Press/Media Release

 

The Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (ABIM) refers to the statement issued by the Attorney General of Malaysia dated 25 June 2021.  

The main content of the Attorney General's statement revolves around Articles 39, 40 (1) and (1A) of the Federal Constitution regarding the act of His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah Ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah Al-Musta'in Billah, that was said to be limited by the advice given by the Prime Minister and the Cabinet.

Generally, as per our Constitutional Monarchy system, the procedures and actions of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (YDPA) are based on the provisions of law enshrined in the Federal Constitution.
At the same time, the statement concerns the Oath of Office for the Yang di-Pertuan Agong as enshrined in Article 37 and Part I of the Fourth Schedule of the Federal Constitution which states “therefore with this statement We solemnly and truly pledge allegiance to administer justice for Malaysia in accordance with the laws and the Constitution that has been ratified and promulgated and will be ratified and promulgated in the future.”
The Attorney General also explained that the situation during the emergency does not change in the same way as the situation outside the Emergency, in that the YDPA's action is still subject to the advice of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet based on the judgment in the case of N Madhavan Nair v Government of Malaysia [1975] 286.
*CONSTITUTIONAL MONARCHY IS IN LINE WITH THE PRACTICE OF PARLIAMENTARY DEMOCRACY*
ABIM believes that the role of the Constitutional Monarch is to defend the rights of the people as well as to preserve the check and balance system and the practice of democracy in Malaysia. 
Therefore, the actions of the YDPA on the advice of the Prime Minister should be understood as being on the advice of the rakyat, as the Prime Minister should have the support of the majority of MPs elected by the people.
In the Federal Constitution, in addition to the concept of a Constitutional Monarch, the principle of Parliamentary Democracy is the basis of the system of separation of powers as enshrined in Chapter 4 of the Federal Legislature in the Federal Constitution.
In other words, if the powers of the YDPA can be reviewed through the concept of a Constitutional Monarchy, the powers of the Prime Minister, including the power to advise the YDPA, can also be reviewed and limited through the Parliamentary Democracy system.
Although there is an interpretation that the Federal Constitution is now suspended, including a provision that requires Parliamentary sittings to be held following Section 18 and Section 14 (1) (a) of the Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance 2021, Section 14 (1) (b) of the Emergency Ordinance ( Necessary Powers) 2021 discloses that Parliament is still operating and subject to the discretion of the YDPA. It states “Parliament shall be convened, prorogued, and dissolved on such date as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong thinks fit”.
In other words, the principle of Parliamentary Democracy is still recognized during the Emergency and it is in the hands of the YDPA to convene a sitting of Parliament. 
From here we can observe the check and balance system that must be upheld to ensure that the rights of the people can be defended through a combination of the principles of Constitutional Monarchy and Parliamentary Democracy, even during an Emergency situation.
The concept of a Constitutional Monarch cannot stand alone without the support of the principles of Parliamentary Democracy. 
In fact, the action of the YDPA to issue a decree for Parliament to convene immediately is in line with the concept of Constitutional Monarchy, which exists to ensure that the rights of the people are upheld. At the same time, Article 44 of the Federal Constitution states that the YDPA is a component of the Malaysian Parliament, which emphasises the significant role played by the YDPA in defending Parliamentary Democracy. Article 44 states that "Federal legislative power shall vest in Parliament which shall consist of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and two Houses of Parliament known as the Dewan Negara and Dewan Rakyat."
*THE ROLE OF THE YANG DI-PERTUAN AGONG IN PROVIDING CHECK & BALANCE TO EXECUTIVE POWER*
Thus, through the decree of His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah Ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah Al-Musta'in Billah together with the decree issued by the Conference of Malay Rulers dated June 16, 2021 that Parliament be convened as soon as possible without the advice of the Prime minister or the Cabinet was an act that satisfies the Federal Constitution, and does not conflict with the concept of Constitutional Monarchy and Parliamentary Democracy.
However, if the power of the YDPA to convene a sitting of Parliament during an Emergency is subject to the advice of the Prime Minister or the Cabinet, this means the principle of separation of powers between the Executive and the Legislature does not apply, and this opens the door to abuse of power by the Executive.  
This was once emphasized by Prof Owen Hood Phillips in his book Constitutional and Administrative Law (1973) who stated:
“Political liberty is to be found only when there is no abuse of power. But constant experience shows us that every man invested with power is liable to abuse it and to carry his authority as far as it will go ... To prevent this abuse, it is necessary from the nature of things that one power should be a check on another ... When the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person or body there can be no liberty. Again, there is no liberty if the judicial power is not separated from the legislative and the executive ... There would be an end of everything if the same person or body, whether of the nobles or of the people, were to exercise all three powers.”
Thus, the call by the YDPA and the Malay Rulers to convene Parliament should not be ruled out based on the question of advice by the executive, as it is the only way to ensure a check and balance on the part of the executive during an Emergency, especially as people’s lives are getting worse.
*Muhammad Faisal Abdul Aziz*
*President*
*Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (ABIM)*
*28 June 2021/18 Zulkaedah 1442 H*

 

Muslim Youth Movement Malaysia (ABIM) condemns the policies denying the rights of Muslims in France which are increasingly practiced without empathy and respect for human dignity and human rights principles.

ABIM refers to the latest decision by the French Senate to ban French Muslim women under the age of 18 from wearing the hijab. The ban was made on the justification of the anti-separatist law.
ABIM comprehends the rights of any country to enact any laws in the name of protecting its sovereignty. But in the name of human rights, it must be done proportionately and not to the point of leading to discrimination and persecution of a certain group of people.
To aggravate the situation, the principle of law has been used as a weapon to suppress a religion, as it will inevitably allow for more violations of religious rights by the authorities.
ABIM, on 24 February 2021 sent a letter to the French President HE M Emmanuel Macron through the French Ambassador to Malaysia, urging the French government to be rational by respecting and celebrating religious diversity, particularly as a cornerstone of unity in combating climate crisis.
This includes ABIM's initiatives to elevate environmental and climate change issues as a common ground in gathering various religions to come together and work towards finding amicable solutions for the world instead of being preoccupied with sentiments of disunity between one another.
Thus, ABIM urges the French government to stop any policy justifying the oppression of any religion including Islam.
ABIM also urges France to withdraw the Senate House approval banning the wearing of headscarves to Muslim women under the age of 18.
Muhammad Faisal Abdul Aziz
Presiden
Muslim Youth Movement Malaysia (ABIM)

Malaysian Interfaith Climate Change Network (MICCN) consisting of the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (ABIM) and Friendship Group of Inter Religious Services (FGIS) take seriously the issue of flooding that has hit many states.

We are firmly of the view that flooding happens repeatedly because of several key factors which all parties should take responsibility for:
1) Climate change: Climate change has caused unpredictable weather patterns. This situation leads to unpredictable rainfall at any given time and can cause major flooding when flood mitigation measures cannot function properly. The authorities must thus consider climate change as a major factor leading to flooding.
2) Uncontrolled logging: Uncontrolled logging will compromise water stocks in reserve forests on riverbanks and cause mud slides. Logging by land clearing will worsen the situation because water runoff will exceed infiltration (the amount of water that enters the ground for groundwater recharging and water reserves). Logging should be done in a controlled manner via selective logging to ensure sustainability and sufficient water stocks.
3) Rivers: Rivers that are not properly maintained through methods such as being deepened to meet certain criteria and being kept free of waste also cause flooding. The authorities should increase their efforts to properly maintain rivers, including by preventing riverbanks from being compromised.
4) River basins: River basins and flood reservoirs in downstream areas that serve to hold water overflows must be properly maintained. Activities by irresponsible parties that threaten these river basins must result in severe punitive actions by the authorities. Meanwhile, more flood mitigation pools must be built by the authorities as well.
 5) Replanting: Every time fields are replanted; this contributes to an increase in surface water runoffs. Such replanting activities should thus be reviewed, and a stage-by-stage process studied. Insufficient trees in urban areas, especially in the middle and downstream areas of a river also contribute to floods. We need to increase planting and preservation of trees in both these areas. This effort can involve the community through the concept of urban community forests.
6) Housing: We should also note that increased construction will decrease forest area. Trees serve as water absorbents, so a decrease in trees will lead to an increase in water. We thus call for it to be mandatory for each housing project to have a rainwater harvesting system (RWH), and to incentivise the building of RWH systems in existing housing projects. RWH systems should also be implemented in rural areas. These systems can significantly reduce the amount of water entering drainage and river systems. Apart from that, any plans on town development should consider advice from environment experts to later avoid the mentioned problem.
7) Environmental education: Educating the community about the environment in a comprehensive way that covers issues of climate change and the implications of unethical behaviour such as throwing rubbish into drains should be emphasised. Such education should be organised systematically for all layers of society.
8) Integrated long term planning: The federal and state governments, including all ministries, departments, and agencies should sit together to formulate a holistic and integrated long-term plan for handling flooding. 
This effort must take into consideration how climate change and environmental degradation is a result of indiscriminate development, logging, unethical behaviour and so on. Integrated enforcement will obviously be necessary across the board.
In summary, we need an integrated long-term plan that involves every ministry, department, and agency at both state and federal levels. The failure of the authorities to come up with an integrated plan will undoubtedly cause flooding to be a recurring problem and burden the rakyat repeatedly. 
Furthermore, damage to infrastructure like highways, roads, and other public facilities due to flooding will surely cause an even greater drain on public money.
 We firmly urge that the aforementioned issues, climate change and deforestation in particular, be handled more effectively, for without emphasis on such issues, our beloved country will continue to face the direct and indirect effects of major catastrophes such as the flood and the Covid-19 pandemic.
#BangsaMalaysiaLawanPerubahanIklim #BangsaMalaysiaFightingClimateChange
MUHAMMAD FAISAL ABDUL AZIZ
Coordinator
Malaysian Interfaith Climate Change Network (MICC)
cum President of Muslim Youth Movement Malaysia (ABIM)
15hb Januari 2021
 The list of Endorsing NGOs:
1) Malaysian Interfaith Climate Change Network (MICCN)
2) Muslim Youth Movement Malaysia (ABIM)
3) Friendship Group of Inter Religious Services (FGIS)
4) Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM)
5) SAVE Rivers
6) Orthodox Syrian Church, Malaysia
7) Malaysian Youth Council (MBM)
8) Young Buddhist Association of Malaysia (YBAM)
9) Tibetan Buddhist Culture Centre Malaysia (TBCC)
10) Allied Coordinating Committee of Islamic NGOs (ACCIN)
11) Pertubuhan Ikram Malaysia (IKRAM)
12) Gerakan Belia Sikh Malaysia (GBSM)
13) Sathya Sai International Organisation Malaysia
14) Wadah Pencerdasan Umat Malaysia (WADAH)
15) Hindu Sevai Sangam
16) Pertubuhan Alam Sekitar Sejahtera Malaysia (Grass Malaysia)
17) Persatuan Kebangsaan Pelajar Islam Malaysia (PKPIM)
18) Projek Wawasan Rakyat (Powr)
19) Buddhist Missionary Society Malaysia (BMSM)
20) Global Peace Mission Malaysia (GPM)
21) Community Action Network (CAN)
22) Seniman Paksi Rakyat (PAKSI)
23) LLG Cultural Centre
24) Malaysian Consultative Council for Islamic Organization (MAPIM)
25) Teras Pengupayaan Melayu (TERAS)
26) Pertubuhan Muafakat Sabah (MUAFAKAT SABAH)
27) Projek 57
28) The Kuala Lumpur & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH)
29) Persatuan Pelajar Islam Selangor Darul Ehsan (PEPIAS)
30) Persatuan Ilmu Murni Pulau Pinang
31) Kesatuan Generasi Madani Selangor (KGMS)
32) Interactive Muslimah Association (IMAN)
33) Pertubuhan Keselamatan dan Kesihatan Pekerjaan Sabah (HSE Sabah)
34) Wanita Impian Negeri Sabah (WINS)
35) Treat Every Environment Special (TrEES)
36) Institut Kepimpinan Bitara

By NATHANIEL TAN

MALAYSIA has lost its way.

I don’t think I’m the only one feeling this way, as the year draws to a close.

We are adrift at sea, with no compass or guiding star.

Nowhere is this more true than in our politics. Some trace it back to the Sheraton Move, some to Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s latest stint as Prime Minister, and some all the way back to his very first.

Politics today is all about fighting. We fight with our enemies. We fight with our friends. We fight until friends become enemies, and enemies become (usually temporary, fake) friends.

We fight so much that we’ve forgotten: What are we really fighting for?

Sometimes, leaders pay lip service, and say the right words. But actions ultimately speak louder, revealing how nowadays, all that anyone ever fights for is themselves.

What Malaysia needs is something worth fighting for.

Without a unifying goal, what will it matter who the leader of which party is, who the leader of the opposition is, or who the PM is even?

Yesterday, Abim (The Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia) held its annual muktamar (general assembly), where its president Muhammad Faisal Aziz delivered his keynote address entitled: Cosmopolitan Islam and the Forging of Bangsa Malaysia.

My first real introduction to Abim was at last year’s muktamar, where the keynote address was also on Bangsa Malaysia, demonstrating a sense of continuity and ongoing commitment to this concept even as leadership of the organisation changed.

I remember sitting there in Bangi last year, and being extremely impressed that a Malay-based Islamist organisation would champion such a cause so fearlessly.

I was impressed because championing the idea of a “Bangsa Malaysia” opens one up to a lot of backlash.

This discourse tends to open up debate about whether one is first Malay/Chinese/Indian and Malaysian second or vice versa.

When it comes to the question of identity in Malaysia, many have taken such a zero sum approach. Most do so to further narrow and selfish political gains.

Malaysia has a long history of leaders using ethnoreligious identity to stoke conflict for political gain. It is arguably the central tenet and issue around which Malaysia’s political landscape has shaped – or rather twisted – itself.

This is not surprising considering that the key political parties that shaped Malaysia over its formative decades have all been race-based.

2021 will be my 15th year as a columnist. In this decade and a half, I have been repeating ad nauseum that this race-based political structure has been the poisonous shackles that have held Malaysia back, decade after decade after decade.

If we don’t break free from it, we will never break free from the impasse, the mire, the merry-go-round of principle-less politics.

So it was with no small fanfare that I welcomed Abim’s call yesterday to finally forge a true Bangsa Malaysia.

Faisal quoted Amartya Sen and Francis Fukuyama, and spoke eloquently bout the concept of cross-cutting identities, noting that it is extremely archaic and old-fashioned to think that we can have only one identity – or a hierarchy of identities that are ranked in some immovable way.

We all have multiple identities: ethnic, religious, professional, familial, geographical, and so on. We define ourselves not only by our ancestry and where we are from, but by what we believe, and what we do.

If we continue to believe that identities are mutually exclusive, then we will be forever trapped in a cycle of conflicting identities.

Finally understanding that we are all many things at once is extremely liberating. It frees us to develop various aspects of our lives and identities simultaneously, without feeling like one compromises the other.

In other words, it is a fallacy to think that being more Malaysian makes us less Malay, Chinese, Indian, Iban, Kadazan or what not. We are all these things at once, and being one doesn’t make us less of the other.

Faisal said: “A Bangsa Malaysia identity does not involve assimilation that dilutes our diverse cultures, but an opportunity to mould an integrated identity that is informed and inspired by the shared values and qualities of all the various ethnicities and cultures in our blessed nation.

“These shared values are the bases of the middle road that will keep our nation from falling from either the pitfalls of assimilation on one hand, or segregation and division on the other.”

The fact that Abim, a grassroots movement steeped deeply in Malay and Muslim identity, should choose this path is especially significant, for the same reasons that only Nixon could go to China, as they say.

Dr Mahathir himself used to talk of Bangsa Malaysia, and some NGOs have long tried to champion the same.

I think however, that given the present context, as well as Abim’s credentials and positioning, we have a better chance to succeed on a wider scale now than ever before. Having gotten to know many of their leaders personally, I can personally vouch (for whatever that’s worth) for their sincerity, compassion, moderation, and true passion for national unity and progress.

The question of a Bangsa Malaysia has ramifications far beyond concepts of personal identity.

One key aspect of the idea of Bangsa Malaysia is that it remains something that is relatively undefined. The cliches are that Americans are all about freedom, Germans are all about efficiency, and so on. But what does it mean to be Malaysian?

Beyond some vague aphorisms about food and nasi lemak, I feel this question has yet to be adequately answered. And that lack of an answer has contributed significantly to the sense of aimlessness that we are experiencing as a nation.

If we don’t know who we are, how can we know where to go?

Let’s make 2021 the year we start answering those questions.

It’s not for me, or Abim, or anyone else to unilaterally decide in a top down way what it means to be Malaysian. This is a question that can only be answered together, from the bottom up.

It is a journey of discovering what our common values are, and what principles we want to strive towards as a united nation.

We should not expect Malaysians to feel a deep connection to some vague sentences put together by people from ancient history; a true sense of identity and connection to values and principles needs to be refreshed and redefined by every generation, to ensure that these values genuinely resonate. It is an evolving Google Document with multiple editors, not a PDF document.

When we know, clearly and deeply, what values and principles bind us as a nation, then we will finally have a way out of the mires and political impasses of today – something beyond narrow self interests to fight for. We will have each other.

Let’s make 2021 a year where we raise the banner of Bangsa Malaysia high, so that all Malaysians can look up to it as a symbol of hope, and a beacon to guide us out of this lost, hopeless despair.

Let’s make it a year where we will finally be free from being beholden to politicians who are themselves lost and unanchored, and find the confidence to lead ourselves instead – because once we recognise what it means to be Bangsa Malaysia, we will know the road we will have to walk, and we will find in one another the courage to walk it. Sources:- The Star

 

 

A conversation about Compassion and Mercy, values common to Islam and Buddhism, had been organized by the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (ABIM) and the Tibetan Buddhist Culture Centre (TBCC), Malaysia.

Prof Osman stated that mercy is the essence of Islam. The Arabic word for it from the Quran is ‘rahmah’ and it may be defined as compassion, love, mercy, kindness and so forth. It is comparable to what ‘karuna’ or compassion means to Buddhists and what ‘agape’ or love signifies for Christians.

Mercy, he said, is the most divine attribute of God, who is described as ‘most gracious’ and ‘most compassionate’. ‘Mercy to the world’ is one of the epithets of the Prophet Muhammad, who was especially compassionate to orphans, the poor, the weak and oppressed.

Prof Osman also remarked that the divine law of Islam (Shari'ah) was given as guidance and mercy by God the lawgiver, not out of a sense of compulsion or punitive enforcement, but out of his compassion, mercy, and kindness. The Professor concluded that since all human beings have a seed of compassion and mercy, these qualities are among their essential attributes.

Prof Osman suggested that it was important to distinguish between different interpretations of the teachings and misinterpretations. He conceded that religious instruction can be interpreted in different ways.

Prof Osman remarked that Shari'ah offers guidance. Prayer has the effect of weakening self-centredness, as does fasting and ‘zakat’ or charity.

 

Imran Ariff 

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Foundation for the Blind (MFB) and the Muslim Youth Movement Malaysia (Abim) today launched a fundraising campaign to translate, print and distribute history books in braille for visually handicapped students.
Abim vice-president Zairudin Hashim said the initial target of the campaign is RM100,000, which will be used to produce and distribute the text books.
“Most of the books cost around RM90. They are quite expensive and usually only last one or two months as they can easily get damaged and need replacement,” he said.
If more than RM100,000 is raised, he said, Abim and MFB can use the additional funds to conduct a roadshow advocating for the rights of the blind community.
 tabung braille
“We tend to see disabled people as people we need to give money to, but actually, there are many who contribute to our society, so we need to understand they have the potential to give to the country.
“As fellow Malaysians, we need to make sure we don’t forget them.”
MFB founder Silatul Rahim Dahman said this initiative was important for blind students.
“If their needs are not met, they are going to face a lot of difficulties in their studies,” he said.
He hoped the fund will not just produce braille books but also raise awareness on the needs and rights of blind.
“People will not understand our actual problems, feelings and difficulties unless they are disabled, but nobody wants to be disabled. That is the dilemma we often face with the public.”
mesin taip braille
 
Silatul also wants to produce and distribute “books of the general order”, so that blind people can learn about their rights.
The books will initially be produced in Malay, but they hope to produce texts in other languages in the future. Sources: Free Malaysia Today.

 

The forum will discuss on “Compassion & Mercy As The Common Values Between Islam & Buddhism”

Kirat Kaur
BY KIRAT KAUR
In an increasingly rare display of respect and tolerance in Malaysia, an online Islam-Buddhist forum featuring the Dalai Lama – the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader – will be held this month to build inter-religious harmony.
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, and International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilisation (ISTAC)’s Professor Emeritus Datuk Dr Osman Bakar will be discussing the topic “Compassion & Mercy As The Common Values Between Islam & Buddhism” online on 28 September.
In an interview with Malaysiakini, organiser Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (ABIM) explained that they believed different religious views should be discussed on a suitable platform that focuses on wisdom and truth.
Hence the idea to organise this interfaith dialogue.
Nowadays, we are often surrounded by elements of Islamophobia, triggered by irresponsible parties. We should engage in harmonious dialogue with various communities as a mechanism to explain Islam and the contribution of this religion towards peaceful coexistence.
 
ABIM believes that we need to look at a bigger perspective, which is how religious diversity can be an asset to harmony and unity, instead of a factor for conflict.
 
Muhammad Faisal Abdul Aziz, President of Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (ABIM) via Malaysiakini.
 
The event is also organised by the Tibetan Buddhist Culture Centre, Malaysia (TBCC), whose president Casey Liu will be moderating alongside ABIM’s president Muhammad Faisal Abdul Aziz. Sources: The Rakyat Post.
 

 

ALL THE PIECES MATTER

Thursday, 06 Aug 2020
By Nathaniel Tan
TODAY, the sixth of August, is the Muslim Youth Movement Malaysia’s (Abim) 49th anniversary.
In the past year or so, I’ve gotten to know the organisation and its leaders quite well. Long story short, it’s been a fascinating and inspiring journey.
I’ll share three things I’ve learned from Abim for now: successful models of grassroots activism, the ways in which religion can play a positive role in activism and governance, and the value of personal bonds in a movement.
Before I continue, it is very much worth noting that a lot of these qualities and lessons can be found in other similar organisations and movements – be it other religious-based movements like Pertubuhan Ikram Malaysia, or secular grassroots movements like Liga Rakyat Demokratik.
I assume none of the rest are celebrating their anniversary today as well, so I hope it’s okay if I focus on the one organisation here.
The initial model that inspired the founding of many movements like Abim is of course that of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
The Muslim Brotherhood is not without controversy, and the many similar organisations founded across the world share different levels of affiliations with the Muslim Brotherhood today.
A defining feature of these movements mirrors the manner in which Islam emphasises being an all-encompassing way of life, in that it is common for these movements to be involved in a wide array of activities.
These include, but are not limited to, the founding of institutions of learning (from preschools to universities), hospitals, charities, social service centres, and so on. (It is worth noting that PAS operates in this manner as well, and in this sense is extremely different from any other political party in Malaysia).
What makes these organisations a little different from many which work in a similar space within civil society is the manner in which they are financially self-sustaining. In this regard, they are perhaps more similar to social enterprises than to “NGOs”, as we commonly understand the term.
I think this is an important and very useful quality, in forming a long term, sustainable movement. It is a completely different model than having to rely on grants, charity, or other types of handouts, and imbues the organisation with a certain degree of pride and dignity that inspires a particular type of confidence amongst its members.
I might summarise my second point in the saying: “You Islam, I okay”.
I believe Islamophobia is a very real thing, especially among non-Muslims (like myself) in Malaysia.
I’m not saying that there aren’t people here and around the world who do try to force their religion on you in insidious ways. It happens with Muslims, just as it happens with Christians and various other religions in pockets all over the world.
That said, I think it is always, always helpful to not paint everyone who shares a label with the same brush.
One of my more profound experiences with Abim was accompanying them in the delivery of some food aid during the movement control order (MCO) period.
This was one of a regular set of engagements that Abim has had with the NGO Pertubuhan Pembangunan Kebajikan dan Persekitaran Positif Malaysia (SEED), which describes itself as the “first trans-led community based organisation in Malaysia”.
SEED has an office in an area of Chow Kit (in Kuala Lumpur) some might describe as seedy, and serves communities like transgenders and “women of socially excluded communities”.
These are not the types of people that you would imagine an Islamist organisation going out of its way to help.
I can personally bear witness to the fact that there was no preaching, no handing out of pamphlets, and no attempting to convert or get people to “repent”. (I imagine there is no way SEED would have let them do that anyway).
There was only the giving out of very large boxes (sponsored by other donors in this case, I believe) of food and supplies – boxes that I was nowhere near strong enough to help carry for the entirety of the time.
I think the experience was just one of many I had that really ran counter to the narrative that all Islamic organisations are the same, that they all want to convert you, and so on.
This was one of many times that I saw a focus on Islamic principles and values, rather than the outward manifestations and trappings. I saw firsthand so many times the emphasis on compassion and aid to all who suffer – not just all who look or talk like them, or shared the same beliefs.
I think religious revivalism is a very real phenomenon – but also not necessarily one that needs to be as polarising as it has been in the past. As what may be a growing number of Malaysians are putting religion in the centre of their lives, it is vital that we continue to build bridges and recognise the common humanity between those who have different views on religion and secularism.
Thus far, I have found the people at Abim to be amazing partners in this endeavour, and I think if you take the time to get to know them yourselves, you are likely to have a similar experience.
I have spent a fair amount of time reflecting on and experiencing firsthand how movements and organisations work.
I confess, I’ve sat through countless meetings where I’m quietly watching mini ego wars and power plays unfold, thinking to myself this group is not really going anywhere – and seeing firsthand how trust deficits really scuttle even the best intentions.
Abim’s leaders are nowhere near perfect. I’m not here to over romanticise them, or paint them as some sort of angels.
But what I have observed is the value of being together, working towards the same goals, for a long time. What I’ve really been moved by is the degree to which their leaders trust each other, and truly see each other as part of a family and community.
This is not something one whips into existence overnight. It is borne from having gone through thick and thin together for years, or sometimes even decades. It creates strong personal bonds, and a feeling that you do this work not just for yourself or for the nation, but for your brothers and sisters as well.
I’ve also reflected on what kind of people are drawn to what type of organisation.
Political parties are often a route to fame and riches. There are no riches, and very little fame, in an organisation like Abim. There is pretty much only work – and a somewhat endless supply of it.
The flip side of that of course, is that it tends to attract a certain type of person – the type of person who is more interested in trying to contribute some good to the world around them, rather than making a quick buck.
As alluded to in my first point, this does not mean they are financially naive. It just means that if huge sums of money are the most important thing in your life, you’d be pretty stupid to devote your time to an organisation like Abim.
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