Permaisuri Johor Raja Zarith Sofiah Almarhum Sultan Idris Shah paid tribute to her maternal Chinese grandmother in a Facebook post titled “Love sees no colour.”
“One thing I do know for sure, however, is that my Chinese grandmother was as Malaysian as I am myself. I know too that my children - even with their mixed-blood heritage - are also as Malaysian as I am,” she said.
Raja Zarith's posting followed her 60th birthday, where her eldest son, Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, gifted her with photographs of his three children.
“These were wonderful reminders that I am now a grandmother of three! Alhamdulillah, I am blessed! Those photographs are displayed on my shelves, together with the many others of my family.
“One of these photographs include one of Tunku Mahkota (Tunku Ismail) as a baby, being held in the arms of my own maternal grandmother. She was a Peranakan Chinese. Her late brother was Tan Sri Chang Min Tat, a Malaysian Federal Court judge,” she added.
The Permaisuri Johor's posting also comes in the wake of Indian-born Muslim preacher Dr Zakir Naik's controversial remarks about Chinese Malaysians.
Below is Raja Zarith's posting in full:
Love sees no colour
When I turned 60 a few days ago, the gifts I received from my eldest son, Tunku Mahkota Johor, were photographs of his three children, complete with their little palm prints and footprints. These were wonderful reminders that I am now a grandmother of three! Alhamdulillah, I am blessed!
Those photographs are displayed on my shelves, together with the many others of my family.
One of these photographs includes one of Tunku Mahkota as a baby, being held in the arms of my own maternal grandmother. She was a Peranakan Chinese. Her late brother was Tan Sri Chang Min Tat, a Malaysian Federal Court judge.
Although she hardly visited us in Johor Bahru, we would see her at my mother’s house every time we were in Ipoh to celebrate Hari Raya with my Perak family.
Children are actually - if left to their own pure and innocent thoughts, and their own understanding of the world - oblivious about racial differences. It is us - as parents - who consciously, or unconsciously, make them aware of these differences.
As a parent, I was determined to let my children know that my grandmother was Chinese, and to accept it in the same way that they know that their own paternal grandmother was English. I hoped that they would learn to be proud of the blood that flows through their veins and to understand that it does not make them any less Malay.
Growing up, I was used to seeing my grandmother in her embroidered Nyonya kebayas and Batik sarongs. She always had a handkerchief tucked into the silver belt that held up her sarong. When she became older, and her hands started being unsteady at pinning the brooches onto the kebayas, she stopped wearing them and wore buttoned-up kebaya-like tunics and sarongs instead.
Sadly, she passed on when my children were still very young. But I would always show them the photographs of her so that they will never ever forget about her.
When I see that photograph of her cradling my eldest son, I wish that I can tell her that he now has children of his own!
I wish I can tell her that he still remembers her, and still thinks of her as his “Nenek”.
I wish I can tell her about some of his achievements: that despite the comfortable life he led at home here in Malaysia, he had survived the gruelling training as an army cadet at the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun, India.
I wish I can tell her that he was commissioned and continued to serve the Indian Army as an officer of the 61st Cavalry Regiment in Jaipur, India, for four years.
I wish I can tell her that he is now back home in Malaysia, and that he has succeeded in creating a successful football club for the state. She had seen him kick those footballs around with his cousins.
I wish I can tell her that I too cannot believe how far he has become in managing the football team.
At the age of sixty, I realise that there is still so much for me to learn.
One thing I do know for sure, however, is that my Chinese grandmother was as Malaysian as I am myself. I know too that my children - even with their mixed-blood heritage - are also as Malaysian as I am.
My son is hoping to perform Hajj next year, InshaaAllah. If Allah accepts him as His guest in the Holy Land, I will ask him to pray, not just for us, his parents, but for our family too. And I will remind him not to forget his “Nenek”.