Thursday, January 05, 2017

Sometimes even the noble Homer nodded

In MM Online, sweetie Erna Mahyuni has written about a student claiming he read in a locally written book titled Malayonesia (presumably a merger of two words, namely, Malaysia and Indonesia) that English words had been derived from the Arabic lexicon.

See the MM Online article titled When local universities make our children stupid which follows:

JANUARY 4 — I had an online encounter yesterday with a UIA student who did not seem to understand the concept of academic rigour.

Tweeting from the account @IIUMsterdam, the student glibly stated: "semua words english diambil dari bahasa Arab. English takda sejarah" (All English words are taken from Arabic. English has no history).

When pressed for a source, said student replied it was from the book Malayonesia written by Mat Rofa Ismail. Upon being asked why Mat Rofa, a math professor, would be writing about linguistics history, the student said that Mat Rofa was "strong in metaphysics."

I might sound like an old person but the question must be asked: "What are they teaching kids in school these days?"

One thing academics has in common with journalism is the discipline of verification. A single source is not enough, and said source must be vetted.

Erna sayang, methinks you've been perhaps too harsh, wakakaka. It's not so much that local universities make our young ones stupid. If the alleged* author had written such a book laying preposterous claims on lexicon pedigree, you have to instead wonder what these types of lecturers have been teaching to young naive Malaysian undergraduates.

* I googled Mat Rofa and indeed found one Prof. Madya Dr. Mat Rofa Ismail who teaches Maths at UPM and is the author of said book, which is also known by the title of Kedirpan Bintang Melayu Dilangit Melayu.

Erna's article reminds me of what I had written 10 years ago. Then, when I had post Muslim Scholar: "Hudud laws not for Malaysia" I wrote that while I have a lot of respect for Islamic scholar Dr Syed Ali Tawfik Al-Attas, then the director-general of the Malaysian Institute of Islamic Understanding, I had some concerns on some parts of his writings.

I blogged on him in Islamic Scholar: "Stop F**king Around with Marriages!" where he expressed his concerns over the proposed misyar form of marriage. He mentioned he was disturbed by the debates, which largely touched on the issues of sex and lust, which I suspect to be the fave of the JA-organizations, wakakaka.

When Dr Syed Ali was then interviewed by Malaysiakini, he provided his views on the Malays, Islam and a host of issues that we wanted to ask but wasn't sure who to turn to.

After reading the first of his three interviews, I would venture to categorise his discourse into 3 groups of information – firstly there was the revealing and informative ones, then secondly there was those which posed (to us) more questions than enlightenment, and lastly but alas, most disappointingly, some of his views on non-Islamic matters which I totally disagreed with.

Ya lah, not unlike Dr Kua Kia Soong whom I respect very much but definitely not on his views on defence matters - for why I think Dr Kua would be out of his depth (talking cock) on defence issues, please see my post National air defence - if we don’t play-play, wakakaka.

Anyway, as I just said, 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 had then said: “Without being a Muslim, a Malay is not a Malay. The Malay language, which gives the Malays identity, comes from the Quran.”

Leaving aside his take on the constitutionality of a Malay being, though Dr Syed Ali was then the head of Malaysia’s Islamic think-tank, I had reckoned his assertion of the Malay language coming from the Quran was a wee too strong a spin. Yes there are some Quranic words but without such proper qualifications (eg. some words only), I deemed that a spin.

For example, 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 bumiputera where both bumi and putera stem from Sanskrit.

I might even daringly add in modern addition to our Malaysian lexicon such as kow-tim, kau kau and gnam-gnam, wakakaka, and don't you guys forget podah as well, wakakaka again.

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.”

Then I selected a few (extracted) responses from Malaysiakini (Malay) readers in riposte to Dr Syed's amazing and quite flabbergasting claims, such as from:

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.

To an extent, I would disagree with Shufiyan but only if we talked about Malaysia because in Malaysia and only in Malaysia, if a Malay is not a Muslim, he or she is socially, culturally, politically, ethnically and frighteningly a nonentity. Hope everyone knows who or what is a nonentity.

Well, if you don't, it's a so-called person who does NOT exist (socially, culturally, politically, ethnically in Malaysia) - and only as a physical mammal who would probably be hauled in pretty pronto for religious rehabilitation. 

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]

With such arguments in place, don't you think you should go for breakfast, for 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.And if you wish for a snack, there's Pretzel Sausage and kosher cakes, wakakaka.

Indeed wakakaka.

Thus Erna dahleeng, sometimes even the noble Homer nodded (where human errs while only god can forgive), what more with mere mortals like Prof. Madya Dr. Mat Rofa Ismail or Dr Syed Ali. Though you are right, don't be too harsh with them. Yes, they talk cock, but be compassionate, wakakaka.

OTOH, I hope our scholars including Dr Kua and Prof. Madya would bear this in mind, that you can't be master of all stuff. Thus be cautious about talking on matters you have no or little clue about. You may end up being accused of talking cock.

Read also: Lim Kit Siang a nodding Homer

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