An end to otherness?

 |Jul 19, 2017
We are all Malaysians, aren’t we? – MO file pic credit Azrol Ali.

OPINION

The mere fact that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has agreed to study in depth the request from the Indian Muslim community here to be recognised as Bumiputera can be lauded as one step towards a more inclusive Malaysia.

The issue of Bumiputera and non-Bumiputera is one that is constantly being debated about, particularly with regards to the privileges given to the Bumiputeras as stated in the Federal Constitution.

The Indian Muslim community’s wish to be recognised as Bumiputera is to be expected, considering they have been in this country for a long time and have contributed to the economy and the development of Malaysia.

For the prime minister to take note of their request, this takes us one step closer towards ending the debate on race and make Malaysians more united.

While not discounting the need for Bumiputera privileges, it is perhaps time for Malaysians to look at the bigger picture and start to think of every citizen in this country as Bumiputera.

For as long as you were born here, you are native to the land and should not be sidelined simply because you are of a different race.

A citizen of a country should be judged based on his or her merits and contributions. Just because you are of a different race does not make your contributions any less significant.

Maybe we still have a long way to go before we can call all Malaysians as Bumiputeras, but the first step must begin at some point.

If we remain nestled within our comfort zones, refusing to accept new challenges, progress will simply trickle in slowly. As much as we need to advance in terms of economy and development, we must also attain progress in terms of our thinking and nation building.

Malaysia is a unique country. This is not something that came by just a few years ago. We owe the uniqueness of our nation to our forefathers who were here or who came here from other parts of the world, making this their home.

We can also safely say that many races came together in efforts to achieve Independence.

This year will be our 60th Merdeka celebration. We may not be as old as India or the United States of America, but this 60 years mean a lot to us. While some of us may feel happy running the country down at every opportunity they get, there are still those who realise that there is truly no place like home. There are problems no doubt, but that is where constructive criticism comes into play.

Coming to 60 years of Merdeka and sometimes it is a little sad that for some of us, we still can’t move on from race-related issues.

While the prime minister merely took note of the request made by the Indian Muslim community and no decision has been made yet, it can be viewed as a step in the right direction.

Perhaps one fine day, we can all put race aside and simply be proud of being Malaysians.

Weighing in on this matter, social activist Tunku Abdul Aziz Tunku Ibrahim congratulated Najib for this initiative, saying that this shows the latter is not just all talk when it comes to equality.

“This is a great opportunity to put matters right in terms of treating all races equal,” Tunku Abdul Aziz opined, referring to an ideal future of a more inclusive Malaysia.

For the record, Bernama reported today that Najib took note of the request made by the Federation of Malaysian Indian Muslim Associations (PERMIM) president Dhajudeen Shahul Hameed.

“I accept that Indian Muslims are like Bumiputeras,” Najib was quoted as saying at the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism (KPDNKK) Hari Raya gathering with Malaysian Indian Muslim non-governmental organisations (NGO) in Serdang last night.

The prime minister however said the matter of how the request would be implemented would require further research in terms of administration and gazettement. – MO

Note: The title of this editorial piece borrows from Sir Shridath S Ramphal’s book ‘An End to Otherness’.