Elite Malays and Mixed Marriage
Contributed by Darah Kacukan Friday, 27 July 2007
Malaysia’s Malay leaders say ‘do as I say, not do as I do’ when it comes to marriage
In early June, the Malaysian media blossomed with pictures of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in the traditional Malay suap-menyuap ceremony, exchanging bites of colored glutinous rice with his new bride.
This low-key but high-profile wedding followed another elite ceremony in May when one of Malaysia’s most eligible bachelors, the Raja Muda (crown prince) of Perak, Dr Raja Nazrin Shah, finally got hitched at the age of 50 in an unostentatious ceremony in Kuala Kangsar.
But these two weddings had something else in common, a characteristic not much commented on in the media but clear to most Malaysians: in both cases the brides were locally-born Eurasians. The prime minister’s new wife is Jeanne Abdullah, a friend and relative of Abdullah Badawi’s late wife, Endon, who died of complications from breast cancer in October 2005. Jeanne had originally been Jean Danker, a Catholic from a Eurasian family which spans Malaysia and Singapore and who converted to Islam when she married her first husband, Endon’s brother Othman, from whom she was later divorced.
The bride of Oxford and Harvard-educated Raja Nazrin, son of the current Perak Sultan, who himself was formerly Malaysia’s top law official, is Zara Salim Davidson, a chemical engineer and the daughter of William Davidson, a British-born Ipoh lawyer and his Malay wife. She herself is a member of the Kedah royal house and thus related to Malaysia’s first prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman. Raja Nazrin has repeatedly spoken out against racism in Malaysia. Zara considers herself to be very much a Malay despite her Eurasian blood.
These weddings thus represent what should be one of the triumphs of Malaysia its ability to break down racial and religious barriers...