August 30, 2017
FA Abdul remembers Humanist Thasleem Ibrahim
“For what is a man, what has he got
If not himself, then he has naught,
To say the things, he truly feels
And not the words, of one who kneels
The record shows, I took the blows
And did it my way…”
– Frank Sinatra, “My Way”
COMMENT–FA Abdul | Dato Thasleem Ibrahim was my teh tarik and chatting buddy. The first time I was in contact with Dato Thasleem was in early 2015 when I received an unexpected text message from him.
“Assalamualaikum. I read your article ‘I Like Keema And Not Kimma’ and I nearly fell off my chair!”
Dato Thasleem Ibrahim and Datin Dr. Yazmeen paid a courtesy call on Dr.APJ Abdul Kalam at his residence in New Delhi on 26th.July 2010. The discussions centered mostly on education and youths.
We both had a good laugh chatting about the Malaysian Indian Muslim Association (Kimma), which claimed to be representing the Indian Muslims but was seeking for them to be acknowledged as Malays. As an ex-advisor to Kimma for many, many years, Dato Thasleem surely had a lot of stories I found interesting.
Following that first text message, more conversations through phone calls as well as over teh tarik and vadai at his favourite mamak place in Taman Tun Dr Ismail ensued.
I learned that Dato Thasleem was born in Ramnad district of Tamil Nadu and came to Malaysia when he was five years old. Having been schooled in Ipoh until he was in Form 5, he regards himself as an Ipoh boy.
Oh, how can I forget the time when he joked – “I have banyak girlfriends in Ipoh. But now they’re all grandmothers!”He was such a jovial chap with a remarkable aura.
Dato’ Tashleem Ibrahim seen with DAP’s Theresa Kok
One of the issues both of us passionately talked about from time to time was how religion, which was supposed to promote unity among all, was being used to break us apart. Dato used to warn me that if nothing is done now, in the future we might end up in separate hospital wards and mortuary freezers according to our race and religion.
Dato Thasleem’s dream was to create a better world for our children, a world full of values of humanity, fairness and equality – a dream he never gave up on.
“I lost the case, my dear. Punished for speaking the truth and seeking justice but the civil servant got promoted. Malaysia is truly Bolehland,” he told me not too long ago regarding a senior Malay civil servant who had sued him for defamation for calling him an ultra-Malay racist. “But I cannot give up. The fight must continue.”
As much as I looked up to Dato Thasleem as a wonderful being with a great soul who was ever willing to fight for justice, for he believed every true Muslim had a responsibility to defend what is right and resist what is wrong, I also saw a father figure who was kind and loving and always gave a shoulder to lean on upon sensing the need for one.
The last time I spoke to him was the morning he was admitted to the hospital.
“I have been following all your articles. Been unwell for the past six months. I was diagnosed with interstitial lung disease in 2009, yet I’m not giving up and I’m pushing myself against medical advice and now I’m paying a heavy price. Too many battles to fight, it really hit me hard.”
He told me how he regrets not taking better care of himself. And he spoke of the need for him to keep his mind active by continuously hammering the corrupt politicians, although at the time, he was not feeling well.
And even as his health deteriorated, he texted me, “Ma, you will always be in my prayers.”
With him now gone, it is up to those who loved him dearly and those who recognised his jihad, to carry on fighting for justice.
Dato Thasleem devoted his life to fighting for what he believed in and, in the midst of doing so, touched so many lives.
Jihad for justice is his legacy. The fight must go on. It has to.
FA ABDUL is a passionate storyteller, a growing media trainer, an aspiring playwright, a regular director, a struggling producer, a self-acclaimed photographer, an expert Facebooker, a lazy blogger, a part-time queen and a full-time vainpot.