Friday, January 26, 2007

NST - Where is the racial bonding?

Where is the racial bonding?
26 Jan 2007
Sonia Ramachandran, Adie Suri Zulkefli and Nurris Ishak

BANGI: The little cafe in Bangunan Pusanika in Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) had only one empty table when I arrived yesterday morning.

Grabbing the unoccupied table, I sat down with my cup of Milo and observed the students who were busy chatting in between mouthfuls of nasi lemak.

There I was, geared up to see prime examples of racial integration at this premier university.

Two-and-a-half-hours later, I was not so sure.

There were 10 other tables at the cafe, aside from mine, and yes, they were filled with students of all races.

The problem was they were only sitting with their friends of the same race.

Three tables were occupied with students with headscarves, while six tables had single occupants, including a woman dressed in a professional suit.

Another table had a group of six Malay students.

During the following hours, students left and others came, but they either sat in groups of the same race or alone.

The odd thing was that if a student arrived alone and shared a table with a student of a different race, he or she would not talk or exchange greetings with the table’s other occupant.

A Chinese student joined a table occupied by a Malay student, but they did not exchange a word. Instead, the Chinese student was working on his laptop while the Malay student continued reading his newspaper.

The only table there with a multiracial mix was the table occupied by my photographer, Sairien Nafis and me, and we were getting odd looks from the other students.

Sairien and I then went down to the cafeteria, where we were again greeted by the same sight.

The tables were all full of students, but they sat in groups of the same race.
You could hear snippets of conversation from all sides of the cafeteria in the language or dialect of the group occupying the table.

There were also students studying and copying notes in groups at the cafeteria, but this was also done in groups of the same race. There was not a single multiracial group sitting together.

Outside the cafeteria, students were seen walking together to class. Again, in groups of the same race. — By Sonia Ramachandran

Mixing with own race is norm

GEORGE TOWN: The same sight greeted me at the canteens and bus stops at Universiti Sains Malaysia.

There was no mixing of the races. Students stuck to others of their own race.
There were one or two exceptions but almost all of them were chatting or walking or eating with friends of their own race.

However, there was a better mix when they were in lecture halls and when they were involved in co-curricular activities.

Undergraduates I spoke to said it was normal for them to mix only with students of their own race.

Those I met said such behaviour was nothing abnormal and they preferred to hang out with those from the same ethnic group when it came to non-academic or extra-curricular activities.

School of Communications second year student L. Sangeetha, 22, said that was the reality of campus life.

She admitted that although there were no problems mixing with other races, most just preferred their own kind.

"When it comes to having lunch or other activities, we prefer to stick with friends from the same race," the Taiping-born undergraduate said.

Sangeetha, however, stressed that she had a good rapport with students from other ethnic groups.

She said the university’s ethnic relations course, which she took last semester, had enabled her to have a better understanding of other ethnic and religious groups.
She voiced support for the revised ethnic relations module.

Her opinion was shared by an undergraduate from the School of Physics, Zuriati Jusoh, 21.

The second-year student from Kelantan said she had a wonderful experience when doing a group project for the ethnic relations course last year.

"We selected traditional musical instruments as the theme and each of us in the group was tasked to study about the different races and come out with a presentation.

"It was not only a learning process as it also taught us the need to be more tolerant and respectful of other races and their religious practices," she added.

Her coursemate, Nordiana Mohd Mustaza, hoped that the tutorial classes for the revised module would be presented in a more interesting way.

"I think more visuals would make the classes more cheerful."

The duo, however, said the 1969 riots and the Kampung Medan parts should not be omitted from the module.

"The incidents should be told as a reminder for future generations on the importance of social tolerance," said Nordiana.

Khoo Sok Hui, 20, from the School of Arts, agreed that history should be told as it is, to avoid confusion and speculation. She added that students are mature enough to know the dangers of playing up sensitive issues. — By Adie Suri Zulkefli

Subconscious barriers keep them apart

SERDANG: They came out of their lecture halls in droves walking towards the bus stop.
They stood in separate groups, distinguished by race. The Chinese girls chatted in a medley of Mandarin and Cantonese, the Malays had a discussion in Bahasa Melayu and the Indians in Tamil. I was amused to see the group that had come out from the lecture hall subconsciously part along racial lines.

The atmosphere at the bus stop was friendly. They acknowledged one another with smiles and bits of conversation, but for the most part, spoke only to their own race.
In my eyes, they might as well have been standing miles away from each other.

It’s always been easy for me to pick out those who were at ease mingling with friends from others races, from the way they moved.

When I was in college, my classmates would playfully pat each other on the back, our wide grins expressing pleasure in meeting. There was no barrier between us. Chinese, Indians, Malays, Kadazans, Ibans, Eurasians.

I think the students I saw were not xenophobic or bigots. But I felt they couldn’t be at ease with each other because they’d failed to see that our differences is what makes us the same — human.

Had my friends been there with me, we would have certainly stood out. — By Nurris Ishak
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