Published: 13 August 2015 10:24 AM

How would you identify yourself?

A few years ago, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said he was a Malay first, then a Malaysian.

His response created a stir among the general public with many criticising him for being racist and not identifying himself first as a Malaysian, given his privileged position as the country’s deputy prime minister. 

Muhyiddin later explained that indeed every Malay would think the same, and if he did not think this way, he would be forsaken by the Malay community.

That was nevertheless old news.

During a recent roundtable meeting on the issue of race, Merdeka Center’s Ibrahim Suffian published the center’s survey on national identification.

It was discovered that more than half of ethnic Chinese and Indian Malaysians, along with the indigenous groups in East Malaysia, identified themselves as Malaysians first before their respective ethnic groups, and rarely would they identify their own religions.

But among the Malays, most of them identify as Muslims first (more than 60%) compared with being Malays first (merely 6%) or Malaysians first (27%).

Based on that finding, Muhyiddin should be in the minority, while the proponent of “1Malaysia”, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is not much better (among the 27%). Perhaps majority of Malay Muslims are more like PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang.

But that does not translate to the deduction that Chinese and Indian Malaysians are therefore more patriotic, as this is not a test of patriotism.

All that we can say is that the Malay’s identification value, along with their perception of the world and life, are a whole lot more complicated than the other ethnic groups in the country.

Things are quite straightforward for Chinese Malaysians. You are the citizens of this country, and are holding Malaysian passports, which seal your identity wherever you travel.

If in Paris you happen to tell the French you are a Chinese, they might think that you are from mainland China, and if you go to China or Taiwan and tell the people there you are a Chinese, they will get totally confused.

“Being a Malaysian is a political and a national identification. I have friends and relatives who have migrated to countries like Singapore, Australia, Canada and the UK, but still think of themselves as Malaysians although they have long given up their Malaysian nationality. This, I believe, stems from a sense of belonging to your homeland.

As for the majority of Malays, many of them might put their race and country first in the past, but following the increased influence of religion on their lives, even this has now changed.

To them, being a Malay is a kind of blood relationship while nationality merely serves as a political symbol. Religion alone is everything to them.

Being a Muslim is the foremost identification one will see from the moment he or she is born to this world. They grow and learn just to become even better Muslims. And when they eventually pass on, they aspire to move on to the akhirat with such an identity.

Some of the modern Malays, in particular the urban and middle class, are today less attached to their race, but not their qualities of being Muslims, be they urban or rural, wealthy or deprived.

Religion has very much become a part of their lives, and at times transcended life itself.

In reality, Islam is all the more important to the Malays. Any political party eyeing to secure a bigger support from the Malay community has to decisively attune itself to religionisation.

Sure enough the next round of rivalry between Malay political parties will very much evolve around the competition in Islamisation.

Non-Malays will need to come to terms with this reality and trend if they were to survive and prosper in this country. –, August 12, 2015.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of UPP Padungan.

Source: The Malaysian Insider

Min Su YapFocus
Published: 13 August 2015 10:24 AMHow would you identify yourself?A few years ago, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said he was a Malay first, then a Malaysian.His response created a stir among the general public with many criticising him for being racist and not identifying himself first as a Malaysian,...