Friday, October 21, 2011

Satu Malaysia?

First:  I don't mean to pick sides or show favoritism towards any particular race in Malaysia, I am only trying to state the facts.

This is a picture that is extremely common in Malaysia, and it means 'Satu Malaysia' (One Malaysia).  It is meant to represent and encourage the union of all the three races (Malay, Chinese, and Indian) in Malaysia.  However I have learned from experience, and by hearing from several different Malaysians, that it is not as effective (or truthful) as they would like.

In general, Malaysia is still very segregated.  The Malays are with the Malays, Chinese with Chinese, and Indians with Indians.  Mingling together is almost never seen, and if it is, it is usually because of school obligations or other planned events.  They have separate restaurants, schools, and living communities for each of the different races.  Although it is not entirely uncommon for an Indian family to eat at a 'Malay' restaurant, it is also not uncommon to hear 'you must be careful what you wear outside because this is a Malay community'.  Usually you can tell immediately which race holds the majority in a certain area not only by the people seen, but by the language on signs, the type of food served at restaurants, or the types of house decor.

A lot of this separation is due to religious differences.  Some examples are that Muslims aren't allowed to eat pork, so they can not eat at Indian/Chinese restaurants where pork is served.  Muslims also aren't allowed to touch dogs, so they are unlikely to move to a Chinese/Indian neighborhood that has lots of dogs.  The three cultures wear drastically different types of clothing so they are unlikely to be seen at the same shops.  And of course Muslims cannot drink alcohol, which can be common in Indian/Chinese cultures.  I have heard some racist comments made about one race by another, and (in my opinion), the dislike from race to race is far to obvious.  Some families don't like their children to hang out with kids from other races due to fear of 'bad influences'.

However, I believe that the majority of the problems is because the government involvement with the church.  For example, once someone in Muslim, they are never allowed to leave the church, unless let's say, they leave Malaysia.  If someone is Malay, they must be Muslim.  If someone is born Muslim, they must stay Muslim.  If someone wishes to marry a Muslim, they must convert, and can't cannot un-convert.  Along with converting, you must follow the rules of the church.  These include donating (I think) 2.5% of your income to the church, not drinking alcohol, no gambling, no eating pork, no touching dogs, attending the mosque on Fridays (if you are male), and a few others.  Men are also allowed to have four wives, although Polygamy does seem to be rare (although not nonexistent) in Malaysia.  The government is also allowed to go to hotel rooms and check for marriages licenses to make sure couples are married, if not, they can be fined and sent to Islamic court.  Chinese and Indians also have to pay higher fines of property; if a Malay has to pay $200,000, Indians and Chinese must pay $220,000 for the same land.  Because of these rules, these is unavoidable tension between the races.
Admittedly these differences can be hard to accept at times because one of the things that most appealed to me about Malaysia was the different races under one roof.  Also because where I come from racism is a huge NO-NO, and freedom of religion is extremely important. Luckily for me however, I somehow have managed to have a Malay, Indian, and Chinese family so I have been able to learn all three cultures. :)

Although I find these cultural clashes extremely unfortunate, I must remember two things.  One, Malaysia was not always like this.  When the country first gained independence all the races could easily sit down for a meal together or have a nice talk, and considered themselves Malaysians, rather than Chinese-Malaysians, or Indian-Malaysians.  Secondly, Malaysia is only about 50 years old, and when the USA was 50 years old, women couldn't vote and slavery was legal.  Malaysia is still a developing country and sometimes going through hard times are needed to bring people together.

Traditional Malay Clothing

Traditional Indigenous Clothing

Traditional Chinese Clothing

Traditional Indian Clothing

Monkeys :)  (just for fun)

1 comment:

  1. Whenever & wherever there is discrimination and bigotry, it is ultimately ended by just people. Unfortunately, it sometimes takes a while.