Reject Arabisation of Malay culture, urges Rais Yatim

Former cultural adviser to the government Rais Yatim says Middle Eastern culture is not superior to the culture found in the Malay archipelago.

LANGKAWI: Former minister and socio-cultural adviser to the government Rais Yatim has called for the rejection of Arabisation in Malay culture.

He said not many dared speak up about separating Arab culture from Islam, adding that the Middle Eastern culture was not superior to the culture found in the Malay archipelago.

“The Saudis are now killing the Yemenis. Where is the Islamic culture in that? Who should set an example? I propose for Malaysia and Indonesia to lead the way,” he said when officiating at a seminar on International Literature, Language and Culture.

The seminar, organised by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) and Universiti Malaysia Perlis, was held here on Thursday.

Rais, once a minister with responsibilities over foreign affairs, heritage, culture and information, said to ensure the sustainability of Malaysian culture, one would have to begin with language.

He urged language activists to look into how the infiltration of the English language was changing the structure of the national language.

He cited examples found in a Malay language book that contained words such as “adverba”, “adjectiva” and “morfalia”, whose origins lie in the English language. Such words, he said, had since become part of the national language.

“And now people are mad when we speak English. How can we not, when our language has been Anglicised? How do we return to Za’aba’s era?” he asked, referring to Za’aba or Zainal Abidin Ahmad, who was a renowned writer and linguist.

“It is difficult but worth a try,” he said, adding that the country needed to go back to basics in terms of thought and action.