My latest post for Malaysia Today.
Many years ago, the infamous jihadist apologist and now former Malaysian prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad authored his now famous tome, “The Malay Dilemma.” Well, Dr. Moonbat was right about one thing -- Malays do indeed face a dilemma.
The first aspect of the Malay predicament is their near-psychotic fixation on race and 'racial' success, which is a significant driver in Malay politics and culture. For Malays, everything begins and ends with race and racial identity, a dangerous cultural ‘quirk’ that virtually begs for institutionalized paranoia. Making matters even worse is the fact that Malay racial politics or ‘racialism’ is official government strategy.
This relentless Malay mania for racial identity seeps into every facet of Malaysian life. All manner of Malay ‘rights’ are hard wired into the social contract and Federal Constitution, and is the enduring raison d’etre for long-standing government (i.e. UMNO) policies like NEP that trump logic, fiscal reality, and common sense.
Malay racial obsessions also percolate into places one might not expect. As an example, a long-running and intractable debate exists concerning exactly what race Malaysian national hero Hang Tuah was. The Malays eagerly declare him as one of ‘their own’, while the Chinese-Malaysians are equally passionate about claiming him as one of ‘theirs.’ Isn't it good enough to just pronounce Hang Tuah as a Malaysian historical figure and leave it at that? Judging by the fervor this historical argument continues to generate in Malaysia. Apparently it isn’t. On the other hand, compare Hang Tuah to American founding father George Washington. In the US, nobody argues what precise ethnicity Washington was -- suffice it to say that he was an American, which is good enough to end any arguments in the US on the matter.
How would it sound if people in other countries chattered non-stop about their ‘racial success’ like the Malays do? You don't hear about the need for white ‘dominance’ or ‘privileges’ in places like the US or the UK... except for certain, mostly irrelevant xenophobic elements (such as the British National Party, et al.) who are virtually shut out of the body politic. In those countries, the focus is where it should be -- not on race or racial success, but on nation and national success. However, in Malaysia, ‘racial success’ is not on the fringe, but is part and parcel of the political, cultural and social landscape. In other words, the inmates here are running the asylum.
Even many of the so-called 'deep thinkers' and intellectuals in Malaysia have an unhealthy obsession with race, which is a notoriously slippery and subjective issue in the best of circumstances. Despite their good intentions, the inherent exclusionary nature of racial groupings could eventually pave the way for race-based demagoguery. Of course, some would argue that this is already a fact in present-day Malaysia.
Multi-racial countries can only succeed if they play down racial divides and divisions and emphasize an overarching national culture, as multi-racial, free-market, secular democracies like the US, Australia and Canada have managed to do. But standing four-square in the way of this task in Malaysia is the official regime’s policy of ‘Ketuanan Melayu’ -- Malay Supremacy.
Racialism is bad enough, but there is another catalyst of the Malay dilemma that cannot be overstated. What is this catalyst? For the answer to this question, look no further than your nearby neighbourhood mosque. Since Islam’s unfortunate export to the Malay Archipelago some centuries ago, Malays have been wedded to this aggressive and intolerant ideology, rather like a battered spouse who is married to an unstable and abusive partner. The Malays have been trapped in this unhealthy union for so long, that they cannot imagine existing or getting by without it. They have unwisely wrapped up their entire self-worth within the tentacles of Mohammedism, and any thought of the battered spouse leaving the harmful marriage is not only beyond the pale -- it is heresy, if not outright treason.
Islam is largely responsible for many if not most of the Malays’ problems in the first place. Islam cripples the mind, destroys critical thinking, enforces rigid ‘group think’, and breeds intolerance for anything 'un Islamic' or not Islamic enough. Wherever Islam goes, backwardness and primitivism goes in its wake. Islam in Malaysia magnifies the ‘us’ (Muslims) versus ‘them’ (Non-Muslims) divide, as it does wherever Islam can be found. Racialism and Islam amounts to a negative-reinforcing feedback loop -- one feeding off the other in a hysterical, endless vortex of suspicion of ‘others’ and ‘otherness’.
Like any other group, Malays are a product of their environment. The bona fide Malay dilemma of dysfunctional ideologies, dysfunctional cultural traits, and misguided government policies lead to equally dysfunctional and poorly-performing people. Unless these true root causes are sincerely addressed, anything else is just window dressing.
If Malaysia continues its self-defeating policies, and race-based Islam-based culture, then it is eventually going the way of another multi-racial country -- Yugoslavia. And that's one multi-racial state that you can no longer find on any map.
Saturday, July 07, 2007
My latest post for Malaysia Today.