If Malaysians are not mature enough for debates, who’s to blame?

February 28, 2012

If Malaysians are not mature enough for debates, who’s to blame?

by Ipohgal Click Here

Sorry to disappoint you guys, MM is not Marilyn Monroe, America’s legendary sex symbol, the beautiful blonde that drove all men wild and crazy. Here, MM is the country’s fourth Prime Minister, the man we all loathed and wished he would just fade away.

MM said Malaysians are not mature enough for debates. He said debates would only make the situation worse as Malaysians were too sentimental and emotional to appreciate arguments that were presented rationally.

“The Malaysian public is not yet that mature. This is not America. And even in America, the debates only expose how stupid the candidates are, that’s all,” he told reporters at the Perdana Leadership Foundation in Putrajaya a few days ago.

Not mature enough means not fully developed or lacking the wisdom usually associated with adults. In other words, Malaysians, by and large, are still mentally inadequate. For this, we really have him to blame and thank for, in the same breath.

Mahathir Mohamad as Education Minister

In 1974, MM was made the country’s Education Minister. That was when the decline began. Bit by bit, this man started to dismantle the strong foundation of a very sound education system which we have inherited from the British who once colonized us. Step by step, he began to take away the core, the essence, the fundamental part of education; then molded it into a tool to serve his political needs.

First, the teaching of English is limited to one subject only and English Literature were relegated to the trash bin. He then politicized subjects like History and Moral Studies. Without us realizing it, he closed our windows to the world.

Instead of studying world history, we were forced to focus on local history and even then, we have to study distorted history, history not written by neutral historians but by those appointed by the Education Ministry to glorify the government. It was a torture to read about the government coined slogan “Bersih, Cekap dan Amanah” in Moral Studies when you can see corruption being practiced so openly among civil servants (and by politicians and the cronies) of all levels.

Political Control of Universities

Not satisfied with this, MM also enforced greater government control over Malaysian universities, despite very strong opposition from the academic community. He also moved to limit politics on university campuses, giving his ministry the power to discipline students and academics who were politically active and making scholarship for students conditional on the avoidance of politics.

All his evil plans were aim towards one motive – to stifle the intellectual growth of the populace. When we are stupid and ignorant, he can rule mighty over us. He does not want us to be smart and intelligent. In this way he could hold the grip longer. He managed to lord over us for 22 years (1981 to 2003) as Prime Minister, with iron fists and all the public institutions as well as the media at his disposal. Many of his opponents were banished off or put away behind bars without a fair trial.

The Lost Generation

I called those of us Malaysians who went to local government-funded schools after 1974 as “The Lost Generation” and I am among the first batch of “The Lost Generation.” I was only ten years old and in Standard Four when he became the Education Minister. His policies affected the quality of education that I received. It was not the all-round education which my much older siblings and those from their era received. What I had was a half-baked education. It was something that was neither here nor there, something which I was not proud of at all, something which could be a lot better if only a politician was not the person to dictate what I should learn in school.

Even today, my children are still trapped in his policies. They were the second batch of “The Lost Generation.” The things they are studying now are many times worse off than my time. What good knowledge can they get when there was a big “1Malaysia” logo on each of their textbook? How mature can they become when they are not allowed to think beyond their text books? How well-informed can they be when their History book said it was UMNO that got us our independence and we ought to be grateful to them?  How smarter can they grow when they are fed daily with poisons like “Rakyat Didahulukan, Pencapaian Diutamakan?”

Education as a Political Weapon

I believe that as long as our education is being used as a political weapon by those in power, Malaysians will never get to grow maturely, not now, not in another 55 years. We need to separate politics from education as much as we need to separate politics from religion and ethnicity too.

What good will the Twin Towers, the Formula 1 in Sepang or the Kuala Lumpur International Airport do when our minds were shackled?  Isn’t it ironic that the same man who gave us these “feels good” icons also took away the very basic human trait that we all have – mental development?

So, MM, can you blame Malaysians for not being mature enough? It all started with you, actually. What you should do now is simply hold back your vilest tongue and let others clean up the mess you have created!


MACC will be given more independence if…, says Najib

February 27, 2012

MACC will be given more independence if…, says Najib

by Kuek Ser Kuang Keng–www.malaysiakini.com

In view of a looming general election, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak today offered an election promise that should BN regain a two-thirds parliamentary majority in the next general election, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) will be given more independence.

najib putrajaya 280212An Anti-Corruption Service Commission, as suggested by the MACC advisory board, will be established to enable the anti-graft watchdog to have full control over its officials, including the power to appoint and sack them, he said.

“I agreed with the view of the MACC advisory board that to reflect to independence of MACC, an Anti-Corruption Service Commission should be created. This commission will be given the power to appoint and sack MACC staff.

“But this issue needs a constitutional amendment. God willing if BN is given a two-thirds mandate in the coming 13th general election, the constitutional amendment will be carried out and this service commission will be formed,” said Najib while officiating the Certified Integrity Officer Programme at Putrajaya today.

Draft bills may be made public

Elaborating, he said the commission will enjoy the same authority given to the current Police Commission and Education Commission, including the power to filter, choose, interview, appoint and sack their own staff, to ensure MACC has the specific talents to perform its duties.

“If it can be implemented, it will easier and more efficient for professionals who want to serve for MACC to do so,” he added. Currently MACC’s human resources is under the purview of the Public Services Commission, the same as all other government agencies.

Among other matters being considered by the government, Najib said, was the status of the MACC chief commissioner, which may be upgraded to a post stipulated in the constitution such as the posts of attorney-general, auditor-general and judges, to ensure independence and transparency.

Apart from giving more teeth for MACC, Najib also announced that the government, in line with the principle of transparency and public participation, is mulling to publish all draft bills on ministerial websites for public scrutiny and feedback before they are tabled in the Parliament.

“This will eliminate the public and international perception that there is law which only takes account into the interest of certain quarters,” he added.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard wins by a record margin

February 27, 2012


Kevin Rudd loses to Julia Gillard

Julia Gillard Defeats Kevin Rudd by an Impressive Margin

KEVIN Rudd’s 18-month bid to regain the Labor leadership has been smashed after he lost a ballot against Julia Gillard by a record margin.

Addressing the media after the ballot, Mr Rudd presented himself as a healer of Labor’s wounds as he committed himself to serving Prime Minister Julia Gillard. And he confirmed expectations by declaring he would not quit Parliament as Julia Gillard pledged to focus on voters and not the “ugly” bickerings of the Labor Party as she attempted to convince the electorate the days of distraction were over.

“I can assure you that this political drama is over and you are back at centre stage where you should properly be,” the Prime Minister told reporters in comments aimed at the general electorate.She said getting on with the work would win the 2013 election.

Rudd’s goodbye

There were no tears as Mr Rudd (left) accepted he was not prime minister, unlike on June 24, 2010, when he wept during his farewell from the office. He said he accepted without qualification his 31-71 loss to Ms Gillard in this morning’s caucus ballot.

“I congratulate Julia on her strong win today,” Mr Rudd said. “The caucus has spoken. I accept the caucus’s verdict without qualification and without rancor.” He thanked his supporters and made special mention of his enemies. “For those who have been a little more willing in their public character analysis of me in recent times, could I say the following?” he said.

“I bear no grudges, I bear no one any malice, and if I have done wrong to anyone in what I’ve said or in what I’ve done, to them I apologise.Time, in fact it’s well past time, for these wounds to heal. Because what we in this Government and this party and this movement are wedded to is a higher purpose.Our purpose is to serve the nation, not ourselves.”

Mr Rudd left the press conference with his family and without taking questions from reporters. He will now sit on the backbench with his promise not to instigate a challenge again, and Ms Gillard can expect to lead her party to the election scheduled late next year.

Gillard’s new mission

Meanwhile Ms Gillard said it was time for the Government to get back to focusing on the Australian people. The PM said she was impatient to use her renewed authority from today’s ballot to deliver more policies for the Government.

“Impatience is what I feel, I’m restless to get on with it,” she said. In her most confident language for weeks Ms Gillard added: “I intend to be a forthright advocate for the Government’s policies. So settle in.”

Ms Gillard also paid tribute to former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd and claimed an overwhelming victory despite complaints by Labor MPs who “read the tea-leaves of opinion polls”.

She said Mr Rudd and his family were having ”a very tough day indeed”. “I want to say to Kevin Rudd, in the days that lie beyond, as a nation, as a Labor Party we must honour him and his many achievements as Prime Minister,” she said.

Ms Gillard said she had told “a truth that needed to be told” about events surrounding Mr Rudd’s removal as Prime Minister in June, 2010 but did not intend to repeat them, a reference to savage criticism of how her predecessor ran a “dysfunctional” government.

She accepted Mr Rudd’s assurances he would not challenge her from the back bench. The two shook hands and spoke briefly and privately together soon after the ballot result was announced.

But the Prime Minister’s most important chat was with an electorate which might still doubt her legitimacy as head of government. “The last week has seen us, the men and women of the Labor Party, focused inwards, focused on ourselves,” Ms Gillard said.

“At times it’s been ugly. I understand that. But as a result, Australians have had a gut-full of seeing us focus on ourselves. I understand the frustration of Australians in seeing us do that.So today I want to say to Australians one and all: This issue, the leadership question, is now determined.You, of the Australian people rightly expect a government to focus on you, for you to be at the centre of everything government does.”

Abbott wants an election

The victory comes as Tony Abbott (right) asked independent MPs whether they have confidence in Julia Gillard “given the bloodletting” of the leadership contest. The Opposition said he was “formally” asking the cross-bench MPs to declare their views, but stopped short of saying he would mount a no-confidence motion in his own name. He said 72 members of the Coalition and 31 members of the Labor caucus had no confidence in Ms Gillard.

“The challenge is to get them, and to get some of the independents to vote that way in the Parliament,” he said.

“I formally request the independents to state their position on whether they have confidence in this Prime Minister, given the bloodletting the Labor Party has engaged in over the last few days.”

The vote

Earlier, there was relief on the faces of members and senators as they emerged from the vote, returning officer Chris Hayes, MP for Fowler said. Ms Gillard strode from the meeting flanked by Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer Wayne Swan, a key destroyer of Mr Rudd’s campaign, and Trade Minister Craig Emerson.

Mr Rudd will now not only have to deal with the loss of his prized foreign affairs portfolio but also the brutal message coming from the overwhelming rebuff from his colleagues.

Prime Minister Gillard, who ousted Mr Rudd in June 2010, will have her own recovery program to complete.

She will have to unite a team which includes five senior ministers who believe she is not the best option to win the election scheduled for late next year. Ms Gillard also will have to face a rampant Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, who is certain to use the five days of infighting against the Prime Minister.

Ms Gillard’s 40-vote margin victory tally was a record. Since 1982, the biggest margin of defeat in a Labor leadership contest was 24 votes when Simon Crean defeated Kim Beazley in June 2003. The previous highest tally was the 58 won by Mr Crean in that contest.

After the count was announced, Mr Rudd and Mr Swan shook hands. It was a tense moment for the two Queenslanders, who both went to Nambour High School but have never been friends.

Mr Rudd congratulated Ms Gillard in a brief speech towards the end of the meeting and said he would not challenge her again.

Lindsay MP David Bradbury, who had jokingly offered to get a Julia Gillard tattoo to prove his support for her, today said the meeting ended with “a positive spirit” but acknowledged it had been a traumatic experience.

Mr Rudd gave a “gracious speech” after the ballot, said Government Whip Joel Fitzgibbon, who described the result as decisive. “It was tense. These leadership battles can be quite traumatic for many,” Mr Fitzgibbon told SkyNews.

“Old friendships and loyalties are tested. But it was co-operative and I think everyone left the room very pleased that it is now behind us and we can get on with the important matters for the Government.”

He said Mr Rudd had acknowledged the decisive nature of the vote. “He made it very, very clear in that speech that he’d be going to  the back bench to do whatever he can in a positive way to help us to win the next election.”

Raking in the Bounty of FELDA’s IPO

February 27, 2012

Raking in the Bounty of FELDA’s IPO

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

In the run-up to the Initial Public Offering (IPO) of FELDA Global Ventures Holdings (FGH), there is little, in fact no discussion on how the exercise would benefit FELDA settlers. Surely that should be the foremost consideration. The only criterion upon which to judge the wisdom or success of any FELDA initiative, including this proposed IPO, would be to assess its impact on the settlers.

Instead the focus has been on bragging rights, as with trumpeting FGH to be the biggest IPO for the year, among the top 20 on the KLSE, and the world’s biggest plantation company. Such milestones are meaningful only if achieved as a consequence of the usual business activities and not through fancy paper-shuffling exercises.

Apple recently surpassed Microsoft in market capitalization, but that was the consequence of Apple’s much superior products like iPads, iPods, and iPhones. Contrast that with earlier achievements of such now-defunct financial giants as AIG and Lehman Brothers that were based on fancy “financial engineering” instead of solid products and services.

Instead of delineating the potential benefits that would accrue on the settlers from this IPO, its proponents are content with dismissing the critics and imputing evil motives on their part. There are legitimate concerns that this exercise would prove to be nothing more than yet another fancy scheme for the politically powerful to cash out on a lucrative but under-priced government asset. We already have many ready examples of such greed.

NFC Saga

Consider the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) “cowgate” mess involving considerably much smaller sum of money. Despite the presence of high government officials on NFC’s board to safeguard the government’s interest, NFC’s senior managers still managed to subvert those publicly-subsidized loans to purchase luxury condominiums totally unrelated to the company’s activities.

This oversight failure reflects both the incompetence of the government’s representatives in discharging their fiduciary responsibility, as well as the lack of integrity on the part of NFC’s management.

Such despicable omissions and spectacular failures are not unique only to NFC; they are endemic in government-linked corporations. Thus Malaysians have good reasons to believe that FGH would be no exception once the money starts rolling in.

It also does not escape the public’s attention that the man helming FGH, and thus whose hands would be at the till once the billions start pouring in from the IPO, is one Isa Samad, a former UMNO Vice-President. Not any VP however, but one who was found guilty by his party of “money politics” and subsequently suspended. UMNO is no paragon of virtue; to be found guilty by it would be akin to being called a slut by hookers. You have to be disgustingly gross.

Najib is a Poor Judge of People(?)

It would be easy to blame Isa Samad. The bigger question, and one that has yet to be answered, is why did Prime Minister Najib choose such a shady character to helm this major corporation? That is as much a reflection of Najib as it is on Isa.

Peruse FGH current corporate structure. It has nearly over a hundred subsidiaries, associated companies, and joint ventures, many with overlapping functions, markets and products. Those units are created less in response to commercial needs, more to create opportunities for senior civil servants to be appointed to the many governing boards, and thus garnering extra income in the form of directors’ fees, in addition to their regular civil service pay. Ever wonder why these GLCs lack effective oversight and our government departments are shoddily run? You would think that their regular government jobs, diligently executed, would keep them fully occupied.

A more sinister reason for these GLC directorships is that they are an effective trick to trap the loyalty of civil servants. Be too critical of the idiotic ideas of your political superiors and you risk being left out on those lucrative board appointments. With Isa Samad, it is also a case of Najib buying Isa’s silence, for reasons best known only to the pair.

Corrupting A Noble Initiative

FELDA was the crown jewel of Tun Razak’s imaginative rural development scheme. It was to provide land to otherwise landless villagers, the equivalent of land grants homesteading to early American settlers. The other reason was to encourage Malays to undertake an internal migration of sorts by uprooting them from their tradition-bound villages to begin a new life unencumbered by prevailing non-productive cultural practices.

With the expertise of and financing from the government, those villagers would develop hitherto virgin jungles into productive rubber and palm oil plantations, with those settlers eventually getting title to their holdings. At about 14 acres each, those units were definitely economically viable. To make sure that those lands would survive the next and subsequent generations and not be endlessly subdivided, the settlers had to agree to dispense with their usual Islamic inheritance practices. Meaning, the property would be inherited by only one of the children.

The surprise was the absence of howling protests from the ulama to this clear departure from Islamic inheritance practices as everybody saw the wisdom of the move; to maintain the economic viability of these holdings.

If this IPO were to enhance the condition of the settlers, then it should be supported. FELDA is meant to serve the settlers, not the other way around. Isa Samad had it backwards when he dismissed the concerns of the settlers as voiced through their cooperatives.

In response to the settlers’ concerns, Isa suggested a portion of the proceeds be placed in a “Special Purpose Vehicle” specifically to meet their needs. Unfortunately he did not provide the specifics. Consequently this SPV risks degenerating into yet another honey jar to be passed around among the politically powerful bears.

In my forthcoming book, Liberating the Malay Mind, I put forth ideas on how to maximize the use of these GLCs in improving the lot of Bumiputras. The focus should be on investing in people – human capital – not companies.

Companies are subject to business cycles; they can also be ruined by incompetent and corrupt managers. All you would be left with then are worthless stock certificates. Where is Bank Bumiputra today? Malaysia Airlines is in no great shape either, despite the billions expended through SPVs and other accounting gimmicks.

Invest in our people instead; the skills and knowledge they acquire would stay with them to benefit society through good and bad times. Thus I suggest selling these GLCs and putting the proceeds into an escrow account for the sole purpose of investing in and developing Bumiputra human capital.

Bringing the issue specifically to FGH, I would commit a third of the IPO proceeds to a special fund to be used to develop the human capital of the settlers and their children. That money would be used to air-condition their schools, build adequate laboratories and libraries, and to bring qualified teachers especially in English, science and mathematics. If you want the children of those settlers to be other than penorakas (homesteaders), the best route would be to provide them with superior education. That means their schools and teachers should be among the best; today they are among the worst.

I would use the funds to enrich the curriculum as with providing music classes. I would go further and provide free musical instruments and after-class music lessons, modeled after Venezuela’s highly successful El Sistema initiative. New York is modeling a similar Harmony program with its low-income students, and this week those students had the thrill of their lifetime when their orchestra was conducted by Placido Domingo. Gustavo Dudamel, the young conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, is a product of El Sistema, a tribute to Venezuela’s investment in human capital.

Similarly I would use the IPO funds to mechanize the operations on these plantations. Today palm nuts are still harvested in the same labor-intensive and back-breaking ways as they were 50 years ago; there is little innovation or mechanization. I fail to see why FELDA engineers could not design harvesting machines and trucks with hydraulic lifts like those used by utility repair workers to fix broken lines. Only through mechanization could the workers’ safety and health could be assured, and their productivity enhanced.

If through this IPO the lives of those FELDA settlers and their children were to be made better, then the initiative would find many ready supporters. What many fear is that this IPO would prove to be nothing more than a windfall for the likes of Isa Samad so they could acquire their luxury condos, fancy cars, and trophy wives.

Najib’s Divine-Inspired Bid to further boost ties with the US

February 27, 2012

Najib’s Divine-Inspired Bid to further boost ties with the US

By Paul Gabriel

Malaysia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva Datuk Othman Hashim has been nominated to be the new Ambassador to the United States.

The senior career diplomat is said to be the only one considered to replace Datuk Seri Dr Jamaluddin Jarjis, who has returned following a two-and-a-half year stint in Washington.

Dr Jamaluddin will serve as Special Envoy to the United States with his ministerial ranking retained.

Diplomatic officials said the US State Department had already granted agreement to Othman’s appointment.Othman had previously served as deputy head of mission in China, ambassador to the Czech Republic and Wisma Putra Deputy Secretary-General (1) before his posting to Geneva in 2009.

His nomination will restore a career diplomat’s posting to the United States after the political appointment of Dr Jamaluddin, a former minister who is the Rompin MP.

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said he was confident that Othman would do well in Washington, adding that his UN experience in Geneva would be crucial. “We thought that Othman was the right man for the job and the Prime Minister gave his approval,” he told The Star.

Othman will receive his credentials fr om the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and a date would be set for him to present them to President Barack Obama at the White House.

Anifah thanked Dr Jamaluddin for performing his tasks with distinction, saying his services were still needed as special envoy. “He has done a great deal in furthering Malaysia’s interests in the US and has helped put our relations on a firmer footing,” he added.

Dr Jamaluddin pledged to complement the new Ambassador’s efforts to break new ground with the United States.“I thank the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister for the continued trust placed on me and will continue to do my best in my new role,” he added.

On Muhammad Asad’s ” The Message of the Quran”

February 26, 2012

On Muhammad Asad’s ” The Message of  the Quran”

by Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa, Director,Islamic Renaissance Front

Assalamu’alaikum warahmatullah

Allow me to take all of you down my memory lane so that the effort in translating and presenting Muhammad Asad’s “The Message of the Qur’an” is well appreciated.

Let me start by saying that my quest to read and understand the message in the Qur’an as it was supposed to be read and understood has been a life-long journey.

I started reading the Qur’an systematically at the age of 13, at that time more because it has been a ritual for me and many of my friends who frequented the local mosque in Kelawei, Penang. Completing the entire Qur’an during Ramadan was a must and we’re competing among each other to ensure that we will complete the task before the new moon of Syawal was sighted.

I was 15 when the entire country was swept with the euphoria of the Islamic Revolution of Iran. The rejuvenated spirit at that time was so immense that not even the recent Arab Spring is comparable to how the revolution waves hit and transformed many young hearts at that time.

It was during that time that even the Islamic Party (PAS) young firebrands disposed of their existing leader and emulated the Iranian style “Vilayat-e-faqih”. The eagerness to understand the words of God was so intense at that time that I ended up buying an Indonesian translation of the Qur’an by Prof Hasbi as-Siddiqi.

It was the first Qur’an with translation that I read for the years to come and keep until today. What stimulated me to read the Qur’an intently to understand the underlying message was none other than the experience I had at Yayasan Masriyah in Bukit Mertajam when I followed a Tamrin organized by the Islamic Youth Movement of Malaysia (ABIM).

During the Tamrin, I was exposed to a very influential Islamic movement in the Middle-East, Egypt in particular: al-Ikhwan al-Muslimum (The Muslim Brotherhood). It was during this time when I was exposed to the thoughts and methodology of da’wah of al-Imam asy-Syahid Hassan al-Banna. It was then when I first learned about Ma’alim fi at-Tariq (Milestones) by asy-Syahid Sayyid Qutb.

On the first chapter of Ma’alim fi at-Tariq, Sayyid Qutb discussed about the Qur’anic generation. It was the generation of the sahabah, the companions of the Prophet.  The entire premise of Milestones lies on a basic tenet of educating and motivating the potential vanguard of the re-Islamization movement. The book was written in order to re-orientate the Muslim minds in such a way that it could inspire the masses with a transformative revolutionary consciousness as inspired by the Qur’an. First and foremost was the clear spring from which the first generation of Muslims quenched their thirst.

The spring from which the companions of the Prophet drank was only the Qur’an, and only the Qur’an; as the hadith (sayings) of the Prophet were offspring of this fountainhead. The Qur’an was the only mold in which they formed their lives.

It was according to the well thought-out plan to prepare a generation pure in heart, pure in mind and pure in understanding. Their training was to be based on the method prescribed by God who gave the Qur’an, purified from the influence of all other sources.

The method described by Sayyid Qutb in creating the Qur’anic generation was similar to the method of the first generation. They read only a few verses, probably ten at most, and the they refected upon the verses and transformed their beliefs, understanding and actions according to those verses.

About the same time, I read Tafsir Surah al-Fatihah by asy-Syahid Hassan al-Banna where he strongly encouraged every Muslim to read and try to understand the Qur’an using the God given faculty. He recalled the verse: “And as for those who strive hard in Our cause – We shall most certainly guide them onto paths that lead unto Us” [al-Ankabut 29: 69]

It was then that I made it compulsory upon myself to consistently read the Qur’an every day after Maghrib prayer, at least an “’ain” or approximately ten verses and contemplate upon the meaning. I still remember, after two years of my persistent effort, at the age of nineteen, I managed to complete the entire Qur’an and the meaning finally, on one cold winter night. On that night I paused and recollected the important themes of the Qur’an.

Among the most important message that I understood, was the humane nature of the Prophet. He has no supernatural power and definitely not a supernatural being. Surprisingly this important concept was never emphasised before in my life. In Surah al Kahfi verse 110, God says: “Say [O Prophet]: “I am but a mortal man like all of you. It has been revealed unto me that your God is the One and Only God”. [al-Kahfi 18: 110]

This understanding would later turn out to be the most important premise in the evolution of my thought process in the future.

 My next task was to read a more detail explanation of the texts. That was when I got acquainted with two important Tafsirs available at that time in Malay, Tafsir an-Nur by Prof Hasbi as-Siddiqi and Tafsir al-Azhar by Prof Hamka. Coincidentally, just like Hassan al-Banna, Hasbi as-Siddiqi and Hamka were both students of the greatest reformer of the 20th Century, Imam Muhammad Abduh. Reading the Tafsir was accompanied by reading dozens of books on the Sciences of Hadith and Fiqh mainly by the students of the Reformist School of Muhammad Abduh like A. Hassan, Munawar Khalil, Isa Ansari and Hasbi as-Siddiqi; to name just a few.

One of the most important principles of Abduh’s thought is the struggle to reconcile reason (‘aql) and revelation (wahy). The relationship between reason and revelation has been the most problematic issue since the early Islamic centuries.

According to Abduh, “reason” and “revelation” cannot come into conflict with one another, because religion and science are the twin sources of Islam, and that they are active in different areas.

 Therefore, “reason” (‘aql) according to ‘Abduh, is the closest friend of revelation as it helps man understand the sacred texts. If man cannot use ‘aql properly, he remains incapable of showing due respect to God who created him.

A few years passed by before I stumbled across the most important interpretation of God’s word on this matter when I read the book “Islam at the Crossroad” by none other than Muhammad Asad.

 In the chapter About Education” Asad clearly emphasizes that the Qur’an is full of exhortations to learn “so that you may become wise”, “that you may think”, and “that you may know”.Asad also emphasizes on the importance of “reason” in his elaboration of the verse: “and He imparted unto Adam the names of all things”. [al-Baqarah 2: 31]

The Arabic term “ism” (name) in the verse implies according to all philologists, an expression “conveying the knowledge  (of a thing). According to Asad, in philosophical terminology, it denotes a “concept”.

The subsequent verses show that owing to his God-given knowledge of those “names” or conceptual thinking, man is, in certain respect, superior to the angels. The “names’ are a symbolic expression for the power of defining terms, the power of articulate thinking which is peculiar to the human being and which enables him, in the words of the Qur’an, to be God’s vicegerent (khalifah) on earth.

Clearly the attitude of Muslims nowadays who have the tendency to resort to literal interpretation of “texts” (nas), and refuting anything that falls within the realm of “reason” contributes to the stagnation and decaying condition of the ummah itself.

 This articulation in “Islam at the Crossroads” had a very profound effect on my mind and my soul. It answers the question that I have been asking myself all these while. What was it that was so special about being a mortal being, with temptations and definitely not free from committing sins to be more superior than the ever obedient angels.

The sudden enlightenment led me to search for “The Message of the Qur’an”. It answers many difficult questions that I have regarding this religion especially on the issues of pre-destination, the doctrine of abrogation (an-nasikh walmansukh), whether the Qur’an is time-bound or timeless , the seemingly contradictory verses of the Qur’an with modern science and other pertinent issues. Throughout the pages of “The Message of the Qur’an”, I found the answers to the questions that have been bugging my mind.

The most precious knowledge that I gained was the reformist agenda of Muhammad Abduh was even much clearer when I read “The Message”. The main problem to many Muslims nowadays is whether Islam would find a way to devise a system between faith and modernity.

A century ago, Muhammad Abduh had argued that while certain aspects of religion would remain immutable especially those concerning ibadah (worship) and aqidah (creed) or known as ath-thawabit (the immutables), however issues of governance should be addressed through human reason since they fall under the realms of al-mutaghaiyyirat (the changing).

It was Abduh’s reformist agenda and rationalism then, with its emphasis on reason (‘aql) and God’s justice (‘adl), which seemed as if it might be able to ground a dynamic Islamic theology capable of successfully meeting the challenges of modernity.

 Alas, what we see today, these promising attempts were thwarted by the rise of the literal Salafis and its ramifications.

 One of the main principles of Abduh’s reform agenda is asserting a claim to “renewed interpretation” (ijtihad)” of Islamic law based on the requirements of “social justice” (maslahah) of his own era. According to Abduh, where there seems to be a contradiction between “texts” (nas) and “social justice” (maslahah), then social justice must be given precedence.

Abduh supports the principle based on the notion that Islamic law was revealed to serve, inter alia, human welfare. Hence, all matters which preserve the well being of the society are in-line with the objectives of the syari’ah and therefore should be pursued and legally recognized.

Abduh believed that independent thinking  (ijtihad) would enlarge the scope of knowledge because most of the aspects of human welfare (mu’amalat) can be further elaborated with the use of reason (‘aql).

He pointed out that since fiqh means “understanding”, whoever makes a legal decision on the basis of the literal meaning of the text only, without understanding the spirit of the law (ruh al-Shari’ah) is not a jurist (faqih).

 ln this regard, he re-introduced the legal maxim “inna al ‘ibrata bi al-maqasid wa al -ma’ ani  wa bi alfaz wa al-mabani”- the consideration is to be given to the intentions and meanings, not to merely words and the phrases.

Consequently ‘Abduh also opposed the literal (zahiriyah) trend and understanding of the text without recourse to reason.

Abduh justified his use of ijtihad on the basis of the following Qur’anic verse: “And strive hard in God’ s cause with aIl the striving that is due to Him: it is He who has eIected you (to carry His message], and has laid no hardship on you in [anything that pertains to] religion.” [Al-Hajj 22:78].

 It was this reform agenda of Muhammad Abduh that was clearly explained by Asad while interpreting the verses of the Qur’an.Considering that the reform agenda is the “raison d’etre” of the Islamic Renaissance Front, it is our obligation then to make the intellectual basis of our organization reacheable to the majority Malay speaking Muslims in our country.

We believe that as the world continues to change, and true to the spirit of reform and renewal, there is a requirement for a second look at the Qur’an and other Islamic texts.

Speech during Book Launch Event of Risalah al-Qur’an at the Islamic Arts Museum on 26 February 2012