Stressing Unity on Malaysia’s National Day
August 31st is Malaysia’s National Day. It’s supposed to be a day of joy and celebration. But if you read today’s edition of Malaysia’s Star newspaper, you get the strong impression that the country is divided by racial tension and on the verge of breaking apart.
Dozens of articles stress the need for harmony and peaceful coexistence of different ethnicities in Malaysia.
The paper doesn’t report any specific acts of racism. But as a reader, you get the feeling that something is being whitewashed. Because why would there be so much emphasis on unity if there was no worrying discord?
The authorities are making a desperate attempt to conjure up harmony. In speeches and statements, they stress the need for the different races and religions to combine forces for the greater good of the country.
Almost two thirds of the people in Malaysia are Muslim, 20 percent Buddhist and ten percent Christian. About half of the population is ethnic Malay. The rest is fractioned into a variety of ethnic groups, of which the Chinese and Indian communities are the strongest and closest-knit.
The Star newspaper today quotes the country’s Prime Minister Najib Razak as saying that the Malaysian way of life was based on diversity and moderation. And that “society shouldn’t allow it to be undermined by extreme attitudes which manifest themselves through racial and religious issues.”
The large number of articles in Malaysia’s press today about unity in diversity feels like they are really hammering this message in. Conjuring up harmony where it no longer exists.
It feels like being brain-washed.
How sad that would be – not just for Malaysia, but for the world. Another society where Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and Christians lived side-by-side for decades fallen victim to demagogues and disinformation.