Need for urgent transformation | The star
WHAT drives a respectable academic, never known to be controversial, at the age of 79, to write an explosive book chastising Malay and Muslim politicians for their corrupt practices and hypocrisy?
He is recognized for his academic excellence and his leadership. He served as the third rector of the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM). His best-known works focus on moderation in Islam from a Malay perspective and the concept of sejahtera from an Islamic perspective. He is also the editor and one of the contributors of an encyclopedia on the natural sciences from the worldview of the Quran.
Emeritus Professor Tan Sri Mohamad Kamal Hassan can’t take it anymore. The title of his latest book says it all, Corruption and Hypocrisy in Malay Muslim Politics: The Urgency of Moral-Ethical Transformation.
In the introduction, he confessed that he was very disappointed, appalled and ashamed by two major crises facing the nation: the deplorable moral decay in the field of politics and governance of the nation, and the widening of the internal divide within the Malay-Muslim community. for the past five years.
He is appalled that political hatred, defamation, slander, political assassination and act of treason (khianat) have been worsening since the last general election. He is also concerned that the “national integrity agenda” is being trampled under “the boots of ugly ethno-religious polarization”.
According to him, racially motivated political strategies and ethnic biases will continue to dictate the politics of mutual hostility on both sides of the political divide for many years to come.
He regrets that political stability and the direction of national politics are in the doldrums.
The word ’emergency’ is intentionally added to emphasize the need for ‘moral and ethical transformation’. Without the will to transform, our future is disastrous. He hopes the book will spark serious conversations about the need to end “the cancer of political corruption, the pandemic of hypocrisy and the resulting shameful disunity that has plagued the Malay-Muslim community”.
Some would say that’s easier said than done. The best a scholar of his stature could wish for is for the political elite to take heed. But he understands the current political atmosphere. We have those who are only interested in political survival and nothing else. Politicians are at the bottom of the trust scale.
Many leaders are in precarious positions as their parties are at the mercy of wiser voters. No coalition is formidable. Everything is decided in the name of political expediency. In such circumstances, the tendency to be corruptible is high. It’s about making hay while the sun is shining.
The victory of Pakatan Harapan (PH) in 2018 was an exhilarating event. But the jubilation did not last long. PH’s reform programs have been approached miserably. Many of the promised reforms were lost during the transition. Moreover, they have been betrayed from within. The rest, as we know, is history.
Professor Kamal has no solution to the ills of his society. He admits it. But he thinks that by pushing forward a serious discourse on the issue, it will at least get some attention, especially from sensible politicians and concerned civil societies.
Perhaps the critical mass would be galvanized to help make change possible.
As a Muslim scholar, he advocates the need for Malay Muslim politicians to follow the tenets of Islam.
Islam is against corruption and abuse of power. As for the word “hypocrisy”, he translates it as “kemunafikan” and not just “kepura-puraan” as it is normally used. Kemunafikan connotes a more serious meaning from the Islamic point of view. He calls on Muslims “to do something to put an end to social evils and unethical phenomena”.
He finds it perplexing that Muslim politicians can be blatantly unethical, corrupt and involved in bohong (lying).
“Muslims aren’t supposed to lie,” he said in a recent interview with me for Sinar Harian. “But it looks like it’s stupid of them not to.”
Unsurprisingly, the professor searches for a Muslim antidote to the problem. But that does not mean that he rejects everything imported from the West. He has nothing against democracy, but he is not in favor of contradictory Western-style politics.
In my interview, he didn’t even entertain the concept of “sistem politik Islam” (Islamic political system). As for the Malays, he thinks the contradictory politics has torn the very foundation of good Malay values.
His call for urgency is not unfounded. Political behavior and culture must change. He wants political parties to be led by “selfless, sincere, competent, tolerant and humble leaders, of high integrity, with a God-fearing character”.
A tall order, you might say. But why should it be otherwise?
Johan Jaaffar is a journalist, editor and for some years president of a media company, passionate about everything related to literature and the arts. And an avid rugby fan. The opinions expressed here are entirely his own.