KUALA LUMPUR - The government is using public funds to “brainwash” people and turn Malaysians against each other, Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan said today after the National Civics Bureau (BTN) claimed racism can unite a race for a “good purpose”.
The former Malaysian Bar president also criticised the country’s leaders for using race and religion to divide Malaysians, amid rising racial and religious tension in the country that has seen Muslims recently demonstrate against a church.
“It is the rakyat’s money, all the rakyat’s money used to brainwash people, one segment of society against another,” Ambiga told Malay Mail Online
in an interview here today.
“That’s why I said there has to be accountability, how they’re spending our money. They’re spending our money doing this. We’ve got to stop it,” added the lawyer who is currently president of the National Human Rights Society (Hakam).
In a set of slides uploaded on BTN’s website titled “Rasis” last March, the government agency — which runs courses for undergraduates — said racism has received a “negative connotation”, claiming that the idea is being used by certain parties to achieve their political goals and topple the government.
It claimed that the concept of “racism” had initially originated from the Islamic concept of “asabiyyah
”, a positive idea that centred on brotherhood and formed social solidarity in historical Muslim civilisations.
The term “asabiyyah
”, originally meaning “tribalism”, was popularised by 14th century Arab historian Ibn Khaldun to describe “social cohesion”.