On Secularism


July 24, 2014

On Secularism

By Dr. Wong Chin Huat@www.themalaysianinsider.com (07-23-14)

Dr.Wong Chin HuatSecularism has been seen largely demonised amongst Muslims in Malaysia but widely embraced by Muslims from Indonesia in the east to Tunisia in the west. Does religion explain this stark difference?

While theologians may offer nuanced ideational explanations, allow me to offer a simple analysis from the perspective of group competition and power relations. Secularism is fundamentally about the impartiality of state in the religious sphere, and by derivation, full religious freedom for all. This could mean at least three things to different people.

First, it is about the relationship between the faithful and the atheists. Second, it is about the relationship between the faithfusl of different religions. Finally, it is about the faithfuls of different denominations within the same religions.

Secularism has been a dirty word for Malaysian Muslims largely because of the two legacies: the Kemalist legacy in Turkey and the British legacy in Malaya.

The Kemalist Legacy

Beyond Malaysia, hostility is the natural reaction of many Muslims to the militant secularism espoused by Kemal Atartuk. In Kemalist Turkey, generations of religious Muslims were suppressed and marginalised because of their faith, until the recent rise of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP).

The state does not only refuse to be partial to practising Muslims but has become partial against them. Like atheist states, militantly or absolutely secular states see religion as a threat to their own existence. This is completely different from the past Muslim Empires – not unlike most polities with an established faith – which were explicitly partial to Muslims.

Perhaps more upsetting for many Muslims is that, in the making of Turkish nationalists, Kemal Atartuk denied Muslims both inside and outside of Turkey their political identity as Muslims protected and united by a Caliphate.

On the ruins of Ottoman Empire, the last Caliphate which met its end soon after its humiliating defeat in the First World War, Atartuk wanted to radically Westernise Turkey both politically and culturally so that it could cease to be the “Sick man of Europe”.

Not unlike what was advocated by some nationalists in China, then the “Sick man of Asia”, for Atartuk, modernisation required a thorough break with one’s own cultural root and imitating the enemies.This is of course emotionally traumatising and enraging for many Muslim nationalists, for whom Islam is the symbol of resistance and political unity.

Why secularism is seen as synonymous as atheism or anti-Islam by many Muslims is then perfectly comprehensible.

The indirect British Legacy

Interestingly, the negative image of secularism may have its second root in the British colonialisation, despite the British’s conscious efforts in grooming the Anglophile, conservative and secular Malay elites. Unintended consequence if you will.

What happened? If secularism essentially means state impartiality towards citizens of different faiths, then in the context of Malaya/Malaysia, it would have to mean impartiality between Muslims and non-Muslims, which is at the heart of the 1946 question.

This becomes clearer if we compare Malaya/Malaysia, with Indonesia. There, the Dutch colonisation not only did not create a religious majority as the communal core for the future nation. It led to the emergence of Christian communities, not just in remote islands like Ambon and Flores, but also in the main island of Java, fragmenting the indigenous communities.

Secularism became the rational choice of Indonesian nationalism both during and after the colonial era. Like multi-religious India, Indonesia may break up if secularism is replaced by the explicit dominance of any faith and religious assimilation creeps into the nation-building agenda.

In Malaya, the British moved beyond the port colonies of Straits Settlements to actively intervene in the inland Malay states only as late as 1874. Taking the lesson from the religiously-triggered Indian mutiny in 1857, the British decided to opt for indirect rule in the Malay states to minimise disturbance.

In doing so, the British not only strengthened the Malay states but, through affirming the Malay rulers’ power in religious affairs and Malay custom, also religion as the ethnic boundary of the Malays. That is the historical basis of why “Malays” are by definition Muslim, as stipulated in the Article 160 of the Federal Constitution.

With the Malays being all Muslims and the non-Malays being largely non-Muslims, secularism in the sense of state impartiality towards citizens of different faiths may basically reduce the differential in citizenship rights between the Malays and non-Malays.

In other words, secularism as religious equality is inherently contradictory to the logic of building a Malay-nation, an agenda crystallised in 1946 and established two years later.

Granted, UMNO’s Anglicised, Anglophile, conservative elites led by Tunku, Tun Razak and Tun Hussein and pre-Reformasi Mahathir never wanted an Islamic state.But they only upheld secularism as intra-Muslim religious freedom – in the sense of minimum penetration of the state by religious authorities, but not interfaith religious equality.

In fact, for Sabah and Sarawak, 51 years of Malaysia has been largely a process of erosion of secularism to serve the agenda of Malay nationalism, where non-Muslim Bumiputeras are to gradually become Muslim Bumiputeras and eventually Malays. Aggressive conversion of non-Muslims into Islam under Tun Mustapha’s USNO and Harris Salleh’s Berjaya was much despised by Christian Bumiputeras in Sabah.

Years before the word Allah became an issue, non-Muslim Bumiputeras had complained about religion-based discrimination in public sector employment and the enjoyment of Bumiputera privileges.

Many “liberal-lifestyled” Muslims supported UMNO in the past because it stood for intra-Muslim religious freedom, as compared to policing of Muslims advocated by hard-line Islamists in PAS. The question is: if secularism as interfaith equality must be weakened by the day to maintain the regime, how long can intra-Muslim religious freedom remain?

The intra-Christian origin of Secularism

Secularism has no future in Malaysia if it remains a dirty word and not a glorious cause for the Malay-Muslims. But should Malay-Muslims uphold secularism? Can secularism actually benefit the Malay-Muslims?

The answer is a clear “No” if secularism is still seen in the lens of Kemalist legacy, that it means de-Islamisation for the sake of modernisation. But why should secularism mean the denial of one’s civilisational root? Where the Arab Spring started, Tunisia under an Islamist government has just adopted a secular constitution and guaranteed religious freedom and equal citizenship.

From an ethno-nationalist perspective, the answer is also a clear “No” if this is all about giving the minorities equality.But this is where the history of secularism in Christian Europe should be revisited.

Secularism was not born out of the need of Christians to deal with the pagans, Jews or Muslims, or to grant these infidels religious freedom. Religious tolerance was not a virtue of Christians in the medieval Europe. The Jews were treated much better in the Muslim Empires than the Christian States. Neither was secularism established to advance atheism.

Secularism was much driven by faith. Rivalry between the kings and the Catholic Church and the growth of secular thought and capitalism did not turn Christian Europeans into atheists. These forces only divided Christians into Catholics and Protestants, many of whom died to defend and advance their faiths.

Today’s rigid view of secularism as absolute separation of state and religion is too much rooted in post-Revolution France, which influenced Kemalist Turkey.

Some one and a half centuries before that, the order of proto-secularism was actually laid by the 1648 Westphalia Treaty to end religious wars between Catholics and Protestants.

The treaty, on which today’s international system of sovereign nation-states are founded, affirmed the “religious freedom” of both the states and their subjects. The kings and princes were free to decide the official state of their polities, but their subjects were also free to choose their faith and entitled to equal treatment before the law. Religious disputes were resolved through secular procedures that excluded religious reasoning.

Secularism thus freed Christians of different denominations from unnecessarily deaths in the name of faith, and later by extension, provided for religious freedom for non-Christians including Muslims. While Christian Europeans later continued to die over nationalism and ideologies in the centuries to come, the Westphalian secularism removed religion from the list of reasons to kill.

One only needs to look at today’s European Union to see the benefit of secularism. Can the European Union simply be possible if the states need to choose between Catholicism, various denominations of Protestantism and Orthodoxy as her official religion?

Ever wonder what would happen to Palestine if the Arab League can be united like the EU? Ironically, the self-styled Caliphate of the Islamic State (formerly Islamic State of Iraq and Sham) actually hopes to unite the Muslims by slaughtering all who oppose their rule – the antithesis of secularism.

Hundreds more times of Muslims had to die in the wars in Syria and Iraq – hell will break loose if Saudi Arabia and Iran directly enter the battlefields – because these Muslim states were, are and can be partial either to Sunnis or Shias or Alawites. Muslims die and suffer, not so much over the theological differences as for each group’s survival.

Coming back to home, can Westphalian secularism benefit the Malay-Muslims? Yes, if the goal is to have the space to be both more pious and more united, as per the Amman Message, which recognises as valid all the main schools of Islamic thought – Sunni, Shia, Ibadhi, Ashari, Sufi and Salafi?

After all, spirituality is about what we can believe while dominance is about what others cannot believe, lest we get confused.

 

Malaysians demonstrate to seek Justice for MH17


July 22, 2014

Malaysians demonstrate to seek Justice for MH17

Close to 500 people flooded the roads near the embassies of Russia, Ukraine and also the United Nations office in Kuala Lumpur today in a BN-organised demonstration to seek justice for the victims of the MH17 tragedy. Clad in black t-shirts which read “Justice 4 MH17″, the protestors also included members of several NGOs including right-wing NGO Perkasa, reports Malaysiakini.

Lest we forget about the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza who are victims of Israeli aggression. There must be justice for them too. We criticize Russia but we forget that the United States is supporting Israel and US weapons are being deployed in Gaza. Russia in turn supports the Bashir Al–Assad regime. What is the difference? It is the big power game of using proxies to fight their wars. Please listen to Chris Hedges in this video (below).–Din Merican

MH17: Options available for Malaysia


July 22, 2014

MH17: Options available for Malaysia

Munir Majidby Tan Sri Dr. Munir Majid@www.thestar.com.my

Malaysia should work in this alliance of states to bring this crime against humanity to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Malaysia has not signed the Rome Statute of the ICC, but has ex­­press­­ed interest to do so since March 2011. Malaysia should sign it now.

MH17 Crash Site 3

MOUNTING evidence points to Ukrainian separatist and Russian responsibility in the shooting down of MH17. And, in­­deed, video shots as clear as daylight show the Russian-supported rebels stealing and looting at the wreckage, tampering with and era­sing eviden­ce of the grisly deed, carrying away the black box – and unconscionably carting away and refusing to hand over the dead bo­dies for identification and decent burial.

Given our inability to strike back hard, the options Malaysia has in response to the downing of MH17 are limited to diplomatic and legal measures. To make these measures effective, the plan of action must be well prepared: form an alliance of victim nations and pursue the perpetrators vigorously.

The options Malaysia has, given limited power and influence, will be subjected to international geopolitical considerations and the vagaries of international legal process. How­ever, it does not mean we are po­wer­less to do anything except to confine ourselves to big, loud statements.

We can seek the support of kindred spirits to bring to justice the perpetrators who downed MH17 with the BUK (SA-11) surface-to-air missile. An alliance of victim na­­­-tions, comprising countries such as the Netherlands and Australia, should be formed. States willing to support the investigation into the horrible act of terror, even if it was a mistake, should be engaged.

This alliance should be collecting its own evidence from now. It actions should not wait for an international investigation which looks unlikely to be unimpeded. The United Nations can condemn and call for an international investigation. These resolutions, as we know, are more often than not disregarded.

MH17 Crash Site 4

Free access to the area where the wreckage and mutilated bodies are strewn has been denied. Evidence from the crashed plane has been re­­moved. Even if the black box would only register the explosion when the aircraft was struck and even if the BUK missile self-destructs on impact, there are voice and communications recordings which would be relevant. So why has the black box been taken away?

At the same time, people in the rebel-held territory of the Ukraine have looted the wreckage, the common crime of thievery following a heinous crime against humanity.

All these acts – from the firing of the missile to the removal of evidence to the denial of access to the looting – violate clear rules of international law. Even if it cannot be positively identified who fired the missile and rebels who have trespassed the law will not be released, the available evidence points the finger at Russia.

Russia provides the arms. Russia protects the rebels. Russia helps them violate international law and the sanctity of the victims. Russia calls the shots.The intercepted conversations, first on the firing of the missile and its aftermath and next on the remo­val of evidence and bodies at Russian behest should be tested for their authenticity.

When confirmed, it is good evidence to go by in the process of bringing the perpetrators to justice. American intelligence reports now show the trajectory of the missile and, subsequently, the transportation of remaining missiles back into Russian territory.

The Chicago convention of the International Civil Aviation Organi­sation (ICAO) provides clear rules on the conduct of investigation, on the safety of civil air flight and against the tampering of evidence.

The Ukrainian government, although it does not control the expanse of territory where the aircraft came down, has been making numerous statements about the removal of evidence and rebel use with Russian aid of the BUK missiles, which had downed at least two of its military aircraft. It should hand over what evidence it has.

In the case where Korean Airlines Flight KAL007 was shot down on September 1, 1983 by a Soviet SU-15 interceptor jet, the ICAO condemned the attack. The United States Federal Avia­­­tion Authority revoked the li­cence of the Soviet airliner Aeroflot to fly to and from the US, a denial that was not lifted until April 29, 1986.

Similar sanctions should be considered by ICAO, the US and other countries in the case of MH17 amidst the mounting evidence pointing at Russia and the consequences of its actions. There should be no fear to act against a country in the horrible wrong, which might otherwise not just get away with it but would conspire to violate further international norms of behaviour.

Vladimir Putin has brought Russia back to the Soviet Union days of lies and deceit, threat and bluster, coupled with his own megalomania. Putin is a bully, a thug world leaders find extremely difficult to deal with. At a meeting with Angela Merkel in 2007, his Labrador Koni was allowed in to unnerve the German Chancel­lor, who was bitten by a dog in the early years of her life.

The black arts operate at the Kremlin. It is little wonder that thuggish behaviour at the centre sends signals for drunken gangsterism among rebels Putin supports.

With KAL007, the Soviet Union suppressed evidence which was not released until eight years later, following the collapse of the communist regime. Now there is another re­gime seeking to resurrect that control of people, territories and information with no regard for the rights and lives of others. This is unacceptable.

Whatever evidence is available should be examined for the pursuit of civil damages for the acts of violation and denial. A group led by the Dutch, who suffered the most number of deaths in this act of terror, should be set up to pursue this line of action. Malaysia Airlines, whose reputation in the industry has been severely but unjustly damaged, should join in this effort to extract some measure of recompense.

More importantly, Malaysia should work in this alliance of states to bring this crime against humanity to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Malaysia has not signed the Rome Statute of the ICC, but has ex­­press­­ed interest to do so since March 2011. Malaysia should sign it now.

It can then join forces with states such as the Netherlands and Austra­lia, who are signatories, to institute legal action against individuals and agencies in the Ukraine and Russia, who are also signatories.

Let’s be realistic. After the initial shock-horror reactions, states will return to tending to their own affairs to serve their own national interests and, in time, will not be so incensed by murderous violation of international safety, violation of laws, and acts of brazen and drunken thuggery.

Even now, despite his most welcome strong support and call for ASEAN solidarity with Malaysia, Pre­sident Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono cannot be expected to put Indonesian interests second. Indeed his spokesman said Indonesian relations with Russia were excellent and there was no reason to disturb them.

The Chinese ambassador at the UN advised caution and not jumping to conclusions, as the Security Coun­cil issued a statement last Friday con­­­­demning the attack on MH17 and called, in hope more than expectation, for full, thorough and independent investiga­tion.

It would have been a diffe­rent statement if most of the passengers had been Chinese, or Chinese inte­rests were damaged and at risk. This is the way of the world. Malaysia must look after its own interests.

When it is stated we want to bring the perpetrators to justice, we must be clear on how we might get there. We should be clear about the avenues open to us and about states sharing a common interest who can be persuaded to act with us. We should determine our options and how we might realise them.

We owe it (how often this is said) to the victims and to our national airline which has suffered so much, maybe fatally this time, to bring the perpetrators to justice. We must show these are not mere words that are uttered lightly. We have the duty to protect our citizens and to ensure safe passage of our vessels in accordance with international law and practices.

The downing of MH17 is a tragedy of horrific proportions. We grieve. But we must also do something about it to get at the evil perpetrators. It is a matter of national interest and honour.

Tan Sri Dr Munir Majid is Visiting Senior Fellow with LSE IDEAS, a centre for the study of international affairs, diplomacy and grand strategy. He is also chairman of CARI and Bank Muamalat. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

 

MH 17 and the Failure of Soft Diplomacy


July 20, 2014

MH 17 and the Failure of Soft Diplomacy

 

MH17

 
COMMENT: by John Ling@www.malaysiakini.com

“In this time of grief, we need to ask ourselves some hard questions. With the failure of soft diplomacy, who will now bring Putin’s Russia to account? Who will choose to look at the crime instead of averting their eyes?”–John Ling

When Barack Obama became the 44th President of the United States, he had done so on the back of a campaign that promised hope and change. Among other things, he urged a ‘reset’ in relations with Russia.

This would be the cornerstone of his new administration – a radical approach in ‘soft diplomacy’. One designed to defuse tensions with America’s former adversary and pave the way for warmer ties. This was a monumental undertaking, but with a young and vibrant president now in the White House, it looked like it might actually have a chance of succeeding.

In Geneva in March 2009, we witnessed what appeared to be an initial thawing in relations between America and Russia. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and with the cameras of the world looking on, she presented him with a big red button made out of plastic.

The word ‘reset’ was prominently stenciled on it, accompanied by a Russian translation. However, in an unfortunate gaffe – perhaps an omen of things to come – Clinton’s aides had messed up the Cyrillic words on the button.

Instead of ‘perezagruzka’, which would have been the correct translation, the one that was used instead was ‘peregruzka’, which meant ‘overcharged’. It was an embarrassing mistake, but Lavrov appeared to be a good sport, laughing off the error.

Good start short-lived

Around the same time, President Obama noted that Vladimir Putin (below) had recently stepped down as President of Russia, and in his place, Dmitri Medvedev had ascended to the highest office in the land. Like Obama, Medvedev was a former academic and of a similar age.

Naturally enough, Obama perceived the new Russian President to be a transformational figure, and it was in that spirit that he wrote a secret letter and instructed a trusted aide to hand‑deliver it to Moscow. In the letter, Obama expressed a willingness to make American concessions in return for Russian goodwill.

In an age of wireless communication, this unorthodox approach was a throwback to simpler times. Nothing short of remarkable. In Malaysian culture, we might call this ‘giving face’.

In July 2009, Obama, encouraged by Medvedev’s optimistic reply, flew into Moscow for his first official visit to the nation. The two leaders met in congenial fashion. They seemed like a natural fit for each other. And a grinning Obama took the opportunity to solidify America’s commitment to a reset in relations with Russia. All in all, it looked like an unqualified triumph for hope and change. Not bad for a president who had been in office for barely six months.

Russian reset in tatters

Five years on, however, Obama’s Russian reset is in tatters, and the world we find ourselves in now is a far cry from that buoyant period. Since 2012, Vladimir Putin has regained presidential power, and he is currently pursuing an agenda of ultra-nationalist expansion. A former KGB officer in his youth, he has spent a lifetime perfecting the black arts of murder and intimidation.

As a result, Russia today has become a nightmarish country. It’s a place where free speech is crushed,MH17 Crash site 2 political dissidents are assassinated, and government‑sanctioned thugs roam the streets, attacking everyone from homosexuals to foreign students.

Putin has placed the whole of Russia under his iron will, and he is now driven to expand its influence abroad. Soft diplomacy is not what runs in this man’s veins. Rather, he craves the aggressive projection of power, Soviet‑style. The invasion by proxy of Eastern Ukraine and the senseless shoot‑down of Flight MH17 serves as a testament to his vision.

While the world mourns this horrific tragedy, President Obama, for his part, is looking increasingly haggard. Right‑wing critics have savaged his attempt at soft diplomacy with Russia, calling it naive and idealistic. They claim it never should have been attempted in the first place. The Russians, it would seem, have perceived Obama’s overtures as a sign of weakness, and they have since exploited it to the fullest.

Malaysia blissfully ignorant

In Malaysia, most of us have remained blissfully ignorant of the storm that’s been brewing for the past couple of years. Even as Putin’s brand of ultra-nationalist fervour has taken hold, we have chosen to invest in the Russian aerospace, oil and gas industries. We have sent our children to study the Russian health sciences. And even after the crisis in Ukraine erupted, our political leaders did not respond with a note of protest. No one had the gumption to call a spade a spade.

But now, like it or not, we have been drawn into Vladimir Putin’s dysfunctional world order. It’s not what we asked for. It’s certainly not what we wanted. But innocent blood has been spilled; hundreds of civilians have been murdered with no warning.

And to make the atrocity worse, Putin loyalists have interfered with the site of the crash, making a fair and transparent investigation all but impossible. In this time of grief, we need to ask ourselves some hard questions. With the failure of soft diplomacy, who will now bring Putin’s Russia to account? Who will choose to look at the crime instead of averting their eyes?

JOHN LING is a Malaysian‑born author based in New Zealand. You can find out more about him and his work at johnling.net

 

Concerned Malaysians in Support of Negara-ku Charter


July 18, 2014

The Negara-Ku Charter

On a daily basis, we are confronted with serious challenges that have begun to undermine the very foundations of our Nation. The peace and harmony of our multi-ethnic, multi-faith and multicultural society are under threat.

 Ethnocentric and race-based politics and communally-minded politicians continue to derail the process of inclusive nation building and the formation of a Bangsa Malaysia national identity. Importantly, religion is now increasingly used as a main marker of identity, and as a boundary maintenance mechanism to polarise the people.

There are political parties and their affiliates that are not focused on nation building, rather on building their respective power bases. These parties on both sides of the divide pursue their agenda that are transactional and short-term, not transformational and long-term.

The mobilisation and manipulation of race, ethnicity and religion have resulted in increasing intolerance, bigotry and extremism. There is also an emerging sub-culture of political violence. These are symptomatic of dangerous under-currents in our society.

The State, by default or design, has failed to address these pernicious developments. The State has also failed to play the role of an honest broker in managing conflicts in our society.

We believe the majority of the People want to end this brand of divisive ethno-religious politics.

We want to take ownership, fully cognisant, that Malaysia is a nation where her people are inextricably bound by a shared history, commonweal, and destiny.

We have to act before our society descends into the abyss of instability.

The “NEGARA-KU” Coalition aspires to mobilize and empower the People: -

1. To resist all forms of intolerance, bigotry, hatred, extremism, and violence;

2. To oppose all forms of discrimination, oppression, persecution and injustice;”

3. To strive for a socially inclusive society;

4. To exhort the State and its Institutions to respect, adhere and uphold the Rule of Law; and

5. To demand adherence to the principles of stewardship, integrity, accountability and transparency in all aspects of governance.

We will strive to do this by returning to the basics:-

The Federal Constitution as the Supreme Law of the Land;
The Malaysia Agreement; and

The Rukunegara as the guide for national objectives and values.

By this process of engagement and empowerment we endeavour to”HEAL THE NATION” and “RESTORE HOPE” in our future.

_________________________________________

Concerned Malaysians in Support of Negara-ku Charter

Press statement in conjunction with Press Conference at Kuala Lumpur Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, Friday July 18, 2014

Ambiga2Leaders of the Negara-Ku Movement

We, concerned Malaysians, take note and fully concur with the  Negara-Ku Charter launched by the People’s Movement to heal the nation and to restore hope for our shared common future.

We are in the midst of epochal challenges and changes in which all Malaysians must stand together to fight the forces of racial bigotry and religious extremism.

To safeguard our fragile multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-cultural unity, we must resist those who seek to destroy Malaysia and what it stands for which are the principles contained in the Constitution of the Malaysia Agreement of 1963.

We call on all Malaysians, especially our political leaders, to endorse this charter, embrace its values and principles fully and strive to uphold it wholeheartedly and unflinchingly in our personal and public lives.

List of Signatories

AB Sulaiman (Writer)

Ahmad Chik (Business and Community Leader)

Andrew Aeria (Academic)

Anwar Fazal (Educationist)

Art Harun (Lawyer and Commentator)

Azmi Sharom (Academic and Commentator)

Bah Tony Williams-Hunt (Community Leader)

Chong Ton Sin (Publisher)

Din Merican (Commentator)

Dominic Puthucheary (Lawyer)

Foong Wai Fong (Commentator)

Gurdial Singh Nijar (Academic)

Jannie Lasimbang (Community Leader)

Koon Yew Yin (Business and Community Leader)

Lim Teck Ghee (Academic and Commentator)

Malik Imtiaz Sarwar (Lawyer)

Ramon Navaratnam (Business and Community Leader)

Sharaad Kuttan (Commentator)

Sharom Ahmat (Educationist)

S. Thayaparan (Commentator)

Tan Pau Son (Business Leader)

Wan Saiful Wan Jan (Commentator)

Wong Chin Huat (Academic and Commentator)

Tricia Yeoh (Commentator)

Zainah Anwar (Community Leader)

Harsh Islamic Law Loses Momentum in Malaysia


July 15, 2014

Harsh Islamic Law Loses Momentum in Malaysia

http://www.asiasentinel.com/politics/harsh-islamic-law-malaysia/

It is beginning to look like the issue of implementing seventh-century Islamic law requiring the amputation of limbs and stoning of adulterers has crested in Malaysia and is receding.

The issue attracted widespread concern among human rights groups and the international investing community as well as within the country itself, with Chinese, Indians and other minorities loudly objecting to any attempts to enact such a law, not only because they deemed it as barbaric, but because they fear it would spread from Muslims to wider segments of the population.

Parti Islam se-Malaysia, the rural-based fundamentalist Islamic party with its roots in the poverty-stricken east coast of the country, had threatened to introduce two private member’s bills in the parliament in June when Parliament reopened its session. PAS, as the party is known, had been pushing for introduction of hudud, the Islamic system of punishment under Shariah law, in the state of Kelantan, which it controls. It needs federal approval for implementation, however.

Under its provisions, hudud would impose age-old punishments for certain classes of crimes under Shariah law including theft, sex out of wedlock, consumption of liquor and drugs and apostasy. As an indication of the modern inapplicability of the laws, there appear to be no punishments for corporate crime, which is rife in Malaysia. Corporate crime hadn’t been thought of when the Shariah laws were written hundreds of years ago.

But with a rising crime rate and concerns especially over violent street crime, the issue caught fire with the Malay public, egged on by such Malay nationalist organizations as Perkasa. One United Malays National Organization source said UMNO members of parliament were being intimidated into agreeing to vote for it or being thought of as “bad Muslims” by the country’s rural population.

However, it has horrified the 35 percent of other races that make up the country’s polyglot population of 29.6 million. It also posed a huge problem for the Pakatan Rakyat, the three-party opposition coalition made up of the Chinese-majority Democratic Action Party, the moderate urban Malay Parti Keadilan Rakyat headed by Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim, and the fundamentalist PAS.

How much real political momentum was behind the measure is uncertain. PAS President Abdul Hadinajib and his deputy Awang announced in April that he would introduce a private member’s bill in the Dewan Rakyat, or parliament, to pave the way for the introduction in Kelantan. Shortly after, despite the fact that PAS is an opposition party, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Jamil Khir Baharom told local media that the Federal Government would back PAS on the matter, an almost unheard of parliamentary action, especially in Malaysia.

Muhyiddin Yassin, the deputy prime minister, later proposed the establishment of a national-level committee to study the effect of the law, including bringing in experts from overseas, and that PAS and UMNO would participate in the formation of the committee. But three months later, no committee has been announced, and it appears unlikely that it will be.

There is some thought that the threat of backing the hudud bill was a subterfuge on the part of UMNO strategists because of its potential to split the opposition. Especially the Democratic Action Party headed by Lim Kit Siang and his son, Lim Guan Eng, were outraged by the thought of such a law, as were most urban Malays. Indeed, referring an issue to a committee is a time-honored and effective way to bury such a plan. The threat of implementation drove Chinese voters to stay from polls in an Perak by-election when DAP, in an effort to widen its appeal, ran a Malay candidate. Although she was attractive and intelligent, she lost.

The UMNO source said at the time Hadi Awang was considering introducing the bills that he feared the northern tier of Malay-dominated states would likely implement it on their own if it passed for Kelantan.

It was also to apply only to Malays and not the Chinese, who make up 23 percent of the population, Indians, who make up 8 percent, or ethnic groups in East Malaysia, most of whom are Christian.

But, as former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad – who became a prominent voice against enactment of the law, said: “There are Muslims and non-Muslims in our country. If a Muslim steals, his hand will be chopped off but when a non-Muslim steals, he goes to jail. Is that justice or not?”

Tun Dr. MahathirMahathir has been perhaps the strongest voice opposing any such law, ironically despite the fact that he has been a moving force behind the strident Malay nationalists who have been calling for its passage. It has once again shone a spotlight on Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, who has once again backed away from taking a strong stance.

Najib stood in the presence of President Barack Obama while Obama praised the country as a modern, moderate Malay society, but he has sent contradictory signals. He has said there would be no hudud in Malaysia but at a meeting of a religious group in June, Najib said the federal government has never rejected implementation of hudud although there are “loopholes and shortcomings” that must be addressed. He called for a meeting of Islamic scholars to interpret shariah law to ”scrutinize and to exercise ijtihad (an Islamic term for independent reasoning) so that justice can be served.”

“When they ask Najib to stand up, he holds his balls and looks the other way,” said a longtime western observer who asked not to be named.

In recent weeks, a wider spectrum of Muslims has come out against implementation. Anwar, who himself has been relatively muted on the subject, has come out against it in force as well, telling the PAS contingent of his coalition that any attempt to pass it would wreck the coalition.

As Mahathir has said, although the law would apply only to Muslims, it sets up the specter of a dual classThe Silent One of punishments, with a Chinese, Indian or other minority facing perhaps two months in jail for theft, for instance, and a Malay facing the prospect of losing his hand. Adultery in Malaysia is rarely punished today for any of the races and although it is not talked about, it is rampant among the leaders of UMNO. Under hudud, ethnic Malays would face death by stoning.

Other Islamic organizations with a less harsh agenda have suddenly found their voices. That has included Sisters in Islam, whose executive director Ratna Osman said hudud punishments were not necessarily Islamic but instead were common in medieval society. Islamic Renaissance Front chairman Ahmad Farouk Musa questioned whether hudud is applicable in today’s society.

Brasil 2014, Football and Germany


July 14, 2014

Brasil 2014, Football and Germany

by Josh Hong@www.malaysiakini.com

Germany's players lifts the World Cup trophyI once saw a picture at the German National Museum of Contemporary History in Bonn, the capital of the former West Germany. Dated July 4, 1954, it depicted a group of men with broken teeth, crutches and in worn-out clothes shouting for joy over West Germany’s victory at the FIFA World Cup Final.

The West Germans had just barely recovered from the horrific World War II, and Hungary had been widely tipped to win the title. Still, West Germany went on to claim the crown as a dark horse, and the game is known historically as ‘Das Wunder von Bern’ (‘the Miracle of Bern’; Bern is the Swiss capital where the final was held).

The 1954 World Cup was particularly meaningful to West Germany for several reasons: it was the first time that Das Lied Der Deutschen (the Song of the Germans) was played at an international sporting event since the end of WWII, signifying the return of the country into the world community, while defeating the then communist-ruled Hungary was hailed as an ideological triumph.

Two decades later, West Germany was showered with greater global recognition when it hosted the 1974 World Cup and was crowned champion. If 1954 symbolised West Germany’s international acceptance, 1974 probably took on a greater significance in that the country demonstrated proudly to the world its reemergence as an economic power, rising from the ashes of the catastrophic Nazi regime (which hosted the 1936 Olympics in Berlin), preceded also by the 1972 Olympics.

It was most ironic that, while Britain and France, the two WWII victors, were mired in incessant labour strikes as industrial production came to a virtual halt, West Germany’s economic development and standard of living continued to improve by leaps and bounds.

Then came the eventful autumn of 1989, when the Eastern Blocs were on the verge of drastic revolution. Berlin Wall, 1989Many East Germans drove their Trabants right up to the Berlin Wall and demanded that the gates be opened.

When their calls went unanswered, they took out sledgehammers and chisels and started dismantling the wall themselves, and the (in)famous wall did come tumbling down within weeks. Welcoming the Ossis was not only the far advanced Volkswagen produced by the Wessis, but also the abundantly available commodities in the shops in West Berlin.

When West Germany beat Argentina to claim the World Cup title on  July 8, 1990, East German fans erupted in euphoria publicly for the first time. Three months later, East and West Germany became history.

Rebranding the country

When the reunified Germany hosted the 2006 World Cup, the German government at the time made use of the opportunity to rebrand the country as a Land of Ideas (Land der Ideen), seeking to promote to the world Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Beethoven, philosopher Jürgen Habermas and many other modern achievements alongside football.

It represented a conscious effort on the part of the Germans to remind the international community that, having faced up to historical issues squarely, it was time that Germany should be free to celebrate its achievements for and contributions to the world.

The reunified Germany failed to win the World Cup in 2006, but many a European country was impressed with a new Germany that was not only confident and forward-looking, but also warm and hospitable, so much so that the British tabloids, usually relishing in insulting Germany with WWII references, toned down their wording and English fans could be seen waving the German flag during the semi-final between Germany and Argentina.

Now that Germany has once again made it to the final, the question whether the reunified country will win a historic World Cup is again in the mind of many, for a win on this coming Sunday (Brazilian time) would go a long way in affirming Germany’s coming of age, and I wish them all the best.

After all, no other competition arouses one’s nationalistic sentiment and sharpens political differences more than football – with the exception of an actual war. Seen in this light, what Germany destroyed last Tuesday was not just Brazil’s world status as a land of football, but it’s very national identity as well.

For historical reasons, the Germans are not used to overt symbols of nationalism, but it does not mean they should tolerate idiotic insults such as Bung Mokhtar’s ‘Hitler tweet’ in the wake of Germany’s thumping victory over Brazil. It is outrageous because no other countries have demonstrated so much goodwill and sincerity in dealing with historical baggage as Germany, especially when the country has shown no signs of relenting in pursuing justice for the victims.

Bung Mokhtar’s brainless tweet is more than a personal gaffe because it exposes the quality (or the lack thereof) of UMNO politicians. The fact that he continues to be a wakil rakyat is an utter shame to Malaysia.

NOTE: Germany defeated Argentina 1-0 in extra time on Sunday July 13, 2014 in Rio . It was thriller. witnessed by Chancellor Angela Merkel and a strong contingent of German fans while the rest of the world witnessed a spectacle of great sportsmanship and fine football. –Din Merican
________________
JOSH HONG studied politics at London Metropolitan University and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. A keen watcher of domestic and international politics, he longs for a day when Malaysians will learn and master the art of self-mockery, and enjoy life to the full in spite of politicians.

We Expect Our MPs and Government to be ACCOUNTABLE to the People


July 14, 2014

We Expect Our MPs and Government to be ACCOUNTABLE to the People

by Citizen Nades/R. Nadeswaran@www.thesundaily.com (07-13-14)

KEN CLARKE, a Minister in the Cabinet Office in England, claimed the cost of paying for an 11p rulernadeswaran on his expenses. He also claimed for a pack of pens costing £21.73, and a pack of adhesive notes for £14.27.

British Prime Minister David Cameron claimed for a glue stick costing £4.68 and a box of clips costing 8p, and printer cartridges costing £133.57. Vince Cable, the business secretary, claimed 43p for a pair of scissors. Justice Minister Shailesh Vara bought a pair much cheaper – 24p.

Cameron, who earns £142,500 a year, raised eyebrows by claiming 7p for a “bulldog” clip in January, even though processing the claim would have cost four times as much as its value. He also claimed 26p for “banner bar tags”, and 38p for a staple remover.

How do we know these trivial details? They were from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, which processes and monitors MPs’ expenses. Last week, it released figures for February and March which showed that MPs claimed about £3.6 million in expenses. It processed over 32,000 claims. The bulk of the expenses was attributed to train tickets from their constituencies to Westminster in London.

Everyone has access to these records and one can check the amount claimed by his or her MP. Malaysia is said to have adopted the Westminster system and one wonders why we did not adopt this principle of openness and transparency.

Our lawmakers have been shouting themselves hoarse on so many other inconsequential matters like the World Cup football and even glorified Adolf Hitler, but yet choose to remain silent on matters of public interest such as their own expenses.

It is not a matter of prying into their private affairs. No one is even suggesting that they have and still are making unjustified claims. It’s just that the path to transparency must start from the doorsteps of Parliament which dictates policy and draws up legislation.

While it is common knowledge that previously two or three lawmakers were charged with making false claims, shouldn’t it be in everyone’s interest that the claims are scrutinised by the same people who pay their salaries and elected them to Parliament?

In the absence of any requirement, would any MP in the name of transparency, take the first step by putting up their expense claim on their website? Wouldn’t this be a noble gesture which will propel or compel others to follow suit?

Any takers?

WE NEED TO KNOW

Steve Shim RCIThe Members of The Steve Shim RCI on Illegal Immigrants

FOR a few days last year, I was at the High Court in Kota Kinabalu listening attentively to witnesses who testified at the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Illegal Immigrants in Sabah. They included the former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his then Deputy, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

The inquiry heard some startling evidence including “Project IC” where illegal immigrants were given blue identity cards to enable them to vote for the ruling party. The inquiry was also told that some were asked to assemble in a community hall where they were issued documents which afforded them “protection” from the immigration authorities and the police.

There were even accusations that this project was done at the behest of national leaders who afforded support and protection in this clandestine operation. There were also accusations that officers from the National Registration Department sold blue ICs and were subsequently held under the Internal Security Act.

The inquiry was headed by former Chief Judge of Borneo Tan Sri Steve Shim, which started on January 29 last year, heard from 211 witnesses, and ended on September  23. The report was presented to the government in May this year.

However, Putrajaya has withheld making public the findings without providing any reasons. Our leaders have remained silent. The people of Malaysia, especially the Sabahans, are eagerly awaiting the findings as they have often said that “we are strangers in our own land” and that “the population of immigrants has exceeded the locals”. They also complained about social problems and the public health system bursting at its seams because of the presence of the foreigners.

Right-minded citizens will agree that the findings and the implementation of the recommendations of the panel will go a long way in placating and pacifying the anger of Sabahans who are being displaced by foreigners.

R. Nadeswaran says that our lawmakers must be in the forefront leading and demanding for transparency. Comments: citizen-nades@the sundaily.com

Malaysia’s future is a choice, not a fate.


July 13, 2014

Malaysia’s future is a choice, not a fate.

by Ahmad Zakie Shariff (received by e-mail from the writer)

Malaysia2

Can You See Our Future?   This is for all you out there trying to make sense of the environment around you – the social worker whose soup kitchen has been directed to close down, the CEO who’s looking for ways to better the company he’s been tasked to improve, the mother who’s wondering why the Ringgit does not stretch as far as it did.

Look around you – at current events that, if left unchecked will evolve a future none of us are prepared for – the high profile statements that some of our leaders have mouthed off recently; the sometimes heavy handed actions of some people in authority. I cringe at how little forethought is used before something is said or done. They must surely have considered the potential impact of their actions.

You see, anyone who is a leader must understand that their every word, their every action is scrutinized and analysed, and as such amplified.

Now ask yourself: do these people have a clear and broadly shared understanding of our nation’s ability to shape the future? Are they ‘lighthouses’ shining far enough to guide distance ships or are they merely weak ‘torchlights’ shining the very few dark metres ahead? If like me, your answer is the latter, then let me tell you that there is hope: we CAN collectively influence and own our future.

As with companies, I believe that every nation has the opportunity to shape its own destiny. I believe it is possible to create a broad and enticing new opportunity horizon for the people; a lack of resolute leadership (read weak) need not limit a nation’s ambition nor its accomplishments.

These beliefs are not a product of simple-minded optimism, but of deep conviction that Malaysians are meant for better things.

At the time of independence, Malaysia’s leaders were clearly ahead of the people. The creation of a new democratic monarchy with universal suffrage, anchored by a well-thought out constitution, was a leap of faith the government took with a trusting, young country.

Fifty-seven years on, however, it seems that the roles have reversed. The people have gained more confidence and are reaching for the stars. Some of Malaysia’s leaders however, seem more timorous – happy to be stuck in an outmoded past, unwilling to change – our politics have become more tactical than visionary.

But there has been a transformation in Malaysia over the last decade. It did not involve the people toppling a monarch or bringing down a wall, but it did involve a society throwing off something huge – throwing off the shackles of comfort zones and a ‘government knows best’ mentality and replacing it with energy and boundless aspirations.

Anyone can spawn a revolution. Yet many Ahmads, Ah Chongs and Anthony Dasses today, inclined to regard themselves as victims, have lost confidence in their ability to shape the future of the nation. They have forgotten that historically it has been the dispossessed – from Gandhi to Mandela – who have led revolutions. Notwithstanding all the sombre incantations that “change must start at the top,” one must ask how often monarchy has led a revolution.

We are evolving as a nation and we suffer from growing pains – no nation is spared that throughout history – Malaysia is no different.  But I know this: I know the shape of Malaysia’s future is a choice, not a fate.

That is why I believe that we need loud, engaging, spirited arguments about how and why Malaysia and Malaysians need to go about influencing the right choices – and never resign themselves to fate.

But we need to do it in a spirit of respect for one another. We are many trying to be one and we need to hear representative voices from all constituents in order to shape our collective future.

The American essayist and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “There are always two parties, the hj-ahmad-zakieparty of the past and the party of the future; the establishment and the movement.” A substantial truth lurks in this observation: the future belongs not to those who will not tinker with things that ain’t broke, but to those willing to challenge the biases and prejudices of ‘’the establishment’’. The future belongs more to “the movement”, the unorthodox and the unreasonable than it does to those who are afraid to challenge the unknown.

I write this in the spirit of gently prodding my fellow Malaysians to imagine and deliver on a different future by refusing to settle any more for a Malaysian politics and governance that falls short of the talents possessed and needed by the Malaysian people.

No matter what ills have beset our nation in recent times, I am an optimist, a sober optimist, but an optimist nonetheless about the future of my country.For did someone not remind us that it is better to light a candle than to continually curse the darkness?

 

A Poem for this Weekend


July 13, 2014

A Poem for this Weekend

William-Ernest-Henley2I am the Master of my Fate

I dedicate this Henley poem to  Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, Teoh Beng Hock, Bernard Zorro Khoo and Irene Fernandez, and fellow Malaysians who are in the forefront of our struggle for Democracy, Freedom and Justice. –Din Merican

INVICTUS

( The Unconquerable Soul)

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

 

An Eminent former Judge and Chief Justice cannot tell the truth


July 8, 2014

A Tragedy when even an Eminent former Judge and Chief Justice cannot tell the truth

I was afraid I would become a ‘traitor’ to the Malays and Islam,” Former Chief Justice Tun Abdul Hamid Mohamad said. He was not truthful; he was not offered a place in a unity council, says source –www.themalaysianinsider.com

CJ of Malaya Hamid

IMD (Switzerland) World Competitiveness Survey: Malaysia moves up to 12th position


July 8, 2014

IMD (Switzerland) World Competitiveness Survey: Malaysia moves up to 12th position

img_enewletter-issue7-01Malaysia  ranked 12 in List of 60 economies

Malaysia moved up the world competitiveness ranking again, securing a spot in the enviable top dozen and improving the country’s attractiveness to investors.

The International Institute for Management Development (IMD), a Switzerland-based top-ranked business school, lifted Malaysia to 12th position from 15th last year in a list of 60 economies.

“The improved rankings will renew interest and attract investments to the country,” IMD World Competitiveness Center director Professor Arturo Bris told the New Straits Times. The country also continues to be ahead of the United Kingdom (16th), Australia (@17th), Finland (18th), New Zealand (20th), Japan (21st) and South Korea (26th).

Malaysia, Bris said, improved its openness to foreign markets and attracted capital and investment at increasing rates.

In a separate statement, International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed saidMiti's Mustapa 12th position was Malaysia’s best performance in the past four years and reflected the progress of the Government Transformation Programme and the Economic Transformation Programme.

“Malaysia expects a much better performance in the next three to five years as more of its initiatives begin to bear fruit,” he said.

The Survey

The World Competitiveness Yearbook 2014 is the 26th publication since 1989.The findings are compiled each year by IMD’s World Competitiveness Center in a survey of 60 economies called the World Competitiveness Yearbook.

The yearbook analyses and ranks the ability of each nation to create and maintain an environment that sustains the competitiveness of enterprises.The survey rates at the availability of fixed telephone lines, broadband, railroad network, part-time employment market, illiteracy, medical assistance and other criteria.

The report is based on statistical data and perception data obtained through a survey that reviews 338 criteria in four categories:

  1. Economic Performance covers the domestic economy, international trade, international investment, employment and price.
  2. Government Efficiency looks into public finance, fiscal policy, institutional framework, business legislation and societal framework.
  3. Business efficiency looks at productivity and efficiency, the labour market, finance, management practices, attitudes and values.
  4. Infrastructure rates technological, scientific, health, environmental and educational infrastructure.

In the category of countries with gross domestic per capita of less than US$20,000 (RM64,300), Malaysia remained at the top among 29 economies. Among countries with populations above 20 million, Malaysia climbed up to 4th position from 5th last year.

In ASEAN, Malaysia remains number two after Singapore and ranked third in the Asia Pacific region compared with fourth last year, while Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines are fourth, fifth and seventh respectively.

Malaysia has consistently performed well in other international surveys, including being ranked 6th by the World Bank in Ease of Doing Business 2014, 24th in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2013-2014 and 32nd in the Global Innovation Index 2013 by INSEAD Business School.

Well done,Foreign Minister Anifah for Doing the Right Thing


July 2, 2014

Well done,Foreign Minister Anifah for Doing the Right Thing: Rizalman is to be Extradited

–The Malaysian Insider

Putrajaya’s decision to extradite Muhammad Rizalman Ismail was conveyed today by Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman to his counterpart Murray McCully.

AnifahAman2Well done, Foreign Minister Anifah

Former Malaysian defence staff assistant, who is wanted for sexual assault and burglary in New Zealand, will be sent there to assist in the investigation. Wisma Putra said today. Second Warrant officer Muhammad Rizalman Ismail will be accompanied by a senior military officer from the Ministry of Defence. Putrajaya’s decision to extradite Rizalman was conveyed by Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman to his counterpart Murray McCully.

Japan’s Cabinet Seeks Changes to Its Peace Constitution


July 2, 2014
Asia Pacific Bulletin
Number 270 | July 1, 2014
ANALYSIS

Japan’s Cabinet Seeks Changes to Its Peace Constitution – Issues New “Interpretation” of Article Nine

By Andrew L. Oros

AbeJapan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe addressed his nation at a 6pm press conference on July 1 to announce a much-anticipated Cabinet decision to reinterpret a constitutional prohibition related to Japan’s military forces working together with other states, setting the stage for a series of changes to Japanese law when its parliament reconvenes in the fall.

Protestors opposing this effective change to Japan’s constitution–which has never been formally revised since its implementation in 1947–have gathered in front of the Prime Minister’s official residence all week. An estimated 5,000 protestors gathered outside the prime-time press conference where the prime minister argued that the reinterpretation did not represent a fundamental departure in nearly 70 years of Japanese security policy, but rather was a modest update to current policy in response to a changing international security environment.

He repeatedly touted Japan’s postwar identity as a “peace state” (heiwakoku), arguing that now is the time for Japan to make a greater international contribution to international peace–in line with the national security strategy released by his government in December 2013 that called for Japan to make “proactive contributions to peace” internationally.

The issue of “collective self-defense”–engaging in military action with allied states even if your state itself is not directly threatened–has been a topic of debate in Japan all year. Japanese government policy for over half a century has been that although all states have an inherent right to engage in collective self-defense, as rooted in long-standing practice of international law, Japan would refrain from exercising that right in deference to Article Nine of its postwar constitution, which forbids the use of force to settle international disputes.

Prime Minister Abe has long argued that Japan should engage in collective self-defense activities with like-minded states, both together with its alliance partner the United States as well as with other states and through United Nations peacekeeping operations. Abe’s coalition partner in government, the New Komei Party, has been opposed, however. As a result, the issue was set aside during the first year of Abe’s return to power in December 2012.

Critics of the Abe government argue that this decision is rushed, is taking place without debate in Japan’s parliament, and that no elected leader has the right to reinterpret the constitution. There is widespread misunderstanding about the power of this cabinet statement, however: it does not have the force of law.

Only legislation passed by Japan’s parliament has the force of law–and, indeed, this was one of the subjects of Abe’s 10-minute prepared statement to the nation: that his government would be creating a team to draft bills to establish the necessary legislation to submit to the Diet for its deliberation. Still, the cabinet statement does reflect unanimity among the cabinet, which includes one member from the New Komei Party. It took months of negotiation and substantial compromises by Abe to achieve this support, leading to a much watered-down mandate to exercise the right of collective self-defense only in highly constrained circumstances and even then only using the minimum necessary force to restore the peace.

The Abe government prepared 15 examples to share with the nation illustrating situations where it saw Japanese security at risk due to Japan’s decision not to exercise its right of collective self-defense, which Abe debuted in an earlier televised prime-time press conference in May. Famously pointing to a sketch of a mother holding a small child while fleeing hostilities, Abe explained cases such as the challenges of evacuating Japanese nationals from a war zone, or Japan’s need to cooperate in de-mining critical sea trade routes in the event an enemy were to lay such mines (as happened in the 1991 Gulf War). In fact, the most likely cases where Japan would exercise collective self-defense are together with its only formal military ally, the United States.

It was announced last October that the two states seek to formally revise their 17-year-old guidelines for defense cooperation by the end of 2014, making a decision on the issue of collective self-defense time sensitive. The two states’ goals of cooperating to combat cyber threats and to improve defenses against ballistic missiles both require a pre-commitment from Japan to work together with the militaries of other states, even in cases where it is not clear that Japan itself is being attacked. In addition, the long-standing fear of a new outbreak of hostilities on the Korean Peninsula would also put great pressure on Japan to offer assistance to US and South Korean military forces–even if Japan itself was not directly attacked, something prohibited under the prior cabinet interpretation of the Japanese constitution.

This new policy on collective self-defense should thus be seen, in part, as a way to show Japan’s commitment to the US-Japan military alliance–and to seek to secure US commitment to the alliance in the wake of growing Japanese concerns about China’s designs on the remote and uninhabited Senkaku Islands that Japan administers but China claims (and which China calls Diaoyu), and that Japan would need the United States military to help protect in the event of hostilities.

The new policy should also been seen as part of a set of initiatives of the Abe government to re-craft Japanese military activities as the sort of conduct any “normal” state engages in without suspicion. In this sense, it is part and parcel of his broader efforts to move beyond the criticism of Japan’s militarist past and to a new status quo where Japan’s “proactive contributions to peace” are welcomed on the contemporary international stage. The policy also should be understood at face value: as a way to address potential security contingencies Japan may face in the future.

The Abe government is correct about international law: that all states inherently possess the right of collective self-defense. But his public statements belie the substantial change in policy that Japan choosing to exercise this right would represent. Critics over-state the significance of the cabinet statement, however. Nothing has yet been changed in Japanese law, and even if new laws are passed in the fall based on this cabinet statement, the agreement within the ruling coalition places substantial barriers on Japan exercising this right in the years to come. Abe has thus not yet realized his dream of Japan becoming a “normal” state–and based on the scale of criticism both at home and abroad about this policy push, it will take many more years of policy evolution to achieve this goal.
About the Author

Dr. Andrew L. Oros is an Associate Professor of Political Science and International Studies at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland and Adjunct Fellow at the East-West Center in Washington. He is author of Normalizing Japan: Politics, Identity, and the Evolution of Security Practice and can be contacted via email at aoros2@washcoll.edu.

The East-West Center promotes better relations and understanding among the people and nations of the United States, Asia, and the Pacific through cooperative study, research, and dialogue.

Established by the US Congress in 1960, the Center serves as a resource for information and analysis on critical issues of common concern, bringing people together to exchange views, build expertise, and develop policy options.

The Asia Pacific Bulletin (APB) series is produced by the East-West Center in Washington.

APB Series Editor: Dr. Satu Limaye, Director, East-West Center in Washington
APB Series Coordinator: Damien Tomkins, Project Assistant, East-West Center in Washington

The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the East-West Center or any organization with which the author is affiliated. For comments/responses on APB issues or article submissions, please contact washington@eastwestcenter.org.

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The Constitution must be supreme


June 28, 2014

Ceritalah

Published: Tuesday June 24, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Tuesday June 24, 2014 MYT 7:03:13 AM

The Constitution must be supreme

Karim RaslanBy Karim Raslan@www.thestar.com.my

“We are a polyglot nation. We cannot suddenly rid ourselves of our diversity and complexity. Yes, it is messy but it is also a fact of life and embedded in our national DNA.Until and unless we amend our Constitution – the fact remains that Malaysia is not completely secular, but neither does it allow one faith to run roughshod over the other.”–Karim Raslan

A FEW weeks ago, I wrote about my opposition to the implementation of hudud in Malaysia. Since then, it appears that the on-going debate about the role of religion in our country has become even more complicated, whether over child custody, raids on weddings and funerals as well as the issue of Malay-language Bibles.

To me, the challenge for Malaysians is simple enough.We must decide what kind of country we’re living in. Is it secular or religious? A constitutional monarchy which practises Westminster democracy or something else altogether?

Our leaders have shied away from answering these questions for far too long, allowing opportunists and extremists to dominate the discourse.This has left Malaysia in a permanent state of flux. We cannot become a developed nation when one group of citizens thinks the only way they can be protected is to relegate another into an inferior state.

That is at the heart of the various disputes: Malay versus non-Malay, Muslim versus non-Muslim and so on. At the same time, this dichotomy fails to acknowledge the many Malay-Muslims who feel uncomfortable with the idea of living under a theocracy.

Still, the fundamental question remains this: should people be treated equally in Malaysia? If not, why?If it is because this will somehow denigrate the position of Islam and the Malays – why is that so?The solution, I think, is to go back to Malaysia’s founding document – our Consti­tution.

Unlike Britain, Malaysia’s Constitution is written.This makes us a nation of laws, which gives us a framework for how we deal with each other. And what does the Constitution say? It is true Article 3(1) states that Islam is the religion of the Federation but also provides that other faiths may be practised in peace and harmony.

Every mainstream voice in Malaysia has accepted this.But does this article mean that the rights and values of non-Muslim Malaysians are completely irrelevant the moment Islam comes into any matter? Let us also not forget that Article 3(4) also states: “Nothing in this Article derogates from any other provision of this Constitution.”

I might be wrong here, but I think this also means that Islam’s special position does not abrogate the force of other provisions, like Article 8(1): “All persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law.” Malaysians – it seems – are being forced to choose between two very unpleasant extremes.

One is that we must remove religion from our public lives altogether.The other is that a certain understanding of Islam must take priority over everything else.But if people truly took the time to read the Constitution – they would realise that neither of these paths meet the spirit in which our nation was founded.

We are a polyglot nation. We cannot suddenly rid ourselves of our diversity and complexity. Yes, it is messy but it is also a fact of life and embedded in our national DNA.Until and unless we amend our Constitution – the fact remains that Malaysia is not completely secular, but neither does it allow one faith to run roughshod over the other.

Anyone who says that provisions of the Constitution or other laws can be ignored simply because they think Islam is under threat is going against the law of the land. Does believing this make someone a bad Muslim? I humbly submit that faith is better served through doing justice rather than by causing fear and ill-will. Our leaders must show collective wisdom and courage in these difficult times.

HRH The Sultan of Selangor is to be commended for stating that his state’s religious authorities should seek redress for their grievances only through legal means.However, we live in a democracy. As such, our elected officials should lead the way.

They must draw on the collective wisdom of our nation to find the path forward.Leadership is not about being silent in times of crisis. It is about decisiveness and courage.I am no fan of former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad but at least he always understood the need to lead.

image

The Prime Minister and his Cabinet must step forward. They must lead from the front.If they don’t have the guts to do so – Malaysians will turn elsewhere.

 Karim Raslan is a regional columnist and commentator. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own. His online documentaries can be viewed at: http://www.youtube.com/user/KRceritalah

Malays must stand up to the extremists (and Malaysians too)


June 27, 2014

Extremism can flourish only in an environment where basic governmental social responsibility for the welfare of the people is neglected. Political dictatorship and social hopelessness create the desperation that fuels religious extremism.–The Late Benazir Bhutto

MY COMMENT: Well done, Ahmad, for this article appealing to Malays to stand up against extremists. I hope he also means extremists without identifying their ethnicitydinmerican or religious orientation. Extremism in whatever shape or form, colour and race must not be tolerated. So far the most vocal ones are Malays like PERKASA’s Ibrahim Ali and Zul Nordin, formerly of PKR (Parti Keadilan Rakyat), and institutions like Jais, Jawi, and  Mais, Isma headed by Ustaz Ahmad Zaik Abdullah Rahman and other Muslim NGOs claiming to be defenders of the Faith. That is unfortunate as I expected Malay leadership to be enlightened, open minded and colour and race blind. But we do know that there are also extremists from the “other side” (for want of a better word), be they bible champions or  those in Non-Muslim NGOs who also spread prejudice.

ibrahim-ali-perkasaMalaysia cannot be a truly a united country if extremists on both sides (UMNO supporters and Pakatan supporters) are allowed the freedom to spread hatred and extol their prejudices. We are living in a wonderful country, blessed with good weather (generally speaking), diversity and peace. Let us all, men and women of reason and compassion, stand up for  Malaysia for all.

My family like many other families came from the Indian sub-continent centuries ago. I was born, bred, educated and worked here in Malaya/Malaysia. It makes no sense to label me a pendatang. Those who resort to this sort of labelling, or racial and religious stereo-typing, should check their own background carefully before casting the proverbial stone on others.

Let us be realistic and recognise that we are all an indivisible part of our heritage in the ever advancing continuum of time. I am proud to be a Malaysian. I am loyal to my King and country. That is why I am against extremism and condemn those who use extremism to create social disharmony and achieve political ends or for personal gain. Stand up for Malaysia and fight the extremists.–Din Merican

Malays must stand up to the extremists (and Malaysians too)

by Ahmad Hafidz Baharom | June 24, 2014 2:44PM@http://www.malaysiakini.com

NO to ExtremismFirst and foremost, I am a third generation constitutional Malaysian Malay Muslim, as far as I can tell from my secondary school history project I did in 1996. That being said, there are those who may have a history of their ancestors and families living in this nation longer than I have.I am partially Chinese, Indian, Indonesian Malay and Malaysian Malay, which we can all say are the four biggest populations in Malaysia currently.

All I can say about this is that my parents must have taken Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s racial genetic co-mingling which he suggested in The Malay Dilemma seriously.As much as I am a Malay, I am not a supporter of UMNO, nor am I a supporter of PAS or any political party. Instead, I align myself to individuals, among them PAS’ Khalid Abdul Samad, and Mujahid Rawa (regardless of his anti-smoking crusade), DAP’s Charles Santiago and Tony Pua, PKR’s Nurul Izzah Anwar, Elizabeth Wong, Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, and Rafizi Ramli, and UMNO’s Saifudin Abdullah, Ahmad Husni Hanadziah and Nur Jazlan Mohamed.As a graduate of UiTM, I am thankful for what UMNO has done in the past, but that doesn’t exclude them from criticism. Nor does it exclude UiTM from criticism. As such, I don’t find an insult to UMNO as an insult to myself as a Malay, nor do I see urging UiTM to be opened up to non-bumiputeras as an insult to myself.

Similarly, I do not find it taboo for a non-Muslim to wish me salam, or to use Islamic phrases. This is Abdullah-Zaik-Abdul-Rahman-145x120because I see it as a positive, as them trying to emulate our culture instead of somehow seeing it as a threat against my religion. In other words, I am not a paranoid. In the past year or so, we have somehow seen that any insult to UMNO, Ikaan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma), having Iban language Bibles, urging the reining in of religious authorities, all of this as an insult to Malays.

UMNO is not a representation of all the Malays in Malaysia. The fact that they lost Shah Alam in the last two general elections is solid proof of it. Mind you, we have a more than 90 percent Malay population in this parliamentary district. Isma’s president, contrary to his wife’s belief, is not the representative of all Malays. After all, if he thinks the Chinese are trespassers, then he is equally saying I myself am the product of a trespassing ancestor.

A Penang assemblyperson calling UMNO ‘celaka’ is also not an insult to me, because I have seen students right out of UiTM who just got their first jobs giving out the same expletive remarks when they read news coverage of the Auditor-General’s Report. And by the way, these were former BN Youth Volunteers during the 2013 general election.

I am not a traitor to HRH Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah for thinking that both the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais) and the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) are in the wrong and have totally lost the plot by seizing Bibles and having fake ex-Christians hold a talk at UiTM, regardless of what Negri Sembilan Perkasa suggests. And if they think they need to behead me for this, I suggest they check in with the His HRH Sultan of Selangor to use his royal courtyard for the guillotine.

I believe the Malays have to now take a stand against all these extreme views, and voice it out as ardently as possible; that we are no longer represented by extremists. Now is the time for the Malays to take a stand and tell those in charge to either stop it, or face the consequences of misrepresenting us to the entire world.

It is time to take legal action against our extremists to gag them from making unwarranted statements that tarnish the image of the Malay race. If not, then the greatest insult to the Malays would be the insult we do to ourselves by letting the voice of the loud few destroy whatever pride we have left in ourselves as a people, as a community, as a majority in this country.

We Allow Thugs to set the National Agenda


June 25, 2014

Brave New World

Published: Wednesday June 25, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Wednesday June 25, 2014 MYT 7:14:57 AM

We Allow Thugs to set the National Agenda

by Dr. Azmi Sharom@http://www.the star.com.my

Azmi SharomMALAYSIA is turning into a hateful country. Hate; it is such an ugly word. Yet I can’t think of anything else to describe what is happening here, the land where I am to spill my blood.But then, why should I care? I am after all an intruder and immigrant.

Yes, I realise that when the racists speak about intruders and immigrants, they mean non-Malay intruders and immigrants; this despite the fact that many so-called Malays are actually of foreign origin. But I am not a hypocrite like them.

 I know my roots and they spread to Yemen, to Medan, to Singapore. I wasn’t even born here. Yet I believe that I have as much right to be here as anyone else and my fellow Malaysians have just as much right as me. And still the question remains: why should I care? I don’t have the answer to that question because I am not a very philosophical man. Yet I know this; I have no desire to live in the Yemen, or Medan or Singapore. And as much as I loved my significant time in England, I always knew that I would come home. And home is here, Malaysia.

Forgive the overly sentimental tangent this article is taking, but I am trying to make sense of my world as I write. It is hard to be purely analytical when one’s home is being slowly destroyed by the bigoted, small-minded, cruel and vicious.

This place is my home because I grew up here. My memories and therefore my identity are tied up to this place.My tastes, my relationships, my way of thinking, in short everything that makes me the individual that I am, are due to this place. But what kind of place is it now? It looks to me like the kind of place where the vicious can threaten to behead people, where those who are meant to be the final arbiters are unwilling or incapable of making judgments based on the principles they have sworn to uphold.

It is a place where cowardly leaders think only of their votes and not of making a stand against vile people and their vile deeds.There is so much going on which is going to affect our basic needs of hearth and security. While the wheels of capitalism turn, we the ordinary folk are going to find it harder and harder to just make ends meet. Yet we allow thugs to set the agenda. We allow non-issues to become national debating points. We allow the vicious to go on screaming malicious words with God on their lips and hatred in their hearts.

ayn-rand-We have lost our capacity to Reason

All this when we are living in a country with so much potential and wealth. If we can ensure that the truly needy, regardless of their creed or colour are protected and helped; if we can move our education system towards one where we produce thinking people and not well-educated automatons; if we can create a government in all its guises which is dedicated to honesty and the rule of law.If we can do all these things, then the future will be more secure for all of us. It is there, within reach.

Instead there appears to be no light at the end of the tunnel and all I see is a darkness populated by the shrill screeching of the hatemongers.It does not need to be like this. If the face of this country is as twisted and ugly to you as it is to me, we can still do something.

We can challenge our elected representatives into a corner. Force them to tell us where they stand.We can support the downtrodden. We can gather together in huge numbers to make a stand not for any political reason, but to show the bigots that they are not the only ones in this land and that their cruel philosophies are not welcome.

We can think for ourselves and not simply allow those with so-called authority to dictate our thoughts for us. We can be fearless in deed, words and thoughts to uphold the values that surely any country needs to hang on to – fairness, compassion, kindness, freedom and justice.This country is becoming so hateful; that is true. But I am not yet ready to hate it. Are you?

http://www.thestar.com.my/Opinion/Columnists/Brave-New-World/Profile/Articles/2014/06/25/Thugs-allowed-to-set-agenda/