“My name is Sharifah and I am a Malaysian.”
I dare say, after reading that statement, you might wonder if I was under the “My Name Is Khan, and I am not a terrorist” influence. I was influenced by that quote but noticed how I ended up saying, “… and I am a Malaysian.”
Still wondering why? I hail from Sarawak, the largest state in Malaysia. I was born in Kuching and was brought up there all my life. My parents are also both Sarawakians but my father goes to Kuala Lumpur often as it is required by his job. Some 25 years and 9 months later, I decide to study in a college in Selangor. Studying in Selangor made a big impact in my life. I was even more exposed to the culture here as it is slightly different compared to back home. Language barrier, however, is not a major problem but I am still struggling hard not to use my local dialect and still find it a bit difficult to converse in standardize Malay because not only I am still so used to my local dialect; I speak English at home.
However, I got angry with a former housemate when she asked me this question, “How is the weather like in your country?” It is a pet peeve for me. It is like asking me if I am a Malaysian. Then, a question pop into my head, “Did you ever learn geography or history in class?” and this very nasty thought also pop into me; That girl is either ignorant or just stupid. I also find is very offensive when I listen to politicians, who are supposedly more knowledgeable in this matter, making speeches about Malaysia and they say things like, “Malaysia and not to forget Sabah and Sarawak.” Often, I tell my parents, if I were in his or her presence, I would have thrown something at the person giving the speech.
I love my state so much because it is home, it is where I grew up and the sad part is, I know so much about other people’s states but these are the people who ask me questions like, “Do you still live on trees?”
It has been a year since I have being staying here in Selangor and I realized that the Sarawak Tourism Board is to be blamed for that misconception because whenever we advertise about Sarawak, we often show an Iban man in the jungle with his blowpipe.
I know that the government intends to show that Sarawak is very natural state but please expose to people outside Sarawak that we are not as uncivilized as some people take us for. We, too, are proud to be Malaysians.
Now, often I tell my West Malaysian friends, whenever they want a breakaway from the hustle and bustle in West Malaysia, do visit my hometown and you will see that we are Malaysians, too.