(function() { (function(){function b(g){this.t={};this.tick=function(h,m,f){var n=f!=void 0?f:(new Date).getTime();this.t[h]=[n,m];if(f==void 0)try{window.console.timeStamp("CSI/"+h)}catch(q){}};this.getStartTickTime=function(){return this.t.start[0]};this.tick("start",null,g)}var a;if(window.performance)var e=(a=window.performance.timing)&&a.responseStart;var p=e>0?new b(e):new b;window.jstiming={Timer:b,load:p};if(a){var c=a.navigationStart;c>0&&e>=c&&(window.jstiming.srt=e-c)}if(a){var d=window.jstiming.load; c>0&&e>=c&&(d.tick("_wtsrt",void 0,c),d.tick("wtsrt_","_wtsrt",e),d.tick("tbsd_","wtsrt_"))}try{a=null,window.chrome&&window.chrome.csi&&(a=Math.floor(window.chrome.csi().pageT),d&&c>0&&(d.tick("_tbnd",void 0,window.chrome.csi().startE),d.tick("tbnd_","_tbnd",c))),a==null&&window.gtbExternal&&(a=window.gtbExternal.pageT()),a==null&&window.external&&(a=window.external.pageT,d&&c>0&&(d.tick("_tbnd",void 0,window.external.startE),d.tick("tbnd_","_tbnd",c))),a&&(window.jstiming.pt=a)}catch(g){}})();window.tickAboveFold=function(b){var a=0;if(b.offsetParent){do a+=b.offsetTop;while(b=b.offsetParent)}b=a;b<=750&&window.jstiming.load.tick("aft")};var k=!1;function l(){k||(k=!0,window.jstiming.load.tick("firstScrollTime"))}window.addEventListener?window.addEventListener("scroll",l,!1):window.attachEvent("onscroll",l); })();

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.

Monday, March 04, 2024

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim's Manifest Destiny

 Part Three:  Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s Manifest Destiny

M. Bakri Musa

Last of Three Parts


[In Part One I discussed the folly and destructiveness of our culture’s penchant for peraga (showing off) and the consequent discomfiting reality that a developed Malaysia has not resulted in a comparable status for Malays. In Part Two I suggested that Malays emulate the Irish Catholics of the 1950s in overcoming our current dilemma. In this third concluding piece, I posit that Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim is just the leader who could execute that for Malays. It is his manifest destiny to lead us to face our true qiblat (lit., direction for Muslim prayer; fig. new destiny).]


The greatest obstacle to Malaysia’s advancement is corruption. While its corrosiveness affects all, the burden falls disproportionately on those dependent on the government, meaning Malays. Prime Minister Anwar is making progress in fighting corruption but he still has a long way to go.


            Unlike corruption, the stifling stunting influence of the literalist medieval-minded Islamists and chauvinistic language nationalists falls exclusively on Malays. Non-Malays are of course insulated. Malay backwardness is in large part the consequence of the Islamists and language nationalists having undue influence on the government and on Malays. The so-called Malay problem is not, as many would have it, with phantom enemies like the West and pendatangs(immigrants). Blaming them may win Malay votes and advance one’s political career, alas that would not improve the condition of Malays. Pendatang or not and Muslim or not, we are all mahklok Allah (Allah’s creations).


            The Islamists’ answer to Malay backwardness is to belittle or dismiss worldly achievements. In one grand sweep they effectively disincentivized Malays. They forget that there would not have been the Golden Age of Islam and the faith spread far and wide had ancient Muslims been obsessed with the Hereafter. Heed the Malay wisdom:  Kemiskinan mendekati kekufuran (Poverty invites impiety). Our life and this world are Allah’s unique precious gifts. Embrace both and strive to make them better.


            The 8th Century Sufi Rabi’a Al Adawiyya was once seen running on the streets of Basra with a bucket of water in one hand and a torch in the other. When asked, she replied that she wanted to douse the fire of Hell and burn the Gates of Heaven so people will serve God only for His sake and not for fear of Hell or desiring Heaven. Serving humanity is serving God; obsession with the Hereafter is but a distraction.


            Today’s Islamists have also degraded our holy book by turning it into a magical amulet. Recite this verse and “Abracadabra!” your wishes would be granted or illness cured. To them, to excel in school is not by studying or listening to your teachers but by endless ratib and Tahajut prayers. Besides, they claim, only Allah can test you, not mere mortals like your teachers.


            The most consequential and detrimental effect on Malays and our faith is the state’s stamping its imprimatur on Islam. Whenever that happens, it is bad for the faithful, the faith, and society. It is this insight that led Turkey’s President Erdogan not to label his party or government as Islamic. This wisdom eludes Malay leaders.


            The language nationalists meanwhile have planted the destructive mindset that to learn English is to disrespect Malay. Worse, English is seen as but an instrument for “mental re-colonization.”


            The good news is that the language nationalists are fast losing their influence. Disrespecting our mother tongue or not, the number of Malays enrolling in Chinese schools is soaring. The recent Federal Court ruling that vernacular schools are constitutionally protected was as much a victory for non-Malays as for Malays. Meanwhile the Chinese are opting for “international schools,” a cover for English-medium instruction.


            That ray of hope (increasing Malay enrolment in Chinese schools) is eclipsed by a much bigger and more sinister development–the escalating number of Malays opting for the religious stream, from preschool to post-graduate level. That system indoctrinates rather than educates. English teachers not fluent in the language and ulama illiterate in Arabic are but the visible manifestations of a rotten system.


            Prime Minister Anwar is aware of these shortcomings. He is also the only leader who can “handle” these language nationalists and political Islamists, having himself earlier espoused those sentiments. He is now much wiser, having been tested and even battered, though not broken. Like well-tempered steel, Anwar is now stronger and more resilient.


            Anwar is an ardent admirer of the late Nelson Mandela. I suggest that a better model would be the late Pramoedya Ananta Toe whose long imprisonment made him an even better writer. Likewise, the gross injustices perpetrated upon Anwar have only made him better, wiser, and more determined. It is his manifest destiny to lead Malaysia, Malays in particular, to face our true qiblat. Only then could we make our rightful contributions to the nation.


            It would be political suicide for Anwar to curtail the religious stream or the role of Bahasa. However, he can make the former more responsive to the nation’s needs by emulating its counterparts in America. Church-affiliated schools there produce more than their share of scientists, entrepreneurs, and professionals. Only a tiny fraction of their graduates end up in the clergy class. As such those schools attract many non-Christians. Harvard started out as church-affiliated but today its Divinity School is but a tiny component. More to the point, many Muslim scholars have gone through its portals.


            Despite being started by Christian missionaries and not using Arabic, the American University in Beirut remains the intellectual crown jewel of the Arab world, the surrounding chaos notwithstanding. Likewise, the American University in Cairo; established in 1919 has long eclipsed the thousand-year-old Al Azhar.


            Ponder this. Had Malay sultans urged the colonials to set up a string of Anglo Malay Schools back then, as they did with Malay College, imagine the heights of our achievements! Likewise, had the sultans countered the ulama’s destructive take that attending English schools was tantamount to becoming a Christian! After all, many a royal scion attended those schools. The wives of the second and third Prime Ministers attended Convent Schools. Pendita Za’aba’s greatest lament was his father’s disowning him for attending an English school. It is this blatant hypocrisy of Malay leaders then and now that is the undoing of our community. 


            Today this destructive sentiment towards modern education, specifically learning English, is subsumed under the guise of not mentarbatkan (respecting) our national language. Imagine if we were to make national school graduates fluent in both Bahasa and English while at the same time increase the hours for STEM subjects! As for religious schools, ponder had the curriculum included more secular subjects, these schools could produce their share of the nation’s doctors, scientists, and engineers.


            These simple, effective, and much-needed measures do not need grand committees to implement them, only the will to initiate and competence to execute them. In Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia has just that leader.


Post a Comment

<< Home