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PATRIOTISM: ISSUES AND CHALLENGES IN MALAYSIA

Conference Paper · August 2015

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International Conference on Current Issues in Education 2015

PATRIOTISM: ISSUES AND CHALLENGES IN MALAYSIA


Sitti Hasnah binti Bandu1, Madya Dato Abdul Razaq Bin Ahmad2,
Mohd Mahzan Bin Awang3
hasnahbandu@yahoo.com, razaq@ukm..edu.my, mahzan@ukm.edu.my

Faculty of Education, National University of Malaysia

Abstract

This article discusses the concepts, issues and challenges of patriotism in Malaysia. Patriotism plays a
very significant role in the establishment of a society in a country. Discussion will include the application
of patriotism among multiracial community comprising various ethnic groups in Malaysia. The article also
looks at previous studies related to the practice of patriotism among the people within and outside the
country, focusing the discussion on issues and challenges faced by the people in an effort to improve the
practice of patriotism. Lastly, this article also discusses proposals to improve the practice of patriotism
among the people of various ethnic groups in Malaysia.

Keywords: patriotism; multiracial community; various ethnic groups

1. Introduction advancement of the country and nation. The


progress of a country depends on the society
Patriotism is important in shaping the which comprises of all races, ethnicities,
society in a country. An advanced society is religions and so on in a country.
closely related to the practice of patriotism. The practice of patriotism often differs
History of Malaysia proves that the struggle to according to the social, economic, political and
liberate their homeland from occupation is due cultural environment in an era based on the
to the strong practice of patriotism in themselves experiences of people in a society. For example,
such as the struggle faced by Tok Janggut and patriotism among the people in Malaya at the
his peers of the 19th century until the time of time before independence focused on the
Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra al-Haj when the struggle for independence. Malays dominated
country achieved its independence in the 20th the struggle for independence, as well as willing
century. The history of the rise of the nation to share a common power with the people of
from colonialism in order to build a free and China and India in order to achieve
independent country shows the struggle of a independence. Despite the arrival of the Chinese
nation filled with the spirit of patriotism [13]. and Indians to Malaya at first then was to make
Colonization policy implemented by the a living, they were accepted by Malays as
British in Malaya led to the existence of citizens of Malaya, and were involved in power-
different races and ethnic communities. sharing deal to achieve independence. It was a
Therefore, the spirit of patriotism must be considerable challenge to unite the multiracial
adopted by all communities so that the country society. However, for the sake of liberating their
continues to advance in various aspects. homeland, national interest was regarded as
However, a major challenge faced by the more important than self-interest. Their
community in Malaysia is the existence of determination to demand independence for the
individuals among the generation after enjoyment of freedom was realized by the
independence who lack the spirit of patriotism, practice of patriotism which was given a high
while racial and ethnic diversity complicate the priority at the time.
efforts to improve the spirit of patriotism. The After independence, there have been
practice of patriotism should be continued by the various efforts to add values to the achieved
next generation in order to continue the independence in order to develop Malaysia
economically, politically and socially. The Thus, in Malaysian context, the willingness
Malays are still hoping that all other of a person, irrespective of race, to do anything
communities in Malaysia would continue jointly to defend the homeland in the spirit of
to enliven the spirit of patriotism for the sake of patriotism is highly required. [18] states that
national prosperity after independence. The patriotism refers to a person’s readiness and
spirit of patriotism needs to be cultivated in the ability to commit to the nation as well as one’s
younger generation so that they are proud of awareness and knowledge of certain government
being of Malaysians, have a spirit of loyalty and institutions as well as knowledge of national
a sense of belonging to the country, besides symbols.
being disciplined and continue to strive for the Patriotism is also mentioned in Ibnu
development of the country. Khaldun’s social theory, assabiyah or the
The formation of Malaysia in 1963 with the feeling of love towards race, clan, ethnic or tribe.
participation of Sabah and Sarawak has featured Assabiyah means camaraderie. The meaning of
Malaysia as having different races and ethnic assabiyah can be generally understood and
groups. According to the Department of loosely described to mean nationalism. As
Statistics, in 2010 Sabah population stood at defined in political science, nationalism means
3,117,405. Official composition is divided into love towards one’s own nation and country,
32 ethnic groups, including Dusun, Bajau, namely devotion and passion which refers to
Melayu Brunei, Murut and others. Similarly, love towards progress and prosperity. Loving
there are multi-ethnic in Sarawak such as one’s own country is a part of faith and the basis
Melayu, Melanau, Iban, Bidayuh, Kenyah, of the spirit of patriotism and nationalism, such
Kelabit, Penan, Murut and others. as in Malaysia. In Islam, love and devotion
Therefore, it is the responsibility of all towards the country is because of Allah as one’s
racial and ethnic groups in Malaysia to acquire Creator and not the country, because the country
the spirit of patriotism for the sake of harmony is where they live to carry out activities that
and progress of the country. It is inevitably a brings goodness in this world and the hereafter
huge challenge in giving appreciation to all the [17].
people in a country which has different races [7] classify patriotism into five aspects:
and ethnicities. first, Iconoclastic Patriotism, are reflected by
individuals who interpret affection and love of
2. The Concept of Patriotism country through actions that have positive
impacts on the country. These individuals have a
Patriotism comes from two Greek words persistent attitude, courage, discipline,
“pater”, which means father, and “Patris” knowledge and vision for the development of
means land. The combination of the two words the country, for example, the activists in the
brings about the word patriotism which means country; second, Symbolic Patriotism, which
the love of a fatherland [11]. Thus patriotism refers to the level of patriotism denoted by
means love and affection to the homeland or respect for symbols of a country. The use of
place of birth of a person. However, the actual symbols such as flag, language and so on
demands of patriotism are more than the given arouses their spirit of patriotism.
meaning. According to [1], patriotism is the Thirdly, Capitalistic Patriotism refers to
struggle that inspires interests of the nation. It individuals whose actions demonstrate and
highlights the high morale and fighting spirit to express patriotism by focusing and targeting
uphold the position, status and the influence of towards the development of the national
the state and nation. According to [12] economy. The individuals’ involvement and
patriotism means to foster and develop self- contribution towards the development of the
esteem in order to serve the homeland and the national economy is regarded as realizing the
nation, being ready to sacrifice and have a spirit of patriotism towards the country; fourth,
highly fighting spirit for truth and justice. Instinctive Environmental Patriotism, are shown
Patriotism is not just a feeling of love and by individuals love the environment of the
affection towards the country but it should also country. They will try to keep the environment
be evident through actions. As noted by [5] of flora and fauna found in the country; fifth,
patriotism means feelings of pride and love Nationalistic Symbolic Patriotism refers to
towards one’s country and having the individuals who tend to express high
willingness to sacrifice anything for the sake of faithfulness towards the country and are
national interests.
obsessed with their homeland to exceed or enemy. Patriotism is born in the people’s
compete with other nations. feelings, and expressed through acts and
However, in Malaysian context, behaviors as the citizens who have the
Iconoclastic Patriotism and Symbolic Patriotism characteristics of patriotism. However,
are more dominantly used to describe a person patriotism is not only confined in the country.
who is considered patriotic. People who are Whenever the people are abroad, they must
willing to defend the country from their enemy, respect the laws of other countries so that they
and respect national symbols such as the Jalur will not negatively affect the image of their
Gemilang flag is a community which has a high country. Imagine if a person fails to comply with
sense of patriotism. the laws of a foreign country which he is visiting,
[16] divide patriotism into two types: first, his acts may give a negative impression on his
indiscriminately and blindly supporting and own country that could affect the country's
loving the country, without any doubt, image and could damage the reputation of the
objections or questions. Total support is given country. Therefore, the ability to respect the law
regardless of whether the government has given of the foreign country being visited, as well as
the best to them. The second type is constructive uphold a good name of the country at the
patriotism, i.e. critical awareness of citizens international level is also the practice of
against whatever actions taken in the country. patriotism.
The citizens will love and obey the leaders and
national policy whenever they are perceived as 3. Issues and Problems
being provided the social, economic and
political necessities. A low patriotic spirit among the younger
In Malaysian context, according to [3], generation has taken place both in Malaysia and
people who have a high level of patriotic spirit in other countries, which makes patriotism issue
are those who have: as a global issue. For example, in Canada, a
 Love and compassion towards their study by [4] shows the spirit of patriotism
homeland among the younger generation is low when only
 Proud of their homeland 40% percent of respondents aged 18 to 29 years
 Willingness to defend their homeland agreed that they should have the spirit of
against enemies’ threats and attack both patriotism and should demonstrate openly about
internally or externally a sense of pride towards the country.
 Willingness to defend the national interests Supposedly, at a young age, citizens should be
when ridiculed and humiliated more patriotic as they are the inheritors of the
The predominant strength that should be future leader. This issue also occurs in Italy
available in order to adopt the spirit of where there are among the younger generation
patriotism is the power associated with their who did not recognize the color combination of
Creator as described in the first tenets of the their country’s flag because they were misled by
country. As Indonesia has five precepts, the Mexican flag which has the same color. This
Malaysia too has tenets of the country to be shows that Italian people, especially young
observed. Compliance with tenets of the country people are facing the problem of the crisis in the
is the practice of patriotism. Thus the basic level of patriotism. The study by [20]
characteristics of patriotism will exist in shows that Italian citizens are less patriotic.
conducting the tenets of the country such as In Malaysia, a similar phenomenon occurs,
follows: and the lacking in practice of patriotic values
 Faith in God becomes an issue as it is still at a moderate level,
 Loyalty to King and Country especially among the younger generation.
Unfortunately still, there is a group of anti-
 Supremacy of the Constitution
patriotism among the generation who were born
 Supremacy of the Law
after independence as stated by [3] that most of
 Courtesy and chastity
those who are anti-patriotism are the ones who
In conclusion, patriotism is affection, love
were born after independence. Due to the fact
and compassion towards the homeland, the
that the spirit of patriotism is influenced by the
native land where he was born, which is created
environment, the practice of patriotism carried
by their Creator for His servants to do good.
out by each of the generations after
People with patriotism are determined to protect
independence is not equal to the one practiced
their beloved country against any threat from the
by the generation who lived during the colonial
period. This phenomenon is also a major issue in among young generations, i.e. young people
Malaysia as young people have a lack of sense who are very individualistic and preferred self-
of patriotism. interest more than national interest. There are
Furthermore, as different races and also those who are more concerned about their
ethnicities exist in Malaysia, more effort to own race or ethnic group over other races. They
implement the patriotism is required. The issue are willing to do anything to ensure that the
of racial and ethnic relations within various people of the same race get what they want
communities poses a challenge to implement the socially, economically and politically. As a
values of patriotism in Malaysia. The level of result, people will feel unhappy about other
multi-ethnic solidarity in the country's education races. A bloody racial riot in Malaysia occurred
system is still low even though students showed on 13 May 1969 because there was a sense of
a positive attitude in multi-ethnic relations. The not being satisfied with other races. This
study conducted by [15] found that ethnic incident serves as a lesson to all races in
relations in higher education institutions are still Malaysia so as not to be too selfish or too
weak. Students do not feel comfortable when concerned with their own kind, but instead to be
occupying the same area, even if they know concerned with national aspirations.
each other. Students also find it difficult to Prejudice in a multiracial society is
interact and share essential items among inevitable. In Malaysian situation, there is still
themselves. This may be due to the taboos and prejudice among the non-Malays against the
their religious practices which differ which Malay, and vice versa on the issue of identity,
make them unwilling to do so. This study was namely: language, religion and culture. For
supported by [6] who found that the level of example, fostering racial unity in Malaysia
social relations among first year students at might be mistaken by some as an attempt to
UTM is also at a moderate level. expand the hegemony of Malay nationalism [10].
Language plays an important role in Similarly, the issue of Chinese schools denying
forming solidarity. However, a research the teachings of Science and Mathematics in
conducted by [19] shows that the frequency of English language, where they were concerned
Malay language use among non-Malay that the acceptance of such policies would
respondents is rather low: 29.2% for Chinese weaken their arguments to defend their native
students and 37.5% for Indian students. The language in schools. The existence of such an
research hypothesizes that the use of a single attitude would further complicate the application
language in a country will form a solidarity and of patriotism among the people in Malaysia.
harmony when people are using a similar Statements made by [14 is true that in Malaysia,
language for interaction among the various races. non-Malays are only ready to be Malaysian
However, these findings illustrate that solidarity politically but not in terms of culture.
is not easily developed if the use of English as A lack of appreciation among young people
the language of solidarity is difficult to be of all races towards the services performed by
implemented. the freedom fighters is seen as a very negative
Unity and ethnic relations is a major attitude because it manifests the lack of the
challenge that lies in the process of improving patriotic spirit. The younger generation does not
the spirit of patriotism in Malaysia. A research recognize the former fighters let alone give
conducted by [9] found that the spirit of praise for what they have fought for. [21]
patriotism among the younger generation of commented on this point as follows:
non-Malays, especially the Chinese and the “One thing that was disturbing is that
Indians are moderate compared to the Malays. prosperity and security which have been enjoyed
Therefore, further investigations needs to be since independence seems to cause some of us
conducted on the level of patriotism of the feel that we are in comfort zone and to forget
younger generation, especially the non-Malay easily. This attitude includes the fact that people
minorities such as natives of Sabah and Sarawak no longer cherish veterans where collection
and the Orang Asli or aborigines in Malaysia. appeals for the heroes were unwelcomed.
Perhaps only when the emergency period occurs
4. Challenges and Suggestions again or communist confrontation happens again
as before, then presumably the members of the
There are many challenges in order to armed forces would be much more appreciated.
implement values of patriotism among younger Most of the people are not happy anymore to
generation. The first is the negative attitudes cherish the police who are working to keep a
peaceful atmosphere, but they consider instead should be done by improving the performance of
other people as heroes, as an example, the the schools to conform to all the races. [2] state
protesters who break the law. In the meantime, the factors behind Japan’s success in instilling
the issue of race and national integration patriotism is because they practice and embrace
continues to be a thorn in the flesh to the patriotism which is taught in the education
country while nationalism increasingly falters.” system of their country.
The second challenge is the lack of The second effort is that programs that call
appreciation among the people of various races for the involvement of youth need to be
in Malaysia of the history of the country, empowered, especially the National Service
especially the non-Malay communities living in Training Program, which is need to be held
Malaysia who are less emphatic about the again by improving its execution so that the
history and Malaysian background. Similarly, desired goal is achieved. Similarly, the Rakan
young people of all races who were born after Muda (Youth Partnership) programs need to
Malaysia's independence. They do not know the involve young people of all races. By adding
history of the country let alone to sacrifice for programs, the identity of the younger generation
the country. Consequently, there will be people can be established.
who lack compassion and love for their own The third is to strengthen the role of the
country. printed or electronics mass media. The contents
The third challenge to practice the value of of the mass media should be friendlier to users
patriotism among Malaysians is the lack of as well as publishing program that can generate
confidence among the people of various races in the spirit of patriotism in a multi-ethnic society
Malaysia in terms of honesty and loyalty like Malaysia.
towards the country. Some people are still The fourth one is through legislation. A
hesitant to accept the concept of racial diversity. stricter punishment should be given to those
Therefore, it is difficult to form a society that who insult the country and the nation itself, or to
truly has the spirit of patriotism. those who attempt to influence others not to love
The fourth challenge is globalization. the country as well as other offenses that may
Borderless world may result in a foreign culture lead to negative actions which might threaten
getting into the country easily. The negative the national security.
influence of foreign culture may easily get into a
country and influence people, the younger 5. Conclusion
generation in particular, can cause difficulties to
inculcate the spirit of patriotism among them. In general, patriotism is an important and
The younger generation now is complacent with valuable element in developing a society which
the progress of ICT technology, the consists of various races and ethnicities.
development of which is supposed to be However, many challenges are still to be faced
beneficial in order to improve the application of in Malaysian context. To date, there are many
the values of patriotism among the younger efforts which have been undertaken to achieve
generation. the goal to promote the spirit of patriotism for
Various efforts have been undertaken to the sake of harmony and progress of the country.
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