Sheriff on Race & Religion.
The basic problem in Malaysia is the use of race and religion to win political power and rule the country. However, this is not as threatening to our peace and stability as in other countries like in the M East and Africa where tribalism and religious sectarianism keep the flames of hatred burning since ancient times.
Altho we are a Muslim majority country, we hv long been exposed to multicultural influences due to the long history of migration from the Arab region and from the East esp India and China, and also Indonesia and the Philippines, centuries before the Westerners arrived. This resulted in SE Asia becoming more culturally diverse than in the Middle East. British colonialism brought with it western administrative, legal, and education systems to SEAsia, making the region attractive to Asians and foreigners to do trade and commerce and to settle here permanently.
Further, the spread of urbanization and the rise of the middle class in Malaysia are also important factors bringing the different races to live and work closer to each other. The rural-urban divide has reduced considerably since independence as rapid growth attracted more rural households to migrate to the urban areas. KL is more multiracial today than when I first saw it 60 years ago.
But we must not take our good fortunes for granted. We have to recognize that while race and religion will always be with us, their potential to cause damage to our national unity needs to be controlled. This can be done by strengthening the basic foundations of our democracy and the constitution. We need to push harder for reforms in strengthening the integrity of our institutions of government. Our national unity will be more secure when there are checks and balances in the system of governance to moderate the use of race and religion in formulating and implementing government policies.