Chang Lih Kang and I were privileged to meet British Muslim scholar Timothy John Winter @ Sheikh Abdul Hakim Murad. He is the Dean of the Cambridge Muslim College where imams are trained with the religious knowledge then exposed to leading scholars from Cambridge University.
Then we were honoured to visit (and pray Maghrib and Isha) at Cambridge Mosque Project the world’s first modern eco mosque and Cambridge’s first purpose-built mosque. It is not open to ths public yet. Ironically they did a test Friday Prayer on the day of the Christchurch attacks and the local non Muslim community came to give flowers to the mosque.
Sheikh Hakim has been the driving force of this project. About 10 years ago he came to Malaysia and I managed to get him to speak at Masjid Tengku Kelana Jaya Petra in my old constituency and we did a fundraising for this mosque project. Interestingly non Muslims too donated in in the building of the mosque.
Alhamdulillah, we were given a preview of the mosque from the man himself.
Last week, I was invited by Syed Kamall MEP, from the Conservatives to be a panellist at the European Muslim World Democracy Forum. My session was on human capital and education looking specifically on women and youths.
I began by talking about how Malaysia’s NEP stabilised its society and helped to create a Bumiputera middle-class.
This middle-class arguably assisted the movement for political change and reform in Malaysia, especially for parties like Parti Keadilan Rakyat.
However, there are certain anomalies that need to be addressed:
The problems that initiatives like the NEP created, such as corruption, but also entitlement.
Also, economic empowerment has not necessarily prevented youths—whatever their faith—from becoming radicalized. There have been countless terrorists, extremists and radicals from middle-class backgrounds.
The first problem can be addressed by continuing to pursue democracy and good governance in Muslim societies. It is wrong to say that these things are in any way inimical to the teachings of Islam.
The challenge is for politicians to win support and buy-in for these principles among Muslim constituents. This is the challenge facing Pakatan right now. But this is not a problem unique to Muslim polities. Look how American voters continuously tolerate corrupt Republican and even Democratic politicians in some states.
This issue hence requires nuance. Progressive politicians must show that good governance will benefit all peoples—both majority and minorities—as well as protect their dignity and status.
But economic justice is just one piece of the puzzle. Radicalisation among educated and middle-class youth often happens not because they feel poor or oppressed, but because they want meaning in their lives.
The key is persuading young people that voting, being in political parties and civil society as well as participating in policy debates can not only improve their economies, but also make their societies more equal, improve their sense of self-worth and genuinely build their nations.
What needs to happen is that the political class has to: a. Reduce the barriers to entry for politics for younger figures. b. Recognize that youth-driven political causes like environmentalism and universal basic income must now be in the mainstream of political discourse. c. Not scoff or trivialise the influence of social media on politics. We must fight against fake news, of course—but also recognize that Twitter, Instagram and Facebook etc. are serious factors in our democracies.
It is certainly not right for European countries to seek to clamp down on immigration or multiculturalism. We live in a world now where every country is being judged via the 24/7 news cycle and social media.
The West needs to live up to its own values—and it must also have confidence in its own civilization. It should not fear what immigrants do to their values: if Western civilization was really that strong, noble, enlightened and tolerant—all peoples who encounter it would embrace it regardless of their background.
I believe this can be the case. Alienation happens—both among Westerners and immigrants—when the West’s leaders engage in hypocrisy, double-standards or fail to live up to their ideals.
This is something that Asia also must live up to—including Muslim societies and also emerging powers like China – look at the situation of the detention of over a million Uyghurs.
We need all societies to remain open and to also be confident of themselves. At the end of the day, this can only happen with both justice at home and justice abroad.
The Wall Street Journal has alleged that officials from China told their Malaysian counterparts that it would use its influence to persuade other countries to drop 1MDB-related investigations in return for stakes in Malaysian railway and pipeline projects for the Belt and Road Initiative. It was also alleged that China offered to bug the Hong Kong homes and offices of WSJ reporters working on the 1MDB story.
More worryingly, it was also claimed that “secret talks” were held “…to let Chinese navy ships dock at two Malaysian ports”, although this apparently did not come to pass.
The report also noted that the Prime Minister at the time, Najib Razak had voiced support for China’s position in the South China Sea dispute.
If these allegations are true, it would suggest that the actions of the previous administration had seriously compromised Malaysia’s sovereignty and neutrality to protect certain political actors.
These claims must hence be thoroughly investigated, and stern legal action should be taken against the perpetrators if warranted.
Moreover, the government of the People’s Republic of China must come clean over whether these allegations are true or not. Merely denying by saying China does not interfere in the affairs of other countries is not sufficient.
I also hope that the Malaysian government will take positive steps to defend our legitimate rights over the South China Sea in light of these revelations.
NIK NAZMI NIK AHMAD KEADILAN ORGANISING SECRETARY KEADILAN CENTRAL LEADERSHIP COUNCIL MEMBER SETIAWANGSA MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT
Setiawangsa MP Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad speaks at the launch of his book ‘9 May 2018: Notes from the Frontline’ by Anwar Ibrahim.
The book is available at major bookshops and online at Youbeli.com for RM25.
9 May 2018 has now etched its place in Malaysia’s history as the day that the Barisan Nasional was finally brought down after 61 years in power. For Nik Nazmi 9 May 2018 was also a personal milestone, it was his first time standing in a general election at the federal level. At GE14 he stood for the Parliamentary seat of Setiawangsa, the only seat in Kuala Lumpur that Barisan Nasional had never lost, but in GE14 they finally did, as seats across the country swung towards Pakatan Harapan.
How did this happen? How did a coalition of parties which fell apart after GE13 manage to rebuild and take on a government willing to use all of the tools it could to hold onto power? In 9 May 2018 – Notes from the Frontline Nik Nazmi gives his behind the scenes take on the political developments in the opposition coalition from the disappointment of GE13 to the ecstasy of GE14.
Recalling the fall of the Pakatan Rakyat coalition and the founding of Pakatan Harapan he also gives first-hand experiences of the back room politics, the party conferences, the development of INVOKE, working with then former PM Mahathir Mohamad, as well as insight into the campaigns he worked on in Selangor and Setiawangsa, and in marginal seats from Perlis to Sabah.
More than anything 9 May 2018 – Notes from the Frontline is a first-hand account of what it was like to witness the birth of a New Malaysia.