The racial demon in multi-ethnic Malaysia

AUGUST 7 ― Ethnicity has always been the governing factor, if not an incurable obsession, at almost every level of society.

But the recent manipulation of ethnic politics is at an all-time high especially considering that Malaysia, particularly its Peninsular component, is about to usher in its 60th anniversary of independence.

Leaders of ethnic-based political parties, namely Umno Baru, are still squabbling over whose Malay blood is purer than others.

Racism rears its ugly head when the implication of this present brouhaha is that only leaders of “pure Malay” breed ― not those “tainted” with Indian blood ― can be trusted to protect (and not betray) the collective interests of the Malay community.

This invariably is a swipe at the Indian community. What message are they sending to the young? That miscegenation of this nature is sinful and an abominable genealogical corruption?

It is unsurprising, though, that this quibbling has gone to a new level of absurdity because the raison d'être of a race-based party is often to appeal to the baser or primordial instinct of its members.

The sense of belonging and membership is consciously crafted at the expense of denigrating the “Other.”

If loyalty to a political party is to be jealously guarded, then we should be reminded that loyalty, or its converse, is not the monopoly of any one ethnic community.

Neither can uncouth behaviour be claimed to be the characteristic of one particular ethnic group.

From the Islamic perspective, adherents are always reminded that it has been the Divine Design that the world consists of nations and tribes so that we can appreciate ― and not fight with ― each other and celebrate our diversity, which is the manifestation of God’s greatness and magnificence.

In this regard, no one tribe is considered better than the other solely on the basis of its collective identity; only piety differentiates one person from another in the eyes of God.

The mischievous would argue that a ticket to Heaven may not be made much easier by the lighter tone of your skin; neither would a quota system do the trick.

In worldly terms, a person who is good, ethical and conscionable should be given premium consideration over his/her ethnic origin.

Put another way, let not his/her ethnic affiliation be an excuse, let alone justification, for the excesses he/she has indulged in.

The diversity that we have in our multi-ethnic and multicultural society should be regarded as an invaluable asset, not condemned (by certain quarters) as almost a national curse.

The political, cultural and religious leadership of an independent Malaysia should have that wisdom and courage to appreciate and promote that positive notion.

Unless the importance of diversity is fully grasped and appreciated, the country would still bear witness to wasteful brain drain, increasing emigration, and frustration and untold misery of the marginalised.

This is apart from sparking interethnic and intra-ethnic conflicts and religious tension in the society.

In this context, further curbing freedom of expression so as to prevent the aggrieved from venting their frustration and agony in a civilised manner and out in the open will not be an intelligent proposition.

At this very juncture of the country’s history, it should matter less whose blood is purer than others. What matters most is who, irrespective of lineage, can effectively lead this country and solve many of its problems.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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