Zaid Ibrahim is Malay, too By Commander (Rtd) S THAYAPARAN Royal Malaysian Navy
Sunday, May 07, 2017
Malaysiakini : “The real world is much bigger than that created by Umno.” - Zaid Ibrahim
The last time I wrote about Zaid Ibrahim was when he joined the DAP. I said
- “Here is a man who has done everything to alienate the political
establishment by espousing views that are anathema to mainstream
Malaysian politics.” Reading the latest edition of his book, ‘I, too am
Malay’, what sticks out is that Zaid Ibrahim, despite what his critics
claim, has pretty much carried the same tune ever since he quit Umno.
Discussing “Malay” issues is problematic. The race discourse in this
country - as it is everywhere else - is toxic. Non-Malays either
venerate Malays who think their way or mock those who are on the
opposite side of the political divide. Malay oppositional politicians
have to navigate between conforming to mainstream non-Malay expectations
and Malay communal concerns, which is often mischaracterised by people
who claim they are not “racist” but have no problem attributing damaging
stereotypes on the Malay community in their war against Umno.
Zaid Ibrahim’s book - its various editions have been translated to
Chinese and Malay but sadly no Tamil version (yet) - is a narrative that
seeks to explore his “Malayness” that goes beyond the constitutional
definition of his community and reaffirm values, both secular and
religious, in a time when the country is at a crossroad. Since this is
the latest edition, what we soon begin to realise is that the country
has always been at a crossroad.
Nothing is off limits in this book and Zaid Ibrahim pulls no punches
when it comes to Umno, “Malay” supremacy, Islam and the future of the
Malay community. This is a book by a political insider who has no
problem burning his bridges in an effort to expand upon his greater
truth. While some view his “not playing well with others” reputation as
detrimental to the groupthink of the opposition or establishment, I
believe the unpredictability serves a purpose.
The problem with Zaid Ibrahim is that he is a politician who believes
in ideas when he is operating in an environment that rejects grand
ideas in favour of banal pragmatisms and political bromides. One of the best chapters in the book, ‘What happened during Ramadan
(2016)’, is a chronology of public events that show the
mean-spiritedness of public officials and religious bureaucrats at a
time when they were supposed to demonstrate piety and compassion. It is a
description of events that is related in a matter-of-fact manner, but
underneath the placid prose is a disdain for the hypocrisy of those who
claim to have the moral high ground but are willing to use the low road
to achieve their goals.