Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Singaporean and Malay - And Proud!

A Malay reporter wrote in the Straits Times about how she thinks that Malays feel they are the least favourite children of Singapore.
All I can say is, there is a queue of people wanting to wear that label - gays, disabled, foreign brides, taxi drivers .....

The Malays have a saying - di mana bumi dipijak, di situlah langit dijunjung - Wherever on Earth the feet may trod, thereat shall the Heavens be praised.

The reason why many Singaporean Malays are not happy is because they measure themselves according to the criteria of success of other cultures - wealth, status, size of homes, how others see them. In this regard, Mudpie will only refer to the old Sufi adage - in matters of the world, compare thyself with those who have less, and be grateful, and in matters of the hereafter, compare thyself with those who have more, and be inspired.

As Malays, we should be measuring our successes on our own terms.
There are many aspects of the Malays that even other communities admire, and that over the years of my life, I have come to realise are the important KPIs.
We are kind, non-aggressive, forgiving and friendly people.
We have the tightest family ties of any community. We love to play, sing, dance, paint, perform, entertain, socialise and perform with ease all the skills that are totally useless in the non-Malay world.
We're not hung up about being richer than everyone else, because we all know that money never buys happiness.
We may not be staunchly religious, but we are, at our core, all Muslims, and you can see the most tattooed Malay bartender on Hari Raya (Eid) don his full Malay outfit and troop to the mosque to sit next to the bearded and turbaned ustaz from al-Azhar, at the end of which they would turn to each other, shake hands and ask for forgiveness - without any awkwardness whatsoever.
Whenever you go to any hospital, you will see for every 1 Muslim patient, there would be at least 10 visitors (and that does not count the kids).
In which other community do you find a hundred people dropping everything to attend at a funeral upon being informed on the same day of death?
In which other community do you find five hundred people at a void deck large enough to hold only fifty people, attending a wedding reception of someone whom they know as their father's former neighbour's daughter's ex-colleague - and not think it is strange?
We may have the lowest per capita income of all the communities, but per capita we give to charity the most. Our mosques, madrasahs, education funds, orphanages, etc are never short of funding.

Most of all, we are rich in blessings from our forefathers, amongst whom walked unnamed saints.

My advice to people who think they are being treated as second class is - in this world, you are in whatever class you imagine yourself to be.

On another note, this National Day I declare that I am proud to be Singaporean.
Patriotism to the Singaporean is always a curiously mixed sentiment.
No body really loves this country, because the physical country - in terms of buildings and places where you grew up in, and memories of events - constantly crumbles away with redevelopment, leaving no markers.

However, if we do not love Singapore the little red dot on the map, we definitely do love being Singaporean.
We love the way we can embarrassingly use Singlish like a worn and tattered but comfortable singlet that we cannot show when company arrives.
We love how, after living in a city for decades, we will still discover traditional dishes at hawker stalls that we had never before come across.
We love how, in spite of all the gripes about how dirty or slow something is here, we always complain about how clean and fast things are in Singapore whenever we are abroad.
We love how we all hate national service and reservist callups - and yet we will always talk about it for the rest of our lives even more than we do about our weddings.
We love how it feels comforting and safe to hear the plane announcement - "ladies and gentlemen, in a few moments we will be arriving at Singapore Changi Airport", just before the warning that drug trafficking attracts a death penalty.

Most of all, we love how you can always have a place to eat - everywhere.

And we all know that the crescent on the red sea in the Singapore flag secretly represents how prata and teh tarek will always save us in adversity.

Singapore is not the island; it just is the address where Singaporeans live. Singaporeans ARE Singapore.

Ok, what is National Day without a corny Singaporean music video?


saedah said...

What an enjoyable and enlightening read. :) I love the T-shirt metaphor and the crescent on the flag gives me added meaning now. hehe. To me, being a minority will inevitably make one feels like a second class citizen but it should not make us feel any less successful than other communities.
I agree. Singapore are Singaporeans! So Happy National Day to you too. :)

Anonymous said...

Your thoughts generally echo mine too. Thanks for putting it in words.

Anonymous said...


Recently I had a chat with a friend who is migrating to Aust becos as a Malay we are not given the opportunities as compared to other races and that no matter how hard we work, its difficult to achieve 'kesenangan'. I was really troubled and think that hey, he could be right. On reaching home I happen to read your blog and...thank cleared my doubts. I love my homeland.

MudPie said...

Saedah - thanks. hope u had good 9/8 too.

Anonymous - thanks for dropping the note. I didnt know anyone read this blog... but - whenever anyone talks about emigration - remember that the grass is always greener on the other side.