Jawi Peranakan community



The Jawi Peranakan were an elite group in the Malay community active for half a century (1870s to 1920s).1 They are Straits-born Muslims of mixed Indian (especially Tamil) and Malay parentage who have assimilated into the Malay society.2 Their publication, the Jawi Peranakkan, was the first Malay language newspaper in the region.3 Their illustrious era came to an end when they were eclipsed by a new breed of Malay leaders who emerged after World War I.4

History
The forefathers of the Jawi Peranakans were mostly Tamil migrants from southern India who, before the trade of Singapore opened up, settled in the Malay states of Kedah, Penang and Malacca.5 As most of them were single, many took Malay brides and their children became known as the Jawi Peranakan.6 Jawi is an Arabic word to denote Southeast Asian Muslims and Peranakan is Malay for “born of”. Loosely defined however, Indian Muslims of mixed background and born in the Straits were also referred to as Jawi Peranakan,7 including children of Arab-Malay parentage.8 Other terms that refer to people of mixed Malay-Indian ancestry are “Jawi Pekan” (mostly used in Penang)9 and “Peranakan Kling” (mostly used in Malacca), the latter made popular by the great early Malay chronicler, Abdullah Munshi.10


Highly literate community
The Jawi Peranakan were the elites of the Malay society and kept a high profile, partly due to the special attention they paid to the education of their children that they combined with religious upbringing and studies.11 Apart from being successful merchants, the English-speaking Jawi Peranakan also found it easy to get government jobs and recruited as teachers to the Europeans.12 Highly literate and wealthy, they “ranked next to the Arabs in leadership and authority within the Malay-Muslim community” and possessed enough capital and skills to launch the first Malay Jawi newspaper in Malaya and Indonesia13 called the Jawi Peranakkan in late 1876.14


As a minority group in the Malay-Muslim community, the Jawi Peranakan developed a fluid identity vis-a-vis their host society. While liberally adopting the Malay language and customs,15 the Jawi Peranakan remained distinct from the Malays in their preference for southern Indian cuisines16 and for conspicuous jewellery and urban fashion.17 Oscillating between their hybrid Malay and Tamil identities was partly the source of their communal strength.18

Loss of leadership
The political awakening of the Malays at the turn of 20th century and the post-war independence movement created a political climate that favoured the Malay race, leadership and rights.19 In the 1920s, there was an intense struggle for leadership between the local Malays, and Arab and Indian Muslims. Under British patronage, the local Malays found a voice in the Legislative Council and such political representation led to a shift from a non-Malay Muslim leadership of the Malays towards a Malay leadership.20 In the 1930s, the Jawi Peranakan demanded the opening up of the Malay Administrative Services as they claimed to be Malays, triggering a rebuttal from a prominent Malay journalist who clarified that the Jawi Peranakan “were not Malays in the true sense.”21 When the bangsa Melayu (Malay race) became the vision in the struggle for independence, projecting a Jawi Peranakan identity that was elitist and distinct from the Malays was no longer expedient. As with other Straits-born Muslim of mixed parentage, the Jawi Peranakan have registered themselves as “Malay.”22



References
1. Lian, K. F. (Ed.). (2016). Multiculturalism, Migration, and the Politics of Identity in Singapore. Singapore: Springer, p. 83. (Call no.: RSING 305.80095957 MUL)
2. Roff, W. R. (1994). The origins of Malay nationalism. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, p. 48. (Call no.: RSING 320.54 ROF)
3. Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A History of Modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 113. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR); Kennard, A. (1973, February 12). An account of early Malay press and periodicals. The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Lian, K. F. (Ed.). (2016). Multiculturalism, Migration, and the Politics of Identity in Singapore. Singapore: Springer, p. 83. (Call no.: RSING 305.80095957 MUL); Pung, L. H. S. (1993, September). The Malays in Singapore: Political aspects of the “Malay Problem” [online thesis], pp. 28–29. Ontario, Canada: McMaster University. Retrieved 2016, April, from: https://macsphere.mcmaster.ca/bitstream/11375/11824/1/fulltext.pdf 28-29
5. Halimah Mohd Said & Zainab Abdul Majid. (2004). Images of the Jawi Peranakan of Penang: Assimilation of the Jawi Peranakan community into the Malay society. Tanjong Malim, Kedah: Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris, pp. 34–39, 43, 44. (Call no.: RSEA 305.89481105951 HA)
6. Pillai, P. (2015). Yearning to belong: Malaysia’s Indian Muslims, Chitties, Portuguese Eurasians, Peranankan Chinese and Baweanese. Singapore: ISEAS, p. 23. (Call no: RSEA 305.8009595 PIL); Halimah Mohd Said & Zainab Abdul Majid. (2004). Images of the Jawi Peranakan of Penang: Assimilation of the Jawi Peranakan community into the Malay society. Tanjong Malim, Kedah: Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris, p. 16. (Call no.: RSEA 305.89481105951 HAL)
7. Halimah Mohd Said & Zainab Abdul Majid. (2004). Images of the Jawi Peranakan of Penang: Assimilation of the Jawi Peranakan community into the Malay society. Tanjong Malim, Kedah: Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris, p. 17. (Call no.: RSEA 305.89481105951 HAL)
8. Mustapha Hussain. (c2005). Memoirs of Mustapha Hussain: Malay nationalism before UMNO [trans], Kuala Lumpur: Utusan Publications & Distributors, p. 124. (Call no.: RSING 959.505092 MUS)
9. Halimah Mohd Said & Zainab Abdul Majid. (2004). Images of the Jawi Peranakan of Penang: Assimilation of the Jawi Peranakan community into the Malay society. Tanjong Malim, Kedah: Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris, p. 16. (Call no.: RSEA 305.89481105951 HAL)
10. Kok, S. T. (1993). A socliolinguistic description of the Peranakan Chinese of Kelantan, Malaysia [online thesis], p. 6. California: University of California Berkeley. Retrieved 2016, April, from: http://escholarship.org/uc/item/2hd9m92j#page-5; Halimah Mohd Said & Zainab Abdul Majid. (2004). Images of the Jawi Peranakan of Penang: Assimilation of the Jawi Peranakan community into the Malay society.  Tanjong Malim, Kedah: Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris, p. 18. (Call no.: RSEA 305.89481105951 HAL)
11. Freener, R. M., & Terenjit, S. (Eds.). Islamic connections: Muslim societies in South and Southeast Asia. Singapore: ISEAS, p. 90. (Call no.: RSING 297.0954 ISL)
12. Roff, W. R. (1994). The origins of Malay nationalism. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press pp. 48–49. (Call no.: RSING 320.54 ROF)
13. Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A History of Modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 113. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR); Kennard, A. (1973, February 12). An account of early Malay press and periodicals.The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Education report 1876. (1877, September 1). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Freener, R. M., & Terenjit, S. (Eds.). Islamic connections: Muslim societies in South and Southeast Asia. Singapore: ISEAS, p. 93. (Call no.: RSING 297.0954 ISL)
15. Chew, P. G-L. (2013). A sociolinguistic history of early identities in Singapore: From colonialism to nationalism. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, p. 76. (Call no.: RSING 306.44095957 CHE)
16. Halimah Mohd Said & Zainab Abdul Majid. (2004). Images of the Jawi Peranakan of Penang: Assimilation of the Jawi Peranakan community into the Malay society. Tanjong Malim, Kedah: Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris, p. 137. (Call no.: RSEA 305.89481105951 HAL)
17. Halimah Mohd Said & Zainab Abdul Majid. (2004). Images of the Jawi Peranakan of Penang: Assimilation of the Jawi Peranakan community into the Malay society. Tanjong Malim, Kedah: Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris, pp. 137–134. (Call no.: RSEA 305.89481105951 HAL)
18. Freener, R. M., & Terenjit, S.  (Eds.). Islamic connections: Muslim societies in South and Southeast Asia. Singapore: ISEAS, p. 94. (Call no.: RSING 297.0954 ISL)
19. Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid. (2007). Malay anti-colonialism in British Malaya: A re-appraisal of independence fighters of Peninsular Malaysia. Journal of Asian and African Studies, pp. 381–382. Retrieved 2016, April, from Academia website: https://www.academia.edu/331961/Malay_AntiColonialism_in_British_Malaya_A_Re-appraisal_of_Independence_Fighters_of_Peninsular_Malaysia; Chew, P. G-L. (2013). A sociolinguistic history of early identities in Singapore: From colonialism to nationalism. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, p. 78. (Call no.: RSING 306.44095957 CHE)
20. Pung, L. H. S. (1993, September). The Malays in Singapore: Political aspects of the “Malay Problem” [online thesis]. Ontario, Canada: McMaster University, pp 28–29. Retrieved 2016, April, from: https://macsphere.mcmaster.ca/bitstream/11375/11824/1/fulltext.pdf
21. Mustapha Hussain. (c2005). Memoirs of Mustapha Hussain: Malay nationalism before UMNO [trans], Kuala Lumpur: Utusan Publications & Distributors, p. 124. (Call no.: RSING 959.505092 MUS)
22. Chew, P. G-L. (2013). A sociolinguistic history of early identities in Singapore: From colonialism to nationalism. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, p. 76. (Call no.: RSING 306.44095957 CHE); Lian, K. F. (Ed.). (2016). Multiculturalism, Migration, and the Politics of Identity in Singapore. Singapore: Springer, p. 84. (Call no.: RSING 305.80095957 MUL)



The information in this article is valid as at 2016
and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.


 

Subject
Literature
Racially mixed people--Singapore
People and communities>>Social groups and communities
Arts>>Literature>>Peranakan (Straits Chinese) Literature
Peranakan (Asian people)--Singapore
Muslims--Singapore