Bakri Musa, a Malaysian who lives in California often write about his native homeland, particularly on socio-political issues.
In his recent article "Minorities in America and Malaysia" he made profound and assertive embodiment of the failure of integration of the Chinese and Indians in Malaysia and migration of Malaysians Chinese and other Asians to Western nations.
Being the second largest group after the Malays I will confine the issue to Malaysian Chinese only.
Unlike Indonesia,Thailand and the Philippines where the Chinese have successfully integrated with the indigenous people including taking up and speaking the native tongue and adopting local names without losing their Chinese identity, language and culture. Malaysian Chinese have not been able to copy the form for many obvious reasons.
Not only the Chinese are to be blamed for the failure to integrate, the Malays and for that matter Islam played a big role in stifling integration of the races in this country.A Chinese can't adopt a Malay name because most Malays carry Muslim names.There is little, if any, vernacular Malay names that non-Muslims can use or allowed to use.
In Sabah and Sarawak, it is quite common to find natives of Christian and other faiths given Muslim names by their parents at birth.Using Muslim names not synonymous with the person's religion were common practices in Sabah and Sarawak and have existed from the colonial days when Islam had not taken its conservative form that we see today. Another and even bigger stumbling block to integration is that Chinese or any non-Muslim can't marry a Malay without first converting to Islam. Although Islam had, in a limited way, made some allowance for Muslim men to marry women of Catholicism without her converting to Islam at the point of marriage, in Malaysia this is not allowed.
Over-indulgence in protecting the image of Islam had also caused unnecessary rift between the Malays and other religions and communities.The ban by the government of the use of the word 'Allah' in a Catholic publication is a case in point.The over-sensitivity, lack of understanding and sheer arrogance of those in government spell disaster for integration.How can the government talk about integration of the races in this country when it can allow certain leaders in government to run amok and keep reminding the migrant races that they don't belong here.
In Indonesia, the biggest Islamic nation in the world, there is separation between religion and state.The government does not unnecessarily interfere in one's faith or imposes Islamic jurisdiction over the population.In fact Indonesia had more reason in doing so, eighty percent of its population are Muslims.
The Chinese in Malaysia is a big minority giving it enough muscles to flex and play important roles in the politics of the nation and given equitable representation in government.They have also successfully preserved the Chinese language and culture.
The insistence to preserve the language and culture in the education system had given rise to Chinese chauvinism.Many Chinese viewed the government education system as pathetically low in standard, which is not without basis with most government schools, if not all.Chinese-funded schools, somehow, seem to excel better than many government schools.Being economically better than majority of Malays the Chinese business community plays a big role in providing education for the community and in funding Chinese schools. For most Chinese, education for their children sits at the top of their priority list.
This fixation with the 'Chinese language and culture' have made some Chinese chauvinistic and don't see the need to learn the national language.For the older generation Chinese not being fluent in the Malay language is quite acceptable but for the younger generation there is absolutely no reason for not being able to speak the national language.
There is no true national identity in Malaysia.When overseas we identify ourselves as Malaysian only by the passport we hold and when we return home we returned back to being Malay,Chinese,Indian dan lain-lain(others).The identity card we have with particulars such as race and religion are more suited for a police state.They are reflections of the government's insecurity, divide and rule policy and to identify and separate the Malays from the non-Malays.
In everything that the government does more often than not they caused more racial polarisation than integration.You can't instill sense of belonging if you make people feel uneasy, that they don't own the place and keep telling them they are guests in this country.
In Sabah and Sarawak the situation is even more pathetic, many Chinese inter marry with Kadazans and produced offspring called Sino-Kadazan and those whose fathers are Chinese carry Chinese surname.The problem disappears when a Kadazam man marries a Chinese woman as the offspring would carry Kadazan surname which is more identifiable as being a bumiputra.
Most Sino-Kadazan with Chinese surnames were disallowed from buying ASB(Amanah SahamBumiputra) and own NT (Native Title)Land unless he has a certificate stating he is a bumiputra.There have been cases where children of such marriages were unable to inherit their parents' NT lands because of the stupidity of civil servants rather than the law.
Under the Sabah State Constitution it was clearly prescribed that a person with one of the parents indigenous to the state is constituted as bumiputra.
The irony is.........
To be continued.