September 2, 2012
Comment: The article below appeared in the Star on August 21. A little dated, but it was a topic of last Friday’s khutbah, which a dear friend and ex-Sime Darby colleague, Taib Wahab and I heard at Majid Al-Taqwa in the affluent Taman Tun Dr. Ismail. If there is such a thing as a political khutbah, the one we heard at last Friday’s prayers is certainly one.
What struck me last Friday at Majid Al-Taqwa was that the words Kerajaan (meaning UMNO) and Negara were used interchangeably. The implication is that if one is critical of, or perceived to be opposing, Kerajaan, one is unpatriotic. Nothing can be further than the truth.
Kerajaan is made of a cabinet of individual Members of Parliament from the party which wins the most seats in an election, and institutions of governance. The Leader of that party is then invited by DYMM Yang DiPertuan Agong to form the Kerajaan and becomes Prime Minister. Kerajaan can change if we as a people choose to do so.
Negara is different. Malaysia is Malaysia. It is you and I united as a people who uphold our constitution and pledge our loyalty to the Malay Rulers as represented by DYMM Yang Di-Pertuan Agong. As a concept, Malaysia is unchanging, although its landscape changes with socio-economic development.
If we can see the distinction, we know that we can be patriotic towards our country and yet disagree with our government over policy and approach. We are all patriots because we love our country and will put our lives on the line to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity. But we may have different political beliefs, and can disagree with Kerajaan of the day .
It is a fallacy to think that Government equals UMNO-BN equals Country. We must break this habit of mind, and only then we can move forward.–Din Merican
True Malaysians and Patriotism
by Enizahura Abdul Aziz,
Senior Research Officer,
Centre for Shariah, Law and Politics, IKIM
IN the midst of the excitement in celebrating Aidilfitri, one must not forget another forthcoming celebration — Merdeka Day. While the former rejoices the spiritual journey and striving in the way of God during the month of Ramadan, the latter calls for every citizen to commemorate the feeling of love towards the country and be thankful over the nation’s independence enjoyed over the past 55 years.
Why does a country’s independence matter? When we look around us today and see the physical and social development that has rapidly taken place, we need to appreciate the freedom that we have been enjoying in determining our own path and future.
Compare this to a situation where we could not make decisions on what was best for us as a nation but had to succumb to the will of a colonial master. With this realisation, a sense of appreciation must be demonstrated in various ways during the Merdeka Day celebration.
It is thus imperative to have in us a strong spirit of patriotism.Patriotism is generally defined as the feeling of love or devotion to one’s country. When we claim to be patriotic, what do we actually mean?
One must realise that being patriotic should not be limited to only putting up a flag or merely standing up for the national anthem. The spirit of patriotism entails a deeper reason for these actions.
Being patriotic also requires a feeling of wanting what is best for the nation and doing things that would make the nation proud.So, when we hope for a gold medal in the Olympics, a win in an international football tournament or feel exuberant when the first Malaysian astronaut boarded the International Space Station, we are actually taking pride in the country’s success.
This pride and hope are a form of patriotism, as is supporting the good qualities and ideals of the country and striving to mitigate its negative ones.
Patriotism also implies feelings of solidarity and mutual responsibility among people of different ethnicities and religious backgrounds. A multi-racial and multi-religious nation like Malaysia needs to find commonalities due to the differences that exist among the various groups.
Therefore, through the spirit of patriotism and love for the nation, these differences can be transcended, thus allowing a strong basis for consensus among the citizens. For Malaysia, this form of solidarity is central.
In Islam, being patriotic or having a love of one’s country is highly encouraged. A renowned Muslim thinker and activist who might have been thought to say little about patriotism and nationalism was Hassan al-Banna. He coined terms like wataniyyat al-hanin (love for the country) and wataniyyat al-hurriyyah wa al ’izzah (nationalism of freedom and glory) to explain the need for patriotism and freedom for one’s country. In Risalat al-Mu’tamar al-Khamis, he said:
“Islam enjoins upon every person to strive for the good of his country and lose himself in its service, render utmost service to the nation (ummah) in which he lives, and to give precedence to kinship and neighbourliness (in acts of benevolence).”
Malaysia today is at a juncture where globalisation seems to pose an imminent threat to the spirit of patriotism among its citizens. It is not a problem only for Malaysia but also for many countries in the world.
As we celebrate more years of independence gained from Western colonialists, the more difficult it becomes to educate and instil a feeling of patriotism in the younger generation. This is the challenge we face today.
Compared to earlier generations in post-independent Malaysia, the later generations may not appreciate the struggle and hardship that took place to liberate the country from its colonisers.
Little do they know that the country’s fight for independence did not begin on the discussion table in London in 1956, but was actually a continuous struggle of many national heroes that had begun decades before that significant event. This is why we have been told many times to appreciate what we have today.
A patriotic spirit must be instilled in the hearts and minds of all citizens. Serious efforts need to be taken to nurture the spirit of patriotism especially among youths today.
Although patriotism is an innate feeling, it is the responsibility of various parties to help spur a love for the country. The education system must be tailored to inculcate a sense of pride and belonging to the nation.
It is insufficient to focus only on elements of patriotism in subjects like History and Nationhood Studies. Teachers also play an important role in educating students about the importance of a spirit of patriotism.
NGOs too must play their roles in educating the public on the importance of patriotism. They serve as the best bridge between the government and the public in a civil society framework.
Citizens should not be dragged into a situation where efforts to nurture patriotism among the public are politicised.
Ultimately, true Malaysians would always want the country to remain peaceful and harmonious. Real Malaysians would ensure that the bond among fellow citizens remains strong and intact.
It is love for the country that binds the people together. As Malaysians, we should be proud of what the country has achieved in 55 years.
Nonetheless, for Malaysia to become a strong and developed nation, much more needs to be done. Malaysians from all walks of life should understand that nurturing patriotism is not just the responsibility of the government of the day, but also a collective endeavour of all who do it for the love of the country.