For unity to flourish, respect must be leading principle
At present, we live in a world where plurality shapes the very essence of societies. Cultural, religious and also ethnic diversities call for us to learn more about each other and understand the sensitivities that exist within these various social groups. In dealing with diversities, differences in views and practices are also considered a normalcy but must be managed carefully. Malaysia is no exception to this. Building and sustaining positive racial and cultural relations must be made a top priority for the government of the day. As there is a growing concern that we are now at a time where unity among the different races and cultures are being tested, efforts must be put into place to address the issues related to unity and making it sustainable. One must appreciate the reality that it is truly an uphill endeavour for any polity to juggle between dealing with the complexities related to racial and cultural diversity, and at the same time, trying to remain popular and relevant to all segments of the society.
As national unity is actually a process, the main difficulty to achieving its objectives is due to the lack of sincerity among parties vying for power and the failure of the general public to not be trapped into the sentiments of partisan politics. As Malaysians, we need to be aware that in any political battle, be it in Malaysia or any other countries characterised by plural societies, the race card will always be put on a leverage for popular support. The peril to this is clear especially when short-thinking and emotions are not guided by wisdom, respect for the rule of law especially the Federal Constitution and failure to embrace the fact that cultural and racial diversity is the character of the country.
In Islam for instance, diversity of the humankind is actually one of the signs of God’s greatest creation and this is reflected in the Quranic verse:
O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other (not that you may despise each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted with all things. (Al-Hujurat, 49: 13)
The lackadaisical efforts in preserving and strengthening national unity will be disastrous to the survival of the nation and also to the credibility of any government. Much is at stake when there is no unity among the various ethnic communities in the society, since it threatens the beautiful promises of democracy.
For national unity to flourish, respect must also be the leading principle in engaging with the differences of perspectives that exist in a multiracial and multi-religious society like Malaysia. Intercultural interactions and engagements should also be based on trust as it would strengthen the foundation of unity. In the event of any threats to the nation, either political or economic, a society that has a great level of trust and respect towards one another would be able to weather those troubling times. In addition, as members of the community, we should not condone any elements of prejudice and feelings of hatred to become the basis of our interactions, nor should we condone any attempt to use ethnic and cultural differences as the trump card for sectarian, political or personal gains as this would be divisive and detrimental for the well-being of the community and the nation as a whole. Therefore, the right formula is national unity should be based on the spirit of togetherness and mutual understanding. As a country that upholds this noble spirit, rooms for engagement with all different ethnic groups in the society must always be kept open. This is especially true given that democracy is all about giving the voice of the people to be heard, not just through the ballot boxes, but also through continuous dialogues and discussions. Most importantly, it must be conducted with decorum and according to the rule of law.
Finally, Malaysians must uphold the common shared values that stress on the values of moderation, the spirit of giving, togetherness and avoidance of conflicts. All citizens must take the initiative to nurture within themselves a sense of belonging to the multicultural setting of the society and learn to care for one another. Only through these, would the society develop the common understanding on the priority to move forward together rather than to let the country trod downwards into chaos and disharmony.