Friday, June 08, 2007

The alif to yaa of Malaysian ethnic schism!

Last year I blogged on Malaysians Split over Palestine & Lebanon, where I attempted to group Malaysians into their various political views and affiliations.

When I came to one group of non-Malays, which I arbitrarily named as Group C(iii) I mentioned my worries about this group, Group C(iii), which was the exact opposite of Group B(i). The latter group was those Malays who are not only staunchly Muslim but would automatically support other Muslim groups, regardless.

Anyway, back to Group C(iii) – these people worked on the principle of ‘the enemies of my enemies .....’. I described their likely worldview as follows:

(1) they feel discriminated by the intrinsically racist Malaysian New Economic Policy

(2) thus they don’t like Malays (having skipped one node of dislike by jumping from UMNO straight to the general Malays)

(3) Malays being Muslims, therefore they don’t like Muslims

From that three (or 4) steps of grievance, I mentioned they would invariably dislike Arabs, whom they believe all to be Muslims, which was why in an earlier posting Malaysian Troops for Lebanon? Some Views! I drew attention to one Major (Rtd) Swami who wrote in to malaysiakini stating:

“Throughout my military career, I have noticed that most Malay officers tend to side with the Arabs and most non-Malay officers tend to sympathise with the Israelis.”

And I commented that I do agree with him on this. That posting on our troop moving into Lebanon also presented my views as to the why's and wherefore's, rather than his simplified but staunch Christian anti-communist pro-Israel arguments.

Anyway, continuing from there – we may safely assume that they, Group C(iii), wouldn’t like Arabic language (aiya, associated only with Quran reading) and thus Arabic script.

From there, we can perhaps understand a little why there has a flurry of letters sent to
malaysiakini criticising our Embassy for using the Jawi script instead of Romanised letters to signpost the Malaysian building.

The argument had stemmed from the basis of Bahasa Malaysia being the official Malaysian language, which was recently designated by the cabinet as the correct term for our national language. Therefore some (you know who) argued that the Jawi script shouldn’t be used as it’s associated with Bahasa Melayu. They want the ‘Kedutaan Besar Malaysia’ sign to be in Romanised letters.

I reckon
malaysiakini letter-writer Darren provided the missive which best exemplifies what I had termed as “the enemy of my enemy …..” attitude, but in its mirror image of “the friend of my enemy ..…”.

He had written (relevant extract):

However, the issue remains as to why is the signage at the embassy not written in Romanised Bahasa Malaysia, which is the form of the written Bahasa Malaysia taught to all citizens in our schools? Why write in Jawi alone and allow citizens not conversant in Jawi to feel excluded?

Nora Ahmad, on the other hand, bemoans the lack of integration amongst Malaysians of different backgrounds and speaks of the non-Malays' aversion towards anything Malay or Islamic. While what Nora describes is true, surely it makes one think why this situation has befallen us.

I think the latest instalment of events that causes this scenario, in the form of the Lina Joy decision, can explain the situation. If Nora were living in a country where Chinese are the majority and the majority had put in place a series of devices that cause disadvantage to her due to her race and her religion, wouldn't she have at least some aversion towards things Chinese and whatever religion this hypothetical Chinese majority nation subscribes to?

Actually I study Jawi (very slowly by myself through an instructional book) and appreciate the beauty of the Arabic-derived script, but obviously many of my fellow non-Malays don’t share my views, in fact far from it.


  1. I can read Bahasa Malaysia written in Jawi script (rather slowly) but frankly I always feel it is a divisive step when government buildings or documents employ the Jawi script. Most non-Malays cannot read Jawi , and many Malays struggle with it, too. Even though it is just Bahasa Malaysia written in Arabic script, there is an unfortunate connotation with Islam and the Islamic state issue.

    For example, many National schools now display the school name in Jawi script, and that simply reinforces the image that is exclusively a Malay/ Islamic institution, and non-Malays are unwelcome. It may not be true, but in life perception is often 90% of reality.

  2. Hi, perhaps you should create a new group called C(iv) comprising of non-malays who don't support Lebanon but are instead sympathetic toward Palestine. Not all non-malays, and Christians too for that matter, are automatically anti-Palestine, pro-Israel or pro-Lebanon.

  3. Please stick to your Jawi and shock sendiri.Remember the world is changing.If you dont adapt and change, you will be left behind.No one will pity you!

  4. I am saddened by all these fuss about using Jawi script.

    It is unfortunate to have a part of a language being politicised so much as to have one (or several) segment(s) of society virtually hate it.

    A language is not a property of one ethnic group or nationality or religion. A language is the property of all human kind. And if a person hates one language or a script of that language, then I would say that person is moving one step closer to committing "cultural genocide"... by the virtue of being intolerant...