Archive for the ‘Celebrating Diversity’ Category

Unity can be achieved with mutual respect

Saturday, February 1st, 2020
Pix for illustration purposes only.

LETTERS: IT is not uncommon nowadays to be able to order tomyam at the mamak shop. The cooks are not mamak but they are from southern Thailand or locals.

Mamak food is still dominant, otherwise it would not be a mamak shop! What is interesting, though, is the entrepreneurial spirit demonstrated by the restaurant operators.

Instead of treating tomyam dishes as a threat, these operators turn the dishes to opportunities and partner with the cooks, creating a win-win situation by capturing another market segment that would have otherwise gone elsewhere.

Marrying the two rather distinct tastes under one roof is a brilliant idea. We certainly can learn a thing or two from this entrepreneurial spirit.

Despite the stark differences between the two dishes, both coexist under one roof peacefully.

On the same note, can we achieve this in our beloved country? A tall order, some will say. It is a delicate issue with some pointing to the education system as a hindrance.

I think that fluency in Bahasa Malaysia must be one of the key unifying factors.

Coming back to business strategy, many Chinese-owned businesses are good at turning differences to opportunities, where products or services are offered to the Malays, who make up a large customer base.

Our neighbour, Thailand, is another example. It leads the way in capitalising the halal market even though the majority of Thais are non-Muslims.

If you are a non-Muslim Malaysian, you can’t run away from dealing with Islam and the Muslims. After all, Islam is the religion of the federation.

If we are serious about the future of this country, we must learn to embrace our differences while maintaining mutual respect for each other.

Perceived threats and differences should be turned to opportunities to promote harmony and wellbeing in our society.

Reciprocity is key. There must be proactive actions from all sides to reach out to those of a different religion or ethnicity. There must not be a winner-take-all or kiasu mentality if we are to progress as a nation.

And, in a turbulent world with many uncertainties, Malaysia can be a model of harmonious nation for other countries to emulate, if it is not one already.

by MOHAMMAD ABDUL HAMID

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/letters/2020/02/561472/unity-can-be-achieved-mutual-respect

Mutual respect, goodwill and Islam

Saturday, January 25th, 2020
Family members and friends tossing yee sang in conjunction with Chinese New Year in Ipoh.NSTP/ABDULLAH YUSOF

LETTERS: IT is clearly stated in the Constitution that Islam is the official religion of Malaysia and there is no restriction in the practice of other religions.

The tenets of the Constitution reflect a tolerant attitude and respect among the adherents of different religions.

While Islam does not condone inter-religion mobility, it nevertheless adheres to the principles of co-existence and non-discrimination.

There is no forced proselytisation or persecution in attracting people to the faith, only through the demonstration of deeds and an ethical and moral way of living.

Islam promotes harmonious interactions among its believers and adherents of other faiths through mutual respect and goodwill, as well as by providing facilities for places of worship in recognition of the right to practise one’s faith.

This is evident in Malaysia where mosques, churches, Hindu temples and Chinese temples adorn the landscape of this country.As such, the rituals of worship and their celebrations are part of the gamut of Malaysian life.

Although the rituals of worship are restricted to its own adherents, there is no constraint in sharing the celebratory joys of another’s religion.

Thus, the opposition to the celebration of Ponggal and the hanging of Chinese lanterns in schools are not in line with the Islamic concept of Muhibbah.

It is trite to assume that participating in such activities would adversely affect one’s faith.

Far from being an attempt to proselytise, they create awareness of the cultural practices of people of other faiths.

We should, therefore, not allow bigots to create suspicion and dissension among the people.

Wishing all our Chinese friends Gong Xi Fa Cai.

by MOHAMED GHOUSE NASURUDDIN

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/letters/2020/01/559455/mutual-respect-goodwill-and-islam

NST Leader:Celebrating our diversity

Saturday, January 25th, 2020
Bask in our differences-our diverseness should unite, not divide us. NSTP/AIZUDDIN SAAD

MORE than a billion in China and millions around the world celebrate the Chinese New Year today, ushering in the Year of the Metal Rat with prayers and feasts.

It is the most important holiday of the Chinese calendar, which marks the beginning of the new lunar year.

Also known as the Spring Festival, it’s considered a time to honour deities and ancestors, and to be with family.

The event always sparks a rush of travel, which the New York Times has dubbed ‘the world’s largest annual human migration’.

Understandably, fears of a viral pandemic have cast a pall on celebrations; China has locked down 10 cities hit by a new coronavirus outbreak that has, to date, killed 26 people and infected some 830 others.

For Malaysians, Chinese New Year is an inclusive affair, to be celebrated in true ‘muhibbah’ spirit – a cultural festival that is as embracing of others as Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Deepavali and Christmas.

Given that a quarter of the population is of Chinese descent, Malaysians from all walks of life and religions joyfully partake of the festive occasion, just as they do during other celebrations.

Such cultural and religious appreciation, which has strengthened the bonds of friendship and enhanced interracial and inter-religious harmony, is a longstanding Malaysian tradition.

We are one of the few countries where people are integrated into one cohesive group in a colourful weave that has been made stronger because of our different backgrounds.

At 56, Malaysia stands tall and proud with more than 15 different races, some 100 languages and at least seven different faiths.

This rich tapestry is Malaysia. We have been celebrating this diversity for so long, learning to respect one another, understanding a culture and revelling in it.

A healthy admiration of the breadth and depth of each culture. A sign of Malaysia’s maturity as a sovereign state.

Economically, Malaysia has seen a meteoric rise in growth over the last couple of decades. Rapid changes in social structures inevitably bring new challenges, especially to a young nation like ours.

Subversive elements are always lurking to undermine our cultural diversity.This Leader will not rant on recent reported incidents which have aroused suspicion, mistrust and hatred in some communities.

Suffice to say that such disruptions we must guard against. We should not allow them to seep into our consciousness and destroy what we have built.

This Leader wants Malaysians to march on and celebrate our diversity. Continue fending off the subversive elements. Bask in our differences – our diverseness should unite, not divide us.

We cannot afford to convulse in a frenzy of racist hatred, reminiscent of the May 13, 1969, racial riots. It would be ashamedly regressive.

Cultural diversity is to be celebrated.

It is the key to getting along with each other. Hari Raya, Deepavali, Christmas, Chinese New Year and what-have-yous – they are occasions that promote harmony, goodwill and unity.

We have many things to be thankful for. Every celebration is a reminder of what it means to be Malaysian.

This newspaper wishes everyone Gong Xi Fa Cai.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/leaders/2020/01/559459/nst-leadercelebrating-our-diversity

Prudent start to CNY

Saturday, January 25th, 2020
A woman shopping for Chinese New Year decorations in Kuala Lumpur. -NSTP/Asyraf Hamzah

KUALA LUMPUR: The Chinese New Year celebration appears subdued as most consumers shy away from extravagant spending.

While the festival has always been a boon time for players in the retail and hospitality industries with consumers flooding shopping complexes and retail shops and booking hotels for reunion dinners, it’s quieter this time around.

Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) Johor Chapter marketing communications consultant and secretary Yvonne Loh said consumers were more prudent as reflected by the low number of bookings for reunion dinners this year.

“Normally, people will book three to four weeks ahead of Chinese New Year. Many hotels complain of poor business. It’s not a good sign. It looks like families are mindful of their spending for CNY this year.

“Not only are hotels feeling the pinch, shopping centres, too, are quieter compared with previous years,” she told the New Straits Times.

Loh said the increase in prices of goods could be one factor.

“Reunion dinners, for example, can be expensive. A table of 10 persons normally starts at RM500.

“It can be costlier as the prices of ingredients such as abalone, oyster and salmon have gone up due to seasonal factors. Suppliers hike the prices to take advantage of the once-in-a-year festive affair.”

MAH Johor Chapter committee member Michael Bay said many Singaporeans and Malaysians working in the nation-state did their festive shopping and preparations in Johor Baru to take advantage of the weakened ringgit.

“Nevertheless, hotel occupancy remains an issue as the industry has to contend with the rise in unregulated short-term accommodations like Airbnb.”

Bay said hotels in Johor Baru were struggling to compete with operators of the food and beverage industry, especially during the festive season.

“There seems to be a drop in the number of in-house dining patrons.”

Bay said hotels need to focus on factors, including pricing, food varieties, taste, presentation and quality, to attract customers to their restaurants.

Puteri Pacific Johor Baru and Persada Johor International Convention Centre marketing manager Lily Othman said hotels in the city were facing stiff competition from restaurants and hipster cafes in terms of bookings for CNY reunion dinners and get-togethers.

“Consumers are not spending less, but they have more options now.

“For this year, we have maintained our buffet prices. Apart from family reunion dinners, we also cater to corporate functions and group bookings.”

By Sarah Rahim.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2020/01/559577/prudent-start-cny

Racial unity becoming fragile due to sensational news on social media

Thursday, January 16th, 2020

PUTRAJAYA: The attitude of some individuals who prefer to read and trust sensational news on social media without verifying their authenticity or truth has contributed to racial unity in the country becoming fragile, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department P. Waytha Moorthy.

He said the situation was made worse when some people misused the the freedom of speech granted by the government to spread false information to create misunderstanding and tensions among the people of various races in the country.

“Not only in our country, but all over the world, the social media has become a major medium to disseminate news, including false and inaccurate ones.

“Before, the media was controlled by certain groups, but now with the borderless information, some people think that they have the power to disseminate their own personal ideologies and opinions.

“They don’t read many newspapers, or authentic news and books, instead prefer (to read) sensational news. When they are impressed with the news, they will viral it immediately,” he said in a special interview with Bernama in his office here recently.

The minister, who is responsible for the National Unity and Social Wellbeing portfolio, said this group of people had no care to know the news was real or fake.

They are not interested to know the truth, but are happy and more interested to get the sensational news across to netizens, he added.

Waytha Moorthy said some of the issues raised on the social media had undermined the country’s harmony and it had become one of the main challenges facing the Pakatan Harapan government, where precautionary measures had been taken to safeguard the interests of all parties.

The minister also expressed his sadness over the action of previous government leaders for deliberately raising certain issues to build up anger against the current government for their own political survival.

“Therefore, it is the responsibility of the people to remain focus and to live as citizens who practice diversity in a pluralistic society. We have to live with each other and as long as we are focused, we can accept what we have practiced before,” he said. –Bernama

The issue on abuse of the social media was also raised by AirAsia Group Bhd chief executive officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes on Tuesday, saying too many negative things, falsities and outrages on the platform had led to the shutting down of his Twitter account.

Commenting further, Waytha Moorthy said the people, especially those in the peninsula, should emulate the close relationships and tolerance of the various tribes in Sabah and Sarawak, enabling them to live in harmony without suspicion for one another.

He recalled his visit to Sarawak and Sabah and was impressed with the understanding and respect for the religious practices and cultural diversity displayed among the people of the two states.

He said the ministry would take into account suggestions from community leaders in Sabah and Sarawak in formulating a new policy to enhance national integration between the people in the peninsula and East Malaysia.

In addressing racial and religious issues, he said the ministry hoped to set up a special commission known as the National Harmony and Reconciliation Commission to act as an independent body that would resolve sensitive matters on race and religion.

“This matter is still in the proposal stage and I am looking into the practicality of using existing laws, including the Sedition Act and the Penal Code to resolve related issues raised on social sites.

“This is because I find that some of them are unaware that their postings are offensive to other religions and in this case, the Commission will call on the relevant parties to explain to them,” he said.

by Bernama.

Read more @ http://www.newsabahtimes.com.my/nstweb/fullstory/35899

Harmony in our cultural nuances

Tuesday, January 14th, 2020

Children of various races taking part in a lion dance during the Chinese New Year in Kuala Lumpur last year. FILE PIC

IN Malaysia, after the celebration is before the celebration. No sooner have we packed away the Christmas decorations than the Chinese New Year lanterns come out of the boxes.

They are followed in close succession by Thaipusam, Easter, Ramadan, Wesak Day, Hari Raya and so forth.

Living in Malaysia, we are the envy of our single-culture relatives, if only for the fact that we get far more days off work than anyone back home.

Any reasonably informed resident of Malaysia will agree that, while the roughly 17 national plus a good handful of regional holidays are nice to have, the diversity of cultural celebrations here has an important impact on mutual understanding and respect.

On the other side of the globe however, in its effort to be considerate towards the cultural traditions of others, the Western world struggles with a fairly novel concept that has been coined “cultural appropriation”.

Fashion designers are being castigated for using fabrics and motifs of foreign cultures in their runway shows.

Pop icons are being criticised for propagating dance moves and hairstyles of cultures other than their own.

Tourists are being scolded upon displaying tattoos featuring tribal designs or exotic writing styles.

The cultural, religious or ethnic display of anything outside our own ethnic heritage is viewed as problematic at best, and more often than not, downright offensive.

Hence the expression of “appropriation”.

The British Dictionary’s definition of appropriation reads: “The act of setting apart or taking for one’s own use”, which implies taking something away from somebody else, in other words, stealing.

If that is a fact, then I am guilty of many offences: Two beautiful red paper lanterns have been hanging from my front porch for many years, a stunning painting depicting Buddha adorns our entry hall, and if it wasn’t for my impetuous pets, I’d have a rangoli (kolam) at my house every Deepavali.

I touch my hand to my chest upon greeting someone with a handshake.

Also, I own and have been known to wear a sari, a Punjabi suit, a baju kurung and a cheongsam on various occasions.

It has occurred to me that I really can’t pull off the cheongsam — I like cake and chocolate way too much for that.

It has never occurred to me however, that I shouldn’t be allowed to wear one.

I have had temporary henna tattoos artistically applied on my hands by one of my Indian friends and my left wrist is permanently featuring a gorgeous dragon tattoo.

Does this foraging into foreign heritage make me a cultural appropriator?

An insensitive prick, and a thief? It certainly does not.

Once the topic of cultural appropriation had transited from a sound academic debate to the self-righteous war cry of oversensitive Internet watchdogs less than a decade ago, common sense seems to have gone the way of the dodo.

After all, if nothing of another culture were to be shared, concepts such as democratic discourse, mathematics, or even the modern-day calendar would still be firmly secluded in their originating regions.

Furthermore, let’s briefly touch on the obvious subject of pizza in Beijing, dim sum in New York, and me eating a delicious banana leaf dinner at the local mamak stall.

Respectfully emulating, and therefore celebrating each other’s cultural heritage is a compliment to diversity.

There is a not-so-fine line between this and making fun of our differences. We all know it when we see it.

The fact that different Malaysian ethnicities joyfully partake in each other’s festivities is living proof that cultural appreciation is essential to a harmonious co-habitation.

To put it in the words of Canadian clinical psychologist, author, and professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, Jordan Peterson: “The idea of cultural appropriation is nonsense, and that’s that. There’s no difference between cultural appropriation and learning from each other. They’re the same thing.

“Now, that doesn’t mean that there’s no theft between people; there is.

“And it doesn’t mean that once you encounter someone else’s ideas, you have an absolute right to those ideas as if they’re your own.

“But the idea that manifesting some element of another culture in your own behaviour is immoral is insane. It’s actually one of the bases of peace.”

By Fanny Bucheli-Rotter

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2020/01/556254/harmony-our-cultural-nuances

A cause to celebrate

Sunday, January 12th, 2020

The tossing of yee sang has become a custom for Farisya’s family during their annual Chinese New Year celebrations.

MANDARIN oranges, red angpow packets and colourful cheongsam dresses – what do these signify? For those who do not celebrate Chinese New Year, these things probably indicate another school break or public holiday.

I was not born of Chinese ancestry, although my strong Oriental features may give you the notion. I am, however, part of the non-Chinese crowd who embraces this celebration.

Growing up, one of my favourite tales to read was a myth about how some Chinese New Year traditions came to be. The story goes thus: A small village in ancient China was terrorised by a frightening sea beast called Nian that only emerged from the waters on New Year’s day.

A beggar arrived at the village seeking food and shelter one particular New Year’s eve but because the village-folk were busy packing up to flee to the mountains before the beast arrived, they paid him no heed. All except for one old woman, who considered it a lost cause to escape.

To repay her for the food she had given him, he vowed to expel Nian once and for all. He did this by brightly lighting up the old woman’s house, putting up bright red banners around the door and donning a robe of the same shade on himself.

When the monster approached, it felt hesitant and fearful. But what really did the trick was lighting up firecrackers! The poor beast fled back to the ocean and never returned.

I adore this legend, and still revisit it from time to time when I am in need of a good read.

For as long as I can remember, my family, who are big fans of Chinese cuisine, have always gone out to have a feast, which includes yee sang, to welcome Chinese New Year. The waiter would explain to us what each element of the dish symbolises.

Pepper and cinnamon powder represent health and youth, plum sauce represents sweetness in life, and crackers represent wealth and prosperity. These are all aspects of life that one would hope for in the new year.

I know this does not hold a candle to the grandeur of how Chinese New Year is supposed to be celebrated – even if it is just a simple banquet in a small family home, the value is so much deeper for those born into the culture.

However, this should not hinder us from taking part in the festivities. Some Malaysians of non-Chinese descent never attempt to join in, aside from hearing Chinese New Year songs and seeing the elaborate decorations at shopping complexes.

This is honestly such a wasted opportunity. As Malaysians, we should try and include ourselves with our brothers and sisters of different ethnicities as often as possible. It definitely promotes a deeper sense of love and understanding.

For instance, my mother always receives a goodie bag filled with sweets and oranges during Chinese New Year from Aunty Agnes, my next door neighbour. In return, Aunty Agnes receives a Tupperware packed full of lemang and rendang during Hari Raya Aidilfitri for her family.

Although the act may be small, the meaning behind it is monumental. You do not necessarily have to splurge and throw massive open house parties to show for a good time.

For any celebration, the true essence behind it is sharing whatever you can. It transcends material offerings, as sometimes the feeling of joy is what truly matters to be shared.

The beauty and sentiments of this auspicious time of the year certainly runs deeper than the physical rites and rituals.

Farisya Azwar Ridzuan is a participant of the BRATs Young Journalist Programme run by The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (NiE) team. To read more articles written by BRATs participants, sign up for the NiE pullout. It is published on Wednesdays bi-monthly and available only through school subscriptions. To subscribe, call the toll free number 1-300-88-7827 (Monday to Friday, from 9am to 5pm). For more information on Star-NiE’s BRATs programme, go to facebook.com/niebrats.

by By FARISYA AZWAR RIDZUAN.

Read more @ https://www.thestar.com.my/news/education/2020/01/12/a-cause-to-celebrate

Penang church’s Xmas tree-lighting ceremony enchants 1,000 visitors

Monday, December 23rd, 2019
GEORGETOWN 22 DECEMBER 2019. Standing resplendent in the middle of the courtyard was a 5 metre Christmas tree frame which was outlined with coloured lights. Gift wrapped presents were later distributed to the young ones at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Pulau Tikus here this evening during the parish’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony. NSTP/MIKAIL ONG

GEORGE TOWN: Festive Christmas decorations and Yuletide carols welcomed parishioners at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Pulau Tikus during the parish’s Christmas tree-lighting ceremony, on Sunday night.

Attended by over 1,000 people, the inaugural event was held in the church’s courtyard, where a 5-metre Christmas tree frame, outlined with coloured lights, stood resplendent.

Applause and cheers greeted the lighting up of the tree, as the church’s choir led visitors in singing carols.

Gift wrapped presents were later distributed to young ones in the crowd.

Parish priest Reverend Father Jude Miranda described Christmas as a joyous celebration to welcome the birth of Christ – an event which unites Christians and other Malaysians.

“It is a great honour and pleasure for us to celebrate the spirit of Christmas in the company of our fellow parishioners, neighbours and friends.

“The spirit of Christmas can only be felt if we open our hearts to caring for one another, and sharing whatever little we may have,” he added.

Apart from singing Christmas carols, participating in games and indulging in cookie exchanges, parishioners were able to partake in a spot of festive shopping at a Christmas bazaar set up on the premises.

By Marina Emmanuel.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2019/12/550129/penang-churchs-xmas-tree-lighting-ceremony-enchants-1000-visitors

Malaysia Hall a home away from home

Saturday, November 2nd, 2019
One of the most distinguished names to have walked through the doors of Malaysia Hall was Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj (front row, fourth from right). FILE PIC

MALAYAN and subsequently Malaysian students who studied in the United Kingdom in the 1950s until 2004 will remember the 44/46 Bryanston Square, fondly known as Malaya or Malaysia Hall, as a home away from home.

On June 2, 2004, Malaysia Hall became part of Malaysian history in the UK when the keys of the hall were handed back to the landlord, Portman Estate.

At the handing over of the keys ceremony, the then Malaysian commissioner to the UK, Datuk Abdul Aziz Mohamed, paid tribute to Bryanston Square that had served princes, prime ministers and ordinary people so well in its life of service.

He signed the first page of the farewell book and said it was time to turn over a new page in history.

He then removed the plaque from the door and handed it to the last director of the Malaysian Student Department, Datuk Dr Kamarudin Mohd Nor.

As a student in the UK in the late 1960s, Malaysia Hall was a place to read Malaysian newspapers and catch up on our studies.

The lounge was where music students played the grand piano. The hall was a student-centred place which saw the setting up and establishment of diverse student-led organisations.

These included the nationalist Kesatuan Melayu United Kingdom, the socialist Malaysia Singapore Student Forum, the Malaysian Student Islamic group and Umno.

The hall was also where the country’s independence movement architects used to meet and discuss political events, which led to the country obtaining its freedom.

One of the most distinguished names to have walked through the doors of Bryanston Square was Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj.

It was reported that when he returned here fresh from negotiations with the British to break the news of Malaysia’s independence, the residents carried him around the building, once home to him when he was a student.

Others that frequented the hall included Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, Tun Dr Ismail Rahman and Lee Kuan Yew.

Another aspect of Malaysia Hall that was very dear to students was the canteen at the basement of the building. The food served there was perhaps the cheapest Malay food in the UK.

It was also where most of the students and Malaysians gathered to catch up on the goings-on in the UK and back home.

I remember there were times when some students had to help out in the kitchen, especially when the then cook Encik Hashim was absent.

There were no complaints throughout, perhaps as the food served was subsidised by the Malaysian Student Department.

Let we forget, the memories of having lived and frequented Malaysia Hall during our student days, walking to the Marble Arch tube station, Oxford Street and Hyde Park will be cherished for as long as we live.

by DATUK ABDUL MUTALIB RAZAK.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/letters/2019/11/534974/malaysia-hall-home-away-home

How did we come to this?

Saturday, November 2nd, 2019
Members of the National Students’ Consultative Council standing to attention while singing ‘Negaraku’ before the start of a meeting. ‘Negaraku’ is the national anthem and not just a song. BERNAMA PIC

IT has often been said that race and religion are the two “biggest” factors behind polarisation in Malaysia.

Perhaps it is true to some extent. Yet it cannot be generalised because there have been many instances and situations ‎that have made us proud to be counted as Malaysians.

The last general election was one such time as most would recall, despite many expecting the worst outcome. What is more when Malaysia holds the record for having the world’s oldest prime minister. And a comeback “kid” at that.

In other instances, some research showed that in rural communities, notably the kampung, the situation is far better than in cities, due to the more cordial lifestyle and attitude.

When it comes to sports and cultural events, or when disaster strikes, Malaysia is often united to present her best, like duck to water. There are many others that go beyond the superficialities of “rumah terbuka” or some specially staged events to gain in popularity.

In other words, the said polarisation is shaped more by the hostile and ignorant attitudes of some Malaysians.

Not too long ago, there were times when racial jokes were considered benign even at a tender age. My school and university days were some of those. Ironically, it brought us closer inter-racially because the laughter that resulted required a very high level of trust and confidence to begin with. Without these, the consequences would have been much like what it is today — tense, rude and intimidating. And worsening when race and religion are turned into a convenient target of hatred for some unexplained reasons.

Lest we forget, the fact remains that even in the most developed and best of democracies, racism and religious supremacy exist. International sporting events are not spared either. So what is new?

In the case of Malaysia of late, the attitudes are more convoluted because there is virtually no common identity that binds them. Unlike in cases‎ cited above where trust exists, the contrast is made complicated because people can no longer express freely and openly in a language that everyone can identify with and understand.

This then gives rise to second and suspicious guessing game, deepening the mistrust. Let us take the national anthem, Negaraku, as an example. How many Malaysians share the same notion of what the word means so as to put us comfortably on the same page? What about “tanah tumpahnya darahku” that follows? Is it merely the “land where I spilled my blood” — literally rendered? Or much deeper than that? How then does it actually shape our attitude beyond the confines of our own race and religion?

Consequently, what is intended by “rahmat bahagia, tuhan kurniakan”? What is “rahmat” when it is linked to “tuhan” (the first article of Rukun Negara)? What level of “kurnia” binds Malaysians further? To adequately respond to most of the points raised, all the related nuances must be amply and comfortably felt within the context of Negaraku to enable one to live by it.

Remember that Negaraku is the national anthem. Not just a song‎ to be mimed while standing to attention and then forgotten as soon as the moment is over. In short, it is instrumental to our identity as Malaysians sharing the very same meaning and values in shaping our attitudes before we can truly share prosperity as envisaged by Shared Prosperity Vision 2030. Otherwise, it all comes to naught since nothing is really “shared”. Instead, only hypocritical lip service as alluded to in Robert Kuok’s best-selling memoir.

Take the word “kongsi” that is loaned from another culture into the mainstream Malaysian community. Yet its translation in practice is vastly different from what is observed in the original language and culture. Another clear reason why race and religion remains alive since the act of “kongsi” is virtually flawed as a dominant Malaysian lifestyle. And this further allows the vacuum to once again be filled with the same old hostility.

It becomes even more hostile when education fails to be a common platform to nurture national identity as one of the six student aspirations stated in the Education Blueprint.

Fundamentally, Falsafah Pendidikan Kebangsaan (FPK or National Education Philosophy) is intended to provide the framework that nurtures the Malaysian identity first and foremost ground up. But as it stands, the FPK is not shared in a systematic way, when actually it is the most logical place to start.

FPK could be the everlasting philosophy to bridge understanding in a balanced way leading to a more inclusive state of affairs which is equitable and egalitarian in nature. There is no room at all for any form of bigotry and narrow toxic thinking. But where is it today? Unless all this is sorted out we will continue to blame everyone except ourselves.

By Dzulkifli Abdul Razak.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2019/11/534982/how-did-we-come