Lucia Lai reports on an anti-racism workshop in Penang that hopes to campaign for the pulling down of the barriers that divide us.
Aliran and the Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF), in collaboration with Southeast Asian Centre for e-Media (Seacem), organised an Anti-Racism workshop on 15 September 2012.
The workshop was one of the activities that took place during Penang Local Democracy Festival.
About 40 people, some representing NGOs, turned up for the workshop, which was held at the Aliran office in Penang.
Dr Prema Devaraj from Aliran began the workshop with an interesting interactive game to show how people were segregated. This was followed by a fun way of ‘putting stereotype labels’ on people based on their nationality – an activity carried out by the participants in three groups.
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Anil Netto, also from Aliran, then took over to facilitate the session on ‘Examples of impact of racism – personal experiences’. The participants, in groups, were told to write down any experiences of racism that they encountered throughout their lives. Later on, they shared how these experiences had an impact on their lives.
Many felt that they became disheartened and angry, and one even said that because of the racism and stereotypes, it made her reluctant to associate with lots of people.
‘Changes and continuities in race relations’ were explored by Dr Francis Loh, the president of Aliran. It was an in-depth look into whether ethnic relations had worsened or improved.
Ahmad Fuad Rahmat from IRF, before introducing the participants to a campaign against racism, known as ‘Projek Dialog’, presented a clear and concise picture of existing Islamist groups such as Perkasa, Pembela, Hakim, Teras, Isma, Jati, Abim, IRF, Arqam and Suara.
He explained briefly when each of these NGOs was formed and their composition, objectives, vision, activities, and campaigns.
He then introduced the participants to Projek Dialog, a project which is a joint effort among several organisations and individuals who are committed to the progressive development of social issues in Malaysia. Among the organisations in partnership with Projek Dialog, are IRF, Seacem and Kota-Kota.
Projek Dialog’s tagline is “Say no to racism” and it is a social development project that aims to promote healthy debate and understanding among the diverse cultural, ethnic and religious groups in Malaysia.
Nantha from Seacem then elaborated on Projek Dialog. He informed participants that Projek Dialog uses social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter as well as blogs, websites to reach out to the online community.
Participants were told that Seacem is willing to organise a workshop on how to use social media to put across Projek Dialog’s aim of saying no to racism. All participants expressed interest and they look forward to the announcement of such a workshop.