A few months after GE14, I wrote that Islam would be the battle front of the next elections to come.
No one paid heed to my concerns and warnings.
In the same article and a few after that, I urged the PH government to be concerned about what was being said in mosques and in WhatsApp groups, and again I was ignored.
Then I wrote and said publicly that Mujahid Rawa should retrain religious clerics overseas in countries where Islam was the minority, and let these clerics pursue postgraduate courses in anthropology, communication and other social science subjects to become more humbled and progressive in their outlook of spirituality and global concerns like the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nation.
Again, I was ignored.
For me, Islamic conservatism will destroy Malaysia and the only way to save this country is with religious clerics armed with modern and progressive teachings of the world in a wider and inclusive construct. Nothing else will help Malaysia.
In Saudi Arabia, the UAE and a few other rich Arab nations, some kind of modernity in thinking about what I was saying has now come to pass.
These countries are governed by an authoritarian rule and they can switch their societies on and off with the flip of a button.
But Malaysia is a full-fledged democracy after the fall of Tun Mahathir’s Umno at the feet of a battered leader handcuffed and bullied by a gangster Chief of Police.
Now the prisoner of conscience of Malaysia has become the Prime Minister and he is set to change the country, or else the country might destroy him without the machinations of Tun M or Umno.
Why? Because Tun M is a weak force after his humiliating defeat in GE15, and Umno too has lost its shirt and now has to rely on others to be in government.
The enemy of Malaysia is now the ignorant conservatism that is taking over everything from rainbow-colored watches to words in Arabic deemed special only to one race.
When Anwar became PM, I knew that he will do his very best to turn on the most powerful weapon in his arsenal, his will to change Malays into a Madani Islam and Malaysia into a civilizing force of economy, sustainability and dignity.
Anwar’s book, The Asian Renaissance, published a few years before his incarceration, spells of a new approach to human progress using religion, tradition and modern progressive ideas into a blend of a humane living system.
But to bring Malaysia and Asia to that level, the old conservative ideas of religion of many people, especially Muslims in Indonesia and Malaysia, must be brought into the modern world.
It will require vision, realpolitik, and shrewd strategies to manage this to happen.
Good Samaritans in civil society who know nothing of realpolitik are concerns that may derail this plan.
Thus, we can see that Anwar is slowly turning the mosques into his battleground of ideas.
The mosque is the Islamic entity that governs much the thoughts and values of Muslims, even though the TikTok and YouTube ustazs now pose a great challenge to this once single great influence.
The recent reading of the Friday sermons by a few journalists allowed and encouraged by the Perak Sultan signals the idea that Islamic spirituality transcends the mosques and the clerics but lie in the realm of critical and responsible reporting as well as analysis of news and ideas.
Malaysians may feel a bit uneasy with so much attention now to religion in politics, but that is how the affair of this nation will fair in the next decades.
If Anwar is not managing the ideas of Islam, then someone else will, someone like Hadi Awang and Mahiaddin.
The alternative Islam is an Islam that would totally destroy Malaysia.
Now, some Malaysians feel that they are at a “lose-lose” scenario but they have been listening to some civil society personalities that can’t survive two days in the PM seat.
These critics can criticize everything into negatives but they do not have the solutions, nor do they possess the political requirements of dealing directly with the Malays in this country.
The Malays will not be swayed by non-Malays or “liberal” minded Malays living somewhere in the UK and do not share the values of a simple Malay middle class values.
I have also written that when Friday sermons can talk more about the sustainable development goals of the United Nations to bring about a fair and just world, then the civilizing force of Islam will be complete and conservatism will forever be held at bay.
What is the price of a few rainbow-colored watches that can be purchased online compared to the management of the country by a group that would place only one race and one faith as the decider of everything?
The mosque and Islam are the key to a new Malaysia not because it seems to be heading towards a theocracy, but it is a necessary pathway to a civilizing nation framed within a humanistic religion from its origins of 1,400 years ago.
This country has changed much for the better or for the worse. Ignoring the changes in the Malays is the biggest mistake a citizen can make. Ignoring the role of Islam as a force that can be both liberating and empowering is also another mistake.
Wishing for Malaysia to be back in the 70s state is no longer an option.
To ensure that the new force of Islam becomes a plus-plus for Malaysia, Malaysians of all faiths must play realpolitik and watch the flow of issues and concerns with a politician’s eye and use their words and votes in a measured manner to influence the future.
Anwar has spent the better of 50 years to prepare for this role of bringing Muslims to a new consciousness that would help establish a more harmonious coexistence between faiths and cultures.
You and I can’t do it. This role is for him and we Malaysians can play a complementary role to make this happen. If not, the mosques of Malaysia and Indonesia will be filled with millions of Muslims with a narrow view that will make enemies with everyone.
This battle between an Islam of Consciousness and an Islam of Conservative Ignorance has taken place in Asia. It will require wisdom, patience and a far-sighted vision for all of us to decide to walk with which army.
There is no future in choosing the wrong side or to choose no side at all.
(Prof Dr. Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi is Professor of Architecture at a local university and his writing reflects his own personal opinion entirely.)