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Moving forward with ‘Madani’ values in multicultural Malaysia

From building institutions, developing human resources and creating the future, the six values can serve as a moral compass for the country


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By Asma Abdullah

Successive prime ministers of Malaysia each have had their own brand logos to differentiate their policy agendas.

This is no different from any organisation that has a vision and a set of values to guide its workforce to achieve its goals.

One of the key principles of the “Madani” (civil and compassionate) government is the promotion of social cohesion and solidarity.

This can be achieved by promoting muhibah (goodwill and coexistence among the ethnic communities), organising interfaith dialogues, fostering cultural exchange programmes and encouraging greater participation in community-based activities.

The six Madani values are sustainability, compassion, respect, innovation, prosperity and trust. These values are evergreen and have popular appeal, regardless of age, ethnicity and religious beliefs.

They apply to the economy and finance, communities, institutions, culture, legislation and education – whether in urban or rural areas.

To become multicultural, we need to identify key behaviours to help us assess the viability of any undertaking. The six values can be a new way of developing standards we want to live by. They can serve as a yardstick to define a multicultural society in terms of form and substance.

Let’s examine how to use each of the six values to promote a multicultural mindset among the people of all ethnic groups.


We can observe sustainability by preserving our age-old cultural heritage, traditions and festivals to benefit future generations.

The various cultural groups can showcase their traditional practices in handicraft, medicine and local food.

They can organise initiatives like cultivating a community gardens and planting trees to preserve the living environment.

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We have to show compassion for others through acts of kindness and service. In this way, we can develop empathy for people of different backgrounds.

Let’s spotlight individuals from different communities who have stories and teachings to share on kindness towards others. Showcase the multi-ethnic teams who organise soup kitchens for street people and those who provide flood assistance to badly affected states.


Let’s show respect for different communities by avoiding stereotypes and ethnic bias.

Support the implementation of anti-discrimination policies and legislation to protect individuals from different cultural backgrounds.

The people have to learn the meaning and significance of the practices, traditions and beliefs of other groups. Encourage them to understand the rituals of the various religious groups – for example, the concept of korban (sacrifice) for Muslims, the worship practices of the Chinese spiritual traditions, body piercing during Thaipusam among the Hindus.                                                                                                               


Let’s develop a culture that encourages risk-taking and experimenting. We need to learn from failures and recognise innovative efforts, regardless of the outcome.

Think about organising competitions to explore and embrace new ideas and perspectives, especially in using technology to facilitate our daily work. These competitions could involve fusing elements of ethnic Malay, Chinese and Indian cultures into dances, music, films and martial arts to produce new expressions. For example, we could use the drums of the different ethnic groups to generate new sounds.

The government could encourage aspiring entrepreneurs from the various ethnic groups to use technology to promote new inventions, start-ups and digital innovation.

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We want prosperity by generating new economic opportunities. Help those who are building their businesses and trying to become financially viable.

Promote cultural tourism using the artistic expressions of diverse communities through the arts, crafts, heritage, traditions and cuisines of our multicultural society.

The various communities could develop initiatives that preserve and showcase cultural landmarks and festivals. This will contribute to economic dynamism and prosperity while promoting cultural appreciation.

Showcase business ventures whose ownership is intercultural.


Let’s build trust and demonstrate inclusivity through relationships that transcend ethnic boundaries and foster a safe environment.

People should feel comfortable to express their thoughts, concerns and perspectives. They could share stories of long-term friendships based on integrity. Indeed, they should be inclusive towards people of other ofother ethnicities in their daily activities and long-term projects.

To develop trust, people have to work together and showcase their talent on social media.

Globalisation challenge

As we get exposed to globalisation – defined as a world without borders through media, travel and business – let’s internalise the six values so that they become our living values.

Demonstrate them through shared practices beyond the images we see on posters in our daily lives. We need to share what the country is doing to promote a Madani society that goes beyond symbols, rituals and what its leaders claim.

As a multicultural society, Malaysia’s strength lies in its diversity. By putting into regular practice the six values, embracing differences and building connections, we can ensure a harmonious future.

From building institutions, developing human resources and creating the future, the six values can serve as a moral compass for the country.

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It is our task to interpret the six Madani values to better understand the challenges facing people of different ethnicities. This will allow us to learn to coexist as fellow residents of an inclusive and multicultural society.

Asma Abdullah is an interculturalist based in Kuala Lumpur

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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