Archive for the ‘Multicultural Education’ Category

Sighting of Ramadan moon on May 26.

Monday, May 22nd, 2017
A file photo of an officer of the Federal Territories Mufti Office looking through a telescope as he performs "rukyah", the sighting of the new moon for Ramadan

A file photo of an officer of the Federal Territories Mufti Office looking through a telescope as he performs “rukyah”, the sighting of the new moon for Ramadan

KUALA LUMPUR: The sighting of the moon for the commencement of fasting for Muslims in Malaysia will take place next Friday.

The Office of the Keeper of the Rulers’ Seal said the Rulers’ Council had agreed that the date for the beginning of fasting will be based on sighting and calculation (rukyah and hisap).

“The Keeper of the Rulers’ Seal will declare on that night the date when fasting begins through radio and television,” the statement said Saturday.

The committees for the sighting of moon for Ramadan will be held on the evening of May 26 at 29 locations:

1. Pontian Kecil, Johor

2. Al-Khawarizmi Astronomy Complex, Kampung Balik Batu, Tanjung Bidara, Melaka

3. Telok Kemang, Port Dickson, Negri Sembilan

4. Bukit Melawati, Kuala Selangor, Selangor

5. Bukit Jugra, Banting, Kuala Langat, Selangor

6. Selangor Observatory, Sabak Bernam, Selangor

7. Pantai Pasir Panjang, Mukim Pengkalan Baru, Manjong, Perak

8. Sheikh Tahir Astronomy Centre, Pantai Aceh, Penang

9. Kampung Pulau Sayak, Kuala Muda, Kedah

10. Pemandangan Indah, Pulau Langkawi, Kedah

11. Menara Alor Setar, Kedah

12. Bukit Besar, Kuala Terengganu, Terengganu

13. Bukit Geliga, Kemaman, Terengganu

14. Pulau Perhentian, Besut, Terengganu

15. KUSZA Observatory, Mukim Merang, Setiu, Terengganu

16. Bukit Peraksi, Pasir Puteh, Kelantan

17. Bukit Kampung Tembeling, Mukim Manjur, Daerah Olak Jeram, Kuala Krai, Kelantan

18. Menara Bangunan SEDC, Jalan Tengku Putera Semerak, Kota Baru, Kelantan

19. Luak Esplanade, Miri, Sarawak

20. Teluk Bandung, Kuching, Sarawak

21. Tanjung Batu, Kuching, Sarawak

22. Al-Biruni Astronomy Centre, Tanjung Dumpil, Putatan, Sabah

23. Bukit Tanjong Batu, Nenasi, Pahang

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‘Religious leaders must lead the way’

Monday, May 8th, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR: Religious leaders should lead by example to promote a moderate way of life among the people, says Venerable Datuk K. Sri Dhammaratana Nayaka Maha Thero.

The chief monk of the 122-year-old Buddhist Maha Vihara temple in Brickfields here urged leaders of various faiths to meet more often in a show of solidarity, and to encourage their followers to work and live together.

“In those days, if we have extra papayas, bananas or chili, we will give it to our friends from other faiths. Likewise, if they have extra mangoes, they will bring it to our house.

“Unfortunately, such practices have slowly faded away. What we have to do as religious leaders is to gather more regularly,” he said, adding that leaders should set an example for others to follow.

This year’s theme for Wesak Day is Religious Moderation Towards Social Harmony.

Dhammaratana said Malaysians of different faiths should practise understanding, tolerance and patience with each other.

“Every year, 30,000 to 40,000 Buddhists participate in the Wesak Day procession in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.

“When the procession takes place, police will have to stop traffic, and many cars will have to wait.

“No matter how long it takes, they do not complain. They park and wait. This is the beauty of our country,” he said.

Dhammaratana urged Buddhists to observe Wesak Day by getting in touch with their spirituality, upholding the tenets of doing good, to avoid evil and to cultivate the mind.

“It is not about merry-making. That is what I always stress. We must try our best to spend our time improving ourselves and growing as Buddhists, especially during this auspicious day,” he said.

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On being and becoming Malaysian

Sunday, May 7th, 2017

Efforts must be made to find ways to bring Malaysians from different racial groups together to form meaningful and enduring ties.

MALAYSIANS often think of their country as a rojak of cultures – all distinct, yet combining beautifully to create a well-balanced and tasty dish. However, closer scrutiny reveals that all these elements do not gel as well as they once might have; certainly, older Malaysians lament that the country is not what it used to be. While “harmony” and “unity” are common buzzwords, how do we actually achieve these idealised states?

It is simple, we are told: look past our differences and just be Malaysian; there is, after all, more that unites than divides us, and we are likely to be kinder to one another if we focus on our shared Malaysian-ness.

Nonetheless, simplistic solutions rarely address complex problems, and integration efforts that emphasise Malaysian-ness can, under certain circumstances, hinder rather than promote unity. In order to be Malaysian, we may first have to become Malaysian, and this may require a conscious, combined national effort. In other words, the Malaysian identity is not a pre-made garment that we can slip on, but rather something that we must jointly tailor in order to simultaneously fit a nation of Malaysians.

A first step in this process is to understand what people mean when they talk about being Malaysian.

When we surveyed respondents from the three main racial groups across Peninsular Malaysia, we found that, on average, the Malays felt most Malaysian, followed by the Indians and then the Chinese (the Chinese reported feeling Malaysian too, just not as strongly as the other two groups).

Most Malays felt identified about equally strongly as both Malaysian and Malay, whereas the non-Malays tended to feel significantly more Chinese or Indian than they did Malaysian.

If we believe that feeling Malaysian is a proxy for harmony, these findings may reveal a country in which the majority Malays are more invested in the Malaysian identity, and by extension, in national unity, than the non-Malays.

However, in order to investigate whether this is really the case, we need to assess whether the respondents who felt more Malaysian were also more integrated with their fellow Malaysians.

We measured this sentiment by assessing how favourably respondents felt towards people from the other two main racial groups.

We found that the Malays who felt more Malaysian did not in fact feel more favourably towards non-Malays, while the non-Malays who felt more Malaysian did feel more favourably towards Malays.

The Malays did not feel negatively towards non-Malays; the extent of their feeling Malaysian was just not associated with their feelings about non-Malays. Thus, feeling Malaysian is clearly not a universal panacea for racial prejudice; in fact, it seems that being Malaysian may mean different things to different people.

We found evidence for this asymmetry in our data: non-Malays who felt more Malaysian had a greater proportion of Malay friends which was also related to feeling more favourably towards Malays. But Malays who felt more Malaysian had more Malay (rather than non-Malay) friends. Thus, for the non-Malays, being Malaysian appears to be an inclusive identity that explicitly incorporates Malays, while for the Malays, Malaysian-ness appears to connote being Malay and being amongst Malays (see graphic).

This important asymmetry could stem from how racial identity has evolved in Malaysia post-independence. Some political commentators argue that we have seen a sharpening of racial and religious identities over the years. For the Malay community in particular, racial and religious identities have become inextricably woven.

In some other research that we recently conducted, we found that the Malay identity, which once described a diverse group of people, has become increasingly prescriptive in terms of how people should talk, dress, associate with others and think about themselves. Such a demanding identity can make it difficult to mix with people from other racial and religious groups.

This is very unfortunate because it stands in stark contrast to our finding that both Malays and non-Malays who have friends from other racial groups feel more favourably towards people from the other racial groups, independent of how Malaysian they feel. Thus, we must be wary of identities which accentuate our differences and make it harder for us to engage with one another.

Our findings raise the important question of what it really means to be Malaysian. Since different racial groups wear this identity in different ways, this presents a problem for one-size-fits-all integration slogans such as 1Malaysia, which has been promoted by national leaders with little discussion of what Malaysian-ness entails.

Ours is not an assimilationist model as practised in Thailand and, to a lesser degree, Indonesia, where majority ethnic or religious groups project their own language and culture onto the common national identity. Rather, our model seeks integration between people from different backgrounds.

But successful and sustained multicultural integration requires careful thought and dialogue, as is being undertaken in several countries, including the United Kingdom. It is important to recognise that identities are not set in stone; they should evolve to reflect our common history and values. Thus, instead of simply being Malaysian, we need to think in terms of jointly becoming Malaysian. Otherwise, we can end up perpetuating a kind of multiculturalism in which our differences define us.

by  ananthi al ramiahmiles hewstone, andibrahim suffian
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Promoting religious interaction

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

For two-and-a-half decades, Ikim has focused on creating inter-religious understanding and good relations among Malaysia’s multi-cultural society.

TODAY, we live in a world where plurality shapes the very essence of societies. Cultural, religious and also ethnic diversities call for us to learn more about each other and understand the sensitivities that exist within these various social groups.

In dealing with diversities, differences in views and practices are also considered a normalcy but must be managed carefully. The element of respect must be the leading principle in engaging with these differen­ces of opinion that exist in a multi-racial and multi-religious society. Islam stresses sincere and whole­hearted submission to God and not one which is a result of compulsion.

Therefore, we must accept the principles of diversity as acknow­ledged by Islam. The State of Medina during the time of the Prophet Muhammad is an excellent example of how Islam promotes peace, accepts diversity among mankind and upholds the importance of humanity.

Under the leadership of the Prophet in Medina, Islam grew as a respected religion because of its moderate and balanced approach towards all communities living in a society which included all faiths and cultures, living together in a single nation.

The rule of law was intact and duly observed. Local customary laws of all tribes and religions living in the society were also respected. Islam also guarantees protection of human rights, women’s rights, socio-cultural rights, religious freedom and rights of minorities living in the state.

Taking heed from the historical evidences of the Prophet’s leadership in Medina, it is therefore important to realise that Islam upholds values of mutual respect, sincerity and ‘Adl (justice) as the guiding principles practised by the Prophet to unify the various tribes and communities in Medina. Therefore, these qualities should be emulated especially by Muslim leaders in finding solutions to the problems that the world is currently facing today.

Thus, in the context of creating inter-religious understanding and good relations among the multi-cultural society in Malaysia, Ikim, together with its research partners from other agencies and academic institutions, has taken the initiative to carry out research on the approach called fiqh al-ta’amul which focuses on the manners of interaction among people of different religions and cultures. The aim of this research is to produce relevant guidelines that can help to enhance and empower relations among religious adherents in Malaysia.

Al-Ta’amul literally refers to interactions promoting the principles of compassion, peace, justice and the belief in God Almighty as the foundation for dealing with differences and diversities among mankind.

These principles reject injustices, inhumane treatments of others and conflicts which occur as a result of the inability to accept differences in opinions and also the failure to establish peaceful co-existence within society. The concept of al-ta’amul is also able to eradicate and curb elements of extremism and fundamentalism among religious followers who often use religion as an excuse for their violence and actions of terror against others.

As an institution of thought based on research, Ikim continuously strives to provide the right understanding of Islam to the masses. This includes organising national and international programmes on topics and issues relating to Islam that are pertinent and relevant to all segments of society. Ikim employs this as an avenue to educate and inform the general public on the Islamic approach and understanding with regard to issues that are of grave concern to humanity and world civi­lisations.

In this context, Ikim carries out numerous research activities and publications on Islam that can serve as a source of information and knowledge for the public which are the result of input from the religious and professional spheres. The researchers in Ikim are engaged in numerous research projects and writings which highlight the universal values and principles of Islam, including principles regarding engagements with people of different faiths that are all-encompassing and relevant to mankind.

As Ikim celebrates its silver jubilee this year, Ikim is still committed to do what it does best – that is, to disseminate true knowledge and understanding of Islam by engaging directly with the relevant stakeholders in areas that include the socio-cultural, economic, political, legal, the environment, science and technology as well as harmonious relations between people of different religious groups.

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Fostering a society focused on sustainability

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

Islam supports the preservation and conservation of the environment for the benefit of creation as a whole.

OUR environment continues to deteriorate at an alarming rate. In Malaysia, frequent episodes of landslides, flash floods, water shortages and haze are indications of the failing interaction between humans and their environment.

It also indicates our present society’s unsustainable lifestyle.

Stephen Viederman, in his article entitled A Sustainable Society: What is it? How do we get there? offers a simple definition of a sustainable society, which is “a society that ensures the health and vitality of human life and culture, and of nature’s capital, for present and future generation.”

A sustainable society consists of individuals who are willing to put an end to activities that destroy not only the natural world but also human communities.

In other words, they are willing to make appropriate changes in their lifestyles in the support of conservation and restoration, as well as the prevention of any harmful behaviour in the environment.

In order to restructure a society to live sustainably, we must begin by changing the minds within it.

We must educate society to seriously consider its role in this world and how it is related to other creatures on earth.

Efforts in fostering a sustainability-minded society must be shared by everyone including the Govern­ment, educators, business communities, religious scholars, scientists and researchers.

Each one of them will utilise different tools in order to transform society. In this regard, the cooperation of all parties is critical to ensure success.

There are also two important elements which must be understood in order to develop a sustainability-minded society. The two elements are “urgency and action.”

“Urgency” refers to the urgent need of society to acknowledge that the world or the environment we live in today is under intense pressure, mainly from various human activities.

There is also an urgency to implement appropriate efforts to reduce human impact on the natural world.

Understanding this “urgency” will lead to a commitment to take the right action in creating healthy and sustainable lifestyles.

These actions do not necessarily mean an extravagant or gigantic project, but also refer to consistent small-scale measures that eventually have huge social consequences.

Even small religious communities have a role in promoting sustainable living.

Religious communities in Malaysia should consider appropriate sustainability-based programmes in their houses of worship.

For Muslims, the idea of sustainability is in fact parallel to the teachings of Islamic doctrine.

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Malaysians in Sabah must strive to remain united – FCAS president

Sunday, January 29th, 2017

KOTA KINABALU: The people of Sabah, the Chinese community included, must strive to remain united and muster enough confidence, in order to overcome whatever difficulties and challenges there are, in the Year of the Golden Rooster.

Expressing this was Datuk Seri Panglima TC Goh, president of the Sabah Federation of Chinese Associations (FCAS), in his message issued in conjunction with the Lunar New Year.

“Although with the rebound of crude oil and palm oil prices last year, there was a slight relief for us amidst the tough economic situation, we must nonetheless be wary of the potential challenges ahead that are being presented by various complex issues around the world at the moment, which could be interrelated. For instance, even such a strong-and-powerful nation like the United States of America is now facing uncertainties brought upon by its people’s strong desire for change.

“Hence, we Malaysians in Sabah must strive to remain united and muster enough confidence to overcome the imminent challenges ahead of us, in the Year of the Golden Rooster,” he stressed.

While noting that the State’s economy for last year has been sluggish, he nonetheless acknowledged that undeniably there had been remarkable improvement to the State’s infrastructure development such as the visible progress in the Pan Borneo Highways project, construction of flyovers in Kota Kinabalu City, and infrastructure developments in various suburban towns in the State.

“Frankly speaking, Sabah is still booming with plenty of business opportunities. It is hoped that the people of Sabah could continue to be on mettle and be proactive in exploring the many untapped potential and opportunities that the State has to offer,” said Goh.

The vice president of the Federation of Chinese Associations Malaysia (Hua Zong) went on to note that the government is currently closely monitoring the global economic situation, especially amidst speculation of looming global financial crisis and a sluggish global economy.

“However, we must strive to remain calm in facing the ebb and flow of global economy; we must continue to move in the right direction towards a better and a more prosperous future,” he stressed.

Goh also hoped that while ushering in the Lunar New Year, the Chinese community could take time out to reevaluate their position and their focus in accordance with the current situation.

He stressed that this was necessary, so that they could make full use of the available resources to improve their standard of living, besides continuing to safeguard and promote the 5,000-year-old Chinese culture and traditions in Malaysia, Sabah in particular.

He cited that FCAS’ continuous organising of the annual Chinese New Year Carnival and the successful lobbying for the use of Chinese language road signs in the city, recently, was a good example of the noble act of safeguarding and promoting the Chinese culture.

“That was not just a historical moment for the Chinese community of Sabah, but also a warm gesture in welcoming the tourists from China to visit Sabah,” proclaimed Goh.

Meanwhile, on behalf of the Chinese community of Sabah, Goh thanked the Chinese Consul General in Sabah, Chen Peijie, for the allocation of RMB50,000 to FCAS, in support of the 2017 Chinese New Year Carnival.

“We in FCAS, and the Chinese community of Sabah as a whole, are indeed very grateful to the Government of the Republic of China for such a kind and generous gesture, especially in time of need. We shall always cherish our close ties with the government and the people of China,” he pledged.

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Call for mutual respect and tolerance

Saturday, January 21st, 2017

SEREMBAN: The people should always uphold mutual respect and tolerance and should never let religion and “skin colour” dictate how they interacted, says the Yang Dipertuan Besar of Negri Sembilan. Tuanku Muhriz Tuanku Munawir also called for the values of living in a multi-cultural society to be nurtured at all times.

“Maintaining cordial relations and having mutual respect for each other, and cultivating a noble culture are very important elements in a society of different races and religions.

“All citizens should embody the concept of unity which isn’t confined by religion and skin colour but through good relations, sincerity and tolerance,” he decreed on the occasion of his 69th birthday celebrations at Istana Besar Seri Menanti in Kuala Pilah on Thursday,

He said it was the people’s responsibility to nurture a caring and respectful living environment in the country.

Tuanku Muhriz said differences of opinion on certain issues were normal, but said healthy discourse was the way forward.

“Certainly beyond our differences, there is room for discussion that will lead to tolerance in resolving issues rationally and wisely,” he said.

Tuanku Muhriz also reminded the people to be “smart” when weighing the integrity of information that could spread very quickly and easily on print and electronic mediums in this day and age.

Access to news and information had become so widespread that it was crucial for the people to be able to judge between truth and falsehood, and between fact and opinion, he said.

“Society should rightly censor, study and deepen their knowledge to ensure the validity of information, as the English saying goes, ‘to separate the wheat from the chaff’.

“The integrity of information should also be evaluated in depth so that an intelligent society can spot the motives of certain news which may lean towards fulfilling the interests of certain parties.”

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Multiracial community brightens up Christmas open house

Friday, January 6th, 2017

BELURAN: The Beluran district level Christmas open house held Tuesday clearly reflected a harmonious multiracial community living in the area as people from different religious and racial backgrounds attended the event held at the Beluran Multipurpose Hall.

Beluran MP Datuk Seri Dr Ronald Kiandee was on hand to welcome the people including community leaders. Among those present were Beluran District Officer Suhaili Riman, Wanita UMNO chief Endang Datu Asibi and UMNO Youth chief Samad Jambri.

This was the second Christmas open house hosted by the Beluran parliament office. The first one was held in the Telupid district.

Choirs from the Anglican, Catholic, SIB, SDA and the Christian Fellowship Churches performed at the function. There were also two solo performances by Gretchene Salipa Siringan and Felicia Florence Jame.

In his speech, Ronald said it was important to strengthen unity among the multiracial community in the district. He said that unity and solidarity were the main contributing factors to political stability and socio-economic development of a country.


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Over 90 Per Cent Of Respondents Have Positive Perception Of Other Religions – Study

Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

SERDANG, Aug 10 (Bernama) – Over 90 percent of respondents in a study on Issues and Challenges of Ties Between Religious Adherents in 2013-2014 have positive perception of other religions.

Dean of Faculty of Human Ecology, Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), Prof Dr Zaid Ibrahim said the study of 1,500 respondents nationwide proved they had knowledge of other religions.

However, he said good knowledge and positive perception of other religions do not necessarily guarantee a strong and lasting ties between religions as long as they continue to be manipulated by certain parties.

“Those involved in raising the temperature include interested groups such as political leaders who will champion issues such as the custody of children,” he told Bernama after presenting the study results at UPM, here, today.

The study, a collaboration between the Institute of Islamic Understanding, UPM and the National Unity and Integration Department (JPNIN) was tabled at a seminar titled “Government and Civilisation : Managing Political and Religious Differences”, at UPM, starting today.

Among the issues to be addressed are Malaysia as an Islamic state, hudud law, use of the word ‘Allah’, the spread of other religions, conversions, child custody, claims of remains, religious insults and worship places.

Prof Zaid said the study also found that the level of prejudice which can affect ties between adherents of different religions was relatively low.

Meanwhile, JPNIN director-general L. Gandesan hopes that all parties can understand and tolerate other races and religions to maintain the racial and religious harmony.


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Diversity begins at school

Friday, April 10th, 2015

When children spend most of their waking hours only around those who are similar to them, they tend to believe that this environment represents the world.

OCCASIONALLY I get nostalgic about my school days and how different things were then. When I was growing up in a small town, my parents sent me to the local mission school because it was known for its high academic standards. The school was run by Catholic nuns and not many Muslim girls went there because some parents were concerned that their daughters might be “influenced”.

They were partially right, though not in the way they expected. As far as I know, all the Malay girls who went to the convent school remained devout Muslims. But we did absorb enough of Christianity to not fear it.

To this day I know the Lord’s Prayer but I don’t find it superior to the Alfatihah, just different. When I did my A-levels in History and studied the Reformation, I already knew enough about Christian history to know what they were reforming from. Most of all, the nuns drilled in us a strict discipline in behaviour, according to our motto, “Simple in virtue, steadfast in duty.”

I then continued my secondary education in an all-girls boarding school. The school was an elite one, all of its students creamed off from various schools around the country through an entrance exam.

Superficially all the students were racially homogenous. In reality, I had never come across so much diversity despite having come from a more heterogenous school in my hometown.

In my old school, everyone spoke the same way and knew the same things in our limited small-town experience. But at boarding school I came across girls who not only came from very different circumstances than I but also spoke with accents so different that sometimes I could not understand them.

There were all sorts of characters, from the natural leaders to the shy ones to the sporty and the musically talented. They were all academically smart or they would not have been there.

But what was new to me was to meet girls who were super-smart, with multiple distinctions in a time when 7As really meant something. I was also used to a certain sort of face, darker perhaps with traces of the subcontinent. But at boarding school I met some real beauties and a vast array of faces denoting ancestral origins from continents far different from mine.

It was there that I learnt that while we may be outwardly the same because of race and religion, in fact each individual had a different story to tell. My history was similar but also dissimilar from all the other girls’.

The school gave us many opportunities to bond with one another despite our different stories, through healthy competition in academics, sports, music and theatre and many of us stayed connected over the years through alumni get-togethers. Whatever our origins became immaterial.

One thing I recall, that is worth remarking on because it is rare these days, is how mixed our teachers were. The whole spectrum of peninsular Malaysia was represented in our teachers.

There was a Mr Tan who taught us Physics, Miss Aru who taught us English, Cik Khairiah who taught us Bahasa Malaysia and Mr Yan for Mathematics. What was more, there were also foreign teachers who were placed in the school.


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