The Meaning Behind the Flag of Malaysia

Over the past few weeks, several cases of the Malaysian flag, Jalur Gemilang being flown upside down across the country caused the internet to boom with criticism as Malaysians came out in defence of the country’s colours.

It sparked a sudden wave of spirit as well as rage, as people from all walks of life began to protest against these acts of provocation and insult towards the nation’s flag.

I do not claim to be an expert in vexillology (the study of flags), but, being a person who has always been passionate about flags, I realise that there are certain facts in which the general public seems to have gotten wrong, or seems to have missed out in the heat of discussing about the flag of Malaysia.

Two years ago, I had highlighted the flaws in the design of the Malaysian flag used as an emoji in the popular messaging application WhatsApp, where the size of the blue canton is only half of the height of the flag; but nobody seems to even bothered about it and people are still using the emoji until today.

A couple of years ago, I’ve also written a number of articles on upside down flags and the mistakes in vertical flags that I had came across while travelling around the country.

Jalur Gemilang that we know and hail today has an integrated design that projects the historical and symbolic meanings related to the essence of the nation, Islam and the Raja-Raja Melayu.

The flag comes with a deep history carved into each and every single element featured in the ensign.

In commemoration of the formation of the Federation of Malaya, a flag designing competition was held by the Federal Legislative Assembly where a submission by Mohamed bin Hamzah, an architect from the Public Works Department was chosen as the winner.

The design features a canton with a crescent and star charge as in the flag of Johor and the stripes as in the Sang Saka Getih-Getah Samudera, the flag of the Majapahit Empire; and not being scrapped from the flag of the United States of America, the Star-Spangled Banner as accused by those who are illiterate about the history of flags.

The Federal Legislative Council amended the design and changed the blue stripes to red and the red canton to blue.

The 5-pointed star was changed where 6 more points were added to the star before it was being adopted as the official ensign of the Federation of Malaya.

When Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore joined the country, thus forming the Federation of Malaysia, the flag was amended once more to add another three points to the star and three new stripes that represent the three new states.

Now that we know the history of the flag, we also have to look into the meaning of the Jalur Gemilang.

As almost everybody knows, the fourteen red and white stripes represent the thirteen states of Malaysia and the Federal Territories, the blue canton represents the unity of the people, while the yellow crescent represents Islam which is the religion of the Federation and the yellow star symbolises the Malay Rulers.

As of the colours, red and white symbolise courage and purity respectively; while yellow signifies the royal colour of the Malay Rulers and blue signifies the unity of the people.

However there is more to the flag than meets the eye.

The size of the fourteen-pointed star which is smaller than the crescent, symbolises that the Malay Rulers are subjected to the religion of Islam.

And the height of the blue canton that bears the crescent and star is more than half of the height of the flag, symbolising the supreme position of Islam as the religion of the Federation as well as the sovereignty and importance of the roles of the Malay Rulers as leaders of the people and the religion of Islam.

Many people do not understand the serious implication of flying a country flag upside down.

In general, the act of flying a country flag upside down is a sign of disrespect, insult and humiliation not only to the national flag but also to the country.

In certain country, it can be a sign of protest, distress or even a sign of waging war against the country.

In the Philippines, the national flag is flown upside down only during times of war, in this case, the red band shall be on top of the blue band, instead of the other way around.

In the case of the Malaysian flag, if the flag is flown upside down, the charge which represents the religion of Islam and the Malay Rulers would then be positioned at the bottom part of the flag, thus signifies disloyalty, insult and humiliation to the two core principals of the Federation.

Therefore, the flag of Malaysia is not to be flown upside down at anytime, including at times of war.

According to a notable historian Prof. Datuk Dr. Ramlah Adam, flying the Jalur Gemilang upside down can imply the act of waging war against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

Under the Section 121 of the Penal Code, whoever wages war against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or against any of the Rulers or Yang di-Pertua Negeri, or attempts to wage such war, or abets the waging of such war, shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine.

In most cases the flags were flown upside down out of mistake, carelessness and apathy, which shows ones attitude of not being able to understand or couldn’t care less about the significance and the importance of the flag protocols.

The flag of our nation bears not only our spirit but also the identity of the Federation. Mishandling of the ensign, may lead to severe implications.

Why Was the Johor Flag Flown Upside Down at the Desaru Tunamaya?

Yesterday, as we drove in front of Desaru Tunamaya Beach & Spa Resort I saw something that really shocked me.

I just can’t believe my eyes when I saw the flag of the state of Johor being waved upside down in front of the building.

Flag of Johor flown upside down at Desaru Tunamaya Beach & Spa Resort
Flag of Johor flown upside down at Desaru Tunamaya Beach & Spa Resort

State flags are patriotic symbols of the state, therefore they must never be flown upside down.

By flying the flag of Johor upside down, Desaru Tunamaya Beach & Spa Resort is not only disrespecting the state of Johor but also belittling Islam as the religion of the State, the DYMM Sultan of Johor and the Johor Royal Institution because the white crescent and star represent Islam and the sovereignty of the Sultan of Johor.

When the flag is flown upside down, the crescent and star are placed in the lower part of the flag, which is wrong because the are supposed to be at the upper part of the flag as it symbolises the fact that the Sultan is the supreme leader of the state and that Islam is the religion of the state.

The upside down flag is belittling the position of the Sultan of Johor and Islam as the supreme leader and religion of the state respectively, hence, it is a humiliation to the Johor Royal Institution and Islam.

The question is, was the flag accidentally flown upside down, or did the resort or the staff purposely did it?

Both ways are wrong for even if it was an accident, it’s still wrong because the company must understand that the flag is an important symbol of the sovereign state which must be respected, therefore it should be taken seriously.

And worse if it is purposely done, for it symbolises bad intention to humiliate, belittle and a show of disrespect towards the Johor Royal Institution and Islam as the religion of the state.

Therefore, the Desaru Tunamaya Beach & Spa Resort must issue an official apology to the Sultan of Johor and the government of Johor.

Please click the photos for larger images: