August 19, 2016
Malaysia: No end to discrimination of the Other
by Farouk A. Peru
One of the most despairing things I dread reading every year is news on how members of the rakyat are denied their rightful places at local universities.
They do everything right, tick all the boxes but when it comes to reaping the fruits of their labour, they are short changed. Instead, their rightful places are given to Bumiputera students. Those whose grades are good but not comparable to those who score stellar grades but are not of Bumiputera status. My question to my fellow Bumis is this: Can we live with ourselves while supporting this policy?
I was moved last Saturday when I read the plight of a young Indian woman. She scored straight As in her UPSR and PMR. In her SPM, she did equally well and she was also a high achiever in her extracurricular activities. Yet she was denied a place to do dentistry and was offered a place to do bio-medical engineering.
Some may say she has a lot to be grateful for and I would agree but that is hardly the point. The point is rather to ask the question: “Is she getting what she deserves?” Would she get the same offer if she was a Bumiputera?
If we are indeed practising pure meritocracy, then the only way this young woman would be denied her place is if there were other candidates with equally perfect scores and who did equally well in extracurricular activities. This is highly doubtful. What is probably the case here is that she is the victim of the racially segregating quota system. Her non-Bumi status had put her at a disadvantage.
As a Malay-Muslim, I am appalled by such policies. It is not because I do not want people of my own socio-culture to progress. Of course I do and we have over the decades. There is now a clear strata in Malay-Muslim society who are highly educated professionals and clearly above and beyond the abysmal politics of UMNO and PAS.
However, the majority of us are still clinging to the crutches to which we have acclimatised ourselves over this time. Remember the protest by UITM students when it was suggested non-Bumis be allowed entry? It is that kind of mentality that impedes Malay-Muslims from achieving further progress.
Then there is the matter of religion. As Malay-Muslims, our Islamic identity is becoming increasingly important to us.
In Malaysia, we are proud of our high place in the Islamic index. We have grand mosques and our lifestyles are becoming more and more Arabicised (or Islamised, as the priesthood would have us believe). But are segregating Bumiputera policies actually Islamic?
Let us consider the following: The Quran is replete with commands to believers to perform acts of goodness. In no less than four places (Chapter 2 Verse 83, 4/36, 6/151 and 17/23), this command is connected with the actual worship of Allah which is the main point of the Quran.
Yet, in not a single of these commands is there a pre-condition that good deeds be towards believers or even Muslims. Rather, good deeds are generally to parents (not one’s own necessarily but parents in general), near neighbours, orphans, the socially stagnant and travellers.
Not only that, there is an entire chapter of the Quran (Chapter 83, Al-Muthaffifeen) which is dedicated to the event in which all our deeds is accounted for. The eponymous “muthaffifeen” is a unique word used only once in the first verse of this chapter.
It refers to people who extract a particular measure of benefit but refuse to give the full measure of effort required. Needless to say, the Quran is against such an act. It tells us that we will made to pay for this sin on Judgement Day.
So while we expect non-Muslim Malaysians to contribute to the development of the nation, we refuse to give them equal rights. We will have to answer for this disparity on the day of reckoning, according to the Quran.
It is very clear from these and numerous other principles from the Quran that there is simply no justification for racialised policies. Yet, we have not even heard a peep from the Islamic priesthood about them.
While they are busy pronouncing Pokemon Go as forbidden and making sure wives submit to their husbands even while riding on camels, they are deafeningly silent on this very fundamental teaching of the Quran. I urge Malay Muslims to ask these priests at every opportunity.
Malay Muslims need to realise that these preferential policies not only hurt our relationship with the rakyat, they also compromise our religion as well as our capacity for competition. The sooner we let go of these policies, the sooner we can take our place as members of the rakyat alongside the others.