Thursday, January 21, 2010

Malaysian Indian Muslim

Indian Muslim are Indian who are Muslim. In Malaysia. An Indian Muslim can be anyone of Indian ancestry who is a Muslim. Tamils, Keralas, Punjabis, Sindhis, Mahrattas, Hydrabadis etc are all Indian Muslims. But in Malaysia a large majority of Indian Muslims are Tamil speaking. Hence the term Indian Muslim is generally applied to the Tamil speaking Indian Muslims. In Malaysia, Indian Muslims are also known as mamaks, Kelings and Jawi Peranakan. Some Tamil Muslim are called Mamak, but most Indian Muslims consider mamaks and Kelings to be pejorative.The last one Jawi Peranakan is a strange misnomer. There is even a recent book written about the Jawi Peranakan which actually talks about the Indian Muslims.

Jawi Peranakan
"A Jawi Pekan is the offspring of a man of Hindostan and a Malayan woman. He inherits the boldness of the Malay, and the subtlety, acuteness, and dissimulation of the Hindoo. He is indefatigable in the pursuit of wealth and most usurious in the employment of it when gained…He is cringing to superiors, overbearing, and where there is no check on his conduct, tyrannical to inferiors…"(British Colonialism and the Marginalization of the Malays in Penang(2002), by Ariffin Omar)

Keling (pronounced /kling/) is a word used to describe Indians or Hindus in Malaysia and Singapore, more specifically Malaysian Indians or Singaporeans of Indian descent. It is now generally considered offensive by Indians, although it may often be used by other communities in Malaysia without any derogatory intention. The origin of the term is rooted in the former cultural and economic influence of the Kalinga kingdom over south east Asian kingdoms. The ancient Indian Kalinga was located in southeastern India occupying modern day Orissa and northern Andra Pradesh.India was then referred to by the Malays as Benua Keling. In the 7th century an Indonesian kingdom was named Kalingga after the aforementioned Kalinga in India.

Mapillas or Malabaris
Malabar Muslims or Mapillas better known as Malabaris in Malaysia are Muslims originating from the narrow belt along the southwest coast of India , identified with the present State of Kerala. Majority of these people come from the northern region of this State , known as Malabar.
The Malabar Muslim* community has had a close relationship with Malay Archipelago since the beginning. Since the the Malacca Sultanate in the 15th century, and maybe even earlier, the Malabar Muslim traders has traveled back and forth across the Indian Ocean to this region. There are many who believe that the Malabaris are among the first people to introduce and spread Islam to this region. As traders many Malabar Muslim settled down here in earlier days. Many married and raised their families. Their assimilation was so complete that they ultimately lost their 'Malabar Identity' and became indisputably Malays.

Of the Indians, the view that Penang was settled mainly by Indian convicts is misleading. There were Indian Muslim as well as Indian Hindu. Leith notes that:

Many of them are merchants, fixed inhabitants, and possess property to a very large amount; the greatest proportion however, of the Chulias reside on the island only for a few months; then having disposed of their goods, and purchased a fresh cargo, they return to the coast (South India). The coolies and boatmen are Chulias, these two description of people remain, one two or three years, according to circumstances and then return to the coast.

Chulias are Tamil Muslims from the famous Chola Kingdom of Tamil Nadu along the Coromandel Coast of Southern India.

The Indian Muslims have also settled in George Town, Penang. Naturally the road where they settled were named for them: Chulia Street, or Lebuh Chulia. Along Chulia Street we can find two religious structures of Indian Muslim origin, the Kapitan Keling Mosque, originally built with bricks from India, and the Nagore Shrine, built by the Indian Muslims to honour a South Indian Muslim saint. There is a Nagore Shrine in Singapore too.

How Mamak is given to Tamil Muslim, the name may be derived from Mamak Stall(literally means uncle's stall....

Types of Indian Muslim in Malaysia:

Tamil Muslim/Mamak
1. Those Tamil Muslim/mamaks who have inter married with Malays for generations and have actually become Malays. You can only know their mamak ancestry by their mamak sounding names like Merican, Shah, Syed, Sheikh etc, by their 'Indian' appearances – prominent nose, rounder eyes etc.
2. Those Tamil Muslim/mamaks who have not inter married with Malays but who have assimilated closely into the Malay culture. They can only speak Malay and have cut off almost all their links with India. These would include thousands of mamaks in Penang, Kedah, Melaka and other parts of the country. Only their DNA remains Indian. But practically, for all intents and purposes they are Malay.
3. Those Tamil Muslim/ mamaks who are still very much Tamil and who can only speak pasar Malay. They may not have links with India but they watch Tamil movies and do not read the Malay papers or know much about the Malays. Despite being born in Malaysia they still would not know a 'kuih talam' from an 'otak-otak'. Many KIMMA members fall in this category. That is why they still call themselves Kongres Indian Muslim Malaysia after the Indian Congress Party of Panditji Jawaharlal Nehru.
4. Those Tamil Muslim/mamaks who are still very much Tamil and who cannot even speak pasar Malay despite being born in Malaysia. They will not know 'nasi lemak' from a hole in the ground. They will have strong family ties to India. They watch Tamil movies and know more about Tamil Nadu politics than Malaysia politics. They read Tamil Nesan and Malaysian Nanban religiously everyday to find out what is happening in Tamil Nadu and India. Again many KIMMA members also fall into this category. Tamil Muslim still remain their original Indian name. People who still speak Tamil and go back often to India. Before 1970, some don't even apply for citizenship.

Other Indian Muslim
5. Other Indian Muslim - Normally from North Indian or non-Tamil South Indian. Economically more well off or are professional.
6. New Conversion - Need to change name after conversion
7. Conversion by marriage- Change name and assimilated to Malay community after second generation.
8. Pakistani Muslim, but normally easily eligible as Malay under Federal Constitution.

Type 1 & 2, 8 are normally become Malay under Federal Constitution, a constitutional Malay.

Extract from NST dated 3-3-2008

Call us Malays, say Indian Muslim youth

Publication: The New Straits Times Online
Date: March 3, 2008


KUALA LUMPUR: Members of the Malaysian Indian Muslim Youth Movement (Gepima) want to be known as Malays and not Indians.

And they do not think this is an outrageous request since the Federal Constitution states that an Indian is a Malay “if he professes the Muslim religion, habitually speaks Malay and conforms to Malay custom”.

These traits are practised by Muslims of Indian origin today, claimed Gepima president Mohamed Kader Ali.

“I am a second generation Malaysian and I can safely say that from wedding rituals to the food we eat and the language we speak, we conform to Malay customs all the way.

“As such, Gepima is appealing to the government to streamline the laws and recognise Muslims born after independence as Malays in their birth certificate.
“We have been facing this problem for the past 50 years.

“We have written several letters to the National Registration Department but it keeps saying that it can’t do anything about this.”

Kader’s son, 24-year-old Syed Osman Mohamed, cited an incident last August when he went to the Registrar of Companies to apply for a business permit. “In the forms that I filled up, I stated Malay as my race and Islam as my religion. But the officer called me up and asked me to change it to Indian, based on how I looked. “He only had my MyKad and it does not state there whether I am Indian or not,” Syed Osman said. “We feel uncomfortable to be known as Indians, because people automatically think we are Hindus when we are actually Muslim.”

Kader added that Muslims of Indian origin suffered an inferiority complex by being regarded as Indians. “Our children do not even know how to speak Tamil. “They only converse in Malay and our wives wear baju kurung or kebaya nowadays, no more the saree.”

The Mamak Stall
People of all races, religions and ages frequent mamak stalls to gossip or catch a late-night football game while enjoying a cup of hot teh tarik. No other eatery has quite as much cultural significance in Malaysia, save for the kopi tiam.

The Malaysian Mamak (commonly known as Mamak) are Tamil Muslims of Malaysian nationality, whose forefathers mostly migrated from South India to the Malay Peninsula and various locations in Southeast Asia centuries ago. They are regarded as part of the Malaysian Indian community. Indian Muslims were believed to first arrive at Samudera (now Aceh in Sumatra, Indonesia) back in the early 10th century, and later settled down in Peninsular Malaysia. Although the origins of the word are perfectly benign, it is often used as a derogatory term for the Indian Muslim community in Malaysia.

The word 'Mamak' is from the Tamil term for maternal uncle, or 'maa-ma'. In the context of Singapore and Malaysia, children of all ethnic groups are taught to refer to adult neighbours, shopkeepers and even strangers as 'uncle' and 'auntie', as a form of respect for and deference towards elders. This term is used even though the adult may not be a member of the child's family, clan or even ethnic group/'race'. The origin of the term 'mamak stall' is likely from the practice of children addressing the shopkeeper as 'uncle', or 'mamak', in his native Tamil language, as a form of respect when interacting with him, and patronising his shop.

The Tamil Muslim are proud of "Mamak Stall", a Malaysian way of life now for Malaysian; but I do not understand why they consider the name "mamaks" to be pejorative. Should we call the Mamak Stall , as Malaysian Stall, or may be Malay Stall?....or should we apply for copyright or patent for the Mamak Stall.......

Related articles:

1. You want to be Indian or Muslim?(2009),
2. ^ "Ethnicity and Aboriginality: Case Studies in Ethnonationalism, page 106". Google Books.,M1. Retrieved 2007-12-24.
3. Indian Muslims in Malaysia: ancestry and history Kimma, Kurma and Karma (2008),
4. British Colonialism and the Marginalization of the Malays in Penang(2002), by Ariffin Omar, USM,presented in Penang Story International Conference 2002.
5. e-Malabari Network,

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