For country or for ego?

September 1, 2008

Article by Raja Zarith Idris, The Star Online

What the West does in order to expose scandals, we think we can do better. And indeed, we have.

IT is distressing to read our local news to find that age-old customs and manners are no longer adhered to. Instead, we seem to relish the “no holds barred” and mud-slinging tactics which, once upon a time, we considered too crass and so un-Asian.

As I read news items, opinions and arguments, it became apparent that not only do we quite enjoy the mud-slinging, we now no longer make the effort to “save face” or be more sympathetic towards the wives and children of men who have been involved in scandals.

We do not care about showing respect for those in position of authority either. What the West does in order to expose scandals, we think we can do better. And indeed, we have.

Rather confused,I decided to turn to books on spirituality – opting to find answers in books by pre-21st century philosophers and religious authorities.

My journey began with Wonders of the Heart by Imam Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali (a Muslim scholar, jurist and philosopher who lived during the 11th century); this book is a small part of his huge, 40-book work called Ihya Ulum al-Din (The Revival of Religious Sciences).

In his preface, Al-Ghazali had written: “I found everyone hankering after material gains … These people have led everyone to suppose that knowledge consists simply in the debates and arguments by which they spread their fame; or else ornate sermons, by which they held the people spell-bound …”

Muslims believe that Satan will set temptations in our way throughout our lives. Iman Al-Ghazali is of the opinion that: “Satan … portrays evil in the form of good. Thus he will say to the man who is learned in the art of preaching, ‘Allah has blessed you with a perspicacious heart, an eloquent tongue, and an acceptable manner of speaking …’”

But while Satan continues to convince the orator of his eloquence and that his voice can mesmerise thousands, at the same time he endows the man with the “stains of hypocrisy, popularity with the crowd, delight in high rank, pride in the power given by many followers and much learning, and a contemptuous attitude towards mankind”.

In other words, does the man use his oratory skills for the good of his people or for his own ego?

Iman Ghazali had predicted that men many centuries later could be great orators and yet may not have noble intentions.

Orators who were charismatic and attracted the attention of thousands included Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy, and before them, in Europe, Karl Marx, Stalin, Adolf Hitler and Winston Churchill.

Were these men mere egoists who were highly ambitious? We have at present more than an adequate knowledge about their sincerity towards their fellowmen.

Mahatma Gandhi said: “There is nothing on earth that I would not give up for the sake of the country excepting of course two things and two only, namely, truth and non-violence. I would not sacrifice these two for all the world. For to me Truth is God and there is no way to find Truth except the way of non-violence … I know that a man who forsakes Truth can forsake his country, and his nearest and dearest ones.” (speech, Dec 20, 1926)

Martin Luther King also considers peace and non-violence as important elements for the sake of all: “Sooner or later, all people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace … Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation … I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and non-violent redemptive good will proclaim the rule of the land.”

Both these great men spoke of the need for truth and that we find a way to live together in peace.

Do we the citizens of Malaysia know what is the truth behind the political scandals that we have been exposed to but of which we have not been given absolute and conclusive proof?

Which of our present and future leaders can we trust?

I agree with Gandhi that a leader must be one who is a truthful person and not one who lies.

I agree with Martin Luther King that we must reject those who seek revenge and retaliation, or who are obviously over-ambitious: Islam rejects all of these.

What say you?

The writer is Royal Fellow, School of Language Studies & Linguistics, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, and holds an M.A. (Oxon) in Chinese Studies, University of Oxford


One Response to “For country or for ego?”

  1. Fazrul Says:

    Hi Bro,

    Hmmm.. no more MalaysiaToday..haaa??

    what wrong with Malaysia now?


    p/s: fazrull.. you can access Malaysia Today at or

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