For the last few days, I’ve been out and about in some place south of Kuala Lumpur. Apart from falling off a bike in a very fashionable way and severely lacked the stamina I would like to have, I overheard a conversation between two Muslim Malay males, both were draped in Arabic dressing. The conversation was about westernized Malays. I wasn’t sure if they were talking about me in particular though I was wearing a Michigan cap, a cargo pant and a bright shirt while my mp3 player was valiantly trying to entertain me until it ran out of juice. And it died out exactly when the conversation started to get interesting. Before that, I didn’t eavesdrop on purpose – situation forced me to be where I was.

One of the two friends was lamenting on how the Malay society is rapidly being westernized at the expense of the Malay culture. The person went on further by stating sooner or later, Malay culture would die out with morality and god phrased out by burgers and pizzas, g-strings and bikinis.

The other one agreed and began lambasting how inferior western cultures and moral are compared to Islam’s. It was odd how they used the term Malay and Islamic culture interchangeably. Soon enough, as I followed the conversation quietly while tending to my cool wound, I realized that the Malay culture they were talking about was really Arabic. They made no distinction between Malay, Arab and Islam.

I rolled my eyes upon that discovery and felt how oxymoron the situation at hand was. They were talking about the Malays abandoning Malay culture while they themselves were wearing something not Malay but entirely Arabic. Thanks to that, hypocrites is the best noun to describe the two Arabized Malays. I think, they would grasp very well what the word munafiqun means.

I’m no sociologist but I learned long ago that culture is a way of life. It doesn’t matter how a person lives his or her life but however they choose to live it, it’s their choice and that’s their culture. In essence, they choose their culture and indeed, I choose my own.

I’m a Muslim Malay. At the same time, my culture is a hodgepodge of many cultures that I’ve had the luxury of interacting with. A hybrid culture if I may. Furthermore, I take that culture isn’t a static intangible thing. It changes and adapts to time, just like how many of us do. This is especially true to hybrid cultures.

As a result, I appreciate diversity and am no purist. While no purist, I do hate how English words are being imported with impunity into the Malay language (check also Hijacking Bahasa Melayu at theCicak). If George Orwell were a Malay, he would agree with me for he wrote that one should never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent in Politics and the English Language. But that is another topic to be harped at, at another time.

Due to my hybrid culture, I find the conversation mildly offensive. They were deriding part of my culture while turning a blind eye on their, through their other eye, sin. I would have offered my opinion to them about their clothing but with low stamina and knee in uncomfortable pain, I had no appetite for a potentially heated discussion on culture.

While giving the topic a thought, I realized that this hypocrisy is not exclusively the two Arabized fellows’ problem. This Arabization is spreading fast and affecting Malaysian culture. Look no farther than Putrajaya. Notice how Arabic the city actually is? Where is the Malay in it? The Chinese or the Indian in it? The Dayak or the Iban, the Minang, the Bugis? Where’s the Malaysian in it?

Then, look at PAS efforts to Arabize Terengganu and Kelantan. One time, I clearly remember that they banned wayang kulit, Mak Yong and other Malay heritage in the name of Islam. They even removed a giant turtle sculpture in Kuala Terengganu for the sake of Islam. As far as I care to remember, the sculpture was synonymous with Kuala Terengganu. A deduction – PAS banned the Malay culture and then encourages Arabic in place of cultural vacumn that PAS had created!

In reality, these Arabized Malays just hate everything that isn’t Arabic, including things that are Malay. Here, by no mean I’m deriding the Arabs. Arabic culture is part of me. If I were dismissing Arabic culture, I would be dismissing mine too and that wouldn’t be right. I’m merely debunking the two guys’ thinking and their kind.

I’m quite liberal on culture and hence, I don’t mind if one insists into living like the Arabs. I myself, at risk of redundancy, have said earlier that I choose my culture and one may choose his or her own too as I’ve chosen mine.

Nevertheless, if you are the two fellows whom deride other Malays as abandoning Malay culture in favor of western’s one, please take a look in a mirror. Before expressing that idea, please notice that you’re abandoning Malay for Arabic. Arabic culture is not Malay and Malay is not Arabic. Being a Muslim isn’t about being an Arab either.

21 Responses to “[695] Of Arabs aren’t Malays and Malays aren’t Arabs”

  1. on 27 Mar 2009 at 22:23 faryha

    saya rasa awak bercakap tanpa mengetahui apa itu apa itu arab & melayu…….kebudayaan melayu banyak yang bertentangan dengan islam….contohnya mak yong…x wajar seorang perempuan menari menunjukkan aurat….dan ia unsur pemujaan…..begitu juga dengan wayang kulit….unsur percakapannya mengarut…dan lucah…dan apakah awak bannga dengan budaya begitu…..saya hairan dengan ….cara cakap macam belajar tinggi….tapi macam orang x faham agama….tak ada masalah nak mempraktikkan budaya melayu asal tak bertentangan dengan islam…..dan x de masalah nak praktik budaya arab kerana ia sebahagian daripada diri rasulullah s.a.w.kalau awak x nak praktik budaya islam…x de masalah….tapi jangan kata serban tu budaya arab…ia sebahagian daripada sunnah rasulullah s.a.w…..

  2. on 27 Mar 2009 at 23:58 Hafiz Noor Shams

    Kamu menulis “kebudayaan melayu banyak yang bertentangan dengan islam”.

    Adakah itu bermaksud anda berpendapat budaya islam itu budaya asing dari budaya melayu?

    Mungkin anda yang telah belajar lebih tinggi daripada saya boleh terangkan pendapat anda. Saya telah menerangkan pendapat saya dan kalau kita hendak mentafsirkan maksud budaya asing sebagai yang ditafsirkan oleh “”two Muslim Malay males”, budaya serban itu memang budaya asing.

    Fahami konteks dan kritikan “two Muslim Malay males” itu. Saya faham apa itu Arab dan Melayu. Kamu yang gagal fahami konteks mesej.

    Tambahan lagi, kalau serban itu sunnah nabi, naik unta pun sunnah nabi.

    Kebanyakan “sunnah nabi” itu budaya Arab dan budaya zaman itu. Jangan terkeliru. Orang pakai serban, jubah, etc sebab persekitaran padang pasir. Orang sebelum nabi pun yang bukan Islam pun pakai serban dan jubah.

    Sekarang, orang Melayu ambil benda macam itu bulat-bulat. Sebenarnya, pemakaian serban adalah satu ritual dan Islam sepatutnya menjurus lebih daripada ritual. Islam sepatutnya berkaitan dengan perkara dalaman, bukan ritual.

    Saya tak kisah kalau sesiapa nak pakai jubah tapi kalau nak mengkritik budaya orang lain, lihatlah cermin dulu. Itu mesej asal artikel ini, kalau anda terlepas pandang.

  3. on 29 Aug 2009 at 06:58 T.A. Dahar

    Dear Mohd Hafiz,

    I was pleasantly surprised to stumble upon your article. As a Singaporean Malay I generally have the idea that Malays from Malaysia tend to be more rigid in their grasp of what constitutes being a Malay, but more and more I’m finding out that this isn’t always the case. I like your outlook on life.

    Before I go further, I must tell you that I am atheist. I don’t believe in god. I believe that religion is a function of the human mind. And I believe that ethics and morality can exist outside of religion, and can be developed without using religion as a framework. I’m sure I don’t have to explain to you how difficult this makes things for me when moving in Malay circles (it’s difficult even in Singapore).

    I grew up without a father, and for a significant portion of my childhood, without a mother. My grandparents brought me up until my mother returned from Jeddah after the breakup of her second marriage. My religious and secular education was provided by my grandfather, a kind and thoughtful Malay man from Perak who spoke crisp British English, practiced Silat Gayong and could read and understand every single word of the Quran. He died when I was 12; he slipped on the floor and hurt his head bad after taking wudhuq for subuh prayers. “Why would a benevolent god allow such a horrible thing to happen to a good man such as my grandfather?” I thought.

    That first thought was my first step away from religion, not just Islam, but the whole idea of god altogether. It led me to other thoughts like “If I had been born into a Hindu family and brought up Hindu, would I not be Hindu instead of Muslim? Isn’t religion then a matter of arbitrary chance?”, “What is so special about the Arabs that god spoke to them in their language, and their language alone? Are they like the Jews? Chosen?”, “Would god not understand me if I chose to speak to him in my language? Why is it that I must speak to him in a foreign language that I scarcely understand and rarely use in my daily life?”.

    I am deeply disappointed with my people. They have so firmly intertwined the notions of Muslim and Malay that they have forgotten about there being “no compulsion in religion”, not to mention the suggestion that in case of disagreements, we should conclude with “to you your way, to me mine”. I shudder to think what gems of ancient Malay culture we have thrown away in order to be “better” Muslims; I shudder even more now, seeing how more and more Malays are deciding that to be Muslim they have to be more Arab.

    Most of the Malays I share my thoughts with counter with arguments such as: “Habis kau nak apa? Kau nak balik jahilia? Jadi Hindu, jadi Buddhist?”. This perception that pre-Islamic Malay civilization is jahil or ignorant sounds like self-loathing to me more than anything else. And besides, Hinduism and Buddhism existed alongside local and regional systems of animistic faith. I think its more immediately logical to thank a tree for the fruits it “gives” you rather than thanking an invisible god. What would be more local or more Malay than thanking the mangosteen tree that stands not 30 feet from your house?

    Although you and I may not agree on Islam’s place in Malay culture, I think we both agree that Malay is Malay and Arab is Arab and the former does not have to become the latter to be Muslim.

    T.A. Dahar

    P.S: To be completely honest, I do have some Arab blood on my father’s side.

  4. on 30 Aug 2009 at 03:39 Eurasian Sensation

    Great article and an important one. Southeast Asian culture has so much to recommend it – it’s a shame that such a cultural cringe exists and that so many put Arabs up on a pedestal. Concepts such as true freedom, democracy and universal human rights are virtually absent from the Arab world – why then should Asians wish to emulate this?

    Indonesia’s mainstream interpretation of Islam is far more suited to the modern world, as it is open-minded and tolerant. Yet sadly, many Indonesians seem bewitched by the medieval Saudi model of Islam as well.

  5. […] If it is so, then I hope people of whom are making effort to change the state title realize that being a Muslim isn’t about being an Arab. […]

  6. on 12 Apr 2014 at 10:42 yemeni guy

    malays are idiot and lazy, no malays can do work as expected, al malays are racist and monkeys. you call yourself to be perfect?

    all brilliant indians and chinese in your country were looked own upon,. only your stupid malays are given a chance ,, you know your system’s value? hahaha..

    i had been in malaysia and i hate all the system.. frankly speaking all malays are very lazy and idiot. they dont use brain at all.

    shut the fuck up you monkeys came from orang asli and indonesia..

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