Let’s build unity despite differences

A teenaged Imran (bow tie, in front) with his multi- ethnic co-workers and supervisor.

THE following is a true story of a Malay boy who lived in a pre-dominantly Chinese community for more than 30 years in Tanjung Bungah, Penang.

Raised in a family with good Islamic values, this true-blue Malaysian is the son of a school teacher and grandson of a pre-independence fighter.

He remembers that every Chinese New Year and Thnee Kong Seh (Jade Emperor’s birthday) in particular, the night would be turned into a few hours of daylight when non-stop rockets and fireworks lit the sky.

It was loud and noisy but no complaints because the boy together with his siblings would be among those having fun with Kak Kim, Abang Ah Chai and a few others.

His mother would never stop them from joining the merrymaking. Her only reminder was to never go near the firecrackers when they are being lit.

Like other children living along the stretch, the boy would also receive ang pow from Aunty Chu and others.

Sampling his favourite kuih bakul (thnee kuih) and pineapple tarts brought him the most joy.

What fascinated him the most were the Chinese weddings where the groom and his entourage would come in big cars and honk incessantly when they arrive at the bride’s house.

Then there was Dr Rama, who never failed to treat his neighbours with thosai and a few other dishes during Deepavali.

Likewise, the boy’s family would reciprocate during the Hari Raya celebration. His mum’s speciality – tomato rice – was a must-have during this period.

And the harmonious relationship did not take place only during the festive season. Day in day out, the community was practising the 1Malaysia concept.

Alas, all good things must come to an end. Five years ago, this boy, who is yours truly and all grown-up now, moved out from the neighbourhood.

I can make heads turn with my Hokkien as I used to work for a Chinese businessman after my schooldays.

All this was done without abandoning the basic tenet of being a Muslim.

I guess the way I was raised by my parents helped me to realise the importance of co-existing with others.

I strongly believe that every Malaysian, regardless of ethnicity and religion, must put aside their differences and find common ground to live together peacefully.

We can be different in our skin colour, religion or political belief. But that’s what makes us unique as Malaysians.

Let us remember the sacrifices made by our forefathers who had toiled to build the nation with their sweat and blood.

As the Father of Malaysia, the late Tunku Abdul Rahman put it, we must each always think first of Malaysia and the national need and last of ourselves.

He said the people must be loyal and of one mind with one aim – to make Malaysia, the land we love, a happy abode for all of us.

If we all do this, then we can guarantee liberty, security, prosperity and happiness for the future.

Come Sept 16, we as a nation will have another special occasion to be proud of.

Happy Malaysia Day!

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