Race first? It's not racism

Race first? It's not racism

PETALING JAYA: Two out of the 10 people who took part in The Star's moderation survey do not identify themselves as Malaysians first, but here is the good news.

Seeing themselves as a member of their race first does not mean that they are racist, but that they are merely curious or proud of their cultural heritage.

Those who identified themselves as belonging to a racial group are mainly those between the ages of 15 to 34 (52 per cent) and this trend tends to lessen among those older - between 35 to 44 (18 per cent), 45 to 54 (16 per cent) and the rest, those aged 55 and above.

In the survey, which was highlighted last week, an overwhelming 69 per cent of the 5,070 people taking part think themselves as Malaysian first, followed by another 21 per cent identifying themselves as belonging to a racial group. Five per cent perceive themselves as a person of their religion while the remaining did not reply.

Zubedy (M) Sdn Bhd managing director Anas Zubedy said Malaysians should be proud of their colourful ethnic background and heritage and not be forced to make a painful decision of choosing their citizenship over their racial background.

"That does not make them racist. It simply shows that they acknowledge their heritage and culture and that they want that to be recognised by people they meet as someone who inherited this beautiful heritage and culture," he said.

Malaysians, added Anas, also had a right to marry nationality and ethnicity when identifying themselves, rather than being pressured by society to describe themselves as Malaysian first.

"For instance, when I go overseas and people ask me what I am, I tell them I am a Malaysian Malay. We have Malays in other parts of the world, too, like Indonesia but I brought together my citizenship and race to identify myself as different from an Indonesian Malay," he said, adding that there was a need to separate citizenship from ethnicity.

"They are Malaysians because they are citizens of this country whereas they are of a certain ethnicity because they were born into it.

"I'm sure that many people are proud of their culture and heritage that becomes theirs by way of their ethnicity and would love to identify themselves with their ethnic background," he said when met after the kickstart of the #SaySomethingNice 2015 campaign here yesterday.

Minister in Prime Minister's Department Nancy Shukri said those who identified themselves by their race really wanted to know where they came from.

"People always asked me what race I belong to when they heard that I do not possess the normal Malay name and that I wear a head scarf or sometimes, I speak a little bit of Mandarin and Iban.

"It caused curiosity among the people and they wanted to know what race I belong to. When I responded by saying that I am Malaysian, they said "Come on, we all know that you are. So are we".

"These are common reactions we hear from fellow Malaysians," she said, adding that when the Government wanted to improve and do away with the race column in some of its forms, most still preferred for their ethnicity to be stated.

The survey, which ran for three weeks from March 21, is an extension of The Star's Brave Views, Bold Ideas campaign.

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