Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

What is A Malaysian?

Written by johnleemk on 1:47:08 am Sep 25, 2007.

There is a lot of controversy over what constitutes a Malaysian. To each and everyone of us, Malaysia is something unique — it has a different meaning.

Naturally, there is considerable argument over whether we can even be reasonably defined as a nation. After all, we hardly exhibit the coherent identity you would expect of a nation.

There are some who say that the Malaysian nation and the Malay nation are the same — that to be Malaysian, you must be Malay.

Of course, there are a variety of justifications for this. One goes that because the Malays are the majority, they set the ground rules.

The other of course goes along the lines of that because the Malays were supposedly the original peoples of Malaysia (frankly, they're not), they should be the gold standard for what it means to be Malaysian.

And last but not least, some just argue that the non-Malays are insufficiently loyal to merit consideration as Malaysians. Of course, this is tarring a gigantic heterogenous community with one brush, so this is hardly just or fair.

The natural opposite argument is that every Malaysian citizen is a Malaysian. That is, as long as you hold a blue identity card, you are a Malaysian.

But this isn't necessarily true. What if you just were registered with Malaysian citizenship because you were born to Malaysian parents, but have never set foot in the country, never eaten nasi lemak or roti canai?

Now, I'm not saying those should be the defining criteria for what makes one a Malaysian. But what makes me a Malaysian, what makes you a Malaysian?

If you ask me, we're not quite a nation just yet. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to be one nation.

What makes us Malaysian? In my view, a nation is defined by a core set of shared experiences — be they hanging out at the mamak to watch football at 1AM, or getting your BCG jab in standard six.

What makes us Malaysian is not who our parents are. What makes us Malaysian is who we are, what we have been through. That is what makes me a Malaysian.

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Infernal Ramblings is a Malaysian website focusing on current events and sociopolitical issues. Its articles run the gamut from economics to society to education.

Infernal Ramblings is run by John Lee. For more, see the About section. If you have any questions or comments, do drop him a line.

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