Nurturing/ Teaching Courses
Spiritual Formation Institute
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
First, it is curious that the author has associated the historical background of
multiculturalism with Christianity. Eurocentricity 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
|posted 26 August 2006|
The Star 22 August 2006
IKim Views: By MD ASLAM AHMAD,
Fellow,Centre for Syariah, Law and Political Science, Insitute of Islamic
HAVING a multicultural society does not mean that every Malaysian must subscribe
to an ideology referred to as multiculturalism.
With reference to Malaysia, having a multicultural society is a fact, but to
subscribe to multiculturalism is to interpret that fact in a certain way.
Multiculturalism is an alien ideology which came into being out of a particular
historical, religious, and cultural setting.
In order to understand multiculturalism one has to keep in mind the long history
of religious intolerance in Europe, followed by the Reformation movement, the
rise of liberalism, and secularisation. It is a history that is full of horrible
tales of persecution and intolerance in the name of religion (read
Religious pluralism is the outcome of an attempt to provide a basis in Christian
theology for tolerance of non-Christian religions; as such, it is an element in
a kind of religious modernism or liberalism.
Liberalism in religion and in politics is historically and theoretically related
to one another. Liberalism as a political ideology that emerged in the same
period and locale alongside liberal Protestantism. Both took place in the
aftermath of the Reformation.
Among the political and religious liberals the attitudes toward moral, social,
and political issues are often the same. They emphasise the importance of
tolerance, individual rights and freedoms to safeguard a pluralism of life
At the foundation of political liberalism is tolerance of different opinions
about religion. Then came religious pluralism which seeks to provide a
theological basis for this tolerance.
Being an outgrowth of liberal Protestantism, religious pluralism rejects
orthodox interpretations of Christian scripture and dogma to make salvation
attainable via routes other than Christianity.
It is sceptical towards rational arguments in favour of the superiority of
Christian beliefs. It appeals to the modem moral principles of tolerance and
rejection of prejudice.
Because of its emphasis on the elements common to personal religious faith,
ritual and theological doctrine are considered to be of secondary importance or
a personal matter.
The liberal separation of religion from social order is founded on the
assumption that this separation is consistent with the tenets of all religions
and sects, whereas it is in direct conflict with the very nature of the
worldview of Islam.
In the first place, Islam has never been structured upon some kind of
church-state relation like that of medieval Christianity. Secondly, Islam is not
a culture that evolves and develops in the way Christianity does.
Multiculturalism, as understood and propagated by its proponents in this country
is not based on diversity, but rather it strives to debunk Islam as a
The ideological components of Malaysian multiculturalism can be summarised as a
cultural relativism which finds the prominence of Islam in this country
It rests on the attitude that religion should not be allowed to “interfere” in
our social and political life. Hence, it is important that every Malaysian,
especially the Muslims, be made to accept “the fact” that Malaysia is a “secular
The Malaysian multiculturalism’s hostility towards Islam and its repudiation of
an identifiable Malaysian culture based upon Islam is augmented by a radically
new definition of community, one that deviates from the traditional, religious
emphasis on family, neighbourhood, house of worship and school, towards an
emphasis on race, gender, occupation and sexual preference.
Can multiculturalism be a viable principle for our national unity?
Ideological multiculturalists are radical-left inhabitants of a political
dreamland. These ideological divisions within our society threaten to render the
nation into hostile factions.
The multiculturalists assert that Malaysia is an idea rather than a nation
possessing a distinctive but encompassing identity. Hence, after almost 50 years
of independence we still hear people talking about the search for a “Malaysian
It means Malaysia, as far as they are concerned, has no identity, and if we are
to have one, Islam should not be part of that identity.
Current manifestations of multiculturalism extend far beyond the kind of
pluralism that seeks a richer common culture to multicultural particularism
which denies that a common culture is possible or desirable.
In an attempt to validate the multiculturalists’ emphasis on particularism and
its concomitant subversion of cultural commonality, knowledge and facts in their
discourse are consistently subordinated to the so-called “critical thinking
The dismal truth is that critical thinking in practice means subjective
questioning and unsubstantiated, unreasoned, personal opinion.
Contrary to the assertions of proponents of multiculturalism that limitless
pluralism enriches our understanding, the de-emphasising of specific factual
knowledge in their discourse resulted in what it inevitably must have – a plague
Multiculturalism’s subordination of facts and knowledge to unguided “critical
thinking” demonstrates its intellectual bankruptcy, since any critical opinion
worthy of consideration must evolve out of knowledge and be grounded in
Malaysia is not a no man’s land, and everybody knows that, and the fact that
Islam is the religion of the Federation is also common knowledge.
Further contemplation would be enough for one to realise another fact: namely,
that Islamic ethical and socio-political order is ultimately the expression of
certain ideas about life and existence as a whole.
To Muslims, those ideas are the integrating principles that place all systems of
meaning and standards of life and values in coherent order.
To those who live on the assumption that Malaysia is a secular country, it is
the secular worldview that is supposed to be the prism through which we
understand who we are and how to go about living our lives.
Of course they can believe in whatever they want to believe. But we would like
to ask a very simple question: Who says the secular worldview is our common
That is surely not acceptable to Muslims, who are aware that secularism is
antithetical not only to Islam but to all religious worldviews.
Leaving the ignorant and confused Muslims aside, there is no way to make
conscious Muslims accept a secular interpretation of life and existence as
espoused by Western culture and civilisation.
The followers of other religions should recognise the fact that their religions
have many things in common with Islam, particularly when it comes to ethics and
It is through Malaysia, as an Islamic state, that other religions would thrive,
and that we have better chance of fostering national unity based on a common
A secular Malaysia would be an enemy not only to Islam but a common enemy to all
We must realise the fact that secularisation can be considered a natural
phenomenon only in the case of the West, considering what they have experienced
in their history.
To apply their solution to our problem is to admit that we are now experiencing
the same problem they used to have; which is historically baseless and logically
|posted 26 August 2006|