Of Scholarship and Freedom of Speech


I’m triggered to write this upon reading a reply from a fellow unknown Mancunian for an email on the Astronout program in our MCOT mailinglist. The earlier email tried to give another view on the program launched by the government (well, by another view, I mean an opposing one), rather than the normal view we’d have read in mainstream newspapers. The reply mentioned about how lucky it is not to have any MSD Officer or Embassy officer in the mailinglist, or else the sender would have been suspended of his scholarship and might as well received a one-way ticket to KL. I’ve seen more of such act (of fear) in my two years life as a university student funded by the government.

First and foremost, I should make it clear here that though I recognize that all those 19 (or so) human rights, as proposed by some groups, might be a hidden agenda of some parties trying to standardize everything, resulting in some people making them more sacred and even holier than the principles of their very own religion (in this case, Islam).

Second, I do believe that freedom of speech, or even freedom of anything should have a limit, and the limit should be set by no one except by God as the Creator- which contemporarily means, set by religion, practically the religious authorities as the interpreters. This conviction is rooted from the notion derived from my lessons on tawheed, particularly tawheed uluhiyyah, which states clearly that all laws should be from the Lord. This implies that all values that are to be held by someone — the rights and wrongs — must come not by his own judgement, but from the Lord’s.

Third, I am a JPA scholar, which means that the government pays my tuition fees and my monthly allowances – which from my own calculation reached a figure close to RM0.5m.

I signed the agreement about four years ago, and no one ever told me that by signing that, I have lost my right to give opinions about matters, especially political issues. I understand that there is a clause forbidding me from joining any political group ( but to my surprise, Kelab UMNO is allowed everywhere on earth, while I doubt if we were to have PAS Supporters Club it will be allowed), but no one told me I’d lose my freedom this much: the freedom to think from a different perspective (in this case). In some ways, I think that is more or less the same as what Mao Tze Dong of China who successfully indoctrinated everyone under his communist reign that there is only one way of thinking that is correct – the way HE thinks.

I know, we are not like Burma. We are not like Pakistan. I am thankful that we are much better than some people in some other part of the earth. But let’s think of how it should better be rather than be pleased then whatever we have. I am no idealist – in fact, I sometimes hate myself for being to realistic – but what’s wrong with trying to achieve perfection? Utopia might be a dream too impossible, but at least we know where we are heading too rather than sticking to that same point. I am an engineer under training, and for at least the last two years of my Chemical Engineering course, I’ve been thought that for any system there is an ideal way of running it theoretically, as well as the real and actual way, and the point of studying the more or less impossible way- for example, the Carnot Engine, is so that we know how far we are from the perfection.

And after all, I am sent to this land of white men to learn, and one thing I learn about these people is that they love to complain, and I do believe that makes their system much better than us in term of efficiency. But of course, what is there to complain when : 1) there is nothing to complain since everything is perfect, which is impossible or 2) I don’t know what I can complain, since I have not seen anything better or 3) I don’t know that I CAN complain, since I don’t know that I have the right to do so. More often that not, to Malaysians – generalization based on my observation on my previous self, my family members and those close to me – the second and third reason are most applicable.

People love to compare, but what is there to compare when you have seen no comparison? Now that I have the chance to see and compare, I now we are far behind. I first hate the idea of some countries being called Third World Countries, while there is not any Second World country, but to realize how different the way people of these two countries think (UK and Malaysia), I have to agree that the gap is too big, that we do not have anything in the middle. I like the idea of trying to build more towering Malaysian personalities – the phrase itself is motivating. I like the idea of having glocal minds. I like the idea of meng’angkasa’kan people, whatever that means, but I am more into ‘subtance’ rather than ‘form’. I’d rather lose the title ‘Negara Islam’ but having its value and codes of law planted in every aspect, rather than announcing it to the world and yet have the our ‘Indeks Rasuah’ so low we had to deny it. That is humiliating. That is even worse, thinking that we have betrayed our own religion by using its name but illustrating a false image of it.

Government is never perfect, so criticism should not be banned.

I am sorry that if what I think and write here is not allowed, but that is what defines me.
I think (as opposed to I follow), therefore I am.

**I would love to write more, but courseworks are depressing. So I leave this entry without a proper conclusion.

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2 comments

  1. Afni!!!

    I am totally with you, that’s why I never write anything political directly!

    Yup, I like your view about governments. They’re never perfect, and we should be able to support them, but at the same time being critical about them.

    As for freedom of speech, I said it before, and I’m saying it again – how free is free? Heh, I’ve got a taste of American freedom of speech masa pilihanraya Kongres tahun lepas, dan local election nak pilih Daruk Bandar kat Golden ni. It’s so ugly!! Can’t wait for the presidential election to be in full gear =P

    Take care, dearie!

  2. We need more people to agree with this notion – and not afraid to say so.

    Government is not a god that needs to be worhipped.

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