What makes a party ‘truly Malay’?

Mustafa K. Anuar

Malaysians from all walks of life must not live in denial of the multiethnic, multireligious, and multicultural reality of the country, in which an inclusive approach is required for us to move forward, the writer says. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, December 8, 2023.

THE thumping victory of Perikatan Nasional (PN), particularly PAS, in the recent Kemaman by-election has generally been regarded as the coalition gaining more traction within the Malay-Muslim community as a whole.

Predictably, PN politicians insist that many Malays in Kemaman and Malaysia in general had rejected Malay-based parties in the unity government, particularly Umno.

In other words, PN is generally perceived by many Malays to be a coalition that is overly and overtly “Malay and Islamic”.

That is why Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim was concerned about and rejected the claim that his Madani administration is not “Malay or Islamic” enough – and understandably so. After all, Malay-majority PKR and Malay-based Umno, in caring for the community, also need its support.

To be sure, the unity government that Anwar helms is composed of diverse parties, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, from the peninsula and the Borneo region. And this is where the rub is, for some Malays who oppose Umno and by association, the rest of the coalition.

These Malays are particularly uncomfortable with Chinese-based DAP because many of them have had it drummed into their minds over the years that DAP is opposed to Islam and harmful to Malay interests, and has a tight grip on the government.

Malay nationalist forces and bigots have stoked this fear of “the other” for so many years that many Malays would be inclined to believe only the non-Malays are corruptible and collaborating with communists and other undesirable foreign elements to the detriment of the “tanah air”.

Certain diehard Malay nationalists even insist on calling “the other” “pendatang” when they are indeed legitimate citizens of this country and have rights and responsibilities like their Malay counterparts.

It would not be exaggerating to say such a group of Malays have been made to be so fearful – and to lack confidence as well – that even the sight of a cross or whiskey would make them weak-kneed.

Is this the kind of Malay living in a diverse Malaysia that a purportedly Malay party is expected to nurture?

As part of the sitting government, would PKR and Umno necessarily be seen as ignoring the interests and concerns of the Malay-Muslim community if they took care of the welfare of all Malaysians from Perlis to Sarawak as they are tasked to do? Wouldn’t an inclusive approach to governing the country be what is sorely needed?

Such an extreme Malay-centric mindset obviously has serious repercussions. For instance, should Malay poverty eradication be prioritised to the near neglect of others, when poverty is actually a universal phenomenon? Besides, shouldn’t social justice be pursued?

Shouldn’t the universal values of compassion, empathy, justice, and freedom be the guiding light of all political parties worth their salt, particularly PKR and Umno?

Incidentally, would it be Islamic enough for a party to promise, which is supposed to be in the realm of the divine, its supporters a heavenly reward if they vote for it, in its haste to attain political power?

Malaysians from all walks of life must not live in denial of the multiethnic, multireligious and multicultural reality of the country, in which an inclusive approach is required for us to move forward.

The road to a progressive, democratic, just, and harmonious Malaysia can be bumpy.

Bold political leadership is required in the push for moderation and inclusivity to make a difference. – December 8, 2023.

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