Dealing with prejudice, racism

  • Letters
  • Thursday, 30 Jul 2015

WE find the opinions expressed by the G25 Group of Concerned Muslims Citizens in “The time to act is now” (The Star, July 25) fascinating because the group seems to be moving its focus from the controversies surrounding the implementation of Syariah law, raised in their open letter, to the more general issues of inter-ethnic harmony, education, the school curriculum and racism.

The only indication of their Muslim concerns lies in their assumption that the racism that exists in schools, the civil service and other government institutions is condoned by the public sector officials who are predominantly Malay-Muslim.

It appears that G25 has widened its focus considerably, choosing to highlight the perceived failings of Malay groups rather than championing particular Islamic issues.

Be that as it may, we would like to make just three observations.

First, throughout the article the concern about racism seems to be directed more to the public and government sectors without being explicit about the equally significant role of the private and corporate sectors.

Are we to deduce that the latter are racism-free, or is the omission deliberate due to the acute lack of information or experience in dealing with the non-Muslim business communities?

In the context of reviving the Rukun Negara for example, there is specific mention of the “service counters of government departments, of overzealous bureaucrats under the disguise of Islam”.

By extension, does this mean that service counters elsewhere do not apply similar unwritten rules? If so, the presumption is really quite hard to chew, as many will testify that prejudice and racism are also quite alive in the private sector.

As such, the negative portrayals of the public service are not helpful. G25’s patriotic call to address the “dangerous underlying problems” and stamp racism nationwide therefore falls short of presenting a fair and balanced reasoning.

Second, like the avoidance of discussing the private sector, the partisan and racially-based political scenarios seem to have been ignored for one reason or another.

Why this is not highlighted as a concern is quite puzzling when the influence of politics is discernible across practically all issues that are regarded as controversial.

In fact, there are those who even claim that racial politics lies at the root of chauvinist policies and practices not only in Malaysia but the world over. They only differ in shades and subtlety.

While it is apt to make “attitudes which spell of racism unacceptable” – the focus should be on how to do this effectively to ensure that the related political undertones are dealt with just as effectively. Until the political overbearence is dismantled there will be little chance for the prevailing attitudes to wither any time soon.

Thus by leaving out the significant role of racially-based politics, the attempt to address the said “dangerous underlying problems” may be more like a pipe dream.

Third, as group of concerned Muslims, we are surprised as to why the concept and practice of “the five necessities” in the nurturing of insan kamil as advocated by Islam does not deserve any mention. The five necessities (likened by some to the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) is fundamental to building character that is not only noble and ethical but also balanced and harmonious cutting across humanity.

Indeed it embraces and further buttresses the understanding and deeper meaning of kesopanan and kesusilaan beyond just being a “rukun.” Rather, it is a way of life to be nurtured even before a child steps into the school environment. In other words, it is a more comprehensive approach to cultivate good manners and adab (decorum) as an inherent part of the human essence.

Until the leadership in all sectors of the community – public, private, political, governmental and civil society – are holistically rather than selectively engaged, racism like a virulent virus will continue to mutate and appear in different forms, many invisible to the naked eye.

In such a prejudiced society, it is unlikely that the “dangerous underlying problems” will be eliminated!


Kuala Lumpur

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