Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s fight to steer Malaysia back onto the right path, included a talk at the University of London, to brief Malaysians on Malaysia’s crisis. At the Q&A session, how would he have answered my question, “Will Bersatu start the process of dismantling Jakim?”
Mahathir is a crowd puller. He needs publicity for his new party, Bersatu.
Despite the short notice, Malaysians came, from far and wide. The venue was changed thrice, to accommodate the large numbers who registered. Even Malaysians on vacation in London, complete with their shopping bags, attended. Malaysians who landed at Heathrow, had just enough time to dump their luggage and participate.
The usual spectrum of people were present. The ones who idolise him. The curious. Those whose lives were blighted by his policies. Spotted too, was one of Mahathir’s sons, with his wife.
The foreigners waxed lyrical about Mahathir, and the Brits, appeared to be afflicted with Mahathir’s “Melayu mudah lupa” syndrome; they had forgotten that at one time, he advocated a policy of “Buy British last.”
The Malaysians who went, were not interested in demanding an apology. They were more interested in the future. So did they like what he said?
On the whole, people were disappointed. Information on Bersatu was lacking.
One Malaysian said, “He should have told us how, he was going to steer the path away from racism or religious extremism, especially as Bersatu is race based. How will he translate the hope that he promised, into action?”
Bersatu was only mentioned, after questions were posed about it.
Mahathir justified his race based party because Malaysians are so used to race and added, “They feel comfortable with it”.
Another Malaysian said, “After that groundbreaking handshake with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, why didn’t he proceed to break the race taboo?
When asked about the constitutional crisis of 1988, the Malaysians present refused to accept the scapegoats that Mahathir mentioned. For those who were old enough, it revived visions of the Mahathir’s “It’s someone else’s fault. I was not responsible” syndrome, for which the former PM is famous.
A student told me that wanted to ask a question about Malay issues, but changed his mind, after deciding that he risked being made a target, on his return to Malaysia. Malaysia’s climate of fear is strong, 7,000 miles away. He was not even a scholarship student.
One member of the audience said, “Mahathir’s droning voice was like a cobra hypnotising its prey.
Whilst he was speaking, I felt reassured. This was short lived; as soon as the talk was over, I realised he was speaking hot air.”
If the event was a disappointment, it was partly the audience’s fault. Perhaps, the Malaysian culture of not wanting to be overtly critical, is strong.
It would have been interesting to see how Mahathir would advise Bersatu, to deal with religious extremism. It is difficult to effect change, when successive leaders, including Mahathir, have used religion to manipulate our behaviour.
In Malaysia, there is a risk that Islamic fundamentalism will spiral out of control. This time last year, he said that “The Quran says there is no compulsion in Islam. But Jakim wants to compel everybody to follow Jakim’s version of Islam.” So, will Mahathir help curb Jakim’s powers?
There were still many questions waiting to be asked, when the session was prematurely ended, despite being advertised as a two hour event. Malaysians felt cheated, yet again.
We will never know if the architect of Jakim, agrees that Jakim should be disbanded.
Perak mufti, Tan Sri Harussani Zakaria, once told the rakyat not to bother their religious leaders, the ulama and the National Fatwa Council, for their views on the 1MDB scandal.
Few non-Malays will would dare broach Islamic issues, for fear of “insulting Islam”. Even fewer Malays and Muslims want to be accused of being murtad (apostate). In Malaysia, very few people dare to confront the religious men.
In the end, we let ourselves down because “Kami nak jaga periuk nasi.”
Corruption is the root of our problems, and religion is used to protect corrupt politicians. When will we be prepared to make small sacrifices and take the muftis and politicians to task? We must do it for the sake of the nation.
Don’t blame PM Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Mahathir for ruining the nation. They would not have done it without your tacit collusion.
If Mahathir can break the mould, and work with the Opposition and Anwar, why can’t you break out of your self-induced mental cage?