Malaysia’s alarming trek towards cultural intolerance — Pusat KOMAS

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JUNE 26 — Pusat KOMAS is increasingly alarmed and concerned about the growing trend of cultural intolerance in Malaysia today.

The recently reported incidents are clear indicators of how Malaysia has regressed in terms of being a mature and tolerant multi-cultural society. Furthermore it raises many crucial issues on cultural diversity, tolerance and the will and effectiveness of the authorities in addressing these issues.

For instance in the incident of the individuals who were refused entry for not having complied with the prescribed “dress code” at the Road Transport Department (RTD); the Sungai Buluh hospital; and even the Selangor State Secretariat building in Shah Alam respectively.

These incidents raise many significant questions such as: Which bureaucrat in the long chain of command of these relevant government agencies actually conceived this ingenious “dress code” for the public as criteria to be given service. This is obviously contradictory to the concept of “civil servant”, a term conceived to emphasise the servitude of government officers and workers for the general public.

More importantly the general public has the right to have total access to places such as hospitals and other essential services agencies so that they can avail of the of the support and services that these agencies were originally set up to provide. 

Another distressing incident on the radar of cultural intolerance is the recent report of a senior teacher who instructed non-Muslim students not to eat and drink in front of their fasting Muslim classmates during the fasting month. He advised them to do so in the school toilet, and to drink tap water or their own urine if no water was available for them during this period.

Religious intolerance also reared its ugly head, for instance in the recent report of confiscation of wooden crosses worn by Christian students and attempted removal of the crosses in mission schools.

Pusat KOMAS would like to express our strongest objection to this growing trend of cultural and religious intolerance. In our efforts to fight racism, Pusat KOMAS has been in the forefront in the campaign for our Malaysian government to endorse the ICERD (International Covenant on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination).  

In our experience in carrying out public information and education with different levels of Malaysian society including school children, and even government civil service officers for the past 15 years, we have found that addressing discrimination of any form cannot only be through punitive actions and sanctions such as jail sentences and fines.

An important key to the ultimate eradication of racial, religious and cultural discrimination and stereotyping is through intensive and widespread public education and raising awareness amongst the general populace especially in schools starting with the young hearts and minds.

Pusat KOMAS would like to commend the Deputy Ministers who have responded; and we applaud the courage of the parents and those affected who stood firmly during those unfortunate incidents.

We strongly urge and appeal to the different levels of authorities especially those who have the powers to make important decisions namely the Prime Minister and all his Ministers, to be bolder and assert a “strong arm” in addressing this alarming and damaging trend.

Take more serious and effective actions before this dangerous trend further erodes the fabric of our multiracial and multi-religious Malaysian society; and ultimately destroys the true spirit of “Muhibbah” (Ironically this word was originally derived from the Arabic word meaning “love”)  that this country was originally built upon.

* This is the personal opinion of the organisation and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.

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