Lots of things, really. That’s not to say that only Malays have problems, i’m sure the Chinese, the Indians, and the infamous “Others” also have their equal share. But, for now, let’s talk about the Malays.
I was reading Jonathan Kent’s piece about Malaysia’s Clash of Cultures, and he and i agree on one thing: a lot have changed amongst the Malays, and one of the most prominent (obvious?) changes is our perception towards religion. I think Kent may have said it best here:
Piety in public. Acts that lead to self-loathing behind closed doors.
What’s wrong with the Malay people? Highest divorce rates, highest crime rates, highest number of dadah users, highest number of criminals, highest number of rapists. And yet, i’ll bet a pound against a brass penny, on a per household capita, Malay Muslims own more Qurans now than ever before. Mosques are packed to the brim on Friday afternoons, Malay men all diligently nodding their heads in agreement to everything the learned imam says. The tudung (headscarf) has become a literal overnight fashion wonder, dim glances are made in the direction of Malay Muslim women who refuse the attire. It all does not compute, it just doesn’t.
Wave after wave of Islamization has rocked the very foundations of the Malay race and yet things get no better, was the thesis of Mr Kent. Well, let’s flip that: wave after wave of Islamization, and that’s why things have gotten no better. Could that be it? Don’t look at me, i don’t have the answer to that thorny question (some people might even point at me, and scream, “Murtad!“, “Kafir!” for even thinking it).
A former dean of my faculty in university, a converted Muslim, a mat salleh who married a Malay Muslim once shared with me a bit of wisdom, in cock-neyed Liverpudian accent: “Its all just a show, m’boy. A song and dance of appearances and counter-appearances. Malay Muslims are more interested in the semblance of piety and religiousness, less so than the embrace of the deeper philosophical teachings of Islam.”
Coming from a man who taught comparative religion, who chose Islam before he met his wife, those words carried a lot of weight. And it provided a reasonable explanation why things for now have, at best, plateued for the Malay race, and at worse, taken a dramatic swing for the worse. Its truly arguable whether the Malays are better off now than 30 years ago, before Islamization, before the NEP.
Yes, the material appearances have improved. What about the attitude of application, the responsibility, the understanding and acceptance of responsibility that must accompany any change? That is, after all, the question that must be asked.