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What makes a party ‘truly Malay’?

Bold political leadership is required in the push for moderation and inclusivity to make a difference

DR WONG SOAK KOON/ALIRAN

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The thumping victory of Perikatan Nasional (PN), particularly Pas, in the recent Kemaman by-election has been regarded as the coalition gaining more traction within the ethnic Malay-Muslim community.

Predictably, PN politicians insist that many Malays in Kemaman and the rest of Malaysia have rejected Malay-based parties in the “unity government”, particularly Umno. In other words, PN is perceived by many Malays to be a coalition that is overly and overtly ‘Malay and Islamic’.

That is why Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim was concerned about and rejected the claim that his “Madani” (civil and compassionate) administration is not Malay or Islamic enough – and understandably so. After all, the Malay-majority PKR and the Malay-based Umno, in caring for the community, also need its support.

The unity government that Anwar helms is composed of diverse parties, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, from the peninsula and the Borneo region. And this is where the rub is for some Malays who oppose Umno and, by association, the rest of the coalition.

These Malays are particularly uncomfortable with ethnic Chinese-based DAP because many of them have had it drummed into their heads over the years that the DAP is opposed to Islam and harmful to Malay interests and has a tight grip on the government.

Malay nationalist forces and bigots have stoked this fear of “the other” for so many years that many Malays would be inclined to believe only the ethnic minorities are corruptible and collaborating with communists and other undesirable foreign elements to the detriment of the “tanah air” (homeland).

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Certain diehard Malay nationalists even insist on calling “the other” pendatang (immigrants) when they are indeed legitimate citizens of this country and have rights and responsibilities like their Malay counterparts.

It would not be exaggerating to say such a group of Malays have been made to be so fearful – and to lack confidence as well – that even the sight of a cross or whisky would make them weak-kneed.

Is this the kind of Malay living in a diverse Malaysia that a purportedly Malay party is expected to nurture?

As part of the sitting government, would PKR and Umno necessarily be seen as ignoring the interests and concerns of the Malay-Muslim community if they took care of the welfare of everyone in Malaysia from Perlis to Sarawak as they are tasked to do? Wouldn’t an inclusive approach to governing the country be what is sorely needed?

Such an extreme Malay-centric mindset obviously has serious repercussions. For instance, should Malay poverty eradication be prioritised to the near neglect of others, when poverty is actually a universal phenomenon? Besides, shouldn’t social justice be pursued?

Shouldn’t the universal values of compassion, empathy, justice and freedom be the guiding light of all political parties worth their salt, particularly PKR and Umno?

Incidentally, would it be Islamic enough for a party to promise its supporters a heavenly reward – something that is in the realm of the divine – if they vote for the party, in its haste to attain political power?

People in Malaysia from all walks of life must not live in denial of the multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multicultural reality of the country, in which an inclusive approach is required for us to move forward.

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The road to a progressive, democratic, just, and harmonious Malaysia can be bumpy.

Bold political leadership is required in the push for moderation and inclusivity to make a difference. – The Malaysian Insight

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
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Dr Mustafa K Anuar, a longtime executive committee member and former honorary secretary of Aliran, is, co-editor of our newsletter. He obtained his PhD from City, University of London and is particularly interested in press freedom and freedom of expression issues. These days, he is a a senior journalist with an online media portal
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