On Aug 31, our nation turns 60. The country is ripe. The people are busy. The social factor from which we had carved out our nation within the ambit of unity, tolerance, understanding and trust has come into question today.

I had an interesting conversation with an Uber driver in whose car I took a ride. He was an engineer from the oil and gas sector and he told me this: “We are no more the same nation, different from the days when I was growing up. As a Malay, I find it difficult to have a cup of coffee in Chinese shops nowadays. I used to grow up in Tanjung Malim where I frequented a Chinese kopitiam selling ‘wan tan’ noodles and I also enjoyed my nasi lemak sold by the same Chinese aunty. I drank from the same cup used by everyone else.

“Now, if I were to enter a Chinese coffee shop, people would look at me suspiciously, making me feel uncomfortable. I have now stopped frequenting Chinese shops, not because I don’t want to go, but because of the social pressure of my fellow brothers who doubt my belief and faith.”

I had no answers for this driver; I arrived at my destination and bade him goodbye.

This could be an isolated case but his remarks gave me goose pimples. That same day, after work, I visited my favourite restaurant in my township that serves Bru coffee and the person running the shop, who is my friend, told me that fewer Malays were patronising his restaurant these days.

When I inquired further, he said he could not understand why the numbers were dwindling as the food served at his restaurant is hygienically prepared while he gets all his fresh poultry and meat from a certified Muslim butcher.

I am extremely concerned over such developments. Is it because we no longer share the same views or beliefs on food as our forefathers did or have we become more insular?

The examples I cited may be extreme but I hope that we will not gradually become more insular while ignoring the bigger picture of our nation called Malaysia.

We have come a long way. We have fought Indonesia and the Communists, but now trust or tolerance issues are surfacing in our society. I hope it will not continue any further.

To build a strong nation, we must all unite irrespective of our beliefs, religions, ethnicities, palates or vocations. As food is the best ingredient to bind us together, why not use it to bring us all back together?

Individually, we must make every effort to teach our children that race and religion are not barriers to our unity.

Every religion teaches us to be united. Every religion teaches love. No one preaches hatred or enmity, so why do we segregate when we eat, study, work or play?

The Dalai Lama once said, “the whole purpose of religion is to facilitate love and compassion, patience, tolerance, humility, forgiveness”.

Malaysia is able to trounce every external enemy because we know who they are. We cannot take it lightly when we have religious zealots and bigots who want to divide us rather than unite us under the beautiful umbrella called Malaysia.

The umbrella is wide open, to protect anyone from rain or shine, but whether the Malaysians of today are ready and willing to share the same shade with a feeling of oneness is the fundamental question that every Malaysian must answer.

Let’s not be driven by some sectorial politicians. We must follow leaders who not only think of the present but are also genuinely concerned about our tomorrow.

Our past leaders have made many sacrifices to build this beautiful nation. Let’s not let anyone harm or crush what we have built. Our threat may not be the IS extremists but insular or insecure religious pundits who want to divide or separate us.

Let’s unite as true Malaysians. Let’s dispel the myth of disunity and build a concrete base which is strong, unparalleled and undisputable. Display our love by helping another Malaysian irrespective of race or religion.

Please fly our national flag at home or at work. Don’t engage in negative conversations. Build and support a nation in which we want our grandchildren to grow, enjoy and cherish.

Let’s cease the exodus of Malaysians leaving the country. Stop our pool of talent from going abroad, and invest their skills and knowledge within.

Let’s stand united to welcome another 100 years of progress and development and trust among Malaysians.

As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and the soul of its people.”

(This commentary is the personal opinion written by Ravindran Raman Kutty and does not necessarily reflect BERNAMA’s stand or views on the matter.)

–BERNAMA

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