By Dina Zaman.
OCT 7 — My brother-in-law wrote this in his Facebook notes:
My Thoughts On the First Week of Syawal
On the 3rd day of Raya, we went back to Teluk Intan, my mother’s hometown. We have not gone back for several years since my maternal grandmother passed on. The town has changed a bit here and there. Now, it has McDonald’s, Old Town Kopitiam and a Giant hypermarket.
The Old Town Kopitiam, all the waiters were Bangladeshis. When we stopped at the R&R along the North-South Expressway, all the workers at the stalls were Indonesians, including the cashiers. (Where were the Malay teenagers?) We went to the Leaning Tower of Teluk Intan. There, we saw groups of Malay boys under the tower playing guitars and chatting idly.
We finally arrived at my mother’s kampung. We talked with elder relatives. They were saying that nowadays, they were afraid to go out of their homes as there were many snatch thefts and crime. Some of the elderly had been cheated by Haj scams proposed by relatives, who were only into making money from these trusting relatives of theirs.
The government had leased land to the kampung people to develop so that they would gain from high commodity prices; instead they sub-let to the Indonesians, and claimed the benefits from the government and go jolly katak with the money.
The Indonesians, having worked hard, profited from their enterprise, while the Malay folks gained nothing from the claims of benefit. During this Raya too, I saw a Malay advert on “One-drop Perfume”. In the advert, one of the salespersons proudly claimed that he now owned a BMW car. What kind of advert is this? Why were we using BMWs to reflect wealth?
Is this reality? Yes it is. I am deeply saddened by the things that I have seen. Some people will be mad if I say this: If the Malays were to lose in the next 10 to 20 years, it is all because of our own doing. Do not blame others for what happens. We are dumb. No, not stupid but we are dumb because we only think about short-term rewards. We do not like getting our hands dirty. We let others do the work and reap the rewards of our own soil. We believe we are successful when we drive a BMW 7-series. We dare sell our souls for a piece of immediate temptation. The next generation will pay the price.
I hope that the Malays will understand that it is not the BMW-7 Series or several bungalows or that third celebrity wife or even that one gazillion ringgit in your bank account or when you change your “Muka berkarat” to “Muka Vitamin C” that is a benchmark of success. It is all about knowledge. Just good old knowledge! All the material things are meaningless. It means nothing. There’s a Malay proverb that says “Menang sorak, kampung tergadai” meaning “You may win at shouting but you lose the village that you bet on”. If we don’t change our mindset, we will not only lose the village but we will lose everything else, including our dignity.
And why is that so?
My regular readers have many times posed this answer via e-mail to me: that the NEP and handout-mentality have ruined the Malays. Perhaps. But one must remember that the NEP had noble intentions, but like all intentions, went pear-shaped as it benefited the political and business elite. It did not benefit the average Malaysian. And when one has dreams, and who does not have dreams, short-term gains are very attractive.
My humble theory is that we Malays are insecure and scramble towards status and wealth, simply because we have a shorter tradition of monarchy, Islam and trade, unlike our Chinese and Indian counterparts. And because of that complex, we Malay-Malaysians accelerated our growth, perhaps to our detriment. Call it the Ferrari NEP.
Let’s have a quick history lesson, of which I was a recent student too. Because there is a word limit to this article, this will be considered a very truncated history class!
According to H.M. Elliot and John Dowson, in their book "The History of India as told by its own Historians", the first ship bearing Muslim travellers was seen on the Indian coast as early as 630 AD. In truth, Islam came to South Asia prior to Muslim invasions of India with the arrival of Arabs who used to visit the Malabar region, which was a link between them and ports of Southeast Asia, to trade even before Islam had been established in Arabia.
In fact, there was communication between the two worlds, even in the early days of Islam. The spread of Sufism and the popularity of Sufi mystics appealed to India’s idea of spirituality. Muslim Indian patriots, intellectuals and activists are part of India’s rich and textured history of governance.
Indian’s royal lineage and history of governance began almost 9,000 years ago. Warring Mughal emperors, and rival kings enriched the landscape of India, and under the British Empire, India fought tooth and nail for independence. Its economic history is as rich: beginning from the Indus Valley civilisation from 2800 BCE to 1800 BCE, the people of India practised agriculture; traded with other countries, and one example of India’s business triumph is that in 1526, Mughal India was the second largest economy in the world.
China’s history is no less important and is as renowned, if not more than India’s. Likewise with Indian Malaysians, Chinese Malaysians may feel no sentiment towards the motherland but nonetheless are very proud of their heritage and lineage. Indeed, these two communities’ histories are gigantic.
Islam arrived in China in the year 651, more or less about 20 years after the Prophet Mohammad’s (Peace Be Upon Him) death. (Islam arrived in Malaya somewhere about the 14th and 15th century.) Muslim Chinese were known to be aggressive traders and businessmen. They were also known to be astute astronomers and healers, and were also very influential in government.
When it comes to governance, the Chinese dynasties have inspired books and films to be made. The Shang, Zhou, Qin, Han dynasties, to name a few, and their legacies can be mind-boggling to the tepid reader. Despite what many have complained as the dark era of China, Communist China by herself too is a formidable legacy. The sheer drive and discipline and, of course, notwithstanding the bleakness of the socialist period have combined with thousands of years of an indestructible DNA. America pales by comparison to these two countries.
According to Professor Anthony Milner who wrote "The Malays", the Malays in Peninsular Malaysia are a relatively new phenomenon. And unlike the Chinese and Indians, who have two whole countries in two continents belonging to them, the Malays come from diverse regions and settled across a wide area. With the exception of Malaysia and Brunei where the "Malays" are the majority community, the rest are minority ethnic groups; however, what is a Malay? (The writer hereby humbly wonders out aloud as to whether the Chinese/Indians question their identities in great depth as the Malays do.). Do we, the reader and thinker, abide by Milner’s suggestion: “… It is a question that in one form or another will concern us throughout this book, and puzzling about it has eventually left me to write about the ‘Malay-ness’ rather than ‘the Malays’…”
Of course, to imply and say that Malay youths are a lost cause would be unfair. Young Chinese and Indian Malaysian youths share similar issues, and have their own problems too. There are many young Malay youths who are industrious as well. But it is a pity to see that they prefer short-term gains rather than plan for a future.
The writer accepts duit raya.
So, what do you guys think?