To address the comments of one of my readers on the identity of the Jati Miriek, whom I mentioned termed themselves Melayu Kedayan, is that they used to call themselves that, but now are tyring to preserve their identity. Linguistically and culturally they are more akin to the Lakiput, Lun Bawang or Kajang, but because most of them are Muslims, they term themselves (or used to) Melayu. Why Kedayan? Because most of the Kedayans are Muslims (and among the few Dayak groups to be mostly Muslim) thus they generally regard themselves akin to them.
Which brings us to another issue. Islamisation.
One of the reasons the Dayak identity is gradually being eroded is because of Islamisation. Before I go any further, I have no problems with Muslims. I have many friends who are Muslim. My father is a Muslim (I am not). I am blessed with many Muslim friends, both in Borneo and Lepehland, who are open minded and understanding. Many people accuse Muslims (because they are the majority) to be narrow-minded, over-privileged, and wants to impose some sort of superiority control over the general populace, thus eroding all other identities.
The thing is, the majority of Muslims I met are casual, free spirited and open minded people who embrace and acknowledge the differences yet embracing everyone. It’s the fringes of the majority, those supremacists like UMNO and PERKASA who dictate and sway public sentiment (using Utusan Malaysia). But non Muslims associate these over zealousness with all Muslims. As usual, politicising everything is the order of the day.
Let me set things straight. Being Muslim does not mean you are Malay. Religion and race is intertwined, but not mutually exclusive. If you think only radical Muslims wants to erode all cultures un-Islamic (allegedly) like wayang kulit, look at some of the Christian evangelists. No offence to our Christians brothers, but these ideas of burning traditional artifacts, fabrics and crafts just because it seems to promote idolatry and spirit worship is ridiculous. Just because the Pua Kumbu sometimes have human motifs on them doesn’t mean we worship it. I once knew someone (a Christian) who, upon his death, had his house purged of all traditional crafts and tapestries because it had evil spirits in them by these charismatic religious.
So it’s not just Islam. It’s the people who interpret religion. The dominant ideology will always try to prevail, like how Christianity slowly wiped out the cultures and traditions of the Orang Ulu. Now of course they are gradually reviving these lost traditions, but the damage has been done. It’s the whole yoga thing all over again.
There is nothing wrong with retaining your identity as a Dayak if you embrace Islam. The Muslim Chinese still call themselves Chinese, not Malay. And by the way, the whole Abdullah and bin/binti you apparently must insert into your name once you convert? Nonsense. There is no provision in Islam that says you must. My father still maintains his Dayak name, without a bin or Abdullah. Why do you need an Arabic name? Are you an Arab?
I think some converts relinquish their identities as Dayaks is because of the privilege that entails being called a Malay.
So please, keep an open mind. Being pro-Dayak is good for our identity and culture, but always remember there are two sides to everything. Pride is one thing, zealotry something different altogether. Some people become so taksub with the idea of Dayak identity, they condemn everything else. Everyone else is not as good as we are because we have more unique cultures, exotic dances and diversity.
Isn’t that the same as Malay supremacy?