The past week, nothing else has been dominating discussions other than Brexit. The United Kingdom (UK) leaving the European Union (EU) has shaken the world — economically, politically and socially.
Socially, because immigration has come to be the centre of the motivation for the “Leavers”, those who voted to leave the EU, who have wanted to put a stop to the immigration of Europeans, amongst other things.
Brexit, in itself, connotes the rise of nationalism in the UK. Across the Atlantic Ocean, nationalism can be said to be on the rise with Donald Trump representing the Republicans in the United States’ presidential elections. A year ago, in this globalised world, no one would have predicted neither Trump, nor Brexit, to dominate the headlines. Today, however, it has become the reality.
In this article, I would aim to discuss the relationship between nationalism and globalisation, specifically multiculturalism and its impact on Malaysia. There is no denying that nationalistic sentiments are on the rise in the Western world. The irony is that the countries that used to propagate multiculturalism are now perceived to be turning their backs on it. The very countries that are known to be the beacon of freedom, liberty and equality have racism, xenophobia and bigotry associated with them strongly.
It could be that the growing sentiments of bigotry, racism and xenophobia are a rejection of the globalised world, and a liking towards familiarity, and the growth of fear towards unfamiliarity. It is definitely a complete rejection of a united “European nation”, as Brexit proves that people would rather be grouped by the word “English”, not even “British” anymore. The same could be said with the wide definition of “American”. This is, at least the truth for Trump supporters, and some of the Leavers.
Reading the news on the racist remarks on the streets of the UK, and in Manchester, has made me nostalgic for the time when I thought of England being highly accommodative and embracing multiculturalism. I had celebrated Hari Raya in a Somalian mosque with Somalian asylum seekers, and I had spent time in London, walking through the financial district and witnessing the life that goes on for everyone else in Canary Wharf — a rare sight for a Malaysian walking around London in a baju kurung on the first day of Syawal, as I am always used to the country being on a holiday to welcome the first week of Syawal. While I try to understand and digest the new information of a Britain being more openly hostile towards the non-British (as racism would still occur from time to time in the UK), there is no doubt that fear overwhelms me of the precedent Brexit might make.
Borrowing the ideas of rejection of integration from the rise of Trump and Brexit, one cannot help but wonder what the fate is for developing nations like Malaysia that seem to strive towards integration and globalisation. Would we be faced with the same problems in 20 years’ time? As it is, we face some, if not, a few of the problems that encouraged Brexit — housing prices and the employment market.
We have been faced with a few problems akin to that of the EU. Last year, we faced the issue of Rohingyas, and we were met with varied results. Of course, there were sympathisers who urged the government to allow them into the country. However, there were also those who were against any notion of the government allowing them in. The issue of 1.5 million migrant workers from Bangladesh, too, had invited a similar response from our society, as some had responded in a hostile manner towards the news of it, urging the government to respond to the news. While the varied responses are highly understandable, it makes for an observation whereupon we fear a consequence of globalisation that we strive for.
Given the implementation of the Asean Economic Community (AEC), we might see the integration of an Asean common market in the Southeast Asian region. With the rising dominance and prominence of Asia, too, we might see the movement of Third World (not defined in economic terms, but instead as a non-Asean citizen) persons into the country. And unfortunately for us, the “pull” factor of the movements of people would be job opportunities.
Racism, xenophobia and bigotry are not something that Malaysians are shocked with, as they have been dominating our headlines since long before. While the Western world is unsure of its future right now, we might re-think and re-calibrate our understanding of our own future. However, it is surely faith that I have — despite the years of racism dominating and being accused upon our own Malaysians — we have managed to survive and embrace the different cultures between us. Although for now, the global future might be uncertain, but perhaps, our embedded roots and Malaysian culture that is exemplified in our festivals, might shine through, and the domino effect of Brexit, might never catch on to our dear Malaysians.
Tengku Nur Qistina Petri, a granddaughter of former prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra al-Haj, is a fresh law graduate trying hard to find her place after spending some time at The University of Manchester in northern England. Always probing into discussions, she most often regrets not doing Politics, Philosophy and Economics