Wednesday, 24 April 2013

The Kasta System Lives On

I was talking to my son about his work status. He had just lost his job; he gave up on his last job. I asked him about what the working conditions were like in the private sector. His reply was simple - it is a dog eat dog world and the caste system is still in place, like it or not. Not knowing anybody is as simple as saying I can't get a good job right now.

He's gone away today and tomorrow. He flew on AirAsia this morning. He wanted to drive to KL but his car overheated at Kok Lanas last night and he had to turn back. He is taking his accountancy classes and exam somewhere in KL. I asked him what the classes are like. He said he is the only Malay in a class full of Chinese businessmen. I asked him if he felt ok or intimidated. He said it is better to study than to do nothing about himself. He likes the classes because the Chinese experts tell good stories of their experiences and fortunes. They provide a lot of case studies, good ones too, of international flavour. He will be taking another few months of private tuition classes before he takes the Australian professional accountancy exam, administered in KL on behalf of Australia. The private tuition is expensive and so is the exam, like paying for another degree. I hope he makes it and gets to work on his own in future. I want him to be happy and not worry about the caste system that's prevalent just about anywhere in any society. I hope he understands that this world is not so easy after all. But that's life.

CWTS Leiden Ranking 2013

My comments:
If minimum publication is set at 500, only UM made it to the charts.
If minimum publication is set at 100, both UM and USM made it.
UM did better than USM for Biomedical and Health Sciences, with collaboration, with minimum # of publications set at 500.

How many publications per lecturer?
500 publications, divided by 300 lecturers, means about 1-2 publications per lecturer. This is average.

Who is top in Asia?
UM scored 63rd place
USM scored 79th place

I think USM did ok being in the top 93 universities in Asia. Not too bad.

What's next?
I haven't seen the ranking for Asian medical schools.

Meet Tasneem bt Taha

Tasneem is a first-year medical student at USM, with keen interest in the history of medicine. She came to see me after I took the first lecture for year 1 medicine, History of Medicine. She said she was interested in the subject. I met her another time when she came to my room to ask for a book I had mentioned in my lecture. I had forgotten but she remembered. That was some time ago. Today, she came back to discuss the time-table. After that I asked her if she is the same person who came to see me after class after my first lecture and later to see about a book. Yes, it is the same girl except that I can't recall her face. So today, Tasneem received my 2 books on The Early Malay Doctors. This week is still exam week. I hope she will have some time during the GE13 holiday to read my books.

Tasneem is both American as well as Malaysian. Her father is from Connecticut, USA and her mother is from Pahang. Her father studied Arabic language in Saudi Arabia and now teaches Arabic language in Kubang Kerian. She is the second of 9 siblings. Her elder brother is studying chemical engineering.

From the Madrasah to the Museum: The Social Life of the Kietaabs of Cape Town

This article was written by Saarah Jappie, Researcher, University of Cape Town:

Ebrahiem Manuel's story of his kietaab and how he traced his ancestors' lineage to Sumbawa, Indonesia
Muslim heritage in Cape Town
Islamic manuscripts of Cape Town
Kietaabs of Cape Town
Kietaabs as schoolbooks in madrasah
Importance of kietaabs (kitabs) written in Jawi script in Cape Town Malay Muslim community
Arjun Appadurai's theory on social historical objects and archival biography
Contested uses of Jawi Islamic literature
Tombouctou Manuscripts Project
Jawi text and Patani identity
Linguistic change: Cape Arabic-Malay was replaced by Cape Dutch, which evolved to become Afrikaans today
Madrasah education at the Cape began during the time of slavery
The first official Muslim School was founded in 1793 in Cape Town, South Africa
Malay was the lingua franca at the Cape
Bahasa Bugis (Buginese) and Tamil were also spoken, written and used at the Cape\
The earliest extant Arabic-Afrikaans manuscript was written in the1840s by Imam Qadi Abdul Salaam, who was popularly known as “Tuan Guru” (“MisterTeacher”)
“Tuan Guru” was a Tidore prince from the Ternate islands of eastern Indonesia. He arrived at the Cape as a political convict in 1780 and was incarcerated on Robben Island until 1793. He wrote the entire Quran from memory.
The imams came from diverse backgrounds
The madrasah accepted slaves and Free Black students
Free Black” or “vrijzwarten” refers to manumitted slaves
“Malay” becamea a racial sub-category of “Coloured” during apartheid South Africa
Handwritten kietaabs were used for teaching purposes at madrasah in South Africa
One of the most popular texts copied and circulated, is the Umm Al-Barahin (“TheMother of Proofs”), also known as the Sanusiyya, after its author, influential AlgerianAsh’arite scholar, Muhammad ibn Yusuf Al-Sanusi (1787-1859), and Die Twintig Siefaat (“The Twenty Attributes” of God/ 20 Sifat Allah)
Koples boeke was a notebook which characterized the madrasah educational system
Talismanic kietaabs (azeemat reference books) including the azeemats (amulets) were written and used by the Muslim Sufis who arrived to live in the hostile social environment at the Cape.
Abdulkader Tayob, Islamic Resurgence in South Africa: The Muslim Youth Movement (Cape Town, 1995)
Abdulkader Tayob commented that Cape Sufism had secret knowledge and held secret meetings
The Cape Muslims, slaves and settlers believed in charm cures and practised them as they were effective. They were said to practise "Malay tricks".
Academic, poet and Malay enthusiast I.D. du Plessis wrote a novel about the adventure of 3 young Afrikaaner boys who went to see a doekoem (dukun) in Java
Doekoem or dukun were charm makers as well as spiritual healers
Witch doctors are magic men
Tuan Nuruman @ “Paay Schaapie,” was an exile banished to the Cape from Batavia in 1770. He made azeemat to help slaves escape in 1786 but it failed and he was sent to Robben Island.
Ajami manuscripts are used for daily social communication
Shift in education from traditional madrasah to mainstream schooling system resulted in literacy shift from Arabic to Latin (initially in Afrikaans and later in English)
Evolution on non White literacy at the Cape
Development of the Muslim mission school at the Cape
Development of mainstream schooling system at the Cape
"Bapak" Ismail Petersen had ~7 Jawi kietaabs. He burned incense every Thursday night but did not understand the reasons for doing so. Much of his kietaabs were burned by his brother which made him sad.
Many Cape Muslim families own kietaabs but can't read nor understand them; they merely possess them
Kietaabs were disposed by burning
The inside cover of the kietaabs contain family tree of the author and link them back to their forefathers
The kietaabs are passed down from master to students or interested individuals, not necessarily family members
Kietaabs become Cape Muslim family heirlooms
Many foreigners studied manuscripts of the Cape Muslims, including Dutch Adrianus van Selms in 1950s, German Hans Kahler in 1960s-1970s, and Achmat Davids in 1980s
Simon's Town Heritage Museum
Malaysian and Indonesian researchers began to study at the Cape Jawi manuscripts in mid-1990s, after apartheid ended
Malaysia, Indonesia and the Cape share their cultural legacies of the Malay World
Pusat Manuskrip Melayu, Perpustakaan Negara Malaysia researched the Cape Jawi manuscripts in 1996
Hassiem Salie is the President of the South African Melayu Cultural Society (SAMCS)

Parti Komunis Malaya (PKM)

Parti Komunis Malaya (PKM) or the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) comprised mainly Chinese, Indians and a few Malays who were forced to join. One of the Malays who was forced to join was Mokhtar Petah's father.

Mokhtar Petah wrote first-hand about the PKM at his blog:

PKM was a part of Parti Komunis China (PKC) or the China Communist Party (CCP). Both followed the orders of the Kuomintang, which aimed to create a New China State, comprising the addition of Tanah Melayu, Singapore and Borneo to existing China. Singapore was the first to yield.

When the Chinese capitalists were brought to Tanah Melayu, the Chinese tin miners, wealthy tawkays and traders were subordinate to two masters, what the Malays referred to as talam dua muka. They were loyal to the British and at the same time, supported PKM.

In UMNO's fight for the Malayan independence, the British sided and supported UMNO but battled the PKM. The Chinese benefited politically and economically.

Following the Japanese war, in the reoccupation period, under the British High Commissioner, Sir Edward Gent (1946-1948), the British immediately introduced the Malayan Union, in an attempt to gain control over Tanah Melayu. This was met with great resistance from the Malays who refused to be continued to be ruled  by the British. A state of emergency prevailed and the Malayan Emergency lasted 12 years, from 1948 to 1960.

The Malays met at Kelab Sultan Sulaiman (Sultan Sulaiman Club) in Kampong Baru, Kuala Lumpur in early May 1946. Dato Onn Jaafar and the Malays created PEKEMBAR (Pertubuhan Kebangsaan Melayu Bersatu). It comprised Malays who were English educated in the West. That's how UMNO was formed, with an English name (United Malays National Organisation) - it has no Malay name. Its possible Malay name could be Persatuan Nasional Melayu Bersatu (PNMB).

While other third world countries (India and Indonesia) gained their independence in the late 1940s, Malaya was slow to gain its independence. When Sir Henry Gurney ruled as the second British Resident (1948-1951), UMNO flourished and was amicable to the British. It paved the way for the Malayan independence, 9 years too late. This delay was due to putting off independence till the British got whatever they wanted. Malaya gained its independence on 31 August 1957 but its people still lived in fear. Many areas had to observe the curfew.

The years ahead met with many teething political and economic troubles and many Malays were captured and jailed. One was Dr Burhanuddin al-Helmy, an early Malay doctor and homeopathic practitioner who later turned politician. Singaporean Utusan newspaper editor, Said Zahari was jailed for 17 years without trial.

Rejimen Ke-10 Askar Melayu, Pahang played a big role in defending Malaya against its colonial masters. Its members killed many British officers who came to serve in Malaya, mainly for British gains. Some of the British officers favoured the Malays and continued to live in Malaya. They converted to Islam and served the interest of the poor Malays. A notable person is Haji Mubin Sheppard, who helped 2 early Malay boys through medical school and they became successful early Malay doctors.

Sir Gerald Templer was the third British High Commissioner to Malaya (1952-1953). It was under him that Malay villagers were translocated to specified areas in towns, and called Kampong Baru. Villages at the periphery of the Malaysian jungles and suspected of activities connected to the PKM were re-located to new areas. It was in his time that Pasar Chow Kit flourished under a Malay market supervisor? The Templer Hospital was opened in 1952 and named in his honour. These Malay villages have now become Chinese lands, mainly from land resale. There were also many change of hands after the war when landowners died during the Japanese war and new bogus landowners took the opportunity to claim lands without landowners. As a result, some families became poor while some became rich from such illegal activities. That's history.

All over Malaya and including Singapore, the Malays had to beg the government to give them land so they could till the land and build homes. It was a sad state. In Malacca, the same happened; the fallen Singapore Sultanate was given land in Umbai, just after the town centre in Banda Hilir. In Singapore, the Malays purchased land via its spokesperson, Encik Eunos, and they obtained Geylang. In Penang, Kampong Melayu in Ayer Hitam is still a Malay reserve, the area is a bit under developed compared to more modern housing areas on Penang island.

These Malay reserves receive modern amenities and the children attend better schools. There are police stations, bus stations and transportation in these new villages. These are about the only lands that Malays own today. Many Malays do not own any lands nor own homes even though this is Malaysia. Many Malays still cannot afford to own homes upon retirement under today's economic circumstances. The Malays who missed out on the Malay reserves have continued to live at the periphery of the Malaysian jungles, by the river, and life goes on as usual, mostly under very poor housing conditions. Children from these forgotten traditional villages suffer the most as a result. Unfortunately, due to the high cost of living in all cities in Malaysia today, many Malay families with working parents are still forced to live in slums lining the cities and towns. Some live in the clearings by the rail tracks, and there are many reports of narrow escapes and fatal railway accidents.

Now, even 55 years after Merdeka, many Malaysian families have problems with owning suitable family homes and getting decent jobs, with sufficient salary to pay for the families' basic needs. Today, the average family pays RM294 a month for electricity in hot weather with 4-5 fans blowing in the homes. Family meals cost RM25 per day for lunch and dinner; breakfast is an additional RM10 for a family of 6. There is not much left over after utility bills are paid. Most Malay families have to put their children on government scholarship if they want to take up tertiary studies. Very few Malay families can afford to pay RM6K per semester for university for per child. The average Malay adult earns RM3K per month. The minimum salary in Malaysia today in RM1K per month. Overall, the Malay is a poor person, and lives in perpetual poverty, inherited or otherwise. Education alone cannot help the Malays. Subsidised services cannot help them too. Providing land titles and a basic home-based income maybe half the answer. Good-paying jobs outside the home make the other half and complete the needs of the average working Malay. The whole thing about the dire needs of the Malays need to be properly addressed and studied. The Malays were living fine and freely before colonialism. Colonialism changed the fates of the Malays altogether, pushing them to the limits, to a point of no return. Some Malays have given up, ending up on the ever growing bankruptcy list. Will all these ever end? Can we hope to see an end to Malay problems? I think so yes if we deal with the problems properly. I think so no if we still want to continue the same way we worked from after Merdeka. We need an attitude change and the way we make things work.

So back to PKM and the Kuomintang ideology, do we still hope to save Malaysia for the Malays? I think so we should try our best. Where else do we want to send the Malays? They can't move north because it is too cold. They can't go south because it is too cold. This is all the land that the Malays have. There is no place elsewhere where they can live. They will become extinct if we send them elsewhere. So we have to stand by 'Tak kan Melayu hilang di dunia' if we want to see the Malays make it in this world, just like everyone else. PKM and Kuomintang aside, we must help the Malay people. Give back their lands and let them live they way they choose to.