Thursday, October 28, 2010

Malays = Malaysians?

Australians tend to think Malaysians are all Malays. Even Chinese Malaysians and Indian Malaysians are Malays. And all those "other" races are also Malays. It's naive but it's a nice notion...

Girls from Tourism Ads wearing costumes of the main races in Malaysia:
The girl in the middle is Malay, she is flanked on either side by an Indian and Chinese girl.
While the two girls on the far left and right are from indigenous tribes (Iban and Kadazan).
The Malay girl is symbolically always in the middle. Always. And the Iban and Kadazans are sometimes left out, too.

I've always struggled to explain who the real Malays are to my Australian friends.
Malays in Malaysia are called "bumiputera"- Literal translation: "bumi" = soil, earth; "putera"= prince. But are they indigenous? Not really. As our Malaysian history books (Sejarah Malaysia) tell us, the Malay race is descended from the Javanese Hindu Prince Parameswara from Temasek (modern day Singapore). He founded the spice trading port of Malacca in 1402. It is sometime during his reign that he converted to Islam, so all his subjects followed suit, so Malays in Malaysia today practice Islam.

Do ALL Malays practice Islam today? YES. This is protected by law. "Marriage between Muslims and non-Muslims is forbidden under Malaysian law. Under the Shariah/Islamic Jurisprudence; the non-Muslim is required to convert to Islam under Malaysian law."- Wikipedia. No Malay is allowed to embrace another religion unless the courts grant them permission.

"Bumiputera" status entitles Malays to have access to government contracts, company and land ownership, scholarships, loans... etc. entitlement to nearly everything under the sun in Malaysia. This affirmative action written into the constitution nearly 40 years ago to help Malay race economically. Until about 15 years ago, indigenous tribes of Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak) who mostly practiced Christianity were NOT entitled to the same"bumiputera" status of Malays.

Go figure. Why indeed?
It is these same indigenous people in Sarawak who are protesting against their homes and land being torn down in the name of building progress. And NOT real progress either: it's the building of a huge dam (the Bakun Dam) that will ultimately benefit Malay politicians and their Chinese businessman cronies. If there is any trickle-down benefit to the people, it will be the people living in already developed urban locations around Kuala Lumpur. The indigeous tribes will not see an iota of return in exchange for their homes and land being destroyed. Read more about it here and here.

A documentary about the Bakun Dam (in Malay) that was aired on Malaysian TV.
Watch it here.

The Malaysian government forced its TV network to get this documentary off the air in April 2010. Write to Amnesty International. The situation in Malaysia is not all about tall glossy skyscrapers, land of smiles and multiculturalism. It is NOT "truly Asia".

I have mixed feelings. The result of mixed blood. Hahahaha...

Will debunk the myth of "TRUE MALAY" in a future blog post.
Preview: "Malays don't eat pork, right? WRONG!!!!"


Anonymous said...


i came across your blog and I have to admit that what you say is true - bout the bumiputeras having their opportunities that other races don't.

it has been like that since independence, and no amount of 1Malaysia spirit will ever solve this problem.

i'm of mixed blood too - my mom's a malay from perak and my dad a kenyan. i get some difficulties in entering a boarding school because of my dad's nationality and i think it'll be harder for me to get a scholarship when i end my secondary year.

still, i love this country and i think that malaysia is governed by sincere people, better than countries that seem nice but are discreetly corrupted. just sayin.

Implosion said...

Hi, Anonymous-
You seem to contradict yourself in the first and last lines of your comment:"I have to admit that what you say is true - bout the bumiputeras having their opportunities that other races don't." So you acknowledge that the system is unfair- and therefore fails to unite 1Malaysia.
Then, in your last line: "i think that malaysia is governed by sincere people, better than countries that seem nice but are discreetly corrupted" The same people who you think are "sincere people" are perpetuating the system that fails to be fair to all Malaysian (as you pointed out in your first sentence).

So the only defensive statement left is something like: *at least we're not as bad as XYZ country....*


the immigayrant said...

Aww... I feel sad for the non-Malay indigenous people in Malaysian territory...

Such discrimination on the basis of religion (and race) is unfair.

NickYungkit said...

Yeah, I've faced that a few times. But what hits hard is when they boast about their advantages to me. I'm Chinese. My mind starts going "Dude, what's there to be proud of? If you didn't have these "oppurtunities", the other races wouldn't overrun you."

But there are Malays who find it wrong too. Most of my Malay friends believe in a genuine state of equality. ...Don't think it's gonna be happening anytime soon, though.

Nevertheless, despite the politics and certain people, I love the country! Great place to be, and majority of Malaysians are real friendly. :)

Great blog post.

NickYungkit said...

*would've. Sorry. :D

NickYungkit said...

And I'm looking forward to the post bout True Malays. :D

Implosion said...

Hi Nick,
There's good people in every country. Unfortunately for the majority, it's the ruling elite minority who are giving the country a bad name.