September 1, 2016
My Superman: Haris Ibrahim of ABU Fame
by FA Abdul
Haris Ibrahim of ABU (Anything but UMNO) Fame
A few weeks ago, during one of my usual breakfast get-togethers with my close friends, I saw a familiar face walking towards an empty table next to us. It was Haris Ibrahim, a social activist whom I have a very high regard for. For a moment, our gazes crossed and I took the opportunity to smile at him – he nodded and returned my smile.
Throughout my conversation with my girlfriends, I kept an eye on Haris, for I am truly and utterly in awe of him and his incredible personality. Truth be told, I secretly hoped he would turn to look at me too – which he never did (total potong stim on my part).
Anyway, being a Facebook queen, on my way home, I updated my status. It read: “Met Haris Ibrahim at my usual breakfast place and I feel like a little girl who just met Superman.”
In a matter of a few seconds, comments started pouring in. Many of my Facebook friends had very nice things to say about Haris while others shared stories about his dedication to his cause and his courage. One friend, who claimed not to know Haris, was ‘educated’ by means of a long thread of comments on who this ABU champ was.
What happened next totally blew me away. “Ting!”
A few notifications on Messenger informed me about screen shots of my status that had been sent to Haris! Apparently some of them were mutual friends of his. Ayoo kadavuleh, this is gonna be a major embarrassment, I thought.
An hour later, a text message arrived: “Fa, Haris is asking for your convenient time for tosai meet up.” I almost died. And so we did meet up for tosai one fine morning.
Haris was not as gregarious as I thought he’d be – he was a lot more. Star-struck, I utilised our breakfast time to ask him everything I wished to know. This was not going to be an encounter I would waste. We spoke about a lot of things that morning. Race, religion, education, discrimination, corruption, power abuse, hypocrisy, bigotry, faith, trust and hope.
As we spoke about our family and children, I asked him how he separated his time for his children with that of his struggle to fight for what he believes in.
“I have always found it tough to carry out my responsibility as a mother and still be able to find time to do my part in fighting for what’s right for the country. How do you do it, Haris, how do you find the time to be a good father to your children?” I asked while he took a sip of his kopi.
With his natural charm, Haris replied: “I have 10 million children…”
In just one short sentence, he answered a very tough question. Clearly, not everybody is capable of doing what my Superman does. To dedicate your entire being for one single purpose takes a lot. And to be ready to give away your freedom for your struggle is a whole different thing.
Yes, Haris is currently waiting for his appeal following his eight-month prison sentence by the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court for allegedly delivering a seditious speech in 2013.
I tried imagining being in his shoes – I could think of a thousand things I would be doing before I ended-up facing four walls for eight long months. Spending time with my family, friends, traveling within the country, watching movies, going for a karaoke session, hitting the beach, eating all the food I love – the list would never end.
But there he was, answering calls in between our conversation, still attending to people who needed his expertise as a lawyer. Clearly, this man never gives up fighting.
Talking to him, time flew by. After a few more rounds of drinks, it was time to leave – and I managed to ask him one final question.
“I don’t believe in our current government,” I said, “and I fear our Opposition is no different. So what do we do?”
Haris tilted his head, raised his eyebrows and while looking sharply at me, he said, “Look to your right. Look to your left. If the one on your right is not reliable and so is the one on your left – then it is time to take a step forward.”
Profound words indeed. Profound words from my Superman.