Friday, October 4, 2013

A Malay is a Malay is a Malay

Penang Malay Congress president Rahmad Isahak has created a new term 'Melayu asli' (pure Malays/original Malays). He was commenting on the Malays in the DAP who did not win the CEC (central executive committee) re-elections save Zairil Khir Johari (left). He happily heaped scorn on Zairil when he questioned the latter’s Malayness. To Rahmad, Zairil is not a pure/original Malay and this is because his mother is Chinese. (This Rahmad fella has something against the Chinese!) 

Which Malay burrow did this Rahmad slither out from? What is a Malay, if I may ask? If in doubt, we can always refer to Article 160 of the Malaysian Constitution which defines a Malay as someone born to a Malaysian citizen who professes to be a Muslim, habitually speaks the Malay language, adheres to Malay customs and is domiciled in Malaysia. 

If we subscribe to this, then Rahmad is constitutionally misguided when he cast doubt on Zairil not being a Malay. There is no distinction about types of Malays, is there? A Malay is a Malay is a Malay. 

Are there thoroughbred Malays? I don’t know. But there are pretenders. Mahathir Mohamad considers himself to be more Malay than others but he does not meet Rahmad’s definition of a pure/original Malay. It is public knowledge that Mahathir’s father is Indian. A second example. Another former Prime Minister, Ahmad Badawi. His paternal grandfather is of Arab descent and his maternal grandfather is Chinese. And believe me, there are many other Malays too who are of mixed parentage.

Even our closest neighbors, the Indonesians don’t consider themselves Malays – they are Javanese, Achinese, Bugis, Minangkabau, Sundanese, Madurese and so forth. 

But seriously, why must we harp about our ethnicity? Aren’t we all Malaysians? Those who talk about how Malay they are, are plainly insecure. 

And the government is also a villain because it encourages identification by race and religion. Those who belong to the ‘right’ race and religion get to enjoy perks that are denied to others who are of a different race and/or religion. It’s the Malaysian version of apartheid. South Africa bravely gave up apartheid 21 years ago – when are we going to dismantle ours?

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