This is an interesting perspective of the question of Malayness from Malaysian writer Karim Raslan.
His last paragraph is especially sobering for ketuanan Melayu types:
“History’s record is cruel and unforgiving. Winners shape history and erase the achievements, even the existence of the losers. For many Malaysian Malays it is eye-opening to come to Indonesia only to discover that their community — their people — have long been on the receiving end of history’s lessons, suffering and losing out to more dynamic, driven people.”
It must be tough being a Malaysian Malay in such transparent times that give the lie to the totally ersatz view of Malayhood, as Umno would have them believe.
From the viewpoint of race, Indonesia is a liberating, even intoxicating place, especially for Malaysians like me who’ve been conditioned to view people in cultural and religious “silos” — Malay, Chinese and Indian. The Indonesian approach to race is infinitely more fluid. Distinctions are relatively unimportant.
These contrasting ways of perceiving the world lie at the heart of many of the squabbles that arise between Indonesia and Malaysia. These emanate from a sense that we really ought to understand each other better when in fact history and politics have long intervened to create two very different polities.
On the one hand, there is Malaysia, where political power is in the hands of the Malay-Muslim community. Indeed, Malay identity has been very broadly defined. People of Arab, Javanese and even Turkish descent are considered Malay, thereby consolidating power in the face of a large and dynamic non-Malay population.
In Indonesia, however, the challenge has always been how to unify this archipelagic nation and prevent its fracturing. As a result, there’s the uniting and all-embracing rhetoric enshrined in the phrase, “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika,” unity in diversity. People seem to be able to shift between boundaries easily. Javanese, Muslim, Christian, Batak, Hindu and Balinese merge into one another.