Remembering My First Public Essay On Dr. Martin Luther King Jr: On Questioning Hegemony And Authority – Essay


To date I have published more than 500 articles on a variety of topics, ranging from politics and philosophy to cybernetics and sociology of the future. I still continue to write daily. A ritual. I have published ten books and continue to prepare manuscripts requested by potential publishers. The range from a collection of 300 poems, essays in the influence of the “Islamic State ideology in Malaysia, a 250-page collection of creative non-fiction-personalizing essays on my literary and historical travels, a collection of 50 essays on education, a 250-page novel tentatively titled “The Great Ganja War,” and a collection of reviews of 30 books and movies. My calling is writing, besides educating, and advancing thinking. The seeds of it were planted as early as when I started to engage with the world around me and within, as a child living in a Malay village who had the curiosity of making sense of my surroundings and letting questions play in me phenomenologically. I documented this sense of being and becoming-ness in my latest book published by Penguin Random House, “Grandma’s Gangtsa Chicken Curry and Gangsta Stories from My Hippie Sixties, a memoir of growing up in a drug-invested village in post-Independence Malaysia. (

I was a columnist for Malaysiakini, one of Asia’s most-read portals, for more than 15 years, keeping me disciplined in my weekly writings. I have columns in international portals in Oregon and New Jersey and in Greece/Finland as well as a few others. I occasionally contribute to journals and forums in Australia, Hong Kong, and a few other countries. 

I share below my very first article, dedicated to the memory of America’s most revered freedom fighter, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., written for my very first column, Malaysiakini. One of the more than 300 articles written from 2005-2020:

Seeking out the history of questions

By Azly Rahman

Published: Jan 16, 2005 11:49 PM

We live in interesting times with questions concerning our existence. 

How are human beings controlled by those who own the means of intellectual and economic production? How does power, in its raw and refined form, operate in our society? How is it dispersed? How is power sustained? How is truth produced? How is truth multiplied? 

Still more questions plague me. 

How is the self constructed? How are we alienated? What is inscribed onto the body and into the mind, in the process of schooling? How is human imagination confined and how might it be released? How is the mind enslaved by the politics of knowledge? How is historical knowledge packaged? How do we define our existence in this Age of Information? 

Still more questions: 

Who decides what is important in history? 

What is an ideal multi-cultural society? 

How has our ideas of multiculturalism influenced the way we live our lives? What historical knowledge is of importance? 

What tools do we need to create our own history? 

And as I grow older, there are even more questions: 

How is the individual more powerful than the state? 

How is a philosopher-king created? 

How is justice possible? 

Who should rule and why? 

How are we to teach about justice? 

And finally, how might we realise a democratic-republic of virtue – one that is based on a form of democracy that is meaningful and personal? 

These questions come to mind as I plow daily through the columns in malaysiakini, in search of a terrain to plant the seeds of frontier thinking. 

I want to honour the work of the thinkers in this forum, and wish to share mine from the point of view of an educationist/academician who will always defend one’s right to think freely. 

Inadequate answers 

I stand on the shoulders of giants of Malaysian socio-political thought who have contributed much to the development of this nation that thinks; giants like Abdullah Munsyi, Onn Jaafar, Zaa’ba, Hussein and Naguib Al-Attas. Ungku Aziz, Kassim Ahmad, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Dr Syed Husin Ali, Chandra Muzaffar, Prof Khoo Khay Kim, Lim Kit Siang and Prof KS Jomo. 

Throughout the course of my study on the origin and fate of this society, I have learned how much the work of these people have contributed to the social construction of the Malaysian self and the democratic ideals that this nation aspires to realise. 

I have learnt what the early philosophical journeys of the Malays look like, what kind of statecraft was practised what the metaphysical system of this group constitutes, what form of social-humanism is to be fought for, what a Malaysian social justice may mean, what a multicultural Malaysian might look like, and finally, what brand of nationalism must be embraced in an age wherein “the Centre cannot hold”. 

I have been enlightened by these thinkers. However, the answers they have provided are inadequate especially in these challenging times. 

I nevertheless appreciate their contributions and wish to continue their legacy through the dialogues in this column. I wish to speak to academicians and students essentially, and to readers who wish to engage in dialogical thinking. 

I want to explore the history of the questions asked and to find out how we arrive at this or that historical juncture. I believe these questions will help us go back to the origin of things and in the process, to understand the world in which we live. 

I believe that these questions can help one way for human beings to go back to the Centre and its Primordial Nature, through what Rousseau calls “sentimental education” or, to explore, as the Indonesian poet W S Rendra once said in his play ‘The Struggle of the Naga Tribe’, the “world within and the world without”. 

Through these questions I believe one can break free from the shackles of domination and release the imagination. And as Rousseau continues: “Man is born free… and everywhere He is in chains”, and that the first language he needs is the cry of Nature.

Flow of ideas 

Based on a thesis I produced for a doctoral dissertation at Columbia University, on the origin of Malaysia’s city of Cyberjaya, I am currently further developing a “social theory of how nations develop and hypermodernise as a result of transcultural flow of ideas and in the process of developing, how the human being loses its essence, gets alienated, and become conditioned by the system of signs and symbols; by its genealogy, anatomy, chemistry, and its cybernetic properties”. 

Ideas dance and do hip hop and flow gracefully from one nation to another; from the mind of one group of people to another, from a nation at the Centre to the peripheries and the hinterlands. But in their dance there is always the beauty and the deadly persuasion. 

It is believed that in this age, we are born into a matrix of Chinese complexities, and we will spend our lifetime understanding it, possibly escaping it, and consequently constructing an understanding of our Existential self. 

We are born to be makers of our own history. In this world without borders, are all essentially, transcultural citizens differentiated only by our national identity cards and our passports. 

I want to share the experiences I have in developing the human mind and in teaching multiple perspectives of knowing. I am looking forward to these contributions. 

At the end of my writings, I hope we can name the inherent contradictions between our existentialism and the world of cybernetics we inhabit.

Dr. Azly Rahman

Dr. Azly Rahman is an academician, educator, international columnist, and author of nine books He holds a Columbia University (New York City) doctorate in international education development and Master's degrees in six areas: education, international affairs, peace studies, communication, fiction, and non-fiction writing. He is a member of the Columbia University chapter of the Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in Education. Twitter @azlyrahman. More writings here. His latest book, a memoir, is published by Penguin Books is available here.

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