Of leadership, compromises, and a better Malaysia

A filepic of Khalid and his brother, Shahrir

FOR many, PAS’ Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad epitomises the most interesting and paradoxical aspects of political Islam at this juncture in our contemporary milieu. Urbane yet confrontational, sophisticated yet at times brash, learned yet not arcane. I consider people like him among the torchbearers of hope for this nation: moderate, democratic, progressive, and engaged.

Is it sheer coincidence, then, that he hails from a family of seemingly complex contradictions? Immediately, one recalls his brother, Tan Sri Shahrir Abdul Samad, the gentlemanly, sophisticated Umno politician. Or perhaps this is not contradictory, but rather a reflection of our Malaysian socio-political melange?

“Compromised values” would definitely not be words one would ascribe to why these two personalities are able to greet each other during Hari Raya. Instead, I believe that our cultural makeup – our DNA or “local genius” if you will – allows and encourages dissonances like these to co-exist. Khalid and Shahrir are therefore living examples of these accommodated dissonances.

By this, what I mean to say is: ours is an extremely accommodative (some say “sponge-like”) culture. How can it not be, when we have absorbed and accommodated influences, words, and symbols from so many peoples and lands? Malacca is, for many, the apex of this trait. Yet with the likes of Isma and Perkasa, it feels like that part of us is now eroded and lost. Is it?

Seventy years ago we imagine that differences between and within communities or even families were better accommodated and not as militantly demarcated as they are sometimes made out to be today.

Million-ringgit question: If political parties did not trade on these differences since Merdeka, would we have ended up where we are today, teetering on the precipice of ethnic discord? If parties did not strive to highlight and take advantage of what is “Malay” or “Muslim” or “Chinese” or “Indian”, what kind of Malaysia do you reckon we would live in now?

Islam as a way of life shows how we can be accommodative without compromising our values. For those who are leaders amongst us, it is timely as we leave the month of Ramadan and enter Syawal that we take stock of what Abu Bakar as-Siddiq said upon becoming the first Caliph of Islam after the passing of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh): “I have been chosen by you to be your leader, although I am no better than any of you. If I do any wrong, set me right … Obey me as long as I obey God and His Messenger (pbuh). If I disobey God and His Messenger (pbuh), you are free to disobey me.”

Case in point: Politicians often serve in leadership positions. It is imperative for them to live exemplary lives as their acts and deeds not only speak of and reflect the Malaysia we are living in today – the cultural complexities, the psychological tableaus, the political ecosystems – but more critical than that, they are among the first to shape the better Malaysia that we all long for.

> The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.
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Politics , Malaysia , politicians


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