The year of living ‘precariously’ for Malay(sian)s

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To claim that the ‘Malays’ are easily duped by others says a lot about them being ruled by Umno, which claims to be the ‘protector’ of ‘the Malays’, observes Mustafa K Anuar.


Life hasn’t been easy for Malaysians, particularly the ethnic ‘Malays’, if recent developments in the country are anything to go by. This refers to the politics of ethnicity that has reared its ugly head again, and this time more aggressively and menacingly in the form of name-calling, labelling and demonising, and insults to intelligence.

At the same time, this politics of ethnicity has stoked ethnic fears, raising the political temperature in a country where ethnicity has been made a major factor that permeates all levels of Malaysian life.

For one thing, the ‘Malays’ (and Muslims) collectively have been severely reprimanded by certain writers of Umno-owned Malay newspapers and certain Umno politicians for being stupid enough to be supposedly manipulated by the ‘Others’, namely the ethnic Chinese and, to a lesser degree, the ethnic Indians.

Take the recent anti-ISA mammoth rally in Kuala Lumpur. Thousands of Malaysians, the majority of whom were Malays, took to the streets to demand a repeal of the obnoxious Internal Security Act, an ugly legacy of British colonial rule.

Members of Pakatan Rakyat parties and civil society groups that are part of the  Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA (GMI, or Abolish ISA Movement) and other supporters took part in the huge rally on 1 August. The GMI is committed to campaigning for the abolition of the ISA; many of its members are Malays.

The upshot of the reaction was that the Malays who participated in it were vehemently accused of being dense and weak enough to be duped by non-Malays particularly the Chinese-based DAP.

Worse, Malay leaders who participated in this rally, such as Anwar Ibrahim, were labelled as traitors to the ‘Malay race’ for allowing the ‘Others’ to purportedly question the special position of the Malays, Islam and the Malay Rulers. The logic of the accusers’ supposed argument may be fuzzy, but it somehow managed to ‘convince’ some quarters from the Malay community.

Of course, this is not to suggest that those who echoed the accusers’ contention  (like certain Umno politicians) harbour a ‘herd mentality’. Surely these people, including some Malay NGOs and business people who gave their unflinching support to Deputy Prime Minister Muhyuddin, have the intelligence to form their own conviction.

That is why it is certainly not a nice thing to say that the anti-ISA ‘Malay’ protesters are easily fooled by others either. For one, it is unfair to lump members of this ‘Malay community’ as a monolithic clueless collective. Like any other ethnic communities, there are the intelligent, the industrious, the sycophantic, the cowardly, the dim-witted, and the magnanimous within the Malay community. In short, there are many kinds of ‘Malays’.

And surely, most if not all the Malays who participated in the KL rally knew what they were doing. We’re talking here of people who have been discussing and debating the contentious issue of the ISA. It is highly likely that these people can think for themselves.

Besides, to claim that the ‘Malays’ are easily duped by others says a lot about them being ruled by Umno, given that the party has always claimed to be the ‘protector’ of ‘the Malays’ for the last few decades.

Are ‘the Malays’ still weak and dependent on a paternalistic state after all these post-independence years? Are they so easily manipulated to the extent that they unwittingly sell their souls to the devil?

Do these ‘Malays’ need to be alerted by Umno politicians if and when their dignity and rights are trampled by other people? And if their rights and dignity have indeed been trodden, don’t they know who the real culprits are?

When these ‘Malays’ did not respond to the cajoling of certain quarters to rise to the occasion, whatever that meant, they were lambasted for being weak-kneed and not having the moral fibre.

And when they do rise to the occasion, are these ‘Malays’ expected to react in an aggressive manner akin to running amok? Wouldn’t this kind of behaviour backfire on them as this would only reinforce the perception and stereotype cast on ‘the Malays’ that they have the penchant for running amok?

In an era when the waves of globalisation have already reached our shores, doing something ‘aggressive’ is out of sync with the needs of the time. Commando-type training, for example, is certainly out of the question.

It goes without saying, therefore, that we need the intellectual prowess and the moral fibre to stand the test of time to ensure that we Malaysians can hold our heads high no matter what the challenges are before us collectively.

To do this, we need to stop doing things that are divisive to the Malaysian people. To do otherwise is not only downright dim and foolish but also unpatriotic.

As we approach the 52nd anniversary of Malaya’s independence, Malaysians need to show that they are capable of being truly independent by thinking for ourselves and discerning the good from the bad. Most importantly, we must show we cannot be easily fooled anymore.

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