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Thursday, September 06, 2018

Malaysian and Singaporean Malays: Self-perceptions

"Malay culture may encourage the Malay to be slow - that is, not being hurried - which reinforces the stereotype of laziness. Submissiveness is said to stem from collective, communal life in the village...

Malays were said to be people who did not like to accumulate or display wealth. In relation to this, there is a Malay proverb which describes the simple nature of the Malays: kais pagi makan pagi kais petang makan petang (earnings that are enough for the day)...

Singaporean Malays do not seem to mind so much about the abolishment of the special position or rights of the Malays. For example, there has been little resistance among the Malays over the 2002 case of three young Muslims (sic) schoolgirls who had been suspended from school for wearing traditional Muslim headscarves...

There is a high level of disagreement to the proposition that Singaporean Malay males are irrational, violent and emasculated and that Singaporean Malay females are passive, marginalized and stereotyped: this testifies to the fact that these perceptions are widely challenged. That Singaporean Malays do not participate in business and economic activities is also shown to be a false perception, since the majority of the respondents indicated disagreement... For positive values, the majority [of Singaporean Malays] agreed that they are relaxed and easy-going, tolerant and accommodating, humble and unassuming, apt to avoid conflict and confrontations, polite and respectful, guardians of tradition and protective of their families.

Meanwhile, when associated with negative values, the majority disagree that they are lazy, ill-prepared to face competition, uninnovative, and always display emotional and irrational thinking. These findings indicate that negative values associated with Singaporean Malays are misplaced. One can speculate that Singaporean Malays are changing in terms of their values and identity. A case in point is the headscarf issue; it shows that Singaporean Malays are indeed tolerant and accommodating, apt to avoid conflict and not prone to display emotional and irrational thinking even when they are being denied of their special position in the constitution as well as their religious rights...

Generally, the findings indicated that Malaysian Malays have a positive attitude on a number of issues with regard to the truth about their perceptions of Malay culture and identity. The majority of Malaysian Malays feel a sense of racial identity: that is, they follow traditional practices of the Malay racial and cultural heritage. A large majority also identity with those of similar religion as themselves. Similarly, a large majority of the respondents believe that the special position of the Malays should be retained in the Constitution and that it is actually symbolic rather than legal...

There was a high proportion of disagreement with the proposition that Malaysian Malay males are irrational, violent and emasculated and that Malaysian Malay females are passive, marginalized and stereotyped. This shows that these perceptions can be challenged and are seen as false. A majority of the respondents also did not agree that Malaysian Malays do not participate in business and economic activities which clearly shows that this is a false perception...

Table 8 shows that findings of Malaysian Malays' perception towards Malay values and ideals. Generally the pattern of results indicates Malaysian Malays' positive association with positive values and negative association with negative values. As for positive values, the majority agreed that they are relaxed and easy-going, tolerant and accommodating, humble and unassuming, apt to avoid conflict and confrontations, polite and respectful, guardians of tradition and protective of their families. The majority also indicate agreement about being better than the other races.

Meanwhile, when associated with negative values, the majority disagree that they are lazy, ill-prepared to face competition, unquestioning, uninnovative, and always display emotional and irrational thinking. Most of them also indicate that they do not like to display their wealth. These findings indicate that negative values associated with Malaysian Malays are misplaced.

Interestingly, only about half of Singaporean Malays (50.9%) believe in the special position of the Malays, while a lower percentage (30.9%) show uncertainty about the issue. On the other hand, a large majority (83.6%) of Malaysian Malays clearly believe in the special position of the Malays. These findings seem to indicate that Malaysian Malays are more certain and confident of their identity and position in relation to the other races than Singaporean Malays.

Another interesting evidence of differences is seen in the very low proportion of Singaporean Malays (5.4%) who perceived Malay males as being irrational, violent and emasculated as compared to a bigger proportion of Malaysian Malays (27.3%). While the majority in each group disagree that Malay males are irrational, violent and emasculated, Singaporean Malays showed a higher percentage of disagreement than Malaysian Malays. Almost similar patterns of results are observed on the perception of females being passive, marginalized and stereotyped with a higher percentage of disagreement shown by Singaporean Malays (70.9%) than by Malaysian Malays (58.2%).

What these findings suggest is that Singaporean Malays tend to disassociate themselves more with markers of a negative Malay identity. Demographic differences between the two nations may have contributed to this difference. Tha tis, the relatively smaller Malay population in Singapore may provide fewer opportunities for Singaporean Malays to observe themselves as having negative attributes...

It is interesting to note that the proportions disagreeing that they are superior to other races were about the same in each group. The majority of Malaysian Malays (40%), however, agree that they are superior to the other races while only 18.2% of Singaporean (sic) think so.

Singaporean Malays show a much higher percentage of agreement (70.9%) about being guardians of traditions, compared with Malaysian Malays (36.4%). A higher percentage (sic) Singaporean Malays (54.5%) reveal that they are not afraid of change or innovations, compared with Malaysian Malays (41.8%)...

On Malay males being irrational, violent and emasculated, the majority of Singaporean Malays and Malaysian Malays disagree, but Singaporean Malays show a much higher degree of disagreement. The findings reveal similar (sic) pattern of perception on Malay females; that is, Malay women being seen as passive, marginalized and stereotyped. Malaysian Malays are more likely to perceive Malay men and women in these ways because the Malaysian respondents come from high and middle income brackets and are better educated. Therefore, owing to some paradigm shifts in their thinking of what males and females should be like, their expectations of them are higher."

--- Malay Ideals Revisited: Constructing Identities / Suraiya Mohd Ali in Reading the Malay World / ed. Rick Hosking


Presumably if a survey of Singaporean Chinese showed they didn't think they were racist, this would be proof that the stereotype that they are racist is wrong.

It seems that despite Sangeetha's (and others') wild claims, Singapore has been better for Malay empowerment, self-image and making them less racist (i.e. being better than other races) than Malaysia. This is especially striking given that the Singaporean sample was poorer educated than the Malay
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