How to trigger a Malay renaissance

By Hafidz Baharom
Jan 1, 2015

COMMENT It is clearly numbing that we have certain parties thinking that getting 20,000 Malays at a singular event somehow will give birth to a renaissance period here in Malaysia. I will say this openly, that will not be a renaissance. It would just be a pathetic flash mob entitled, ‘I talk, you all listen’.

In the last week, the Malay Consultative Council or Majlis Perundingan Melayu (MPM) decided that there was a need to re-establish Malay dominance in the country through a renaissance.

Of course, they brought up the same old so-called threats – lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBTs), liberalism, secularism and the usual suspects – threatening the Malaysian way of life.

For those who may not know this, the MPM is made up of a huge list of Malay NGOs, including the Malay Chambers of Commerce (DPMM), my alma mater alumni organisation Alumni UiTM, Cuepacs, the Malay College Old Boys Association (MCOBA) and even the Malaysian Malay Contractors Association.

Though personally, it makes no sense to me how alumni associations involving schools, universities and even Mara Junior Science Colleges (MRSMs) could even think of backing this movement in the first place.

Firstly, for all the lawyers out there; if an organisation says they were appointed by the Prime Minister’s Office but have no letter nor official documentation to prove it, would that be a case of fraud or false representation?

And secondly, would all parties involved in the council that made that statement be liable for legal action under the Penal Code?

I ask this because honestly, if you think coming up with a statement claiming you have the Prime Minister’s backing to somehow be “ambassadors to a talk”, you should at least have the credentials before speaking.

Now then, how do you trigger a renaissance?

If we look at the European age of enlightenment, it had everything to do with the increase in curiosity in the facets of cultural, philosophical and scientific knowledge.

If we look at China, there was not exactly a renaissance, but a social experiment through the liberalising of their market and economy at certain stages.

If we look at the United States, it was the establishment of technological hubs by inventors daring to dream and chase innovation whilst combining forces with the financial technical know-how of venture capitalists. In other words, the innovative thinking of Western America meets the conservative and acute financial acumen of their East Coast.

Please note that in all three cases, race and religion had nothing to do with it.

And also note, that in any of these cases, either with Galileo or Steve Jobs (left) or even Deng Xiaoping, none of them called a press conference to announce they wanted a renaissance.

I’m sure all of them had access to at least a Gutenberg press to actually do what MPM did, but they did not do it.

The challenging of established thought

A renaissance is needed for the Malay community, but it will not be triggered or initiated through like-minded conservative organisations that would rather use bogeymen tactics rather than a message to challenge everything.

Because that is exactly what a renaissance was about; the challenging of established thought, the inspiration of innovative and technological leaps that was considered heretic to the old Vatican, and even the importing of knowledge from beyond borders to better everyone’s way of life.

And considering the timing of the MPM to coincide with the worst floods seen in Malaysia, it is obvious that everyone’s way of life is the least of their concerns.

A Malay renaissance would instead be consisting of a need to evaluate 40 years of stagnating income and failure to advance in both ownership of economic equity and increased involvement in entrepreneurship.

To do this, the Malay community would need access to knowledge beyond borders, which is readily available through the Internet in a nation with more than 50 percent broadband penetration since the initiative during Rais Yatim’s tenure as communication and multimedia minister.

However, it was also MPM that had limited the Malay community from understanding this knowledge. Lest we forget, the MPM was one of the coalitions that thought teaching English in Science and Mathematics was a threat to our national language.

Thus, instead of allowing Malays the ability to access multiple research PDF files using Google to satiate their curiosities in anything related to science, technology, engineering, mathematics, philosophy and even economics – those things you actually need to trigger a renaissance – these NGOs in the past had actually preferred to leave the Malay community deaf, dumb and mute in these fields.

Now, these same people are urging a renaissance. This makes no sense.

If you honestly want to trigger a renaissance, you should start with allowing everyone an equal chance at education. You need to allow everyone a chance to not only access information, but also the ability to understand it by equipping them with the language skills.

You would also need to allow people to challenge everything in the norm, to create a new normal. You would need to have financial policies that would allow people to fail and get back up to try again in their ventures.

Putting a voice to your thoughts

And for the Malays specifically, if you really want a renaissance period for yourselves, you need to speak up. You need to put a voice or an outlet to your thoughts and look at everything from a new angle.

You cannot look at a row of tom yam restaurants and think you should start the same thing. Instead, you should be thinking it is a perfect place for a pharmacy in case anyone gets indigestion or food poisoning.

You will not get these ideas listening to an old bunch of bogeyman tacticians calling 20,000 of you for a rally in March 2015. Instead, you will find it in cyberspace, at intellectual talks, venturing as far as China as our Prophet recommended, seeing the world and absorbing their knowledge like a sponge.

So please, be smart, be intellectually curious, find that center and that self-balance of yours to focus on what you want to challenge, and challenge it to your heart’s content.

That will trigger a renaissance we all need.

HAFIDZ BAHAROM is the former communications director of the Malay Economic Action Council (MTEM).

  1. No comments yet.

You must be logged in to post a comment.