The Bangsa Melayu Book Launch: who said what?

There were three events today: the KPUM Lexicon, What Women Want: The Economy, and the Bangsa Melayu book launch. Lately I have grown tired of oversimplified ideas, recycled opinions and superficial “analysis”. So, the decision was clear.

Weeks before the book launch, I spotted Bangsa Melayu at Subang Parade’s MPH. I did not know what to think of it then; I have a better idea of what to expect now.

Bangsa Melayu: Malay Concepts of Democracy and Community, 1945 – 1950 was written by Ariffin Omar, who is currently a senator representing Penang in the Malaysian parliament. He founded Aliran, wrote several books such as Revolusi Indonesia dan Bangsa Melayu and The Bumiputra Policy: Dynamics and Dilemmas, and is now based at the Penang Institute, the public policy think tank of the Penang state government.

The event was held at Rumah Gerakbudaya, the Kinokuniya of Malaysian literature.

Ariffin Omar kicked off the small, but powerful public forum with great impact, and spoke from his heart about the concept of being a Malay and its difficulties.

People tell me, “You are supposed to be Melayu”. What do you mean by that?

He continued, “There is no pure bangsa itself. A Malay could be a mixture of Chinese, Siam, everything! The Malay identity is diverse, open, complex, that you could never have a narrow definition of Malay. The constitution’s definition cuts off Malays’ freedom on who they are.”

At this point, Zaid Ibrahim in his wildly retro floral shirt was finding difficulty with drinking water out of those sealed plastic cups we normally get at CNY or Raya open houses. He poked it with his pen a few times, but to no avail. Then he decided to rip off the seal, and spilled water in the process.

If you have political power, then the Malay identity is good for you. There is this waitress at a coffee shop I used to go and remember that she was a mamak. Now she is working for UMNO, and she became Malay.

He ended his segment with impact and substance.

The real battles are happening in the realm of ideas. The real fight is not against government and of which government is better, but the narrow-mindedness of what a Malay identity can be.

Aziz Bari was the next to speak:

Bangsar melayu is not static, it is something evolving. You cannot renounce someone’s lack of Malayness because of what the court said to Lina Joy.

Lina Joy was a Malay convert to Christianity from Islam. Although her change of name (previously Azlina Jailini) was recognised in her IC, her change of religion was not as she lacked a document from the Syariah Court. Once she filed a suit to the Federal Court, but was rejected because “a person cannot, at one’s whims and fancies renounce or embrace a religion”. What?

He also said, “It’s not a legal problem, it is a problem outside the law. FELDA scholarship. Malay reserve land. Whether the amount of Malayness in you is too much or too little. There’s no need to make any amendment to the law.”

Zaid Ibrahim was last to speak. He first admitted he never liked the idea of changing someone’s concept of something as a way to solve a problem as he referred to the Malay identity.

Concept is most difficult to start with to solve country’s problems. You start with people and their rights respected, their needs assured, their wants given. Everybody wants this. To be treated fairly. So, if we understand people we can address policy issues.

He added on, “Do you wanna be one people? Not 1Malaysia, that’s just another political slogan. Do you wanna respect others? If you do, then solving the country’s problems will be easier.”

Concerns of the Malays are that we don’t wanna be frank about our concerns. Chinese no loyalty? If Chinese wanna go vernacular school, you ask questions about national schools. Whats wrong with it?Islam. What makes it? There are people who say Islam is this, that. this and that. At one time if you mix around with UMNO, you are not Islamic.

We’ve always been sidelined, sidetracked by politicians who have their own agenda.

We have to start looking at basis human needs. All people have nowadays are propaganda and angry leaders. Baca paper tengok saja la

Concluding thoughts:

  1. I am going back to Rumah Gerakbudaya to buy more books at a 20% discount
  2. Ariffin Omar spoke a lot about his personal experiences, of which I did not have the capacity to remember. But the gist of what he said was for Malays to be open minded and less insecure about what makes Malays Malay, as a complicated string of events between 1945 and 1950 influenced this heavily in a bad way
  3. Zaid Ibrahim is going to publish his own book on Freedom in Islam. He mentioned a few times how Islam in Malaysia is a product of the government, the state, the politics, and the money, and that Malays should practice Islam however they wish to
  4. Not a lot of Malays attended which was sad, because if there was any one type of people whom this forum would have the most disruptive and positive impact on it would be the Malays
  5. The lady who wrote the Low Yat was about racism, deal with it op-ed piece was there. I introduced myself to her, and got her card. It was pretty cool.
  6. My mum and Priyanka bought Politico, along with its Sabah and Sarawak extension. Can’t wait to play it with the Leeds gang. It is going to be so fun!
definitely on the to-search-on-goodreads-for-reviews list
definitely on the to-search-on-goodreads-for-reviews list
everyone's just like smiling and thinking how long do i have to smile
everyone’s just like smiling and thinking how long do i have to smile
eventually it filled up
eventually it filled up
voila! we bought them!
voila! we bought them!
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