“What were the Malays of the 1950s and 60s like?”
Original comment @ 2013/02/26 at 7:12 am
Probably the kind of post-colonial Malays that Mahathir hated but the only kind that could produce the Malay Dilemma. I suppose it is the old story of class conflict but conveniently misdiagnosed as race tensions.
BN gave up the progressive Islamic middle ground some time ago. Some people are dismissive of the idea that Anwar Ibrahim played a role in this or that post fall of the Shah of Iran and the rise of political Islam have had a fucked effect on Islam in Malaysia.
It was not all UMNO’s doing (but of course I blame them more, since they were (are) leading the country) but also PAS who were far more “leftist” orientated than any of the other political entities in this country but who chose the simpler Islamic route as a means of solidarity.
I have very little sympathy for the hypocrites in UMNO who played the Islamic card against the Non-Muslims all the while trying to out Islamize PAS.
The DAP attempting to define what is and is not an “acceptable Malay/Muslim” plays well with urban voters and as a means for controlling the race and religion discourse but is ultimately hollow simply because they fund or draw support from the forces of intolerance be it Islam or Christianity.
The “tudung girls” of the DAP are muhibbah porn for kool aid drinkers but in reality nothing more than subterfuge in an ongoing culture war.
Re: out Islamize PAS
Are you denying that the Malay polity has not undergone a process of Islamization or Arabisation and this happened under UMNO’s stewardship of this country?
Keep in mind that Anwar Ibrahim is on record as saying that he was part of this movement of political Islam.
Are you denying the rhetoric of UMNO when it comes to questioning PAS’s Islamic credentials ?
Re: questioning PAS’s brand of Islam
You do realize that by questioning PAS’s brand of Islam the implication is that UMNO has its own brand that it wants to promote.
We can only judge what each brand has to offer by the social changes in Malay community.
How you choose to interpret this UMNO/PAS dialectic is up to you but I do not think there is any argument that the only logical conclusion we can arrive at, is that a progressive form of Islam was never in the cards when it comes to PAS or UMNO.
Re anonymous with a small “a”:
I hardly think I was dismissing UMNO for chasing the Malay vote. As you point out everyone including the DAP is chasing the Muslim vote.
As far as the Arabisation process is concerned, it goes way beyond the cosmetic detail you mentioned to how Islam is interpreted and practiced.
I am very well aware that Islam is a way of life for Malays but part of the point of this blog post was to demonstrate how it has changed over the years and the underlying philosophies and hypocrisies of those who claim guardianship over the religion, UMNO and PAS.
I do not for one-minute think that the way that PAS types live and what they want implemented means they are way behind the times.
Depending on the issue UMNO (now) takes the hardline, PAS (now) takes the moderate stance, and the two Islamic entities vacillate between the two positions depending on how each thinks it will play in the Malay/Muslim demographic.
As to what kind of progressive Islam I have in mind and which party best promotes it. The answer is simple. I want to go back to the time in the photograph [above].
What I want is the Islam of Malaysia of the kind observed in the 40’ and 50’. No Islamic party promotes this now. So maybe instead of progressive we can call it retro (at least in the Malaysian context).
Re: Admiration of retro Malays and asking the impossible
I never said I admired the retro Malay. You asked for my definition of “progressive” Islam and I gave it to you. Is it impossible for the Malays to separate religion from their politics and social life?
I do not think so. The current so called split in the Malay community includes a range of issues from class conflicts, personality politics, the conflation of religious and racial cards and the definitional arguments of what is Islam.
Re: those times were when Malays were Malays instead of Malay Muslims
I disagree. I think those were times when the Malay community did not define themselves solely by their religion not that they showed any less commitment to their faith.
The Malay Muslim meme is a concoction of UMNO that as I explained earlier was designed place the Malay Muslim community in perpetual siegedom and as shorthand for unity.
This is certainly ironic since on his recent visit to the Troubled Lands, none other than the Abbas administration accused PM Najib of spreading disunity in the Muslim Palestinian community.
Re: Changes in the Malay Muslim community
While I agree with you that globalization has had an effect on the Malay Muslim community as it has on every other community, I think we should not let this detract from the fact that it is UMNO not PAS that has shaped Islam here in Malaysia (or rather PAS did shape it in a fall guy/boogeyman kind of way).
Earlier you dismissed my argument of the Arabisation process of the community. Here you say that outside forces shaped Malay Muslim community.
It is UMNO, which has been the gatekeeper to Islamic thought and how the outside forces shaped Islam, is predicated on how much pressure UMNO allowed in.
Re: Changes triggered by Non-Muslims and LGE backstabbing PAS
While I agree that Malay Muslim politics are reactionary, I would say the only constructive approach would be to examine each issue and discover if the controversy was manufactured by UMNO (which there is plenty of evidence of) or that if Non-Muslims engineered the controversies.
The example you offered is LGE backstabbing PAS. I have no argument here. The issue was settled and LGE chose cheap publicity and scaremongering over rational reconciliatory politics. PAS was forced to backtrack on earlier commitments.
I am on record as saying that UMNO can claim the high ground here and I detest UMNO.
Re: your last two paragraphs
Sorry but I do not understand what you are attempting to convey.
If you are saying (please correct me if I am wrong) that
(1) PAS and its supporters have had to make sacrifices in holding the middle ground and my “disbelief” is insulting, then let me dissuade you from this notion. I believe that PAS is the only ideologically pure political party in this mess.
The ebb and flow of moderation is in its quest for power is justified within doctrinal context that is often mocked by UMNO/BN and sometimes even by the so-called “politics of love[rs]”.
(2) When non-muslims (DAP) preach using the Koran is the height of hypocrisy and this point to the moral bankruptcy of oppositional politics.
Then yes, I would agree with you simply because I do not think that the religious card should be used in politics (which is unfortunately a minority view) and certainly not by religious charlatans like the DAP who would use Islam when it is political expedient to do so, much like their nemesis UMNO.
Re: Photo Helen posted.
We are on the same page. It is a wonderful photo and I would welcome folks who lived through those times or heard stories from it to relate their experiences on this thread.
I do not wish for Malays to separate religion from politics and social life. I am saying that they are already separated (at least by definition) with the conflict between PAS and UMNO.
On the one hand you claim that PAS values Islam more than getting along with Malays and on the other you claim that by attempting the middle ground (which you think Malays are excluded from) they are betraying Islam. It is all very confusing.
If the Malays are truly under siege like you claim then why is there a split in the Malay community with one side believing this UMNO narrative and the other skeptical of it.
I am glad you acknowledge the splits in other Muslim communities like the Palestinian schism. However, my reference to Najib was the contradiction of attempting Muslim unity here but sowing Muslim disunity abroad.
What I mean by UMNO’s role as gatekeeper is merely that UMNO controls the kind of influences that Malaysian Muslims are exposed to. If you claim that Malaysian Muslims are conservative and you acknowledge that the retro Muslims were of different temperament, than you have to ask yourself what were the state sanctioned influences that changed and shaped this mindset.
In addition, where did it come from, when as you say, Muslims here in Malaysia are influenced by the greater Muslims “struggles” worldwide.
Your characterization of the PAS/DAP dynamic is the usual UMNO propaganda. While I may agree it is a sham, (an uncharitable view since most coalitions (any in the world) of differing ideologies attempt to claim the middle ground) this is no different from Mahathir/UMNO claiming that Malaysia is an Islamic state but all the while attempting moderation with its coalition partners.
While in reality there may not be much difference in the Islamic belief systems of UMNO and PAS, each has its own way of attaining the middle ground, where most Malaysians reside.
You claim that PAS subservience to the DAP is a sign of hypocrisy but fail to consider that UMNO wanting desperately to convince the non-Muslims of it moderation could be hypocritical too.
You may think that PAS attempting the middle ground is ideologically impure but as I said, this is justified within a doctrinal context. You may believe that Islam is static and in most places in the world it is but there are others ideas in Islam beyond conservative xenophobic ones and these are justified with interpretations from the Koran.
You would only think that this is a betrayal of Islam if you believed in a narrow interpretation of the Koran and if you believed this, I would ask you to consider if UMNO has ever had a narrow interpretation of the Koran and applied it strictly in its rule of this country.
If the PAS/DAP partnership is a sham then any partnership with an Islamic entity is a sham if the middle ground is attempted. This would mean that UMNO is immoral and hypocritical if they claim that they are the defenders of Islam all the while making noises of moderation towards the non-Muslim community.
I do think this discussion has run its course and we would end up just repeating talking points if we continue. Thanks for being civil.
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I think the above are indeed very well-articulated comments. I greatly appreciate Conrad taking the time and trouble to pen these thoughts and insight to share with our blog readers.
Part 2 of this forum with continue with the input by ‘anonymous’ who was involved in the series of exchanges above with Conrad and Part 3 will be my short contribution. Thank you for reading, and again my thanks to Conrad and anon-with-the-small-‘a’ for writing. — Helen