Thursday, October 18, 2007

On the definition of Malay, politically

M. Veera Pandiyan wrote in the Star last week about the rift between Indonesia and Malaysia on Rasa Sayang. I do think both sides are a bit overreacting and agree with most of what he said.

That aside, though, his explanation of Malay, under Malaysia's constitution, is the one that caught my attention.

clipped from

But most Indonesians don’t realise that Malays, who make up the majority of Malaysians in the peninsula, are not “Malay” as in the context of people from the Riau province on the eastern side of Sumatra, which include Batam, Bintan and some 3,200 other islands.

Not many also know that under our Constitution, a Malay is a political rather than ethnic definition – a person who practises the customs and culture of the Malays, speaks the language and is a Muslim.

blog it

I've been puzzled with the way people here stereotype Malay-like people, really, and these two short paragraphs answer it all. That if someone who looks like a local and is neither a Chinese nor an Indian, he or she must be thought as a Muslim. That's merely my observation.

What would a non-Muslim Malaysian who was born from, say, Javanese parents, be called?

PS. Jennie - in this case, American accent helps too!