What Makes You Proud To Be Malaysian?

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"We must each always think first of Malaysia, of the national need and least of ourselves."

Do you recognise those words, so simply worded yet loaded with meaning that still holds true more than half a century after they were written?

Those words of wisdom were by none other than the nation’s founding prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj.

"We must each always think first of Malaysia, of the national need and least of ourselves …Everyone must try to help and see that the people are one-minded, with loyalty and one aim, to make Malaysia – the land we love – a happy abode for all of us. If we all do this then we can guarantee liberty, security, prosperity and happiness for the future." – Tunku Abdul Rahman

His quote read in its entirety is even more poignant, especially given the recent talk about patriotism and loyalty that dominated the local political scene last week.

Filepic: SunpixFilepic: Sunpix

While politicians traded barbed comments publicly about patriotism and loyalty last week, all that talk also brought home to many Malaysians what makes them proud of their nation.

Have you ever asked yourself whether you are proud of being Malaysian?

Can one take a self-critical view of our nation and still be patriotic?

So we at Malaysian Digest decided to take an informal poll among Malaysians to ask themselves honestly how they see themselves and the country.

What Malaysians Say About Patriotism And Loyalty

Through a small poll, 50 Malaysians were asked on whether they are proud to be one and from their responses, 35 people said ‘Yes’ and 15 said ‘No’.

For those who answered yes, the reasons they gave include the culture and history of the country; the people as there are many Good Samaritans out there; the food; the landscape and great outdoors, the islands and greenery; and obviously, because it is their home.

On the other hand, those who do not feel pride in the country would like to see some changes that range from the change in the political scene, Malaysians being more civic-minded and courteous, to having more leaders that exude altruism, unity, harmony and peace.

Although it is not surprising to see that there are Malaysians that are not proud of their country, it is still heartening to know that many of them still are as Mohd Alif, 32, said that there are a lot of things that we can be proud of and one of them is how Malaysia managed to make its mark on the global stage for many different achievements despite its relatively young age.

“Our country is still very young – we’re only turning 55 since Malaysia was established – but Malaysians have gone over and beyond to put Malaysia out there from business, economy, education, sports and many other areas.

“There is much to be proud of and I’m quite disheartened that many people choose to zero in on the negatives instead of focusing on the positives,” he said.

Alif knows that there will be sceptics out there who would compare Malaysia’s progress to other countries that are relatively younger, such as Singapore, but he said that while it is true that we have a lot of catching up to do, especially in developing the rural areas, at least the country’s progress has not become stagnant.

“It is undeniable that many things can be better – and I believe it can be miles better – but I think it is the same for every country. We only see the good things from the outside but each country has their own problems that they would not like others to know.

“Unfortunately for us, we have something big looming over us that’s quite difficult to ignore but despite it all, we as a nation did not allow it to bog us down and continued to strive to be better,” he shared.

He said that if there was one thing that he would like to see changed is that for Malaysians to be more proactive in making the country better instead of being reactive and only complaining about things.

“This is our country and if we want to see change and progress, we need to do something about it,” he said.

However, the achievements alone are not enough to make Melissa, 29, proud as there are many things that left her wanting.

“I get that Malaysians have achieved so much and there are many things out there that we can be proud of but should we just ignore the other things that shape Malaysia?

“Should I be proud of people who simply throw rubbish everywhere and do not care about the environment? Or those keyboard warriors that bully, judge and insult others online? Or the dirty politics? Or just any other grievous fault that you can think of?

“Unless something can be done to change the fabric of Malaysian society to being more civilised, then I don’t think I can confidently say that I am proud being a Malaysian,” she expressed.

Asia’s Top Bowler On Flying The Malaysian Flag With Pride

As much as some of us are proud to be Malaysians, some others are one step further as they put themselves out there to bring actual pride to the country.

Among those individuals is Siti Safiyah Amirah Abdul Rahman, who is one of Malaysia’s elite keglers and is currently Asia’s top female bowler after she dominated the Asian Bowling Federation (ABF) women’s division ranking in 2017.

Siti Safiyah, or fondly known as Sofy, told Malaysian Digest that it is a blessing to live in this country and she is very proud to be a citizen of Malaysia.

Together with her Malaysian teammates, they delivered the gold medal when they came out tops in the team event at the World Championships in Las Vegas in December, ending a 10-year wait.

And with her dazzling performance throughout 2017, she feels “really happy and honoured to bring pride to the country as not many people have the chance or opportunity to represent the country.”

Sofy believes that it is important for Malaysians to be proud of their country because that sense of pride allows Malaysia to keep on moving forward.

“Many people might think the opposite way but finding something that we can be proud of makes the people realise that Malaysia has a lot of potential to be one of the greatest country in the world,” she said.

Because of that she hopes that more social media exposure would be given to those who made the country proud and that there is less negative thinking towards the country.

“I understand that some are not proud of Malaysia, and I respect that, but I wish that all Malaysians would be more open-minded and understand how many people sacrificed their time and hard work to bring pride to the country.”

Are Malaysians Abroad Proud About Where They Come From?

As Siti Safiyah points out, nothing brings her more satisfaction than making a name for Malaysian abroad and bringing pride to the nation.

Sometimes it takes someone looking from the outside to marvel and be humbled by what it means to be Malaysian.

A United Nations Journalism fellow and Wolfson College Cambridge press fellow who is a journalist attached to local daily New Straits Times had made the following observation in Madinah after performing her umrah recently.

"The traders here would holler Najib’s name when they know that we are Malaysians. Also that of celebrities Datuk Siti Nurhaliza and Neelofa.

"I have travelled far and wide either on assignment or on my own.

"I have seen things that relate to Malaysia — the flagpost bearing the Malaysian flag at the United Nations in New York, the Penang restaurant in Boston, the Petronas signage in South Africa, Tourism Malaysia campaign posters on the London buses, Proton cars on the streets in Europe, and Malaysia Airlines planes at airports around the world. As with the logo, they give me a warm and fuzzy feeling when I am thousand of miles away from home," Fauziah Ismail wrote in a recent article published by NST.

There is nothing like a little distance and time away to put one’s feelings about Malaysia into perspective.

Siti Aishah, who is currently residing in Perth, Australia, admitted that if she was asked five years ago whether she is proud of Malaysia, she would have answered in the negative.

“But after conversing with Australians and other tourists who came to my husband’s family restaurant, which brings Malaysian delicacies to Australia, I definitely do feel proud of being a Malaysian – especially when they remind you that Malaysia is blessed with stunning flora and fauna, and a multiracial, multiethnicity and multireligious society, so we have more stories, cultures, food to offer,” said the 24-year-old, who believes that Malaysia’s beauty, culture and histories are what makes it unique.

Although she is planning on obtaining her Australian PR, Aisyah expresses her intention to come back to Malaysia because Malaysia will always be home for her, and also her husband and his family, as they have not given up their Malaysian citizenship despite having lived in Australia for more than 15 years.

Despite that, she does want to see some changes where she would like to see more Malaysians exude kindness, good mannerism and ethics.

“Because as much as foreigners like to gush about our beauty, culture and food, HOW we treat them will leave a bigger impact on them. So whenever our customers come in and say, “Your countrymen are very courteous,” it makes me proud,” she relayed.

“Malaysia Will Always Be My Home”

For many of our countrymen who have settled abroad, they express their love and pride for their home country by wanting to see change that is needed for it to be better

Another Malaysian abroad, Marissa Khan, who is currently in the United Kingdom, also shares her pride of being Malaysian simply because “Malaysia will always be my home.”

“But in all seriousness, for me, I am proud because of the people that I am blessed with.

“I’m surrounded by people who are doing all they can to make a change in Malaysia – from as little as feeding the homeless, to building a home for the orang asli in East Malaysia,” relayed the 27-year-old.

She added that despite the shortcomings in the administration and politics, she and her husband are planning to come back to Malaysia because they feel like more hands are needed to help those in need.

For illustration purposes only. Pic: Raja TehFor illustration purposes only. Pic: Raja Teh

As for Samantha Lee, 25, who currently resides in New Orleans, USA and wed to an American Air Force soldier, she feels quite indifferent towards Malaysia especially when she looks at her husband and those around him.

“When I look at my husband, his colleagues, families and friends, Americans feel this genuine pride to be an American. I mean they have this sense of attachment and willingness to do ANYTHING for their country.

“Then I look in the mirror and I don’t recall ever feeling that way for my country. Sure, some aspects of my homeland annoy me, but there are also elements (such as the food and culture) that make me smile and miss Malaysia so much,” she said.

However, she believes that the sense of pride for the country can be embedded in Malaysians by teaching the young ones why Malaysia is a great country, as well as exposing them to Malaysians who are great – even the ones who are paving the way overseas.

We do not always have to agree with everything our elected politicians do or say and we can even be self-critical about our nation’s history or recent shortcomings but there is never any need to run the country to the ground or disown our proud heritage.

“Even if we don’t agree with the Government, we should not be ashamed to be a citizen. This itself is already shameful and he should not have said it publicly,” Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin had remarked recently over the recent conversation about patriotism and loyalty.

As expressed by all those who we interviewed and are proud to call themselves Malaysian wherever they are, perhaps we should focus more on the positives than the negatives to inculcate a sense of pride for Malaysia.

-mD