Bakri Musa examines the obsession with Ketuanan Melayu in a book ready for launching.
PETALING JAYA: The Malays need to break free of the invisible bonds trapping their minds, says political observer M Bakri Musa.
Speaking to FMT a week before the Malaysian launch of his book Liberating the Malay Mind, Bakri said that the problem faced by the Malay community was that they had “closed and trapped their minds both individually and collectively.”
“We’ve been discussing the Malay problem for decades, if not centuries, and chances are that when my grandchildren become grandparents, we will still be discussing it,” said Bakri. “The reason for this is that we’re not addressing the main issue.”
He said the Malays had unwittingly trapped themselves in a mental “prison without walls,”one they would escape from if only they realise it.”
“In the San Diego Zoo, there’s an island surrounded by a moat about five feet wide,” he said. “The reindeer on the island are free to move around. They never cross the moat even though they can jump. They don’t realize they’re being trapped by the moat. They’re physically capable of jumping it, but don’t. And that’s the problem with us. We don’t realise we’re being trapped.
“The worst prison in the world is not a prison with walls and fences. The worst prison is one with no walls. You don’t realize that you’re imprisoned.”
He attributed this mental entrapment first to Malay culture, which he said was shaped by institutions and the educational system and also the national religion. He pointed out that he used the word “religion” instead of “Islam” and explained that this was because he believed Islam as currently practised in Malaysia is not the Islam practised elsewhere and at other times.
“Islam is a great transforming force,” he said. “But the religion we practise, even though we call it Islam, far from transforming and uplifting us, is entrapping our minds.”
He said the Malays’ current understanding of Islam was “completely” at odds with the way it was understood during the classical era, when the religion was a great civilising force.
Bakri also attributed the Malays’ mental imprisonment to the general lack of participation in a “modern economy,” which he said skewed their perception of other races and the outside world. “We are by nature excluded from the mainstream, and that entraps our minds,” he said.
“One of the great things about capitalism, which many people have noticed, is that you look at people differently once you’re in a business and have a commercial enterprise. Now, if you’re not in business, you get government cheques, and you look at non-Malays and foreigners differently. But if you run a business – a restaurant, say — you look at people as potential customers. You want to please them.
“A dollar coming from a Bangladeshi is the same as a dollar coming from a Bumiputera.”
Liberating the Malay Mind, which was published three years ago by ZI Publications, is scheduled for a relaunch here today. In it, Bakri examines Malaysia’s past as well as the current Malay obsession with “Ketuanan Melayu,” which he says has inhibited them and made them uncompetitive.
“If we strive for liberated minds, then we will be tuans even outside Tanah Melayu,” he said.