Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Book Review: The Malay Dilemma Revisited by Bakri Musa

The Malay Dilemma Revisited: Race Dynamics in Modern Malaysia
(1999, Updated and Revised 2017) by M. Bakri Musa

I went to the library and asked the librarian on where to find Malaysia's politics section. To my surprise, state library doesn't have any special section focus on Malaysia! If any, the books are poorly organized and some you can find in other unrelated sections. Obviously, our concern and awareness of issues in Malaysia are still in low level and judged by my frequent visits to local bookstores, most Sarawakians don't read books – and thus, seeing anyone reading books on local and Malaysia's issues is very rare scene indeed. When I borrowed this book, the librarian asked me, "Are you a student? Do you have an exam coming soon?" "No," I said. "I'm just interested in the subject." "Oh, I see," he said. And with a gentle smile, he asked again, "Are you a Malay?" "Oh no," I replied promptly. "I'm just curious on what are the Malay's dilemmas in Malaysia." Though he didn't say anything in regard to the subject discussed (proceed with my check-out), I can see from his face-expression that he still puzzled as if thinking in the back of his mind, "What's Malay dilemma?"

Bakri Musa, a surgeon in California and an active blogger, writes very freely and openly on Malaysian socio-political affairs. Like a surgeon with his sharp knife, he pores deep into the issues and brutally revealed the truths about Malaysia and the way we Malaysians think (with extra emphasis on how the Malay think: in the past, present and how they should be in the future). Although he left Malaysia in 1963, he keeps close track of social and political developments here. Sometime if we want to see an elephant entirely, we can't stare at it up-close. We need to steps backward – a considerable distance – and then we can see the entire elephant. Bakri Musa's observations and analyses are admirable and pointed simply because he ‘sees' Malaysia from afar but closely examine its implications and realities as if he's near.

Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad in 1970 has published his book The Malay Dilemma, where he examines the make-up of the Malays and the problem of racial harmony in Malaysia. Here Bakri Musa revisits Mahathir's book and "examine the extent to which modern Malaysia has been shaped by his convictions and assumptions as expressed in that book and to analyze the effectiveness of his policies and strategies in solving the country's social and economic problems" and more. If you wish to be stimulate in your thinking about what's happening today in Malaysia, if you are willing to see the reality and ugliness of what Malaysia has become, if you want to make a different (small as it seem) in this country  but you don't know where to start – read this book. Though the title is The Malay Dilemma Revisited, don't be close-minded! This book is also about the Non-Malay dilemmas. What happens to the Malays will affect us as well either we want to acknowledge that or not – we are Malaysians.

This book is divided into 3 parts, 24 chapters, and about 500 pages (don't let the volume discouraged you. It is simple and easy to read):

Part One: Malaysia Then and Now

Chapter 1: The Malay Dilemma – The Book
Chapter 2: One Malay Village
Chapter 3: It's Not All in Our Genes
Chapter 4: Ugliness of Urbanization
Chapter 5: Islamization of Malaysia
Chapter 6: The Sultan Syndrome
Chapter 7: MARA – The Great March Backward

Part Two: Modernizing Malaysia

Chapter 8: Enhancing Bumiputra Competitiveness
Chapter 9: Competitiveness Through Education
Chapter 10: Seventy Million Malaysians?
Chapter 11: The Subsidy Mentality
Chapter 12: We Are Special
Chapter 13: Affirmative Action in America
Chapter 14: The Non-Malay Dilemma

Part Three: Malaysia in the New Millennium

Chapter 15: That Pesky Neighbour
Chapter 16: The Sea of Corruption
Chapter 17: Vision 2020 – Not Quite Perfect
Chapter 18: Look West Is Best
Chapter 19: Twin Towers, Twin Crises
Chapter 20: Which Way Forward?
Chapter 21: What A Way to End The Millennium!
Chapter 22: What A Way to Begin The New Century!
Chapter 23: Najib's Twin Legacies
Chapter 24: The Malay Dilemma in the New Century

[P.s: You can get this book at local bookstores especially Popular and MPH about RM45-50]


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