Insensitive words of Kedah MB may be interpreted as unprofessional conduct

THE rude and insensitive rantings of Kedah Mentri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor may be seen as the incompetent and unprofessional conduct of one person, or an example of the future of Malaysia under Perikatan Nasional and the so-called ‘Islamic’ party, PAS.

At the moment, the silence from both Perikatan chairman Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and PAS president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang is ominous, to say the least.

Perikatan is credited for its excellent handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. But it has failed miserably on the democratic front with its inept request for emergency powers which was justifiably denied by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

So far, we have witnessed exemplary leadership of two Royal Houses - the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and also Sultan Nazrin Shah of Perak, who issued his speech with cutting remarks admonishing the state's lawmakers.

The Kedah Mentri Besar, with his abusive behaviour and more abusive language, is a far cry from the professional and quiet but no-nonsense courtesy of the two royal personalities.

It looks like our people’s representative seemed to forget that they serve the people, and not the other way round.

The Kedah Mentri Besar has defended the demolition of a holy Hindu shrine in the state, saying that it violated state law. He has also justified his abusive language of "mabuk todi", as his own superiority of Malay language and advised others to take a refresher course in Bahasa Malaysia.

His abusive language is in reference to two respected leaders of the Indian community, which he considered too drunk to engage in a rational discourse. Many have taken offence as his words can be interpreted as stereotyping the Indian community as people prone to drinking alcohol and becoming drunks.

He has also proudly justified his destruction of the shrine as a fair action of the state government, as he had also demolished other "similar" structures like a silat hall and other shelters.

I personally find that the rash action and abusive language of the Kedah Mentri Besar contradictory to the idea of the "Servant to the People" in a democracy and Islam, as well as that of the Malay culture. I am a Malaysian, a Muslim and a Malay, and I will take the Kedah Mentri Besar to task on my understanding of what being a Malaysian is all about, as well as understanding the values of Islam that I have embraced willingly and of the Malay culture that I inherited from my parents.

When a nation of 40 ethnic groups with diverse religious beliefs come together, it goes without saying that the idea of being sensitive to the needs of all is important.

In the case of Malaysia, it is etched in the words of the Constitution and the Rukun Negara. The Kedah Mentri Besar would do well to take a refresher course in both.

Destroying a religious shrine without thinking of the sensitivity of others is the mark of a leader bereft of any sense of moral values as a Malaysian and as a Muslim. A shrine is a holy artefact not set up like a sepak takraw court for recreation and leisure.

A shrine may be set up because of the locality considered sacred by having some object or the place of a person considered "holy". The Malays used to have "keramat" (shrine) because of a natural object like a tree or a boulder, or because the site is once the meditative place of a sage.

State laws for the planning of roads and buildings should try to implement such plans around such sites considered as sacred.

The Indian community's acceptance of the azan (Muslim call to prayer) waking them up every day, five times a day, is testimony to the tolerance of our multi-religious make-up.

Comparing a shrine to a silat shelter shows gross incompetence of anthropology, as well as basic human dignity. The Prophet Muhammad himself had forbidden the Muslim army from the destruction of houses of worship and the inhabitants of such places. The presence of many cathedrals in Spain is testimony to that heritage of dignity and compassion. The Kedah Mentri Besar might do well to also take a refresher course in the Hadith and the history of Islam.

On the Kedah Mentri Besar’s abusive language of "mabuk todi", he has justified his statement by saying that non-Malays are ignorant of the use of Malay "kiasan" or metaphor or allegory. He equated "mabuk cinta" with "mabuk todi" as two harmless expressions. Well, I have to disagree with his explanation as a Malay. Yes, I agree that "mabuk populariti" (drunk on popularity) is an acceptable kiasan. But "mabuk todi" is not acceptable. If I were to say: Mentri Besar itu berkelakuan seperti babi hutan menyondol busut, meaning that he is being uncouth and acting irrationally and boisterously, how would a person feel being equated with a "babi hutan" (wild boar)?

It was the same argument in the Red Shirt rally when an Umno leader defended the expression "Cina Babi" used in his supporters' slogans. He says that since "Cina makan babi" (the Chinese eat pork), why should they be offended? In Islam, Imam Al-Ghazali discussed in his magnum opus "al-Ihya Ulumuddin" in a chapter on the sins of speeches that no Muslim should utter a reference to a person with a name that the other dislikes. This is a great sin.

Thus, if an Indian is offended by references such as "kaki todi" or "kaki botol" or a Chinese who is offended to be called "Cina Pendatang" or "Cina Babi", then the sin will be on the caller of such names.

The person who calls others with rude names must apologise. Otherwise, in the hereafter, those he had called with abusive names will bear testimony to Allah in His Court of True Justice. So, don’t play around with name-calling, for in Islam, it is a severe sin.

Finally, I wish to say that if the Perikatan government and PAS as a coalition partner see themselves as the present and future leaders of Malaysia and Islam, they need to appoint better leaders than the present Mentri Besar of Kedah. Their silence so far is not encouraging to the Malays, Muslims and Malaysians alike.

Prof Dr Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi is Professor of Architecture at UCSI University. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.

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