31 July 2014

Some claim these unseen hands operate through us being a democratic nation, where we get to vote our leaders into power and also have a say in what we want for our country.

LET me first wish everyone Selamat Hari Raya, maaf zahir batin. This Ramadan has been a particularly sad one with the MH17 tragedy, especially when it came so soon after the disappearance of MH370. Our hearts and prayers go to all those who lost their loved ones in both tragedies.

But even without MH17, Ramadan was no less rancorous with attempts to ban soup kitchens and bad-tempered drivers behaving without restraint towards old people.

Then in a misplaced attempt to be “even-handed”, some radio stations made the perpetrator look like a celebrity, much to the disgust of many.

Whatever it was, a month that is supposed to be about restraint and moderation turned out to be ill-tempered.

I can’t help thinking that if it hadn’t been for the very sobering effect of MH17, things would have been much worse.

Not that we can truly expect the rest of the year to be calm and peaceful.

Already people whose sole purpose in life seems to be being as divisive as possible have declared that democracy is an evil invention of the West that we should not follow.

Its worst effect, it seems, is that it gives “citizens the right to determine their own future”.

Funny, I thought that’s why we wanted independence from our colonisers, so that we could decide the future of our country for ourselves.

But I suppose their argument here is that we are still not independent because there are many “hidden hands” actually steering our path.

The thing about these “hidden hands” is that apparently they operate through us being a democratic nation where we get to vote our leaders into power and also have a say in what we want for our country.

Thus, an undemocratic concept like the “hidden hands” operates through being democratic.

So if we didn’t have democracy, their logic goes, these invisible unknown hands wouldn’t control us.

The funny thing is there must be a lot of these unseen hands around the world since there are so many democratic countries.

If they vote in the people we like, then the hidden hands fail.

But when they vote in people we don’t like, then those hands managed to win.

Since it is democracy that works in both cases, it’s hard not to think that those hands are really inconsistent.

So perhaps we should follow the undemocratic nations where the hands are not hidden at all, like, for example, Saudi Arabia?

So after 57 years of democracy, more or less, there are now people who think this is not a good idea. Not that they have any idea what should replace it, apart from that we should have an “Islamic” state. But a true Muslim state is a democratic one. Indeed the Quran warns us against despots and tyrants.

In chapter 4, verse 135, the Holy Book says “O You who have attained to faith! Be ever steadfast in upholding equity, bearing witness to the truth for the sake of God, even though it be against your own selves or your parents and kinsfolk. Whether the person concerned be rich or poor, God’s claim takes precedence over [the claims of] either of them. Do not, then, follow your own desires, lest you swerve from justice: for if you distort [the truth], behold, God is indeed aware of all that you do!” (Translation by Assad).

There are some whose sense of history seems to have little to do with facts.

The Constitutional monarchy, they claim, existed long before we became independent.

Which is an interesting re-telling of history, given that we did not have a Constitution before independence.

So what was “Constitutional” about the sultanates before then? Is that what they are proposing we revert to?

There are others who claim we should not have democracy because our Federal Constitution doesn’t contain the word.

I do love selective literalists who don’t know their history.

Did our forefathers clamour for independence because they wanted to be under anyone else’s yoke?

Why on earth did they decide we should have a Parliament we should vote for in elections if they did not want democracy?

Do they have to spell out every single word or did they know that “self-determination” meant democracy and nothing else? Perhaps people in 1957 were more intelligent than today?

And as for claiming we should not have democracy because it’s not mentioned in our Federal Cons­titution, I find this disingenuous of the selective literalists.

After all, they’re quite happy to want to do things that aren’t mentioned in the Quran. Like, the punishment for apostasy or for drinking. Or to do the opposite of things enjoined in the Quran such as not respecting people’s privacy and raiding them in their homes.