At a recent roundtable conference called “Rebranding of Malay Politics”, a group of Malay activists, academics and politicians rightly expressed concern about Malay politics that has become synonymous with corruption and distrust over the years.
Nizam Mahshar, chairman of the “Malay Survival Committee”, which helped to host the meeting, called on Malay academics and public figures, among others in the Malay community, to put their heads together to seek solutions to problems affecting the community.
For starters, it is unfortunate that the conference organisers found it befitting to engage politicians, particularly those from Malay-based parties, in this problem-solving project. As we shall illustrate later, there are potential repercussions for such involvement.
While we appreciate the gravity of corruption affecting Malay politics as well as the Malay community, the approach to address it should have transcended the Malay community.
This is because corruption has far and wide implications, for the giving and taking of bribes can cross ethnic lines and adversely affect governance as well as the national economy. In short, corruption is a Malaysian and not only a Malay problem.
Furthermore, Malay politics serves as a pillar to national politics, as has been practised in the country for many decades, so that Malay politics that is bedevilled by political and financial shenanigans would have dire consequences of national proportions.
Nizam also lamented that Malay politicians could not provide solutions to problems of the community, which he partly attributed to some Malay politicians having “the tendency to play race and religion card for personal gain”.
Indeed, it would be hopelessly naive to believe that some Malay and non-Malay politicians, particularly those operating from ethnic-based parties, do not exploit race and religion for their own gain.
Some of them would even manufacture fear under certain conditions among party members, and supporters of outsiders (in this case, non-Malays) who are depicted as a collective bent on causing harm to the interests of the Malays and Islam.
This is a tired modus operandi used to gain support and loyalty among the Malays, but at the same time, it is disturbingly divisive in a diverse society like Malaysia.
Such leaders have let down the bottom 40% of households, many of which comprise Malays, through their corruption, rent-seeking and mismanagement of the economy, and so it would be foolish for the latter to put their faith in these leaders given their track record.
The meeting also noted that the Malays should re-examine the values they wanted to be associated with so that they could shed the image of being negative, lazy, corrupt, hypocritical and racist.
As regards the values, it is largely the Malay politicians who have misplaced or lost their moral compass in the dizzying pursuit of political power, material comfort and social status.
The situation is also compounded by an assertion made by certain Malay leaders that it’s better to support a corrupt Malay-Muslim leader rather than an ethical non-Malay. The line between right and wrong has been blurred here.
This kind of thinking also indicates an inability or refusal to imagine living harmoniously with other communities in a multi-ethnic society, aside from being downright discriminatory and immoral.
It would obviously be unjust to tar the entire Malay community with the same brush, especially when there are many of them whose lives are guided by such noble values as honesty, trust, humility, diligence, moderation, justice and compassion.
In the endeavour to reset the Malay political narrative, it is imperative that such important values be reinforced and the community move forward with the required confidence and self-respect as a collective.
Furthermore, it is also crucial to empower the dispossessed, particularly among the Malays, so that there is no longer a need for them to be overly dependent on Malay-based parties that make themselves out to be their protectors. The interests of the select few in the upper stratum of society should not be prioritised.
The ordinary Malays (and other Malaysians as well) must be freed from the shackles of feudalism, political and economic manipulation, ignorance, cronyism and corruption, if the country is to progress.
In the pursuit of a better Malay community, rebranding it as a “superior race”, as suggested in the meeting, should not be the path to take. As the community, which is made up of Muslims, is well aware, Islam does not take kindly to the notion of superiority or supremacy, be it in the form of race or language.
It is worthwhile to be reminded of the anti-racism content of what Prophet Muhammad said in his last sermon: “All humans are descended from Adam and Eve. There is no superiority of an Arab over a non-Arab, or of a non-Arab over an Arab, and no superiority of a white person over a black person or of a black person over a white person, except on the basis of personal piety and righteousness.”
In the effort to reset the Malay political narrative, it is vital that the pitfalls of the past be avoided at all costs. History can be instructive. – The Malaysian Insight