A couple of years ago, my friend moved out to Malaysia in search of a life where a winter wardrobe isn't a thing and you don't have to worry about stuff like moronic bro culture or seeing Kim K.'s face on television. What he found was a job as a bar manager in an establishment frequented by Malay punks covered in swastikas, wearing Combat 18 (a neo-Nazi terrorist organization) T-shirts, and harping on about "Malay power."
Turns out they're a group of far-right nationalists who want to rid Malaysia of any nonethnic Malays and stop immigration into the country. Which, although pretty backwards and reductive, isn't all that surprising in the current world climate. What was surprising, and kind of confusing, is that they identify themselves as neo-Nazis, are fond of sieg-heiling, and listen to Nazi bands like Skrewdriver and Angry Aryan, yet definitely aren't Aryan themselves. And adopting a worldview that specifically discriminates against your race seems a very odd thing to do.
I was told that one of the most popular Malay power bands is an act named Boot Axe, so I got in touch with band member Mr. Slay to find out why exactly a group of Malaysians are going through this bizarre, neo-Nazi identity crisis.
VICE: Hi, Slay. So what’s the deal with all this "Malay power" stuff then?
Slay: Malay power is important because we're concerned about keeping a pure Malay community all over the Malay Archipelago [the archipelago between Australia and Southeast Asia, believed by some to be the homeland of the Malay race]. I'm a second-generation fighter for Malay power. The first generation, who founded the Malay-power movement, have been less active recently. Malay power stems from a point in history—the 13th of May, 1969—[when] the Chinese and Malay communities fought each other. However, the punk and skinhead Malay-power movement started in Kuala Lumpur in the early 90s.
As far as I understand it, the idea that there's a Malay race—which is supposedly indigenous to the Malay Archipelago—was proposed by German scientist Johann Blumenbach. There's a lot of contention over whether or not such a race actually exists. For a start, Blumenbach’s theory hinged around the idea that there were only five different races in the world, which is clearly pretty flawed. I take it racism features pretty heavily in your ideology?
We're extremists in regards to the Malay race, but that doesn’t mean that we're extreme racists. It’s not about racism. It’s all about being Malay.
OK. How exactly is Naziism culturally relevant to Malaysians? Malaysia isn’t a country that most people would associate with Hitler and his Third Reich buddies.
Malaysia is home to people from China, India, and foreign immigrants from Bangladesh, Africa, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Burma. The government can't control the entry of immigrants, and we get so many of them. There are so many protests against the government about this issue, but they haven’t done anything tangible to improve the situation. Race has become a focus because of the inclusion of uncontrolled numbers of these people in our society.
How has immigration affected you?
Malay people have been affected in socio-economic terms. Ethnic Malays also fall prey to criminals who come from abroad and sell drugs and commit murder, rape, robbery, and so on. The lesson that we can learn from Naziism is that we can take extreme racist action if the position of the Malays is affected by these factors. We won't practice overt racism if the Malay race isn't compromised, but, if threatened, we will take action.
So you aren’t openly hostile to minorities at the moment?
We don’t like minorities in Malaysia if they can’t co-exist with the Malay race. If they are good, then we are good.
What about Jews? Most Nazis aren’t too fond of them.
All Malay power punk and skinhead bands are outright anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist. Study the origins of the descendants of the Malay people from thousands of years ago and you'll see that we're connected with the Jews. According to the Jewish scriptures, a "lost tribe" of children from Israel who are divinely guided—which means they must be Muslims—will kill the Jewish Zionists in Palestine. In the beginning, Zionists thought that Native Americans were the ancestors of the lost tribe. Then an American scientist and theologist called Professor Ralph Olsen concluded that the Malay in the Malay Peninsula are the descendents of the lost tribe. This hypothesis is a half truth. The Malays are not 100 percent descendents of the lost tribe, but Ralph Olsen’s theory about the adventures of a lost race is an interesting one.
This is all news to me. It sounds as if there's an Islamic ideology mixed in with Nazism here, which is a little confusing.
Malay power is connected to Islam. It doesn’t have links to any pro-Islamic movements, though.
So you’re a neo-Nazi movement with elements of Islam and some Jewish scripture thrown in for good measure? I’ve noticed that your band appears to be quite fond of the slogan "blood and honor," which is the name of a British neo-Nazi group. Were you influenced by neo-Nazis from over here?
We weren't directly influenced by British neo-Nazis because we realize that the extremists in the UK don't like Asian people. We just took the slogan "blood and honor" to demonstrate our identity.
Do you listen to British and American Nazi bands?
Yes, I listen to English Rose, Skrewdriver, Brutal Attack, and Angry Aryan.
That’s quite a selection. Do you think Skrewdriver would be into Boot Axe?
No, I don’t think they would listen to our songs.
Do neo-Nazi groups exist in other Asian countries?
Yes, in Indonesia, Singapore, and Japan. In Singapore, there's a Nazi black-metal band called As Sahar.
Is every Malay neo-Nazi a punk? Or does Nazism extend beyond the punk and skinhead subculture?
No, all Malaysian neo-Nazis listen to punk and skinhead music.
You get anti-Nazi punks in quite a few countries—do they exist in Malaysia?
Yes, they do exist, but they dare not openly oppose us. They are afraid to speak out.
How are you regarded by the general public? Are they afraid of you as well?
Speaking honestly, maybe some people don't believe that the average, ethnic Malay citizens of Malaysia agree with us. However, we are not all that violent or extreme, as I have already told you.
How successful would you say your movement has been so far?
We make minorities afraid to commit crime in Malaysia. We always warn them not to cause trouble here. Violence isn't a solution for us because we begin with discretion, tolerance, and politeness when talking to these immigrants. If they insist on continuing or if they are stubborn people, we will do what is necessary. We also do charity work for the community and for Palestine, Syria, Somalia, and other countries that are at war. We've also tried to have discussions with the government about how to overcome the problem of having so many immigrants, but we were ignored. We're very different when compared to European and American neo-Nazis, who state openly that they want to eliminate races other than the white race. We start off with restraint and a zero-tolerance stance, but we won't keep up this position if the Malays in Malaysia are threatened.
OK. Finally, how do you square being a Nazi with not actually being white?
Most worldwide organizations say that Nazism is just for whites. And yes, we are not members of the blue-eyed, blond-haired Aryan race—our community is brown-skinned, brown-eyed, and dark-haired. We've just adopted the spirit associated with Naziism as a symbol for the Malay race’s response if it's threatened by racial issues.
Thanks for answering my questions.
All images courtesy of Slay.
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