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Stressing Unity on Malaysia’s National Day

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advertisement in Malaysia's Star newspaper, August 31, 2010August 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.

Malaysians urged to stay united - The Star, August 31, 2010The 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.

Malaysia's Star newspaper, August 31, 2010The 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.

Malaysia's Star newspaper, August 31, 2010Reading all these pleas for unity and harmony, you get an ominous premonition that Malaysia could be the next country that will be torn apart by racial or religious extremism.

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.

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Written by Thorsten

August 31, 2010 at 3:12 pm

A Different Germany

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Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei

I was in Leipzig over the weekend, which used to be part of communist East Germany. We were sitting in a cafe on Saturday and a young black man walked in. It suddenly occurred to me that he was the first colored person I’d seen all day.

From that moment on, I kept my eyes open, actively looking for ethnical diversity in Leipzig. But throughout the rest of the weekend, I hardly saw any black, Asian or Turkish people. And I didn’t see any ethnic shops either – no Turkish fruit sellers, no Indian stores with colorful saris and Bollywood movies, no Vietnamese specialty shops, or Asian supermarkets.

I’m sure these people and these shops exists in East German towns like Leipzig – they just aren’t as visible as in West Germany, where large parts of the population are now of Turkish, African or Asian origin.

And it’s bizzarre that Neo-Nazism, xenophobia and racism are much stronger in the East than in the West – even though the population there is much more “GERMAN” than in the multi-ethnic cities of western Germany.

Written by Thorsten

March 31, 2008 at 12:49 pm

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