Sabah and Sarawak are often said to embody the true 1Malaysia. Their famed acceptance of multiracialism is my own experience here too, and it seems to have something to do with the way they perceive ethnicity.
Mariana Taliban still sounded perturbed when she recounted how an American visitor to her village in Sabah reacted to her name some years ago. He appeared genuinely frightened of her until she explained that although she was Muslim, she was no extremist. Taliban just happened to be her father’s name, and he’s a staunch Christian.
Yes, Mariana comes from a mixed family of Christians and Muslims. She and her brother have converted to Islam, while the rest of the family are Christian; and her first cousin is actually a Catholic priest, whom she addresses as Father.
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