Towards a better Malaysia, shall we?
When it comes to political discussion, many of us are interested to take part in giving their opinions and sharing their thoughts. It seems easy to many of us since it does not require a degree or any kind of academic qualification to prove whether your opinion is absolutely right or totally wrong. Even a mufti that is perceived as an Islamic scholar is keen to voice out his opinions regarding the political situation in our country, Malaysia.
Political issues aside, which is dominated by the Malays, we still have other issues that has not been resolved since we achieved independence in 1957; Amongst which are racial issues, which remains a powder keg in this nation, as evident from racial riot that occurred at the Seafield Hindu Temple on 27 November 2018, which resulted in the death of a firefighter, Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim.
Everybody in Malaysia is very eager to chime in their own opinion when it comes to racial issues, since such topic can help some amongst us gain political mileage, add to the fact that the Malaysian public at large, regardless of race, religion and creed, always flocked to such topics with keen interest. Since Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) coalition came into the political scene (1) and toppled the 60-year reign of one party leadership of Barisan Nasional, racial issues seem to be keep churning out by various groups and organisations, threatening the national unity of this country.
Many incidents have occurred during the short 22 months reign of Pakatan Harapan, such as a spike in drunk driving accidents which often leads to fatalities (where the drivers are usually Chinese and the victims happened to be Malay), ICERD ratification, the racial riot at the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple, the move to have UEC (Unified Examination Certificate) to be recognise by Malaysian federal government for public university admission, the continued existence vernacular schools and the introduction of Jawi writing scripts in textbook syllabus; all of these incidents were politicised and managed to raised angry sentiment amongst the Malay towards the Pakatan Harapan government. Surprisingly, when the Malaysian government changed hands and the Perikatan Nasional coalition, where the previous ruling party, Barisan Nasional, is a part of, took over the reign of Malaysian’s governorship, all these incidents seems to have vanished without a trace!
Building this nation and steering it in the right direction to emulate the footsteps of progressive countries such as Sweden, Finland and Switzerland is not an easy task. A lot of work need to be done by our leaders. Even developed nation like the United States of America is still trapped in religious and racial controversies. As we can see, the rise of white supremacist and neo-Nazi movement is very worrying for the minorities living in the United States of America (2). Various local leaders, congressmen and governors have spoken on this issue in order to tackle this calamitous culture rooted since the end of Civil War in 1865.
On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a remarkable speech, which all of us known as the ‘I have a dream’ speech. It attracted 250,000 civil rights supporters at the steps of Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. (3) The speech touched upon issues such as the racial segregation between the Caucasian and the African Americans, the hypocrisy of leaders, and social justice. “I have a dream” would always be an iconic speech that would remain relevant for every generation. In that speech, Martin Luther King said:
“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia son~ of former slaves and the son of former of slave-owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of in justice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.” (4)
So, back to the main topic; how do we acquire racial harmony in our country and what are the steps that we should take to achieve it? Education is the key. Yes, it sounds cliché but it is the main focus that is frequently be forgotten by most of Malaysians and even our leaders!
The Essence of Education
Nelson Mandela once said, education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. (5) But, what is the purpose of this powerful weapon if it cannot pull us out from ‘this’ quagmire? After 60 years of independence, we didn’t see any significant progress in racial relations in Malaysia. We still have disgruntled feelings and harbour hatred and dislikes towards other races. After 60 years, race-based parties, such as UMNO, MCA and MIC, where their main purpose is to secure the interest of their particular race, still remains relevant in our political scene. Is it wrong to fight for the interest and benefit of your own race? Whether the answer is yes or no, you hold the key to resolve this matter.
First things first, we failed to racially integrate our child very early in their education. They are usually segregated into several schools such as Sekolah Kebangsaan (SK), Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan Cina and India (SJKC and SJKT). Many of us would say, there is no compulsion for parents to choose any school to enrol their children to; Yes. That is true, and as the norm dictates, parents will send their children into schools which uses their respective mother tongue as the medium of instruction. Therefore, how to stop this?
Banning vernacular schools may sound radical and absurd since it was rooted in our country before it achieved independence. Imposing this policy would apparently create catastrophic consequences to our country in terms of racial relations. The other option would be that parents should send their children into schools with different medium of instruction as their mother tongue; i.e., Malay parents should send their children into Chinese school and vice versa. Many of Malaysians have practised this and the results have been quite positive in terms of racial integration and racial relations.
Platonic politics, not racist politics
Let’s be honest, the majority of our elected leaders do not have the well-being of the people in mind. They fight to fulfil their lust for power and wealth, and they would do anything to satisfy this lust. As I’ve mentioned in my previous writings, all incidents that happened during the reign of Pakatan Harapan were politicised by most of politicians dabbling with the race card, including religious men!
Most of our Malay politicians are ingrained with the idea of the Malays should fully control the politics of this country and other races cannot and should not be involve in government administration, especially for crucial positions in cabinet. Many Malaysian are hoodwinked to accept this idea, which is not practical for a country like Malaysia that are racially diverse and composed of large multicultural communities.
As a result, our bond between races is getting weaker. We are still having dissatisfied feelings amongst each other. On social media, this problem becomes worse. There are lots of hateful and racist comments left by users of all races in Malaysia. The disgruntlement towards other races seem to be very complicated and hard to be solved due to many senseless politicians who use the racial issue as their perilous attack without thinking the dire consequences that might happen in the next generation.
To sum it all up, there are many things that we as Malaysian have to work on to steer this country away from bigotry, racism and hateful feelings. We cannot deny that our bond between races is still weak. To our leaders, there are numerous hurdles that awaits you in future years ahead. This is Malaysia; Malaysia is for Malaysian, and not just for several Malays, Chinese, Indian or other ethnicities.
We need a significant change to allay the concerns of the public. Every person in this country should magnanimously assuage the racial tension and please, stop instigating racial tension amongst ourselves in order to create a better Malaysia. Love and respect for each other is the most powerful citadel in protecting this beloved nation.
O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted. 49:13
1. New Straits Times. [Online] May 10, 2018. https://www.nst.com.my/news/politics/2018/05/367907/pakatan-harapan-wins-14th-general-election.
2. Fieseler, Robert. Harvard Extension Schools. [Online] https://www.extension.harvard.edu/inside-extension/exposing-bias-race-racism-america.
3. Speeches, The World Great.
4. Jr., Martin Luther King. [Online] https://www.archives.gov/files/press/exhibits/dream-speech.pdf.
5. India Today. [Online] September 2, 2019. https://www.indiatoday.in/education-today/featurephilia/story/why-education-is-one-of-the-most-powerful-weapons-to-transform-society-1579790-2019-09-02.
6. THE WORLD GREAT SPEECHES. Mumbai : Sheth Publishing House, 2009.
Syed Fadzil Alhabshi bin Syed Ismail