Journey to a better place

THE Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin has once again reminded Malaysians to adhere to the spirit of togetherness that has helped them build this country into a prosperous industrialised economy. He said this at the 1433 Maal Hijrah national celebration in Putrajaya on Sunday. He probably knows the spirit is wearing a little thin after years of preoccupation with wealth gathering, coping with the challenges of a transformed rural community and little time devoted to ensuring understanding and tolerance among the races. He said this could be seen in us abandoning the culture of greeting each other as we become increasingly individualistic. It is the weakening of this spirit that is a contributing factor in the difficulty in strengthening national unity.

Perhaps after close to five years as paramount ruler of Malaysia and being constantly briefed on developments in the country besides observing them himself, he felt it only proper to leave some advice that can serve as a lasting reminder to restart nation-building in earnest. “I hope the spirit of neighbourliness will flourish again in our society so that everyday life can be experienced harmoniously,” he said.

That the king chose to leave his parting message on the occasion of the hijrah (migration or flight) of early Muslims led by the Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina in 622 AD, is a significant call for change and improvement. Muslims were harassed and prosecuted in Mecca and had to flee or migrate to a better place where they could build a better life. By implication, Malaysians must embark on a spiritual journey or hijrah from the present state to a better one where the spirit of togetherness prevails, where everyone greets and respects each other, where there is peace and harmony, where moderation is the rule, where thoughtfulness and consideration for others replace arrogance and recklessness, and where everyone works at strengthening national unity instead of undermining it.

“In other words, we should not make an issue of small misunderstandings, but instead resolve them in the best possible way,” the king said, adding that there must be a great deal of give and take. A demand by one group for equal treatment should not be misunderstood by others as asking for more. It must be understood that all groups have the right to make demands of the government for better treatment and no one group is more equal than the other. The quicker we understand and accept this, the faster we can we move on to striving for unity.