Monday, August 9, 2010

BookReview13: A PLEA FOR EMPATHY, THE QUEST FOR MALAYSIAN UNITY – By Dr Chandra Muzaffar


This book is by Dr Chandra Muzafar, the President of JUST International, professor of Global Studies at USM, and a well known social scientist.

Let me say this at the very outset – this book is a must read for all Malaysians who are serious about understanding inter-ethnic and inter-religious relations in our country.  All political leaders worth their salt should make this book compulsory reading.

The minute I got the book, I could not put it down until I finished reading it.  The writing style is typically Chandra – logical, factual, direct and yet, pleading. Obviously a lot of thought and passion has gone into analyzing the issues that he discusses in the book.

He interestingly discusses the idea of “national culture” and points out the difference between culture that is artificially imposed with that which is characterized by their multi-ethnic acceptability and certain common underlying values. He observes that “the upper class in business and politics in Malaysia has more negative than positive qualities”. “In fact, the lifestyles of these elites are imitated by the masses”.  Chandra correctly points out among the upper classes, “Greed and corruption have gained some respectability in their circles”. He makes the plea for Malaysians to allow the substance of culture to evolve rather than be engrossed with superficialities.

The book also discusses the causes of ethnic polarization and examines whether it has worsened over the years.  It  not only covers Dr Chandra’s thoughts on ethnic relations from 1974 to 2008, but one can feel that it is written with intellectual honesty and from the heart.  Chandra covers the issues clearly such that every Malaysian irrespective of their social construct can readily identify with it.

There are many other areas related to Malaysian unity such as “acceptance and accommodation of non-Muslim communities”, “the ethicizing of the economy” and “ seeking solutions to inter religious challenges in a multi-religious society” discussed.

To me, the greatest strength of the book is that it invites us to think about Malaysian unity in a way that many other books do not. You have to read it to know what I mean.

This book certainly makes a plea for empathy so that real Malaysian unity can be part of the Malaysian culture and psyche.

Publisher:  Zubedy Ideahouse Sdn BHd.
Year of first Publication : 2010
Price      :  RM39.20

Happy reading.

Peace!

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