Ah Jib Gor: You are just another Abdullah Badawi

December 3, 2013

Ah Jib Gor: Just Resign

Bakri Musaby Dr. M.Bakri Musa
Morgan-Hill, California

Habis lah ‘Jib! (You are finished, Najib!) You are just another Pak Lah! Malaysia cannot afford two consecutive incompetent leaders as it enters the 21st Century. The precious and critical first decade is already lost.

Najib’s latest “Pak Lah moment” came when his Police Chief, Khalid Abu Bakar, threatened to arrest Mariam Mokhtar for sedition over her article, “One Ideology, Two Reactions,” posted on Freemalaysiatoday.com on November 29, 2013. Mariam dared to highlight the highly favorable treatment Aishah Wahab, the woman allegedly held as a slave by her Marxist master in London, received from the Najib Administration versus the visceral contempt it heaped upon Chin Peng, leader of the defunct Malayan Communist Party.

Mariam (right) suggested that the Najib Administration’s generous gestureMariam Mokhtar to Aishah was more on exploiting the favorable publicity surrounding that London slavery case.

“She had better watch out,” the Police Chief warned, “or we will go after her!” The “her” is of course Mariam.  Jantan kampung betul! (a real village bull!), as we say in the village when referring to such petty bullies.

The  Police  Chief should display his manhood where it would really count, as with confronting the Singaporeans spying on Malaysia, those intruders at Lahad Datu, or the alleged treachery with the loss of Pulau Batu Puteh. Those are the real and menacing threats to the nation’s security and stability, not the eloquent writing of a young woman!

The Arrogant IGPIGP Khalid Ashburn

Clearly Najib and his officials are threatened by Mariam’s ideas. Najib is stuck in the time warp of the old feudal ways, unable to grasp the new reality of a porous digital age. He and Khalid should be complimenting Mariam for her ability to write well, and in English, as well as her courage to express her views.

If Najib and Khalid have a better grasp of English, they would have discovered that Mariam’s earlier essay in Malaysiakini.com, “Three Slaves and the Rakyat,” on the same case had more punch. In that piece she noted that while the three London women were imprisoned for three decades, Malaysians have been “metaphorically imprisoned for the most part of 56 years,” adding that the three women were shackled by “invisible handcuffs,” just like Malaysians.

“It is doubtful,” Mariam continues, “if many Malaysians realize the similarities between themselves and those three women.” Now that’s powerful stuff, but Najib and Khalid missed Mariam’s well-chosen metaphor and imagery!

Congratulations Mariam! Your voice is being heard at the highest level, and widely too as judged by the outpouring of comments both articles elicited. Keep writing! I hope the Police Chief and Najib’s other top officials would continue widening their reading repertoire beyond the UMNO newsletters, The New Straits Times and Utusan Melayu.

Mariam is not the first writer to be intimidated by the authorities. She does not need to be reminded of the horrible experiences of Kassim Ahmad, Syed Hussein, Haris Ibrahim, Hishamuddin Rais, and Raja Petra, among others.

I have nothing to offer Mariam except my best wishes, and I wish her that, and much more, as with her continued success in writing. I can, however, pass on the advice from that great Indonesian writer, the late Ananta Prameodya Toer, a man who had endured much from his government.

Orang boleh pandai setinggi langit,” Pramoedya wrote in Rumah Kaca (The Glasshouse), “tapi selama ia tidak menulis, ia akan hilang di dalam masyarakat dan dari sejarah.” (Your intellect may soar to the sky but if you do not write, you will be lost from society and history).”

Rest assured that when the collective “invisible handcuff” gets unshackled, as ultimately it will, Malaysians owe a huge debt of gratitude to brave individuals like Mariam Mokhtar.

As for that Police Chief, only his family would remember him, or if remembered by others, he would prefer not to be. Look at his many ‘illustrious’ predecessors; one jailed for punching Anwar Ibrahim, another a defendant in a multimillion-dollar lawsuit, and a third rewarded by being Chairman of a casino. That character apparently gambled right!

Najib’s Ultimate Pak Lah Moment

Najib1Najib warned the country is on the brink of bankruptcy!

Back to Najib’s other Pak Lah moments, the supposedly pious and humble Pak Lah squandered millions of taxpayers’ funds to renovate Sri Perdana before he deemed it livable. This from a man who only a decade earlier did not even own a house!

Najib however, bested Pak Lah on this front. Najib burned over two million ringgit a year just on electricity. When citizens complained, he haughtily defended his wasteful ways by suggesting that his official guests should not have to dine by candle light! He must have the whole United Nations delegates as his guests, and everyday too!

More likely Najib must have really turned down the thermostat and then had the fireplace roaring to simulate the English ambience of his student days so he could cuddle up to Rosmah.

Najib should remember the advice he received from his Prime Minister father, Tun Abdul Razak when he (Najib) and his brothers were clamoring for a swimming pool at the old Sri Perdana. “What will people say,” Najib quoted his old man as saying in turning down their request.

Malaysia's Executive JetMalaysia’s Executive Jet

Then there is the ultra-luxury, custom-fitted Airbus jet. Even Queen Elizabeth and Prime Minister Cameron do not have one. Pak Lah was severely criticized for his excessive use of that expensive toy. At least his wife (the first or second) did not get to use it in her personal capacity.

Today we have Mrs. Najib (the second)–Rosmah– jaunting off in it, oblivious of the cost to taxpayers. I do not know which is more reprehensible; Najib requesting the approval from his cabinet for his wife’s use of the jet or the cabinet approving it. This at a time when he warned the country is on the brink of bankruptcy!

najib-and-badawiAbdullah Badawi burdened Malaysia for over five years; the nation is still paying for his many follies and general incompetence. Many claim that Najib is worse than Pak Lah; that is being petty. When you score is already a miserable F, it does not really matter whether it is also F-minus.

Expect at this week’s UMNO General Assembly for Najib to execute yet another Pak Lah moment – reading his “own” pompous self-congratulatory pantun (poem). Do not expect however, for the delegates to even mention let alone review this critical issue of his glaring incompetence and profligate ways.

Thus it behooves Malaysians to ensure that this burden of Najib’s inept leadership comes to an end soon. Malaysians must force Najib to perform his ultimate Pak Lah moment – resign!


Three Slaves and the Rakyat by MM: http://www.malaysiakini.com/columns/247523

Prime Minister Najib Razak meets Christiane Amanpour

November 4, 2013

Prime Minister Najib Razak meets Christiane Amanpour

Watch this video and tell me what you think. I believe he did better than his predecessor, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. But  that does not say much, does it? –Din Merican

Tony Pua says to Najib stop embarrassing Malaysia

by Alyaa Azhar@http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak was hypocritical when answering questions during the CNN interview hosted by Christiane Amanpour, says DAP’s Tony Pua.

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has been urged to “stop embarrassingNajib Razak Malaysians” with the global moderate statesman facade as his actions are to the contrary.

Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua was commenting on Najib’s 12-minute interview with Christiane Amanpour on CNN last week.

“At the interview, the Prime Minister’s facial expression tells the world how uncomfortable he was in answering the questions thrown at him which exposes the facade of a global moderate statesman,” said Pua.

The DAP national publicity secretary also pointed out how the Prime Minister sang a different tune when Amanpour directed the spotlight to Malaysia’s increasing religious conservatism and extremism.

Najib had said that his priority was to ensure peace and harmony in Malaysia.

“What the Prime Minister is telling the world is that while it is hunky-dory to make the glamorous pitch for moderation at international platforms, moderation takes a back seat to peace and harmony domestically,” Pua said.

tony-pua2Pua elaborated that the peace and harmony mentioned by Najib was merely euphemism for pandering to the religious far-right and restricting the rights of the minority.

“As an example, the Prime Minister told Reuters that the curb against Catholic weekly, The Herald, from using the word Allah was necessary to protect public security and national harmony, going as far as to describe The Herald as a publication with wide circulation,” he said.

However, Pua stressed that the wide circulation was a distribution of only 14,000 issues in churches in a country of 30 million people.

“Instead of justifying his peace and harmony priority, his defense only proved the persecution of minorities in Malaysia,” added Pua.

He then opined that Najib does not have any right to be a statesman for moderation at international forums if he cannot practise what he preaches.

“His pretentious call for the Global Movement of Moderates only leads to being easily exposed as a hypocrite at the global arena and become an embarrassment to the country,” Pua stressed.

The Allah Issue will not just go away,so get real

October 15, 2013

The Allah Issue will not just go away,so get real

by Zaid Ibrahim

COMMENT: The Court of Appeal (CoA), as expected, has reversed thezaid Kuala Lumpur High Court decision on the use of ‘Allah’ by Catholic weekly The Herald.

The CoA, however, took a long time to hear and decide on the appeal, and this has enabled the general election to be safely tucked away without anyone having to worry about any adverse effect the decision might have had, had it been delivered earlier.

Before my fellow-Muslims think that the decision is a great victory for them, I must urge them to think properly. The decision may be a big victory for some Muslim NGOs or Nasharuddin Mat Isa, Ibrahim Ali  and Hassan Ali, but for the rest of the Ummah it will matter very little.

The decision binds only The Herald. How many Muslims read it? How many are threatened by anything besides their own insecurities? Besides, someone can always produce another publication with a new name and the controversy will start all over again.

Loud Mouth Zahid HamidiThe Home Minister will issue yet another directive that the new publication is ‘against public order’ and lawyers will be busy, as will Ibrahim Ali and his gang. Yet another public quarrel will ensue, and this will go on and on.

The CoA decision is limited to The Herald alone. This does not, and should not, mean that Christians are prohibited from using ‘Allah’ in their prayers, or that they are prohibited at all in Sabah and Sarawak.

Christians beyond The Herald (and Catholics too), can still use that Name whenever they want to, and in any celebration they have. Of course, some Muslim NGOs will counter this new situation and go to court yet again to stop all Christians, regardless of denomination, from using ‘Allah’ on any occasion, religious or otherwise.

They will probably seek to widen the scope of the original government order to include prohibiting Christians and other non-Muslims from using ‘Allah’ at all under any circumstance. What about Sikhs? Sikhs can’t be bound by an order limited to a single Catholic newspaper.

The CoA has also ventured into new territory, although I shall let my colleagues who are more learned in this part of the law dissect the judgement.

All I can gather from the CoA decision is this: Islam has primacy over other faiths and, if Muslims are upset about some part of the practice of non-Muslims – and the Minister issues an order to stop non-Muslims from that practice – then the order is considered ‘valid’.  The CoA has also made it clear that it will never disagree with the Minister’s order.

How will this be enforced?

Religious people fear God more than the courts, whether they are Muslims or not. This judgment means nothing to the God-fearing Christians.

The court can declare whatever it wants and some Christians (and those of other faiths, and perhaps Muslims too) will do whatever religion requires of them, regardless of the cost to themselves or others.

Religion has that effect on some people. It can drive emotion beyond reason. But many regular Christians believe that ‘Allah’ is the right Name for God. They will continue to use that Name and the Courts will not be able to do anything about it. How can anyone initiate contempt proceedings against so many people?

The courts will then look stupid – how do will they enforce such orders? This is the scenario I foresee happening in the coming years of this so-called 1Malaysia. Silly things will continue.

Likewise, Muslims will fight this ‘battle’ for years to come, and they will be so preoccupied by this war over God’s Name against Christians and other infidels that no one will have little time left for education, their families and their  general economic improvement.

This is why I sometimes think that this is all part of the Jewish-Freemason-Communist-Illuminati-American-Martian (insert favourite bugbear here) conspiracy—to sidetrack the Muslims, Christians, and everyone else from focusing on what truly matters in life.

We are made to think that we need to continue to fight great battles and to seek great victories. Maybe we want to think it.

Get real.

ZAID IBRAHIM, a lawyer by training, was involved in politics for a time. This article is reproduced from his blog ‘The Zaidgeist’.

Mariam Mokhtar on the Imbecilic Home Affairs Minister

October 10, 2013

Mariam Mokhtar on the Imbecilic Home Affairs Minister


ZHHome Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi uses aggression to try to intimidate reporters, but he was hiding something behind the bully-boy mask which he wore at the press conference on Oct 4.

If Zahid thinks he can use his altercation with Malaysiakini to pursue an agenda which will curb press freedom, then he is seriously misguided.

It is amazing how much Zahid has changed in 15 years. At the UMNO-Baru assembly in 1998, Zahid attacked former PM Mahathir Mohamad for corruption, cronyism and nepotism. By 1999, he was practically eating out of Mahathir’s hands and referred to the then-premier’s remarks as “advice from a father to his son”. Then, he vowed to back the party leadership, but today he shows little concern for the way in which our money is mis-spent.

No one could accuse this writer of spinning; not with video footage showing Zahid bringing rudeness and thuggish behaviour to an art form. This is not the first incident of unbecoming behaviour from UMNO-Baru politicians, or their supporters, against members of the media.

A few months ago, Zahid was embroiled in a court case in which he was alleged to have assaulted a businessman. Zahid is better known for his idiocy, not powers of reasoning. His preferred mode of problem-solving is to threaten people and order those who are dissatisfied with the state of the country, to emigrate.

Zahid should realise that attributing the loss of the Police weapons to human error, is too glib. In all probability, neither he nor the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) knows what became of the weapons. If they have the information, then why are they withholding it?

Zahid and ReporterZahid started a running dialogue with Malaysiakini, when he should have been fielding questions from reporters. This diversionary tactic was a ruse to waste time.Having berated Malaysiakini, he made a hasty retreat, just like a coward. Zahid’s body language showed that he was keen to avoid further questioning.

UMNO-Baru spends hundreds of millions of ringgit on its elections and on foreign consultants to spruce up its image. Why does it not spend money for its politicians to attend classes in ethics, civility and good manners? How about educating their politicians to answer reporters’ questions properly?

As taxpayers, we want to know the measures the Home Ministry or the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM) will take to stem further wastage. What specific forms of human error does Zahid think could account for the loss of the weapons?

Zahid claimed that none of the losses were from “a breach of trust, deviant acts or elements of bribery”. How does he know? Did someone file a police report and were detailed investigations conducted?

Zahid denied that carelessness and mistakes made in the line of duty were to blame. What exactly does he mean? If the system is at fault, then he should say what remedial steps he or the IGP will take to rectify the mess.

Carelessness and error?

In August, it was reported in a daily newspaper that a Policeman’s pistol and ammunition had been stolen as he lay sleeping in his car, with his window wound down, in a lay-by in Shah Alam. It was odd that he had just returned from a funeral, carrying his gun, passport and lots of cash.

Is this the sort of carelessness and error Zahid referred to? Was this Policeman punished? Did he sell his gun to a syndicate? How do we know either man is telling the truth?

Zahid’s curriculum vitae states that before venturing into politics, he worked for two banks, OCBC and Bank Simpanan Nasional. Any bank staff member will confirm that at the end of the month, every sen has to be accounted for and no one is allowed to leave the bank and return home, until the books are balanced. Zahid may not have started his banking career as a teller, but this practice is drummed into every bank employee.

The video clip of Zahid’s infantile and childish behaviour at the October 4 press conference shows him acting like the school bully in a playground. He is verbally aggressive and he knows he can use his powers as home minister to make reporters compliant.

His angry outbursts are a means of showing off. He attempts to shame anyone whom he accuses of doing something wrong. He is fiercely argumentative when anyone tries to make a point. He threatens to punish and tries to humiliate in public anyone with whom he argues. This is not spin, but is accurate reporting. Zahid is damned by his own words and actions.

Zahid likes reporters who publish only what Umno-Baru want them to say. Incredibly, UMNO-Baru is the only political party which bans Malaysiakini from covering its functions, especially its supreme council meetings. This action compromises freedom of speech.

Many people will have noticed the steady build-up, since GE13, of harsher laws. Mahathir came out of the woodwork to support stricter laws, claiming that the streets were no longer safe; not that he would know or care.

Zahid claims that amendments to the Prevention of Crime Act (PCA) will be used to punish criminals, but cynics suspect that these draconian provisions will be used to gag opposition politicians, activists and reporters. We appear to be returning to the bad old days of restricted freedom.

The amendments were forced through Parliament and Zahid would be foolish to think he can broaden this latest attack on Malaysiakini into an attempt to gag the media, but the indications are that he is heading that way.

A day after the attack on Malaysiakini journalist Lawrence Yong, Zahid was at a security seminar for community leaders in Malacca, where it was alleged that he had made “sensitive remarks”.

Zahid Ham
Upon the discovery of the presence of journalists, Zahid banned them from publishing what was discussed and he followed this with a threat that he would have their newspapers shut down. The audience booed the media representatives, who were then forced to retreat.

Would Zahid have dared to humiliate, finger-wag and slap the shoulders of a foreign correspondent?Perhaps, his rude behaviour is reserved for Malaysian reporters because he can gag them and punish them, with the laws at his disposal. A bully boy attracts loyalty by fear. If Zahid harbours ambitions of becoming Prime Minister, he should tread warily.

Dato Dr Mahmood Merican: Be Kind to Your Fellowmen and Love our Nation

September 30, 2013

Dato Dr Mahmood Merican: Be Kind to our Fellowmen and Love our Nation

“Now at the end of my long lecture and near the end of my long career and my life the one worthwhile message I can leave you is “Be Kind”. It is easier than to be wise. We can be kind with our time, energy or money. Or we can be kind with just a smile, a word or a gesture. Kindness or charity is basic to the points I made in the talk: good and ethical medicine, cordial interracial relations, affirmative action, help for the disadvantaged, love for our fellowmen and for our nation.”–Mahmood Merican

Event Title: 12th Tunku Abdul Rahman Lecture
29-Sep-2013 to 29-Sep-2013 Past Event
Venue: Medical Academies of Malaysia,
210, Jalan Tun Razak, 50400 Kuala Lumpur
Secretariat: G-1 Medical Academies of Malaysia 210 Jalan Tun Razak 50400 Kuala Lumpur Tel: 603 40234700, 40254700, 40253700 Fax: 603 40238100
Organizer: Academy of Medicine of Malaysia & Ministry of Health Malaysia
Theme: delivered by Dato Dr Mahmood Merican
Master of the Academy of Medicine of Malaysia, Dr Chang Keng Wee,

Dr Mahmood Merican2I thank you for the honour you bestow on me by inviting me to deliver this, the 12th Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra  Lecture.

I accept the honour with trepidation in view of the greatness of Tunku, our First Prime Minister. The Tunku to whom we owe a tremendous debt of gratitude, in particular, for four major achievements:

  1. Winning Merdeka from the British and winning in a uniquely peaceful way in 1957.
  2. Steering the independent nation through 13 years till his retirement in 1970
  3. Successfully creating the enlarged nation, Malaysia, in 1963 and
  4. Leaving a legacy of charm, moderation and inclusiveness in our culture.

I believe Dr Chang chose me because I am old. Old enough to have known Tunku personally and to have lived through British colonial times, then the Japanese occupation, to have studied during the tumultuous years of our agitation for Independence and the Communist Emergency and to have worked as a doctor over a period concurrent with the Merdeka years. I graduated from University Malaya then in Singapore a year after Merdeka in 1958. That’s how old I am. Otherwise Dr Chang would not have chosen me.

I first met Tunku in December 1957. I was then a medical student in Singapore and President of the University of Malaya Students Union. It was soon after Merdeka and Tunku came to declare open the King Edward VII Hall of Residence in the grounds of the Singapore General Hospital.

Tunku was an aristocrat and a leader. He was also tall and big. Like every other student I held him in awe. But on that morning he spoke with such relaxed candour and humour that we were all put at ease. He said he hoped for two things:

  1. One was that “ from these portals will issue a steady stream of qualified doctors” to relieve the shortage in the government medical service and
  2. “My other hope is that when the students here leave this Hall to practise the art of healing, they will continue to practise the art of living with others in harmony and a gracious atmosphere”

Let me lead off first with Tunku’s first hope of “a steady stream of doctors” to see how we have done healthwise for our country. After that I will return to Tunku’s second hope for our practising “the art of living in harmony and a gracious atmosphere”.

On Tunku’s hope for good doctors and good health care for the country, we have done very well indeed though, of course, there are some concerns. Many present here in this hall deserve credit for how well Malaysia has implemented public health and preventive medicine and has kept up with the remarkable advances in clinical medicine. Our health indicators such as life expectancy, infant and maternal mortality show the overall health of the people to be comparable with advanced countries.

There are also undesirable changes including the rising cost of medical care, the commercialisation of healthcare, a lowering of ethical standards and a lowering of training standards – this last due to the recent meteoric rise in the number of medical schools and the annual number of new graduates for whom we simply do not have enough hospital facilities and specialists to adequately train during their housemanship and early years of practice.

These less desirable developments have contributed to  a waning of respect for doctors. Sadly, present doctors will not receive the high respect that old doctors like me enjoyed in days gone by. Commercialisation of healthcare and lowering of ethical standards are among the causes. It is appropriate that this Congress with the theme of  “Towards Excellence in Healthcare” incorporates the National Ethics Seminar.

Ethical practice is basically placing the interest of the patient as the paramount consideration.

Let us now turn to Tunku’s second hope – that we continue to “practise the art of living in harmony and a gracious atmosphere”.

It is a hope and a prayer.Racial harmony continues to be our greatest concern.

It was 1957 when Tunku expressed these hopes. If ever there was a time when we can say there was harmony it was then when we had just achieved Merdeka. At least among English educated students race was not a concern. We lived, played, studied and laughed together and even laughed at each other without risking offence. During my days in the university I always had a Chinese roommate.

Tunku then epitomised unity. To quote Tun Mohamed Suffian Hashim, the distinguished former Lord President (as the Chief Justice was then called), Tunku “won the confidence of the Sultans, united the leaders of the three main parties to form the Alliance, won the love of the Malays and the trust of the non-Malays.”

Under his leadership the country made great strides, overcame the Communist menace, developed rapidly and then grew larger with the creation of Malaysia in 1963, 50 years ago.

Yet in 1969, 12 years into his stewardship, racial riots erupted on May 13. About 200 people died. Many more were injured. Vehicles and buildings were burnt.

On that fateful day I was in charge of the Orthopaedic Department of the General Hospital Kuala Lumpur, my boss, the late Datuk (later Tan Sri ) Dr Abdul Majid Ismail, being overseas then. Normally already understaffed and overcrowded with patients the hospital, especially the Orthopaedic and Surgical Departments, had to deal with the casualties. I must pay tribute to all the staff and the volunteers who for several days never left the hospital.

Like others who lived through it I want to stress we must never forget the lesson of May13.

The riots exploded 12 years into the premiership of a kind, tolerant and generous leader, the Tunku.

Why May 13?

The basic essential cause was racial polarisation – the mutual resentment between Malays and Chinese – the Malays feeling themselves being dispossessed in their own country, the Chinese feeling themselves to be discriminated against. Malays were aggrieved not only with their poor economic status but also with the challenge to their political strength.

In the run up to the 1969 Elections communal appeals by politicians heightened racial grievances and resentment. The opposition parties made large gains. Their exultant victory parade ignited the riots.

The outlook for the country then was truly gloomy. It is to the credit of the administration and of leaders like Tun Abdul Razak, who succeeded the Tunku as Prime Minister, and his Deputy Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman that order was quickly restored and measures taken to set the country back on the path of progress.

The New Economic Policy (NEP) was launched to attain national unity by a two-pronged strategy of eradicating poverty irrespective of race and restructuring society by eliminating the identification of race with economic function.

The Policy has succeeded remarkably well in reducing poverty. It has to some extent elevated the economic standing of the Malays and their participation in the professions. Malays, however, have not progressed as much as they should in commerce and industry. In these fields the Chinese have gone farther ahead. Certain Malay attributes such as their politeness, self effacement, their attitude to money and immersion in religion, while desirable in themselves, place them at a disadvantage in the competitive world.

Observing over the years, I have to say that racial polarisation is even worse now than at the time of the riots. The racial divide has been accentuated by differences in a whole range of things: divisions of vernacular schools, national and private schools, divisions between rural and urban living, job segregation, rich and poor and differences in culture, language and religion. Interracial ill feelings have been recklessly fanned by politicians seeking votes and lately by irresponsible users of the internet venting their prejudices.

Almost every day we get incidents or pronouncements that grate on one or other race. For example; when a good Chinese student fails to get his desired course or scholarship it is instantly loudly blamed on racial discrimination although it arose out of an administrative lapse- something that has happened to Malay candidates too. Candidates not offering alternative university options and lacking in extracurricular points, although excellent academically, can be denied by the computerised selection system. A problem that can be sorted out with the relevant admission bodies without blowing it up in the media.

Another example is the claim of Ketuanan Melayu. It inflames some of us. It dismays some others. Yet just a moment’s reflection shows how ridiculous is the claim. The Tuan or Master race is the poorer race, less educated, living mostly in the kampong and less robust and healthy having a shorter life expectancy, not to mention other health indicators. The supposedly Subject race, much richer, controls much of the economy and commerce and clearly has the means to better enjoy life.

Lee Kuan Yew too in his latest book talks about the “dominance of one race” in Malaysia. During the years Singapore was a part of Malaysia Kuan Yew questioned the special rights of the Malays and of the Malay Agong and Sultans. Much of what Kuan Yew demanded would have angered the Malays. Even Tunku Abdul Rahman, the epitome of magnanimity, tolerance and inclusiveness, could not accept it and asked Singapore to leave Malaysia in the interest of, in Tunku’s own words, “the security and peace of Malaysia as a whole”.

In a recent comment Dr Chandra Muzaffar lamented that Kuan Yew “chose to be an ethnic hero” instead of a bridge-builder helping to develop a cohesive nation. Dr Chandra noted that the special rights in the Constitution are a part of the social contract in which Malays at Independence conceded citizenship to millions of non-Malays, whereby Malays, who before were the definitive people of a country in large part comprising Malay Sultanates, became just a community in a multicommunal or multiracial nation.

Yes, Malays do have special rights. Former Deputy Prime Minister, Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman, likened the special rights and affirmative action to the handicap in golf. It is “mainly intended to enable them- to borrow an expression in golf – to have a handicap, which would place them in a position for fair competition with better players.” That Malays need a handicap is a humiliation for them.

Like keen golfers Malays have to strive and be coached to improve their skill and competitiveness to then no longer need or want the handicap.

Tun Mahathir, doctor that he is, talked of crutches. In a recent discussion of affirmative action he said, “ We still need the crutches, but maybe not on both sides; we could discard one crutch and then we’ll exchange the crutch for a walking stick. Eventually, we will throw away the walking stick. I pray and hope that this will be soon..”  Some successful Malays, less realistic, wish to have the crutches discarded now, for we can’t walk tall with crutches.

I like to quote at some length another comment on affirmative action specifically the New Economic Policy (NEP):

“No medicine is without its adverse effects. Yet that does not stop us from taking medicines. Why? Because we reckon we will feel still worse without them. For all its shortcomings there is no question that we are still better off with the NEP than without. To realise the truth of this, you have only to ask yourself the question: “What if there was no NEP?” (I continue to quote)“To me the answer is obvious. There would have been a disaster scenario. There would have been an enormously widened gulf between Malays and non-Malays, and there would have been a dangerously lopsided economy, inviting Malay despair, disaffection, hatred and violence. All this weighing of who gains and who loses obscures a fundamental fact that if the Malays lose, then the Chinese lose too because if racial hatred tore the country apart, then everyone loses.”

You would think that passage is written by a Malay politician or civil servant defending NEP. Surprisingly, it is actually by a Chinese Malaysian businessman, Ye Lin-Sheng, in his book “The Chinese Dilemma”. This  book should be essential reading for all Malaysians along with Tun Mahathir’s “The Malay Dilemma”.

These two books would help Malaysians understand each other better. If the majority of Malaysians can have a rational and unbiased perspective, our interracial problems would sink into insignificance.

Ladies and Gentlemen

We are too fond of emulating the West without thinking for ourselves to see the difference between what the West proclaims and what it practises and the difference between what the Western media project and the reality. There is much in the West that we do well to reject. But one achievement of the West we should energetically emulate is their technology. Technology has enabled them to advance and to subjugate the world. Yet we choose to learn vernacular Science and Mathematics – a retrograde step, oddly enough, supported by the Opposition.

If Malays wish to survive and not be left further behind, they must embrace Science and English. But the signs are that Malays are turning more to religion. They are naturally spiritual and more concerned with the hereafter. Islam rightly understood and interpreted can be a force for progress. But Malays appear to be adopting a narrow restrictive trend, becoming preoccupied with details of dress, beauty contests, heterosexual handshakes and overly meticulous definitions of halal. The recent demolition of a mosque because some Buddhists meditated in it is symptomatic of this trend. Also, we appear to be adopting an unnecessarily hostile stance towards Shiah Muslims, thereby risking importing the murderous animosity between Sunni and Shiah, that bloodies so many Muslim countries. Are these the actions of the progressive moderate Muslim model we aspire to be? I believe Tunku would be as dismayed as I am.

We need to shift the emphasis to more fundamental values central among which is caring for and love for our fellowmen.

On 28 September 1978 exactly 35 years ago as Master of the Academy I was privileged to confer on Tunku the Honorary Membership of the Academy. I hope our remembrance of him today pleases his soul.

Although certain trends would upset him, much has been achieved of which we can be justly proud. It is sad that some Malaysians are so devoid of this pride or patriotism for their own country that they denigrate Malaysia not only here but also abroad.

In Vision 2020 Tun Dr Mahathir has set us a commendable target to become a developed nation not just economically but also morally and ethically. We must keep aspiring high and constantly examine our attitudes and actions to be consistent with our high aspirations.

I lived through May 13 and with others mended the injured. We must be thankful that we have since had peace in stark contrast to the racial, tribal and religious clashes that make daily headlines in the media- murderous clashes in so many countries all over the world. We know our complex situation makes a repeat of May 13 possible. Try to understand the interracial tension. When an action is contemplated consider the impact it can have on this tension. You can love your race – it is natural. But love your nation more. To do otherwise is to make the possible conflict inevitable.

I like to end on a personal note. Friends have asked me, now that I have worked 55 years, what do I do. I still work – work is a privilege – but I work only a few hours a week at the clinic I share with my very long time partner, Datuk Dr Yeoh Poh Hong. The rest of my time I enjoy reading, enjoy my family, golf and charity. Charity I like to think of as my second career. With doctors charity begins as soon as they start work. On retirement or semi-retirement they have more time for charity.

Now at the end of my long lecture and near the end of my long career and my life the one worthwhile message I can leave you is “Be Kind”. It is easier than to be wise. We can be kind with our time, energy or money. Or we can be kind with just a smile, a word or a gesture. Kindness or charity is basic to the points I made in the talk: good and ethical medicine, cordial interracial relations, affirmative action, help for the disadvantaged, love for our fellowmen and for our nation.

I end with a verse from a poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

So many gods, so many creeds,
So many paths that wind and wind,
While just the art of being kind
Is all the sad world needs.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox 1855-1919

BERSIH’s Ambiga at Oslo Freedom Forum 2013

June 6, 2013

BERSIH’s Ambiga at Oslo Freedom Forum 2013

ambigaListen to this brave and committed lady and lawyer on the need for free and fair elections in our country. GE-13 is neither free nor fair. The legitimacy of the present government is being questioned and there will be a major People’s Protest on June 15. I have been informed that this event is being organised not by BERSIH but by a young generation of Malaysian leaders and activists. –Din Merican

No Compassion, only Ambition in search of Power

May 24, 2013

No Compassion, only Ambition in search of Power

In browsing through my wife Dr.Kamsiah’s Facebook, I found this picture (below) by an Iraqi artist.

NO Compassion only ambition

It is painful to think what is life about without one’s mother. Her mother could have been killed leaving behind a little girl who has no one to turn to in her journey of life. Leaders like George W. Bush have no compassion; they are consummate egoists whose quest for power knows no bounds.–Din Merican

Empowering Women is the Route to Equality

January 9, 2013


Empowering Women is the Route to Equality

by W Scott Thompson

AlexisI am rereading Alexis de Toqueville’s astonishing 1835 Democracy in America. Even then in his travels he appreciated that the southern slave-owning gentry were fully aware that the North would get richer compared with them precisely thanks to the increasing inequality in the South. But it couldn’t be discussed.

The slave owner was paying for the non-productive childhood and old age of his slaves. The workers had no incentive to produce more or innovate. In the North, almost everyone worked, and greater profit came from innovation and greater productivity. Formal equality made you richer and richer. Or as I saw as a boy in a border state, the local makers had only half a market, as the African Americans were held down — still — too much to add to the buying public.

Tocqueville goes on, wrongly as it happens, to foresee the hopelessness of the “negroes”. There could never be equality, so ingrained was the prejudice, and the blacks had nothing to do but accept their degradation and base status, uselessly aping the life of their master. He would not have believed a Barack Obama could be president in 10 centuries. But then he was right — it has taken almost two centuries to get past halfway towards real equality.

Today, the biggest problem in the march to equality (apart from the march away from it in the US and to a lesser extent in other rich countries) is in empowering women. True, perhaps the one good thing that came out of communism in Russia and China was the at least theoretical equality established between the genders. India’s rape last month has at last awakened the country to its daunting problem, and in a very big way. But in the two biggest countries, India and China, the problem in maintaining demographic ratios of equality is the preference still for male babies. There would be about 40 million more women in India today had no such steps — abortion of female foetuses or even death for female babies — been taken, according to demographic estimates.

Africa has few bright lights. A United Nations study found that women, measuring relative work contributions by caloric output, did over three-fourths of the work, not even including birthing. There are NGOs springing up all over opposing female circumcision — it’s quite a different thing for them than for men, and has no positive health benefits. It’s all to keep them in their place. It’s brutal.

Someone did a correlation between per capita income and the role of women. Guess what, the greater the equality the higher the PCI (Japan being a curious exception). And the glaring black area of the globe was the Middle East, and, to a much lesser extent, South Asia. Things are changing constructively in Southeast Asia. The Philippines has had two women presidents, but both “heirs”. And I note in my village that on weekends the men still sit outside gossiping and drinking rough — very rough — gin, while their asawa labour in the kitchen to bring them plates of food to nibble on. Little need be said of the macho culture of Latin America.

In the march towards industrialisation, it is natural for inequality to grow for a time, in a limited sense. The innovators who create the new wealth dole themselves a big chunk of the pie, until those on whom some of the riches trickle down rise up and demand a bigger share for themselves. From then on it’s a question of whether the state has sound policy for spreading the wealth — through fair elections, better schools, hospitals and infrastructure, minimum wage, and so forth.

The remarkable shift from autocracy to democracy during rapid wealth accumulation is nowhere more noteworthy than in Korea and Taiwan. The middle class grew right alongside the rapid rise of gross national product. Successfully industrialising states that have maintained democratic strides forward are always the result of sound policy.

America was for so long the measuring stick of democratic growth alongside wealth accumulation, that it has taken 40 years for people to realise that it’s been going the other way during this period.

Unenlightened leadership, blindness to the trend or blind determination to reinforce it, have contributed. It’s wearisome but necessary to note that Obama, as in so much, is the first president to try to do anything about it. Someone finally foresaw the dire straits such growing inequality was leading to — best illustrated by the Washington chaos caused by the excessively well-financed Tea Party obstructionists. You can’t have democracy without nourishing democracy.

*W Scott Thompson is emeritus professor at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, United States

Character and Leadership

December 29, 2012

Character and Leadership

by Dato’ Ariff Sabri@http://sakmongkol.blogspot.com

Samuel SmilesThe Government of a nation itself is usually found to be but the reflex of the individuals composing it. The Government that is ahead of the people will inevitably be dragged down to their level, as the Government that is behind them will in the long run be dragged up.

In the order of nature, the collective character of a nation will as surely find its befitting results in its law and government, as water finds its own level.

The noble people will be nobly ruled, and the ignorant and corrupt ignobly. Indeed all experience serves to prove that the worth and strength of a State depend far less upon the form of its institutions than upon the character of its men.

For the nation is only an aggregate of individual conditions, and civilization itself is but a question of the personal improvement of the men, women, and children of whom society is composed.

Samuel Smiles (a Scottish author and reformer pic above) wrote the above. Every leader of any nation has grappled with the issue. What is the secret ingredient of a good government? Smiles had the answer- the secret of good government is having good people heading it.
singapores-lee-kuan-yewLee Kuan Yew (left) tackled this issue a long time ago, and set out to cultivate good people to lead the Singapore government. He must have done something right, because Singapore is now the richest country in the world.
North of the causeway, the UMNO leader who ruled for 22 years as Prime Minister and many years as, Senator, Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, must have done something wrong. Our country is getting top placing for the wrong reasons.
Mahathir has admitted his failure to improve the Malays, yet the Malays still want to support him? Mahathir has admitted that after 55 years, Malays are still beggars in their own country; Malays are urged to continue supporting UMNO? Are Malays political masochists? You get high as you are abused more. You want people molded after Mahathir’s image to come back and lead us so that they can whip us further to get us high?
We are looking for people with commitment, deep-seated beliefs in democracy, resolute in putting the interests of others before self. These traits are not inherited. Otherwise we will not have Najib Razak and Hishammudin Hussein. They didn’t inherit the characteristics of the fathers.
Just look at the state by which we are governed, it is clear that indeed the worth andTun Dr. Ismail strength of a State depend far less upon the form of its institutions than upon the character of its men. We are like this because our leaders lack character and integrity. The man, who says he is Prime Minister to all, keeps quiet when citizens are set upon and harm inflicted upon them.
The Home Minister in charge of the Police is equally mute suggesting that he has no character and integrity to hold such office. The rakyat are being bullied and set upon, the characterless people leading the State, the Ministry, the institution keep quiet. Tun Razak, Tun Dr Ismail (right) and Tun Hussein will never countenance these things.
We look around us, we don’t see Malaysia being deficient in the number of institutions that we have. We have the judicial institutions, the law enforcement agencies, we have the state legislative councils, we have Parliament, and we have Kings. Indeed we have everything. What is missing is the character of the men heading those institutions.
Where is the democratic right to move freely across this country? Interests groups are stopped from going into FELDA schemes because some supporters of the government will not allow NGO’s opposed to FELDA to speak to settlers. What is there to hide? If the people doing the explaining break the law, charge them under that particular wrong. The FELDA settlers are people who can think for themselves.
When I wrote about the FGV listing a long time ago, I received many e-mails suggesting that I was envious of FELDA people getting money. Now, FELDA people are realizing that have been conned into transforming their tangible assets into paper assets tradeable in the stock exchange where control over the assets depends on the quality of people managing those assets. Well, you have people like Isa Samad and his sycophants watching over the FELDA assets, I am sure settlers can sleep peacefully at night.
Opposition parties hold ceramahs under the watchful eyes of the Police, and the Police did not stop other groups from causing disturbances and bodily harm. We know these trouble makers are UMNO people- yet the Prime Minister for all the people, maintains his silence on this infringement of democratic rights. Is UMNO, which is now led and headed by many people lacking in character and integrity, condoning violence and aggression on people?
Zam2I was listening to an old video clip showing Zainuddin Maidin’s response to questions posed to him by Al Jazeera. The TV station showed scenes of demonstrators being fired upon by water cannons and teargases. The response ex tempore, by Zainuddin as Minister of Information then would make any Malaysian citizen cringe in embarrassment.
An Information Minister was talking like a person with a passable lower certificate of education. Not only could he not answer the questions in a rational sounding manner, he went immediately into a tirade accusing the media of manipulating the news.
How could a person of this caliber represent Malaysia as an Information Minister- he was simply gibberish. Fast forward to now, we can get a clear picture as to why the same person, not a Minister any longer can give the answers he gave when asked to assess former Indonesian President’s visit to Malaysia recently. Only a person of this mental caliber can come up with similarly hostile and hopelessly incoherent statements about BJ Habibie’s recent private visit to Malaysia.
And the Prime Minister of Malaysia, equally vacuous and pathetic, rationalized the incident by saying that these deranged statements are to be expected during `erection’ year.

Interview with Tariq Ramadan

August 12, 2012

An Interview with Tariq Ramadan

by Ahmad Fuat Rahmat, Islamic Renaissance Front

From early to late July of this year, leading Muslim intellectual Tariq Ramadan travelled across the Peninsula to lecture in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Penang and Perlis. In this interview we gather his thoughts on the environment, economics, art, philosophy, the Hudud penal code as well the current state of Malaysian politics, among other things. –08-03-12

Q: The environment doesn’t feature much in current prevalent Muslim priorities. You argue that it should be. Why?

A: When I go back to the Quran I see that the context of Revelation is creation in its entirety. The universe is a Revelation and this of course includes nature, plants and animals. In other words, what is coming from the Quran as rules and objectives are set within the larger scheme of the universe and nature as part of Creation.

So if you look at how we are destroying and disrespecting Creation it is obvious that is something is not clear in our understanding. We overemphasize rules but we don’t understand the objective.

As Muslims the way we show respect to the creator is by respecting creation and this is why we have to reconcile ourselves with the objectives of the Revelation and the objective is really to honor nature as part of Creation.

We need to revisit how the Prophet dealt with water, animals, in how he talked about slaughtering, caring for plants and so forth. Respect towards nature is a part of Islam. This is essential but Muslims are not aware. The whole world is talking about global warming and respecting nature but Muslims are not doing enough of that.

Q: This, as you know, is tied to our economic system and habits of consumption. But even our reliance on basic everyday use of things depends on a certain exploration of, if not intervention in nature, from the furniture we use to the technology we depend on. Does this mean we have to rethink our notion of needs?

A: Yes, of course. In my book Radical Reform I made it clear that we cannot talk about the environment or ecology if we don’t also deal with the economy. There is a direct link between how we deal with the economy and how we deal with nature.

We cannot have a free market since it does not really set us free. It’s free for interest, speculation and consumerism to create false needs. But now nature is telling us that if you don’t respect the environment then you are living with artificial needs and a consumerism that is destroying the very conditions we need to survive.

This is where we need to deal with three things that are important: first, we need a very deep reconsideration of how we are dealing with the economy. Second, there must be a very deep reconsideration of our way of life. We cannot simply adopt American-style consumer culture. To Islamize that is to de-Islamize Islam.

Thirdly, it is important for us to understand the economy and the environment are common challenges for everyone. This is where the singularity of Islamic principles needs to join the universal values that we share with others.

But we are not doing this. We are not competing for the good when we only compete for numbers, being preoccupied with how many converts we are gaining. The true competition for good only happens when we are implementing our values of justice.

Q: How did the misdirection of values occur? The things you say about nature being a part of God’s creation, about how nature also enjoins in worship of Allah – all that is clear in the Qur’an. Why have Muslims overlooked that part of Islam’s message while being preoccupied with issues of moral policing and making hudud a priority?

A: Firstly, there is something we need to keep in mind. In Islam, rules are important, like the Prophet said innal halaala bayyinun, wa innal haraama bayyinun [“what is halal is clear, what is haram is clear”]. The goal is not to diminish the importance of rules, but to have the right priorities.

I’ve explained this in many of my books, whereby the Muslims began to be obsessed with rules when they lacked confidence with the vision and truth of the Message, and this began in the 13th and 14th centuries. There was a change in attitude towards not only rules, but also knowledge, when Muslims became scared of philosophy, the experimental sciences and the arts. These were signs that something was wrong with how Muslims perceived themselves and dealt with Revelation

This is not a particularly Muslim problem. You see this also in the West for instance, in how they deal with immigrants and Muslims. The first reaction is often to turn to the rules and call for more enforcement in a narrow minded way.

It’s okay to feel the need for protection if there is a real external threat. But to feel protective from the inside, it’s a kind of jail: you get so protective that you cannot get out of the box.

Q: A common concern that you have expressed as a Muslim intellectual is the lack of creativity among Muslims. Muslims tend to simply mimic whatever the West does or view any new changes in society through cautious legalistic perspectives. But creativity is not always compatible with rules. Creativity in many ways is contrary to rules, as it requires freedom as a condition. How ought Muslims balance the need and desire for creativity while maintaining a commitment to rules at the same time?

A: This is an important question. You know, since the uprisings in the Middle East many scholars have come out saying that freedom comes first before the Shariah. There is also something important that we must keep in mind in our understanding the Shariah, and that is the room for what is permissible should be as wide as possible. So we should leave it open to let people be creative.

Of course, there should be ethics in all creative pursuits but we cannot force or impose ethics on creativity, for this would be contrary to creativity. So pushing the limits, to be thought provoking, pushing people to think and question the limits, it’s not always bad for the rules if you’re confident because it can even strengthen your understanding of religion in the process.

What we also need to have a discussion on the philosophy of art: so we must ask what is it that we want in the first place? Is it just about saying and doing whatever you want, or is it about something more? We should let the artist be free, but we must also question how exactly he deals with freedom. Is it arts for elevation or arts for destruction? Is there dignity in the process?

There is a claim coming from the West that says that all art must be outside any moral consideration. I can understand this as a provocation, but I also believe that we can still have very profound creativity with a moral sense. To have a moral sense is not to be dogmatic in dealing with rules. It can be an open way with dealing with questions of objectives and purpose, which is completely different.

Q: So the freedom to make mistakes should be there, but it should nonetheless be oriented towards an ethical worldview.

A: Yes. We should not fool ourselves. When the Quran says wa la qad karamna Bani Adam [“we have honored the Children of Adam”] so yes we should all be free but this should not mean that we must act against the dignity of human beings.

If you look at how great artists of the past, like Beethoven, for example dealt with art and morality, you see that there was torture and pain in their work, but there was also dignity in the way that was dealt with. So I don’t buy this contemporary notion that the only way to be artistic is to be arrogant, offensive or immoral.

Q: In your book Radical Reform you speak of the need for an ethics of liberation. What is an ethics of liberation?

A: To be more precise, it’s ethics and liberation, and as a consequence there is an ethics of liberation. We have to free the Muslim mind from the obsession with limits and rules and forgetting the path and objective. This is truly a liberating process, and for me this is Islam: liberation from the ego, and in this case liberating ourselves from the wrong understanding of the religion.

Because ethics is fundamentally about questioning the ends, the goals and aims of our actions, we must come back to the rules and ask why. So we must return to the philosophy of law, the raison d’etre and the point of what we’re asked to do. It’s not easy, it’s very demanding and it needs intellectual courage.

You know when we speak about Muslihun or Mujaddidun [reformists] the main point is to respect the text and take it seriously, and to be courageous with the world. But very often now when I see people who are perceived to be, or who call themselves progressives, sometimes I see an imbalance. Yes I understand the courage in their mind but I don’t see the spirituality in their heart, good you are questioning the limits, but what about yourself, are you also liberating yourself?

So I am dealing with people with both sides. I see people who are liberating themselves but they want to forget the world. And I see people who want to liberate the world but they forget themselves. Neither is the way I want to go.

Q: Speaking of intellectual courage, you have called for scholars of the text to be in dialogue with scholars of the context whereby findings in the modern natural and social sciences are to be taken seriously by Muslims.

What happens in the event that conclusions from studies of the context contradict what is said in the text? For example in the case of hudud: empirical studies in the social sciences can argue that there are more effective and sensible ways to counter crime than what can be found in the Quran. How would you respond?

A: I wouldn’t say that it’s more sensible. I’d say that the modern social sciences are just showing us why the conditions for implementing Hudud are so demanding, and thus Hudud should only be for the absolutely last resort.

The findings in contemporary social sciences are helping us understand that we can find other ways to educate people and act against injustice and corruption in our society. So it can deepen our understanding of what Hudud is about, but not contradict it.

Now, they can contradict the literalist dogmatic minds who understand Hudud literally but these minds are problematic because they don’t understand the in depth event of the rules in light of the objectives.

I have never, so far, in all the studies I have done, met a contradiction between what the human, experimental and natural sciences are telling us and the Islamic rules. In fact, the opposite is true: anything that is coming from the modern sciences is helping me better understand the text. It’s not a contradiction. It’s a relation.

Q: At least in conventional Sunni history, philosophy was eventually eclipsed by Sufism on one hand and legalism on the other. Do you see a role for philosophy for Muslims today?

A: Yes, in many ways. In fact there is, as As-Shatibi says, a philosophy of law. We are scared of the word, but questioning why is fundamental. Now, there are certain things that we cannot understand, like why we pray five times a day, for example. But the fact that we choose to pray is understandable.

As Al-Afghani said, when we read the fundamental texts, the scriptural sources of the Quran and Sunnah, we can find that there is a philosophy that is coming from the texts.

And then there is the philosophy embedded in the culture we are living. It is quite clear for example that Arabs have a different culture than Malaysians. Unfortunately there are some trends that are changing this but you don’t have for example as strict and narrow understanding of the relationship between men and women. And then there is the philosophy we have to extract in the relationship between text and culture.

We have to reconcile ourselves with philosophical questions in every field. Every field should be open to inquiry and knowledge. The problem, once again, as in all sciences is the attitude of the mind that is dealing with whatever field. The problem is not philosophy but the lack of intellectual humility. It is when reason becomes arrogant that we lose track. But intellectual humility with science: this is spirituality – this is the way we are with God. So we should not be scared and we must reconcile ourselves.

Q: The Muslim philosophers of Islam’s Golden Age are often accused of pursuing philosophy at the expense of the Qur’an’s message. They felt that Greek philosophy – the major philosophy of their time – was as, if not more, compelling than the Qur’an itself. Muslims today live in an age whereby Western philosophy is the dominant strand of philosophy. What attitude should Muslims have in engaging with that discourse?

A: Exactly the same attitude we should have had with Greek philosophy. Greek philosophy departs from the assumption that we can understand the world autonomously using our rational faculties. Islam is not saying this. There is a commitment to a Tawhidic paradigm. There is One God. We have an epistemic center. There is meaning.

But this is not to say that we should deny rationality either, like current strands of postmodernism. It also does not mean that we cannot engage with Western philosophy, as if we cannot read Heidegger or analytic philosophy. We can and should so long as we know our center.

Like for example in Hegel, when he understands the verb “being” as both an affirmation and negation,  as something and something else, the problem is that in Arabic you do not have the verb to be. So his German construction is problematic in other languages. This is why having a center in engaging with other discourses is important, to see the commonalities and differences. So we must re-center philosophy within our frame our reference.

This was why Al-Ghazali was concerned with the Muslim philosophers and how they tried to disconnect with the text in the name of autonomous philosophy. We don’t need this. We can deal with philosophy without being obliged to say that is connected from Revelation or our belief in God.

So we must re-center philosophy within our frame of reference which I think is the way to deal with it.

Q: This is a different approach than the Islamization of Knowledge. You accept the validity of knowledge from other cultures so long as it remains within a widely acceptable Islamic framework. You don’t see Hegel or Heidegger for example as un-Islamic or corrupting.

A: I don’t buy anything which is Islamization of knowledge. I don’t understand what it means in fact. The point for me is people who are atheists or are coming from different religious traditions; they are coming from their own sources and specific roots. We should analyze these.

We always think from where we come from. We always think from the sources that shape our understanding.  I think about the world through the lens of my Islamic tradition. I accept this but I must also have intellectual humility.

In the Quest for Meaning I gave the analogy of looking at the sea through windows, and the need to look at the sea for what it is, rather than to only see the window.

There is this Bergsonian intuition that there are many ways of knowing something. One is through the object itself and the other is through the different viewpoints around it. So we have to combine the intellectual and intuitive understanding of things.

So to Islamize doesn’t make sense to me. But to center, but to have intellectual empathy and modesty – all these dimensions are important on how we look at truth.

Q: You mention the Quest for Meaning. One thing I find interesting about it is that you mention the word “Islam” less than a dozen times in total. It’s definitely a different style than the common Muslim legalistic method of writing. What informed that style? Why did you suspend the typical Muslim academic style of writing to write philosophical prose?

A: It’s a reconciliation with philosophy and poetry at the same time. It really is who I am. It’s one of my best books in fact. It’s not really well understood by both Muslims and non-Muslims. Even the publisher was not really happy with it.

But it’s an important book for me because it’s translating my own journey and my own understanding. It’s my philosophy of pluralism, how I think about the Other.

I’m working on different fields. One of my next books Insha’Allah will be a novel because it’s important to explore the heart and imagination, the spiritual side. I’ve been working for twenty five years in the legal field and now I’m reaching what I want, which is an Islamic applied ethics and I’m also dealing with Muslims in the West.

But there are other dimensions that are also important. And then having traveled a lot and met people from different horizons it makes you more humble and ready to listen.

Q: As a European Muslim the question of pluralism is one that is deeply relevant for you. For this I must ask a question that I think gets to the heart of the matter: should Muslims rethink the nation state? Isn’t that the fundamental problem? Ultimately regardless of how egalitarian we claim to be, having a nation state means that we must eventually exclude others for very shallow reasons.

A: In my last book, the Arab Awakening, I talk about the fact that we have to move from this. All the contemporary ideologies of political Islam have been based on the nation state. The nation state is very problematic but I’m not sure if we have an alternative political model.

Destroying the nation state are mainly three things: the global economy, global communication technology and global culture. And this is where we are lost in the process. What could be something that can provide us a transversal political sense of belonging? At the end of the day, without an alternative we end up with populism in the name of very narrow identities.

We can think of solutions in various theoretical ways, but it’s not so on the ground. If they don’t have a reference that helps them to belong, then they will end up excluding, and through that they get to feel that they belong on the basis of some narrow identity, language or color.

Q: It seems that Islam can be a resource to think through this. As you said so yourself in Radical Reform, diversity is an integral part of Creation.

A: Yes, it is in fact a condition of humanity. There can be no humanity if there is no diversity because the absolute power of human being is destruction.

Wa lau la daf’ullahi’l nasa ba’dahum bi ba’din la fasadat al ard. “If we had not created a set of people against another the world would have been corrupt”, and “against” here means two things: Against in the fact that they are challenging you with their diversity, challenging your intelligence and to challenge is not negative, it can be very positive depending on how you are challenged.

When I came here [to Malaysia] I heard that there is a problem with the concept of pluralism whereby pluralism is understood in a very narrow way, which I think is wrong. This is not to diminish your sense of truth in what you believe but to acknowledge the fact that we live in a world where we need to deal with pluralism. It’s a fact.

It’s not so much about the right to tolerate but the duty to respect, to go beyond toleration where there is no power relationship with the Other. This is where a deep understanding of Islamic principles would help us.

Q: You’ve traveled up and down the Peninsula over the past three weeks. You’ve spoken to figures in the opposition in the government. Plus, given that you’ve been here several times before you’ve gathered an accurate sense of this country over time. What do you make of Malaysia’s potential as a Muslim country?

A: Very often we talk about India and China, but not really Malaysia and Indonesia. The potential in the shift to the East is going to be great and very important for this country.

One of my next books is going to be called Our West: Towards a New Narrative. I challenge the norm there [with regards to the dominant attitude towards immigrants] and saying that you are playing with us. You tell us to respect the state but you have a problem with your nation. But the problem is that we can respect your state but we are not within your understanding of nation.

It’s exactly the same for the non-Malays and non-Muslims in this country. The common narrative is not there so they are excluded by the way “us” is defined by the majority.

So there is great potential and deep fragility [in Malaysia] that can be used by any group that stresses on religion, pushing towards Islam, rejecting people and alienating migrants – anything can be used to win the next elections. So these are the signs of fragility that is very much there.

Now no one can deny the fact that whatever is the state of the affairs in the country, you did not have the army controlling the country and you have a pluralistic society anyway. So the people who are going to be important in this country are people who are going to question sectarianism through emphasizing common values and understanding.

For me I made it clear that I wanted to meet with both sides of the political spectrum.  I wanted to understand. I’m not here to support one, but I am here to criticize all, on a principled position. I very much value the position of counter power. I think this is where ethics should be, in front of power as I said in Radical Reform. The power of counter-power is very important.

So I see great potential here, but risks everywhere.

Forthcoming Tariq Ramadan Lecture: Rethinking Islamic Reform

July 6, 2012

Public Service Announcement

In this lecture, Professor Tariq Ramadan explores the need for a new vision of Islamic reform. He reflects on the challenges faced by Muslims in the 21st century, living in a complex globalized world, and how we are to appreciate the sources of Muslim tradition and intellectual history in a new light while engaging with other traditions of thought and morality. In the current state of affairs, Muslims must proceed with a new and inclusive understanding of democracy and social justice that takes into account the past and present without compromising either one.

Thank you for your interest in our event. The public intellectual lecture is held for the purpose of raising fund for the organization. The talk will be followed by a sumptuous hi-tea. Therefore we are selling tables and individual seats for that purpose.

Tables: RM5000, RM3000, RM1500
Individual seats: RM150

Tax-exemption receipt is available for RM3000 and RM5000 tables upon request.And if you are attached to a corporate body, we would appreciate if you could inform your management to sponsor a table for the event. Kindly send us your particulars to tariqinkl@irfront.org

The Third Penang in Asia Lecture by Professor Tariq Ramadan

July 5, 2012

Public Service Announcement

The Third Penang in Asia Lecture by Professor Tariq Ramadan

Islam, Democracy, and Human Rights: The Awakening of the Muslim World

Date: July 17, 2012 (Tuesday)

Time: 11:30am – 3:30pm

Venue: Pinang Ballroom, Traders Hotel, Penang, Malaysia

The Penang Institute, the public policy think tank of the state government of Penang, will be holding the third Penang in Asia lecture at Traders Hotel in Penang, Malaysia on  July 17, 2012 (Tuesday).

This year’s edition will be delivered by the world’s leading contemporary Islamic philosopher and thinker, Professor Tariq Ramadan. The topic of the lecture will be, “Islam, Democracy and Human Rights: The Awakening of the Muslim World”.

Professor Tariq Ramadan is the son of Said Ramadan and Wafa Al-Bana, who was the eldest daughter of Hassan al Banna who in 1928 founded the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Gamal al-Banna, the liberal Muslim reformer is his great-uncle. His father was a prominent figure in the Muslim Brotherhood and was exiled by Gamal Abdul Nasser from Egypt to Switzerland, where Tariq was born.

Professor Ramadan studied Philosophy and French literature at the Masters level and holds a PhD in Arabic and Islamic studies from the University of Geneva. He also wrote a PhD dissertation on Friedrich Nietzsche, entitled Nietzsche as a Historian of Philosophy.

He taught at the College de Saussure, a high school in Geneva, Switzerland, and held a lectureship in Religion and Philosophy at the University of Fribourg from 1996 to 2003. In October 2005 he began teaching at St Antony’s College at the University of Oxford on a Visiting Fellowship. In 2005 he was a senior research fellow at the Lokahi Foundation.In 2007 he successfully applied for the professorship in Islamic studies at the University of Leiden, but then declined to take up the position, citing professional reasons. He was also a guest professor of Identity and Citizenship at Erasmus University Rotterdam till August 2009 when the City of Rotterdam and Erasmus University dismissed him from his positions as “integration adviser” and professor, stating that the program he chairs on Iran’s Press TV, Islam & Life, was “irreconcilable” with his duties in Rotterdam. Ramadan described this move as Islamophobic and politically charged.Beginning September 2009, Ramadan, was appointed to the His Highness Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani Chair in Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford University.

Professor Ramadan established the Mouvement des Musulmans Suisses (Movement of Swiss Muslims), which engages in various interfaith seminars. He is an advisor to the EU on religious issues and was sought for advice by the EU on a commission on “Islam and Secularism”.In September 2005 he was invited to join a task force by the government of the United Kingdom. He is also the President of the Euro-Muslim Network, a Brussels-based think-tank.–wikipedia

He is widely interviewed and has produced about 100 tapes which sell tens of thousands of copies each year. In recent years, he has come to Malaysia several times on speaking engagements and has a lot of friends who share his views on Islam and the Modern World.

The “Penang in Asia” lecture series is an annual lectureship awarded under the patronage of His Excellency the Governor of Penang. It is organised by the Penang Institute to bring together renowned scholars, public intellectuals and thinkers from diverse fields to Penang to speak about issues relevant to the cultural, intellectual and economic development of Penang as an historical and future growth centre in Asia. The previous “Penang in Asia” lecture was delivered by Nobel Laureate Professor Sir James Alexander Mirrlees.

Those interested are welcome to register. Please fill in all relevant details in our online registration form by clicking hereAlternatively, you may fax or email the attached registration form to Mr. Desmond Wee or Ms. Wendy Yeong (Email: secretariat@penanginstitute.org; Phone: +604 228 3306; Fax +604 226 7042). Please note that due to the limited seating available, participation is strictly for those who have registered before the deadline.



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