It is incumbent upon the Malay community to bring about the racial unity of the nation by taking the necessary and vital steps towards a 1Malaysia.
If racial polarisation and racism has reached worrying levels in the country, it is really vital and necessary for the Malay community to spearhead moves to cement healthy ties between the races, owing essentially to the fact that they make up the largest grouping by race in Malaysia. The numbers therefore are with them.
The need for Malays to take the initiative and show the way forward that all races and foreigners in this country can live together as a cohesive whole should go a long way in overcoming problems associated with race relations.
Why the Malay community? If viewed from the perspective of history, culture and tradition, the Malay community has long established a tendency to be insular and parochial. While being close-knit as a community and tacitly accepting of the other races in this country, the larger segment of Malays nevertheless tend to create a “them-and-us” situation when it comes to dealing with the other races.
This is precisely the reason why if the Malays were to be open-minded and engage the other races in this country on accurate information and knowledge, and without prejudice or any other form of biased judging, it will pave the way for Malaysians to live in greater peace and harmony.
However, the real Malay dilemma is that, while it is imperative that they make the first move, this measure so far is not forthcoming from them. Instead, what is happening is that the Malay community seems to have withdrawn and further insulated itself and built walls rather than bridges to reach out to the other races.
While Malay unity is there, Malaysian unity is not.
This measure adopted by the Malays is both discouraging and frustrating and seen as a setback for race relations to be harmonious and cordial. While the Chinese and Indians appear on the surface to be willing to rub shoulders with the Malays and build solidarity among the races in Malaysia, the Malays are seen as unwilling participants in general.
The fear, distrust and suspicion displayed by the Malays towards building healthy race relations are really terribly misplaced and unnecessary. There appears to be this belief in them that they have much to lose by creating a partnership of equals with the other races in this country.
This reluctance by the Malay community to integrate and create racial solidarity is set to become the undoing of the race and the nation as the era of globalisation goes into full swing. It’s a borderless world now and no particular race or community can afford to cling to the individual racial settings of the past.
More than slogan chanting
The framework upon which globalisation is being built is the building of open, secular societies that practise meritocracy, fair play and justice. Globalisation is a practical manner and way of levelling the playing field.
Though Western and developed nations had much to lose, they were willing to sacrifice their earlier gains which saw them develop and advance, in order to share the spoils and resources of the earth with the entire world population.
In asking the Malay community to shed their fears and inhibitions, they have really nothing to lose. Neither are they being asked to make any sacrifice but to build and bolster sagging race relations in Malaysia for the betterment of all.
In reality, a united and harmonious Malaysia or a Satu Malaysia that goes beyond mere slogan chanting can only be achieved by greater effort and a real show of sincerity by the Malays, as the largest Bumiputera community, in accepting the other races and the influx of foreigners on an equal footing.
The line that demarcates and alienates the races from each other has to start to blur and eventually be completely erased for the goal of achieving a Satu Malaysia where all Malaysians have a place under the sun.
This achievement of social unity – despite the multi-religious, multi-lingual fabric of the nation, while not being easily achievable – has to begin with the Malays, with the other races dismantling activities and organisations that promote the interest of only a particular race.
If the spirit of “muhibbah” has failed to foster unity among the races in the past, the thrust of the Satu Malaysia campaign is also going to meet the same ill-fated end unless reforms are made in bringing parity of participation by all races in the workings and functions of the country.
This is clearly not the time to differentiate and discriminate. The onslaught of globalisation requires Malaysians to be united and not be at loggerheads with each other. The only way Malaysians will be able to benefit, prosper and compete in a globalised world is to set aside their differences and learn to highlight and focus on their commonalities to live happy and united.
Christopher Fernandez is a social critic and commentator.