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C O R E TA N ISSUE NO 1 2016





                                  This issue of Coretan coincides with the change of executive committee of NUS Malay Studies Society for this year. This year, Coretan aims to encourage undergraduates, and members of the community to express themselves critically through essays, and opinion pieces. The first section of the magazine features a light-hearted interview with the guest writer of this edition, Dr Norshahril Saat, followed by a short opinion piece by Dr Norshahril himself. The opinion piece hints towards the current reality of the community, where proliferation of religion in the public lives of individuals calls for a greater role to be played by the local scholars. Writing on the same topic of religion, Radhiah Ramli problematises the practices of certain groups of individuals that she deemed as incongruent towards the development of the society. The next section of this magazine features selection of essays from undergraduates as well as members of the community. Nurain’s Jebat Yang Unggul: Teks dan Imaginasi analyses the thinking and ideas behind classic Malay films that were adapted from the Malay literatures.Nurain also believes that the depiction of figures such as Hang Tuah and Hang Jebat are examples of a class of people that were victims to the feudal system at the point of time the film was created. Muhd Suhail’s short but succinct piece on Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s poems takes on a historical trajectory in



Internship. Radhiah Ramli’s piece on the evolution of nasyid – Evolusi Nasyid – traces the changes in the music, as well as the motivations behind the making of this music by the musicians themselves.

understanding the political anxieties and ideological framework during his premiership through his poetry. Next, Annas Mahmud’s essay on the identity of modern MalayMuslim woman examines the contestations and negotiations that arise from the process of forming their own identities. By looking at the manifestations of these processes, the writer illustrates how the social definition of a Malay-Muslim woman plays a big role that may serve to empower and disempower them.

Other collection in this edition includes a poetry section, which features writings from our undergraduates. Hakikat Bahasa, is a piece written by Embun; a free verse poem titled Kasih Allah by Wieky Joe; as well as the first of the anthology of three poem by Muhammad Idaffi Othman, called Kudrat Hawa.

We end this issue with a new series. The 4-part series features portions of Syafiqah Jaaffar ’s history thesis. Syafiqah has analysed the responses of Indonesian artists and writers during the Indonesian Revolution. In particular, she puts a focus on how the pemuda as a social group was represented up to 1955. The writer has taken an interThe last piece in this essay esting approach in analysing section features Mohamed the discourses through art and Imran Taib’s critical take on the literature. future of diversity in Singapore. The writer argues the need to We hope that this magazine shift towards cross-cultural will be a source of knowlinteractions and engagements edge and inspiration for other through provision ‘safe spaces’ undergraduates. where dialogues and debates can happen. The write believes Happy reading! that such safe spaces need to allow voices from the most marginal and underrepresented in the society to build a more inclusive society. The section on Malay Studies Internship Article features a more journalistic style of writing by undergraduates taking a module, MS3550: Malay Studies

Dr Norshahril bin Saat is a Fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute. He holds a PhD in International, Political and Strategic Studies from the Australian National University (ANU). He also holds a Masters in Malay Studies from National University of Singapore. He is a recipient of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) PGS scholarship in 2011. He has an MA (Arts) in Malay Studies (2011) and BA (Soc Sci) in Political Science (2008) from the National University of Singapore. Before joining the ANU, he was research associate at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS). In 2008, he was awarded the prestigious Tun Dato’ Sir Cheng Lock MA scholarship from ISEAS and the National University of Singapore (NUS) MA scholarship. In 2015,Dr Norshahril was also the recipient of the first Shaykh Syed Isa Semait Scholar Award from MUIS.


did Malay Studies modules during my undergraduate days, while majoring in Political Science. In fact it was very strategic because I like politics in the region, with a special focus on Malay issues. Political science modules are very broad where you learn theories, and are exposed to broader issues whereas Malay studies modules give you a specific angle. focusing on Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Most of the Malay studies modules are always giving alternative discourses, things that we don’t hear in the mainstream media. The first Malay Studies module that I took was Prof Noor Aisha’s module, law and society. It really broadened my mind. But the first who has to change is the intelligentsia, the so-called educated We all grew up as Muslims exposed ones. I’m not talking about the intellectuals to a particular kind of view so I was – intellectuals is an ideal for me which is wondering why Prof Aisha was giving what I mentioned in the article. I’m talking credible alternative views. It made me about the learned group of individuals. think, and I like it. Then I took another When we enter university, we have to be module called Malay Political Culture exposed to a range of ideas. The things we that was taught by her. I learnt a more learn in university are not meant to cement

When we enter university, we have to be exposed to a range of ideas. The things we learn in university are not meant to cement what we already know or the perspectives that we are already holding on to so that we feel happy that our perspectives are reaffirmed. That’s not the right attitude. sociological perspective of the political what we already know or the perspectives party UMNO, and that’s very different. that we are already holding on to so that we feel happy that our perspectives are Q: How accepting is the society reaffirmed. That’s not the right attitude. towards such alternative discourses? We must always come to school and feel challenged. So on the question of how We have to very careful as we are receptive the masses would be, I would say talking about two groups of people. We that this would be a challenge. are talking about the masses, and the You also have to be very careful intelligentsia in the society. We have to when communicating your ideas to the understand that we cannot expect the masses to change overnight. I believe in masses. I was not careful when I wrote my first article in the newspaper. I thought that incremental change. masses can be changed overnight. I received emails and criticisms, personal attacks for questioning what people generally believe.



This is the lesson I learnt so I have to be more careful. The better approach to take is to influence the leaders of the society, talk to them, and convey the message, as well as to the learned group. Consequentially, the effects will trickle down to the society.

Q: What motivated you to write your PHD thesis about the contemporary Ulama? I follow Singapore’s scene as I grew up in that scene. I wanted to learn the experience in Malaysia and Indonesia. Whenever we talk about religion in Singapore, it’s impossible to divorce it from the religious situation in Malaysia. I would argue that the Malaysian elites are more influential than the Singapore elites. I want to compare and contrast the pros and cons and how it impacts our people. If we focus too much on our religious scene, we won’t learn much. That’s why I went to Malaysia to study the relationship between the state and the ulama. The ulamas there are influencing the government policies from within. So that’s why I think that comparative works are important, especially when you study the trend and reasons why the country is becoming conservative. However the situation in Indonesia is still very complicated. The Ulama are not very powerful in that sense because the state has divided the ulama. There are a few interest groups in Indonesia of competing views. We have the conservatives on the rise, but we also have the progressives or the liberals, competing for that religious space. So should we follow the Malaysian model or the Indonesian model? What are the learning points from these countries? Why are we able to produce new modernists scholars, accepted by Indonesian masses such as Quraisy Shihab, and Gus Dur? Why are we not producing that?

Q: How do politicians and intellectuals stand together? Well it depends, intellectuals are always open for discussion, while the politicians may or may not be ready for such discussions as intellectuals may say unpopular things. Some politicians on the other hand are concerned about popularity solely. The bigger problem is when the Ulama wants to be popular. That’s when the masses think for you, and you don’t do the thinking for them. That’s the biggest danger in a country. The ulamas shouldn’t be concerned about receiving backlashes from the community. In fact the ulama, ideally, should not be responding to masses, but to God. They are answerable to God. They are thinkers. They should be telling the masses what is right and what is wrong. If there is a different opinion on certain issues, then they have to acknowledge that there are different opinions, there are diverse views on it.

Q: What do you think is the challenge faced by undergraduates these days? The first challenge is how are they responding to alternative ideas. Some criticize a certain lecturer or a module without taking it. Understandably there are certain perspectives which a student has to adopt while doing the module and examination, but that is a learning process. Belief is another matter altogether. You must be clear of the module’s objectives, know what the lecturer wants to convey, and make the analysis later. The first battle is already lost if you are not open to listening to other perspectives. I think undergraduates should take the opportunity to read and learn in NUS. I definitely learned a lot during my undergraduate days.



Ulamas must aspire to become intellectualss By Dr Norshahril Saat


ne of my research interests is on Islamic religious authority in Singapore. I believe the religious elites, ulama and intellectuals, play an important role in the progress of the Malay/ Muslim community. However, our society defines our ulama loosely. Far from analysing the quality of their scholarship and ideas, the community considers the ulama as men trained in the religious sciences from madrasahs. As I have discussed in my book Faith, Authority and the Malays: The ulama in contemporary Singapore, philanthropists and ordinary religious teachers have also been considered to be part of the group. I argue that we should not be preoccupied with identifying who is an ulama. Rather, we should treat ulama as an ideal social category. While the community needs a group well versed in religious sciences, who believes Islam has a role in modernising the community, it must prevent those claiming to be “holier- than-thou.” I propose those aspiring to be ulama to familiarise themselves with the standards sociologists have crafted for intellectuals. First, ulama believe that Islam has a role in society’s progress, and the basic tenets of the faith to contribute to the community’s success. However, one should not fall into the sloganism of revivalist groups who interprets the Quranic verse Islam is “ad-deen” to mean Islamising the state, laws, and knowledge. Instead, ulama should emphasise and operationalise Islamic values such as equality, respect for human life, and justice; and accept contributions of both Muslims and non-Muslims in promoting



universal values. One must not typically advocate for separate Islamic laws, or political system such as “syura”, but accept electoral democracy, or modern laws as part of Islam. Second, ulama must refrain from being rhetorical. They must not blindly accept opinions from Islamic preachers who do not understand local knowledge. We see today the proliferation of books and ideas from thinkers such as Dr Yusof al-Qaradawi. I am not suggesting that one should refrain from reading these works, but to do so critically. One has to look out for consistency in their thinking, the political circumstances in which they operate, and their religious upbringing. Mainly citing their works without placing them in contemporary context may only do harm in our society. Third, to be an ulama, one has to think critically. Does this mean having more religious teachers doing PhDs? No. I see obtaining doctoral degrees as a means rather than an end in acquiring knowledge. PhD graduates are knowledgeable in their field of study: for example, faraid laws; calculating the dates of Hari Raya; ulama co-optation by the state; the religious community in Ambon; ISIS (even though they have not stepped in the Middle East); and radicalisation on the internet. PhD graduates must realise their limitations, and remain humble. We hope to have more intellectuals in society that discusses the community’s problems, and not hide under their academic robes, fearful of backlash from the community for upholding unpopular views. May God bless the community with such ulama in our midst.


slam itu diturunkan kepada Umat Nabi Muhammad s.a.w melalui contoh yang dikurniakan Allah. Seorang Nabi yang tidak dapat dipersoalkan lagi akan ketinggian akhlaknya dalam menegakkan pendirian serta syiar-syiar agama, baik dari aspek mentauhidkan Allah s.w.t serta menyampaikan Syariat Tuhan kepada kita. Dengan menghayati ketentuan Tuhan dalam mengutuskan seorang manusia yang sungguh cantik serta indah budi pekertinya, kata leluhurnya , tidak hairanlah mengapa setiap orang dari pelbagai agama dan bangsa boleh memberi pengiktirafan terhadap ketinggian budi pekerti Baginda s.a.w. Namun agama, tidak lain dan tidak bukan harus ditempatkan di bumi di mana ia berpijak. Agama tidak menembusi sesebuah rantau tanpa kebudayaan, tanpa tamadun, tanpa masyarakat yang menerima. Tatkala agama diterima oleh masyarakat yang bertamadun dan berbudaya, agama dibentuk sesuai dengan pemahaman, uruf, keadaan serta adat. Justeru tidak hairanlah mengapa ada beberapa orientasi keagamaan yang lebih menyerlah dibandingkan dengan beberapa sisi agama yang dilupakan. Persoalan pokok yang menjadi tunggak esei ini ialah orientasi agama Islam yang mana satu harus dijadikan model dalam pembangunan masyarakat Islam terutama sekali penghayatannya dalam masyarakat remaja yang merupakan generasi yang mewarisi. Yang mengkhuatirkan lagi, kecenderungan dalam menghayati agama Islam tidak dipenuhi dengan budaya pemikiran yang tinggi serta dihiasi akhlak yang indah. Malah sayangnya, pemahaman agama yang cenderung kepada orientasi yang berunsurkan paksaan, serta dipenuhi dengan sentimen emosional, serta melihat sesuatu persoalan dalam bayangan hitam dan putih, betul dan salah, halal dan haram semata. Agama dianggap sebagai suatu yang tidak fleksibel, tidak boleh langsung dipersoalkan. Sisi agama yang mengangkat soal toleransi dalam kalangan masyarakat berbilang bangsa dan agama serta kerhormatan dalam proses bermasyarakat tidak dianggap

penting dalam membicarakan soal agama. Kecenderungan pemahaman terhadap agama yang dianggap menggalak keganasan dan sikap menjurus kepada kezaliman yang mungkin berlaku dalam kalangan masyarakat ini seakan meletakkan peranan akhlak di bawah segala hal yang membantu dalam pembangunan pemahaman keagamaan Dalam menanggapi masalah keagamaan, tidak kiralah perkara yang dianggap remeh mahupun persoalan keagamaan yang berat untuk dibicarakan, Islam menganjurkan agar akhlak diutamakan. Media sosial hanyalah satu wadah yang boleh digunakan untuk merangsang pendirian serta pemahaman seseorang. Tidak adil bagi kita unuk menyalahkan media sosial yang tentu sekali dekat dengan hati setiap orang dari pelbagai generasi. Namun setiap masalah yang


Benarkah cara pemahaman agama sesetengah orang bermasalah? OLEH RADHIAH RAMLI dihadapkan kepadanya harus ditanggapi dengan akhlak. Contoh yang paling mudah yang sudah menjadi trend dalam kalangan masyarakat Islam ialah bagaimana orang ramai menggunakan media untuk menyalahkan satu sama lain dalam pendirian mereka masing-masing tentang sesuatu perkara furu’iyyah dalam fiqh. Malahan lebih teruk lagi, mereka menuduh satu sama lain sebagai sesat ataupun menyimpang dari jalan Allah. Persoalannya berlegar dalam hal ini : Apakah Islam tidak membenarkan perbezaan pendapat?



biasa ditanggapi oleh masyarakat islam dengan membisukan pihak-pihak tertentu. Nilai-nilai Islam yang terkandung dalam agama Islam itu tidak diberikan perhatian yang seharusnya oleh masyarakat. Remaja harus meletakkan pendirian bahawa Islam bergerak dan berkembang atas dasar nilai-nilai universal yang boleh diterima oleh setiap lapisan masyarakat; iaitu agama yang menganjurkan keadilan, kesaksamaan hak , dan yang paling penting sekali, penghargaan nyawa manusia. Kalaulah nilai-nilai ini dianggap ekslusif kepada orang

Islam semata, maka hal ini harus dipermasalahkan kerana orang yang tidak beragama Islam juga mendakap nilai-nilai kemanusiaan. bahawa nilai-nilai Islam adalah untuk semua. Maka orang-orang yang menyumbang kepada kejayaan negara dan bangsa, walaupun tidak yang dianjurkan agama kita. Justeru Media harus digunakan untuk menghidupkan nilai-nilai Islam dan sesuatu harus dinilai baik dan buruknya atas satu perkara yang amat penting dalam agama iaitu: Kemanusiaan. Radhiah ialah mahasiswi tahun ketiga di jurusan pengajian Melayu di NUS




“Human history began with an act of disobedience, and it is not unlikely that it will be terminated by an act of obedience.” - Erich Fromm, ‘On Disobedience’, 1967 “Jangan sembah aku! Aku bukan gila disembah! Aku bukan sebagai Sultan Melaka yang mengagung-agungkan pangkat dan kebesarannya!...Pangkat aku untuk kepentingan rakyat dan aku rela mati untuk rakyat. Kerana aku mahu keadilan! Keadilan!” - Hang Jebat, 1961


arya kreatif yang terjelma dalam bentuk filem yang digarap berdasarkan karya teks sastera klasik, dengan watakwatak yang diadun dengan cermat tidak dapat tidak meninggalkan dampak dalam jiwa dan fikiran para audien. Shaharuddin Maaruf pernah menegaskan bahawa “sesuatu karya sastera itu dengan serentak mencerminkan nilai-nilai yang mendukung penciptaan dan khalayak yang hendak dipengaruhi oleh pencipta”. Mentelah lagi, sosiologi ilmu atau ‘sociology of knowledge’ merumuskan bahawa “pengertian sesebuah karya atau idea-idea tertentu itu tidak mungkin difahami sepenuhnya jika dipisahkan secara palsu dan dipaksa-paksa daripada latar belakang sejarah dan sosial pencipta-penciptanya atau daripada konteks sosiosejarahnya”. Pada pandangan saya, sesebuah karya itu, merupakan sebuah rakaman sosial berdasarkan lingkungan di mana karya itu diciptakan, dan di dalamnya terkandung idea-idea

sesuatu zaman itu berfikir dan perasaan mereka mengharungi sesebuah zaman itu. Rakaman-rakaman sosial ini penting bagi kita sebagai anggota masyarakat untuk mengenali dan memahami aturan dan sejarah kehidupan serta keadaan sesebuah zaman yang ditonjolkan dalam sesebuah karya itu, supaya nanti dapat kita ambil patinya dan buangkan hampasnya. Penciptaan sesebuah karya itu juga dipengaruhi oleh pemikiran dan ideologi sang pengkarya yang mewarnai tujuan utama penciptaan karya itu. Namun demikian, apabila sesebuah karya itu sampai kepada audiennya, para audien bebas untuk membuat intepretasi masingmasing berkenaan dengan idea yang ingin disampaikan oleh sang pengkarya. Sama ada tujuan utama sang pengkarya itu nanti akan sampai kepada para audien ataupun tidak, hal ini bagi saya akan menjadi sesuatu yang subjektif kerana setiap individu mempunyai kecenderungan pemikiran yang berbeza-beza.

“Penciptaan sesebuah karya itu juga dipengaruhi oleh pemikiran dan ideologi sang pengkarya yang mewarnai tujuan utama penciptaan karya itu.” Penulis



Oleh Nurain Zulkepli,

JEBAT YANG UNGGUL Menilai pemikiran di sebalik karya filem adaptasi klasik berjenre feudal KARYA ADAPTASI DARIPADA KISAH-KISAH ‘HANG TUAH’ Sejak tahun 1930-an, karya adaptasi sudah pun mewarnai dunia perfileman Melayu. Walaupun karya-karya adaptasi ini dihasilkan berdasarkan tuntutan pasaran, seperti cerita-cerita rakyat yang diangkat menjadi karya filem termasuk ‘Batu Belah Batu Bertangkup’(1959), setidaktidaknya ini merupakan satu batu tanda yang memperlihatkan bagaimana sesebuah karya dilihat dan dimanifestasikan daripada persepsi atau sudut pandang yang berbeza. Mentelah lagi, “seseorang pengarah filem atau drama akan berpandukan sumber ataupun hipogram, iaitu karya-karya yang sudah ada tetapi akan

menambah beberapa penyesuaian dan tafsiran yang sesuai dengan ideologi masing-masing”.[4] Demikian juga beberapa orang pengarah tempatan pada tahuntahun 50-an dan 60-an yang amat terkenal dengan filem adaptasi masing-masing, yang menggunakan karya asal yang mengisahkan Hang Tuah dan zamannya di samping menerapkan pemikiran dan ideologi yang didokong serta keinginan yang dihasratkan. Antara pengarah yang menerbitkan filem-filem mengenai Hang Tuah ialah Phani Majumdar dengan filem ‘Hang Tuah’ (1956), Hussein Hanif dengan filem ‘Hang Jebat’ (1961), S. Romai Noor dengan filem ‘Puteri Gunong Ledang’ (1961) dan yang terbaru oleh Saw Teong Hin dengan filem ‘Puteri Gunung Ledang’ (2004). Pengkaryaan filem-filem yang berkisar tentang Hang Tuah ini dicipta bertunjangkan teks Sulalatus Salatin dan prosa Hikayat Hang Tuah yang mengungkapkan tema dan persoalan yang berbeza-beza tentang kisah Hang Tuah, berdasarkan interpretasi pembikin filem itu masing-masing. Teks Sulalatus Salatin atau Sejarah Melayu merakamkan “pertuturan atau salasilah rajaraja Melayu” sementara tema dan persoalan teks Hikayat Hang Tuah pula jelas dibayangkan oleh mukadimah teks itu sendiri. Mukadimah yang berbunyi: “Inilah hikayat Hang Tuah yang amat setiawan pada tuannya, dan terlalu sangat berbuat kebaktian kepada tuannya” boleh dikatakan sebagai mengandungi tema utama yang menjadi teras penulisan teks ini. Sulastin Trisno menyimpulkan bahawa di dalam tema pokok tersebut adanya tiga unsur yakni; “Hang Tuah – hamba, setiawan – kebaktian dan tuannya”. Keadaan ini menerangkan tokoh utama teks Hikayat Hang Tuah sebagai seorang hamba yang mengabdikan kesetiaan dan kebaktiannya kepada

hamba yang mengabdikan kesetiaan dan kebaktiannya kepada tuannya yakni Rajanya secara mutlak. Kekata “setia” dan “bakti” yang terdapat dalam tema utama ini merupakan landasan kepada segala tindakan dan perlakuan Hang Tuah terhadap tuannya yang menumpahkan seluruh taat setianya dan bakti kepada rajanya. Muhammad Haji Salleh ada menyatakan bahawa: “Hikayat Hang Tuah muncul dari imaginasi Melayu di Nusantara dan dewasa ini dianggap sebagai karya agung Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapura dan Brunei, dan manusia berbahasa Melayu. Dialah wira budaya, tanpa tandingnya. Di dalam Hikayat Hang Tuah, wiranya dilukiskan sebagai manusia sempurna (dalam konteks feudal kurun ke-14 atau 15), yang setia kepada setiap kata dan prinsip yang tidak bertulis di zaman itu”. Walaupun Hang Tuah yang menjadi tokoh pusat dalam Hikayat Hang Tuah dan karya-karya lain yang berkaitan dengannya, yang menjadi tumpuan dalam perbincangan ini ialah watak Hang Jebat yang terkenal dengan label “penderhaka” berbanding Tuah yang taat setianya terhadap Raja sering dilihat sebagai tiada tolok bandingnya. Saat menonton filem ‘Hang Jebat’ (1961) arahan Hussein Haniff yang mengangkat Jebat sebagai watak utamanya, terdetik di dalam benak saya sama ada Jebat patut ditanggapi sebagai seorang penderhaka sematamata atau dia sebenarnya, secara langsung ataupun tidak, bertindak

sebagai seorang pembela hak rakyat yang ditindas oleh pembesarpembesar negara, terutamanya Raja yang berkuku besi dan tidak bijaksana dalam memerintah dan menyelenggara pentadbiran negara, dalam pada masa dia memberontak dan berdiri untuk membela saudaranya Hang Tuah yang disangkakan telah mati di tangan Raja yang zalim. Apakah pula tujuan di sebalik Hussein Haniff yang meletakkan Jebat sebagai watak utama filem beliau ini, berbanding konvensi untuk mengangkat Tuah sebagai watak utama? Bertitik tolak dari situ, selanjutnya kertas kerja ini akan melihat interpolasi yang wujud dalam filem ‘Hang Jebat’ (1961) arahan Hussein Haniff, yang menurut interpretasi saya menampilkan Jebat sebagai suatu simbol perlawanan terhadap sistem feudal yang menekan dan mencengkam kehidupan rakyat jelata. Watak Jebat dalam filem ini juga diangkat sebagai watak unggul dalam filem itu. Sedikit referensi kepada filem terdahulu ‘Hang Tuah’ (1956) arahan Phani Majumdar juga akan dibuat. Yang menjadi teras utama penilaian dan perbincangan di dalam kertas ini ialah sistem feudal yang berkuat kuasa dalam lingkungan zaman kerajaan Melayu Melaka di samping mempersoalkan pemikiran dan ideologi yang mendasari penciptaan karya adaptasi klasik berjenre feudal, yakni filem ‘Hang Jebat’ (1961) ini.

Salah satu babak dalam filem ‘Hang Tuah’ arahan Phani Mamjudar Gambar ihsan YouTube




konvensionalnya, Jebat dilihat sebagai seorang penderhaka dalam tatanan sistem feudal kerajaan Melayu apabila dia melakukan durjana di dalam istana dan menentang Rajanya. Di dalam sesebuah masyarakat feudal, seorang Raja itu diumpamakan seperti ‘wakil Tuhan di muka bumi’ atau yang disebut oleh Sharifah Maznah (1993) sebagai “God’s incarnate or God’s representative.” Ideologi yang mewarnai sistem feudal ini bertujuan untuk memberi justifikasi kepada kuasa mutlak seorang Raja meskipun perbuatannya itu melanggar etika moral. Seseorang hamba Raja itu perlu menurut sahaja semua kehendak tuannya dan bersifat taat setia dalam apa jua keadaan walaupun dengan terang-terangan kehendak dan perintah Raja itu melanggar nilai dan filsafat masyarakat Melayu yang secara umumnya beragama Islam. Penderhakaan dan pemberontakan Jebat berlaku tatkala Hang Tuah, sahabat akrab dan saudaranya, dititahkan oleh Raja untuk dihadapkan dengan hukuman bunuh tanpa usul periksa. Hukuman itu berlaku dek fitnah yang dilemparkan oleh Pateh Karma Wijaya yang menaruh dendam dan rasa iri hati terhadap Hang Tuah. Dengan menyangkakan bahawa Tuah sudah benar-benar mati di tangan Bendahara seperti yang diperintahkan oleh Raja, Jebat pun ingin menuntut bela atas kematian Tuah dengan memerangi semua musuh-musuh Hang Tuah, tali barut pembesar istana yang durjana serta Rajanya sekali sehingga akhirnya Hang Tuah yang sebenarnya tidak mati lagi bersemuka dengannya. Konflik antara Hang Jebat dan Hang Tuah merupakan episode yang



‘Jika dilihat dalam filem ‘Hang Jebat’ (1961) mungkin boleh kita simpulkan bahawa watak Jebat itu ingin ditonjolkan oleh pengarahnya sebagai watak yang melawan ketidakadilan dalam tatanan sistem feudal Melayu Melaka.’ paling terkenal di dalam Hikayat Hang Tuah. De Jong mencadangkan konflik ini sebagai suatu konflik antara persahabatan peribadi dan tugas kepada pemerintah jika ditafsirkan dalam konteks moden. Beliau menekankan bahawa tafsiran seperti ini hanya boleh menjadi satu tafsiran moden, sedangkan di dalam hikayat yang asal tidak ada keraguan bahawa Hang Jebat adalah salah berlandaskan nilai feudal. Namun makna cerita dalam konteks tradisional kekal legap atau ‘opaque’ disebabkan kurangnya aspek penilaian secara psikologi yang mempersoalkan sebab sebenar Jebat melakukan penderhakaan dan sebab tercetusnya keganasan ini. Dalam pada kita cuba untuk mencerna teks dalam rentas media, kita perlu juga mengambil kira soal motif pembikinan sesebuah karya itu berserta pemikiran dan ideologi yang dibawa bersamanya. Jika dilihat dalam filem ‘Hang Jebat’ (1961) mungkin boleh kita simpulkan bahawa watak Jebat itu ingin ditonjolkan oleh pengarahnya sebagai watak yang melawan ketidakadilan dalam tatanan sistem feudal Melayu Melaka. Jebat digunakan sebagai suatu simbol perlawanan terhadap sistem feudal yang mencengkam dan merobek kesejahteraan rakyat jelata. Saya membuat interpretasi ini berdasarkan lensa humanis yang mana Jebat berdiri sebagai pembela saudaranya yang teraniaya dan sebagai suara rakyat yang tertindas. Yang mendokong interpretasi saya ini ialah babak-babak di dalam filem

tersebut di mana Jebat yang setelah memperoleh pangkat dan kekuasaan di dalam istana, membawa masuk orang-orang kampung miskin untuk diberikan makan. Jebat dengan terang-terangan menentang undang-undang istana yang tidak membenarkan rakyat masuk ke singgahsana Raja dengan sewenangwenangnya. Kemudiannya diagihagihkan kepada mereka harta-harta milik Raja kepada orang-orang miskin itu. Jebat yang dilakonkan oleh Nordin Ahmad itu, dengan lantangnya bersuara “Ini hak rakyat! Aku akan kembalikan kepada rakyat!” Besar kemungkinan tercetusnya babak ini adalah berdasarkan pemerasan yang berlaku sewaktu sistem ‘kerah’ yang berlangsung dalam masyarakat feudal yang mana hasil titik-peluh rakyat dirampas oleh pembesar-pembesar istana. Kalau ditinjau dalam konteks sejarah feudal Melayu, ingin saya membuat referensi kepada ‘Kesah Pelayaran Abdullah’ yang memberikan gambaran tuntas tentang keadaan zaman masyarakat feudal Melayu. Munshi Abdullah telah menyaksikan sendiri kehidupan masyarakat feudal seperti mana yang dicatatkan di dalam kisah pelayarannya berdasarkan pelayarannya dari Singapura ke Pahang, Terengganu dan Kelantan pada pertengahan abad ke-19. Catatannya yang berbunyi, “Maka sekalian orang yang duduk dalam negeri itu sentiasa dengan ketakutan akan aniaya dan loba raja-raja dan orang besar-besar” memberikan gambaran yng tuntas tentang penganiayaan dan pemerasan yang berlaku terhadap rakyat di dalam tatanan masyarakat feudal. Pada satu sisi, tidak dapat disangkal bahawa ada perbuatan Jebat yang dengan jelas melanggar etika dan sifat-sifat humanis seperti membunuh pengawalpengawal istana yang engkar terhadap kemahuannya. Namun, pada sisi yang lain, boleh dilihat juga hal ini sebagai satu proses

pemberontakan jiwa Jebat yang mahukan keadilan buat rakyat jelata, dan yang lebih-lebih utama kerana ingin menuntut keadilan atas pembelaannya terhadap Tuah. Hang Jebat mengungkapkan motif perbuatannya dengan berkata bahawa hatinya diamuk amarah tatkala mendapat tahu bahawa Tuah telah dibunuh oleh Bendahara atas perintah Raja tanpa ada usul periksa. Perbuatan amuknya itu juga demi memenuhi sahaja gelaran ‘penderhaka’ yang diajukan kepadanya. Baginya, alang-alang mandi biar basah, alang-alang sudah melakukan perbuatan derhaka, biar sampai ke penghabisannya. Seperti mana yang dianjurkan oleh Shaharuddin Maaruf, Hang Jebat mungkin sahaja menjadi resah dan kacau setelah melihat nasib Tuah yang menjadi peringatan bahawa tugasnya sebagai seorang pendekar Raja boleh saja tamat pada bila-bila masa sahaja. Sebagai seorang yang hidup dalam lingkungan feudal, dia tidak boleh hidup di luar lingkungan istana, tidak boleh membuang kehidupan istana dan kekacauan ini mungkin juga antara penyebab Jebat menderhaka dek desakan jiwa yang memberontak.

ANTARA TEKS DAN IMAGINASI: MENILAI IMAGINASI, INTERPOLASI DAN PEMIKIRAN SANG PENGKARYA FILEM “Nanti mereka bertanya: Kenapa Jebat menderhaka?” “Jawab mereka juga: Kerana rajanya yang tidak adil!” - Hang Jebat (dalam filem ‘Hang Tuah’, 1956) Menyentuh pula soal sama ada apa yang dipaparkan di layar perak dalam bentuk filem mempunyai interpolasi atau herotan kepada teks, bagi saya penyesuaian dan tokok tambah itu tidak dapat tidak pastinya terjadi apabila sesebuah karya berbentuk prosa dialihkan kepada karya filem mahupun yang sebaliknya. Apa yang

dipaparkan dalam medium sebaran massa tidak dapat tidak akan mencorak perspektif pembaca dan audien. Jika direnungkan kembali filem “Hang Jebat” (1961), yang dipaparkan dalam filem itu membuat saya sebagai audien lebih cenderung menganggap Jebat sebagai pembela dan pejuang rakyat tertindas berbanding dirinya sebagai seorang penderhaka. Jebat ditonjolkan sebagai seorang perwira yang berani menentang ketidakadilan, tidak gentar dan gugup membela yang berhak serta mengatasi segala kezaliman yang merobek masyarakat feudal itu. Sementara bacaan teks Sejarah Melayu dan Hikayat Hang Tuah pula yang memberi perincian tentang perbuatan Jebat memperkosa dan membunuh gundik raja membuat saya lebih condong menganggapnya sebagai seorang yang tidak berperikemanusiaan, meragut nyawa orang, apatah lagi seorang wanita meskipun kerana dendam kesumat terhadap raja.

RUMUSAN Apa jua interpretasi yang boleh dicerna daripada tontonan filem yang diadaptasi dari kisah Hang Tuah ini, sudah pasti ianya dipengaruhi oleh pemikiran sang pembikin filem dan sudut pandang penonton berdasarkan kecenderungan mereka untuk memilih lensa yang mana untuk dijadikan panduan dalam membuat interpretasi. Kalau mengikut konteks zaman, Tuah akan dilihat sebagai wira yang unggul dalam era feudal atas dasar taat setianya kepada Raja yang tiada tolok bandingnya, sementara Jebat dipandang sebagai manusia derhaka yang wajar dicaci dan dihina kerana mendatangkan kemurkaan Raja. Jika dinilai dari kaca mata humanis dan secara kritis pula, Tuah itu suatu watak yang dangkal akal fikirannya sehingga tidak dapat membezakan

antara baik dan buruk daripada perlakuan Raja yang diagungagungkannya, sedangkan Jebat pula pembela saudara yang teraniaya dan secara tidak langsung menjadi suara kepada rakyat yang tertindas lewat pertentangannya terhadap Raja. Walau apapun, saya berpendapat bahawa Tuah dan Jebat merupakan contoh golongan rakyat yang menjadi mangsa sistem yang pincang, di bawah naungan kuasa feudal. Sedang Tuah yang boleh dianggap fatalis kerana ketidakberdayaannya melawan kuasa feudal dan langsung berserah pada nasib di tangan Rajanya, Jebat pula boleh diibaratkan seperti watak yang terjajah oleh sistem feudal yang memanifestasikan keganasan terhadap orang-orangnya sendiri, seperti yang pernah diungkapkan oleh Frantz Fanon yang berbunyi: “The colonized man will first manifest this aggressiveness which has been deposited in his bones against his own people”. Akhir kalam, seperti yang diajukan oleh Paolo Freire, golongan yang tertindas seringkali tidak dapat melihat dengan jelas struktur dan tatanan yang mementingkan kepentingan si penindas. Sesuai dengan konteks Tuah-Jebat dan perwatakan mereka, Freire mengajukan bahawa: “Submerged in reality, the oppressed cannot perceive clearly the “order” which serves the interests of the oppressors whose image they have internalized... It is possible that in this behaviour they are once more manifesting their duality. Because the oppressor exists within their oppressed comrades, when they attack those comrades they are indirectly attacking the oppressor as well.”

Nurain ialah mahasiswI tahun terakhir jurusan Pengajian Melayu



RUJUKAN Abdul Rahman Napiah. (1994). Tuah-Jebat Dalam Drama Melayu: Satu Kajian Intertekstualiti. Kuala Lumpur: Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka. Ali Aziz. (1982). Hang Jebat Menderhaka: Satu Lakonan Tiga Babak. Kuala Lumpur: Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka. Anuar Nor Arai. (2007). Kumpulan Esei dan Kritikan Filem. Kuala Lumpur: Dewan Bahasa dan pustaka. A. Samad Ahmad. (2010). Sulalatus Salatin (Sejarah Melayu): Edisi Pelajar. Kuala Lumpur: Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka. De Jong, J. (1965). The Rise and Decline of a National Hero. Journal of the Malay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 38 (2):140-55. Errington, S.E. (1975). A Study of Genre: Meaning and Form in the Malay “Hikayat Hang Tuah”. London: University Microfilms International. Fanon, F. (1968). The Wretched of the Earth. New York: Grove Press. Freire, P. (2008). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. London: Continuum. Fromm, E. (2003). Man for Himself. London: Routledge Classics. Fromm, E. (2010). On Disobedience. US: First Harper Perennial Modern Thought Hussein Haniff. (1961). Filem Melayu Klasik “HANG JEBAT”(1961).avi. Ditonton pada Mac 10, 2015, daripada, https:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMnXjxRqhc8 Kassim Ahmad. (1964). Perwatakan Dalam Hikayat Hang Tuah. Kuala Lumpur: Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka. Kassim Ahmad. (1981). Kisah Pelayaran Abdullah. Kuala Lumpur: Penerbit Fajar Bakti SDN. BHD. Kassim Ahmad. (1997). Hikayat Hang Tuah. Kuala Lumpur: Yayasan Karyawan dan Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka. Muhammad Haji Salleh. (2003). Dalam kertas Seminar Kebangsaan Hikayat Hang Tuah: “Takkan Melayu Hilang Di Dunia”, dengan tajuk “Hang Tuah Bercakap Oghang Puteh: Terjemahan dan Penjelmaan Hang Tuah dalam Bahasa Eropah” anjuran Persatuan Pengajian Melayu USM (BAHTERA). Omar Brothers. (1975). Hikayat Hang Tuah: Analisa dan Kajian. Singapore: Omar Brothers Publications (PTE) LTD. Phani Majumdar. (1956). Hang Tuah [1956] HQ (Full Movie). Ditonton pada April 10, 2015, daripada, https://www. youtube.com/watch?v=6ysfJQeJOvA Sahlan Mohd. Saman. (1994). Pengarang, Teks dan Khalayak. Kuala Lumpur: Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka Kementerian Pendidikan Malaysia. Shaharuddin Maaruf. (1979). The Conception of the Hero in Malay Society, Masters Thesis. Singapore: University of Singapore. Shaharuddin Maaruf. (1984). Concept of a Hero in Malay Society. Selangor: Eastern Universities Press (M) SDN. BHD. Shaharuddin Maaruf. (1988). Malay Ideas on Development: From Feudal Lords to Capitalist. Singapore and Kuala Lumpur: Times Book International. Sharifah Maznah Syed Omar. (1993). Myths and the Malay Ruling Class. Singapore: Times Academic Press. Sulastin Sutrisno. (1983). Hikayat Hang Tuah: Analisa Struktur dan Fungsi. Yogyakarta: Gadjah Mada University Press. Wan Hasmah Wan Teh. (2013). Daripada Kertas Kepada Layar: Transformasi Kisah Hang Tuah daripada Hikayat Hang Tuah dan Sulalat al-Salatin kepada “Puteri Gunung Ledang”. Dalam Halimah Mohamed Ali , Mohamad Luthfi Abdul Rahman (Eds.), Sastera dalam Budaya dan Media. Penang: Penerbit USM. Van Der Heide, W. (2002). Malaysian Cinema, Asian Film. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.





r. Mahathir’s poetic works are undoubtedly interesting features, despite the underappreciation of his poetic talent... Continue to next page

File photo: The Mahathir Award for Global Peace


His poems serve as useful socio-historical sources to help us decipher the ideological framework and political anxieties during his premiership, not to mention his persona as a leader. The first poem that will be visited is entitled “Perjuanganmu Belum Selesai” and was recited during the 1996 Malam Puisi Utusan, an annual awards event for Malay literature. In this poem, the former Malaysian prime minister expressed his sense of sadness regarding the ‘subordination’ of the Malays. He warned the latter that striving for independence would remain a continuous and ever-challenging endeavour. In the second poem, Melayu Mudah Lupa, Dr. Mahathir accuses the Malays of forgetting their history; a past filled with humiliation and subjugation. The poem urges them to reflect and do away with their ‘amnesia’ amid their unrelenting struggle. He narrated the poem during the 2001 UMNO (United Malay National Organisation) General Assembly, his penultimate address as president of the party. SAJAK MEMANG SAJAK The selection of poetic form reveals an attitude that is reflective of Dr. Mahathir’s message. The sajak is a relatively modern conception, displacing more antiquated forms of poetic expressions such as the syair (a form of poetry from written tradition) or pantun (a proverbial short verse with a strict rhyming scheme) since the 1930s. The main feature of the sajak is the free verse. It symbolises the shift of Malay society’s transformation to a more open, diverse society and has been the most popular form of poetry amongst Malay writers since the post-war years. Although admitting that ‘puisi’ (poetry) is a broader term, Malaysian poet, Salleh Ben Joned, even used the term interchangeably with the term ‘sajak’. Salleh selected the latter as his preferred form of poetic expression when touching on polemic and provoking issues; topics that are conventionally shunned in Malay poetry. Moreover, Malay nationalists often looked to this medium as a means to condense their anti-colonial sentiments in order to better propagate their views. Indeed, this poetic form connotes individuality, frankness and promotes the idea of speaking up, a breakaway from older Malay poetic forms. Dr. Mahathir’s selection of this form seems apt to present his message of struggle, progress and the importance of breaking free from ‘undesirable’ mentalities. DIAGNOSING HIS PATIENTS Both sajak give us an insight to Dr. Mahathir’s perception towards the Malays. The poems espouse



the ‘problematic’ nature of the Malays, persistently believed to be a weak and docile race, especially since the advent of colonialism. In Melayu Mudah Lupa, the phrase of its given title is repeated 16 times, almost making up the entire poem. Of course, the employment of repetition in poetry emphasises the poetic message. Moreover, the poem accords subordination and diffidence to the Malays; the author employs degrading terms like “dipijak” (squashed) and “hina” (humiliating), amongst others. Similarly, in Perjuanganmu Belum Selesai, Dr. Mahathir starts by speaking of the tragedy of being humiliated by others and goes on about how the Malays are ignorantly letting it happen. Arguably, both sajak serve as a doctor’s note from Dr. Mahathir for the Malays, offering a definitive diagnosis of ‘Malay’ problems. The grim nature of both sajak regarding the ‘problematic’ attitudes of the Malays in Malaysia symbolises the entrenchment of the cultural deficit thesis. According to this theory, the underdevelopment and poor material circumstances of certain ethnic communities is caused by their own negative values and not the structural problems arsing from the state and economic systems. As such, the solution is expected to be the community’s responsibility, through the reformation of its values. By accepting this thesis, Malay leaders like Dr. Mahathir are emphasising the cultural inferiority of their own ethnic community. His poetry, which presses incessantly about these ‘ailments’, reveals the rootedness of cultural deficiency as an ideological anchorage during the years of his leadership. HANDLING STUBBORN PATIENTS Much can also be learnt about Malaysia’s political climate from analysing the context of both poems. Perjuanganmu Belum Selesai was read in 1996, six years after the end of the New Economic Policy (NEP) and just five years after the launch of Vision 2020. The NEP was launched in 1970, formulated to correct the gross economic inequality within Malaysian society through affirmative action. By the time of the NEP’s deadline twenty years later, the country had achieved impressive standards in economic growth, reduction of absolute poverty across all ethnic communities and more equitable ownership of the economy. However, the plan fell short of its target to place 30% of economic wealth in Bumiputera hands, with inequality between and within ethnic groups still significant. As for Vision 2020, it is regarded as the pillar of the New Development Policy, the successor of the NEP, which envisioned Malaysia reaching the status of ‘fully developed country’ in thirty years.

Malaysia had to reconcile the shortfalls of the NEP and on top of that, take up a new, ambitious rigour to achieve development. This poem was therefore conceived during an anxious and frustrating period for Malay leadership, haunted by the shortcomings to improve the economic status of the Malays. Melayu Mudah Lupa was recited at a precarious moment for Dr. Mahathir. Anwar Ibrahim, Mahathir’s designated successor, was charged with sodomy a year earlier. Anwar’s trial and the nature of the investigation tarnished Mahathir’s personal reputation. Furthermore, the sajak was part of a speech he delivered during the 2001 UMNO state assembly. Having appointed another successor, Dr. Mahathir, by then, was already planning his retirement. In his speech, he harshly criticised the attitude of the Malays and blamed their poor and complacent attitude for failing to grab the opportunities provided by the NEP. The sajak depicts the impatience he harboured towards the Malays, who were still unable to achieve his standards of development. It is also an insight into how his belief of Malay cultural inferiority had persisted, even towards the end of his premiership. Written in a cautionary tone, the sajak reveals his anguish for failing to achieve his life-long dream of ‘reforming’ the Malays. Furthermore, in almost any poetic work, there exists an underlying message (makna tersirat). His constant recollection of the Malay’s tumultuous past is also an effort to force the Malays into contemplation. Indeed, a reflection of troubled times also conceives a sense of gratefulness for the present and thus serves as a reminder of his legacy as premier. In effect, the poem was probably a bid by Mahathir to solidify his historical legacy, to defend the absolute success of his impeccable and flawless political decisions and blame shortcomings on the ‘inherent’ cultural weaknesses of the Malays. Invoking History The poems also demonstrate how Bloomberg file photo Malaysian history had been politically invoked during the Mahathir era. In the poems, he drew upon both the ‘glorious’ and ‘shameful’

galvanise ethnic pride and arouse racial sentiments. In Perjuanganmu Belum Selesai, Dr. Mahathir dramatically recounts the tremendous sacrifices and challenges undertaken by the Malay nationalists in attaining independence, even though its attainment was done through negotiation and bestowed onto them by the British (unless the valiant predecessors he refers to are the communists but that of course, is blasphemous thought). His mention of the Malays as an “empayar” (empire) or “penakluk” (conqueror) is arguably a stretch. In Melayu Mudah Lupa however, only the ‘shameful’ side of Malay history was emphasised to swell insecurities, synchronising with Mahathir’s anxieties and resigned attitude during the later days of his premiership. While being dramatic is forgivable in the context of poetry, both poems aptly demonstrate how Malay leaders have strategically invoked history to substantiate and further their present day political ideology. Different sides of their history, both the ‘shameful’ and ‘glorious’, could be strategically recalled to inflame ethnic sentiments and solidify the belief in the supreme position of the Malays (Ketuanan Melayu). A DOCTOR’S DECLAMATION In studying any form of Malay poetry, attention needs to be given to its delivery and oration in order to understand them adequately. Malay poetry is a reciprocal process between both the author and his audience. In reference to Malay literature, scholar Amin Sweeney noted: “They are traditions of communication, shaped in the interaction between speakers and audiences: conventions that form and reinforce verbal communities.” Malay poetry goes both ways: the author recites the poem in accordance to how the audience reacts to his recitation and vice versa. Indeed, strong orientation towards oral recitation has persisted in the Malay World despite the advent of



the event of recitation itself demonstrates the communicative nature of Malay poetry, where a series of exchanges takes place between author and audience. Gratitude needs to be given to video, through which both episodes of recitation can be witnessed to broaden our perspective regarding its conception. When narrating Perjuanganmu Belum Selesai, Dr. Mahathir sobbed continuously throughout the recitation, breaking down after uttering the first words of the poem. His tears induced a solemn response from the audience: silence and the relentless flashing of cameras assure him of attention. In addition, his wife, Dr. Hasmah, stroked his back as a gesture of comfort, showing the audience how the message emanated from the author’s personal space. The scene presents a raw, very human side of Dr. Mahathir. As far as crying prime ministers go, indeed, the powerful image arguably deepens the connection between author and audience. This interaction reveals not only a fervent, personal belief in the message purported in the poem, but the response from the audience demonstrates a certain sense of the reverence accorded to him as a leader. Melayu Mudah Lupa Melayu mudah lupa Melayu mudah lupa Melayu mudah lupa Dulu bangsanya dipijak Melayu mudah lupa Dulu bangsanya retak Melayu mudah lupa Dulu bangsanya teriak Melayu mudah lupa Dulu bangsanya haprak Melayu mudah lupa

While the recitation of Melayu Mudah Lupa did not induce such a solemn mood, it remained an emotional episode. Dr. Mahathir’s constant reiteration of the phrase “Melayu mudah lupa” was met with initial laughter from his audience, perhaps finding humour in the consistent ramble. The audience soon echoed “Melayu mudah lupa” after him and laughter soon disappeared when his tone became grimmer. The interaction lasted throughout and Dr. Mahathir even allowed his audience to recite “Melayu mudah lupa” for him. In the final lines of the sajak, when the Malays are addressed directly as second person, he choked, overwhelmed with emotion. Upon concluding, he was given a standing ovation. From these series of exchanges, we may learn how the audience of UMNO delegates (the best examples of his rehabilitated ‘patients’) resonated with Dr. Mahathir’s messages. His message fits perfectly into the dynamics of UMNO, which was already defined by his leadership for two decades; it is a racial-centric party where any issue related to Malay rights was no laughing matter. Suhail is a third-year undergraduate majoring in History in NUS. Dulu bangsanya kerdil Melayu mudah lupa Dulu bangsanya terpencil Melayu mudah lupa Tiada daulat Tiada maruah Tiada bebas Melayu mudah lupa Melayu mudah lupa Melayu mudah lupa Sejarah bangsanya yang lena Tanah lahirnya yang merekah berdarah

Dulu bangsanya kelas dua Melayu mudah lupa Dulu bangsanya hina Melayu mudah lupa

Ingatlah Ingatlah Ingatlah

Dulu bangsanya sengketa Melayu mudah lupa Dulu bangsanya derita Melayu mudah lupa

Wahai bangsaku Jangan mudah lupa lagi Kerana perjuanganmu belum selesai..

Source: medica.com.my, Mahathir Mohamad l Melayu Mudah Lupa, September 20, 2012. https://www.



Perjuanganmu Belum Selesai Sesungguhnya tidak ada yang lebih menyayat hati Dari melihat bangsaku dijajah Tidak ada yang lebih menyedihkan dari membiarkan bangsaku dihina Air mata tiada ertinya Sejarah silam tiada maknanya Sekiranya bangsa tercinta terpinggir Dipersenda dan dilupakan Bukan kecil langkah wira bangsa Para pejuang kemerdekaan Bagi menegakkan kemuliaan Dan darjat bangsa Selangkah bererti mara Mengharung sejuta dugaan Biarkan bertatih asalkan langkah itu yakin dan cermat bagi memastikan negara merdeka dan bangsa terpelihara air mata sengsara mengiringi setiap langkah bapa-bapa kita Tugas kita bukan kecil Kerana mengisi kemerdekaan Rupanya lebih sukar dari bermandi Keringat dan darah menuntutnya Lagi pula apalah ertinya kemerdekaan Kalau bangsaku asyik mengia Dan menidakkan, Mengangguk dan membenarkan, Kerana sekalipun bangganya negara kerana makmur dan mewahnya bangsaku masih melata dan meminta-minta di negaranya sendiri

Bukankah mereka pernah menjadi wira serantau yang tidak mengenal erti takut dan kematian. Di manakah silapnya?sehingga bangsa ku berasa kecil dan rendah diri.Apakah angkara penjajah lalu bangsaku mulai melupakan kegemilangan dan sejarah silam membina empayar. Tugas kita belum selesai rupanya Bagi memartabat dan memuliakan bangsa kerana hanya bangsa yang berjaya akan sentiasa dihormati Rupanya masih jauh dan berliku jalan kita Bukan sekadar memerdeka dan mengisinya tetapi mengangkat darjat dan kemuliaan buat selama-lamanya Hari ini, jalan ini pasti semakin berliku Kerana masa depan belum menjanjikan syurga Bagi mereka yang lemah dan mudah kecewa Perjuangan kita belum selesai Kerana hanya yang cekal dan tabah Dapat membina mercu tanda Bangsanya yang berjaya.

Source: Kolokium Pemikiran Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, Pemikiran Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, ed. Ramlah Adam, (Melaka: Institut Kajian Sejarah dan Patrotisme, 2004)

Bukan kecil tugas kita Meneruskan perjuangan kemerdekaan kita Kerana rupanya selain memerdekakan, Mengisi kemerdekaan jauh lebih sengsara Bukankah mereka pernah menjadi wira serantau yang tidak mengenal erti takut dan kematian. Di manakah silapnya?sehingga bangsa ku berasa kecil



Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka. Kamus Dewan: Edisi Keempat. Kuala Lumpur: Dawama Sdn. Bhd., 2005. journeymalaysia.com. Masjid Kampung Laut. March 29, 2001. http://www.journeymalaysia.com/MHIS_ nilampuri.htm (accessed September 22, 2014). Khoo Boo Teik. Paradoxes of Mahathirism. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, 1995. Kolokium Pemikiran Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. Pemikiran Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. Melaka: Institut Kajian Sejarah dan Patrotisme, 2004. Lily Zubaidah Rahim. The Singapore Dilemma: The Political and Educational Marginality of the Malay Community. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, 1998. Mahathir Mohamad. A Doctor in the House: The Memoirs of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Petaling Jaya: MPH Publishing, 2011. —. Malays Forget Easily. Subang Jaya: Pelanduk Publications, 2001. medica.com.my. Mahathir Mohamad l Melayu Mudah Lupa. September 20, 2012. https://www.youtube. com/watch?v=Uv2cf94oKaM (accessed November 16, 2014). —. Mahathir Mohamad l Perjuangan Yang Belum Selesai . September 20, 2012. https://www.youtube. com/watch?v=g3I2Hqhk4jY (accessed November 16, 2014). Mohd Taib Bin Osman. “Classical and Modern Malay Literature.” In Literaturen, Volume 1. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1976. Muhammad Haji Salleh. An Introduction to Modern Malay Literature. Kuala Lumpur: Institut Terjemahan Negara Malaysia, 2009. Ricklefs, M.C. et al. A New History of Southeast Asia. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010. Salleh Ben Joned. As I Please: Selected Writings 1975-1994. London: Skoob Books Publishing, 1994. Souza, George Bryan. The Survival of Empire: Portuguese Trade and Society in China and the South China Sea 1630-1754. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Sweeney, Amin. A Full Hearing: Orality and Literacy in the Malay World. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1987. Wain, Barry. Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent Times. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. Walt Whitman et. al. Poetry and Repetition. New York: Routledge Taylor and Francis Group, 2005.




By Annas Bin Mahmud


he concept of power within any society has been explored in many studies, be it in Sociology, Anthropology or others. While studying such a concept, one would inevitably recognise the heterogeneous nature of societies as a whole. With that in mind, it is important to note that there is a power struggle between the different groups of people within the Malay-Muslim society, as in many others. This power struggle can be studied in the form of the contestations as well as negotiations of a particular group to attain their own identity within the heterogeneous society in which it exists. The group which would be explored here is the modern MalayMuslim women in contemporary Malay-Muslim society. It would be clearer to study the contestations and negotiations of these women through major arenas – such as dressing, behaviour, education, employment, as well as the family and household – which changed in the face of modernity. It is through the contestations and negotiations in these arenas – and how the Malay-Muslim women are empowered or disempowered through these contestations – that the definition of the modern Malay-Muslim women is constructed. On this note, it is important to understand that these arenas are not necessarily separate as some do overlap with others. In the construction of the modern Malay-Muslim woman identity, it would often be that adat (culture) and religion (Islam) are seen as markers upon which the identity is formed. However, as would be discussed in greater detail, it is also in these markers that the contestations arise. This is due to the different definitions, and the implications which follow, of these markers by what Shamsul (1998:18)



referred to as the authority level and the everyday level. These interpretations are brought about by the experiences following the process of modernisation and thus the changes brought about by modernity, including that to the idea of femininity.

DRESSING AND BEHAVIOUR In the forming of the modern Malay-Muslim woman identity, dressing has been a contested arena as it brings forth the idea that a woman’s femininity is determined by her modesty. In Malaysia, this arena has been approached by using references from the Islamic text, the Qur’an. The contestations emerge from the different interpretations of this source amongst the authority level. It is in these contestations that the modern Malay-Muslim women find the need for negotiations. While there is a general consensus amongst the different political groups in Malaysia that from the Qur’an, different levels of enforcements has been taken in the different states – “legislation by all the states except for Sabah and Sarawak which make it a criminal offence for women to expose their awra/aurat” (Martinez 2002:306). This shows how on the everyday level, the women are disempowered as the authority enforces the laws on the women in what Martinez referred to as “the struggle for political legitimacy... to be ‘more Islamic’” (2002:306). With the idea of femininity through dressing being authority defined in Malaysia, and the legislations that come with it, the identity of the modern Malay-Muslim women has been greatly influenced. However, it can be pointed out that some of these women have used this to form their own identity through negotiations by assimilating it with

fashion trends. This increasing trend of fusing the tudung with fashion means that thewomen start to enjoy covering their modesty as it is now “considered sophisticated and trendy” (Nagata 1995:112). In other words, while the passing of legislations by the authority level can be seen as a disempowerment of the modern Malay-Muslim women, this redefinition of wearing the tudung and covering their modesty can be seen as empowering for these women, achieved through negotiations in attaining the modern Malay-Muslim women identity. This contestation in how the arena of dressing plays a part in forming the identity of the modern Malay-Muslim woman also takes place in Singapore, albeit in a different context where there are no legislations policing an individual’s choice of dressing. In the case of the Malay-Muslim women in Singapore, it can be seen that the contestations rise from the social definition of this dressing in the everyday level. This can be seen in Suriani’s study of three such individuals who had decided to take off the tudung and are facing some form of contestations, especially but not solely from their own mothers (Suriani 2009). These contestations can be said to have stemmed from the already ingrained social construction that “as Muslim women they are expected to wear the veil when they are older” (ibid:7). This takenfor-granted expectation can be clearly seen in the reactions of the mothers of the women when they stopped donning the tudung. However, Suriani’s study also shows the contestations and negotiations of these women with themselves in determining their own identity as the modern Malay-Muslim women (ibid.). The debates in the arena of

dressing can be seen to be closely linked to the behaviour of these women, especially due to the expectations of one’s behaviour after donning the tudung. In the cases in Suriani’s study, the women not only have to negotiate with the society and themselves vis-à-vis the meaning of the tudung but also had to “deal with questions about what is the proper thing to do as a ‘tudung girl’” (ibid:8). Here, the expectations of one’s behaviour can thus be seen as an arena of contestations, existing due to the variations in the everyday definition of the ‘proper’ with references to both adat and Islam. This definition of the ‘proper’ can be seen in Malaysia where it is concentrated on the contestations of the Islamic term awra/aurat. For example, some conservative Islamists would contest that “women cannot be leaders... or be heard in public because a woman’s voice is part of her private parts” (Zainah 2001:231). This authority definition disempowers the modern Malay-Muslim women especially in their roles within the society. This is especially so because in Malaysia, at “both social and political levels, the Islamic agenda today is increasingly dominated by the discourse of the conservative groups” (ibid:234). While Islam is quite a prominent building material in the formation of the modern Malay-Muslim woman identity, adat should not be ignored as also a factor. This can be seen in the ideas that come along with adat in the process of a woman’s life cycle. This is shown through the idea of the ‘anak dara’ years where the modern MalayMuslim woman is “expected to take on heavier female tasks such as cooking in preparation for her role as wife and mother” (Ruziya 1987:17).

The social construction that the Malay-Muslim woman is ‘meant’ for, and thus be prepared to face, the roles of wife and mother has also been regarded as an overlap with the Islamic ideas that “the mother-wife roles are perceived as extensions of their religious faith”(Inserto 1997:134). This clearly shows how the arena of dressing and behaviour can be related to the arena of family. This contestations and negotiations in the arena of the family would thus be analysed later. The contestations in the arena of dressing and behaviour can be seen to be symbiotic as the society constructs one upon the other in the formation of the modern Malay-Muslim woman identity. However, it is important to note that these arenas are not the only ones involved but they represent roots, and stems, of some of the other arenas of contestations and negotiations which will also be discussed later.

EDUCATION AND EMPLOYMENT Education is another arena where contestations and negotiations are faced by the women in the formation of the modern Malay-Muslim woman identity. This arena is usually to a large extent defined by the authority level. For example, the conservative Islamists in Malaysia would contest, using Islam as a building material, for the “confinement of a woman to the four walls of the house” and that if “women can be educated at all, that education is not meant for a career outside the home” (Zainah 2001:231). While this may not be the eventual case in Malaysia due to the factor of modernity, it is clear that this final product could not have come about without any contestations and negotiations within the arena.

Inserto also points out how when a Malay-Muslim The contestations and negotiations in the arena woman reaches puberty, and thus takes on the of employment in Malaysia can also be said identity of ‘anak dara’, This idea which states that Malay women to be an extension of the her “movements education where they lean ought to behave properly so as to be more to the authority level. are circumscribed” prepared for marriage can be argued to The authority definition of a as “the prospect of show how they are disempowered of Muslim woman’s role in the marriage or nonmarriage becomes freedom as they get monitored closely by Malaysian society, based very clear to her” their family, as expected by adat. on their interpretation of (ibid:17). This idea some verses of the Qur’an, which states that Malay women ought to behave that “men are a ‘degree higher’ than women” properly so as to be prepared for marriage can be (ibid.231) meant that women are disempowered argued to show how they are disempowered of in that their level of participation in employment freedom as they get monitored closely by their became limited. family, as expected by adat.



not allowed to contest in the elections (Wazir J.K 1992:chapter4). Here, we see how the idea of an Islamic state reduced the power of the women in the Malaysian political scene drastically over time as the idea of women being biologically different, in these cases inferior, from men justifies such occurrence. Contending such interpretations of religious authorities include groups like the Sisters in Islam (SIS), speaking against efforts to curb the civil liberties of Muslim citizens, in particular the rights of women (Zainah 2001). Such organisations represent the voice of the women in contesting the authority defined identity of the modern Malay-Muslim women. Apart from the political scene, the modern Malay-Muslim women in Malaysia are also disempowered in the everyday level in the arena of employment. This stems from the access to employment some of these women gained with the arrival of industrialisation into the country. The contestations and negotiations here manifests through the everyday definition of a Malay female factory worker (Ackerman 1996). The social stigma associates these factory workers to negative images of the modern MalayMuslim women to being wild and spendthrifts as they come back to their villages in newer clothes (ibid.). This means that these women had to negotiate with terms such as “minah current” and the negative connotations that come with it, in attaining their identity as working women. In Singapore, education leads to the arena of employment, almost directly, where the contestations then arise. The contestations and negotiations in the arena of employment in Singapore can be observed to be more on the everyday level. The access to employment to the modern Malay-Muslim women in Singapore is mainly due to the “open and accessible society which has an open and accessible system of education” (Inserto 1997:155). Inserto brought up the contestations and negotiations within the individual in the transition from education to the employment world, vis-àvis the importance of marriage and motherhood (ibid:124). It is clear here how the modern MalayMuslim women in Singapore disempowers themselves in the arena of employment to empower themselves in forming their identity in the family and household arena. Inserto also brought up the idea that in the contestations and negotiations of the importance of employment,


the “resistance seemed to come from within the women themselves” (ibid:124).

FAMILY AND THE HOUSEHOLD It can also be argued, however, that the manifestation of the contestations and negotiations within the individual everyday level actually comes from the authority level. This can be seen in the case of Singapore where the idea of the nuclear family3 has often been addressed by the authority, ingraining it into the everyday definition of it. This is aptly put together by Purushotam who mentioned in her study that the “actualisation of ‘the normal family’ as a policing device involves (the everyday) reflexive use of it” (1993:4). This shows how, through the idea of ‘the normal family’, the modern Malay- Muslim women begin to contest and negotiate within themselves that getting married and building this ‘normal family’ is the way to go. The identity of the modern Malay-Muslim women in Singapore in the arena of the family, the contestations and negotiations thus revolve around the idea of marriage. To some on the everyday level, marriage can be seen as “the entry into adulthood” (Ruziya 1987:17) while others on the authority level define it to be normal, as mentioned above in the idea of the ‘normal family’. These definitions empower the modern Malay-Muslim women in Singapore as wives and mothers as incentives like access to purchasing a public housing and baby bonuses become open to them. On the other hand, one cannot ignore that there is heterogeneity even within this group of modern Malay-Muslim women. With that in mind, one would argue that these definitions can also disempower the women, especially those who may seek to remain single, especially those from the lower income families where “their material contribution to the household was welcomed” (Healey 1999:59). This empowerment is especially clear in the Singapore society where many resources which the married women are allowed access to, are either not given or given with strict regulations to those who are unmarried. In this way, the modern Malay- Muslim women’s decisions regarding marriage are placed in the control of the authority level to quite a large extent. This backs Purushotam’s study where she states that “social control is achieved by the imposition of varying degrees of force” (1993:3).

As can already be seen, the arenas of education and employment affect how a modern Malay-Muslim woman may view her identity vis-à-vis her roles within the household. This overlap in the arenas has brought about many contestations between the authority and the everyday level, especially with the process of modernity. This is shown in the roles that women take on within the family, especially in a dual-income household as pointed out by Suriani “there is a gradual increase in the numbers of dual income couples in Singapore” in the last two decades (2002:1). It is in this shift in the household structure that the contestations and negotiations arise. This is especially so in the issue of childcare arrangements. On the authority level, Suriani points out how while “encouraging women to work it was assumed that women will continue to fulfil their role as wives and mothers” (ibid:4). On one hand, this assumption goes hand-in-hand with Inserto’s (1997) statement that the modern Malay- Muslim women see the importance of being a mother, based on the Islamic extensions. On the other hand, the lived experiences of these women as working mothers disempowers them because they have to face what Suriani termed as the “dual burden of married women” (2002:4). While the arena of contestations of the household in Singapore revolves around this issue of the modern Malay-Muslim women’s roles within the family, the women in Malaysia face the contestations more regarding their place in the household in comparison to their spouse. These contestations were explored by Zainah (2001) who pointed out the Malaysian Malay-Muslim women’s struggle with the authority interpretations of the Islamic laws. In her study, she stated, “We (Sisters in Islam) felt powerless in the face of complaints by women that they have to suffer in silence because it was said that Islam demands wives be obedient to their husbands, or Islam grants men the right to beat their wives or to take second wives.” (Zainah 2001:228) Aside from the disempowerment of the Malay-Muslim women in Malaysia shown in the illustration above, Zainah also explored how there have been some forms of negotiations in the forming of the modern Malay-Muslim woman identity in Malaysia. These she linked to the “recognition of women’s rights in Malaysia”(2001:233). Zainah stated the new implemented laws in Malaysia which relate to women’s rights in areas like polygamy and divorce which she termed as “among the most enlightened in the Muslim world”(ibid:233). In all, it can be clearly seen how within the arenas of the family and the household, the empowerment and disempowerment of the modern Malay-Muslim women are determined mainly, but not exclusively, by the definitions of the authority level on the family and the women’s roles in the household. In the analysis of the different arenas of contestations and negotiations, we are able to see clearly how the social definitions, be it on the authority or everyday level, play an extensive role in forming the modern Malay-Muslim women identity. These social definitions, in forming the said identity, have also been pointed out to empower or disempower the modern Malay-Muslim women visà-vis their part in the society. As an extension to the role of social definitions, we are also brought to the fact that adat and Islam represent significant building blocks in this formation of the modern Malay-Muslim woman identity.



it in terms of context and say that Islam has a bigger role in Malaysia while adat has stronger grip in secular Singapore’s social constructions. However, it is important to also keep in mind the idea that the contestations in Malaysia through Islam relates back to the interpretation of it, with the already existing notions that adat brings to the interpretations. In retrospect, I think that the formation of the modern Malay-Muslim identity should be based on, some may see this as an irony, the traditional Malay saying which goes “Pemuda harapan bangsa, pemudi tiang negara”. While these six words show the difference in the role of the men and the women, it is important to note, in relation to forming the identity of the modern Malay-Muslim woman, that the men and women are just as important. None more important or significant than the other, just different. Annas is a graduate student at the deparment of Malay Studies This essay was written during his undergraduate studies in the same department

Bibliography  Healey, Lucy 1999. “Gender, Power and the Ambiguities of Resistance in a Malay Community of Peninsular Malaysia”. In Women’s Studies International Forum 22:1:49-61. Inserto, Fathiah Edrus 1997. Choice, Social Structure, and Serendipity: A Study of Multiple Roles among 20 Malay Women in Singapore. Ann Arbor, Michigan University: Microfilms International. Chapter 6, Discussion. Martinez, Patricia A 2002. From Discource to Dissent? Theorizing the Construction of Women in Postcolonial Islam: Malaysia. Ann Arbour: UMI Mircroform. Chapter 9, Modesty, Tudong, and Disciplining Women. PuruShotam, Nirmala 1993. The Normal Family: A Study of Ideological Reformulations Concerning the Family in Singapore. Paper presented at the Third Malaysia-Singapore Forum, 1- 4 November 1993, NUS, Singapore. Shamsul A. B. 1998. Debating about identity in Malaysia: a discourse analysis. In Zawawi Ibrahim (ed.) Cultural Contestations. Mediating identities in a changing Malaysian Society. London: ASEAN Academic Press. Siti Ruziya Nasir 1987. Three Generations of Singaporean Malay Women. Academic Exercise. Department of Sociology, National University of Singapore. Suriani Suratman 2002. Working out Child Care Arrangements – Case Studies on Malay dual income couples in Singapore. Paper presented at 5th Asia Pacific Sociological Association Conference. Asia Pacific societies: Contrasts, Challenges and Crises. Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, 4th -7th July 2002. Suriani Suratman 2009. From “tudung girls” to non-veiled women – Exploring meanings of the veil amongst Malay Muslim Women in Singapore. Paper presented at the “Race and Nation, Family and Economy: Malayness and its Debates Conference. Asia Research Institute, NUS, Singapore. 20 – 21 January. Wazir Jahan Karim 1992. Women and Culture: Between Adat and Islam. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press. Zainah Anwar 2001. What Islam, Whose Islam? Sisters in Islam and the Struggle for Women’s Rights. In Robert Hefner W. (ed.) The Politics of Multiculturalism, Pluralism and Citizenship in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.






am a third-generation Singaporean born in the 1970s in a time of rapid transformation. The 1970s to early 1980s was both exhilarating and anxious, as we forged a new identity for Singaporean society. There was rising confidence in the direction of progress, but also great anxiety at the speed of development and emerging attitudes. They were to radically change the fundamental outlook of a people.


After independence, our multicultural diversity was streamlined to allow for effective governance. The state intervened and regulated societal behaviour as part of governance — from insisting that only those who formed family units could purchase homes from the Housing and Development Board to, for a period, getting all students to take religious knowledge classes in school. Every Singaporean was to be a productive citizen for the new economic landscape. Social policies were shaped to encourage a cohesive workforce with a set of values necessary for a capitalistic milieu. I was a product of these radical transformations. I was of Malay and Bengali ancestry, but given the ChineseIndian-Malay-Others (CIMO) race categorisation model, my racial identity was fixed as “Malay”. Being a minority came with its own set of challenges. My paternal grandfather had worked for the police force since the British era. By 1957, Malays were over-represented in the uniformed sectors: 82.1% in the armed forces and 74.3% in the police force. The British forces’ withdrawal in 1971 and changes in the occupational sectors caused structural pressures upon the Malay middle class of the old economy. I grew up in a working class environment. Back then, extended families lived under one roof. This provided mutual financial support within a single household. The Malay communal spirit of “gotong royong” gave the social network support for many Malay families to pull through difficult times. Today, the nuclear family is more prevalent, which calls for a need for wider social interactions beyond family ties to develop social capital needed to survive in a new economy. To a large extent, one’s early socialisation shapes the mental outlook of how one perceives the world and one’s surroundings. I grew up with a fair degree of interaction across the various ethnic groups. But almost immediately, we were made conscious of our differences. Skin colour was the most obvious difference. On hindsight, I could recall many embarrassing moments where prejudices and stereotypes were allowed to shape our interactions with those who were different from us. No one would admit that generalisations were wrong. Categories like “Chinese”, “Malay” and “Indian” were not



just simple descriptions of one’s ethnic category; they came along with a defining set of features, many of which were negative and limiting of one’s life choices.


I was an educator in my early career and I have seen children equating their lack of drive to succeed to their cultural traits. I would not blame them. They were shaped by their surroundings. And when they do succeed, they are deemed different — an example of what could be achieved in a meritocratic society. This seemed normal in how I came to experience multicultural Singapore. Little did I realise that the normalisation was a consequence of the peculiar way in which our society has been structured along racial lines. Multiculturalism is not the mere acknowledgment of diversity. It is “a set of policies, the aim of which is to manage and institutionalise diversity by putting people into ethnic and cultural boxes,” says the British writer, Kenan Malik, in Multiculturalism and Its Discontent. It is necessary for the purpose of governance, but it has consequences. On a positive note, Singapore’s multicultural policy can be said to fulfil many of the indicators outlined by Professors Keith Banting and Will Kymlicka in their book Multiculturalism and the Welfare State. Yet, stereotypes continue to be a nagging feature that indicate a less-than-desirable state of integration. Singapore, in other words, has yet to achieve a status of “multiculturalism proper” as defined by Professor George Crowder in his book Theories of Multiculturalism, in which multiplicity of cultures are not just generally approved, but “also given positive recognition in the public policy and public institutions of the society”. To overcome the limitations of structures and policies, I chose to be involved in intercultural work. It was not easy. Race and religion are two issues where the out-of-bounds (OB) markers are narrow. But if we do not talk about it, prejudices cannot be surfaced and corrected, and stereotypes will continue to shape how we see and think of those who are not like us. This will have lasting consequences. In times of relative peace and stability, one can go on being politically-correct in daily interactions sustained by an overarching fear not to infringe on sensitivities. But what if Singapore were to face new challenges and the existing model of governance cannot cope? I think we need to imagine a new way of forging relations among people that can lead to a new social contract. At present, we are still haunted by the ghosts of the past. Because of the experience of race riots in the 1950s and

1960s, we have come to see race and religion as two primordial ties that form a deep cleavage in Singapore society. As a result, we have become a somewhat Hobbesian society that is in need of a leviathan — in our case, the government — to keep us from destroying one another.


This is not to say that there is no integration in Singapore. The “Goodwill committees” formed after the 1964 riots and the Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circle (IRCC) formed in 2002 after the discovery of a terrorist cell have promoted healthy interactions across the ethnic and religious divides. But the glue that held our social contract together was the need to survive, and thrive economically. Our vulnerability was the overarching


We are now confronted with the task of dealing with an increasingly diverse environment. I believe that we can no longer operate on the basis of surrendering the work of social cohesion to an ultimate arbiter, who will keep us apart, at bay, and balance our respective exclusive needs. We have to be bold to confront our own fears of engaging with others; to rethink our deep-rooted assumptions, stereotypes and prejudices; and to embrace differences while upholding a commitment to ensure that we are equal as citizens of this land. I foresee a future where Singapore society will mature as we eventually develop genuine tolerance that includes an embrace, not mere putting up, of differences. Tolerance does not begin with silencing differences or withholding

“Because of the experience of race riots in the 1950s and 1960s, we have come to see race and religion as two primordial ties that form a deep cleavage in Singapore society. As a result, we have become a somewhat Hobbesian society that is in need of a leviathan — in our case, the government — to keep us from destroying one another.” narrative that kept ethnic and religious differences from bubbling over Today, the new generation that has emerged remembers mostly prosperity, stability and peace. The British playwright, George Bernard Shaw, once said, “We are made wise not by the recollection of our past but by the responsibility for our future.” Singapore is at the crossroads once again. The narrative of vulnerability is less convincing than that of a widening income gap and decreasing rate of social mobility. This seems to be the anxiety that will deepen the social divide. When one cannot make sense of the changing context, prejudices and stereotypes will rear their ugly heads once again. An employer seeking to compete in a tight market may not want to employ a certain category of people based on the assumption that they might be less industrious or may cause problems. A person who failed in several attempts at employment may turn his resentment inwards and perceive what has happened to him as a result of being in a racist environment. In other words, race and religion per se may not be the primordial causes of inter-group resentment and eventual conflict. What matters then is basic socio-economic factors and the way we organise society to provide for greater access to opportunity and resources, as well as an equal arrangement that allows for all members of society to feel that they are recognised, and that they belong.

speech. Tolerance is the product of robust debate where we eventually come to understand one another’s positions and accord each the space to be different. This, at least, was the initial birth of the liberal spirit of toleration, said the sociologist Frank Furedi in his book, On Tolerance. It is not mere “putting up with differences”; it is acceptance of a multiplicity of views and of irreconcilable differences. Thus, the “new consensus” is not about forging a unified view, which will be almost impossible in this new age of pluralism. It is about giving space and freedom to each member of society to pursue his or her dreams, as long as they do not impinge on the rights of the other, or cause harm to the general good of society. To achieve genuine social cohesion, we need to move away from mere acknowledgment of differences (“multi”cultural) to cross-cultural interactions and engagements (“inter”-cultural). We must see that our destiny is intertwined and I am as much a part of you as you are a part of me. Often, racial and religious categories overlap without having to deny the dimensions that remain exclusive to each community. As the philosopher John Rawls says, we need to continuously search for that “overlapping consensus”.



But this task cannot be achieved if we fail to provide the various “safe spaces” for voices to be heard, particularly from the most marginal and underrepresented elements in society. The new consensus must be as inclusive as possible.


Here lies the dilemma: Can a society be truly inclusive with no out-groups? We know that one of the main causes for inter-group strife is the problem of inclusion and exclusion. Therefore, there must be some guiding principles in which we must aspire towards. Otherwise, our choices may seem arbitrary and we fail to see how we can regurgitate the mantra of inclusivity while remaining blind to our own practices of exclusion. I believe that the pledge of building “a democratic society, based on justice and equality” has to be made central in our effort

to surface the true meaning and practices of an inclusive society. Citizenship education must thus be at the forefront of our efforts to discuss diversity. We have to learn to live together as equal citizens, not as separate communities that are in need of protection from others. The next two decades will be critical in how we manage diversity while transiting to a new way of dealing with differences. It has to begin from the ground. But first, we need to reduce the climate of fear to deal with difficult issues, while providing the freedom to express within a safe environment. Only then can we hear voices from those who are hidden within the limiting categories and labels that we had boxed people into. Only then can we truly acknowledge our deep diversity. Only then can we transit to a society that celebrates differences but accords the freedom for all to pursue their dreams and aspirations, while standing together to uphold our founding principles of justice and equality.

Mohamed Imran Mohamed Taib is an interfaith activist and founding member of Leftwrite Center, a dialogue initiative for young professionals. This essay is part of the Young Singaporeans Series at IPS Commons, a website hosted by the Institute of Policy Studies.



Hakikat Bahasa Keliru, kejahilan atau penafian dalam diri? Tutur bicara menjadi identiti dan refleksi diri kita Bahasa sebagai pembentuk jati diri Yang mana menjadi pilihan hati? Bukankah jawapannya patut hadir secara semulajadi? Oh, hati! Wahai jiwa! Selamilah hati dan jiwamu Sedarlah darah yang mengalir di dalam tubuhmu. Bahasa sebagai alat yang amat bernilai, Membenarkan terbinanya Jembatan persefahaman, Jalinan persahabatan, Mewujudkan persamaan, Menghormati perbezaan, Meraikan kepelbagaian. Krisis identiti kerana bahasa Patutkah ia wujud Sedangkan kita sudah tahu jawapannya?

Ditulis oleh Embun



Kasih Allah Dalam kegelapan Tak’kan kuragukan Dalam terang cah’ya Ia beri sukacita Menghadapi gelombang Ku tak’kan bimbang Walau badai menerpa Ia tetap beserta Letih lesu diriku Perhentian di depanku Memikul berat beban Ia bawa kelegaan Meski tidak layak Ku dianggap s’bagai anak Setiap langkah hidupku Ia jadi pedomanku Kasih tidak bersyarat Kan memegangku erat Sekarang dan selamanya Kasih Allah tiada duanya Ditulis oleh Wieky Joe Pelajar tahun ketiga Jurusan Bahasa Inggeris NUS



Kudrat Hawa Khadijah Khadijah, Kamu kenal siapa Khadijah? Pepatah Inggeris mungkin benar, Di sebalik seorang lelaki kuat, Adanya juga wanita yang hebat, Bersemangat jitu dalam niaga, Berlemah-lembut dalam rumahtangga, Mungkin ini dikatakan hiasan dunia terindah. Insan pertama mengucapkan shahadah, Insan pertama juga menjadi pendengar Ceritera Rasul bersama Jibril di Hira’, Setia hingga hujung nyawa, Bersama Rasul hingga bersatu di Jannah, Mungkin benar frasa ‘Cinta Pertama’, Hingga kematiannya disambut teramat duka, Kekayaan hati melebihi kemewahan harta, Mungkin definisi kekayaan ditemui sudah, Bersuamikan Insan Tercinta-Nya.

Hasil karya Muhammad Idaffi Othman Mahasiswa tahun kedua jurusan Ekonomi, NUS



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in arya K . i ml te Ra n i B ia h Radh h e l O

\ “d u b. . d u b… dub… aku mencari cintamu, dalam hatiku yang merindu”


asyid perlu

bersaing dengan pelbagai jenis muzik lain yang berunsur Islami bagi mengekalkan kerelevanan dan populariti. Kelihatan dari luar, suasana Masjid Haji Yusoff teramat sunyi dan sepi. Ruang utama masjid telah digelapkan. Lampu ditutup, bunyi putaran kipas tidak lagi kedengaran. Kakitangan Masjid beramairamai berarak keluar meninggalkan tempat perkumpulan orang beribadah. Dari bahagian anjang-anjang Masjid, tampak deretan kereta semakin berkurangan. Gerakan manusia di dalam Masjid menjadi beku. Masjid begitu sunyi seakan sudah mati.


Kompang dipukul ,pemalu dipegang , gendang dipalu, tamborin dibunyikan. Kedengaran bermacam bunyi dari sebuah ruai kecil daerah kawasan sembahyang. Lingkungan yang malap tadi tiba-tiba bernafas lagi. Tampak beberapa orang lelaki duduk bersimpuh, tunduk- Ternyata Masjid masih ada orang lagi. Muhammad Haffiz Zakaria, 27, salah seorang dari mereka bersuara : “Tasnim ini macam ibarat air dari syurga, semuenye dikumpulkan atas dasar minat kepada nasyid” Tasnim. Begitulah nama kumpulannya. Nasyid harus bersaing dengan jenis-jenis muzik lain yang berunsur Islami di Singapura. Qasidah; syair Arab yang dilagukan, telah menjadi pilihan segolongan belia yang baru berkecimpung dalam kegiatan berdakwah. Tasnim justeru itu telah mengatur strategi bagi meningkatkan penyertaan khalayak.

a la h

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nse ) lice Y B ( “It is more of ns mmo o C e ukhuwwah, da lame-lame rase tiv Crea a r dah macam adik-beradik, kite diibaratkan e und d e r a seperti satu keluarga” sh strategi rufm m a y ob b a g i phot r k Tarikan yang ada pada nasyid tidak hanya terletak c i fl meningkatkan pada mesejnya yang sarat dengan nilai-nilai penyertaan khalayak. Selain kemanusiaan. Margaret Sarkissian mengaitkan dari mempelbagaikan khidmat pelanggan seperti Nasyid dengan puisi. Aturan kata-kata yang berirama, fotografi, pengacara lagu dan kumpulan paluan bahasa yang puitis, imejan-imejan yang menatar kompang di majlis-majlis perkahwinan, mereka kualiti sebuah karya seni, dapat meningkatkan telah memberi wajah baru kepada nasyid. penghayatan orang ramai.

“Nasyid jiwang” adalah istilah yang digunakan Haffiz untuk menerangkan “jenis” yang baru dalam nasyid. Muhammad Khidir ataupun lebih senang digelar “kid” menambah, “Kalau di majlis perkahwinan, kita pilih “nasyid jiwang”…kite akan nyanyi lagu kasih kekasih oleh kumpulan In Team”



emacam “konsert” di dalam Masjid. Begitulah situasi lingkungan Masjid Haji Yusoff selepas jam 12. Nasyid telah menyimpulkan ikatan yang tersisip dengan semangat dan minat yang sama. Sejak dutubuhkan pada tahun 2004, kumpulan Tasnim terus berkembang menyimpirkan sayapnya. Ibarat keroncor dengan belangkas, kesibukan dalam kerjaya dan keluarga masing-masing tidak menghalang pertemuan mereka. Khidir memerihalkan keakraban ahli kumpulannnya,

Muhammad Arif Khairul Tan, bekas ahli kumpulan nasyid yang dinamakan Irsyadee di Madrasah AlIrsyad Al-Islamiah berpendapat, “Nasyid adalah tentang penghayatan kesusasteraan yang dapat mengisi kekosongan dalam diri.” Arif merindukan kenangan sewaktu album pertama irsyadee berjudul “Petunjuk Sepanjang jalan” dihasilkan pada tahun 2007 sebagai projek dana bagi Madrasah tersebut. Kata orang, sambil menyelam, minum air. Di samping perkecimpungannya dalam bidang nyanyian pada usia yang muda, Arif dan rakan-rakannya membina hubungan utuh yang derasnya bagai air dicencang tiada putus. Kecenderungan terhadap bahasa puitis tidak menjadi pilihan bagi Tasnim. Bagi tujuan pemahaman, Khidir merasakan bahawa mesej dalam nasyid harus lebih jelas dan mudah tanpa banyak menggunakan frasa-frasa esoterik.


banyak menggunakan frasa-frasa esoterik.

walaupun nasyid bukanlah sesuatu yang asing baginya.

“Kami lebih menggunakan lirik-lirik Indie Berbeza dengan Muhammad Aniq Faris dan rakannya, supaya lebih mudah dan jelas.” Ahmad Haasyim, berumur 21 tahun yang kini sedang menuntut di Universiti Al-Azhar. Mereka pernah Walaupun berbeza pendirian, Tasnim dan menjadi sebahagian dari kumpulan nasyid sewaktu Irsyadee menyetujui peranan Nasyid dalam berpengajian di Madrasah Al-Junied Al-Islamiah. menyatukan mereka bersama. Haffiz berkata: Suasana di Madrasah membentuk minat bernasyid usia muda. Nasyid didendangkan untuk meraikan “Bila semuanya ada minat dari perayaan-perayaan seperti hari raya,hari guru, Maulid yang satu, bukan kita yang dan sebagainya. Bagi mereka, ia dijadikan platform mencari bakat terpendam dalam kalangan “membuat” nasyid , tapi nasyid untuk pelajar di Madrasah. Boleh dikatakan, Madrasah juga yang “membuat” kita’ menyediakan “Akademia Fantasia” untuk para pencinta Nasyid. Aniq merasakan, BAKAT DAN MINAT TERHADAP NASYID DILENTUR DARI MANA? “Saya teruja kerana dapat bertemu dengan orang-orang yang boleh bernyanyi seperti saya.” Tasnim terus bermelodi irama sepanjang malam. Tiba-tiba salah seorang dari Kalangan Selain dari Madrasah Al-Junied, perayaan-perayaan mereka menghentikan yang diadakan di Madrasah Al-Maarif Al-Islamiah tingkahan, dikuti tanpa dendangan Nasyid dianggap tidak sah. Di dengan yang lain- hanya samping persembahan-persembahan lain seperti Dikir tinggal bunyi suara para Barat dan lakonan, persembahan Nasyid tidak pernah pemuda yang memantul. terjejas. Ustazah Hamidunnisah Mohamed Hussein, Tercipta harmonisasi salah seorang guru yang bertugas di situ berpendapat suara oleh lingkungan bahawa “Nasyid” di lingkungan Madrasah mempunyai pemuda-pemuda ini pengertian yang berbeza. tanpa diirigi bunyibunyian. Tasnim baru- “Kalau masuk madrasah, nasyid itu mesti baru ini telah meninjau bergendang,menyedapkan lagilah suasana.” nyanyian Acapella untuk menarik golongan belia. Pengalaman Ustazah Hamidunnisah berbeza dengan Kemerduan suara yang para asatizah lain secara umumnya di Madrasah Allantang dan lembut Maarif. Dia telah ke sekolah rendah kebangsaan bagi menjadi keutamaan bagi pendidikan darjah satu hingga enam, namun telah Khidir. Haffiz merasakan: mengambil keputusan untuk berpindah ke Madrasah Al-Junied untuk mendapatkan pendidikan menengah. “Setiap lagu mesti ada Transisi yang dialaluinya ketika itu merupakan sebuah harmonisasi suara untuk memori yang indah baginya. menarik orang ramai sebab orang suka dengar.” “Bila masuk madrasah Al-Junied, tiap-tiap kali lepas recess, pelajar lelaki akan nanyikan nasyid-nasyid yang Pengalaman bernasyid direka oleh ustaz, jadi ustazah suke” secara aktif bagi Haffiz hanya berpangkal sejak Minat yang terpendam dalam dirinya dihidupkan lagi dia memasuki Tasnim. tatkala dia bertugas di Madrasah Al-Maarif sebagai Dia tidak meggiatkan seorang guru Bahasa Arab dan pengajian agama. Nasyid diri dalam perkumpulan digunakan dalam pengajiannya untuk memudahkan nasyid di sekolah proses penghafalan dan penghayatan Bahas Arab.


Nasyid sungguh diterapkan dalam budaya para pelajar Madrasah demi mencari “kelainan” dan identiti mereka sehinggakan lagu untuk hari Kebangsaan di Singapura telah dinasyidkan olehnya dan dinyanyikan setiap tahun: “ya sanghafura, ya sanghafura , fasluna a’la bil wathan, woah kite dekat maarif pun kite ade lagu kebangsaan kite yang tersendiri haha” Ciptaan lagu Madrasah Al-Maarif yang dinyanyikan setiap hari Isnin merupakan satu langkah untuk memadankan imej Madrasah di samping sekolahsekolah kebangsaan yang lain. Selain itu, ia membuat para pelajar lebih bangga dengan identiti mereka. Ketika melodi lagu Al-Maarif diciptakan, pelbagai perkara telah menjadi perhatian Ustazah Hamidunnisah untuk memastikan lagu ini tidak mudah jelak dan sesuai digunakan untuk menaikkan semangat para pelajar. “Mesej itu mesti ada, jadi budak-budak kalau nyanyi itu dorang lebih semangat, kata orang woah aku pelajar maarif, aku nyanyi lagu Maarif ”



Muzik itu pelbagai rencam. Perihal muzik serupa dengan manusia yang pelbagai bangsa dan agama. Namun muzik mampu membawa kepelbagaian yang wujud ke atas satu pentas.Para pemuzik bersatu untuk berkongsi minat dan kebolehan atas tujuan yang pelbagai juga.

yang wujud ke atas satu pentas.Para pemuzik bersatu untuk berkongsi minat dan kebolehan atas tujuan yang pelbagai juga Pengertian Nasyid- sejenis muzik, tidak terhad pada mana-mana pengertian. Kesan Nasyid kepada para pengamal muzik turut tidak terbatas dan berubah mengikut pengalaman mereka. Muhammad Taufiq Bin Abdul Halim, 20, seorang lagi ahli kumpulan Irsyadee menganggap bahawa nasyid adalah suatu peringatan buat dirinya. Selain dari terkesan dengan alunan muziknya, dia merasakan bahawa Nasyid membolehkannya membuat Refleksi diri dan menimbulkan kesedaran. Syamil pula menganggap Nasyid sebagai suatu hiburan alternatif kepada jenis muzik-muzik lain. Katanya: “Nasyid adalah salah sejenis hiburan yang positif dan membina syakhsiah seorang Muslim” Haffiz menekankan pelbagai elemen yang memberi warna kepada pengertian nasyid. Padanya, setiap lagu yang mempunyai pesanan-pesanan yang baik dianggap Nasyid. Takrif yang diberikan olehnya kepada nasyid juga mencerminkan pemahamannya terhadap pelbagai jenis muzik Islami yang lain. “Kalau nasyid, elemen utamenye ialah mesejnye. Kalau Qasidah, orang nampak rentaknye dulu kerana rentaknya lebih senang nak ikut.” Walau apa pun cara yang dipilih untuk medefiniskan Nasyid, kepelbagaian inilah yang memberi hidup kepada jenis muzik ini.


OUR SCATTERED BONES ARE YOURS Pemuda in Indonesian Art and Literature, 1945 - 1955 By Syafiqah Jaaffar Editor’s note: This new column is a 4-part series that will feature portions of Syafiqah Jaaffar’s history thesis done in AY14/15. Syafiqah has analysed the responses of Indonesian artists and writers during the Indonesian Revolution. In particular, she puts a focus on how the pemuda as a social group was represented up to 1955. The writer has taken an interesting approach in analysing the discourses through art and literature. In this first part, we will look at the definitions of pemuda, and how these influence the not only the ways in which artists and writers portray, but also identify with them.


n this preliminary study, I examine the evolution in representations of the Indonesian revolutionaries – oft referred to as pemuda – across the different stages of the Revolution (physical and social), through works of art and literature produced by local artists and writers between 1945 to 1955.Art and literature are social facts drawing their existence from the milieu they emerged from, and in turn function as discursive ...

spaces in the manner defined by Argentinian postMarxist thinker Ernesto Laclau: “The discursive is not, therefore, being conceived as a level nor even as a dimension of the social, but rather as being coextensive with the social as such.” Hence within their capacity as discursive spaces, art and literature come to create what can be loosely described as a visual and “word universe” consociational with the society they function within. With this tight referentiality of meanings, it is unsurprising that representations of the pemuda in art and literature during 1945 to 1955 are eventually elevated over decades as iconographic symbols of the Revolution and by extension, what it means to be Indonesian or possess the Indonesian spirit. This paper spans three parts. In the first section, I briefly trace the historical background behind the term pemuda as a concept, and look at the relationship between artists, writers and pemuda during the Revolution. The second section explores representations of pemuda in art and literature during the period of fought Revolution between 1945 to 1949, and the third part puts focus on the first half of the 1950s, when the nation-state of Indonesia has entered into its fledgling nation-building phase. In both sections, I attempt to have paintings and literary works enter into a dialogue with each other to demonstrate the extent to which artists and writers respectively identify with and how similar or dissimilar they were in translating their impressions of pemuda onto their works across the two phases of Revolution.



n 1928, representatives from region-based youth movements convened in Jakarta for the Second All-Youth Congress. The session ended with the declaration of Sumpah Pemuda (Youth Oath), which expressed the three tenets of a united Indonesian identity, and would go on to underpin the development of mass nationalism in Indonesia. Equally notable apart from the formulation of the seminal oath itself was what the Congress symbolized: a collective demonstration of youths (the literal meaning of pemuda) as agents at the forefront of social change. The idealism behind their agitation for progress, and the innocence which rendered them capable of being society’s moral

have persisted as value-notions attributed to the idea of pemuda even into the Reformasi era. Admittedly, the word pemuda in its capacity as a concept has undergone inscription and re-inscription as Indonesia moved through various historical phases. Pemuda as it is widely understood and referred to today, including in scholarship, owed much of its re-definition to its portrayal to the New Order historical narrative. However, the New Order appropriation of pemuda in turn elaborated upon the references it had acquired during the Revolution. By the end of the Revolution, pemuda as a concept can be understood in two ways. Firstly, in terms of demographics, pemuda encompassed all youths within the newly-acclaimed Indonesian ‘imagined community’. This democratization was a continuation from the changes prompted by the establishment of militarized mass youth organizations during the Japanese Occupation (1942 to 1945). These youth organizations drew their ranks from across the social spectrum. As a consequence, the term pemuda could no longer be the exclusive terrain of Dutcheducated, lower to upper priyayi youths who had dominated the Congresses of the 1920s. Egalitarianism being one of Indonesian nationalism’s clarion calls, pemuda as an admixture of youths from varied social backgrounds remained a key characteristic of its demography into and beyond the years of the Revolution from the 1950s onwards. Secondly, in terms of ideology, the Revolution’s pemuda built upon rather than displaced that of their predecessors in the 1920s. The ideology of the initial pemuda was deeply rooted in the ideals of Pergerakan, with a strong self-confidence in being the group most suited to uplift their fellow natives towards progress and modernity along the European model. They also saw themselves as being at the forefront in creating the new national culture and identity. However, as demographics changed, pemuda as a generational ideology took on an additional layer of meaning. While continuing to perceive themselves as the group best poised to move society towards progress, being a pemuda also came to imply the adoption of an active, radical and passionate stance towards the nationalist struggle. More cautious, diplomatic efforts to secure independence by the older generation (including nationalists such as the Vice-President Mohammad Hatta and Prime Minister Sutan Sjahrir) were viewed with disdain in comparison to the physical battles waged by the army against the Allied forces. Hence, by the end of the physical Revolution in 1949, the idea of pemuda became popularly – if not conveniently – equated with the military and revolutionary brigands of the Republican government. It was this definition which the New Order incorporated and made more pronounced in their historiographical and history education programs.


In New Order historical narratives on the Revolution, heavy emphasis was placed on the role of these brigands as the most crucial element in the securing of independence. Moreover, the New Order had raised the image of pemuda to become powerful symbols of shared sacrifice necessary for the Indonesian nationstate to be born. The visual appearances of the pemuda began to be standardized, being mostly seen in militarylike attire, and almost always presented in preparation for or in scenes of battle. At least to the end of the New Order regime in 1999, the pemuda has been cast in the public imagination as a cousin of the military rather than as a successor to those 1920s youth study groups from which they had evolved. Considering that the temporal gap between the end of the Revolution and the beginning of the New Order regime was only twenty years, the latter’s capability to evoke the memories of pemuda through public history education is of little surprise. After all, many of those who survived the Revolution would experience both the Old Order and at least the early half of the New Order. However, memories are accessible only by those who lived through the events – and even then, only partially. Nostalgic recollections of the pemuda as romantic heroes of the new nation during the postcolonial decades therefore cannot survive through the power of memories alone: they require material anchors, especially if they are also intended to catalyze and keep alive the national community’s historical imagination of the Revolution across time and space. This is where the works of art and literature produced in Indonesia within the first decade of independence are of considerable significance. As a whole, artists and writers in Indonesia generally adhere to the belief of seni untuk rakyat (art for the people). Such philosophy is a continuation of the role of the arts in the traditional societies of the Indonesian archipelago. The classical literature forms of babad (epics), hikayat (narratives) and syair (rhyme quatrains), and their performative counterparts such as wayang (shadow puppet) and tari (dance), have long been used to deliver advice, admonitions and subtle social critiques. The onset of the Revolution, which put the fate of the nation and its peoples as the utmost priority, would invariably reinforce the perceived social duty of art in the minds of the artists and writers. The proximity between these artists and writers, and their society during the Revolution, was also in part a consequence of the former’s participation with the pemuda struggles during the Revolution. In personal statements from some of these artists and writers, the experience of the Revolution tend to be remembered fondly as their high period of youthful idealism, and


a few expressly took pride in their involvement in the physical struggles. It is clear that for these artists and writers, the pemuda were as much part of their social environment as they were a part of their personal identity. Regardless of their degree of participation in the pemuda struggles, artists and writers in general identified themselves as being one of the pemuda, at the very least in sharing the same sentiments of being the generation tasked to be the makers and creators of their new imagined society. By blending their personal experiences during the Revolution and their self-perception as agents shaping the new society, artists and writers employed pemuda as subject matter both to perpetuate memories of the pemuda and to advance their own utopian ideals of Revolution. In their hands, the pemuda became a trope for their responses

In personal statements from some of these artists and writers, the experience of the Revolution tend to be remembered fondly as their high period of youthful idealism, and a few expressly took pride in their involvement in the physical struggles. It is clear that for these artists and writers, the pemuda were as much part of their social environment as they were a part of their personal identity. as cultural-intellectual vanguard towards the project of national independence. As the Revolution moved from its physical to its sociocultural stages, so did artists and writers reassess and adjust their perception regarding the role of not only art in society, but also that of the youths. This interaction between the demands of the Revolution and the responses by the artists and writers informed how the pemuda would eventually be portrayed in their artworks. Presenting the pemuda as an idiom of the national community speaks about the identity of a nation as it speaks of its people. Nations are organic in so far as they are created by humans; it is this centrality of human element which is the axis around which artists and writers consistently construct their images of the pemuda, and by extension, their utopia of independence. Syafiqah Jaaffar is an art, history and literature enthusiast. She is a graduate student at the History Department in NUS.

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Coretan 2016 Issue 1  

An undergraduate publication by NUS Malay Studies Society

Coretan 2016 Issue 1  

An undergraduate publication by NUS Malay Studies Society