Malaysia looks to integration in its 49th year

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Malaysia looks to integration in its 49th year


Last Thursday was the 49th anniversary of Malaysia’s Independence Day. Malaysian ambassador to Korea, Dato’ M. Santhananaban, said the day, also known as Hari Merdeka in Malay, is a key part in the integration of Malaysian society.
“There are religious and racial conflicts and confrontations all around the world, but the culture that respects individuality and diversity took roots in Malaysia,” said Mr. Santhananaban, in an interview at the embassy in Hannam district, Seoul, on Aug. 25. Mr. Santhananaban was assigned to Korea three years ago.
Malaysia is a multiracial country. Malays account for 62 percent of a total of 25 million people in the country, ethnic Chinese make up 27 percent and ethnic Indians comprise 8 percent. Islam is the national religion of Malaysia, but there is freedom of religion in the country. Thus, religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism are also practiced.
“During ethnic and religious festivals such as Muslim’s Ramadan, the Chinese New Year and Hindus’ Deepavali, there is a custom called ‘Open House,’ which is inviting friends of different religions,” Mr. Santhananaban said. He added that the secret of harmony is to mingle with others and not keep one’s distance.
Besides festivities, there are quotas for high positions in the government and in universities for different ethnic groups.
“Unlike Korea’s Independence Day, which is rather solemn, Malaysia’s Merdeka is celebrated,” Mr. Santhananaban said. “There is little anti-British sentiment while there is deep anti-Japanese sentiment. Maybe it is because of Britain’s ‘clever’ colonial policies.”
Malaysia was colonized for hundreds of years by European countries. Portugal ruled from the 16th century, followed by the Netherlands and Britain. Malaysia achieved independence from Britain in 1957.
Malaysia plans major festivities to commemorate the 50th anniversary of its independence next year. The country has designated the year as “Visit Malaysia Year 2007.” Last year, Malaysia had 16 million visitors, and it hopes to attract 21 million next year.
Mr. Santhananaban said that Malaysia’s tourism industry is strong thanks to its multiethnic culture. “Malaysia is like a melting pot of different ethnic groups and cultures. There may be no other country in which people can experience Islam, Chinese and Hindu cultures. Coming to Malaysia is like going to many different countries,” Mr. Santhananaban said.

by Park Hyun-young
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