When acceptance, not tolerance is the real Malaysian culture

File photo of a group of Malaysian students enjoying a hiking holiday pre-Covid-19.

By Nesha Pany

What makes Malaysia unique? What does being a Malaysian mean? These were the questions Nesha Pany posed to her friends in view of the Malaysia Day celebration on September 16. She reports her findings here. The views from this young group of Malaysians are refreshing and speaks volume for the kind of ideal country Malaysia has been and how it can continue to be – if all things are in order.

For Jeff Teoh, tolerance is not the right word to describe the bond shared by Malaysians working together. Appreciating and accepting each each other in the daily course of life is what it is all about, he says.

“Being a Malaysian means living with a great deal of blessings. From excellent food to cultural specific life knowledge, having countless direct opportunity to get in touch with fellow Malaysians from diverse backgrounds opens a window of true understanding. This wonderful experience makes us live as one. In Malaysia, I believe we all learn to appreciate each other along the way and eventually tolerance is definitely not the right word but acceptance. We are just us, Malaysians.”

Malaysia is home and no matter what, its people from different races, religion and culture are harmonious, says Nur Hazlizat.

I feel very lucky to be a Malaysian. A country that has many races, religions and cultures yet can remain harmonious. I’ve never thought of living in another country because for me Malaysia is the best country. I still remember, when I was travelling abroad, I felt homesick and could not wait to go home. No matter how great and advanced other countries are, Malaysia remains special in my heart.”

For Manvinder Kaur, being a Malaysian means having a sense of belonging and this gets highlighted during travels outside Malaysia.

“Being in this tropical paradise with a myriad of food, cultural diversity and breathtaking sceneries are just some of the parts but there is more to Malaysia and what makes it so special. You can travel to any part of the world but the feeling of belonging is never the same. We may be different in many ways and may belong to different walks of life but when we are united as Malaysians, no one can take away that spirit from us and that sums up my thoughts on being Malaysian.”

Nothing like home and that is Malaysia, said Emmy R, who spent many years abroad.

“I see people from different walks of life everyday. Because of our multicultural and multiracial make-up, we have all kinds of food. I’ve lived abroad in two other countries for years, but nothing compares to being home in Malaysia. I love the people, the culture, the food, the environment, the places, and more. Seriously, where else can you find soft-spoken and over friendly people?”

Sarah Soo‘s take on being a Malaysian is about being a dutiful citizen.

“I think being a Malaysian to me means finding out how I can contribute to my country. Not just think about what I can take from it but see how I can make small differences. It can be in small ways, like promoting unity among different races.”

A multicultural society is what Malaysia is all about and an opportunity to learn different customs, said Cody.

“I think the most interesting part is still about being a multicultural society. At least we are able to adapt ourselves easily- speak different languages, learn other customs and eat different food.”

Whether food, culture, race or religion, it’s the diversity that Malaysia offers is what most of those interviewed saw as its unique feature. They see its multicultural dynamics is its hallmark, identity.

Despite coming from various backgrounds and beliefs, Malaysians have generally got along and built the country together. All that is needed is the continued reminder to respect each other’s rights and feelings and to quote the late Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj -“in diversity we can truly find real unity.”