Sunday, 9 December 2018

Race, religion still rallying cries in ‘New Malaysia’

Ethno-nationalist opposition forces have pressed PM Mahathir Mohamad to backtrack on a commitment to end all forms of racial discrimination as the nation's ethnic politics intensify


Tens of thousands of Malay Muslims took to the streets of Kuala Lumpur on December 8 to oppose Malaysia’s adoption of a United Nations (UN) convention against racial discrimination amid fears that privileges enjoyed by the Malay majority and Islam’s status as the country’s official religion would be threatened.

When Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad addressed the UN General Assembly in September, he pledged that Malaysia would ratify all remaining core UN instruments related to the protection of human rights, including the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).

Although the nonagenarian premier admitted that ratification “would not be easy” owing to acute sensitives around race and religion in Muslim-majority Malaysia, the pledge was hailed both at home and abroad as an indication of the new Pakatan Harapan government’s commitment to human rights, reform and democratization.

Conservative ethno-nationalist and Islamist opposition parties, however, furiously took aim at the treaty and alleged, contrary to the facts, that it would threaten the special position of Malay Muslims, who account for around 60% of the population and are granted special status as bumiputera, or “sons of the soil”, in Article 153 of the country’s constitution.

Read the full story at Asia Times.

Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.