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A number of community leaders and observers say the critics' obsession with authenticity and purity flies in the face of tradition - it neglects the open, inclusive view of race that many Malays have adopted in welcoming new members to the community, which includes a wide range of admixtures and ethnicities.
Official records since 1824 have classified inhabitants of Singapore into four broad races - Malays, Chinese, Indians and Others.
They speak Malay, follow Malay customs and are, to some extent, role models for the community in business and public service.
Why, then, has the question of whether they are "pure Malays" or "Malay enough" cropped up when it comes to the presidential election? Businessman Mohamed Salleh Marican, whose father is Indian, has been criticised for not being fluent in Malay, after his fumbling during a Facebook Live interview conducted outside the Elections Department where he had gone to collect the forms for the elected presidency contest.
Because the vast majority of Malays were Muslims and Islam had become closely associated with the Malay identity, the official definition of Malay in the Federation linked race with religion.
Article 160 of the Malaysian Constitution thus defined "Malay" as a person who professes the religion of Islam, habitually speaks the Malay language, conforms to Malay custom - and was before Merdeka Day born in the Federation or in Singapore, or one of whose parents was born in the Federation or in Singapore or living in both places; or is the issue of such a person.
The Government said the idea behind GRCs was to ensure Parliament remained multiracial and to prevent the spectre of a House that might one day be without minorities.
Yet the sense of affinity to a Malay identity was not strong up till the 1930s, when the burgeoning Malay-language press helped promote a nationalism that sought to improve the lot of the Malay community.It rejected calls to expand the definition to non-Malay Muslims and have Islam as a marker of Malayness.Instead, it chose not to explicitly define the races, languages or religious minorities in Singapore, in the hopes of a "united, multiracial multicultural society".Article 152 of the Singapore Constitution also made clear the Government's responsibility to constantly care for the interests of minorities, and referred to the special position of the Malays, "who are the indigenous people of Singapore", and whose interests and language it had a duty to safeguard and support.After Separation, a Constitutional Commission headed by Chief Justice Wee Chong Jin discussed the issue of safeguards for minorities as well as, among others, the definition of Malay.