KUALA LUMPUR, April 27 — Malaysia cannot flourish if the country’s religious and ethnic minorities are sidelined, President of the United States Barack Obama said today.
In his first official visit to the country, Obama said that prejudices against people from different religions and races have no place in the modern world and must be removed.
“Malaysia won't succeed if the non-Muslims do not have the same opportunity,” Obama said in a townhall event at University of Malaya.
Obama said non-Muslims in Malaysia are currently facing hostility, and some have felt oppressed.
He compared the struggle for civil rights across the world to the long fight to eliminate discrimination against ethnic minorities in the US, which culminated in him being elected president.
Obama said countries including Malaysia will not succeed if women, who comprise roughly half of the population, are not given the same opportunities as men.
The president then drew on Christian values on which he was raised, saying that people must treat others the way they would like to be treated themselves.
He also stressed the importance in treating those who are seen as “different” with respect.
“Treat people with respect,” Obama told hundreds of the audience in the event organised by Young Southeast Asian Leadership Initiative.
“Expect your government to treat everybody with respect and you’re going to be okay.”
Malaysia’s Bumiputera majority enjoys privileges under a system of preferential treatment in jobs, housing and access to government funding.