500 Words: Why Proton is the darling of Malaysians?

If it is not for Proton, there will be no atom? Well, that’s what a scientist would say. But, for me – Proton is not a mediocre car maker. Proton is bigger than just a “car company“. It was a great strategic move!

Back in the 1980s, when other Muslim countries were still struggling to develop their nation, Malaysia had risen up to raise the ceiling of standards for Muslim nations worldwide to follow. As a small country without any ambition to be the leader of the world, Malaysia did that with style. Since then, Malaysia has never looked back, despite what other people might say. Well, I would say that – the rest of other Muslim nations did the same, following the Malaysian style.

Proton Saga
Proton Saga launching ceremony in the 80s, when Malaysians – and all other Muslim nations were struggling to find their rightful identity in the competitive global economic structure.

After the 2nd World War, Muslim nations were busy stabilizing their own internal problems. Wars after wars occurred in the Middle East and Africa. In South East Asia, Muslims were taught to be so dependent on the foreign powers like the Europeans.

Then came the idea of “Buy British Last” and replaced with the “Look East Policy” from the Malaysian government. That was something that even the Arabs could not have thought of! Despite the rise of the Japanese economy in the 1960s and 70s, the Muslim nations were struggling to keep their balance sheet above the blue mark. Most of the nations, if not because of their natural resources, would have gone bankrupt by now. Malaysia, on the other hand, was steadily steered forward under the leadership of an unknown man in the western world. His name was, Mahathir Mohamed.

Malaysian Proton
Industrialization of a Muslim nation – a myth or a continuous struggle? Mahathir was seen testing the first model of Proton on a newly constructed Penang bridge. A true sense of hope, if it was seen by the Muslims around the globe at that time.

Proton was not for a show. It was for all Muslim nations to rise, and they – most of the smart leaders in the world, knew this. Proton was a “paradigm shift” – which was unparalleled in those days, especially in the Muslim world! Muslims at that time was not in the mood to discuss visions or macro-micro economies?! They were busy fighting for more lands and satisfy their ego or selling cheap resources for nicer arms and equipment.

When Mahathir launched Proton in 1983, just about 1 year after his premiership – and also about the same time when UIA or IIUM (the International Islamic University of Malaysia) was founded, the whole world was shocked, except the Japanese. Thanks to the Look East Policy, Malaysians at that time saw a glimmer of hope – despite the criticisms by the opposition and Mahathir’s opponent.

Since then, Proton became the benchmark for all Muslims – and they put Malaysia as their top destination for learning. They have seen a model for the future of Muslims. How they can move forward, without leaving their traditions and aspirations behind.

Regardless whether Proton is now considered as a failure (if only the sales and technology of carmaking is set as the benchmark), to me – Proton is a huge success for the Muslim nations and the whole developing countries. It was a strategic move by a master strategist! Proton was a no joke! Proton was a MASTERPIECE!