In this book, Farish A. Noor (a Senior Fellow at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies) sought the ideas of history revolving around Malays and the mix of the Chinese and Indian cultures way back to the Hindu-Buddhism era in Tanah Melayu and lots of other issues which were never told in formal syllabus of our history education.
Being one of the persons who is looking at other views history of Malaysia in critical ways, the author then puts credible sources that link the issues with the rest of the ethnics in Tanah Melayu and Malaya namely Chinese, Indians and the Peranakans. How interesting it could get is how the relationship between keris and Buddhism in which many people would have never thought of when they put it as a symbol of a certain race while in fact historically, it is not. Extremists of certain races should notify then why their lack of knowledge and perhaps their lack of enthusiasm to learn about other's cultures bring only harm to them. When we come to look at the issue from a scholarly point of view, we can see how un-intellectual we were when the issue of a politician kissing a keris before were brought to the chaotic discussion about ketuanan Melayu. This notion that keris become an Ethno-Nationalist (ethnic-based symbol) symbol puts a turn to the issue when it is discussed in lengthy details in the book. In this case, if we were taught about it in Sejarah, the students would not get stuck with views of the 'winners of the past' only.
The author is excellent in bringing contemporary issues which we are dealing with such as relationships between races, homosexuality, ketuanan Melayu and how 'racial difference' became a big deal in Malaysia. The ideas portrayed in the book show how we come here this way and understanding the process will turn Malaysians to become more understanding. As I myself was the product of Malaysian education system, I doubt anyone can argue the credibility of his sources which are dealt extensively in the footnotes.
The struggles of PAS and the globalisation values portrayed by Hang Tuah were my favourites. The story of the progressive leader of PAS from 1956-1969, Burhanuddin Al-Helmy puts a new perspective and light into how PAS came into one of the biggest and most influential parties in Malaysia. The Hikayat of Hang Tuah on the other hand, shows how Hang Tuah himself was already travelled to many parts of the world apart from the ubiquitous stories we heard of him. Why do we focus his stories with Hang Jebat only? There are so much more of him apart from his questionable fights with Hang Jebat. In fact, in my opinion Hang Tuah was more 'globalised' than we are. And he did not just converse in Malay.
The book tells how does Hang Tuah was sent to India to visit the Indian Empire of Bijaya Nagaram by the Sultan of Malacca and spoke keling (no offence intended) to the King. The King then impressed with his linguistic skills and sent an ambassador to Malacca immediately.
"Maka titah Kisna Rayan: “Hai Laksamana, kau ini Peranakan apa?”
Maka sembah Laksamana, “ya tuanku shah alam, patek ini peranakan Melayu, tapi patek dari kechil-kechil ke Majapahit, maka patek berlajar mengaji bahasa Keling dari pada sa-orang Lebai; maka oleh itu patek mengerti sedikit bahasa Keling itu”."
This book enables me to think about many of the issues critically. It brings us differences of opinions which I think is vital to our society. These critical thoughts and how we become a generation that understands stories from many points of view will make Malaysia a better place. While Keris has became the symbol of Malay, it should be the symbol of unity of Malaysian heritage since it is originated from the Hindu-Buddhism kingdoms of the Malays. That is the perfect example. Malaysia would be such a much better place if our politicians read this book. However, will they accept the opinion of this blogger to read the book? No.
Hence, I ask all of you to read it as you are the agents of change of Malaysia. It is quite expensive (RM 40.00 ) though. Borrowing the book from me is highly welcomed. No reasons not to read it.
Every Malaysian should read this book. It is highly recommended.-The Chukai Insider