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Discrimination Against Chinese and Indians in Malaysia

Written by Shaira Tasnia

Racism and discrimination take on many forms, depending on the place you are visiting and its rich, complex history. In Malaysia, a particular case study can be made, as discrimination is rife against its Chinese and Indian population specifically. Let us take a surface-level dive into why this is, and how it manifests itself.


In Malaysia, there are three major groups: 50% of the population is Malay, 23% is Chinese, and 7% is Indian. Although the Chinese and Indian populations are significant in Malaysia, they suffer a lot of discrimination: in 2021, almost 90% of Indians in Malaysia reported experiencing discrimination.


First, the history. It all started with British colonisation in 1824. The British sent thousands of Chinese and Indian workers to Malaysia to exploit resources, with little concern for how they would live and acclimate to this new country. This created a multicultural society but also ethnic tensions, particularly between Malays and Chinese. Historically, the Chinese in Malaysia made a lot of money and thus gained a lot of power. The Malay community represented a little over 50% of the population but owned only 2.4% of the wealth; most of it was held by the Chinese. This increased the fears of the Malay community, which felt overwhelmed by the Chinese economic power. With rumours of fraud, a complicated election, and a major riot (May 13, 1969) where 800 people were killed and thousands were injured, mostly Chinese, official discrimination against the Chinese and Indians, favouring the Malays, began.


Today, the most significant form of racism against them is in the country's laws. There are legal restrictions for non-Malays to address the historical fears of Malays, established by the New Economic Policy (NEP) in 1971. For example, Malays are favoured in university admissions and are given priority for public jobs, housing, and business licences. These laws need to be re-evaluated to become more just.


Despite these laws, there are prominent Malaysian politicians who disagree with the way Chinese and Indians are treated. They call for a revision of the policies to promote equality among all Malaysian citizens, regardless of their ethnic background. Unfortunately, their efforts are rejected. They must keep fighting for change.


If I had $5000 to combat this, I would fund beautiful, fun, and engaging initiatives to promote social interaction between the groups. For example, an educational event with games, free food, or another incentive. If people learn and make friends with Chinese or Indian people this way, it becomes hard to be racist against them.

In conclusion, although Malaysia is a country rich in cultural diversity, ethnic discrimination remains a big problem. By funding initiatives that promote friendship, equality, and justice, progress can be made towards a more equitable and comfortable society for all its citizens.



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