The Current State Of The Malays

This short article aims to analyse the current attitude of the Malays and their refusal to accept Pakatan Harapan (PH). It is worthwhile to note that PH’s success in gaining Malay votes in the last election does not indicate Malay acceptance towards them. The sway in votes happened for many reasons and one of them is the Najib-Rosmah factor and the 1MDB scandal. Without these two, PH would not have won the election in the first place. Thus, it is imperative to analyse this issue of lack of acceptance by the Malays which also entails a study on the current attitude of the Malays.

When PH came into power in 2018, they brought together a sense of hope amongst Malaysians. They promised various reforms and significant changes but unfortunately, they were toppled in a very undemocratic way by some irresponsible politicians whose personal interests are above national interests. Hitherto, transactional politics pervade the nation but that is a topic for another day.

After a series of political bickering, more and more Malaysians are getting disgusted and frustrated with the political landscape in Malaysia. However, they only have two choices as of now – it’s either UMNO-BN or PH.

As for the Malays, UMNO would be a safer choice for them. The Malays perceive both PH and UMNO as evil and untrustworthy. But politics is a game between two evil forces, and they had to choose the lesser evil. UMNO seems to be the right choice. They believe that by choosing UMNO, their special rights and privileges will be in safer hands.

The stereotype that has been developed over the years towards DAP (a component party in PH) forbids them from choosing PH. For quite a long time, the Malays, especially those in the rural areas were told that DAP and the Chinese in particular, wanted to abrogate all the Malay rights and privileges, demanding equal rights for all. The basis for this accusation is the Malaysian Malaysia concept propagated by Lee Kuan Yew in the early ’60s. For the Malays, such demands are unbecoming and cannot be tolerated. One way to not let this from happening is by not voting for PH in the election. Aside from the special rights and privileges, the Malays perceive PH as a threat to the established forces in Malay society. These established forces must never be touched if one wants to appeal to the Malay masses. Refusal to accede to these established forces would result in rejection by the Malays. We will look into each of these established forces in a short while.

The Established Forces in The Malay Society

The first established force in the Malay society is the monarch. The Malays are in fact feudalists and wish to remain as one. They have been in such a state since time immemorial and nothing can be done to change their perception of this establishment. Any political party or coalition that goes against this establishment will never get a single vote from the Malays. The Malays value this establishment as it is the last vestige of traditional Malaya. Therefore, it is indispensable for all political parties to not cross over this area.

The second established force in the Malay society is the religion of Islam. Islam has become integral to the Malay identity and history has shown not even the Portuguese and the British could separate the Malays from Islam. The Malays put Islam at a high pedestal that it can never be criticised although such criticism would lead to betterment. We have seen how the late Kassim Ahmad was reproached for having different opinions from the vast majority of the Malays. The Malays hate revolutionary ideas and interpretation especially when it comes to the matter of faith. Any interpretation of the religion that runs counter to the established set of interpretation and practice would be deemed as un-Islamic and erroneous. Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, the current mufti of Perlis, was dubbed as Wahabi for some of his opinions challenge the established practices of Islam within the Malay community. PAS was able to grasp this concept very well thus making them relevant and accepted in some localities.

Adat or custom is another established force in the Malay society. There is even a Malay proverb, “biar mati anak, jangan mati adat” which means, it is far better that our children die rather than our custom. Although I have a different interpretation of the word adat in the proverb, it is better to go with the common interpretation of it. The modern Malays however are losing grip on their custom. Malay customs are not so binding to the Malays hitherto as it was back in the days. Strict adherence to adat can only be seen amongst rural Malays. Nonetheless, it is still important for PH to pay attention to this aspect since most UMNO strongholds are in rural areas.

Those are the three established forces that must be given ultimate consideration by the opposition if they wish to wrest UMNO again in the next election.

Now, since all the established forces have been identified, it is worthwhile to discuss the current state of Malays.

The Current State of the Malays

As stated earlier, the vast majority of the Malays are feudalists. They need to have a master or tuan. They cannot be independent though their country has been independent for 60 years. Malays without a master are like sheep without a shepherd. They will scatter around pointlessly without a clear direction. In those days, the Malays had only the sultan as their leader. However, the monarch now becomes the traditional elites while the political leaders become the modern elites. The inception of this new class of ruling elites induced the Malays to become more dormant and passive. They care less about political ideologies, revolutionary ideas, and reforms propagated by any political party. Their votes are saved for individuals whom they regard as their master. They will only vote for the opposing party if and only if that individual whom they regard as their master is in it. We have heard of the Mahathir factor and the Anwar factor many times.

Aside from feudalism, religion is a factor that moulds the Malays into their current state. The Malays are afraid of radical changes and tend to interpret the religion in a rigid manner. An example of this is women’s position to lead. The Malays, being patriarchal in nature complemented with their own interpretation of religion, have this idea that only man can become a leader of a country. The business of governing a nation is exclusively for men and women have no say in it. This is indeed a regressive mentality. Little did they realise that Islam is an all-encompassing religion and promotes parity of all beings. Islam does not tolerate discrimination on the ground of gender, creed, race, religion and age. The deleterious effect of this mindset can be seen now where people like Nurul Izzah, Azalina Othman, Hannah Yeoh, Yeo Bee Yin, and others are not given considerable attention.

In addition to that, the majority of Malays do not inculcate a strong habit of reading. Just ask the Malays, especially the young ones, how many books have they read so far and nil would be the majority answer. Lack of reading leads to devoid of knowledge and thus promotes a regressive attitude. Besides, it hampers their ability to think critically, making them unable to understand everything that happens around them. I still remember how difficult it was for PH to explain about the 1MDB scandal to those in the rural areas.

Not only that the Malays are dormant, passive, and regressive in mindset because of the abovementioned factors but also due to government policies over the past few years. Taking the special rights and privileges for instance. The Malays feel that this special position they have will remain in perpetuity and thus creating a mindset that they should not work as hard as other races. This certainly does not encourage change and inventiveness. They believe that no matter how bad they perform, government assistance will always be in their favour. Malay students do not feel the urge to excel in their studies as their counterparts from other races because they know that they can get a spot in university notwithstanding their results. Malay businessmen have formed a perception that MARA and other government institutions will loan them money whenever they need it. Not only the special positions made the Malays weak but government cash handouts policies are making things even worse. Cash handouts policies are making the Malays dependent on the government even more. For the Malays, BR1M is such a revolutionary policy. They receive free money from the government without the need to do something in return. The element of reciprocity is absent and this will hamper both individual’s and nation’s growth. This policy has been so entrenched in the society that it cannot be reversed by the future government. It is indeed one of the biggest flaws made by Najib’s government. Had any future government abolished this policy, it would certainly result in a defeat in the election.

These are some of the problems that enveloped the Malays of today. We must acknowledge this and thus formulate a solution to overcome this problem in haste. PH must be ready with the panacea if they want to steer this nation forward. Institutional reforms that they propagate all this time will not work until and unless the Malays are ready to accept it. Revamps and reforms should not be confined to the system and institutions alone but most importantly to the minds of the majority.

(The article is written by saudara Muhamad Aiman Haziq and does not necessarily represent the views of Solidaritas)