Tun Dr. Mahathir and the political games he plays for public attention

March 10, 2014


Tun Dr. Mahathir and the political games he plays for public attention

by Koon Yew Yin (March 9, 2014)

Dr M

Malaysia’s Pathetic Attention Seeker

Every few days or so, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, our former Prime Minister, comes out with a new story lamenting the loss of Malay and Muslim power and complaining how it is in fact the non-Malays or non-Muslims who are the ones that are really running the country.

There are many variants of this argument that he comes out with, such as that the DAP is running the show in Pakatan Rakyat; or that PKR and PAS leaders have sold out to the DAP; or that the Christians have an ulterior motive in raising the Allah issue, and are to be blamed for the rise in tension and resentment in the country.

In his latest skirmish with Muslim orthodox groups in his blogsite over his support to Kassim Ahmad who has been critical of the ulama class and its over-reliance on hadiths, Mahathir has seen it fit to claim that the result of the ongoing schism in the Muslim world between those who are called ulama and the non-ulama is that “[therefore Muslims have become weak and they have to beg for support from non-Muslims”.

Why must he bring the non-Muslims into this latest controversy if not to stoke more fear and distrust among Muslim of their non-Muslim brothers and sisters?

This was no spur of the moment, slip of the tongue or foot in the mouth accident. It was carefully crafted and meant to share with his Malay and Muslim audience in his blogsite as well as for reproduction in the other media to ‘enlighten’ the Muslims.

It seems so typical of Mahathir to introduce his brand of racist or religiously bigoted thinking and argument into every controversy in the country, whether or not he is directly involved in it and regardless of whether there is any need or justification.

“Pathetic” is the word that some would prefer to use to explain his behaviour and conduct. I prefer to use the words “mischievous” and “evil”. While Mahathir is conspicuous for what he selects to focus his attack on, he is also unmistakable in what he deliberately chooses to ignore.

Take for instance the list of the richest Malaysians of which two separate lists have recently appeared.

The first list is compiled by Malaysian Business and the second list by Forbes. In both lists Mokhzani Mahathir, the son of the former Prime Minister, has joined the ranks of the country’s richest men or billionaires.

According to the Malaysian Business magazine, the SapuraKencana Petroleum mogul added another RM1.59 billion to his coffers over the last year to raise his estimated wealth to RM4.22 billion — good enough for ninth place on the list.

Forbes also includes Mokhzani in its list but only at number 15, with a total fortune of US1. 2 billion. According to Forbes, Mokhzani has broken into the billionaire’s club (calculated in US dollars, and not our cheap Malaysian ringgit) because of the 22% rise in his oil shares in his oil and gas stocks.

Mahathir has so far made no comment on the lists and the people who have made it, including his son.

Perhaps our docile and politically correct reporters are too afraid of the repercussions to ask him questions about his son’s meteoric rise in the wealthiest Malaysians list.

But not all our reporters are that bad. I think the braver ones among them are probably afraid that if they asked him questions about it, all they may get is another round of diversionary, evasive and sarcastic comments about how Mokhzani would have been able to come out much higher up the list – say at number 3 or 4 – if not for the Chinamen or Indians who have made it difficult for his son to rise higher and more quickly.

That answer would have no leg to stand on. But it should please the anti-non-Malay audience that Mahathir is so fixated on to salvage his reputation.

Koon Yew Yin is an investor and philantropist. He is the founder IJM Group, Gamuda Koon Yew Yinand Mudajaya.

1Malaysia: Najib’s Flight of Fancy

March 2, 2014

1Malaysia: Najib’s Flight of Fancy

by Kevin Soo@http://www.themalaysianinsider.com

najibm1So goes the narrative: We are an example of how a multiracial country can flourish. We find our strength in diversity. We are all Malaysians (or, at least, those from an older generation tell us stories about how race did not matter when they were children).

I ask myself daily how true this is. Do we simply happen to be citizens of the same state, or is there anything that truly binds us into a collective? Is national unity a reality that we are defending, or are we simply hoping that if we repeat it enough the narrative will turn into reality?

We tell each other and ourselves these stories, as if they are the truth, while extremism and discord are only aberrations caused by a vocal minority. “True Malaysians reject that,” we say. But on what basis do we lay claim to be true Malaysians? We need to at least consider possibility that our stories are becoming increasingly fictional for the real Malaysian.


There will always be moderates and those who reject the division – no one denies that good Malaysians will always step up with a sane voice. But let’s face it: we’re preaching to the choir here. The majority of people with online access and who will spend time reading letters to the editor like these in publications like TMI are already convinced.

The problem is not with seeds of disunity being sown amongst moderates, but with the widening gap between the moderates and everyone else. In political terms, this is the voting split across the rural-urban divide. In intellectual terms, this is the divide between those who have access to and seek out alternative media versus those who rely on state-owned media.

By and large, that’s what is shaping the reality of Malaysia, independent of the stories we tell. Malaysia can be a united nation if its citizens are made that way by the state – that was the noble purpose of nation-building policies of old (and at least the stated intention of 1Malaysia, which has become nothing more than an ironic gimmick).

The state can also, if it chooses, put in place policies that will put an end to a sense of collective destiny. Just think of what a few years of bad education policies can do to a whole generation of young Malaysians. It will produce an increasing number of people who are prone to (and in fact will be receptive to, or at least tolerant of) the provocations of disunity from extremists.

And therein lies the problem: what the state is able to accomplish in the hearts and minds of Malaysians who do not have the means to alternative ideas and the ability to question the economic, social and political realities they inhabit.

So the story we tell ourselves: that true Malaysians reject disunity and extremism, may just be a story. The real Malaysian may lie outside our narrative, exclusively within the state’s sphere of influence, unaware of a reality outside of that.

I doubt anyone wants to read something with no hope, but if the dream of unity is only a dream, then I think we need to wake up before pouring energy and creativity into restoring it by attacking it in a way that confronts the reality (rather than trying to convince ourselves of a reality we prefer).

Think about what our commiserating in our usual spheres accomplishes (on Facebook, alternative media, etc). It only serves to retell the story we have heard so many times. If this continues while the rest of Malaysia never gets to hear it, we’re passengers on the Titanic who keep praising its decor while ignoring the fact that it’s sinking.

The “ordinary Malaysian” cannot save this ship if the majority are taking part in a different narrative. The fate of this ship is determined by the spread of information and education. Until the state lives up to its call by reforming education and increasing internet penetration while reducing its vice-like grip on the mainstream media (which would take years, if it ever happened), only the privileged few will even know how to incorporate the unity narrative into their stories.

I’m hoping the truth is not as bleak as I think it is, and if I’m wrong I hope people will point it out and wake me up from the impending nightmare. But if we’re the delusional ones, then I’d rather we wake up and realise that unity is a sinking ship. – March 2, 2014.

Fiasco Looms for Malaysia’s Ruling Coalition

February 26, 2014

Fiasco Looms for Malaysia’s Ruling Coalition

Post-election public support drops steeply amid growing calls for PM Najib to take action

One of Malaysia’s most respected polling organizations is expected to release figuresRosmah and Najib over the next few days showing that support for the ruling Barisan Nasional from all three of the country’s major ethnic groups is dropping steeply, to the point where if an election were held today,  the national coalition would be buried in a landslide.

The loss of support is not just from ethnic Indians, whose approval figures for the Barisan have dropped from 45 percent to 30 percent, or the ethnic Chinese, only 8 percent of whom support the coalition, but from ethnic Malays, the mainstay of the coalition.  Support has dropped from 61 percent to 50 percent, according to sources who have seen the figures. In Penang, the poll reportedly shows that the Barisan wouldn’t win a single one of the 40 state seats and 11 parliamentary ones.

That has led to deepening concern over the performance of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, with growing calls for him to either step down in favor of another UMNO figure or to take dramatic steps to revitalize his leadership.  Even the mainstream press, all of it owned by Malaysian political parties, is becoming increasingly emboldened to criticize his performance.

Reportedly, according to political sources in Kuala Lumpur, he is increasingly being ignored within his own coalition, most recently by Sarawak strongman Abdul Taib Mahmud, who is stepping down as chief minister. Taib named his former brother-in-law, Adenan Satim, as his own replacement despite a promise during a meeting in London that he would heed Najib’s wishes in naming the new chief minister.

With both national and intraparty elections out of the way last year, Najib gambled that he could drastically cut subsidies for sugar, petrol and rice in a bid to put the country’s fiscal condition back into shape, with the fiscal debt running close to the maximum permissible limit of 55 percent.  But with the cost of living soaring upwards, he faces growing outrage.  He has since been forced to back away from a sharp rise in highway tolls.  And, while anecdotal evidence in the markets indicates that prices are climbing inexorably upwards, critics say the controlled press is continuing to report that there is no cost of living problem.

One of the issues that won’t go away is a government decision to ban use of the word Allah to mean God in Malay-language Bibles, which has infuriated Christians and moderates, who point out that throughout the Arab world, Christians use the word as a proper noun.  Najib has come under fire for making moderate statements when he is out of the country, but refusing to take a stand on the issue, or to rein in vocal Malay supremacy organizations such as Perkasa, headed by Ibrahim Ali, whose intemperate racial statements have increasingly poisoned the political atmosphere.

Within UMNO, Najib’s wife, Rosmah Mansor, has become a lightning rod for those who see her as flaunting excess wealth including designer handbags, watches and jewelry at a time when the country is facing cost of living problems.  Many blame her for decisions that the Prime Minister is – or is not – making.

Najib is said to be shaking up his staff, replacing his long-time chief of staff with a younger, more dynamic individual. Reportedly he is also expected to call a party retreat to seek to convince party division chiefs and others within the United Malays National Organization that he has a plan to revitalize the political situation.  Party leaders complain that 10 months after the narrow parliamentary victory – and popular vote loss – that left the Barisan in charge, Najib has still not called for a post-mortem of the way the race was run.

With US President Barack Obama scheduled to visit the country on a state visit in April,  it is imperative to get moving, say political analysts in Kuala Lumpur.  Behind Najib is the ever-present specter of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who has taken no public position against Najib but who clearly has unleashed bloggers who are hounding the prime minister on all sides. Sources within the Mahathir wing of UMNO told Asia Sentinel that Mahathir is after Najib’s head.

the-man-behind-perkasa1It had been thought that, having emasculated Najib’s economic plans after the election, the Mahathir wing would be content to leave the weakened prime minister in his place until the next election.  The two most viable candidates to replace him would be Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who has reportedly said he is too old and tired for the job, and Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is regarded even by many UMNO figures as too mercurial and polarizing for the job.

However, A. Kadir Jasin, former chief editor of the New Straits Times and a close confidant of the 88-year-old former premier, in his blog,”The Scribe,” on Saturday suggested that Muhyiddin might not be so tired, or that a third candidate, Hishamuddin Hussein, Najib’s cousin and the party’s third-ranking vice-president, might be a possible alternative.

Thus, despite denials on all sides, the political picture is beginning to resemble that in 2008 and 2009, when growing forces coalesced to drive Najib’s predecessor, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, from the premiership. The growing drip of blog comments is an indication that Najib must take action or face a serious revolt.


The Allah Issue seen from afar

February 25, 2013

The Allah Issue seen from afar

by John R. Malott


COMMENT Like other friends of Malaysia overseas, I have followed themalott1 controversy over the use of the word ‘Allah’ with interest, but also with great concern. For I believe that this issue, if left unchecked, has the potential to tear Malaysia and the dream of ‘Bangsa Malaysia’ apart.

While there are racial and religious issues in every society, what makes the situation in Malaysia different is that it is the government that has condoned and even provoked these tensions for its own political purposes.

For years, UMNO justified its existence by saying that the Malays are under threat, and that only UMNO could defend “the Malay race”.

After the 13th general election, in which UMNO candidates received only 30 percent of the national vote – and in which BN as a whole got only 47 percent – it had two choices. It could broaden its appeal or it could narrow it by trying to appeal to the PAS voter base, for whom religion rather than race is a more important concern.

Unfortunately, UMNO chose the latter course and started to play the ‘Muslim’ card. Now, according to the government and UMNO, it is not just Malays, it is also Islam that is under threat.

As for the ‘Malay’ card, UMNO increasingly has gone to the extreme, pandering to extreme racist elements, starting with PERKASA.

The irony of the “Malays/Islam under threat” claim, of course, is that in Malaysia, both Malays and Muslims are the majority. And UMNO controls the government. So how can the Malay race and the Muslim religion in Malaysia be under threat?

To UMNO’s leadership, it doesn’t matter. There is no need to explain. They just speak and offer no evidence, and use their propaganda instruments - Bernama, RTM, Utusan Malaysia, the New Straits Times, etc – to spread the word.

From an international perspective, they also make assertions that are totally out of line with Islamic thinking and practice in the rest of the world.

Think about it – Malaysia is the only country in the world that ignores history and linguistics and dares to ban non-Muslims from uttering the word ‘Allah’. Like Humpty Dumpty, the Malaysian government stands alone – and claims for itself the right to decide what words mean and what words people may read, write, think, and speak.

How can Prime Minister Najib Razak, his government, and its supporters justify their actions, when no one else in the Islamic world agrees with them? When Islamic scholars like Reza Aslan say, “We are laughing at you,” how do they respond?

They don’t. Because they don’t know what to say. They seem to be living on their own planet.

Actions, not just words

But it is not just what Najib and his government say, it also is what they have done.

  • It is the government that seized more than 20,000 Bibles in 2009.
  • It is the government that banned the use of the word ‘Allah’ in Catholic weekly The Herald.
  • It is the government’s Police Force that joined the recent raid on the Bible Society of Malaysia, confiscating over 300 bibles without a search warrant.
  • It is the government’s religious affairs department, JAKIM, that directed mosques throughout Malaysia to say, without citing any evidence, that Islam is “under threat,” that Christians and Jews are “enemies of Islam,” and that Christians are responsible for turning Muslims against each other and tricking them into losing their rights.
  • It is Najib’s cabinet that stood silently by and decided not to enforce its 10-point plan to restore religious peace and harmony in the nation.
  • It is the government that refused to take any action after the leader of PERKASA called for the burning bibles.

There is no greater example of uniformed assertions than former PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s recent claim that Christians have “no right” to use the word ‘Allah’. Because he is Mahathir, he just says it, and he expects everyone to agree.

As the saying goes, everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not to their own facts. In this case, history and the facts are not on Mahathir’s side. Mahathir is totally, 100 percent, wrong.

The word ‘Allah’ was used by Arabic-speaking Christians for centuries before the birth of the Prophet and the rise of Islam. Indeed, archaeologists have found an Arabic-language Christian Bible (the Mt Sinai Arabic Codex 151), that is nearly 1,300 years old, in which God is called ‘Allah’.

Indeed, someone might ask what right Muslims have to say the word ‘Allah’, when it was used first by Christians? Who is violating whose rights?

The answer is simple – even though Jews and Christians used it first, they would never deny Muslims the right to say the word ‘Allah’. Because while over the years, men and women have practiced and interpreted our religions in different ways, in the end we all worship the same God – the God of Abraham, the Creator of the Universe.

So here is the question. In the entire Islamic world, why is it only in Malaysia that people claim that uttering or writing the word ‘Allah’ is the exclusive right of Muslims?  Why is it only in Malaysia, and nowhere elsewhere in the world, that some Muslims say they will be “confused” if other people – Christians – use the word ‘Allah’ when they worship inside their own churches, or when they read the Bible in the privacy of their own homes?

What makes Muslim Malaysians different from the other 1.5 billion Muslims in the rest of the world?

I would like Malaysian advocates of the ‘Allah’ ban to explain this, not to me (a Christian), but to explain it to the rest of the Islamic world.

Dangers of ‘quick research’

The senior judge in the Allah appeal, Mohamed Apandi Ali, wrote in his opinion that through his “quick research” on the history of the language of the Bible, “it is clear that the word ‘Allah’ does not appear even once as the name of God or even of a man in the Hebrew scriptures. The name ‘Allah’ does not appear even once in either the Old or New Testament.

“There is no such word at all in the Greek New Testament. In the Bible world, God has always been known as ‘Yahweh’, or by the contraction ‘Yah’. That being the historical fact, it can be concluded that the word or name ‘Allah’ is not an integral part of the faith and practice of Christianity.”

Justice Apandi’s judgment clearly shows the dangers of “quick research.” He should have spent a little more time on the web. But because he refers to how the word ‘God’ is expressed in Hebrew, Greek, and Arabic, he has raised the important issue of language and the words that we use in different languages to refer to God.

How many languages are there in the world? The Christian Bible has been translated in whole or part into an astonishing 2,817 languages, according to the Wycliffe Bible Translator, a UK organisation. The complete Bible is available in 513 languages, including Arabic and Malay.

Both the Arabic and Malay Bibles use the word ‘Allah’ to refer to God. In the case of Arabic, it has been so for at least 1,300 years, and in the case of Malay, which “borrowed” the word ‘Allah’ from Arabic, for at least 300.

Even so, Justice Apandi ignored both history and language when he claimed that the Arabic and Malay language word for God – Allah – belongs exclusively to Muslims. That is because Jews and Christians used the word ‘Allah’ before the Prophet was even born.

Judge Apandi also was wrong when he said that the Jews have always referred to God as ‘Yahweh’. My own “quick research” on Wikipedia, which must have lasted 15 seconds longer than the learned judge’s, shows that the Hebrew Bible uses many names for God.

While Yahweh is indeed the most common expression, two others are ‘Elah’ and ‘Eloah’. They both sound very similar to ‘Allah’ and there is a reason for that. Just as Jews, Christians, and Muslims all believe in the God of Abraham, the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arab languages are all related to each other.

Most scholars say that Jesus spoke Aramaic, not Hebrew. And when Jesus spoke of God, he said, “Ellah.” That sounds remarkably very similar to the Arabic ‘Allah’. And it should, because Aramaic and Arab are what linguists call “cognates.”

As word of Judaism and Christianity spread into the Arabian Peninsula, ‘Allah’ became the Arabic language name for the God of Abraham. The word ‘Allah’ was used first by Arab Christians and Mizrahi Jews, and only later by the Prophet and Muslims.

Sorry, Justice Apandi. Sorry, Mahathir. Sorry, Najib and UMNO.

If anyone owns the “trademark” on the word ‘Allah’, it is the Christians, who first spread the word of the God of Abraham into the Arabian peninsula, and who first used the word ‘Allah’. But here is the point – no Christian Malaysian insists and no Arabic-speaking Christian insists that the word ‘Allah’ belongs exclusively to them.

So the burden of proof therefore is on any Malaysian who ignores history, language, and the facts – and who ignores what the rest of the Islamic world is doing – and simply asserts that only Muslim Malaysians may use the word ‘Allah’.

CT Ali: Could We be backing the wrong Political Horse?

February 24, 2013

Could we be backing the Wrong Political Horse?

Cronyism and nepotism are rife in DAP and PKR to the point that even UMNO must take a back seat when it comes to family dynasties.

COMMENT by CT Ali@http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Anwar-KajangMy sleeps are deeply troubled by my thoughts on what the future holds for those of us that had put our hopes and aspirations for our future in the hands of Pakatan Rakyat.

We have done much for Pakatan. Was it not our votes that gave them Selangor, Kedah, Penang, Perak and Kelantan in the 12th general elections? And again was it not our votes that gave Pakatan the popular mandate in the 13th general election? These votes were given by the rakyat to Pakatan, and not won by Pakatan from Barisan Nasional.

These votes were our way of telling BN that ultimately it is the rakyat that decide who should govern them. And I use the word ‘ultimately’ with the hope that these politicians will ultimately come to their senses and understand that what they do today, tomorrow and in the time they have before the next general election will determine their political future.

What is now clear is that in the flush of electoral victory, reason and common sense have escaped many of the Pakatan leaders since the last general election.

You would have thought that securing the popular mandate at the last general election would have given Pakatan a secure path towards federal government by the next general election.

Nothing can be further from the truth. The way things are today for Pakatan, they have as much chance of winning federal government as a Malay would have a chance of being Penang Chief Minister for as long as DAP is the state government.

We are agreed that Selangor has been managed prudently by KhalidLIMGuanEng.htm Ibrahim. PAS has ruled Kelantan and will continue to rule Kelantan for they understand the aspirations of its people well. Lim Guan Eng has financially restructured Penang by reviving industrial investments.

These are all individual achievements in each state by components within Pakatan.

Factionalism within Pakatan had already resulted in electoral blunders that had resulted in Pakatan losing Perak and then Kedah. Blunders by Pakatan’s first tier leadership in the 13th general election meant that Perak, Terengganu and Negeri Sembilan are still firmly in BN’s hand.

Sabah and Sarawak delivered the federal government to BN. Pakatan was sadly deficient in understanding the political dynamics of these two states.

After the 13th GE it would seems that BN is more entrenched in Sabah and Sarawak than before, and whatever inroads made by DAP would by now have dissipated as BN consolidate their hold there. And Pakatan is the antithesis of what it preaches about open, responsible and decent government.

Cronyism and nepotism are rife in DAP and PKR to the point that even UMNO must take a back seat when it comes to family dynasties.

Losing the support

Religion that has been used so effectively by UMNO to galvanise its strength among the Malays after the 13th GE has only created problems within Pakatan.

PAS’ insistence to focus on hudud embarrasses DAP and PKR, and all three within the Pakatan coalition have agreed to disagree of this issue.

mat-sabu-hadi-awangAnd we cannot ignore the reality that within PAS the perpetual struggle between the ulama and the professional technocrats will always advantage UMNO rather than Pakatan.

PAS, DAP and PKR prefer to preach to the converted when in Malaysia it is the fence-sitters who will decide who will govern at state and federal levels. This UMNO knows and is already working on increasing their standing amongst the Malays.

Race and religious centric deeds and actions – and nobody can do this asNAJIB_RAZAK_091213_TMINAJJUA_05_540_360_100 effectively as UMNO – do matter in the rural hinterlands as this is where the next federal government will be decided.

Today whatever goodwill, trust and confidence the people had for Pakatan to win election at the national level – as reflected in the popular mandate they gave to Pakatan at the last general election – is being lost at a fast rate.

Islam that gives strength to PAS in Kelantan cannot be ‘sold’ to the non-Muslims and thus cannot give PAS a national profile.

DAP that has done well in Penang unfortunately also projects what the Malay abhors – the Chinese as a political and economic force – and thus again cannot gain a national platform acceptable to all Malaysians.

PKR is a mass of contradictions, opportunism and political immaturity that is played out in the public domain – from its party elections, defections, nepotism, factionalism and avarice – all a mirror image of what has happened and is still happening in UMNO today.

All these have only reinforced public perceptions that PKR is not yet ready to do government at the federal level – maybe even at state level as evident in Selangor.

We perceived that nobody in Pakatan has the credibility to lead at national level. Whether real or imagined this is what the public perceives and in politics, perception translates into electoral support or not.

Too often Pakatan’s first-tier leadership has put self before party and national interests. Too often Anwar Ibrahim has failed to honor what he said he would do.

Too often DAP has talked itself up as a Malaysian party that is open and responsible – and yet what the party leadership is doing within DAP indicates otherwise.

PAS is torn between religion and politics, and you and I know that it cannot do both well.But I can only speak for myself.

Islam, Freedom and Salvation

February 20, 2014

Islam, Freedom and Salvation

by Zairil Khir Johari


Islam and freedom are two inseparable concepts, though one may not arrive at this conclusion based on the behaviour of many Muslims worldwide, particularly those claiming to carry the torch for the religion.

Zairil Khir JohariWhen the Prophet Muhammad introduced Islam in the 7th century, he not only brought with him a new deen (faith), but also through it delivered fundamental moral and social reform to the Arabian society. As it were, Islam brought light to end the darkness of slavery, female infanticide and social injustice.

At its height of glory during the Islamic Golden Age from the 8th to the 13th century, the Arab-Muslim world transformed from a warring, largely illiterate society to one characterised by major intellectual advancement in culture, mathematics, life sciences and philosophy.

It was an era of inclusiveness, symbolised by the establishment of the Baitul-Hikmat, or House of Wisdom, in Baghdad, where scholars both Muslim and non-Muslim converged to exchange and produce knowledge. Inspired by the call to ijtihad (independent reasoning), the goal was always to expand and include, and not to retreat and exclude.

There was no narrow-minded attempt to discard the works of other civilisations, or to brand certain knowledge as belonging solely to Islam and therefore unusable by non-Muslims. Instead, knowledge was cultivated, documented and shared with all.

Unfortunately, Muslim civilisation has suffered a sharp decline since then. Today, Muslim countries throughout the world are associated with authoritarian regimes, gaping income inequality and the suppression of civil liberties and human rights – ironic for a religion that promises the gift of freedom and enlightenment.

In our part of the world, contemporary Islamic discourse appears to beIbrahim-Ali-Zulkifli-Noordin-Ridhuan-Tee-Abdullah captured by the likes of the Harussanis and Ridhuan Tees. However, such belligerent parochialism actually masks the rich history of progressive thought by great local Muslim thinkers and advocates of freedom.

Take, for example, the raging polemic over the “ownership” of the name of Allah, and the constant fear-mongering of an apparent Christian threat in our country. There are very few of us who realise that Malay translations of the The New Testament are not new, and have been around since the 1800s.

In fact, probably the very first Malay translation of the Bible, or the Kitab Injil al-Kudus as the author terms it, was produced by the father of modern Malay literature himself, Abdullah Abdul Kadir, better known as Munshi Abdullah. Of course, if he were to publish it today, a fatwa would be declared branding him a deviant, rabid protests would be organised by Perkasa, he would somehow find himself labelled a DAP member, and the authorities would prosecute him for sedition.

Munshi Abdullah not only read the Bible, he translated it into Malay. Yet he neither converted out of Islam nor caused mass apostasy, as is so feared by our authorities today. In fact, in Munshi Abdullah we had a visionary Muslim thinker of unwavering faith, who dared to push the boundaries of what was then socially acceptable.

In his writings, he constantly appealed to Malay society to shake off their traditional reverence for their feudal lords – the bangsawan (nobility), whom he saw as self-serving and oppressive. In Hikayat Pelayaran Abdullah, for example, he writes: “Apabila seseorang itu dijadikan Allah ia Raja bukan untuk memuaskan nafsunya dan berbini sepuluh atau dua puluh atau mencari harta dan membunuh orang dengan aniayanya, melainkan disuruh Allah memelihara manusia….” (When God makes a man a king, it is not so that he may satisfy his lusts and to take 10 or 20 brides, or to seek fortune and to kill with his cruelty, but instead to do as God bids that is to protect his people…).

Munshi Abdullah was of the view that in order for Malay society to advance itself, it must embrace modern values while holding steadfastly to the true teachings of Islam (he did not see such an undertaking as contradictory), and even more importantly emancipate itself from the irrational grips of Malay feudalism, characterised by the kerajaan of the absolute monarch. In his day, he was considered ahead of his time. Two hundred years later in modern Malaysia, one could say he remains ahead of our time.

Another reformist-minded Malay thinker was the Pendeta Za’aba (real name Zainal Abidin Ahmad). Among the many treatises penned by Za’aba, one entitled Jalan Keselamatan Bagi Orang-orang Melayu (The Salvation of Malays) mentions that true emancipation can only be achieved through the pursuit of knowledge.

In this monograph, Za’aba states: “Bahawasanya keselamatan orang-orang Melayu ini pada pihak jalan kehidupannya (pencariannya) dan pada pihak perangai-perangai yang kekurangan itu hanyalah boleh didapati pada satu jalan sahaja, iaitu diubati kemiskinannya yang pada pihak otak itu – yakni kemiskinan pengetahuannya – dengan jalan diberi mereka itu pelajaran-pelajaran daripada jenis yang betul. Maka disitulah, dan disitulah sahaja boleh didapati keselamatan ini, tiada pada lainnya.” (Verily there is only one path towards the salvation of the Malays insofar it concerns their life (livelihood) and weaknesses in their attitude, that is to ameliorate their intellectual poverty – their lack of knowledge – through the right kind of education. This is the only way that salvation can be found, no other way.)

mullah-harussani-and-najibTo Za’aba, the high incidence of poverty among Malays corresponded directly to the society’s mental capacity. Therefore, the only salvation for the society was to free themselves from poverty through knowledge and the ability to think critically.

Meanwhile, there have also been a few progressive Malay-Muslim thinkers who were early champions of women’s rights. In the 1920s, writers such as Syed Sheikh al-Hadi and Ahmad Rashid Talu – both coincidentally Penang-based – brought to the forefront the debate on the emancipation of women and their right to education. In their hands, the female lead characters from Hikayat Faridah Hanum (al-Hadi) and Iakah Salmah? (Talu) were, unlike the societal norms of the time, dynamic, progressive and modern.

It is an inescapable fact that freedom has always been, and will always be, a key feature in Islamic and Muslim discourse, simply because it is an essential part of Islam. This is true even in our country, where, as the works of Abdullah, Za’aba, al-Hadi, Talu and many others clearly prove, progressive Malay-Muslim thought throughout the last two centuries have constantly pushed the envelope by placing great value on the pursuit of knowledge, the ability to reason, as well as the freedom of thought and conscience.

Today, these values are under threat. Extremism, bigotry and sexism now dominate, spurred on by an overzealous establishment bent at banning everything they cannot control or understand. As Martin Luther King Jr once said, “nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

Seen in this light, the real threat that we face is not the fools or the bigots, but the ignorance within our society. It is this ignorance that we need to challenge and overcome if we are to rise out of the abyss of doom and destruction.

Today, Za’aba’s advice is even more pertinent than it has ever been – our salvation lies in knowledge, enlightenment and freedom from ignorance. –The Malaysian Insider– February 19, 2014.

Kassim Ahmad speaks his mind on the state of Islam in Malaysia

February 18, 2014

Kassim Ahmad speaks his mind on the state of Islam in Malaysia

by Malaysiakini (02-1-14)

kassim-ahmadBack from a hiatus away from the public eye, controversial scholar Kassim Ahmad (left) has yet again created waves by questioning the grip of a class of ulama (religious scholars) on the country and its future.

Speaking at an event organised by the Perdana Leadership Foundation, he said that Islam in Malaysia has been abused through a “priesthood caste” system.

“This priesthood caste did not exist at the time of the Prophet or the four caliphs. They only emerged about 300 years later by appointing themselves as interpreter of religion for Muslims,” he said.

“They (Muslims) view their religious leaders like gods and goddesses, that these leaders are seen to be protected from maksum (protected from sin) and must decide on everything about their lives.”

Kassim, who was in Parti Sosialis Rakyat Malaysia (PSRM) before joining UMNO said this at a lecture entitled ‘The Thoughts of Kassim Ahmad: A Review’, officiated by former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad in Putrajaya yesterday.


Najib and the Notorious Mullah of Perak

He called on Muslims to return the Quran as the sole and highest source of information in Islam, and to reinterpret the Holy Book to suit modern times.

“I have said before that the Quran explains itself. The old method to use the hadith (Prophet’s saying and actions) to explain the Quran is not very good, as this means we are saying that the Prophet Muhammad knew everything. This is ridiculous, as he is just a Messenger of Allah,” he stressed.

Kassim was once accused of being anti-hadith, a charged he has denied. Referring to the first verse of the Quranic chapter al-Munafiqun, he said Muslims are wrong to beatify the prophet.

Tudung questioned

He also questioned the wearing of the tudung (headscarf) by Muslim women, arguing that hair is not part of the aurat (parts of the body which need to be covered).

Art activist Raja Ahmad Aminullah Raja Abdullah, who also spoke at a forum, urged for Kassim’s ideas to be discussed by academics and politicians.

He said that, while Kassim’s views are easily understood, terms like the “priesthood caste” may not be so easily acceptable and can be viewed as provocative in Malay society.

Raja Aminullah expressed disappointment with the absence of scheduled panelist and PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar, who had pulled out at the last minute.

“Politicians often view art and culture as marginal or peripheral matters that they can attend or not attend at will,” he said, adding that Nurul Izzah may have opted out to “avoid controversy”.

The two-day event ended yesterday.

Road to Kajang: Anwar reaches out to Kajangites

February 17, 2014

Anwar sends a message of peace and harmony to Kajangites

by The Malaysian Insider.

Malaysians learnt a few things over a rather hot weekend, from Opposition leaders who reached out to all, to ordinary Malaysians preaching harmony and the few troublemakers who appear to incite trouble.

dsai14Anwar spreads a message of peace and harmony

Some might still think Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is a political chameleon but his visit to a Kajang church yesterday proved one thing – he was willing to take the bull by the horns and reach out to all Malaysians irrespective of their faith.

Perhaps he was just there for their votes, those less charitable of him would say. But the PKR de facto leader did something that no Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders has done in a long time – meet Malaysians outside their community and be the leader of all Malaysians, not just their own race or co-religionists.

Have we seen any BN leader face a crowd of ordinary Malaysians, not from their party or race or religion, and answer their blunt questions? In most cases, it is stage-managed events filled with either a pliant media or those paid to tweet photographs of these leaders.

Anwar is not alone, of course. PAS leaders such as Khalid Abdul Samad and Mujahid Yusof Rawa have also gone to meet and reach out to people from different faiths over the years. These men have kept their faith, and have no fear of being seen in a church with a crucifix in the background or speaking to Christians warmly and openly.

But for BN leaders, most prefer the company of their own community, whose cause they champion to the detriment of the larger Malaysian dream. One would expect Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak (seen with a religious bigot below) to do the same, reach out to all. After all, he spoke of his 1Malaysia, echoing the words of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Bangsa Malaysia that was first mentioned in 1991.

mullah-harussani-and-najibNajib panders to the Ulamak and Extremists

But the Prime Minister has been silent. Instead, his UMNO-owned daily, Utusan Malaysia, has taken the cudgels to fight for race and religion, with one editor warning non-Malays not to overstep limits and to know who is the country’s master race.

Add to that potent statement is the curious incidents that only happen in Pakatan Rakyat (PR) states – provocative acts that could set off a religious clash.

Which Malaysian is stupid enough to distribute Bibles outside national schools or throw a slab of pork into a mosque? And why does it only happen in Penang and not anywhere else?

This comes on the heels of provocative buntings and a Molotov cocktail attack on a church in the island state. So, who in their right frame of mind would do this in Malaysia?

DR MThese incidents only lend credence to a theory that there are groups of people out there who want to foment trouble in Malaysia, especially in PR-ruled states. Why? There are endless possibilities to that question.

Police have yet to make any headway in any of these cases but any further acts of a similar nature will only stoke the religious tension in the country for the benefit of the few.

The good news is that there are Malaysians out there who know better, such as the group that has gone from the Klang Valley to Penang over the weekend to promote peace and harmony.

It proves one thing – that there are Malaysians who ignore provocations, threats and blinkered politicians to do what they do best, give each other the warm hand of friendship and smile that has made Malaysians among the most gentle people on the planet.

Politicians should know better, that the people want a better country for all, not one divided by race, religion and class. There will be many more weekends that will bring us joy or fill us with fear that Malaysia is tearing apart at the seams.

But the opposition have shown that they can handle hot issues of the day with the people that matter. Can BN do the same or just make motherhood statements that mean nothing to the people in the streets?

Yet, one lesson from the weekend is clear. There are more Malaysians out there who want peace and harmony than there are the few lurking around trying to provoke a fight. –The Malaysian Insider, February 17, 2014.

Dear Tuanku, Please stop this Robbery in the Name of Islam

February 12, 2014

Dear Tuanku, Please stop this Robbery in the Name of Islam

MY  COMMENT: A few days ago in my article “Islam at theFacebook-K and D Crossroads in Malaysia”, I raised several issues that have been plaguing our country. I received both positive and negative comments, all of which I posted in the comments section as I believe that a healthy exchange of ideas is the foundation for freedom of expression. Even comments from UMNO Cyber troopers were allowed access and posted, so long as they respect my condition for non-vulgar or crass exchanges. It is difference of opinion that will strengthen us as a people of one nation. We must be allowed to disagree. Unity in diversity. That is what that has made Malaysia unique.

I am gratified that most readers were equally concerned about my safety upon hearing about my accident. Even old friends like the former US Ambassador John Mallot wrote in to express concern. But I also wrote about current issus that troubled me, especially about the abuses of the law and legal processes by religious authorities. I also wanted to give moral support to my young friend, Lawyer Rosli Dahlan, that he should not feel guilty about doing cases against the religious authorities. He should not feel guilty about representing Chinese companies or individuals who are robbed of their land, whose premises are violated and trespassed. For that matter, neither race nor religion should be of any consideration when one fights for truth and justice.

The secret of life is to have no fear; it's the only way to function.

The secret of life is to have no fear; it’s the only way to function.

Today, I read in the Malay Mail that Rosli Dahlan had succeeded in persuading the High Court to check the misconduct of Jabatan Agama Islam Selangor (JAIS). Yes, the same JAIS that seized the Christian Bible with “Allah”. I say bravo to Rosli. I say fight on without fear or favour. I am proud that there is a fearless Malay Muslim lawyer who will take on JAIS, which of late has been committing mischief and seems to be on a frolic of its own. If, as many have said, JAIS takes directions only from HRH The Sultan of Selangor, then I say this to HRH Tuanku:

“Ampun Tuanku, Sembah patek harap diampun. JAIS yang dibawah naungan Tuanku bertindak sesuka hati sehingga mencemarkan nama Islam dan merosakkan perpaduan kaum. Maka Patek mohon sudilah Tuanku perhatikan sedikit hal ini supaya Negeri Selangor Darul Ehsan tidak bertambah porak peranda. Ampun Tuanku.”

Now read the report from Malay Mail below and tell me is JAIS is not committing land robbery in broad daylight in the name of Islam.–Din Merican


February 12, 2014


Developer Wins Leave to Challenge Land Acquisition by Islamic Authority

by Ida Lim

The Shah Alam High Court today allowed a private developer to legally challenge the Selangor religious authorities’ compulsory acquisition of its land.

According to private developer United Allied Empire Sdn Bhd (UAE)’s lead counsel Rosli Dahlan, High Court judge Vernon Ong also froze all action on the 26-acre plot of land until the end of the judicial review proceedings.

“The judge gave a full stay until the judicial review (is fully heard),” Rosli told The Malay Mail Online.

On January 23, the High Court had granted an interim stay, temporarily blocking all action on the land until it delivered its decision today on UAE’s application for a judicial review.

Rosli said the judge today also allowed UAE to include their requests for declaratory reliefs in the judicial review case. He explained that the court usually only allowed judicial review applicants to ask for an order to quash the alleged wrongful actions.

The hearing date for the judicial review has not been set.

In the lawsuit, UAE had accused the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) of abusing their powers to grab its land in Bestari Jaya — an area formerly known as Batang Berjuntai — in the state’s Kuala Selangor district.

 The developer claims JAIS’s declared intention for land acquisition in a government gazette contradicts a notice of MAIS's proposed project, which is seen in front of the existing Masjid Ar-Ridwan mosque in Batang Berjuntai, Selangor.

Given 1 acre by UAE (the Developer) for a Mosque, but MAIS acquired 26.281 acres

UAE had written to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim last April 12, seeking their intervention on the dispute with Jais and other state bodies, but no reply was received, Rosli said last month.

UAE had written to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim last April 12, seeking their intervention on the dispute, but no reply was received, lead counsel Rosli Dahlan said last month.

UAE had written to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim last April 12, seeking their intervention on the dispute, but no reply was received, lead counsel Rosli Dahlan said last month.

As a last resort, UAE last April 22 applied for a judicial review to revoke the compulsory acquisition of its land measuring 26.281 acres — roughly the size of 20 international football fields.

UAE said Jais had hidden their real intention to build a fully integrated Islamic school with hostel, shelter and rehabilitation centre on the land. The government had gazetted the land for the construction of a giant mosque.

The ethnic Chinese-owned company has also accused the state authorities of purported racial oppression and violation of its constitutional rights. It alleged that the religious bodies had abused their powers to avoid paying fair compensation for the land and had shored up their land bank for future development.

According to UAE, compulsory acquisition of private land was only allowed if it benefited the public under Article 13 of the Federal Constitution. The same article also says that property owners should receive adequate compensation for the compulsory acquisition or use of their property.

In its judicial review application, UAE named the Director of Selangor’s Land and Mines Department, the Kuala Selangor land administrator, Jais, the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (MAIS), Selangor Zakat Board and the Selangor government as respondents.

The developer also argued that the land authorities’ decision to allow the acquisition amounted to an “unreasonable exercise of power” for failing to ensure legal compliance.

Also read the previous article : here

Islam At the Crossroads in Malaysia

February 8, 2014

Islam At the Crossroads in Malaysia

dato-din-mericanby Din Merican

I am writing this as I contemplate the fate of our country while resting after being involved in a nasty accident last week. I feel very sorry that my wife’s car, Dr Kamsiah’s black beauty, is now a total wreck and we are not sure how long the adjusters will assess the loss as a total loss or whether it has to be repaired.

I hope the insurance company and its adjusters would be kind to my wife and I by not prolonging the painful process of making an insurance claim. The positive thing from that accident was that the driver of the other car, a non-Muslim Chinese and I, a Malay Muslim, did not have a quarrel. We resolved matters in the manner that accidents are resolved. We showed care and compassion for each other to ensure that neither of us suffered grievous bodily injury. We were civil despite our different race and religion even in those tense moments. We behaved as how civil people behave. We behaved like we are one people, like true Malaysians.

Airbags from the car!

Airbags from the car!

What was heartening also was that I received an immediate message from my young friend, Lawyer Rosli Dahlan, who heard about the accident although he was away. He was so concerned to make sure that we were not injured and made prayers for us from Makkah. Apparently, he was in Jeddah for a meeting and entered Makkah to perform umrah and made doa’ (prayers) for our safety.

To Rosli, I say thank you. At my ripe age, doa from well wishers are very meaningful. Alhamdulillah, I am safe in one piece although I was pretty jolted when the airbag exploded. I pray to Allah that the driver and passengers of the other vehicle will also recover as I have.

Religion and Politics

This brings me to the topic of religion that has plagued the country in the last few months. Since 2012, the politics of religion in Malaysia has taken a worrisome development. While Malaysia has long been known as a moderate Muslim country, that perception is beginning to change and change dramatically.

Malaysia’s moderation which is also a characteristic of Malay culture has, in the past, earned us respect in many Muslims countries. It is well known that Malaysian Muslim pilgrims for Haj and Umrah are well liked because in overseas countries Malaysians are extremely polite and rarely act in a radical way, unlike the hooliganism that they now show back at home. I am sure Rosli is one of the example of a pleasant Malay pilgrim. Moderation has become our national emblem, a badge of pride that we can wear on our chest.

Islam Hadhari disappeared when Badawi resigned as Prime Minister

When Abdullah Badawi became PM, he wanted to capitalise on that moderation by conceptualising it as  Islam Hadhari. But, like all slogans, that slogan also went out of fashion and is rarely heard today. As always, Malaysian leadership is less concerned about the substance of leadership and good governance but more concerned with popularity. And that is the problem we face today with the administration of PM Najib Razak.

badawi1Ex-PM Abdullah Badawi was brought down by his own party, UMNO, as he was seen to be ineffective– sleeping on the job, as Dr Mahathir would put it. And then, enter Najib Razak as PM. Malaysians were hopeful of him. There could not be a politician with a better pedigree than Najib. He is after all the son of Tun Abdul Razak, one of the most respected of Malaysia’s Prime Ministers. However, it did not take long for Najib to show that what his father Tun Razak had built, Najib would in a short time almost destroy.

You may ask- is that a fair comment? That is a fair question. So, let us analyse briefly why I expressed what most Malaysians are already saying.

Najib came up with this slogan – Satu Malaysia (1Malaysia). But today,we, as a nation, are not at all one united people. We can’t be more divided than ever. We quarrel about almost everything, including something so flimsy as the proprietorship of the word “Allah”. Thus, it was apt that my friend Tan Sri Robert Phang had rhetorically posed – “Why are we quareling about God?” in his New Year Message. Lim Kit Siang has taken that tag line to raise the same question in his open letter to PM Najib.

Malaysia is becoming to look like a Taliban State where the religious authorities have become so intolerant of different what more dissenting views in the area of religion, religious thought or for that matter anything concerning God, as if we own God. But more worrisome is that they are wrong in the things they did, yet they did not care.

The Borders Case remains unresolved thanks to AG Gani Patail

nik-raina-and-dr-kamsiah1In 2012, JAWI raided the Borders Bookstore and seized books by Canadian author Irshad Manji titled “Allah, Liberty and Love”. When JAWI couldn’t find anyone else to charge, JAWI decided to charge the poor Malay store manager Nik Raina Nik Rashid (seen with Dr. Kamsiah). She was charged for selling a banned book at a time when it was not banned yet.

Lawyer Rosli Dahlan successfully persuaded Tudung Judge Dato Zaleha Yusof to make a bold declaration that JAWI’s raid, seizure of books, and prosecution of Nik Raina were illegal. Judge Zaleha also declared that the Islamic Offences Act used to charge Nik Raina was ultra vires and unconstitutional and chided the Minister of Home Affairs and Minister in the PM’s Dept in charge of Religion for abdicating their constitutional duties in not clarifying the confusion that had disrupted the harmonious relationship in multiracial and multireligious Malaysia.

Despite the High Court ruling, the Syariah court refused to release Nik Raina. Although the law is now clarified that the Islamic Law Act used by JAWI is unconstitutional, yet A-G Gani Patail did not seem to consider it to be his duty to advise the government on what is the proper thing to do. He would rather cause a conflict of laws between civil and islamic law without regard to the disharmony it is causing amongst Malaysians.

I suppose A-G Gani Patail feels that he can survive better when there is anarchy in the country as that would make him more useful to those in the corridors of power. Otherwise, his position would be under threat from lawyer Tan Sri Shafee Abdullah, who has openly declared recently that he is ready to assume the role of Attorney-General to replace Gani Patail who is just a 3rd Class law graduate from University Malaya. That is what happens when the country is led by people of mediocrity.

The Allah Issue

Perkasa Rally on AllahThen the “Allah” issue erupted again, this time in a more virulent way. Unheard of NGOs like ISMA started to appear and condemned Marina Mahathir as a Dalang for LBGT and as anti-Islam. Thus, the line is a drawn between the Axis of Evil and the Defenders of Islam. Any muslim who spoke on the “Allah” issue in a manner not consistent with the Malaysian Standards of Islam (as if there is one!) projected by the likes of JAWI and JAIS are immediately branded as the enemies of Islam. You then see a herd of Malaysian politicians singing in chorus branding Islamic scholars like Professor Tariq Ramadan as liberal muslims. I am appalled.

Tariq Ramadan is the son of Said Ramadan, author of “Islamic Law: Its Scope and Equity”Tariq Ramadan and the grandson of Hassan Al Banna, founder of Ikhwanul Muslimin. Yet, Malaysian politicians conveniently branded him as such just because he gave an impartial and objective opinion about “Allah”. I will not elaborate on this as so many people have already written on the “Allah” issue.

All I would like to add is that PM Najib showed a total lack of moral courage on this issue which is now dividing Malaysians more than ever before. When he eventually made a comment recently, it was at best disappointing. Najib had no qualms about showing that his government will not honour the 10 point agreement.

Najib showed the same lack of courage over the death and burial of Chin Peng.  My counterparts in Thailand informed me that former Thai PM Chaovalit Yongchaiyudh had attended Chin Peng’s funeral in honour of an independence fighter of the time likening Chin Peng to Ho Chi Minh of Vietnam and Che Guevara of the Cuban Revolution and yet Malaysia dishonoured its own son and the treaty that it entered with the CPM. That is how dishonourable the Najib government behaved.

PM Najib also coined the slogan- Rakyat Di Dahulukan (People First). It was a beautiful slogan to show a caring and people oriented government. To demonstrate the government’s care and concern, the Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia (BRIM) was introduced as Najib geared up for  GE13. All kinds of asssistance and handouts were promised to bribe the Rakyat to vote for BN. Yet, immediately after winning the elections (and losing the popular votes), the Rakyat was burdened with price increases– from petrol price increase to tariff hikes in electricity, property assessments, tolls and all other kinds of tariffs. That is how PM Najib’s government betrayed the people. Rakyat didahulukan with all kinds of burdens!

Rosmah Mansor’s Opulence and Defiance

Rosmah and NajibWhen the Rakyat complained, PM Najib asked them to be thrifty, to be austere and so on, whereas all the while his domineering wife is jet-setting all over the world in a government jet, costing taxpayers to the tune of RM44 million. This did not yet take into account the numerous color Hermes and Birkin handbags (not the Shenzen or Petaling Street versions) that Rosmah Mansor is reputed to tot around costing not less than RM100 thousand each. She does not care what the Rakyat thinks about her lavish spending. Sheer defiance of public opinion.

Then, in a blatant display of grandiose and opulence, Riza Aziz, Rosmah’s son from an earlier marriage suddenly emerged in Hollywood as a big budget movie producer. The movie Wolf of Wall Street is nothing but sheer debauchery. I don’t give a hoot that it starred Leonardo Di Caprio or that it was directed by Martin Scorcesse. All I care is that there are enough stories out there in the Internet that Rosmah’s son is flaunting his very deep pockets to fund such big projects. The question on everybody’s mind is where did he get all that money? What is worse, the MACC chose not to investigate the young man.

With all these scandals surrounding his family, PM Najib has no moral authority to lecture the Rakyat about austerity when his wife and family display extreme opulence and questionable wealth.  Najib has no credibility to tell the Rakyat about how fortunate we are to be able to eat cheap kangkung when his family’s lifestyle of the rich and famous are posted all over youtube.

That is how sick the country is that leaders and those in authority cannot be trusted to take care of the Rakyat. And worst still when religion is used to rob people of their property. I read in the Malay Mail a case of the Pentadbir Tanah Daerah Batang Berjuntai conspiring with JAIS to rob a chinese company of its 26 acre land purportedly to build a mosque. I have not seen a 26-acre a mosque especially not in a kampung area like Batang Berjuntai. I became more interested when I saw that the lawyer acting for the chinese company is again Rosli Dahlan.

That makes me wonder if Rosli went to Makkah feeling guilty for acting against the religious authorities or if he was  seeking forgiveness and atonement because of all the condemnations he must be receiving for acting against the  likes of JAWI and JAIS which pretend to be the defenders and guardians of the Islamic faith. If that is why he is in Makkah, I have this to say to Rosli– don’t feel guilty. Seek justice and God will protect you.


Rosli should take it as his karma, taqdir, predestination or whatever you call it for him to be acting in such causes of justice without discriminating the race, color or religion of the oppressed party. That is what Islam is about- justice and compassion. And that’s  what our country and leadership are not. That is how sick our country is. We are at a crossroad where our professed islamic identity is made a mockery by the leadership and then aped by the Muslim mobs like PERKASA and ISMA.

Islam should be presented without any fanaticism. Without any stress on our having the only possible way and the others are lost. Moderation in all forms is a basic demand of Islam.

Islam should be presented without any fanaticism. Without any stress on our having the only possible way and the others are lost. Moderation in all forms is a basic demand of Islam.

That reminded me of the title of a book by renowned Islamic Scholar Muhammad Asad- “Islam at the Crossroads“. In case the likes of PERKASA, ISMA and their ilk are not aware, Muhammad Asad was born and raised as a Jew in Austria by the name of Leopold Weiss. So, one of Islam’s respected scholars of the recent century is actually a Jew! It was a Jew who correctly projected that Islam is at a crossroad. And I will borrow Asad’s title to say that Islam is indeed at crossroads in Malaysia. It is heading in the wrong direction because of politics of manipulation and subjugation by UMNO of Malay Muslims.

Remembering the Tunku

February 5, 2014

Remembering the Tunku Forum@ Memorial Tunku Abdul Rahman

by Wan Saiful Wan Jan (02-04-14)@http://www.thestar.com.my

tunku-abdul-rahmanThis Saturday 8 February marks the 111th birthday of Almarhum Tunku Abdul Rahman. Not only did he take our country to independence in 1957, he also led the coming together of four entities – Sabah, Sarawak, Singapore and Malaya – to form the Federation of Malaysia.

The Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) was launched on the same date back in 2010. We chose to launch IDEAS on the date of Almarhum Tunku’s birthday because we share the vision of this great Malaysian.

Back in 1957 in the Proclamation of Independence, and again in 1963 in the Proclamation of Malaysia, Almarhum Tunku affirmed that this nation shall remain as a democratic nation founded upon the principles of liberty and justice, and that the role of the state is to continuously seek the welfare and happiness of its people. IDEAS was founded to revive this very liberal vision of Almarhum Tunku.

Liberalism is not at all an alien concept to Malaysia. It is actually the philosophy that defined this nation when we were founded. It is our country’s founding philosophy. Some may have forgotten this, but a quick history lesson will tell us that that was what the Tunku proclaimed in 1957 and 1963 as the foundational principles of our country.

At IDEAS we have committed ourselves to reviving the Tunku’s ideals and vision. But we have been very careful to not fall into the trap of the typical “historical” approach. That is why we quote the Tunku only every now and then. Instead, what we want to do is to mainstream his vision in the context of contemporary challenges. We want his ideals to be implemented, not just quoted.

Now, as we prepare to hold a special event to commemorate the Tunku’s 111th birthday this Saturday, I can’t help but to wonder what he would say about Malaysia if he was still alive.

In a writing dated August 1975, he said “… there was too much emphasis being placed on Bumiputras, and not enough on Malaysians. Going about affairs this way makes it hard to instill Malaysian-mindedness in the hearts of the people. All the work being done to inspire patriotism among our polygenous population is being eroded as a result of this wrong approach.”

In 1983, he said “There are some, among the Malays, who want Malaysia to be a Muslim state. This would alienate the loyalty of non-Muslims as they would feel that they have no rightful place in Malaysia, being a State for Muslims alone. As the saying goes, a country divided must break apart and fall to pieces. Nobody wants this to happen to our country.”

In fact, some of his views are quite radical. He once even said “When I hear now of UMNO tdm1people shouting out at the top of their voices for Malay rights, it strikes me that the country is going back to where we started before Independence. It is a far cry from the time when we fought for our Independence and achieved success. So I think to myself, are we going ahead or are we slipping back?”

If he saw the increasingly aggressive tone used by some quarters in our society today, I doubt the Tunku would approve. Worse, I think he would be saddened to see the absence of leadership in defending the liberal values of tolerance and acceptance that he fought so hard to sow in our society.

As I reflect on what I observed over the four years that I run IDEAS, I must admit that I am becoming increasingly worried about the future of our country. Since Dato Sri Najib Tun Razak took over as Prime Minister, his administration focused on reforming the so-called low-hanging fruits. Now, it seems like the low-hanging fruits have all been plucked. The pace of reform is slowing down very quickly because there are political roadblocks everywhere. We are not moving forward as we should.In the midst of all that, PKR had just engineered an unnecessary by-election that is bound to stir emotions and create more rifts, when what we need is national reconciliation.

NAJIB_RAZAK_091213_TMINAJJUA_05_540_360_100We are in desperate need of leaders who are truly committed to reform the country. We need people who will ensure that Malaysia will progress and become a developed nation that is in line with what the Tunku envisioned – a nation based on liberty and justice that puts the happiness of its people as the primary aim. I am not sure who among our political leaders today really subscribe to these values

So, with that in mind, let me invite you to join us this Saturday, 8 February 2014, to commemorate the 111th birthday of Almarhum Tunku and the fourth anniversary of IDEAS. We are holding a free public event to mark this special day at Memorial Tunku Abdul Rahman, Jalan Dato Onn, Kuala Lumpur, from 9.45am.

Our theme this time is “Is the government serious about reform?”. I promise you that I will try my best to provoke the speakers – Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam, Tan Sri Ambrin Buang, Dato Seri Idris Jala and Dato Paul Low – to say something controversial!

More details can be found on our website (www.ideas.org.my). Do come early because seats are limited. But even if you cannot find a seat, the Memorial itself is worth a visit on this special day.

Two Tales of the Kajang By-Election: Defending the Right of Recall in Democratic Politics

February 4, 2014

Two Tales of the Kajang Foray

MY COMMENT: I present to you, my dear readers, two points of view of theDato Din Merican Kajang Foray. One is by Terence Netto, a journalist I respect for his insightful comments on Malaysian politics and civil society issues. He defends the right of recall in parliamentary democracy and puts up cogent arguments in support PKR ‘s decision to field Anwar Ibrahim in Kajang, as prelude to his being the next Menteri Besar, Selangor. Like Netto, I believe in that concept, and I see no wrong in PKR’s decision to nominate Anwar Ibrahim. I would also defend UMNO’s right to do the same, if the party decides to ask one of its state assemblymen to set aside for another nominee for strategic reasons. I see nothing sinister about making moves to strengthen one’s party.

The other article is written by Tunku Abdul Aziz who was a former DAP Vice Chairman and Senator for Penang. Since his resignation from DAP, he has taken upon himself to be a critic of his former political colleagues and their associates in PAS and PKR. The Tunku launches a personal attack on the person of Anwar Ibrahim, labeling him a “living conundrum”.

In addition, the former Senator says the Opposition Leader is “a restless soul who seeks deliberately and actively to create public anxiety, despair, alarm and despondency out of the peace and harmony our society has enjoyed for decades with little or no interruption”. One would have thought that this statement should apply to Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, who in recent months chose to remain aloof when UMNO supporters and religious functionaries played politics with race and religion. A Leader who chooses to use divide and rule tactics to gain political advantage deserves to be severely condemned by responsible Malaysians.

I have refrained from taking sides but when it comes to our democratic rights, my position is clear. Let the people of Kajang decide if they want Anwar or a candidate from UMNO-Barisan Nasional, or from Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) to represent them. I only hope that whatever the people of Kajang decide in a free and fair by- elections will be respected.–Din Merican

Reasons solid and subtle for Anwar’s candidacy

by Terence Netto(02-03-14)@http://www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT: Tonight Anwar Ibrahim and Khalid Ibrahim are scheduled to explain PKR’s decision to force a by-election for the Kajang state seat in Selangor at a ceramah.

Aware of the mostly negative vibes the decision has drawn from the public, the Opposition Leader and Selangor Menteri Besar have been forced onto the back foot. There they will stay if they do not put forward arguments more cogent than the ones adduced thus far by PKR Director of Strategy Rafizi Ramli, the decision’s principal proponent – by his own confession – and most ardent defender.

Last week, in the wake of the announcement that PKR Kajang assemblyperson Lee Chin Cheh had resigned and Anwar was to be fielded as substitute, Rafizi attempted to stem spiralling criticisms with an explanation of the reasons for this turn of events. He observed that Khalid had done well in administering the richest state in the country; and he would be prodded to do even better, said Rafizi, if Khalid has Anwar in reserve.

Rafizi (right) also said the move to field Anwar was also preemptive because he expected Najib Razak to become the second Prime Minister in succession to fall to UMNO curmudgeon Dr Mahathir Mohamed’s ‘chop and change PMs’ penchant.

This lopping off, Rafizi predicted, would be the start of a sustained and multi-pronged campaign to shake the Pakatan Rakyat government in Selangor to its foundations.

Selangor is the diamond in the 13-state Malaysian crown. Najib’s replacement was expected, on Mahathir’s promptings, to brook no restraint in the battle to oust Pakatan that would be waged by UMNO.

The MP for Pandan, the brightest talent in PKR’s constellation of second-tier leaders, said Anwar’s presence in Pakatan’s leadership cohort for Selangor would boost the coalition’s strength and resilience in the face of an expectedly marauding UMNO.
As a first term parliamentarian, Rafizi perhaps had not as yet heard of a principle of parliamentary democracy called the ‘right of recall.’ If he had, he would certainly have deployed it among the reasons he furnished for explaining PKR’s decision to force a resignation in a state ward held by the party and field their top leader for the vacancy.

The right of recall caters for the need of elected representatives to resign and pave the way for by-elections in times when combustible issues are flaring in the public arena.

Right of recall a legitimate resort

Since an election is a placebo for a democratic polity’s periodic distempers, the right of recall is a legitimate resort of elected representatives when combustible issues arrive at ignition point in the public arena.

This was what UMNO’s Shahrir Samad (left) did in August 1988 when he quit his JB parliamentary seat and forced a by-election in which he stood as an independent and won.

1988 was a fraught year in Malaysian politics. In May of that year, the Head of the Judiciary, Salleh Abbas, was removed as Lord President, a move he resisted, prompting impeachment proceedings presided over by the very judge, Abdul Hamid Omar, who stood to gain had Salleh been found guilty of the charges preferred against him by an international tribunal of judges.

In the event, Salleh was impeached and Abdul Hamid Omar took over, a sequence of events that – if one considered the spate of Internal Security Act detentions that occurred in October the previous year in which more than a hundred politicians and social activists were rounded up – constituted the most severe and sustained implosion to have occurred in Malaysian politics since the May 13 racial riots of 1969.

Shahrir’s exercise of the right of recall in August 1988 was that democratic principle’s most eloquent invocation in Malaysian politics in the post-May 13 period. His re-election in that poll conveyed the point that the then Prime Minister Mahathir’s dictatorial actions had incurred the ire of voters.

Shortly afterwards, the rules governing by-elections were amended to make them rather difficult to compel, a typically Mahathirian response – if he met a rule he didn’t like, he brought it to heel by amending it.

Lee Chin Cheh’s resignation as assemblyperson for Kajang comes at a time that is comparably fraught to the one that led Shahrir to resign and re-contest in August 1988. Unlike Shahrir, Lee is not re-contesting but is stepping aside so that his PKR party leader may be fielded. This is not an abuse of the right of recall. Lee knows Anwar is the more effective candidate for the fulfillment of the right of recall in the present situation.

Anwar is not just the PKR, but also the Pakatan leader most equipped to combat UMNO’s racially-and religiously-tinged campaign to polarise Malaysian society between UMNO-supporting right wing Malays and Opposition-favouring non-Muslims allied with autocracy-disdaining Muslims.

This polarisation was exacerbated by the decision of the Selangor Islamic Affairs Department (JAIS) to seize copies of Malay and Iban language Bible from the premises of the Bible Society of Malaysia on January 2.

Domestic cause celebre, with international overtones

JAIS’ action has ratcheted up tensions between Muslims and Christians in Malaysia which have been steadily rising since a legal battle over the issue of whether Christians can use the word ‘Allah’ in rituals of worship and faith education broke out in 2009.

The issue has become a domestic cause celebre, with international overtones. Anwar and his Pakatan colleague, PAS President Abdul Hadi Awang, have espoused the line that non-Muslims can use the word ‘Allah’ provided use of it is not abused.

If elected, Anwar’s presence in the Selangor state assembly and path to the MB’s position would enable him to bring his powers of persuasion and reasoning to bear on such councils as the Rulers’ Council, the annual conference of the nine hereditary rulers of states in the Malay Peninsula whose deliberations on matters of grave importance like judicial appointments and promotions and Malay reserve land issues can be of decisive import.

Malay reserve land is being sold by greedy cabals in UMNO rather cheaply to commercial interests. This is spreading disquiet in the Malay community, a feature that has not been adequately conveyed to the community’s ostensible guardians in the Rulers’ Council.

Sceptics may demur but Anwar is committed to the persuading arts. His candidature for the Kajang state seat will deepen and widen his access to opinion-making circles with high impact on policy.

In short, there are reasons solid and subtle for PKR’s pitching their iconic leader into the Selangor legislative fray.

Anwar’s Kajang Foray hard to fathom

LIVING CONUNDRUM: Tired and ageing opposition leader fast receding into political wilderness

Tunku AzizDATUK Seri Anwar Ibrahim is a restless soul who seeks deliberately and actively to create public anxiety, despair, alarm and despondency out of the peace and harmony our society has enjoyed for decades with little or no interruption.

With this self-proclaimed Renaissance man, there is no knowing what inexhaustible machinations are in his bag of tricks. Whatever they may be, we are invariably left wondering what he is up to.

Hard as I try, I cannot fathom the motives that drive him in directions that can only be described as bizarre. It would be laughable were it not so outrageously socially and politically repugnant to man’s higher and nobler instincts. This man is a living conundrum.

Adrian Lai of New Straits Times in his article of January 30 said “There must be a method in Anwar’s madness”, referring to the great man’s planned foray into Selangor politics via a forced by-election set against a background of personal intrigues for power however acquired.

I fail to see any method that Adrian gallantly credited Anwar’s blatant abuse of the democratic process with. I see instead a repeat performance of an ageing and tired political practitioner receding day by day into political wilderness of his own making.

Anwar has to realise that for all the grandstanding, all he is bringing to the Pakatan table is his nuisance value. By all accounts, the Kajang adventure may well turn out to be his last hurrah on a rickety political platform.

If further proof is needed of Anwar’s complete disregard and disdain for duty in the public interest, this latest onslaught against our democratic practices, processes and values is a prime example.

Anwar must be stopped in his path of national disunity and destruction, and the good citizens of Kajang who value a peaceful and secure Malaysia must apply the full weight and force of their democratic rights to put an end to Anwar’s barefaced and utterly shameless manipulation of people and events.

Let it be said and remembered in the years to come that Kajang was the place where the man who wanted so fervently to become prime minister by hook and by crook dug his own political grave.

In this, he is greatly helped by the viciously poisonous attacks against UMNO and, by extension (however disguised), the Malays, by chauvinistic fellow-travellers, and destructive elements squatting in opposition cyberspace who do not see any advantage politically in helping to unite the nation.

Malay-hating politics guaranteed big returns on investment as the 13th General Election clearly showed us. The prospect of a racially united Malaysia holds little appeal for the demagogues too long in control of parties covertly preaching the politics of hate. These outwardly multiracial parties cannot bear close scrutiny.

Anwar is rushing willy-nilly into another political one-upmanship by raising the spectre of racial disunity with his well-known trademark of creative exaggeration.

In asking for a meeting with the Barisan Nasional government to address this issue, he is attempting to create the spurious impression that the government has at no time done anything to improve race relations. Anwar, as we have come to expect, will seize every opportunity to play the blame game of Pakatan politics and claim credit at others’ expense.

The cabinet has agreed to formulate a national reconciliation plan and all Malaysians who love their country welcome this initiative. Naturally, I cannot say the same for the opposition.

I am not sure about the role Pakatan will play to advance the cause of sustainable national unity. However, the likes of DAP will not miss the opportunity to turn the reconciliation plan into a sordid political football, with a racial twist dragged in for effect.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is spot on when he dismissed any suggestion of bringing the opposition into any “sort of unity government”.This is clearly in keeping with the role of a responsible government acting as always in the best interests of the people of Malaysia. This can never ever be a shared responsibility.

Consultations on a broad front, and especially with non-partisan civil society organisations, must be given priority. If all the opposition is competent to do is to criticise every government initiative irrespective of its merit, then they really have no role to play in this vitally important plan to revitalise, re-energise and revive national unity.

To achieve this, the government on its part must put in train policies that are capable of uniting our people of diverse racial origins, towards creating a nation united in their affection and loyalty for the land of their birth.

It is obviously very much a work in progress that requires the total support of Malaysians of goodwill. Our needs in this important area of nation-building must take precedence over selfish political ambitions.

With or without Anwar’s unnecessary distractions, the process of national unity must go on. Are we up to this monumental challenge? Our future as a nation depends on how much we are prepared to give back to our country.

Power to Us, the People

February 2, 2014

Power to us, the people

zainahanwar2011by Zainah Anwar@http://www.thestar.com.my

Too many among us have kept quiet for too long while our democracy was being trampled. It is time now to stand up and be counted.

IT began with an attack on our culture and popular practices. From wayang kulit, mak yong, and mandi pantai, and then to yoga and poco poco, all deemed unIslamic and even banned in some states.

Then, it was ideas like pluralism, feminism, liberalism, secularism. They were all a threat to Islam. They were supposedly alien ideas, promoted by groups out to impose Western values on poor unsuspecting Malaysians.

Never mind that Malaysia has been a plural society whose diversity has been its strength for hundreds of years. Never mind that Islam was the first religion to give women rights unknown to other religions and cultures in the seventh century.

Never mind that the Government spends billions to educate thousands of Malaysians in the liberal secular West so that we can return home to prosper this country. Heck, never mind that our malls, cinemas, radio and television stations are overrun by Western brands and Western entertainment.

Facts will not get in the way of manufacturing enemies.Now it is groups of people that supposedly pose a threat to the nation. Comango, Bersih, Seksualiti Mer­deka, Hindraf, Shiahs, Ahmadiyahs, Christians, Chinese, liberal Muslims, apostates, LGBTs, tomboys, and demonstrators against price hikes. Who next?

Let’s not forget, too, the long list of Arabic words that pose a threat to Muslims should non-Muslims use them. And, oh yes, Kongsi Raya is a threat too, so is wishing Christians Merry Christmas.

The list just gets longer day by day, month by month. If it is not so alarming, it would have been laughable. That is why I fear that today in this country, we have forces that are systematically identifying and targeting groups and ideas, one by one, demonising them as enemies of the state, of Muslims, the Malays and the Sultans.

This scare tactic has been going on for years now and has escalated even further since the 2013 elections.Who is orchestrating this theatre of the absurd? Who are these people manufacturing threats and fears, and turning everyone with a different opinion, a different belief, a different lifestyle into enemies who should emigrate, be demonised, denounced and detained, and charged for imagined insults and offences against Islam, the King, the Sultans, the Constitution?

And Malaysia wants to be a developed nation by 2020? That’s only six years away. Where is the time and the energy to work hard to reach this status, when political leaders and their apparatchiks seem obsessed with making enemies of their fellow citizens? Who will be left to do the work?

What is the game plan here? I am bewildered as to where this leadership wants the country to go. Surely this is not the way to win support and votes.

There was a time when our political leadership wanted us to “duduk sama rendah, diri sama tinggi”. We aspired to be proud, confident, respected as equals.Now they want us to cower in fear of endless bogeymen. Does the Government realise what happens to the national psyche when citizens are pummelled with a daily dosage of fears and threats and new enemies to hate?

When certain government-controlled national media become instruments of fear-mongering and hate speech? When they represent only one point of view that serves the desperate political interest of one segment of the population to the exclusion of others? When hate speech purveyed by extremist individuals and groups are projected as the national discourse of a whole community because no other point of view is allowed to be heard?

This is a dangerous corrosive game of politics. We have seen how such bellicose hate language over the media and in the public square eventually led to conflict and outbreak of violence. Think Bosnia, think Rwan­da, think Gujarat.

As the political commentator Michael Ignatieff wrote, where language leads, conduct follows. Battle cries drown out democratic persuasion. By slow degrees, belligerence and self-righteousness make cooperation impossible, he asserted.

If our political leaders on both sides of the divide do not take immediate steps to put a stop to this dangerous escalating political game of race and religion under threat, then I fear the worst might happen. Already these agent provocateurs are priming for violence with the Molotov cocktails thrown at a church and banners designed to inflame conservative Muslim sentiments. Today, it is only my faith in the good people of Malaysia that gives me some hope.

The Christian community has decided to turn the other cheek to these provocations to maintain peace. Much as there are desperate politicians determined to lead us to the precipice and jump into the abyss of racial and religious conflict, we the people will not go there. We will not be pawns.

What is urgently needed today is a bipartisan approach to resolve all these issues of conflict, and to separate the real from the imagined.

Let me share this statement, as food for thought, which has been attributed to German theologian and social activist Martin Niemoller who criticised German intellectuals for keeping quiet while the Nazis purged one group of people after another:

“First they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out; Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out; Because I was not a Socialist.

“Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out; Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

“Then they came for me; And there was no one left to speak for me.”

So if our political leaders have neither the will nor the courage to do what is needed and what is right for this nation, then we the people must show them. We must show them we want to build bridges, live together, understand and respect each other. This is as much our country as it is theirs.

No, thank you, we don’t wish to emigrate. So we will not keep quiet. Too many among us have kept quiet for too long while our democracy was being trampled. It is time now to stand up and be counted.

We know that it is our heritage of pluralism and diversity that has been our strength. We will not let the politicians and their toadies kill this spirit and replace it with endless fears and threats to divide us for their short-term political gain. That is no future to live for in our beloved country.

While we the people believe there is a place in the sun for every Malaysian, I am amazed that those who are supposed to be our leaders feel there is space only for people who think and behave like them.In the end, who really is a threat to national unity and political stability?

Zainah Anwar is the internationally acclaimed and award-winning co-founder and former executive director of Sisters in Islam (SIS Forum) and the Co-Founder and Director of Musawah, a global movement for equality and justice in the Muslim family. She is a former member of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam). The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

Najib’s Days as Prime Minister nearing the End?

January 26, 2014

Najib’s Days as Prime Minister nearing the End?

by Asia Sentinel Correspondent (01-24-14)


Mahathir and his allies want to set a date for Malaysia’s Prime Minister to move out

Najib and His RoseJet setting in stead of Governing

Forces aligned with former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad appear to be attempting to push embattled Malaysian Premier Najib Tun Razak into giving a time frame for his eventual departure from office and naming a successor, sources in Kuala Lumpur say.

The sources say that successor could be hard-line Home Affairs Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, 61, who was once an ally of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim when Anwar was still in Mahathir’s government. Zahid is third in line for succession and his rise would bypass Muhyiddin Yassin, the current Deputy President of UMNO and Deputy Prime Minister, who is 66. Muhyiddin has said he will retire soon.

It should be noted that Najib operates from a position of relative invulnerability, given that both national and intra-party elections are out of the way, leaving him  secure at least until the next UMNO general assembly late this year. However, the scenario, the sources say, is similar to that forced upon Najib’s immediate predecessor, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who was pushed come up with a timeline in 2008 after the Barisan’s disastrous political showing in general elections. At that time, the ruling coalition lost its two-thirds majority in Parliament for the first time in history. The campaign to push out Badawi lasted from the May 2008 election until April 2009, when Najib took office.

Although Mahathir left office as Prime Minister in 2003, he has kept up a constant barrage ofDr M criticisms about the way the country has been run, quitting UMNO near the end of Badawi’s reign in supposedly outrage over party politics. He reawakened with force after the 2013 general election, charging that Najib’s election strategy of reaching out to the country’s 40 percent of minority voters was a mistake.

Najib is also under heavy public pressure because of rising prices due to the withdrawal of subsidies and other reasons, not least of which is dissatisfaction with the ostentatious behavior of his wife, Rosmah Mansor. He has also been widely criticized for being out of touch with the rakyat, or citizenry. He was ridiculed for saying that while some prices had gone up, the price of “kangkong [water spinach] has fallen but why don’t they praise the government?”

The drumbeat of anger over corruption in UMNO also continues, with the Mahathir forces alleging that vote-buying was used to deny Mahathir’s politician son Mukhriz a top position in last September’s UMNO party elections.

An increasing number of Mahathir’s long-time allies, including former New Straits Times Editor-in-Chief umno-tikam-belakangA. Kadir Jasin and Zainuddin Maidin, the former Information Minister, have called for the Prime Minister to take the 88-year-old Mahathir back into government as a “minister mentor” akin to what Lee Kuan Yew did in Singapore from 2004 to 2011 before ostensibly retiring from politics. Former Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin, another Mahathir ally, has also made public statements disparaging Najib’s premiership.

Mukhriz on Sunday gave an interview to the Malay-language newspaper Berita Harian, saying that “Defeat [in the next general election] is a real possibility if Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak continues with his present policy of correct but unpopular decisions, especially on issues concerning the rising cost of living.”

Mukhriz was subsequently slapped down publicly by Tengku Adnan Tenku Mansor, the UMNO Secretary General, and told to use party channels to express his concerns. Some sources in Kuala Lumpur say the move to return Mahathir to government is unlikely to succeed.

One UMNO source aligned with the Mahathir wing of the party, said the real game is getting Najib to move along.“The ball is in Najib’s court,” he said. “If he prefers war, he will get it.”

Zahid Hamidi has been regarded as something of a loose cannon. Once a close Anwar ally,Zahid HamidiX Zahid was arrested and held in prison along with Anwar in 1998. However, he later returned to UMNO saying Anwar had impelled him to raise allegations of cronyism and nepotism in the party.

Since becoming Home Affairs Minister, he has issued a number of incendiary statements against opponents who were unhappy with the political system after the Barisan lost the popular vote but held onto its majority in Parliament. He has threatened to crack down on opposition leaders, dissent and crime.

During a speech in Malacca, he was recorded as saying police should “shoot to kill” gangsters in a campaign to cut down violent crime. He has also become a lightning rod for making racially inflammatory remarks that have alienated the Chinese and Indian minority.

Stop being so easily offended to avoid political manipulation

January 22, 2014

Stop being so easily offended to avoid political manipulation

by http://www.malaysiakini.com

If Malaysians just stop being so easily offended, then politicians can’t exploit a slew of contentious issues to divide and rule the country, activists and NGO leaders asserted at a forum yesterday.

Sisters in Islam founder Zainah Anwar pointed to this as the source of hatred that justified the government’s often slippery defence of issues such as the ban on ‘Allah’ for non-Muslims, linking protests to racial riots, and more.

“We face a problem with right-wing voices,” Zainah said to a crowd of 300 in a packed hall at the Royal Lake Club in Kuala Lumpur.

“There is political value to publicly claim that you are offended, and there is reward – you get a meeting with the home minister, the government adopts your decision.”

She was speaking at a forum held in conjunction with the launch of retired Navy commander S Thayaparan’s book ‘No Country for Righteous Men and Other Essays on Culture of Offendedness’.

zainahanwar2011Such “offendedness” undermined even the prime minister’s own 1Malaysia agenda as it serves to demonise others who are different from you, Zainah (left) said, adding that the solution is then for the people to push for more decisive leaders who are not afraid to take a stand.

“Our politicians have to take leadership but they don’t – they are pandering to the gallery. They feel that they can gain by using race and religion,” she lamented.

Alternative views needed

Other speakers were associate professor at University Malaya Law Faculty Azmi Sharom, news portal The Malaysian Insider editor Jahabar Sadiq, and former Bar Council chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan.

Being fans of the Thayaparan book, which is a collection of his essays for Malaysiakini from 2011 to 2013, the speakers also agreed that more alternative views and open discourses can help Malaysians resolve the many issues confronting the country.

Pointing out those institutions which upheld a “Malaysian” society were broken after the rule of the first three Prime Ministers, Azmi (left) laid the blame on the silent majority.

“We let it happen and now we are bearing the bitter fruit. The first three Prime Ministers had some semblance of an understanding of democracy because they were all lawyers by training. Then came the fourth… and we let him run wild all in the name of economic progress,”Azmi said, to laughter from the audience.

“I don’t think this country is a basket case. Not yet. But an institutional revolution must happen, so that there will be alternative voices in the discourse.”

Meanwhile, Jahabar (left) described Malaysia as “a country of many bubbles.” “We drink from the same kool-aid, affirm each other’s opinions, and it dies there,” he said.

“We are already one country, we are Malaysians – only we don’t realise it because we just keep within our own bubbles. We have got to start thinking as Malaysians,” he pleaded.

Double standards

Another speaker, former BERSIH 2.0 chairperson Ambiga noted that racism and attacks against the Chinese and Christian minorities have increased in an unprecedented way since the 13th general election last year.

Ambiga (right) pointed out that Malaysia kept double standards – one for its international standing and another for domestic politics – by using the “exceptionalism” argument, referring to the article written by Malaysiakini columnist and former civil servant K.J John, who was the moderator of the forum.

“We cannot have have racism anywhere else in the world – we are the first to fight apartheid in Africa – but here it is allowed,” she said.

She slammed the government for championing human rights elsewhere through its position in the United Nations’ Human Rights Council but easily let it slip in Malaysia.

“There are classes of people who can walk the street and do what they want and nobody can touch them,”Ambiga decried. “They try to shut people up. That’s the one thing we can never give in to.”

In answering the question posed by the moderator, “Can Malaysia be 1Bangsa Malaysia?”, Ambiga answered tersely, “Yes, I saw it at BERSIH (rallies).”


A Wahhabi-inspired Malaysia?

January 12, 2014

A Wahhabi-inspired Malaysia?

by Josh Hong@http://www.malaysiakini.com

Malaysia used to be known as a moderate Islamic country, but heaven knows how long this will last.

harussani-zakaria1Looking at the way Perak Mufti Harussani Zakaria goes berserk at civil society and non-Muslim communities, to the point of urging a fatwa that it is ‘halal’ to shed the blood of those who participate in anti-price hike rallies, it does send chills down my spine.

Not only that, another Christian premise has been raided by the Selangor religious agency while the PERKASA clowns are emboldened by UMNO’s inaction to openly wage war with Christian Malaysians who have, for centuries, been calling their god ‘Allah’. One can only sigh and think the country is on the brink of a serious religious face-off.

In the midst of all this is the conspicuous silence of the Pakatan Rakyat leaders who seem to220px-Anwar_Ibrahim-edited believe speaking out against the verbal threats would only add fuel to the fire. No, you cannot make the situation worse by saying what is morally right, that is, to say politicians on both sides of the political divide must have the real courage to tell religious fanatics that it is against the teachings of any religion to establish hegemony over others, certainly not by sabre-rattling and chest-beating.

Not so long ago, UMNO began a crusade against the Shiites in Malaysia, ostensibly to ‘safeguard’ the integrity of the Sunnis, but those who are perceptive enough would know it was meant to discredit Mat Sabu, the Deputy President of the Islamic party who has been defending the rights of the religious minorities in this country.

I must say the choice of target – albeit despicable – has been a smart one, for the Muslim society in Malaysia generally adheres to  Wahhabism, the version of Islam as prescribed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the persecution of the Shiites in the Holy Land of Islam has been going on for decades.

Shias are restricted from government positions in the Kingdom, while some of Saudi’s religious leaders, such as Abdul Rahman al-Jibrin of the Higher Council of Ulama, have even sanctioned the killing of Shiites. Hence, if Shiism is depicted as a deviation while Saudi Arabia is upheld as the defender of the true faith of Sunni Islam, who in Malaysia would be bold enough to condemn the authorities for going after a weak minority?

And it is no secret also that Saudi Arabia has been vying for influence in the Middle East, with Shiite Iran as a potential rival.

Demonisation of Shiites continues

Just a few months ago, the world was bracing itself for a war to be launched by the United States against Syria, with Saudi Arabia as the biggest bankroller behind the scenes. But the ultimate target was not Damascus but Tehran, whose status the Saudis have been working strenuously and deviously to weaken to a pariah state.

Little wonder that Riyadh is livid over the Syria debacle, so much so that it has refused to accept a seat as one of the non-permanent members on the United Nations Security Council after years of campaign for one!

But there is no let-up in the drive to demonise the Shiites worldwide, nonetheless. The suppression of the Shiites has thus taken on an international dimension, although a vast majority of Muslim Malaysians would not have understood it as such thanks to UMNO brainwashing.

Of greater concern is the fact that the ruling family of Saudi Arabia has been using petro-dollar wealth, channelled through a vast network of charitable organisations to propagate its ideology.

If one real culprit must be found to be held responsible for the rise of religious extremism and terrorism, it has to be Saudi Arabia.

Together with other oil-rich Gulf states, Riyadh has been spreading Wahhabi beliefs and even training militants through madrassas in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Tajikistan, the Philippines and even Indonesia.

Paradoxically, the Saudis have been able to use its geopolitical importance and wealth to create an image of ‘moderation’, with Washington providing them with diplomatic, military and political covers. Is it not an astounding success that Saudi Arabia, where women are not allowed to drive and political opponents languish for years in jail, is still regarded as a ‘model’ Islamic state by many, especially Malaysia?

NajiboAnd Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak was no doubt too carried away to detect all the dangerous trends started by the Saudis as he was “pleasantly surprised” that roads were closed off for his visit to the kingdom recently.

As I wrote last week, the series of bombings in Volgograd were most likely aimed at undermining the upcoming Winter Olympics and weakening Russia’s international position following the latter’s successful mediations over the Syrian crisis, and now there is evidence that the terrorist attacks are linked to groups financed by Riyadh.

There would have been rounds of condemnations from around the world – including Malaysia – had a similar attack happened to the United States or other western countries. But because it is Russia (or China for that matter), the international response has been pathetic at best and hypocritical at worst.

In any case, the spate of religious incidents at the connivance of the Malaysian authorities has forced UMNO to take off the mask of moderation. Given the pervasive Saudi influence on Islam in Malaysia, I can only predict the situation to become more intolerable in the years ahead. Yes, you ain’t seen nothing yet and we may soon begin to miss a country that was once known as a melting pot of Asia.

A Vortex of UMNO’s own making threatens Malaysia

January 14, 2014

A vortex of UMNO’s own making threatens Malaysia

by Dr.Ooi Kee Beng

The C-3To every major flow of events, there is always a backflow, and the stronger that major flow, the greater the backflow.But unlike with water, social flows are not so easily read and one can easily mistake major flows for backflows, and vice versa.

In the case of Malaysia, the last 15 years have seen such profound changes that not only are a lot of scholarly books published before that now seem outdated and irrelevant, the same can be said of a lot of the politicking.

And in a last-ditch attempt by conservatives to preserve inter-ethnic divisions, religious controversies have suddenly exploded, poisoning public debate. This has shocked some and confused many others at a time when economic and social problems are looming larger.

So why is Islam being used so vigorously by certain factions to distress non-Muslims and divide Muslims? And why has the government been allowing it? To be sure, that is probably due to indecision on the part of the country’s top leadership, but this in itself is symptomatic of deeper ills that the government is conscious of.

After all, reforms have stubbornly been on the agenda of the ruling coalition since former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad retired in 2003. Now, the best way to distinguish the main flow from the backflow is to focus on the sociological transformations in Malaysia today.

These include urbanisation of the youthful Malay community; new media undermining old media control of public discourse; the widening of the income gap at a time when living costs are rising; the regionalisation of the labour market; the revival of civil society; and the rise of neighbouring countries as competitors for foreign direct investments. These factors boil down to a polarising battle between the two coalitions: Barisan Nasional (BN) and Pakatan Rakyat (PR).

Acceptance required

Breaking out of this stalemate will need some enlightened and innovative leadership. It requires acceptance by the ruling coalition, on the one hand, that it will never again wield as much power as it had enjoyed for 50 years; and acceptance by the Opposition that UMNO will remain a major party for a long time to come even if it loses power. Each has to realise that the other is here to stay.

Where the popular vote is concerned, the two are more or less equally strong at the moment. But one has been falling while the other has been rising — meaning that their respective view of what is happening is quite different from each other’s.

The BN is still suffering from a phantom sense of self-importance following curtailment of its power — the same way someone who has recently lost an arm will experience itching where his arm used to be.

The opposition fears that the strong support it presently enjoys may not continue growing; and that from now on, every new vote gets harder and harder to win. That is why Pakatan parties are trying to remain as proactive as possible and are planning to penetrate the semi-rural areas in states such as Johor, Sarawak and Sabah, where their best chances of gaining new votes lie.

Playing safe now could see them losing momentum. In contra-distinction to the racial and religious issues still favoured by UMNO, opposition parties will have to concern themselves with people empowerment, good governance and cost of living. After all, over the last 15 years, these have been the issues capturing the public imagination.

UMNO must manage backflow

As for the ruling coalition, its promises of reforms over the last 10 years have not appeared sincere enough to win it votes. Its meek attempts at transformation have instead worried internal peripheral factions enough for them to use provocation to change the game.

This treacherous backflow — which has gone from provoking the non-Malay community, to targeting non-Muslims Christians as religious enemies — is not something that UMNO or the country can afford to lose control over.

In this dangerous situation, the government needs more than ever to practise some backflow prevention. A backflow that muddies the waters too much will not necessarily reverse the flow — it will more likely generate a whirlpool that brings chaos instead.

That is not something anyone really wishes for.–www.themalaysianinsider.com

* Ooi Kee Beng is Deputy Director of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. His latest book is Done Making Do: 1Party Rule Ends in Malaysia (2013).