From Bikya Masr:
KUALA LUMPUR: Black face is never a good idea. Malaysia’s new comic book aimed at educating the country’s taxi drivers as cultural ambassadors for the country has shown that racism and xenophobia can find a place in the location one least expects it.
For the Malaysian government to employ it and publish Africans in this lens is “disrespectful and racist,” said cultural psychologist Mariam Razq, who told Bikyamasr.com that she was “shocked that in today’s modern multicultural world, this kind of overt racism continues.”
She was referring to a recent “M1-Malaysia” magazine aimed at educating the governments recent addition of taxi drivers to be the frontline for tourist relations in the country.
The booklet reveals the dark side of racism and its undercurrents that can be shown publicly. In the magazine, dark-skinned foreigners are depicted with large mouths, white lipstick and slapstick-type qualities in what experts and organizations haave condemned as “highly crude and discriminatory remarks.”
In a statement the Working Group on National Ratification of International Convention for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said the booklet is a distorted propaganda publication bearing the 1Malaysia logo and was widely distributed at the 1Malaysia People’s Taxi Program launch on June 25.
“We strongly and collectively condemn the discriminatory cartoon in the comic booklet entitled “M1-Malaysia – Majalah untuk rakyat,” the statement said.
“The irony is this degrading comic book was actually given to the thousands of tax drivers who were being heralded as the “tourism ambassadors” of our country,” the coalition of NGOs said in the statement.
The booklet continued to refer to black foreigners as “Mr. Charcoal.”
Razq said that getting beyond racism can be a difficult process and one that takes time, “but government officials should have known better than to publish something so blatant and which could have horrible affects for black people visiting the country.”
“This negative depiction of any race or nationality based on skin color is a violation of basic human rights. Sadly this embarrassing document obviously contradicts the spirit, sentiment and principles of “1 Malaysia” as espoused by PM Najib’s government.
“Respect, unity and tolerance for all are not values only to be enjoyed by Malaysian Citizens but they are universal principles applicable for all human beings on this earth!
“This “Xenophobic” behavior or the ridiculous and unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners is truly embarrassing for our nation and our multicultural population. It is a total contradiction to the common claim that Malaysians are very sensitive to each other despite racial and religious differences, and we have achieved the delicate balance of “unity in diversity”,” said the statement in demanding the government immediately remove the document from circulation and publish a new magazine that accurately represents dark-skinned visitors to the country.
The statement continued to warn and question what the result would be if children in Malaysia came in contact with the booklet.
The Malaysia Information Ministry said it was looking into the matter and would investigate the groups’ argument and claims.
For now, the booklet remains in public view, and for the first line of “ambassadors” and taxi drivers who will meet and greet visitors to the country, there are worries that it could have dramatic consequences.
Razq said that more efforts are needed to “educate Malaysians on differences between people, but in a manageable way that does not divide and show people that it is all right to promote racist behavior.”