On April 11 2020, the New York Times published a factually wrong article about my homeland Malaysia and regarding its developing political situation. The article was 500 Years Ago, This Port Linked East to West. Its Fate Was To Fade Away written by Hannah Beech painted such picture:

  • The Malaccan international trade and globalization began under the Portuguese colonization.
  • The Conservatives and Islamists are culturally oppressing the Kristang ethnic in Malaysia.

Or that was how I interpreted such article. So we among The Patriots decide to respond through this article for the purpose of clarifications regarding the Malay history. We also would like to defend the Conservatives and Islamists in Malaysia upon which its majority is the derided Malay-Muslims.

In the opening of the article, we found that Mrs Beech outlined in great details about the Malaccan globalization. Malacca was explained within the terms of civilization clash, cultural singularity, and port status as the richest in the world. However everything went downhill when Mrs Beech opined that these developments began during the 16th century, in which was the time of the Portuguese imperialism (1511-1641).

Five centuries ago, Malacca was visited by 2,000 ships per day. Its port was as busy as the modern-day Singapore, making it one of the busiest in the world. There the Gujeratis, Tamils and Bengalis from India traded with Malays, Chinese and Arabs with harmony in cities having 100,000 people and 84 languages.

The ruling Sultan ensured the maritime safety in the Strait to be free from piracy. And His Majesty also ensured the goods stored in hundreds of imperial warehouses. If there was a dispute, the laws would be used for the best interest of the locals and foreigners alike.” (Simon Elegant, Far Eastern Economic Review, 10 June, 1994:45.)

It is unfortunate that Mrs Beech did not in any way suggest that Malacca gained prominence and dominance through its Malay Sultanate. The Port of Malacca was a crown jewel for globalization, where there was a significant ethnic diversity. It was built by a monarchial government complete with Malays from the head of state to nobility. Ironic, right?

Other than that Mrs Beech seemed to be fond with the Portugese invaders. But the Portuguese themselves held the Sultan with such a high regard. Through a record, Tom Pires described Sultan Muzaffar of Malacca as:

“He was a great man of justice; he devoted much care to the improvement of Malacca, he bought and built junks and sent them out with merchants, for which even today the old merchants of said king’s time praise him greatly, especially as a very justman. (A. Cortesao(ed); 1967:243)

In fact the Portuguese was the reason behind Malacca’s fall. After capturing the port from the Malays, they monopolized trade through an exorbitant taxation and Islamophobia. Their impertinence was the reason why regional trades shunned this port-city, diverting to Acheh, Johor, Pattani etc.

Johor reciprocated the Malaccan model, centralizing every port under their leadership to cater only the needs of every trader. This approach paved the way for a golden age in Johor. It is said that Johor achieved its success that could be measured with the four-ton gold sacked during the war against Jambi (equivalent to US$221.4 billion today).

So when Mrs Beech centered the article with Darian Tan whose community was self-claimed to connect the East and West, there was a need for a reflection. Because Mr Darian’s ancestors were the ones responsible for the destruction of a great cosmopolitan.

The Malays built Malacca on the basis of a strong Islamic root. From its imperial laws such as the Malaccan Code of Law inspired from Islamic sharia to the religious propagation through the Malay World, not forgetting those Islamic education centers which were made as a regional reference.

Tematis Dunia Islam was an encyclopedia about traders, missionaries and spiritual teachers whose wayfaring missions from the Middle East to Malacca were told with full description. Should we forget that Pasai visited Malacca to seek clarifications from an imperial Islamic jurisprudence?

Mrs Beech wrote an article with the obvious purpose of exacting fear among the non-Malays by suggesting their fate was to be swayed under Malaysia. A clear proof was by suggesting “the return to populist Malay politics is provoking anxiety.” Mrs Beech also provoked anxiety by merely suggesting that the Jesus Christ the Redeemer statue in the Portuguese Square was to be demolished under the ruling Malay Muslims. It must be said that if this statue did not violate any local law, it would not be touched.

There is no reason to fear. The Malaccan globalization was handcrafted by a historical empire so deep with Islamic and Malay roots. The present Muslims ruling this nation were in no way different than those during the Malaccan age. Some Malays found Malacca to be a symbol for inspiration even.

Kelantan for example, the state purported to be the most Islamic, was under an Islamist rule for decades. Not once the public and politics called to destroy a huge Buddhist statue there, the largest in Southeast Asia, despite a great majority among Muslims. So to wantonly fear that the Malays would oppress minorities and destroy religious places was a misplaced purpose.

As long as statues were built according to the letter of the law, nothing could ever challenge their legitimacy. Thousands of temples and churches stood firmly in this country without any reason to fear on the basis of freedom in religion, including that of the minorities.

We are also stunned when Mrs Beech falsely used “Malaysia’s only truly multiethnic government” in reference to the Pakatan Harapan two-year government. I do not wish to discuss how that government was toppled. But to suggest it as the truly multiethnic is wrong. It insults every non-Malay minister who served the public, such as Tan Siew Sin, Omar Ong and Sambathan Veerasamy etc.

Tan Siew Sin
Omar Ong
Sambanthan Veerasamy

So who are these non-Malay leaders? Do not pretend to forget that Malaysia had Lim Liong Sik as the interim head of government and de facto Prime Minister. So there was no multiethnic government before this?

Perhatian sebentar…

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