Opinion

Malay uber alles, above everybody else

Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | After Harapan won the last election, I assumed we had some breathing space.

“So I urge young Malays to plan their lives properly. Don’t make the same mistake I did. Malaysia is a sick Muslim country that teaches you the wrong things.”

– Zaid Ibrahim

The recent comments by BN secretary-general Nazri Abdul Aziz on the Semenyih campaign trail about the racist inclination of the Umno grassroots on their fear of non-Malays leading certain ministerial portfolios is neither shocking nor unexpected.

All this is part of the Malay über alles strategy of the far right and the foundation of mainstream Malay politics. Non-Malay political operatives in Pakatan Harapan, now that the coalition has achieved federal power, have to be careful about how they define their power because everyone has been told not to spook the Malays.

Furthermore, because Bersatu was not the powerhouse Malay bloc that Harapan had hoped for, the old maverick has had to resort to all sorts of stratagems to entice Umno political operatives to step into his tent.

All this, of course, plays into the hands of Umno and PAS who can now freely explore their racial and supremacist ideologies without fear of losing their non-Malay base because the MCA and MIC are out of play.

Two years ago, former minister Zaid Ibrahim, encouraged young Malays to leave this country because of the policies of BN. This, of course, caused a stir. As always, whenever Zaid says something, he does so without political consideration. He spits it out because he knows that outlier Malay voices think this way.

There were the usual calls to stay and fight by those in the intelligentsia who supported the then opposition Harapan. I was sceptical. In a piece exploring what Zaid actually said – there is always confusion because some pundits do not bother to refer to what he said, instead relying on what others claim he said – I wrote:

“If you want people to stay and fight for their rights, you must be able to demonstrate that staying and fighting is something that is worthwhile. We are not yet at the stage where you can point to incremental changes (elsewhere) and say that this is progress. We are a developed country with narratives that are evidence that religious and racial plurality is something we had, but lost like many Islamic state narratives in countries all over the Middle East.”

After Harapan won the last election, I assumed we had some breathing space. To my thinking and I suppose some people who voted for Harapan, we believed that if we begin the process – however incrementally - of dismantling the Malay uber alles ideology, we could at least set the foundation for a brighter tomorrow for future generations. This kind of thinking is not based on any idealist impulses. This is pure self-preservation. People sometimes confuse capitulation with pragmatism.

But as the days drag on, I see very little hope or evidence that things are going to change. While I received the usual hate mail for my last piece from the usual suspects, I received many emails from Malays overseas, who claimed that what Zaid two years ago was the right thing to do.

Many young Malays ask me how they can overcome a system which is against them, but which people think provides privileges for them? Zaid said it best: “They will continue to make you intellectually poor by stifling you, giving you no freedom to grow and develop your minds...

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