The Dangers of Leaders Who Don’t Understand the Principle of Choice

A 4D lottery outlet. People from all walks of life look forward to buying lottery tickets either during the weekend or on special draw days during the week.

The recent ban by Kedah Menteri Besar Muhammad Sanusi on 4D lottery outlets in the state must have come as a shock for many people but for some it may not have been a shocker after all based on the PAS man’s notoriety in the last two years.

From his temple trampling acts and description of Indians as alcoholics, a vindictive move against a woman who exposed his rule-breaking feat during the Movement Control Order (MCO) period, his brickbats with Penang and threats on cutting water supply to the state to describing it as “sin city”, his latest move cannot be seen as characteristically alien. It just sums up the kind of erratic moves the MB has become infamous for.

An interesting revelation of his mindset came from an emotional Sanusi himself at Wednesday’s Kedah state assembly. He gave his reason for the ban on gaming activities: “I have decided to no longer issue licenses for gambling in the state as a way of showing my gratitude to Allah for the blessings he has given.”

File photo of Kedah Menteri Besar Muhammad Sanusi

He said it was one way to obey the command of God and express gratitude for the blessings the state has been enjoying including higher amount of investments since he became the MB.

Somewhere along this view offered of his route of thought process, someone bigger than Sanusi must point out to him that he may be starting a very dangerous trend in the business of administering a state.

It is never wrong to be grateful and praise the Almighty for His kind blessings but to connect that gratitude and the act of shutting down a business that has been on going well for years, as part of an equation to get more blessings, is deeply disturbing.

What if more leaders end up attributing their arbitrary decisions on state matters that involve a multi-racial, multi-cultural population to some divine blessings or lack of it.

These may all still be mild but there is no saying when even more potentially dangerous and divisive decisions would be made from a set mind that practically has no space for input or feedback from the general public – the very people who vote in the representatives to run their state from a state of clear-thinking, exemplary leadership, fairness and some fair amount of intelligence.

In the case of Sanusi, what is more worrying is that no one, with the capacity to put a full stop to the MB’s actions, has made any attempt to stop him in his tracks.  

An urgent reality check is needed with some of the leaders in the country who are calling or making decisions for people on matters that involve their personal liberties. People must have choice in some matters. For non-Muslims, buying a one-ringgit lottery ticket in the state they live in is one of them. Telling them to go to another state to purchase these tickets is not an option. It is a blatant show off of power.

Sanusi is right about one thing. It is not in Islam alone that drinking or gambling is forbidden. All religions advocate healthy living and a control on habits such as excessive alcohol intake, gambling, use of mind-altering substances that could harm or compromise a human body’s mental and physical capacities.  

So why are so many people and groups protesting the decision of Sanusi to ban gambling in Kedah?  

Firstly, it is highly disrespectful of the right of the people, specifically non-Muslims, to choose how they wish to live. If they spend RM10 every Saturday trying their luck with lottery tickets, it is their business and personal choice. Taking away that choice will not see any blessings from them. The move also insults the regular lottery shop patrons’ capacity to moderate their habits.

Secondly, the ban is a religious imposition on those who do not subscribe to Islam.

Most importantly, the existence of lottery shops in the state does not take away the choice or religious commitment of Muslims to not gamble.

AS Mani

The views expressed here are that of the writer’s and does not necessarily reflect that of Weekly Echo’s.