by Azly Rahman email@example.com
Mara means “to advance (forward)”. It is the opposite of “retreat” and the declaration of defeat. It does not mean Undur.
Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) must live up to its name. So must its younger brother Maktab Rendah Sains MARA. It is in the interest of the public to suggest good ideas for reform - and to advance.
In my lifetime I have been affiliated with both organisations. I taught in the former institution and I was schooled in the latter. Whether a product of historical accident or not, I am proud of my experiences in both. There is a reason for things to happen. I came from a poor family and was given the chance to have an education I wish many more Malaysians, my parents included.
But I wish to share my view on this troubling phenomenon that is plaguing a certain segment of the Malays. My argument will be largely linguistic.
What is the Malay view of the recent protest of UiTM student - of those young “men-in-black” whose are mourning and calling for the death of reason and rationality and for critical sensibility?
I think Malays in general are angry at the protesters. I think they are embarrassed that those few thousands of Malay students were displaying their ignorance of what Universiti Mara means.
While other universities have advanced (sudah mara ke hadapan) and are proud that they are embracing diversity and sharing resources for the benefit of deserving children of all races, those protesting UiTM students are experiencing the opposite.
They are yelling with pride the word “defeat” and “retreat”. Instead of Ayuh Mara they are actually saying Jom Undur. While thinking needs to advance, these students are saying that they need to digress (Ayuh… mari mundur ke belakang). Mundur is the derivative word.
Should a university embody the philosophy of mundur rather than mara? Should it even be proud of being and embodiment of that philosophy? I doubt it. Only a misguided leader will be proud of being a guide to ‘defeat and retreat’ while the world around ‘advances’ and moves.
But these students are not entirely at fault. It is the ideology and perpetrators of the ideology of undur itself that’s at fault. It is the leaders implementing the retrogressive ideology that are at fault.
It is the systematic indoctrination programme of ketuanan Melayu run over the decades that are advancing this UiTM philosophy of retreat.
It is an overdose of the work of government-sponsored Biro Tata Negara (BTN) that is making the mass retreat and defeat possible. It is the work of Malay-dominated agencies like these that are imprisoning the minds of the Malays. This is an anti-Malay-progress establishment that is using deformed arguments on race and ethnicity to pursue an educational ideology that has gone bankrupt.
Docile Malay intended
This is an anti-Malaysian mode of thinking that is still allowed to shackle the mind of the Malays. The idea is simple: make the Malay mind docile and afraid to think and you will divide and conquer them.
UiTM students need to instead protest against the continuing oppression they are experiencing through the work of their own institution and through BTN. They should demand that multiculturalism instead of blind nationalism be made the foundation of their college experience. UiTM students are more intelligent than those who protested against the suggestion.
In the 1980s UiTM’s (then ITM) orientation programme used to be conducted using the tactics of sheer humiliation and stupidity; meant to stupefy the young, bright Malay minds.
The ROTU (Reserve Officers Training Unit then) was part of the week-long organisers of the orientation to create an awareness of how ITM students must learn to live in a tough and challenging environment.
Senior students would prey upon the incoming freshmen to make them ‘tough’ through humiliation – name-calling, physical threats, psychological abuse, etc. Minggu Orientasi (Orientation Week) is a week for the seniors to have control over the mind of the Malays; oftentimes in a gangsterish way.
Of course, it is also the time for the senior boys to show toughness to the young girls in this ‘big brother-little sister’ game of tough love. Many of them fell involved with each other in this ‘Master-Slave’ relationship. Even senior girls prey upon young boys, acting rough and tough on them. Pathetic paternalistic philosophy in progress.
At times the freshmen would be roughened up by students in army boots and told to just follow instructions if they are to survive in ITM. They will be screamed at for trying to speak up. This is the ideology of ketuanan Melayu at work; how to enslave the mind of the young Malays and continue to do so through the hidden curriculum designed by those who wish to have control over the mind of the bright young and eager-to-learn Malays.
Instead of teaching the in-coming students how to take good notes, listen to lectures, speak up in public, pay extra attention to English Language, and be open to new ideas, respect each other, and learn from other cultures, the Malay students are subjected to humiliation in a place that called itself a university.
In MRSM as well, a predominantly Malay-elite secondary institution for the best and brightest young Malays, similar things have been happening since the 1980s as well. Kursus Kesedaran (Self Awareness Courses) are conducted to instill the questionable idea of Ketuanan Melayu, making the children afraid of “Malaysian boogeymen and boogeywomen” and their own shadows.
Open-mindedness is rarely encouraged and students take control over each others’ lives transplanting retrogressive ideologies into each other’s head, with the help of ultra-nationalist and anti-multiculturalist teachers.
Even if these children survive the ideological ordeal and experience ‘tough love’ and go on to get their degrees from top American and British universities, they will still be Malays with a shallow understanding of multiculturalism or become more sophisticated Malays with more complex arguments on Ketuanan Melayu.
They will then design policies to affect the needed sustenance of ideology in order to protect the interests of the few. Neo-feudalistic cybernetic Malays are then new creation of the political-economic ruling class. They run the country and many are now running it down.
As an educator wishing to see Malays progress alongside in peace and prosperity with other races, I call upon us all to put a stop to all forms of indoctrination held especially by the BTN; an organisation that is of no value to the advancement of the Malays they claim to want to liberate.
It should be taken over by progressive Malaysians and replaced with a systematic effort to promote not only racial understanding through teaching respect and deep reflection on the cultures of the peoples of Malaysia, but also teach conflict resolution and mediation through cross-cultural perspectives. All must question the presence of BTN on campuses. All must reject BTN’s programme for indoctrination.
Let us no longer allow any government body of that sort to set foot on our campuses or our schools. As Malaysians we have to demand an end to the further dissemination of racist ideologies.
Open up, not only UiTM and MRSM but also Umno to more cultures. We will have a great celebration of diversity and respect for human dignity in decades to come. I speak as a silent reproduction and capitalised human of both MRSM and UiTM; a product of the human capital revolution of the Mahathir era.
MARA means progress. Malays are now sick of contradictions and doublespeak. They do not wish to Undur. Let us all protest against the stupefication of the Malays. Let us dismantle racist institutions.