LETTER | Achieving racial unity via Malaysian identity

Yow Lop Siaw

19 Nov 2020, 4:45 pagi

Updated 11 d ago


LETTER | The idea of adopting a Malaysian identity proposed by a university don is a good one as this identity enables us to identify ourselves with our beloved country rather than our ethnic origin. In fact, we automatically identify ourselves as Malaysians when we are overseas. 

"I am a Malaysian" is the instantaneous response when someone asks, “Where are you from?” The funny thing is the moment we are back here, our ethnic origin suddenly becomes prominent. Abandoning this ethnic-centric mindset should be a good start towards building the Malaysian identity.

We may not be aware of the many common practices and commonalities across the various major races. Notable examples are showing respect to our elders, heading back to our parents’ homes to celebrate Hari Raya, Lunar New Year, Deepavalli, complete with the angpow and green packets. 

Both are uniquely valuable traditions in most Asian cultures. Even in other areas such as food, we see more and more cross-cultural practices. The steamed bun (pau in Chinese) and the yong tao foo each has a halal version. Similarly, we notice that the rendang and kurma are favourite dishes in parties organised by non-Malays. 

These are just a couple of common practices prevalent these days and we should build on these to extend to other good-value practices and traditions towards the Malaysian identity goal.

At the same time, we should stop label-pasting, calling fellow Malaysians as pendatang. This labelling is simply uncalled for and unjustified. No Malaysian citizen should be called a pendatang as his rightful place is Malaysia. 

If there’s any party that has this right, it is the Federal Constitution. Most of us were born in Malaysia, and by virtue of our citizenship status, being labelled as pendatang is simply unjustified and wrong. In fact, there are many whose ancestors were here two or three generations ago.

For the sake of unity and racial harmony, let us embrace this call for the creation of the Malaysian identity. As the university don had rightly said so, identifying ourselves as Malaysians rather than by our ethnic origin does not make us less Malay or less Chinese and less Indian. 

Our DNA does not mutate due to this new mindset. With this new Malaysian identity mindset, it would definitely move all of us towards a path of reduced suspicion, greater understanding and appreciate each other better. 

A greater benefit down the road would be learning from each other’s strengths and gain from them. Each race has its strengths and weaknesses. 

With better understanding, the new Malaysian identity could result in an amalgamation of the strengths and when this is achieved, we would be able to take on the best in the world. 

The motto in our Malaysian emblem says it, “Unity is Strength.” The time has come for us to pursue this great motto in order to remain competitive in this fast-changing environment. 

Malays learning from the Chinese or Indians does not devalue their own culture or beliefs and vice versa. There are many good habits and practices among the Malays worth adopted and practiced by Chinese and Indians. 

Whatever good practices and habits that we learn and benefit from each other will serve to enrich us.

It is hoped that the politicians adopt a more sincere approach and come up with ways and means towards the formation of the Malaysian Identity. 

Abandon your “divide and rule” approach, work towards the birth of the Malaysian identity and leave a legacy and a proud prominent footprint in Malaysian history.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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