I read Tun M’s ‘Malay Dilemma’ in secondary school and didn’t think much of it then (I suppose I was too immature). I then read, about 10 years later, Bakri Musa’s ‘The Malay Dilemma Revisited’. Bakri’s scathing critique of the government’s policies and race and the negative aspects of Malay culture stays with me till now. Now, about 9 years after reading Bakri, another favourite Malay thinker of mine, Azly Rahman’s opined about the Malay Dilemma in his blog yesterday.
Azly, in his ‘The Newest Malay Dilemma’, believes that the real malay dilemma is about mind control. How we’ve been sold a bill of goods about slogans and visions all designed to blur us while we’re still being exploited by robber barons and emerging dynasties. I concur with this but wish to add, if I may, my two cents.
To me, Tun M, Bakri and Azly have put forward good points in their works but if you ask me, what is the Malay dilemma, I would have to say our dilemma is our positions on race and religion. We have effectively become the most bigoted people in the world, even daring to ban others from using words to express their faith.
Why are race and religion a dilemma at all? They don’t have to be but they are for the very simple reason of politics. In our political expressions, the Malays are limited to the racialist UMNO and the religious fundamentalists PAS or the ill-fated PKR (who are still full of UMNO and PAS types as well). Our politics is never about policy. It’s about identity. We constantly flex our imagined political muscle to the non-Malays and non-Muslims because our politicians tell us to do so. In the meantime, outrageous amounts of money flow into certain pockets while many Malays are still mired in poverty. Yet when it comes to ‘hak orang Melayu’ or ‘mempertahankan Islam’, we still see Malays dutifully doing their bit for these reprobates.
Truly, we are puppets in their dastardly scheme.
What do we need to do to get over this dilemma?One solution I would say is phrased in a word, PRIVATISATION. While the word seems to have a different connotation than the usual privatisation of the utility agencies for example, the effect remains the same. Rather than the government styling itself as they protectors of race and religion, we need to have a government that is completely neutral in such matters. All at once, we will render race and religion ‘organic’ in the sense that proponents of such ideologies would understand the realities of economics and rethink their activities. Even racists and religious fundamentalists need to buy stuff and they’re not paid for things like BTN or religious classes, we’ll see how many volunteer.
Secondly, we need to make it obligatory for any political party to adopt a policy of non-discrimination for membership. This is what I call the Onn Jaafar effect. Onn Jaafar wanted to open UMNO membership to non-Malays but was overturned and forced to leave. It does seem unimaginable but once this happens, we will find a sweeping political and religious reform overtake the nation. Those people who rely on cheap racist and religiously bigoted slogans would be simply neutralised.
Thirdly, we need to have language and religious education that understands the realities of Malaysia. All Malays should learn English, Mandarin and Tamil up to at least conversational level. Besides that we need to take classes about other religions than Islam. We need to understand that other people value their respective faiths too and our bigotry tends to overlook that.
Lastly and I think most importantly, we need to implement philosophy as an actual subject in secondary schools. Philosophy equips us with the thinking tools we need to see through the puppetry of our politicians. Moreover, it gives us the ability to constantly grow as individuals who can negotiate their way through any reality which confronts them.
The dilemma of the Malay to me is this crippling position we have on race and religion. We still cling to this Ketuanan myth and live the Hobbesian fear of ideological attacks at every turn. In truth, we are potentially rational beings as any Malaysian or human being. We simply need to leave these myths behind and embrace the truth about ourselves.