Chinese and Muslim Societies As Natural Allies

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The old port of Penang, being cosmopolitan and frontier territory, naturally exhibited a wide range of societies formed for various reasons to deal with internal welfare issues, with other societies and with the government. Cooperation between them commonly transcended racial boundaries. Their history can bring insights into how Malaysian and Penang society became the way it is today.

VERY LITTLE HAS BEEN written on the existence of two Muslim secret societies in Penang, namely the Red and the White Flags, and their association with the Chinese secret societies, the Toa Peh Kong and Ghee Hin. Their symbiotic association was responsible for the outbreak of the Penang Riots in 1867. The close cooperation between Muslims (also including Hindus) and Chinese despite religious and cultural differences was a cause of concern for the government of the day. The British were convinced that the alliances had criminal intent and therefore, had to be controlled before public peace and safety were harmed.

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