.

Indeed there are still narrow-minded doctrinists in the likes of Zamihan in our midst, but majority of us, including many Muslims, have given their thumbs-up for Sapno’s caring spirit.

In the face of severe challenges, the kindness lurking deep inside us will surface, way above our religious and ethnic differences.

Sapno aside, we have seen countless of other unsung heroes who have generously donated food or money, or have personally gone down to flood-stricken areas to offer their hands, with religious organizations and NGOs taking the lead.

Notably, politicians have been willing to put down their differences and join hands to help flood victims.

DPM Ahmad Zahid instantly responded to the plea of the state government by mobilizing government resources to help the victims; defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein dispatched military personnel; PM Najib personally visited the victims in hard-hit areas; Selangor MB Azmin Ali, PAS deputy president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, MCA and Gerakan...

It was a whole new experience previously unseen in this country. The perpetual fights between politicians in the past have sickened many, but thanks to the floods they are now willing to place public interests above their own, as they step into the disaster zone hand in hand to help resolve the problems of victims.

At least it offers a whole new space for politicians and leaders, even their supporters, to take a respite from constant confrontation to engage in more constructive interactions and cooperation.

While it is unfortunate for the floods to strike, the disaster nevertheless provides a rare opportunity for Malaysians to learn to be more empathic, as we set our sights beyond our differences and interests in creating a better tomorrow for all. — Sin Chew Daily

* This article was first published here.

** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.

MORE ON MMOTV