Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Malays Face Identity Crisis and Discrimination in Malaysia

By Andrew Rosten

Thomas Simon, a philosophy professor, lectured Wednesday at the Bone Student Center about the identity and crisis faced by an ethnicity group known as Malays.

"I think there's a fundamental question that we need to ask," Simon said. "It is going to sound strange at first, but it is not what are you, of what group are you a member, but rather who suffers? That is, what group suffers? I had a very different starting point than many, and your starting point really frames your analysis. My starting point is, for example, Apr. 6, 1994, in Rwanda, when the horrifying genocide began to unravel."

"I start with the worst and work backward, so what I am doing when I talk about group identity is to try to avoid the worst, and I think I can make a case that genocide is, indeed, the worst," Simon said. "That gives you a very different perspective on group identity and discrimination."

Raul Hilberg, a formal scholar of the Holocaust in Europe, used a typology, with the European Jews executed by Nazis serving as a model, to describe the levels of discrimination.

"The first phase [of the typology] is designation, when the group is singled out," Simon said. "The second is discrimination, when the group is discriminated against, and the third was called brutalization. I am going to try to look at those three designations in terms of a group called Malays and talk about different constructions of Malay identity in those three terms."

Simon talked about race relations of the Malays in three nations: Malaysia, South Africa and the Philippines.

"Malaysia has three main groups," Simon said. "The three groups are Malays, Chinese and Indians. The Malays make up over 50 percent of the population and they control the government. The Chinese are about 30 to 40 percent of the population, and they control the economy. The Indians make up less than 10 percent of the population and they're either in professional organizations or criminal organizations.

Malaysia has recently experienced an upsurge of tensions between the Malay majority and the Indians."

In 1950, South Africa introduced a color scheme for the purpose of identifying races.

"That color scheme had whites on top, then it had Indians, and then it had colored and, finally, black," Simon said. "The Cape Malays were put into the colored category, and so they're in between. They could become like Indian, which was not too bad, but bad, but still was better. There is a strong movement now to call them Cape Muslims so that this ethnic tie to Malaysia is being transformed into a more religious form of identity."

"The question I was going to ask was about South Africa and the Malays there," David Forest, a political science graduate student, said. "I have some friends from South Africa, and they're saying that, now that the system of apartheid is gone, they are starting to see the same problems with the black government, and I was curious about how that affected the Malays."


alioh said...

Is this the full story? The title is something else but the story doesn't answer the title lah

ScorpionStar said...

I agree with alioh. It seemed to be an incomplete post.

tigrisriver said...

Incomplete post laaa........

novice101 said...

The Great Divide !

The frustration of a parent and the anguish suffers by a child may seems to be very common and an everyday occurrence. But the cause of this frustration and anguish is the factor that creates division and polarisation of the races in Malaysia. What is this cause that is so explosive and destructive? It is the deprivation of the world-recognised basic right of every child - his right to be given an education that befits her capabilities!

A child , from small, was told to study hard so that she could contribute constructively to society, and she took the message to heart. She studied hard and when the SPM results were announced, she was overjoyed as she had scored the maximum 12 As. She looked forward to be accepted into the matriculation class. She was in for a rude shock, she was rejected! Her anguish would not have been so deep and her hurt would not have been so devastating if the selection had been done in a more even-handed manner. Her excellent results could not get her accepted but her friends who had only managed 3 to 5 As were given places. This is Malaysia's education as implemented by the 'little Napoleons'.

This scene is being played out in many non-Malay families throughout Malaysia, year-in an year-out. The parents who had always believed in the government and the system, have always taught their children to be law-abiding. When such thing happened to their families and they were asked by the children why such thing should befall them, they had no plausible explanations.

These families, left to their own devices, have no much of a choice but to seek their own means to provide for the completion of their children's education. If, some of these children manage to go oversea to complete their studies, it comes as no surprise if they decide not to come back once they finish their studies. Who could have blame them.

In some of the families, the parents have to make great sacrifices so that their children can graduate from private institutions. Those who are not so fortunate financially may have to force their children to give up their dreams of obtaining a tertiary education.

Any wonder why the races are so divided and polarised in our nation? To this, you add the insensitive words and actions of UMNO politicians, the inequality in job opportunities in the government sector, the inequality in business opportunities, the loud insistent battle cry of the Malay supremacy, the unwarranted questioning of the loyalty of the non-Malays, the not so subtle attempts to sideline the religious beliefs and practices of the other races, you create the 'Great Divide'!

If Samy Vellu and other politicians attribute the election debacle to just the demolition of the temple, then it is a clear case of the political leaders being out of touch with the political realities!

May more responsible and compassionate leaders be divinely-guided to come forward now to help close the 'Great Divide'.