February 8, 2014
Islam At the Crossroads in Malaysia
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.
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.
Ex-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
In 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
Then 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” 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
When 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.
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.