PETALING JAYA: Projek Dialog, a website advocating honest dialogue and racial and religious harmony, has initiated an online petition against racism in Malaysia.
The petition aims to put an end to racist politics, political and racial exploitation of the media, the abuse of religion to legitimise racism and persecutions of religious minorities.
It also calls for the release of all detainees held unjustly under draconian measures put in place on the false basis of national security and inter-communal peace, and more dialogue aimed at a peaceful and more inclusive Malaysia.
The petition also calls for the Malaysian government to ratify the International Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) to show its seriousness in combating racism.
Since the petition was started on Monday, it has already gotten close to 300 signatures, including a number of local NGOs.
“It’s an effort to present a unified voice against racism in Malaysia which has reached a worryingly endemic level,” Projek Dialog managing editor Ahmad Fuad Rahmat told FMT.
“Just look at how racist sentiments are often evoked to strengthen political positions daily. We must do something about it in a unified way,” he said.
“Most thinking people are instinctively against racism. This is a chance to make a statement and show to the rest of Malaysia that they are concerned Malaysians.”
Fuad said that the response so far has been positive, having garnered support by only relying on word of mouth, e-mail and social media.
“It is a good start. Racism is a problem that is not going away anytime soon,” said Fuad, who is also a research fellow at the progressive Muslim think-tank Islamic Renaissance Front.
Call for discussions
He also said that Projek Dialog has not set a target number or date to stop the petition, as it is to be a “long term” campaign.
“In an ideal world, we are talking about getting hundreds of thousands of people to support this cause.
“But we just have to reach a significant number and then we’ll get to the next step, either present it to the Prime Minister’s Office or the National Unity and Integration Department.
Fuad said that Malaysia has yet to ratify the International Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination by the United Nations.
“If the government finally decides to ratify it, we would be bound by certain commitments to internationally recognised principles.”
These principles, said Fuad, should be about more inclusive affirmative action and poverty eradication as well as more opportunities to pursue certain rights such as education.
Another important aspect of the petition was the call for discussions.
“While we want to focus on policy, without discussions, the changes might not be meaningful. Well intended policies might even be seen as offensive,” said Fuad.
Asked why anyone should sign the petition, he said: “Because Malaysia is a complex country and requires harmony between the different ethnic identities for it to progress and flourish.
“But it cannot happen when there is racism, or any form of prejudices. We can only do what we can, and this is one way to speak up.”