We are Malaysians, hear us unite

All for harmony: (From left) Muhammad Suhail, Yapp, Nathan, Shamezah and Tan.All for harmony: (From left) Muhammad Suhail, Yapp, Nathan, Shamezah and Tan.

PETALING JAYA: It’s the little things that keep us living in harmony, say Malaysians.

Respecting each other’s religious beliefs and embracing ethnic celebrations, for instance, are things most of us do as a matter of course.

They say it is important for these lessons to begin at home, and that talk of racial and religious differences are divisive sentiments that should be completely rejected to ensure a harmonious Malaysia.

Bank manager K. Devi, 38, said she made it a point to educate her children on understanding, celebrating and accepting Malaysians regardless of their diverse backgrounds.

“We need to show our children what it means to be Malaysian. It doesn’t take much to promote unity as every little thing, such as respecting cultural and religious observances, can go a long way,” she said.

She added that divisive racial and religious politics should be shunned to ensure the country’s unity remained intact.

“What is the point of playing these tactics when there are other things the country can focus on, such as economics and infrastructure?

“If we want to add another layer through race politics, how will we ever progress?” she asked.

Business development executive Muhammad Suhail Afandi believes that a crucial way to further strengthen unity among Malaysians, regardless of different backgrounds, is by fully rejecting the mindset that any race is better than the others.

“There is no place for this in our society and eradicating these mindsets begins at home.

“Public figures should also be mindful of their words and actions as they can influence those that look up to them.

“Understanding different racial sensitivities alongside welcoming and celebrating differences are equally important to ensure we establish a true sense of unity rather than a superficial label,” said the 30-year-old Penangite who is based in Kuala Lumpur.

Postgraduate student BeAnn Yapp, 27, says keeping an open mind was crucial when engaging in conversations with those from different backgrounds.

“How we react to another person’s beliefs or views is important, and it is not right to make broad assumptions about people based on their cultural or religious backgrounds.

“If you have questions, it’s okay to ask but do so in a respectful manner,” said Yapp who hails from Kiulu, Sabah.

Nathan Martinus believes parents play a big role when it comes to promoting unity among the younger generation.

“The books only teach us so much. It’s when we see those around us practising these values, that’s when we truly learn what unity is,” he said.

The 29-year-old engineer who moved to Penang from Kota Kinabalu some 12 years ago, said he also tried to help his colleagues better understand the cultures and practices in Sabah and Sarawak.

“There were times where they didn’t know how to speak to me, what language I used or what ethnic group I came from.

“Instead of taking offence, I saw it as a way to help them better understand our cultural backgrounds and bridge the gap,” he said.

Shamezah Shamsul, 27, says respect may seem like a small gesture when it comes to preserving unity but it goes a long way.

“Respect means to refrain from doing anything that could affect relationships with others of different races.

“Anything divisive should be frowned upon as it only creates gaps among us fellow Malaysians,” said Shamezah who is pursuing a masters degree in tourism.

Senior fitness coach Jonnath Tan, 30, says Malaysians should avoid racial or religious rhetoric, adding that, in his personal experience, Malaysians are generally able to get along with one another.

“Harping on race and religion doesn’t bring any benefit to the country or the people.

“Malaysians know that we can live harmoniously with one another, but if any group continues amplifying these issues, it will cause more harm than good,” he said.

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