Freeing the Malays and Muslims from religious mind control

Pak Sako
The Malaysian Insider
Sep 12, 2011

SEPT 12 — There appears to be a Malay-Islamic Inquisition in Malaysia.

It does not involve burnings at the stake.

It comes as ostracism at school, the workplace and in the community for failing to comply with rigid parameters. Not wearing a headscarf is frowned upon. Transgenders are institutional pariahs.

Religious arrogance and zealotry are norms. Muslim leaders can assuredly rebuff equal partnership on inter-religious discussion panels. The Islamic moral police is free to raid churches and insult the Malay person’s dignity and autonomy.

Refusal to play along with another community’s passion for its customs is condemned as chauvinistic or unconstitutional — the fate of elected representatives in Sarawak who chose the customary suit and tie over expensive uniforms and songkoks for a state assembly opening.

Closing the gap with South Korea or Singapore at the top of quality-of-life indicators such as the UN Human Development Index is a minor national concern.

We are prouder to have been ranked by the Pew Forum’s Government Restriction Index alongside Saudi Arabia and Iran as world champions in constricting religious freedoms and other civil rights.

The time has come to face the facts. “Moderate Malaysia” and “moderate Islam” are as good as dead. If our interest is to revive moderateness, we do not flog dead hypes. We must address the causes of death.

The problem

Two pervasive mentalities stand out among the chief culprits. They are racial and religious supremacy.

Racial supremacy expects non-Malay citizens to be eternally grateful to the Malay race for granting their forefathers citizenship at Independence. It demands from the non-Malays unquestionable deference to the Malays, their culture and arbitrary declarations of Malay rights or privileges.

Religious supremacy is the conviction that the Islamic belief is superior to all other beliefs and that it is the only path to true spirituality. Its adherents must not compromise on officially stipulated Islamic ideas and practices and cannot opt-out of the religion. Non-believers are fodder for conversion.

A set of underlying reasons drive these mentalities. Political motives aside, there is a historical fear of disenfranchisement; a concept of entitlement as an exclusive birthright; envy; low self-esteem; a craving for a source of self-pride; a fear of the new or alien; meekness; and narrow-mindedness.

Supremacism is sold as the cure-all. But it only adds to the problem.

The projection of cultural or religious might becomes a pretext for the powerful to impose conformity and thereby control upon a majority. Behind the false security of religious dogma or ethnic nationalism, it is spiritually and psychologically defeating. It turns what should be a happy bazaar of exchange between cultures into a cautious tightrope walk. It sabotages nation-building, whatever the unifying slogan or initiative devised.

Consider how this plays out in Malay-non-Malay relations.

The ordinary Malay in Malaysia is kept at a near constant state of anxiety by the tirade about the non-Malays seeking to usurp Malay political and economic rights. The Malays are repeatedly called on to be united in the name of race and religion to fend off this imagined strike. To alleviate his insecurities the Malay is offered:

• A political guarantee that national policy will be dictated by the Malays (or Muslims) and economic concessions in the form of government jobs for the unemployable etc. These are promised in exchange for support for certain political parties and obedience to hierarchy;

• Supposed spiritual salvation by thorough religious submission. This is codified in law, taught in religious education, enforced by religious bodies and reinforced by social and peer pressure; and

• Financial incentives such as easy loans and credit for material intoxication by retail therapy and a temporary relative wealth effect vis-à-vis the non-Malays.

There is no commensurate effort to unleash the Malay mind and encourage the Malay person to seize the day, excel, question, take charge, propose or dissent. Political leaders and the religious bureaucracy do not favour this; an empowered people puts at stake their political influence and economic privilege.

The outcome is a large class of Malays that is averse to thinking, recoils from taking responsibility and content with following instructions. Ennui, the deep weariness and dissatisfaction stemming from mindless satiety and boredom, is a common affliction.

It is to this oppressive vacuity that the non-Malays are portrayed as “threats”. It is also implied that the non-Malay cultures and attitudes can weaken Malay religiosity or morals (see, for example, Jakim’s “Guidelines for Muslims celebrating religious festivals of non-Muslims”).

The Malays, for their part, are seen by the non-Malays as being exclusive and hegemonic with their loudspeakers and educational and economic quotas.

The result is isolation between the communities, the straining of social ties under the slightest provocation and the successful thwarting of real solidarity between the races.

The usual prescription is for the non-Malays to toe the line, to adapt without protest, or— told more gently by a prominent Malay DAP member— to be “responsive” to the Malays’ “primordial sentiments of culture and religion”.

This misguided paradigm must go.

A proposal

Since the primary point of attack is the Malay psyche, the remedy must as a matter of course focus on the Malays. Liberating the Malays from mind control is key to improving the Malay lot and normalising race relations.

There is however a limited window of opportunity for action. This window is closing with the increasing Islamisation of Malaysia. A new way of seeing and doing is therefore urgent.

It must culminate in new rules of engagement that redefine the attitudes of the Malays and non-Malays, the relations between these communities and the institutional setup encompassing these.

A blueprint would read as follows:

1. For the Malay individual:

(a) To do what is necessary to be confident. Self-esteem must arise primarily from character and ability, not from external sources such as racial and religious hubris.

(b) To be outgoing and socially inclusive. To expand one’s company beyond just one racial or religious community in as many settings as possible.

(c) To take action instead of simply reacting. To not restrict oneself to old activities or ways of doing.

(d) To be able to evaluate and decide a personal response to matters of custom and religion. To not capitulate under coercion and social pressure to conform to a fixed way or idea.

(e) To be receptive to new information, ideas and values. To be able to reflect on them critically, and fairly (to give equal consideration to the pros and cons).

(f) To be able to be critical of one’s own cherished ideas and beliefs. To be able to accept outside criticisms and see them as opportunities for learning and improvement, not as a call to war.

(g) To be above viewing the world purely in black and white. To acquire the vantage that enables one to see that a diversity of ideas and beliefs can and do co-exist, and that this is natural and not wrong.

2. For the Malay community:

(a) To boldly review customs and belief systems that might function to enslave or disadvantage the community or its members. This would involve beliefs and practices that condone blind faith in an idea or decree and blind allegiance in a leader or a scholar.

(b) To cultivate amongst its members the habit of questioning norms and authority. To not accept rules or statements out of fear or mere confidence in an authority. To be able to verify the rationales behind rules and remarks and judge whether they are just or not.

(c) To accept the individual’s right to consider his practice of customs and religion as a personal matter; that advice or guidance may be provided by religious bodies for a community, but that these beliefs and practices should not be forced upon any member of the community. To encourage individuals to evaluate religious precepts and advice by reference to their intellect and own sense of what is right or wrong.

3. For both the Malay and non-Malay communities:

(a) The non-Malays must treat the Malays as fellow brothers and sisters, with dignity, understanding and compassion. Effort should be made to communicate and interact with, not shun, the Malay community.

(b) The Malays must reciprocate. In addition, the Malays must rightfully regard their non-Malay brothers and sisters as equal citizens.

(c) To overcome cultural hypersensitivity. To be tactful in making suggestions or be gracious in receiving suggestions pertaining to the so-called “sensitive issues” (for example, matters relating to places of worship).

(d) To cease to see the preferences or cultural particulars of another community as slights or threats. To cultivate instead an appreciation for the value of diversity. To be able to partake in the festivities of any community without excessive anxieties or scruples.

4. For the progressive and liberal Malays:

(a) To inspire their fellow Malays to break out of restrictive thinking and habits.

(b) To take the initiative to speak out against policies, laws and actions which inhibit their people’s material and mental progress.

(c) To support Malay or Islamic organisations and movements that are progressive.

5. For political leaders, institutions and other authorities:

(a) To refrain from speech and action that sow suspicion and division between the Malays and non-Malays or cause a community to feel excluded.

(b) Religious bodies and leaders in particular may educate the public but should never engage in actions that humiliate their targets or compel them to do what is not in their hearts.

(c) To ensure that religious laws and regulations do not discriminate against people by gender, sexual orientation or religious denomination. To disapprove biased interpretations of these laws and regulations.

6. For political parties:

(a) To resolutely uphold and espouse progressive living and thinking. To favour inclusive values and ideologies over narrow and exclusive ones.

(b) To cease from propagating or condoning any form of religious chauvinism (the act of putting one religion ahead of or above all others) because of the political expediency of securing votes.

7. The social environment:

(a) To create an environment that allows cultural, intellectual and physical interaction between the races that is free from fear, prejudice and other obstructions.

The foregoing is by no means complete, but it indicates the general spirit that any such “social contract” must have.

It must in essence motivate the Malays to take control of the wheels of their destiny. The immediate implications are for the Malays to free themselves from religious programming and assert their authority from the grassroots upward.

The prospect may be scary. But the old way of being led by the nose is destructive. The Malays should no longer remain as feudalistic subjects of the political and religious elite. The elite owe the Malays that dignity. —

  1. #1 by Bigjoe on Monday, 12 September 2011 - 8:00 pm

    Freeing the Malays from any mind control is a tall order, religious or anyother. Right now the most powerful Malay in the land Najib wishes he can just free himself from the mind control of Mahathir..

    Mahathir by simply just advising Najib to postphone election, literally has blown his legs off. Najib who is already under immense pressure to decide now literally has the pressure multiplied. If he does as Mahathir suggest and conditions worsen next year which it is likely, its not like he can blame Mahathir for it. If he goes ahead with election soon and it turns out badly, he will go down in infamy. Clearly Mahathir is signaling to Najib he should resign and Muhiyiddin take over..

    Free the Malays minds? Najib ask how does he do from one person only?

  2. #2 by sheriff singh on Monday, 12 September 2011 - 8:42 pm

    All laws that binds and indeed, restrictions of any kind, that are in existence must be removed. Only then can one strive towards achieving freedom and be truly free.

  3. #3 by drngsc on Monday, 12 September 2011 - 9:17 pm

    The best thing may be to separate religion and politics, just as we must separate business and politics. Each will invariably corrupt the other. I know that it is easier said than done.
    If we can do that, then the Malays can worship their God as the Holy Koran teaches.

    The present BN government, or shall I say UMNO government are experts in binding their politics to Islam, thereby trapping the Malay minds, mainly to further their own political agenda.

    We must change the tenant at Putrajaya. GE 13 is our best chance. Failure is not an option. Let us all work very very hard. Speak to one person every day, to ask them to register to vote and to vote. We must make a different.

  4. #4 by asia on Monday, 12 September 2011 - 10:09 pm

    The label mean ‘Submission’ or ‘ Surrender’ as slave to…..

    In the writing there is no exist, every exist blocked.

    Like the middle-east colonialism

  5. #5 by asia on Monday, 12 September 2011 - 10:21 pm

    If not mistaken in the writing

    At the end of the day JESUS will lead a sect to heaven

  6. #6 by limkamput on Monday, 12 September 2011 - 10:25 pm

    I like your prescriptions for progressive and liberal Malays. parties. Who are the liberal and progressive Malays? The educated, the rich, the feudal class, the elites, the bourgeois, the senior bureaucrats, university professors, who? Please tell me.
    I like your take on political parties also. For political parties, you mentioned to favour inclusive values and ideologies over narrow and exclusive and to cease from propagating or condoning any form of religious chauvinism (the act of putting one religion ahead of or above all others) because of the political expediency of securing votes. Now, within the political environment of Malaysia today, I wonder which political party is going to do this first and come out top? Do you have any idea?

  7. #7 by waterfrontcoolie on Monday, 12 September 2011 - 10:40 pm

    This article should have appeared some time ago. The Malay community is being led by vested interests for too long. And those involved knew exactly what they are doing; firstly by sending ALL their children to overseas education. They do not act like those misled rural folks; indeed they are hypocrites to the core! To change the mindset after all these years, and it has not even abated a little [ in view of the coming GE!]. it will need some insiders within UMNO itself to cause a faster change of this mindset. The world as it is, is not going to be merciful to laggards; they will be left in the 4th world very soon if no action is taken immediately. I think the educated midle class Malays has an important role to play as the Gomen will be decided by the majority of the voters who are Malays. In the 21 st century, you just can’t refuse to compete with the rest of the world. They will compete with you! you will just leave you behind in the 4th world! Just remember all the black gold in the Middle-East could not help the Arabs with their even smaller population!
    Just within Asean, Phillippines and Myanmar were supposedly the most advance immediately after the WWII, and within 60 years, what happen? With China able to create a transport system within 10 years of what the US Transport Department admitted that it took 50 years for a comparable system to be built in the US, it tells plenty of the changing world! Yes China was considered near 4th world just 30 years ago! Yes, if the majority of Malaysians decided to maintain the current status, no doubt we will exchange places with Phillippines and Maynmar within may be 15 years from now! By th way, Indonesia has already decided where to go henceforth!

  8. #8 by tak tahan on Monday, 12 September 2011 - 11:21 pm

    Pak sako,i truely respect you and agree no more than what you said.This has been said many times but you made this your opinion as a whole very sound and ideal yet practical for any nation to progress and prosper.I wish we could be as what you hope and encourage so..terima kasih ya

  9. #9 by asia on Tuesday, 13 September 2011 - 1:08 am

    If you have two options of roads to drive to Johor gate to Singapore

    Your car have limited of petrol (age)

    The first option is an old road link up with many junctions, while driving you meet many temptation leading you to wrong junction wasting your petrol to reach destination, if you go many wrong junction you may not have enough petrol seek the right road to reach your destination

    The second option is a straight high way road, in this high way you see many sign to many junction and the sign guide to your destination Johor gate to Singapore, follow the guide straight to Johor gate to Singapore

    Which option you select to go?

  10. #10 by yhsiew on Tuesday, 13 September 2011 - 7:34 am

    The powers-that-be are capitalizing on race and religion issues to formulate divide-and-rule policies which enable them to stay in power forever.

  11. #11 by undertaker888 on Tuesday, 13 September 2011 - 7:56 am

    The Malays need to free themselves like some Arab countries did from those tyrants. Surely nobody can be stupid for 54 years.

  12. #12 by Jeffrey on Tuesday, 13 September 2011 - 7:59 am

    ///This misguided paradigm [ie “adapt without protest” the “primordial sentiments of culture (race) and religion”] must go./// – Pak Sako. However here lies the rub-who will take a lead to change this paradigm? Liberals like Pak Sako can try to an extent (by discourse) but they can’t when they are too few or taking a txi to other pastures and climes, and those who have power to so (ie politicians & elites), will not do so, and in fact exploit and leverage on it to get the majority votes (constitutionally given weightage for rural constituencies) in order to ascend to power and, once there, preserve it at all costs.That is their focus. It is in the genes of generally our politicians – on whichever side of the political divide- to think of the next election than the next generation or the future of the country!

  13. #13 by Jeffrey on Tuesday, 13 September 2011 - 8:02 am

    I say “both sides” because realistically and leaving hopes aside, why else for eg would PAS recently try to assure its supporters that the PM, DPM position must remain Muslim, without a whisper of demurrer from PKR or Anwar? On the ruling coalition side, May 13 was watershed to usher in a plethora of constitutional amendments to effect paradigm shift to a so-called Social Contract of Ketuanan which has ensured more than 50 years of political ascendency. Its main architect & spokesperson, who understand the primordial sentiments like the back of hand, still have considerable influence as he meddles and determines the fortunes/tenure of his successors playing one politician against the other based on this paradigm’s legacy that he forged. Which only means that if this paradigm is inimical to progress/unity of the nation, it looks likely to proceed on its inexorable course to rock bottom before any good can come out of it like proverbial phoenix rising from the ash. That too, most unfortunately and sad, will take the time likely not of the next few elections (which ever the ruling coalition) but generations.

  14. #14 by k1980 on Tuesday, 13 September 2011 - 8:11 am

    Pakatan Rakyat may lose nine Parliament seats if there is a 30% swing in Indian votes for Barisan Nasional, according to academic Ong Kian Ming.

    Among the seats listed by the UCSI lecturer were Lembah Pantai, held by PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar, and Sungai Siput, which is now in the hands of Parti Sosialis Malaysia’s Dr Michael Jeyakumar.

    The other seven seats were Kuala Langat, Merbok, Bruas, Kuala Selangor, Teluk Intan, Hulu Langat and Nibong Tebal.

    So wake up and get cracking, PR!

  15. #15 by k1980 on Tuesday, 13 September 2011 - 8:21 am

    If mat sabu (instead of doc mamakto) had declared that malaya had never been colonised by the british, he would now be in court for distorting history for his personal gains…..

  16. #16 by Dipoh Bous on Tuesday, 13 September 2011 - 9:24 am

    That’s what we called ‘his’ story..

    Such is the ‘level’ of our so-called ‘experts’ / ‘historians’…

    Sungguh memalukan !

  17. #17 by cemerlang on Tuesday, 13 September 2011 - 10:53 am

    Pembebasan dari penjajahan mental dan spiritual. This is what BN is calling for. But their interpretation is different. You are also calling for the same thing. Is this the same wavelength or each having your own wavelength ? Life is to be lived not controlled and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat. Traditionally the Malay live a community life.

  18. #18 by monsterball on Tuesday, 13 September 2011 - 11:55 am

    How many times must Malaysians be reminded to do the right thing.
    The sickening race and religion dirty divide and rule…going on and on..more pronounced..more forcefully under Mahathir…right up to now…to divide Malaysians attentions from their massive corruptions and ripped off openly with no fear.
    At last….vast majority Malaysians are fully aware of this sinister..evil political party…the UMNO b….not the original UMNO at all.
    One by one…Malaysians are peeling off the skin and showing their true face…..
    Monthly….BN looses more votes……and especially Muslims..
    The whole truth can be seen only at 13th GE…and the long long delay by Najib…any fool can understand.

  19. #19 by Cinapek on Tuesday, 13 September 2011 - 12:58 pm

    A most perceptive piece by Pak Sako. He has hit the nail precisely on the head.

    The proposed remedy is also comprehensive. But the pessimist in me tells me all this will go to waste as the more extreme racial and religious elements holds sway for personal vested reasons either to feed their own ego or to enhance their political or religious power.

    Underpining this whole scenario is the continued bashing of the Malay self confidence by those who feeds off this inferiority complex that they have carefully cultivated in order in order to sustain their hold on power, be it racial or religious.

    Malays are fed a continous stream of poison that they are yet to be able to compete with non Malays who are also taking advantage of them. Religiously it is also hammered into them that their faith is so fragile that they run a continous risk of being proselytize. So much so that generally it is not uncommon to find Malays nowadays are afraid to fraternize with non Malays and vice versa. Gone are the days when my Malay neighbours will bring a tray of kueh to my house on Hari Raya or I will send a tray of Chinese cookies over on CNY.

    Sigh! The good old days.

  20. #20 by cemerlang on Tuesday, 13 September 2011 - 1:55 pm

    Look into the picture of your present life for the picture determines your future

  21. #21 by waterfrontcoolie on Tuesday, 13 September 2011 - 3:43 pm

    Jeffrey, be realistic, after the last 30 plus years of full-time indoctrination, you can’t expect changes like the kind you find in USA with Obama. We should not split hair at this juncture. All we want is a REAL Malaysian leader, let it be it a REAL MALAY! If the majority of current voters are “not comfortable” with a non-Malay, I will take it in my stride. ALL we need is A CHANGE!!!

  22. #22 by Loh on Tuesday, 13 September 2011 - 7:17 pm

    ///It must in essence motivate the Malays to take control of the wheels of their destiny. The immediate implications are for the Malays to free themselves from religious programming and assert their authority from the grassroots upward.

    The prospect may be scary. But the old way of being led by the nose is destructive. The Malays should no longer remain as feudalistic subjects of the political and religious elite. The elite owe the Malays that dignity. —–Pak Sako

    Malays in Malaysia are not the same Malays which the Constitution of Malaya referred to when the term was mentioned. Unfortunately article 160 makes it possible for Kaka-Mamak Indian to become Malays simply because they were Muslims.

    When there are two classes of Muslims in the country, one who had four thousand years of culture in their blood, such as the descendents of the Indian from Calicut, Kerela, and other Muslims who had much shorter written history such as those from the Malacca Sultanate, the Muslims cannot have fair and equal competition. Consequently, even in the smaller organization such as UMNO, there are UMNOputras and non-putras UMNO members. The non-putras lend their name and suffer the indignity that they are after five decades are still weak and be placed in the category which needed assistance so that they do not perish from this earth, because of their weaknesses. Further the champions who fight in their name actually pocket more than what they should have obtained from the resources available to them had they not been cheated by the Putras through corruption. For their loss, they were rewarded with the feeling that they are placed a class above the remaining population as citizens enjoying more ‘rights’. For their privilege to enjoy more ‘rights’, they have to pay for the restriction to freedom of religious practices, even while remaining a member of the religion.

    For a person to take control of his destiny, he should beleive first and foremost that he is not helpless. He should believe that he has a duty to living his life, rather than a parasits whose usefulnes lies in casting votes in general election, and that they heros he selesct would look after his livelihood. Living as a parasite is easy and appealing, but he should not ask for a right to decide his detiny.

    Only when a person accepts that he has responsibility to live his own life will he progress to consider pride and achievement. That follows the concept of shame. A persons who knows no shame has no dignity, and a community which knows no shame would be a disgrace even if collectively they were able to bully others.

  23. #23 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 14 September 2011 - 1:14 pm

    ///All we want is a REAL Malaysian leader, let it be it a REAL MALAY!///- waterfrontcoolie

    So (realistically) are you having in mind Anwar, Azmin, Hadi or Mat Sabu ot Ku Li or who else?

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