JOHOR BARU, Aug 19 — The Permaisuri of Johor, Raja Zarith Sofiah Sultan Idris Shah, today penned a heartwarming tribute to her Chinese grandmother and shared her determination to make her children learn about their heritage.
She also made a point of looking past racial differences, saying she viewed her Chinese grandmother as Malaysian as anyone else.
“One thing I do know for sure, is that my Chinese grandmother is 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,” wrote Raja Zarith on her maternal Chinese grandmother in a post titled ‘Love sees no colour’, which was posted on the Royal Johor Facebook page today.
In the post, Raja Zarith said she was determined to share her Chinese heritage with her children as something to accept and be proud of.
“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 about these differences.
“As a parent, I was determined for my own children to know and accept that my grandmother was a Chinese, 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,” said Raja Zarith in her latest posting on The Royal Johor Facebook page.
In her posting, Raja Zarith shared memories of her Peranakan Chinese grandmother and how it impacted her life and that of her children, especially that of Johor’s acting regent and crown prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim.
Her grandmother, who she fondly recalls wearing Nyonya kebaya and batik sarongs, is also the sister to former Federal Court Judge Tan Sri Chang Min Tat and in the past used to visit Raja Zarith’s mother’s home in Ipoh, Perak during the Hari Raya holidays.
Raja Zarith, who recently turned 60, said she cherished the times she had with her late grandmother, sharing a photograph of the latter carrying Tunku Ismail in her arms as a baby.
“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, said Zarith Sofiah, adding that she wished she could tell her grandmother about Tunku Ismail’s achievements.
Raja Zarith said at the age of 60, she realises that there is still so much for her to learn.
She said her son Tunku Ismail is hoping to perform Haj in Mecca next year.
“Insya Allah. If Allah accepts him as His guests in the Holy Land, I will ask him to pray, not just for us, his parents, but for family too. And I will remind him not to forget his nenek.
Raja Zarith, who has a Bachelor of Arts in Chinese studies from the University of Oxford and also a Masters in Arts, is a known advocate of Malaysia being a multicultural and multiracial country.
She has spoken out several times against the ugly side of racism and religious bigotry. She has shared her progressive views on diversity which she says does not weaken or neglect her faith as a Muslim.