KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 19 — A recent survey by Singapore-based ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute found that Johor citizens across all races identify strongly with the “Bangsa Johor” identity.
Nearly nine out of 10 of Johor folks polled identified with the label, with over one in 10 even saying that they identify with the state identity more than their national identity.
“However, although 88 per cent of all respondents identify with ‘Bangsa Johor’, nevertheless only 14 per cent see themselves as ‘Bangsa Johor’ first; compared to 39 per cent identifying themselves firstly as Malaysian citizen and 33 per cent on the basis of religious affiliation,” said its report titled “Views on Identity, Education and the Johor Royal Family”.
“Only respondents who identify themselves with their ethnicity first, at 10 per cent, are less than those who identify themselves as ‘Bangsa Johor’ first. In other words, respondents in Johor do not display a strong regional identity, unlike in the states of Sabah and Sarawak.”
In comparison, most Malays identify as Muslims first and foremost, at 56.5 per cent, followed by citizen first (25.5 per cent), “Bangsa Johor” first (14.3 per cent), and Malay first (only 3.3 per cent).
“In contrast, only 2.2 per cent of Chinese and 19.5 per cent of Indian respondents identify themselves based on religious affiliation first.
“The majority of Chinese and Indian respondents identify themselves as Malaysian first, at 60.4 per cent and 34.1 per cent respectively,” the report said.
The survey polled 2,011 respondents from Johor by phone between May and June this year.
Malays made up 55 per cent of the respondents, Chinese at 38 per cent, and Indian at 7 per cent.
Johor crown prince Tunku Ismail Ibrahim has on several occasions suggested that his state was entitled to leave Malaysia if it was unhappy with the federal government, most recently in June last year.
He had then challenged detractors to seek his state’s expulsion from the country if they were unhappy with how it was being governed.
The Johor royal also espoused the notion of “Bangsa Johor”, saying the concept united the state’s residents without regard to race.
In response, former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said in August last year that promoting affinity to individual states over the country will divide Malaysians, and such notions could encourage “unhealthy” feelings of superiority by the residents of one state over another.
Johor’s Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar later chided Dr Mahathir over his remarks, and promoted the “Bangsa Johor” concept of unity as something which other states can learn from.