Malaysiakini reader Ida Bakar wrote a lucid and impressive letter to rebut Saad Hashim’s earlier lamentation that so-called Malaysians, the ‘non’ versions, are not only ghetto-rising (a new KTemoc improvisation) themselves by conversing in their ethnic dialects but also socially ostracising Malays.
Of course prior to Ida Bakar’s letter many, mostly non-Malays, have written in to demonstrate to Said Hashim that speaking in the official language is not a certificated badge of patriotism nor acceptance, where for example, Chinese Indonesians, who speak Bahasa Indonesia even at home among family members were gleefully slaughtered by the pribumis (bumiputras or indigenous natives) during the occasional Indonesian pogroms.
Ida Bakar gave a reasonably comprehensive explanation of the unhealthy evolution of Bahasa Malaysia (Malaysian national language) and its capture by Islamo-fascists in the country. The latter relates to Malaysian Arab wannabes that Rais Yatim, Malaysia's Cultural Minister, worries about. These people have increased the inclusion of Arabic terms, at the expense of Malay words that already exist, and pronounced Malay words with an Arabic emphasis or accent, making it even more difficult to learn the Malay language.
However, Ida Bakar somehow missed including the fact that Malaysian education in general and the language issue in particular has been unscrupulously exploited by successive Education Ministers to ascend the UMNO ladder to its top echelon. The occupation of the position of Education Minister was at one time vital for wannabe PM. Thus Malaysian education became the convenient political soccer ball, resulting in its consequential deterioration until its current shambolic state, where our No 1 university thought standards could be raised by merely raising feel-good poster boards.
Thus, in the recent political climate of the 'holier-than-thou' battle between UMNO and PAS, it's not surprisng that the Arab-isation of the Malay language became an inevitable outcome.
Other Arab-isation of Malay culture sees, for example, wayang kulit and makyong being suppressed. The amazing sarong kebaya would have been extinct but for MAS stewardesses and Chinese Malaysians. Fortunately for us also, the baju kurung has become a multi-cultural dress today, so its survival is at least guaranteed. I have also read of how one Education Minister, many years ago when he was making his mark in UMNO, traumatised parents by allowing his Ministry to impose proselytizing regulations on non-Muslim students, just as the Police IGP has done today. You’ll be surprised if I were to tell you who that Minister was!
I have also blogged on this before in Divisive Religion or Religious Division? (1). The following are some extracts:
“For example, on meeting each other, Malays would address Muslims friends and Muslims strangers with Assalamu alaikum, which in Arabic means peace be upon you. I must say it’s really a beautiful greeting. We all could do with such wishes. The appropriate reciprocation is of course Walaikum assalam.”
“This greeting is not been new, and has been used in Malaya/Malaysia for hundreds of years by, though not all, Muslim. In reality, it's used on an everyday basis by Arabs, even Christian ones - well, at least those that I know very well.”
“Unfortunately today, one can sense and observe the users treating it as a greeting exclusive only to Muslims, like a membership gold card of a very special and segregated club.”
“One day I saluted my favourite bank teller, a sweet Malay lady, with this Arab felicitation. Having a sweet eye for her, I had preferred to see her for my bank withdrawals rather than use the faceless auto-box. On hearing my Arabic greetings, she showed her surprise, though she swiftly reciprocated.”
“While working out my paltry withdrawal she said – and I still recall this most vividly - "Sir, it's so sweet of you to wish me that but you shouldn't because you aren't a Muslim. Just a Selamat Pagi or Good Morning would do." Then she smiled dazzlingly at me as if to take away any sting of her sweet and gentle rebuke.”
The Arab-isation, whether of Bahasa Malaysia or Kebudayan Melayu (Malay culture), seems to have a more divisive effect on our society.