Before our association was formed about four years ago, we knew that there were many Malays who had decided to make the United Kingdom their home. Like others, we did not know how many resident Malays in the UK there were and we had the difficulty of contacting fellow resident Malays. Even up till now, the exact number is still not known but we probably have the best knowledge of resident Malays in the UK compared to other organisations.
Through Melayu UK, many have discovered that they are not alone in this country. From just a handful of people, we have grown at a very encouraging rate and we now have members throughout the UK. We are still consistently getting new members every month. Melayu UK has enabled us to share our joy and grief. What brings us together is what other organisations cannot provide. We have created a community with long term vision, not an ad-hoc temporary grouping of individuals that come and go ever so frequently. However, our community has primarily been a virtual community linked by the internet, despite some of our members being able to meet occasionally e.g. at our Hari Raya Party and Perhimpunan Keluarga events.
Our ultimate aim does not and should not end there. While the internet has played an important role in bringing us together, it has also some weaknesses. Emails and chatting on the internet do not have the same impact as face-to-face meetings. Emoticons is no substitute for body language. We all know this. The fact that we are still willing to travel miles away to meet someone proves the case.
While not denying the importance of the internet and our continuing reliance on it, we must not totally and solely rely on it. Our next stage is the creation of a physical and meaningful community from the virtual community that we have created. In order to bring more benefits to our community, we must address the needs of all the people who make up our community. In other words, we have to address the needs of all generations i.e. from children to the elderly, male and female.
We are proud that our activities have been very popular and have a very high retention rate. Those who have attended our activities not only wanted to attend other activities, but many have also volunteered in organising subsequent activities. The support from the children has been overwhelming too. This is a significant achievement as our children will be the ones who will continue what we have done. An organisation that do not have the support of the young will eventually fail.
In order to create a meaningful and lasting physical community, we have to think like parents, even if at present we do not have any children or are still unmarried. Our planning should be long term, addressing the needs of not only the adults, but also the needs of our ever growing children and youth population.
There may come a time when our children will have an inquisitive mind to find out more about their roots and heritage e.g. being a Malay. Our children may also start to question their identity as a Muslim. They will need support from their parents when it comes to matters pertaining to being a Muslim. It would be best if parents can provide the answers to their children. This is especially important when our members live quite a distance from any Malay or Muslim community.
In order to answer basic questions on Islam from our children, it is very important for us to equip ourselves with at least the obligatory knowledge on Islam. Failure to provide a satisfactory answer to our children will force them to look elsewhere for answers. It is acceptable and recommended if they rely on knowledgeable Muslim scholars who preach moderation. However our community can be damaged if they turn to those who preach falsehood or extremism.
We are fortunate that we have a very good combination of members from different backgrounds, some have migrated from the Malay World, some have inter-married with the locals and some are born and bred here. This combination brings in a wealth of many useful knowledge and experience. With these values, we have the potential of creating new standards of excellence and be a model community in the UK.
As our number is now quite large, it is possible for us to embark on the next stage i.e. the creation of the physical community. We would like members to start creating small groups or Unit Keluarga at their locality/region and meet at least once a month. To get maximum benefit from the meeting, we recommend that members should also include activities like learning to read the Quran, learning the mandatory knowledge of Islam and other family projects or activities that are of interest to those in the group. The meeting or Perjumpaan Keluarga should not be treated as a teacher-student class for the sole purpose of learning, but rather as a family-centric activity - a gathering of husbands and wives, sons and daughters. This will strengthen the bond of brotherhood/sisterhood, create a caring sharing community and at the same time benefit from the knowledge and experience of our fellow members. Those who know should support those who do not know, and those who do not know should not be ashamed of learning from those who know. The knowledge gained will not only be beneficial to us but also to our children.
We hope that many Unit Keluarga will be formed. This will accelerate the growth of the nationwide physical Malay community. It is impossible to see the results overnight. This is a long term community project and we have to start from somewhere. The sooner we start, the quicker we will reap the benefit.
Last but not least, I wish our members a Happy New Year. Thank you for your support and cooperation. May this year be better than last year.
Hamidi Abdul Rahman
1 January 2006