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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Indian Muslims are proud to remain Indians



Recently, a friend sent me a picture which had been circulating on social media. It read, “Bumiputera adalah rumpun Melayu. India Muslim tetap India, jangan ganggu hak kami”. It literally means "Bumiputera is a Malay ethnic group. Indian Muslims are Indians, do not mess with our rights".
The said picture came with a few lines of text which when translated, says “We reject Indian Muslims being given Bumiputera status. We are proud ethnic Malays, not equivalent to the race which manipulates others for their own benefit. Please do not tarnish Article 153 of the Constitution!”.
Now allow me to tell you what I think of Indian Muslims and Malays – they are like chapatis and naans. They are both usually round in shape and eaten with curry. The two might look similar, but they are actually not.
Chapati is made of atta flour and butter, while naan is made of wheat flour and yogurt. Likewise, Indian Muslims and Malays both practise the religion of Islam and are accustomed to the culture and tradition of the Malaysian Muslim such as wearing jubahbaju kurungbaju Melayuhijab and songkok. But that is all there is to their similarity.
While associations formed to represent the interests of Indian Muslim community in Malaysia such as Kimma (The Malaysian Indian Muslim Congress), Gepima (Malaysian Indian Muslim Youth Movement) and Permim (Federation of Malaysian Indian Muslim Associations) are favourable towards Indian Muslims obtaining Bumiputera status, allow me to represent the many Indian Muslims in Malaysia who do not think our Indian roots should be tarnished by claiming to be anything but Indian.
The truth is, most Indian Muslims in Malaysia, including the members and leaders of Kimma, Gepima and Permim still converse in Tamil at home; watch Rajinikanth and Kamal Hassan on TV; own a playlist consisting of MGR’s hits; eat putu mayum and dhalca on the first of Syawal; wears Punjabi dress and kurta on special occasions; and have great love for curry while gagging on the smell of budu and tempoyak.
How then can we claim to be "rumpun Melayu"?
Many Indian Muslims do not care about obtaining Bumiputera status.
We are not willing to exploit our faith to gain some subsidies and quotas. We are quite dignified with who we are.
We are quite aware of the colour of our backside – it is brown and tanned, notsawo matang.
We Indian Muslims came to this country some 500 years ago, during the Malacca Sultanate. From merchants and traders to labourers working in shipyards, many progressed into the import and export industries. In 1912, we formed the Muslim Merchants’ Society and gave birth to many great businessmen and manufacturers.
Yes, we helped build the economy of this country.
Indian Muslims are also the pioneers in setting up the media industries in the country – bookstores, printing companies and publishing houses. As we progressed, we contributed greatly to society.
Ever wondered why Masjid Jamek, Masjid Benggali and Masjid Kapitan Keling – some of the oldest mosques in the country – don’t have a Malay tune to their names? That’s because they were built by us, the Indian Muslims.
Even today, we continue to do our part to build this great nation.
Today, there are over 15,000 Indian Muslim eateries operating in Malaysia. Over 70 percent of the country’s money changers are owned by Indian Muslims. About 15,000 big, medium and small grocery stores are operated by Indian Muslims.
On average, the businesses owned by Indian Muslims make an annual turnover of about RM180 billion per year. On top of the taxes we pay, a few million ringgit is also paid to the government every month in the form of the Goods and Services Tax. 
Since before Merdeka, we Indian Muslims have played our role as good members of society.
For years, we have served the good people of Malaysia – yet, not only are we made to feel unworthy of being the sons of the Malaysian soil, but we end up being ridiculed by those who depend on their “special privileges” for survival.

The fact is, we Indian Muslims may wear baju kurung, baju Melayu, hijab and songkok; we may speak Bahasa Melayu every now and then, enjoy some ketupatlemang and rendang once in a while, and we may even catch those lousy Malay dramas on TV sometime, but all that doesn’t make us Bumiputera, nor does it make us Malay.
We are Indians. We will always be Indians. And we are proud to remain Indians.

FA ABDUL is a passionate storyteller, a growing media trainer, an aspiring playwright, a regular director, a struggling producer, a self-acclaimed photographer, an expert facebooker, a lazy blogger, a part-time queen and a full-time vainpot. -Mkini

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