In his memoirs, the 19th century scholar Munshi Abdullah differentiated himself from other Malays, whom he saw as servile, backward and superstitious. Two centuries later, it appears that Malays in modern Singapore still find themselves caught between two worlds.
This topic of discussion came surging to the fore following the publication of a piece in which the author, Taufiq Rozaini, wrote about being a Malay man in Singapore from an affluent family with no functional proficiency in his own language, describing himself as the “least Malay Malay there is”.
The article triggered a strong reaction among Malay Singaporeans on social media. Yet the response wasn’t just about Taufiq Rozaini as an individual; it was about the narrative he was espousing and the stereotypes he was perpetuating. In fact, Taufiq’s article gives us a good starting point to understand how some privileged Malays in Singapore see themselves in relation to other Malays.
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