Time to embrace diversity
We are living in the golden age of information, where technology allows us to broaden our horizons, acquire knowledge and connect with billions of people around the world with the click of a button. Access to unlimited and instant information is transforming the way we live, work and play.
Being able to connect and interact with anyone, anywhere and anytime is also allowing us to learn about and embrace different religions, cultures, races and gender identities. Yet, it seems that in some parts of the world, diversity and inclusion remain a distant dream.
On April 3, Brunei will formally introduce punishments that include death by stoning, or whipping for citizens and visitors proved to have engaged in homosexual activity or adultery. By adopting the most extreme forms of a penal code based on the Islamic legal system of sharia law, the tiny oil-rich sultanate joins Aceh province in Indonesia and six other Islamic countries with such draconian punishments.
The Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, who has held the throne since 1967 and is one of the world's richest leaders with a personal wealth of US$20 billion, led the push for the change proudly described it as "a great achievement".
In China, meanwhile, the hit movie Bohemian Rhapsody has been censored upon its release, omitting three minutes' worth of scenes that touch on homosexuality, crossdressing and HIV/Aids. Earlier, when Rami Malek accepted his best-actor Oscar for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury, the Chinese broadcaster Mango TV replaced the word "gay man" with "special group" in its transcription.
Muslim-majority Malaysia has also pledged to cut any LGBT-related content from cinema releases, as well as urging censorship to extend to Netflix programming delivered online. Its censors cut more than 24 minutes of Bohemian Rhapsody.
Beliefs that same-sex relationships and portrayals of being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) are wrong exist not only in conservative Muslim countries, but also in some multinational corporations and even among some celebrities.
Google, famous for the "don't be evil" motto of its idealistic early years, was recently suspended from the Human Rights Campaign LGBT Equality Index because it refused to remove a "gay cure" app developed by a conservative Christian group that sees same-sex attraction as sinful and something that must be changed.
Recently, the American hip-hop star 50 Cent, who has over 22 million followers on Instagram, posted a caption in which he asserted that being in a relationship with a transgender woman means a person is gay. The post, which has since been deleted, sparked outrage among millions of his fans, who said 50 Cent's transphobia would hurt the cause of trans women.
In the world where billions of people have to coexist together, humans should never be categorised based on a rigid framework rooted in religion, race, gender and culture because everyone is unique in his or her own way. A person might not always fit the carbon copy of criteria set by society, and forcing him or her to stay in a box based on the perceptions of others is a violation of rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled.
We have learned from the past how intolerance, over-generalisation and discrimination throughout human history have led to conflict, violence and atrocities. Nothing good ever came from trying to lock people into a fixed set of expectations.
Since I was a child, my mother always taught me to treat others the way I want to be treated. She always guided me to have empathy and look at a situation from a different point of view, as if I were the other person. She lives by her beliefs and set an excellent example for me to follow.
I genuinely believe in the beauty of all humankind and I try my best to adhere to my mother's teaching. I generally treat people equally with love, compassion and kindness and I believe that this very simple way of thinking and doing can help one to move away from discrimination and more towards inclusion.
I strongly believe that these acts are the keys for peace and contentment in the diverse and multicultural world we live in. The time to embrace diversity is now and I hope this article could be a light that spreads some love and understanding to those that have not yet experienced the beauty of diversity, and for them to open their hearts and cherish this colourful world filled with differences.
Asia Focus Writer
Asia Focus Writer
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