Stop exploiting children for political gain

Nurulhidayah Zahid (L)

The controversy started when Nurulhidayah, daughter of former Deputy prime minister and current Umno-Baru president, Zahid Hamidi, uploaded a 28-second video clip of her nine-year-old daughter, Sophee, onto her Instagram account.

The clip went viral; however, instead of receiving the desired response, Nurulhidayah, and sadly, Sophee, the innocent victim, have been criticised by Malaysians, from both sides of the political divide, and from all ages.

Parents were furious that Nurulhidayah ruthlessly used her daughter to come to the defence of Zahid, who had been arrested by the MACC and charged with a number of cases of criminal breach of trust, which amounted to RM20.83 million, receiving RM21.25 million in gratification, and the laundering of RM72.07 million. Altogether, 45 charges were levied against him.

Nurulhidayah’s defence of her father is commendable, but the exploitation of her daughter is indefensible. She should shield her daughter from the public eye, instead of making her the target of stalkers on the internet.

No turning back

No-one, including politicians, royalty, celebrities and business leaders, should exploit their own children, be it for private, public or political gain.

No responsible parent will knowingly, or unknowingly, make their child the target of hate. Once the parents allow access to their children, by exposing them to the media glare, there is no turning back.

The press will continue with the intrusion, and in today’s social media world ruthless cyber-troopers will make the child’s life a misery.

In Nurulhidayah’s case, little Sophee, sitting, without a seatbelt, in the back of a car leans forward and records the threat to the public.

In almost perfect English, something which her grandfather has not been able to master, she said,  “I will make your life unpeaceful, I will make you regret your life.” (sic)

No child issues threats like that, so it is safe to assume that her mother schooled her to warn the public, especially as the clip ended up being posted on her mother’s instagram. Why is she teaching her daughter to be full of hate, revenge and spite?

It is curious that the message was delivered in English. Which section of the community was the intended target of her threat? Or,  does Zahid’s granddaughter have a poor grasp of Malay?

How will the child feel if Zahid’s charges are proven in court?

What will Nurulhidayah tell her daughter, if the charges against grandad are proven in court? One can imagine the devastation felt by the child.

Did mum think about the reaction from other children at school, or in her neighbourhood? They may tease Sophee for defending a man who is known for threatening journalists, newspapers, and who once assaulted her mother’s one-time male friend.

Nurulhidayah accused the main players in the Reformasi movement of failing to come to the defence of her father. She asked why Anwar, Hishammuddin Rais and Nurul Izzah Anwar did not supprt Zahid.

Is Nurulhidayah aware that Reformasi is about bringing  justice to the people, and righting the wrongs committed by Umno-Baru. Moreover, Zahid abandoned Reformasi and hopped onto former disgraced PM, Najib Abdul Razak’s bandwagon. She may recall that a few years ago, her father, as the DPM, prevented  Anwar’s family from visiting  him in jail, during Hari Raya. Why would Nurul Izzah feel compassion for her?

Little Sophee’s message ends with “I will make you regret your life. Remember – I am only 9-years-old and I am my country’s future.” These are the words of a bully. Are these her own words, or her mother’s? Is Nurulhidayah using her child to fight her own political battles?

Children who are “weaponised” 

There is a history of children being “weaponised” to be used in various political battles, or to court sympathy from members of the public. The Nazis used children in their Aryan propaganda when they put children into uniforms as Hitler Youth. In the Middle East, children are dressed in mock suicide bomber outfits to sell their warped ideology to the world.

Politicians use their own children in photo shoots to drive home a particular message and then get upset, when members of the public turn on them for exploiting children.

Former British premier, Tony Blair was hounded by Opposition politicians, and the public, for using his children in photo shoots to advance a cause.

In 2014, Najib used the four children of the jailed Malaysian Tourism Director (MTD) to Sweden, to gain political mileage at home. The MTD, together with his wife, had been jailed for beating their children. After months of being in foster care, in Sweden, the children returned to live with an aunt in Kelantan; but Najib subjected the traumatised children to an endless circus of photo-opportunities, as soon as they landed at KLIA.

Nurulhidayah’s history of arrogance is well known. In 2016, she angered MAS cabin crew when she complained that they were “old”. The National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia (NUFAM) issued a press statement to say that the DPM’s daughter was rude and that her remarks were a reflection of her upbringing. It brought negative publicity to her father.

Nurulhidayah knows it was easy to act like a lady of the manor. Her father was the DPM,  and he often boasted about his friendship with Tiga Line, the Malay triad.

Today, Nurulhidayah will have to try to behave with more decorum in the new Malaysia, where the rule of law, is the order of the day.

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