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The world of Hussain Ahmad Najadi

By TAY TIAN YAN
Translated by DOMINIC LOH
Sin Chew Daily

The association of the death of a Persian merchant with a Chinese temple is somewhat beyond imagination and mystery-shrouded.

According to the police, the founder of Arab-Malaysian Bank Hussain Ahmad Najadi was shot because he had attempted to block the demolition of the Goddess of Mercy Temple in Kuala Lumpur and the sale of the land parcel upon which the temple stands. He was killed probably because he was standing in the way of someone's else's wealth-generating prospects.

Hussain's wife, a member of the temple's council, was also injured in the incident.

Although it has yet to be established of the actual cause behind Hussain's assassination, the police have nevertheless discovered that his death could have been attributed to either of the two possibilities: that he tried to save the temple from the bulldozers in the name of development,. and that he tried to block an immoral business deal.

If that were the case, Hussain could have sacrificed for a truly noble cause.

Why did a well-loaded Muslim man with enviable social status and reputation surrender his life just because of a Chinese temple?

A question that indeed triggers much contemplation.

Hussain published his book The Sea and the Hills last year, and this book has allowed me to get a glimpse into world of this legendary banker.

Born in Bahrain, Hussain was of Persian descent. His father was a vegetable pedlar in the market, earning under one dollar a day.

Recalling his past, Hussain wrote that he held with much endearment the desolate years he spent with his parents.

He joined an underground movement against the British rule in his youth in the 1950s. He was subsequently deported.

When he arrived in Lebanon, gazing aimlessly across the Mediterranean and feeling completely at sea, he met a German man who asked him what he had in his expectation for the future.

He said he wanted to go to the West to study. So, the German financed his journey and kept him.

It was then that he build up his value for life: Do not give up when a door is slammed before you, as God is actually opening another door for you.

In Germany, he learned about financial investments and developed his career in banking. He even acquired a Swiss hydrofoil manufacturer.

When he realised in the 1960s that East Asia was the emerging locomotive of global economy relocated his business to Singapore, focusing on Southeast Asia, Hong Kong, Japan and Korea.

Arab states emerged as the nouveaux riches during the 1970s oil crisis, and Hussain established Arab-Malaysian Development Bank after negotiating with the Malaysian government.

He threw in his full support to erect a research centre and a museum in KL when Hussein Onn voiced up his aspiration to set up an Islamic centre here.

And when Mahathir told him he wanted to build a university on par with Oxford and Cambridge in Malaysia, he unloaded his shares in Arab-Malaysian and helped establish the International Islamic University.

His final wish was to set up a Najadi Foundation to help school the impoverished children. Hailing from an poverty-stricken family himself, he knew better than anyone that brain power was more critical than physical wealth in determining a person's success.

Someone asked him where he should call his home, given the fact that he was of Persian lineage, born in Arab, growing up in Germany and flourishing in Malaysia. He said he belonged to the world.

He had a particular affection for Malaysia, being a multiracial, multicultural country which speaks volumes for his idealistic world.

In the end, he lost his life because of a Chinese temple in KL, marking a mysterious and perhaps loftiest end to an extraordinary life.

Perhaps his killing should offer some contemplation for this year's Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

 

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