Citing unity, mufti wants Sabah’s Bumiputera Muslims made Malay

A vendor at the Donggongon Tamu (Pasar Donggongon) in Penampang, Sabah catches 40 winks during a lull in trading on August 30, 2013.  — Mufti Bungsu @Aziz Jaafar has called for Sabah Muslim Bumiputeras to be declared 'Malay'.Picture by Choo Choy May
A vendor at the Donggongon Tamu (Pasar Donggongon) in Penampang, Sabah catches 40 winks during a lull in trading on August 30, 2013. — Mufti Bungsu @Aziz Jaafar has called for Sabah Muslim Bumiputeras to be declared 'Malay'.Picture by Choo Choy May

PUTRAJAYA, Sept 28 — Unhappy with Sabah’s Bumiputera Muslims for identifying themselves according to their tribal roots, the state’s mufti proposed today a programme to convert them into Malays.

Bungsu @ Aziz Jaafar told a symposium discussing the “Malay Leadership Crisis” 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.

“We need a programme to ‘meMelayukan’ [make Malay] these Malay tribes... If Sabah and Sarawak did not vote in the last polls, maybe we would had a change in the government,” the mufti said.

“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 had compared the situation to the Kadazan, which according to him was an allegedly “invented” ethnic group made of non-Muslim Dusun people, who are mostly Catholics.

The mufti however did not specify the details of such a programme.

Bungsu was speaking before a thousand-strong audience in a symposium titled Facing Foreign Agenda (MEGA), jointly organised by Muslim non-government organisations (NGOs) Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (ISMA) and Pembina here.

In the first dialogue session this morning, the symposium had discussed five threats against Muslim Malays, which it had identified as the teachings of the Shiah school of Islam, an alleged “invasion” of the Chinese, free trade agreements including the high-profile Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), Americanisation, and Christianisation.

Bungsu also was not shy to admit what he labelled a “successful” mass “Islamisation movement” of Sabahans in the 1970s, which according to him played a role in making Islam the religion of the State.

In the original 20-point agreement drawn up before the formation of Malaysia, it was agreed that there should be no state religion in North Borneo, and the provisions relating to Islam in the present Constitution of Malaya would not apply to North Borneo.

The Sabah Constitution was amended in 1973 by the state government to make Islam the religion of the state of Sabah.

Muslims now make up 65.4 per cent of Sabah’s population according to the latest census in 2010, up from 37.9 per cent based on a North Borneo census in 1960, three years before its independence.