National identity of people


National Culture portrayed the national identity of people in a country and their nations. This will reflect on the introduction of cultural policy in that particular country. Cultural policy was set up according to their National Identity which monopolized by the majority and powerful ethnic groups. According to Hall (1996), "National Culture is a way of constructing meaning which influences and organizes both our actions and our conceptions of also construct identities by producing meanings about the nations..."(A.Tsui & J.W. Tollefson, 2007, P.9). Therefore National Culture policy is changing overtime due to suits the people living in that particular country.

As to support my statement above, we can refer Malaysia as case study. Malaysia past and present was known as one of the largest Islamic country in the world. And as a facts, Malaysia is a unique country which also well known with their multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural society. Malaysian culture is a mixture of Malay, Chinese, Indian, and various indigenous tribes dating back to more than fifteen hundred years ago. Malaysia National Culture Policy was formulated and introduced in 1971.In this policy they quoted Malaysia as 'One Language, One Culture'. Malaysia national culture policy was based on Malay culture and Islam (1986). This is because the ethnic groups are majorly the Malays, who represent the dominant power on the governing party coalition, wanted further national integration of other ethnic groups under Malay nationalism. There are three principles laid down as guidelines for 'national culture': 1) National culture must be based on the culture of the Indigenous people to this region; 2) Suitable element from the other cultures may be accepted as part of the national culture to enrich it; 3) Islam as the official religion of Malaysia, is an important component in formation of national culture (Ismail Zain 1977:9). This group later introduced the 5 principles known as "Rukun Negara" (Malaysia Nationhood) which is Believe in God, Loyalty to King and the Country, Upholding the supremacy of the constitution, Rule of Law and Mutual respect, Good social behaviour and morality.

Our nation, Malaysia, is dedicated-to achieve a greater unity for all her peoples; to maintaining a democratic way of life; to creating a just society in which the wealth of the nation shall be equitably distributed; to ensuring a liberal approach to her rich and diverse cultural tradition; to building a progressive society which shall be oriented to modern science and technology. We, her peoples, pledge our united efforts to attain these ends guided by these principles: Belief in God. Loyalty to King and Country. Upholding the Constitution. Rule of Law. Good Behavior and Morality (Ismail Zain 1977:5-6).

These three policy guidelines are often paraphrased as meaning that Malay Culture and Islam are the basis of Malaysian national culture, but that room must be allows for some influences from the other racial and religious groups. The existence of the national culture is intended as both a reflection of national unity and an aid to its promotion. Later they (the political parties) have debates about the use of the term of 'Bangsa Malaysia' whether it is constitutional on responding to perceptions of national identity based on the creation and sustainability of national unity because its involved issues such as vigorous cultural and political discourse. The idea of national identity, nationhood and citizenship are intimately intertwined with notions of value, ethics and tradition, which all are grounded in a sense of the past, and the myriad ways it interacts with the present (K.A.Malik,2006 p.38).

The Malaysia Chinese Association (MCA) had multiple attempts to proposed multicultural policy instead of 'One Language, One Culture' (Lim Kit Siang, 1984). These attempts were dismissed by the United Malays National Organisations (UMNO)-largest political party; in 1984, where all criticism and opposition to National Culture Policy will be dismissed as a small matter and unnecessary. Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, Anwar Ibrahim, responsible for the dismissal explained that the MCA and others political parties who wanted to resist 'One Language, One Culture' Policy into multicultural policy must understand the real nature of the problem National Culture Policy or otherwise it would be ignored while the National Culture Policy is implemented without compromise. (Lim Kit Siang, 1984)

As the times goes by, this debates continued and has been discussed in the parliament, where every non-Malays parties fighting for their rights, resulting in few changes been made. Although there's a few changes made in the policy, still the National culture ought to be based on the universal declaration of Human Rights and the relevant international covenants, the Federal Constitution, Rukun Negara, Ethnic equality and Democratic dialogue.

As a starting point of changing into new policy era, all 'mass media' referred to the recording industry, the film industry, and radio and television broadcasting are required to reflect and promote national unity and the national culture more or less the same like the education system (J.D.Chopyak, 1987, p431-454). Print media do play a role reporting on and promoting events. Radio Television Malaysia (RTM) was later set up by Ministry of Information for few objective where it helps: 1. To explain in depth and with widest possible coverage, the policies and programmes of the Government in order to ensure maximum understanding by the public. 2. To stimulate public interest and opinion in order to achieve changes in line with the requirements of the Government. 3. To assist in fostering national unity in our multiracial society through the use of Bahasa Malaysia. 4. To assist in promoting civic consciousness and fostering the development of Malaysian arts and culture. 5. To provide suitable elements of popular education, general information and entertainment. (Ministry of Information, 1984).

Not only that, as we can see now, music industry also helps Malaysian people to unites as one as they believe that the development of a nation's mass media depending on the urbanization and industrialization of that country. Language different are not a barrier to understand other cultures. For example; Popular music produced commercialized music is dependent on where these events having taken place. It reflects or indicates the changes which have been taking place in the economy and society at large. This includes the problems connected with Malaysia's recent and rapid urbanization, as well as the urban-rural dichotomy. In other way, it also help the government to eradicate rural poverty and to bring modernization to the rural areas, a large disparity still exists in life styles of the rural and urban areas. Even now the film industry produced more movies based on the culture by uniting the large three ethnic groups-Malay, Chinese and Indian. Famous director Yasmin Ahmad who passed away last year 2009, was very kin in her artistic work to unite all the Malaysian people into one, to work together and achieve their goals, no matter what background there are as long as they are Malaysian citizenship. Most of her films awarded as the best multicultural films recognized in the International Film Festival.

The new official aim of nation-building announced by Prime Minister Mahathir in 1991 is 'Vision 2020', the first challenge of which is to establish, "a united Malaysian nation with a sense of common and shared destiny". This must also be "a nation at peace with itself, territorially and ethnically integrated, living in harmony and full and fair partnership, made up of one Bangsa Malaysia with political loyalty and dedication to the nation" (Mahathir, 1991). Recent and ongoing redefinitions of Malay and Malaysian nationalism are also bound up with Malaysia's economic globalisation and regionalisation. In broad terms, the economic privileging or protection of the main ethnic community sits uneasily alongside imperatives of economic liberalisation associated with Malaysia's global shift. Export Processing Zones established in Malaysia since the early 1970s (Rasiah, 1995) provided global spaces of exemption from ethnic employment quotas as well as a range of other national development regulations. More recently, the apparently growing importance of regional economic connections has prompted a state rescripting of national identity.

Furthermore, current Minster of Culture, Youth and Sports, Tan Sri Najib Razak, introduced 1Malaysia campaign, to get everyone involves in uniting and promoting Malaysia as a multicultural country. He also built up blogs or website regarding 1Malaysia, which the objective was to provide a free and open forum to discuss the things that matter deeply to us as a Nation. It also provides a chance to express and explore the many perspectives of Malaysia citizens. He's promoting the uniqueness of their diversity. 1Malaysia's goal is to preserve and enhance this unity in diversity which has always been their strength and remains as their best hope for the future. The website will initiate an open and vital dialogue exploring Malaysian identity, purpose, and direction. It also encourages others (fellow citizen) to defining Malaysia and what role do they need to play in the future. Even though they are different in many ways but sharing thoughts and desire will help to generate a better life tomorrow and future where from this open dialogue each of us wants opportunity, respect, friendship, and understanding.

Changes in cultural policy are all about repositioning Malaysia, seen to entail opening the nation to non-Malays especially to the ethnic Chinese and Indian. Evaluating multicultural rescripting of Malaysia is concerns about its political significance. 'Changes' here do not mean to transform the policy into a new policy. But is it most likely to make the policy understandable, transparent and acceptable by the people of the nations and with the help of national culture policy, the people get to know their national identity and in other hand they also helping to promote their uniqueness of diversity culture to the global. National Culture Policy also help to reserves the cultures and identities of the people in order to keep it alive and can be generated to the next Malaysian generations.


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