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The ‘Madani’ failure!

If the government does not show leadership in quelling controversies, then it is effectively leaving it in the hands of bigoted politicians


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We have been moving from one crisis to another.

It started with socks and then moved on to shoes and now prayer mats.

Insensitivities crop up now and then, but then again, such things happen in diverse societies. No one community can claim it is more ‘sensitive’ than others.

What is sad in Malaysia’s case is that after six decades of independence with inter-ethnic unity as the cornerstone of its development policies, we do not seem to have moved towards greater understanding. Neither do we have in place systems and processes to deal with inter-ethnic and inter-religious crisis management.

Polarisation continues despite the slogans and visions. Those who continue to play the race card betray the trust of the people of Malaysia.

Many areas of life – education, healthcare, the civil service, the armed forces – are dominated by one ethnic group. Perhaps a sprinkling of ethnic minorities here and there to exhibit some diversity.

With little or no interaction, our society lives in ethnic ghettoes, and this is most evident in politics. After all and sadly, it is the ethnic card that often delivers the vote.

Unfortunately, we do not have leaders who have the capacity to lift the national agenda and articulate policies and processes that can create a more cohesive Malaysian society.

Yet, the sands of change are evident. Today, we have a “unity’ government”, a motley combination that provides checks and balances at times or even discredits itself on other occasions. Paradoxically, this combination provides a ray of hope for the future.

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The one hopeful segment is civil society. Here you will see groups of concerned folk championing reforms, defending human rights, struggling for social justice, speaking out against poverty and advocating for migrant workers.

But sadly, “Malaysia Madani” (civil and compassionate Malaysia) is fast becoming another slogan – just like Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s “Bersih, Cekap, Amanah” (clean, efficient and trustworthy) administration. It turned out to be hot air that did not make any difference, but only added to the number of scandals that discredited the regime.

The way the Madani government handled the recent crisis relating to socks bearing the word “Allah” disappointed many.

Who in the present government displayed qualities like respect, trust and compassion – not to mention sustainability, prosperity and innovation?

Perhaps the Madani government ought to set up a people’s consultative committee that draws on the diversity of the nation. This committee could serve as a crisis management group that could respond immediately to delicate issues.

I dare say most people today are more committed to peace and forgiveness than many of the politicians, who seem to have a divisive agenda.

It is in the nature of diversity that difficult issues will arise. But if we have respect and trust, controversies can be resolved.

If we don’t have such a crisis management group, then we are leaving it to a tiny group of bigoted politicians. These politicians are only waiting for such opportunities to exhibit their stupidity.

I was disappointed when Religious Affairs Minister Na’im Mokhtar said that a recent statement by the MCCBCHST, a committee which represents the main non-Muslim faiths, was misleading and could cause disharmony. The committee had expressed concern over proposed amendments to the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, known as Act 355.

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I had greater expectations from the minister, especially as he represents the Madani government. What would it have cost him to invite the group for tea with them and listen to their perspectives?

This would have been an opportunity for him to show that the Madani government is not about playing politics but on engendering trust, respect, friendship and understanding.

Imagine what this would have done to the government’s credibility and the minister’s own commitment to the notion of Madani. Otherwise, Madani would be just another slogan that makes no difference.

The minister needs to step outside his boundaries and inspect the feelings of the minorities. He could have met the MCCBCHST and assured them the amendments would only affect Muslims and that any changes would be within the framework of the Federal Constitution. That would have been a positive step.

The minister could have listened to their fears and insecurities. Dialogue is the key and he missed an opportunity. Perhaps for him as well, Madani is just a political slogan. He must appreciate that there have been enough legal cases that have caused concern among the religious minorities.

This government must walk the talk. Unless its ministers and leaders show what it means to earn respect, trust and compassion, Madani will remain another hollow slogan.

It is not asking too much for the government to take the initiative and listen to alternative views. Even if nothing is achieved, at least dialogue has taken place and both sides acknowledge their positions. We do not want a top-down autocratic approach, as has been the case for decades.

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It is a sad day when interfaith issues remain unresolved in Malaysia. As Emeritus Professor Osman Bakar so clearly elucidates in his paper on interfaith and inter-civilisational dialogue: “Ethnic and regional pluralism was a contemporary issue for the Prophet (PBUH) because his vision was, among others, to create out of the Arab pluralism a model of multi-faith and multi-ethnic living founded on spiritual principles that future societies could look back upon for inspiration.”

We must move from the agenda of you, me and them to one of harmony, as we share a common humanity. This is the leadership we expect from this Madani government.

Its failure in the recent ‘socks’ debacle shows us how many of them are really committed to the Madani vision. The PM should personally conduct further training for his ministers in this area.

If the government does not show leadership in quelling such issues, then it is effectively leaving it in the hands of bigots and stupid politicians. These people have no issues relevant to the people to champion. Instead, they hide behind the mask of religion and expose their hypocrisy.

The key question to ask is, is Madani for real?!

K Haridas
Co-editor, Aliran newsletter
15 April 2024

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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K Haridas
K Haridas, an Aliran executive committee member, is the current honorary secretary of the Business Ethics Institute of Malaysia, chairperson of the Association For The Promotion Of Higher Education In Malaysia and chairperson of the Malaysian chapter of Initiatives of Change International.
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A Rakyat 8
21 Apr 2024 4.16pm

“I can’t be as aggressive as I used to be, says Rafizi ” by Mohamad Fadli dd 21 Apr 2024, 02:04 PM



Were you thinking the same way when you were in the Opposition? You and your political party, along with the PH coalition, were very vocal in criticizing and condemning the ruling government at that time.

Did you consider that the ruling government, under PM9 and PM8 and their predecessors, may have had to “bear more responsibility” and take into account “other factors” when governing, much like you are currently saying and doing as part of the government?

So, why the hypocrisy now?

Mano Maniam
Mano Maniam
17 Apr 2024 9.42pm

Totally agree, Haridas!!!

17 Apr 2024 9.51am

And we await with bated breath for the PDRM to conclude their investigations into the three molotov cocktail bombing resulting from the Allah-sock issue.

I guess we will have to wait a long, long time for the investigation to conclude.

15 Apr 2024 5.14pm

The Madani Government has been contemptuously sabotaged continuously since day one. Go do the maths and understand why more the need to support it.

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