What does it mean to be Malaysian?

How does a Malaysian identify oneself? There is a long list of responses but the one that the majority of Malaysians agree on is that of being united. Different races live harmoniously in Malaysia, everyday putting their racial and religious differences aside.

This sense of unity has been instilled in every young Malaysian who is taught to respect others and be respected. However, there is a fraction of the Malaysian society that doesn’t agree with this principle. These are the ones who see things in a negative light. But Malaysians in general have shown unity even before being granted independence by the British in 1957.

A Kuala Lumpur street left deserted after curfew was imposed during theriots in 1969. photo credit: quora.com

A Kuala Lumpur street left deserted after curfew was imposed during theriots in 1969. photo credit: quora.com

Unity, which is rarely found in a diverse society, played a huge role in helping Malaysians achieve their common goal of becoming an independent country. But there were instances in the course of history when Malaysia experienced some dark times. The racial riot of May 13, 1969, against the Chinese in Kuala Lumpur, is considered the worst racial riot in Malaysian history.

But even this incident did not disunite Malaysians. Thanks to the sense of unity among them, the country has often managed to solve its conflicts before they became too violent. In many ways, Malaysia is fortunate to remain a peaceful country despite the hard times that hit it.

This year, Aug. 29 and 30 marked two special days for many Malaysians as they came together to rally against the corruption of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak. Of course corruption is not unfamiliar to the Malaysian society, it has been happening for many years now, but recently, the last straw was when Razak made headlines for possessing 2.6 billion Malaysian ringgit (now around $683 million) in his personal bank account.

The series of peaceful rallies, called the Bersih 4 rally, was carried out for two days in major Malaysian cities like Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu and Kuching. This rally is special because, unlike the previous Bersih rallies in which people for example called for fair elections, it demanded the prime minister to step down.

Malaysia has never had to exercise the vote of no confidence before, but this rally was a way of showing that there is a large number of Malaysians who are unhappy, even angry, with the ruling government.

Also, there is no denying that the rally angered those with wholehearted faith in the prime minister. Some groups even threatened to harm the rally’s participants in hopes of ending it. But despite the threats, people continued to show up to the rally and stayed determined until the very end.

A sea of yellow on the streets as participant stayed under the heat for almost two days. Photo credit: Thesundaily.my

A sea of yellow on the streets as participant stayed under the heat for almost two days. Photo credit: Thesundaily.my

It is uncertain how many individuals attended the rally, but over the two days, Malaysians witnessed scores of people in yellow, which was chosen as the protest’s official color.

Although many could not attend the rally in fear of putting their education or careers at risk, they supported the protesters and wished they were with them.

The two-day rally brought different people together and gave them a sense of hope for a better future in Malaysia, which is especially important for the country’s youth. Unity is something that will keep the country strong, and young Malaysians were made aware of that during the rally.

For many years, the race card was played whenever it came to politics, which made some citizens develop racist views. But the overwhelmingly positive response to the rally showed that accepting everyone and being united is what it truly means to be Malaysian.

Putting differences aside and cooperating for a better Malaysia were even illustrated in a YouTube video made by a young Malaysian shortly after the rally ended. The video shows four friends walking together and discussing race in Malaysia.

What many thought would affect the country’s unity proved to be the opposite. The rally brought together millions of hopeful people who stood against corruption within the government, teaching youth that Malaysia will remain a peaceful nation as long as unity is the people’s main goal.