KUALA LUMPUR: Just mention the names of people like badminton legend Datuk Lee Chong Wei, United Kingdom-based trainee surgeon Dr Nur Amalina Che Bakri and Asia’s Got Talent Season 3 runner-up Yaashwin Sarawanan (better known as the Human Calculator) and all Malaysians will swell with pride.
A glance at their social media accounts will reveal the outpouring of support and appreciation from the public, more so youths, for these Malaysians who brought glory to the nation.
Malaysian youths, in general, have never shied away from giving their unstinted support and encouragement to their national heroes, regardless of their race and religion. And, when the need arises, they can always be seen rallying around to carry out community services and help the unfortunate.
In fact, according to studies carried out by Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) senior lecturer Dr Mohd Mahadee Ismail, 70 percent of the respondents — comprising a multiracial segment of Malaysian youths — showed a high degree of tolerance when it came to forging interracial ties.
The studies, carried out in 2014 and 2015, were related to political socialisation, ethos and nation-building among youths.
The studies also found that more than 80 percent of the respondents were ready to give their commitment to serving the interests of the nation. And, more than 85 percent of them attested that they would share the future with fellow youths belonging to other races.
“From these findings, I can say that today’s youths portray a built-in ‘national’ ethos and this is particularly evident among our students at institutions of higher learning. A sense of ‘belonging and togetherness’ has arisen in each of them,” observed Mohd Mahadee, who is attached to the Department of Government and Civilisation Studies, Faculty of Human Ecology, UPM.
TRANSCEND RACE AND CREED
Mohd Mahadee also said that as a lecturer he has noticed his non-Muslim students keeping silent when teaching is temporarily halted each time the azan or call to prayer is heard.
He said it may seem like a trivial matter but it spoke volumes of their respect for their fellow students of a different faith.
Although there are contentions that youths are more comfortable befriending and mingling with people of their own race and religion, many of them are open to friendships that transcend race and creed, according to Mohd Mahadee.
“Just because they hang out with same-race friends doesn’t mean that they cannot forge friendships or cooperate with others. Whenever the lecturer gives them assignments that require them to collaborate with students from other ethnic groups, they are able to do it… in fact, when they do it this way, their work quality exceeds expectations,” he said.
Whilst acknowledging the presence of undesirable elements that pose a threat to the unity of youths, Mohd Mahadee said to tackle this, three fundamental issues need to be addressed, namely racial political trend, impact of social media and the nation’s primary education system.
“Of late, certain quarters have been playing up racial politics for their own political interests. Sensitive issues that touch on the interests and rights of certain ethnic groups are being highlighted, raising allegations that the sensitivities of certain groups are not being respected.
“Small issues are being blown out of proportion. Such things can not only disrupt the unity that has existed for so long but also incite hatred,” he said.
He warned that racial politics can turn into a cancer that is difficult to control as it can also be used as a secret weapon to gain the sympathy of certain ethnic groups.
Mohd Mahadee said social media is also dangerous if it is used as a medium to disseminate messages that incite hatred and are filled with slander that can cause tension among the people.
“As for our primary education system, it is still segregated which also has its own implications. By right, a single education system should have been introduced much earlier to allow the integration of the various races,” he added.
SHARE THE STAGE
Malaysian Youth Council (MYC) president Jufitri Joha, meanwhile, said youths should be extended more space and opportunities to meet, interact and collaborate.
He said sports and cultural activities, as well as debating and speech competitions and inter-religious dialogues organised at the school and university levels are good avenues for youths of all races to share the stage.
“We encourage programmes that involve the participation of youths of all races, such as those organised by MYC and Friendship Group For Interfaith Services. Among the programmes carried out are activities to help flood victims, mobilised by the heads of various religious groups,” he said.
Jufitri said MYC recently launched a special logo for its Youth For Unity programme to forge unity among youths. The logo’s design, among other things, conveys the message that youths serve as the medium for unity in Malaysia.
“Our nation can only be stable if our youths share a strong bond. They should never entertain elements who want to cause disunity,” he added.
Universiti Sains Malaysia Student Representative Council vice-president Muhammad Amir Asyraf Mohd Sabri urged students to be open to assimilating the cultures of people belonging to other ethnicities.
“It will help them to develop bonds with others and learn to respect and appreciate the uniqueness that exists in Malaysia. Youths shouldn’t be driven by self-interest and should stay away from ethnocentrism,” he said.
Youths should also exercise wisdom when tackling any difference for the sake of the nation’s peace and prosperity, he said, adding that disunity and discords would be detrimental to future generations.