In Malaysia, different races live peacefully together. We have been taught from our history textbooks in school that a lot was achieved in our country through national unity. Our teachers have been fostering a sense of unity into ourselves through sing-alongs, public speaking and drama competitions. Having been brought up in such a way, we have always been careful when dealing with race relations. We try hard not to bring up racial issues and controversial topics to retain our harmony and appreciate the efforts of our past leaders.
Last week, I was behind the scenes of a film production that calls on all races together to unite, just like how we used to be very close to our dear childhood friends regardless of race and religion. I took the opportunity to interview the talents of the video production as they are of different races – Malays, Chinese, Indians and a foreigner too! I want to know if unity is still important to them. I want to see the spirit of unity in them and whether there is much change from days back then and now. Apart from that, I want to see what are their means to retain our national harmony. And most importantly, I want their messages to be delivered to the rest of Malaysians.
“Right now, my generation, regardless of race and religion, is facing a bunch of common problems. I believe the best way to tackle them is through a sense of union and that feeling of solidarity among all races, religion and gender. Issues about student loans, lack of income, inequality, or anything else. The thing is that, if we are not united, we might not be able to find solutions to the common problems we’re facing.”
Taufiq feels most united when he watches sports and plays video games. He remembers all of us, together, cheering during Lee Chong Wei – Lin Dan tournaments from our homes and supporting the Malaysian via social media. At the same time, when he goes online to play video games, he finds so many Malaysians of different races playing the same game together as a pact, and he feels very united in that.
“Unity is very important in every country especially in Malaysia because we are made up of people from many races. Our country has Malays, Chinese, Indians, and not to forget the other races in Sabah and Sarawak. Our citizens practise many different religions such as Christianity, Islam, Hindu and Buddhism. We have to be united for our country to thrive. We have to stick together and have that sense of caring for each other and not go against one another.”
Bibana is a pre-school principal and a freelance actress for nine years doing short films, drama and theatre. She grew up with a lot of friends from different races and religions and she holds them very close to her heart, even till now. They are all a big part of her life. She feels most united during the festive seasons. She said she and her friends would visit each others’ houses, wear the festive clothes befitting the festival and enjoy the food of the different races tremendously.
Anwardi Jamil, 62
“We are all neighbours. If we don’t get along with our neighbours, whether it’s neighbouring villages or towns, it will be difficult to live in peace and harmony. I think we should revel in our diversity, respect each other, understand each other’s customs and traditions. The Malays have a beautiful tradition, while the Indian custom is well-known around the world. The Chinese, meanwhile, belong to one of the oldest civilizations in the world. They all met in Tanah Melayu. We have been living together for years and we can live in an environment like what Tunku wanted us to be – friends, neighbours, brothers and sisters united as one. I see a lot of interracial marriages and think that, if a couple can make it work, why can’t our whole nation do the same? Let us respect our national language, our constitution and the Rukun Negara. Most importantly, let us all respect each other.”
Anwardi Jamil is a writer and filmmaker, and a Singapore-born Malaysian living here since 1969. During the first year of his arrival in Malaysia, he met with the May 13 incident, which sort of weakened our interracial relationship. However, after 10 years, he started working as a New Straits Times reporter and most of the friends he made were non-Malays whom he hangs out and jokes around with a lot. That moment made him realise that things can get better, no matter how bad things can get in the past. Not just that, he even mentioned that in the 70s, Chinese parents would send away their children to Malay families in kampungs for daycare. Some Malay families even adopted Chinese children and that gave him two Chinese cousins from his uncle who lives with them happily until now.
“One common problem we’re facing in unity is that some of us are paranoid that our cultural traditions would be destroye when we all become open to practising other cultures. That’s not true. As a Malay, I know where to see the Bharatnatyam, I know where to go to hear the Chinese Chamber Orchestra and I know where to see the Kuda Kepang. If you don’t open to other cultures and understand them, you won’t know how to unite, you won’t know how to respect each other.
“Don’t think that you are being downtrodden by other races. If you’ve been living your life thinking you are a second-class citizen, let me tell you that you are not. There is no such thing in Malaysia and no such thing has been written in our constitution. The economy is dividing us all into the elites and the non-elites. There’s just too much partitioning and too many labelling that are dividing us all. Let’s just live our own ways, treat others equally and fairly and unite.”
“What makes Malaysia so beautiful and special from the others is that the people are living in a multiracial country that celebrates all cultures and religions harmoniously. As a foreigner living in Malaysia, I get to experience many different cultures here. I’ve learned and experienced Indian culture, Malay cuisine and the Chinese tradition. The best part of this living in a multi-racial country is the food I get to experience. I love the Indian roti canai, the Malay fried rice and Chinese dim sum. Halal, of course!”
Dania is from Damascus, Syria. She has been staying in Malaysia for four years. She feels really grateful to experience the different cultures our country has and enjoys the harmony in our country.
“The 1Malaysia spirit is still in me when living together with other fellow Malaysians of different races and religions. It’s a multi racial bond that I feel is one of the biggest strong points our country has. I feel so united during football season. The games bind all of us Malaysians together as we are cheering for the same team. Apart from that, the unity spirit sparks most during the festive seasons where I would be welcomed to many Malay and Chinese open houses and celebrate the season together, like one united family. Every 31 August, I would see all of us celebrating Merdeka together and keeping the spirit alive.“
Rosemary thinks that we should not form a circle or a society that is only limited to a particular race. We should all mingle with each other. We should all open up with one another. All of us should see each other as a family living under the same roof supporting one another. Our backgrounds and our races are not important when it comes to unity. – New Malaysia Herald