KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 20, 2015:

Before the coming of Malay radicals, ordinary Malays in the peninsula had never imagined the idea of Merdeka.

Associate Professor Syed Muhd Khairudin Aljunied, of the Department of Malay Studies at National University of Singapore, said this had been a new way of looking at politics.

He added that many ideas that the radicals were talking about in the 1930s were out of the world for ordinary Malays at that time

“Radicalism brought people from different strata of life together as they tried, not only to redefine, but also question everything.

“Malay radicals embraced democracy, but hated the West for taking over Malaya. But a lot of ideas they developed had Western origins.

“They used these ideas to turn the tables on the very people who were oppressing them,” he said during his talk on “Radicals: Resistance and Protest in Colonial Malaya”.

He added that many ideas that the radicals were talking about were far out of this world for ordinary Malays at that time.

Syed Muhd Khairudin pointed out that these radicals also came from different backgrounds. Some were English-educated, others Malay-educated and there were also those who were Islamic-educated, adding that women also formed a big part of this group.

“They were also fighting each other on the strategy they should take. It was akin to being married then divorced, and it would repeat itself from time to time.

“This was one of the reasons radicalism failed to gain traction with rural Malays.”

He said some of the leading members if this movement were national laureate Datuk A Samad Ismail, Ibrahim Yacob, Baharudin Helmi, Samsiah Fakir and Tan Sri Datin Paduka Seri Dr Aishah Ghani.

Syed Muhd Khairudin said one badge of honour for this group was going to prison where they would regroup. At the same time, it was a place for them to get new “education” and develop new ideas.

He said the one thing that was very clear was that the Malay radicals were not sure of their end game plan, but they still went ahead promoting their ideas.

It should not be forgotten that women played a big part in being the agents of constructive change, he noted.

Syed Muhd Khairudin said all women wings and non-governmental organisations owed their formation to the radical wing of women as they were the first to have a proper organisation.

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