This was left to me in my comments (quite unrelated to the subject of the post, but hey), and since this sort of thing makes me so mad, here y’go:
I’ll skip all the stuff about the Hindu influenced traditional culture that’s being gotten rid of, but there’s a picture in the article of a carved bird, and we have a couple similar to that (but not quite as nice, obviously) that Peter’s grandfather brought back from Malaysia, so, yeah.
At the same time they have been consumed by a wave of Islamicisation that swept across the world from the 1970s, a wave ridden by Malay politicians who after the Iranian revolution decided it was that, or be drowned by it.
“Now we understand what it is to be proper Muslims,” people tell me, and in this rapidly developing country many have found in their faith a still centre in a whirlwind of change.
But it is not just traditional arts that are under pressure.
Looking at posters from P Ramlee’s movies, I realise that films like these could not be made today.
“All we can do these days is tut tut at one another,” a Malay friend tells me.
Across the country one sees the evidence of a culture of disapproval….
The federal government seems unsure how to respond.
Those who raise their voices against the new breed of religious teacher, schooled in Egypt, Saudi Arabia or Pakistan, are shouted down. “Kaffir,” they scream.
And jokes about gin are just not seen as funny.
But the saddest encounter I had in Kelantan was with a criminal lawyer.
“What keeps you busy?” I asked.
“Rape,” he said. “It’s all rape.”
Incest, drugs and rape afflict the Malay community far worse than Malaysia’s large Chinese and Indian minorities.
Piety in public. Acts that lead to self-loathing behind closed doors.
There is a sense that the Malays are a people increasingly adrift, and as at ill at ease with themselves now, as their grandparents’ generation appeared content.
It would have broken P Ramlee’s heart.