Malaysia has a complex history of ethnonationalism, in which people who are identified as Malay (but more accurately native Malaysians) are given special privileges over other ethnic groups in the country. This has led to a number of social, economic and political problems but the one that I want to highlight here is the misuse of science and archaeological research to advance this agenda. Last week, a historian speaking at the ominously named “The Origins of the Malay” forum “quoted” the work of the Human Genome Organisation and said that after the Africans, the Malays have the second oldest genetic lineages in the world, even going so far as to imply that the Malays were ultimately responsible for establishing the Chinese and Greek civilizations.
Besides the “startling” news about the origins of the human race, another stir over the history of Malaysia was raised last week when eminent Malaysian historian Professor Khoo Kay Khim declared that some of the characters and stories in Malaysia’s national historical narrative were probably mythical or did not actually exist. Among those figures was the warrior Hang Tuah and the Chinese princess Hang Li Po.
Sometimes a story appears that is so stupid, so inane, that you just have to rant about it. The Malaysian Insider, an online newspaper, today published a story about how some archaeologists have claimed through their “scientific” studies that they have traced the lineage of humankind to the proto-Malay race. This is total bull.
Study claims human race came from Proto-Malays
The Malaysian Insider, 20 January 2012