As a young Malay Muslim man I am in the midst of an identity crisis. I am, like others of my generation, caught between upholding the much-loved traditions of my Malay heritage and embracing the Islam of Malaysia today. I am proposing a project that examines the impact of this growing dichotomy on my generation. As a continuation of my current work, I will focus on my generation identity crisis as we living in modern ages.
What does it mean to be Malay? According to the constitution of Malaysia, a person of Malay birth must observe Islam. It also states that, as a Malay, I must be fluent in the Malay language and practice Malay culture and traditions. There is something problematic about the title "THE MALAYS", for me personally the idea of a 'Malay race' was a product primarily of the colonial period, but it was not formulated solely by European. It was 'localised' or re-crafted with considerable ideological skill by local intellectual, and in ways that have led to confusion. If we look back to the constitution, 'Malayness' not based on descent and blood but 'Malayness' depend on behaviour, dress and languages. In this we can assume that anyone can be a Malay and in addition, the Malayness can easily be lost.
I began to photograph Malays in Peninsular Malaysia to better understand how the traditions and the religion exist side by side. While making these images of community, it was apparent that religion and culture are intertwined as the constitution demands of us, but in the same time in our country Malaysia the Islamic teaching taught us that any practice related to our culture as a Malay should be left behind because most of the Malay culture practice are forbidden according to Islamic teaching. Even though we were born and raised in this land, it is not easy for us to navigate the pressures of the modern world and continue to identify as Orang Melayu. What will happen to ‘The Malay’ in the next few decades, would it be still any Malay left? Do ‘The Malay’ practicing their culture and tradition? Then how do ‘The Malay’ looks like?
I closely examine the identity crisis of my generation, particularly the young Malay as I found out the identity is something that very organic, it will keep changing through time, The youth expose to so many influences and influences tend to change the identity.