Ismail Kassim – A Malay Triology: Part 1 – Culture – Why Can’t Malays Be Malays?

Part 1: Why can’t Malays be Malays?

Outspoken Marina Mahathir, finally says it: ‘’I will go into exile if hudud is implemented.’’

For years I have been telling my friends: ‘’I rather face discrimination as a minority than risk getting my hands chopped off or my head lobbed off elsewhere.’’

It’s no secret that religious freedom doesn’t exist in Muslim-ruled countries. As for human rights,the record everywhere is appalling.

If you belong to the majority group, life may not be too bad provided you conform to all the dos and don’ts. If you are a minority – irrespective of whether it is ethnic or religious or belong to the wrong Muslim sect, then be prepared for the worst.

I am happy that my friends on the WhatsApp network have begun to voice their disgust at the turmoil in the Muslim world. Intolerance and bigotry reign unchecked amidst mutual slaughter.

The evil that ISIS spouts continues to attract a handful of youths and other misguided Muslims round the globe. Don’t they realise how despotic and self-serving a caliph will eventually be?

What has ISIS done since its emergence? Helping Palestinians or the Rohingyas, coming to the aid of oppressed Muslims? No, all they have been doing is killing other Muslims like Kurds, Yazidis and others who do not belong to their intolerant version of Islam.

Marina’s complaint against Arabisation of the Malay mind further stokes the embers of discontent among my friends. It is Arab colonialism, no less she adds.

One says it is high time the Malays bring Islam to the Arabs. Another suggests – drop the use of Arabic names for our children and our mosques. Someone chips in: We must make it clear we are Malay Muslims and not Malay Arabs.

To stoke the fire further, I decide to become the agent provocateur: ‘’Malays must go to civilise the Arabs. I support that.

’’My brothers, has anyone ever wondered why the Lord above sends prophets only to the Semitic people? Why the Malays have never got one? Think, think. Obviously, we don’t need one. Has anyone of us drown our new-born daughters in the seas?’’

Several instant responses: ‘’The only Arabs we need to respect are the Prophet and his close companions’’; ‘’when we eat Malay food even in public, we must use our right hands and not fork and spoons’’; and ‘’we must bring back the sarong kebaya and the ronggeng.’’

A convert adds, ‘’the problem is that Malays suffer from severe inferiority complex. They sacrifice the beautiful aspects of their culture in pursuit of so-called religious obligations.’’

Even in the 80s when I was reporting from KL, I noticed with distaste the spectacle of Malays trying to behave like brown Arabs.

Imagine the unsightly scene of two heavy weight men, or two fat, middle-aged, brightly painted women in embrace, trying to give each other a peck on the cheek Arab-style. It was a common sight at Umno meetings then.

What’s wrong with the Malays salam bersalaman ? How gracious….. palms lightly clasp and fingers exchanging touches and then the hands back to the chest!

Likewise, why exchange the Malay tudung or selendang and the sarong kebaya for the drab and black shapeless gowns that have been designed for use in the hot desert sands.

Both are gifts from our forefathers and both are among the most gracious female apparel ever designed by humans for use in our humid tropical climate.

After a recent tour of the small towns of Johore, I see more signs of Arabisation and Westernisation. Fast food joints such as KFC chicken, pizzas and burgers are easily available, but the mee rebus, rojak, tahu goring and gado-gado can hardly be found andmaybe on the path to extinction like the Malay selendang and kebaya. 

So used are they to eating the Western fast food, I found many of them, including the older generation, seems to have forgotten to eat with their hands at the nasi padang stalls.

Have they forgotten the berkat  traditionally associated with eating Malay food with hands and fingers?

I know how pernicious such food can be. Within a generation of receiving halal certificates, the Singapore Malays have been transformed from a tough and resilient ethnic group to become the unhealthiest.

In my youth, I used to envy Malay boys who can play in the rain, swim in the flood swollen drains without falling sick; now I look with amusement at the number of plumb, fat and overweight Malays especially among females that I come across in the streets. Sometimes, I think Malays have only two preoccupation: eating and religion

Have the Malays forgotten a saying that goes back generations that says customs must be preserved even at the cost of one’s child. (biar mati anak,jangan mati adat)

Nampak-nya sekarang, melayu celup macham saya, saudara baru and kaum Jawi Peranakan lebih menghargai adat2 Melayu daripada Melayu tulen. Dunia sudah terbalik.

The British describes Malays as Nature’s gentlemen – always polite and gracious with their own endearing traditions, customs and ways of dressing.

And those who have mixed with the Malays in the past have also largely become a more pleasant people – witness the Baba Peranakan, the Jawi Peranakan and the Arabs in our midst.

P/S: Ordinary folks everywhere are not be blamed; it is their leaders and the elites that must shoulder the responsibility for any shortcoming in the society.


Source: Ismail Kassim

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