Since Dr Mazlee was appointed the Minister of Education, I have received scores of calls, WhatsApp and enquiries about him. I have hesitated to provide any comments as I have inadequate knowledge and minimal interaction with Dr Mazlee. I also am worried about my own biases and may not do justice to both he and the enquirers. Perhaps I share with you my biases first and propose some ideas to rectify the concerns.
Firstly, I might be biased because I was totally elated when Tun first announced that he personally will take the position. Changing it was a downer, and I am still brooding over losing Tun as the Minister of Education.
While the other ministries are important, I see the Ministry of Education as the most crucial. In leading and managing change, we need to balance between managing today and managing tomorrow. In other words, we need to manage two-time dimensions - the short term and long term. Where values of the citizens are concern, the Ministry of Education is the portion that is most central and decisive in managing tomorrow. That is preparing Malaysia and Malaysians for the future. The real dawn of the new era! That is why I was totally ecstatic when Tun was to lead the Ministry.
Secondly, I see myself as an Islamist. In fact, I see Tun as an Islamist too. I would not want to lump all Islamist into one box. I will not make my decisions based on if someone is an Islamist or not. I also do not like labelling someone narrowly as it will not give a fair assessment about the individual. I would want to check their character and past performance.
There are good Islamist and there are bad ones too. In fact, I would choose a good Christian, or Hindu or Buddhist over a corrupt Muslim as my leader.
But, allow me to unpack a little about what I mean by a good Islamist within the context of why some segments within Malaysia are disagreeing with Dr. Mazlee’s appointment.
A good Islamist to me is someone who do not try to monopolize God and the Heavens. A good Islamist have an undivided conviction that God’s mercy encompasses all; Muslims, Non-Muslims and atheists too. He or she accepts and embrace pluralism in the way of life. By pluralism, I do not mean equating each religion or way of life as the same. That would be an obvious error. No two religions are the same. In fact, even within a religion one can find differences.
Pluralism represents the acceptance of a diversity of views or stands rather than a single approach or method toward life. It is the idea that we can agree to disagree, to you your religion, to me mine (Quran chapter 109). There is no compulsion in religion and way of life (Quran 2:256).
It is the ability to see reality, that is, the universe and the earth that we live in is by design a diverse one. To go further, the availability of many religions and path is by design God’s creation (Quran 10:99, 5:48, 64:2) and as such we need to learn to live with it. We do not ignore the differences of various religions (and cultures). We try to understand the different ‘other’. Ultimately, we are willing to defend them should they are wrongly condemned or attacked (Quran 22:40).
To go further, a good Islamist practices pluralism within his own religion. In other words, he or she practices diversity and inclusion within the Muslim world. They prevent takfir (declarations of apostasy) between Muslims. This is perhaps one of the most critical concern and worry about Dr Mazlee’s appointment amongst some Muslims, rightly or wrongly. Is he open to diversity and inclusion within the Muslim world?
Thirdly, my limited interaction with Dr. Mazlee.
My few interactions with him were pleasant. He was humble and, in his talks, and presentations, he is open to differences and practiced moderation. He seems willing to listen to the other side. His manner was not arrogant and he does not look like someone who will impose his position on others. Within the ‘spectrum of the religious scholars’, he is on the moderate side. At least that’s how I feel.
My little concern is my experience in a WhatsApp group I once joined of which Dr. Mazlee and many other ‘Muslim scholars’ were members – including a very popular Mufti. As I always keep my discussions and evidence from the Quran and was critical to certain approaches on the collection of Hadiths, Dr. Mazlee was quick to be label me as ‘Anti-Hadith’. I dislike being narrowly labeled and prefer healthy deliberations. Labelling someone is an easy way out. (by the way, Tun is also labeled as ‘Anti-Hadith’ when he took a critical position on the collection of the Hadith!)
So what next?
I find it sad and unfair that Dr Mazlee is made to justify his appointment. I will not like it if I am in his shoes. However, like it or not Dr. Mazlee will need to nip this in the bud. He must REMOVE THE UNCERTAINTIES. To lead successfully a leader must be totally determined to remove uncertainties as failing which, Dr. Mazlee loses power and influence and in the long run will fail and fall. We cannot afford to let the Ministry of Education fail.
In other words, either Dr. Mazlee clarify the uncertainties and confusions experienced by his distractors and come out on top, or he can submit to the uncertainty, and end up the victim. There is nothing more crucial in legitimate leadership and power as the ability to remove uncertainties.
May I humbly suggest Dr Mazlee to make a clear stand to support and do the following.
1. That he unequivocally supports the ambitions of Rukun Negara especially items 2 and 4 that aims to “maintain a democratic way of life” and “ensuring a liberal approach to her rich and diverse cultural traditions”. Some feel that there is a reluctance among certain groups of people in taking a strong stand towards the Rukun Negara because of their wish to change the character of the country towards a more theocratic state and curb the liberal character of the nation. By standing firm with the Rukun Negara Dr. Mazlee will disassociate himself from these groups.
2. That he explicitly stands by the Amman Message. The Amman Message is a statement calling for tolerance and unity in the Muslim world that was issued on 9 November 2004 (27th of Ramadan 1425 AH) by King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein of Jordan in an international Islamic conference of 200 of the world’s leading Islamic scholars (‘Ulama) and leaders from 50 countries. They unanimously agreed on three fundamental issues (which became known as the ‘Three Points of the Amman Message’):
a. They specifically recognized the validity of all 8 Mazhabs (legal schools) of Sunni, Shi’a and Ibadhi Islam; of traditional Islamic Theology (Ash’arism); of Islamic Mysticism (Sufism), and of true Salafi thought, and came to a precise definition of who is a Muslim.
b. Based upon this definition they forbade takfir (declarations of apostasy) between Muslims.
c. Based upon the Mathahib they set forth the subjective and objective preconditions for the issuing of fatwas, thereby exposing ignorant and illegitimate edicts in the name of Islam.
Among the Malaysians who signed the statements were former PM Abdullah Badawi, Anwar Ibrahim, Khairy Jamaluddin and Professor Hashim Kamali. Should Dr Mazlee take this stand he would remove any certainties among those who feel that he will not practice diversity and inclusion with the Muslim community. For further info go here http://ammanmessage.com/
3. Call for a dialogue with the detractors. Deal with their concerns. Ask for feedback and sought their opinion. I have seen Dr Mazlee in his presentations. I am sure he will be able to manage the distractors and find a justly balanced understanding and compromise.
Should Dr. Mazlee make the above stand and act on them, I have strong convictions that he will be able to remove the uncertainties surrounding his appointment. I for one, will support him. I wish Dr. Mazlee the best and GodWilling he will consider my suggestions
To my dear Malaysians, let’s also practice this mantra.
May all of us guide ourselves with love, logic and wisdom. Love, because love makes us fair with our hearts; Logic, because logic makes us fair with our minds; and, Wisdom, because wisdom leads us to combine our love and logic in the way of God and for the benefit of Malaysia and Mankind.