MALAYSIA’S plural society is a mixture of various races, religions, cultures and ethnic backgrounds.
Comprising the Malays, Chinese, Indians and the richer ethnic diversities of Sabah and Sarawak such as Kadazan, Iban, Bidayuh, Dayak, Melanau and Bajau, this form of pluralistic social structure poses a great challenge to the Government.
For a country like Malaysia, national unity is a prerequisite order that must be continuously preserved and strengthened for the betterment of the country’s future.
The call for national unity is not something new.
The chapters in the country’s historical pages have shown that unity has been on top of the national agenda since independence.
From then onwards, the Government has continuously tried to address the issues and problems arising from the complex nature of the nation’s multi-ethnic background.
The promotion of the muhibbah spirit, as well as other policies that embrace the ethnic and cultural diversities, and most importantly the creation of the Rukun Negara in 1970, are clear examples of the early initiatives by the Government towards building a solid foundation for unity in the country.
However, the questions today remain as to why we are still struggling in this effort and why as a nation, we are moving backwards instead of forward in this supposedly important endeavour for the country and its future generations.
No doubt many answers are accessible right in front of us but without one essential element, no initiative on national unity can meet its intended objectives.
The most important ingredient in national unity that I am referring to is sincerity.
Many will argue that this call is just rhetoric in nature, unfazed by the fact that internal reflections on what our intentions really are in achieving unity will determine the course of action that we take and our commitment towards it.
From the Islamic point of view, sincerity acts as a foundation for all of our actions in life.
It is about focusing on desiring the pleasure of Allah the Almighty in everything that we do and our intentions. Allah Almighty says in the Holy Quran of those who are sincere:
They [are those who] fulfil [their] vows and fear a Day whose evil will be widespread. And they give food in spite of love for it to the needy, the orphan, and the captive, [saying], “We feed you only for the countenance of Allah. We wish not from you reward or gratitude”. (Chapter 76, Verses 7-9).
Sincerity of this kind will ensure that when actions are taken, it is done out of the realisation that God wants us to be good to other people.
Those who are sincere in their intentions are constantly observant of their actions and do not stray away from the remembrance of God. Genuine sincerity also does not demand any material benefits in return.
When we are truly sincere, our actions become our point of satisfaction and worldly appreciation and acknowledgements are immaterial.
In relation to the issue of national unity, people of all religious and cultural backgrounds must realise that threats and challenges to unity can come in many forms. It can also either be external or internal.
However, the momentum to keep moving forward in achieving the intended goals of national unity will not cease if it is based on sincerity.
Problems that arise can be overcome together because we know that when we are sincere towards one another, we can find true solutions to some of the challenges.
Living harmoniously in a multi-racial and multi-religious country like Malaysia must start with sincerity. It must exist in the hearts and the minds of all individuals who genuinely want the country to be peaceful and united.
Those who are entrusted with power need to understand the importance of achieving the objectives of the national unity agenda.
The social, political and economic well being of the people in this country, which includes national unity, should not be made pawns in the political game of sectarian politics or furthering one’s political ambitions.
It is not about which political party or political figure promises countless programmes on national unity.
It is very much about leaders from various political parties talking about unity in a uniform voice of seriousness and sincerity, which will then be translated into meaningful actions.
This also might sound like rhetoric to some but sometimes it reflects a genuine concern that has long existed and needs effective solutions.
Unity should not also only be presented in superficial images but must be existent in the everyday lives of all Malaysians.
Malaysia is a blessed nation; therefore, as citizens, we need to be proud of the accomplishments and the success that we have achieved together as a nation.
It is still a long journey for Malaysia, but with sincerity and trust towards one another, we can positively move forward in unity.
Now is an excellent time to contemplate the purpose of our existence and sincerity of our intentions.
Hopefully from this point onwards, we can play better and effective roles in making Malaysia a country united by a vision of togetherness and acceptance. Enizahura Abdul Aziz is Senior Research Officer with Ikim’s Centre For The Study of Shariah, Law And Politics. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own. The STAR Ikim Views Agust 5, 2014