“English Column: UTAM; the Young Hope for Malaysia”
“Still you refer to us as children, no wonder our success is mount. You consistently underestimate us”
- Aquaman, Young Justice, Season 2 Episode 19
Picture courtesy of Coolpapae.com
Earlier this year, I was invited to deliver a talk at University Malaya (UM). It wasn’t a political talk. It was a rather motivational talk discussing on the topic of Islamic activism among university students. A talk for “Islamists”, some might call.
What astonished me was, during my talk, when I mentioned politically related issues; I noticed that some students ‘escaped’ the hall. At first I thought it was just my perception but one of the organizers said (after the talk has finished) the very same thing: students leaving the hall.
What did I say that ‘offended’ them? Was it too condensed with political ideologies?
I only said this “The most profitable business in the world is taking money from the rakyat.”
Too political? But this simple quote maybe angered one fifth of the audiences and made them resort to leaving the hall. Those who stayed laughed. It was a joke after all. No names were mentioned. I would never apply the cheap character assassination in my talks. It was just a joke.
I don’t know why they withdrew themselves. They might be either politically disheartened with the current polemics in politics or they subscribe to the confusion of “Politics don’t mix with religion.”
I can see, from this incident, on a larger scale, maybe there are more out there like those who left. There are more who can’t bear the word ‘politics’ or anything related to it. Who are politically exhausted.
Yes, it is true, many Malaysians are politically depressed judging from the silent protest of the changing Facebook profile pictures to the “Blackout 505” or “Black 505” implying that “Democracy is Dead” post-GE 13.
As a participant of the “Simposium Anak Muda UTAM” last Sunday, the depression, the confusion, will gradually change seeing the shining young hope of young intellectuals sparkling from within the initiative brought forward by UTAM.
A ‘New Wave’ in Politics
I once asked my mentor at NSTP, Mr. Balan about his opinion on the current younger generation. He said that “The younger generation is more liberal in a sense.”
“Liberal” as what he said is not the negative connotation of “Islamic Liberal.” Do not misunderstand. Liberal here means that the younger generation is adaptable in accepting dissimilarities.
There’s a reason why, despite the commotion propagated in the ruling government, iconic figures such as YB Khairy Jamaluddin is close to the hearts of young people across parties.
YB KJ pointed out five points in his opening speech at the symposium:
1- The future of the country’s politics must be free from bigotry. Bigotry is an obstruction from understanding the truth.
2- Intellectualism should be bred in the society from a thinking convention
3- The principle must be clear. Consistency in upholding the principle of each other must be present
4- Evaluation must be based on reality not based on perception. Built on facts and not rhetoric
5- Enlightenment must be across partisanship, it should be non-partisan
If yesterday, Malaysians support a particular political party based on blind fanaticism, tomorrow they will have to try and accept others as comrades not enemies and dissent with dignity.
If yesterday, whenever each coalition presents their respective economic models, tomorrow, instead of belittling each other saying “Yours will bankrupt the country”, “Ours will secure the country’s future” provide analyses why such claims were made.
If yesterday, criticism of an issue will lead to blind rage and rejection. Tomorrow criticism with intellectualism will be the culture of Malaysians.
“I am not opposed to dissent. I myself am a person who likes to be critical of issues. We have to differentiate being critical to the government and love for the country. Someone who criticizes the government doesn’t mean he is not patriotic” – YB KJ.
To quote a colleague of mine in “The M Project”, Dr. Syed Muhammad Khairuddin Aljunied, an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Arts and Social Science of the National University of Singapore said “Let us begin to convey and not condemn, to share and less to shred, to say points with depth and not just breath, points to develop and not to dangle, points for social responsibility and not endless ranting.”
“I am a graduate of UTAM”
My first impression of UTAM the first time I came across this non-profit entity last year was:
“Is there really a university by the name of University Terbuka Anak Muda in Malaysia?”
Well certainly no.
Now, if there is one, I would be glad to announce that “I am graduated of UTAM.”
*I really hope that UTAM will start discussions in English as an alternative other than Malay.