The University in collaboration with the Fulbright Alumni
Association of Malaysia (FAAM) and Malaysian-American Commission on Educational
Exchange (MACEE) recently organised a colloquium on intercultural awareness to
enhance inter-ethnic, cultural and religious tolerance in Malaysia.
A diverse group comprising Fulbright scholars, university
lecturers, teachers, researchers and members of non-governmental organisations
came together to discuss and share their experiences and insights into multiculturalism
besides looking into issues that could foster greater understanding and harmony
among various races.
YBhg Datuk Prof Mohd Yusof Kasim, Deputy Director General of
Higher Education Department, Ministry of Higher Education, who officiated the
opening, said intercultural awareness should be inculcated from young to
promote understanding and avoid conflicts among people of different ethnic
YBhg Tan Sri Ani Arope, the first recipient of the Malaysian
Fulbright Scholarship, in his keynote address, said racial polarisation in
schools and institutions of higher learning was more obvious now than before.
This has created an elitist racial group who believed that they were more
superior than others.
He said in a multicultural society like Malaysia where one’s religion and culture
are protected by the Constitution, there should not be race prejudice and
religious bigotry. “We recognise that social conflicts are inevitable in our
society. It is important that we work out strategies to minimise or divert the
He added that the country’s cultural diversity should be
regarded an asset. “It has intrinsic value for development as well as social
cohesion and peace. Harnessing our diversity could be the driving force for
development, not only in terms of economic growth but also, towards a more
fulfilling intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual life.”
FAAM President Dr Suseela Malakolunthu, in her closing
remarks, outlined the recommendations of the colloquium that should be given
due consideration by the authorities. It recommended that multicultural
components be included in primary, secondary and higher education curricula to
inculcate the idea of multiculturalism in the minds of students.
The colloquium also proposed that the Study Abroad Programme
be introduced by the Ministry of Higher Education to expose university students
to the cultural diversity of people from other countries.