Friday, August 20, 2010


I have been to India more than thirty times before and during those many trips, I have been visiting and meeting only Muslims. I have had very exciting experiences with the Muslims of India. During my past trips to India, I only visited Muslim houses and talked only to Muslims. I used to have the impression that Hindus are the enemies of Muslims. During those thirty times or so I was in India, I never had a single chance to visit the Hindus. I was not encouraged to talk to the Hindus. Although I did not understand the reason why, I simply followed as I was their guest. This time I went to India not for visiting the Muslims of India but for recruiting lecturers of optometry for my university.
The experience that I am going to share now is about my exposure to a Hindu family in India. With the grace of Allah, I have had the first opportunity to visit an Indian house whose owner is a Hindu. Although I am a Malaysian and Malaysia is known to be a multiracial country whereby Indian ethnic accounted for more than 10% of the population, yet I have had little exposure to the Hindus in Malaysia. In Malaysia, I have never visited a Hindu house and what more to eat food served by a Hindu family. This is rather strange, as I was born and have lived in Malaysia for 55 years, but no Hindu has ever invited me to have a meal in their house and neither do I have ever invited a Hindu to have a meal in my house. Well, I think in Malaysia, I am not the only Malay Muslims who has never entered a Hindu house and eat meals prepared by them. During this recent trip to India however, I visited a Hindu house and was served lunch by a Hindu who happened to be a friend of my travelling companion from Malaysia, who is also a Hindu. Initially I was rather awkward to eat lunch served in a Hindu house but after sometime, I was relieved when I came to know that the meat was bought from a Muslim butcher in Madras.
Those experiences gave me a great lesson on how to achieve racial unity in Malaysia whereby the keys are interactions and communications. I always wonder whether Malaysia is truly a multiracial society or only a country with many isolated races. How to achieve racial unity, I believe is one of the main concerns of those who love peace and harmony in the country. The slogan of One Malaysia is only a slogan and it will not lead to real racial unity. Unity has to start with friendliness. We have to be friend first and then we may develop love, respect and trust between each other. When we have love, respect and trust, then we may have unity. However, without interacting and communicating between one another, how can people be friends? Sadly, it seems to me that Malaysians of various races are not interacting and communicating with each other. Everyone is kept to their own race and the existing culture does not seem to encourage and promote interactions between people from different races.
Although Malaysia has been a multiracial country for decades, yet it seems the society has not inter-racially become united. One race is not interacting with the other races. One person from a different race may know the other person from a different race only by his or her name through contact at work place or at school but they are not mingling with each other. Each race maintains its own culture and religion and mingles only among them. Everybody seems to live happily within his or her own community and everyone is holding strongly to his or her own cultures and religion. Surprisingly enough, we have not become One Malaysia even after 53 years of independence. Does One Malaysia means we are the same, having the same cultures and religion or does One Malaysia means in diversities we maintain our unity? How we can have a strong unity in diversities? In my opinion, we will achieve a true unity when all Malaysians finally have the same religion and culture. In the context of Malaysian society today, I do not feel we have true unity and I also do not think the government knows exactly how to achieve a unity among the citizens.
In order to have a true unity one must have true love towards each other. When everybody has true love between each other then everybody will have trust towards each other. When there is love and trust, there will be unity. For love to build, there must be a lot of positive interactions between the citizens. Malaysians in general however, have little social contacts and interactions between each other even while they are young.
It is easier to integrate and unite Malaysians of all races at young age. The most suitable period to encourage integration among Malaysians is when they are still young which is when they are still at the kindergarten or primary school levels. Many Malaysians from different races however, obtain their primary education in their own ethnic schools and some continue to do so in the secondary school. One important step the government must do is to have only a single schooling system. There should be only one type of school for all Malaysians which is Sekolah Kebangsaan whereby young citizens from all races can be together and interacting with each other. The current educational system whereby we have primary schools based on various ethnic groups should not be allowed to continue and to exist if we really want to develop national unity and to achieve the concept of One Malaysia.
One important tool to positive communications is the language. To be able to communicate and interact harmoniously between different races, Malaysians should be encouraged to learn and to speak the languages of other races in the country from young age. The more languages one knows the better he will become and the better his interactions with other people will be. In my opinion, Malaysia is so fortunate to have various races speaking different languages as her citizens. Unfortunately, learning the National language as well as other ethnic languages has not been properly programmed into our educational system. As a result, many non-Malay Malaysians still unable to speak Bahasa Malaysia fluently even though they were born in Malaysia. Many non-Malay Malaysians were born in Malaysia and many have lived in Malaysia for decades, but they still cannot communicate fluently with each other in Bahasa Malaysia.
Without communicating and interacting with each other, we may not be able to know each other well and become friends. Without becoming friend to each other, we cannot love each other and without love we cannot have unity. In such circumstances, we tend to harbor ill feeling towards each other and as a result, one race will lose trust towards other races, and this will finally lead to hatred and enmities between the various races in Malaysia.
At school, all students must learn Bahasa Kebangsaan and English and the other main ethnic languages. Malaysian students should learn Bahasa Malaysia, English, Chinese and Tamil. Learning Bahasa Malaysia, English, Chinese and Tamil languages should be made compulsory to every student. When everyone in Malaysia knows everyone else languages then there will be communication between the various races in Malaysia. When they are communicating between each other then they become friends. When they become friends then they may start to know and love and respect each other. When there are love and respect then there will be unity among Malaysians.
Dr. Nasoha Saabin
August 2010
Dean of Faculty of Optometry
International University College of Technology Twintech
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
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