Friday, August 10, 2007

Race and Religion in Malaysia

I'm not going to get any work done today. The temperature here is too hot! It's almost 30C over here! So, I thought that I'll write a blog instead, about race and religion in Malaysia. This isn't a blog that's directed at any single race or religion, but rather a blog on the whole issue.

I ask one simple question. Why is it taboo to talk about race and religion in Malaysia? It doesn't make much sense to me. Our government clearly acknowledges that race and religion is the core thing that makes us special. Unlike most other multi-cultural nations in the world, we've got a sustained peaceful society made up of many religious, races and cultures.

So, shouldn't we be celebrating our diversity and rejoicing in it? It seems that the only people allowed to even suggest this is the government. They certainly like to highlight it in every Tourism Malaysia brochure. The government tries to silence all talk on these sensitive topics as they think that it will stir up problems. But, just like gun control laws, the extremists aren't going to be silenced. The only people who end up losing out are the moderate law-abiding citizens.

In other civilised nations, where extremism is taking root, the governments choose to combat it by encouraging more dialogue and participation by the moderates. The logic behind this is that, if you silence the moderates, the only voices that will be heard are the extreme ones. Regular people will end up only hearing these voices of hatred, and may end up being influenced into haters themselves. So, to drown out the extremism, they fill the airwaves with messages of moderation instead.

But this doesn't seem to happen back home, for some reason.

When we get a situation, where someone incites racial or religious hatred, the media pick up on it, and publicise it. Then, the politicians weigh in on both sides and continue to add fuel to the fire. Too little is heard from the moderate folk. Finally, the government issues a gag order and everyone is told to shut up. However, the damage is already done while other people are not allowed to fix the issue. So, little by little, these extremists win.

We should be celebrating our diversity, not telling everyone to shut up and not talk about it.

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