When Malaysia’s minorities don’t feel at home

Any treatment that does not befit full-blown citizenship would not make the ethnic minorities and other affected Malaysians feel at home

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Eliminate bigotry and racism - Photograph by Arnoldus/Pixabay

The past few days have seen racism rearing its ugly head to the extent that it raised temperatures, particularly among members of the country’s ethnic minorities in our diverse society.

National badminton player S Kisona was recently reprimanded with a racist slur by a social media user following her loss at an international tournament in Finland.

She had represented Malaysia in the Sudirman Cup 2021 tournament in Vantaa, Finland and made it to the semi-finals where she was unfortunately beaten by Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi.

The social media user, Bersatu Pasir Puteh division deputy chief Borhanuddin Che Rahim, later apologised publicly for his misconduct and resigned from his party post as a result of the controversy.

If the failure of Kisona to get to the final had disappointed people such as Borhanuddin, surely she does not deserve appallingly racist remarks that could demoralise her. Her ethnicity has nothing to do with the state of her professionalism and prowess.

The criticism, if needs be, should focus on her performance as a badminton player, such as her playing technique. Constructive suggestions would be useful to Kisona, who is being groomed by the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Borhanuddin and his ilk should appreciate that in sports, like in many other important sectors of life where excellence is vital, a person should be judged by his or her calibre and grit in the effort to outshine – not ethnic origin, much less derogatory terms associated with it.

In the pursuit of professionalism and excellence in sports, meritocracy and diligence do not have truck with such other factors as entitlement, ethnicity and drugs. That is how standards are proudly maintained, if not enhanced.

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That is why BAM rightly condemned Borhanuddin’s cruel remarks on Facebook, adding that it has zero tolerance for any form of racism and discrimination.

Similarly, Youth and Sports Minister Ahmad Faizal Azumu took umbrage against the racist remarks that he deemed unacceptable. Faizal, who is also Bersatu deputy president, is expected to rein in a culpable member of his political party.

The heat was also turned on in the country recently after a short video went viral, in which preacher Syakir Nasoha allegedly made disparaging remarks about minority faiths and the Dayak community.

In response, some 3,000 police reports were lodged nationwide against the preacher, who claimed that people of other faiths would gang up to kill Muslims at the end of the world.

Syakir also alleged that Buddhists and Hindus were responsible for the killings of Muslims in Thailand and India. A sense of being under siege might have lurked in the minds of his congregation, which could bring about ill-feeling between ethnic and religious communities.

Perhaps preachers such as Syakir should instead invest their energies and time more in Islamic teachings for fellow Muslims, without having to demonise people of other faiths and cause tension or conflict among the various communities in our society.

Besides, these preachers should be more concerned about ‘enemies’ within the Muslim community itself that could be corrosive and disruptive. For example, the corruption and abuse of power indulged by certain Muslims could have ruinous consequences not only for their religious community but also the larger society.

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These two incidents are a manifestation of our wider society, where minorities generally have not been made to feel like fully fledged citizens by the actions of certain quarters, institutional racism and divisive politics, as well as certain government policies over the years.

The Orang Asli, for instance, that number about 200,000 in the peninsula have not been accorded fully their rights and privileges despite their indigeneity. No one should be left behind, to borrow the government’s slogan, in national development; so these indigenous peoples should not feel alienated in their own homeland.

Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, the architect of the concept of the Malaysian Family, must see to it that ethnic minorities, as well as disempowered and poor Malays, become a solid part of this inclusivity by instituting substantive social reforms. This is essential for the country to move forward.

Any treatment that does not befit full-blown citizenship would not make the ethnic minorities and other affected Malaysians feel at home, which is unjust. – The Malaysian Insight

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