In the casings of past entrapments

pic by TMR FILE

IN ONE television series, a murderous villain when facing the superhero uttered: “In the pantheon of sins, murder is far more honourable than betrayal.”

As much as it came from pop culture, that doesn’t negate how quotable that quote is. In fact, it resonates with “Dante’s Inferno” where the ninth circle of hell housed those who commit treachery and betrayals.

However, the “sin” of betrayal doesn’t seem to impact the conscience of a segment of Malaysian society that, despite attempts to use it as a political cause, it did not seem to catch on and those accused to have committed it continue to enjoy favourable ratings to date.

And that betrayal is a sin that is not only confined within the pop and literary cultures of the West, but is similarly abhorred in affirmation of faiths, Islam included.

It should come as a surprise given the religiosity and self-righteous portrayal of self among Malaysians, in particular the Malay Muslims who seem to judge everyone else based on the dictates of the religion and its customary observances.

From the wearing of the headscarf, the consumption of what is forbidden or otherwise, to the performance of rituals, they rarely escape the scrutiny of the community and anyone who dared to flout them, and get exposed; criticisms and at times even curses can be expected, and incessantly too.

However, if the lackadaisical attitude towards betrayals is a surprise, it should then end if measured on the behaviour towards corrupt practices, abuse of power and betrayal of public trust.

If the betrayal of friends and voters are justified by the timeless quote of Brutus — it was not that he loved Caesar less, but that he loved Rome more (of course, giving Judas Iscariot and his betrayal of Jesus Christ a wide miss) — the justification in corrupt practices and abuse of power is much, much more ludicrous.

Despite the global attention and expose of the 1MDB (1Malaysia Development Bhd) scandal, the perpetrator is still widely accepted and in some part heralded.

While the perpetrator denied his sins and the supporters lapping his proclamations of his contributions to the cause of orphans and poor, the worst justification would be that he may be wrong but he is still a Malay Muslim leader.

Making such pronouncements unpalatable is that the supporters are aware of the conviction and how it was reached. And making it doubly nauseating is that in other parts of the world the 1MDB infamy is still unfurling.

It prompted a critic to point out how gullible and naive his supporters were when only a couple of days ago, the first Islamic bank in Mauritius was ordered to close down when the central bank discovered it had participated in 1MDB transactions.

To his mind, if only the Malay Muslim in Malaysia realises how extensive the damage caused by the 1MDB scandal is not only to Malaysia but its tentacles even reached Mauritius and destroyed an Islamic institution in its path. But such things are unlikely to cause a dent to the existing support enjoyed by Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak and his advocates are even looking at him returning to helm Umno and are working on him re-assuming the prime ministership.

What could it be that made these supporters oblivious or probably ignore his character flaws other than the inherent feudal or neofeudal siege they suffer from?

It is within these feudal entrapments that the Malays had, for decades, accepted the flaws and notoriety of the nobilities, unable to discern between good and bad as all the tools of subservience — daulat (near divine sovereignty), derhaka (treason) and tulah (divine retribution for treason) — were pronounced regularly and exaggeratedly.

While these tools are somewhat diluted in modern Malaysia, but the preparedness to justify the misdeed of leaders remains as feudal.

With that, the Malays become conflicted.

On one hand, they are judgemental, viciously unforgiving when measuring all and sundry over the most minute of rituals and misdeeds, but on the other they become tolerant and forgiving when dealing with leaders, especially those who are “generous” with them, regardless where the origin of the source of generosity may be.

With that, they became party to the corrupt practices, justifiers of dubious transactions and unconcern of national pillaging as long as some trickles reached them.

They can live with leaders who are convicted for such pillages, leaders who hold on to power through rewards and patronage, as well as those who profusely declare their struggles for Islam.

These pursuits and strategies are then tied into the philosophy of these political leaders that their struggles are for the religion, race and nation.

The last general election threatened to disrupt this but 22 months later, business seems to be back as usual.

In fact, getting business back as usual was the underlying justifications to the coup that led to the fall of the elected government.

Betrayal is then ignored and corruption, a mere by-product.

Shamsul Akmar is the editor of The Malaysian Reserve.