This article is a response to the chairperson of PEMBELA, Aminuddin Yahya, to his suggestion that the Malays must have a Malay Civilization Day with silat groups, heritage groups and so forth to combine and invite families to come and appreciate the Malay civilization for a day.
He was responding to the huge and overwhelming success of the Bon Odori festival that sparked a controversy when narrow-minded Malay-Muslim clerics and politicians forbade Muslims to attend the festival.
But when the Sultan of Selangor gave his full backing to the festival quoting rightly that there were no elements that would threaten the Islamic faith, Muslims and non-Muslims turned up in droves.
One journalist who had never attended the event before went to the festival and related how he saw lines of people waiting to get in and to park, 30% of the visitors being Muslim-Malays.
Photos of tudung-clad Malay ladies in beautiful kimonos gave justice to the true idea of Malaysia against the likes of narrow-minded NGOs and bigots.
Thus, in Aminuddin’s frustration of what he feels as the Malays ‘losing faith’ perhaps, he put up the suggestion that Malays should have a Malay Civilization Day in order to restore that missing faith, I presume.
In this article, I am not going to criticize his suggestion but I am overwhelmingly supporting it.
But, of course, I have a few suggestions of my own to further turn Aminuddin’s suggestion from a narrow racial and religious perspective to a wider nation-building narrative.
I support Aminuddin Yahya’s suggestion to hold a Malay Civilization Day, but this must be done with the intention of nation-building and not race and religious baiting.
My first suggestion is that not only should we have a celebration of a Malay Civilization Day, we should also follow up with a Chinese Civilization Day, an Indian Civilization Day, a Dayak Civilization Day, an Orang Asli Civilization Day, a Kadazan Civilization Day and all other ethnic groups that make up Malaysia.
In this way, ignorant people like me can experience for one day at least what the Kadazan or Murut life and belief are like.
This Ethnic Day will be celebrated all across Malaysia with a festival in Kuala Lumpur, Georgetown, Kota Kinabalu and Kuching.
The government should allocate an adequate budget for these celebrations that would bind us all in our differences within a complementary humanity construct.
My second suggestion for Aminuddin’s concept is to make sure the Malay Civilization Day covers all of the history and heritage of the Malays, inclusive of the Hindu and Buddhist influences upon the race.
I detect that Aminuddin seems to want to limit the ‘Malayness’ of Malays to only the Islamic construct which I think is a travesty of history, anthropology and politics.
The language, customs, food and other aspects of civilization of the Malays have a rich history even before Islam.
The Kingdoms of Majapahit, Srivijaya, Chola, Langkasuka and so many other feudal systems made up who the Malays once were.
Any attempt to selectively position only one religion as a heritage of the Malays is smack of a political agenda that does not have any bearing and would even hurt our nation-building efforts.
As the Malays were once many different faiths, this shows the strength, resilience and intellectual prowess of the Malays in the past as opposed to the stagnant thinking Malays of the present 21st century.
My third suggestion is actually a reminder that we must not make the Malay Civilization Day as what the Kongres Maruah Melayu was, an exclusive racist event that can destroy the very foundation of our Rukun Negara and soul of the nation.
I sense that Aminuddin might take this event and raise it to the level of making him and his NGO as the Hulubalang or Warriors of the Malays just shy of GE15.
The authorities must deny this effort if it is an all-Melayu event.
Even though the right to organize and hold such an event is guaranteed by the Constitution, its practice will shake the foundation of our nation into a most irreparable one forever.
In conclusion, I support the suggestion of Aminuddin Yahya to hold a Malay Civilization Day, but that it must be done with the intention of nation-building and not race and religious baiting, and that other races should also be given the opportunity to show off their cultures, heritage, arts and intellectual worth to all Malaysians.
(Prof Dr. Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi is Professor of Architecture at a local university and his writing reflects his own personal opinion entirely.)