Kisah Benar – Racism in Malaysia

(Updated with some minor editing and thoughts – gosh, I did not realise 3 years have passed so swiftly until Noktah Hitam pointed out in his comments)

“Racist!”…the remarks made by one of the Minister made me think of an incident I encountered long time ago when I was in Form 4.

I was coming back from my tuition classes in KL and had to take the bus from Puduraya to go back home. Right at the back of the bus (my favourite spot) was 2 Malay guys. From their looks (or rather books), I gather they are UPM students (UPM = Universiti Pertanian Malaysia as it was known back then).

They were just coming back from their kampung as I overhead them talking about the life in their kampung whilst eating buah duku (must be from their kampung). One of them suddenly turned to me and asked “Adik, nak buah?” I smiled and politely said no. He asked me “Adik, tak makan buah ke?”. I said “Makan tapi dah kenyang”. I just wanted to avoid taking food from strangers but nonetheless, I ended eating some of the buah duku (which was delicious anyway).

Whilst travelling, they asked about my education, my favorite subject, sports, etc. One of them put his hand on my shoulder and said (I still remember it very clearly till this very day)

“Adik, kena belajar bersungguh-sungguh dan mesti buat ibubapa adik bangga dengan adik. Mungkin kalau adik gagal dalam peperiksaan, ibubapa adik mungkin berkata “tak apalah, cuba lagi” tapi selepas adik dah tidur, ibubapa akan menangis kerana kecewa dengan adik. Adiklah harapan ibubapa adik”

I must admit that I was a bit suspicious of the guys at first because I did not expect that these Malay guys to be talking some sense into this Indian student (who was at that time was a bit lazy and did not really paid attention on his studies). However, I saw in his eyes that he was very sincere.

It was almost a brotherly advice and I thought back of my dad who was a lorry driver and how hard he worked for me and my siblings to have a good education. It was there and then, it knocked me hard. I realised that I had a chance to make my parents proud of me and that their sacrifies was worth it.

Before I can say thanks, the 2 UPM student got off from the bus. Little they know how drastic they have changed my life from then onwards. I started to pick up on my studies until the day I got my Bachelor In Law. I have told the story to my siblings and inspired them to do the same

So, if anyone tells me that racism is high in Malaysia and that there is a silent friction between the many races in Malaysia, I would probably say “maybe” (so what some politicians wants us to believe anyway) but whenever I think of the 2 Malay UPM students with their buah duku, I realised that at least for me, they were my turning point (for better) – for they have shown that color of the skin had nothing to do with doing what’s right and ideal. At that time, they were not Malays and I was not an Indian but rather they were my big brothers who knocked good sense into this younger brother.

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18 Comments

  • I strongly believe that the generation born in late 70s and thereafter is gonna make some drastic change on how we (race) see each other. A very touching story. Really is. Great entry. (although dated 2005)

    As a Malay myself, I hate NEP. Its no right to treat non bumis like this. NEP was originally designed to protect sons of penoreh getah etc. However they way I see today, politicians and their crony took advantage over this. NEP should be studied again. Non-bumi want to feel sense of belonging. Right? Long time ago, non-bumi were immigrants, trying to make a living. Now its different. I hope they will revise NEP. Allow non-bumi to enter IPTA. Create more competition.

  • Edwin – thanks brother. I read your post too – very inspiring as well. What we need is a fair play for everyone and once we have, it is easy for everyone to give 110% effort to make this country the best ever. NEP is being abused by politicians to make quick money – nothing more or less than that.

  • It’s been interesting to read such free-flowing comments on an all “Malaysian” free for all. While we are on the subject, how many of you have read the book entitled “Contesting Malayness – Malay Identity Across Boundaries” Edited by Timothy P. Barnard published by Singapore University Press. (Read here for more and here and here )
    Written by a Professor of National University of Singapore. Cost S$32 (about). It reflects the Anthropologists views that there is no such race as the “Malays” to begin with. If we follow the original migration of the Southern Chinese of 6,000yrs ago, they moved into Taiwan, (now the Alisan), then into the Phillipines (now the Aeta) and moved into Borneo (4,500yrs ago) (Dayak). They also split into Sulawesi and progressed into Jawa, and Sumatera. The final migration was to the Malayan Peninsular 3,000yrs ago. A sub-group from Borneo also moved to Champa in Vietnam at 4,500yrs ago.

    Interestingly, the Champa deviant group moved back to present day Kelantan. There are also traces of the Dong Song and HoaBinh migration from Vietnam and Cambodia. To confuse the issue, there was also the Southern Thai migration, from what we know as Pattani today. (see also “Early Kingdoms of the Indonesian Archipelago and the Malay Peninsular”)

    Of course, we also have the Minangkabau’s which come from the descendants of Alexander the Great and a West Indian Princess. (Sejarah Melayu page 1-3)

    So the million Dollar Question… Is there really a race called the “Malays”? All anthropologists DO NOT SEEM TO THINK SO.

    Neither do the “Malays” who live on the West Coast of Johor. They’d rather be called Javanese. What about the west coast Kedah inhabitants who prefer to be known as “Achenese”? or the Ibans who simply want to be known as IBANS. Try calling a Kelabit a “Malay” and see what response you get… you’ll be so glad that their Head-Hunting days are over.

    In an article in the Star, dated: Dec 3rd 2006

    available for on-line viewing at:
    http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2006/12/3/focus/16212814&sec=focus

    An excerp is reproduced here below:

    “The Malays – taken as an aggregation of people of different ethnic backgrounds but who speak the same language or family of languages and share common cultural and traditional ties – are essentially a new race, compared to the Chinese, Indians and the Arabs with their long histories of quests and conquests.

    The Malay nation, therefore, covers people of various ethnic stock, including Javanese, Bugis, Bawean, Achehnese, Thai, orang asli, the indigenous people of Sabah and Sarawak and descendants of Indian Muslims who had married local women.

    Beneath these variations, however, there is a common steely core that is bent on changing the Malay persona from its perceived lethargic character to one that is brave, bold and ready to take on the world. ”

    The definition of “Malay” is therefore simply a collection of people’s who speak a similar type language. With what is meant by a similar type language does not mean that the words are similar. Linguists call this the “Lego-type” language, where words are added on to the root word to make meaning and give tenses and such. Somehow, the Indonesians disagree with this classification and insist on being called “Indonesians” even though the majority of “Malays” have their roots in parts of Indonesia? They refuse to be called “Malay”…. Anyhow you may define it.

    The writer failed to identify (probably didn’t know), that the “Malay” definition also includes, the Champa, Dong Song, HoabinHian, The Taiwanese Alisan and the Philippino Aetas. He also did not identify that the “Orang Asli” are (for lack of a better term) ex-Africans. If you try to call any one of our East Malaysian brothers an “Orang Asli”, they WILL BEAT YOU UP! I had to repeat this because almost all West Malaysians make the same mistake when we cross the South China Sea. Worse, somehow, they feel even more insulted when you call them “Malay”. Somehow, “kurang ajar” is uttered below their breath as if “Malay” was a really bad word for them. I’m still trying to figure this one out.

    Watch “Malays in Africa”; a Museum Negara produced DVD. Also, the “Champa Malays” by the same.

    With this classification, they MUST also include the Phillipinos, the Papua New Guineans, the Australian Aboroginies, as well as the Polynesian Aboroginies. These are of the Australo Melanesians who migrated out of Africa 60,000yrs ago.

    Getting interesting? Read on…

    “Malay” should also include the Taiwanese singer “Ah Mei” who is Alisan as her tribe are the anscestors of the “Malays”. And finally, you will need to define the Southern Chinese (Southern Province) as Malay also, since they are from the same stock 6,000yrs ago.

    Try calling the Bugis a “Malay”. Interestingly, the Bugis, who predominantly live on Sulawesi are not even Indonesians. Neither do they fall into the same group as the migrating Southern Chinese of 6,000yrs ago nor the Australo Melanesian group from Africa.

    Ready for this?

    The Bugis are the cross-breed between the Mongolian Chinese and the wandering Arab Pirates. (FYI, a runaway Ming Dynasty official whom Cheng Ho was sent to hunt down) Interestingly, the Bugis were career Pirates in the Johor-Riau Island areas. Now the nephew of Daeng Kemboja was appointed the First Sultan of Selangor. That makes the entire Selangor Sultanate part Arab, part Chinese! Try talking to the Bugis Museum curator near Kukup in Johor. Kukup is located near the most south-western tip of Johor. (Due south of Pontian Kechil)

    Let’s not even get into the Hang Tuah, Hang Jebat, Hang Kasturi, Hang Lekiu, and Hang Lekir, who shared the same family last name as the other super famous “Hang” family member… Hang Li Poh. And who was she? Legend tells us that she is the princess of a Ming Dynasty Emperor who was sent to marry the Sultan of Malacca. Won’t that make the entire Malacca Sultanate downline “Baba” ? Since the older son of the collapsed Malaccan Sultanate got killed in Johor, (the current Sultanate is the downline of the then, Bendahara) the only other son became the Sultan of Perak. Do we see any Chinese-ness in Raja Azlan? Is he the descendant of Hang Li Poh? But wait a minute….

    That’s what legend says. Let’s look at the proof. The solid evidence. There is a well next to the Zheng He Temple in Malacca which is supposed to be the well built by the Sultan of Malacca for her. According to legend, anyone who drinks of it shall re-visit Malacca before they die. Hmmm smells like a romantic fairy tale already. But let’s look at who Hang Li Poh actually is. Which Ming Emperor was she a daughter to? So I got into researching the entire list of Ming Emperors. Guess what? Not a single Ming Emperor’s last name begins with Hang. In fact, all their last names begin with Tzu (pronounced Choo). So who is Hang Li Poh? An Extra Concubine? A Spare Handmaiden? Who knows? But one thing for certain, is that she was no daughter of any of the Ming Emperors. Gone is the romantic notion of the Sultan of Malacca marrying an exotic Chinese Princess. Sorry guys, the Sultan married an unidentified Chinese commoner.

    Next question. If the Baba’s are part Malay, why have they been marginalized by NOT BEING BUMIPUTERA? Which part of “Malay” are they not? Whatever the answer, why then are the Portugese of Malacca BUMIPUTERA? Did they not come 100yrs AFTER the arrival of the first Baba’s? Parameswara founded Malacca in 1411. The Portugese came in 1511, and the Dutch in the 1600’s. Strangely, the Baba’s were in fact once classified a Bumiputera, but some Prime Minister decreed that they were to be strangely “declassified” in the 1960’s. WHY? How can a “native son of the soil” degenerate into an “un-son”? The new classification is “pendatang” meaning a migrant. Wait a minute, isn’t EVERYONE on the Peninsular a migrant to begin with?

    The Sultan of Kelantan had similar roots to the Pattani Kingdom making him of Thai origin. And what is this “coffee table book” by the Sultan of Perlis claiming to be the direct descendant of the prophet Muhammed? Somehow we see Prof Khoo Khay Khim’s signature name on the book. I’ll pay good money to own a copy of it myself. Anyone has a spare?

    Inpersuing this thread, and having looked at the history of Prophet Muhammed (BTW, real name Ahmad) we couldn’t figure out which descendant line The Sultan of Perlis was. Perhaps it was by the name Syed, which transcended. Then we would ask which of the 13 official wives named in the Holy Koran? or was he a descendant from the other 23 names of the non-wives? Of the 13 were (at least known) 3 Israeli women. Then you would also ask yourself, isn’t Prophet Muhammad an Israeli himself? The answer is clear. All descendants of Moses are Israeli. In fact, the Holy Koran teaches that Moses was the First Muslim. Thus confirming all descendants to be Israeli, including Jesus and Prophet Muhammad. It is also found in Sura 2:58&59 which specifically mentions that the Torah and the Kitab (Bible) are Holy Words of Allah. But since this is not a religious discussion, let’s move on to a more anthropological approach.

    So, how many of you have met with orang Asli’s? the more northern you go, the more African they look. Why are they called Negrito’s? It is a Spanish word, from which directly transalates “mini Negros”. The more southern you go, the more “Indonesian” they look. And the ones who live at Cameron Highlands kinda look 50-50. You can see the Batek at Taman Negara, who really look like Eddie Murphy to a certain degree. Or the Negritos who live at the Thai border near Temenggor Lake (north Perak). The Mah Meri in Carrie Island look almost like the Jakuns in Endau Rompin. Half African, half Indonesian.

    By definition, (this is super eye-opening) there was a Hindu Malay Empire in Kedah. Yes, I said right… The Malays were Hindu. It was, by the old name Langkasuka. Today known as Lembah Bujang. This Hindu Malay Empire was 2,000yrs old. Pre-dating Borrobudor AND Angkor Watt. Who came about around 500-600yrs later. Lembah Bujang was THE mighty trading empire, and its biggest influence was by the Indians who were here to help start it. By definition, this should make the Indians BUMIPUTERAS too since they were here 2,000yrs ago! Why are they marginalized?

    Of the 3 books listed, “Contesting Malayness” (about S$32 for soft cover) is “banned” in Malaysia; you will need to “smuggle” it into Malaysia; for very obvious reasons…. 🙁 or read it in Singapore if you don’t feel like breaking the law.

    The other, “Kingdoms of the Indonesian Archipelago, and the Malay Peninsular” (about RM84) are openly sold at all leading bookshops; Kinokuniya, MPH, Borders, Popular, Times, etc. You should be able to find a fair bit of what I’ve been quoting in this book too, but mind you, it is very heavy reading material, and you will struggle through the initial 200+ pages. It is extremely technical in nature. Maybe that’s why it wasn’t banned (yet)…coz our authorities couldn’t make head or tail of it? (FYI, if I wasn’t doing research for my film, I wouldn’t have read it in its entirety)

    While the “Sejarah Melayu” (about RM 35) is available at the University Malaya bookshop. I have both the English and Royal Malay version published by MBRAS.

    Incidentally, the Professor (Author) was invited to speak on this very subject about 2 yrs ago, in KL, invited by the MBRAS. You can imagine the “chaos” this seminar created…… 🙁

    There were actually many sources for these findings. Any older Philippino Museum Journal also carries these migration stories. This migration is also on display at the Philippines National Museum in Luzon. However, they end with the Aeta, and only briefly mention that the migration continued to Indonesia and Malaysia, but fully acknowledge that all Philippinos came from Taiwan. And before Taiwan, China. There is another book (part of a series) called the “Archipelago Series” endorsed by Tun Mahatir and Marina Mohammad, which states the very same thing right at the introduction on page one. “… that the Malays migrated out of Southern China some 6,000yrs ago…”. I believe it is called the “Pre-History of Malaysia” Hard Cover, about RM99 found in (mostly) MPH. They also carry “Pre-History of Indonesia” by the same authors for the same price.

    It is most interesting to note that our Museum officials invented brand new unheard-of terms such as “Proto-Malay” and “Deutero-Malay”, to replace the accepted Scientific Term, Australo-Melanesians (African descent) and Austronesians (Chinese Descent, or Mongoloid to be precise) in keeping in line with creating this new “Malay” term.. They also created the new term called the Melayu-Polynesian. (Which Melayu exists in the Polynesian Islands?) Maybe they were just trying to be “Patriotic” and “Nationalistic”… who knows…? After all, we also invented the term, “Malaysian Time”. While the rest of the world calls it “Tardy” and “Late”. It’s quite an embarrassment actually…. Singaporeans crossing the border are asked to set their watches back by about 100yrs, to adjust to “Malaysian Time”…

    In a nutshell, the British Colonial Masters, who, for lack of a better description, needed a “blanket” category for ease of classification, used the term “Malay”.

    The only other logical explanation, which I have heard, was that “Malaya” came as a derivative of “Himalaya”, where at Langkasuka, or Lembah Bujang today was where the Indians were describing the locals as “Malai” which means “Hill People” in Tamil. This made perfect sense as the focal point at that time was at Gunung Jerai, and the entire Peninsular had a “Mountain Range” “Banjaran Titiwangsa”, as we call it.

    The Mandarin and Cantonese accurately maintain the accurate pronunciation of “Malai Ren” and “Malai Yun” respectively till this very day. Where “ren” and “yun” both mean “peoples”.

    Interestingly, “Kadar” and “Kidara”, Hindi and Sanskrit words accurately describe “Kedah” of today. They both mean “fertile Land for Rice cultivation. Again, a name given by the Indians 2,000yrs ago during the “Golden Hindu Era” for a duration of 1,500yrs.

    It was during the “Golden Hindu Era” that the new term which the Hindu Malay leaders also adopted the titles, “Sultan” and “Raja”. The Malay Royalty were Hindu at that time, as all of Southeast Asia was under strong Indian influence, including Borrobudor, and Angkor Watt. Bali today still practices devout Hindu Beliefs. The snake amulet worn by the Sultans of today, The Royal Dias, and even the “Pelamin” for weddings are tell-tale signs of these strong Indian influences. So, it was NOT Parameswara who was the first Sultan in Malaya. Sultanage existed approximately 1,500years before he set foot on the Peninsular during the “Golden Hindu Era” of Malaysia. And they were all Hindu.

    “PreHistory of Malaysia” also talks about the “Lost Kingdom” of the “Chi-Tu” where the local Malay Kingdom were Buddhists. The rest of the “Malays” were Animistic Pagans.

    But you may say, “Sejarah Melayu” calls it “Melayu”? Yes, it does. Read it again; is it trying to describe the 200-odd population hamlet near Palembang by the name “Melayu”?(Google Earth will show this village).

    By that same definition, then, the Achehnese should be considered a “race”. So should the Bugis and the Bataks, to be fair. Orang Acheh, Orang Bugis, Orang Laut, Orang Melayu now mean the same… descriptions of ethnic tribes, at best. And since the “Malays” of today are not all descendants of the “Melayu” kampung in Jambi (if I remember correctly), the term Melayu has been wrongly termed. From day one. Maybe this is why the Johoreans still call themselves either Bugis, or Javanese until today. So do the Achehnese on the West coast of Kedah & Perlis and the Kelantanese insist that they came from Champa, Vietnam.

    Morover, the fact that the first 3 pages claiming that “Melayu” comes from Alexander the Great and the West Indian Princess doesn’t help. More importantly, it was written in 1623. By then, the Indians had been calling the locals “Malai” for 1,500 yrs already. So the name stuck….

    And with the Sejarah Melayu (The Malay Annals in page 1-3) naming the grandson of Iskandar Zulkarnain, and the West Indian Princess forming the Minangkabau. Whenever a Malay is asked about it, he usually says it is “Karut” (bullshit), but all Malayan based historians insist on using Sejarah Melayu as THE main reference book for which “Malay” history is based upon. The only other books are “Misa Melayu”, “Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa”, and “Hikayat Hang Tuah” which is of another long and sometimes “heated” discussion.

    I find this strange.

    I also find, that it is strange that the “Chitti’s” (Indian+Malay) of Malacca are categorized as Bumiputera, while their Baba brothers are not. Why? Both existed during the Parameswara days. Which part of the “Malay” side of the Baba’s is not good enough for Bumiputera classification? Re-instate them. They used to be Bumiputera pre 1960’s anyway.

    Instead of “Malay”, I believe that “Maphilindo” (circa 1963) would have been the closest in accurately trying to describe the Malays. However, going by that definition, it should most accurately be “MaphilindoThaiChinDiaVietWanGreekCamfrica”. And it is because of this; even our University Malaya Anthropology professors cannot look at you in the eye and truthfully say that the word “Malay” technically and accurately defines a race.

    This is most unfortunate.

    So, in a nutshell, the “Malays” (anthropologists will disagree with this “race” definition) are TRULY ASIA !!! For once the Tourism Ministry got it right….

    We should stop calling this country “Tanah Melayu” instead call it, “Tanah Truly Asia”

    You must understand now, why I was “tickled pink” when I found out that the Visit Malaysia slogan for 2007 was “Truly Asia”. They are so correct… (even though they missed out Greece and Africa)

    BTW, the name UMNO should be changed to UTANO the new official acronym for “United Truly Asia National Organization” . After all, they started out as a Bugis club in Johor anyway….

    I told you all that I hate race classifications…. This is so depressing. Even more depressing is that the “malays” are not even a race; not since day one.

    “Truly Asia Boleh”

  • Wow Michael – this is the most longest but the most comprehensive comment that I ever got.

    Ya, couple of years there was another article in the newspapers that the word Malaya is actually Sanskrit means Land of the Hills. In Tamil, Malai means hill or mountain. So, it supports the notion that there is no race called “Malay”. But over the years, due to political abuse and the refusal to acknowledge equality, the word Malay has been hijacked for other purposes.

    Read Dr Bakri Musa’s excellent post called “The False Premise and Promise of Ketuanan Melayu” to support that the wide spread abuse – http://bjthoughts.com/2006/08/01/dr-bakri-musa-on-ketuanan-melayu/

    After 50 years of nation building, there should be only one race – Malaysian race.

  • impressive research michael,
    but i must say that u lack some common knowledge
    why don’t u try search the meaning of “Hang ” in malay, instead of assuming that it’s a family name,
    ahmad n muhammad in arabic is the same thing, with the same meaning, his descendents bear the name “syed” as first name…….
    many other thing i can comment, no time really…..
    not trying to provoke u or anything, hope u don’t mind

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  • Balajoe, after 3 years, this story rocks!

  • Noktah Hitam – 3 years sure flies fast….

  • Hmm.. I had goosebumps reading this story. Why? 🙂

  • such a good story, i wish i could come here earlier than today. Happy Deepavali!!!

  • i’m a malay in an ipts and my friends and me live in harmony with each other including chinese and indians,events such as opn hse and big dnner which involve helping each others is truly memorable n d feeling of grateful is always thr.n here i want to tell d whole world i am really proud to b a msian,and live like a true msian.lastly,i hope govt’ll open ipta’s to non bumis,or at liz sum of d ipta’s.it’ll bring harmony and good relationship as well as creating gud study environment to all.

  • I came from a link in Noktah Hitam’s. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful story. I am glad that there are actually Malaysian who care about the our well being without feeling the differential in races. Happy Deepavali to you 🙂

  • P4L – If we Malaysians are segregated in many aspects of life, it is going to be harder for us to compete globally.

    Bluecrystaldud – thanks for dropping by, when I was posted for overseas projects, we had no one but fellow Malaysians to keep me going. Only in Malaysia, we are seeing the differential in races – ironic!

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  • Hey Bro …
    Thats is a nice story to share with …
    I am a scrptwriter n indee film maker , can i use your story to write n visualize it in motion medium ?

    Regards,

    Najib.

  • Nice story. They turned your life around but it still doesn’t change the fact that they could get a house cheaper than you. Work less than you and enjoy their benefit.

    So they are bumiputra huh? So much so that they can live off others’ hardwork. sounds like indirect slavery.

  • I have screenshots of massive racist conversation over fb wall posting in my neighbourhood community fb site. If you can help me make it go viral as an effort to combat racism, I will pass you the screenshots. With due I respect I have censored their pictures because I’m not here to expose any individual but I want to expose many of our people’s mentality that is definately not doing any good for this country. Let me know..

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