Islam has been taught in Malaysian schools for generations. In the early 1990’s when I set foot in Malaysia, I was given a clear picture how the primary schools virtually imposed the Malay version of Islam on the non-Bumi’s. Decades on, the same scenario is at hand and the worst is yet to come if you were to believe me. I faced many non-Muslims hence non-Bumis in general who said they were angered and even disgusted by the informal way they were taught how Islam is better than their faith. They said this was unnatural as it meant they were in the wrong while Muslims were in the right to be followers of Islam. That was in 1992, at Brickfields where I use to share an office with a bunch of guys who ended up being bankrupt, siphoning my money in the process! Well, its normal in Malaysia, said many foreigners to me.
Since this article is more about Islam and teachings of Islam, let me tell you a more recent story. In 2008, a young Italian gentleman landed in Malaysia and went straight to Penang where he wanted to visit his online, Internet girl friend. Indeed she was a Malay girl but the difference here is that she was of another breed and did not seem to me to be from the Area 51 of specially fitted classes in Universities that were restricted for Malays only.
The difference in her was that she would not have a Malay boyfriend and would not date all the guys who wanted to bring her out. It is not really the family upbringing that had an effect on her since it is rather her own personality that brought her to be a different ‘Malay’ girl with a penchant for the real practice of Islam, not the mere theories and ‘pipe dreams’. If only there were more Malay thinking people like her. I knew her since she was barely 17 and we were always in communication mostly regarding Islamic issues and the way to promote the true Islamic values in and outside Malaysia. A tiny, really tiny little woman in the making for she was as short as half my size and was as skinny as Mother Theresa when I met her for the first and only time so far.
She was taught the same version of Islam and Muslim behaviors that the local government schools teaches the Muslims but she was of a totally different fiber not to have fallen into the ‘Melayunization’ of the Islamic beliefs. I call her a Malay Angkasaputeri and she earned her title when she flew away from the biased system right into the arms of her lover, a new Muslim who has since then showed his avid desire to learn about the true, real Islam.
Not to say that Malaysia’s Islamic system is abusive or racist in nature but it must be pointed out that Islam does not favor racism and abuse in any given circumstances. It is not true also to state that Malaysia’s Muslims are not following Islam, the true Islam but it is imperative to understand that Muslims can twist and turn the Islamic credentials to their favor and use what is good for them while they will drop flat what is bad for them though it came from the Prophet of Islam. That also means that Islam is not wrong but the Muslims can be wrong and here I want to clearly point out that racism and segregation of Muslims into different ‘kaum’ is totally un-Islamic and it should be taken into consideration here.
Again, it is not that there is anything wrong with forms when it comes to the ‘Melayunization’ of the Islamic beliefs and practices however, if such a form defies or denies the Islamic facts it becomes, according to the true Islamic practices; a form of ‘bid’aa’ which means an improper, illicit invention. Many of my Malay friends in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore agrees that the ‘budaya’ aspect of the ‘Melayunization’ of Islamic beliefs in their mist is mostly out of the Islamic bounds, such as the wedding rituals in some cases. Nevertheless, that does not entitle anyone to say that Malays in these countries are wrong or are not practising true Islam. In some African states, women are allowed to walk around bare breast – in public – and yet they will still go back to their huts in the middle of the desertland to practice their ‘solat’, they are seen as Muslims and the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) too classify them as Muslims. They practice one thing that Islam abhors yet they are not out of the Islamic circle. It will take a little more of instructing these women for them to comprehend that they are wrong in wandering around bare breasted and the issue will be settled, though no one dared do anything about it. This is where the Muslim Ummah is wrong, that is in not doing anything proper and in disseminating the proper Islamic values to some distant, remote Muslim tribes.
In Malaysia, which is not the only Malay nation on earth, there is a problem regarding the transmission of the true Islamic values from the Holy Book the Al-Quraan to the class rooms and this is part of the bigger problem that has affected the Malay race here. The Holy Al-Quraan condemns the segregation of Muslims into Malays and Non-Malays that is Bumis and Non-Bumis. There is a conflict, a direct and an utter challenge against the Holy Al-Quraan, and a conflict between the Malay Islam and the Quranic Islam. The Malay Islamic point of view allows the racial classification of Muslims as Bumi and non-Bumi. The Quraan defies such classifications and calls on the Muslims in no uncertain terms that they should not be indulged in the practice of ‘racism’. Which is right or wrong here? There can’t be two wrongs or two rights in this tussle that has developed between the Malays and their Holy Al-Quraan, which is also MY Holy Al-Quraan! The Malays are to be pronounced wrong and at fault for dividing young innocent and joyful Muslim children into Bumis and non-Bumis.
If that is not acceptable to the ‘religious’ authorities in Malaysia then I think someone should be brave enough to go to the Malaysian Shariah Courts to challenge the racial classification of Muslims that has caused much segregationist practices in Malaysia against Muslims themselves. Any Indian Muslims or Pakistanis or Arabs who are not classified as Bumis ready to take on the system? Most of them are indeed afraid and they would chicken on the thought of taking on the ‘merayu-rayu’ system that is practiced in the offices of the government of Malaysia, fearing for their jobs or their economic prosperity. They trade their faith for the money they earn by blindly and silently supporting the racial order that is so well established in Malaysia.
My friend from Penang is no coward. She flew out of the country in order to escape her family’s suppressive methods. Imagine the young handsome Italian lover was being bent to understand the ‘Melayunization’ of Islam by the family members, which was acceptable to the young Malay artist. She is a painter by right and she has painted me or rather a faceless man in a crowd of shadows waiting for a Bus Mini in a street in Kuala Lumpur. A painting that I will treasure all my life since she depicted the real me, lost in a clash of cultures which originates from the difficulties I had and still have to understand my fellow Muslim Malay brothers and sisters when it comes to the ‘ajaran’ Islam. I decided to scan and post the painting here to show the art that my Malay friend has and I hope she will continue to develop in the course of her life outside the country. What she wanted was for the Italian lover to learn the ‘true’ Islam. In one of the conversations we had, she said she did not him to learn about Malay Islam which she plainly discarded since according to her this was not the Islam that she was in touch with. Not in totality at least and not in practice in many ways, she insisted.
Her understanding of Islam is that it is anti-racist, does not segregate the Muslims into Malays or Indians or Arabs or Chinese and she also believe that the easiest way to lead a good life as a Muslimah was to take on the hardest path and she did take one tough path indeed and not to hide behind the easier pathways. Why is her story very important here? It is the parallel that were are made to draw between taking the easy short cut in life and that of taking the hard long road to Islamic salvation. With the Quraan firmly and definitely, if not legally, on my side, I say the Malay community must revoke the racial segregation of Muslims. What I mean here is that we non-Bumis, we Angkasaputera’s and Angkasaputeri’s (we come from Adam AlayhisSalaam) are not at all interested in the shrinking economic cake of the Malays. This we leave it to them because we can mend for ourselves. What I am asking is for the Muslims Malays in Malaysia to take the right path and drop the ‘racial’ segregation of Muslims.
Now is the Islam being taught in the schools in Malaysia the same Islam that I was taught? I was taught an Islamic version that says ‘do not segregate your Muslim brothers and sisters into races’ and it also states ‘treat the non-Muslims with fairness and respect their faith or religions’ which I do until today. I do not separate the Malays from the other Muslims and I do not mistreat the non-Muslims even in their quest for a better deal in modern Malaysia. As a Muslim, I am duty bound to listen to the non-Muslims and their plight, again as a follower of the Holy Al-Quraan, is to listen and act on their plights.
If such a policy would have been in adoption in Malaysia, I doubt there would be such a harrow-hurrah about race but alas, dividing the Muslims into Bumis and non-Bumis does not help Malaysia. This is the very core of the problem that is churning in Malaysia and is spilling into a race issue.
I do not see the King and the Sultan’s tackling the Bumi issue with the right momentum since they too seem to agree that Malays and non-Malay Muslims should be separated as Bumis and Angkasaputra’s. I do see some politicians lambasting the racial diversionary policies in the country, and they come mostly from the Party Islam Se-Malaysia or the Party Keadilaan Rakyat (PKR). The United Malays National Organization (Umno) is not at all in favor of a flat non-racial system. Umno runs the country and it will not change the rules. That is what pushed my Penang Malay friend to leave for greener shores where she can feel independent and free to act as a Muslimah and where her free will is respected, free will as a Muslimah. And many will follow her footsteps, drastically reducing the number of Bumis in the country. While many other Malay women will marry foreigners from Bangladesh or Iran and Nigeria it is, but the fact remains their children will be cast as non-Bumi or lain-lain and this too takes away a slice from the ‘Bumi’ quota and in the long run, the divisive rule will cut the monkey that do not know how to handle the knife. This was said by Ian Smith, a racist self imposed Prime Minister in Rhodesia which is today Zimbabwe. He said the Africans were like monkeys, when given a knife they will cut themselves. This is what happened eventually in Zimbabwe where Africans are at daggers drawn against Africans…
Henceforth, if the Malays in Malaysia want to promote an Islam that is in their favor I can only see the non-Bumis Muslims as the potential bearers of the true flags of Islam. This is the flag of the truth and the truth is the Holy Al-Quraan cannot be wrong. It states clearly that Islam disagrees with racism and I disagree with racist practices. What does my Malay brothers and sisters say? Do they support such racist designs that separates the young Muslim boys and girls in Malaysian schools as Bumis and non-Bumis? Are they willing to go against the Quraan on that issue? Pertinent but right on!