It’s very sensitive to touch on the subjects of race and religion among Malaysians, some people avoid them like plagues, some people immediately become defensive (or offensive). To be a nation so proud of its racial and religious diversity, this subject must be talked with an open mind.
Discussing with a person so invested in his/her prejudice towards another race or religion is totally useless, like convincing George W. Bush there’s no WMD in Iraq.
But then, the degree of open-mindedness among Malaysians differ widely. For example, there’s a joke saying “Melayu suka tunjuk bontot bila sembahyang (rukuk dan sujud)” or “Malays like to show off their butts when praying (bowing and prostrating)”. It was meant to be a harmless joke.
Personally, I can just laugh it off and say “Aww, that’s not so nice!” But I don’t think majority Muslims can take this joke. They will either be defensive about their obligations to pray or go offensive to other religions. Some will just keep quiet, swallow the bitter pill and bear hatred to the joker for a very long time.
Those who claim to be open-minded must keep an open mind that not-so-open-minded people exist too. Joke or no joke, you must be sensitive about what you say. How about more serious issues like Bumiputra rights, social equality, religious and interreligious issues in Malaysia?
New Economic Policy (NEP) has empowered the middle class Bumiputras and lessen the gap of economic disparity with the Non-Bumis. Bumiputra now can afford nice houses, get good education and employment and have higher puchasing power than the Bumiputra 40 years ago. Any provision of the law and constitution protecting the Bumiputra rights is supported by UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.
UN’s Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon called for “all governments, indigenous peoples, the UN system and all other partners to ensure that Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples becomes a reality for all… Indigenous cultures, languages and ways of life are under constant threat from armed conflict, lack of educational opportunities and discrimination… United Nations will continue to support and protect your human rights and fundamental freedoms, and your rights to pursue social and economic development”
Are we civilized enough to discuss this without prejudice or negative sentiments towards each other?