Reducing Prejudice: The Role of Contact Theory in Inter-Religious Dialogue

  • Arfah Ab. Majid

Abstract

Due to prejudicial attitude that is still ingrained in some of Malaysian society, there are always inter-religious issues arise in this country.  This detrimental attitude if not being handled wisely could lead to inter-religious discord.  Even though inter-religious dialogue has been implemented in Malaysia since 1950s, its effects on prejudice reduction is still vague.  International dialogue practitioners have begun to include a number of theories in their dialogue designs in order to address prejudice.  One of the theories is contact theory proposed by Gordon Allport (1954).  According to Allport, contact that occurs under four specified conditions can generate learning and understanding about others which consequently lead to reduction of prejudice.  Therefore, this study aims to explore the existing designs of several inter-religious dialogue programs in Malaysia and to determine to what extent these programs conformed to the contact theory.  To gather data on inter-religious dialogue designs and their compliance to contact theory, a case study (i.e. interview and document analysis) had been carried out at two organizations, Institut Kemajuan Islam Malaysia (IKIM) and Inter-faith Spiritual Fellowship (INSaF).  Two inter-religious dialogue programs for each organization were studied.  The findings from the case study suggests that out of four programs, only one of the programs (i.e., INSaF’s community building) fulfilled all four contact conditions since it applied unconventional design of dialogue which combined workshop, exhibition, Hari Raya celebration and alliance building.  The other dialogue programs that applied the format of a forum, public lecture or roundtable dialogue only manage to fulfil three contact conditions namely equal status, common goals, and authority sanction.  These conventional formats of dialogue did not provide the opportunity for the cooperative interaction condition to occur among the participants, hence the contact theory was incomplete.  In order for the dialogue to achieve the desired goals such increasing inter-religious understanding and reducing prejudice, inter-religious dialogue practitioners and organizations should consider developing a systematic inter-religious dialogue design that is grounded on specific theories such as the contact theory in the future.


 

References

Abdul Rahman Embong. (2001). The Culture and practice of pluralism in post-colonial Malaysia. In R. W. Hefner (ed), The politics of multiculturalism: pluralism and citizenship in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia (pp. 59-87). University of Hawai’i Press.
Allport, G.W. (1954). The nature of prejudice. Cambridge, Mass: Addison-Wesley.
Allport, G.W. (1979). The nature of prejudice: Unabridged. Reading: Addison-Wesley.

Alvarez, A. R., & Cabbil, L. (2001). The MELD program: Promoting personal change and social justice through a year-long multicultural group experience. Social Work with Groups, 24 (1), 3-20.
Chu, D. & Griffey D. (1985). The contact theory of racial integration: the case of sport. Sociology of Sport Journal, 2, 323-3.
Davies, K., Tropp, L.R., Aron, A., Pettigrew, T.F., & Wright S.C. (2011). Cross-group friendships and intergroup attitudes: A meta-analytic review. Personality & Social Psychology Review, 15. 332-351.
Dessel, A., Rogge, M. (2008). Evaluation of intergroup dialogue: A review of the empirical literature. Conflict Resolution Quarterly, 26(2), 199-238.
Dessel, A., Rogge, M., & Garlington, S. (2006). Using intergroup dialogue to promote social justice and change. Social Work, 51(4), 303-315.
Finseraas, H., & Kotsadam, A. (2017). Does personal contact with ethnic minorities affect anti-immigrant sentiments? Evidence from a field experiment. European Journal of Political Research, 56. 703–722.
Gaertner, S. L., Dovidio, J. F., & Bachman, B. A. (1996). Revisiting the contact hypothesis: The induction of a common in-group identity. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 20 (3 & 4), 271-290.
Gaertner, S. L., Dovidio, J. F., Rust, M. C., Nier, J., Banker, B., Ward, C. M. et al. (1999). Reducing inter-group bias: Elements of inter-group cooperation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76, 388–402.
Ghazali Basri. (2005). Dialog antara Agama di Malaysia [Inter-religious dialogue in Malaysia]. Kuala Lumpur. Pusat Dialog Peradaban. UM. Gurin, P., Peng, T., Lopez, G. E., & Nagda, B. A. (1999). Context, identity and inter-group relations. In D. Prentice & D. Miller (eds.), Cultural divides: Understanding and overcoming group conflict (pp. 133–170). New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Hussin Mutalib. (1993). Islam in Malaysia: From revivalism to Islamic State. Singapore: National University of Singapore.
Institut Kefahaman Islam Malaysia. (2010, November). Religion and pluralistic coexistence: The muhibah perspective. Dialogue program’s guide.
Khairulnizam Mat Karim & Suzy Aziziyana Saili. (2008, June). Realiti aplikasi dialog antara agama di Malaysia: Kajian terhadap Inter-faith Spiritual Fellowship (INSaF) dan Pusat Dialog Peradaban, Universiti Malaya [Reality applications of Inter-faith dialogue in Malaysia: Study on Inter-Faith Spiritual Fellowship (INSaF) dan Pusat Dialog Peradaban, Universiti Malaya]. Paper presented at National Seminar on Science, Technology & Social Sciences organized by Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) Pahang & Pahang State Government, Pahang.
Lee, H. G. (2000). Ethnic relations in Peninsular Malaysia: The cultural and economic dimensions. Social and Cultural Issues. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.
Lemmer, G., & Wagner, U. (2015). Can we really reduce ethnic prejudice outside the lab? A meta-analysis of direct and indirect contact interventions. European Journal of Social Psychology, 45(2). 152–168.
Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis: An expanded sourcebook (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Miller, J., &Donner, S. (2000). More than just talk: The use of racial dialogues to combat racism. Social Work with Groups, 23(1), 31-53.
Nagda, B. A., Kim, C. W., & Truelove, Y. (2004). Learning about difference, learning with others, learning to transgress. Journal of Social Issues, 60(1), 195–214.

Nagda, B., Gurin, P., & Zuniga, X. (2008). A multi-university evaluation of the educational effects of inter-group dialogue. Retrieved February 23, 2010, from http://depts.washington.edu/sswweb/resweb/project.php?id61.
Paluck, E. L., & Green, D. P. (2009). Prejudice reduction: What works? A Review and assessment of research and practice. Annual Review of Psychology, 60. 339-367.
Parrott, D. J., Zeichner, A., & Hoover, R. (2006). Sexual prejudice and anger network activation: Mediating role of negative affect. Aggressive Behavior, 32, 7–16.
Pettigrew., T.F & Tropp., L.R. (2006). A meta-analytic test of intergroup contact theory. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90, 751-783.
Rahimin Affandi Abd. Rahim, Mohd Anuar Ramli, Paizah Ismail & Nor Hayati Mohd Dahlal. (2011). Dialog antara agama: Realiti dan prospek di Malaysia [Religious dialogue: Its reality and prospect in Malaysia]. Kajian Malaysia, 29 (2), 91–110.
Schoem, D., Hurtado, S., Sevig, T., Chesler, M. & Sumida, S. H. (2001). Intergroup dialogue: Democracy at work in theory and practice. In D., Schoem. & S, Hurtado (Eds.), Intergroup dialogue: Deliberative democracy in school, college, community and workplace (pp.1-21). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Sri Rahayu Ismail, Zaid Ahmad, Haslinda Abdullah & Norbaya Ahmad. (2009). The sociopsychological dimension of ethnic relations in Malaysia. European Journal of Social sciences, 12 (1). 76-82.
Sternberg., R.J. (2003). A duplex theory of hate: Development and application to terrorism massacres and genocide. Review of General Psychology, 7(3). 299-328.
Tan, S. K. (2011). Public confidence in state of ethnic relations decline. Retrieved July 22, 2012, from www.merdeka.org
The Pure Life Society. (2006, July-December). INSaF going strong: Religious dialogue. Truth alone triumph: The pure life society bulletin. p.6.
Yadim: Hold more inter-religious dialogues to promote understanding. (2019, March 5). Malay Mail. Retrieved from https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/03/05/yadim-hold-more-inter-religious-dialogues-to-promote-understanding/1729388
Zúñiga, X. & Sevig, T. D. (1997). Bridging the "us/them" divide through inter-group dialogue and leadership. The Diversity Factor, (Winter) 22-28.
Zúñiga, X., Nagda, B. R. A., Mark Chesler., M. & Cytron-Walker., A. (2007). Inter-group dialogue in higher education: meaningful learning about social justice. ASHE Higher Education Report, 32 (4). 1-128.
Published
2020-07-31
How to Cite
AB. MAJID, Arfah. Reducing Prejudice: The Role of Contact Theory in Inter-Religious Dialogue. International Journal of Advanced Research in Islamic and Humanities, [S.l.], v. 2, n. 2, p. 37-49, july 2020. ISSN 2682-8332. Available at: <http://myjms.moe.gov.my/index.php/ijarih/article/view/10188>. Date accessed: 11 aug. 2020.
Section
Articles