Their marriage mess
A big reason, the women fall in love too easily, marry too
quickly without enough regard for the man's financial responsibility,
writes Muhammad Ridzwan Rahmat
Nov 8, 2006
first year of secondary school, a teacher made a very racist
comment that I will never forget. Stepping into class one
morning, he asked: “Boys, do you know what's the difference
between a Chinese lady, an Indian lady and a Malay lady?”
whole class looked at each other, puzzled beyond comprehension.
What has this got to do with Geography? The teacher looked
around for a minute or two, anticipating a glimpse of anyone
who might put up his hand. But none did so he went on,
boys, listen carefully. A Chinese lady, will not care if
her man is handsome or does not have a good character. As
long as he has money.
lady, will not care if her man is handsome or has no money.
As long as he has good character.
lady, will not care if her man has no money or character.
As long as he is handsome.”
the Malay student population then was comparatively small,
especially so in my class. All four of us Malay boys looked
at each other nervously after that short remark, shrugged
it off and just got back to work.
bother to protest because the teacher's known to skilfully
repel any opposition to his words. He's after all, a grand
old man of 65 at that time.
teacher has since passed on. But his words linger in my
mind to this very day. Not because they were extremely racist,
but because till now I still wonder if there just might
be some element of truth to what he said 13 years ago.
my teacher's short parable be the answer as to why so many
of our Malay marriages are doomed right from the start?
Well, I wouldn't know. I may be Malay but I'm no woman.
Only they have the answer to that.
I do know is that the Malay matrimonial scene is in a wreck.
Percentage wise, we have the highest divorce rate here in
Singapore – yet another notorious title. If you have
four Malay wedding invitations on any given Sunday, you
can be sure that one of them will end in a divorce. It is
is it that Malay couples are doing wrong that other races
are getting right? Is it because of the lack of religion
knowledge, like so many of these 'Ustazs' are claiming?
answer lies in appreciating Islam, why then are non-Muslim
couples fairing better than us?
answer is more universal and less cryptic. Malay Marriage
Mess is happening due to these three main reasons.
set by Malay women
most probably come under heavy fire for this, but I will
say it anyway. One of the reasons why our marriages fail
is that most Malay women fall in love way too easily.
I would disagree with my late teacher about the “as-long-as-he's-handsome”
part, I do admit that most Malay women will develop a liking
for a guy as long as she finds him “nice”.
process in which a Malay woman falls in love is noticeably
less complicated than that of other races and is due mainly
to our culture. Malays are generally brought up and trained
to never look at a person's wealth or status as a measure
of a man.
been told since young that this is wrong and that a person
should only be judged by how polite, religious and respectful
he is towards his folks. That, according to our elders,
is the key to happiness.
cultural stigma remains till this very day. When a Malay
girl brings home a guy to meet her parents, little is asked
of his financial position and education.
focus will be on how religious or polite he is. It does
not matter very much if the guy has been an academic failure
all his life or does not hold a very stable career. As long
as he is “nice”.
criteria would have been fine for choosing a wife. But the
fact is, a husband – leader and main breadwinner,
has to be chosen with a more stringent criteria other than
just being religious or “nice”.
many families have collapsed because of economically dysfunctional
husbands whose salaries cannot keep up with the changing
times. Being “nice” will not pay the bills nor
tuition for the kids 15 years down the road.
the weaver bird. The reason why male weaver birds are such
strong agile creatures is because the females of the species
demand a lot from the males. Before a female would agree
to mate, she will demand to look at the nest which he has
nest is not up to her standard, she would simply fly off
in search of another mating partner. As a result male weaver
birds evolve strongly and are one of the most revered birds
in the animal kingdom.
Malay women must collectively set a much higher standard
for their men. For when they do, the heat will be upon us
to improve economically and socially. As a result, the entire
community improves. It just takes that change of mindset.
for now, plenty of Malay men are still slacking and taking
their future very lightly. Why bother? They know they will
be able to find a wife one day anyway. All you need to be
is just “nice”.
issue of Malays marrying early is not an alien one. It has
received special mention by a very concerned Minister Mentor
Lee Kuan Yew quite some time back. The concept is actually
very simple – young couples are simply not equipped
to handle a family. Everyone understands that.
I would like to zoom in on the definition of “marrying
early” from another perspective – courting period.
couples generally make the decision to get married very
early on into the relationship. Usually within a year of
knowing each other, a commitment would have been made to
start a family.
know of a friend whose gotten married to a man she's known
for only eight months! Needless to say, that marriage is
now on the rocks. I pray that they ride out the storm.
again, it's a cultural phenomenon. Malay elders frown on
long courting periods and marriage is usually pressured
upon once a man and woman is known to like each other.
derogatory term that they use for couples that have been
long together without marrying is “pengantin basi”
(stale newly-weds). Having a “pengantin basi”
in the family is considered to be a social embarrassment
and should be avoided.
a strong believer in the concept that a person's true colours
can only be seen either after 12 months or after a major
quarrel – whichever comes earlier.
this period, not everything you see is what you will get
as initial pretences will take a while to dismantle. There
will probably never be any hard data to conclude this theory.
But then again, life's most complicated concepts are usually
built on none.
couples must extend their courting time longer and get to
know each other better before making that big decision.
This is essential to avoiding any bad surprises long after
the wedding drums have fell silence.
all, “differences in personality” is cited as
the number one reason why Malay couples divorce. Perhaps
they should have just waited that 12 months.
not sure where it comes from, but it seems that more Malay
women today are demanding that their men be driving cars.
it not occurred to them that everybody can drive a car today?
It's just a matter of whether you want to or not ever since
the $0 down payment rule was implemented.
chap who can make the monthly payments will have the “luxury”
of a vehicle in his hands – even someone who earns
$800 a month sweeping the roads.
does not equate to being successful anymore. It just means
that you are having a hefty debt . Unfortunately a lack
of financial intelligence in the Malay community has given
rise to misconceptions such as these.
class symbols such as cars, cards and fancy electronic goods
are now a must-have to show people that you “have
arrived”. Most cannot wait to pay for it in cash,
taking huge loans in the process.
to say, this financial attitude has given rise to a host
of social problems within the Malay community.
to a recent statistic from MUIS, applicants for “zakat”
(alms given by the public) this year has risen dramatically
– most of them coming from young males in their twenties.
How are males like these supposed to raise happy and contented
matter of fact is simple. You marry someone who is financially
delinquent, you will bear the consequences. You insist on
a man who drives, you build a family saddled with debt right
from the start.
well that “money problems” has been cited as
the second leading cause of divorce amongst Malays. The
awareness of financial delinquency is essential to keeping
our Malay families happy.
glad to say that all my university friends, despite commanding
the salaries that they have, are still sticking to public
transport or using car sharing services like those offered
by NTUC when a vehicle is needed.
better to be flush with cash rather than one who drives
but counts every penny like a pauper. Perhaps this is the
attitude that we need to emulate. Else it could just make
us another digit in the divorce statistics.
posted by Muhammad Ridzwan Rahmat
Legal Janitor said,
Very thoughtful and perceptive commentary. Thank you.
I agree somewhat with your points, but I'd like to add another.
From the little I know about Malay women, is that a lot
of them are not mature in their views of love.
They have a very idealised and romanticised idea of love
in their heads and they cling to this. Most of people stop
like after the souring of their first love, but Malays as
a people seem to be unable to get over it. Love does not
They say that language reflects the society that speaks
it. Supposedly, the Inuits have a hundred words for snow.
If this is true, then we're really one very emotional people.
My old Inggeris-Melayu kamus lists 4 words for love, 4 for
sad, 4 for happy, 3 for angry and God knows how many other
older words that aren't listed.
You can see this emo-emphasis on TV and a lot of Malay dramas.
I've said it since VS, why is almost every Malay drama explicitly
about love? It's not so bad if the love story is woven into
the fabric of the larger story but it seems like in most
Malay dramas, the whole driving point of the story is about
love. It isn't as if there aren't a hundred others story
archetypes that scriptwriters can't follow.
I am a non-Malay Singaprean. It has been quite brave of
you to confront, what you consider the causes of marital
break down in the marriages of Singapore Malays.
I am not engaging you on the success or failure of marriages
as I myself if trying to make mine work. But, I would like
to suggest that you should not look at issues from a racial
Aiyo, I'm a Chinese and I enjoyed reading this post because
I'm really new to the Malay culture. but this article seems
to suggest the Malay females should carry the blame more
than their male counterpart. Will some Malay girls give
their take on this matter?
After almost half a century of independence under a so-called
"multi racial government", which advocates meritoracy
and which provide a common educational policy to all Singaporeans.
It is sad to see a fellow Singaporean like Ridzwan continue
to look at issues from racial angle.
Fellow young Singaporeans, let's break away from the racial
politics originagted by the colonial government, our own
government and etc.
If I happen to .. meet Ridzwan, I will see a Singaporean
Ridzwan, I will not see him as a Malay, Indian or Chinese..
I really applaud this article of yours. we need more thinkers
and writers like you in the malay community who are bold
enough to confront issues like this.
The fact that Malays have the highest divroce rate shows
that this is a MALAY problem unique to things that people
of our culture do (I'm Malay like you)
It will take someone daring enough to actually confront
it. Too many in our world are too concerned with being politically
correct but ignore issues.
I don't know what you said is true, but I have attended
many Malay weddings where the bride has higher education
than the bridegroom. Some working in the same place where
the bride is at a higher position than the bridegroom. This
is less common in the Chinese.
Sign of the times - the Malay like all other communities,
is subjected to the same thing called 'progress'...
Nov 8, 2006