Prof Dr. Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi
8th Sept 2015
I am writing as a concerned Malaysian and as a responsible Muslim against the overt threats of those I will refer to as the RSMM – the Red Shirt Malay Menace.
I have no idea what the official name of this group is, so I am using my academic licence to call them RSMM. Were this a Bahasa Malaysia article, I would dub them MMTM – Melayu Merah Tiada Maruah.
But strangely enough, this article is not about the RSMM but more about the deafening silence from the Malay political leadership, the Malay leadership of public universities, the Malay ulama who are muftis, and the Malay leadership in one particular political group which claims to be the sole warriors of Islam.
From the first day that the activities of this group were reported in the media and online videos showing them as ‘pahlawan’ or warriors getting ready for battle, I have kept a close eye on not their childish statements and loud bravado but on who amongst the Malay elites of this country holding the bastion of power socially, religiously and politically would say about this group and their more-than-clear intention.
Fair enough, some of these elites have considered the Bersih 4 rally an illegal event bordering on ‘biadab’ for allegedly marring our National Day events. What is totally unacceptable and unfair is that many of these elites seem to agree to the suggestion that the rally is a ‘Chinese-led’ protest against the sanctity of Malay and Muslim governance in this country.
Were these people blind to the many Malays who were at the rally? What is clear is that both the organisers and the participants were multiracial. Yes, there was more of one race than the others but even if there was the presence of one intelligent, moral and conscientious Malay, that would still make the rally a multiracial event.
What is clear from the pictures and videos, the RSMM organisers and participants are 100 percent Malays. How do I know this academically? Well they called themselves ‘Melayu’ and talked about defending ‘maruah Melayu’. Now I will not speculate on who actually were responsible for the posters showing bloody pictures of racial mayhem but that they were there in plain sight for many to see speaks volume of who the perpetrators might possibly be.
Where have they gone?
Now let us leave the RSMM to their dances of silliness and animalistic mimicry. Let us ask ourselves, where are the moderate and sane voices of the Malay elites?
First, let us ask ourselves where are the moderate and Islamically-sane voices of the many rich and powerful Umno elites strutting proudly in the corridors of power in Putrajaya? Where are the voices of the Malay menteri and timbalan menteri that number more than two bus coaches can bear?
Many were quick to point out about Bersih’s purported ‘illegality’ and ‘kurang ajar-ness’; where now are their voices against the RSMM and their obvious aim of ‘cari gaduh’. Where are the voices?
Or is it that our menteris and timbalan menteris are frightened that the Umno delegates would not vote for them if they utter any voice of sanity and love to hear them condemn non-Malays and spew venom on those Malays who loves their non-Malay brethren, be they Chinese, Indians, Christians, Buddhists or Hindus?
Many Malaysians like me are wondering whether these Malay elites should be given the serious responsibilities of running this country. For all their wealth, education and frequent trips to Mekah, I see a sorry state of leadership in our cabinet of Malay ‘warriors.’ Or perhaps these Malay leaders are waiting for a signal from their esteemed leader, the prime minister himself?
I think I do not wish to say anything about our esteemed prime minister because it is very hard to read him since he is always in his infamous ‘elegant silence’ mode. Anyway let us leave the PM as he seems very busy – the busiest I have seen in his entire career – giving speeches here and there and giving this and that to various groups of people.
What I learn is that a true leader must stand alone and be brave and conscientious enough to make a stand. What is the point of being a minister in the cabinet entrusted by the Agong and the hope of 30 million true Malaysians (minus the RSMM of course) if he or she does not even understand the basic and simply stated ideological statement of the Rukunegara – ‘Kesopanan dan kesusilaan’?
Perhaps Malaysiakini columnist KJ John can be persuaded to give ‘all of us’ a refresher course on the foundation and spirit of the Malaysian idea and constitution.
Closing of M’sian minds
This brings me to the Malay elites in education – the vice-chancellors and deputy vice-chancellors of the public universities. I have spent 24 years at a public university in Malaysia and have watched carefully and patiently what happens and what does not happen at our illustrious tertiary education bastions.
What happens is the call for more and more research and so-called ‘high impact publication’. What happens is the increasing demands for publications for promotion to the point that most of my friends have given up even to try to get them.
What happens is the shutting of gates, literally, to concerned Malaysian citizens trying to give an alternate discourse to students who are supposed to be the next leaders of our country. What happens is the last-minute cancellation of well-organised intellectual events to provide balanced perspectives on issues.
What does not happen is the encouragement of VC and and DVC to implore students to be more responsible for society and to embrace fairness and compassion. What does not happen is the encouragement of debates and discourses on different viewpoints on issues affecting the nation.
Minus these events, universities seem to be a place of training workers and not the training of responsible citizens and visionaries as well as compassionate leaders. Once, I even thought of writing an article titled ‘Public Universities in Malaysia: The Last Place to Learn Anything Meaningful’.
I tell all my children to attend the forums organised by bodies such as the Islamic Rennaissance Front (IRF), the Penang Institute, the Institute of Democratic and Economic Affairs (Ideas) or the Jeffrey Cheah Foundation, venued at Nottingham University Malaysia or Sunway University or the Global Movement of Moderates.
It used to be Universiti Malaya, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and International Islamic University that led the way for intellectual discourses but sadly these institutions have fallen into the hands of those with a small and race-prone vision.
Yes, public universities in Malaysia have produced many engineers, architects and doctors and lawyers who have made a good materialistic living out of their education. But after four decades, we are faced with the ridiculous and dangerous antics of the RSMM. Can this be said to be the product of our public universities – the extremism of some Malay graduates and the apathy of many others?
So I ask again, where are these voices of professors and academics entrusted with the education of our children, the next citizenry and leaders of Malaysia? Or perhaps these professors are nothing more than civil servants with the motto ‘saya yang mengikut perintah’. The success of my academic carrier has always been ‘Saya tak pernah ikut perintah … terutamanya perintah yang bodoh dan tak masuk akal.’
Finally, I wish to call on the voices of our religious scholars, the muftis, the professors of Islam and the leaders of the sole self-professed Islamic party, PAS. What I have heard in the media and more so in the Friday sermons are the condemnation of entities, individuals and events deemed anti-Islamic.
Funnily enough these are the same voices that are strangely muted in cases of corruption of leaders and dubious allegations of sexual misconduct. But more importantly, where is the moderate and magnanimous voices of those who claimed to be the spokesman of the Prophet Muhammad who were compassionate with many of his enemies? Where is the ‘representative’ of the Prophet who would always call on Muslims to be soft spoken and not blare their voices, which he says akin to ‘the braying of an ass or donkey’?
There was even a mufti who had proclaimed the ‘halal-ness’ of the blood of peaceful demonstrators but is completely silent on a group of Muslims baying for blood? I would excuse the Islamic party in this call to moderation because the party which could make women as a pledge of property should not even be given any dignity to explain their ‘elegant silence’.
With all this deafening silence, I charge that Malaysia is a failed state. Its institutions have failed the country, not the rakyat. The rakyat in general know what being a Malaysian is but there seems to be a question whether the Malay elites in the corridors of political, educational and religious power actually do understand the rudimentary ideals of Rukunegara. In this silence, I grade all these institutions an ‘F’. I am, however, willing to give them a supplementary exam, provided that they ask for it.
In closing, I wish to inform all the Malays who are good Malaysians and humble Muslims to join me at a seminar organised by Ideas at the Institut Integriti Negara on Sept 16. The opening speech will be given by Umno veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, followed by CIMB chairperson Nazir Abdul Razak.
I will go with my whole family clothed in white. Why white? White is the colour Muslims wear at the sacred ritual of umrah and hajj. It symbolises that we approach Allah without our worldly status and wealth and hoping that all our sins will be washed away. White is also our shroud in death where we hope to die without any feelings of vengeance and despair, but that we end our stay on this earth with compassion to all man.
I wish that all Malays who believe in the idea of a Malaysia with ‘kesopanan dan kesusilaan’ and Muslims who believe in humility and love of the brotherhood of man come to the seminar in the same white to contrast against the zealotry, bigotry and madness of the Red Shirt Malay Menace group and also against the deafening silence of the Malay-Muslim elites in politics, education and Islamic entities.
PROF DR MOHAMAD TAJUDDIN MOHAMAD RASDI is Professor of Architecture at UCSI University, Cheras.