September 18, 2016
The Late Dato’ Dr. Haron Din is no longer with us. He passed away in San Francisco where he was being treated for a heart condition at Stanford University Medical Center, Palo Alto. His last wish was that he should be put to rest in the place of his death (We are free to choose where we wish to be buried and there is nothing confusing about this, Cmdr Thayaparan).
I am saddened by his loss because the passing of friends and associates of my generation reminds me of my own mortality. So I dedicate Al-Fatihah to this man of Faith and I wish to express our heartfelt condolences (Dr. Kamsiah and I) to his bereaved family. Both Dr. Haron and his brother Dato Abu Hassan Din Al-Hafiz are known to me since they are from Perlis and I met them in person over the years. I enjoyed their tv lectures in the’80s.
My memory of Dr. Haron is at the time of his passing is that of a good Muslim and an Islamic intellectual, not as a politician from PAS. Out of respect for Dr. Haron, I will not comment on Thayaparan’s take on the man’s politics.–Din Merican
Thayaparan: On Dr. Haron Din’s Politics
by Cmdr S. Thayaparan
COMMENT: Writing of the dead American Christian extremist Reverend Jerry Falwell, Christopher Hitchens who died of cancer some years back, said, “The evil that he did will live after him. This is not just because of the wickedness that he actually preached, but because of the hole that he made in the ‘wall of separation’ that ought to divide religion from politics.”
As that particular type of Muslim Malaysian, Haron Din did not believe in that “wall of separation” between mosque and state. Indeed, he believed that the enemies of Islam – always Islam, never his political adversaries – were those who believed in “the wall”, liberalism, freedom of religion and speech, in “Western” human rights, those things that the spiritual leader told his flock were anathema to Islam.
His weltanschauung was a wall of separation between those who believed in his version of Islam and those who were the enemies of Islam, in other words those who believed in anything else, including different interpretations of Islam.
The apogee of his crusade against the so-called “enemies” of Islam was when he accused former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and de facto leader of the opposition of working with the enemies of Islam, implying the DAP and well, anyone who disagreed with him.
This did not go down well with me and I wrote, “What happens if an IS (Islamic State) sympathiser reads Haron Din’s hate speech and carries out an attack on the DAP or somebody who supports the DAP or a Muslim who supports the DAP or just that unlucky Malaysian who is caught in the cross hairs? What is the difference between Haron Din’s view of Islam and the view of those IS members waiting to murder for their cause?
“I am talking about perspectives here, not methodology. I have no idea if the spiritual adviser supports the methodology of IS. I know that he shares the same views. I know that what he wants to achieve is exactly what they want to achieve but for now, someone like him is comfortable using hate speech in service of a democratic agenda.”
This was what was so frustrating for many others and me. Haron Din was willing to use democracy to legitimately gain power and subvert those very principles once in power. Of course, the fault is in our hands. We legitimised Haron Din and his political party in the hopes that common sense would prevail over religious impulse.
Three years ago, in a piece titled, ‘Mat Taib, Haron Din and PAS’ hudud games’, I wrote: “I have always argued that PAS is the sole ideological coherent party in the alternative alliance and with the exception of PSM (which is on unsteady ground when it comes to a strict reading of its ideological bedrock) will probably be the last party standing together with UMNO, when the non-Malays lose the racial demographic war.”
In those days, opposition supporters were furious that Haron Din was on the campaign trail telling the faithful that the only way to implement hudud was gaining federal power. He rallied his supporters; those supporters who were now mainstream thanks to the ‘PAS for all’ kool aid, which spillage on the Internet ruined many a commentary.
Some people, as I wrote, “dismiss people like Haron Din as UMNO sub rosa provocateurs (sic) but the reality is that this is a very real dialectic within PAS.” Many opposition supporters believe that the dialectic was over when Amanah was formed and of course even more so now that Haron Din has passed, but this is not the case. There will always be the dialectic simmering between the spiritualists of PAS and the middle ground technocrats, which ultimately will determine the fate of the party and unfortunately the country.
However, the mundane world of Malaysian politics, the ‘muggle world’ so to speak, was just part of the complex realities that Haron Din operated within. While your average online partisan would mock the spiritual leader for betraying whatever cause the opposition claimed they were part of, there were thousands of Muslim Malaysians who viewed the man not as a politician but rather as a spiritual warrior on the frontlines of defending their souls.
As Haron Din told AFP 11 years ago, “They have problems, not only physical problems but also spiritual problems, including black magic.” While Haron Din was the bete noire of opposition supporters, it was these people – his real followers – who fervently believed in the austere Islam he promised them was their salvation and Malaysia’s.
While disowning the title of “bomoh” – “The term bomoh in the Malay community is different to the Islamic healer. The bomoh uses inhuman words, perhaps words of the wild spirit. This is prohibited in Islam” – he honestly believed in the dominion he had over the supernatural world. (It is my experience that Islamists in the Wahhabi mode disown their culture in favour of whatever is peddled by the House of Saud.)
From the AFP article: “Haron, an intense, compact man in a blue tunic and white Islamic cap, finds no conflict between his deeply held religious convictions and his dealings with the world of ‘wild spirits’, which he says are addressed in the Quran.”
The world of wild spirits sound much like Malaysian politics, only much more exciting. Evicting spirits seemed to be Haron’s main mission. He was extremely conscious of the fact that we were sharing this world with other beings – “This world does not belong to human beings only, this world belongs to the creatures, animals, plants, trees and the spirits. When we want to build our houses or projects we don’t care about them, we just go ahead and clear areas. When that happens, there is a reaction on humans.”
In his life, Haron Din evicted, and sometimes relocated, wild spirits who were attempting to plague the Muslim Malaysian community and at the same time, he was defending Islam from the numerous enemies that attempted to subvert its true purpose, a purpose that Haron Din was custodian of.
If anything, his politics and his spirituality were not mutually exclusive and he never claimed they were. Maybe having spent so much time safeguarding the spirituality of his flock, he truly believed that aligning PAS with UMNO would hasten the eviction of “wild spirits” from Malaysia.
I have no idea why he would want to be buried in San Francisco, the epicentre of everything he despised but ultimately it is not important what people like me and other opposition supporters say about him. The Haron Din we think we know is the least interesting thing about the man. There are many who will mourn his passing for reasons that we will never understand but as he once said, “Most of the spirits in Malaysia know me.”