PETALING JAYA, March 1 ― Political analyst Wan Saiful Wan Jan officially joined Opposition party Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia’s (PPBM), in an event attended by its president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin today.
Wan Saiful, who is the founder and former chief executive of libertarian think tank Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS), said some in the public tend to project their own definition of “liberalism” when they label him.
“However their definition of liberalism is often misinterpreted,” he told Malay Mail.
Liberalism encompasses a wide array of ideas, but its supporters usually push for civil rights, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, free trade, private property, and free and fair elections.
Malaysia’s religious authorities regularly demonises “liberalism” along with secularism and pluralism, claiming they are opposed to Islamic teachings.
In March last year, Wan Saiful had presented an IDEAS survey on Malaysians’ understanding of liberalism, and the think-tank highlighted that only 29 per cent of Muslims polled thought the ideology is a bad concept.
In his speech today, the 43-year-old Wan Saiful said he felt “ashamed” that it took him this long to actively join politics.
“The founding of this country is based on liberty and justice. What they describe as liberalism being associated with LGBT rights or running around naked in the streets, this is not what it means.
“For them to twist the meaning in a negative way is also wrong,’’ he added.
According to Wan Saiful, the definition of liberalism is the rule of law, defining the rules of the government, open economy and respect to individual responsibility.
“Take individual responsibility, for example, if you believe in a particular religion you have a responsibility to fulfill the obligations of that religion, which means if you are a Muslim you need to be a real Muslim as a liberal.
“The meaning of liberalism they describe here is that you are hedonistic and reject a religion that is also completely wrong,’’ he said.
When asked about his stance on liberalism despite being a former member of the United Kingdom Conservative Party and Islamist party PAS, Saiful said being liberal in a conservative party was not an issue.
“Being a conservative is okay as it is part of being a liberal. I don’t see a problem there.
“Conservatism is part of the bigger liberal family as well,’’ he said while adding it is the same for PPBM.
“I have often been labelled as a prominent intellectual and an influential thinker. Yet with such age and labels why am I late to come forward to fight for change which is sorely needed for our country?”
PPBM policy and strategy bureau chairman Rais Hussin, who was also present at the press conference, stated that Saiful would be the new deputy chairman of his bureau.
First published for Free Malaysia Today, 1 March 2018
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