Second oldest genes and the oldest Malay political game - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Monday, August 06, 2018
Malaysiakini : “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.” – George Carlin
COMMENT | Some of you may have read (and had a hysterical fit of
laughter) about the theory put forward by historian Zaharah Sulaiman (top photo)
at a recent forum organised by the Muslim Youth Movement (Abim), where
she claimed that the Malay gene was the second oldest in the world. This
flight of fancy was grounded by a rebuttal by Monash University professor Maude E Phipps.
But what is really amazing is what Zaharah is intending to do. As reported in the Malay Mail:
“The historian also said she plans on approaching the government hoping
to revise Malaysian history so it will be more accurate in light of the
recent findings.” If anything, what this demonstrates is that the idea of ketuananism
cannot withstand scientific and intellectual scrutiny. Although with
this government, you can never say never. Maybe what they need is time
to “study” the issue before making any comments.
‘Studying the issue’
What does "study the issue" really mean anyway, especially when it
comes to the promises made before the election? Take this latest bit
about the Gender Equality Bill. Deputy Women’s Minister Hannah Yeoh says “religious authorities must now be consulted to ensure the bill being drafted takes into account cultural norms.” Really? Whose cultural norms are we talking about here? And which
religious authorities would be consulted? That's the key right? The
other faiths in this country do not have religious authorities. The only
faith with authority – pardon the pun – is Islam. You cannot get a
Gender Equality Bill off the ground, but you can seriously propose a Racial and Religious Hatred Act?
One of the reasons why I have great scepticism for this nonsensical
Racial and Religious Hatred Act, is that as usual, Harapan politicians
say things but do not back up their words with action. For instance,
when Pasir Salak MP Tajuddin Abdul Rahman said that Pakatan Harapan is a
Christian-led coalition and uses their platform to evangelise on the Sungai Kandis campaign trail, would this run afoul of the act?
Lim Kit Siang may term this as Umno’s “scorched-earth policy”
but nowhere is his rebuttal did he reference the proposed act, and what
it would mean for the racial and religious discourse in this country.
The fact that PKR retained
the state seat – low voter turnout notwithstanding – is evidence, I
think, that most Malays couldn’t care less about the racial and
religious slander coming out of Umno.
The only people with real influence in the religious discourse is
PAS, and as usual, they choose their words carefully and infiltrate
existing power structures and political movements to subvert them from
within… Hold on, did what I just write run afoul of the act?
Losing control of the narrative
The reality is that Harapan is bending over backwards to demonstrate that they do not want to spook the Malays. When someone like PAS deputy president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man says that under this new regime, Islam and Malays rights are more freely criticised,
what he is really saying is that Malay power structures are unnerved
that the sacred cows that for years were used to stampede on the rights
of non-Malays are slowly running out of steam.
The Malay world did not end on May 9. Former Umno Youth chief Khairy
Jamaluddin thinks that the existential crisis in his party is the
rhetoric of race and religion, but he is wrong. If it were, then it
would be a crisis for Bersatu too, but it isn’t. The existential crisis
for Umno is that it no longer controls the narrative when it comes to
Malay rights, and that it has lost the Islamic narrative to PAS.
Because Harapan is so afraid of controlling the narrative when it
comes to Islam, all the power lies with PAS at this moment. This is why
Malay/Muslims who call for an end to child marriages or seek to halt the
regressive elements of the religion are demonised as ‘liberals’, and
even the Harapan political and religious elite are cautious about
issuing statements in case they go against whatever groupthink they
think will win them elections.
The folly of caution
Being cautious when it comes to this is stupid. I get that the
Harapan Malay power structures do not think they have the Malay vote
locked down. But that’s okay. What you need to do is expand the base,
especially the younger Malay voting demographic, instead of reaching out
to the same (old) base which is slowly, for various reasons, becoming
Look, when someone like Tuan Ibrahim gets his knickers in a twist
about religious schools in that he does not want them touched, why do
you think this is? Because Islamist power structures, like the one he
belongs to, understand that the indoctrination process spread out
throughout the country gets them a young voter base aligned with their
Because no matter what people say, young people want progress. This
is not to say that they are not religious, but they do not want their
religion to constrain them. Instead of encouraging a vanguard of
progressive Malay voices, what Harapan and its enablers are doing is
attempting to replicate the BN formula, which ultimately led to the
Najib Abdul Razak regime.
What is the foundation
of ketuananism? “Those Malays who want an egalitarian system will no
doubt be mocked or vilified for expressing such sentiments and accused
of rocking the Harapan boat. Encouraging the perception that the Malay
vote is monolithic and unchanging is the foundation of ketuanan
This idea has become so ingrained, perhaps not in the general Malay
population, but rather the political and intellectual class of Malay
society, that we get – for lack of a better word – moronic statements,
like the historian and her world’s second oldest gene, or the numerous
statements about Malay rights and the supremacy of Islam over every
I get so many emails from people asking me to give time to the
government to formulate their policies. This is not about policies. Let
me be very clear. I have very little interest in the corruption scandals
that plague this country. With a change in government, I have full
confidence that there are people working to solve this issue, knowing
that corruption is a matter of degree.
No, the existential threat facing this country is religious extremism
coupled with racial supremacy. The government needs to put forward a
counter-narrative to the ideas put out by PAS and Umno. They should not
cave in to the regressive forms of theocratic tendencies, because that
is exactly what the opposition wants.
Here's the thing. Bad ideas and rhetoric have to be challenged at
every opportunity. Extremists sense and understand how they can
manipulate weak governments into creating bigoted policies. They
understand that the Harapan faithful do not want to rock the boat, and
will use every opportunity to hamper reform efforts in the guise of bangsadanagama.
If you raise these kinds of issues with the regime, all you will
probably get is something like what Yeoh says, that the religious
authorities would need to be consulted to take into account cultural