By Nurqalby Mohd Reda
KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) -- Come Aug 31, Malaysia will celebrate 65 years of unity in diversity. It is this diversity of race, culture and religion that makes Malaysia truly unique.
Malaysia today stands out in the world as an example of how different ethnic communities can live in peace and harmony, and work together for the progress and well-being of the nation since achieving independence on Aug 31, 1957.
As a catalyst for national unity, the Keluarga Malaysia (Malaysian Family) concept document was launched on Oct 8, 2021 as a guiding framework towards achieving harmony and prosperity for the people.
During his speech, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said despite the different backgrounds, cultures and beliefs of Malaysians, Keluarga Malaysia celebrates this through inclusivity and the spirit of nationhood.
“The plurality that we celebrate today will become the seed that will grow in the heart of every Malaysian. This must be an asset that we defend,” he said at the pre-launch.
At the official launch of the Keluarga Malaysia concept on Oct 23, 2021, the prime minister said that the Malaysian Family idea mooted by the government is not just mere rhetoric or a slogan.
He explained that the idea was the spirit that the government had instilled in the administration of the country, where the interests and well-being of the people are preserved, just like taking care of a family.
UNIQUENESS OF MALAYSIANS
Community activist Chong Choon Hau, 37, said the ability of the people to live together in harmony is the bedrock of Malaysia’s strength as it portrays the uniqueness of Malaysians, especially in the eyes of the world.
This is further reinforced by the government’s commitment to strengthen national unity and integration, he added.
“I have also been brought up in a multi-racial environment. Most of my friends are Malays, besides Chinese, Indians and other races. I am comfortable with them,” said Chong, who was born and bred in Temerloh, Pahang.
Chong, also known as Ah Hau, has been devoting his efforts to community and volunteer work since 2009 and is also proud to have friends from various backgrounds who have selflessly given their time to help him when he needed volunteers for his aid missions.
He said his friends have been his pillars of strengths for every mission he was involved in.
“For example, there were missions that I myself initiated, such as helping flood victims in Pahang or other states including Kelantan. I’m grateful to have friends who are always ready to help,” he added.
“They are not only willing to help financially but also contribute their time and energy...their involvement have made my volunteer work easier,” he said adding that assistance is provided regardless of the recipient’s race, religion or background.
“Some quarters criticised my efforts and questioned why I should be channelling the aid to the public when it is the government that should be undertaking such initiative.
“But for me, as long as we are physically able, we should step forward and help others. If we leave everything to the government, what then is our duty as a member of the community,” he said.
Besides helping the poor and needy, Chong also teaches Mandarin to Malay students at a school in Lancang, Pahang.
“It all started two years ago when a teacher at the school asked me whether I was interested in teaching Mandarin to the students.
“I didn’t give it much thought as it was really a good offer. There are more advantages to be derived when we can understand another language...I myself took the initiative by learning the language and culture of others. For example, I also disbursed bubur lambuk to the Malays in my area during Ramadan,” he shared.
For Chong, the spirit of unity should be nurtured among the people in line with this year’s National Day theme ‘Keluarga Malaysia Teguh Bersama’.
“We should be guided by an old proverb, ‘united we stand, divided we fall’....embracing the spirit of unity is the key towards a truly peaceful Malaysia,” he said.
For Dr Siti Hajar Md Hanif, 36, the spirit of family togetherness and caring attitude should be instilled in maintaining family harmony among Malaysians of various races.
Dr Siti Hajar said her marriage to a Chinese gave her the benefit of learning other languages and cultures.
“My father in law is Chinese and a Christian and my mother in law is Indian and a Hindu...understanding each other’s culture and religion helps strengthen the bond between us.
“We should learn to accept other people’s culture as long as it is not against our religious practices and at the same time, we still need to respect each other,” said Dr Siti Hajar who runs a health clinic in Selangor.
Earlier, Dr Siti Hajar’s family story attracted public attention last April when she shared a video clip through her Tik Tok account, on her mother in law who cooked special dishes for her breaking fast during Ramadan.
The footage garnered 1.3 million viewers with encouraging comments from the public who commended Dr Siti Hajar on her warm ties with her mother in law despite the difference in their religion.
“I was expecting my third child then and had expressed my craving for nasi tomato to my mother in law and much to my delight, she immediately prepared the dish for me to break my fast,” she said.
The mother of three said that through the mixed marriage, she was exposed to new cultures including celebrating other festivals and at the same time, she was able to learn to communicate in more than one language.
“Our medium of communication is in English, Hakka dialect and Malay. Other languages that are taught at home are Mandarin and Tamil.
“Tamil is mainly used by my children whenever they speak to their grandmother (mother in law). I picked up the Hakka language whenever I return to my husband’s hometown in Perak,” she shared.
According to Dr Siti Hajar, she has never stopped her husband from celebrating his own culture including the use of chopsticks while having his meals or decorating the house with tanglong during the Chinese New Year.
‘’Our family celebrates every festival including Hari Raya, Chinese New Year and Deepavali. For me, our diversity in religion and race is no obstacle as I have been taught racial unity since my school days.
“What’s important is we should not be arguing over issues which touch on religious sensitivities as every individual has his or her own faiths. Once we respect the boundaries, I am sure Malaysians can sit together at one table as one good family,” she said.
Translated by Salbiah Said