When did being Malaysian get so difficult?

When I was in primary school, I used to play Red Alert and racing cars in school exercise books with my long lost best friend, Chew Wen Yang, whom I have not met for almost 11 years now. We never had a problem with our racial or religious differences, and even if we got into an argument, we never shouted to each other “you balik China” or “you balik Indonesia”. There is no secret to this; it is a plain and simple logic: we never looked at each other from a racial or religious perspective. Not to say that I didn’t notice any differences between the both of us at all. I was aware that we were different in terms of religion — he was a Buddhist and I was a Muslim; his name sounded ‘Chinese’ while mine sounded ‘Malay’. But those differences never bothered or prevented us from being best friends because we knew that despite our differences, at the end of the day, both of us breathed the same air –it defies all logic to suggest that we cannot be friends just because we are from different ethnicities.

Recently there have been many issues, whether on print or on the social media, which have widened the racial and religious gaps between Malaysians which, if viewed with reason rather than emotion, would not have arisen at all. Perpetrated by racial and religious chauvinists, the victims are none other than us Malaysians. This is probably because we are yet to have a national identity; we are still struggling to find one. As such, I think Malaysians need to have some common goals and shared values. It is true that in democracy, we should embrace our diversity of views. However, I think there are some fundamental principles or values which all Malaysians should grasp notwithstanding our differences. There may be some Malaysians who are already aware of these, but there could be some others out there who are not, hence the relevance of this humble piece. In addition to the principles of the Rukun Negara, based on my personal experiences, these are my humble propositions:

1. Rise above race, ethnicity and religion

It is ironic and frustrating that even though Malaysians are already deeply divided in terms of race and religion, there are some quarters who still call for Malay unity. Calling for Malay unity may have been appropriate prior to Merdeka, but it should not remain in perpetuity – it was merely an interim measure since it was convenient during those days to call for a Malay solidarity to fight for independence. There have been several comments/postings on social media saying that there is nothing wrong to advocate for Malay unity because the Malays must be united first before uniting with other communities. I am not the authority to prove whether such an ‘ideology’ is right or wrong in this age of information, but I think individuals who advocate for it are just giving excuses to not to get out of their comfort zones and integrate with different communities.

I am not saying that we need to get rid of our culture; we can preserve our traditions and at the same time, still be inclusive rather than exclusive. What I am saying is that we need to widen our worldview and not look at every single issue from the racial and/or religious point of view because such attitude tends to divide rather than unite us.

2. Respect each other’s freedom and liberty

Recently, there have been many instances of infringements of personal freedoms and liberties. To name a few, the Allah issue, the continuous harassment towards the Shiite minority, prejudice against the LGBT community, the surau case, and the ridiculing of a Muslim dog trainer. The creation of our nation is hinged on principles of freedom and liberty – the supreme law of this country, the Federal Constitution, recognises and protects some basic and fundamental rights of individuals. These rights are inherent and not a single person, not even the state, can take them away.

In the words of a friend of mine:

“Hate all you want, judge all you want, but it’s not your job to punish.”

3. No one is going anywhere

Like most Malaysians, I was born, raised and probably will die in Malaysia too. I believe the vast majority of Malaysians have developed a strong sense of belonging in our beloved homeland, hence our loyalty to the nation is indisputable. Is it not ironic that even though Malaysia has been on the map for almost 50 years, we still have some arrogant, ignorant politicians and ordinary citizens who ask dissidents to leave their homeland? Citizenship is a right, not a privilege. It is clearly laid out in Article 9(1) of the Federal Constitution which guarantees the right to citizenship for all Malaysians. It reads: “no citizen shall be banished or excluded from the Federation.” No one is going anywhere; loyal citizens of Malaysia are here to stay.

I think the summary is this: Social cohesion is pivotal in nation building. It could be that Malaysians have been tolerating for too long, that it has reached the point where some quarters have had enough of it and thereby want to throw it into the dustbin. It is time for Malaysians to accept and respect each other; and in order for that to happen, Malaysians must understand each other. Only then we can have a stronger social cohesion. Embrace our differences and be proud of it. After all, if not for our diversity, there will be no nasi lemak, char kuey teow, roti canai, kek lapis Sarawak and many other mouth-watering Malaysian foods. We should emphasise more on nation-building rather than quarrelling about matters which will not help our nation prosper.

I believe the above propositions, though not meant to be exhaustive, are among the ideals and values Malaysians should hold so dearly. They should be the common goals every Malaysian ought to strive for, for the sake of the betterment of our beloved tanah air, Malaysia. Happy 56th Merdeka Day and Happy Malaysia Day.


Featured image by Mohd Nor Azmil Abdul Rahman

Wan Hilmi adalah seorang pelajar yang kini sedang menuntut di sekolah Undang-undang yang terletak di Ibu Kota Kuala Lumpur. Wan Hilmi merupakan seorang pencinta kucing, penagih coklat dan peminat kereta....

5 replies on “Paradigm Shift For Malaysia, Please”

  1. My guess is that the author was separated from his best friend because one of them went to a Malay/bumi-only Mara Junior College and the other didn't. Same thing happened all around me. When the best 'Malay' students are placed in Mara schools, they leave behind 'best classes' in national schools which are non-Malay only, creating racial tensions in their 'home schools' as well as non-Malays are now seen as better students than Malays and 'taking away their rights'. From the age of 13, the 'best and brightest' Malaysian students are segregated by race by the school system. This must stop. There is a lot of focus on vernacular schools, but I believe that all race- and religion-based schools should be abolished: not only vernacular schools but also Mara schools, sekolah agama, UiTM…

    1. the problem is do u think the chinese better in academics because they are smarter??? Do anyone go and checkout how much money the parents spent on them and hope they are better. Result = effort… How many children Chinese family have and how many children do Malay family have? based on logic, how much can u care if u got 5- 8 children compare to 1-2 children… Obviously the effort spent on their children is not the same so the result should be different too, this is the logic.

      1. Please read my comment carefully and try to understand it. I am not talking about effort and I am not assuming that anybody is inherently smarter than anybody else — rather the opposite. I said that in national schools racial tension is created because after Standard Six all the smart 'Malay' students are removed and put in Mara schools. As you know, many Malaysian schools have classes streamed by academic ability. Thus, the 'best classes' in national schools no longer have any 'Malay' students because they have all been deliberately removed from the mainstream national school system and sent to Mara schools. Therefore, to many ordinary Malaysians (those who are not from the super-smart/elite 'Malay' class) there is the PERCEPTION that 'non-Malay' students are smarter because all the smart 'Malay' students are GONE. Another consequence is that the best and brightest Malaysian students spend their most formative years in racially-segregated educational environments. This is a deliberate and cunning effort by the BN government to create racial tensions through national schools. The result is the kind of racist thinking represented by your comment.

        A paradigm shift for Malaysia is very necessary, as the author of the article stated. Anyway, it's good that he and others are speaking up. More must do so. We need not one article but hundreds and thousands and hundreds of thousands of articles. Not only directed towards Malaysians but also to the outside world, which has a very distorted view of Malaysia after more than 50 years of BN propaganda and no other news coming out from our beautiful country.

        See also: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/opinion/azrul-m

        1. ok…if that is what u call racist….i clearly dont see if religion based school abolish will contribute to national unity…

        2. maybe i use a wrong way to express myself. I clearly not seeing abolish of vernacular schools will contribute to national unity. Here is my view, vernacular school do contribute to understanding of our race culture but it is not necessary negative and contribute to racial diversion. It is the quota system that kick in, if the quota system can be abolish i think it is better than abolish the vernacular school. Anyone can apply on any school they want and they have choice. I will support abolish of vernacular school if the government make it necessary to study BM, chinese and tamil and study other races cultural differences. I happy with your view, the only thing i not feel right is the abolish of vernacular school and that is why i comment on the first place. The above writer view is covering much more by touching on rukun negara which i totally agree.

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