Disclaimer: In Real Life is a platform for everyday people to share their experiences and voices. All articles are personal stories and do not necessarily echo In Real Life’s sentiments.
I am a chindian girl who grew up in KL. Growing up, I never had any issues with race.
My friends who saw me at school without the tudung didn’t assume I was malay, they assumed I was from East Malaysia or (correctly) asked if I was Chindian.
Some even thought I was simply a Chinese girl who loved being at the beach too much, because I was so tanned.
It was when I started working in the real world that reality hit.
I’ve never been stopped by Jakim at the pasar malam like some others, but I had 3 experiences that stood out as typical of the Chindian experience of being out and about during Puasa month:
1. I was asked to show my IC to order food during Puasa
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The first time I was ever stopped from eating by others during Ramadan was when I was 19.
It was in Klang, Aeon Bukit Tinggi. I was working at the mall as a sales rep at the time.
Usually I bring food that I cooked from home, but that day I woke up late and forgot to bring my packed lunch with me.
So I walked around the mall, thinking I could pack food for lunch.
I stopped by Mcd and decided to get a burger. Since I needed to be at my station in case there were customers, I needed to hurry back.
I walked up to the customer service rep and ordered my food to takeaway. She took one look at me and said:
“Eh, you can’t buy food here, you’re puasa-ing.”
I said, “Oh it’s okay, I’m not Malay.”
Every time I told someone I wasn’t malay, they usually knew that meant I was chindian or mixed.
But then the girl responded with another question.
“Oh, ok, where’s your IC?”
I was taken aback and the thought ran through my mind, “Why do you need to see my IC? You’re not the police.”
I didn’t feel like it was fair for them to ask for my IC, nor did I feel comfortable showing my IC to random strangers, let alone a Mcd’s customer service rep.
But I didn’t want to argue with her. Maybe she’s just doing what management told her to do. It was pretty busy and I was already pissed off.
So I told them it’s fine, I’ll buy from another place.
2. I was stopped from entering a nightclub during Puasa
Image via Thinkshot.
The second time this happened, I was going to a club with my friends.
We decided to head to this club which I will not name and we went to the end of the line. It was pretty happening and the music from inside was loud enough to vibrate the walls.
At the front of the queue before you can go in, the bouncer will usually ask for your IC and check if you’re underage to stop you from entering.
But I didn’t know that during puasa month, all clubs won’t allow Malays to enter, so they check for that too.
So I queued for a long time. When it was my turn, the same thing happened as with the lady at the Aeon Mall.
“Muslims cannot enter during Puasa,” The bouncer said, barring the entrance with his body.
I said, “I’m not Malay.”
“Ok, show your IC.” He replied impassively.
So then I began rummaging around in my purse for my IC. But it just so happened that I forgot to bring my IC that day.
“Ah, I left my IC at home.” I said, looking up at him sheepishly.
“Must show IC to enter. Please step aside,” he said, gesturing to the person behind me.
So in the end I had to ask my brother to bring my IC to me from home, haha.
Usually there are no bouncers at the front of the bar, you can go freely in and out as you like. I was surprised that Muslims had an extra restriction and weren’t allowed to go clubbing during Puasa month.
I guess it makes sense for them, but it was an inconvenience for me at the time.
3. I’ve been stopped by police thinking I was Malay
Image via Reuters
I’ve been stopped by police before, and sometimes it wasn’t even during puasa month.
One time I was driving back from the club and there was a roadblock on the way to my house.
I saw it and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I thought, “it’s just a routine spotcheck, I have nothing to hide or be afraid of.”
I slowed down, checked my seatbelt was on, put my hands on the 10-and-2 ‘o’ clock position, and looked straight ahead.
They shined a torch light at my face, then flagged me down. I pulled into the side lane where they were already questioning a few other drivers.
When they stopped me, they started asking me a lot of questions.
“Dari mana?” (“Where are you coming from?”)
I told them I was coming from KL after leaving work later.
“Pergi mana?” (“Where are you headed?”)
I told them my house address.
“Kenapa lewat sangat balik rumah?” (Why are you going home so late?”)
I told them I was working late and had missed dinner.
“Ada minum arak ke? Mabuk ke? (“Were you drinking? Are you drunk?”)
It was like they were looking for malays that were drinking or something. I said I’m not malay, then they checked my IC and apologised.
“Maaf cik, pandu baik-baik.” (Apologies ma’am, drive safely.”)
I was also at a bar once, and the bar got raided. They pulled me out, thinking that I’m Malay. I guess it was because I look tanned.
Malays were picked out first to do a pee test. I asked them, “Excuse me officer, why do I need to do the pee test? Because I’m not malay.”
But they just asked me to do the pee test anyway.
“Buat saja, nanti cakap.” (“Do it first, you can talk later.”)
So I showed them my IC, and after they saw it then one of them said, “Oh, you’re not Malay.”
Then they said I could leave.
Being profiled is a scary feeling.
I got tattoos on my hands now, just so that I don’t get confused with being Malay. I go to shops and I just hope they see my tattoos.
But even so, there are still people that stare at me in the mall when I’m walking and eating, just one day ago, and they would ask me:
“Tak puasa ke?”
It’s a weird and scary feeling to be “assumed Malay” when I’m not. So far, I’ve got off lightly because I had my IC, or I had people who could vouch for my identity.
And so far, the police have been respectful whenever they made a mistake. I know they’re just trying to do their jobs.
But even so, I always feel a bit anxious when I go out to bars, when I buy non-halal meat, when I do anything that Malays are judged for doing.
One day, I may get stopped or harassed by someone who may not believe me when I tell them that I am Chindian. They may say that I am lying, menipu, and that I am going against the religion by not following it.
But I’m Chinese mixed Indian. I’m not Malay, so why am I treated like one? Why is it considered okay to assume my ethnicity from the beginning? Isn’t it more courteous to ask first?
The culture of jaga tepi kain orang lain (meddling in other people’s affairs) must stop, and be replaced with jaga tepi kain sendiri (minding your own business) instead.
For more stories like this, read: I Was One of the 310 Who Got Arrested in the Club for Violating SOP.
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