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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Indian Muslims can be Malays, not Bumiputeras

The definitions of the terms make this so, says historian Khoo Kay Kim.

PETALING JAYA: Indian Muslims can’t become Bumiputeras, but a case could be made to categorise them as Malays, according to historian Khoo Kay Kim.
The emeritus professor’s remark came a day after Prime Minister Najib Razak said the government would study the Indian Muslim community’s request for recognition as Bumiputeras.
Khoo told FMT the term “Bumiputera” was coined in 1963 to refer to the non-Muslim indigenous peoples of Sabah, Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia.
“Before 1963, Malays in Peninsular Malaysia were just called Malays,” he said, noting that a Malay is defined as someone who is a Muslim, speaks Malay habitually and practises Malay customs.
He added that a Bumiputera who is a Muslim can be considered a Malay.
Khoo said the definition of “Malay” was developed by the British in 1913 when the colonial government introduced the Malay Land Reservation Enactment and needed to provide a definition.
“But as we know, Bumiputeras can’t buy Malay reserve land. Sabah and Sarawak Bumiputeras can buy the reserve land in their respective states.”
He noted that both Malays and Bumiputeras enjoyed special rights.
He also noted that Indian Muslims in Penang had been regarded as Malays for a long time.
It was the Indian Muslims who, in 1927, formed Penang’s first Malay Association. They played a major role in the establishment of Umno in the state.
“So, while the government cannot give the Indian Muslims Bumiputera status, it can give them Malay status if they want that,” Khoo said.
For some time now, members of the Indian Muslim community have been pushing to be recognised as Bumiputeras, with some saying there is no reason to deny them the status since the Melaka Portuguese are considered Bumiputeras.
However, according to Richard Hendricks, who chairs the Portuguese Settlement’s village and security committee, the Portuguese don’t have Bumiputera status although they enjoy some Bumiputera benefits, such as being qualified to participate in the Amanah Saham Bumiputera scheme.
The Peranakan Chinese of Melaka are also seeking recognition as Bumiputeras.
Going by news reports, there is some confusion over the Bumiputera status of the Siamese community, although Senator Boon Som Inong said in 2012 that it did indeed have that status.
Prime Minister Najib Razak spoke on the Indian Muslims’ request on Tuesday at an event organised by the Federation of Malaysian Indian Muslim Associations (Permim). He said Putrajaya would study it.
At the event, Permim president Dhajudeen Shahul Hameed made three demands, namely the gazetting of the community as Bumiputera, the setting up of an Indian Muslim landmark in Kuala Lumpur or Putrajaya, and the appointment of a special officer in the Prime Minister’s Department to manage the affairs of Indian Muslims in the country. -FMT

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