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Can Anwar’s ‘Malaysia Madani’ concept succeed where previous slogans have failed?

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 1 — Several political analysts have weighed in on the “Malaysia Madani” concept launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim earlier last month, and whether it can be a useful guide for a new national narrative.

Amid concerns that it may fall by the wayside as so many previous government slogans, International Islamic University Malaysia’s (IIUM) political analyst Syaza Syukri said “Malaysia Madani” is a well-thought-out phrase that will influence the policy-making of the Anwar-led government.

“It is definitely not something off the cuff but truly represents Anwar’s idea of administration,” the assistant professor of political science told Malay Mail.

Syaza also said the concept has the potential to be sustainable but it is the government’s responsibility to explain the concept to the public.

The word itself has its roots in Arabic and means “being developed in terms of thinking, spirituality and mentality.”

“Going forward, I believe it is time to inculcate those values clearly among Malaysians through campaigns and education. Then the values would become more than a slogan but perhaps may become part of the elusive ‘Malaysian identity’,” she added.

Echoing Syaza, Singapore Institute of International Affairs Senior Fellow Oh Ei Sun said “madani” is not an everyday word used by Malaysians and so had to be properly explained.

He gave the example of “Islam Hadhari” which was first introduced by former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

“Of course, Abdullah Badawi had to explain to a wider audience what was meant by ‘hadhari’ as it was not part of the everyday vocabulary,” he said.

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Awang Azman Awang Pawi of University of Malaya said that “Malaysia Madani” can become the foundation of a civilised and progressive society.

The associate professor of the Department of Socioculture said that the concept should not just be translated into the government’s policy-making but embedded in every level of society.

“Apart from being translated in the form of policy, it will be mobilised in the form of an implementation committee and reviewed in terms of success and impact on society and the country,” he told Malay Mail.

In launching his new reform plan called “Membangun Negara Madani” (Developing a Madani Nation), the prime minister said he wants to foster a new mindset among Malaysians for an equitable share of the nation’s wealth regardless of their ethnic, religious, political and social class demographics.

Anwar said the “Madani” concept comprises six tentpoles translated from the original “SCRIPT” in English: sustainability, care and compassion, respect, innovation, prosperity and trust.

It was however lambasted by Islamist party PAS’ president Tan Sri Abdul Hadi Awang, who said any concept for the advancement of civil society must properly follow the precepts of Islam to succeed while any other version that is guided by Western philosophers will fail — such as Thomas Paine, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Adam Smith and Karl Marx.