Teluk Intan and Islamic values

Leaders come in all ages, colours, shapes, sizes and ideologies, but the criteria of a good leader always remain the same. That’s all that counts.

Zaid Ibrahim

The all-embracing and most-used expression in Malaysia is “Islam and all its values”. Every time our leaders and public officials open their mouths, they will not miss making a reference to religion: everything we do, every word we utter, every policy we make, and every law we have passed must not violate or be inconsistent with Islamic laws and values.

In my school days the values we were taught were universal values—values that humanity by and large accepted as “good” values, and our earlier leaders developed the Rukun Negara as unifying principles for all people of this country.

In the Rukun Negara we are told to believe in good morality; in the sanctity of the Rule of Law and the Constitution; and the respect for the rights of all citizens, among other things.

Today, under the wise leadership of UMNO leaders, Malaysians are told to abandon these values. In place of the Rukun Negara we have Islam and Islamic values. Listening to these leaders and their “Islamic” mantras, it would appear that “being Islamic” (as defined by them) is more important than being human.

Let’s look at their antics in Teluk Intan.

When Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud was selected by the DAP as its candidate for the coming Teluk Intan by-election, the UMNO machinery went into full swing accusing her (among other things) of being a tool of the racist DAP and warning that she would be dumped in the mud one day when the DAP was done “using” her.

UMNO has described her as a traitor willing to sell her “race” by helping the DAP. Some even asked her mother (a member of UMNO) to be sacked from the party.

As a Muslim, I feel ashamed that these virulent attacks on the poor girl are being launched by UMNO. As such, I’d have thought that good Muslim leaders such as Dato’ Sri Najib Razak and Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin would not remain silent.

Unfortunately, that’s what they’ve done. They do not feel it necessary to put a stop to unwarranted personal attacks that have no part in any modern democracy, Islamic or otherwise.

Najib and Muhyiddin should not sit quietly and allow this violent political culture to take centre stage for all the world to see. As leaders of Malaysia and the champions of everything “Islamic”, this political debauchery should be condemned. But they have done nothing.

Are they not ashamed that they are seen to be condoning gutter politics? Are they not embarrassed that Indonesia, a much younger democracy and a much economically poorer Muslim nation, has not found it necessary to resort to personal attacks in its recent political contests? In fact, Indonesians have shown great restraint and political maturity in the way they’ve behaved during their general election.

Their Election Commission is a useful arbiter and referee between competing candidates. The Commission has powers to disqualify any party or candidate engaging in direct personal attacks, which includes the “defamation of any individual, religion, ethnic group, racial group, community, candidates and other electoral contestants” (See Article 86 of Law 8, 2012 on Legislative Elections).

Indonesians have a culture and a history to protect, and democratic elections are not meant as free-for-all avenues to humiliate one’s opponents. Instead, Indonesians are advised to use their good judgment in selecting the leaders of their choice.