Sunday, 20 March 2011

Race And Mahathir

I blogged very briefly about Loony Tun's autobiography some time back.

I wasn't aware that his book was going to be such a bestseller among the Malaysian public - looks like this man still has many fans.

It's also evident he has a great number of critics, some of whom have commented on his skill in being a political chameleon.

His race appears to be a bone of contention for most of his critics. In his autobiography he claims his ancestors hailed from Kerala, India, but he claims he is "Malay".

Anyone who has seen Malayalam movies on Astro can tell right away that Mahathir has a typical Malayalee face. This has somehow ended up as a chapter in Mahathir’s memoirs entitled, “I am a Malay”.
- Joe Fernandez

I actually don't have a problem with him calling himself a Malay. In Malaysia, anyone can claim to be a Malay since the definition of "Malay" in the Federal Constitution in itself is very broad and ambiguous.

Old Nyanyuk may have perfected the art of blending into a culture, but Ridhuan Tee and many others have both earnestly and casually followed suit.

And seriously, what does it mean to be "Malay" anyway? The whole of South East Asia is predominantly comprised of a race that is derived of Indian and Chinese parentage.

Malays are essentially Chindians - part Chinese, part Indian and in some occasions part Arabic thrown in for good measure.

So are the Indonesians, Filipinos, Thais, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Myanmarese etc. All Chindians.

Going through lengths to prove that a particular Malay has Indian ancestry is an exercise in futility - it is already a fact that he does.

The Malay language and culture is a testament to the Indian heritage and influence.

So I am not interested in debating about whether Mahathir is Indian or Malay. He can be Malay for all he likes - race in this sense is purely semantics coming into play, if you ask me.

But if you go beyond the stereotyping of his looks and ancestry, some of his critics do put across a salient point: If not for Article 153 in the Federal Constitution and the New Economic Policy that favour Malays, would Mahathir claim so proudly to be a Malay?

He has expressed some of his frustrations with the Malay way of life in his book "The Malay Dilemma" which was published long ago.

Perhaps he meant well for the Malays. Perhaps he wanted to associate himself with a group that was superior. Or perhaps he may have wanted to be the big fish in a small pond.

I really don't know because I don't deign to read his mind.

Old Nyanyuk has done much damage to this nation with his divisive, autocratic brand of politics, however, and I do not admire him for that one bit.

Perhaps we could do well to disregard the whole issue of race as being pivotal to our state of mind and intellect.

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