Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Discrimination, Intolerance & Hope - USA vs. Malaysia

I came across an interesting article by Ziad Haider, a Muslim American, in a Malaysian newspaper recently. He wrote in response to the controversy surrounding the construction of an Islamic cultural center in New York City.


Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, a Muslim clergy who lived in America, wanted to build an Islamic cultural center in New York City. The proposed site was two blocks away from the former World Trade Center. His plan was met with strong objection among Americans, who mistook, or misrepresented, the cultural center as a mosque. They argued that the construction of a mosque so near to the ‘Ground Zero’ would hurt the feeling of the people whose relatives were killed in September 11 terrorist attacks, or that it would mark the victory of extremism.

Here is an excerpt from Ziad Haider’s article:

Catholics were thought to bear ultimate allegiance to the pope – not to America. The election of the first Catholic President John F. Kennedy ended that. During World War II while the US was at war with Japan, Japanese Americans were placed in internment camps – a wrong that has been publicly acknowledged. Now it seems is the turn of Muslim Americans whose allegedly exclusive allegiance to syariah over the constitution is in question at a time when Islamic extremism is the threat.

History seems to show that this too shall pass. Despite a host of hate crimes that have occurred ranging from the recent stabbing of a Bangladeshi taxi driver because he was a Muslim to the desecration of several mosques in the US, the voices of Muslims and non-Muslims supporting the center and condemning such heinous attacks are spilling over across the airwaves, online, and in the streets of New York. The maelstrom will exact a toll in the days ahead but America will, I believe, ultimately self-correct…

(Ziad Haider, America’s Islamic center, The Sun, September 2, 2010)

As a Muslim American, one would expect Haider to be upset over the controversy. Yet, rather than lamenting intolerance in his country, he expressed hope. He believe America would self-correct. He believed in a better future.

Malaysia, like the US, is no stranger to racial and religious conflicts. Our history isn’t as bad as America’s. Unfortunately, we are also more pessimistic. In fact, it is arguable that racial relations have gone downhill since the day Union Jack was lowered some 53 years ago. How could that happen?

In his article, Ziad went on to write:

…For better or worse America is engaged in a debate; it is long overdue elsewhere as well.

I believe debate, or lack of it, is exactly what has held us back…


  1. It's the same in France, there is an ongoing "conflict" between the big religions. It's not as bad though because France is a secular state and media grossly exaggerate the "conflict".

  2. I am not sure if all the debating will solve problems relating to race and religion.

  3. MALAYSIA is malaysia...rules n regulation cant change it...but at oversea can change anytime....

  4. Malaysia's problems stem from the constitution that binds all of us to the social contracts. So our problems will never be solved until this is removed! Until everyone is treated equally..

  5. The only way to eliminate the racial conflict is through sports and non-political related activities, the issue is normally played out of proportion for political reason...

  6. Mei Teng
    With debate, there is hope. Without debate, we just sweep the problem under the carpet.

  7. in Malaysia there is the ketuanan n everybody else doesnt matter

  8. Racial harmony is what we need.

  9. We just need a govt to interpret the Constitution correctly. Malaysia is a secular society but now is sort of off-track. If it's allowed to continue, another 53 years will see the country in the same state or worse. It's a worrisome thought. Oh well..