By Dr Rohana Ariffin
After the British papers came out with news of three women being held captive by a couple two weeks ago, out of the blue, a close friend and London returnee called me.
“Hey,” he said through the phone “do you remember Aishah and Chairman Ara?”. Cracking my old brain to remember friends or acquaintances of 40 years and beyond, I meekly replied “er...vaguely...”.
In his usual excitment, he said “ala..you must remember, you got to remember!" with such insistence especially when a Daily Telegraph reporter was accompanying him to talk to old returnees from London of the seventies.
Well, this brings me to recollect the old days of the seventies when I was a post-graduate student there. This was the time of the Vietnam War, Black civil movement in the United States and the feminist struggle which took front stage.
Thousands of students were aroused with those issues with debates and speeches and demonstrations held against the Vietnam War, and strong support for the black and feminist movement.
It was the heyday of the Left or socialist movement.
Unlike the early eighties when Iran fell to the Ayatollahs, when overseas Malaysian students were befriended and roped into Islamic groups, the seventies marked a time when Malaysian students were also persuaded by various shades of Maoism, socialism and Marxism.
This was sometimes led by a more collective leadership and a few led by strong personalities and resembling a cultish group.
At that time, besides college and university students, there were many young women who went to London for training in nursing and some did attend such groups.
Similar to the cult of the eighties and till today, based mainly on religious differences as exemplified by the Ayah Pin episode, some of these left wing cult leaders preached strong loyalty to the group.
Some followers were even told to stop studying and leave their universities as, had they continued studying, it may turn them into a petty bourgeois.
Afterall, this is a proletariat struggle and therefore one has to be a proletariat to be part of the movement and to be in the vanguard!
Many members were told not to mix with other left groups as this may “contaminate” their ideas. Therefore, such vulnerability should be preserved.
In the extreme, they were encouraged to minimise or even severe any contacts with relatives and families.
Many did not return to Malaysia and they continue to stay in Britain, not to enjoy the British weather, food and hospitality!!
Their mission was to carry out their belief to change the capitalist system to socialism and to fight imperialism all the way especially after the collapse of the Cold War.
The surge of the United States as a dominant force unchallenged by any other country, has led to the interference of the US in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Thus, the story of Aishah is not about slavery (or sex slavery) but more of devotion to a certain belief and struggle.
This was led by a charismatic (?) or influential leader who was well read and with knowledge of politics grounded much earlier than his followers, being more matured and had some networking before the arrival of these young students.
The strong personality of the leader was of utmost importance, some even bordering on authoritarianism.
Splinter groups were found everywhere, some more open, others more closed and cultish.
Whatever is said and done, it is a path an individual chooses, depending on one's perspective of the world and the commitment to either maintain the status quo or bring changes for a better equity and distribution of wealth in a society.- The Staronline