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'Malay Indians lack cultural awareness'

They have a poor understanding of cultures and customs of not just other races but even their own, says a study.

india Updated: Mar 20, 2006 18:07 IST
Indo-Asian News Service
Indo-Asian News Service

Many Malay Indians have a poor understanding of cultures and customs of not just other races but even their own. Many perceive Deepavali as the Indian New Year, according to a survey.

Deepavali, the festival of lights, was erroneously considered to be the Indian New Year by 53 percent Malays, 86 per cent Chinese and 28 per cent of Indians living here, the survey published by The New Straits Times Monday showed.

The Indian community of largely Tamils, Malayalees, Telugus and Punjabis forms seven per cent of the Malaysian population.

The survey showed that Hari Raya Puasa was wrongly perceived as the Malay New Year by 32 per cent of Malays, 84 per cent of Chinese and 45 per cent of the Indians.

Hari Raya Puasa is celebrated by Muslims in Malaysia to mark the culmination of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting.

Similarly, the Chinese New Year was thought to be a religious festival by 57 percent of Malays, 53 percent of Indians and a whopping 62 percent of the Chinese respondents.

"I am surprised by this result. Actually, I am more worried about the Malays who think that Hari Raya Puasa is a New Year celebration. What are they learning in schools now? I remember learning about Malaysia's festive seasons in primary school. I think ethnic relations have worsened, exclaimed Zeffri Yusof, a consultant.

Lim Eiliene, a pre-school educator said: "To be frank, I was not sure myself about Hari Raya and Deepavali. I thought it was the New Year celebration for the Muslims and Hindus."

The survey also found that many negative racial stereotypes continue to exist in the country, which is considered to be a melting pot of various cultures.

A majority of people, including 58 percent of Malays, 63 per cent of Chinese and 43 percent of Indians polled agreed that, "in general, most Malays are lazy".

Further, 71 per cent of Malays, 60 per cent of Chinese and 47 per cent of Indians agreed that 'in general, most Chinese are greedy'.

On similar lines, "most Indians cannot be trusted" is what 64 per cent of Malays, 58 per cent of Chinese and 20 per cent of Indians had to say.

The reason for the findings regarding the Chinese could be because of their tendency to be business-oriented, the newspaper reported.

"I think we are perceived as greedy because we tend to fight for opportunities. But, of course, I do not believe in any of these stereotypes," the report quoted Jordan Cheng Junhong, 19, a student.

Vani Tharashasmi, a 23-year-old accounts associate, said: "I do not think these statements are true. I think members of any race or nationality can be greedy, lazy or untrustworthy. I grew up with Malays and I do not agree that they are lazy."

Yusof added: "Public universities do a lousy job in racial integration. That is why stereotypes prevail. I think the perception that most Malays are lazy may come from the service given by the frontline staff in the public sector. With the number of tea breaks and early office-closing time, the perceived stereotype is reinforced."

First Published: Mar 20, 2006 17:23 IST