07 September 2011

What Young Malaysians Think About Racial Politics

by Moaz Nair, Malaysia Chronicle

There is a newfangled trend in the country where the younger generation are becoming more anti-establishment in their political thoughts. This bodes well for our present social and political milieu.

It’s a glib generalisation by some politicians that the younger generation do not have ideals and vision for the country. This erroneous supposition demands for a scrupulous analysis of the real state of affairs on the grounds. The younger generation observe that the ideal way to unite the people is through the schooling process.

Ahmad Mustapha (21), a first year local university student has this say: “I am Malay by birth. I only had the chance to mix with friends from other races after enrolling at this university. I see many good values in them. I think our education system is flawed. All Malaysians should go through a single education system. We should all grow up studying in a multi-racial school. Flaunting religious cosmetics in school does not help. Keep religion as a personal matter. There should not be schools or universities meant only for a single race. Children of all races must be treated equal as Malaysians. I feel that national schools must use English as the medium of teaching to attract people of all races.”

Failure of the education system

After independence the vernacular schools in the country were retained and many Chinese, rural Indians and Malays chose these schools for their children’s education. As time lapsed and with national schools not perceived as neutral by many parents and less Islamic by the Malays, the plan to lure more Malaysians to the national school became a vain attempt. To the younger generation they feel that the serving government has failed to make the national school the definitive school of the country. It has failed to make the national school the school of choice. Unfortunately, some zealous and bigoted politicians – for their political survival - would still prefer the divide-and-rule approach to education in the country and make most schools exclusive for a single race. The younger generation do realise this defect in our education system and they do not seem to be of the same mind with these politicians.

The younger generation also seem to be more liberal when it comes to politics. They seldom talk about their rights and special privileges as they realise that tuning oneself to healthy competition in life would be the best option if one were to excel in one’s career. To them the insight is that all Malaysians born in this country should be regarded as people of one nation.

Quoting Arshad Iqbal (23), a young Malay executive with a Japanese company: “I stayed in the US for four years. I studied there. A child born in the US naturally becomes the lawful citizen of the country. He is an American national. He enjoys the rights of a citizen just like any others born there. Race and religion are not national issues but personal matters to an individual. As Malaysians, we should work towards this direction to see that there is no more politics that stick their nose on race and religion. Stay away from all divisive issues and just treat every one of us as equals.”

The younger generation of mixed parentage

Almost 68 percent of our young Malaysians are of mixed parentage and their roots could be traced to the Malay Archipelago, India, China, the Arab countries and elsewhere. These are the people in the main who feel that racial politics is not the solution for a harmonious Malaysia. Despite the diverse cultures they inherit these young Malaysians are proud to be called Malaysians. They feel that only their official documents are made to define them as different from others. Mentally they feel they are all Malaysians.

Alias Diwan (25), a young scientist attached to a local research institution said: “I belong to the ICC (Identity Crisis Club). I do face an identity crisis when I live in this country, but I’m not the least bothered. My mother is Malay and my father Indian. I also have a maternal grandmother who is a Chinese convert. My fiancée is from Sabah and she is Kadazan. I have no prejudice against any race and I’m proud to be called a Malaysian. I have many friends who are of mixed parentage, as well as Malays, Chinese, Indians and I get along with them fine.”

Politics based on race and religion is perceived as antiquated by the younger generation. It’s no more practical when they see so many in their generation are of mixed parentage. Being of mixed parentage makes them have a better bond with people of different races and they feel the more that Malaysians should be treated equal irrespective of their race, creed, religion or political affiliation. They have the ideal that talents of all Malaysians should be honed and acknowledged by the government to bring progress to the country. Talented Malaysians should be encouraged to stay in the country and not shooed away just because they belong to a different creed.

Rizal Anuar (24), a professional attached to a foreign engineering company observed: “We the younger generation feel that politicians are trying to poison our minds by the divide-and-rule kind of politics. This we feel is no more of interest to the young minds. I have friends among all races. These blinkered politicians are contributing less to the people with their kind of politics. They are nothing more than the self-absorbed type. They just cannot think out of the box.”

54 years have lapsed since independence and over 95 percent of the Malays, Indians and Chinese of today in this country are local born. Those born in this country should rightfully be treated as citizens of equal status. This is what the younger generation dream of.

Those born and bred in this country know less or nothing about their ancestors’ homeland but they know a lot more of this country. They have no other country to turn to, unlike their ancestors who came to this country during those dark days. The younger generation have by birth and loyalty taken this country as their motherland. They all share a common aspiration to see a successful Malaysia. They learn the national language even though they speak their mother tongue. The lingua franca or the most used language for social communication for them is still the Malay language. Even though Malaysians are of diverse cultures they posit well as a nationality.

Alvin Chong (23), an optician has this to say: “Though I don’t speak very fluent Malay as I left for England at the age of12, like many other children born to well-heeled Malaysians, to study. Today over 90 percent of my communication with my customers is in Malay. I cherish the language. I use the language as it is our national language.”

The younger generation Chinese and the Indians of today - including those who came from close neighbouring countries before independence – are the third or fourth generation people of Malaysia. They have evolved into inheriting a unique Malaysian identity. Born and bred here, they do not show loyalty to the countries their ancestors came from. Unfortunately, some hidebound politicians would prefer to ignore this fact for their own political mileage and suitability.

Non-Malays should not be treated as second-class

The present younger generation of non-Malays should not be treated as second-class to any other race in the country for political convenience. The present breed of Malaysians has evidently shown their loyalty to this country. They have learnt the definitive language of the country and their loyalty to the King and nation is unquestionable. They have evolved into a nation of people with shared values, together contributing to the economic well being of the country. They have patriotically defended the country against undesirable elements in the past and present. They have safeguarded the country from dissident groups to hopefully bring peace and prosperity to all and sundry. Many have even sacrificed their lives for the love of this country. These people should not be pigeonholed as second-class citizens.

The younger generation have sensible views on what future Malaysia should be. They are the people who are more exposed to information and they have observed the success and the failure of multiculturalism in many other countries. They are generally repulsed by racial politics. This generation of Malaysians are wise enough not to be dissuaded or influenced by the local media propaganda that highlights racial and religious issues to favour the serving government. They have their own vision of what elements constitute a progressive nation in a multi-racial set up. They tend not to favour politicians who use race and religion to score brownie points in politics. This to them is hypocrisy and smacks of ignorance. The younger generation want to be more gregarious and they have a higher tolerance threshold to see a broad-based political party system to represent all the people irrespective of their race or religion. They aspire for an ultimate congenial Malaysia for everyone.

When the pro-government media unceasingly instil fear in the people concerning race and religion, we see on the grounds the young educated people of all races mix freely despite their inherent differences. Self-centred politicians who are for racial and religious issues to win support from this cohort of Malaysians are facing a losing game. These are the unwise politicians who would be rejected by the young electorate as their only aim in politics is to ceaselessly divide the people and to stay relevant in politics.

Obviously some serving politicians are not playing the right role to see that racial and religious discords have not become pervasive in the country. The younger generation are averse to this divide-and-rule approach in politics and would never support such a stance – a telltale sign that the incumbent government would soon end up losing their grip on power.

Better options in politics

The idea than race and religion are inseparable in Malaysian politics is farcical. For the country to progress in harmony we need this political myth to be corrected. The last General Election (2008) saw a revolt of some sort by about 52 percent of the electorate who felt that the use of race and religion to delude the people are no more the recipe for our political and economic woes. The younger electorate are now seeking better options in politics.

The country now needs a better breed of politicians and an unyielding mechanism that could put a stop to racism and religious intolerance. The younger generation is a new force that could see politics of race and religion nipped in the bud. They do not expect changes to come from the incumbent government when they observe the pro-government media unremittingly spinning and highlighting racial and religious issues for the purpose of dividing the people. They are all aware that the more the blitz is by the media the more the younger generation are alienating themselves from those slick politicians.

The political party that could diffuse racial and religious sentiments would be the next team to govern this country. Pas being a party dominated by Malays and Muslims has thus far shown the right path to this effect. DAP that was once perceived as a party only for the Chinese is now being accepted by people of all races and religions in the country. These are political forces to be reckoned with in the future to bring changes to the governance of this country.

The country has evolved much in history but politically we have failed to achieve what is ideal for a progressive country after 54 years of independence. We are still divided for political convenience. There are still some unfashionable politicians who still want to engage in insular or parochial politics at their own peril. Some serving politicians have failed the people with their small-minded ways of dealing with the many national issues confronting the young generation. This political fallacy has however given rise to a new paradigm in Malaysian politics. When the incumbent are politically wrong the people would diligently look for an alternative platform and it seems like, it has to be an alternative government that could put all national issues on the right track to win the hearts of moderate Malaysians.

In time to come we would presumably see a generation of people who would proudly call themselves as Malaysians and not Malay, Chinese, Indian, Indigenous or Others. This is the dream of our younger generation which politicians cannot ignore.

- Malaysia Chronicle

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