Saturday, August 26, 2006

Debunking Mulitculturalism

Dear Sir/Madam
The Star Newspaper

I refer to the article, “Debunking multiculturalism” that appeared in The Star (Aug 22, 2006).

Historically, the term "multiculturalism" came into wide public use during the early 1980s in the context of public school curriculum reform. Specifically, the argument was made that the content of classes in history, literature, social studies, and other areas reflected what came to be called a "Eurocentric" bias. Hence there was a reformed movement in education to move away from a “Eurocentric” bias to one where all cultures and traditions were respected. It was a praiseworthy movement in that the uniqueness and diversity of different cultures of different ethnic groups were recognised and valued. Another term used was “melting pot” of cultures. However, this was discarded subsequently because it implies that in a “melting pot” other cultures are assimilated by the dominant culture.

First, it is curious that the author has associated the historical background of multiculturalism with Christianity. Eurocenticity is not Christianity. In fact, in European history there have been numerous movements to separate the state from religion. The France revolution, the Russian revolution and the collapse of communism were not related to Christianity.

Second, multiculturalism is not an ideology; it is a way of life. This way of life involves respect and tolerance towards other cultures and traditions. It creates a space for our diversity and hence enriches our communal experiences. In Malaysia, multiculturalism has enriched our lives and we have been richly blessed by this. I find it hard to find examples in which this multiculturalism “strives to debunk Islam as a socio-political order.”

Finally, multiculturalism in Malaysia develops naturally in its almost 50 years history since independence. It was not imposed by any outside agent. Multiculturalism evolves in Malaysia as the various ethnic groups seek to live and prosper together. The Malaysia identity is the multiculturalism we are currently enjoying. It is not a “melting pot” identity.

Dr Alex Tang
Johor Bahru


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