I love Malaysia Day. Simply because it is a reminder of how blessed we are as Malaysians to live in a multicultural society.
I grew up in a small town in Sarawak, where most of my classmates were Dayaks and Chinese, and a handful were Muslims. Hence, there was always a reason to celebrate every festive season.
It is this upbringing that taught me to embrace people from all races and backgrounds. In fact, race and religion were never an issue. My own extended family is like a mini Malaysia what with relatives from different races.
After moving to Kuala Lumpur to work, my world was opened up further to a myriad of people from diverse backgrounds. It is no surprise that my closest friends are Malay, Indian and Chinese.
Hence, when there was so much talk about racial differences, I simply couldn’t understand how it even started in the first place. In fact, my friendship with the girls bonded because of our ability to see beyond skin colour. We see ourselves as Malaysians while embracing and understanding other races.
And I am shocked and stunned that despite 62 years of independence and 56 years since Malaysia was formed, we are still grasping and harping on the race card.
Stereotypes like ‘Chinese are swindlers and gamblers’, or ‘Malays are lazy’ while ‘Indians are drunkards’… we all have been guilty of stereotyping a particular race I am sure. As much as I would like to believe that we have moved away from forming blanket opinions of each other, we haven’t.
What’s worse, much criticism comes from our leaders. Take the recent case of Entrepreneur Development Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Redzuan Yusof. He recently called out a Chinese reporter for what he claimed as not knowing the Malaysian Constitution and posting it on his personal and official Facebook page.
The question was why was there the need to post “Chinese” reporter? Was it to emphasise that Chinese are not “Malaysian” enough?
The videos were, of course, taken down subsequently and the minister denied making the post mocking the reporter.
I am Chinese, and I am as Malaysian as you can get. So are my children. They are colour blind when it comes to making friends, as long as they are into beyblade burst.
They sing the Negaraku and recite the Constitution in school. They also watch Upin dan Ipin and BoBoiBoy, and root for our national team during sports events because Malaysia is their country.
In fact, our children may be more religiously tolerant and are open to understanding other races than some adults as they see a person’s individuality rather than skin colour.
As our society becomes more multicultural and diverse, not just in race and religion instances, but also in the dynamics of our society and gender, we have to raise our younger generation to develop a tolerant mindset, to accept and understand the different communities. They must learn to embrace it.
This does not in any way mean you have to compromise your own principles… but to recognise that just like you have the right to your opinion, so do others.
I hope that in years to come, Malaysians will become more racially and religiously tolerant and not allow a few bad apples to spark disharmony and divide us.
Let this Malaysia Day be a reminder for us to see how fortunate we are to call ourselves Malaysians despite our different backgrounds. No longer will it be just a footnote in our history books, younger generations should celebrate this day on a big scale. After all, it was the day Malaysia was formed making Malaya, Sarawak and Sabah one.
Happy Birthday, Malaysia!
This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13. Main image by Jabatan Penerangan Malaysia.