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M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

My Photo
Location: Morgan Hill, California, United States

Malaysian-born Bakri Musa writes frequently on issues affecting his native land. His essays have appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek, International Herald Tribune, Education Quarterly, SIngapore's Straits Times, and The New Straits Times. His commentary has aired on National Public Radio's Marketplace. His regular column Seeing It My Way appears in Malaysiakini. Bakri is also a regular contributor to th eSun (Malaysia). He has previously written "The Malay Dilemma Revisited: Race Dynamics in Modern Malaysia" as well as "Malaysia in the Era of Globalization," "An Education System Worthy of Malaysia," "Seeing Malaysia My Way," and "With Love, From Malaysia." Bakri's day job (and frequently night time too!) is as a surgeon in private practice in Silicon Valley, California. He and his wife Karen live on a ranch in Morgan Hill. This website is updated twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays at 5 PM California time.

Sunday, March 05, 2023

Prime Minister Anwar's Confident First Hundred Days - First of two Parts

 Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s Confident First Hundred Days

M. Bakri Musa


First of Two Parts:  The Right Focus


Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s confident first hundred days have shifted the political chatter. Now it is no longer on when his unity government would collapse rather in a perverse twist that none had predicted, speculations are on the opposition parties. The Anti-Corruption Agency (MACC) had frozen Bersatu’s accounts and interrogated its top leaders. As for Anwar, by the time Parliament met for the second time on February 13, 2023, his two-third majority was unchallenged.


            With MACC emboldened, Malaysia may well see two of her last three Prime Ministers joining Najib in jail for corruption, one spared only because of his age or perhaps divine intervention. Leaders of PAS are also on MACC’s radar screen as its leader Hadi Awang has difficulty distinguishing bribery from sedekah(donations). To him the loot of corruption is but borkat (bounty from Allah).


            In a display of political courage and strategic astuteness, Anwar had called for an early vote of confidence in Parliament. The opposition, caught flat footed, cowered down. It is telling that neither the head of PAS nor Bersatu wanted to be Leader of the Opposition, punting that onto a nondescript third-rate politician with a prurient past, Hamzah Zainuddin.


            When Hamzah dragged up in Parliament some old allegations on Anwar posted in an obscure Italian online portal, Anwar curtly dismissed Hamzah’s long droning oration by quoting Macbeth, “ . . . [A] tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”


            The image captured by Parliament’s camera on Hamzah’s face at that moment was priceless – his deer-caught-in-a-headlight befuddlement, a pathetic idiot’s look.


            Malaysia’s pressing problems are entrenched corruption, intolerant Islamism, and failing institutions, each aggravating the other two. The continued deterioration of our national schools and public universities is an embarrassing and constant reminder of the third challenge. Anwar’s laser-like focus on the first – corruption – is spot on. The strengthening ringgit reflects this.


            A strain of corruption, unacknowledged and impacting only Malays, is the degradation of our great faith. To many Malays, Islam is but the endless collecting of religious brownie points through performing mindless rituals instead of doing good for the community. The late Algerian philosopher Malek Bennabi had a penetrating observation on this. “The gravest paralysis is the moral one. Its origin is known:  Islam is a perfect religion. No one challenges this truth, [and] it follows ...  another proposition:  ‘We are Muslims, therefore we are perfect’ ... which neutralizes the quest for perfection.”


            “The Islamic ideal,” Bennabi went on, “... has succumbed to vanity and self-sufficiency … with believers [believing] themselves to have achieved perfection by praying five times a day without seeking to better [themselves] .... [Worse,] they become the society’s elites.”


            As for our Prophet, s.a.w., we are content with endless singing of his praises and having massive rallies on his birthday, but fail to emulate or internalize his many sterling qualities.


            Anwar’s Islam is a refreshing and much needed contrast – a humane, inclusive, and tolerant one, focused on the Qur’anic imperative al-amr bi-l-ma’ruf, wa-n-nahy ‘ani-l-munkar (Command good, forbid evil). His aggressive campaign against corruption, Malaysia’s greatest blight, reflects this.


            Prime Minister Anwar should also continue his aggressive libel suits against those pseudo ulama with their slanderous charges against him. The recent public humiliation of Perak PAS Chief Razman Zakaria with his court-ordered public apology to Anwar is case in point. A few more such suits would defang these bigots. Anwar should take it as a compliment, and others a warning, when he was labelled “father of lawsuits” in parliament recently.


            Symbolic as well as substantive, Anwar has turned Seri Perdana, hitherto the Prime Minister’s official residence, into a center for intellectual discourses. Expand the topics beyond Islamic and Malay Studies. Emulate the ancient Bayt al Hikmah (House of Wisdom) of the Abbasid era by inviting for example, a virologist or epidemiologist to talk on Covid-19.


            What a worthy legacy if Anwar were to turn Seri Perdana into Wisma Pencerahan, Citadel of Enlightenment, eternally shining its bright light throughout the nation, inviting all to be guided by it!


Next:  Second of Two Parts:  Malaysia Finally Facing In The Right Direction 


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