Malaysia without Malays - S.H. Alattas
One Malaysia without Malays
At the onset of the 100th day we had Najib Tun Razak as Malaysia’s Prime Minister, I decided again to rethink the current fate and prospects of Malaysia and the Malays. I was looking for answers, the questions that’s been brimming in my head are questions which I believe are looming in the minds of every human, regarding himself, who and for what reason he exists? I am baffled when I think about where our identities come from, how much are we shaped by our culture and environment.
Each party rejoices in that which they possess
But as a social and political commentator, I sometimes put such questions aside in order that I may think about the more immediate questions. Right now, the question that needs to be posed is about the Malays and Malaysia.
I decided to take a drive and have breakfast at the Heritage coffee shop in the Kuala Lumpur train Station. I had invited my son, Muhiyuddin Al-Attas and my secretary Zaharah Omar to join me. We have been working on this book for more than half a year now, Zaharah who has been my secretary for 28 years has by now known the ways of my writing, and Muhiyuddin being my apprentice is also learning my art of writing.
I wanted to digest my thoughts before it comes down on paper and one of the best ways I found to do this is to first discuss and throw my ideas around, what is to ensue is the result of such a conversation.
If you have read the chapter on a Hadhral Mawti and Malay Supremacy, You will know by now that my origins are from the land of the Yemenis. My forefathers were merchants who were also bearers and preachers of the religion of Islam, those whose minds and cultures were built and influenced by the Quran and the Sunnah. The Hadhral Mawti’s were not conquerors who enslaved or tried to subdue other cultures, they were there on a mission of Da’wah, and many decided to settle in this blessed land which was called Tanah Melayu (the Malay land).
Over generations, our people have come to love this land, and by virtue of marriage gradually assimilated.
Some of the Sayyids who long for their past cultural identities still preserve their Yemeni culture and some even send their children to absorb the lifestyle of the Habaib in the lands of Tarim, Hadhra Mawti. My father always reminded me that love of a nation is part of one’s faith.I’m not a scholar of Hadith, but if the veracity is unknown, then I still take it that this reminder is a good word, that whichever community one finds oneself in, one must honor it, respect its culture and work together with the people to honor it. I suppose also that is why right now, coming to 50 years of writing I still identify myself with the struggle to preserve the honorable aspect of Islam and the Malay culture.Today, whoever talks about the fate of the Malay culture and population is branded a racist or a Malay Ultra.
On the other hand the actual racists and the Malay Ultras are not giving the Malay people a good name either. Cries of return back to your country if you disagree with our decision is unbecoming and immoral, and the deliberate provocation and also painting the other races as ‘the other’ are also unjust and nonsensical.Whereas some other quarters of the people dismiss this idea as being against the principles of Islam, that the Prophet Muhammad is against any notion of race. Being a person from the old school of thought and a stubborn and determined man, I refuse to let this struggle go without first thinking about the solution.
But first I must restate that the idea of a race does not run contrary to the dictates of religion. It is only when this idea is used at the peril and the discrimination of others that it becomes invariably wrong.But what now for Malaysia with calls of Malaysia for Malaysians, or One Malaysia with the implied notion of no Malays, moving beyond toleration to the stages of acceptance? Which script then shall we use?
At the Heritage coffee shop, I thought about the KTM, or Keretapi Tanah Melayu, one of the few companies that still uses the word Melayu, aside from Kampung Melayu and Malay College Kuala Kangsar. Others have now adopted Malaysia truly Asia as the Motto instead od Melayu Nusantara.On the geographic sense, the Malays still inhabit the same land, but like the play ‘Translations’ by Brian Friel, where the cartographers were re-naming the roads and to anglicize them in Ireland, the Irish were losing their sense of identity and met it with resistance.It is like a fish we once owned but now have sold it to a public museum, which we can still visit, but no longer belonging to us.
The fear of losing the identities among the Malays have been ever present. After 1969 however the Malays have gradually accepted the idea of a shared land. On the other hand however when one sees Singapore and the marginalization of the Malays there, one can’t help but ask is that the direction that Malaysia is heading towards? Will our royal institutions be replaced by a republic of Malaysia?I’m not trying to be controversial for it’s own sake, but the Malays, being naturally timid and shy have always been victims of intolerance and imploding because they were afraid to voice out their minds. To the British, the Malays are regard as Nature’s gentlemen.
So I’ll spell out the question anyways: will the Malays be marginalized in a land they once called Tanah Melayu of the Sri Wijaya?Already, today, people are calling the Malays migrants. It also seems like the NEP will slowly be discarded when the Market is paved for greater meritocracy. The government is to be race-neutral, but I ask now, are the people race neutral?
Today also we hear the NEP has failed in its goal to increase the share of equity among the Malays. The Malay leaders have screwed their own people. What a shame. As a result, I don’t know if Hang Tuah’s assertion that Malays will not perish in this world will still hold any meaning. What is left of the Malays?Today, more dangerous than these conjured up ‘enemies’ whom they feel threaten their rights to exist is actually their behaviours themselves. Malays won’t perish because of war or hunger, but they will perish now, because they no longer are a believer and a doer. Islam is adden.
For one, the assertion that a Malay is a Muslim is decreasing in real significance. Without Islam, will they still be Malays?. I wrote ‘Malay the Overseas American’ in 1995 and today this trend is becoming more and more true. Look at the Malay youth today.When Khomeini initiated the revolution of Iran, what he strived for was not mere political autonomy, but what he looked for was cultural independence.
Today we are void of this cultural capital that once made our civilization viable.Our language is being corrupted and our Culture is reduced to Farce entertainment which are imperfect copies of the western culture adapted in the Malay Language. So what now for the Malays who wants to preserve their identity in this cross-currents of change.
Clearly we can see the move in our society towards multi-culturalism and greater liberty. The progressives who have been western educated and familiar with the idea of the open society is convinced that this system of check and balance, of transparency and the rule of law with economic liberalization and the protection of the private sphere is the best system that the history of humans has produced. The dissolution of race, greater equality of the sexes, the freedom of religion, speech and association is also part of this modern fabric of society.
This open society advocates a separation of religion and the state and coupled with its humanist convictions fights for humanity such that no man can be an island.If Malaysia is moving towards this direction, then the Malays should take the opportunity to be part of the team who writes the script for this path to be taken.
On the other hand, if the vision and ideal above is just an ideal, then one might see the gradual break in Malaysia, where in the actual implementation, crystallized racial behavior still persists, then perhaps some states will break from Malaysia, forming the triple S for example, Sabah Sarawak and Singapore, with other states like Penang, Johor, Perak, Selangor an KL being part of greater Malaysia, whereas the Malay majority states of Pahang, Kedah, Perlis Kelantan and Terengganu forming a country of their own.
This analysis may be a bit far-fetched but that may just be the direction we are heading if there is no unity among the Malay race, assuming that the Chinese and the Indians are united in their political affiliations. Then maybe the liberal Malays will join this new idea of Malaysia, breaking like Pakistan did from India.Then perhaps the leftist voice that longs for the Malay civilization or the Nusantara may look to Indonesia, forming a greater civilization of the Malay world.
This civilization is hoped to mirror the Islamic aspects that it has incorporated coupled with a refined sense of Malay Identity, finally having a Darul Islam in Dunia Melayu the Malay world. The Malays have done fairly well considering, they have assimilated to the industrialized world and able to benefit from its technology and standard of living.
Lucky enough the Malays do not share the fate of the aborigines in Australia or the Red Indians in America who slowly perished, although with the case of the latter, able to influence the making of the United States.
We are even luckier than the Maori of New Zealand, whom although were not conquered by the western imperialists but signed the treaty of Waitangi allowing the land to be shared is yet to have a Maori become the Prime Minister.But yet New Zealand is a first world country being one of the cleanest, with a very high respect for the environment, and with the incorporation of the Maori culture into what it means to be a New Zealander, they embrace the Maori and also the other races.
I suppose just by writing down what I have written may earn me the label of being a Malay supremacist, but I merely project what my reading of the situation is should the behavior continue splitting the Malays.It is in the political sphere that this split among the Malays is clearly seen, not knowing the implications from such behavior. Of course the other damaging character that has been part and parcel of the Malay history which should be discarded is the behavior of one man who puts himself and close friends and family before the nation, who as a result sold the land that never was his right to sell.
The Malays still can’t think beyond political lines, and personally speaking, I am tired of writing political books. How I wish I could say enough is enough with UMNO, PAS, PKR or the fate of the Malays. I do not actually know how many books a writer has to write before he could makes readers see differences in the country they live in, perhaps my story is like the myth of Sisyphus, where he was condemned to carry a rock up a mountain only to see it fall again and keep repeating the task for eternity. But although the struggle may seem futile, as I have said earlier, I must not cease to serve.
"The struggle itself...is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy." - Albert Camus.
In fact I don’t have to write this book at all if it is just for the sake of writing another book. I have written four books in English beginning with Musa a Traitor, 500 Million Dollarman, The Ugly Malays and Nasi Lemak for VIP. Since age is catching up I need to write a memoir, a traverler’s tale, a collection of my past observances, and perhaps if God wills, I might follow through with a more personal memoir, tracing my personal history in Malaysian politics. My travels, like Abdullah Munshi, Ibni Batutah or Marco Polo.
The books I wrote in English are like a Malay movies trying to be a Malaysian movies, or one of those Bollywood movies with English actors, in which one sees stereotyping, or how one may say, those people are not supposed to act like that! In the end only the viewers or the readers can be the judge whether the message comes across, or whether they enjoyed the presentation.
Thanks to my son who decided to assist me in getting the book for a better reading. For the preface and some of the chapters however, I demanded that the style of writing have traces of my own style, in order that readers have a taste of the difference between Al-Attas and junior.
We all share a responsibility towards one another, our families, community, nation and the world. I believe in what John F Kennedy used to say ‘ask what you can give to your nation not what you can get from the nation’. If I do think that I must continue writing nevertheless is due to my fear of God, I fear that the Malay politicians and those wielding power are becoming uglier due to the spirit of Islam ‘roh Islam’ is disappearing.
As a writer, I believe in leaving a legacy behind. I am among millions of Malays who want to live in peace but if I don’t do something to prevent this catastrophe what will be the fate of our children if we simply leave it in the hands of the Dirty Dozen, the troublemakers, Anwar becoming the Prime Minister? Humans who realize their place in the "kingdom of humans" more often than not possess the highest degree of humanity. Imam Khomeini once said in his poetry, I did not find God in the seminary or the mosque but I found Him in the company of lovers.
They are willing to share just about anything that they have with just anyone who is in need, not the wealth of the nation among thieves and their own family. As a Malay proverb says - "if it is muddy upstream, it is impossible that downstream will have clear waters." Deep inside them, leaders and rulers must possess humanity. They must be loving, giving, caring, sharing and forgiving. They must have the characteristics of the Khalifah, the image of God, not playing god like iblis, the Lucifer.
Whenever there is humanity and justice, the hearts of humans will be touched when they witness the suffering of others. Only a heart that vibrates with love can send a transmission to another heart. A tolerant person is like a tree with an abundance of fruits a leader we need
‘To straighten the bamboo, one must start when its young, for when it hardens and becomes crooked". Malay proverb
If a right seed falls into the ocean, it becomes an island another Malay proverb, so if the right ideas fall into the right minds and the right hands, a great civilization is in the making. Is the human in capital, leaders need to assist them in nation building and possess the right mind always remember God, irrespective of race, religion, color or creed. The seekers of truth. These are the handful of humans who are always fair towards everyone we need. If we want Malays with Malays as figure head khalifah.
We shall guide those who strive for Our cause to Our path. Allah is certainly with righteous one.
Holy Qu’ran 29 : 69
I wonder if such people exist in this so called democratized world. Could this really be the end of history? Or are we still on the movement towards achieving the best society - just a dream?
In this struggle for meaning, I suppose the best thing to do is to realize our nature as human beings, I shall point to a quote by As-Syahid Ali Shariati, one of the foremost Muslim intellectual of the 20th century.
• Humans are a blend of clay and souls, clearly stated in the story of Adam. The story of Adam is a story of humans; humans are the real meaning and the philosophy of this world. Humans start their struggles between souls and clay. Alas, God and Satan are within humans themselves. Dr. Ali Shariati On The Sociology of Islam
• Humans are the manifestations of God, the total wish and the awareness of all beings, and humans, according to anthropology, are representatives of God on Earth. The human history, which comprise recordings of their actions and molding themselves, cannot be assumed as coincidental, something which happened from events, their games of pioneering or without aims, without objectives and not having any meanings. Ali Shariati The Martyr
The attitude and character of humans are not something which can be forced upon but every individual in the society must be educated to love truth and justice. If it is wrong, it shall remain so, no matter who could have done it. Prophet Mohammad p.b.u.h. said if I found Fatimah Az Zahrah guilty of stealing, she must be punished according to the shariah. Why must we spare our husbands, wives, children or even leaders whom we idolize if they commit wrongdoings? Do we owe anybody a living? I don’t. What Ali said, "to make truth independent of the person saying it was to germinate into so many other means of progress."
The days are long gone when it was necessary to keep pointing out that we live in a world of change, rather we must start embracing it, and change our attitudes towards life. The question today is how we can maintain an even keel amongst the cross current of change? Allah will not change the fate of a nation if the people don’t want to change themselves.
Much have been said in this book about Anwar being the nation’s troublemaker, breaking the Malays apart, playing the role of Jebat for his own political mileage, perhaps shadowing his mentor. The battle between the two is personal. Why is Anwar afraid to go to court to faces Saiful and prove his innocence?"That’s Anwar’s style - everybody is not right, everybody is conspiring. But the fact is that he did not want to take an oath. He did not dare to do so."
Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad The Star8 July 2009
• The doer of good is better than the good itself, and the doer of evil is worse than the evil itself. Imam Ali Nahjol Balagha Peak of Eloquence
Everyone has a role in nation building. I have a desire to see our children and grandchildren succeed in a country prosperous and successful, united as 1 Malaysia but I do not know what will happen with the sudden surge in the number of troublemakers until the case of Anwar and Saiful is settled. And Tok Guru Nik Aziz resign as the PAS spiritual leader and live the life of a sufi. Maybe Mahathir would follow.
In the crazy waters of Malaysian politics, can Malay dominance remain when, Anwar Ibrahim, the figure to be the Prime Minister, has a charge of an act of sodomy that has not been settle? And two ex-premiers with different wavelength and frequencies. It seems as though those who try to disrupt Najib premiership are no longer merely Malaysians, but the international media and the ‘netizens’, a new population generated by the internet, who are even more ruthless. Too many cooks spoil the broth, with thousands of new bloggers wanting to play the role of political advisers. Let’s hope they practice responsible writing, to bring peace instead of anger in the heart of the innocent citizen who is already having problem with global warming, is not anger within us is our biggest enemy. Why created anger among the angry young man? Think a finger pointing at others, there are three other fingers pointing at one self. Lu fikirlah.
Tun Musa Hitam proved in court he lost the Deputy UMNO President post because of my book The Challenger. And the second time Mahathir survived because of the book 50 Dalil Kenapa Anwar Tak Boleh Jadi Perdana Menteri? By Khalid Jeffery but when the writer got into trouble he was left alone. Tun forgot he became a hero because of the book the Malay Dilemma. Nobody can deny Tun has done great deed for the nation. •
The tongue of the wise man is behind his heart, and the heart of the fool is behind his tongue.
• Sayyid Razi says: This sentence has a special and beautiful meaning. It means that the wise man does not speak with his tongue except after consulting his mind and exercising his imagination, but the fool quickly utters whatever comes to his tongue without thinking. In this way, the tongue of the wise man follows his heart while the heart of the fool follows his tongue. This very sense has been related from Ameer al-Momineen, peace be upon him, in a different version as follows. Imam Ali Nahjol Balagha
When truth emerges, then falsehood will automatically disappear, so as a leader, one must always work on behalf of the truth, and always act in kindness, remember that one day the works of our hands will be presented in the face of the Creator of this magnificent universe. If Allah is your friend, fear not, not even the world can bring you down. Not a dried leaf will drop from a tree without Allah’s will. ‘La haw la wala quata ill la bill la hil azim.’ Leaders must focus on the young, especially so when the youth today have a stronger leaning towards the opposition with Jebat mind.
The discourse surrounding the youth today and their lingo is different from the older generation or those who stick with the Tuah mentality. I picked Zahid among the list of my favorite candidates, ever since the early writing in most of my books. Dato Dr. Zahid Hamidi was the most controversial UMNO Youth Chief because during that material time Anwar Ibrahim was sacked from his Deputy Prime Minister post. Perhaps fortunate enough for the UMNO youth today, they have chosen a youthful leader.
Perhaps Khairy Jamaluddin could be able to turn things around if Islam be his goal. His credibility has been challenged by allegations of money politics by the disciplinary committee, although he has insisted on his innocence. The allegation itself still stands on shaky grounds.
What does not help however, is the group of youth who ‘booed’ him upon his victory, not realizing that they are jeopardizing the future of their institution. Mahathir played his cards well in his ongoing battle with Khairy Jamaluddin and Pak Lah which appear very personal and vindictive. Even though admitting to the press that Mahathir does not call the shots in UMNO, nor was he the official consultant, in another report he had criticized Najib’s choice of cabinet particularly for retaining people he doesn’t like. At the same time he also approved of the new cabinet because the one charged with corruption was not in it.
By the person he clearly meant Khairy Jamaluddin, whom he battled even up until the last day before the UMNO elections when he should be fighting Anwar. What an old man. Leaders need morals, they should possess sincerity. For the true value of oneself is to be found in the whole person, just like how a society is judged or defined in its totality, in order to have 1 Malaysia with Melayu.
One may dissect it and look at its individual units, or use the bird’s eye view. If one uses a staircase model, where to clean the whole staircase one needs to wash from above that it may clean the ones below. Therefore unless he or she who is on the top is right, nothing can go right. Tun Razak used to say ‘don’t sweep the rubbish under the carpet’. We must be brave to accept the fact that the truth is always the truth. It does not matter if the truth is uttered by our enemies.
Amirul Mukminin Ali ibn Abi Talib once said ‘Look at what is said, and not who says it’. The problem will never be solved for as long as Anwar is an idol and his fanatic followers see he can do no wrong. Even a king, who was once considered as a shadow of God, can sometimes be influenced by Satan.I witness for example it is impossible for Najib to have the eye to oversee everything.
I remember what Tun Razak said when asked what it is like when he became the Prime Minister, he said I am alone, now as a decision maker. Who else do you need when you are alone? Who else but Allah? I believe Najib, as a man with great patience and a very good listener, will make a good new Prime Minister for 1 Malaysia. I believe he knows what is happening around him.The new UMNO needs an overhaul from top to bottom and bottom up. He will need division leaders to start the trickle effect or the new wave of UMNO, reviving the spirit of older times with a new mindset. There should be more division leaders like Syed Ali Al-Habsyi. Even though he was one of the candidates who did not win for a seat in the supreme council, he remains committed to the struggle of the party.
Dato Seri Najib says this when he officiated the 15th anniversary of the Cheras division which Ali Al-Habsyi leads. If only there were 100 UMNO divisions like Cheras, than UMNO still has a bright future. Being inclusive of all communities and not restricted to the Malays or Muslims, he also conducted programs across division lines. Without any government position or important post in UMNO he is an exemplary statesman; why doesn’t Najib give him a position where he can do more? The president’s man, the title given to him, for whoever becomes the President he is ready to serve, unclouded by hero worship. Honesty is to do what is right and appropriate. When Najib sat beside him and ask what post he wanted, his silence has meaning. Why ask? You are the boss; it is up to your discretion to select your team.
‘If you want to understand the state of a society, you must look at their women’, Says a Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW).
If society were fortunate enough to have their women as the humanizing agent, those who inspire better relationships under the fabric of family, then it is safe. A loving vision, a loving attitude and loving actions can change the world. Practice loving, giving, caring, sharing and forgiving in your every day life. But if their women are no different from the corrupted men, wanting power for themselves and overstaying their welcome, the whole family could just crumble. Leaders will be like humpty dumpty.
Humpty dumpty sat on the wall, humpty dumpty had a great fall, who is the humpty dumpty in Malaysia politics? Rafidah is a bad loser, too bad she had a great fall. She cannot be a Primadona all her life, high time she look at the mirror. Why overstay your welcome like Samy Vellu?
The party must incorporate the women in their machinery, for no one can discount the role of women, be it as wives, mothers or citizens of the nation. Women, the powerhouse of the UMNO and the backbone of BN must remember the role of the women cannot be underplayed in any society; I was pleased to see the appointment of Dato Seri Shahrizat replacing Dato Seri Rafidah Aziz. Citizens of this land are struggling to find the formula that can create harmony and an environment suitable for a comfortable life, amidst ethnic and religious differences.
What will work? Is it Barisan’s form of coalition? Could it be multiracialism? Or the more practical and in tune with reality ‘justice for all races’ with Malays playing the leadership role? UMNO being the backbone of Barisan Nasional should tone down on their racial rhetoric, intimidating other races if they want to realize the vision of 1 Malaysia and come back victorious in the next election season.
Will the absence of a unified ideology cause the downfall of the Pakatan Rakyat who were successful in riding the wave of people’s emotion? Or shall we rely again on UMNO’s pragmatic nature and ability to change in the most challenging of times? But at the same time, people are already saying enough of politics!
Why don’t the Malays, instead of just working in administration, answer the demands of an Islamic economy, as a major factor, turn to businessmen? How will Malays fare on the world stage?
If you look behind this show of force, we will see how our country is like a strong building in which individual parties are tearing it down one screw at a time for their private benefits. What is to happen if this building is to fall? While thinking about the issue, how about the religious dimension? With the rise of Islam, PAS was able to capitalize on its Islamic image. But now being the junior partners in their coalition, their vision of an Islamist state only seem to be a distant utopia. Right now, after party elections they have determined which script the party will read, changing the vision of the old generation Ulema, to the new generation of Professional scholars when Nik Aziz the spiritual leader is no longer relevant. Could an ethnic and religious storm be brewing as we speak?
Is it waiting to erupt like it did in 1969? Or has it become a boogeyman by now, only drawn on by government media and politicians to consolidate their strengths? Should the people continue living in fear of what might happen? Or continue giving them votes much like a mob that extracts protection money, or America in the Bush years, where the threat to national security was used to justify their incursion into the land of Iraq and Afghanistan?
The human race has been emigrating for as long as they appeared on this earth, there is no single plot of land in this earth that belongs to a person forever. Even the land belong to Keretapi Tanah Melayu in Singapore. Did God, the Creator of this universe award grants and contracts to a particular tribe or individual? All we had was our labor, which by virtue of us mixing it with the land allows us to be a temporary caretaker, a ‘trustee’. For when death approaches man will have to let go of everything, even if it was against his will. We brought nothing with us when we came, at the end of the journey from dust to dust.
One of the pressing questions Najib’s administration will have to answer is whether his 1 Malaysia concept will ensure justice for all Malaysians. Times are also calling for the need to redefine and re-address the issue of ‘ketuanan Melayu’ Malay dominance. Indeed Malay dominance need to stay the demand of the fanatic Malay. But the government of the day need to also put into account the well-being and fair treatment to non-Malays being citizens and part of the country some fair share.
For example, non-Malays are also rakyat and therefore are they not qualified to enjoy the provisions of MARA Majlis Amanah Rakyat (being rakyat)? Maybe then the Indian and the Chinese will be proud to potray the songkok and the baju Melayu Malay outfit, but not the skullcap and jubah. How wonderful to see them, some non-Malays have-nots in the Felda scheme, sharing the land with the children of the soil, The Chinese and Indian youth are not too involved in drugs, mat rempit and other social problems indulged by the Malay youth.
Islam and secularity is also another issue in the backdrop. Is it still possible to be a country with Islam as its official religion yet have a democracy which is alive and functioning? Pak Lah has tried and failed with his Islam Hadhari, using humanistic principles that stresses on moderation. The Islamist critics talked about how Pak Lah has brought a heretical invention to Islam, forgetting that they themselves could be the ones who cannot understand the differences between a universal message and one that is time and people specific.
Muslim scholars today need to be aware of the changes in societies and other findings related to the functioning of societies. They need to also look at the concept of the self, so much so that they need to have reasoned inquiries into the psyche of the individuals of today and those who lived 1400 years ago. Whereas for Malaysians, the rise of Islam was something quite recent, while secularity, where citizens in the country may live according to their own religions but live according to the constitution as a whole has been present ever since. The rise of Islam needs to be explained by UMNO leaders to the non-Muslims and how it is not going to threaten their liberty and way of life if they don’t want PAS to be the champion.
Perhaps what needs to be stressed here is not just the physical aspects of religion, but also what it means to be a Muslim via conduct and a stable world view. A secular country, with the constitution at its basis does not mean that a Muslim now stops performing his religious duties, or must start committing sins. It means doing so without using the state apparatus. At the same time it also means that no single religion can claim superiority over others.
But more importantly Islam should be strengthened at the level of the community, with participation from all walks of life. Countries like Turkey have a person like Erdogan who tries and breathe the Ruh al-Islam into Turkey’s secular system, but at the same time has had 4 different military coups whenever an Islamist party rose to power, just like the case of Algeria. The Zakat, the hajj does not necessarily have to be opposed to secular laws. If Islam is closer to the heart and the human instincts, why should any Muslim try to force his beliefs on anyone?
Islamic principles should be lived, and needs to be seen in the bigger light. Muslim nations should be at the forefront of battles for equality of all human beings, for honest trading and a just system of banking and finance. The mind al Quran builds should teach us how to value human life. In the world we live in today, cultures and civilizations collide and meet. There are emigrant writers adopting new cultures, and some importing of foreign ways of doing things back in their countries. Naturally, individual cultures and language maybe threatened. But at the same time, if humans are good learners, then certain aspects of their cultures will be left behind to promote a new lifestyle that fits with their view of the world.
But Islam is said to have been suitable for all times, why? This is because the Islamic system allows for Ijtihad or genuine human effort with the Quran and Sunnah as guiding principles, aside from it being God’s mercy to mankind. The Quran is protected from man’s tampering, but not its interpretation. For it has to go through a certain prism before it gets applied, hence scholars of today need to incorporate recent insights of the different branches of knowledge including the western sciences and philosophy. We must have the goal of producing world-class scholars, with enough sophistication to answer the problems of the modern human condition.
Such an example is Tariq Ramadan, the grandson of the founder of the brethren of Islam or the Ikhwanul Muslimin. Being raised in Switzerland with Arabic origins, he had to come up with a way to live harmoniously in a European setting, hence the terms like how to be a European Muslim. The critics should dare ask the question, is the society of our time the same as the societies of the 4 jurists of the Ahlul Sunnah? Isn’t it time that this door to Ijtihad be reopened? For if not, it is possible that the teachings of Muhammad may end up an historical artifact only suitable when studying the history of religions but not something to be experienced and lived. Alternatively, the Muslims will end up being the inheritors of an obsolete faith, much criticized in the Quran.
This new debate we are called upon may seem alien just a few years ago, but I suppose with the advent of the internet and gigantic bookshops, bringing in a sea wave of new ideas, it will continue to shape our minds and identities, and this is what deserves to be called a paradigm shift. Also, with discussions and meetings, and new articles in the media all designed to create a discourse, falsehood will cease to be a problem, hence we must all be Muslims who read, Muslims who learn.
The Salleh (pious) or righteous are those promised to inherit the world, Ali was reported to say once, even if he did not fear the fire of hell or hope for the promises of heaven, that he did not believe this world had a creator, he would still live with good conduct, for those with good conduct are destined to succeed.
In the political arena on the other hand, leaders now must realize and have the ability to read the wants and needs of the voters. Most of all, beside needing to constantly addressed the values off the grassroot, politicians too must keep moral values. The trust must never be breached; the stubborn among the politicians will suffer under the hands of voters come election time. Makkal sakti, or people power, right now is the slogan in the hearts of the masses. The people are king and the king is the people makkal sakti.
They want a system that works for them and not oppress or keep them in the dark. Promises must not be taken lightly. Throughout this book and my other books I talked of the need to speak the truth, I have talked about the dangers of slander and the need to always question the sources of news. Every person in this country belongs to a religion or a spiritual system that talks about a certain ethics or morality, why then do we still fail as moral agents? Is the question then how to get these cherished beliefs into meaningful actions? The need for constant reminders must also be shouldered by a sector of the community; therefore bloggers and writers must work to this direction, but not be agents of destruction. One of the underestimated factors of the Barisan Nasional is their ability to change and adapt to the times, perhaps UMNO and Barisan could now learn to be relevant in the eyes and the heart of the people.
If Najib is able to surmount a strong team with excellent advisors, and he is able to read and understand the demands of the people, Malaysians may eventually stand behind him as 1 Malaysia. But on the other hand is the fear of reverting to an autocratic country.
The opposition and the people at large are worried about the Mahathir factor, how he magnified his role in the downfall of Pak Lah’s administration as a blogger, will he do the same to Najib? Now he’s being absorbed back to the party, as if UMNO is like a hotel where he can check in and out with his family and followers as he pleases. Now with his son being appointed the Deputy Minister, and him talking of ministers as if it was still his prerogative, makes us wonder however how earnest the reform efforts are for BN and the government. Twinkle, twinkle, little star.
Dr. Mahathir has done his party and nation a large service when he stepped down as the Prime Minister, but if he still wants to rule from the grave, then the people will start losing respect for him and the party, recently Datuk Shabery Chik has made a statement that ex-Prime Ministers are to give their comments and criticisms in private. No man should believe that his own relevance is above that of the institution or the country, even if he were to be one of its founding fathers. One can only question and inquire, as the people. There are too many things that happen in secret in our government and society. Often, we have to theorize, but when we do create these conspiracy theories, we must not make it as big as the dinosaurs of the Jurassic park. Philosophers, scientists and learned men have made one grand design after another, responsible for creating a paradigm of how one views the universe. Perhaps the time has come for a holistic paradigm, where our world view actually corresponds to the truth, demand no less than it, but be fair.
The youth today have in a sense lost their identities, and a rich wealth of history to hold on to. The symmetry that used to hold their communities together is no longer present. From the religious standpoint, there is now a strong rejection of the past Ulema’s, either through the Quranist movement or the Quran Sunnah/Wahhabi wave which not only undermined the practices of the previous generations but takes away the glue that was significant in social cohesion and interaction.
As a result, what we have are the youngsters blaming the previous generations, only criticizing and rebelling against everything. Of course, some of the practices will become obsolete and no longer in the spirit of community, but no one should attempt to start a community in a vacuum, A culture of understanding needs to be fostered, be they amongst Malay Muslims, or non-Muslim, the other races and creeds who are now part of our nation.Political power maybe the only thing the Malays are threading upon, and they feel with its loss, hitherto the Malays will be marginalized in their own land. But they should realize that 1 Malaysia will not include them if Malay is no longer Muslim.
They must not alienate themselves from their histories, they must not forget their traditions, but instead forge their own identity incorporating hundreds if not thousands of years of experience brought together. Leave the troublemakers alone, solve the problems in your own community, for a government is only reflective of its people. If we have good Malaysians, good governments will follow suit. Most of all leaders with moral values.Before closing I would like to just remind my Malay readers of the philosophy of Islam, or wisdom of this perfecting religion. I must point out to the fact that 14 centuries ago, it was able to go way beyond it’s time in the creation of a universal man. It perceived all human beings to be one, originating from the same Creator. And yes, difficult though it was, Mohammad did succeed in creating a society based upon the values he preached.
It gave mankind a new vision, a new sense of purpose; it was the message of peace and goodwill, of love and tolerance, in a society where hatred, corruption and lust of power ruled high. It was beyond social, cultural and geographical barriers.
The history of mankind is a chain of successful and failing revolutions, one replacing another, only to be replaced by yet another. Revolutions have always been a tool of evolution. A sure sign that change must occur. The message of Mohammed was in the true sense of the word revolution.
There are many more questions playing in my mind as we leave the heritage hotel at the Keretapi Tanah Melayu to see 1 Malaysia. Of course, there is much more to do, as for the thinking, I think you would like for yourself to do it so.Lu fikirlah, brother.
May God bless you.