Obama: Discrimination a hurdle for M'sia's success
Malaysia will not be a successful country if its non-Muslim population are discriminated against, says US President Barrack Obama.
"This is a Muslim-majority. There are times where those are non-Muslims find themselves, perhaps being disadvantaged or experiencing hostility...
"No country is going to succeed if part of its population is put on the sidelines because its population are discriminated against.
"Malaysia won’t succeed if non-Muslims don’t have opportunity,” he said during the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) Town Hall at Universiti Malaya today.
He said this when responding to a question from a Myanmar participant asking for Obama’s advice on how should young leaders deal with the diversity within the Asean region.
Obama’s response included conflicts in many countries, including Malaysia, Myanmar, the US, and others, as examples.
"If you look at the biggest source of conflict and war and hardship around the world, one of the most - if not the most - important reasons is people treating those who are not like them differently," he said, whether those differences are of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
The US president also expressed concern for Myanmar’s democratisation efforts, as groups start to form political groups on basis of race or religion rather than principles such as justice and democracy.
'Speak out against discrimination'
He told the audience of about 600 youth leaders from across the Asean region that although people should be proud of their identities, this should not be used as a tool to look down and discriminate on others.
“You have to make sure that you are speaking out against that in your daily life and as you emerge as leaders, you should be on the side of politics that bring people together rather than drive people apart.
“That is the most important thing for this generation,” he urged the participants.
During the meeting of about 90 minutes, Obama gave a speech on the importance of the Asean region on the global arena, before taking questions from the youths.
These questions included advise for countries like Malaysia trying to become a developed nation, on Obama’s first community projects, what was he dreaming to become when he was 20 years old, whether he had any regrets, and “What does happiness mean to you?”