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Ethnic harmony: a lesson from Malaysia

Published Sep 12, 2012 12:09am


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I AGREE with the assessment of Mir Tassadaq (Sept 3) in his letter ‘Holiday: Malaysian example’, which was about healthy conditions prevailing in Malaysia, but there are a few caveats which I would like to add having lived in that part of the world for most of my life. The credit of the Malaysian success goes primarily to the enlightened leadership of Mahathir Mohamad. Malaysia is a multi-racial and multi-religious society, with one half being Malays and the other half being Chinese and Indians.

Prior to independence, the Malays were mostly small land-holders and lived peacefully in their villages. The Chinese and Indians mostly controlled businesses and professions, though a significant number of Indians worked in rubber states owned by the British.

The economic disparity between the Malays and non-Malays was enormous. Mahathir realised that the only solution to this problem was to raise the educational level of Malayas. This he did by making education the top priority and the first major project undertaken was to build the University of Malaya. This university is still one of the best in the region.

This was achieved without any intra-ethnic conflict. The Chinese and Indians were left to follow their religious and cultural practices. No pressure was ever put on any group to convert to Islam. In other words, Mahathir followed the policy of live and let live. This also meant there was peace in the region, and conflict with Singapore was avoided.

Sadly, Pakistan went in the other direction and intra-ethnic, intra-religious and now sectarian conflict has grown with no solution in sight.

However, I hope we have learnt a lesson from the emergence of Bangladesh that religion per se cannot hold a nation together. The language, race, history and culture are all very important factors.

Tolerance is the only way to survive if we want peace in a diverse country like Pakistan. This is the most important lesson to learn from Malaysia



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Comments (14) Closed

Gerry D'Cunha Sep 12, 2012 10:46am
a tolerant muslim country malaysia is an example of a progress country - pakistan should take them as role model, maybe our future young generation
test Sep 12, 2012 01:10pm
well said
urawal Sep 12, 2012 01:09pm
True......but it is tool late now. Minorities have been driven inter faith conflict will prevail..........
EQ8Rhomes Sep 13, 2012 02:17am
Malaysia isn't the tolerant country as Pakistanis see it . Malaysia requires that ALL chn born there be given Muslim names. It persecutes the gay, the young in love, the adulterer, women who drink, and political opponents of officials in power. Malaysia has downplayed its hypocrisy/intolerance in the interest of MONEY! Anwar Ibrahim will tell you as much. Or, ask (Great Spear) Mahathir Muhammed, the "father of Malaysia".
Agha Ata Sep 12, 2012 01:28pm
The worst thing of an unfortunate country is that it is no more responsive to appeals, examples, lessons and advice.
RazaH Sep 12, 2012 09:08am
I strongly disagree with the author citing Malaysia as a beacon of religious/ethnic harmony As a resident of Hong Kong, I can vouch for the fact that many Malaysian Chinese wish to leave their homeland due to discriminatory practices and laws which favour the ethnic 'bumiputera' Malays This has deprived Malaysian society of it's most talented and educated professionals
ranjan Sep 12, 2012 07:03pm
Mahathir Mohammed himself is half Indian. His father is a Muslim from Kerala state in India.
maverick Sep 12, 2012 10:33am
I believe the time has passed by. Even if you want now, you have spawned too many hardliners. Till 80's it was possible, till 70's pakistan was more liberal than most countries in Asia.. But now it a togh fight, Afghanistan or Pakistan who is ,more radical ? I think in a short time it will be Pakistan, Afghanistan can only improve it has sunk so much
Vijay, India Sep 12, 2012 10:38am
Dr.Viqar, I fully agree with your views on beautiful country like Malaysia, which truly represents Asia in all aspects. Wish to see Pakistan also like that, which has many advantages in terms of Natural Resources including water, Fertile land, reasonably good climate, history civilisation, culture, tradition, education, pool of young and talented youth. If everything is properly utilised, it can become like Korea in immediate future in terms of development and can become like Japan in the long term. Reason for the current situation is the leaders, who ruled the country since passing away of Jinnah. Exploited the common people for their own goals.
suneel Sep 12, 2012 05:12pm
"Malaysia is a multi-racial and multi-religious society, with one half being Malays and the other half being Chinese and Indians." but still their constitution declares Islam the state religion, that is how tolerant it is? May be a good model for Pak but ideal?
siva. Sep 13, 2012 03:32am
The author is totally ignorant of the ground realities in Malaysia. First of all University of Malaysia (originally named University Malaya (UM) prior to our Independence) was NOT built by Mahathir. The National Economic Policy was formulated and implemented by our second Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak to uplift the educational and economic well being of the Malays, Not Mahathir. Mahathir, the autocrat, ruled Malaysia for 22 years, and destroyed civil society completely, in this country. He only uplifted his family and cronies and made them billionaires, thereby, depriving the honest, decent and hardworking Malays who are still poor. Just visit the villages and one could see the mismanagement of Mahathir. Worst of all, he perpetuated the culture of CORRUPTION and destroyed the Judiciary, and for this, Malaysia is now paying a heavy price. We are slipping in the corruption index every year. The government is highly corrupted and immoral. All instruments of government are used to suppress the opposition and civil society in every way they can. The Malaysian main stream media is controlled by the ruling political party and censored. The citizens have now turned to the independent alternative media in cyber space. What you see in Malaysia outwardly, the roads, the shiny buildings are but, window dressing and nothing more. This is the legacy of Mahathir, who is the most hated person in Malaysia today. I must say that Pakistan, from what I read and hear, has a totally independent Judiciary, and this is something, the citizens should cherish and uphold, for the country to progress.
v Sep 12, 2012 03:53pm
Sensible Pakistanis do exist.
kfk79 Sep 12, 2012 05:15am
I understand practices of the shia sect are prohibited.
Moz Sep 12, 2012 10:39pm
Malaysia is no example for us to follow. Their constitution is very discriminatory towards the non-malays, and considers them as second class citizens. Plus malaysia doesn't even come close to the Asian Tigers like Japan, Korea, Hong kong, singapore in terms of progress. These countries produce goods far more in value compare to malaysia.