How do we define our culture?

By Arshad Hamid

The word culture has many different meanings.  For some, it refers to an appreciation of good literature, music, art, and food. However, for anthropologists and other behavioral scientists, culture is the full range of learned human behavior patterns. The pioneer English anthropologist, Edward B.Tylor in his book, Primitive Culture, published in 1871, said that culture is “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.”


But does culture remain the same since the beginning or has it changed? Are we still practising all the culture that we have? Have we change any of the culture, or is it true that we are accepting other nations’ cultures as our own? Are we giving less attention on the culture? There are many more questions that can be asked about the culture practised in our society.

However, the bigger question is what is the future of “culture” of this nation? This is a good topic to be pondered about. In Malaysia, culture plays a major role in shaping our society. Malaysia’s diversity in culture plays a major role in this country in bringing about unity among the various ethnic groups. Each ethnic group has its culture and norms that are still being practised today.

The most special thing in Malaysia is that the society respects and somehow knows the difference between each culture. For example, during celebrations such as Eidil Fitri, Chinese New Year, Deepavali and Christmas not only people from that particular religious and ethnic group celebrate the occasion, but the whole country celebrates or at least respects the celebration of each community.

Malaysia1However, it can be seen mostly among youngsters, that the cultural values are slowly being eroded. Whatever religion or ethnic group we belong to, respecting the elders is one of the most important cultural practices in our nation. For example, it is not weird to call an old man “uncle” in showing respect. But is this being practised by youngsters nowadays? Last year, the incident where a young Malay lady shouted at an old Chinese man had gone viral in social media and even received wide coverage in the mainstream media. This shows how the people in this country feel about that incident involving an old man.

With the advent of Internet we now have a virtual world that provides us with a borderless situation where we can get whatever we want to know by the click of a button. This is surely a very big help in building a nation.

Many cultures had influenced the people of this nation through Internet. One or two decades ago, entertainments through television were seen as something that had negatively influenced the youngsters where so many western cultures were being injected into them such as punk, hip hop, drug abuse, sex and violence. Now, with Internet this problem has not been resolved. In fact, the threat had further accentuated. The recent incident where the K-pop group was seen embracing the Malay girls during a public performance is an example of the clash in culture between Korea and Malaysia. In a Malay culture, it is somewhat a taboo for a Muslim unmarried woman to be hugged by a man in public.

In Malaysia where majority of the citizens are Malay Muslims there are certain religious obligations that need to be observed because the religion has an influence on the Malay culture. However, this particular incident which had gone viral in the social media had caused unpleasant feelings among the Muslim society. Malaysia’s image as a Muslim country could be affected as well.

Given the recent developments affecting the Malay Muslim way of life, I feel we have to do something to preserve our culture, otherwise the current practice by our people, would be eroded as times evolve. Therefore, every component of the society, including the government, members of the public and individuals must work together to preserve our culture. ***about-kualalumpur-malaysia-culture

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *