How Will The World See Us Tomorrow?

Exams are a mere 2 days away and as much as I hate the thought, I must go into hibernation for a bit. I will be back after the 20th of June so don’t go solving Malaysia’s problems before then.

Before I do that though, let me deviate from the legalistic ramblings and focus on perception. In particular, how the rest of the world sees Malaysia with all that’s been happening.

Who cares what the rest of the world, in particular the decadent West, may think of us, you may ask?

The reality is that our economy relies on trade and tourism. According to MATRADE, Malaysia is ranked among the 20 largest trading countries in the world. Not bad when you consider the size of our population. MIER estimates growth to hit 5.8% in 2008, a pretty respectable figure.

However, if the Asian Financial Crisis has taught us anything, it is that perception is king. Any hint of political or economic instability/weakness and say farewell to investors. Tourism of course is linked to political and social stability. And ten years after the Financial Crisis, there are many more destinations for investors and tourists.

Hence, it would be foolish and shortsighted to simply say ‘to hell with them’ when our economy is so integrated with the outside world.

How then is Malaysia being portrayed by some of the most influential English news organisations in view of recent events? Here’s a selection:

The BBC: Despite what our Information Minister says, the Beeb has produced a very factual, almost clinical report with minimal commentary.

TIME closes its piece on the following note: “In an era where Islam is so often partnered with extremism and autocratic governance, Malaysia was held up at the annual conference as a model of a moderate Muslim nation committed to safeguarding the rights of its diverse population. But the Federal Court’s verdict on Joy’s case, which represented her last legal recourse, may undercut that reputation.

Al Jazeera makes mention of Malaysia’s ‘faith restoration camps’ and mentions the phrases “regressive” and “unconstitutional“.

The Guardian has this to say: “The court’s decision comes as tensions grow between the Muslim Malay majority and the ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities who are mainly Hindu, Buddhist or Christian.”

The Economist talks of a creeping Islamisation and concludes with this thought provoking sentence: “Constraints on individuals’ rights to choose their beliefs are usually backed up by claims that religions are somehow ‘under threat’: a curious lack of faith—in faith itself”

The International Herald Tribune (IHT) NY Times mentions rules on bumiputera ownership and says that the ruling underlines “the increasing separateness of Muslims from people of other religions” and adds that “the split on the court mirrored the discord in Malaysian society, where ethnic and religious tensions have begun to increase in recent years.”

[EDIT: My mistake…the link above was to the NY Times. However the IHT paints an equally unflattering picture of Malaysia.]

The Economist and the IHT especially are read by business people around the world.

Looking at it objectively, if your introduction to Malaysia was through articles like the ones above, would you want to invest your client’s money or book your two week honeymoon in Malaysia? It’s no use whether you agree or disagree with the various assessments. The reality is, the damage is done.

I doubt you’ll find a busier Ministry in Malaysia right now than the Ministry of Truth Information.

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6 Responses to “How Will The World See Us Tomorrow?”

  1. Bunny Says:

    Welcome to Blogland, Umran!

    Since Lina Joy’s decision, some of my (non-activist) friends have suddenly woken up to how serious the situation is now in our beloved country. In a bizarre turn of events, the fundraiser I’m running suddenly got a big injection of dosh after they’ve realised the signifance of the work Article 11 has been doing.

    Good luck with your exams, I’m visualising First Class Honours for you..

  2. Farida Says:

    Hi, thank you for giving us information we would never get to see in our mainstream media. All the best for your exam.

  3. Ken Anderson Says:

    Umran, a concise, well written piece. I do hope that in ‘your’ time you see the changes so many thinking people desire for Malaysia.

  4. Genna Says:

    Hi umran. My dad (george gan) passed me the link to your blog. interesting stuff you got here. (:

  5. Umran Says:

    Thank you all for your kind words.

    Let’s hope that common sense and compassion prevail.

  6. Animah Says:

    Good luck in your exams! My thoughts are with you. Hugs and kisses from Sara.

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