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Sabah mufti denies ‘Malaynisation’ remark a call to abandon ethnicity

Screenshot of the D.K.M. Sabah website, where the unidentified blog operator professed to have met the Sabah Mufti on Oct 2 for a brief interview.KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 11 — Under-fire Sabah Mufti Mufti Bungsu @ Aziz Jaafar was urging the state’s Muslim Bumiputera to unite under the umbrella of the so-called Malay stock with his controversial “Malaynisation” remark and not to deny their ethnicity, according to quotes attributed to him in a blog.

In a posting on D.K.M. Sabah site, the unidentified blog operator professed to have met the Sabah Mufti on October 2 for a brief interview on the Islamic cleric’s comments late last month that have since stirred up a storm in the state.

There, Bungsu was quoted defending his remarks as a statement of scholarly facts based on ethnography and anthropology, saying that he was merely referring to the Malay stock from the Malay Archipelago that he said numbered over 200 million people.

Fending off accusations that he was attempting to dilute the ethnic diversity in Sabah, he was quoted as saying that the local natives there could acknowledge that they belong to the Malay stock without discarding their language and ethnicity.

“That’s why I call for Muslim unity in the Sabah context (because Sabahans, not all the ethnic groups recognise they are Malays, not like in Peninsular). That’s why I propose, as a solution to this unity (maybe there are other ways), ethnic groups who are Malay stock must consider themselves as Malays, not to change identity (if the Dusun already lost its Dusun-ness, means can no longer eat inava, tuhau), change names to be Malay, speak Malay...

“No, that stays because Allah S.W.T has awarded it and it will stay,” he was quoted saying in the October 8 posting titled “Sepetang bersama Mufti Sabah: ‘MeMelayukan Rumpun Melayu” (An afternoon with the Sabah mufti: ‘Malaynising the Malay stock’).

The ethnicity of native Sabah Muslims would remain unaltered despite their recognition that their tribes belong to the larger Malay stock, Bungsu said.

“But the stock, let him feel that he is under the stock (umbrella) of Malay stock. Because that is fact and that is what I tried to point out.

“So when those who are Muslim, this ethnic Muslim but he feels he is Malay under the Malay stock. His ethnicity stays (if Dusun, still Dusun...if Rungus, still Rungus... if Tidung, still Tidung..., if Bajau, still Bajau... but has Malay ties... That’s all),” Bungsu added.

The Sabah mufti has yet to respond to The Malay Mail Online’s request for verification of the blog’s contents.

Religion and ethnicity are complex and inseparable issues in Malaysia owing to the ethno-religious Malay grouping arising from the constitutional categorisation of ethnic Malays to also be Muslims.

Malay ethnicity is sometimes confused with the notion of the Malay race or stock, which is used as a blanket term for the indigenous Austronesian people of the region.

Following Bungsu’s initial comments at a September 28 forum, Penampang MP Darell Leiking had unhappily pointed out that Muslims in ethnic groups such as the Dusun and Murut did not share the Malays’ hereditary customs and language.

Earlier in his purported reply on the blog, Bungsu said his comments were not an issue of the prioritising between religion and ethnicity, citing the Federal Constitution while saying the ethnic Malays and Islam had a very close connection in the Malaysian context.

“So this issue is more towards Muslim unity. So in the future, as long as there are efforts to unite and Muslims have not united, we will continue talking about Muslims’ unity”

In the blog entry, Bungsu repeatedly stressed his identity as being of mixed Brunei and Dusun lineage.

He also saw no need to apologise, reiterating that he was not calling for changing of ethnicity but referring to the Malay stock, later also saying that this issue of Muslim unity is for Muslims only.

But the purported interview carried on the D.K.M. Sabah blog did not include a clarification on Bungsu’s reported claim that the Kadazan is an “invented” ethnic group that allegedly composed of non-Muslim Dusuns who are mostly Catholics.

The Kadazan remark led to the Kadazan Society of Sabah filing a summons against him in the state’s Native Court.

On September 28, Bungsu stirred up a hornet’s nest when he proposed a programme to “meMelayukan” or to make Malay the many Bumiputera Muslims in Sabah who continue to identify themselves by their tribal roots.

He told a thousand-strong symposium titled Facing Foreign Agenda (MEGA) that many of the indigenous Muslims in the north Borneo state still refused to call themselves Malay, unlike ethnic groups like the Javanese and Bugis in Peninsular Malaysia who today identify themselves as belonging to one Malay race.

“For the sake of the Malay Muslim community, these Malay tribes who are already Muslims must be made Malay,” he said, referring to the Dusun, Bajau, Murut and other ethnicities that make up Sabah’s many indigenous tribes.

Bungsu’s comments sparked a flurry of angry responses from Sabah leaders across the political divide, while native Sabahans took to Facebook to proudly declare their ethnicity.

Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman later came out to say that the state government has no plans to convert ethnic groups there into Malays, describing Bungsu’s controversial proposal as a “personal view” and stressed that the state administration will always respect the diversity of Sabah’s many native groups.