Little Sofee and her message to Malaysians

No one, whether politicians, royalty, celebrities, business leaders or members of the public, should exploit their own children for private, public or political gain.

No responsible parent would knowingly make their child a target of hate. Once they do so and expose them to the media’s glare, there is no turning back. The press will continue with the intrusion and in today’s social media world, ruthless cybertroopers will make the child’s life a misery.

The controversy began when Nurulhidayah, the daughter of former deputy prime minister and current Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, uploaded a 28-second video clip of her nine-year-old daughter, Sofee, on her Instagram account.

The clip went viral but instead of achieving the desired response, Nurulhidayah and, sadly, Sofee, were roundly criticised by Malaysians of all ages and from both sides of the political divide.

Parents were furious that Nurulhidayah would use her daughter to defend Zahid, who had been arrested by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and charged with criminal breach of trust, corruption and money laundering in a total of 45 charges.

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

Little Sofee, sitting without a seatbelt in the backseat of the car, leans forward and records a threat to the public.

In almost perfect English – something which her grandfather was apparently unable to master – she said: “I will make your life unpeaceful, I will make you regret your life.”

No child issues threats like that, so it is probably safe to assume that her mother schooled her on how to warn the public. After all, the clip ended up on Nurulhidayah’s Instagram account. Why is she teaching her daughter to be full of hate, revenge and spite?

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

What will Nurulhidayah tell her daughter if the charges against granddad are proven in court? One can only imagine the child’s devastation. Has her mother thought about the reaction from other children at school or in the neighbourhood?

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

Is she aware that Reformasi is about bringing justice to the people and righting the wrongs committed by Umno? Moreover, Zahid abandoned the movement and hopped onto the bandwagon of former prime minister Najib Razak, who himself has been slapped with criminal charges in court. She may also recall that a few years ago, her father as the deputy prime minister prevented Anwar’s family from visiting him in jail during Hari Raya. Why would Nurul Izzah feel any compassion for her?

Little Sofee’s message ends with: “I will make you regret your life. Remember – I am only nine years old, and I am my country’s future.”

These are the words of a bully. Are these her own words or those of her mother? Is Nurulhidayah using her child to fight her political battles?

There is a history of children being “weaponised” for use in various political battles or to court sympathy from members of the public. The Nazis used children in their Aryan propaganda, dressing them in the uniforms of Hitler’s Youth. In the Middle East, they are dressed in mock suicide bomber outfits to sell their parents’ warped ideology to the world.

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

Former British prime minister Tony Blair was hounded by opposition politicians and the public for using his children in photo shoots to advance a particular cause.

In 2014, Najib used the four children of the jailed Malaysian tourism director to Sweden to gain political mileage at home. The director, together with his wife, had been jailed for beating their children. After months in foster care in Sweden, the children returned to live with an aunt in Kelantan, but Najib subjected them to an endless circus of photo opportunities as soon as they landed at the airport.

Nurulhidayah has ruffled a few feathers herself. In 2016, she angered Malaysia Airlines cabin crew when she complained that they were “old”. The National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia issued a press statement saying she was rude and that her remarks were a reflection of her upbringing. The episode also brought negative publicity to her father.

In the past, it was easy for Nurulhidayah to act like the lady of the manor. Her father was the deputy prime minister. But today she will have to try and behave with more decorum. It is the new Malaysia where rule of law is the order of the day.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.