Malaysian Exceptionalism

June 23, 2013

Waldorf-Astoria, New York City

4 World Trade Developers Hold Tour Of ProgressThe September 11 Memorial

MY COMMENT: Malaysian Exceptionalism or Malay extremism? Josh is being polite or more appropriately politically correct in choosing the former label to describe our politics.  I have no problem with the conservative label. But it is disturbing when people like Ibrahim Ali and former court interpreter turned Appellate Judge Mohd Noor Abdullah start championing Malay privileges to the exclusion of the rights of other Malaysians.

Malay extremism cannot be tolerated. That mindset is myopic Din Merican at RSGCand out of date. And it does not augur well for national unity. It denies the reality of our ethnic diversity and the advantage that it confers on our plural society.We need enlightened Malay leaders for our country since Malay leadership was never an issue.  At issue is the quality of Malay leadership today. It is being perceived incorrigibly corrupt and philistine.

Make no bones about it. The Malays are confident, talented, creative and can be competitive when they are challenged. Malay politicians, however, like to make Malays like me feel that we are inferior to the Chinese and the Indians so that we remain forever dependent and indebted to the UMNO dominated government.

As a result of government policy, today more Malays have degrees and professional qualifications than in the 1960s and have become very assertive politically and less dependent on government handouts. Face it. Malay rights are not being threatened; only the rights of other Malaysians are being denied. This has to change so that national unity can become a reality. –Din Merican


Malaysian Exceptionalism

by Josh Hong (06-21-13)@

Republicans such as Newt Gingrich, John McCain and Mitt Romney never fail to seize an opportunity to emphasise what they believe as ‘American exceptionalism’ – freedom vs tyranny, and a mandate to impose American values on others.

Dr Mahathir-The Exceptional MalayThe Exceptional Malay

It has its origins in America’s history as a haven for puritans fleeing religious conformity, as decreed by King Charles I, “a shining city upon a hill”.

This unique chapter in human history has since been upheld as part of the tenets of faith in American politics. It must not be questioned even if the country has done something terribly wrong. Hence, the US, in the name of American exceptionalism, has committed great atrocities with impunity – from Vietnam, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Pakistan to Iraq. You name it.

That is not all. Stepthen Walt, a Professor of International Affairs at Harvard University, once made an attempt to debunk the myth of American exceptionalism by pointing out that up to 400,000 Filipinos were killed when Washington was fighting against Spain over the Philippines, while aerial bombing during World War II killed 305,000 German and 330,000 Japanese civilians. General Curtis LeMay had to make sure the US would not lose the war, otherwise, “we would be prosecuted as war criminals”.

Thanks to this peculiar ideology which has penetrated all layers of American society, that whoever criticises US foreign policy does so at the risk of being branded as ‘anti-American’.

But my piece today is not another ‘anti-American’ rant, for I am simply using this example to highlight how irresponsible politicians and public figures can easily turn fallacies into truths and justify their own misdeeds or prejudice by referring to ‘Malaysian exceptionalism’.

Why is Malaysia exceptional? According to former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad, it is because this is a multiracial country and one must be ultra-sensitive to the feelings of others.

The Police Force is a ‘symbol’

The Police ForceTherefore, one cannot be harsh on the Police despite the rising crime rate in the wake of deteriorating public security, as the Police force is largely made up of Malays and any criticism in this regard is tantamount to dismissing the Malay community as a whole.

For Mahathir and UMNO, the Police force symbolises the professionalism and competency of the Malays, and must be protected from public criticism. It is so ‘exceptional’ that even Utusan Malaysia and Berita Harian chose to play down the fact that more Indians had been beaten to death in Police custody than any other ethnic group.

When the Cabinet and the Police unite against the calls for the long-proposed Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC), they do so out of the fear of more dirty linens being exposed in broad daylight and, more importantly, that the Malay community may come to know more about the systemic failure of an institution that used to be held in high regard, which would spell more trouble for UMNO, no doubt.

And all Malays are seemingly born with a divine duty to defend first and foremost their own race. Should anyone be audacious enough to join the Opposition parties – especially DAP – he or she would become a pengkhianat (traitor) instantly, even faster than the Prime Minister’s wife Rosmah Mansor changes her handbag.

And for the non-Malays to challenge UMNO hegemony would be a crime worse than treachery, which explains why the shouts for Ambiga Sreenevasan’s citizenship to be stripped of are growing louder, with Mahathir leading the charge.

In Mahathir’s view, there is only one way for the non-Malays to become ‘fully Malaysian’ and thereby overcome this ‘Malaysian exceptionalism’, which is to speak Malay as their first language and to adopt Malay customs. Of course, one must not be too rich or it would again hurt the sentiments of the Malays.

But would one be so naive to believe that Mahathir has the best interests ofmukhriz-mahathir-01 the country at heart? Just look at the way he despises the poor Malays. There is even a marked social stratification within the Malay community today, and I honestly do not think Kedah Menteri Besar Mukhriz Mahathir (right) shares much in common with the maid who comes and cleans my apartment every now and then.

In all likelihood, Mukhriz would feel more comfortable negotiating business deals with all the filthy rich tycoons in Malaysia, be they Vincent Tan, Ananda Krishnan, or Syed Mokhtar Albukhary.

Still not worthy enough

In other words, a pious, dutiful Malay is still not worthy of Mahathir’s attention unless he or she is as ‘successful’ and wealthy as his sons. As for those who sincerely believe that by becoming more Malay, they would win the hearts and minds of the ruling elites in UMNO, don’t be fooled. Even if one speaks impeccable Malay, would one then have qualified as a true Malaysian? Not likely, for the next criteria would be for one to embrace Islam – UMNO’s version of Islam, to be exact.

There will be more hurdles added to the journey of ‘becoming completely Malaysian’ just because this country is unique and ‘exceptional’. It is precisely because of this obsession with ‘Malaysian exceptionalism’ that UMNO is not putting any real efforts into arresting the decline in Malaysia’s competitiveness and curbing the rampant corruption. Instead, Mahathir and his cohorts prefer to talk about race and religion so as to fend off any challenge to their privileged position.

mohd-noor-abdullahThese days, no-one exemplifies the idiocy of ‘Malaysian exceptionalism’ better than former Court of Appeal judge Mohd Noor Abdullah (left), who has urged non-Malays to “repay the past sacrifice” made by the Malays in allowing Bahasa Melayu to be written in Rumi rather than Jawi “for the sake of national unity”.

It is suffice to say that there is no official record of the non-Malays making such a request at independence – the decision was most probably collectively made by English-educated elites, including Tunku Abdul Rahman, Abdul Razak Hussein and Tan Cheng Lok – the Malay language is heavily influenced by Sanskrit and was written in various scripts before the arrival of Islam in the peninsula.

And I wonder if either Mahathir or Mohd Noor has heard of the Kedukan Bukit Inscription. Personally, I would have no issue with learning Jawi, but to distort historical facts in order to serve UMNO’s agenda is an act most unbecoming of a Yang  Arif (the learned).

The conclusion? The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits. Indeed, nowhere in the region of South-East Asia has this quote been proven true time and again than in Malaysia, and that is truly exceptional.

33 thoughts on “Malaysian Exceptionalism

  1. Malays that I grow up with and the Malays that I know personally through work and play are not the Malays Mahathir and the Malay supremacist group would like to have… these buddies of mine are educated, smart, confident, multi-lingual and self-made. It is only the dumb ones who have been made such by the influence of UMNO that continue to want to exert their stupidity on the rest. Defeat them, that’s the least we can do for future generations of Malaysians….
    That is the generation of Malays who will change Malaysian politics. So hope is not lost yet as more and more of them are emerging to take on our ancien regime.–Din Merican.

  2. The Malay language ( Bahasa Indonesia ? ) is about 1400 + years old ! It is actually heavily influenced by the Tamil language and to a lesser extend Sanskrit and Hindi . The inscription on the Kedukan Bukit is actually ancient Tamil and not Sanskrit !

  3. Unfortunately, the entire government is too corrupted to reverse. Too many bumiputras believe in the indoctrination of Ketuanan Melayu for Malaysia to progress beyond racial lines. UMNO and BN are simply thieves masquerading as leaders and ketuanan melayu remains the key to enrichment of their familiies. It will take an economic disaster to change the government, unless what Ai Tze and Mustafa wrote about Najib’s intent to be positively remembered in history is at all accurate and is executed before Dr M makes his move to place his son at the top of UMNO. Anyway, the economic mess will arrive soon….

  4. LinLaubu,
    Economic disaster!? OMG! This would be a phyric victory or a samson act. You really wanna believe what Najib really do what those clowns such as Ai Tze & Mustafa would be doing. Sorry, my friend. I am a Perakian. I would never forgive what Najib has done to my government. Najib can go to HELL!

    Likewise of those who live across the causeway. The melayus here got the sang saka spirit. They have kicked out UMNO years ago. Look at what they have acheived. Singapura melayus must spread some sang saka spirit to melayus over here.

  5. Din,
    Michael Portillo talks about Conservatives out of touch. Perhaps, he should imply UMNO. UMNO is DEAD in Singapore. Zairil daddy knew it. Enjoy!


    The Governance of Self and Civilization
    Copyright © by Barnabas D. Johnson

    A government that does not cultivate and harvest feedback, including “unwelcome” news and reproof, is a contradiction of terms. It is illogical. It flies in the face of systematically-gathered, analyzed, and synthesized experience, thereby mocking science. And it is not cybernetic. It is not a “government” worthy of that word. It is not good.

    When a democracy guarantees freedom of inquiry, association, and expression, including a free press;and establishes checks and balances among governmental organs that include an independent judiciary; and ensures free and fair elections for legislators and highest-level executive officers; and forbids electoral and governmental corruption in its many sordid guises, including debasement of the Conversation of Democracy by lies, defamation, unfair restrictions on media access, unwarranted governmental secrecy or manipulation of truth, and the silencing or unjust prosecution of critics; when, in short, a democracy ordains institutions by which majority and coalition rule is competently balanced by minority and individual rights — and otherwise establishes Ordered Liberty based on the Rule of Law governed by the Rule of Reason — then, and only then, does it merit being called a constitutional democracy.

    A constitutional democracy is a government under law in which coalition and majority rule is balanced by minority and individual rights, and in which most [3] rights are balanced by responsibilities — including the responsibility of each citizen to study the history of constitutional government in order to illuminate it in ways that no definition ever can … and in order, thereby, to allow it to evolve further in light of ancient wisdoms and the needs of our evolving global civilization.

  7. Yes a well written piece by DM. Kudos to you. Most of the Chinese and Indians dont subscribe to the concept of Malay exceptionalism but rather will want to think otherwise . I would prefer the equality index as more appropriate. When you thinkof the number of malay golfers and yet not one came near to winning theMalaysian Open, it speaks volume about the attitude. The British did well in puting the Police and the Armed Forces in the hands of the Malays by default or otherwise. The political numbers make the Malays formidable but otherwise nothing else is so awesome. The truth is that we are a trading nation and we need the support of Asean, the very least to stabilise the economy. The multi racial strenght is dominant and very necessary to propel the country forward. The non Malays have been doing this from day one in Malaysia and did not behave as rent seekers. So dont kid around to bolster the ego but rather embrace to move ahead. Maybe the American dream will be more adept to the Malays and others. If a malayalee cultured son can dominate the Malay politics,i rest my case.

  8. “And all Malays are seemingly born with a divine duty to defend first and foremost their own race. Should anyone be audacious enough to join the Opposition parties – especially DAP – he or she would become a pengkhianat (traitor) instantly, even faster than the Prime Minister’s wife Rosmah Mansor changes her handbag.” said Josh Hong.

    By generalising in categorizing “all” Malays as above, Josh Hong sounds racist and intentionally misleading. Many Malays especially in urban areas and even some in rural areas are not of that category. Apart from the members of the Opposition party PAS who are overwhelmingly Malays, we could see that misleading accusation by looking at the racial composition of recent rally participants and the voting trend in the last election. To keep on harping like Josh just did is to deny the reality.

    Moreover Josh Hong should realise that UMNO has for sometime been under the control of the constitutional Malays (particualrly the Mamaks who are actually genetically & ethnically Indians as Mahathir used to claim himself as one). By definition, a constitutional Malay is not an ethnicity or a biological race and hence UMNO’s fight is hardly a kind of Malay (ethnicity) extremism as implied by Din Merican.

  9. Well, what do you expect??…The Malays are the majority of this country once known as Persekutuan Tanah Melayu until the formation of Malaysia in 1963. Singapore then left because of Lee Kuan Yew’s displeasure unable to come to term that the Malays are the dominant race in Malaysia, and will continues as such. The fact that the Malays as the “pribumi” since 1000 years ago will remains as the “powerplayer” in politics of Malaysia cannot be denied, and drummed into the mindset of every law abiding citizen.

  10. Alvin, the tamil language is also a lot older than Sanskrit which was not indigenous to India at that time. ironically the word malay in Malaya means a hilly country in….

    don’t panic!
    I’m not questioning the special position of the malays in any way.
    nobody is, thats why the others accepted their position in this country and they remained to work for a better future for them and for Malaysia. But, they didn’t anticipate the mismanagment of the economy and abuse of power by the ruling elites and their cronies to create a master race that is bent on exploiting the rest of the population, including the malays.
    ”The Superior Man is all-embracing and not partial. The inferior man is partial and not all-embracing” -Confucius.

    a land of Confucius…..Confusion!

    voila! an exceptional song for an exceptional country

  11. Actually Malay extremism has to be fought not for some liberal idea of tolerance and acceptance – extremism distracts and disincentive from the focus of performance and delivery. Extremism is an excuse for corruption and abuse of power of the mediocre..So long as the Malays tolerate the extremism and excuse of corruption and abuse of power, so long as their Malay Agenda is never going to be permanent or guaranteed and will fall apart sooner or later..

  12. This is turning into a debate whether the environment develops your personality or you determine the development of your personality irrespective of the environment. The answer to this lies on the story about giving a man fish and teaching him how to fish. They say easy come easy go. Even when parents provide more for one child than the others they are careful to ensure that in the end that child who receives greater assistance ends up becoming independent later in life.

    To my mind that should be the primary concern of anyone who thinks that a certain group needs to be assisted bearing in mind that success itself is 95% perspiration and 5% luck, provided the hidden hand ensures that other things reaming equal.

  13. How very true, it is the MALAY POLITICIANS up to their monkey tricks to keep the rural Malays in the ‘zoo’ assuring them they will be well fed..SO LONG AS THOSE POLITICIANS GET TO KEEP THEIR SEAT!!!

    ALSO, those idiots in MCA said the same threats to CHINESE that if they dont vote BN, their status will be treaten…….solly la blader……….MOST CHINESE dont depend on BN/MCA base companies…….They are most resilience and independent and venturing abroad……… to hell with the MCA. At least the Gerakan dont spill beans around……by the CHUA SO LICK use old ancient threats of his father’s days. I see him, sure spit on him, said some younger ones who left MCA.
    Make no bones about it. The Malays are confident, talented, creative and can be competitive when they are challenged. Malay politicians, however, like to make Malays like me feel that we are inferior to the Chinese and the Indians so that we remain forever dependent and indebted to the UMNO dominated government.

    As a result of government policy, today more Malays have degrees and professional qualifications than in the 1960s and have become very assertive politically and less dependent on government handouts. Face it. Malay rights are not being threatened; only the rights of other Malaysians are being denied. This has to change so that national unity can become a reality. –Din Merican

  14. The day of dawning is drawing nearer. As more Malays vote ABU, what else is not telling? There is no challenge to the collective change of human spirit as seen everywhere else. It is not a person to be condoned. Its is a force that just move momentum as in MEast countries so the moral is DONT PUSH YOUR LUCK TOO FAR.

    Also TDM is pushing 90 like his pals in the ME who have passed. For a new sun to rise, the old sun must set because we see the break of dawn.

  15. Thumb Logic, NEP and the Ketuanan Melayu concept has an interesting twist to the minorities. It forces an un-level playing field where the best will get a place in the local universities and those who can or barely afford it go to offshore tertiary institutions. Typically, a non Malay student spends over 10 hours per day after school cramming after school to get all the As to make it. From what I know, their bumiputra friends do not even spent half that time cramming, if they do at all. Now that starts at the age of 14…..

    Those who get stuck, find their way in Ali Baba-ing the system. In the end, the minorities sharpen their competitive skills due to necessity. I remember the days overseas, where Malaysians typically outperform everyone else, even though these Malaysians wont even have a chance to be eligible to enroll and get a piece of toilet paper from UKM.

    Until the playing field is level, the environment just creates a more competitive non bumi. Bumiputras should thank Tun Razak and Dr M for the perpetual cycle of handicaps that comes with racial discrimination. But, I suppose since the constitution provides the special rights to bumis, they will remain blessed as such.

    • @Al Razzi at 7:38pm,

      Your observation is not incorrect that with the ever-increasing numbers of discerning and forward-looking Constitutional Malays comprising the citizens of Malaysia with an ethnically race-neutral attitude & stance, Josh Hong’s ‘Malaysian Exceptionalism’ may convey an entirely different meaning and Din Merican’s ‘Malay Extremism’ may become but a strange oddity. Some people are still bindly unaware of this progressive & positive development or they just refuse to acknowledge it.

  16. “The fact that the Malays as the “pribumi” since 1000 years ago will remains as the “powerplayer” in politics of Malaysia cannot be denied, and drummed into the mindset of every law abiding citizen” – Zacko @1:02am.

    Zacko seems to forget that the “Malays as the ‘pribumi’ since 1000 years ago” are now subordinated and ruled by the Constitutional Malays, many of whom are Mamaks of ethnic Indian, and some ‘Arab & Turk’ descents in UMNO. Constitutional Malays of ethnic Chinese descent are very gradually on the rise too. As their numbers increase, we may soon remove from our vocabulary in Malaysia all the terms pertaining to race, racism and the likes as by definition a Constitutional Malay is ethnically race-neutral.

  17. There is too much vitriol in the article to encourage national unity.

    An example? His attack on Mukhriz vis-a-vis his maid is personal and uncalled for.

  18. You’re absolutely right Alifalfa…the face of the modern Malay now if you noticed carefully look more internationally than ever…you will meet Malays who look like chinese, indian, pakistani, matsalleh, japanese, arabs and even afro like that famous footballer. For that reason in my opinion and I believed its in the tradition and custom of the Malay Rulers, that the Sultan must be a descendent of a pure Malay bloodline.

  19. Din,
    With all these idiots melayus, all I really need is a miracle that would bring Malaysia back to the glorious day. That’s in 1950s. When my great grand uncle, a chinaman can become a governor of malacca & Tunku dreamt of singapore becoming the new york of Malaysia

    WTF international you are talking about, when you can’t become a true Malaysian. It’s time to release the shackles of Ketuanan melayu. Or you want me to spit you in the face. I really don’t care already. Wanna try me!

  20. Loser74,
    Spit me in my face??…who do you think you’re showing such arrogance?…is this your attitude and character?…I wonder whether this is perhaps tthe character of your kind and race…!!

    • “With all these idiots melayus, all I really need is a miracle that would bring Malaysia back to the glorious day. That’s in 1950s.” – @looes74 on June 24 at 7:59pm.

      In case looes74 has been asleep and missed it, Malaysia has been advancing forward in all aspects keeping pace with the time. Why go backwards as he proposed??? Malaysians should not wait for miracles, as he hopes, but work for positive results.

      He harbours such venomous thoughts and presents negative attitudes towards “melayus” – why?? He never realises that throughout history the Malays have been very accommodative, to the extent now after Merdeka the Malays, as we knew them before, will willingly allow themselves to gradually be erased from the surface of the Malaysian soil and be replaced by the ethnically race-neutral Constitutional Malays. Is this not guaranteed by our Constitutions by having the Constitutional Malay being specifically defined by the documents? Is this not a sure evidence of the Malays’ positive attitude striving for unity through compromises and accommodation? Josh Hong, looes74 and people of this category should be well advised to re-look into themselves and try to reach sincere agreement with their conscience.

  21. First the Iranian people liked jaw-boning Ahmad. Now they hated him enough to replace him for they told me he tell lots of lies to keep his position. Most Iranian people dont want to fight Israel. They want to get on with their lives and Ahmad made it very difficult. 20sen M’sian is said able to buy a good loaf of bread, a sign of devaluation that Iranian currency had suffered its people. Ubah and they got it.

    Kita sebangsa Malaysia? Bila?

    • “Very well written Josh.Malaysia is indeed “exceptional” in every sense lof the word. Welcome to Malay- sia.” – @Mike ingh of June 23 at 9:19pm appearing as the first comment right at the top of this posting.

      I am uncertain whether the commentator, Mike ingh, was being sarcastic in using the term “Malay-sia” but it did occur to me that he could have anticipated what I had been debating mentally in my mind for sometime. I did visualise that, given time, as the numbers of the Constitutional Malays overwhelmingly increase in the composition of the Malaysian citizenship, the citizens of Malaysia could well then be known as Malays (an ethnically race-neutral term). The term “Malaysian” will then be relegated to being used only as an adjective rather than a noun, as currently used, to describe a citizen of Malaysia.

  22. Put this way la ok…………dont think of the othe person’s religion and name, most of us look pan Asian. Many Msian Chinese are loosing their slanted eye look. Many melayu ah moi looking much fairer. Many chinese guys looking like kopi susu.

  23. @aliefalfa, your biting comments on June 25 10.05am & 4.27pm is good piece of reminder to us as ” Malaysians ” , and to ignore loose-head people like looes74 when you said ” He harbours such venomous thoughts and presents negative attitudes towards ‘ Melayus ‘ – Why ? ”
    And to add to yours, Malaysians should forgive me if I tend to be blunt in saying : yes, that ALL Malaysians are stupid, no matter Malays, Indians & Chinese (MIC) ( generally I mean, & there are exceptions of course ) – Why stupid ? Because we still have not learnt the ultimate lesson as ” Malaysians ” after struggling for 50 years. What is the ultimate lesson ? : That Man does not realise the good things he has, until he looses EVERYTHING…..that indeed is the ultimate Stupidity, if we have not learnt that, we all as Malaysians must be real Stupid…..

  24. @Abnizar at 12:27pm,

    No, the vast majority of us (MIC + other Malaysians) are not really stupid but we were only lulled into arguing, sometimes too emotionally, amongst ourselves without realising that our minds were still shackled and crammed within “the Box”. Only when we allow ourselves to venture outside “the Box” will we recognise, as you suggested, “the good things” that we have and which we should take care not to lose.

  25. Thanx aliefalfa, I suppose you are right that people argue merely for the sake of arguments and say things callously trapped in the ‘box’ kind of mentality, without substance ?
    But harbouring venomous thoughts and presenting negative attitudes is something puzzling : OK my question is : Is stupidity the result of hate, or , hate is the cause of stupidity ? To me, I feel its the latter, and that seems deliberate , not being callous. What if in the end we Malaysians refuse to grow-up…..and find ourselves loosing all the ‘good things’ we have or cherish merely for a ‘few’ things we do not get ? Life isn’t all that perfect wherever we may be walking on this earth ?

  26. The various forms of fascism and the intellect are generally incompatible.
    It is the dark descendant of the Romantic movement.
    It appeals to the darker forces in human nature.

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