Our personality for this week is Dato’ Dr. Mujahid Yusof. A learned politician, hailed from a family of strong political influence. A member of Parti Amanah Negara and the MP of Parit Buntar constituency, he shared his take on politics and social issues that is happening in Malaysia.
Career before politics?
I was an academician prior to joining politics. I finished my degree from Al-Azhar University in Cairo majoring in Arabic Studies and Literature, and became an Arabic Language teacher in Ipoh. After a year, I moved to KL to work with a voluntary agency offering humanitarian aid, working within the Asean region to help the poor. Later, I took an offer to become a tutor with ITTM which is under Telekom Malaysia. So, as I can say I started my career seriously as a academician before I completed my masters in 1997, and continued as a lecturer. In 1999, I’ve decided on something very decisive in my life to become a full-time politician.
Transition from an academician to a politician?
I was already involved as a PAS member in Melaka, as a member of a division and was on a liaison committee. As I climbed up through the party, I was still working as a lecturer before I made up my decision.
In the 1999 election, I contested as a candidate for PAS in Jasin and lost. From 1999 till now, I never turned back from politics. In 2008 I won the seat in Parit Buntar, Perak.
Throughout your political career, why do you decided to go with PAS in the first place?
I grew up with PAS in the environment. My father was the president of PAS, Tuan Guru Haji Yusof Rawa and he was also the first Mursyidul Am PAS. I must say it is in the blood, growing up knowing my father is actively involved with PAS. In fact, my mother was pregnant with me during the time my father was actively campaigning in Perlis, and she was helping him. When I was born, I’m named Mujahid, simply means a fighter in Arabic.
Then something happened and requires me to make a tough decision, after all the struggle that I’ve made, PAS didn’t turn out to be the way it is supposed to be. Then there was internal struggle and conflict that led to the formation of Amanah, I made the tough decision to join Amanah and left PAS. There was talk that I left my father’s party and legacy. It is supposed to be a party that fight and struggle for everyone, and not just Muslim. Thus, for me I didn’t leave my father’s legacy but it was PAS that leaves its legacy. I’m just continuing it in Amanah.
Do you see Parti Amanah as a splinter party from PAS, is it a ‘newer’ brand PAS?
I wouldn’t say that it is a new PAS, but rather a rejuvenating form of Islamic political movement living in the 20th century, trying to make sense of their presence in a multiracial environment, and believing in democracy as a political tool for their agenda. We are rejuvenating the contemporary political Islam, so people can understand how democracy can be the tool that is possible, good governance, justice for everyone, which is the substance of Islam.
What do you think about having more inter-faith understanding to break the stigma of religious based politics?
This is interesting because inter-faith understanding goes beyond politics and it focuses on long term results. Politicians don’t like that, they want quick result and in the end, they want the votes. Hence the religious based politics and racial based politics because that is the quickest way you can get the sentiment. It is unfortunate, and I don’t submit to such notion. For me religion is beyond politics, you don’t use religion for political purposes. It drives you yes, it guides, give you motivation, yes, but you never use it as some political tools. Because once it is used, you cannot run away from hatred, prejudice and in our multiracial society, this is something fragile and anything can lead into racial hatred when you start to combine religion and racial politics. This hinders the progress as a nation.
Thus, I would say, interfaith will have short term impact on political result, but it has an impact in the longer run to create a better and harmonious society. That is why, even when in PAS, I’ve already engaged in interfaith dialogue at the height of the Kalimah Allah issue, and in racial issue, I prefer to engage myself not as a Malay, but as a Malaysian.But unfortunately, our politics is always going backwards, to the religious issue and racial issue. In western country, when you have a scandal or anything that touches the integrity, you don’t have any priest to come and say religious words. But not here in this country, when you have a corrupt leader, you used the ulama or mufti to spread words about foreign intervention, about embrace ourselves from the conspiracy from the Christians, which has nothing to do with the issue, but plays very well in the society. Because people gets very touched and sentimental on racial and religious issue. This is immoral because you are doing that at the cost of the nation.
So, for the interfaith question, I must say it is a continuous journey that must not be affected by any political issue, and I like it because it is beyond political boundaries. And you will see more people coming in, which doesn’t have any political affiliation, and same goes to any activity that can promote harmony and peace among religions. And to reject any record of hatred and prejudice.
After the interfaith dialogue in Klang last fasting month, I had a Harmony Walk and ‘Buka Puasa’ in Penang. We walked about 800-900 meters from the St. George’s Anglican Church, passed by the Kuan Yin Temple, passed by the Hindu temple, asking them to join the walk. And we had a pit-stop at Masjid Kapitan, introducing the head of the Anglican Church to the chairman of the mosque, and it was nice, because they never knew each other when they are located so near to each other. They were invited to see the mosque, which is also a beautiful experience. Then we all went to Masjid Melayu in Lebuh Acheh and invited them for a buka puasa together. It was the loveliest moment I had on the last day of Ramadhan this year. We were joined by about 100 people from Sikh community, from the temples and NGOs.
What’s your comment on the issue that has been viral, about the Muslim girl and her dog?
In Malaysia, which is a Muslim country like to discuss on trivial issues like, can you touch a dog or not and they started to discuss it as a national issue and forget about bigger issue like corruption, about the Ringgit currency, about GST. This is something shameful. Unfortunately, my comment on Malaysia is our religion is very much dependent on authority. Religious authority should not dictate our life, religious authority is to administer for Muslim affairs. Only Shafi’i sect that prohibit the touching of the dog, because he worries about the saliva. Other scholars have different opinion on this issue and it provides a broader understanding of the religion. As far as we know, the touching of a dog is a disputed opinion of the scholars, thus once it is in a disputed opinion, no one shall make other opinions wrong and asking for repentance. The matter has been taken out of context and create unnecessary hatred towards dogs when they are also God’s creature.
Opinion on Tun Mahathir and he’s coming back to political scenario?
I always believe that politics is dynamic, there is no black and white. Today you make foes, tomorrow you make friends. That’s is the only way to move forward. You do not go back on your words on those who repented. For me for someone at his age, doing what he’s doing now is something to think about. Who are we to judge about his intention? Accept him, and we consider that as a repentance. Why should we question sincerity?Then what should we do? Well, one way is to look at what we have done in the past 20 years. Accepting Mahathir doesn’t mean submitting to him, but a victory to Reformasi as he has now come back to us. Why should I hold more grudges than those who have been wrong? We want to forgive and move forward. This is something that I think each politician should have, which is sufism in politics. They believe in bigger things.
Message to LifeNews.agency
As a politician, I feel that whatever and whoever you are, the state and the nation will come first. Because political party come and go, but the country will remain. It is a question of how you want to inherit this nation and to whom you want to give it. We think that the nation as something that we borrow from our children. So, consider your act as a politician as someone who is taking care of things that you borrow from future generation. You don’t own it. So, make sure we give it back in good hands, and to do that you have to be beyond political or party interest but interest of the nation. It must be for the nation. Don’t ever at any point consider yourself as the one and only saviour of this nation, but consider yourself as one of the many who want to save Malaysia.