The Bazaar Low Malay Creole of Southeast Asia
A cluster of 3 Creole groups from 3 countries.
The peoples of Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines have had a reputation as seafarers ever since about 1500 B.C. Because a diversity of peoples from numerous origins inhabit this region, a trade language developed called Pasar ("market") Malay. Today, the language is known as Bazaar Malay. Since the late medieval times, Bazaar Malay has become the common trading language for most of the East Indies. Its dominance arose through the port of Malacca.
Today, Bazaar Malay (or Sabah Malay) speakers live mainly in the urban areas. They are usually children of parents who speak different native languages. Although Bazaar Malay is closely related to the local Malay language, it is a simplified and popular form, sounding cheerful and clear. It contains native words and terms borrowed from traders who settled along the coasts. It also owes much to Javanese and other sources. The language is not yet fully developed, so one who speaks only Bazaar Malay has difficulty understanding standard Malay.
What are their lives like?
Arabs were the first group of merchants to come to the East Indies in search of goods and spices. In the 1400's, these Arab merchants brought the Islamic religion to the people of Malacca, Malaysia and other parts of the area. The Arabs were followed by the Portuguese in 1511, the Dutch in 1641, and the British in the late 1700's.
Presently, the Bazaar Malay are mainly shopkeepers and smalltime traders. They generally have makeshift stalls that stock anything from folk medicine and fresh fruits to household utensils and fashionable clothes. The Bazaar Malay often work at the night bazaars for those who are bargain hunters.
The Bazaar Malay who are settled in Sabah, Malaysia are farmers as well as smalltime merchants. They harvest wet and dry rice, rubber, fruits, and vegetables. The rubber plantations, which are a legacy of the British colonial period, are mostly located in Sabah and on the western coast of the Malay Peninsula. The Malay and Indonesian immigrant peasant farmers easily adapted to the lifestyle of cultivating the rubber tree plantations.
Many of the Bazaar Malay are also excellent fishermen. Those who live in the Philippines live along the southern coastal regions, where they are often referred to as "Coastal Malay."
Although the Bazaar Malay language is adequate for business and everyday life, it is not taught in schools. It is the common language among the Malay and other ethnic groups who are not in constant contact.
What are their beliefs?
Even though the Malay identify strongly with Islam, they continue to practice many aspects of their pre-Islamic religions of Buddhism, Hinduism, and ethnic religions. For example, they commemorate many important events in life such as birth, marriage, and death with non-Islamic rituals. It is common for Malay who live in rural areas to believe in ghosts, goblins, and spirits. Also, if medicine is unavailable, a shaman (priest or priestess who communicates with the spirits) will often be brought in to treat an illness.
The Bazaar Malay observe the traditional Islamic holidays. Muslim rites are also performed at the beginning and ending of every ceremony—even those that are Hindu-Buddhist in content—especially weddings.
What are their needs?
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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