The Sheer Hypocrisy of it All– What’s Special about being a Wahhabi Arab?

January 8, 2015

Malaysia: The Sheer Hypocrisy of it All– What’s Special about being a Wahhabi Arab?

by Lyana Khairuddin

Lyana is a scientist who works with HIV and HPV, an educator with a local public university, and a lover of life. She switches from lab coats to running skirts effortlessly, and does most of her thinking while pounding pavements.


The Political Arabs led by DPM Zahid Hamidi (Center)

While I had hoped for my first article of the New Year to be filled with positivity and written with a light heart, I made the mistake of turning on the television on New Year’s Eve.

The scene televised from Dataran Merdeka made my heart skip a beat.There, instead of our usual cultural dance shows and performances by local artistes while we await the countdown to the New Year, were many people dressed in Arab gear chanting and swaying their bodies to recitations exulting the Prophet Muhammad and Allah.

I only realised that the televised scene was in Kuala Lumpur when I saw the iconic Sultan Abdul Samad building in the background.

I waited for a few minutes in disbelief, urging the television set to change the scene to one I was more familiar with. I was waiting for the usual jingle of “Malaysia, truly Asia”, for that crowd of dancers in exuberant costumes representing the stereotypical image of a culturally diverse Malaysia that I know to be over-exaggerated, but I have to admit, I now miss.That image never came.

I was secretly glad that I spent New Year’s Eve at a running event in Malacca. As I finished the run before midnight and away from the revelry of the celebrants, I could see families of Malaysians coming together at the field either for the run or to usher in the New Year amid fireworks.

My friends and I even shared a table with strangers at a famous chicken rice ball restaurant – a crowd that consisted of foreigners, locals and out-of-town Malaysians alike – enjoying what we Malaysians are most famous for: the food.

That is the Malaysia I know, people from different ethnic groups just sitting together at a street-side stall or dingy restaurant, placing our orders in simple Bahasa or Hokkien or Tamil, even. Nearly everyone would be eating similar fare. Perhaps this is a grittier, more realist image of the country I love than the usual annual fanfare we put on stage.

What I experienced on New Year’s Eve was not what was shown on television that night.I am sure that every Malaysian has the same wishes as those at Dataran Merdeka – a fresh new start to the year, leaving behind all the heartaches of the past year, hopes for a better Malaysia that we will continue to build together.

What really bothered me about the televised image was the assumption that Malaysia only belongs to those of a particular religion, and it goes without saying, of a particular race.

Yes, it was the image of a peace-loving Islam, led by none other than Indonesia-born preacher Habib Syech Abdul Qadir as-Seggaf, who professes to be a direct descendant of Prophet Muhammad himself.

Under our secular Federal Constitution, every Malaysian is allowed the freedom of religion and freedom of expression – thus, the crowd in Dataran Merdeka has every right to chant their love for the Prophet and raise their voices to the high heavens in hope of a better, less arduous year.

Believe me, I hope and pray for better, too.Yet, I saw an Arab country in that televised scene, not Malaysia. I did not see any of the VVIPs in baju Melayu, sampin and songkok –  most if not all of them were in flowy, white jubahs complete with kopiah, sitting on cushions that reminded me of nomads living in the desert rather than the usual sofas reserved for VVIPs at government-organised events.

I did not see women during the brief televised set, though from news reports I was informed that the crowd consisted of families. It would have been wonderful if the women were in kebayas and batik sarongs, with their hair in elegant sangguls, but I do not think this was the case.

I understand that the clothes worn there are meant for prayers, as the VVIPs led the crowd for Isya’ prayers beforehand – however, have we not seen our leaders led prayers in baju Melayu every Raya? Are we now so immersed in Arabic culture that we have completely forgotten our own?

Ridhuan Tee

A constitutionally Defined Malay Muslim who abandoned  his Chinese roots

We surely forgot that Malaysia consists of non-Muslims, too. Would it not have been more meaningful to hold an interfaith session, where every Malaysian can come together, pray for a better nation and a better year and at the same time learn the nuances of the different faiths, interact with each other side by side and essentially be Malaysians?

Surely that would have been the best way to organise such an event if it is the spiritual aspect we are aiming for.It is sad to think that I am reduced to feeling “Malaysian” only when I go for overseas conferences, at running events and at roadside stalls.

In this new year, I urge that we all reassess our own Malaysian identities before adopting another.

20 thoughts on “The Sheer Hypocrisy of it All– What’s Special about being a Wahhabi Arab?

  1. Malay Muslims lack self-confidence and pride. So they have to be “Arabs”, not just that. Of the worst kind, that is the Wahhabi variant, championed by oil rich Saudi Arabia, one of its generous citizens performed the noblest act of charity by donating rm2.6 billion to Najib’s personal bank account.

    Each year, our UMNO Leaders and their followers do the Haj or Umrah to purify their souls and ask God for forgiveness. Upon returning, they resume their corruption with even greater intensity. After that they return to Mecca again to seek divine blessing. If this is not hypocrisy, then what is it. Conrad, Orang Malaya, CLF, Tok Cik, what do you guys think? –Din Merican

  2. Akhilesh Pillalamarri (who writes for the Diplomat, if I’m not mistaken) does a cliffsnotes of the Wahhabi threat in SE Asia here :

    Most of the Malays I’ve spoken to relate , well those Muslims who can’t afford the fancy Haj packages that upper echelon UMNO folk can, tell me that their experiences with Arabs during what is supposed to be a genuine religious experience is shocking.

    *Gasp* they were treated as third class citizens.

    Wahhabi Islam is about destroying culture.

    Hypocrisy (most times) is a side effect of religious belief.

  3. Honestly, lines that Malaysia is a multi-cultural or there are non-Muslim and Sarawak and Sabah are mostly non-Muslim etc, just feel apologetic these days. Fact of the matter is Malay Muslim has to decide – do they embrace plurality, diversity and do they want to embrace the spiritualness of their religion rather than literal and too often politicized meaning of their religious text?

    We live in a multi-polar globalized world. Islamic hegemony is NEVER going to happen Nor can they treat other religion or even atheist as NON-EQUAL BEFORE THE LAW..Like it or not that means a lot of fundamental change in the way the religion has been practised for centuries. It means the idea of limited role in govt, it means secularity as the fundamental basis, it does not mean no-godliness or lack of freedom of religion. Islam as a way of life is to be achieved by merit NOT by the power of the state if its to truly survive with the rest of the world ultimately..

  4. “In this new year, I urge that we all reassess our own Malaysian identities before adopting another.”

    I know by “we” you mean UMNO but perhaps its time to stop pussy footing around.

    Nobody here in this country has an identity crisis except for the Malay polity because of the manipulation of UMNO.

    It’s no point talking about what it means to be “Malaysian” through the context of food and other bromides, much as it is hypocritical to talk about “Malaysian First” as if race and religion are not cultural anchors which has a profound impact on Malaysians.

    As long as the Constitution defines/divides us by race and religion it is pointless sticking our heads in the sand and having faith that the majority of Malaysians understands the nature of inclusivity or fraternity.

    Most Neo UMNOb and PAS would rather project the image of being Arabs than acknowledge the messy “Other” cultural influences of their Islam. And of course if gives these righteous Muslims another Muslim group to hate – the Shiites.

    Hopefully with the coming conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran all that petrodollars would have to be funnelled into the war effort and not used to spread a hateful deceitful religion on dumb craven South East Asian Muslim potentates, who use it as a conveniently tool to further enforce their hegemony.

    But it pointless whining about how you think the country is going to the dogs when your own preferred faith is cause of much of the rot. Claiming this is not the “real Islam” is as puerile and hypocritical as those morons in their Arab dresses, riling up the Muslims masses for their own benefit.

  5. Assalammualaikum, apologies if I am too harsh in my comments. There is a particular leader who is so proud that he performs the Umrah very frequently. This is in spite of him being involved in numerous misdemeanours.
    He had lowered the sanctity of the Umrah to the level of washing clothes daily or going to the laundrette. Well the Malays are very proud of this kind of hypocrisy

  6. there are many reasons for the rise in conservative Islam
    Here is one major reason

    v interesting docu by Adam Curtis
    This the abridged version.

  7. Lately I notice that there is a constant barrage of negative statements about Malays and Islam from both Non Malays/Non Muslims and Malays/ Muslims.While the world is apparently moving towards freedom of speech and expression,the same are not allowed for Malay/Muslims.Thus when I was much younger I didnt meet alot of Chinese adopting western names or Chinese women even those in the middle ages in very short pants and sphagetti straps walking about in the streets wnd shops.While it is okay for Non Malays and Non Muslims to adopt western styles of living and abandon their cultures,it is not okay for Malays/Mulims to adopt Arab cultures.Though my family and I dont adopt the Arab cultures,I still think we should be open minded enough to accept the choice of those who want to do so except they shouldnt impose it on others.

    Alot of Malaysians who are not too happy about UMNO leaders and their politics are extrapolating that feelings towards Malays and Islam in general forgetting that before 2008 elections people of all races were supporting BN.The election just after Anwar was sacked saw a Malay swing against Barisan while the Chinese and Indians were solidly behind BN thus denying alot of seats to the oppositio.Its natural for people to get angry with those ruling them because as I have said before most politicians lack conscience,empathy and are hypocrites.Thus 75% of Americans believe that their polticians are corrupt and 75% of Chinese mainlanders especially the rich want to migrate from China.Even the majority of Singaporeans who are richer than us see greener pasture somewhere outside their country.True and good change can only happen if we can introduce a better system to select our leaders beyond mere rhetorics that are widely practice now.

  8. Malays are quick to imitate and judge others especially in the issue of faith. Malays see the Arabs in their robes, turbans, purdah and hijab and Malays associate that with Islam. Malays are also quick to pass judgement on the different Mazhabs and the Shias. Who can really determine with total confidence that Islam as practised in Malaysia is the one that is accepted by Allah except the AlMighty himself. What is the probability that the Islam as practised in Malaysia is not the true path as determined by Allah.

    Going for Haj and Umrah has become an industry in Malaysia with all kinds of programs and offerings presented by various parties. Ther e’s even a VVIP Haj program that can be completed in 8 days total as compared to the usual 2 weeks duration.

    Going to Umrah is fashionable to Malay Muslims but we should not judge their intent. Allah has said “Ask and I will grant” so perhaps some of these people that go to Umrah have a different wish list, different from those that go to cleanse their soul.

  9. Are we now so immersed in Arabic culture that we have completely forgotten our own? asks Lyana Khairuddin, the writer and a vintage Malay Malaysian. She has spelt out the danger trends. When the tudung wearing culture was imported into Singapore in the 70’s and some Muslim groups were agitating for the Government to allow female Muslim students to wear tudung in schools and later on for the Muslim female staff in Government offices to wear them as well, the then PM Lee Kuan Yew was firm that he would not allow this and warned them not to be seduced by this Wahabism culture from Saudi Arabia. He was prescient of troubles to come from wannabes of Wahibism.

    They have not taken over any country in our regional corner yet. But DPM Zahid Hamidi may do the honour. He is on a self-operating and slow moving roller-coaster on the uptake, to hit the zenith, become the PM and rule and control Malaysia with his Wahabi-minded lieutanents. Look out Americans, Chinese, Russians, Singaporeans and East Malaysians for the possible coming of darkening clouds!! Najib is nothing compared to Zahid who is made of sterner stuff, the stuff we all collectively dislike.

  10. There are two ‘things’ that make us who we are – Human. It determines whether we reflect the Imago Dei or pure unadulterated Animalism.

    Both ‘evolve’ – not necessarily for the better, but that is Nature or God’s Law. Religion by its very necessity is Spiritual, not Soulish. The problem is that most folks don’t know the difference. Morality and Ethics are Transcendent aspects of Man’s Being.

    1. There’s nothing much humans can do about their genetics/genomics except to prevent inbreeding and avoid genetic bottlenecks.

    2. We can however do something about the traditions and customs, which should evolve ‘organically’ and adapt holistically to the circumstances and environmental dictates. Plagiarizing customs – including religious fundamentalism and retrograde spirituality – and disguising it as “Laws” and other Legalisms are symptoms of self imposed ignorance and intellectual sloth. It is easier to Follow, than to Seek, Ask and Knock.

    One cannot cleanse the Heart by trying to wipe clean the Mind. Unless there is no Mind to speak of, in the first place. I disagree with OM’s assertion that we are not to Judge the Intent of Religiosity. Anything that does nothing to cleanse the ‘Heart’ of the individual is inimical to God’s (whatever you want to make Him out to be) Name.

    The Haj and Umrah are but manifestations of the Pre-Babylonian Judaic concept of the ‘Shekinah’ – the earthly sign of God’s Immanence. It is an Act, whatever its motive – it is not a Virtue.

    Wahhabism is a cult – steeped in desert conservatism and culture of the Camel Dung Entitlement. Any questions?

  11. Abdul Jalil wrote “..Chinese adopting western names or Chinese women even those in the middle ages in very short pants and sphagetti straps walking about in the streets wnd shops.While it is okay for Non Malays and Non Muslims to adopt western styles of living and abandon their cultures,it is not okay for Malays/Mulims to adopt Arab cultures.”

    Yes, about 15 years ago I argued with a DAP guy who was warning about Malaysians becoming Ibrahims or Yusufs or something like that. I said what’s wrong with that when many seem to enjoy having Christian names. After all, Ibrahim is merely the Muslim form of Abraham, and Yusuf is Joseph, Yakob is Jacob and so on. Some, like myself, have Christian names because we were baptized, but many non-Christian Malaysians seemed to adopt Christian names merely because it was fashionable or for some other reasons. The same thing with mainland Chinese who said they went to the US or the West because of democracy. I told them that their neighbor India was the world’s largest democracy – why not go there? Clearly there were other reasons for the choice of names or adopted countries, and very often some form of prejudice was involved.

    Regarding Arabic culture, because of its connections with Islam, many non-Malays feel it could be forced upon them (as some government leaders have already called Malaysia an Islamic state). Whatever the case, when we talk about adopting culture or cultural habits, we should, as you say, be “open minded enough to accept the choice of those who want to do so except they shouldnt impose it on others.”

  12. I agree with the principle that an individual should be free to believe and dress whatever he/she wants so long as it does not physically harm others. So indeed there is nothing wrong with a person who prefers to dress/behave like a Saudi cleric, just as there is nothing wrong with a person who prefers to dress/behave like a Californian surfer. The problem is when certain people demand, enacts laws/statutes and enforce certain ways of behaviour, dressing and beliefs on other people, whether or not they are of the same ethnicity. Human beings are mortal humans, and none are perfect. So no one has the right to impose certain beliefs and behaviour as the only “correct” ones in my mind.

  13. As a Muslim, I don’t see any problem with the so-called wahabbism which is actually Salafists’ teaching in compliance with those of the Prophet Mohammed and his Companions. It is NOT in conflict in TAUHEED with the teachings of other Mazhabs like Hanafi, Maliki, Shafiee & Hambali. Of course, there is no need for Muslims to wear Jubah as long as they cover their aurat – no fuss, and there is no need for a goatee either – one can be clean-shaven and wearing jeans yet a Muslim no less….. Why the fuss???

  14. My question is….what is, as Lyana seemed to imply, so “inferior” about the baju Melayu relative to the white jubah, or any Arabian dress, that our Malay political leaders find it politically correct to abandon the former in favor of the latter when a gathering has Islamic theme or content, as in the occasion in question?

    Why is it necessary for the practice of Islam to adopt the dressing of the Arabs at all. Isn’t Islam meant to be a universal religion cutting across all races and cultures?

    Following from Abdul Jalil’s point about individual freedom of choice of dressing, (religious or otherwise), it is therefore completely acceptable for a Muslim to perform his daily prayers in a Mosque wearing, say, a Western-style suit or even a Tuxedo or a Maoist jacket or an Indian dhoti since the type of dressing worn has nothing whatsoever to do with Islam or it’s practice?

  15. /// Abdul Jalil January 8, 2016 at 9:10 am
    Lately I notice that there is a constant barrage of negative statements about Malays and Islam from both Non Malays/Non Muslims and Malays/ Muslims. ///

    AJ, I think it is you who are artificially dividing Malaysians. Why segregate the races when you could have just said: “from Malaysians” instead of the long-winded “from both Non Malays/Non Muslims and Malays/ Muslims”. The fact is, there is genuine recognition of and dissatisfaction or unease about aspects of Malays and Islam from ALL Malaysians. But by phrasing it the way you did, you somehow reveal that you think the Nons should just shut up about Malays and Islam no matter what they did or if they are about to bring Malaysia to a failed state.

  16. Ya…lo…..what’s all the fuss about (aliefalfa) , what are we on about, all the fuss , of ‘ much ado about nothing ‘ ……?
    We are living in a scientific world, in a scientific age , are we not ? Why not be practical , like what Westerners do –

    Properly measured long-sleeved , with buttons securely holding on to our body, fitting and confident. in all our official things – trousers too properly measured with buttons & zip , so that it is secure ……

    How do we, whether policemen or civilians, give chase to apprehend the robber and the thief, if we are clad in our Baju Melayu and the sarong, or in Cheongsam , or the vesti….? Are they practical ?
    The injunctions on the dress- code in the holy book, is simple : Cover thy bosom and be decently dressed….

    ( As for celebrations, prayers & matters of worship, that’s private , be as colourful as we like ) – Visits to Holy lands, and the Iceland , that too as common sense prevails…..

    Much ado about nothing….yes….no ?

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