Although Islam had always been an important part of the Malay upbringing, there was acceptance of other races and religions. This was most evident pre 1970. Then, there was a more liberal and laissez faire attitude among the Malays themselves towards religion and religious rituals. Many Malays (especially in the urban and semi-urban areas) went to Mission Schools and there was a greater mixing of the races. Malays visited their non-Malay friends in their house and partook of drinks and food, confident that their religious requirements were respected by their non-Muslim friends. Malays, Chinese and Indians ate together in coffeeshops.
Our first prime minister, Tunku, when criticized for drinking and going to the races, was said to have replied that he was answerable to Allah only. But the Tunku was not the only Malay who drank or went to the races.
There was even a Guinness Stout advertisement in the Malay Teachers Union magazine. Most Malay women did not wear the tudung and Malay girls played sports like girls from other communities. Religion was considered a private matter between the believer and his God – it was not imposed from without.
For all their religious posturing, do our ministers today have more integrity than those in Tunku’s cabinet? And are the tudung clad women, and goateed men today, with all their outward observance of rituals, more pious than their grandmothers and grandfathers.
We used to be a liberal and tolerant country, so what happened? How did we become the narrow minded, intolerant, country we are?