Twenty four years had passed since I sat down beside a monsoon drain staring with unbelieving eyes at the big headline of Anwar’s arrest with balaclava-clad commandos pointing sub-machine guns.
Twenty four years of reading Harakah, praying to Allah, trudging through muddy padang listening to ceramah after ceramah by PAS and PKR big guns like Hadi Awang, Saifuddin Nasution and Azmin Ali, and looking for that spark of hope about an incarcerated man whose only sin was to stand up against another man using public funds to bail out his son.
Twenty four years that saw my whole academic career to retirement, that saw three lovely and blessed grandchildren born of my eldest and after one heart procedure that extended my life five years later.
Twenty four years of writing and speaking and writing and reflecting, and praying and arguing with my wife about writing concerning what the hell is wrong with this country.
Mine was a shattered dream of a Malaysia governed by the two most visionary leaders that this country had produced; one was brazen, well read and articulate about modernization and progress while the other was spiritual, well read and ready to take Malaysia at the world stage of being a moderate and progressive Muslim nation that would be the arbiter of nations in conflict about money, territory and spirituality.
Twenty four years that finally saw me staring at the piece of paper that said Saluran 2 next to my sixty-year-old face of my IC. I was 36 years old when my faith in my country was destroyed.
As I sat on the plastic chair waiting for my turn to vote in the made-up tent in the Skudai playground where I used to live in Johor, I reflected on the fate of this nation.
Will Anwar have his final chance to reset this country or will this country go to those who use race and religious rhetoric as easily as they breathe and then hold up their hands after that with the tired old answer, I was misquoted and taken out of context?
Sins have no meaning to these people and now a religious party has taken over Umno as the prime sinner of religious provocation to win votes.
Unfortunately, I know that this kind of provocation works with the Malays who have been trained in public universities and colleges.
After casting my vote, my wife and I drove back home to Kajang with my son in the driver’s seat who cast his vote for the first time in his 25-year life.
All along the jammed highway that took us seven long hours to reach home, I prayed, please God, let tomorrow be the last day of Reformasi. I do not think I could last another five years of carrying the burden of resetting the country.
That was why I wrote, What the dawn may bring.
I knew that it would be a hung parliament and I thought that it was time that BN learned its lesson and joined with PH for the redemption of its sins to the people of Malaysia.
Zahid was trapped in a corner, but I wanted him to survive because others in Umno were ready to play the game of race and religious rhetoric while robbing the country blind with another coalition using religion as the core justification for their evil deeds.
True to form, Rafizi delivered his promised 80-plus seats.
I knew that Umno attacking Umno was going to split the Malay votes to PN, but I did not know that the split was so much that PN has now arisen from the ashes of the Johor and Melaka affairs as a serious political rival.
Hadi’s statements about DAP communist, corrupt non-Muslims and even the threat of killing Malaysians by an actor speaking on his party’s platform did not sway the Malays but inspired them to hand the country to PAS and Bersatu on a silver platter.
Before the result came streaming in, I had called my friend and said I was worried about BN losing big. He laughed at my concern because he knew I was writing against BN for twenty four years.
A long time ago I said that if PAS got 40 seats this nation would literally fall apart. Robbing money is one thing but taking away our self-worth and dignity will render us lower than the worst-off beggars. PAS is that party that will deliver our self-destruct button.
I was a reformist Muslim and I know the best and the worst of what that means.
In the first ten years of Reformasi, the best of the Islamic reformist agenda kept me inspired and focused. The middle eight years saw me pause to relook at the Islamic reform agenda. But the last six years gave me a shock at how the reform agenda is used to dismantle Malaysia towards the vision of narrow-minded clerics and supported by ignorant Malays with college degrees and PhDs.
The end is in sight. The bad end for Malaysia.
When 70 Malay professors invited me to proclaim our trust in Anwar, I immediately accepted. Why? Anwar was accused of being a DAP cina komunis, a Jewish conspirator, a Christianization agent and a friend of Israel.
I knew Malays of educated background who never read a book on Islam would accept these accusations by ustaz like people with complete trust.
That is how ‘ignorant’ Malays are of their own precious religion.
They think it is a huge reward in defending Islam against the likes of this Anwar as opposed to helping poor and destitute people and children.
I said in the forum that I believe in what Anwar said in his book ‘Asian Renaissance’ that we in Asia have values from our cultural and religious traditions that can be reinterpreted and used to complement the ideas of progress, education and environment towards the model of humanity with physical wealth and compassionate peace cutting across identity politics, narrow religious constructs and geographical differences.
Anwar is the missing piece in the Malaysian political jigsaw that will finally produce not only a working model for Malaysia but a community for the world.
I believed that twenty four years ago, and I still believe it now.
I stand as a product of that book although I have never said two words of conversation with Anwar.
Although supporting his ideas of humanity brought us setbacks with my career, countless arguments with my wife and loss of friends and relatives, it has also brought my being to a center as a Muslim, a Malaysian and as a human being on this planet.
Finally, as we wait for the Yang di-Pertuan Agong in his wisdom to choose the next Prime Minister, whether Anwar becomes the PM or not, there is no changing of my twenty-four-year journey of my own RE-FOR-MA-SI…
(Prof Dr. Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi is Professor of Architecture at a local university and his writing reflects his own personal opinion entirely.)