Friday, September 9, 2011

Multiculturalism or social disharmony

The Victorian government is proposing a new slogan to be put on car number plates. It is to be called "Victoria, the Multicultural Capital", replacing the old slogan "Victoria, the place to be".

I grew up in a truly multicultural Malaysia at a time when social harmony was a given. In my younger days, Malays, Chinese, and Indians inter-mingle without any thoughts or talks about racism. There were few inter-racial marriages and yet nobody saw that as a necessity for multiculturalism to work. What was important was that people of different races were blissfully colour blind when it came to friendship and camaraderie. We joined in the fun of celebrating each other's festivals. Nobody made any demands to be treated specially for their cultural differences, and nobody asked for laws to be implemented to protect their perceived rights. (Of course, that is not the Malaysia you see today, but that is not what I want to write about.)

In Australia, I find that the local Aussies are very accommodating but naive. While they themselves were once migrants, they allow new migrants to dictate terms to them on multiculturalism. Some newcomers are not willing to assimilate. They demand special treatment for their cultural differences.  Instead of trying to integrate and harmonize with the existing culture, they ask for their own laws to be instituted. They ask for special prayer rooms. They ask for special partitions in public swimming places. The list of demands can go on and on. What kind of multiculturalism is practised here? Certainly not the kind that I grew up with. The kind that is practised here can lead to social disharmony as what is happening in Europe. The issues need to be addressed, not celebrated in blissful ignorance and misguided naivete.

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