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International Day for Tolerance

by ikalmayang

Tolerance presupposes taking the other’s perspective, not just being aware of it.

As our General Election draws nearer, it is in good practice to remind ourselves of what tolerance is. Malaysia boasts on its diversity and ability to maintain an illusory concept of harmony and social cohesion through the concept of tolerance – and to a certain extent, this is true.

But what exactly is tolerance? We hear this word used almost religiously, especially during important dates like during Merdeka and various cultural holidays. Is it just a buzzword generated every once in a while? A pretty image we paint when we want to feel more connected with our country? 

Well, it can be. But proper tolerance goes beyond words and joining hands in the name of diversity. It is a skill honed through practice – to really understand its importance. But how do we do this? 


Growing up we’ve always been stuck with the same circle of people, we’ve accustomed ourselves to a specific kind of worldview, and it can be extremely hard to break out of that, especially when there isn’t a reason to. 

But the world is vast. 7 billion people and none of them are the same, which is why tolerance is the foundation to which not only we are able to coexist peacefully but also to understand the perspective of others, even if it means experiencing discomfort. 

Education For Tolerance


Charlein Gracia on Unsplash

Moulding the mind of a child is a huge responsibility – and requires an understanding of our own biases. As parents, educators and adults alike, there is a sense of accountability that must be held when imparting knowledge to children. 

Teaching the value and practices of tolerance is one of the best gifts you can give. Children don’t deserve to be raised with hateful sentiments and fear or suspicion towards people who are different from them. Through tolerance, children are able to build empathy and understanding of differences and take in other perspectives just as much as they give their own. 

Tolerance can be achieved through maintaining curiosity. 


Gary Butterfield on Unsplash

Life is short, but it’s the longest experience we will ever face. Keeping curious, even if it’s for a small thing – is something that will encourage you to live a fulfilling life and build tolerance. 

Intolerance comes from ignorance and fear of the unknown. Building curiosity is a great way to cultivate a sense of empathy. For example, the desire to understand why certain people live their lives differently, have different cultural practices and extend a hand to marginalised communities, asking why they are marginalised in the first place. 

Freedom Through Tolerance


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Ultimately, tolerance promotes freedom. According to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression without interference. 

In other words, it is through the practice of tolerance that we as a society are able to hold our own opinions and express ourselves ‘freely’. To reaffirm the fundamental human right to exist without discrimination is the goal through practicing tolerance. 

Happy International Day of Tolerance


Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Therefore, in conjunction with International Day of Tolerance happening on the 16th of November today, it’s a great reminder to reflect on the definition of tolerance and understand that at the end of the day, we are all differently-built with different perspectives and we must learn to coexist peacefully next to each other and embrace all our differences. 

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