Sometimes you could choke on the kind of compassion displayed publicly by certain politicians, especially at a time when common sense and decency tends to be uncommon these days.
As a response to public umbrage over the questionable medical treatment given to convicted former Prime Minister Najib Razak recently, Deputy Youth and Sports Minister Ti Lian Ker, reminded especially Malay-Muslim detractors not to be unduly harsh towards him.
It was claimed that Najib required physiotherapy at the Cheras Rehabilitation Centre for his ulcer-related problems – the kind of reason that baffled many people and reinforced suspicion that the hospital transfer was a ruse to provide Najib better facilities and environment.
Critics are also concerned that should preferential treatment be accorded, it would mean that the authorities are exercising double standards and, therefore, would be unfair to other prisoners. No one should be more equal than others.
To be sure, Ti invoked the spirit of forgiveness that is found in Islam and called for sympathy in dealing with a man who was convicted of stealing millions of ringgit from the public purse, which consequently deprived the people, particularly the poor and the needy, of state-funded development projects that could improve their living standards.
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For those living from hand to mouth, government assistance is essential, without which their survival is at stake and their human dignity trampled. In other words, there is a time and place for genuine compassion to be accorded to fellow human beings who truly deserve it.
You would think that Ti would, instead, be more amenable to the idea of having empathy and compassion for, say, a poor single mother who was jailed for having stolen beverages or a tin of sardines to feed her children. Ti could have considered offering some form of assistance to the children while their mother serves her sentence.
Not that stealing shouldn’t be considered a crime nor be left unpunished. The mother’s misdeed might have been driven by desperation, while Najib’s was apparently overwhelmed by greed and arrogance.
Now that Ti is keen on reminding Muslims to do what needs to be done, it is important to note that anyone who has committed a crime – especially one that has wide-ranging implications on the wellbeing of the common people (ie God’s creatures) and the nation – should seek forgiveness from the Almighty.
This, of course, requires remorse and repentance on the part of the wrongdoer, given the gravity of the misdeed on this Earth.
We would also expect the burden of guilt to cause the culprit to seek forgiveness from the very people whose lives have been adversely affected by such thievery and the resultant mounting national debt that has been forcefully placed on the shoulders of ordinary people living now and in the future.
What should also not escape us is that the malfeasance of elected representatives is indeed a heinous betrayal of the people’s trust.
Such thieving misbehaviour should not only be the concern of Malay-Muslims but also people of other religious persuasions.
Compassion, which is emphasised in Islam and other religions, compels us to work tirelessly to help ease the sufferings of our fellow beings. It is to be compassionate, for example, to feed and help the orphans.
That is why it is abominable and sinful, according to Islamic teachings, to steal from alms meant for the orphans and the indigent.
In contrast, it is not human compassion when crumbs of money are handed out to targeted constituencies in the run-up to a general election, especially if a portion of the national coffers has already been squandered. That is sheer bribery and an insult to human dignity.
It would be mischievous to turn compassion on its head. – The Malaysian Insight