Posts Tagged ‘ identity ’

Bali Shirt

Today I wore my Bali shirt for the first time. Sensing a hot day amongst this tough to negotiate Australian weather I thought it was the perfect opportunity and the timing seemed right.

Apart from having a bird shit on the shirt just five minutes after leaving the house, I also felt like a dick. But that’s expected. When I wore a flanno for the first time, I felt like a dick. When I wore a flanno that wasn’t just shades of the greyscale for the first time, I felt like a dick. When I wore my assymetrical zipper hoodie for the first time, I felt like a dick. Whenever I wear shoes that aren’t 100% black, I feel like a dick.

In my new Bali shirt I went to university to hand in an essay. While I was in the area, I decided it would be a good idea to walk to Kingsford to stock up on tempe for the Easter break. Passing my way through the aural environment of Malaysian accents and Bahasa Indonesia, holding onto a bag of tempe and a copy of Buletin, I felt like a dick. More of a dick.

Walking through Kingsford in a Bali shirt, holding tempe and a Buletin, is a bit like going to a punk gig and wearing a black hoodie and a band shirt. That carefully crafted equilibrium, the culturally ambiguous identity, is shattered and a caricature emerges. And I feel like a dick.

I walk on through Kingsford and pass an Asian man wearing southern cross board shorts and a southern cross t-shirt. For a moment I feel comfortable, maybe still like a dick, but at least a comfortable dick.

I board a bus and sit down. I put the tempe in my bag, rest the Buletin on my knees and pull out a book about Indonesian fishermen in the Timor and Arafura Seas. And I feel a little bit like a cartoon character.

Mahathir and becoming Malay

More support for my quest to become Malay. This time from the most Malay person ever, Dr Mahathir:

The Indians and the Arabs changed the pattern of trade in the old Malay sultanates. They not only traded, but some of them settled and married Malays close to the courts of the rajas. Because these merchants had to be astute in business and reasonably rich in order to trade so far from their homeland, it is not surprising that their abilities were soon recognised and utilised by the Malay rajas. They became influential in the Malay courts and were in time accepted as Malays. Quite naturally they became more and more involved in the commercial life of the country, but they were regarded by themselves not as foreigners but as Malays. Their business know-how and their contacts with the courts as well as with foreign merchants brought a new sophistication into Malay business. No longer were the rajas required to trade directly. Henceforth they, as well as the ra’ayat, were serviced by competent merchants and shopkeepers, whom they could still identify with their own race, even though the racial origins were different.

Mahathir bin Mohamad, The Malay Dilemma, p. 34

So, according to Mahathir, Indians and Arabs, some of whom were actually born in India and the Arab peninsula instead of being born in Malaysia or being “the issue of such a person”, were accepted as Malays, regarded themselves as Malays and had racial solidarity with actually Malay Malays?

Well if it makes sense to Mahathir, then that’s good enough for me. If my Indian and Arab brothers could do it, then what’s stopping a mat salleh like me?

Checklist For Becoming Melayu

Following in the footsteps of Jeane Abdullah, the Portuguese-Eurasian wife of Abdullah Badawi, and other non-Malays who have masuk melayu and in the spirit of trying to figure out if what we consider racial identity is just a little bit bullshit, I’m going to see if I can become Malay.

“Malay” means a person who professes the religion of Islam, habitually speaks the Malay language, conforms to Malay custom and –

  • (a) was before Merdeka Day born in the Federation or in Singapore or born of parents one of whom was born in the Federation or in Singapore, or was on that day domiciled in the Federation or in Singapore; or
  • (b) is the issue of such a person;

No. 1: Professes the Religion of Islam

I’m practically straight-edge so I don’t drink alcohol or take any other haram intoxicants. I’m vegan so I don’t eat pigs. When I was a baby I kept getting infections and the easiest solution was circumcision. I can say “لا إله إلا الله محمد رسول الله” any time I want.

No. 2: Habitually Speaks the Malay Language

Tunggu lah! Kenapa tak sabar? Sikit-sikit lama-lama jadi bukit.

No. 3: Conforms to Malay Custom

I can play caklempong. I lepak at mamak restaurants late at night. I have at least two tablespoons of sugar with my tea. I don’t use toilet paper. I can sing along to Yuna’s Dan Sebenarnya, yet claim to not like Yuna’s music. I can grow one of those little beards, not too long though. I have really weird sleeping patterns that mean I spend most of my waking hours during the night. When I’m meant to meet my friends I tell them I’m already on the way, just before I have a shower, before I get changed, before I have something to eat, before I read a book, before I leave the house to catch the train which usually takes about half an hour. Lah.

No. 4 (a): was before Merdeka Day born in the Federation or in Singapore or born of parents one of whom was born in the Federation or in Singapore, or was on that day domiciled in the Federation or in Singapore; or

No, but….

No. 4 (b): is the issue of such a person

I don’t really know what that means, I’m not very good at legalspeak. But could I just get adopted by some old Malaysian people?