In ‘new Malaysia’, race continues to cast a long shadow

Source: Reuters

BY Joseph Sipalan

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Just months after a stunning election victory, Malaysia’s prime minister has had to step in to mollify the country’s majority Malay Muslims in recent weeks, underlining a weighty challenge confronting his multi-ethnic, reformist coalition: race.

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FILE PHOTO: People pass posters of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and politician Anwar Ibrahim, who was granted a royal pardon, at a rally in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia May 16, 2018. REUTERS/Lai Seng Sin/File Photo

When riots erupted at a Hindu temple outside the capital, Kuala Lumpur, last week, 93-year-old Mahathir Mohamad spared no effort to scotch speculation that tensions with Malays were to blame.

Just a few days earlier, his government reversed its pledge to ratify a U.N. convention against racial discrimination following a backlash from groups who argued that it would dilute privileges Malays have enjoyed for decades.

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