Yesterday, in Muslim Scholar: "Hudud laws not for Malaysia" I mentioned that some explanations by Dr Syed Ali as to the Malays in Malaysia being Muslims first rather than Malays, raised more questions than provide clarification.
He said: “Without being a Muslim, a Malay is not a Malay. The Malay language, which gives the Malays identity, comes from the Quran.”
I know Dr Syed Ali is the head of Malaysia’s Islamic think-tank, but I reckon his assertion of the Malay language coming from the Quran is a wee too strong a spin.
What about words like bagai (Tamil), bahagia (Sanskrit), baju (Persian) – I could go on and raise another 1,000 non-Arabic/Quranic words. Then, most interesting of all, there is bumi (Sanskrit) and putera (also Sanskrit).
KTemoc might even daringly add in modern Malaysian lexicon such as kow-tim and gnaam-gnaam.
Anyway, Dr Syed Ali added: “The Melayu is defined as first being a Muslim and because he’s a Muslim, he follows the customs and traditions of the Malays which are derived from Islam, followed by the language of the Malays which (also) derives from Islam.”
Here are a few (extracted) responses from Malaysiakini readers:
Shufiyan Shukur: The language of the Malays is Austronesian in origin as are the people. It has nothing to do with Islam. The Malay people existed before Islam. They were animists, Hindus and Buddhists before embracing Islam.
The only connection between Malay as an ethnic group and Islam as a religion is the Federal Constitution.
Am I first a Muslim then Malay? No, I am first Malay, then Muslim, because a religion can, at will, be rejected.
An Indonesian Malay Christian would get quite annoyed if you were to claim that he/she is not Melayu as I found out from a girlfriend many years ago.
You could bleach your skin, colour your hair, speak Icelandic, but you are still Malay - "Melayu tetap Melayu". But in a flash, you could reject your religion. You could eat pork, consume alcohol, get baptised and deny the syahadah (affirmation) and zap! you are not Muslim. But ethnically, you are still 'Melayu' - neither you nor anyone else can take that away.
Renuka: I totally disagree with Mr Syed Ali that Malays are Muslims first! What were they called when they were Hindus and Buddhists during the pre-Islam period? And what about the Malays in Bali, 90 percent of whom are Hindus?
And it's misleading for him to say that the Malay language is derived from Islam and as such of Arabic origin. Malay is a language very heavily influenced by Tamil and Sanskrit, which incidentally is the language of Hindu holy books.
Malay is a race and has nothing to do with religion. Especially so in Malaysia, where the language and traditions (eg, wedding rituals) are so influenced by the Hindu religion, right down to the mehendi Siti Nurhaliza wore at the live telecast wedding ceremony. What a joke! Even the word bumiputera is 100 percent derived from Tamil. [or Sanskrit]
OK then, with such arguments in place, I am off for breakfast - a kopi-o, roti with kaya; for lunch perhaps soup mee or koay-tiow goreng, and then for a tummy churning dinner, laksa and sarsi. And for supper, there's always teh-tarik and a light fried bi-hun.