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Malay Dignity Congress: new hope or old story?

  • The Malay society now needs to make a very critical decision on their own future.

By Professor Dr. Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi

On October 6, Tun Mahathir will be invited to deliver his speech on Malay dignity in a congress organized jointly by four local public universities.

It has been said that some 16,000 academic staff and students will flood Melawati Stadium on that day, all told to wear traditional Malay costumes.

Umno is very keen, MCA is getting mad, while PAS appears to be rather relaxed. The civil society friends are passing bad comments.

In general, there are three different types of comments from Umno, MCA and the civil society.

Firstly, why have public universities exploited to advance the political motives of PPBM? Why have academic staff danced to the tune of partisan political agenda?

Secondly, weren't Umno-PAS the first to shout about dignity of the Malays whom they claimed had been oppressed, threatened and left far behind? Why this Malay dignity congress all over again now?

Thirdly, why is the prime minister talking about race here? I thought he wanted to be a PM for all Malaysians: Malays, Chinese, Indians, Kadazans, etc.?

Although I seldom hold different opinions from my civil society friends, I am now forced to give a different kind of views from theirs.

I personally feel that there is nothing much wrong organizing a Malay dignity congress and not wrong for public universities to host such an event. I also feel that there is nothing wrong for Tun Mahathir to deliver a speech. Perhaps the only thing that makes me not too happy is the requirement for the Malays-only attendants to wear Malay costumes and that undergraduates from other races have not been invited to attend and jeans not allowed. Is it going to be an Umno Junior congress or something?

I only have one question that I want to raise about this congress, the all-important question of what message the congress is going to convey. Are the professors at the congress going to recycle the same old stuff cooked up by the newly wed Umno-PAS couple on the dignity of the Malays, that the Malays have been oppressed by the Chinese economic agenda and that Islam is being intimidated by the Christians and liberals? Are they going to tabulate all the unrealistic statistics and allegations, and will Mahathir repeat the same message?

If this is the case, I'm afraid the Malays will not be able to deliver themselves out of the tempurung that they cover themselves in.

I agree that this congress is held to discuss the dignity of the Malays, but this has to be done in several contexts. Firstly, the Malay dignity has already come tumbling down as a result of the actions of political leaders and government servants embezzling billions of ringgit of the people's money, destroying the police and judicial institutions, sabotaging our education system and scaring away potential investors with the outlandish idea of boycotting non-Muslim products. Before pointing their fingers at anyone they call traitors or destroyers of this nation, perhaps the professors should first state the facts and admit all these iniquities.

To move forward and rebuild our confidence and identity, we must first identify our own weaknesses and stupidity and pledge not to repeat the same in future.

Secondly, they should tell everyone not to put the blame on other individuals or global events as this is what losers will do!

Thirdly, we should not just “work hard” but also “work smart”. Working smart is building networks with anyone who will help improve our efficiency and growth irrespective of race and religion.

Another thing is that I really hope that all the academicians and Tun Mahathir will propose to our younger generation and academic staff about the importance of these three characteristic to become successful in this modern age of globalization as catalysts to rekindle the dignity of the Malays.

It is my hope that Malays in the new millennium and the era of New Malaysia will uphold the value of openness which is utterly important in the age of explosive information, breakneck technological development, and globalization. Liberal Malays will be more receptive to the views of people from different cultural backgrounds as well as religious teachings from people other than the pondok ustazs. They will also be able to experience civilizations of religions other than Islam, and see history other than that which portrays the Malays as key players and heroes.

I also hope that the Malays will treasure the value of merits, loving relationship with other fellow human beings, mutual understanding and tolerance. Such merits of love and tolerance will make the Malays a respected people of this world. Unfortunately we have muftis who have branded peaceful young demonstrators as traitors of Islam, and this has portrayed the Malays as an intolerant people who are reluctant to mingle with other people.

I sincerely hope that the New Malays will uphold the value of inclusivity which used to be prevalent among the Malays during the olden days, when they mingled and even had cross-community marriages and enriched their own language and knowledge by absorbing various sources of human civilizations. No Malays will call other people pendatang as we are all pendatang anyway. Nevertheless, if the Malays only embrace a party exclusive to people of the same skin color, they can't be Malays who uphold the value of inclusivity.

In the United States, there is a law that bans the construction of mosques built exclusively for the Muslims. What is permitted is an Islamic community center which is open to all in the neighborhood.

A confluence of ideas and thinking between the Western and Islamic civilizations has inspired the development of various sciences, philosophies and technologies.

If this is the message the Malay Dignity Congress is going to convey, then I would say it really should be held. But if it only recycles all the old stories, then I am afraid the allegation of Umno, MCA and civil society that our public universities have been unashamedly exploited to advance the political motives of some, has been substantiated. Non-Malay citizens will begin to question whether the tax revenue contributed by them should be used to finance universities that have partisan element.

The Malay society now needs to make a very critical decision on its own future.

The future of this country lies with the Malays and the decisions they make. The dignity of the Malays can be built up all over again if they embrace the positive traits and discard the obsolete negative ones.

(Professor Dr. Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi is Professor at a local university.)

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