Wanted: A new National Narrative

December 4, 2018

Wanted: A new national narrative


Forward thinking: When Datuk Onn Jaafar founded Umno over 70 years ago, he relentlessly wrote and cajoled the Malays to work hard, to study hard, to send their daughters to school, to be entrepreneurs, to be brave and confident, to take risks and be their own bosses. — Photo courtesy of National Archives

Forward thinking: When Datuk Onn Jaafar founded Umno over 70 years ago, he relentlessly wrote and cajoled the Malays to work hard, to study hard, to send their daughters to school, to be entrepreneurs, to be brave and confident, to take risks and be their own bosses. — Photo courtesy of National Archives


IN my agama school in Johor Baru in the 1960s, I learnt about Iblis (Satan) who refused to bow down with the other angels before the first human (Adam) that God crea­ted. When God asked why, Iblis said, “I am better than him; You created me from fire and you created him from dirt.” For his contempt and his disobedience, God cast Iblis out of heaven.

This parable has remained in my mind as it is this belief in one’s superiority that is the root of cruelty and injustice in the world. To think that one is better, one is greater, one is superior than the other in the name of religion, race, ethnicity, gender, caste, class, leads to all manner of injustice against those who are different from us – for no other reason than the fact that they are different. It is the logic of Satan.

At last Tuesday’s seminar on Islam and Human Rights organised by JJAKIMakim and Suhakam, the de facto Minister for Religion, Datuk Seri Dr Mujahid Yusof, made an impassioned plea for Muslims to recognise that human rights are a part of Islamic belief. He sprinkled his speech with verses from the Quran and stories from Prophet Muhammad’s life to illustrate the values of justice, compassion, dignity, freedom of religion, non-discrimination, and anti-racism.

Human rights, he said, constitute “darah daging” (inherent in) Islam. There will never be peace, he warned, if one side insists that its race or its religion is superior as the other side will then retaliate with its own claim of superiority. Two Malay men who had entered the hall in tanjak and keris regalia to display their “superior” Malay identity slinked away in silence after the speech.

Mujahid said he wanted to create a new narrative for a new Malaysia. I believe this is an imperative given the dogged efforts by the supremacists of race and religion to destabilise this new government and derail its change agenda. And I hope Mujahid’s colleagues in the Cabinet and the Pakatan Harapan leadership and membership will share his courage of conviction to do the same. For Malaysia cannot afford to go on being polarised on the basis of race and religion.

Events over the past few weeks reveal the continuing agenda of these desperate demagogues to incite hate and escalate further the sense of siege and fear among certain segments of the Malay community. These mischief makers are priming for violence, with threats of blood being shed and another May 13 being engineered. Such incitement to hatred and violence constitute criminal acts that must not be allowed to go unpunished.

It is obvious that those baying for blood are those who have lost political power and lucrative financial entitlements that they were used to. If they can no longer plunder the country at will as in the past, let’s tear this country asunder so that no one else benefits, seems to be their plan. And they dare proclaim they are doing this in order to protect the Malays and Islam? What an insult. You can fool some Malays some of the time, but you can’t fool all the Malays all of the time.

Enough Malays stood up on May 9 to say enough is enough and voted for change. Let’s get real here. While Pakatan Harapan might have garnered only 30% of the Malay votes, Umno’s share of the Malay votes plummeted by a whopping 15%. There was not just a significant Malay swing, but also a youth swing against Umno and all that it stood for – epitomised by a leader who thought it was all right that RM2.6bil could enter his personal bank account, countenanced by his cabinet and his party leadership.

The challenge before this Pakatan Harapan government is to find effective ways to build more Malay support for its change agenda. Who really pose a threat to the well-being of the Malays? Those who claim to speak in their name and yet plundered the wealth of the nation for personal gain cannot possibly be the champions of those left behind.

The focus of affirmative action must be on those left behind. They have a right to feel aggrieved, not the privileged UMNOputras whose gravy train is wrecked, with no spare parts in sight. Rising inequality and low wages must be addressed immediately so that these demagogues who exploit the vulnerabilities of those left behind have little space to advance their us-versus-them hate narratives.

Datuk Onn Jaafar would be crying in his grave to know that almost 100 years after he relentlessly wrote and cajoled the Malays to work hard, to study hard, to send their daughters to school, to be entrepreneurs, to be brave and confident, to take risks and be their own bosses, the party he founded is today led by those who manufacture endless threats in order to keep the Malays feeling insecure and fearful, instead of building their confidence and their capacity to embrace change.

Onn was obsessed since the 1920s with the backwardness of the Malays, and the need to “betulkan orang Melayu” (get the Malays on the right path). I choke at the sight of our 93-year-old Prime Minister still obsessed with this same mission.

It is a tragedy that 72 years after the founding of UMNO, 61 years of being the dominant party in power, 47 years of affirmative action, these UMNO leaders and Ketuanan Melayu agitators still cannot figure out what they might have done wrong if the Malays still feel insecure and left behind in the country’s development. Obviously, their priority is not to find solutions. Their priority is how to get back into power. Since the rakyat have lost confidence in their leadership, and refuse to buy into their race and religion under threat mantra, they are upping the ante by publicly baying for blood and violence. What a disgrace, what a betrayal.

But how do you get those Malays who feel threatened by every conceivable difference to deal with the realities of the Malaysia and the world they live in today? How does this new government undo the damage of decades of indoctrination and demonisation against the Chinese, the Christians, the DAP, the liberal Muslims, the LGBT community, the Shi’as, the Ahmadiyyahs, and against principles and standards that uphold equality, non-discrimination, human rights, liberalism and pluralism. These were all constructed as bogeymen used to divide the nation in order to build Malay groupthink for their Ketuanan Melayu and authorita­rian brand of Islam to maintain power and privilege.

This pipeline of hate and mistrust must be plugged.The latest Merdeka Centre survey on religious extremism in Southeast Asia shows that narratives matter. Muslims who believe in the diet of conservative beliefs such as a literalist understanding of Islam, the primacy of hudud law, and reviving the Islamic Caliphate are those who feel animosity towards others who are different from them and who hold violent and non-violent religious extremist tendencies. Around 66% of Muslims in Malaysia want non-Sunni sects to be banned, and only 41% support multi-faith education, compared to 73% non-Muslims who believe that students should learn the religious beliefs of all groups. What is also disturbing is the attitude towards Christians, Buddhists and Hindus. Muslim respondents in Malaysia look negatively towards these “outgroups”, when asked to rank their attitudes towards others. Malaysian Muslims also scored the highest in terms of support for Jemaah Islamiyah (18%) and ISIS (5%), compared to Muslims in Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.

May 9 has given us hope that change is possible. The new Malaysia must build new dominant narratives on a just and compassionate Islam in a Malaysia that is big enough for every one of every hue and colour.

Those in government, in academia, in business, in the media, and in civil society must take the bull by the horn in loudly challenging the hate spewed out by these supremacists who use race and religion to divide the nation for political and personal gain. Rule of law must be upheld and the authorities must take firm action against those who incite racial and religious hatred. The responsibility to steer this nation to embrace diversity and differences belong to all of us.

There is no other choice. We need to reimagine and rebuild this new Malaysia if we want to live together in peace and prosperity in an inclusive country that should be a model to the Global South and to the Muslim world. We were once that country. We will, we must, we can, once again, be that model.


Message to Harapan Government– NIP Wahhabism in the Bud

November 18, 2018

Message to Harapan Government— NIP Wahhabism the Bud

By Fathol Zaman Bukhari


Professor Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid of Universiti Sains Malaysia’s damning statement that Muslims in Malaysia are “slowly but surely becoming radicalised” should not be taken lightly. I knew this was coming as ominous signs are so plentiful and obvious that even the most cynical can no longer dismiss them as inconsequential.

The Islamic scholar implored that the new Pakatan Harapan Government take precautionary measures to arrest the spread before things get out of hand.

“Before the situation becomes untenable like what is happening in Afghanistan and Pakistan, it’s better to nip the problem in the bud. We need to do whatever possible to see it done. Revamping the school curriculum is one possible way to correct the situation,” he said.

Islam preaches compassion, love and tolerance but what we see in the Middle East, Pakistan and Afghanistan is something else. All of those benign virtues associated with Islam are being systematically destroyed by people who use religion for their very own selfish ends. I concur with the academician that religious extremism has no place in a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural Malaysia.

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The radicalisation of Islam in Malaysia, incidentally, did not happen in a few short years. It is like an underground fire that is fueled by methane gas. You don’t see the flame but the burning continues and the heat permeates through the vents. It becomes volatile and deadly once the flames reach the surface and start to engulf the surrounding. This is the scenario I can think of.

According to Fauzi, Islamic theology taught in government schools in the early 1990s has shifted from traditional to one derived from the Middle East, especially from Saudi Arabia. The views are one-sided, sidestepping the norms while embracing a more radical form of mind-set, one of exclusivity, supremacist, with diminishing respect for the practitioners of other religions. Thus minorities and those with differing views are considered “aliens” or “non-conformists.”

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The term “liberalism” is often bandied about. If being a Muslim and you don’t conform you are a “liberal” and is regarded an outcast destined to burn in hell. The naivety is simply mind-blowing. The only similarity I can allude to is the Inquisition in 12th century France which later spread to Spain and Portugal. The objective of the Inquisitors was to “combat dissent and public heresy committed by baptised Christians.” And the targeted groups were mainly converts who were erroneously labelled as suspects due to the “assumption that they had secretly reverted to their former religions.

Incidentally, the last public execution of the Inquisition was in Spain in 1826 when a school teacher was garrotted (strangled) for being a disbeliever and attempting to spread his belief to his students.

Things were definitely different, pre- and post Merdeka in 1957. And being someone from that era I can safely vouch for it. In 1979, following the Iranian Revolution that helped catapult Ayatollah Khomeini into power, the equation changed dramatically. The revolution sparked interest in Islam all over the world.

Iran is a proponent of the Shia form of Islam which is strongly opposed by the Sunnis in other parts of the Muslim world led by Saudi Arabia. The oil-rich Saudi government, in wanting to counter the spread of Shia teachings, took advantage of this change offering scholarships and money to institutions and charities in the developing Muslim world. Malaysia was one of the many beneficiaries.


This, the Saudis believe, would help impose their brand of conservative Islam popularly referred to as Wahhabism or Salafism within their area of influence, including Malaysia.

In the 1980s and 1990s many Malaysians, especially Malay Muslims, went overseas for higher education. Due to the interest in Islam, many headed to the Middle East especially Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt to pursue religious studies. This was made possible by the generous scholarships offered by the Saudi Arabian government. Over there they were exposed to the Wahhabi/Salafist way of thinking and practices.

When these students returned they got into the mainstream education system and becoming the ideal source for the Wahhabi/Salafist way of thinking which preaches intolerance, extremism and exclusivity. Some gained entry into the civil service, becoming influential bureaucrats, lawyers, academicians and politicians. These people are now in positions of power thus allowing them to make decisions for the good and bad of all of us. That explains why the thinking of these “misfits” are so skewed

Wahhabism was started by Muhammad Abd al-Wahhab (1703-1792) who was dismayed by what he saw in Istanbul. The Ottoman Turks’ way of life, he reasoned, was revolting. He then decided to propagate his version of “a pure and unadulterated Islam.”

The “Arabisation” of Malay Muslims has accelerated over the years. Today “uncovered” women are a rarity. And if you do meet them they are among the few who dare to be different. To the diehard believers, this phenomenon is the result of the proliferation liberalism that corrodes their way of life. The traditional yet alluring kebaya modern, the choice dress of my mother and aunties in the 1950s right to 1970s, had given way to the drab and soulless “tudung” and “telekung” which are designed to conceal the female figure.

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Why no skull cap for Anwar Ibrahim?

Male members are more adept at sporting a goatee and wearing a skullcap, as this is deemed appropriate and in sync with the dress code of Wahhabis. The more Arab one looks and talks, help to improve one’s religious credentials. It is about being as close as what was witnessed in 6th century Mecca and Madinah.

So “selamat pagi” becomes “assalamualaikum” and “akhirat” becomes “jannah”. It is definitely chic to lace one’s speech with some Arab-sounding words although they may mean little or nothing to both speakers and listeners. The absurdity is getting a little out of hand, I dare say. But to the adherents this is God-sent.

The troubled interfaith relations prevalent today are the result of this exclusivist Wahhabi/Salafist thinking which has crept into the education curriculum and mind-set. Renowned Muslim scholars are labelled “secular” and “liberal” to keep the Muslim masses from hearing them out. Those who do not toe the line are banned from speaking out. Fatwas (religious edicts) issued are seldom explained. Questioning a fatwa is considered blasphemous.

Notwithstanding the brouhaha surrounding the controversial Department of Islamic Development (JAKIM), no solutions are yet forthcoming. Funding for the department’s many questionable activities has never been accounted for.

Where will all this lead us to? Your guess is as good as mine. With the emergence of Malaysia Baru (New Malaysia) this inadequacy will be addressed in due course. But looking at what’s been happening, I have my doubts.

Hopefully, I will be proven wrong.

Malay anxiety, exclusion, and national unity

September 21,2018

Malay anxiety, exclusion, and national unity

A fragmented Malay society is making ‘Malay unity’ more urgent for those defeated by GE-14.

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Real Merdeka is when the Malay is freed from Mental Bondage

September 3, 2018

Real Merdeka is when the Malay is freed from Mental Bondage

by  Mariam Mokhtar

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The Malay:In Timidity, he only survives, In Malay Leaders, he trusts  and In Poverty and Ignorance, he stays, and In Desperation, he runs amuck.

COMMENT | We may have achieved our second independence, at GE-14, but we can only claim to have attained true Merdeka when the Malay mind is liberated from its mental cage. The Malay sees, but fails to observe. He hears, but does not listen.

It was hard work trying to persuade the rakyat to kick UMNO-Baru from power, but we succeeded in removing the mental block that made many think change was impossible; but many of us have realised that it is even harder to convince some people to think and act as Malaysians.

After GE-14, I have had many conversations with Malays, from all walks of life; the conversations have been most revealing and confirmed many of my suspicions. Contrary to popular belief, it is not the uneducated, or the rural folk who pose the greatest danger to our community.

The well-heeled, widely-traveled urbanites, and the so-called enlightened middle-class Malays, who have easy access to the internet, do not seem to be willing to empower themselves, or to seek the truth and improve themselves. Why is this?

One young Malay law student in a local university said, “The Malay is comfortable, so why should he work hard, or change his behaviour? Remove his sources of comfort, and he might be forced to act. He will be reluctant at first, but in the end, he may realise what is good for him.”

A Malay mother said that it all boils down to choice. “The Malay has made a choice, even if you disagree with his decision. You may think that he has done nothing to improve his sorry plight, but that is still his choice. You may not think he has done enough, or done anything, but as far as he is concerned, he has already made his choice. You may think that he is in blissful ignorance, but again, that was his choice.”

A young single mother said that she was too busy trying to provide for her family to care. “In my case, I have no choice. The syariah court has chosen not to enforce the law, so I and my three young children are forced to suffer.

“My ex-husband does not pay maintenance for his children. He is comfortable, but we are not. He has enough money to take on a new bride, and when I complain to the syariah court, I am told that his choice to remarry is provided for in Islam.”


One former teacher, who is from Penang, described how some Malay parents in her circle did not value education and allowed their teenage children to stop schooling.

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Follow his injunction and Malaysia will be destroyed, Mr. Prime Minister of Malaysia.

“It starts off with the child playing truant. After a certain number of days absence, the child’s teacher will visit the parents, and try to persuade them to send their child to school.

“In most cases, the parents will say that they uphold their child’s decision to leave school, because it is a waste of money and time. They may also claim there will always be a place in the warung (hawker stall), for the child to make drinks or take orders, and help in the family business.

“If we teach the parents the value of education, we see some positive results. More importantly, we will have helped the child to choose a better future,” the former teacher said.

Decades of brainwashing

Decades of brainwashing have created a powerless, and helpless, Malay. He is a victim of his circumstance. He finds it difficult to talk to other races. He finds it hard to forgive. He thinks it is impossible to love those who are not of his race, or religion or creed.

At times he cannot differentiate between right and wrong. He is afraid to offer an opinion. He does not think he should apologise. His culture tells him that he cannot question his elders, or others, and so he bottles things up, until he can no longer stand it – and he then runs amuck.

He spends his life keeping score, and covets the few privileges accorded to the non-Malays and then claims that these are not fair, because he has been deprived of his rights.

Our collective silence has created a nation in which the Malays and non-Malays have become strangers. Many Malays have been so molly-coddled that they have become de-sensitised to the needs of others. They are easily offended. Many non-Malays are fearful of being branded “interfering”, and keep quiet.

It is not all doom and gloom. There is hope. We need to show the enslaved Malay – not tell him, but show him with our deeds and actions, how he can be set free from his mental shackles.

One way is by talking to him. Next time, you attend a dialogue or forum, drag a Malay to the event. Engage him in conversation. Initiate simple discussions.

If you say you have no Malay friends, then find one. Anyone who claims he has no Malay friend is contributing to the problem.

MARIAM MOKHTAR is a defender of the truth, the admiral-general of the Green Bean Army and president of the Perak Liberation Organisation (PLO). Blog, Twitter.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

When Ambitious Young Pols get it Wrong on Reformasi 1998, 2007 and beyond–Know History First

September 1, 2018

When Ambitious Young Pols get it Wrong on Reformasi 1998, 2007 and beyond–Know History First

Opinion  |  Phar Kim Beng

Read this: https://www.malaysiakini.com/opinions/76167

Today (2018) Anwar Ibrahim may have changed since I wrote since I wrote the above piece in 2007. He is a Prime Minister in Waiting. He  can  no longer be an idealistic public intellectual as I knew him. Political realism will influence him. After all, like his hero, Jose Rizal, he is nationalist who gave lot of himself for Malaysia. I will not judge him by his book, The Asian Renaissance. From here on. His policies and actions will matter. But I can only hope his Galbraithian vision of a Humane Society can be pursued with renewed passion. Good luck, Sdr Anwar.–Din Merican

Also Read This : https://dinmerican.wordpress.com/2018/03/21/anwar-ibrahim-the-rainmaker-of-ideas/

COMMENT | As things are, no one knows the demographic profile of the 800,000 PKR members. But it would not be farfetched to believe that many started following the party’s President-Elect Anwar Ibrahim’s ideals and ideas from 1978 or 1988.

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Anwar Ibrahim: From Jose Rizal (Philippines), Khomeini (Iran), Habibie (Indonesia), Erdogan (Turkey) to Anwar (2018)–Is VS Naipaul right?

If the former date is valid, followers such as Azmin Ali, Khalid Jaafar, Kamaruddin Jaafar or Muhammad Nur Manuty could not have missed the important revelation of the book ‘Among The Believers’ by VS Naipaul.

Naipaul was a famous British writer born in Trinidad and Tobago. Although of Indian ancestry and parentage, he was a top writer in 1980s, spurred not least by his vintage prose that was both elegant and lucid.

But Naipaul didn’t do Anwar any favour. Despite granting Naipaul an interview in 1979, the prickly British writer had Anwar classified as an “Islamic” fundamentalist, ostensibly one who would do all the biddings of then Iran leader Ayatollah Khomeini.

This was a serious, if not a pernicious, mischaracterisation of Anwar and many Muslim activists interviewed by Naipaul in his famous book, which oddly enough, was later rewarded with the Nobel Prize in English Literature.

Knowingly or unknowingly, most likely the former, Naipaul started this wave of prejudice against Anwar and Muslim thinkers and intellectuals who wanted to use “Islam” as a template to redeem their countries and civilisations.

Their inability to separate what was secular and spiritual, according to Naipaul, would be the first sign of their impending failure in the years and decades to come.

Yet, Naipaul (photo) was using a condescending outlook to tar almost every Muslim activist – even if they were trained in top universities like Leiden University in Netherlands or McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

Whatever the credentials of the activists, if they don’t keep the state and religion apart, they were deemed as atavistic thinkers. That was Naipaul’s yardstick.

Anwar was particularly vulnerable to the caricature of Naipaul precisely because he, apart from being deputy prime minister, was the president of the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) in 1990, a decision approved by his boss, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, himself.

Mahathir, to be sure, knew that Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was not sufficiently savvy and well-read to handle the “Islamic file”. Tens of thousands of Muslims had been trained in the West, some in the Middle East too.

When they came home to Malaysia, they were either brimming with practical scientific knowledge or austere religious rigours. Some of them could combine the two into a unique blend to be a “New Malay,” while others retreated into their silos, such as Abdul Awang Hadi, to start the process of “kafir mengkafir” in 1981.

The thrust of Hadi was to make Muslims reject the West totally so that they were not tainted by anything amounting to modernisation, industrialisation, or an inner psychological reawakening.

Indeed, to this day, Hadi, now the President of PAS, refused to acknowledge the importance of science; not even forensic accounting that has exposed the money trail of 1MDB, to say the least.

Thus between 1981 and 1997, Mahathir was heavily guiding Anwar on how to handle the West and East – with Islam as the prime. The net outcome of that process was the crystalisation of the idea of “Islam Madani” by Anwar in 1995. “Madani” meant the importance of empowering the emergence of civil society, something that Anwar himself truly believed in, since the state could not have been made into a Hobbesian Leviathan.

In the view of Anwar, then and now, especially the latter, the state must be a Lilliputian tied down by various checks and balances, without which the flagrant abuse of the executive arm of the government alone would wrack havoc on the lives of millions in Malaysia. His own fate as a student leader and then opposition leader was a case in point.

Regardless of the Malaysian/Islamic concepts coined by Anwar, or friendly entities like the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), with its headquarters in Virginia, which believed in the “Islamisation of Knowledge,” the central thrust of Anwar, indeed, Mahathir and Mohamad Sabu, was all about self-strengthening.

Rich gamut

Between 1968 and 2018, they knew the power of Malaysia came from the self-discipline of each and every Malaysian to demand something larger than themselves.

In this sense, their ideals and ideas were not that far off from DAP leaders Lim Kit Siang and Lim Guan Eng, indeed, even the scholarship of Professor KS Jomo (photo) and Professor Terence Gomez in Universiti Malaya between 1981 and 1997.

During this period alone, Jomo and Gomez produced a rich gamut of impressive work on the corrosive power of unmanaged capital, indeed, untraceable monies. DAP supported their theoretical and empirical works, even seeking the advice of the duo.

Of course, what the duo in the academia did not foresee was the gangrenous transformation of government-linked investment companies (GLICs) into future scandals like 1MDB or what former Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin called “mini 1MDBs”.

Without a shadow of a doubt, PKR leader Rafizi Ramli is smart. But it goes without saying, too, that with or without Invoke, his polling firm, May 9 would have culminated into a victory against the kleptocracy of UMNO and BN anyway.

The insidious and incestuous relationships with unknown business entities in Dubai, Hong Kong, Cayman Islands and elsewhere just made the story all the more sordid, and spectacularly “foolish”, as P Gunasegaram correctly wrote in his latest book.

But to win the deputy presidency in PKR, Rafizi has overlooked the intellectual genealogy of the reforms of Anwar, indeed, the anti-colonial reforms of Mahathir and others too.

If anything, it would seem that Rafizi has forced the political clock to start from 1998 – overlooking any structures of oppression that has had a long pedigree and history.

The scholarship of ‘The Myth of the Lazy Malay’ by the late Professor Syed Hussein Alatas (photo), for example, earned a powerful mention in the work of Edward Said in his book ‘Orientalism’, published in 1979, which were two of Anwar’s favourite books.

Although Edward Said, a top Palestinian intellectual (who was once at the prestigious Columbia University) is no longer alive, he had warned of the danger of “othering” a subject without any historical context.

Thus, it was wrong for the West, for example, to assume that the Arab world and Islamic civilisation had always been backward, when in fact, they were one of the most powerful civilisations from the 11th to 16th century.

When “all the lights in European capitals were switched off,” wrote Janet Abu Lughod in her famous book on European “hegemony,” which was another top favourite of Anwar, the “lights in the capitals of the East were glittering luminously”.

Lughod was referring to the thriving cities from Marrakesh in Morocco to Davao in Mindanao at one stage, when Islamic empires and states were at the pinnacle of their powers, including the Ottoman Empire in modern Turkey.

Written works

Anwar, due to his love for written works, also enlisted the likes of Dr Ahmet Davutoglu to be a professor at International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM). Davutoglu went on to become the chief advisor to the prime minister of Turkey, then become Turkey’s foreign minister, and finally the prime minister of Turkey from 2014 to 2016.

Not to be outdone, Mahathir also consumed the works of Kenichi Ohmae, a top strategist at McKinsey, who inspired him to create the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC), which in turn gave us Putrajaya, Cyberjaya and Kuala Lumpur that are now interconnected to one another.

Mohamad Sabu, too, did not let up. He read the works of Ali Shariati to understand the tone and texture of the Iranian Revolution without being flushed away by the hurried pace of the events in the Middle East and Persia.


By locating his electoral campaign in PKR within the context of 1998, Rafizi has inadvertently lobbed off a huge chunk of reformist Malaysian history.

Win, lose or draw, since it is not Rafizi alone who is competing, but a huge team of candidates, all should know that their redemption lies not in privileging 1998 alone but 1968 and earlier.

By taking everyone back to 1998, Rafizi appears to be saying there was no Anwar worth reflecting from or other leaders and scholars. But this cannot be. Prior to 1998, or 1968, Tan Chee Koon was known as the Mr Opposition.

Thinkers like the late Rustam Sani, with a PhD in Sociology from Yale University, was one of the visionaries who came up with the concept of Vision 2020 (?), which was endorsed and accepted by Mahathir, even though Rustam, son of Ahmad Boestaman, came predominantly from Islamic left, while Mahathir was from the Islamic right.

Left or right, Anwar has always believed that the solution lies in the “middle,” especially given the context and background of Malaysia as a multicultural country.

No doubt, 1998 was a period of angry revulsion. But it was also a footnote among many historical epochs that make Malaysia complete – just as May 9, 2018, was a defining event that led to the return of Mahathir to lead the country back to some degree of sobriety after close to nine years of drunken indulgence in materialistic excesses and irrational exuberance.

Allowing Anwar back into the fold, and permitting him to be a prime minister-in-waiting is a gesture of goodwill that should be reciprocated step by step, by all sides, not by digging up a singular point of the past alone.

Yesterday, Part 1: Reformasi in 1998: Perhaps Rafizi got it wrong?

PHAR KIM BENG was a multiple award-winning Head Teaching Fellow on China and Cultural Revolution in Harvard University.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

Think Critically and Speak the Truth to Power with Integrity

June 23, 2018

Think Critically and Speak the Truth to Power with Integrity

by Mariam Mokhtar


We need to iron out our differences, educate everyone and build our children’s future. We may not see the results of our work, but they will. That is why we need to continue to talk with one another, even on sensitive issues, and learn from each other’s stories.–Mariam Mohktar

COMMENT | In the past, we did not listen critically and analyse what our politicians were up to. We allowed things to slide and we complained only when things were almost at the point of no return.

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We have passed the 100 days of Pakatan Harapan rule. If we become complacent, the chances are that they will end up being UMNO Baru 2.0.

Here are ten reasons why you, as the most powerful person in Malaysia, are resistant to change. We need to get rid of these bad habits, to exercise our power and be instruments for change.


Who doesn’t love a bit of gossip? Some of us thrive on it. We are aware that denigrating someone who is not present is a disgusting habit. We also know that the person with whom we are gossiping will within a few minutes gossip about us, and yet we persist.


TV3 has made use of our ability to be absorbed by mindless, mind-crippling drama. When we want to engage others in serious conversation about important issues, people look away and switch off.

We do nothing when things go wrong instead of speaking up and complaining to the relevant people about poor customer service, or something which is underperforming, because we have more important things to do, or cannot be bothered.How can anyone even begin to help a person who will not help himself?

Being judgemental

Imagine an injustice being perpetrated against a member of the LGBT community. We speak out, but some people criticise those who are trying to help. When will we start to listen without being judgemental?


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The Crooked Defender of Islam–Where is this guy today? We punished him by removing from power in GE-14. We can do it again via People Power.

When there are problems in the community, like the rights of non-Muslims being trampled upon, we do nothing and instead of taking action, we say, “What can I do? The Syariah Court is all-powerful, and I do not have the remotest chance of winning.” People give up too easily because they think they cannot do anything; but have they tried?


Instead of complaining to the relevant people about incompetence, we do nothing and give up at the slightest hint of resistance.

Complaining followed by inaction seems to be a national pastime, but it will not resolve any issue. We complain about everything. The weather. The economy. The education. The roads.

Some people in UMNO Baru have made complaining an art form. The economy is bad. Blame it on DAP. The currency is falling. Blame it on the Chinese. Food prices have risen. It is the Singaporeans’ fault. The rain is non-stop. Blame it on the Christians who stopped Malaysia from adopting hudud laws.


You have been treated badly but refuse to complain about this abuse of power, your excuse for doing nothing is that you know nobody and you will lose. So, you justify inaction with a multitude of reasons.


UMNO Baru and PAS politicians say that only their party can defend the Malays and protect Islam. Do we confront the politicians and ask, “Defend the Malays from what? Protect Islam from whom?”

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Many Malay Muslims in UMNO, PAS, and Perlis Chief Mufti, among others, agree with this bigot from India.

Malays enjoy positions of power in the civil service, armed forces, GLCs, and many other institutions. Islam is the official religion of Malaysia. The Malays comprise 60 percent of the population. Why should they exaggerate their fear of being threatened?


This is like being bombarded with “facts” and someone else’s opinions, or fake news. Instead of checking to see if these stories are true, we share this information with others and claim that it is the gospel truth. It makes listening very difficult.

These ten deadly sins hamper our ability for progress, but the good news is that one way forward for Malaysians, is to ‘MATI.’


‘M’ is for the Malaysian identity and Malaysian values. It could also stand for materialism.”As the nation grew and many became wealthier, we forgot our values, we became greedy, ignored the poor and the needy, and pursued material wealth.

At the same time, most of us identified ourselves or allowed others to portray us as Malay, Chinese, Indian, Orang Asli, Sarawakian or Sabahan. In ‘new Malaysia’, we need to forge a new Malaysian identity.

‘A’ is for alarm and accountability, or it could stand for apathy. For decades, we were consumed with apathy. When we saw that our leaders were not serving the rakyat but themselves, we finally saw the importance of leaders who were accountable for their actions.

‘A’ could also be for action. And in the 14th general election we voted for change. ‘T’ is for thought or thinking, and for tolerance, or rather the lack thereof.

In ‘new Malaysia’, we should start to think about our actions. When Najib said that only UMNO Baru can save Islam, we were too lazy to listen critically and tell him off for talking bullshit.

‘I’ is for integrity and intellect, or thinking things through. I is also for ‘I’.

What is personal and professional integrity? Why are there lapses in the judiciary, the police force, the education system and in the public service? Why did we let things slide?

Rebuilding Malaysia is not about you, or me, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Pakatan Harapan, or even UMNO. It is also about the future of our children and their children.

We are investing in their future and hope to create a country which they will learn to love, as we love our country.

The success of Malaysia is tied to the success of everyone. Malay. Chinese. Indian. Orang Asli. Iban and Kadazan.

We need to iron out our differences, educate everyone and build our children’s future. We may not see the results of our work, but they will.

That is why we need to continue to talk with one another, even on sensitive issues, and learn from each other’s stories.


MARIAM MOKHTAR is a defender of the truth, the admiral-general of the Green Bean Army and president of the Perak Liberation Organisation (PLO). Blog, Twitter.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.