A multi-lingual Malay
Mandarin is his first language, "but that doesn?t make me less of a Malay and Muslim.? says son of Malaysian freedom fighters. -The Star/ANN
By NOORSILA ABD MAJID
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA: Jamaluddin Ibrahim, with distinctive Malay features, speaks fluent Mandarin although his Bahasa Malaysia is halting.
Even his English is Chinese-accented.
"Mandarin is my first language, actually," says the soft-spoken educationist in his thick Beijing accent during an interview at the Swiss Garden Hotel.
Jamaluddin is one of the guests on a Chinese New Year special programme produced by The Star Multimedia to promote inter-racial and inter-faith harmony.
"I may have been back in Malaysia for 15 years, but I still express myself better in Chinese," he said.
The 47-year-old is the son of Malaysian freedom fighters, Shamsiah Fakeh and Ibrahim Mohammed (Mohamad), who lived in exile in China because of their involvement in the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM).
The youngest of three siblings, Jamaluddin was born in Beijing, but grew up in the remote province of Hunan.
He is one of the few non-Chinese who graduated from the prestigious Beijing University.
Jamaluddin never forgot his Malay/Malaysian roots when living in China.
"My parents made it a point to speak to us in Malay. My mum was a good cook and made the best roti canai ever.
"My brothers and I find it more comfortable to converse in Mandarin, especially if we'd done something naughty," he laughs, adding: "My parents' Mandarin wasn't as good as ours."
Jamaluddin and his brothers have also been brought up to be Muslims.
"We pray and fast during Ramadan. All of us married Chinese women who converted to Islam."
Jamaluddin prefers to steer clear of politics, choosing to channel his energy into writing social commentaries for several Chinese publications.
On encouraging Malaysians to learn foreign languages, Jamaluddin said it was needed in multi-racial Malaysia because understanding a different language was the first step in understanding a different culture.
"The fact that I speak, read and write Chinese have allowed me to become closer to the Chinese community. But that doesn't make me less of a Malay and Muslim."
As for the education system, Jamaluddin said it needed "serious reinvention."
"All Malaysians need to study under one system. They need to mix around, learn and understand each other as fellow Malaysians.
"Then we can have unity in the real sense."
Watch his interview:
|Privacy Statement Conditions of Access Advertise|