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Arabisation or Dewesternisation


The increasing sight of Malays adorning the dishdasha and an expanding use of Arab vocabulary has created a bit of an uneasy feeling among some. Frequent use of terms like iftar in place of “berbuka” and solat instead of sembahyang, are apparently making some quarters feel insecure. 

No, the populace has not left the Malay language and adopted Arabic, neither have the Malays forgotten the local traditions. This furore over the Arabisation that is going on in Malaysia has lead many to champion the local or Nusantara culture. The Nusantara way of life has been referred to as being equally if not superior to the ever prevailing Arab culture. It has to be remembered that the Arabs have had a profound impact on Nusantara . 

Arab mores were brought by Arab traders, even before Bartholomew Diaz set sail for India. The idea of ‘Arabisation’ would not be an accurate representation of reality. It is in essence, the arrival of the Portuguese in Melaka that brought the Western code of life and eroded existing Asian ethics. Many great accomplishments have come from Europe and Americas such as cars, aeroplanes, vaccines, Pacific slave trade, bubonic plague, nuclear bomb, holocaust, communism, liberalism and many more.

However, there never was an issue with the Westernisation of the society here in Malaysia. The customs sourced from the West do not seem to coincide well with the refinements that have existed for centuries prior. For example, eating pizza is not equated with Italianisation, neither is having burgers seen as a process of Americanisation. The importation of these morals is not seen as a process of Westernisation neither does it in any way contradict the local heritage.

The double standards are high and wide. It is okay to have steak and lamb chops but falafels and shawarma are detrimental to local cuisine. Apparently, whatever that is brought in from the West is good but otherwise is bad. Caucasians are called expatriates while everyone else is a ‘foreign worker’. The never ending prejudice set by the past ravagers is seen as superior in values.

While some codes of behaviour are seen to be good, whereas others contradict societal principles that pre-exist. Likewise, when the idea of Arabisation occurs, there is another point of view that can be taken. The opposition to the indecencies prevalent in the Western Hemisphere. Not many can appreciate the lack of cabaret huts that used to exist during the early days of independence. Some have even said that they miss such a moment in time where a Malay Muslim could have whisky and watch live dance shows every night.

Though many have adopted the individualistic approach to life, i.e. one can do anything as long as he or she does not harm others. This however, is a seriously flawed idea, in no way can a person living in a society make a claim that his or her actions do not affect others. Perhaps the person who gave that opinion lives in a sealed bunker that is isolated from the rest of humanity. Let us presuppose a scenario where an individual openly makes a declaration that he and his partner are gays, in that situation there is a direct impact to the society.

Reason being, the idea of a declaration is to announce something to the masses. Does not make sense to aver that a society has no business in the affairs of an individual. That particular statement, meant to address the public might not be accepted in a given place or lifestyle. Deleterious standards brought in are assumed to be universal in nature, but that is not true. 

What is referred to as ‘Arabisation’ is in essence ‘dewesternisation’. It is the way of life of the colonial past that is being eroded and not the cultural values that are native to our nation. And if indeed there is an idea that my personal affairs are not related to others, conceivably, people who prefer to dress like Arabs should be left alone doing what they like.

After all it is not me who preaches about the so called ‘freedom to express’ one’s self.

Freedom is the right of everyone and not merely limited to the liberals, if one chooses to dress like an Arab then let him or  her be. Ostensibly, those who want to idolise their colonial masters can do so in a time and place that is suitable.

In the Land of Utopia it is just as much a right for someone to cover herself up, as much as it is to walk around ‘naked’.