“Merdeka!”: But when will we say we are ‘Malaysian First’?

Letter to Editor

IN a recent interview with the Sin Chew Daily, Johor Ruler Sultan Ibrahim ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar was quoted to have said that “When someone asks me where I am from when I’m overseas, I’ll always say, I am Malaysian.”

Although taking pride in the Bangsa Johor concept that upholds the racial and religious diversity of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim said all races are seen as the same.

In fact, according to the report, in some official events, he would see to it that there is mixed seating to allow people of all races to mingle together rather than segregating themselves by ethnicity.

Interestingly, in the interview it was reported that the Sultan’s great-great-grandmother was of Chinese descent.

According to him: “In my family we have different bloodlines; we are of mixed heritage. That’s why I never looked down on any ethnic group. And this is why our foundation treats all ethnic groups fairly.”

He added: “The Chinese bloodline is part of Bangsa Johor; so are the Indian bloodline and the local Malay people.”

Isn’t it true for many of us in this country? How many of us can conclusively say that we come from a 100% pure racial lineage?

Moreover, with inter-marriages getting more common, what guarantee is there that our descendants will forever remain a pure Malay, a pure Chinese, a pure Indian, a pure Melanau or a pure Kadazan?

Like it or not, in a multiracial society, isn’t there a real chance that one day our children or grandchildren may end up falling in love and marry someone from another ethnic group? Can we stop that?

The truth is we need to get down from our high racial and religious horses. We need to show more genuine humility, accept diversity (as part of life) and be prepared to give and take.

In short, we need to show more empathy when dealing with our fellow Malaysians from other races, cultures and religions.

Yet, often we go to the extreme, extolling the values of our own race, religion and language and sometimes even openly running down others like what many of us tend to do. There is ample evidence of all that toxicity in social media and especially in politics.

We are in our 66th year of nationhood but until we say, from the heart, that we are Malaysian first, Merdeka Day is just another meaningless holiday!

Anyway, it’s never too late to change our mindset and discard our prejudices. If we succeed in doing that, it will make our life less bitter and so much happier in this beautiful and unique country. – Aug 30, 2023


Jeyakumar Joseph (JK Joseph),
Ayer Keroh, Melaka

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

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