Where my loyalties lie


If I were asked to choose between Pakatan Rakyat and Barisan Nasional I have no problems making that choice. If I were asked to choose between a Secular State and an Islamic State I have no problems making that choice as well. But if I were asked to choose between a Constitutional Monarchy and a Republic then you are placing me in a very difficult situation. I will have to choose the Constitutional Monarchy.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

I am certainly a Libran — I was born on 27th September. I would like to believe that I am also a libertarian. And what would one mean when one says he or she is a libertarian?

Libertarianism is a political philosophy that advocates free will and individual rights. The core doctrine of libertarianism begins with the recognition that people have certain natural rights and that deprivation of these rights is immoral.

Libertarianism can be traced back to ancient China of 2,600 years ago where philosopher Lao-tzu (Laozi) advocated the recognition of individual liberties. The modern libertarian theory emerged in the sixteenth century through the writings of Etienne de La Boetie, an eminent French theorist.

In the seventeenth century, John Locke and a group of British reformers known as the Levellers fashioned the classical basis for libertarianism with well-received philosophies on human nature and economics. Since the days of Locke, libertarianism has attracted pacifists, utopianists, utilitarianists, anarchists, and fascists. This wide array of support demonstrates the accessibility and elasticity of the libertarian promotion of natural rights.

Many Malays, especially those in PAS, consider me a deviant Muslim (they have told me so). They cringe when they read my article regarding Islam, which are certainly non-mainstream and stray from what many would describe as ‘fundamental’ Islam. Some Malays, in fact, even consider me a heretic, or worse, an apostate because of my unorthodox views on Islam.

I admit it is not easy to ‘marry’ orthodox Islam and libertarianism. Libertarianism is about free will and individual rights while Islam is about complying with the Sharia. And this is where one faces a clash of ideologies when one tries to be both a Muslim and a libertarian.

I have never hidden the fact that I am a libertarian at heart. My views on Islam, which I have espoused often enough, lies testimony to this. I confess that I am walking the very narrow path between being a Muslim and an infidel (kafir), as my stronger critics would say. But that is the path I have chosen for myself.

I was born a Muslim but for the first 27 years or so of my life I was a Muslim in name only. Even when I went to an all-Malay school, the Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK), I was never a practicing Muslim. I fasted because we were forced to do so but I did not pray because we were not forced to do so.

No doubt I had to go to the mosque every Friday but I went only because it was compulsory. That did not mean I prayed though (you can force the horse to water but you cannot make it drink). I merely chilled out (lepak) at the back of the mosque until it was time to go home.

As I said, for the first 27 years of my life I was a Muslim in name only (I have, in fact, written about this many times before). Then I ‘rediscovered’ my old friend from MCKK, Anwar Ibrahim, when he came to Kuala Terengganu to talk at a PAS ceramah (rally). Anwar was then heading ABIM, the Islamic Youth Movement, and had just been released from ISA detention.

And I fell in love with Anwar (who I initially disliked when I was in MCKK) and at the same time fell in love with Islam. It was then when I decided to become a Muslim or, as I have written many times before, a ‘Born Again Muslim’.

Within a few months I mastered the Quran (much to the amazement of my Tok Guru who said it takes years rather than just months to master the Quran). I started praying and fasting and even did the optional fast and prayers (to make up for the 27 years that I had missed as a fasik Muslim). Within a couple of years I did my first pilgrimage to Mekah, the first of about ten trips I made in all.

It was in Mekah soon after the Islamic Revolution of Iran when I met up with members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. I talked to them and joined their demonstrations while carrying pictures of Imam Khomeini. I was smitten by the Islamic Revolution and imagined the same thing happening in Malaysia.

I was now what many would probably label a Muslim militant or fundamentalist. But I was not a Shia, mind you. I was still a Sunni and held to my Sunni doctrine. But I began to question much of the beliefs and practices of Sunni Islam and considered Khomeini my hero and the Iranian Islamic Revolution my guiding light.

I suppose my exposure to other forms of Islam (where initially I was exposed to only one form of Islam) opened my eyes somewhat.

But my love affair with the Iranian Islamic Revolution soon ended when I saw the brutality and intolerance in Iran. The revolution just replaced one draconian regime for another. Basically, it was the same old wine in a new bottle. The situation in Iran did not improve from the time of the Shah. In fact, it became worse.

My love for Anwar Ibrahim also ended at around the same time when he joined Umno. I fell in love with him and ‘converted’ to Islam because of what he said and did as the ABIM leader. Then I saw that he was never sincere in his struggle and was merely using Islam as a political platform in his ambition to get ahead.

It was not until 1998 that I ‘returned’ to Anwar, mainly because of the ‘Black Eye’ incident and the ‘explosion’ of the Reformasi movement. After 20 years I, again, became committed to Anwar’s struggle for a reformed Malaysia and a libertarian or civil society. Nevertheless, I was still quite suspicious of Anwar because he has had a history of deviating from the struggle in the interest of his own political agenda.

For ten years until the 2008 general election I worked for Anwar’s party at a pittance of RM2,500 a month when I could have earned five or six times that in the corporate world. In fact, at that time I was a Chairman and Director of a foreign-owned company, which I had shares in, and I was paid RM10,000 each time just to attend and chair the meetings. But I gave all that up to serve the party because it was not money but the cause that drove me.

The year 2008 was a new milestone for Malaysian politics. The gains made by the opposition in that election convinced me that my sacrifice had not been in vain. The ten years from 1998 to 2008 were the most difficult years for me. I practically lived in poverty and survived from hand to mouth. My ‘mentor’, Datuk Kamarul Baharin Abbas, can testify to this because it was he who helped pay my monthly allowance, which just covered my living expenses with nothing more to spare.

After the 2008 general election, and when Pakatan Rakyat formed the new Selangor government, my good friend, Ronnie Liu from DAP, offered me various positions in the state but I declined all offers. First of all, the ten years I spent working for the opposition was not about being rewarded with positions of power. Secondly, my cousin was the Sultan of Selangor and I did not want to get on his wrong side by working for the Selangor government in the event that there is a crisis between the state government and the palace.

My anxiety was the result of a meeting I had with His Highness the Sultan in 2001 soon after I was released from my first ISA detention. His Highness made it very clear that he was not too happy regarding my involvement with the opposition. It was a two-hour meeting in the palace and His Highness did not hide the fact that he did not like Anwar or trusted him one bit.

Anwar is anti-Monarchy, said His Highness, and Anwar was very much with Tun Dr Mahathir Mohammad in attacking the Monarchy during the 1980s Constitutional Crisis. I knew that because it was widely reported in the mass media at that time. In fact, I have personally heard both Dr Mahathir and Anwar attack the Rulers so I had no doubts in my mind that both Dr Mahathir and Anwar are anti-Monarchy.

But that was when Anwar was in Umno and when Anwar was Dr Mahathir’s blue-eye boy and anointed successor. This is the new Anwar, the voice of reform. I believed, as many others did too, that Anwar had changed since his Umno days.

Then, in 2010, I met up with one of Anwar’s closest Chinese advisors and financiers and we had a long discussion. This meeting in London was about a year after I had left the country.

We discussed what Anwar had planned for the future in the event Pakatan Rakyat forms the new federal government. And what was revealed is most alarming. It appears that Anwar has not changed his anti-Monarchy stance at all. A future Malaysia with Pakatan Rakyat as the federal government had no place for the Monarchy.

Yes, I am a libertarian. I believe in a civil society. But I do not believe in a Republic of Malaysia and the abolishing of the Constitutional Monarchy.

This was when I decided to part company with Anwar and wash my hands of his cause.

If I were asked to choose between Pakatan Rakyat and Barisan Nasional I have no problems making that choice. If I were asked to choose between a Secular State and an Islamic State I have no problems making that choice as well. But if I were asked to choose between a Constitutional Monarchy and a Republic then you are placing me in a very difficult situation. I will have to choose the Constitutional Monarchy.

I was born in the UK, not in Selangor. However, in 1956, just a year or so before Merdeka, our family returned to Malaysia and on 2nd May 1956 my late father was declared a Subject of the Ruler of Selangor. Hence we are not just Malaysians or Selangorians. We are Subjects of the Ruler of Selangor.

Therefore, my loyalty is, first, to His Highness the Sultan of Selangor, second to the State of Selangor, third to Malaysia, fourth to Islam, fifth to the Malays, and finally to Pakatan Rakyat, in that order of priority.

Hence, also, I can no longer stand with Anwar and his cause when that cause runs contra to the cause of the Monarchy. That is a choice I made in 2010 and is a decision I will not change. And it is a choice I have a right to make under a democracy. After all, libertarianism is about free will and individual rights. So what I have chosen is what libertarianism guarantees.