Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Malaysian Malay

Malays (Malay: Melayu) are an ethnic group of Austronesian peoples predominantly inhabiting the Malay Peninsula including the southernmost parts of Thailand, the east coast of Sumatra, the coast of Borneo, and the smaller islands which lie between these locations. The Malay ethnic group is distinct from the concept of a Malay race, which encompasses a wider group of people, including most of Indonesia and the Philippines. The Malay language is a member of the Austronesian family of languages.The laws of Malaysia defines a Melayu as a person who practices Islam and Malay cultures, speaks Bahasa Melayu and whose ancestors are Melayu, under article 160 of the Federal Constitution.

The Encyclopedia of Malaysia: Early History, has pointed out a total of three theories of the origin of Malay:

1. The Yunnan theory, Mekong river migration (published 1889)
2. The New Guinea theory (published 1965)
3. The Taiwan theory (published 1997)

The ancestor of Malays are believed to be seafarers knowledgeable in oceanography. They moved around from island to island in great distances between New Zealand and Madagascar, and they served as navigation guide, crew and labour to Indian, Persian and Chinese traders for nearly 2000 years. Over the years they settled at various places and adopted various cultures and religions. Notable Malay seafarers of today are Moken and Orang laut.

Some historians suggested they were descendants of Austronesian-speakers who migrated from the Philippines and originally came from Taiwan. Malay culture reached its golden age during Srivijayan times and they practiced Buddhism, Hinduism, and their native Animism before converting to Islam in the 15th century.

Descendants of Alexander The Great - Greek?
According to Kedah Annals, Kadaram (Kedah Kingdom 630-1136) was founded by Maharaja Derbar Raja of Gemeron, Persia around 630 CE, and also alleged that the bloodline of Kedah royalties coming from Alexander The Great. The other Malay literature, Sejarah Melayu too alleged that they were the descendants of Alexander The Great.

Proto Malay

Proto Malay, also known as Melayu Asli or Melayu Purba in the Malay language, is an ethnic group in Malaysia. Anthropologists traced a group of newcomers Proto Malay seafarers migrated from Yunnan to Malaysia, during the stone age period.

Deutero Malay
Combination of the colonial Kambujas of Hindu-Buddhism faith, the Indo-Persian royalties and traders as well as traders from southern China and elsewhere along the ancient trade routes, these peoples together with the aborigine Negrito Orang Asli and native seafarers and Proto Malays intermarried each others and thus a new group of peoples was formed and became to be known as the Deutero Malays who has mixed blood of Indian, Thai,Arab(Persian?) and Chinese. Today they are commonly known as the Malays.

Current inhabitants of Malay Archipelago(Broad defination)
The name Malay is sometimes used to describe the concept of a Malay race, which includes all the ethnic groups inhabiting the "Malay Archipelago" and which are not of older aboriginal stock. Not all the Malays under the broad definition are Muslim e.g. Bali Hindu, Cham Hindu, Cham Buddhist, Philippine Christian, etc. The broad definition revealed that there are non-Malaysian Malay, non-Muslim Malay.

Current inhabitants of Malay Peninsula(narrow defination)
The term "Malay" can refer to the ethnic group who live in the "Malay peninsula" (which include the southernmost part of Thailand called Patani and Satun) and east Sumatra as well as the cultural sphere that encompass a large part of the archipelago. Most if not all of the narrow definition Malay are Muslim. The narrow definition insist on Muslim Malay as identity.

From legal definition: Constitutional Malay

The term Melayu (Malay person in the Malay Language), in Article 160 of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia, refers to a person who professes Islam(Beragama Islam), habitually speaks the Malay language(Pertuturan Bahasa Melayu), conforms to Malay custom(menjalani tradisi dan adat-istiadat Melayu) and who has at least one ancestor from the Malay Peninsula or Singapore.

This legal definition differentiates a Melayu from other indigenous people. This legal recognition entitles a person to privileges of higher education, civil service, discounts in purchasing houses, government permits and other avenues that help him/her to succeed financially. They constitute more than half of the population of Malaysia.

The constitutional or legal definition open the Malay to people who are able to comply with the definition under the constitution. They are not necessary to be a pure Malay by either broad or narrow definition. The focus is on Muslim religion and practice Malay customs and dressing, speak Malay, and who domiciled in Malay Peninsula or Singapore.

Extract from NST:

Kota Kinabalu: Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Seri Haji Mohd Ali Rustam said a person who is a Muslim, converses in Malay and follows the Malay traditions is considered a Malay.

"It is easy to become a Malay, " he told a Press conference after Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman opened the Dunia Muslim Dunia Islam (DMDI) seminar, here, Saturday.

Elaborating on why Musa had said that more than 50 per cent of the State's nearly three million population are Malays, Mohd Ali, who is also DMDI president, said:

"Even if that person is Chinese or Indian or KadazanÉif they are Muslim or have converted, converse in Malay and follow the Malay tradition, then they are Malays."

"The Kadazans if they are a Muslim, we considered them as Malays, and if they have not embraced Islam, they are Bumiputeras. It is easy to become a Malay."

(extract from article in Daily Express dated 10-6-2007, http://www.dailyexpress.com.my/news.cfm?NewsID=50538)

Meaning of Melayu
1. Melayu is actually a Sanskrit word "Malaya" which means "hill". It was given as a name to a river at the upper stream of Sungai Batang Hari, Sumatra where 1,500 years ago, the Melayu Kingdom later known as Jambi existed. Please note that "Melayu" and "Jambi" are interchangeable in historical texts. A Chinese Buddhist monk Yi Jing visited Jambi and recorded it as Ma-la-yu.

2. This story about how Parameswara founded Malacca interests me because it is different from the version about a mousedeer kicking Parameswara's hunting dogs. According to Portugese historian Tome Pires, this happened at Parameswara's first arrival at the Bertam River of Malacca after fleeing Singapore. As he was speaking to the Orang Selat, Parameswara referred to himself as a "Malayo" which means a man who runs away in his language and proceeded to name the place "Malaqa" or "Hidden Fugitive".

Defining Malay
By Al Jafree Yusof

Wherever Professor Arthur Milner goes, he will be asked this question: "Who is the Malays?"

During his public lecture on "The Localization of The Malays" organised by The Institute of Malaysia and International Studies (IKMAS) at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia recently, he said this is question baffles him because it has no definite answer.

Professor Anthony Milner is an Australian historian of Southeast Asia. He is currently a Basham Professor of Asian History at the Australian National University and Professorial Fellow at the University of Melbourne.

According to Milner, what is defined, as "Malay" seems to differ from one era or one regional context to another. He hinted that the term Malay could have been picked up by the European to ease their identification of the race as a group of natives who lived in this region. He said it is also unclear as to when and how the people who were designated as ‘Malay’ by the Europeans, generally defined themselves in this way.

Is Malay defined as those who speak the Malay language and possess the characters of ‘Malay Ethnicity’? Milner asked. The current definition of Malay only further adds to the confusion. In Malaysia, Malay is defined as those who speak the language. And in the country, all ethnic Malays are Muslims. Or is such a concept a product of a particular phase of European thinking with regards to human classification?

“Another intriguing question is why ‘the Malays’ have often expressed the fear that they might ‘vanish from this world?”

He was referring to a quote by the legendary Malay warrior Hang Tuah, “Tidak Melayu hilang di dunia”, which translates as "Malay will not be vanished" insists that although they have the potential to be a tight community, their inability to trace their bloodlines may have further entrenched their fear of vanishing. But the fear may not be external.

Milner suggests that one of the contributing factors is probably in the naming of a newborn, which only has an immediate reference to the father. Instead of a family or a clan name like the Europeans, the Chinese and even the Arabs. According to him of late, there has been growing discussions on this particular subject among scholars.

Milner stresses that the Malay people here are mixtures of a number of ethnic groups like the Javanese, Bugis, the Minangkabau, Jambi and others. He also said that the localization of ‘the Malays’ was realized for both religious and political reason. It is an importation of ideas on race from the Europeans, particularly the English. As a result, Islam becomes a stronger pillar to the idea of Malay-ness.

He is referring to Article 160 of the Federal Constitution. The article defines Malay as a Malaysian citizen, born to a Malaysian citizen who professes to be a Muslim, habitually speaks the Malay language, adheres to Malay customs and is domiciled in Malaysia or Singapore.

Milner's visit to Malaysia recently was much anticipated by many Malay history scholars . His writings on Malay history and political culture include, Kerajaan and The Invention of Politics in Colonial Malaya. His book The Malays was published late last year in the Wiley-Blackwell series on The Peoples of South-East Asia and the Pacific.


The concept Malay race is also a historical heritage of colonialism. European planters and British officials in Malaysia were keen to obtain laborers from the Dutch East Indies as they were regarded as better suited to climate and would assimilate more easily with the local Malays. Indonesian migrants were viewed as originating from the same racial stocks as the Malays, regardless their ethnicities. In the early colonial Malaysia, the Straits Settlements censuses of 1871 and 1881 both listed Malay, Achinese, Andamanese, Boyanese, Bugis and Javanese separately. In 1891 census, however, there were major structural changes in the classification of ethnicities.

The forty-eight different ethnicities were sorted under the major (hierarchical) classifications of ‘European and Americans’, ‘Eurasian’, ‘Chinese’, ‘Malays and other Natives of the archipelago’, ‘Tamils and other Natives of India’ and ‘Other Races.’ The creation of the category of ‘Malay and other Natives of the Archipelago’ and the inclusions of the various ethnicities in it contributed toward formalizing the boundaries of Malayness. The modern nation-state Malaysia cultivates this heavily politicized classification by clustering Malaysians into ‘Malays’, ‘Chinese’, ‘Indians’, and ‘indigenous tribes’.

Tracing the origin of the term ‘Malay’ used in Malaysian context, we thus can understand that the Malaysian version of Malay is more a product of political reconstruction (of colonialism and a modern ethnic-nationalism) and is rooted in the politics of race and identity rather than the geographical boundary of origin.

(Extract from article by Prof Lim, who is an Indonesian professor researching and teaching at the Consortium of Science, Policy and Outcomes and School of Social Transformation (Justice and Social Inquiry program) at Arizona State University.http://www.mysinchew.com/node/29125?tid=14)

According to Milner, who is Basham Professor of Asian History at the Australian National University, the struggle for Malay identity through the ages has been such that it is as hard to say for sure who is Malay as it is to say who is not.

At various points in history, Arabs, Indians and Filipinos have claimed to be Malay. Yet in the 1920s and 1940s, for example, not even being Muslim qualified one to be Malay. As the late Utusan Melayu editor Abdul Rahim Kajai, who was dubbed the Father of Malay Journalism, once said pointedly, Islam was no measure of one's Malayness.

Yet today, in Malaysia at least, anyone who converts to Islam is said to have “masuk Melayu” (or entered the state of being Malay). How times have changed.

But there are many in Southeast Asia who still decry suggestions that they are Malay, including high-born Javanese. The crowning irony is that, up until 100 years ago, the Malay person himself may not have thought of his community as an exclusive ethnicity.

Indeed, it was Europeans who wrote home about a “Malay world” of sarong-clad, polite peoples. Rather perplexingly, Milner has held back in defining what “Malay” means, exactly, asserting instead: “We cannot speak of a coherent, stable 'Malay essence'.”

Milner suggests, it might be more productive if the Malays are seen as a civilisation, not an ethnicity.
(source: from the book, The Malays, by Anthony Milner)

According to wikipedia; Recorded in English since 1598; from Malay melayu, of uncertain origin; possibly exonymous from Malayalam (Mala or Malai), ‘mountain’). Malay (not comparable)1. of or related to the Malays, a people living in Brunei, Singapore and most of Malaysia (states where they are politically dominant) and parts of Indonesia and the Philippines. 2. (usage generally frowned upon by Malays and Malaysians) of or related to Malaysia , its people and/or culture. 3. in, of or otherwise relating to the their Malay language Noun - Malay (plural Malays) 1. A person of Malay ancestry, referring to a diverse group of Austronesian peoples inhabiting the Malay archipelago and Malay peninsula in Southeast Asia .

It is perplexing that the point of contention between saudara serumpun (brothers from the same stock) - where similarities abound and differences are few - are in the cultural realm. Nusantara is supposed to describe people of the same origin, speaking the same language and practising largely the same culture. In fact, Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia evolved almost alongside each other. The existence of various committees set up to facilitate the developement of both languages, including the coining of words and phrases, had been in place since the 1960s. Of course, it is easier said than done. Both languages developed their own nuances and idiosyncrasies. Back then, Indonesian writers were household names in Malaysia and P.Ramlee did more that just entertain - he united the various ethnic groups that made up the Malay diaspora.
-Johan Jaafar, NST (5-9-2009) (zulujj@tm.net.my)

(Source: http://www.shalattas.com/news.php?extend.135)

Another extract There Can Only Be A ‘Pivotal’ Malaysian Nation, by Farish A. Noor:

Yet was it ever the case that there was such a thing as a ‘Malay’ race per se, understood in purely essentialist terms? If one were to revisit the colonial census of the 19th century, it is clear that the very idea of ‘Malayness’ was not only vague (a ‘mish-mash, as Datuk Ghani might put it) but also far from essentialised.

It is clear, both from the colonial census and the historical records of the many community-based associations that sprung up during that period that the people of Malaya did not see themselves as fixed ethnic blocs or racial groups. In fact up to the early 20th century the category of ‘Malay’ was just one sub-category in a wider group of ethnic identities. Alongside those who called themselves ‘Malay’ were other groups summarily labeled as Javanese, Bugis, Makasarese, Sumatrans (ranked as Minangs, Acehnese, Lampungs, and others), Jawi Peranakans, Arab Peranakans, Indian Peranakans, Chinese Peranakans, and so on. Nowhere was the concept of Malayness presented as a given, static, essentialised fact. If anything, territorial loyalties were paramount and the people of the land referred to themselves as ‘Johorese’, ‘Kelantanese’, ‘Kedahans’ first and foremost. One might add here that the categories of ‘Chinese’ and ‘Indian’ were likewise nowhere as simplified, as the communities that would eventually be grouped under these general headings were then defined as Hokkiens, Cantonese, Hakka, etc; and Punjabis, Bengalis, Tamils, Ceylonese, etc.

It was with the passage of time and the development of the colonial state that the various communities were lumped together into neat and homogenous blocs, conflating differences and reducing the communities to essentialised categories like ‘Malay’, ‘Chinese’ and ‘Indian’. Seen from this critical perspective, the invention of the ‘Malay race’ was in fact a by-product of Western colonialism and imperialism in Malaysia!

Note: Dr. Farish A Noor is a Malaysian political scientist and human rights activist. Visit his site at www.othermalaysia.org

(source: http://www.bakrimusa.com/archives/there-can-only-be-a-pivotal-malaysian-nation)

Types of Malays

Demographic divisions
The Malay may be from the following demographic background:
1. Orang Laut living in Riau Islands of Indonesia because their language - Bahasa Riau is agreed upon by Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei as the official standard for Bahasa Melayu.
2. orang Pattani living at the Pattani region of southern Thailand, Singapore and in Madagascar, they are known as the Merina.
3. The Cham people who live in Cambodia and Vietnam speak a language which is similar to Bahasa Melayu, they are believed to be related to the Utsuls of Hainan island. Both races are mostly moslems.
4. Javanese
5. Bugis
6. Minangkabus
7. Achinese
8. Andamanese
9. Boyanese
10.Mandailing Batak(Kanak)
Non-Singapore/Malay Peninsula:
11. Hui Hui
12. Arabs
13. Turks
14. Pakistanni
15, Indian Muslim
and Any one who complied with Article 160 of the Federal Constitution as stated by Datuk Seri Haji Mohd Ali Rustam,it is easy(source: NST).

Geographical divisions
It was reported there are 14 sub Malay group in Malaysia(Dikatakan terdapat 14 sub etnik Melayu yang mendiami Semenanjung iaitu):-

i . Melayu Kelantan (Melayu yang masih asli) di Kelantan
ii. Melayu Yunan di Terengganu
iii. Melayu Minang di Negeri Sembilan
iv. Melayu Aceh di Perak
v. Melayu Mandailing di Perak
vi. Melayu Rawa di Perak
vii. Melayu Riau di Johor
viii. Melayu Bugis di Johor
ix. Melayu Kerinci di Selangor
x. Melayu Champa di Perak, Kedah dan Kelantan
xi. Melayu Jawa di Johor dan Selangor
xii. Melayu Jambi di Johor, Selangor dan Perak
xiii. Melayu Batak di Perak dan Pulau Pinang
xiv. Melayu Banjar di Johor, Selangor dan Perak

Note: Kelantan and Champa has strong relationship, some said Kelantanese are actually Cham.

Related articles:
1. A Different Concept and Perpective of Malay (Malaysia vs Indonesia), http://mforum.cari.com.my/archiver/?tid-389745.html
2. Of different Malays: The problem of boundaries, http://www.mysinchew.com/node/29125?tid=14
3. Easy to become a Malay, says MB, http://www.dailyexpress.com.my/news.cfm?NewsID=50538
4. The Malays, by Anthony Milner, published by John Wiley & Sons
5. A Malay of Bugis Ancestry: Haji Ibrahim's Strategies of Survival(2001), by Jan Van der Putten,Journal of South East Asia Studies, 32(3) Oct 2001, pg 343-354, The National University of Singapore.
6. The Malay, http://www.sabrizain.org/malaya/malays.htm
7. The Origins of the Malays(2008), by Michael Chick, Malaysia Today dated 21-1-2008 http://mt.m2day.org/2008/content/view/1531/46/(An interesting read)
8. Of Arabs aren’t Malays and Malays aren’t Arabs(2005), by Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams, http://maddruid.com/?p=697
9. There Can Only Be A ‘Pivotal’ Malaysian Nation, by Farish A. Noor, http://www.bakrimusa.com/archives/there-can-only-be-a-pivotal-malaysian-nation
10. Original Malay: MARI KITA TENGOK SIAPA YANG KENA !(2006), http://raykinzoku.fotopages.com/?entry=865603
11. The many roots of Malays leave delegates in stitches, The Star online, Sunday October 24, 2010, http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2010/10/24/nation/7289147&sec=nation
12. Malay, (ethnic group), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malays_%28ethnic_group%29
13. Malaysian Malay, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malaysian_Malay
14.Article 160 of the Constitution of Malaysia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Article_160_of_the_Constitution_of_Malaysia
15. Bumiputera (Malaysia), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bumiputra
16. Ketuanan Melayu, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ketuanan_Melayu

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