Diversity — dead or alive?

September 1, 2019 at 3:51 pm Leave a comment

That Sin Chew is astute when it comes to clarifying the sentiments of our local Chinese community is unsurprising given this daily broadsheet is the largest circulation Chinese-language newspaper outside of Greater China.

As the go-to trusty signpost, Sin Chew is accurate in parleying the Chinese mindset but unfortunately when it relates to the Malay psyche, not so much.

Thus for its Merdeka 62nd anniversary slate of reflective essays, Sin Chew commissioned commentary pieces from a trio of bumiputera academics (below) to educate its Chinese readers.

ABOVE: The Merdeka eve (Aug 30) op-ed titled ‘Do not sow the seeds of hatred’ – fourth essay, bottom right panel – is written by Tan Sri Johan Jaaffar, who is the father of Kit Siang’s political secretary Syahredzan Johan

Sin Chew: Heart vs head  

The three PhDs – Dr Azman, Dr Jeniri & Dr Azizuddin – share their academic insights on the social science topics of diversity, multiculturalism and pluralism.

Two of the university lecturers make a sledgehammer appeal to the heart, viz. Dr Azman’s article ‘Solidarity begins with the heart in multicultural Malaysia’ and Dr Jeniri’s article ‘An understanding heart’.

In Part 2 to come, I shall abstract from Prof. Dr Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi who writes appealing to the head and presenting a contrasting view about this Merdeka.

Their write-ups are knowledgeable, generally fair and balanced, and I encourage you to read the Sin Chew ‘Diversity’-themed essays in their entirety linked below.


Article title: ‘Solidarity begins with the heart in multicultural Malaysia’

Writer: Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi

Tenure: Associate Professor @ Universiti Malaya

Positive message: “The ethnic diversity of Malaysia is a historical reality that needs to be cherished by all Malaysians […]”

 Essay #1 can be read in Sin Chew (Aug 31) op-ed, HERE


BRIEF SUMMARY

“Malaysia is blessed with a diverse population of different ethnic and religious groups,” writes Awang Azman.

Citing the 2018 inter-census population projection, he states that the Chinese (23%) are one third of the bumiputera (69%) segment in Malaysia. ”This ethnic diversity became the cornerstone of the new nation from Persekutuan Tanah Melayu in 1957 to the inclusion of Sabah and Sarawak to form the Federation of Malaysia in 1963 […]”

He writes that our country’s leaders are posed a mounting challenge “to preserve the society’s diversity yet enabling the people to continue living in total peace and harmony”.

Awang Azman also provides a sociological definition of the term ‘solidarity’, which in academic jargon “represents a complete integration process that produces the feeling of oneness, togetherness and social bond which are pivotal in promoting mutual understanding among the individuals making up a community”.

He however fears that the lack of social interactions “has become a major stumbling block to national unity”.

Note the buzzwords in the solidarity-cum-unity ecosystem: … complete integration … oneness … togetherness … social bond … mutual understanding …

To inject here my own observation, well, if the Chinese had ever wanted to be fully integrated, they would not have objected so vehemently to the ONE-school concept, where their children can sit in the same classroom “together” with their Malay peers in order to form that desired “social bond“.

Our patent lack of “mutual understanding” is evident through the recent tirades against the Education Minister. Do you really think Maszlee Malik was able to personally read and comprehend the rants against him – written in Chinese – by MCA vice president Tan Teik Cheng and DAP sec-gen Lim Guan Eng?


Article title: ‘An understanding heart’

Writer: Dr Jeniri Amir

Tenure: Associate Professor @ Universiti Malaysia Sarawak

Positive message: “Promoting interracial harmony should start from the heart.”

 Essay #2 can be read in Sin Chew (Aug 31) op-ed, HERE


BRIEF SUMMARY

“Merdeka Day offers a unique opportunity for us to reflect on the nation’s past and future as a multiracial, multicultural and multireligious nation”, writes Jeniri Amir.

He says as a Sarawakian, he sometimes finds it “unbelievable how racial tension and conflicts could be sparked off so spontaneously among the Malays, Chinese and Indians on Peninsular Malaysia”.

“In Sarawak”, he adds, “we are constantly cautious when it comes to racial sensitivity. We never post our race-related comments or remarks deliberately for fear they will ignite the flame of racial conflicts”.

Jeniri believes a harmonious interracial relationship is possible “if we are full of sympathy, empathy and understanding”.

“A sincere heart untainted with hatred and prejudices will sow the seed of peace, serenity and joy in our multicultural society”

Nonetheless, he concedes that “from the Zakir Naik issue to conflicts between drivers from different races on our highways as well as the teaching of Seni Khat at vernacular schools, among others – the situation now indeed is alarming and worrisome”.


Article title: ‘New Malaysia vis-à-vis Vision 2020’

Writer: Dr Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani

Tenure: Professor @ Universiti Utara Malaysia

Positive message: “It is clear that our multiracial society shares a common destiny to live together in the spirit of togetherness and unity.”

 Essay #3 can be read in Sin Chew (Aug 31) op-ed, HERE


BRIEF SUMMARY

Mohd Azizuddin writes: “For me, the idea of ‘New Malaysia’ projected by the PH government has many similarities with the pillars of Vision 2020 projected by Tun Mahathir Mohamad in 1991.”

Looking back at some of the nine pillars of Vision 2020, he cites the first pillar as being “…the challenges of establishing a united Malaysian nation with a sense of common and shared destiny. This must be a nation at peace with itself, territorially and ethnically integrated, living in harmony and full and fair partnership, made up of one ‘Bangsa Malaysia‘ with political loyalty and dedication to the nation”.

Mohd Azizuddin provides the requisite confirmation bias to his Sin Chew audience when he says “any element of hatred toward religion, race, ethnic and gender are not welcomed in this beloved country”. Doubtless, it is what they find quite a relief to hear.

“Vision 2020 already calls us to move away from race-based to a need or fair based economy in order to become a developed country,” he adds, reassuring his Chinese readership that “the majority of our population wants political stability, peace and security, and economic prosperity”.

Mohd Azizuddin is fairly brimming over with optimism, believing “With the proper vision and leadership, the future of Malaysia is bright“. He concludes on a super optimistic note, convinced that “the spirit of independence can be lifted up when all Malaysians come together as one” and yes, most certainly we can “move forward with ambition to see Malaysia embracing unity, harmony, and caring society”.

Pelik tapi benar, this upbeat UUM professor sounds like he is channeling Lim Kit Siang … kah kah kah. 

To be continued in Part 2

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