Archive for the ‘Celebrating Diversity’ Category

Work, Matters! : Unity in Diversity

Saturday, July 1st, 2017
‘Many Malaysians can connect with the real spirit of togetherness, and celebrate our unity, in spite of our diversity. While we may subscribe to different faiths, we have been schooled to accept the beliefs of other people.’ – Shankar R. Santhiram (File pix)

This week, I write my column from my wife’s “kampung”, Lermoos in the Austrian Alps. We are here for our bi-annual home visit.

It has been a busy week as we completed an event that we both consult for, the World Branding Awards – Animalis Edition, which was held in Vienna. After that dignified, and distinguished event at the Hofburg Palace in the capital of Austria, we took a leisurely drive to our home up in the mountains.

This past week has also been very significant in that approximately 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide, celebrated Eid al-Fitr or Hari Raya Aidil Fitri, as we refer to it in Malaysia. It marks the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting, cleansing and soul-searching for Muslims.

While my wife and I are away from Malaysia, we did not forget to celebrate Hari Raya. Up in the Austrian Alps, I busied myself making a proper rendang, and we had our Austrian family and friends join us for Raya dinner.

Neither of us are of the faith nor did we fast during Ramadan. However, we were moved to celebrate it, just as we do Chinese New Year, Christmas, and Deepavali. So, armed with rendang and “nasi minyak”, we ushered in the month of Shawwal in Europe, with friends and family.

This is the thing that makes Malaysia so unique. Those Malaysians who have no deep seated fundamentalist leanings, have a tremendous sense of camaraderie with others of different faiths.

Many Malaysians can connect with the real spirit of togetherness, and celebrate our unity, in spite of our diversity. While we may subscribe to different faiths, we have been schooled to accept the beliefs of other people.

Celebrating Hari Raya in Austria made me think of how this attitude of unity in diversity is an important hallmark of an excellent workplace.

The people who work with me come from different faiths. I have Muslim, Christian, and Hindu co-workers. This is the current representation of faiths in my office.

Similarly, right now if you look around your office, you will find people of different religious beliefs co-existing with you. There are people with headscarves or turbans that you are co-mingling with. There are people who eat, or pray differently from you, who you work with.

While your belief systems differ, you surely understand that to produce results, you have to depend on them even if you do not share their beliefs.

In my experience as a management consultant, corporate trainer, and executive leadership coach, there are ways that you can ensure your workplace promotes, and celebrates diversity. And, I refer to both religious as well as cultural diversity.

First, make sure that the company you lead or work for, has a corporate diversity plan that places emphasis on cultivating and supporting a diverse workforce.

If your organisation does not have one, offer to create it – this adds huge value to you, personally. Alternatively, help initiate the discussion on why your company needs it.

This diversity plan should be used to encourage an acceptance of all employees, regardless of their background, faith or cultural inclinations. Drive the plan, or the discussion, towards aligning your company’s mission and vision to the varied composition of your team.

All companies need the buy-in of its staff to achieve any greatness. And, creating an environment that celebrates cultural diversity, will kick-start this process of coming together for a common goal, and a shared vision.


Read more @

Opening our hearts, minds

Monday, June 26th, 2017
Hari Raya open house celebrations represent the epitome of good resolutions for a new beginning, for a better year ahead. File pic

TIS the season. One of Malaysia’s best liked and most embraced traditions — by locals and foreigners alike — is upon us: the Hari Raya open house season is here.

We open our houses and gardens to friends, friends of friends, neighbours and even strangers. Nice!

But do we open our hearts, our minds to them also?

Madame Harum makes the best beef rendang ever, while the lemang at the Hassan open house is not to be missed. The ladies of the house smile in humble pride over these well-deserved compliments, yet coyly divert the conversation when asked about their secret recipes.

Like many traditions, this one is rooted in very old customs; customs that evolved out of necessities. Sharing food being the most basic human necessity, along with peaceful social interaction, Hari Raya open house celebrations represent the epitome of good resolutions for a new beginning, for a better year ahead.

As much as open houses are about celebrating food and friendship, their objective is equally about fostering harmony and better understanding among people. Sadly, as we prepare for these festivities of harmony and understanding, news of youth bullying and even killing their peers redouble in the daily headlines. How can these two extremes co-exist? Where do these feelings of rage and this utter lack of empathy towards others’ life choices originate?

Bullying, intimidation and forcing one’s ideologies on others is not a new phenomenon. Countless articles, research papers and educational programmes have tried to get to the bottom of it.

Are some children born evil? Is an ever-strong sense of competition at school responsible? Can we blame poor role models in international politics? Do our young fail to develop social skills due to their interaction through electronic media instead of face-to-face communication?

Certainly, these factors play an important role in teens’ irrational behaviour, but new studies on the subject show what we have known all along. Children take their cues from one source more than any other: their parents. This is not to say that parents are solely and forever responsible for their offspring’s iniquities.

It does show, however, that parents need to stay emotionally connected, to keep the communication channels open with their teenage children. Spending quality time with one’s children during Hari Raya presents a unique opportunity to do just that.

Adolescence represents a highly volatile decade. Young minds are taken over by raging hormones; the gap between social interaction and social skills seems abysmal at times.

Sensitivity to peer opinion, social and scholastic stress, anxiety and a near-constant feeling of inadequacy are met with almost non-existent coping strategies. A parent’s seemingly trivial comment can easily lead to tears, door-slamming or the dreaded silent treatment by progenies.

As recent studies led by researchers at Leiden University of the Netherlands show, the second half of this challenging decade is frequently fuelled by unreasonable risk-taking behaviour. Teens typically feel invincible. Warnings, by peers and parents alike, are blown into the wind all too often. A surge of dopamine and its ensuing feelings of pleasure and satisfaction become almost irresistible.

This explosive mixture of social pressure, anxiety and a hormon-induced high, paired with poor coping mechanisms and a lack of strong role models can easily lead to devastatingly wrong choices.

Haywire hormones and unbalanced brain development rooted in evolutionary needs can’t be helped. A lack of sound parenting and strong role modelling, on the other hand, can be. And where better to remedy this than in a mixed crowd at an open house invitation?

Inadequacy is not a teenager’s prerogative, however. Just when parents hope to be able to take a step back, to give their teens some space to find their own place in society, their guidance is, in fact, required more than ever.

Typically, parents of teenagers feel that they are preaching into empty space, that their children’s blank stare means that their efforts go unheard. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Just like toddlers imitate their elders’ speech patterns and demeanour, teenagers’ concepts of tolerance and empathy towards others, or their lack thereof, are also borrowed from their predominant role models.

While celebrities in show business, politics and sports captivate young minds and seem worthy of adoration and emulation, parents and teachers remain an adolescent’s first and foremost source of guidance.


Read more @

Thousands cheer Johor Ruler and Crown Prince at procession.

Sunday, February 19th, 2017

, Sultan Ibrahim striking the drum to launch the procession as Crown Prince Tunku Ismail looks on.

Sultan Ibrahim striking the drum to launch the procession as Crown Prince Tunku Ismail looks on.

JOHOR BARU: Thousands of people lined the streets and cheered as Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar and the Crown Prince Tunku Ismail arrived to launch a Chingay procession here.

A sea of fluttering state flags and energetic chants of Daulat Tuanku echoed along Jalan Wong Ah Fook when Sultan Ibrahim and Tunku Ismail arrived to join in the celebration at about 9pm here on Friday.

Sultan Ibrahim, who made history as the first Johor Ruler to attend the parade in the state last year, launched the event by sounding a Chinese drum several times.

It was Tunku Ismail’s first appearance at the Chingay festival this year, just a week after celebrating Thaipusam with the Indian community in Masai on Feb 9.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong, China’s ambassador to Malaysia Dr Huang Huikang, Singapore consul-general in Johor Baru Rajpal Singh and Johor Tourism Committee chairman Datuk Tee Siew Kiong also attended the event.

Sultan Ibrahim waved as the participants chanted heng ah! (prosperity) and huat ah! (good fortune) as well as Daulat Tuanku as they passed the main stage, which was set up at the Komtar JBCC’s entrance here.

“Deities” from the five main clans in Johor, namely Hakka, Teochew, Hokkien, Cantonese and Hainan, were taken on a 9km tour on foot to bless the city and its people.

The crowd was treated to elaborately decorated floats, big head dolls, bearers of huge flags from the five clans, lion and dragon dance performances as well as fireworks throughout the four-hour event., Malaysia’s latest subscription video-on-demand service, also made its debut at the event with a prosperity-themed float, in-line with the year of the rooster.

Based on the concept of a sailing boat, the float indicates a successful year ahead for, accompanied by five koi fish to represent “five concurrent users”, one of the key features of the service.

A red rooster sits up front, also in’s colour.

Organised annually by the Johor Ancient Temple, the procession, which takes pride in its 147-year old history, marked the end of the Chinese New Year celebrations.
Read more @

Trainee teachers forge spirit of unity with Tuaran villagers

Thursday, September 29th, 2016

TUARAN: It is important that there should be more interaction between the people of Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah and Sarawak to understand each other better which helps unity and national integration.

Quoting the Malay proverb “Tak Kenal Maka Tak Cinta” (Don’t know each other, therefore don’t fall in love), Local Government and Housing Minster Datuk Seri Hj Hajiji Hj Noor pointed out that very often misunderstanding arose out of miscommunication or no communication at all.

“In this context, I praise the initiative of the Kent Campus of the Malaysian Teachers Training Institute (IPGM) in organising a two-day Adoption Programme for its trainees at Kampung Lok Nunuk here recently.

Fifty-three IPG Kent trainees and 42 foster families were involved in the programme jointly-organised with the National Unity and Integration Department (JPNIN) as well as the Sulaman Assemblyman’s office.

Hajiji, who is Sulaman Assemblyman, said it was good that the trainees who came from all over the country had a chance to live their lives as villagers even though it was only for three days and two nights.

“In Sabah, we have more than 40 ethnic and 200 sub-ethnic communities. So it was very opportune that our Sarawakain and peninsula young people, for that matter Sabahans themselves from other districts, had a chance to be with the villagers even if it was for a short time,” he stressed.

Earlier in his speech, the trainees’ representative Valery Saing anak Edward, who is from Sarawak, said it was an experience that money could not buy.

“We could experience not only the way of life of the villagers, most of all are Bajau Sama fishermen, but also their food which is fresh seafood cooked the natives’ way,” he said, referring to the coastal fishing village of Lok Nunuk.

Village Development and Security Committee (JKKK) chairman Sitarin Hj Jaafar in his speech said humbly that there was not much the villagers could offer the trainee teachers as most of them are merely fishermen who live simply.

Read more @

Universities Should Implement Programmes That Foster Multiracial Unity – Tuanku Zara

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

News Pic

Tuanku Permaisuri Perak Tuanku Zara Salim.

TANJUNG MALIM, Sept 20 (Bernama) — Universities in the country have been urged to draw up approaches and implement programmes that could boost multiracial relations, understanding and unity.

Raja Permaisuri Perak, Tuanku Zara Salim said education and educational institutions played an important role as a medium and platform to build and foster unity among the people.

“Therefore, it is important that attention be given to factors such as openness, tolerance, mutual respect and understanding, and accepting differences especially on issues involving religion and culture,” she said.

Tuanku Zara was speaking at the 18th convocation ceremony of Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI) at Sultan Azlan Shah Campus, Proton City, here, today.

At the convocation this time, 9,304 graduands received their diplomas and degrees, while former Education director-general Tan Sri Alimuddin Mohd Dom was conferred an honorary doctorate in Education Management.

Tuanku Zara, who is also UPSI chancellor, expressed hope that the new graduates would assist in building Malaysia as a nation with a united populace that is loyal to King and country.

She said since the country’s independence 59 years ago, the spirit of one nation-one people had been instilled in members of society who were from different religious, ethnic, cultural and language backgrounds.

Tuanku Zara also reminded the graduands to value the services and sacrifices of various parties in directly and indirectly ensuring their success in realising their dreams.

“Appreciate the moral, material and spiritual support of your parents and family members, the earnestness of your lecturers in imparting knowledge, the commitment of the university’s management, and the university’s support by providing you with various facilities and comfort,” she said.


Read more @

Sabah, Japanese students share info and culture in integration programme

Thursday, September 15th, 2016
NAKAJIMA Junior High School (Japan) students representative, Kobari Ami (front left) presenting a souvenir to SMK Inanam Excellent Principal Mozidah Hamzah as Sabah Education Department Director Maimunah Suhaibul (centre) looks on during the program yesterday.

KOTA KINABALU: Schools in Sabah are encouraged to initiate and foster links with overseas schools for mutual sharing of information and culture.

Sabah Education Department director Maimunah Suhaibul told members of the media after officiating at the Student Integration Programme between SMK Inanam and Japan’s Nakajima Junior High School yesterday that such links and relationship can help to improve the ties between the countries invovled.

She urged the 92 students from SMK Inanam to ask their Japanese counterparts about their experience in handling natural calamities, such as earthquakes.

Citing the June 5 earthquake in Ranau last year as an example, Maimunah reckoned the students could learn from the Japanese students who have been trained well to handle such calamities at school.

“For Sabah, I think we can also learn from them and train our children to be prepared for any disaster,” she said.

At the same time, she said the students from SMK Inanam could also adopt the practice of the Japanese people on cleanliness and punctuality.

“What we can learn from the Japanese culture is their emphasis on cleanliness, timeliness and their ability to react when disaster strikes,” Maimunah said.

She also said that following the earthquake last year, the Education Ministry had begun distributing modules and guidelines on how to deal with natural calamities, adding that the modules had been prepared several years ago.

“But, we have begun redistributing them after last year’s incident,” she said.

Meanwhile, a total of 50 students from Japan and 92 students from SMK Inanam took part in the integration programme yesterday. The students took turns to showcase performances while the visiting students hosted an origami making demonstration.

Read more @

Malaysians Celebrate Aidiladha In Thanksgiving, Moderation

Monday, September 12th, 2016

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 12 (Bernama) — Muslims throughout the country today celebrated Aidiladha with gratitude, joy and spirit of sacrifice albeit in moderation.

Good weather in most places enabled the faithful to smoothly perform their prayers, followed by the obligatory ritual of sacrifice and ‘gotong-royong’ (community service) at mosques, surau, villages and housing areas.

Roads in the federal capital were uncongested unlike normal days, with city-dwellers having gone back to their villages to celebrate the occasion.

However, Masjid Negara was filled with about 13,000 Muslims including foreigners who came to perform Aidiladha prayers and hear the sermon by Imam Besar Masjid Negara Tan Sri Syaikh Ismail Muhammad.

Syaikh Ismail in his homily titled, ‘The meaning of sacrifice’, called on Muslims to constantly rise in piety to Allah and to stop committing actions forbidden by Him.

“I always remind myself to rise in piety to Allah and as Muslims, you should do the same in order to receive His mercy,” said the imam.

Syaikh Ismail also acclaimed the way in which Nabi Ibrahim (Prophet Abraham) affirmed the depth of his love for his Creator.

“Allah’s reward to Nabi Ibrahim for his sacrifice and faithfulness has no comparison.”

The imam then concluded his sermon by issuing a reminder to Muslims against any association with militant terrorists.

“The Daesh group is not a way to defend Islam because it is not based on the real teachings of Islam,” he said.

Meanwhile, In LANGKAWI, Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah and Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Hajah Haminah performed Aidiladha prayers at Masjid Aishah, Kampung Sungai Menghulu.

In ALOR SETAR, Tunku Temenggong Kedah Tan Sri Tunku Sallehuddin Almarhum Sultan Badlishah and his wife Toh Puan Temenggong Datuk Seri Tengku Maliha Tengku Ariff prayed with about 2,000 others at Masjid Zahir.

In PENANG, Yang Dipertua Negeri Tun Abdul Rahman Abbas and his wife Toh Puan Majimor Shariff prayed with about 3,000 others at Masjid Negeri in Jalan Air Itam.

Meanwhile, 11 cows and four goats contributed by the Penang Inland Revenue Board, and 1,000 cows in PERLIS, were slaughtered for sacrifice.

Raja of Perlis, Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Putra Jamalullail and Raja Muda Tuanku Syed Faizuddin Putra Jamalluil could not join the people in prayer as they are currently in Kuala Lumpur.


Read more @

Johor to have its own “Street of Harmony”

Saturday, July 9th, 2016

Tee lighting up an oil lamp at the Shirdi Sai Baba Society of Malaysia on Saturday.

Tee lighting up an oil lamp at the Shirdi Sai Baba Society of Malaysia on Saturday

JOHOR BARU: The state plans to create a “Street of Harmony” in the city centre in view of the close proximity of different religious sites as an effort to promote and strengthen unity in the state.

State Tourism, Domestic Trade and Consumerism Committee chairman Datuk Tee Siew Kiong said that the state government has identified Jalan Trus and its surrounding streets as a special area to represent the multi-cultural aspects of Johor.

Tee said that the location of six different houses of worship within a radius of 3km offered an insight as to how the various races and religions in the community can live in peace and harmony.

“We hope to highlight this unique identity of the state, not only to attract tourists to visit the area but also to promote unity and tolerance among the people,” he said.


Read more @

Uniting in celebration

Saturday, July 9th, 2016

MALACCA: An inaugural Hari Raya gathering for teaching staff from mission and vernacular schools here is a step towards creating a harmonious study environment in the state.

The July 15 gathering, organised by the Malacca Action Group for Parents in Education (Magpie) and Bayou Lagoon Park, is to foster mutual respect and understanding among Magpie committee members and teachers in the state.

Magpie chairman Mak Chee Kin said the gathering, the first of its kind, will support the 1Malaysia vision of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak by ensuring that teachers and students mingle with the various races.

“This is just a start.

“We plan to gather teachers from various schools in the future during festive seasons,” Mak said after Bayou Lagoon Park managing director Datuk Marco Seow volunteered as a corporate supporter yesterday.

“The Hari Raya gathering will bring a positive impact when Magpie campaigns for the inclusion of anti-racial and anti-discrimination policies in schools.

“We believe all students should be treated equally, regardless of their personalities or problems with their parents,” he said.

Seow said he was glad to support Magpie, adding that the resort will soon be handing over a cheque of RM3,000 to the parent-teacher association of a partially-aided school in the state.


Read more @

King and Queen join thousands for Aidilfitri prayers

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

KUALA LUMPUR: The Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah and Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Hajah Haminah joined thousands of worshippers for Aidilfitri prayers at the Federal Territory Mosque here.

Their majesties, who arrived at the mosque at about 8.30am, were accompanied by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and several Cabinet ministers.

Several dignitaries and members of the diplomat corps also attended the prayers.

The prayers were led by the Grand Imam of the National Mosque, Tan Sri Syaikh Ismail Muhammad, and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom delivered the sermon.

After the prayers and sermon, Tuanku Abdul Halim and Tuanku Hajah Haminah exchanged greetings with worshippers.

Earlier, at Istana Negara, their Majesties granted an audience to Najib, Ahmad Zahid and their wives as well as Cabinet ministers.

Jamil Khir, in his sermon at the Federal Territory Mosque, said Muslims were deeply hurt by the recent terror attacks in Turkey, Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia, especially in the holy city of Medina.

He said the incidents undermined the peace and harmony among Muslims, and he called on them to reflect on it and exercise great patience.


Red more @