Sunday, 4 November 2012

Little Mosque on the Prairie

The above statement was taken literally from Hang Tuah’s famous quotes “Takkan Melayu Hilang di Dunia" or "Never shall Malays vanish from the face of the earth". The quote is a famous rallying cry for Malay nationalism. Hang Tuah the legendary Malay warrior who lived during the reign of Sultan Mansur Shah of the Sultanate of Malacca in the 15th century. He was the greatest of all the laksamana, or sultan's admirals, and was known to be a ferocious fighter. Hang Tuah is held in the highest regard, even in present-day Malaysian Malay culture, and is arguably the most well-known and illustrious warrior figure in Malaysian history and literature. From this famous quote, lets us explore the Malays that survive out of Malay territory.

Last week, I had a chance to witness a Malay wedding in Katanning. Before I explain any further, let me provide you with a brief info of Malay Katanning. Katanning is a small town that's located 300 km to the south of Perth which is a home of a small Malay community that originated from the Christmas and Cocos Island.

The Cocos-Malays are descended from workers brought to the Cocos Islands in the 19th century to assist with the harvesting of coconuts for copra. The islands were isolated during much of their habitation and a unique culture and language has developed based on original Malay traditions and the Islamic religion.

Malay Katanning that comes from Cocos Island is mostly already living here for almost 40 years and more. But their relationship with the community on the island are still close. Language, customs and way of life does not run away with the atmosphere of the Cocos island.

Here are the Malay Muslim community is quite solid, out on Andrews road, you will be surprised by the sight of a Mosque not far from town. I was very excited to see the opening of the mosque's board executed in 1981 by Allayarham Tunku Abdul Rahman, the first Prime Minister of Malaysia. At back of the mosque there is also a religious school which is used as a classroom learning the Malay community children every weekend.

Malay language use remains the main language here. However, Malay children here no longer speak the Malay language with their parents. They still understand Malay language but not able to answer properly. So it was unique conversation between "Chicken & Duck" which is a worried as one day the Malay heritage might be lost forever.

The young generation production of intermarriage has lost their features. They look more like a Caucasian then Malays and their language is strongly influenced by the Australian dialect.

For now the remnants of the old ‘Malay’ culture is still to be found in Katanning. Malay food (based on Wedding dishes), the mosque and the warmth and hospitality of the Malay people. Malaysians and Indonesians are starting to visit Katanning to experience this cultural link for themselves.

Note: Katanning was originally settled by Europeans in 1835. The name Katanning is expresses by the indigenous Australians as "kart-anning" which means "Meeting place of tribes".

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