‘Rais: Stop ‘Arabising’ ‘Malay culture

  • Nation
  • Saturday, 17 Apr 2004


KUALA LUMPUR: Malays should put a stop to the “Arabisation” of their own culture and challenge those who condemn as unIslamic deep-rooted practices and traditions of the community. 

“The Malays are not Arabs. Therefore, it is important that we do not “Arabise” the Malay culture to the extent that everything that the Arabs do, we must do,” said Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim. 

“The Malay culture arose from time immemorial, even before 1409 when Islam came to Malacca, and we cannot simply ignore that period from which we came,” he added in an interview here with The Star early this week.  

Dr Rais stressed that he was not anti-Arab culture. 

“That's not to say I hold contra-views against the Arab culture. In fact, the Arab world has many aspects that have benefited and enriched the world in terms of medicine, art, poetry and so on.  

“Even Bahasa Malaysia is imbued with salient influences from Arabia. 

“But the community should not be influenced to the extent that they are blinded into thinking that all that is Arabic is good for them.” 

Asked whether the Government was concerned by the situation, Dr Rais replied: “It is and (this concern) has not been publicly or adequately expressed.” 

He pointed out that traditions like wayang kulit which had been condemned as unIslamic by some people, had gone unchallenged. 

“We just, in chorus, say 'Aha, perhaps so' but we never fight back to say that this is a deep-rooted tradition of the Malays since time immemorial. (We should ask:) 'Put to us which (Islamic) tenet is being violated.' Nobody says that.  

“Therefore, the ministry is concerned with such a development and we are not going to accept it just because somebody says it (is so),” he said. 

Dr Rais added that the fervour that began in 1983 in accepting as gospel anything with the world “Islam” in it was dying down. 

“That seems to be changing now with Islam Hadhari that the Prime Minister (Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi) is talking about lately. That is the practical, progressive sort of Islam that we should accept,” he said. 

During the nearly two-hour long interview, Dr Rais, who was appointed Minister of the redesignated Arts, Culture and Heritage Ministry (formerly known as the Culture, Arts and Tourism Ministry) after last month's general election, promised to also “put on the map again what was lost” in reference to Malay performing arts such as the mak yong and manora which had been banned by PAS in Kelantan and Terengganu.  

“This is where I would say politics and culture don't seem to mix in the hands of those responsible in the past decade,” he said. 

He added that he was also interested in the “buried past of the Baba and Nyonya in Penang and Malacca, and the Sanskritised elements of the culture.” 

“They are all very rich. I think studies must be encouraged and we would like authoritative, serious people to go into these fields and produce research for us,” he said. 

On the heritage element in the national language, Dr Rais felt that the most glaring aspect was how it was being spoken in the country. 

“This can also be a question for the Education Ministry but in the heritage department, we would like to say: Do not make the language so rojak (mixed) so as to make it unintelligible in the future. The French don't mix their language with other words. But in Malaysia, half our sentences is in English while the other half is in Malay. In the end, we don't pick up the good parts in either language. 

“I've already told my officers: “When you give briefings, either you give it in Malay or you give it in English. Don't make a rojak out of it,” he added. 


n Note: For a full report of the interview with Dr Rais, see StarMag tomorrow.  

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