As always, when Dr Mahathir Mohamad feels his voice is drowning in the realm of politics, he orchestrates tribalistic behaviour that offends other ethnicities.
Lately, he has offended the Indian community by claiming they are not fully loyal to the country since they speak their mother tongue at home and follow their cultural traditions.
The question is, can one judge the loyalty of a particular community to a nation merely through a language-and-culture paradigm?
One also wonders how we can change genetic identity by merely speaking a language or following a different culture.
People’s loyalty to a nation cannot be measured through the race-and-religious paradigm as they have the capacity to choose to use certain languages and culture modes to meet certain needs or to advance.
For example, I meet urban Malay parents who speak English to their children at home and I wonder whether they qualify as Malaysians if we were to follow Mahathir’s logic.
I worked in a private hospital in my younger days and I know a Malay doctor who only speaks English to his patients. I bet he is a loyal Muslim Malaysian.
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When I meet friends of Indian and Chinese origin who are just back from overseas, they complain to me that nothing compares to being home in Malaysia – and they miss nasi lemak.
Observing our neighbour Indonesia, I notice the Indians there speak Indonesian, yet they continue to practise Hinduism while staying loyal to Indonesia, a Muslim-majority country.
Bahasa Indonesia has its origins in India and reveals the complexity of human behaviour in terms of culture, language and religion.
The so-called total assimilation theory being practised by certain countries is not the only way to show loyalty to a nation.
The fact is loyalty and love for the nation transcends language and culture.
The ethnic Malays, Indians and Chinese in Malaysia speak Malay when they interact with each other. They speak English and also their mother tongue when they interact with their own communities. This shows Malaysia is a unique and diverse nation with a modicum of stability.
The fact is Malaysia has evolved over the last couple of hundred years from a largely Malay-Muslim nation to a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country without denying its Malay-Muslim roots.
The Federal Constitution reflects this reality.
Having met various individuals in my lifetime, I realise that human beings are complex. They cannot be relegated to a cocoon of certain types of thinking patterns or a rigid loyalty to race and religion.
It is mischievous on Mahathir’s part to question the loyalty of any community in the country.
It is time for Mahathir to reflect and understand the damage he is creating in Malaysia when he deliberately ignores complexities and simplistically exhorts loyalty through divisive tribalism. – The Malaysian Insight