The Islam-Malay Conundrum

It's been a very interesting last few days in Malaysia with the whole issue of mosques for Chinese Muslims. Clearly we are witnessing what I have always long felt; that Malay nationalism has taken a dangerous turn by marrying itself to Islam. The ethnic-religious distinction is now so sufficiently blurred that Malay means Islam and Islam means Malay. This non-Muslims Bumiputeras have long understood.

In this regard, calls for greater Islamisation of Malaysia means different things to different people. To Malay nationalists, it means greater Malay-isation of the nation. This is well manifested by their reluctance to agree to Chinese mosques, including Chinese architecture. They see themselves as Muslims and Malays equally; there is no difference to them. There can be no inconsistencies. Then we have what I term the 'true' Islamists-those in PAS for example. They are almost certainly Malays, but are Islamists, not nationalists. They want to propagate Islam, not nationalism. They see the use for Chinese mosques as a tool of propagating Islam to Chinese people.

I've often talked about the dangers of modern day Malay nationalism. It is almost fascist in nature these days. It takes the fold of Islam to deflect away criticism and gain moral authority but Islam does not discriminate between ethnicities (ask PAS, they'll confirm that). But clearly Malay nationalists do-these Chinese Muslims might be their religious brothers, but unless they attend sermons in Malay in Malay mosques they are not their equals. They must assimilate; they must accept Malay supremacy. They must become Malay-till then they are not really their 'true' brothers.

Islam came to China a long time before it came to Malaysia. China has more Muslims than Malaysia. The Arabs may have brought Islam to Malaysia but Cheng Ho's arrival before Malacca turned into an Islamic state clearly shows the paucity of the nationalists argument. There are just simply racists and I think truly believe they are better and superior to others in Malaysia. They'll always accept others as long as we defer to them. Question their authority and watch their fascists tendencies come out. At least since the pathetic UMNO general assembly, the forces of moderation have begun a concerted fightback. That gives us all hope.

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