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KUALA LUMPUR, July 14, 2015:“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character,” as mentioned by the civil rights leader, the late Martin Luther King Jr. It took years for King’s dream to be realised on standing against the apartheid and establishing the mind-set of an ideal freedom and equality in America. However, it did not take long to “realise the dream” here because living in a multiracial society is a common thing in this country, as we have co-existed side by side, accepting each others’ different values, understanding and beliefs. Malaysia has a long-standing history of upholding the multiracial, multicultural and multi-religious ambition which can be traced as far back during the Malacca empire. Yet, the recent incident put our years of racial tolerance to the test as on July 12, Malaysians witnessed disturbances triggered by misunderstandings and treachery at one of Kuala Lumpur’s busiest IT mall, Low Yat Plaza. What started as a non-racial brawl soon turned ugly following racist remarks and comments being thrown around on social media, which then led to a group gathering at the plaza, hurling insults and causing ruckus. However, despite the current racial tension taking place in our society, there are still many Malaysians who do not see it as a barrier to unite their differences in race, religion and culture.The Rakyat Post spoke to several Malaysians from inter-racial marriages and what they shared, told us that diversity is to be embraced and not to be used as a tool to build a gap between the citizens of this country.Ahmed Syahril ZulkeplyA journalist, Ahmed Syahril, 31, felt that the differences he had with his wife is what makes his marriage much more special, and the fact that Islam helped him in finding the common ground among different races. Ahmed Syahril, a Malay, met his wife, 23-year-old Daria Safiyyah Terekhova from Russia, for the first time when they boarded the Trans-Siberian train to Moscow four years ago. “For me there is no issue with regard to the differences that we had. We’ve known each other for three years and got married last year. “My experience staying with non-Malays taught me how to respect other races and how to live harmoniously despite the differences. In my case, my wife and I were united because of Islam,” said Ahmed Syahril.
— Pic credit Ahmed Syahril Zulkeply
— Pic credit Ahmed Syahril Zulkeply
Illahazne Abdul HalimFor a Health Ministry civil servant, Illahazne felt that racial prejudices still exist among certain Malays, especially when it comes to getting married with those from Africa. “I can say that most Malays that I know have a certain degree of racial prejudice when I wanted to get married back then. Especially my fellow colleagues. However, they started to accept it once they got to know him,” said Illhazne. 37-year-old Illahazne got married to Nigerian Benjamin Olagoke Ojo, who was ten years older than her and they are blessed with two boys, Shakeel and Hakeem. Commenting on the recent Low Yat riot, Illhazne said that the issue was mainly a misunderstanding that took place during a business transaction, but later was exaggerated and taken advantage of by certain racist bigots on social media.
— Pic credit Illahazne Abdul Halim
— Pic credit Illahazne Abdul Halim
Francis NanthaA business editor, Francis is married to a Eurasian, and admitted that it took quite some time to convince her into marriage as she was also concerned of the cultural and religious differences. Francis mentioned that the decision to get married became easier as he was also from a mixed marriage. “My parents also had a mixed marriage. My mum is Chinese and my dad is Indian. Also, one of my brothers converted to Islam and married a Malay while the other married a mixed Chinese-Indian wife. “This makes all our children very aware of our mixed language, racial, religious and cultural differences — but we embrace it all every time we manage to get together as a family,” Francis said. Francis also mentioned that another benefit of having interracial marriage is that they can celebrate almost every major festival here in Malaysia.
— Pic credit Francis Nantha
— Pic credit Francis Nantha
Christina Orow ShaukiChristina Orow Shauki or Maria Christina Orow Abdullah said that marriages, regardless of any race or religion, boils down to the level of maturity and acceptance between the couple. “Growing up in a different background, we embraced the differences. People are more open minded nowadays. The strength of marriage comes from the maturity and mutual acceptance of differences regardless of race, religion and culture,” said Christina. Christina, who was a product of mixed marriage between a Sabahan and a Greek descendant, got married to film director and actor Afdlin Shauki 18 years ago, and they are blessed with three children, Mia Sara, Anais and Ileana Matin. Commenting on the latest Low Yat uproar, Christina lamented on the fact that those involved in the riot, mostly youths, were blindly following rumours and that their immaturity was taken advantage of by fanatics. “If those responsible have not raised the racial card, these people would not have gotten involved in it in the first place. However, it all boils down to the maturity of the community,” added Christina.
— Pic credit Christina Orow Shauki
— Pic credit Christina Orow Shauki
Fatimah Abu BakarA writer, an acting coach and a talented actor, Fatimah wears many hats, but among those, she is also well-known for being a doting mother and a loving wife. Married to Syed Zainal Rashid, Fatimah is from a mixed marriage; her mother was Chinese and her father was Bengali-Malay. The couple have four children. Also known as a trainer for the Astro Ria reality show Akademi Fantasia, Fatimah shared her thoughts with regard to the beauty of having mixed marriage. “What’s important is that we look at each other as fellow human beings. Not by looking at the races alone. The different ‘colors’ is what makes us rich. We have to look at the differences under a positive light,” she said. Riding the same carousel as others who are into interracial marriages, Fatimah said that her families were all aware and conscious of their differences and respect was a value that they all upheld. Upset by the recent happenings, Fatimah mentioned that it was rather heart-breaking for her and the rest knowing that it could have been avoided if race was not being put under the spotlight. “While my family feels lovely to be in a mixed-race family, we feel the hurt and insults threefold whenever something ugly like the recent incident happens. Heartbreaking,” Fatimah said.
— Pic credit Fatimah Abu Bakar
— Pic credit Fatimah Abu Bakar
Noor Aziah HamzahFor married couple Noor Aziah Hamzah and Fareed Tan Wee Check, they had the opportunity to get to know and accept each other’s differences for almost 10 years before they got married last year. “During that period, we got to know each other and learned each other’s culture. We even had a traditional Chinese wedding,” said Noor Aziah. As for Hari Raya, this will be their first Raya celebration together.
— Pic credit Noor Aziah Hamzah
— Pic credit Noor Aziah Hamzah
Nur Aini Alegria SunerAs for Nur Aini, a Filipino Malaysian, mixed marriage is another way of expanding the cultural horizon of a society, instead of viewing it as a taboo. Married to a local Malay from Perlis nine years ago, Nur Aini, a psychology lecturer in Subang SEGI College, are blessed with a child, Nur Insyiraah Batrisyah. Nur Aini said that her marriage was a match made in heaven, regardless of the differences in culture and race.
— Pic credit Nur Aini Alegria Suner
— Pic credit Nur Aini Alegria Suner
Omar MichaelFor Omar Michael and his wife Jade, being in a mixed race marriage forces a person to face their prejudices and preconceived notions. “I was brought up believing Chinese food is “gross”. But now that I’m married to a Chinese, she’s converted me to the joys of Chinese cuisine,” Omar said, however, jokingly adding that he still does not like Century Eggs. The couple have a daughter, two-and-a-half-year-old Sienna.
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— Pic credit Omar Michael
Keeping in mind all things mentioned above, perhaps it is time that we put our differences aside and look at the beauty of the various colours that unite us all. The world is big enough for all of us. We are all made up of various races for diversity, and not exclusivity.
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