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Minority Rights: Malaysia vs America


America, “Land of opportunities”, presumably a country with the best governance and laws. The very laws that provide equal rights for all human beings, without considering their race or religion. And as it is, the Muslim Malay-led government of Malaysia is always heavily criticised for discrimination against the minorities. Malaysia should definitely learn a thing or two about racial and religious equality from the Americans?

In 1788, when the United States constitution granted each state the power to set their voting requirements, suffrage was mostly restricted to white males. [1] At that time, so many African-Americans were legally bonded to their owners as chattel slaves that their status was institutionalised as a racial caste associated with African ancestry. [2]The existence of one of the largest and most destructive conflicts in the Western world, “The American Civil War” is an obvious proof of the refusal to accept the African-Americans as human beings who deserve the rights to live as freemen. The war between the Northern states who pledged under President Lincoln’s words that all men are created equal and the pro-slavery Confederate States of America lasted for four years and costed about 625,000 lives. [3]

Even after the Civil War ended and the Northern states came out victorious, a Confederate sympathiser fatally wounded President Lincoln to protest against the freedom of blacks. [4] In a clear attempt to return the newly freed slaves to their former condition. Most Southern states enacted the “Black Code” that, among others, prohibited the blacks from assembling in groups, [5] testify in court, [6] and restricted them from learning to read and write. [7]

Upon the long-delayed ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment that granted the rights to vote to all men without any regards to their race, the “Jim Crow Laws” were enacted, enforcing a racial segregation in the Southern United States. Poll taxes, literacy tests and threats of violent acts by the whites in the form of terrorism effectively excluded most blacks from the political system. [9]

It took them nearly a hundred years to finally overrule the “Jim Crow Laws” through the “Civil Rights Act of 1964” [8] and the “Voting Rights Act of 1965”. [9]

Malaysian minorities have been voting since the very first Malaysian election in 1955. They were neither bounded as chattel slaves nor ripped off from their rights to vote, assemble in groups, and to learn to read and write. In fact, they were already parliamentarians from the very first elections. They obtained the rights to vote and participate in the first Malayan Parliamentary Elections, even when they were not citizens of the Federation.

Even today, the minorities in America are still greatly under-represented compared to the Malaysian minorities.

Only 7.36% of the representatives are Hispanics and/or Latinos compared to the 16.30% of the American population who are Hispanics and/or Latinos. Whereas in Malaysia, the representation of the races in Malaysia’s Dewan Rakyat is more or less well-balanced.

Not just that, in America, the Christians, encompasse 70.60% of the population, make up a massive figure of 93.10% of the representatives. However, in the Muslim country of Malaysia, the Christians are over-represented, making up about 14% to 21% of the Dewan Rakyat compared to their 9.20% figure in the population statistics. The Muslims make an almost exact figure of about 61.29% to 61.30%.

Just by looking into the history and the current political scenario of the two countries, it is already obvious that the government of the “Land of the Free” and its majority, the whites, are far more racially and religiously biased than the Malaysian government and its majority, the Bumiputras. In truth, one should always properly study a country with a fair mind before making any judgements and comments which will ignite racial and religious conflicts, perturbing the peace and harmony of the country.

Further Reading:
1. http://15thamendment.harpweek.com/HubPages/CommentaryPage.asp?Commentary=01Timeline1865

2. Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow, The New Press, 2010, p 12.

3. http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/civil-war-overview/overview.html

4. http://www.history.com/topics/abraham-lincoln-assassination

5. Zebina Eastman, Black Code of Illinois, 1883, p 36

6. Zebina Eastman, Black Code of Illinois, 1883, p 44

7. Acts passed by the General Assembly of the State of North Carolina [1830-1831], chapter VI

8. http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/civil-rights-act

9. http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/voting-rights-act