Nation building in plural and “divided” societies poses special challenges everywhere. In some countries, the “melting pot” ideology is employed. In others, the model of a mosaic is adopted. The multi-ethnic leaders of Malaysian independence in 1957 settled for the second approach. They painstakingly weaved a rich cultural mosaic.
The plurality of lifestyles this engendered gave rise to an extraordinary multifaceted society that till the ’90s, supplied a model to many other diverse regions of the world.
Since the ’90s, however, identity politics based on race, religion and region, has taken centre stage. If this tide is to be reversed and Malaysia is to recapture its place of honour in the community of nations, much needs to be done to repair bridges of inter-communal harmony and to dismantle walls of separation between the religions, races and regions.
This monograph is based on a lecture that was presented by the author on 20 September 2019, with the Sultan of Perak Sultan Nazrin Muizuddin Shah in attendance.