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LAN1003 Malaysian Studies Lecture Note 1


Malaysia is a country inhabited by a multi-racial society. In a plural society such as that, unity and national integration is vital to ensure the people live in peace and harmony. National unity generally refers to the uniting of various groups that have different social and cultural backgrounds, into one physical entity. The concept of integration however can be defined as a process of uniting groups with different backgrounds into one entity bound by common nouns, values and interest. The concept of unity as applied in Malaysia means a process of uniting the members of a society and the country as a whole through national ideologies so that the members of the society can build up an identity, common values and a sense o f belonging. Theoretically, the process of an ethnic relations comprises 5 stages; segregation, accommodation, acculturation, assimilation and amalgamation (refers to diagram and explanation on page 3). Before a society achieves the stage of integration, it usually goes through five stages of change. 1. Stage of co-existence: the races of different backgrounds have contact but limited to matters of necessity only, especially in matters of economic significance. 2. Stage of frequent external contact : the frequency in contact arose out of inter-dependence in the interest to survive as when economic specialization crept in. this stage clearly occurred during the era of the British rule up to the time of independence. 3. Stage of compromise: compromise takes place in the economic and political area. This stage was obvious at the time of the early independence era. At this stage the society is still undergoing the process of accommodation. 4. Stage of unity: if the communities in the society compromise and cooperate as much as possible, there is the tendency for them to live unite in many ways. 5. Stage of integration: cooperation among races can gradually create a sense of belonging and strong ties among them. In Malaysia ethnic relations can be viewed in terms of relations of conflict, competition and cooperation. Conflict relation among the races in Malaysia is largely illustrated by events like of 13 May 1969; competitive relation is portrayed through competition in education, employment, culture and so on; while relation in cooperation is clearly portrayed in the political arena. NATIONAL INTEGRATION PROBLEMS Obstacles to National Integration The concept of plural society depicts the existence of economic, social, cultural and residential differences among the population. These differences can lead to disintegration. National integration may be important to development and is the ultimate aim of national development, but it is not easily achieved. There are important factors affect national integration negatively: 1. Prejudice : this is the attitude towards other groups based on common generalizations, on evidence that is not concrete. The problem usually takes the form of bad expectations of other races. This problems continues to exist though new positive information co mes up concerning the other groups, the existing prejudice persists. 2. Communalism: this is the attitude of favoring ones own ethnic community. In Malaysia, this phenomenon is quite obvious in the economic, political, social and cultural spheres whereby an ethnic group shows favoritism towards those from within the group.
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LAN1003 Malaysian Studies Lecture Note 1

3. Ethnocentrism: this refers to the belief that ones own culture is superior compared to others. Any cultural element or manifestation of another culture that is different is considered wrong, bad or even dangerous. Causes and Reinforcing Obstacles to Integration Prejudice, communalism and ethnocentrism, which are obstacles to the realization of national integration in Malaysia are caused and reinforced by all kinds of factors, social, cultural, economic and physical. These inter-related overlapping or mutually reinforcing factors arise from elements listed: 1. Ignorance of other ethnic groups: this mean limited or lack of understanding of the way of life, the living conditions and the problems of other races. As a result, there is a lack of appreciation and respect for other races. In this case, the communities are less exposed to other cultures for example in education. 2. Process of socialization limited to within ethnic groups: the process of socialization among members of one ethnic group is not conducive to a wide exposure to other cultural elements. 3. Communal politics: even though the ruling party in the country displays integration of various political parties within it, generally racial politics remains an important feature of politics in the country. 4. Socio-economic difference: socio-economic differences among the many ethnic groups in the country, linked for a long time to the history of colonialism, and today to structural factors indeed constitute an important cause of dissatisfaction among some of the people. They feel deprived of the chance to share in enjoying the nations wealth. Programmes implemented to reduce socio-economic gap failed to make certain groups happy. 5. Cultural differences: different cultures mean different style, different pattern of life and different problems ultimately giving rise to conflict. Some supporters of a culture become extremists and deliberately show off symbols of their own culture. 6. Segregation or physical separation: physical segregation indeed gives rise to difficulty in physical contact and results in an ethnic group not knowing another ethnic group, especially one that lives in different areas. Physical separation on the other hand makes it easier for prejudice, self-interest and ethnocentricity to thrive. Unity is achieved through important government policies based on the sharing of political power, a democratic government, strong economic growth and cultural tolerance.

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LAN1003 Malaysian Studies Lecture Note 1

The Theory of Racial Relations

The process of Integration Segregation Accommodation Acculturation Assimilation Amalgamation

Segregation : This is the relation that has the characteristic of a split among the ethnic groups in a country. The split occurs in various situations, such as the area of the residence, the school system, transportation and public facilities. Segregation occurs whether consciously by law or not base on law. Accommodation: this is a process where the ethnic groups are aware of each other norms and values but they continue to safeguard their own living culture. However, they live in harmony and respect one and another. Acculturation: this is the process that is sometimes known as cultural assimilation. It happens when people from a minority group accept the norms, values and patterns of behavior (culture) of the majority group. This process is a process of borrowing or accepting the cultural elements of the majority group, without changing the original cultural elements. Assimilation: this is a process that is sometimes given the name of structural assimilation to differentiate it from acculturation or cultural assimilation. The concept of assimilation is about the entry into a dominant society through friendship and close connection. Amalgamation: This is a process that happens when culture or race mixes to form types of new culture and race. The most important way of making sure the process of amalgamation takes place is through inter-marriage between ethnic groups or races.

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