What hope for Malaysia?

By Prof Dr. Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi

When Malaysians ask me whether there is any hope for this country, I am at pains to tell them honestly what I think. The academic part of me sees absolutely no hope while the citizen and spiritual part of me lights a small flicker of fire that is slightly stronger than a flint.

Watching this new government and the majority of one race supporting it making major changes and implications within only a span of nine months sealed whatever fate towards justice for all Malaysians.

I was most shocked that after so many decades of BN rule that saw the majority of one race (but it was 'balanced' by other races) making policies during the first six decades of governance, the accumulative actions of the BN is eclipsed in total by this young new coalition of desperado politicians.

That actually is not as shocking as the support it holds among educated and highly educated followers of one particular race and religion. Islam, that was once lauded to be the change agent of race issue now is a weapon of conservatism and institutionalized 'extremism'.

Muslims are taught to hate and despise alcohols, transgenders, adultery, progressive ideas, kafirs and non-halal products. Muslims are encouraged to support corrupt leaders, leaders who have commit crimes of murders and kidnappings by arguing that all these are either small sins or that all these acts were done to protect Islam.

I have seen not only how Muslims around the world act in issues of IS killings, I have also read sermons that made me conclude that we have fallen in a deep hole that has no end. An abyss of bigotry, ignorance and arrogance that will divide societies and has no where to go but serious social conflicts.

Many of my fellow Malaysians keep pointing fingers at politicians as the culprit of our present predicament. I have told them many times that the politicians cannot start a blazing fire of hatred and mistrust if there were no kindling to burn.

In Malaysia, the school, university and religious education curriculum have prepared that kindling in a way that it is the driest and can catch fire even with a small and minute speck of hot ash. There is nothing for Malaysia in the next century but to be burnt again and again.

Civil society thinks it is making a difference by making statement after statement to remind about justice for all, but their 'freedom of speech' action drives one race closer together to protect that race and religion from kafirs and liberals. The narrative is set.

I have 25 years of evidence to show that Malaysia has no hope if there is no game changing direction that is properly structured and strategized by the people. The civil servants will not help because they are part of the one race set to rule all at whatever cost.

The public universities that thrive on Malaysian's tax money with their so called research centers for better ethnic relation or progressive Islam contribute nothing to our social and political dilemma. In fact some of them, or even all of them contribute to the escalation of the problem.

I have seen the silence of these centers when racial and religious conflicts erupt. I see silence when extremist acts are perpetrated.

Yes, these centers may produce some interesting journal papers but none reach the public. An excellent paper I read once by several Malay academics proving the extremist methodology of Zakir Naik never reached the public perhaps because the authors fears backlash from Malay Muslim groups.

Academic truth matters little in public universities especially if it goes against the policies and attitudes of the sitting government. Public university leadership cares not for students or academics but their own personal climb up the greasy pole of titles and lucrative appointments. Forget the universities as they are not the force that can change Malaysia.

What then can be done?

If we Malaysians want to see serious and lasting changes in Malaysia, we will all have to roll our sleeves and work together to rebuild this country. When the PH took power for only two years, we can see the horrors of extremist communications among one group of people with the same race and religion. It was horrible. Change then must come from the root and if not it will destabilize any government seeking to give due justice for all. There must be no more kindling for any racial, religious or political spark.

I have been toiling for a decade with the idea of a center to train and inspire a small elite group of Malaysians into a strong bond of brotherhood of Malaysian citizenry. This center places a group of civil society idealist that will educate some 300 elite Malaysians of all races into a powerful band of 'ukhwah' or brotherhood.

These young Malaysians of under forties will receive a new curriculum of education of a shared history, a shared spirituality and a shared economic construct.

While receiving these education, these 300 will share their own family lives with all their brothers and sisters to the point of being a bond of 'saudara-mara' or relatives with a shared vision, philosophy and value system. Of the 300, one third of them will be specially trained in politics and organizational management so that they will be able to set up a new political party that will be acceptable to all Malaysians.

Another third will be trained to write and speak so as to be the opinion makers of the country using all the national medias and social media to bring messages across and counter cybertroopers bent on sowing discord. Being able to write eloquently and strategically is as important as being able to speak right through to the hearts and soul of the audience.

The other one third will be the educators and hands on activists on the ground reaching out directly to the young and old, to the uneducated and to the have nots. These are the community builders, a group of well trained NGO operators that would set the grounds for the political revolution to come. GE16 can be the beginning of this change.

The Akademi Ukhwah Malaysia is the game changer. Incidentally, I did not name this academy. A non-Malay, non-Muslim friend who was seeking a solution to Malaysia's nation building problem heard of my idea of the center and immediately, it was he who coined the term.

The word 'ukhwah' or brotherhood was a term that I came across in my USA days as a student being indoctrinated with the ideas and ideals of the Islamic Reformation.

As the Islamic reformation movement has now become a conservative and some has become an extremist force, I have abandoned those idealism. The idea of religion now to me is according dignity and having compassion to all mankind regardless of race or faith.

For the Akademi Ukhwah Malaysia to work, it needs talents, commitments and funding from Malaysians. The government, whichever it is to be, will never fund this. The public university will never support this idea. Only right thinking Malaysians who identifies with all Malaysians of all cultures can support this.

Finally, I see no hope for Malaysia except for this one restart button. Whatever we do now under the democratic freedom of expression will get us to nowhere but more deeply entrenched into the race and religious quagmire we are already in. We need to change the game plan and regroup to restrategize to win this all important war for our children and grand children. The Akademi Ukhwah Malaysia has lit the spark of hope. Only support from Malaysians can provide the necessary kindling that would turn this spark into a raging fire storm of change for this country.

(Professor Dr. Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi is Professor at a local university.)

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