The Allah Controversy: An Interview 

The dilemma of thinking, meaning that they have to expand themselves out of the Malay -ness. We should look at the Malays as being able to understand other races rather than being about having to fight other races and exert their Malay-ness to the point of enhancing racism, and producing groups that are ultra-Malays at the same time. These groups do not project the true Malay identity. The peaceful Malay ethos is very different from what we see on the media. 

The writer, academician and columnist for Malaysiakini and Malaysia Today chats with us about the race issue in Malaysia. By Surekha Ragavan
Is there such a thing as an ideal state of unity in Malaysia? 
There is no such thing as an ideal state of unity, it’s constantly evolving. Society evolves to the state of ideal when they give and take differences, or when they draw the strength of these differences to bring them together in an evolving and continuous forum of multiculturalism. This must be done through peaceful dialogue and education. The only powerful means to personal and social progress is education.

So education is the answer?
It is vital. We must implement education based on ethics, creativity and a vision that can see the good in human beings no matter who they are. Race is merely a construct; to imagine someone as this race and that race has limitations and dangers.

Are there connections between racism and conservatism? 
These are two very different, difficult concepts to define. Racism is an excess of self-identity, you become ethnocentric and, in the extreme, you go to the point of ethnic cleansing. Conservatism can mean that you conserve your cultural identity and you take pride in the ethics of conserving it.

How much does class have to do with the separation of races in Malaysia?
It has always been about class. The artificial divisions of race are used as a political tool to divide and conquer – it was a British colonial strategy. I think Malaysians are beginning to see that it’s not about racial differences but about class. If you look at the protests around the world from Wall Street to the Turkish protest against neo-liberalism, they’re always about class.

Is this realisation about class especially prominent post-GE13?
GE13 was the beginning of the coming together of people who do not wish to look at politics based on race. It’s about transitioning from the old order to a new one. The old regime is now trying to use their ideas to build a new perspective of their own governance, because after 50 years, you have to move on and look at the reality of what it is. And the reality is that it’s a problem of social class.