I have shown a keen interest in Malaysian politics ever since I was a child.
As far as I am concerned, to not be interested in or have apathy towards the Malaysian political situation is simply unpatriotic, which is unthinkable to me. Patriotism towards the country, however, is not to be confused with 'asabiyyah', or tribal inclinations, which the Prophet and Islam abolished.
Neither should blind patriotism be allowed to gain precedence over the principles of the 'deen', as this would invariably lead to fundamentalist secularism, something which we have already seen rearing its ugly head in France and Singapore during the uproar about the 'hijab' and its ban in public schools.
It is perhaps this blind patriotism, which led my dear father to ask me the question of whether or not I will eventually join Umno ad nauseam. My father is apolitical, this much I can vouch for. He has many times expressed the need for a strong opposition.
Yet, I cannot help but notice the bias that is apparent within him. He quietly believes that a person who enters the foray of politics should simply join the ruling Barisan Nasional, if he is to succeed in life. Being born in the post-Merdeka period when Umno was the name of the game, perhaps it is no wonder. 'Easier to become PM-lah'.
Okay, he did not say it directly, but he did imply it. Seriously, however, this crossed my mind many years before the 1998 sacking of then deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim.
So I joined the reformasi movement. I deluded myself into thinking, 'Oh, I'll rejoin Umno once Dr M leaves the party'. Or so I thought.
Now looking back fondly upon those years, I realised that I can't help but renege on my personal vow to return to Umno. The party deteriorated so badly in the Mahathir era, during the last decade, that it is no longer fighting what it claims to fight for.
How could I have ever thought of returning to a party that promotes a separation of religion and state and calls it 'Islam', or as Pak Lah would put it, 'Islam Hadhari'?
That Umno is simply making use of Islam to entice gullible Muslims is obvious when you can see the emphasis the party puts on 'fard kifayah' (collective duty) instead of maintaining a balance between 'fard ayn' (necessary duty) and 'fard kifayah' as it should be, as described by Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas himself.
For a party who claims to fight for Islam to the extent of belittling another party that does (even in spite the fact that the 'deen' was never part of its raison d'etre), I wonder how it could have miscalculated so badly, when it comes to discussing 'fard ayn' and 'fard kifayah'.
Maybe a de-emphasis on 'fard kifayah' over 'fard ayn' would actually instill some sanity in a party whose leadership is corrupted with money politics, but I am not holding my breath.
Incidentally, Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas is perhaps the only internationally renowned local Islamic scholar in contemporary times. Yet this same person is not given credit where it is due.
Compare his public exposure to that enjoyed by his brother Prof Syed Hussein al-Attas, with his regular TV appearances, and you will immediately see what I mean. All this is because Syed Naquib al-Attas was supportive of Anwar Ibrahim in the past and criticised the previous prime minister's policies.
But I am digressing. In any case, I no longer feel that I should seek my political destiny in Umno, no matter how 'established' it is and no matter how 'Islamic' it purports itself to be.
Moreover, with unruly characters such as Zaid 'Chempiang' Ibrahim and Zainuddin Maidin, one cannot help but be repulsed by the thought of entering Umno (for precisely the same reason my dad is asking me to join it), destroying the nation we all love.
Perhaps it is precisely because of my patriotism and religious love for my country that I have chosen the opposition, and not Umno, as my political 'wasilah'. I hope my dad will respect this decision.