(Reproduced with apologies, but without permission from The Star)
Aren’t we all Malaysians?
I HAVE many memories of my childhood days when religion and race were of no importance to me. It was so unimportant that I thought my father was Chinese and my mother was Malay and my grandparents Indians until I was about five or six. And the fact that we speak Chinese, English and Malay at home did not help clear the air at all.
As we approach Hari Raya and National Day this year, I was reminded of the past when I collected both green and red packets from my family members. It didn’t matter whether it was Raya or Chinese New Year, red and green packets were part of the celebration, as my grandparents are Chinese.
We had Chinese kiam chai theng (soup made of pickled vegetable) and Malay rendang on both occasions and life was great. I was brought up as a Malaysian first and a Malay second and not the other way round. And I’m proud of it.
Racial identity is so important to many Malaysians and after 53 years of nationhood, one would think that we would be more mature and wise in terms of racial relationships. But somehow we are more and more worried that we would lose our racial identity if we are not careful.
We see parents squabbling on whether ethnic and religious schools are better than national schools and not wanting their children to mix.
We see Malaysians debating and arguing whether it is appropriate to teach English and Science in school. Never mind the fact that it is the lingua franca of this planet.
We hear individuals not wanting to celebrate Raya and other celebrations together, citing religious reasons and wanting an end to our Kongsi Raya tradition.
Why are we so worried about becoming less Malay, Chinese and Indian? Aren’t we all Malaysians? Have we not realised that the fundamental nature of our country and society does not lie with a single racial entity, but as a whole? If the Malays, the Chinese, the Indians or any other races were to stand alone, they cannot claim to be Malaysians. They are simply Malays, Chinese, Indians and other races.
I still celebrate both occasions regardless of what some people think. I will continue to celebrate both occasions and will definitely give my children ang pow and qing pow (green packets).
We have been able to observe Ramadan in peace and will celebrate Raya soon with our loved ones. And later in the year we’ll celebrate Christmas and then Chinese New Year early next year.
At the risk of sounding corny, I should also add that we should be thankful to live in such a peaceful country. And in this world and age, it is a rare commodity.
We should cherish and maintain it at all costs. For better or for worse, for richer or poorer, till death come knocking on our door. I offer no apology for saying all this and more.
Selamat Hari Raya to all Malaysians and a Happy Birthday, Malaysia.
DR KAMAL AMZAN,