Malaysia Uncut

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Rukunegara – Revisited

An old post in Malaysiakini, but as good as new. Read on:

Mar 17, 06 12:48pm

The present time is a period of fractious society, restive people, rising prices, greater and more urgent calls for transparency and accountability, for more tangible leadership.

There is still ground for reflection and moralising. When things go riotous and berserk, come back to the basics.

Come back to the national philosophy, the Rukunegara.

The government of late has indeed been trying to draw the rakyat’s attention to the virtues of the Rukunegara. I need not specify which government and political leader has been outstanding in championing this cause. I do say this though, that National FM ‘Segalanya disini’ is very active in this campaign.

This national philosophy contains many basic and universal principles of religion, democracy, human rights and pragmatism in human relations; all of them acceptable to all citizens of Malaysia, regardless of ethnic origin or religious affiliation.

The thinking principles of this national philosophy are as per the following list A:

1. Belief in God.

2. Loyalty to King and country.

3. Supremacy of the Constitution.

4. The rule of law.

5. Mutual respect and good social behaviour.

The thinking behind the national philosophy above will hope to yield the human ‘behaviour’ listed in the following list B:

1. Achieving greater unity for all.

2. Maintaining a democratic way of life.

3. Creating a just society in which the wealth of the nation shall be equitably distributed.

4. Ensuring a liberal approach to her rich and diverse cultural traditions.

5. Building a progressive society, orientated towards modern science and technology.

Divided people

Few would argue that if properly adhered to the set of thinking tenets on the first part would produce the much desired sets of behaviour on the other part, that A will equate with B.

But something else had happened from the time this concept was formulated to the present day, a period of 35 years or thereabout, or in human time frame, in one generation.

Belief in God generally has appeared to mean belief in Allah specifically. The elements of faith and belief have been cornered by Islamic elitism and absolutism; the government has claimed there is only one Truth, and it is Islam. Pragmatism, understanding and tolerance over other God and Truth are all but gone. Obviously it has been a case of diversion from its concept to its reality and application.

Sadly, it does not stop there.

The peoples are divided into many factions. The many races in the country have cleavages and fractures between them, like the PAS-Malay versus the Umno-Malay, the bumiputera versus the non-bumiputera ‘pendatang’ (immigrants), the Malay versus the non-Malay, the Muslims versus the non-Muslims.

The ‘us’ versus ‘them’ syndrome emerges like a many headed hydra in almost every corner of our society. The government does not fail to say that one of the ills of the colonial British government has been its ‘divide and rule’ policy. Yet, it is doing precisely that today, the sort of thing that will deter the formulation and creation of Bangsa Malaysia.

The democratic way of life is a myth. In practice there is one show of democracy, viz, at the general elections when we elect our august members of parliament, but where rigging, vote-buying and phantom voters are rife. Quite beyond the general elections, participatory democracy like the freedom to think things, read things, say things, do things differently by individuals are heavily regulated.

In reality the ‘democratic way of life’ does not exist, in its place, there is only autocracy. Individual freedom is curtailed by two parallel central authorities: one for social and secular affairs and the other for religious affairs.

The wealth of the country is distributed by way of nepotism and cronyism. Immense wealth is concentrated on some chosen few. A just and equitable society is still a dream. The liberal approach to cultural diversification is replaced by a very ethnocentric Ketuanan Melayu, Malay hegemony and domination.

The progressive society orientated towards modern science and technology is replaced by a retrogressive theocracy. In this case, every step forward must meet with rigid syariah-compliant parameters, derived in turn from some perceived ideals and perfection from the past.

Orientation towards forward-looking rationality-based science and technology is stymied by archaic Third World thinking.

Alternative list

It is as though the original premises of the philosophy are really the following list C:

1. Belief in Allah.

2. Loyalty to Agama, Bangsa dan Negara (religion, race and country)

3. Supremacy of the Islamic way of life.

4. The rule of syariah law.

5. Mutual respect and good social behaviour within the ummah.

The divergence from the original is so great that I have to refer to it as the ‘Alternative Rukunegara’.

To understand this wide divergence, I resort to a modern-day wisdom that says a person is judged not on the basis of what he thinks he can do, but on what he has already done. I take the first tenet as an illustration.

The original idea is ‘Belief in God’. To the majority of Malaysians, this is the conceptual belief in the One God of his faith. In
Christianity it is of course Jesus Christ, in Judaism that of Yahweh, in Hinduism that of Brahma, and of course in Islam that of Allah, the one All-Mighty God.

But in the Malay context, this universal interpretation does not apply. It can only mean one thing: the One God of Islam. Why is this so? Because, firstly the government machinery (meaning the decision makers) is manned on the main by Malays, and Malays are Muslim.

Secondly, the Malay thinking norm is of the traditional type. What this means is that to this mind thinking is reality. In other words when it thinks of the word ‘God’ it immediately concretises into ‘Allah’. Its literal thinking process has no way of conceiving that ‘God’ can mean other alternative gods like Jesus and Brahma.

Thirdly, Islamic philosophy even prevents a Muslim to acknowledge that there can be other Gods of transcendence than Allah the One god All-Mighty.

To do so will tantamount to blasphemy, or syirik as the Malay will express it. So ‘God’ will have to mean ‘Allah’.

On the same token the second tenet ‘Loyalty to King and country’ is deemed hijacked to mean loyalty to agama, bangsa dan negara. Why is this so? Because to the Malay-Muslim mind loyalty is only to be focussed to one point – Allah, the One All-Mighty God.

Unsavoury results

With such divergence in perception from the original A and B lists, the Alternative Rukunegara has produced the following unsavoury list D:

1. Fractious Malaysian society.

2. Dented democracy.

3. Unfair national wealth distribution.

4. Ethnocentric culture.

5. Conservative theocratic society, left behind by science and technology.

The earlier list C above will equate with this list D.

But I do wish for the government to educate the Malay about the mismatch in the original concept of the Rukunegara, with the present reality. Make the Malay aware of that the simple mathematical equation, that A equals B is the targeted formula, and not C equals D.

The government will have to educate the Malay mind to change his perceptions; that he has to be less theocratic but more secular; that the wisdom and virtues of the Rukunegara is as per lists A and B, and not C and D.

Failing this, his alternative Rukunegara can be bandied for years on end, but without any real impact on the emotionally drained knowledgeable segment of the Malaysian public.

by AB Sulaiman

AB SULAIMAN is an observer of human traits and foibles, especially within the context of religion and culture. As a liberal, he marvels at the way orthodoxy fights to maintain its credibility in a devilishly fast-changing world. In his free time, he loves to read, travel and play golf (although his game could be better).


Friday, February 2, 2007 - Posted by | Commentary, Culture, Islam, Issues, Melayu, Politics

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