Thursday, May 31, 2018


In conjunction with the World Quran Hour, Zubedy is organizing a topical approach towards getting to know the Quran. We propose specific topics and provide references to the Quran so that your friends, family and you can get to know the Quran better.

By getting to know the Quran topic by topic we can appreciate the Quran better and have a deeper conversation about the subjects. We want to create a catalyst where Muslims and Non-Muslims alike, whenever they have a question about Islam and Muslim practices, the immediate respond is to check the Quran. What does the Quran say about being just and fair? What does the Quran say about managing time? What does the Quran say about men’s best friend? What does the Quran say about love? What does the Quran say about food, etc.?  Google these topics, identify the Quranic surah and ayat, discuss and share.

1. Choose an hour from 7th June to 14th June 2018
2. Form group of friends, gather family members or work alone
3. Pick one topic from zubedy’s list or choose your own topics
3. Google and research on the topic
4. Discuss with your group, family and friends
4. Summarize key ideas from your discussions or discovery
5. Upload your picture or video of you and the verses discuss / summary / key ideas
    in your Social Media page (FB & Insta) and hashtag us at #LetsReadTheQuran and  

7th June – 14th June 2018

What does the Quran say about...?*

1. The Quran
2. The Creation of Time
3. Good Behavior
4. Pluralism
5. Critical Thinking
6. Consciousness (TAQWA)
7. Justice and Equity
9. Fighting
10. Losers
11. Prophet Muhammad
12. The Purpose of Life
13. Wealth and Money
14. GOD’S Sign/Wonder (Does GOD Exist?)
15. Being Grateful
16. Commitment
17. Hope
18. Communication and Interaction
19. Universalism – Unity in Diversity
20. Moderation – The Middle Path

*There are short references to the majority of the above topics at:

anas zubedy

Monday, May 28, 2018


It’s not a crime to be religious.
It’s not a crime to be irreligious.
Who are you to question me?

It’s not a crime to be Sunni, Syiah or Ibadhi.
It’s not a crime to be Sufi, Salafi or Ash’ari.
It’s not a crime to not follow any sect and believe in Allah and His prophets directly.
Did not the Quran say at 6:159 that the Prophet has nothing to do with those who divided the religion into sects?
Are we not brothers and must make peace with each other (Quran 49:10)?

It’s not a crime to pray, fast and abstain from alcohol.
It’s not a crime to not pray, skip fasting and consume alcohol.
Why do we make them a crime?

It’s not a crime to be Muslim, Christian and Buddhist.
It’s not a crime to be a Sikh, a Taoist or Hindu.
It’s not a crime to be Atheist, Agnostic or Pagan.
It’s not a crime to be religious.
It’s not a crime to be irreligious.
Who are you to question me?

Do you not trust God?
Did he not declare outrightly that there should be no compulsion in religion at Quran 2:256?
Have you no faith in His Words?

Anas Zubedy
Kuala Lumpur

Friday, May 25, 2018

Have a Meaningful Wesak - Friday in The Star

Among the life skills required to be effective, efficient and successful, the ability to compartmentalize is likely the most crucial. However, it is one of the most difficult to accomplish and practice.

1. What is compartmentalization?

Compartmentalization is knowing what to carry or not to carry at any given time – not just in your hands, but also in your minds and hearts. It is the ability to stay focus at a task isolating and focusing on difficult yet important matters separately. We do not allow the worry cycle to distract us. We deal with the present. When it’s time to work we work. Time to play we play, time to read we read. Family time is family time and when it’s time to exercise, we exercise. We do not allow one compartment to overcome the other. We take action. We achieve.

2. Why is it important to compartmentalize?

It is a tool to achieve balance at work and home. You become mindful both at work and home and does not allow one to overstep the other. Compartmentalization helps getting things done by not allowing a competing thought or emotion derail you. Disliking your boss is one compartment, doing a good job is another. Bonus is one compartment, giving your best is another. Difficult in-laws, and being a filial son or daughter in law. Partisanship and doing what is right as a rakyat. Ultimately, compartmentalization helps you avoid a systemic breakdown. When one part of your life goes wrong, you do not become helpless. You compartmentalize and focus on your other strengths and march forward.

3. How do we compartmentalize?

Imagine that you have compartments that at specific times you can open, focus on, close and reopen again. Be careful, compartmentalization is not avoidance. It is the act of applying extreme focus compartment by compartment for a period of time prioritizing the present. Budget how much emotion, thoughts and action needed for each compartment and apportion time and energy accordingly. No more, no less! Appreciate small progress within each compartments. Belief that the incremental growth in each will in the long run, bit by bit, slowly but surely, be rewarded with huge success.

At zubedy, our programs and activities draw strength from our shared values and traditions. We believe that at heart, all Malaysians want good things for themselves and for their brother and sister Malaysians, simply because our nation cannot prosper as a whole if some of us are left behind.

You and I, we need to learn to compartmentalize and Make Malaysia Great!

Let us add value,
Have a meaningful Wesak.

*The idea presented in this message is part of our Making A Difference through P3 program’s core concept.

Salam Wesak - Jumaat Di Sinar Harian

Di antara kemahiran hidup yang harus kita ada untuk menjadi efektif, efisyen dan berjaya, kemahiran pemetakan mungkin yang terpenting. Walaubagaimanapun, pemetakan adalah salah satu kemahiran yang amat sukar diperolehi dan diamal.

1. Apakah yang dimaksudkan dengan pemetakan?

Pemetakan adalah kebolehan membuat keputusan dalaman yang matang dimana kita sedar apa yang harus kita bawa atau kita tinggalkan bukan hanya di atas tangan tetapi juga di minda dan hati kita. Ia adalah kebolehan untuk memberi fokus secara mendalam kepada sesuatu pekerjaan, walaupun ia adalah susah. Kita tidak harus membenarkan kitaran kebimbangan mencuri tumpuan kita. Kita hanya memberi tumpuan pada masa kini. Masa berkerja, kita berkerja. Masa membaca, kita membaca. Masa bergembira, kita ceria. Masa untuk keluarga, kita tumpu kepada keluarga dan apabila tiba masanya untuk bersenam, kita bersenam. Kita tidak membenarkan mana-mana petak mengambil tempat petak yang lain. Jadi kita dapat bertindak dan boleh mencapai setiap matlamat.

2. Mengapakah pemetakan amat penting?

Pemetakan adalah satu cara untuk mencapai keseimbangan kerja dan hal rumah tangga. Kita bertambah sedar terhadap kepentingan kerja dan hal rumah tangga tanpa memberi peluang mana-mana satu mengambil tempat antaranya. Pemetakan menolong kita mencapai kerjaya dengan mengenetepikan gangguan emosi dan fikiran kita. Oleh itu, walaupun kita tidak serasi dengan majikan kita, kita masih boleh membuat kerja yang baik. Bonus jatuh dalam satu petak, prestasi terbaik kita berada dalam petak yang lain. Mertua yang cerewet adalah dalam satu petak, dan perangai kita yang baik petak yang lain. Kepentingan politik satu petak, jadi rakyat yang berhemah dalam petak yang lain. Secara keseluruhannya, pemetakan boleh menghindarkan kita dari terperosok dalam gangguan jiwa yang sistemik. Apabila kita dilanda satu musibah, kita tidak terus hilang hala tuju dan kebolehan kita. Kita amalkan pemetakan dan beri tumpuan pada kekuatan kita yang lain dan cari jalan untuk maju kehadapan.

3. Bagaimanakah cara pemetakan?

Bayangkan kita mempunyai kotak-kotak di dalam hidup kita  dimana kita boleh membuka, memberi fokus, menutup dan kemudiannya membuka kembali bila diperlukan. Tetapi berwaspadalah, pemetakan tidak bermaksud mengelak. Ia adalah satu aksi yang memberi fokus yang terperinci pada satu petak dalam hidup kita yang diberi tumpuan jitu pada masa kini. Kita mesti pandai merancang dan membahagikan emosi, pemikiran dan kadar tindakan yang secukupnya pada setiap petak. Tidak lebih dan tidak kurang! Pada akhirnya, kita menghargai setiap perkembangan yang kecil. Kita percaya dengan memberi tumpuan pada setiap petak yang kena pada tempatnya, kita akan sedikit demi sedikit, perlahan-lahan pasti akan mendapat ganjaran yang besar.

Di zubedy, sumber kekuatan program latihan kami ialah nilai-nilai murni dan tradisi yang dikongsi bersama. Kami percaya dalam hati rakyat Malaysia, kita mahukan yang terbaik untuk setiap anak-anak Malaysia kerana negara kita tidak akan berjaya jika ada yang tertinggal.

Kita haruslah belajar untuk memetak dan jadikan Malaysia Negara CEMERLANG.

Usahakan yang terbaik,
Selamat Hari Wesak.

*Idea dalam mesej ini adalah sebahagian daripada konsep teras program “Making A Difference through P3“ (Laksana Perubahan melalui P3) kami.

Sunday, May 20, 2018


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.

Why …?

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

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.

Anas Zubedy
Kuala Lumpur

Friday, May 18, 2018

‘Liberalism’ is a good word

I refer to the article entitled, “Jangan liberal agama, bekas pegawai khas Najib ingatkan Dr Mahathir”. In the article, Fathul Bari Mat Jahaya is quoted as saying, “Kita tidak mahu buka sampai menjadi liberal. Kita tidak mahu liberal sampai meninggalkan fundamental agama. Fundamental itu tetap kena ada.”
Although stressing the need to return to the fundamentals of Islam, Fathul seems to propose otherwise by demonising liberalism. Let me explain. The most fundamental source of Islam is the Quran and examples of the Prophet. As such, Muslims, Fathul included, must work within the parameters of the Quran and the Prophet’s example.
If we follow these two fundamental resources, we will discover that “liberalism” is actually considered a good word. Kindly allow me to unpack my arguments.
Liberalism is a ten-letter word, but to many Muslims, Fathul included, it’s a five-lettered one: HARAM. They see it as a bad word and not in line with Islam, which is rather unfortunate. On the other hand, I see Prophet Muhammad as the ultimate liberator of humanity.
Let me explain.
While the West and the world generally see John Locke, the 17th century English philosopher and physician, as the father of liberalism, I found my liberal role model in Prophet Muhammad. With all due respect to Locke, to me, none in history can beat the Prophet in liberating humanity. The Quranic verses shared at the end of this article will provide ample evidence – and these verses are not exhaustive.
But first, we need to relook the preconceived notion of the word “liberal”. By “liberal”, I do not mean liberalism in the loose sense that is promoted by the hedonistic and freewheeling Western media-driven culture and the misunderstandings by a large segment of Muslim opinion makers. We are not asking or telling mankind to sunbathe or run around in the nude. That is an extremely shallow idea of liberalism.
The Quran chapter 39 verse 18 cautions us not to fall into this trap and tells us to choose the better meaning.
“Those who listen to the Word, and follow the best (meaning) in it: those are the ones whom Allah has guided, and those are the ones endued with understanding” – Quran 39:18
As such, by “liberal”, I am suggesting the ideas of liberty and equality, not unrestrained freedom.
We want to free humans to discover their real potential and explore their talents. The type of liberalism that encourages people to listen to others, be their best and to act with empathy, just like the Prophet did – as a mercy to all creation. A true liberator.
We must remember that when the Prophet announced this Quranic guidance, it was 1,400 years ago. He did not just propose a theory or a philosophy, but acted on it – he created a liberal society long before the word “liberal” was coined. He was a liberator who impacted his society and generations to come in mind, body and spirit.
The following 10 verses should suffice as evidence:
1. The Prophet liberated women making them equal to men
“As for anyone – be it man or woman – who does righteous deeds and is a believer withal – him shall We most certainly cause to live a good life and most certainly shall We grant unto such as these their reward in accordance with the best that they ever did.” – Quran 16:97
2. Gave rights to everyone to do business and be successful
“If one desires the rewards of this world, [let him remember that] with God are the rewards of [both] this world and the life to come: and God is indeed all-hearing, all-seeing.” – Quran 4:134
3. Liberated humans from ridiculous beliefs, or kepercayaan-kepercayaan mengarut, and instead guided man to contemplate the wonders of creation
“ARE, THEN, they who are bent on denying the truth not aware that the heavens and the earth were [once] one single entity, which We then parted asunder? – and [that] We made out of water every living thing? Will they not, then, [begin to] believe?” – Quran 21:30
4. Made the freeing and liberating of slaves and those in debt, helping the poor etc, a duty (taqwa)
“The offerings given for the sake of God are [meant] only for the poor and the needy, and those who are in charge thereof, and those whose hearts are to be won over, and for the freeing of human beings from bondage, and [for] those who are over burdened with debts, and [for every struggle] in God’s cause, and [for] the wayfarer: [this is] an ordinance from God – and God is all-knowing, wise.” – Quran 9:60
5. Liberated mankind through education and encouraging the pursuit of knowledge, gave rights to education for all men and women equally
“READ in the name of thy Sustainer, who has created man out of a germ-cell, Read – for thy Sustainer is the Most Bountiful One, who has taught [man] the use of the pen – taught man what he did not know!” – Quran 95:1-5
6. Liberated the orphans, the poor and the needy from the clutches of poverty by giving them rights to the wealth of the nation
“And in whose possessions there is a due share, acknowledged [by them], for such as ask [for help] and such as are deprived [of what is good in life]” – Quran 70:24-25
7. Liberated mankind to choose what to believe by declaring that there is no compulsion in religion
“THERE SHALL BE no coercion in matters of faith. Distinct has now become the right way from [the way of] error: hence, he who rejects the powers of evil and believes in God has indeed taken hold of a support most unfailing, which shall never give way: for God is all-hearing, all-knowing.” – Quran 2:256
8. Liberated places of worship and set rules to protect them
“Those who have been driven from their homelands against all right for no other reason than their saying: ‘Our Sustainer is God!’ For, if God had not enabled people to defend themselves against one another, all monasteries and churches and synagogues and mosques – in [all of] which God’s name is abundantly extolled – would surely have been destroyed [ere now]. And God will most certainly succour him who succours His cause: for, verily, God is most powerful, almighty.” – Quran 22:40
9. Gave rights to all ways of life/faith to co-exist with Islam and declared that religious diversity is intentional
“And unto thee [O Prophet] have We vouchsafed this divine writ, setting forth the truth, confirming the truth of whatever there still remains of earlier revelations and determining what is true therein. Judge, then, between the followers of earlier revelation in accordance with what God has bestowed from on high, and do not follow their errant views, forsaking the truth that has come unto thee. Unto every one of you have We appointed a [different] law and way of life. And if God had so willed, He could surely have made you all one single community: but [He willed it otherwise] in order to test you by means of what He has vouchsafed unto, you. Vie, then, with one another in doing good works! Unto God you all must return; and then He will make you truly understand all that on which you were wont to differ.” – Quran 5:48
10. Declared that diversity and inclusion is the right way and made consciousness the criteria for morality
“O men! Behold, We have created you all out of a male and a female, [and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another. Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him. Behold, God is all-knowing, all-aware.” – Quran 49:13

Tuesday, May 15, 2018


Chandra Muzaffar

The significance of the fourteenth General Election goes beyond Malaysian shores. 9th May will be remembered as the day when the multi-ethnic population of a country ousted the world’s longest ruling coalition through the ballot-box in a peaceful atmosphere without a drop of blood.

This is unique in emerging democracies in the Global South. It makes one proud to be a Malaysian.

This victory of the political opposition should be placed within its proper perspective before we try to explain the reasons for it. Also, what are the challenges that the Pakatan Harapan led government now faces and will it be able to handle them? 

Since the early years of Independence, Malaysia has had a functioning opposition. There hasn’t been a single moment in our history when there was no one on the opposition benches, not in 1964 nor in 1974 nor in 2004, occasions when the ruling coalition in the form of the Barisan Nasional and its predecessor, the Alliance, won overwhelmingly in Parliamentary elections.
Opposition parties forging coalitions to defeat the Alliance or the BN has also been happening for a long time. A partnership of two left parties, the Parti Rakyat and the Labour Party called the Socialist Front for instance did fairly well in the 1959 General Election.

40 years later there was a more earnest attempt to create a four party coalition comprising PAS, DAP, KeAdilan and Parti Rakyat . Named the Barisan Alternatif,(BA) the coalition sought to mobilise voters in the 10th General Election in 1999 through allegations of abuse of power and authoritarianism against Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and the BN. The ‘black eye’ of the incarcerated Anwar Ibrahim was a major rallying point for the BA. The BA, specifically PAS, made some electoral gains notably capturing the state of Terrenganu.

However, it was in the 2008 General Election that the opposition really made great strides, denying the BN its two-thirds parliamentary majority for the first time and capturing four states, namely Kedah, Penang, Perak and Selangor, apart from retaining control over   Kelantan. Anwar was an important campaigner as he was in the 2013 contest in which the opposition Pakatan Rakyat consisting of PAS, the DAP and Keadilan remained in power in Kelantan, Penang and Selangor and continued to deny the BN its two-thirds majority in Parliament. In fact, the opposition increased its parliamentary representation by 7 seats.

The issues that brought the votes to the Pakatan Rakyat in the twelfth and thirteenth General Elections were related to allegations of restrictions to civil and political rights, corruption, socio-economic injustices, ethnic polarization and, in the case of PAS, the inability of the BN to implement Islamic law. In themselves, these issues were not new except that the environment had changed with the alternative media playing a huge role in shaping public perceptions. They served to erode the support base of the ruling BN.

It is against this backdrop that one should view the defeat of the BN in the recently concluded General Election. Each and every issue that had been part of the opposition’s menu in the past now assumed a more concrete manifestation.

Thus, the neglect of the bottom 40% of society and the marginalisation of a substantial segment of the middle-class amidst rising cost of living that had become pervasive in the last 5 or 6 years found a villain in the Goods and Services Tax (GST) introduced in April 2015. This was undoubtedly a chink in the armour of the BN which exposed the government’s vulnerability. But it would not have had such an adverse impact had it not been for the 1MDB scandal. A mammoth money-laundering scam implicating  Najib, his family and his sidekicks, the then Prime Minister sought to conceal and camouflage it through dismissal of political comrades, by squeezing out public officials and by emasculating local inquiries. Not a single person has been charged for any of the wrongdoings connected with 1MDB or its affiliates within Malaysia. It is this utter lack of honesty and integrity on the part of the Najib government that incensed a lot of Malaysians and convinced them that they should oust him. If anything, suspicions about the mismanagement of FELDA reflected in the sale of land and properties and alleged misdeeds in other government linked outfits further undermined his credibility. To put it in a nutshell, over a period of 4 or 5 years, a yawning trust deficit had developed between Najib and the people.

The verdict at the polls was a mirror of that deficit.

What exacerbated the trust deficit was the conduct of the election itself. As in 2013, Najib campaigned as if he was in a presidential race where everything is focussed upon him. Since there was already a trust deficit, it weakened his position further. The temporary dissolution of Mahathir’s party by the Registrar of Societies and the ban on his image in the campaign by the Election Commission intensified the anger among voters. Most of all, it was the viciousness with which Mahathir was savaged in the government linked media that increased their disgust towards the incumbent. There was a total lack of manners, of courtesy which is so integral to Malay culture. This gross, crude violation of ‘adab’ in Najib’s campaign cost him dearly. 

Najib had underestimated the strength of the bond between his nemesis and the people. At the helm of the nation for 22 years, there was a high degree of appreciation of Mahathir’s  contribution to the well-being of the masses, even if many were also aware of the downside of his leadership. As leader of the Pakatan Harapan, he demonstrated two dimensions of his leadership which were critical to the success of his coalition.

One, he solidified a disparate coalition by endowing the four parties with a sense of common purpose. A common logo was an outstanding achievement. Previous attempts at creating such a unifying symbol among opposition parties had failed. The logo gave Pakatan a shared identity as a result of which the voters’ confidence in the coalition heightened.

Two, Mahathir also succeeded in convincing the people that their overriding mission was to overthrow a leader who was perceived as corrupt and greedy. It was a simple direct message which he clinched by telling the voters that if they did not fulfil their mission Malaysia was doomed. Hence, Pakatan’s battle-cry “to save the nation.”
Formulating effective strategies to combat corruption would therefore be the Pakatan’s greatest challenge. Its manifesto contains some ideas on this, including making political donations transparent. It also seeks to make the anti- corruption commission truly independent of the Executive by providing the Malaysian parliament with authority over the body.

There are many other office-holders and institutions vital for good governance that the Pakatan has identified which will also be subjected to parliamentary oversight. The Council of Elders that Prime Minister Mahathir has established to address matters pertaining to finance and the economy may also have to provide inputs on governance and integrity.

There are of course other equally serious challenges that the new government will have to face. The widening income gap between those who have a lot and those who have a little which has far-reaching consequences for other sectors of society should be the nation’s priority. Certain laws which subvert the quest for human dignity should also be reviewed. Creating conditions that are conducive for the growth of empathy and understanding among the communities is of crucial importance.

For Pakatan to implement the onerous tasks ahead, there will have to be internal cohesion. This is especially true of a coalition like Pakatan Harapan. It stands to reason that Dr. Mahathir be given a bit of time and space to strengthen the sinews of the coalition as it leads the quest for a better Malaysia.

The above article is based upon a presentation made at the Yusuf Ishak Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS), Singapore on the 11th of May 2018.

14 May 2018.