Written by Dr. Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin
Translation by Umm Hajar (ummhajar@gmail.com)

As I am writing this article, I am on my journey to Prague yet again. This time, I will meet with a big group of Malaysia’s future doctors. Last week, I was in Doha and Dubai meeting with the Malaysians there who live a comfortable life, thanks to the overflowing wealth of those two gulf countries. Most of them are professional Muslims.

However, based on my observation, it seems that these professionals are holding a feeling of dissatisfaction, or probably even hatred, against the country’s political power. They are specifically disappointed of the way a lot of individuals in the governing political party are behaving. Furthermore, during my meetings with our students oversea, I also noted that they are holding similar sentiments especially those at PhD level.

Perhaps, the exceptional exposure on facts and on the reality of the world that they receive abroad has molded such judicious character in them. I am trying to identify the factor that brings about this feeling of dissatisfaction. Because of that, for the sake of upholding the Freedom of Journalism and for the benefit of the government itself, I hope that Mingguan Malaysia will continue to grant me the opportunity to speak truthfully about this issue.

These last few days, both my cellular phone and my email account have been filled with messages from Malaysians of all levels commenting on the formation of the new cabinet. Different feelings and criticisms were sent to me with the hope that I would issue my opinions in the media or internet whereas I have actually expressed my view on the formation of the new cabinet before.

In my commentary, I suggested that in dealing with the present political phase, in addition to ensuring that the new line up of cabinet is transparent and has a clean track of record, a number of the opposition members who have the right qualifications ought to be appointed to hold positions in several government departments or at least as deputy ministers. This approach has an element of surprise in it and it shows the government’s genuineness in their effort to be more transparent and to share their inspiration with the rakyat. There is no need to form a new coalition.

Speaking of the people’s aspiration, what is exactly the people’s aspiration? Whether they realize it or not, there are five basic social values that the citizens of a country hope for or expect the government to provide for them as stated by the International Relations Theory namely security, freedom, order, justice and welfare. As a Muslim, I would like to add in one more basic value that is the institution of Islam as the principle that governs those basics.

This is aligned with Allah’s statement in Surah al-Nur verse 55 (translated as):

“Allâh has promised those among you who believe, and do righteous good deeds, that He will certainly grant them succession to (the present rulers) in the earth, as He granted it to those before them, and that He will grant them the authority to practice their religion, that which He has chosen for them (i.e. Islâm). and He will surely give them in exchange a safe security after their fear (provided) they (believers) worship Me and do not associate anything (in worship) with Me. But whoever disbelieved after this, they are the Fâsiqûn (rebellious, disobedient to Allâh).”

When these basic values vanish, either all or some parts of it, we can expect to hear the sound of the rakyat’s anxiousness and dissatisfaction everywhere. At that time, any faction that calls for the resuscitation of these basic values will be supported by the rakyat regardless of whether they use the kampong lingo or the city lingo. Those commoners may not be well-versed enough to understand the academic justifications behind these basics but their feelings and instincts as civilians tell them that they need to be provided with these basic values. The higher a person’s education is and the more exposed he is to knowledge, the more sensitive he gets towards this need.

Let us look at these basic values from the angle of a citizen before we look at it from international level. Residents in any country need to have their safety protected from both external and internal threats. They require their country to have a sturdy national security and a steadfast government. They also require their daily living to be well protected.

These days, the number of crimes in Malaysia keeps on increasing everyday. The rakyat lives in fear, worried about the safety of their life and possessions. Murder, acts of torture, robbery, theft and various other crimes are threatening the rakyat’s wellbeing. Shops and residences commonly become the targets of robbery and theft. This causes the rakyat to feel that the government is weak and fails to function properly. It is even worse if their trust on the national security division has diminished.

In addition to the need to have a trouble free country, the rakyat also needs to have freedom in their life. Their basic rights in exercising their belief, ownership, education, giving opinions and the likes of it must be granted. True, freedom has its limits that correspond with the norm and principle of a country without which, the country’s state of affairs will ruin. However, that limit must be defined for the sake of the country and not for any individual politician in power.

When their basic freedom is taken away from them, the people will see the government as their enemy rather than their protector. They hope that the country’s regulation and system of justice can function properly and honorably. A good regulation has to be firm and serves everybody without bias. Each citizen must be treated equally. Do not let anyone get around the regulations or law only because of his title or his political position. No Sultan or King or political ruler can rise above the established law and regulations. Do not let anyone gain a title or a reward from the government without following the procedure.

In executing the law, each offender must be penalized impartially without any prejudice or oppression. If this is lacking, the rakyat’s trust will vanish and they will start to regard the government as untrustworthy and unjust. Furthermore, the people are hoping that the government can safeguard their wellbeing. The government must strive to place a good policy that allows the rakyat to have a comfortable life, as defined from the economic perspective, and to have the basic necessities essential in this era. The government must also fertilize the development of economy, provide equal opportunity, overcome poverty and provide the rakyat’s basic needs such as education and medication especially to the less fortunate and so on.

As I have mentioned before, as a Muslim, I do hope that these basic values are established based on a comprehensive and blessed principle. Islam as a just religion guarantees the provision of these basics to all including the non-Muslims. When a government of a country, in which Muslims make up the majority, fails to adopt Islam as the governing principle, the feeling of dissatisfaction will brew among the Muslims.

We have to be conscious of the fact that majority of Muslims all over the world want Islam to be the principle and foundation of the establishment of their country. This fact was concluded by John L. Esposito after performing a survey and study on this matter all around the Muslim countries. He stated this conclusion in his book titled ‘Who Speaks for Islam’.

For this reason, if the rakyat is disappointed or dissatisfied with the existing authority, the government ought to perform a self-evaluation and see whether those basic necessities are being religiously provided or if there is any obvious inadequacy. I believe that the government can easily win back the sentiment of the rakyat if the defects are amended such that the rakyat starts to feel comfortable again and can sense that the government is actually functioning as the provider of those basics.

Also, governments of any country must be conscious of the fact that the easy access to technology in the modern world we are living in today makes it difficult for the government to hide their errors and flaws. Any violations done against these fundamentals will instantly be publicized and become the main topic of discussions everywhere that in the end, leads to the rise of the rakyat’s dissatisfaction. If it is left untreated, it will turn into a cancerous grudge that is incurable.

I may not wish to comment on the new line up of cabinet but I wish to ask them or convey my hope to them to guarantee that the rakyat will be provided with these basics. If they fail to do that, the feeling of dissatisfaction will remain and cannot be treated with even an ocean of slogans and promises.