Mustafa K Anuar’s recent newsletter on the crammed ‘company housing’ provided to a group of foreign workers reveals the callous attitude towards them among some local employers.
Some 300 foreign workers in Johor were housed in five finished goods storage spaces in groups of 65, even though each space was only meant for six people.
Some may be shocked at the inhumanity and insensitivity of this treatment of foreign workers. Others, despite feeling pity for the workers, may simply write this off as an inherent work hazard in Malaysia.
Are we back in the 1800s, when indentured labour arrived in the country in slave-like conditions, which continue to be replicated?
Are we aware that this inhumane abuse of human beings, whoever they may be, exhibits a festering attitude of discrimination against those different from us? Unjustified discrimination against foreigners is called xenophobia.
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Most of us are quick to renounce racism. But xenophobia is ongoing despite “Malaysia Madani” (Civil Malaysia), especially against refugees, asylum seekers and other possibly undocumented migrants.
The politicising of migrants (including refugees) has been prevalent for decades.
Nothing has changed. In fact, such malicious xenophobia appears to have intensified. Their target? Those who have been denied their basic human rights like refugees, asylum seekers and others, especially poor foreign migrants. These vulnerable groups arrive on our shores seeking refuge and safety or wanting to improve their economic situation.
The current or previous administrations have paid little attention to this rampant xenophobic harassment and psychological and physical torture.
Many of us Malaysians are doing our best to promote unity, solidarity and peaceful coexistence in our diverse society. But it is disappointing to see that we fail to understand we should also share this harmony with every other person residing within our borders.
This solidarity is not exclusive to us, as we do not live in isolation on this planet, nor are we the only living beings here! Tolerance of others is not enough.
If we maintain this barrier of latent xenophobia, we will never eliminate the subculture of ethno-religious discrimination and racism that has been historically planted and grown within our society. It also defeats the aims of Malaysia Madani, which will be noticed by others around the world.
Our cries of multi-racial and multi-religious harmony, unity and solidarity will just be empty words falling into a dark void of hypocrisy.
To hide from the challenges of creating unity in this country is the same as doing nothing to eliminate the fragmentation of Malaysian society and increasing the barriers against unity.
Malaysia cannot be a ‘shining’ example to the world if we only indulge in window-dressing, as past administrations did.
It is up to us, the citizens of Malaysia, to eliminate this stumbling block to building a united nation before we can enjoy living in true peaceful harmony, solidarity and unity in an inclusive Malaysian society.