Liberating the Malay mindset, the right way to speak out


 

 

The right way to speak out

I REFER to the article “The real Malay Dilemma” ((The real Malay dilemma: race, religion & politics, Siti Thoughts, Sunday Star, Aug 26). Siti Kassim made her details as clear as they can be but not without error in her bewildering opinion on the subject.

Siti’s observation is near faultless and I wonder if she is sincere enough to defend the cause of changing the so-called Malay mindset. Firstly, why publish such a strong, emotional and provocative article in an English newspaper if she insists that she has studied her “targeted audience” well enough?

Learn and appreciate the views of a different mindset before telling everyone to change. According to Bakri Musa, a mindset refers to the outlook in or philosophy of life. It is a set of ideas, attitudes and opinions that we – as individuals or members of a group – share of reality, or of what we recognise to be reality.

Neurologically speaking, a mindset is the pre-existing neural pattern in our brain; conceptually, it is our mental hypothesis of reality. Having said this, the mindset is not really a result of the religion’s influence but rather of their past experiences.

It is common to see differing mindsets among people in other countries too, but why exactly wouldn’t anyone in those countries make a big fuss about it?

Malaysia is a progressing population and some of its characters do not wish to portray their advancement as a double-edged weapon. We need to be thoughtful and informed about it.

Not only is it the wrong thing to say but it is also the wrong way to do it. We understand that Islam is a way to help ourselves to improve. There is no flaw in Islam when we talk about civilisation; Islam is civilisation. It was a tried-and-true Islamic value that brought the ancient world to its golden age during its peak.

Some individuals who have a lazy understanding of Islam will describe its teachings as backward, prohibitive and jumud; and they repeatedly use Islam as an excuse for many problems. This unceasing stream of vitriol towards Islam is nothing new.

A change in government will not change the people’s mindset. The May general election did not bring about a change in mindset but rather a choice of two governments, one less benign than the other.

It is not surprising that the so-called liberal Malays are accused of being blasphemous because the accusers are not able to answer or defend a particular issue brought up by repugnant personas. With this in mind, if we let it continue, Malays will be further divided as liberals and conservatives.

Majlis ilmu, seminars and tahfiz schools are not harmful; on the contrary, they are as good as TED Talks if we want them to be. Let’s see them in a different light. Being obsessed with such things is not harmful. We are in dire need of getting the right contents and ideas to share – and we have many of them.

Why would we want to waste such golden opportunities for getting the right message across? If we need to tweak the content to make it more conducive, multicultural or suggestive, we will do better as multicultural societies.

If we can encourage the Malays to ask the right questions about development and their contribution as a Malaysian community, and ultimately shape the demand for knowledge, then every ustaz, ustazah and religious teacher will have to provide the right answers.

But why wouldn’t the Malays ask the right questions? Maybe that is when the fixed mindset comes into play. Rather than putting these forums in a poor light and defining them as the reasons for the nation’s problems, there are more effective ways to bring the change via the same existing ground.

We do not want to compare Malaysia with Iran, Saudi Arabia, or even Switzerland for that matter. There are different dynamics in Malaysia, and even Aceh has its own uniqueness. Malaysia will never be like those countries and those countries will never be like Malaysia.

On the same note, we do not need to model Malaysia on other Muslim-majority countries, good or bad. We should stand on our own and set a new precedent for other Muslim countries to follow.

We are not going to focus on religion solely for the afterlife but as an equally important design to survive and compete globally together as a nation.

Any issues found in other Muslim countries are coherently found in non-Muslim countries: bad governance and corruption are universal. We can uphold syariah law and be 100% Islamic, yet there will still be people who circumvent the law to line their pockets.

We are moving towards changing the paradigm of Malays being supplicants. Most Malays are ready to lead the change. The only thing is they are not singing loudly enough. So who or what is holding them back?

Malays can’t dispel the stereotypical perception others have of them. And we always make efforts to maintain our self-affirmation, not surprisingly buttressing the stereotype in the process.

Some Malays fear more the threat of being seen as a stereotype rather than actually being the stereotype, and this could be one of the reasons why we see gaps in streamlining the grand purpose of understanding Islam among the progressive Malays.

Being apologetic for the bumiputra policy is not considered appropriate as it was properly studied and the implication was well understood.

Our forefathers would have known the long-term divisive consequences, and this is particularly poignant given the non-bumiputra’s outstanding contributions in developing the country.

However, all Malaysians must accept that such a policy is the right way to help the nation. Malays have already become aware of the reasons for such policies and of how the opinions of some of them are being manipulated by politicians to stay in power. We just need to know when and where to make a healthy distinction.

I celebrate Siti’s righteousness and her gifts but she has to be careful that she uses them wisely and avert some scenarios that will hamper everyone’s efforts.

If maybe one day Siti could share the good things she likes about Muslim and Malays, and share these as an agent of change, there would definitely be more who would listen to her and be inspired, I guarantee it.

Being an activist without having an action plan to change the people’s mindset is not going to work.

IKMAL BAHARUDIN Kuala Lumpur, The Staronline
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