KUALA LUMPUR: More intercultural dialogue is needed to rekindle Malaysia's ‘accommodating spirit’, said constitutional expert Prof Emeritus Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi (pic).
"Malaysia is a rich mosaic where secularism and religion live side by side.
“We need to rekindle the accommodating spirit of 1957.
“Most prejudices are born out of ignorance, so we need more intercultural dialogue to share in the commonalities," said Shad Saleem.
Shad, who was a panellist at a forum held during the International Malaysia Law Conference here on Friday said that for Malaysia to go forward, it had to go back to the ‘spirit of accommodation’ that was in Malaysia's body politic in 1957 and 1963.
"The social contract was a quid pro quo agreement, it was not a one sided agreement, it abjured passions and prides that bedevilled many other countries," said Shad when speaking at the National Unity and Harmony: Promoting Respect and Strength in Diversity panel.
"The various communities of Malaysia are like the colours of the rainbow - although separate, they are not apart.
“We have had five decades of successful inter-communal relations, although we have regressed a little bit, we have a strong Constitutional basis for our unity," said Shad Saleem.
He added that integration, inclusion or empowerment of different ethnicities is based on recognition of diversity.
"I believe Malaya in 1957 and Malaysia in 1963 were inspired by the inclusive approach - that each constitutent group can preserve its language, culture and customs and yet participate fully in the nation's political and economic process," said Shad Saleem.
He pointed that on the stroke of midnight, on August 31, 1957, 1.3 million non-Malays were given citizenship.
"That's quite remarkable, because at that time, the population of Malaya was merely six million people.
“And under the Constitution, citizenship does not impose any racial or religious prerequisites. Fundamental liberties, with some exceptions are open to all," said Shad Saleem.
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