Despite being a diverse nation, racism and colourism are still significant issues in Malaysia. Such beliefs can have disastrous impacts on tourists as well as locals, as recently illustrated by a Nigerian man who spoke of his trip to Malaysia in 2016 via a TikTok clip.
Having two of his closest friends living in Malaysia at the time, one Indian and one Ugandan, Suleiman, who was a student, made the decision to travel here.
@suleiman_toks @lmfaomal The kind of premium rac|$m I experienced in Malaysia.. 👀 #storytime #travellingwhileblack ♬ original sound – Suleiman
“I hadn’t seen them in like, 5 to 6 years, so I was like, you know what, let me go and visit them,” he stated, noting that he used the cash he had saved up as a student for 1.5 years to finance the journey.
He arrived in Kuala Lumpur and spent almost 4 days there without incident, but things started to go south when he landed in Sabah, where the trio had planned to do some island-hopping.
“In the plane, passengers were staring at us, particularly my Ugandan friend and I, as if they had never seen a black person before. That ought to have been our first indicator,” he claimed.
Suleiman and his Ugandan friend were taken to a separate room by immigration officials, who restored the passport of Suleiman’s friend but informed him that he couldn’t enter Sabah. According to him, the official said “we do not allow your kind here.”
Then, he was told that he had to pay for his own deportation back to Kuala Lumpur, which he couldn’t afford. He explained this to officials, who finally agreed to pay for his trip. Alas, Suleiman had to return to the capital city by himself as his two friends could not cover the expenses for the trip back.
For three days, he was left alone and unattended in KL.
He also mentioned that taxi drivers refused to stop for him when he tried to go out to make the most of his trip even though he was alone, and waiters in restaurants would not take his order due to the colour of his skin. Not only that – even as he was leaving the country, five security personnel stopped him, interrogated him, and confiscated his passport as they assumed it was fake.
“If I ever step foot in Malaysia again, my left kidney will shift,” he said.
It is incredibly disheartening to hear of Suleiman’s experience in Malaysia. As noted by netizens in the comments section, his trip was marred by prejudice and colourism when all he wanted was to tour the country and spend time with his friends.
Numerous others also mentioned the need to eradicate xenophobia from our culture and to promote inclusivity and diversity. Only then will we be able to genuinely claim to be a hospitable, tolerant country that is able to draw in and retain tourists from across the globe.