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TheAge: Son jailed for 'sins' of the father [Nik Adli KMM]
By Mark Baker
25/8/2001 7:27 pm Sat
The Melbourne Age
Son jailed for 'sins' of the father
By MARK BAKER
The phone call came on a Saturday morning early this month. Nik Adli
was more curious than apprehensive as he drove with a cousin to police
headquarters in Kota Bharu, a frontier town on Malaysia's north-east
Ten minutes after they arrived, the 34-year-old secondary school
teacher was handcuffed and led away. His wife and two young children
have not seen or heard from him since.
Arrested under the Internal Security Act, which allows detention
without trial for up to two years, Nik Adli was accused of the gravest
offences. According to the chief of police and the Prime Minister, he
leads a militant Islamic group, secretly trained in guerrilla warfare
in Afghanistan, that is behind a spate of crimes including armed
robbery and murder, and was stockpiling weapons for the violent
overthrow of the Malaysian Government.
Nine other men were arrested under the ISA that day, but it is the
case of Nik Adli that has created the greatest impact.
His father is Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, Chief Minister of the state of
Kelantan and spiritual leader of Pati Islam SeMalaysia (Pas), the
opposition party that has grown rapidly in recent years and which many
Malaysians believe is poised to break the 20-year reign of Mahathir
Mohamad and his United Malays National Organisation.
The cleric with the white turban and Ho Chi Minh beard is in no doubt
about his son's real crime.
"I am sure that their target is Nik Aziz and not the son of Nik Aziz.
I am the one they want to destroy and they are working on it," he says
in his office in Kota Bharu, the state capital. "They have snatched my
son just like the Abu Sayyaf kidnappers in the Philippines.
"Maybe they want to see me bowing and begging to the Prime Minister,
the ministers and the chief of the police, but I definitely won't do
it. Dr Mahathir can can do what he likes. I only wish to the Almighty
for my son not to be physically hurt."
According to others who know him, Nik Adli is an unlikely terrorist
leader. A teacher at one of the Islamic schools established by his
father, he is described as a soft-spoken family man with a passion for
gardening and breeding rare birds. It is no secret that as a student
in Pakistan he spent time with the Muslim forces fighting the
Soviet-backed regime in Kabul - but that was more than a decade ago
and only now are the Malaysian authorities seeking to paint support
for the mujihadeen as the mark of a subversive.
"As a student he used to visit Afghanistan and he would write me many
letters about the people's struggle," says Nik Aziz. "But so what?
Even the Americans were there with their Stinger missiles fighting the
Russian communists. I am proud to have a son who is very caring about
his fellow Muslims. That was long ago. After he completed his studies
he came home and now he leads a simple life. There is no truth to
Nik Aziz's offences against Malaysia's ruling order are far more
tangible than those of his son. In the 1990 national elections, a
Pas-led coalition humiliated UMNO by capturing all 13 federal
parliamentary seats in Kelantan and scoring an unprecedented clean
sweep of the state assembly. In the decade since, Nik Aziz has become
one of the most outspoken critics of corruption and "money politics"
in the federal government, a crusader against the pampered power of
Malaysia's sultans and a rallying point for disaffected Malays.
Following the arrest and jailing three years ago of Anwar Ibrahim, Dr
Mahathir's deputy and anointed successor, on widely discredited sex
and corruption charges, there has been an acceleration of the shift in
Malay support away from UMNO to the opposition alliance in which Pas
is the biggest party. At the last elections two years ago, Pas
maintained its grip on Kelantan, where it now holds 40 of the 42 state
seats, won control of neighboring Terengganu state and expanded its
support base across the country. Subsequent byelections have confirmed
a continuing erosion in support for UMNO.
Nik Aziz, a father of 10 who is about to turn 70, eschews the perks of
high office. He refuses to live in the chief minister's grand official
residence, continuing to stay in his family's simple house beside the
mosque in Kota Bharu.
Under his rule, a strict Islamic code has been enforced for Kelantan's
Malays. As well as bans on gambling and alcohol, the government has
cracked down on nightclubs and unisex hair salons and ordered cinemas
to leave the lights on to avoid furtive immorality. Checkout queues at
supermarkets are segregated by gender and Muslim female public
servants are required to wear head scarves and are prohibited from
In one of his more eccentric pronouncements, the chief minister once
urged affirmative action for "ugly" women in the State Government's
recruitment policy to avoid tempting male workers. He has also berated
Muslims who fail to perform the compulsory five daily prayers of their
Such moves have been used by UMNO to paint Nik Aziz as a dangerous
zealot and Pas as a party determined to impose an Islamic state,
overturning Malaysia's delicate multi-racial balance and denying the
constitutional rights of the minority Chinese and Indian communities.
Nik Aziz denies he and his party are out to force their religion on
those who choose not to embrace it.
Nik Aziz denies he and his party are out to force their religion on those who choose not to embrace it.
He believes the real threat to democracy is not Islamic fundamentalism
but the abuse of power and the manipulation of the legal system by a
ruling elite determined to cling to power at any cost. He says the use
of the ISA to lock up his son and other political activists is a sign
of the government's desperation.
"As usual, Dr Mahathir doesn't want to listen to anybody," he said. "A leader of this type who is always at war is a very dangerous person. But his attitude is only drawing people closer to Pas."