"It has been interesting to read such free-flowing comments on an all “Malaysian” free for all. I hate race classifications and here’s why….
How many of you have read the book entitled “Contesting Malayness - Malay Identity Across Boundaries” (edited by Timothy P. Barnard & published by Singapore University Press)? It reflects the Anthropologists views that there is no such race as the “Malays” to begin with.
If we follow the original migration of the Southern Chinese of 6,000 years ago, they moved into Taiwan, (now the Alisan), then into the Phillipines (now the Aeta) and moved into Borneo (4,500 years ago) (Dayak). They also split into Sulawesi and progressed into Jawa, and Sumatera. The final migration was to the Malayan Peninsular 3,000 years ago. A sub-group from Borneo also moved to Champa in Vietnam at 4,500 years ago.
Interestingly, the Champa deviant group moved back to present day Kelantan. There are also traces of the Dong Song and HoaBinh migration from Vietnam and Cambodia. To confuse the issue, there was also the Southern Thai migration, from what we know as Pattani today.
Of course, we also have the Minangkabau’s which come from the descendants of Alexander the Great and a West Indian Princess. (Sejarah Melayu page 1-3)
So the million dollar question… Is there really a race called the “Malays”? All anthropologists DO NOT SEEM TO THINK SO.
Neither do the “Malays” who live on the West Coast of Johor. They’d rather be called Javanese. What about the west coast Kedah inhabitants who prefer to be known as “Achenese” or the Ibans who simply want to be known as Ibans? Try calling a Kelabit “Malay” and see what response you get – you will be so glad that their Head-Hunting days are over.
Who are the Malays? In an article in the Star paper, this is what they said (an excerpt is reproduced here below):
“The Malays – taken as an aggregation of people of different ethnic backgrounds but who speak the same language or family of languages and share common cultural and traditional ties – are essentially a new race, compared to the Chinese, Indians and the Arabs with their long histories of quests and conquests.
The Malay nation, therefore, covers people of various ethnic stock, including Javanese, Bugis, Bawean, Achehnese, Thai, orang asli, the indigenous people of Sabah and Sarawak and descendants of Indian Muslims who had married local women.
Beneath these variations, however, there is a common steely core that is bent on changing the Malay persona from its perceived lethargic character to one that is brave, bold and ready to take on the world.”
The definition of “Malay” is therefore simply a collection of people who speak a similar type language. With what is meant by a similar type language does not mean that the words are similar. Linguists call this the “Lego-type” language, where words are added on to the root word to make meaning and give tenses and such. Somehow, the Indonesians disagree with this classification and insist on being called “Indonesians” even though the majority of “Malays” have their roots in parts of Indonesia?
They refuse to be called “Malay” no matter how you may define it.
The “Malay” definition also includes the Champa, Dong Song, HoabinHian, Taiwanese Alisan and Philippine Aetas. The “Orang Asli” are (for lack of a better term) are ex-Africans. If you try to call any one of our East Malaysian brothers an “Orang Asli”, they will beat you up! I had to repeat this because almost all West Malaysians make the same mistake when we cross the South China Sea. Worse, somehow, they feel even more insulted when you call them “Malay”. Somehow, “kurang ajar” is uttered below their breath as if “Malay” was a really bad word for them. I’m still trying to figure this one out.
Watch “Malays in Africa”; a Museum Negara produced DVD and also, the “Champa Malays” by the same. With this classification, they must also include the Filipinos, the Papua New Guineans, Australian Aborigines, as well as the Polynesian Aborigines. These are of the Australo Melanesians who migrated out of Africa 60,000 years ago.
Getting interesting? Read on…
The “Malay” should also include the Taiwanese singer “Ah Mei” who is Alisan as her tribe is the ancestors of the “Malays” and you will need to define the Southern Chinese (Southern Province) as Malay also since they are from the same stock 6,000 years ago.
Try calling the Bugis “Malay”. Interestingly, the Bugis who predominantly live on Sulawesi, are not even Indonesians. Neither do they fall into the same group as the migrating Southern Chinese of 6,000 years ago nor the Australo Melanesian group from Africa. Ready for this?
The Bugis are the cross-breed between the Mongolian Chinese and the wandering Arab Pirates (a runaway Ming Dynasty official whom Cheng Ho was sent to hunt down). Interestingly, the Bugis were career Pirates in the Johor-Riau Island areas and the nephew of Daeng Kemboja was appointed the First Sultan of Selangor. That makes the entire Selangor Sultanate part Arab, part Chinese! Try talking to the Bugis Museum curator near Kukup in Johor - Kukup is located near the most south-western tip of Johor.
Let’s not even get into the Hang Tuah, Hang Jebat, Hang Kasturi, Hang Lekiu, and Hang Lekir, who shared the same family last name as the other super famous “Hang” family member - Hang Li Poh and who was she? Legend tells us that she is the princess of a Ming Dynasty Emperor who was sent to marry the Sultan of Malacca. Won’t that make the entire Malacca Sultanate down line “Baba”? Since the older son of the collapsed Malaccan Sultanate got killed in Johor, (the current Sultanate is the down line of the then Bendahara) the only other son became the Sultan of Perak.
But wait a minute, that is what the legend says.
Let’s look at the proof - the solid evidence. There is a well next to the Zheng He Temple in Malacca which is supposed to be the well built by the Sultan of Malacca for her. According to legend, anyone who drinks of it shall re-visit Malacca before they die. Hmmm smells like a romantic fairy tale but let us look at who Hang Li Poh actually is. Which Ming Emperor was she a daughter to? So I got into researching the entire list of Ming Emperors. Guess what? Not a single Ming Emperor’s last name begins with Hang. In fact, all their last names begin with Tzu (pronounced Choo). So who is Hang Li Poh? An Extra Concubine? A Spare Handmaiden? Who knows? But one thing for certain, is that she was no daughter of any of the Ming Emperors. Gone is the romantic notion of the Sultan of Malacca marrying an exotic Chinese Princess. Sorry guys, the Sultan married an unidentified Chinese commoner.
If the Baba’s are part Malay, why have they been marginalized by not being bumiputera? Which part of “Malay” are they not? Whatever the answer, why then are the Portuguese of Malacca bumiputera? Did they not come 100 years AFTER the arrival of the first Baba’s? Parameswara founded Malacca in 1411, the Portuguese came in 1511, and the Dutch in the 1600’s. Strangely, the Baba’s were in fact once classified a Bumiputera, but some Prime Minister decreed that they were to be strangely “declassified” in the 1960’s. Why? How can a “native son of the soil” degenerate into an “un-son”? The new classification is “pendatang” meaning a migrant.
Wait a minute, isn’t everyone on the Peninsular a migrant to begin with?
The Sultan of Kelantan had similar roots to the Pattani Kingdom making him of Thai origin. And what is this “coffee table book” by the Sultan of Perlis claiming to be the direct descendant of the prophet Muhammed? Somehow we see Prof Khoo Khay Khim’s signature name on the book. I’ll pay good money to own a copy of it myself. Anyone has a spare?
In pursuing this thread, and having looked at the history of Prophet Muhammed (BTW, real name Ahmad) we could not figure out which descendant line the Sultan of Perlis was. Perhaps it was by the name Syed, which transcended. Then we would ask which of the 13 official wives named in the Holy Koran? or was he a descendant from the other 23 names of the non-wives? Of the 13 were (at least known), there are 3 Israeli women. Then you would also ask yourself, isn’t Prophet Muhammad an Israeli himself? The answer is clear. All descendants of Moses are Israeli. In fact, the Holy Koran teaches that Moses was the First Muslim. Thus confirming that all descendants to be Israeli, including Jesus and Prophet Muhammad. It is also found in Sura 2:58 & 59 which specifically mentions that the Torah and the Kitab (Bible) are Holy Words of Allah. But since this is not a religious discussion, let’s move on to a more anthropological approach.
So, how many of you have met with orang Asli?
The more northern you go, the more African they look. Why are they called Negrito? It is a Spanish word, from which directly translates “mini Negros”. The more southern you go, the more “Indonesian” they look. And the ones who live at Cameron Highlands kinda look 50-50. You can see the Batek at Taman Negara, who really looks like Eddie Murphy to a certain degree or the Negritos who live at the Thai border near Temenggor Lake (north Perak). The Mah Meri in Carrie Island looks almost like the Jakuns in Endau Rompin - half African, half Indonesian.
By definition, (this is super eye-opening) there was a Hindu Malay Empire in Kedah.
Yes, I said right - the Malays were Hindu and it was, by the old name Langkasuka. Today it is known as Lembah Bujang. This Hindu Malay Empire was 2,000 years old - pre-dating Borobudur and Angkor Watt who came about around 500-600 years later. Lembah Bujang was THE mighty trading empire, and its biggest influence was by the Indians who were here to help start it. By definition, this should make the Indians bumiputeras too since they were here 2,000 years ago! Why are they marginalized?
Of the 3 books listed, “Contesting Malayness” (about S$32 for soft cover) is “banned” in Malaysia; you will need to “smuggle” it into Malaysia; for very obvious reasons or read it in Singapore if you don’t feel like breaking the law.
The other, “Kingdoms of the Indonesian Archipelago and the Malay Peninsular” (about RM84) are openly sold at all leading bookshops. You should be able to find a fair bit of what I’ve been quoting in this book too, but mind you, it is very heavy reading material, and you will struggle through the initial 200+ pages. It is extremely technical in nature. Maybe that’s why it wasn’t banned (yet) because our authorities couldn’t make head or tail of it? (if I wasn’t doing research for my film, I wouldn’t have read it in its entirety)
The final one is the “Sejarah Melayu” (about RM 35) is available at the University Malaya bookshop and I have both the English and Royal Malay version published by MBRAS. Incidentally, the Professor (Author) was invited to speak on this very subject about 2 years ago, in KL, invited by the MBRAS. You can imagine the “chaos” this seminar created.
There were actually many sources for these findings. Any older Philippino Museum Journal also carries these migration stories. This migration is also on display at the Philippines National Museum in Luzon. However, they end with the Aeta, and only briefly mention that the migration continued to Indonesia and Malaysia, but fully acknowledge that all Filipinos came from Taiwan and before Taiwan, was from China.
There is another book (part of a series) called the “Archipelago Series” endorsed by Tun Mahatir and Marina Mohammad, which states the very same thing right at the introduction on page one:-
“… that the Malays migrated out of Southern China some 6,000 years ago…”.
I believe it is called the “Pre-History of Malaysia” Hard Cover, about RM99 found in (mostly) MPH. They also carry “Pre-History of Indonesia” by the same authors for the same price.
It is most interesting to note that our Museum officials invented brand new unheard-of terms such as “Proto-Malay” and “Deutero-Malay”, to replace the accepted Scientific Term, Australo-Melanesians (African descent) and Austronesians (Chinese Descent, or Mongoloid to be precise) in keeping in line with creating this new “Malay” term.. They also created the new term called the Melayu-Polynesian. (Which “Melayu” exists in the Polynesian Islands?) Maybe they were just trying to be “patriotic” and “nationalistic” - who knows? After all, we also invented the term, “Malaysian Time” when the rest of the world calls it “tardy” and “late”. It’s quite an embarrassment actually - Singaporeans crossing the border are asked to set their watches back by about 100 years, to adjust to “Malaysian Time”
In a nutshell, the British Colonial Masters, who, for lack of a better description, needed a “blanket” category for ease of classification, used the term “Malay”. The only other logical explanation, which I have heard, was that “Malaya” came as a derivative of “Himalaya”, where at Langkasuka, or Lembah Bujang today was where the Indians were describing the locals as “Malai” which means “Hill People” in Tamil. This made perfect sense as the focal point at that time was at Gunung Jerai, and the entire Peninsular had a “Mountain Range” “Banjaran Titiwangsa”, as we call it.
The Mandarin and Cantonese accurately maintain the accurate pronunciation of “Malai Ren” and “Malai Yun” respectively till this very day where “ren” and “yun” both mean “peoples”.
Interestingly, “Kadar” and “Kidara”, Hindi and Sanskrit words accurately describe “Kedah” of today. They both mean “fertile Land for Rice cultivation. Again, a name given by the Indians 2,000 years ago during the “Golden Hindu Era” for a duration of 1,500 years.
It was during the “Golden Hindu Era” that the new term which the Hindu Malay leaders also adopted the titles, “Sultan” and “Raja”. The Malay Royalty was Hindu at that time, as all of Southeast Asia was under strong Indian influence, including Borobudur and Angkor Watt. Bali today still practices devout Hindu beliefs. The snake amulet worn by the Sultans of today, The Royal Dias, and even the “Pelamin” for weddings are tell-tale signs of these strong Indian influences. So, it was not Parameswara who was the first Sultan in Malaya. Sultanate existed approximately 1,500 years before he set foot on the Peninsular during the “Golden Hindu Era” of Malaysia and they were all Hindu.
The book “Pre history of Malaysia” also talks about the “Lost Kingdom” of the “Chi-Tu” where the local Malay Kingdom was Buddhists. The rest of the “Malays” were Animistic Pagans but you may say that the “Sejarah Melayu” calls it “Melayu”? Yes, it does. Read it again; is it trying to describe the 200-odd population hamlet near Palembang by the name “Melayu”? (Google Earth will show this village).
By that same definition, then, the Acehnese should be considered a “race”. So should the Bugis and the Bataks to be fair. Orang Acheh, Orang Bugis, Orang Laut, Orang Melayu now mean the same descriptions of ethnic tribes, at best. And since the “Malays” of today are not all descendants of the “Melayu” kampung in Jambi (if I remember correctly), the term Melayu has been wrongly termed from day one. Maybe this is why the Johoreans still call themselves either Bugis, or Javanese until today. So do the Acehnese on the West coast of Kedah & Perlis and the Kelantanese insist that they came from Champa, Vietnam.
Moreover, the fact that the first 3 pages claiming that “Melayu” comes from Alexander the Great and the West Indian Princess doesn’t help. More importantly, it was written in 1623. By then, the Indians had been calling the locals “Malai” for 1,500 yrs already. So the name stuck.
And with the Sejarah Melayu (The Malay Annals in page 1-3) naming the grandson of Iskandar Zulkarnain, and the West Indian Princess forming the Minangkabau. Whenever a Malay is asked about it, he usually says it is “karut” (bullshit), but all Malayan based historians insist on using Sejarah Melayu as THE main reference book for which “Malay” history is based upon. The only other books are “Misa Melayu”, “Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa”, and “Hikayat Hang Tuah” which is of another long and sometimes “heated” discussion. I find this strange.
I also find that it is strange that the “Chitti’s” (Indian+ Malay) of Malacca are categorized as Bumiputera, while their Baba brothers are not. Why? Both existed during the Parameswara days. Which part of the “Malay” side of the Baba is not good enough for Bumiputera classification? Re-instate them. They used to be Bumiputera pre 1960’s anyway.
Instead of “Malay”, I believe that “Maphilindo” (circa 1963) would have been the closest in accurately trying to describe the Malays. However, going by that definition, it should most accurately be “MaphilindoThaiChinDiaVietWanGreekCamfrica” and it is because of this even our University Malaya Anthropology professors cannot look at you in the eye and truthfully say that the word “Malay” technically and accurately defines a race.
This is most unfortunate.
So, in a nutshell, the “Malays” (anthropologists will disagree with this “race” definition) are truly Asia! For once the Tourism Ministry got it right. We should stop calling this country “Tanah Melayu” instead call it, “Tanah Truly Asia”.
You must understand now, why I was “tickled pink” when I found out that the Visit Malaysia slogan for 2007 was “Truly Asia”. They are so correct (even though they missed out Greece and Africa). By the way the name UMNO should be changed to UTANO the new official acronym for “United Truly Asia National Organization”. After all, they started out as a Bugis club in Johor anyway.
As I said, I hate race classifications. This is so depressing and even more depressing is that the “Malays” are not even a race; not since day one.
“Truly Asia Boleh”Kita mempunyai akal fikiran sendiri untuk berfikir, mengapa perlu ada sikap berpuak-puak dalam masyarakat Malaysia, kenapa orang Bumiputera takut untuk bersaing dengan bukan Bumiputera? Sekiranya kerajaan ingin melindungi puak pribumi, mereka yang benar-benar layak ialah kaum Asli negara ini seperti orang Penan, Negrito, Sakai, Jakun dan lain-lain, merekalah kaum Bumiputera bukannya seperti yang termaktub dalam perlembagaan hari ini.