‘Ketuanan Melayu’ makes us look like fools internationally

‘Ketuanan Melayu’ makes us look like fools internationally
By Zan Azlee

There have been several incidents that have happened that left me thinking if we Malay Malaysians have a feeling of superiority and privilege over others. Basically, what I’m referring to is the “Ketuanan Melayu” syndrome.

The most recent incident involved three young Malaysian men who had travelled to Japan for a holiday. They were staying at a hostel and were rebuked by a staff for disobeying certain rules in the hostel.

The person who rebuked them was a fellow Malaysian and what ensued was an angry and violent reaction by the three men against the hostel staff. They screamed and physically assaulted him, and one was even heard saying, “Melayu dengan Melayu pun macam ni!”

Here is the problem. So they are Malay and they expect preferential treatment because of that? Shouldn’t they actually be respecting the rules, and more specifically, respecting a fellow Malaysian who was trying to reason with them?

Another incident happened at the SEA Games which is currently taking place in Kuala Lumpur. Singapore swimmer and Olympic medallist Joseph Schooling made a remark saying that he was ready to “teach Malaysians a thing or two”.

Athletes are competitive in nature and it is quite a natural thing for them to ‘trash talk’ in order to intimidate opponents and also to psych themselves up before or during competition. There is really nothing personal to it. There is even a term called ‘game face’.

But of course, Malaysians were triggered by the statement and they got all upset and offended. Eventually, Schooling had to apologise and said that he was taken out of context. At least Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin came out to tell Malaysians to calm down.

And there is yet another incident, which is a more personal one. A friend of mine who is an alumnus of Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK) posted a picture of a group of what seemed like a group of migrant workers.

One of the individuals in the picture was wearing an MCKK T-shirt and in my friend’s caption, he wrote, “This could be a declaration of war!” It was obvious that he felt offended that a foreign worker was wearing a T-shirt that carried the logo of his beloved prestigious school.

My friend was definitely joking when he posted the photo and caption but what is shows is that this idea of ‘Ketuanan Melayu’ is so ingrained in Malaysian society. It is as if the Malays are the superior race and no one should even dare question it.

It is so ingrained in our mind that even when we travel outside of the country to places where there aren’t any Malays and the concept of ‘Ketuanan Melayu’ does not resonate, we still think we are superior. The three Malay men in Japan are perfect examples of that.

Remove the crutches

This ‘Ketuanan Melayu’ can actually be seen as a feeling of insecurity that the Malays have. They constantly need to reaffirm to themselves that they are capable. And then when someone comes along to challenge that (for example, Schooling), they feel threatened.

What makes it even more stinging to Malaysians is the fact that Schooling, although a Singaporean, has a mother who is Malaysian. And we all know how Malaysia likes to lay stake on anyone who is successful and has Malaysian ties.

Malaysia sings praises for people like Australian singer and the winner of Australian Idol Guy Sebastian, who was born in Malaysia. But that’s as far as his Malaysian ties lie because he was raised and grew up entirely in Australia.

Another example is award-winning comic artist Sonny Liew, who is Singaporean but was born in Malaysia. We like to boast about his Malaysian ties as well. There are many more individuals who have been successful and only have very minimal ties to Malaysia but we want to claim them as our own.

This is the problem with the Malays in Malaysia. They have been propped up by crutches for so long that they think they are actually standing on their own two feet. They think they are doing great but in actual fact, without help, they can’t do anything.

So I think that it is very important that we do something to break this mentality that has been ingrained in our minds for so long. We need to realise that we have been so dependent that we are actually handicapped now.

I would say that we need to revisit the privileges that are in place that serve as crutches. Maybe it’s time that we Malays take these crutches away and slowly enter a rehabilitation stage so that we can actually learn to walk on our own two feet again.

[This article was originally written for and published at Malaysiakini.com]

Get Zan Azlee’s latest book ‘JOURNO-DAD: The chronicles of a journalist who just happens to be a dad!‘ today!


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