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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Liberating Malay mind, unnecessary hoo-ha and nonsense!

Liberating the Malay mind

Open-minded people are usually more tolerant, and when you are tolerant you are also moderate in your actions and behaviour.

Open-mindedness started to disappear from the scene when we began to have indoctrination in our schools and universities. In other words, when politics and religion got into the class rooms and lecture halls.

LIBERATING the Malay Mind is the title of the book by Dr M. Bakri Musa, a Malay doctor who practises medicine and lives in California. Written in English and Malay, the book was published by ZI Publications.

The second edition will be launched on Jan 30 by another famous and successful Malay, Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz. As a Malay, I am proud to be associated with these two Malays whom I consider to be “open-minded”.

Open-mindedness is essential if we want to be a moderate and tolerant society.

Moderation is only possible if people understand the issues and are willing to talk about them openly. They can only understand difficult issues if they are willing to think rationally.

Being open-minded means that even if you think you are right, you know that you could be wrong, and you must therefore always be willing to consider other arguments and ideas.

Open-minded people are usually more tolerant, and when you are tolerant you are also moderate in your actions and behaviour.

An open-minded person is willing to engage in discussions and is generally flexible in his or her approach to things. Many leaders like the late Nelson Mandela, artists, writers and scientists attribute their success to their open-mindedness.

In Malaysia, Malays of my generation and those who are older are generally more open-minded than the present crop. This is partly because our educational approach was more focused on building skills such as reading, writing and thinking.

Science and the arts were subjects that had no socio-political dimension. They were studied purely to understand the physical world, culture and human nature.

Interpersonal relations were measured according to how we dealt with others as human beings, rather than which race we belonged to.

Success was measured by the level of skills we attained after years of schooling, and by the job skills we required to feed our families upon graduation. Back then nothing more than a bit of fun here and there got into our bloodstream.

Open-mindedness started to disappear from the scene when we began to have indoctrination in our schools and universities. In other words, when politics and religion got into the classrooms and lecture halls.

Education now includes courses on political awareness, and a heavy dose of religious instructions. If teachers and educationists do not exhibit some form of conforming identity or partisanship to “political and religious needs”, then they might not go far in their respective fields.

A new sense of historical perspective is also considered necessary. The biggest stumbling block to open-mindedness is, of course, education. Both secular and religious education in this country are not like those in the Islamic world of the 8th century.

Baghdad then was the centre of learning, and had the biggest public library in the world. Jews, Christians and Greek scholars of all faiths and creeds gathered to pursue knowledge without restrictions. It was never vacuous, mediocre and rigid, both in content and methodology, like what we have here today.

The culture of having an intellectual and pluralistic approach to understanding the world, including religious tenets, has not taken root.

In fact, such an approach is frowned upon and considered blasphemous. The state’s monopoly and control of religion is absolute.

The outcome is therefore predictable. Younger Malays are an angrier lot; they are less tolerant and moderate than older Malays. Just read their Facebook accounts and social media comments on any subject that is faintly controversial and you will appreciate what I mean.

They hurl abuse and make personal comments that have nothing to do with the subject matter in question. Extremism in their thinking is clearly visible.

They always see problems as if Islam and the Malays are under constant attack.

My concern in all of this is that the attributes these Malays/Muslims are exhibiting, besides being dangerous to the country’s peace and stability, are actually detrimental to their own well-being.

Their “enemies” – such as Chinese, Jews and the West in general – will continue with their ways and not be bothered with the tantrums thrown by these Malays.

They will continue with their educational and economic dominance. They will continue to make inroads in science and technology. They will continue to produce Nobel Prize winners.

What will become of these Malays? They will continue to be fascinated with ideas of violence and destruction, like the Islamic State teachings.

They will continue to adopt a rigid mindset which will make living in a multicultural 21st century setting more difficult. They can continue to listen to preachers and motivational speakers about how to defend their rights; but they will continue to be irrelevant because they will not be successful or dominant over things that matter.

They will not be able to truly develop the country and exploit its resources because they will lack the necessary know-how.

I am concerned that their frustrations over their own irrelevance will push them closer to those militants who blow themselves up. After all, suicide bombers are usually driven by their sense of helplessness, despair and alienation.

That’s why I hope more young Malays will read Dr Bakri’s book and attend the forum “Merdekakan Minda Melayu”, which will be held after the book launch.

I hope they will listen to what Rafidah has to say to find out what can make them more resourceful, and hopefully, successful.

One thing for sure though: they can only do that if they are prepared to liberate their minds from the toxic influences of the present.

By Zaid Ibrahim
all kinds of everything
Former de facto Law Minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim ( is now a legal consultant. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

Unnecessary hoo-ha and nonsense

Common sense has slowly been taking a back seat over the last few years, as people get hysterical over the most ridiculous things.

I don't understand why we are not ashamed to admit our faith is weak, and that we should constantly protect it. Others people don't seem to have ths same problems.

FOR a country that loves having laws to govern everyone’s beha­viour, we are very peculiar about ensuring that people follow them.

For some people, we bring the full force of the law to not only pu­nish them but to also set as an “example” to others.

For others, we sometimes wilfully ignore the law and let them do what they want.

Then there are the people who ignore court orders because they say it conflicts with some other law. Why they don’t get charged with contempt of court, I don’t know, but I don’t have to be a lawyer to think this is weird.

Then there are people who stretch laws to mean and do other things.

Like assuming that fathers are the only parents of a child and therefore what they say goes. (To the students to whom I was explaining what gender discrimination means today, there’s your example.)

Additionally there are people who make things up because it’s a law that only exists in their head.

A Muslim parent whose child goes to a Chinese school talked about how it was not enough for the religious studies teacher that there is halal food available in the canteen, but that the Muslim kids had to sit apart from their non-Muslim friends as well.

Does she think that non-halal food can be breathed in?

Some people will undoubtedly say that children have a habit of sharing food and utensils so some may inadvertently eat some non-halal food.

But of course sharing even all-halal food isn’t very hygienic either and is something parents should teach their children not to do.

Thinking about this story, I rea­lise how common sense has slowly been taking a back seat over the last few years.

Some people can really get hysterical over the most ridiculous things.

The unnecessary hoo-ha over the eventually false story of pig DNA in chocolate comes to mind.

Then of course there is the obsession with the cross appearing everywhere.

Apparently if you live in a house where there is something that looks like a crucifix on the roof, you will change your faith as easily as you change your underwear.

It never ceases to amuse me how, while Muslims find it so difficult to convert anyone else, all it takes to convert a Muslim to some other religion is the sight of a crucifix, a statue, hearing a song, drinking some water and even, as I was once privileged to be told, looking into the eyes of the Pope.

Our faith is a delicate thing, which we hang on to by the thinnest wisp of a thread, vulnerable to whatever “infidel” breeze might blow our way.

As it happens, I spent 12 years in a Convent school where there were crucifixes everywhere inclu­ding a giant one on the roof of the school.

Not a single one of the Muslim girls who studied there has left the faith. But maybe our generation are stronger than the people today.

I don’t understand why we are not ashamed to admit our faith is weak, and that we should constantly protect it.

Other people don’t seem to have the same problem.

I talk to young foreigners about the practice of Islam in Malaysia very often and, as far as I know, none have converted yet.

I may have dispelled some stereotypes about Muslims however, particularly the one about us having no sense of humour.

Logic is not our strong point either.

I saw a video where a uniformed man was briefing some academics on how to spot terrorists.

He talked about their distorted beliefs about religion and their lite­ral reading of the Quran.

I thought he was doing a fair job until he decided to give some examples of people to be wary of.

All of a sudden, he cited some of the most progressive people in the country as those most dangerous.

The sheer illogicality was breathtaking. I think even the terrorists would be puzzled, because the very people he mentioned in the same breath as terrorist ideology are not exactly popular with the angry, head-chopping, bearded crowd either.

The people wreaking havoc in Syria these days don’t believe much in women’s rights, for example.

So does it make sense to label women’s rights advocates as terrorists?

But maybe the illogicality and nonsense are deliberate. Our people tend to look up to those in authority so perhaps when they say that black is now actually white, and good is now bad, we will simply believe it.

That approach assumes that our people are all mildly intelligent, of course, and have shaky values to begin with. But it seems to work.

Maybe ultimately that’s the only thing about how we are governed that makes sense.

By Marina Mahathir musings

Marina Mahathir is a human rights activist who works on women, children and HIV/AIDS issues. The views expressed here are entirely her own.

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