Thursday, April 10, 2008

"Malays face identity crisis and discrimination in Malaysia"

Malays face identity crisis and discrimination in Malaysia

Andrew Rosten, Daily Vidette Staff

Philosophy professor, Dr. Thomas Simon, talked about the Malay identity during Wednesday's International Seminar Series in the Bone Student Center.
Media Credit: Jamey Davidsmeyer / Daily Vidette Photo Editor
Philosophy professor, Dr. Thomas Simon, talked about the Malay identity during Wednesday's International Seminar Series in the Bone Student Center.

Thomas Simon, a philosophy professor, lectured Wednesday at the Bone Student Center about the identity and crisis faced by an ethnicity group known as Malays.

"I think there's a fundamental question that we need to ask," Simon said. "It is going to sound strange at first, but it is not what are you, of what group are you a member, but rather who suffers? That is, what group suffers? I had a very different starting point than many, and your starting point really frames your analysis. My starting point is, for example, Apr. 6, 1994, in Rwanda, when the horrifying genocide began to unravel."

"I start with the worst and work backward, so what I am doing when I talk about group identity is to try to avoid the worst, and I think I can make a case that genocide is, indeed, the worst," Simon said. "That gives you a very different perspective on group identity and discrimination."

Raul Hilberg, a formal scholar of the Holocaust in Europe, used a typology, with the European Jews executed by Nazis serving as a model, to describe the levels of discrimination.

"The first phase [of the typology] is designation, when the group is singled out," Simon said. "The second is discrimination, when the group is discriminated against, and the third was called brutalization. I am going to try to look at those three designations in terms of a group called Malays and talk about different constructions of Malay identity in those three terms."

Simon talked about race relations of the Malays in three nations: Malaysia, South Africa and the Philippines.

"Malaysia has three main groups," Simon said. "The three groups are Malays, Chinese and Indians. The Malays make up over 50 percent of the population and they control the government. The Chinese are about 30 to 40 percent of the population, and they control the economy. The Indians make up less than 10 percent of the population and they're either in professional organizations or criminal organizations.

Malaysia has recently experienced an upsurge of tensions between the Malay majority and the Indians."

In 1950, South Africa introduced a color scheme for the purpose of identifying races.

"That color scheme had whites on top, then it had Indians, and then it had colored and, finally, black," Simon said. "The Cape Malays were put into the colored category, and so they're in between. They could become like Indian, which was not too bad, but bad, but still was better. There is a strong movement now to call them Cape Muslims so that this ethnic tie to Malaysia is being transformed into a more religious form of identity."

"The question I was going to ask was about South Africa and the Malays there," David Forest, a political science graduate student, said. "I have some friends from South Africa, and they're saying that, now that the system of apartheid is gone, they are starting to see the same problems with the black government, and I was curious about how that affected the Malays."

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No specific examples of 'discrimination' given though, except that "The Malays make up over 50 percent of the population and they control the government. " Maybe from ArmNoh, perhaps?

Discuss.

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