Source: Asma Abdullah PhD, Interculturalist
As Malaysians, we know that all our prime ministers had their own brand logo while in office - a product differentiation in policy agenda. It’s no different from any organisation’s vision and a set of values to guide its workforce to achieve a particular goal. One of the key principles of the Madani government under the 10th prime minister is the idea of promoting social cohesion and solidarity among different communities. This can be achieved by promoting muhibbah (goodwill) and coexistence among all races through interfaith dialogues, fostering cultural exchange programmes, and encouraging greater participation in community-based activities
The six values of Madani are sustainability, compassion, respect, innovation, prosperity and trust.
These values are evergreen and appeal to all of us regardless of age, ethnicity and religious beliefs in nine areas of national needs which include economy, finance, community, institutions, culture, legislation, education, urban and rural.
To become multicultural, we need to identify key behaviours to help us assess the viability of an undertaking. The six values can be a new way of developing standards that we want to live by. It can serve as a yardstick to define a multicultural society in terms of form and substance.
Let us now examine how each of the values can be used to promote a multicultural mindset among Malaysians from all ethnic groups.
We observe sustainability by preserving the age-old cultural heritage, traditions and festivals of each cultural group for the benefit of future generations. Malaysians can showcase traditional practices in handicrafts, medicine, and local food as well as organise initiatives like community gardens, tree planting and recycling drives to preserve their living environments.
We have to show compassion for others through acts of kindness and service and develop empathy for people of different backgrounds. Malaysians can spotlight individuals from different communities who have stories and teachings to share on kindness towards others and teams from different ethnic groups who are involved in organising soup kitchens and flood assistance to badly affected states.
We show respect for different communities, avoid stereotyping and inter-ethnic biases and show support for the implementation of anti-discrimination policies and legislation to protect individuals from different cultural backgrounds. Malaysians have to learn the meaning and significance of practices, traditions, and beliefs of other races and rituals of different races i.e. the concept of korban for Muslims, the worship of gods by Chinese, and body piercing during Thaipusam via social media.
We have to develop a culture that encourages risk-taking, experimentation, and learning from failures as well as recognizing innovative efforts, regardless of the outcome. Malaysians can organise competitions to explore and embrace new ideas and perspectives, especially in using technology to facilitate our daily work. Competitions should be organised by combining elements of Malay, Chinese and Indian cultures into dances, music, films, and martial arts to produce new expressions i.e. drums from different ethnic groups to generate new sounds. The government can encourage aspiring entrepreneurs from different ethnic groups to use technology to promote new inventions, start-ups and digital innovation.
We want prosperity by generating new economic opportunities to stay alive and help those who are building their businesses and making an attempt to be financially viable. Malaysians can promote cultural tourism through artistic expressions of diverse communities through arts, crafts, heritage, traditions and cuisine of different groups within the multicultural society. They can develop initiatives that preserve and showcase cultural landmarks and festivals, contributing to economic growth and prosperity while promoting cultural appreciation. Business ventures where ownership is intercultural have to be showcased.
We want to build trust and demonstrate inclusivity and relationships that transcend ethnic boundaries and foster a safe environment where people feel comfortable to express their thoughts, concerns, and perspectives. Malaysians can share stories of long-term friendships based on integrity and are inclusive of other races in daily activities and long-term projects. To develop trust, Malaysians have to work together and showcase their talent on social media.
As we get exposed to globalisation – defined as a world without borders through media, travel and business – we need to internalise the six values so they become our living values.
We need to demonstrate them through shared practices beyond the images we have on posters in our daily lives and share what the country is doing to promote a Madani society that is beyond symbols, rituals and what leaders tend to claim.
As a multicultural society, Malaysia's strength lies in its diversity. By habituating the six values and embracing differences while building connections, Malaysians can ensure a harmonious future for generations to come. From building institutions, developing human capital and creating the future the six values can serve as a moral compass for our country.
It is our task to interpret the six Madani values to better understand the challenges of people from different ethnic origins and learn to coexist as fellow citizens of an inclusive and multicultural society.