Friday, October 31, 2008

Today a Malay....tommorow no more. What is 'Malay'?

I was very curious about the word 'Malay' - who is the Malay? Is it a race or ethnic group?

A person could be born a Malay - but could become a non-Malay if he/she converts and become a 'non-Muslim'. So there cannot be a Buddhist Malay, Hindu Malay, Sikh Malay, Christian Malay --- according to the Malaysian Federal Constitution definition of 'Malay'.

Also wondered whether a person can be declared to NOT a Malay - because it is shown that he/she does not "...habitually speaks the Malay language, conforms to Malay custom...". Who will decide on this? So Malays and/or their children who do not habitually speak Malay...are no more Malay. Interesting.

The Federal Constitution defines Malay in Article 160(2) as follows:-

"Malay" means a person who professes the religion of Islam, habitually speaks the Malay language, conforms to Malay custom and -

(a) was before Merdeka Day born in the Federation or in Singapore or born of parents one of whom was born in the Federation or in Singapore, or is on that day domiciled in the Federation or in Singapore; or

(b) is the issue of such a person;

In my quest, I came across a posting in Nuraina A Samad's 3540 Jalan Sudin Blog entitled "Malays are Not a Race", which is also pasted below. Your comments would be appreciated..

Malays Are Not a Race

Bergen is one of my favourite bloggers. He is witty, smart, funny, irreverent, sometimes self-effacing, and a lot more.

He sent me a very long comment from a commentator to his posting on "Freedom to Choose A Religion". The commentator by the name of Micheal Chick, says that there is no such thing as a/the Malay race. Of course, many of us would beg to differ.

I have sought Bergen's permission to reproduce his message (in bold) , followed by Micheal Chick's comment (in italics).

I reproduce here the comments posted by a Micheal Chick in my blog. Maybe it has nothing to do with your father's struggle, or maybe it has. I don't have the brain for this. You don't have to post it in the comments box if you don't want to.

"It's been interesting to read such free-flowing comments on an all "Malaysian" free for all. While we are on the subject, how many of you have read the book entitled "Contesting Malayness"? Written by a Professor of National University of Singapore. Cost S$32 (about). It reflects the Anthropologists views that there is no such race as the "Malays" to begin with. If we follow the original migration of the Southern Chinese of 6,000yrs ago, they moved into Taiwan, (now the Alisan), then into the Phillipines (now the Aeta) and moved into Borneo (4,500yrs ago) (Dayak). They also split into Sulawesi and progressed into Jawa, and Sumatera. The final migration was to the Malayan Peninsular 3,000yrs ago. A sub-group from Borneo also moved to Champa in Vietnam at 4,500yrs ago.

Interestingly, the Champa deviant group moved back to present day Kelantan. There are also traces of the Dong Song and HoaBinh migration from Vietnam and Cambodia. To confuse the issue, there was also the Southern Thai migration, from what we know as Pattani today. (see also "Early Kingdoms of the Indonesian Archipelago and the Malay Peninsular")

Of course, we also have the Minangkabau's which come from the descendants of Alexander the Great and a West Indian Princess. (Sejarah Melayu page 1-3)

So the million Dollar Question... Is there really a race called the "Malays"? All anthropologists DO NOT SEEM TO THINK SO.

Neither do the "Malays" who live on the West Coast of Johor. They'd rather be called Javanese. What about the west coast Kedah inhabitants who prefer to be known as "Achenese"? or the Ibans who simply want to be known as IBANS. Try calling a Kelabit a "Malay" and see what response you get... you’ll be so glad that their Head-Hunting days are over.

In an article in the Star, dated: Dec 3rd 2006

available for on-line viewing at:

An excerp is reproduced here below:

"The Malays – taken as an aggregation of people of different ethnic backgrounds but who speak the same language or family of languages and share common cultural and traditional ties – are essentially a new race, compared to the Chinese, Indians and the Arabs with their long histories of quests and conquests.

The Malay nation, therefore, covers people of various ethnic stock, including Javanese, Bugis, Bawean, Achehnese, Thai, orang asli, the indigenous people of Sabah and Sarawak and descendants of Indian Muslims who had married local women.

Beneath these variations, however, there is a common steely core that is bent on changing the Malay persona from its perceived lethargic character to one that is brave, bold and ready to take on the world. "

The definition of “Malay” is therefore simply a collection of people's who speak a similar type language. With what is meant by a similar type language does not mean that the words are similar. Linguists call this the "Lego-type" language, where words are added on to the root word to make meaning and give tenses and such. Somehow, the Indonesians disagree with this classification and insist on being called "Indonesians" even though the majority of "Malays" have their roots in parts of Indonesia? They refuse to be called "Malay"…. Anyhow you may define it.

The writer failed to identify (probably didn't know), that the "Malay" definition also includes, the Champa, Dong Song, HoabinHian, The Taiwanese Alisan and the Philippino Aetas. He also did not identify that the "Orang Asli" are (for lack of a better term) ex-Africans. If you try to call any one of our East Malaysian brothers an "Orang Asli", they WILL BEAT YOU UP! I had to repeat this because almost all West Malaysians make the same mistake when we cross the South China Sea. Worse, somehow, they feel even more insulted when you call them “Malay”. Somehow, “kurang ajar” is uttered below their breath as if “Malay” was a really bad word for them. I’m still trying to figure this one out.

Watch “Malays in Africa”; a Museum Negara produced DVD. Also, the “Champa Malays” by the same.

With this classification, they MUST also include the Phillipinos, the Papua New Guineans, the Australian Aboroginies, as well as the Polynesian Aboroginies. These are of the Australo Melanesians who migrated out of Africa 60,000yrs ago.

Getting interesting? Read on...

"Malay" should also include the Taiwanese singer "Ah Mei" who is Alisan as her tribe are the anscestors of the "Malays". And finally, you will need to define the Southern Chinese (Southern Province) as Malay also, since they are from the same stock 6,000yrs ago.

Try calling the Bugis a "Malay". Interestingly, the Bugis, who predominantly live on Sulawesi are not even Indonesians. Neither do they fall into the same group as the migrating Southern Chinese of 6,000yrs ago nor the Australo Melanesian group from Africa.

Ready for this?

The Bugis are the cross-breed between the Chinese and the Arabs. (FYI, a runaway Ming Dynasty official whom Cheng Ho was sent to hunt down) Interestingly, the Bugis were career Pirates in the Johor-Riau Island areas. Now the nephew of Daeng Kemboja was appointed the First Sultan of Selangor. That makes the entire Selangor Sultanate part Arab, part Chinese! Try talking to the Bugis Museum curator near Kukup in Johor. Kukup is located near the most south-western tip of Johor. (Due south of Pontian Kechil)

Let's not even get into the Hang Tuah, Hang Jebat, Hang Kasturi, Hang Lekiu, and Hang Lekir, who shared the same family last name as the other super famous "Hang" family member... Hang Li Poh. And who was she? the princess of a Ming Dynasty Emperor who was sent to marry the Sultan of Malacca. Won't that make the entire Malacca Sultanate downline "Baba" ? Since the older son of the collapsed Malaccan Sultanate got killed in Johor, (the current Sultanate is the downline of the then, Bendahara) the only other son became the Sultan of Perak. Do we see any Chinese-ness in Raja Azlan? Is he the descendant of Hang Li Poh?

Next question. If the Baba’s are part Malay, why have they been marginalized by NOT BEING BUMIPUTERA? Which part of “Malay” are they not? Whatever the answer, why then are the Portugese of Malacca BUMIPUTERA? Did they not come 100yrs AFTER the arrival of the first Baba’s? Parameswara founded Malacca in 1411. The Portugese came in 1511, and the Dutch in the 1600’s. Strangely, the Baba’s were in fact once classified a Bumiputera, but a decided that they were strangely “declassified” in the 1960’s. WHY?

The Sultan of Kelantan had similar roots to the Pattani Kingdom making him of Thai origin. And what is this "coffee table book" by the Sultan of Perlis claiming to be the direct descendant of the prophet Muhammed? Somehow we see Prof Khoo Khay Khim’s signature name on the book. I’ll pay good money to own a copy of it myself. Anyone has a spare?

So, how many of you have met with orang Asli’s? the more northern you go, the more African they look. Why are they called Negrito’s? It is a Spanish word, from which directly transalates “mini Negros”. The more southern you go, the more “Indonesian” they look. And the ones who live at Cameron Highlands kinda look 50-50. You can see the Batek at Taman Negara, who really look like Eddie Murphy to a certain degree. Or the Negritos who live at the Thai border near Temenggor Lake (north Perak). The Mah Meri in Carrie Island look almost like the Jakuns in Endau Rompin. Half African, half Indonesian.

By definition, (this is super eye-opening) there was a Hindu Malay Empire in Kedah. Yes, I said right… The Malays were Hindu. It was, by the old name Langkasuka. Today known as Lembah Bujang. This Hindu Malay Empire was 2,000yrs old. Pre-dating Borrobudor AND Angkor Watt. Who came about around 500-600yrs later. Lembah Bujang was THE mighty trading empire, and its biggest influence was by the Indians who were here to help start it. By definition, this should make the Indians BUMIPUTERAS too since they were here 2,000yrs ago! Why are they marginalized?

Of the 3 books listed, "Contesting Malayness" (about S$32 for soft cover) is "banned” in Malaysia; you will need to "smuggle" it into Malaysia; for very obvious reasons.... :( or read it in Singapore if you don’t feel like breaking the law.

The other, "Kingdoms of the Indonesian Archipelago, and the Malay Peninsular" (about RM84) are openly sold at all leading bookshops; Kinokuniya, MPH, Borders, Popular, Times, etc. You should be able to find a fair bit of what I’ve been quoting in this book too, but mind you, it is very heavy reading material, and you will struggle through the initial 200+ pages. It is extremely technical in nature. Maybe that’s why it wasn’t banned (yet)…coz our authorities couldn’t make head or tail of it? (FYI, if I wasn’t doing research for my film, I wouldn’t have read it in its entirety)

While the "Sejarah Melayu" (about RM 35) is available at the University Malaya bookshop. I have both the English and Royal Malay version published by MBRAS.

Incidentally, the Professor (Author) was invited to speak on this very subject about 2 yrs ago, in KL, invited by the MBRAS. You can imagine the "chaos" this seminar created...... :(

There were actually many sources for these findings. Any older Philippino Museum Journal also carries these migration stories. This migration is also on display at the Philippines National Museum in Luzon. However, they end with the Aeta, and only briefly mention that the migration continued to Indonesia and Malaysia, but fully acknowledge that all Philippinos came from Taiwan. And before Taiwan, China. There is another book (part of a series) called the "Archipelago Series" endorsed by Tun Mahatir and Marina Mohammad, which states the very same thing right at the introduction on page one. “… that the Malays migrated out of Southern China some 6,000yrs ago…”. I believe it is called the “Pre-History of Malaysia” Hard Cover, about RM99 found in (mostly) MPH. They also carry “Pre-History of Indonesia” by the same authors for the same price.

It is most interesting to note that our Museum officials invented brand new unheard-of terms such as "Proto-Malay" and "Deutero-Malay", to replace the accepted Scientific Term, Australo-Melanesians (African descent) and Austronesians (Chinese Descent, or Mongoloid to be precise) in keeping in line with creating this new “Malay” term.. They also created the new term called the Melayu-Polynesian. (Which Melayu exists in the Polynesian Islands?) Maybe they were just trying to be “Patriotic” and “Nationalistic”… who knows…? After all, we also invented the term, “Malaysian Time”. While the rest of the world calls it “Tardy” and “Late”. It’s quite an embarrassment actually…. Singaporeans crossing the border are asked to set their watches back by about 100yrs, to adjust to “Malaysian Time”…

In a nutshell, the British Colonial Masters, who, for lack of a better description, needed a “blanket” category for ease of classification, used the term “Malay”.

The only other logical explanation, which I have heard, was that “Malaya” came as a derivative of “Himalaya”, where at Langkasuka, or Lembah Bujang today was where the Indians were describing the locals as “Malai” which means “Hill People” in Tamil. This made perfect sense as the focal point at that time was at Gunung Jerai, and the entire Peninsular had a “Mountain Range” “Banjaran Titiwangsa”, as we call it.

The Mandarin and Cantonese accurately maintain the accurate pronunciation of “Malai Ren” and “Malai Yun” respectively till this very day. Where “ren” and “yun” both mean “peoples”.

Interestingly, “Kadar” and “Kidara”, Hindi and Sanskrit words accurately describe “Kedah” of today. They both mean “fertile Land for Rice cultivation. Again, a name given by the Indians 2,000yrs ago during the “Golden Hindu Era” for a duration of 1,500yrs.

It was during the “Golden Hindu Era” that the new term which the Hindu Malay leaders also adopted the titles, “Sultan” and “Raja”. The Malay Royalty were Hindu at that time, as all of Southeast Asia was under strong Indian influence, including Borrobudor, and Angkor Watt. Bali today still practices devout Hindu Beliefs. The snake amulet worn by the Sultans of today, The Royal Dias, and even the “Pelamin” for weddings are tell-tale signs of these strong Indian influences. So, it was NOT Parameswara who was the first Sultan in Malaya. Sultanage existed approximately 1,500years before he set foot on the Peninsular during the "Golden Hindu Era" of Malaysia. And they were all Hindu.

“PreHistory of Malaysia” also talks about the “Lost Kingdom” of the “Chi-Tu” where the local Malay Kingdom were Buddhists. The rest of the “Malays” were Animistic Pagans.

But you may say, "Sejarah Melayu" calls it "Melayu"? Yes, it does. Read it again; is it trying to describe the 200-odd population hamlet near Palembang by the name "Melayu"?(Google Earth will show this village).

By that same definition, then, the Achehnese should be considered a “race”. So should the Bugis and the Bataks, to be fair. Orang Acheh, Orang Bugis, Orang Laut, Orang Melayu now mean the same… descriptions of ethnic tribes, at best. And since the “Malays” of today are not all descendants of the “Melayu” kampung in Jambi (if I remember correctly), the term Melayu has been wrongly termed. From day one. Maybe this is why the Johoreans still call themselves either Bugis, or Javanese until today. So do the Achehnese on the West coast of Kedah & Perlis and the Kelantanese insist that they came from Champa, Vietnam.

Morover, the fact that the first 3 pages claiming that "Melayu" comes from Alexander the Great and the West Indian Princess doesn't help. More importantly, it was written in 1623. By then, the Indians had been calling the locals “Malai” for 1,500 yrs already. So the name stuck….

And with the Sejarah Melayu (The Malay Annals in page 1-3) naming the grandson of Iskandar Zulkarnain, and the West Indian Princess forming the Minangkabau. Whenever a Malay is asked about it, he usually says it is "Karut" (bullshit), but all Malayan based historians insist on using Sejarah Melayu as THE main reference book for which "Malay" history is based upon. The only other books are “Misa Melayu”, "Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa", and “Hikayat Hang Tuah” which is of another long and sometimes “heated” discussion.

I find this strange.

I also find, that it is strange that the "Chitti's" (Indian+Malay) of Malacca are categorized as Bumiputera, while their Baba brothers are not. Why? Both existed during the Parameswara days. Which part of the “Malay” side of the Baba’s is not good enough for Bumiputera classification? Re-instate them. They used to be Bumiputera pre 1960’s anyway.

Instead of "Malay", I believe that "Maphilindo" (circa 1963) would have been the closest in accurately trying to describe the Malays. However, going by that definition, it should most accurately be "MaphilindoThaiChinDiaVietWanGreekCamfrica". And it is because of this; even our University Malaya Anthropology professors cannot look at you in the eye and truthfully say that the word "Malay" technically and accurately defines a race.

This is most unfortunate.

So, in a nutshell, the “Malays” (anthropologists will disagree with this “race” definition) are TRULY ASIA !!! For once the Tourism Ministry got it right….

We should stop calling this country “Tanah Melayu” instead call it, “Tanah Truly Asia”

You must understand now, why I was "tickled pink" when I found out that the Visit Malaysia slogan for 2007 was "Truly Asia". They are so correct... (even though they missed out Greece and Africa)

BTW, the name UMNO should be changed to UTANO the new official acronym for “United Truly Asia National Organization” . After all, they started out as a Bugis club in Johor anyway….

I told you all that I hate race classifications…. This is so depressing. Even more depressing is that the "malays" are not even a race; not since day one."

“Truly Asia Boleh”


Anonymous said...

Yes, like I always say...suddenly I find that the Filipinos and the indonesian who had just recently received their citizenship have more rights than all the non bumis who had reside in this land for centuries. I am not disputing the Malays but the Malays as stated in the constitution must be defined.....clearly. Not everyone shall qualified as Malays...

Anonymous said...

I think the best to define all of us is Melayu Nusantara. If you have time do a little bit of research.
May be this may solve the issue of Bumiputra,

casper c said...

The 'telling' of Sejarah Melayu and all its wonderful narratives have all been culled from present teaching of History. Over two generations of school children were weaned of this 'narratives' and 'poof' - all culled suddenly with no further explaination having found its source material highly qeustionable.

I've said previously, high time so-called Prof Khoo Kay Kim is subjected to the taste test and banish forever this psedo-con artist masquerading as historian.

Regards Charles

Anonymous said...

Charles,you forgot. The MCA is Malaysian Chinese Association, but there is a Chinese Nation but no Chinese race. Same goes for MIC. No indian race but UMNO wants that classification in official government forms.

Anonymous said...

Everyone would love to be called Malay as long as there are goodies given by the Malaysian Govt of the day to the Malays. Once there is no more goodies eg. subsidies, gifts,favours, direct negotiations on contracts, licenses and permits, etc, the prospect would despise Malay. This is exactly what "Malaysia Boleh" menas.

Anonymous said...

Kawan, oleh kerana anda bukan berbangsa Melayu maka tafsiran anda tentang bangsa Melayu adalah tidak tepat kerana anda makan tidak secara Melayu , tidur dan mimpi tidak Melayu, beradat tidak secara Melayu maka tentu anda tidak ada sedikit pun semangat Melayu.

Mengenai Baba dan Chetty mereka bukan rumpun Melayu. Mereka adalah dari kalangan pendatang pada zaman pemerintahan Empayar Melaka dimana zaman keagungan bangsa Melayu. Pada masa itu bahasa perdagangan adalah Bahasa Melayu. Orang Arab , Orang Cina , Orang India bah orang Eropah pun berbahasa Melayu. Di sebabkan kehebatan bangsa Melayu pada masa itu. Ada setengah-setengah bangsa mengikut cara hidup orang Melayu. Orang Cina ingin menjadi Melayu maka jadilah Baba dan Nyonya, orang India ingin menjadi Melayu maka jadilah Chetty tapi Agama dan Bangsa mereka masih kekal.

Kita lihat banyak bangsa Cina di Malaysia banyak mengggunakan nama orang Inggeris tetapi bukan beragama Kristian seperti Richard Eng, Raymond Goh, Susan, Peter dan sebagainya kerana terpesona dengan kehebatan bangsa Inggeris.

Perkataan Melayu telah wujud ribuan tahun yang lalu. Sebab itu wujud perkataan "Kepulauan Melayu" , "Rumpun Melayu" , "Semenanjung Tanah Melayu" sekarang di panggil Semenanjung Melaysia.

Mengenai Orang Asli mereka masih didalam rumpun Melayu kerana bahasa yang mereka gunakan ialah bahasa Melayu. Rujuk kajian Prof. Dr. Asmah pakar bahasa dari UM. Hanya tabiat mereka adalah Nomad sama dengan orang Badwi di negara Arab. Jadi mereka ini adalah kelompok-kelompok kecil orang Melayu yang terpencil.

Orang India juga begitu, orang Hindi, Orang Punjabi, Orang Pakistan ( Urdu) meraka dari rumpun yang sama dan bahasa mereka hampir sama dan boleh bertutur antara satu sama lain.

Begitu juga orang Arab dan Isreal bahasa mereka hampir sama hanya tulisan berbeza. Sebab asal-usul mereka dari rumpun yang sama.

Oleh yang demikian jangan membuat tafsiran orang Melayu dari kaca mata orang bukan Melayu.

"Orang makan durian saja yang tahu macam mana rasa durian dan tempoyak."

Anonymous said...

lepas ni aku nak tulis plak apa itu cina dan india.....

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... what do you expect if its come from the non Malays (Chinese Malaysian especially), they will try to discredit the histories, struggle, definitions, success, etc, etc of the Malays. For that, they hope the Malays will accept them with a smile, giving their land and political power at the same time they clinging to their economic power and block any attempt of the Malays to get into their business network. How nice.

Anonymous said...

wahai kawan yang makan secara Melayu , tidur dan mimpi secara Melayu, beradat secara Melayu.
apa itu melayu? maknanya?
Jika orang cina/india/ eropah/ arab berbahasa melayu beribu tahun yang lalu, mengapa orang melayu tidak ada abjad(own words). Adakah anda cuba memberitahu ABCD... versi Inggeris telah meminjam perkataan tersebut dari Bahasa Melayu. Jawi adalah milik orang Arab. Jelas menunjukkan orang Melayu mula bertulis "Melayu" selepas kedatangan orang Inggeris yang memperkenalkan ABCD...

Wahai adik yang masih bermimpi, bangunlah. Banyak perkataan Melayu datangnya dari bahasa Inggeris/ Arab/ Tamil- Sanskrit. Umpamanya, 'puasa', 'bumi', 'putra', 'unta', 'topi', 'kedai', 'syurga', 'neraka','menteri' adalah perkataan sanskrit-tamil. Banyak contoh lagi yang boleh diberi - rujuklah sendiri.

Kuda kepang, kuih denderam(athirasam), inai, renjis air mawar, wayang kulit semua adalah milik orang India. Roti canai pun dari India, tetapi ramai yang masih jahil dan mengatakan ia dari Malaysia.

boedak doesoen said...

sorry... untuk orang asli kurang tepat untuk disebut melayu, karena bahasa mereka termasuk rumpun bahasa Mon-Khmer, serumpun dengan bahasa Vietnam dan Khmer. Kurang lebih serumpun dengan orang Kubu dan orang Sakai di Sumatera.

Kata "Melayu" memang masih kontroversial. Kalau "orang Melayu" sudah jelas. Orang-orang dari Tamiang sampai Belitung adalah orang Melayu, termasuk Malaysia.

Masalah abjad, orang-orang dulu memang tidak kenal abjad. Beberapa abjad datang dari India, seperti aksara Baybayin di Philipina dan aksara Kaganga di Lampung. Di Tanah Melayu, yang dipakai adalah aksara Rencong. Setelah datangnya Islam, maka diperkenalkan huruf Jawi, lalu setelah penakluk dari Eropa datang, diperkenalkan lagi huruf Rumi