In IMAGES OF THE JAWI PERANAKAN OF PENANG  (2004) the writers (Halimah Mohd Said & Zainab Abdul Majid) have this to say:

The Jawi Peranakan of Penang can be considered the earliest community of town or urban Malays when their migrant Indian Muslim forefathers established a trading community in George Town in the mid 18th century.The alternative term by which they are known , Jawi Pekan ( town Malays) and its use in the British census categories from 1881 to 1911 bears testimony to a formal recognition of this status. The indigenous Malays of the time were found in the hinterland and were mainly occupied with farming activities.Historically, these differences in demographic and occupational distribution brought about early differences not only in the socio-economic and educational developments of these communities (see Chapter 2) but also in the development of their mind and personality.

Most of the second and third generation Penang Jawi Peranakan today were brought up in the urban environment of George Town in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s where they attended English schools and interacted with teachers and peers from different ethnic backgrounds. They had to compete openly and cooperate with each other in their academic work and co-curricular activities as well as sporting interests.Outside of the school in the multi-ethnic environment of Penang there were plenty of opprtunities for socialising with the other races.In kuala Lumpur where many of them migrated, these conditions are replicated in their work place and in their areas of residence.This generally unrestricted urban environment has nurtured a personality that is outgoing, friendly and sociable, personality traits which are typical of the Jawi Peranakan of Penang. A general observation is that they are socially adaptable and accomodating. They are usually confident and uninhibited in a social setting and try hard to fit in at whatever level of society. They appear tohave no hang-ups about their social abilities and have a high self esteem. Their social ease is greatly aided by the fact that they are ready talkers and eloquent speakers, expressing themselves directly and openly. A socially hesitant and reticent Jawi Peranakan would be challenged to forge ahead with the metaphor “Tak ada hidungkah?”(Don’t you have a nose/confidence?). For this the more verbose among them have earned the reputation of being brash, abrasive and pushy – negative traits which are discouraged in the traditional Malay metaphor “hidung tak mancung pipi tersorong-sorong (pushing their cheeks ahead of their flat noses), which has the effect of restraining initiative and drive. 

There’s no doubt that a well-rounded education in English opens the doors to a greater body of knowledge in many fields of study including religion, and armed with this knowledge a person has greater opportunities for communication.

This does not take away the importance of receiving one’s early education in the national language Malay or religious education in Arabic but when one is able to articulate one’s higher  thoughts and arguments in the most widely spoken international language English, one will reach a wider audience (local and global) who are likely to take note of what one has to say.

Speech/ writing and articulation are proven paths to building up one’s  self confidence and self esteem. And being confident definitely allows one greater opportunities for communication!

A vicious circle no doubt but one that spirals upwards and outwards towards success and accomplishments!

In Chaper Two, we wrote:

The present-day Jawi Peranakan of Penang are a sub-group of Malays whose ethnically-mixed ancestry is a result of intermarriage between the migrant Indian Muslim men and the indigenous Malay women. Several generations of Indo-Malay unions and endogamous intra-community marriages have produced a group of people who have assimilated socio-culturally, economically and politically into the more dominant core Malay society, yet display distinctive traits and characteristics that stand them apart from the Malays of other ethnic compositions.

The psychological effect of being a migrant minority in the commercially competitive and ethnically-mixed urban environment of Penang, and their early exposure to English secular education have developed in this group of ‘Penang Malays’ – other regional sub-groups include ‘Johore Malays’,  ‘Kelantan Malays’, ‘Perak Malays’ – a certain pragmatism in adapting to the core culture of the Malays, and a resilience in handling the many challenges of a commercially-centred urban existence. As with the success stories of other migrant communities, the Jawi Peranakan turned an initial social disadvantage into a psychological strength, taking an early lead in the economic, educational and political development of Penang.

The migration of the Jawi Peranakan families to Kuala Lumpur in search of better educational and career opportunities from the 1960s until the present time has exposed them to a cultural, socio-economic, educational and political environment which is dynamic and fast-growing. Kuala Lumpur has become the melting pot of various racial groups and ethnicities from all over the country where the Malays of different groups interact with each other and with the other major ethnic groups in a swirl of socio-cultural exchanges and mutual influences. This will no doubt give rise to a universal Malay culture that manifests itself in a more uniform set of behaviour, beliefs and values and attitudes. A more homogenous Malay ethnic identity will then emerge which satisfies not only the technical definition of  ‘a Malay’ entrenched in the Federal Constitution (see Chapter One) but also the spirit or psyche of what it means to be a Malay. Only then will the differences among the different Malay etnic sub-groups no longer be questioned or highlighted, and their common Malay identity be accepted by all. When assimilation at the level of identity or identificational assimilation takes place and where there is an absence of value and power conflict with the achievement of civic assimilation, only then will the minor differences in cultural behaviour, beliefs, values and attitudes disappear or become irrelevant (see Chapter One : Conceptual Framework of Assimilation) . Whether or not this ideal of assimilation is possible for the Jawi Peranakan or, for that matter, any other minority sub-groups, is a question to be addressed by further research.

For the purpose of this study, it is important to highlight the positive attributes of this group of Malays in order that they be known and acknowledged. Old perceptions must be reconstructed and given a fresh interpretation in the light of modern developments. The open and pragmatic attitude of the Jawi Peranakan who have the courage to push themselves forward to climb up the social ladder in the pursuit of their business and career interests can, at one level, be interpreted as brashness or aggressiveness by the meek and mild, However, in the climate of rapid economic development and globalisation that the country is now experiencing, the nurturing of positive attitudes in the attainment of one’s ideals and visions can only be interpreted as drive, motivation, initiative and dynamism – attributes which Malaysians in general and the Malays in particular are encouraged to develop in order to be competitive.


1 Response to “”

  1. February 9, 2010 at 9:17 am

    Salams Kak Nini
    What about the rural Melayu?Not forgetting Siamese malays especially in Kedah and Perlis! They are mostly the hard core poor Melayu.
    My mum is melayu jawa and my dad is from Yemen.I am proud amd bersyukur to be a bangsa Melayu Malaysia.I try to keep away from my arabic cousins because budaya mereka ini Kasar!!!
    LOL Bye!

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