M. Bakri Musa
I enjoy giving talks to Malaysian students. It is invigorating to be with the young; their passion, enthusiasm and idealism do rub off on me.
My hope is that when they become leaders they will hold as role models the likes of Hang Nadim and Hang Jebat, and emulate the giants in our history like Munshi Abdullah and Datuk Onn. I also hope that they will be as innovative as Ungku Aziz and Raja Petra, and like them, not be trapped by the conventional wisdom. Most of all I hope they will be as diligent and resourceful as Badri Muhammad.
In my advice to students, I remind them that their future is in their own hands. No one, not their parents, advisors on campus and the embassy, or sponsors back home, knows what is best for them. I tell these students that those other people may be sincere when offering their advice but they have not traveled the same path you have taken or experienced the challenges you have faced.
Most of all they will not be the ones to bear the consequences of your decision. By all means listen to their counsel, but in the end the decision is yours. About all the others could do after offering their advice would be to also offer you their prayers and best wishes. They should support, not veto your decision.
I claim no originality to that piece of advice. This was what my late father passed on to me. I have found it useful, hence my sharing it. We all wish our young to have calm seas ahead and fair winds behind. However if they do encounter the inevitable squalls, they should be ready to trim their sails and batten their hatches. As for the swells, they should have their surfboards ready to ride the waves and take in the exhilaration!
That is what a free mind does; turns adversities into opportunities. Suharto imprisoned Prameodya Ananta Toer, but only his body. His mind was free, free to craft his world-acclaimed Buru tetralogy. He created his own freedom. That is what we should all aspire to.
Likewise when Hamka was imprisoned, also by that goon Suharto, he wrote his multivolume and authoritative Tafsir Al Azhar, a commentary, not a translation of the Holy Koran. In his later years Hamka would muse that had he not been imprisoned he would probably have not written that Tafseer as he would be too busy giving lectures and khutbas!
As a coda I quote our great poet Usman Awang; he said it best in the last-but-one verse of his poem, Melayu (Malay), on the essence of a free mind.
Jangan takut melanggar pantang
Jika pantang menghalang kemajuan;
Jangan segan menentang larangan
Jika yakin kepada kebenaran;
Jangan malu mengucapkan keyakinan
Jika percaya kepada keadilan.
Fearlessly breach the fortress
If it blocks your progress!
If needed, be brusque
In pursuit of the truth.
Be unashamed of your conviction
Let justice be your declaration.
There are so many larangans (obstacles) in the life of a Malaysian today. We must menentang (oppose) them if we yakin kepada kebenaran and percaya kepada keadilan (have faith in the truth and believe in justice).
Kemajuan (progress), kebenaran (truth) and keadilan (justice); a free mind will hold those in high esteem and vigilantly guard against those who would erode or corrode those pristine values.
Adapted from the author’s book, Liberating The Malay Mind, published by ZI Publications. The revised second edition was released on January 30th, 2016.