Wednesday, June 01, 2005

"You're Chinese and you're from Malaysia? How is that possible?"

Being in a foreign country for the past 3 years, I have experienced many things and endured many questions. One of questions that I am always asked is...

"You're Chinese and you're from Malaysia? How is that possible?"

I draw a deep breath and my brain starts working. I start blabbering like a tourist guide telling my charges the various ethnic groups in Malaysia. I tell them we are a multiracial, multireligion country which strives on diversity yet we are connected in so many ways culturally. Sometimes I get carried away and start telling my foreign friends about the Kadazans, Ibans and Bajaus. This confuses them even more. So now I have resorted to limiting our nation's racial make up to just the Chinese, Indians and Malays.

I tell them that the Malays are the largest racial community in our country. They are the indigenious people. They speak Malay, a language probably only understood in Malaysia and Indonesia and their skin colour is generally brown. The Malays are the main rulers of our country as they hold top positions in the government. However, this does not mean the Chinese and Indians are side-lined. They too, hold various decision making roles and all of us live in peace and harmony.

Everyone is entitled to have their own religious worship and belief. There are places of worship like the mosque, the church, the Buddhist/Toaist temple and the Hindu temple. We are given public holidays for every major religious or racial festival. We eat the food of each race. We grow to like them. We adapt. And best of all we tolerate each other's short comings.

We live and let live.

All of us are entitled to speak our mother tongue and we have schools which cater solely for one language i.e. the Chinese and Tamil schools. Some parents from other races do send their children to vernacular schools so that they can mingle and learn another language.

Once I'm done with my story, the foreigners are usually amazed and they will normally say...

"Wow...you guys actually live in harmony?"

Oh yes, we do ang moh. And I always give a sarcastic smile...

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