The Malaysian Identity crisis
Published on: Sunday, August 25, 2019
By: Johan Arriffin
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PERLIS Mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin must have taken offence with the Malaysian authorities’ actions against Zakir Naik.

Asri is known to be a strong supporter of fugitive Zakir wanted in India. Since making a grand entrance fit for a king in Kelantan Sultan Muhammad IV stadium, Zakir has fallen from grace and is now banned from speaking in public and all social media by Malaysian authorities.

It was widely reported that the Perlis Mufti, in a sermon, expounded his bigoted views that there must be a dominant race when it comes to Malaysia’s national identity. After receiving a lot of brickbats especially from East Malaysians, he has stepped into another landmine. 

Asri is now saying that Malaysia needs a dictator like Saddam Hussein, as our current Malaysian leaders are soft in the head. His emotional rant against Pakatan Harapan leadership is getting from bad to worse. Saddam is probably the worst example you could find to run a country. He was a leader who would not hesitate to kill his opponents. 

Lee Kuan Yew, the founding Father of Singapore would be a better example of strong leadership who has brought prosperity to a small Island nation.

Asri said it was time that authorities rein in leaders from among the minority communities who question the Malay dominance in an attempt to undermine the country’s national character. I wonder who Asri is referring to as minority communities. His poems against Hindus in April 2017 may give us a clue. 

In his latest salvo, he has defended his statement about dominant race. Asri doubled down on his earlier remarks that Malaysia belongs to the Malays, and Malaysia’s national identity is Malay, adding that the Malays are “landowners” of the country who must be respected. 

His bigoted statements smacks of racism and similar to Trump’s white supremacist ideology which is getting traction amongst right wing America and supported by the Republican Party. 

Many Malaysians, East Malaysians in particular, has slammed Asri’s polemics and political views which is not consistent with the concept of Malaysia. As a Mufti, he should stay out of politics and not make political statements which could disturb public harmony between races. 

Talking about a dominant race by population size is fine but talking about a dominant race and its associated connotations can be dangerous. There are many examples in history of a dominant race that went wrong like Nazi Germany ideology of the Aryan master race.  

East Malaysians are appalled of the idea of “Malay” domination and would prefer the “Malayness” in all aspects of governance be confined to Peninsular Malaysia where it belongs, as in the “ketunan melayu” concept promoted by Umno under the BN regime. 

In Newton third law in physics applied here – when you start the idea that Malaysia belongs to the Malays, you will get an equal and opposite reaction. Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad recently expressed his disapproval towards the use of the slogans “Sabah for Sabahans” and “Sarawak for Sarawakians”. He felt that the labelling of Malaysians according to individual territories is not good for the nation. “I would like to remind everyone we are all Malaysians. 

This idea of talking about Sabah for Sabahans, Sarawak for Sarawakians and Peninsula for Peninsularians is unhealthy and we hope that we should always think of ourselves as Malaysians, not as individual territory”, he said. 

Once you start the idea of a dominant race like Asri’s, others will follow and develop their own spheres of influence within a territory. It’s a defensive posture in an animal kingdom and will be a never-ending story. The ideologies of a dominant race are divisive, sow seeds of discontent, and drive a bigger wedge between all races.

No one disputes that Malays form the bulk of the Malaysian population and dominate all aspects of society, from rulers, the official religion, the armed forces, police, the civil service, and the bumiputra affirmative policy. But why do you need to talk about a dominant race in Malaysia? It’s better for all Malaysians to think as one and not divided by race or religion. 

What is the Malaysian identity? In a few weeks we will be celebrating Merdeka Day and Malaysia day. Both national events highlight Malaysia’s ethnic diversity and proud heritage. Whether you are Malay, Chinese, Indians, Kadazandusuns, Bajau, Dayaks, Ibans, all the ethnic groups are recognised and featured as a colourful nation Malaysia where no one race, or ethnic group dominate each other. 

PKR president Anwar Ibrahim in response to Asri’s statements has reiterated that all ethnic groups enjoy equal rights and freedom in Malaysia. “Exceptions only apply to the national language, national religion and rulers’ special privileges,” said Anwar.

If we can recall, the past Tourism Malaysia campaign captured the essence of Malaysia – “Truly Asia” captures and defines the essence of the country’s unique diversity. It sums up the distinctiveness and allure of Malaysia that make it an exceptional tourist destination. There is only one place where all the colours, flavours, sounds and sights of Asia come together – Malaysia. 

No other country has Asia’s three major races, Malay, Chinese, Indian, plus various other ethnic groups in large numbers.

Nowhere is there such exciting diversity of cultures, festivals, traditions and customs, offering myriad experiences. No other county is “Truly Asia” as Malaysia. “Truly Malaysia” is the true Malaysia we should promote and not the ideology of a dominant race.

Credit must be given when its due. Najib Razak introduced the 1Malaysia concept to promote national unity. The eight values of the concept are high performance culture, accuracy, knowledge, innovation, integrity, strong will, loyalty and wisdom. 

Najib did his best to narrow the gap between East and West Malaysia despite the many critics of the various programs under his initiatives. Kedai Rakyat and 1Malaysia Clinic were good ideas had it been implemented properly as it benefited the masses. The idea was good, but the execution was poor, and corruption destroyed all credibility.

In a muti religious and multi-racial country like Malaysia, let us not get into Zakir Naik lair and fight over racial domination and supremacy. All humanity is equal in the eyes of god. Don’t let our emotions get the better of us especially when the discord is created by an outside agent. 

After all we are not Malay, Chinese, Indians, Kadazandusuns, Bajau, Dayaks, Ibans, or other ethnic groups, first and foremost we are Malaysians. We all have our role and place.

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