Thursday, June 03, 2004

Proud to be Kelantanese?

I’m a Kelantanese born and bred. Both my parents were Kelantanese and so were my grandparents, both paternal and maternal. Come to think of it I don’t think any of my ancestors were ever from another state. So I guess it’s safe for me to say that I’m a purebred Kelantanese girl. Can get anymore pedigree than that, I guess. The question is though… do I say ‘I’m a Kelantanese’ with pride? Truth is I’m not so sure. Although I never deny that I’m a Kelantanese but I never readily own up to that fact either. People tend to assume that I’m from Perak since I’ve been living in Ipoh for the past 12 years of my life and I do nothing to stop people from assuming it. Is it because of shame? I seriously don’t know. Does it make me a traitor to m y own state? I certainly hope not.

Kelantanese are always associated with the term ‘asabiyyah’. It means a really strong sense of origin and belonging to people of the same background. The reason is because Kelantanese has always had a strong bond with each other. ‘A Kelantanese would never let another Kelantanese down’, the famous Kelantanese motto. This motto is even apparent when shopping. My mom, the bargain queen, sells tudung and baju kurung cloth for a side income and somehow she would always get a fraction of the actual price set down by the dealers. Why? Because her dealers are all Kelantanese and they like the fact that she’s one of them too. Even in another state you can always tell those who are Kelantanese and those who aren’t. Kelantanese always stick together. Kelantanese are also people who are not afraid to reveal their identity. When you’re hanging out with a bunch of Kelantanese you’ll feel like you’re in Kelantan itself. They never abandon their slang and mindset.

This is why the term ‘asabiyyah’ is used. It’s a rather negative term used to people who are stubborn to conform to the norms of society. It is meant for people who are different and feel that they are better than others. However I think in this aspect Kelantanese are really the better ones here. No offence to the other state but that kind of loyalty and confidence about one’s own identity is hard to come by nowadays. Kelantanese are proud of their state and their culture and are not afraid to show it. Their slang, which are the Kelantanese most distinct features are spoken everywhere even overseas. I should know because the only malay that I spoke when I was in UK was Kelantanese Malay. Kelantan is one of the culturally richest states in the country and its uniqueness is very distinct from the other state and I’m not saying this because I’m a Kelantanese either. I’m saying it because it’s true. So what makes me reluctant to proudly say that I’m a Kelantanese?

Recently at the SUKMA games the Kelantan football team was involved in a fight with the Negeri Sembilan’s team. That wasn’t the first time it happened. In fact this is the third consecutive fight that the Kelantan football team had been involved in. There were countless other fight cases involving the Kelantanese football team in the past years too. Kelantanese supporters would usually add to the chaos too. Now, people seem to expect that there would be a fight at all Kelantanese football games my mom included. I distinctly remember her saying ‘mesti gomo (gaduh) nanti. They always fight.’ This is the reason why I never readily admit that I’m a Kelantanese. It’s not because of the fight but because of Kelantanese attitudes.

From what I have observed Kelantanese are so proud of their own identity that they tend to not respect the identity and culture of others. When they’re in numbers they become cocky and feel that it is other people that must follow their style and their ways. They won’t even bend a little for others. I’ve seen Kelantanese refusing to lose their slang even though the person that they’re talking to have a hard time understanding what they say. It’s not that they can’t lose the slang they just don’t wan to. I’ve also seen people refusing to hang out with certain people just because they’re not Kelantanese. And all of these incidents happened in other states and not in Kelantan itself. Why must they act this way?

I myself has been asked on several occasions by my fellow Kelantanese on why don’t I speak Kelantanese with them. Not because I can’t but or because I don’t want to but because I don’t want any of my friends who are present at that time feel left out because they’re from another state. Talking in Kelantanese would just make her feel like an outsider. That feeling is the worse feeling in the world because you’d feel like you’re intruding on something that you’re not supposed to know about.

Kelantan has always been associated with religion and of course PAS. It’s a good thing really but not when it’s associated with religious fanaticism and political obsession. All Kelantanese are always associated with this and I hate that. I try to change this perception not because I oppose PAS or do not believe in preaching Islam myself but because I want people to realize that there’s more to Kelantan than that. However, it’s hard when Kelantanese themselves tend to support these claims through their actions. I feel helpless when any of my friends bring this issue up in conversations and although I try to reassure them that it’s otherwise, I know it’s useless because there’ll be other countless things that would back up what they said. The football fight would be one example of a Kelantanese fanaticism.

Undeniably there are Kelantanese out there who are like me, a Kelantanese but is not considered a Kelantanese through and through. Don’t get me wrong, I love my native state and there’s no other place that I’d love to go back to during my holidays but I just wish that Kelantanese would open up a little. There’s a bigger world out there that extends way beyond the border of Malaysia. Keeping our identity is important in life but if we stick to the rut that we’re accustomed to then we’ll never have progress, the one essential thing that Kelantan needs.

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