Monday, November 10, 2008

...of simplistic comparisons?

I received alot of SMSes from learned malaysian friends from various ethnic backgrounds expressing excitement and jubilance and at the same time making comparisons between american minorities and their so-called long and deep discrimination with our (malaysian) so called 'discrimination'. I find these simplistic comparisons disturbing and worrying. Dr Chandra Muzzafar could not have put it in a better perspective. Of course, not everyone agrees with his views. I do, to a certain extent(hehe). That's why I have taken the liberty to upload it from today's NST online, onto my blog. Do let me know if you too are in agreement. In the usual manner, no hard feelings. Its okay for violent objections or a grim departure from the mainstream thinking (hehe) so long as finally, we can all agree to disagree, in the most civil manner (evil wink) read on... O wait, no political statements as such. But an academic sense (hehe). Still tempted to comment on popular headline politics but as I have said again and again...that can wait when and until I am no longer gainfully employed( hahaha).....
Obama and Malaysian Minorities: Too sweeping a comparison By : DR CHANDRA MUZAFFAR, Kuala Lumpur

IN the wake of Barack Obama's electoral triumph in the United States, some Malaysian politicians, non-governmental organisation activists, newspaper columnists and members of the public have made utterly shallow and superficial comments about the significance of his victory to minorities and ethnic politics in Malaysia.
The US' majority-minority dichotomy has very little relevance to our country. Though a member of the African-American minority, which is about 12 per cent of the US population, Obama subscribes to Christianity, the religion of the white majority.His mother tongue -- English -- is the mother tongue of the majority community. His culture is, to all intents and purposes, indistinguishable from the culture of the majority.Like most other African- Americans, and indeed most of the other minorities such as the Latinos and Asians, Obama has been absorbed and assimilated into what is sometimes described as mainstream "White Anglo-Saxon Protestant" (WASP) culture.
However, for African-Americans, in particular, their total assimilation was hampered and hindered by the racial barrier of colour. It was the colour bar with all its historical (slavery) and sociological (lower economic echelon) implications that underscored their minority status.Compare their minority status to the position of the Chinese and Indian Malaysian minorities. Most Chinese and Indian Malaysians are non-Muslims and have no affiliation whatsoever to Islam, the religion of the majority Malay community. The Malay language is not their mother tongue. In fact, the overwhelming majority of the Chinese community, in particular, remains deeply attached to its own mother tongue. More than 90 per cent of Chinese parents send their children to Chinese primary schools. For the most part, Chinese and Indian cultures have preserved and perpetuated their distinct identities.Chinese and Indian elites, whether in government or with the opposition, have always been opposed to any attempt to absorb their communities into the cultural ethos of the majority community. Neither has the government been inclined towards assimilation as a cultural policy. By and large, it is the path of integration that the government has chosen, which accommodates cultural diversity and seeks to promote unity by emphasising the primacy of the nation's lingua franca. The Chinese and Indian communities prefer integration to assimilation.Since this is their preference, they should not expect an assimilated "Obama" to emerge from their ranks.To explain this in more concrete terms, one should perhaps try to visualise the life story of an Obama equivalent in Malaysia. His father would have come from a Buddhist, or Hindu or Christian family outside Malaysia, married a Malay-Muslim woman from say Kedah or Kelantan, and produced an offspring who would have spoken Bahasa Malaysia as his mother tongue, studied in a Malay-medium school, graduated from a Malay-medium university, and would have been thoroughly assimilated into Malay culture and society. How could one regard such a person as the poster-boy of the Chinese or Indian minority in this country? This illustrates the danger of making simplistic comparisons between minorities in two totally different situations without any understanding of their respective milieus. Rather than indulge in such rhetoric which invariably has a communal edge to it, our politicians and media commentators should help to promote our Bahasa Malaysia-based primary school as the school of first choice so that young Malaysians will, at least, have the opportunity to interact with one another during the most impressionable stage of their lives. Of course, interaction alone will not enhance national unity if we are not just and fair to everyone, regardless of their cultural or religious affiliation.

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