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Racial Discrimination in Malaysia

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: History
Wordcount: 3194 words Published: 21st Sep 2021

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Malaysia is a multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-religion country with a population of about 20 million people who practice various religions. The fact that Malaysia practices mixed religion makes it have a unique Malaysian culture. However, the strength of multi-racial can only be harvested if the country fulfils racial equal rights. For example: racial discrimination. Discrimination develops hatred among different races and there will be no true unity. Although Malaysia is a multi-racial country, there are a few issues related to racism and religion that had happened in the past, as well as in the present.

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We believe that racial discrimination is the root of religious intolerance. What is religious intolerance? It is the intolerance against another’s religious beliefs or practices. Thus, there are many serious issues which caused by intolerance in religion. For example: the unfortunate tragedy that had happened in 13th May 1969 which clearly portrayed the intolerance between the Chinese and Malays. The cow’s head dispute towards the state government due to the relocation of the 150-year-old Sri Maha Mariamman Hindu Temple from Section 19 to Section 23. Then followed by the Boar’s head protest which occurred in two different places; Masjid Jumhuriyah in Taman Dato Harun and Al- Imam Tirmizi mosque in Taman Sri Sentosa. This is a sign of disrespect towards the Muslims as they believe that Boars, also known as pigs are considered a desecration in their religion. The most recent issue that has been causing a huge commotion in our country is the church attacks. Many Muslims are unhappy towards the Christians due to the usage of the word “Allah” as they dictate that the word “Allah” should only be used by Muslims.

Through all this, we can tell that people in different races and religion have become increasingly obsessed with petty issues regarding race and religion. By right, the ability to have multi races and religion is to enable the people to understand other races and religion apart from their own and avoids misunderstanding among each other. Unlike the situation we are in right now. How can we, the younger generation help to make the nation stronger than ever as a multi-cultural and multi-racial country?

13th May 1969’s Tragedy

Living in a multiracial and multi religion country, religion intolerance is bound to happen between the people of Malaysia. Although there are many current issues related to religion intolerance, racial and religion intolerance had been here in this country as early as 1969. We will be taking a step back to the black history that happened on the 13th of May 1969 before looking at the current issues that is happening here in this country.

Before Singapore broke away from Malaysia on the 9th of August 1965, there was already a lot of tension between the Malays and the Chinese. Days before the general election on the 10th of May 1969, political parties such as the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), Democratic Action Party (DAP), Pan Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) and other parties were busy campaigning to win the people’s hearts. At the same time, political party leaders were accusing other parties on racial and religious issues to win support from the people. There were already two deaths before the polling day; an UMNO election agent and a member of the Labour Party of Malaya.

Although there were already raising tension between the races, the election went by smoothly without any incident on the 10th of May 1969. The black incident was ignited by the procession done by the Chinese through Kuala Lumpur, where they insulted the Malays by jeering at the residents in Kampung Baru. This tragedy was also caused by the action that some of the Malay leaders took. They used the press to condemn their opponents because they are not happy of the election’s result. The Malay and the Chinese communities were agitated by this. A huge racial riot occurred first in Setapak and spread throughout Kuala Lumpur soon enough.

There were many deaths, a lot of people were injured, houses and vehicles were burnt and ethnic conflict in the rural areas occurred at that time. Even after the 13th May incident, the act of violence were still going on, this time the targets also involved the Indians. Two obvious aftermath of the incident are; Kuala Lumpur was created as a Federal Territory in 1974, five years later and the national ideology also known as the Rukun Negara was introduced by the National Legislative Council on the 31st of August 1970.

Although an emergency state was declared in Selangor at that time, the impact of the tragedy still live on in many people’s hearts. Young or old, they are never allowed to forget this black incident. People are now scared to even discussed about issues on religion, education, citizenship and culture openly. While the tragedy was a reminder to all Malaysians on the dispute that can happen among different communities, current issues on religion intolerance show us a different side of Malaysians. Are we forgetting our past too soon? Are the racial harmony and the national unity in this country in danger?

Church Attacks

A decision on Malaysia versus Herald was made on 31st December 2009. The government insists the word ‘ALLAH’ should only be used by Muslims. The ruling in the newspaper’s favor was suspended pending an appeal, after the government argued the decision could cause racial conflict.

There were 10 churches have been attacked due to the decision made by the government. One church had been seriously damaged. Luckily no deaths or major injuries have been reported. Three churches in Kuala Lumpur were subject to an arson attack. One suffered considerable damage. Two individuals were spotted throwing something looking like a petrol bomb by witnesses. As a result, the police stepped up security at all churches. On 8 January 2010, preparations for another attack were found at the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Jalan Othman. The Church is located about 1.5km from the Assumption Church in Jalan Templer. The All Saints’ Church at Taiping and a Catholic Convent school were shocked with the discovery of Molotov cocktails near church grounds and a bottle of kerosene in the early morning of Sunday, 10th January 2010. Black paint was thrown at the Malacca Baptist Church in Durian Daun. The Metro Tabernacle Church, held a services at the Wisma MCA’s Dewan San Choon after the attack on January 8.

Many Muslims are angry about December 31 High Court decisions overturning a government ban on Roman Catholics’ using ‘ALLAH’ to refer to their God in the Malay-language edition of their main newspaper, the Herald. Prime Minister Najib condemned the church bombings and immediately directed police to increase security at all places of worships and called for unity amongst the Malaysian people.

Minorities are under siege and feel they don’t have a place in Malaysia anymore. Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim blamed the church attacks on the UMNO-led government’s incessant racist propaganda over the Allah issue and inflammatory rhetoric issued by state-controlled mainstream media. Despite the attacks, thousands of Christians nationwide attended Sunday services and prayed for national unity and an end to the violence. It showed that, after 52 years of living together, nation building and national unity is in tatters.

The church attacks shattered nations of Malaysia. It’s sad to see such a united multiracial country like ours be condemned internationally. Malaysians are now living in fear of a racial clash following the church attacks and rising orthodox Islamic tones in the country.

Boar’s Head Protest

At the beginning of year 2010, severed wild boar heads were found in the compounds of two mosques. Mosque officials found plastic bags that contained two wild boar heads and surrounded with Ringgit notes in the morning of January 27th. The incident happened in two places, Masjid Jumhuriyah in Taman Dato Harun and Al- Imam Tirmizi mosque at Taman Sri Sentosa. The heads of the wild boar could be used as attempts to escalate between the Muslims and the non- Muslims as pigs are considered unclean in Islam. Leaving the boar heads at the mosque is definitely an insult, mirroring an incident last year when the Muslims flung a severed cow head on the Hindu temple near Kuala Lumpur.

This incident was done after the “cow head” protest that had happen last year. It is considered the most offensive case of sacrilege against a Muslim place of worship since a storm erupted over the use of the Arabic term “Allah”. Moreover, it was believed to be in retaliation for a High Court decision on 31st December 2009 which allowed the Catholics to use the term “Allah” in the Herald Weekly. That decision triggered protests among Muslims who say “Allah” should be reserved only for Islam. The government also mentioned that they worry the Christian use of the term could unintentionally trick the Muslims into converting. The whole incident was actually the fallout of that “cow head incident”. Certain groups of people with subversive tendencies have the immunity to carry out their vile acts is because of the lackadaisical action by the government. They love to disturb the peace and harmony in this country. Following the attacks of churches however, there was little tension between the various communities as a chorus of voices on both sides condemned the attacks. A Sikh temple also has been attacked, as have two Muslims prayer rooms according to the news report on “Malaysiakini”. This boar heads incident was to believe that whether it is politically motivated or otherwise, the consequences of these criminal acts can be very hazardous. Besides it is also very damaging to our fragile ethnic relations which has come under extreme test following the “Allah” issue.

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After the attack, it has surely left some effects to not only the Muslims community but the entirely society. It has rocked the weak racial and religious balance in this mainly Muslims country of 28 million people, where relations between Muslim ethnic which make up 60% of the population, and Malaysia’s ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities are generally harmonious according to the research done by local analysis. As from the view in Economics, this has also provoked Malaysia’s crisis of confidence to attract more foreign investors, tourist and students. Moreover, it also weakens Malaysia’s international competitiveness in the economy. Malaysia’s image as a safe and secure ideal location for tourist will be tarnished because of this incident. This will strongly affects our country’s image and thus, our economy will go down if the attack keep continues.

However, this incident had cause the police to set up a special task force to investigate the incidents of wild boar heads being thrown at the compounds of two mosques. This special task force was set up following a meeting right after the incident. Its main objective is to find relevant information to solve the case. Besides, all the departments in the police force including the Special Branch and Commercial Crime division have been asked to do the same. On the other hand, Malaysian has the responsibility to stand united and stood up for each other to fight the undesirable elements of destruction and chaos no matter whomever or whatever they are. Thus, we cannot deny the fact that we are more cohesive than before to face these challenges. The government too, has to set strong examples so that Malaysians do not overlook any disruption to their normal way of life. We as the citizens in this country have to be constantly on alert and united in order to weed out these problems within and those coming from outside. Our strength continues to lie in the unity of our miscellany.

Cow’s Head Dispute

Malay residents of Section 23, Shah Alam, Selangor protested in front of the gates of the Selangor Secretariat building with a severed cow’s head. They were protesting due to the fact that the state government was going to relocate the 150-year-old Sri Maha Mariamman Hindu Temple from Section 19 to Section 23. After a Friday afternoon prayer, the residents of Section 23 who were in refuse of this plan, marched up to the state secretariat building claiming that the cow’s head was for the Selangor Executive councilor, Dr Xavier Jayakumar and Shah Alam member of Parliament, YB Khalid Samad.

The residents of Section 23 are intolerant with the fact that the temple was to be relocated there. They protested with a cow’s head in order to aggravate the situation. The government officials, Khalid Samad and Xavier Jayakumar did abide the rules for the temple relocating process. Unfortunately, because the residents in Section 23 are 80% Malays, the residents were against this plan. The level of disrespect shown towards another religion was terrible. The facts made me aware that situation was an important problem as it is about to affect the nations harmony and progress. The tolerance level of people is decreasing and this is only harmful for the country. Latest news say that the Hindu Sangam was to speak to the residents but the news was false as the Hindu Sangam advisor had mentioned that there was not going to be any talk between the two parties.

Besides that, even though this issue may have happened in Shah Alam, still in other parts of the country hate is being billed for each other. Injustice occurred as some of the protestors were let to go and action was not taken upon them. It may have been a peaceful protest but still it was an insult to Hindus of the country. In a clip in You Tube, the scenes were showing the protestors stepping on the cow’s head claiming it to be for YB Khalid Samad. There was also a young boy about the age of 12 to 13 joining the elder men to step the cow’s head. It shows that this may be a problem for the future generation too as the spirit of hate is already being instilled within the young teenager. Immediate solutions should be made to solve this riding racial problem in Malaysia for as Malaysians well known for our culture and hospitality we must live up to the 1 Malaysia concept and prove that Malaysia truly is Asia not only when it comes to tourism but on a daily basis.

This event has brought about terrible side effects to the country. First of all the harmony of the nation was disrupted. The spirit of tolerance is disturbed as it is shown through the attitude of the residents of Section 23. This may lead to other negative outcomes such as not being able to work with a person of another race. A chain of negative events may occur such as a terrible economical stability. When the people of one nation do not work as a team thus, they will not work together for progress for the better of the country. Besides that, the emotions of fellow people who reside in this multicultural country may have been affected. In this case, the Hindus may have felt annoyed by the fact that the residents severed a cow’s head to deal with the protest. Usage of harsh words against the government officials causes disrespect and disharmony.

On top of that, false news spread through activities like this. Sources claim that the Hindu Sangam was willing to confront the residents when actually they were not going to do so. Inconvenience was caused for the government and the citizens who worry of this disharmony. The temple committee would now have to face trouble relocating their temple. This rash activity has shown the world that we are not living in peace in this country and that we do not comply with the give and take policy and live up to the 1 Malaysia concept that the prime minister established. It portrays the act of injustice and intolerance.

As the current and future generation of this multiracial Malaysia, my vital role would be to avoid any form of disharmony, which one of it is this. I would prevent disharmony by understanding any situation from the other person’s point of view. After all, the government abides the rules that a place of worship must be 50 meters away from any residential area. All the rules were being followed accordingly to relocate the temple. Without taking sides, if I were a temple committee member I would think twice about the relocation of my temple. If 80% of the residents in Section 23 are Muslims, should I insist that my temple should be built there? As we can see very clearly, we have some sense of protection for our culture and religion too and that is why most people get into disagreements. For the better of our nation’s peace, the future generation should take a moment to think about the decision they are about to make for anything.

Besides that, as the future generation of a country we must not only tolerate each other but we must work together. Tolerating each other is absolutely different from working together. Sometimes even working together is better than tolerating one and another. A simple example would be the concept of a school. The school is the country, the teachers the administrators or cabinet and the students as the citizen. We must have mutualism within each other be able to work as a team and progress for the better. By working together, we can build a nation that is always able to find solutions.

Lastly, I would consider learning the culture and the way of life of people of another religion. In that way, we would have a deeper understanding of what people of other religions and cultures do and why they do so. Looking at what the residents of Section 23 did by severing a cow’s head and carrying for the protest against the relocating of a temple, it clearly shows the uncivilized mentality of our citizens. If I understand another religion, I will have the respect for that specific religion and I will be able to accept that religion as part and parcel of my country’s citizens. There will be peace and joy all around.


Since the beginning of independence Malaysia has suffered from much religious intolerance due to our multiple religions from as early as the May 13 incident to the more recent church burning and cow head incident. Religious intolerance usually happens due to misunderstanding between the different religions, and the expectation one has of other religions. These radical forces that are the cause of these incidents are usually the individuals that portray such a childish mentality. This can cause dispute within the country which can lead to the racial harmony and also national unity of this country to be in risk. Besides that it can cause both the politics and economics to suffer. In order to prevent such behavior we need to come to an understanding of other religions, respect and also accept them for the future peace and stability of the country and also for the country to prosper in the future.


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