Malaysia’s week of political turmoil has brought graft-scandal-tarnished political parties back to power, in effect undoing the historic 2018 election that was hailed as a victory for democracy and transparency.
Muhyiddin Yassin was sworn in on Sunday as the country’s eighth prime minister, replacing Mahathir Mohamad.
Muhyiddin’s ruling alliance is expected to be dominated by the UMNO, and the Parti Islam Se-Malaysia or PAS.
Both are known for conservatism.
The UMNO, which led the ruling coalition for over six decades until its defeat in 2018, ensured ethnic Malays held on to key positions in state institutions and government-linked companies.
Meanwhile, PAS, prioritized elevating Muslims atop key organizations.
If a new government is formed by Muhyiddin and his cohorts, it will be a Malay-leaning government with no real input from non-Malays who constitute 40% of the population.
What does this mean for Singapore?
1 – Expect more comparisons between Malaysia Malays and Singapore Malays.
Muhyiddin famously made a remark that he is a Malay first and then a Malaysian
There was also the other famous comment by his peers that it is better to be a Malay in Malaysia than in Singapore because Singapore Malays are marginalised and treated like ‘second class citizens’. They even used the Malay proverb “Bagai lembu dicucuk hidung”; meaning Singapore Malays, including its leaders and politicians, are like cows being led by the nose (i.e. someone who blindly follow others)
2 – Expect Malaysia to highlight that Malaysian Malays are more Islamic than Singapore Malays
There could be more pledge made, to fight in the name of Islam. There will portray themselves as the Champions of Islam in the region and may potray other Muslims who disagree with their rhetoric as being less of a Muslim than them.
Can greet Merry Christmas? Can shake hands? Can eat on the same table with non-Muslims? Buka Puasa or Iftar?
The muftis (state-appointed persons with religious authority), the ulama (religious scholars) and the religious bureaucrats will likely make more exclusive remarks in the name of Islam and declare the non-believers as Kafirs.
Singaporeans how? Are we less of a Muslim (or Kafirs) because we don’t agree with their opinions? How to counter this?
The way forward for Singapore
It could be Muhyiddin today, Anwar tomorrow or even Mahathir (again) in the future. We cannot choose our neighbours. We can only chose how to react to them.
Singapore Malays have become distinct from other Malays in the region and from Muslims elsewhere in the world, and prospered.
Race and religion has always been our fault line but over the many years, we have developed our own unique identity, and one of the defining characteristics is in the way Islam is practised in Singapore’s multiracial context.
We are not less Malay or less Muslim because of this.
So is Muhyiddin or Mahathir better for Singapore? Or too early to tell because next week may have new prime minister?
Let us know what you think?