My Favorite Raja Petra (RPK) Piece for 2008: Opening the door to your heart


In the run-up to the 8 March 2008 general election, PAS, PKR, DAP, PRM, MDP, PASOK and PSM endorsed the People’s Declaration or Deklarasi Rakyat, which was launched by the civil society movements at the Blog House in Bukit Damansara in Kuala Lumpur.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

The title of my piece today is ‘borrowed’ from the book, ‘Opening the door to your heart’, by Ajahn Brahm, a Buddhist monk. In the first chapter of the book, called ‘Two bad bricks’, Ajahn talks about how he built his first wall. It is very difficult, of course, for one with no bricklaying experience, Ajahn lamented, and he challenged the readers to try building one. Nevertheless, he finally completed the wall and stepped back to admire his handiwork.

To his horror he noticed that two of the bricks were crooked and he felt these two ‘bad bricks’ spoiled the appearance of the wall. He then asked the abbot for permission to tear the wall down and to start all over again. The abbot, however, told him to leave it as it is. Since then Ajahn felt ashamed of his shoddy workmanship.

One day, a visitor visited their monastery and expressed admiration for how the monks had built it from scratch with their own hands and without any outside expert help. Ajahn pointed out that the monastery was actually far from perfect because one of the walls had two bad bricks. The visitor replied that he did not notice it because all he saw was the 998 good bricks, not the two bad ones.

It suddenly dawned upon Ajahn that all this while he was upset about the two bad bricks without noticing the 998 good ones. And to think he actually wanted to tear the wall down because of these two bad bricks while not realising he would be destroying 998 good bricks in the process.

Yes, many see half a glass of water as being half empty rather than half full. And that is also how we see people and situations. We only notice and become concerned about the two bad bricks while totally overlooking the 998 good ones.

And how do we see PAS (the Islamic Party of Malaysia)? Do we see it for the blunder that Husam Musa made during his recent debate with Khairy Jamaluddin or do we see the 998 good bricks in PAS? Husam blundered big time with his retort on Hudud — thanks to the very clever Khairy who trapped Husam into a corner that resulted in the latter blurting out without thinking. Not only was Husam wrong in saying that Pakatan Rakyat has not dropped the Hudud issue, when it is PAS and not Pakatan Rakyat that is propagating Hudud, but he was also wrong in not repeating what he had said so many times in the past on the matter of Hudud and the Islamic State.

And what was it that Husam and many of the other PAS leaders said so many times in the past? They had said that while the Islamic State is still very much the ideal of the party, PAS, however, is prepared to drop it from their agenda as they realise they will never have the two-thirds majority in parliament to turn Malaysia into an Islamic State.

PAS is pragmatic. Without a doubt they are an Islamic party, so they can’t but talk about Islam. This must be expected just like how the Christian Democrats would never stop talking about Christianity or a Hindu party stop talking about Hinduism. But turning Malaysia into an Islamic State would be a tall order if you do not have at least 150 seats in Parliament. And, as has been pointed out many times in the past, how to get 150 seats when PAS contests only 60 seats and wins not even half those seats?

In other words, I would like to do it but will not because I just can’t do it. I suppose the same goes for many Muslims who would like to marry a second wife but will not because there is no way they can marry a second wife without their first wife skinning them alive — and we are not talking about foreskin here. Wanting it in your heart but actually doing something about it is a separate matter altogether.

So, PAS has two bad bricks, maybe even ten. But there are one million PAS members, grassroots leaders and national leaders. Are we going to judge and sentence PAS because of two bad bricks, or even ten? Are we going to tear the wall down because of two bad bricks? What about the 998 good bricks, the one million other PAS members and leaders? Do these count for nothing?

Let us look at just some of the 998 ‘good bricks’ in PAS.

In 1990, when PAS first formed the government in Kelantan together with Semangat 46, Nik Aziz Nik Mat, the Menteri Besar, summoned the Hindus for a meeting and offered them permission to build a temple in the state. The Hindus were delightfully surprised. For more than a decade they had tried to get the Umno government to approve their request to build a temple but with little success. Suddenly, even before Nik Aziz could warm his seat, he summoned the Hindus for a meeting to grant them permission to build a temple — even though they had not approached the new state government to ask for it.

In the past, pigs could not be slaughtered in ‘Umno’ Kelantan and pork had to be brought in from the other states. Now, under the new PAS-led government, the Chinese can slaughter pigs in the state.

Yesterday, the Umno-backed Malay NGOs sent PAS a petition protesting the slaughter of pigs in ‘Umno’ Melaka. Hello, why protest to PAS about what is going on in an ‘Umno’ state? And why does the PAS Youth Movement not also send a petition to Nik Aziz to protest the slaughtering of pigs in Kelantan since PAS is supposed to be more radical and intolerant than Umno?

Liquor and beer can still be purchased and consumed in Kelantan, contrary to what is being reported. (The same thing happened in Terengganu when PAS ruled the state from 1999 to 2004. Liquor and beer were not banned). Furthermore, the Chinese can now do business without any hindrance and they no longer need to pay bribes to get things done or approved like in the days of ‘Umno’ Kelantan.

And so on and so forth, the list goes on.

These are but some of the ‘happy stories’ that people relate and there are certainly many, many more. But people do not want to look at the 998 good bricks. They would rather focus on the two bad ones and keep harping on them till the cows come home.

Can we look at PAS’s 998 good bricks and then compare the party to Umno with its so many bad bricks? Sure, Umno does have some good bricks. The party is not 100% bad. But the Umno bad bricks far outnumber its good bricks and you need to use a fine toothcomb to look for these good bricks.

It appears like Hudud is the main and only issue for most to reject PAS. Actually, Hudud is not even an issue any longer. It was a stupid slip that Husam made and which the mainstream media is going to town with. But is life only and all about Hudud, a law which can never be implemented anyway? Surely there is more to life than just Hudud.

What about good governance, transparency, the independence of the judiciary, restoration of the rights of Malaysians, plus an end to corruption, racism, abuse of power, wastage of public funds, and much more? Are these no longer important? Do these 998 good bricks become irrelevant because of the two bad bricks, which were not really that bad in the first place but was a mere perception issue?

In the run-up to the 8 March 2008 general election, PAS, PKR, DAP, PRM, MDP, PASOK and PSM endorsed the People’s Declaration or Deklarasi Rakyat, which was launched by the civil society movements at the Blog House in Bukit Damansara in Kuala Lumpur. These are the 998 good bricks that we should focus on. These 998 good bricks overshadow the two bad bricks — the blunder Husam made in his debate with Khairy.

Maybe during the Kuala Terengganu by-election campaign PAS should reiterate its stand and reinforce its support for the People’s Declaration. Let the voters, in particular the Chinese, Indians and liberal Malays, see that PAS is committed to reforms and to the propagation of a civil society (masyarakat madani). PAS needs a makeover. It is suffering from a serious image problem. And it is a victim of mainstream media propaganda. PAS needs to correct public perception about what it stands for.

I challenge PAS to prove its critics wrong. Re-endorse the People’s Declaration and prove, once and for all, that a civil society and not the cutting off the hands of thieves is the priority of the party. In response to the move by PAS to, again, endorse the People’s Declaration, the civil society movements, even those whom PAS labels as ‘deviant Muslims’, will go down to the ground to explain the issue to the voters. This, we promise PAS.

I can assure you of one thing. Even those who are not Muslims plus those, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, who are opposed to the setting up of an Islamic State and Hudud will be campaigning for PAS in the Kuala Terengganu by-election. Re-endorse the People’s Declaration and see whether this happens or not.

6 thoughts on “My Favorite Raja Petra (RPK) Piece for 2008: Opening the door to your heart

  1. The tractor driver said he was digging a trench; the carpenter said that he was working on the scaffolding; and the migrant worker said that he was building the twin towers. We always miss the objective because of a few flawed bricks.

  2. How true, zorro. The few flawed bricks control the levers of power, whereas the rest are content to conform, not interested in what is happening. Fortunately, after March 8, 2008 the rest of the bricks now realise that they can no longer tolerate glaring disparities. I attribute this change to the emergence of civil society.—Din Merican

  3. “The few flawed bricks control the levers of power, whereas the rest are content to conform, not interested in what is happening”

    The rest are concerned only with their own self interests – the license to steal and their own self preservation!

    “I attribute this change to the emergence of civil society.”

    If we are indeed a civil society, enlightened and empowered , the only way to bring about any positive change is through the ballot box to have in place a two party system to ensure there is accountability and creditability of whichever party that is in power.

  4. ocho-onda,

    Yes, our country will eventually move to a 2 party system as in the United States and Australia, but there should also be room for special interest parties (for example the Greens Party in Germany). At the end of the day, what is important is that we should have a government which is democratically elected in a free and fair elections, one that consists of very qualified and competent men and women imbued with the idea of service before self.

    I think we are still a long way from that. But March 8 is for this reason a turning point in our political history. All you have to do is to compare Anwar’s 2008 election manifesto with that of Badawi’s. It was a battle of who had better ideas and programmes for Malaysians.Unfortunately, our voters did not go far enough to deny Badawi from forming the government. From here on, competence and character will matter in our politics. Maybe, this can happen in 2013 or earlier.—Din Merican

  5. To have a Green Party in Malaysia ? That will be like finding Utopia. Even here in Europe, the Greens have only recently made some political headway, notably in Germany and in Ireland recently where the Green Party managed to get into the ruling coalition with the Fianna Fail and the Progressive Democrats after much political maneuvering !
    The only way to set off the Green Revolution at the world stage is when the USA and the EU pick up the baton to lead the race and in Malaysia,when PR takes over and hopefully before 2013 !
    The nation has put a lot of hope on the PR to bring about real positive change to our beloved country only because we can no longer depend on the BN to do that and it has become apparent that the only way to remove the cancerous growth is by political excision !

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