Malaysia has a thing about xenophobia. We fear cultures that are foreign and unfamiliar to us and are threatened by it. The best example is how we treat foreign migrants.

How many times have you heard someone say (or, said it yourself!) that Jalan Silang or Jalan Yap Ah Loy in Kuala Lumpur is dangerous because of all the foreigners there?

It’s supposedly very dangerous in these areas because there are no locals around and that all the shops and businesses there are run by foreign migrants.

Malaysians also complain that these areas are so overrun by foreign migrants that we don’t feel like a part of this country anymore since you hardly see any locals there.

We accuse these foreign migrants of stealing our jobs and running businesses that are supposed to be run by locals.

But basically, Malaysians are just complaining that foreign migrants are just changing the face of the country into something we don’t recognise anymore.

I, on the other hand, tend to see things differently. When foreigners flood a city that is not their own, it just means that it offers more opportunities than their own.

And when something like this happens, does it not means that the economy of that particular city is starting to grow? And what’s wrong with sharing that growth?

What more, Malaysia being a developing country, we actually do need extra labour force (this includes blue and white collar).

Look at all the leading cities of the world – London, New York, Sydney, Hong Kong. These are cities that are so cosmopolitan that you feel like a global citizen living there.

It is also extremely unfair to generalise and stereotype a whole group or community. Are all Nepalese in Malaysia thieves? Are all Indonesians armed robbers?

Is the problem because these foreign migrants come to Malaysia and refuse to assimilate into local culture? Instead, they choose to remain amongst their own community.

Then, have we ever wondered how Malaysians act when they move to other countries? I’ve lived outside Malaysia before, and let me tell you, it’s exactly the same.

Malaysians tend to keep to their own too when they live abroad. Many also tend to avoid assimilation, as can be seen by many Malaysian student communities abroad.

And have we ever wondered how the locals in those countries look at the Malaysian communities? Maybe it’s exactly the same way we look at foreign migrants here.

However, like any social issue, it isn’t as simple as it sounds. Are these foreign workers legal or illegal? Are immigration laws in Malaysia protective of Malaysians?

How about the economic status of these foreign workers? There really are lots of other factors that we need to consider.

Personally, I don’t see any problem for foreign migrants to want to come to Malaysia to try their luck at making a living. In fact, it makes me quite proud to be in a sort of land of opportunities.

When I was in Sweden (which has very relaxed immigration laws) recently, a taxi driver told me that he is proud that his country is developed and well to do that it can share what it has with others.

But, let me throw this question out there.

Would these overly-concerned Malaysians feel the same way if they went to Mont Kiara or Damansara Heights where the foreign migrants have more of a fairer complexion?