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M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

My Photo
Location: Morgan Hill, California, United States

Malaysian-born Bakri Musa writes frequently on issues affecting his native land. His essays have appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek, International Herald Tribune, Education Quarterly, SIngapore's Straits Times, and The New Straits Times. His commentary has aired on National Public Radio's Marketplace. His regular column Seeing It My Way appears in Malaysiakini. Bakri is also a regular contributor to th eSun (Malaysia). He has previously written "The Malay Dilemma Revisited: Race Dynamics in Modern Malaysia" as well as "Malaysia in the Era of Globalization," "An Education System Worthy of Malaysia," "Seeing Malaysia My Way," and "With Love, From Malaysia." Bakri's day job (and frequently night time too!) is as a surgeon in private practice in Silicon Valley, California. He and his wife Karen live on a ranch in Morgan Hill. This website is updated twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays at 5 PM California time.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Race, Religion, And Royalty



Race, Religion, And Royalty:  The Barnacles On Malay Society



Introduction:  Pernicious Influence of Islamism on Education (Third of Four Parts)



The other major and negative influence of Islamism is on education. By Islamism I mean the movement that would use or exploit this great faith to pursue its political, social, and other agenda.


During colonial times Islam was relegated to the periphery, placed under the sole jurisdiction of the sultans. Mahathir in his first go around as Prime Minister back in the early 1980s was instrumental in bringing Islam into the federal government in many and major ways. His rationale or motive escapes me. If it was an attempt to project his image as the champion of the faith, then that failed miserably. His standing with the Islamists was not at all enhanced. Quite the contrary. They looked upon him with undisguised contempt, dismissing him as but a pretender because he lacked any formal religious training. Beyond that, Mahathir eschewed the traditional attire and trappings of the Islamists, as with donning overflowing robes and oversized turbans, as well as peppering his speeches with Qur’anic verses.


Coopting these Islamists into his administration, Mahathir succeeded only in emboldening them. Mahathir rode the Islamist tiger to pursue his political goals only to find that he could not dismount so easily. Mahathir should count himself lucky in that the tiger did not devour him.


Through Mahathir, the Islamists became entrenched in the affairs of the state. Nowhere is this omnipresence felt more than in education. Malaysian national schools are now fully Islamized, driving out non-Malays. Even Malays are abandoning the system in increasing numbers, opting instead for Chinese schools, much to the distress and embarrassment of the Islamists and language nationalists.


Islam today is also a potent political force. The political party that explicitly and unabashedly carries the banner of Islam is PAS. The origin of that acronym is unknown. The party’s original name was Pan Malaysia Islamic Party, or in Malay, Parti Islam Se-Malaysia. Its Malay acronym should thus be PIS.


At its peak a decade or two ago, that party attracted many bright young Malay professionals. Nonetheless at the polls, the party at best could garner less than 20 percent of the popular votes. As for those Malay professionals, many left in 2015 to form a breakaway party, Parti Amanah, leaving PAS firmly in the hands of the doctrinaires.


Malays today are enamored and obsessed with the associated Bedouinism of Islam. While Malay women of my youth were proud of their colorful and enchanting kebayas and baju kurung, today they are covered with the drab hijab. Today it is rare to see a Malay woman without one. To have your hair uncovered in public would elicit much starring and disapproval, if not outright censure. Only the most strong-willed, like former Trade Minister Rafidah Aziz, would be brave to appear in public san the hijab.


Islamic scholars and ulama today have difficulty differentiating between the universal values and attributes of Islam from its desert-specific Bedouin trappings. The Malay masses follow in tandem in blind obedience.


For a historical perspective, during colonial times Malays also readily aped the British with gusto, from our attire down to our foods and manner of eating. We substituted toast and jam instead of nasi lemak and sambal for breakfast. You were not considered classy if you were to use your hand to eat instead of fork and knife. In the 1950s it was common to see newspapers carrying advertisements for Guinness stout . . . featuring a young Malay couple! Today such a couple would be lynched, and the publication sanctioned if not banned.


Aping the superficial trappings of foreign cultures is not a new phenomenon with Malays.


PAS leaders are confused or cannot decide whether they should be politicians or ulama. They tried to be both and succeeded in neither. The party today has about 18 out of the 222 parliamentary seats, and no representatives in four state legislatures. In two other states, only one.


Despite the increasing role of Islam in Malay life, poor Malays still turn to churches for help. That further heightened the ire and suspicions of the Islamists. They see that not as charity but sophisticated proselytizing. Expect the situation to get worse with Covid-19. Meanwhile mosques are getting more grandiose. When poor or sick Muslims turn to them for help, they would first have to endure a long humiliating sermon. During this Covid-19 pandemic I have yet to see any mosque having a food distribution program. Instead, in defiance of the state public health rulings, they continue having mass gatherings in mosques. “Fear Allah more than Covid-19” was their ill-informed lame excuse.


More pernicious and dangerous is the suffocating influence of the Islamists on the apparatus of the state beyond merely the religious. Education was only one. Even the judicial system is not spared. The Islamists want the Syariah system to override secular courts, in effect to usurp the constitution.


Non-Muslims, meaning non-Malays, are spared this burden and plague. We continue to lament why Malays remain marginalized.


Next:  Sultans As Barnacles (Last of Four Parts)



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