Malaysian community celebrates 60th anniversary off independence and Malaysia Day

Whitney Mason

One unexpected phone call one day in August leads to one huge Malaysia Day celebration in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union with a special guest: the Malaysian ambassador to the United States, Zulhasnan Rafique.

Jin Yew Lim, president of the Association of Malaysia Students at ISU, said that the president of Education Malaysia Chicago, an education department established for the Malaysian students to manage the welfare of Malaysian students studying abroad in the midwest region, called to tell him that Iowa State was the midwest university to host the Malaysia Day festivities.

The president informed Lim that he was to visit Iowa State the following day and the two were to have a meeting about the event.

“He told us we had about a month to get the event together,” Lim said.

Lim managed within a week to get 31 volunteers for the Malaysia Day event.

Kash Sidnu, a coordinator for Malaysia Day and liaison officer for the Association of Malaysia Students at ISU said that the main issue coordinating the event was because of the short notice, but he felt proud to host the event.

“Unifying all Malaysians is a dream,” Sidnu said.

The day of celebration, Malaysia Day, is celebrated on September 16th and it celebrates the two countries of Sabah and Sarawak joining with the country Malaya and becoming one country now known as Malaysia in 1963. The region gained independence from the British control on August 31st, 1957.

Malaysian students from other schools like Drake University, University of Iowa and University of Northern Iowa came to Iowa State to participate in the events.

Throughout the night in the Great Hall in the Memorial Union, students entered several prize raffles such as $20 Amazon giftcards, watched Malaysian dances and song performances from fellow students and ate nasi lemak, a popular Malay rice dish, which is considered Malaysia’s national dish.

Rafique, the newest Malaysian ambassador to the United States was in attendance for the event and addressed the Malaysian community.

Rafique told students in the audience that his goal is to inspire Malaysian students to study abroad then return back to Malaysia and become a contributing member of society.

“He gave us advice and his experiences in the United States,” Lim said of the newly appointed ambassador.

Anthony Santiago, faculty adviser to the Association of Malaysia Students at ISU, said that Iowa State has maintained a rich tradition of having Malaysian students at the university.

“Malaysia and the United States has had a relationship for the last 60 years,” Santiago said, also saying that the two countries have developed a very strong relationship.

Mahirah Mohd said that was really excited to have the celebration at Iowa State. By being so far away from her native country, the event made her feel closer to home.

Lim and Sidnu both said that there are more events being planned by the student organization throughout the entire school year, such as Malaysia Culture Night.

Sidnu hopes that Iowa State will be chosen as the host school for Malaysia Day next September.

Lim said that by having the event at Iowa State will help the community understand the Malaysian culture.

“I hope if we have it again, we will have the entire Great Hall filled,” Lim said.