Malaysian Politics Shackled By Race and Religion

Klang, Selangor – I have mentioned before that race and religion are the weakest points of Malaysia. What I meant by this was that both of these matters are the most delicate issues in the country. It has been almost 41 years since Malaysia was marred by the 13th May bloodshed. Despite the fact that it is dubbed as one of the epitome of Asian modernity, the nation is still shackled by socio-religious bigotries.

Worse is that it is the nation’s protectors who are the ones subconsciously or purposely fortifying these shackles. How? By raising provocative racial and religious related topics over and over again in the public political domain. Who are the national protectors? We are; politicians from both the government and the opposition, civil society and the general public. The domain? The parliament, social institutions, traditional media, new media or even at your local coffee house.

Some of the irrelevant issues are the cow head controversy, the kalimah Allah issue and the most recent is the entrapping question by Lim Kit Siang hurled at the Deputy Prime Minister whether he considers himself as “Malaysian first or Malay first”. All of these incidents are obviously the tools of politicization.

The patterns of Malaysian politics is based on a matrix of integrated social stratifications; ethnicity, creed, gender, age group, ideology, income, demography, social institutions and others. Amongst all of these divisions, ethnicity and creed are the most sensitive factors (but not the only strongest factors) that greatly influence the country’ political game. The factors of plural ethnicity and creed are closely interrelated due to our historically developed norms where each religion is predominant within a particular ethnic group. In “Islam and Ethnicity in Malaysian Politics”, Hussin Mutalib had demonstrated that besides culture, the self-identity of the Malays are also moulded by the religion that they embrace which is Islam.

The Malays are mostly Muslims and non Malays are born as either Buddhists, Christians, Hindus and others. According to the Malaysian Constitution, a Malay would have to surrender his ethnic status if he is not Muslim. Hence, the constitution itself has also provided the country’s socio-religion framework. There are a lot of non Malays converting to Islam through interracial marriages and also mixed-blooded babies born as Muslims. This mixture of race and religion do exist. However, the melting-pot of color lines has not yet blended well.

The differences of these three community groups could be viewed from two perspectives; Religion and Worldview.


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