Othering the Malay in Malaysia: A Planned Consequence of Politics?


This paper examines the rise in the politicisation of Islam in Malaysia and links it to the othering of the Malaysian Malay. It is my argument that both were “conquering” tools of Malaysia’s “Father of Modernisation”, Mahathir Mohamad, devised to win the support of the Malay muslim majority in Malaysia.
The many awards bestowed on Mahathir obscure the fact that he was instrumental in the systematic erosion of the power and roles of state institutions, especially at the Federal government level. This includes the significant loss of the independence of the Malaysian judiciary. Whilst per capita income in Malaysia may well have increased eight times under his 22-year leadership, this paper asks why is it that the majority of the Malays remain the largest number among the poor and the more disenfranchised of ethnicities in the country? Why have Malay and Muslim women suffered such a rapid decreasing ability to access justice?
This paper examines existing research on the social and political changes Malaysia has experienced with Islamisation and under Mahathir’s rule, as well as studies on Malayness, Malay nationalism and Muslim Malay identity formation. The paper elaborates the “othering” of a majority people, the Malays in Malaysia, and how this othering has brought forth a fast-growing political power in the name of a supremacist Islam, a puritannical Sunni and Malay Islam. Specific events in the rise and rule of Mahathir as Malaysia’s then Prime Minister are reviewed, such as the banning of The Malay Dilemma, and the split in the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) in 1987. Also examined is the varying emphasis between Muslim and race, and how during Mahathir’s rule, that strong misogynist and patriarchal attitudes took hold in Malay Muslim consciousness, a “colonising” consciousness that is othering the perceived cultural and genetic “impurities” within the Malay.

Author Information
Angela Marianne Kuga Thas, Queensland University of Technology, Australia

Paper Information
Conference: ACAH2013
Stream: Arts & Humanities

This paper is part of the ACAH2013 Conference Proceedings (View)
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To cite this article:
Thas A. (2013) Othering the Malay in Malaysia: A Planned Consequence of Politics? ISSN: 2186-229X – The Asian Conference on Arts and Humanities 2013 – Official Conference Proceedings https://doi.org/10.22492/2186-229X.20130055
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.22492/2186-229X.20130055

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon