When Najib Abdul Razak told Malaysians that he was aping former PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s ‘Look East’ policy, another leader was also looking east. That person was the Saudi Arabian monarch, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
Saudi Arabia is our second largest trading partner in the Middle East, and around 60 percent of our exports comprise of palm oil-based products, processed food and machine parts.
With plunging oil prices, Salman knew he had to diversify his economy. With an increasing budget deficit, he turned towards the growing Asian market to tap into their emerging economies.
Trading with Saudi Arabia is fine, but there is one Saudi import that we can do without. Since the 1980s, the Saudis used their petrodollars to build mosques, madrasahs, Arabic language schools, fund religious clerics and buy religious textbooks; but the most damaging aspect was the ‘corruption’ of local culture by the Saudi Wahhabism ideology.
Look around you, many of the Malays refuse to shake your hand (if you are a woman), refuse to eat in your home (if you are non-Malay), and dress like an Arab. They are probably the by-products of an intolerant Islam. Were the Malays like this in your parents’ or grandparents’ time?
Once upon a time, Malay boys aspired to be doctors, lawyers, artists or engineers. Today, many want to become an ‘ustad’. They have few interests, especially as their parents, and community keep drilling into them the necessity to prepare for life after death.
The Malays of a generation ago were a different breed. They were fun-loving. They did not mind laughing at themselves. They counted many non-Malays amongst their friends. They took pride in their Malay culture, language, dress and food. They were not as sensitive as today’s lot.
With the creeping Arabisation, the rich Malay culture is almost unrecognisable. Malay children are given Arabic sounding names, many of which are unpronounceable and just as difficult to spell. From an early age, the girls are covered up and separated from the boys. They may not play together. We litter our conversation and speeches with Arabic phrases.
During Ramadan, today’s Malays will break their fast with dates, just because the Prophet did so. What happened to the traditional kueh and sirap bandung?
Tendency to cherry-pick
Malays have a tendency to cherry-pick from the religion. In Islam, polygamous husbands should marry single mothers or widows, but polygamous Malay men often plump for a girl who is younger than his youngest daughter.
Students returning from the Middle East have introduced aspects of the Arabic way of life which have seemingly corrupted the Malay culture. Gone are our wayang kulits, our jogets, our bajus, our ‘pagan’ rituals which were allegedly steeped in Hinduism, which the Malays practised long before they embraced Islam. A woman who speaks her mind is deemed a liberal, a feminist, and someone who “does not know her religion”.
We should be proud of our Malaysian heritage, but Rosmah Mansor’s Permata put on an Arab dance display for Salman last week. Why not a selection of Malaysian dances?
What else is the Saudi better at? Their nation is largely dependent on imported labour, like the Pakistanis and the Filipinos, who do their work. So are we.
One Saudi friend confided, “Many of the rich young Saudi boys sit at home and watch porn. There is abuse of women, girls and young boys on a large scale. All hushed-up of course.”
Saudi women are trying to empower themselves. They are not allowed to drive, or go out unchaperoned. Malay women are in danger of losing their hard-fought freedoms, because of the teamwork of Umno Baru and PAS who are apparently in league with the nation’s Islamic institutions like the Islamic Development Department of Malaysia (Jakim).
The moral police, in Saudi Arabia, use sticks to beat women if they are not covered up. We are steadily working on the dress code, here.
In Saudi Arabia, a woman who is raped, will allegedly be put to death for ‘committing adultery’. Again, we are working towards the same warped laws in Kelantan.
In Malaysia, monsoon drains running alongside the roads transport large volumes of water during heavy rains to rivers. In Saudi Arabia, the roads and public squares have drain channels to cope with the blood that has been spilt during public executions. The beheadings are normally carried out on the roads or public square.
In 2013, Saudi authorities hung five bodies from a crane as a ‘reminder’ to the people. Public executions quickly attract onlookers.
Football is a sport enjoyed by both sexes in Malaysia. The latest spectacle will be when Kelantan starts public whippings as a national pastime.
It’s not all doom and gloom. Last year, Malaysians were outraged when a Malaysian housewife boarded a private jet bound for Turkey. The taxpayer was paying for the plane, but that was the least of the rakyat’s worries. Her aides were filmed carrying an endless succession of large suitcases into the aircraft.
Last week, this particular housewife was eclipsed by Salman, who on his state visit was said to have travelled with 460 tonnes of luggage.
In future, you will think twice before complaining about your spouse’s packing when preparing for a holiday.
WRITER: MARIAM MOKHTAR