Gryffindor / Public domain

In the span of just two weeks, Malaysia’s great experiment with a more-than-usual democratic government was dissolved by its King, the oldest prime minister in the world was summarily replaced and his mismatched coalition of long-time opposition parties, Pakatan Harapan (PH), shredded. Their replacements were a prime minister representing a dangerous mix of the previously powerful pro-Malay UMNO party and the hard-line Islamist PAS. None of this happened with a vote by the people. Instead, the King individually consulted all 222 Members of Parliament to find a leader capable of commanding a majority and picked one.

The importance of having…


One of the most pernicious aspects of racism in Malaysia is that most people agree it doesn’t exist. Put differently, they might begin to say, “Disagreements (between different ethnicities) happen, but they aren’t that bad.

There’s almost a herd resistance to not stating the obvious, part of it a direct result of criminalising anything outside the government’s harmonious social image, and part of it the unavoidable barrage of that harmonious messaging drilled into every person, everywhere, through the national education curriculum, via every pore of the sanctioned media, until the idea itself is inviolable. Malaysia must be harmonious. …


In mid-2015, news broke out that 1MDB, a massive, state-owned sovereign wealth fund set up and chaired by Malaysia’s current Prime Minister, Mr. Najib Razak, was not just crippled with debt after six years of operation, but that hundreds of millions of dollars were alleged to have been channeled from the fund into the Prime Minister’s own personal bank accounts.

Locally, the news was reported by The Edge (a financial and investment newspaper), and internationally by the Wall Street Journal, both based on (pending) investigative documents that were leaked to the press. Within weeks, the current administration suspended The Edge’s…


Earlier this month, I read that fifteen families held capital assets worth about 76% of Malaysia’s GDP (The separation of ownership and control in East Asian Corporations, Claessens/Djankov/Lang, Journal of Financial Economics 58). It piqued my interest because it doesn’t take an expert view of our history to realise how power in this country is concentrated in the hands of a few. In our relatively brief history as a democratic nation, our political leadership grows increasingly dynastic, dependent on the personality cults of its leaders and paid for by complicated networks of cronies. …


Currently, the buzz in Malaysia is implementing hudud (punishments claimed by God), the holy grail of the Sharia. But, as Sadakat Kadri asks in his lovely exploration of Sharia history, Heaven on Earth, Whose Sharia?”

We have the Sharia of the Sunni heartland, as practised by the guardians of Mecca. Saudi women have about as many rights as children and the mentally disabled. Only Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates may really be Wahhabi states, but the Wahhabi payroll has paid for fundamentalist teachings from Africa to East Asia. And wherever these one-way Muslims have set foot, they…


Or how calling conservatives moderate does not make them so

I am currently reading Karima Bennoune’s Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here. She puts into words a nagging feeling I've had for most of my adult life, a scary one, that real moderates and secularists in Muslim-majority countries have already lost. Specifically, the fight in my country is lost. The personal religion I grew up watching the adults around me practice has turned inside out into a garish display of outdoing the holy. That is the new status quo, and anyone who could think differently needs only seek exile or stay silent.

The stories Ms. Bennoune narrates are the fruits…


Part 2: How citizenship as a privilege shapes fundamentalist nationalism

In Part 1 of this essay series, I talked about the seafaring history of pre-Colonial Malay kingdoms and the multicultural influences that shaped them.

One of the prevailing themes I spoke about was the issue of sovereignty and privilege. The Malaysia we know today comprises thirteen states and three federal territories. Of these, nine were independent absolute monarchies. Some states, like Penang, Sarawak and Sabah, took their modern shape as leased territories to European interests. Other states were dependencies of the existing Sultanates, or as is the case with the Peninsular’s northern states, sometimes vassals of Siam.


Part 1: Pirate princes, scattered kingdoms and lost majesty

All Malaysians begin life at the bottom of the food chain. Whether we wind up with a silver spoon in our mouths or far from an urban centre, all of us enter the administration’s tracking system at birth. By way of our birth certificates and our initial biometric national identity card, and as adults, the adult biometric national identity card, our growth is carefully marked. Along the way, we might pick up any number of further identifying documents — things one might encounter in the normal course of life, like passports and drivers licenses, and the slightly…


When I was fourteen, I had a Physical Education teacher who decreed that all the Muslim girls had to wear a headscarf during his class. I don’t know what his rationale was to this day. Was he afraid the rigorous physical activity, for which we dressed in ankle-length sweatpants and short-sleeved collared shirts, would expose us while we ran around the field? Was it a test of faith by dehydration?

My school at the time was on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, a place that I can only best represent as the spiritual, Muslim brother of the U.S.’s Bible…

A.M. Muffaz

Reads too much, writes too little. Thinks dangerously.

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