Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Penang Politics Before 1945

Politics throughout Tanah Melayu was different before colonial times, and each time a colonizer arrived. At the time of British Malaya, there were many migrants, notably Indians, Chinese and Arabs. There were other minority groups - Europeans and Jews who fled the 2 World Wars.

Because of the influx on migrants, not only did the Malays suffer to make their stand and voice heard, even among the migrants, there was struggle to be at the top, especially in the political struggle.

For the 3 British Settlements of Penang, Malacca and Singapore, the fight of the Malays and among the Malays were difficult. In Penang in particular, the fight was to regain Penang after Captain Francis Light and the British East India Company could not comply with the terms of the Sultan of Kedah. The Malays fought back to regain Penang but lost not only Penang, Francis Light and the BEIC also captured Seberang Perai (Province Wellesley).

After Penang became a British Settlement, things were still not right between the Penang Malays. At the time because of second generation of Indian and Arab families, even the politics was divided between those who favoured the Peranakan India (Penang Indian Muslims) who comprised the Penang Malays Association (PMA) and the Peranakan Arab (Penang Arabs)  who belonged to a different body. The Indian Muslims and Arabs may look similar but they have dissimilar priorities and wealth ownership. The Peranakan India remained in Georgetown while the Penang Arabs are at mainly 3 locations (even today) - Batu Uban, Jelutong and Kelawai. The politics and fight for political freedom are different between the 2 groups. Not only that, even the mosques are different. There is Masjid Kapitan Keling in Georgetown built by Penang Tamil Muslims, and many masjid jamek built by the Penang Arab-Malays such as Masjid Jamek Batu Uban, which is the oldest mosque in Malaysia - dated 1734. The founder of Masjid Jamek Batu Uban was a Minangkabau Malay who was called Nakhoda Nan Intan - signifying his skin colour as very dark. The Malay descriptive term Nan Intan points to a very dark skin, and most probably of Indian extract. So now we have the Indians subdivided between the earlier arrivals and the latter arrivals. Both the Penang Indian Muslims and the Penang Malay-Arabs practised in-breeding and marry among their clan members. It is very rare that they married to people outside their clans. The main aim being to maintain the family's wealth or clan wealth.

This is an article about the political scenario then:
Pergerakan Politik Melayu Negeri Pulau Pinang Sebelum 1945 oleh Md. Salleh bin Md. Ghaus.

It should be noted that some of the early Malay doctors before Merdeka (1900-1957) were from the Peranakan India families and one was from the Penang Arab family.


Anonymous said...

I believe that the oldest mosque in Malaysia is Masjid Kampung Laut in Kelantan.

Prof Faridah said...

There is no proper date on when Masjid Kampung Laut was actually constructed. 1401 is given in Wikipedia but in 1400s, Kelantan was not Malay land but belonged to Siam. It was not an Islamic civilisation. So Masjid Kg Laut may have been a kuil Hindu before, despite it being claimed as a masjid today as it resembles a mosque of Demak (Islamic) architecture. We have not searched the Chinese Ming chronicles about the origin of Masjid Kg Laut. Cheng Ho's fleet may have arrived here and built the mosque, which also resembles a stunted pagoda. There is evidence of Ming China buried in a riverside village in Tumpat, which is often flooded in the monsoon season. From the stories I have heard, this village was an ancient port. This village has never been studied for its archaeological link and evidence of Ming Chinese visitation.

Anonymous said...

Is nakhoda intan an arab or malay descendant as well? As u said the mosque was founded by him and u wrote here he is a malay but in another sentence u have mentioned that the batu uban mosque was built by the penang-arabs malay?

Prof Faridah said...

Thanks for asking about Nakhoda Nan Intan. From my reading and studying the family tree of Nakhoda Nan Intan which I was given, I think he maybe descended from the first wave of early Yemeni Arabs who settled in Acheh. There maybe intermarriage with local Minangkabau. The descendants then opened the Minangkabau palace further south. Nakhoda Nan Intan was descended from this Minangkabau palace. After Nakhoda Nan Intan opened Masjid Batu Uban at Kg Batu Uban, his descendants married to the second wave of Yemeni Arabs who came to Penang. I believe he was both Arab-Minangkabau. Today, all Muslims are grouped as Malay, so he is Malay on those grounds. The clan goes by the name Al-Yamani.