The smarter you are, the stronger your faith

The smarter you are, the stronger your faith
By Zan Azlee

The argument and debate surrounding the film ‘Mentega Terbang’ is one that has been going on in Malaysia for decades. Sometimes, I don’t even know why people are shocked about it because it is just expected. No one in Malaysia can honestly say that all the hoohaa that is happening isn’t something that is just so natural for Malaysia.

The conversation I had with some of my Malay friends can probably act as a little microcosm of middle Malaysia.

“A movie that shows a Muslim questioning her faith in Islam shouldn’t be shown,” said Izan.

“But have you seen the film and do you understand the context of the conversation the main protagonist has with her parents?” I asked.

Well, Izan did see the film and after a discussion about the story as a whole, he stopped pushing his argument about how the character is questioning her faith and wanting to convert to another religion. This is quite reasonable because the film really is about a teenage girl who has to come to terms with her mother dying from cancer.

She sets off on a journey to research how other religions interpret and believe in death. She looks at Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism.

While she does her research, she has conversations with her dying mother, father, and her school friend. Eventually, her mother dies and she tries to find peace with it.

Nowhere does she say she wants to convert or puts Islam down. In fact, she doesn’t put any of the religions down at all. The conversations were always full of respect. And if we want to talk about Islam, her dying mother is constantly stressing her belief in Islam and how she realises that is the religion for her.

Will Malaysians ever be ‘ready’?

I’ll be honest and say that the movie isn’t great. It’s quite ordinary. The filmmakers were trying hard to do a Yasmin Ahmad and it did come across as quite derivative. The way the dialogue was written is also quite preachy (It’s preachy in the sense that they want to explain the story but not preachy as in wanting to convert people!).

But this article isn’t a review of the film. It is supposed to be a criticism of the lack of open-mindedness amongst Malaysians. So, I will revert back to the conversation that I had with my Malay friends about the movie. Another one of them mentioned that Malaysia isn’t ready for a film like this.

“I haven’t watched the film but I think this film is too sensitive to be shown to Malaysians,” said Harril.

“Bro, if you haven’t seen it, then what is your opinion based on?” I asked.

Basically, both Harril’s and Izan’s opinion is that a film like ‘Mentega Terbang’ should never be shown because Malaysians will never be able to accept a film that discusses religion and religions like this because they aren’t ready.

Will they ever be ready? According to them, that day will never come and the reason is that Malaysians aren’t knowledgeable enough to accept discussions like this.

I believe that most Malaysians aren’t ready for films that discuss issues like this too. However, my argument is that we need to progress and become ready. If Malaysians are not knowledgeable enough, then there is probably something wrong with our education system and exposure. So, we should make sure that our society gets better and not be so ignorant.

Intellectual discourse

I believe that films like ‘Mentega Terbang’ should, every now and then, be produced so that Malaysians get this kind of exposure.

Instead of calling for a total ban and shutting down the film, there needs to be proper discussion and discourse so that the intellectual level of Malaysians will be better.

So my questions to Harril and Izan are, “Are you okay that we Malaysians are too stupid to be able to handle films such as ‘Mentega Terbang’?”, and “Don’t you want Malaysians to be confident and strong enough with their stand and beliefs so that they can discuss issues like these in a civil and intellectual way?”.

I don’t believe in being insensitive to people’s religious beliefs and whatnot. That is definitely wrong and could even border on hate speech. But if issues are brought up respectfully, I think it’s more than okay to have discourse around it. It will definitely make everyone understand things much better. Then, maybe studying comparative religions in university wouldn’t be so challenging.

I watched ‘Mentega Terbang’ and I can say that it did not make me question my beliefs in Islam as my religion of choice. I just saw a scared and sad little girl who was trying to feel better because her mother is dying.

If anything, it strengthened my belief in Islam and it gives me comfort in thinking about mortality and death. So, let’s better ourselves and be more secure with our faith. It isn’t that difficult and both Harril and Izan do agree.

[This article was originally written for and published at]

Get Zan Azlee’s best-selling book ‘Liberal, Malay and Malaysian‘ today!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is liberal-cover.png

Buy more Fat Bidin books, films and merchandise at The Fat Bidin Store!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s