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Religious conflict in Malaysia


Ethnic relations have always been central to nation-building in a multi-cultural, multi-religious society such as Malaysia. In its fifty six years of nationhood friction among particular ethnic groups has surfaced from time to time which affects social and economic developments, and necessitates changes in government policies and programs. Understanding ethnic relations issues in the country is, therefore, critical to its future stability and wellbeing – especially as the population becomes increasingly globalized, more open and more educated. In this paper, focus is given on the two biggest ethnic groups in Malaysia: the Malays and Chinese. Everyone have heard about the May 13 incident. This is a dark spot in the Malaysia’s history as it has provoked the racial issues that have made Malaysia country suffers in a lot of ways; socially, economically and politically. Fortunately, the Malaysians have learnt the importance to have unity and harmony in order to create a safe and developed nation. However, the May 13 incident has become an unforgettable pain and will always be a lesson for the Malaysians.

Ethnic relations have always been central to nation-building in a multi-cultural, multi-religious society such as Malaysia. In its fifty six years of nationhood friction among particular ethnic groups has surfaced from time to time which affects social and economic developments, and necessitates changes in government policies and programs. Understanding ethnic relations issues in the country is, therefore, critical to its future stability and wellbeing – especially as the population becomes increasingly globalized, more open and more educated. In this paper, focus is given on the two biggest ethnic groups in Malaysia: the Malays and Chinese. The study begins with a historical account of their relationships – from the early days to the present – and proceeds with a comparative analysis of their overall demographics, cultural values, management styles, and economic positions. As the intention is to paint a macro-level picture of the differentials, secondary data are used in the analysis such as vital statistics, industry figures and mean incomes. The findings are expected to provide the basis for further studies in the area, particularly those using primary data from smaller and more specific samples.

As we all know that 13 Mei 1969 incident was a dark spot and it happens because of some religious conflicts between Malays and Chinese in Malaysia. The strike was done by Chinese towards Malays to ask them out from this country. About 10,000 people gather at KL central to conduct this strike and it happens after the day of election which is on 10 Mei 1969 as the parties like UMNO and DAP have huge part in this conflict.  As mention by Vengadesan (2008) the 13 May 1969 incident refers to the Sino-Malay sectarian violence in Kuala Lumpur (then part of the state of Selangor), Malaysia, which reportedly began on 13 May 1969. Secular schools in Malaysia were largely an innovation of the British colonial government (Yusop, Husna 2006, March 9).

Thesis statement

The problems give the impression when the Chinese start to said “MaoTseTung” motto and sing communist song “Timur itu Merah” (The eastern red) song on the demonstration and when they cross the Malay village they loudly said “Malai si”(Malay Disabilities / Malays dead) and “Hutang darah dibayar darah”( Blood debts paid blood), this actions made Malay people out of their patience and to make this problem solve, Malay people start to demonstrate and unfortunately it turns to a huge fight. That what 13 May 1969 incident, a black spot of Malaysian History where 196 people were killed, 439 people injured, 9143 people were arrested, 5561 castigated by magistrate’s court, about 6000 people lost their accommodations, 211 vehicles destroyed, and more than 753 buildings were damages and burned. On the other side, that give depression to them was the favorable by Japanese military between Malay and Chinese.  During the election campaign, 1969, election candidates and politicians from the opposition, has raised questions of race-related Malaysian national language ( Bahasa Melayu ), the special position of the Malays as (Bumiputera) and citizenship rights of non- Malay. The opposition slogans sensitive issue during the parade when they acquired significant achievements in the election on May 10, 1969. Chinese said the win was marching with brooms binding to their vehicles as a symbol of their victory sweep chair, chanting. There are also suggestions that the broom is a symbol they would sweep (‘remove’) of the Malays to the sea. Well in Malay society, broom has a negative connotation (bad luck). Some are abused and spat from the truck to the Malays in the streets. In Sajang, Kepong, due to the death of a sick old Chinese paraded along the street with police permission. But the march of death turns into procession election victory by insulting the Malays. May 13 1969 is the day of the race riots and the height of the problem of unity in Malaysia. This tragedy has resulted in loss of life and property and are closely associated with “General Election 1969”. All of this is a black spot in the history of Malaysia.


The main mission of Chinese people in this fight is to make equal their rights in Malaysia. As we know, after the independent Malaysia has its own quota 4.1 system which has some rules & regulation. For example, Malay language has been promoted as national language and Malay people give special rights like “Bumiputra”. Chinese people were very worried that Government will combine in their economic rights because at that time government start to structure and build banks and agencies such as “Bank Bumiputera”,”BankPertanian”, MARA, FAMA, FELDA, RIDAE. People are vote for the trusted parties on the elections time, so every parties should be supportive for the country people and not to burden them but the main reason for this huge fight distrusted is from the parties such like DAP and UMNO.  UMNO has to hold a cross in the morning May 13, 1969 that resulted in the occurrence of these events. This is because of the high emotions and a lack of control from both sides. The procession is planned. UMNO is a party which held Dato’Onn on 1946. We can learnt about UMNO better at a book titled Declassified Document on the Malaysian Riots of 1969 which written by Dr.Kua Kia soong, where it stated that “The first of many factual errors the author committed was in the Introduction section whereby he averred that Dato Onn revolted against the British in 1946 in order ‘to grant citizenship rights to the non-Malays’ (by Dr Kua Kia Soong entitled: Declassified Documents on the Malaysian Riots of 1969″, pg. 13 of the book)”.

We all know about the 13 Mei incident, but anybody knows the history behind that and what happens before or after that? What was the truth? Much more vile attack by the opposition happened on 24th April, 1969; just two weeks before the historic general election. An UMNO worker named Kassim Bin Omar was inhumanly murdered by the Chinese members of the Labour Party of Malaysia (LPM) on his way home from elections campaign. He was beaten up and murdered on the streets and red paint was smeared all over his face. It was a deliberate act of murder and the senseless killing sent shock waves in the government. The opposition had become political murderers. They had tasted blood and the racists among them wanted more. They freely killed a Malay without any suspicions of any kind just to show their political strengths. Racial tension intensified to a dangerous level and a serious clash was averted at the last moment when UMNO leaders instructed their supporters to bury the dead man quickly and quietly in a dignified manner. UMNO leaders then were very sensitive with the feelings of the public and some say too tolerant towards the Chinese chauvinists.

Furthermore, Dato Onn was fighting the Malayan Union because the Malays saw the jus soli (right of territory) principle in the citizenship division for the Malayan Union as too generous because it specified that individuals born in Chinese-majority Singapore were included even though Singapore was excluded from the Malayan Union structure. The Malays’ worst fears seemed to be coming true; they would be reduced from a nation to a mere community, and a minority one at that; in a land which they perceived as being historically theirs. For more deep clear evidence about this black dot history we can read the article which released by TruelySabahan on 11 September 2008  in The REAL story of May 13 (part 1), where at a particular paragraph it proved about  “In 1968, UMNO fanned racial sentiments in a bid to ‘unite’ the Malays under its banner. UMNO realised that the Malays were abandoning it in droves and it needed an issue to reunite the Malays. Further to that, the Prime Minister was being blamed for what UMNO perceived as a loss of Malay support and the Young Turks in UMNO wanted to also use this issue to pressure the Prime Minister into resigning”.

On the other hand, Many people might not noticed about the another black spot history, but what UMNO leadership did was they cleverly unite UMNO youth and MCA youth leaders to raise racial issues and bring another black history like “May 13”. This was proven in the article The REAL story of May 13 (part 1), by TruelySabahan on 11 September 2008 and this was given by Raja Petra Kamarudin, born in September 27, 1950 and now his age is 63years old where he is a Malaysian editor known for running the Malaysia Today website and publishing a series of commentary articles on Malaysian politics in the website. He is sometimes referred to by the initials RPK (Wikipedia). In order to make it, infamous gathering at the TPCA Padang in Kampong Baru was held and when Najib Tun Razak, the UMNO Youth Leader, raised the “keris” where it is a prized unequal dagger most strongly associated with the culture of Indonesia, but also indigenous to Malaysia, Thailand, Brunei and Singapore. It is known as kalis in the southern Philippines. The kris is famous for its typical wavy blade, although many have straight blades as well and threatened to bathe it in Chinese blood.

Meanwhile, of course this second ‘May 13’ never happened. What did happen instead was that Operasi Lalang was launched and more than 100 opposition leaders and activists were detained under the Internal Security Act. Najib and the MCA Youth Leader, Lee Kim Sai, however, were spared detention, although they were the two main players in the whole period. The tactic did not quite succeed though. In the 1990 general election, half the Malays swung to the opposition and UMNO lost most of the Malay heartland to Semangat 46 and PAS.Twenty years on and history is, again, being repeated. It appears like every twenty years UMNO takes the country to the brink of a race riot in its effort to ‘unite’ the Malays and to ensure that it does not lose Malay support. And the 8 March 2008 general election, as well as the recent Permatang Pauh by-election, is proof that UMNO has lost Malay support.

“The current situation is a repeat of 1969,” said UMNO in its brainstorming session held at the UMNO headquarters to conduct a post-mortem of the election results. “Therefore, a 1969 ‘solution’ will also be required”. This is very dangerous talk indeed. And UMNO has been doing nothing but talking dangerously since March 2008, as evident in the recent episode in Penang. Maybe the offender has since been punished. UMNO’s Supreme Council decided to suspend Ahmad Ismail for a period of three years. But the damage has already been done and the suspension can’t turn back the clock. Racial sentiments have already been fanned and Malaysia, again, is being pushed to the brink of a race riot. We should know our history which have been left by our ancestors and we should remember that even though the rights were divided for Malays is Politics and Chinese and Indians are on the Economics side, but with the good politic sway only we can succeed in country economic. So, together we must unite to make this country successful and empery.


Last but not least, we live in Malaysia which consists of different religious like Malays, Chinese and Indians need to know how May 13 started. They must be made aware of what May 13 was really all about. They must be made to realize that the current saber-rattling is nothing but the same ploy that UMNO used back in 1968 and 1988 whenever it felt that it was losing Malay support. May 13 was not about race although it is being touted as so. May 13 was about ‘reuniting’ the Malays and about ousting the Prime Minister from office. So, people should realize that regardless of race, color, gender, language, religion, opinions, origins, wealth, birth status or ability there should not be racism. Therefore, the rights to all the religion should give equally and harmony & peace should be secure. “We all seek peace. Yet in the name of peace, some are prepared to wage wars!” by Nghi Lam quotes.  We live in Malaysian country with different ethnic, religions, culture and the way of living is different, we should respect others as well as our own religion to make the country peace and harmony forever. Just like a Malay praise “united we stand, divided we fall”. We are One Malaysia.


(2013, 11). May 13 incident. Retrieved 11, 2013, from

JEBATMUSTDIE. (2009, May 13). HISTORY, MUST READ, RACISM . Retrieved from

JEBATMUSTDIE. (2009, May 14). Retrieved from HISTORY, MUST READ, RACISM :

Sekhar, V. (2010, September 17). Retrieved from

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