On Hudud: Honour Our Constitution (Article 4)

May 31, 2014

On Hudud: Honour  Our Constitution (Article 4)

Dato’ Noor Farida Ariffin
Kuala Lumpur


Dato Noor FaridaIn light of Muhammad’s strict injunction to Muslims to honour the treaties that they have entered into, let me urge UMNO members to search their conscience and state whether they would be prepared to abandon the fundamental provisions of the Federal Constitution in favour of PAS’ hudud law, in clear violation of the Constitutional Agreement and the teachings of Islam.–Dato’ Noor Farida

MUCH has been said on hudud and Pas’ latest attempt to foist hudud law on Muslims in Malaysia. PAS, as usual, is using moral and religious blackmail to convince gullible Muslims with a shallow understanding of Islam, including some in UMNO, that support of hudud is the sacred duty of believers.

When the Kelantan State Assembly passed the Hudud Bill on Nov 25, 1993, the Deputy Mentri Besar, in answer to the question whether people had accepted the state Government’s plan to implement the hudud laws, made the incredible announcement that the question did not arise as Muslims in the State who rejected the laws would be considered murtad (apostate)!

And all this while we Muslims have been taught to believe that only Allah has the prerogative to determine who is a believer and who is not! This is a blatant example of a political party distorting religion to suit its political agenda.

As a believing, practising Muslim, after studying the writings of respected Muslim scholars on this subject, I am of the view that Muslims should reject PAS’ hudud law without fearing that they are going against Islamic teachings.  Hashim Kamali, a professor of law at the International Islamic University, has published a detailed analysis of the PAS Hudud Bill from the perspective of the Quran, the Hadith (traditions of Muhammad) and the opinions of the Companions of the Prophet.

The professor has concluded that “the Hudud Bill of Kelantan has failed to be reflective either of the balanced outlook of the Quran or of the social conditions and realities of contemporary Malaysian society”.

A case in point, which has given rise to concerns among women’s groups, is that the PAS Hudud Bill is totally silent over the problem of rape. While the Bill addressed the subject of zina (illicit sex), it did not mention rape at all.

To prove zina, the rape victim must produce four male witnesses. If she fails to provide the necessary proof, then she herself would be liable to the punishment of qadhf (slanderous accusation of zina). Obviously, this will result in victims of rape being punished and perpetrators being let off scot-free!

Notwithstanding the fact that this clause in the Hudud Bill has been the focus of public criticism and debate, Pas has stubbornly refused to amend it.

What is even more alarming is the much-criticised provision that “circumstantial evidence, though relevant, shall not be a valid ­method of proving a hudud offence”. Therefore, material and scientific evidence, like semen stains, vaginal swabs, blood samples, scratch marks, genetic fingerprinting, DNA samples, etc, are not admissible methods of proof in zina. This will clearly result in injustice to rape victims.

The reason for this inexplicable rejection of scientific, medical evidence may be that they were not available during the time of the Prophet. Yet Prophet Muhammad himself urged Muslims to seek knowledge “even if they have to travel to China to acquire know­ledge”. Yet Pas rejects medical and scientific advances which human civilisation has achieved since the ninth century.

Many prominent Muslim scholars have opined that the application of hudud as an isolated case without providing the necessary context and environment is not only unrealistic but is more likely to produce the opposite results and frustrate, ­rather than satisfy the Islamic vision of justice and fair play.

In addition, they emphasise that the Hadith which is also a legal maxim, provides that hudud must be suspended in doubtful situations.

For those UMNO members who have allowed themselves to be duped by PAS’ threat of apostasy, let me remind them of the Treaty of Hudaibiya which was contracted between the Muslims of Medina led by Prophet Muhammad and the non-Muslims of Mecca.

The last clause of the treaty was not in favour of the Muslims. Even before the treaty was signed, the Muslims wanted to breach this clause. The Prophet forbade them to do so because to him it was important to honour the terms of the treaty which they had agreed to, even though the treaty, as in this case, had a negative impact on the Muslims. This illustrates the importance the Prophet placed on ­honouring one’s word and, in particular, the terms of a treaty to which a Muslim is a party.

The Federal Constitution was agreed to by the Conference of Rulers, the Government of the Federation of Malaya comprising UMNO, the MCA and the MIC, and the British Government in 1957.

Article 4 of the Constitution provides that the Constitution is the supreme law of the Federation and any law passed after Merdeka Day which is inconsistent with the Constitution shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.

Therefore, should UMNO and PAS attempt to amend the Constitution to change its secular character to make way for the implementation of hudud, it will be in clear violation of the agreement reached between the members of the Alliance party.

In light of Muhammad’s strict injunction to Muslims to honour the treaties that they have entered into, let me urge UMNO members to search their conscience and state whether they would be prepared to abandon the fundamental provisions of the Federal Constitution in favour of PAS’ hudud law, in clear violation of the Constitutional Agreement and the teachings of Islam.

On Tunku Abdul Aziz: A Master of Unsolicited Advice

May 30, 2014

On Tunku Abdul Aziz: A Master of Unsolicited Advice

Ariff Sabriby Dato Ariff Sabri Aka Sakmongkol AK47 @sakmongkol.blogspot.com

Tunku Aziz is a much respected man. Urbane, speaks and write impeccable English. He is also a member of a royal family. In addition he is an elderly person. In our culture we respect the older ones. I have been reluctant to write against Tunku Aziz because of these considerations.

However he has been relentless in his attacks on DAP almost to the point that he sounds very personal. Let us try to understand Tunku Aziz.He speaks entirely in English so that I am not sure of the accuracy of the translation of what he said. He has advised Dyana Daud to be wary of DAP and not allow DAP to make use of her as they did him.

Tunku Aziz was appointed as vice Chairman of DAP because he has showed some affinity with DAP’s thinking. He was a crusade on transparency and corruption which are also important causes for DAP.

But because of differences and perception that he was mistreated he left. What happened to him is an object lesson for the Malays in DAP no doubt, but his case was a particular one. It’s not capable of general application. Tunku Aziz turned out to have a temperament that exceeded normal accommodation. DAP cannot bend backwards to accommodate Tunku Aziz who seems to think he is bigger than life. In DAP everyone is treated the same. Some are more prominent, some less. The lesser ones make no fuss about it.

If Tunku Aziz thinks that because you are a Malay and the DAP must provide special concessionsTAA because of that, then don’t join DAP. The Malays in DAP who have not made it to the top will eventually do if they worked hard and demonstrate some qualities that are appreciated. They cannot be expected to serve as window-dressers. Each must earn his or her place; I think everyone who joins DAP understand that. There are many more Chinese who are satisfied at playing the ole of supporters and dedicated party workers.

We don’t want Dyana Daud for that matter any Malay MP in DAP to turn out to be another Tunku Aziz. I am a Malay MP and a member of the DAP- the DAP does not babysit you. I am very much conscious of that.

I have already explained- there is a practical reason for fielding Dyana Daud. Of course it’s intended to attract Malay support. There is nothing wrong in that. It’s also part of an on-going process to tone down the image of DAP. It has been described a chauvinist, racist, communists and all that. The choice of Dyana Daud is seen as a means to mitigate the extreme descriptions. Now, whether this is regarded as ulterior or otherwise is irrelevant. Tunku Aziz’s unsolicited advice is also irrelevant.

We want to get as much Malay support from the Malays. We don’t want to get the Tunku Aziz Malay type. UMNO has gone berserk because its monopoly on the Malay mind is threatened. That alone explained the vehemence and intensity of attacks on Dyana Daud. Because Dyana Daud can become an inspiration of other brave Malays to join DAP. Once in they will realise DAP does not aspire to create a Chinese state.

DyanaIt is unfortunate that Tunku Aziz who shares many similarities in political thinking as the DAP found more reasons to part ways with DAP. We are not going to roll on the floor regretting his decision. Let him fight his battles in his own way and we, ours.

The Muslim World’s Challenges (Part 2)

May 29, 2014

The Muslim World’s Challenges (Part 2) : Islam and Moderation

By Dr Farhan Ahmad Nizami@www.nst.com.my

Dr Farhan Ahmad NizamiTHE ideal of government as service cannot be realised without tackling corruption. Ultimately, this depends on personal integrity. However, much can be achieved by strict implementation of accountability procedures.

People’s everyday transactions — like getting a passport, a telephone connection, a licence to start a business or being free to travel — can be needlessly complicated by discriminatory application of regulations, or by having to pay bribes. As part of the commitment to justice and fairness, it is essential that Muslim identity is detached from crude forms of tribal and sectarian politics.

The Quran censures those among the Israelites who claimed salvation on the basis of tribal belonging. A central feature of Islamic civilisation was its understanding that values — like knowledge and skill and virtue — are by no means a monopoly of the Muslims.

Islam was a learning and teaching civilisation, and for that reason, a force for good. Between communities, there is need for both fences and bridges. Muslims must recover their talent for managing the shared and separate spaces.

If they do not, their sectarian and ethnic divisions will always be vulnerable to cynical exploitation.

The Quran describes the Muslim community as ummatan wasatan: the middle or moderate community, the anti-extreme or mainstream. The community of Muslims must not cut itself off; it must be inclusive and assimilative, go east and west, learning as well as teaching. That is an ideal worthy of presentation to all the peoples of the world.

In the end, people must have good reasons to prefer life in societies identified as Muslim, if they are to give their hearts to making those societies successful. Therefore, among the general objectives we pursue, some are bound to be specific to Muslims. Others may see the sense in them or they may not. But Muslims have a commitment to them from faith.

Human beings must expect to be questioned about the ends they pursue and the means they engage to realise them. For Muslims, there are issues of haram and halal in both means and ends.

With that in mind, Muslims should strive for a resetting of the international financial system and its regulation. They can draw upon their wealth of past and recent experience with Islamic financing.

A 100 per cent reserve ratio may be an impossible target, but significantly raising it is not impossible. Muslims can also demand much stricter regulation and more transparency in the relations between banks and regulators.

Islamic banking must practise what it preaches. To promote research and analysis in the general field of Islamic finance, a small positive step is the annual roundtable jointly organised by the Securities Commission of Malaysia and the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies.

Muslims can and should intervene, more strongly than they do, to limit dependence on commercial and industrial processes that are life-threatening. Harm that happens far away is called an “external cost of business”. This is morally repugnant and, sooner or later, self-destructive.

Muslims can make common cause with non-Muslims to build the will to sacrifice present comfort for future wellbeing. Muslim states have contiguous borders, large populations and considerable financial weight. There is no reason why they cannot lead efforts to preserve natural resources and environments.

In many Muslim societies, the lives of women are diminished by ingrained social and economic injustices. Men and women have aspirations and duties for which they have equal capacity and equal need. Therefore, they have an equal right to be prepared for those duties. This means education and the freedom to test that education in appropriate occupations.

Any policy oriented to human values, if not expressed in local cultural idioms, will not have local buy-in. Granted that Muslims have much to learn from the West, their first and last responsibility as Muslims is to embody the teaching of God and His Messenger. It is not permissible for them, where they have a choice, not to discharge that responsibility.

Within the debate among Muslims about political and human rights, there is broad agreement on the need for reform of attitudes and institutions. But political models imposed from above will not lead to open, accountable government sensitive to human rights. Such models, in practice, exclude the society they are claiming to serve.

Effective, stable representative government can only evolve from the collective will of the whole society. It will realise broad and enduring legitimacy only when it adapts the full resources of the society’s history and culture.

That is a good reason for beginning with reflection on past achievements. We do that to identify the general objectives that are desirable now. But we also need to identify actual, present commitment to those objectives, and to recognise and celebrate the progress that has been made. In this respect, Malaysia is the right place to be doing that.

Malaysia is an example of the political wisdom of which Muslims in the modern world are capable. It has demonstrated that, where social and historical circumstances permit and outside influences do not prevent, Muslims can build a stable society alongside non-Muslims.

Malaysia is a thriving nation whose Muslims remain, through their embrace of modernity, true to what is universal in their cultural and religious values.

I know there are tensions. But ways have been learnt to contain the tensions, and they are ways of peace. Differences intelligently managed have been converted into the advantages of diversity and moderation.

It is appropriate that the call for a Global Movement of Moderates has come from Malaysia. Since it is active in various international forums, and is the next chair of  ASEAN, it can project that message to many others.

The message is listened to because it is supported by a lived, achieved example.Within the struggle for political independence, there had also been a struggle for Malay/Muslim rights and identity.But that struggle did not, despite imbalances in educational opportunity and economic leverage, decay into sustained ethnic conflict.

Such conflict was viewed as an aberration from the norm, and Malaysia’s different communities learnt to co-exist and cooperate for the benefit of all.

Some of the reasons for this success are local, peculiar to the situation in this country. But the deeper reasons have to do with an Islamic tradition of tolerance and neighbourliness with peoples of different religion and ethnicity.

I would argue that, even in circumstances that differ markedly from the situation in Malaysia, the most promising basis for initiating and sustaining such a political settlement is religious conviction. It is a responsibility of those who believe in and value their faith to engage religious conviction as a means of promoting tolerance and peace within and between nation-states.

Malaysia’s political stability has been accompanied by equally impressive economic development. Malaysia took the lead in setting up the World Islamic Economic Forum. This initiative carries forward years of effort to improve economic cooperation between Muslim countries.

I mentioned earlier the lack of cultural contact among Muslim countries. Again, Malaysia is at the forefront of putting this right. It attracted some 73,000 visitors last year from Saudi Arabia alone. Its universities offer high-quality advanced education and training to students from the developing world. Many Muslims are taking up the opportunity.

Malaysia’s policymakers have identified a long-term need and committed resources to scholarship programmes that will encourage students of all backgrounds to take part.

Perhaps consideration could be given to the establishment of a National Endowment for the Humanities in Malaysia. Aside from the enrichment in perspectives, this policy will also, over time, contribute to reducing the flow of cultural product from the West into the Islamic world.

Muslims in the past, when confident of their religion and of themselves, were not intimidated by the ancient prestige of the learned traditions of the Greeks, Persians and Indians.

They were sure that Islam could absorb them, since whatever is truly of value to human life is, ultimately, compatible with the compassion and beneficence embodied in the teachings of the Quran and God’s Messenger. Muslims have a responsibility to contribute to the mainstream of world civilisation. There are several areas in which Muslim history and experience have something to teach:

The Muslims’ experience of pluralist societies could enrich contemporary constitutional debates which express individual rights but have no language for community rights. Their experience of the tension between scientific and religious thinking could shape a philosophy of science to reconcile belief in a Creator with rigorous scientific study.

Their experience of economics is relevant to ethical business, the balance between market freedom and state intervention, between private profit and public welfare, the cost of money. All these topics require the commitment of resources for the long term.

That commitment must come alongside a confidence in the ability of Muslims to find answers to the concerns that preoccupy all of us: the fight against the expulsion of religious authority from the public domain, and its growing irrelevance in the domain of individual lifestyles; the fight against consumerism and the widening gulf between those who have and those who do not have buying power; the fight against scales and patterns of economic activity which are pitilessly indifferent to their consequences for human lives and the natural systems we depend on; the fight against a near-autonomous technology answerable only to the economic interests that finance it; the fight against injustices, some located in particular persons or regimes, others anonymous and inaccessible behind the visible structures of power.

Alongside this fight against, there is a fight for — for the recovery of habits of worship (ibadat) and religious reflection; for the self-discipline which enables disinterested service of others; for the alleviation of poverty through healthcare and education; for effective conservation and environmental protection; for the preservation of family life which, however imperfectly, is still the most tested way to raise adults capable of moral autonomy.

Ultimately, the quality of commitment to a goal is dependent upon the quality of human resources carrying it. It is in the domain of education which builds human resources that Muslims need to work the most.

They need to learn how to organise and manage effective faith-based schools (pondok). They need to relearn how to devise and balance curricula to equip students for an effective life as believers in the contemporary world.

They need to teach students not only the externals of their faith, but also how to understand and carry their faith within themselves and translate it into self-transcending service of others.

This Muslims cannot do until and unless they appreciate that other traditions of learning have also achieved worthwhile progress in advancing human knowledge and know-how, and challenged received wisdom with sound arguments from human reason, observation and experience.

Muslims need to inculcate that mental and moral discipline which stops believers from bringing into the zone of the sacrosanct narrow issues of custom and practice that pertain, not to belief as such, but to local identities and local manners.

It is not an easy discipline; if practised properly and sustained, its fruit is tolerance and peaceful co-existence with others of the same and other faiths.

All of that can be summed up as an effort to teach values that are authentically derived from religious commitment. I have explained that this effort needs to be, for Muslims, commensurate with the legacy of their past. It needs to be forward-looking and outward-looking. It needs to be comfortably multi-cultural, willing to learn, to go abroad. And it has to be confidently Islamic.

The Muslim World’s Challenges–Part 1

May 28, 2014

The Muslim World’s Challenges

By Dr Farhan Ahmad Nizami

ISLAMIC PAST: Legacy was built on Muslims’ confidence in Islam, sustained by material prosperity, combined with political and legal stability

Dr Farhan Ahmad NizamiFOR about a thousand years, roughly from the 7th century onwards, the people under Islamic rule made striking advances in their material and intellectual culture.

The contribution of those advances to modern Western philosophy, sciences and technology has been extensively studied. But I want to speak about their distinctively Islamic qualities.

The area under Islamic influence stretched overland from the Atlantic in the west to the borders of China, and across the Indian Ocean to the islands of the Malay archipelago.

This vast area was commercially interconnected with much continuous and profitable exchange of goods. It was also culturally interconnected, with prodigious traffic in books and ideas, scholars and travellers.

Its people busied themselves in seeking knowledge and writing it down. So much so was this that, to this day, there remain huge quantities of manuscripts, from different ends of the Islamic world, yet to be catalogued and studied.

The regional diversity and assimilative embrace of Islam as a civilisation is manifest in the names by which great figures in Islamic scholarship are best known: al-Qurtubi, al-Fasi, al-Iskandari, al-Dimashaqi, al-Baghdadi, al-Isfahani, al-Bukhari, al-Dihlawi and al-Jawi.

The language of communication among scholars was mostly Arabic, with Persian and Turkish becoming important later in the east. This dominance of Arabic was not the result of any policy to diminish local languages. It was simply a gradual extension of the authority of the language of the Quran and its teachings.

Muslims believed that the way of life defined by the Quran summed up the best of the teachings of the past. They expected that non-Muslims, too, would have knowledge, skills and virtues. They expected to learn from them and to fit that learning with Islam.

Islamic civilisation thus self-consciously set out to co-exist with and absorb the cultures of others. It did so from a position of political strength.

The House of Wisdom (Bayt al-Hikma) in Baghdad, funded by the Caliph, is the best-known example of this attitude. Translations were commissioned of works in every branch of learning, from metaphysics to the science of making poisons. Once translated, these works were studied critically, then improved and extended.

The dominant streams in this flood of knowledge were Hellenic, Persian and Indian. The Chinese script proved too severe an obstacle to the absorption of Chinese philosophy and science. However, Chinese influences are found everywhere in the material culture of the Islamic world, in decorative motifs, and in the skills of making paper, ceramics, glass, metal-ware, textiles, dyes and drugs.

The Quran presented the teaching of all God’s messengers as a unified legacy. Muslims set out to harmonise older traditions of learning with that legacy. This effort was not universally admired.

In particular, the presentation of Islamic teachings in the style of Greek philosophy remained controversial for centuries. In the end, it had a more enduring influence on the medieval Christian world than on Islam.

Such controversies did not dampen Muslims’ self-confidence. In general, Islamic norms continued to encourage intellectual adventure and achievement. Muslims were aware of living in prosperous, stable societies, and comfortable with non-Muslim communities among them. They considered themselves forward-looking, inventive and multi-cultured.

Their best scholars made innovations of lasting importance in mathematics and experimental science, and applied them in technical instruments, manufacture, and engineering. And the wealthiest royal courts competed to own and display the results.

Al-Jazari’s famous water-clock illustrates this well. Its water-raising technology is Greek; the elephant, inside which the great vat of water is hidden, represents India, the rugs on its back are Persian; on top of the howdah sits an Egyptian phoenix; on its sides are conspicuously Chinese red dragons. This deliberately multicultural device was constructed shortly after the Crusades.

All that said, while Muslim societies were stable, their governments were often not: regime change was usually violent and disruptive. Politically, the Muslims became ever weaker and more divided.

Little now survives of their cultural self-confidence; even less remains of the personal and political skills they had developed to manage life alongside different communities and confessions.

Their ways of organising long-distance commerce and regulating free markets have vanished completely. The material remains of the rest — all the thinking in all the books, colleges, libraries and hospitals — interest only medievalists, museums, and tourists.

The past still has presence in the public spaces; you still hear the call to prayer, even in secularised city centres. There is still a feel of Islam in private homes and personal manners.

We can objectively map the movements of books, ideas and scholars from one end of the Islamic world to the other in every century until the modern period.

The recovery following the Crusades and Mongol conquests included the building of madrasa and colleges that taught a rich, varied curriculum.

There is little evidence of that during European colonial rule. The madrasa of that era were not well funded. They could afford to focus only on Islamic sciences narrowly defined.

For the rest of their education, Muslims had to leave the cultural space of Islam. A division became established between religious and secular education, between old and modern, with Islam on the side of the old. That division is at the heart of the present challenges facing Muslims in every part of the world.

When we memorialise the legacy of the Islamic past — when naming public institutions, or presenting past glories in books and museums — we should remember that this legacy was built on Muslims’ confidence in Islam.

This confidence was sustained by material prosperity, combined with a sufficient degree of political and legal stability. Without prosperity and stability, the constraints on political and economic decisions are too strong for people to make their own choices for their future.

We need only look at the difficulties in post-recession Europe to know that feeling powerless to shape the future is not special to Muslim societies. It is not related to their being Muslim but to the material conditions in which they are Muslim.

The end-goal is hardly a matter of dispute among the vast majority of Muslims. It is to re-establish connections between Islamic upbringing and education and modern secular, technical education.

The latter provides the means for individuals to make their way in the world, to have things to do in it and to enjoy doing them successfully. The former provides them with their religious orientation and identity.

Religious orientation is not itself the goal. The aim is not to have people identify as Muslims; the vast majority already do that. Rather, the aim is to enable them to prosper in the world in ways that express and test, inform and improve, their identity as Muslims.

As the Chinese saying puts it, the journey of a thousand miles begins from where your feet are. We in the Muslim world can only set out from where we stand in reality. That reality needs to be stated bluntly.

Today, Muslim identity is not sufficiently relevant to how things are done in the world, especially in the collective spheres of life.

Muslim identity is not the engine of prosperity, of either the production or the distribution of wealth. Muslim identity is not the engine of knowledge, of collecting it, or adding to it, or disseminating it. (This is true, rather unexpectedly, even of knowledge about the past legacy of Islam.)

Muslim identity is not the engine of political and legal order. Or rather, it is not so in a positive way. Instead, we see mainly negative expressions of it. We see it in a despairing withdrawal from the evils of power: in the attitude that the status quo, however bad, is still better than chaos.

We see it also in despairing violence intended to erase the status quo, without any labour of understanding and analysis about what will follow.

The end-goal is to make being Muslim relevant and effective in the quest for knowledge, in the quest for prosperity and in the quest for political order. Except in the sphere of personal courtesies and private concerns, being Muslim is no longer the currency of exchange neither among Muslims themselves, nor between them and non-Muslims.

To make it so again is a task of huge scale and complexity. Our first priority must be to establish institutions and forums so that the present challenges are properly identified, and then try to guide expectations towards realistic, achievable goals.

The hurdles in the way are real and substantial.First, there is the hurdle, as I said, of determining what is do-able and specifying it intelligently, in the light of local realities; in the way that sustains momentum towards the next objective; and without losing sight of the end-goal.

Second, there is the hurdle of co-ordinating effort with other societies and states. Priorities can vary sharply with local conditions. Therefore, there will be a need for trust among policymakers, with tolerance for variable levels of competence and energy.

Thirdly, there is the hurdle of rejection by those who oppose any attempt to bring religious concerns into the public sphere. The response will sometimes be concession, compromise and conciliation. At other times, it will take the form of steadfastly holding one’s ground. In either case, alert flexibility — the readiness to adjust to different circumstances — is essential.

Among general objectives, the most inclusive is to build up the commercial, financial, trade and cultural ties between Muslim societies.One measure of the need is the low values and volumes of bilateral trade between Muslim-majority countries, compared with their trade with non-Muslim countries.

Another measure is the low values and volumes of trade outside the dollar-dominated banking system.

Another is the low numbers of Muslims travelling for higher education from one Muslim country to another; the general preference, for those who can afford it, remains Europe or America.

Yet another measure is the massive inflow of cultural product from the non-Muslim into the Muslim world — the information and imagery people get from their televisions and computers; the advertising that influences the things they want to own; the time they give to sports and other entertainments.

All of this shapes people’s horizons, and their understanding of what is important and what is possible.

For the states that make up the Islamic world, the need to work together is clear. Modern technologies make it much easier to do that than it used to be. The sacrifices needed for cooperation to succeed are widely understood. But we should also highlight the benefits of a strengthened economic base in Muslim states, through increase in trade and long-term investments in human development.

The distribution of resources favours Muslim nations, but they lack the will and confidence to manage them to best advantage. If only because they are Muslim nations, their leaders have a special responsibility to nurture that will and confidence.

Their aspirations and policies should be consciously linked to the history, culture and faith that Muslims share. If enough far-sighted individuals have the courage of their Islamic convictions, what seems desirable but unrealistic can become a realistic and achievable goal.

Muslims are commanded to “bid to the good and forbid from the evil” (amr bi-l-ma`ruf wa-nahy `ani l-munkar). This entails commitment to the direction and quality of the whole social ethos. Not just traditional forms of family life and neighbourliness but also religiously valid ways of earning a living, co-operatively with others and with the natural environment.

As I mentioned, in the past, Muslims traded globally. The expansion of Islam’s influence followed the trade routes out of its Arabian heartland. For Muslims, economic effort is an integral part of responsible living.

We have a reliable record of how the Prophet and his companions went about discharging that responsibility. Muslims may not engage in practices that deliberately and systematically deprive others of their livelihood, and then, in response to a separate impulse, give charitably to relieve the distress their economic practice has generated.

Rather, the effort to do good works and the effort to create wealth must be sustained as a single endeavour. Both means and ends must be halal.

More Muslims need to join, with each other and with non-Muslims, in the urgent need to balance the creation and distribution of wealth so that a good life is available to all, including future generations.

Muslims’ efforts to develop techniques of financing and investment that are free of usury and uncertainty (speculation) are pertinent to the wider concerns about ethical investment, fair and genuinely free trade, and abolishing the export, through debt-slavery, of poverty, instability and pollution to the poorest and weakest on this earth.

We have seen over the last forty years massive growth in the stocks of Islamic financial capital. But these stocks are not being deployed to develop the economic capacity of Muslim countries. It seems that the wealthiest Muslims, individually or as sovereign powers, prefer the safe, quick returns from investment in the non-Muslim world.

In many Muslim states, economic infrastructure and activity remain linked to servicing the economies of former colonial powers. Those linkages are not sustained only by fear, but by individual and institutional inertia — by lack of will and imagination on the part of officials to take the necessary steps to put in place the needed skills and systems.

One reason that Muslims do not invest their wealth and talents in Muslim countries is that those countries are unstable, unsafe and unproductive to work in.

This vicious circle is not a function of those countries being Muslim: similar socio-economic conditions elsewhere have similar effects — an exodus of energy, talent and money.

Many Muslim states inherited their political boundaries from the colonial era. Those boundaries increased dependence on the colonial power to keep order. The anti-colonial struggle provided a shared history for communities separated by ethnic and religious differences. In the post-colonial era they have not been able to find common ground. Solidarity is not a precondition, but an outcome, of the effort to identify common purposes. It is something that has to be, and can be, constructed.

To make Muslim identity effective in the world, a major policy commitment must be to make justice and fairness the decisive value for all modes and levels of governance.

This means allowing independent centres of authority to emerge and recognising their concerns and aspirations. It means a redistribution of opportunities to acquire wealth and influence, so that decision-making is not concentrated in the same few hands.

This must be a process, not a gesture. It must be given the time it needs, according to local conditions, to happen gradually.

In this way all parties learn to trust and work with each other to mutual benefit. If government is seen to be in the service of the people as a whole, its security is guaranteed by them.

Tomorrow: Part II

Dr Farhan Ahmad Nizami presenting the Perdana Putrajaya Lecture at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre yesterday. Bernama pic

Specialists at government and teaching hospitals cash in on private patients

May 28, 2014


A friend brought to my attention this article (below) which was published inDM at 75 The Sun Daily recently, and since my own alma mater, The University of Malaya, is mentioned in Annie Freeda’s report, I feel I should make my views known about the idea of allowing specialists at the University’s Teaching Hospital (University of Malaya Medical Center) to  cash in on private patients at UMSC (University of Malaya Specialist Center) as a way of giving them extra income .

In principle, this is wrong and unethical and can be abused. Using the resources and facilities of the University is for private gain is unacceptable. These specialists should devote their time to research and teaching, and to treat all patients at the teaching hospital, irrespective of their income status and social standing, not spend their time away from their primary duty.

If they want to earn more, they should set up their own practice and take the risk that comes with it. Alternatively, the University’s Board of Directors under the chairmanship of Tan Sri Arshad Ayub should review their remuneration packages and terms and conditions of service to induce them to remain with the University.

Otherwise, I would suggest to the Board that they should privatise the UMSC so that those who did not wish to do research and teach can practise there without enjoying the benefits of being part of the University’s teaching hospital. In that way, we can eliminate any conflict of interest that may arise from the present arrangement which has apparently been abused.–Din Merican

Sun Daily2Specialists at government and teaching hospitals cash in on private patients

PETALING JAYA: A scheme to let government doctors earn extra income in a bid to retain them is allegedly being abused, as some senior medical consultants are said to be focused on seeing “full-paying patients” during office hours, rather than in the private wing only after office hours.

Some of these doctors, especially surgeons, obstetricians and gynaecologists, are believed to be taking home as much as RM500,000 a year just seeing full-paying patients and doing locum duties in the private sector.

Some of these specialists are said to be seeing between 2,000 and 3,000 full-paying patients a year, so much so some of them have been asking junior doctors to see their public hospital patients, while they see full-paying patients. There are also allegations that some of these consultants are seeing full-paying patients in the wards during office hours.

According to sources, this is happening at University Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Medical Centre (UKMMC), and at the Putrajaya and Selayang hospitals.

Despite this, it is understood the Health Ministry plans to open private wings in other major public hospitals.Several patients said there is a conflict of interest in allowing government doctors to also practise in the private wings of public hospitals, as they tend to cater more to full-paying patients.

In an immediate response, UMMC director Prof Datuk Dr Ikram Shah Ismail said its private wing, the University Malaya Specialist Centre (UMSC), has been in operation for 10 years.

“We have strict regulations governing doctors practising in the private wing. They are allowed only three sessions a week and that too, only in the afternoon and after office hours. Many a time, the doctors can have only one or two sessions a week due to the heavy commitment at UMMC,” he said, adding that doctors are not allowed to transfer patients from UMMC to UMSC.

Asked if there were doctors who have been found to have violated the regulations, Ikram said there had been cases.”Yes, we have suspended the doctors,” he said, without giving any statistics.

“We are strict on this matter and will not hesitate to take action on those who flout the terms and conditions,” he said, adding that doctors who practised in the private wings do not take home all the money they get as they also contribute towards the department and for the training of junior doctors.

Asked on doctors checking private patients in wards, he said they can for the safety of patients when the need arises.Private wings were introduced at government hospitals to halt brain drain.

Malaysian Medical Association President Datuk Dr N.K.S. Tharmaseelan said it must be borne in mind that the scheme was introduced to provide senior doctors with additional income to offset the low salary, poor perks and promotion prospects. However, he stressed that specialists should not abuse the noble scheme, or else the government may have to scrap it.

He urged hospitals and universities to tighten monitoring to prevent abuse of the scheme.Tharmaseelan said MMA also hopes the government will revise and introduce more incentives, perks and allowance including fast-track promotion for senior doctors. He said although the abuse may not be as rampant as alleged, it should be nipped in the bud or else it will mar the image of such creditable and respected institutions.

Thuggery and hatred must be met head on

May 28, 2014

Brave New World

Published: Wednesday May 28, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Wednesday May 28, 2014 MYT 7:24:26 AM

Thuggery and hatred must be met head on

by Azmi Sharom@www.thestar.com.my

The extreme right has to be countered with sober reasoning, without dismissing the concerns that they raise.

Azmi SharomLIVING in, and caring about, this country can lead to a certain myopic viewpoint. Every day one is bombarded with news reports that indicate that this nation is heading towards disaster. Bigotry and small-mindedness appear to be the ruling ethos of the day.

Just how far this is true is unclear. The press have to bear some of the blame in this uncertainty because so much space is given to the divisive and the chauvinistic that it appears that they are the ones setting the national agenda.

Yet, is this the truth? It is hard to say because not enough real journalism is done. Simple things, like the reporting of numbers at gatherings and protests, would give the general public a better idea as to whether this current gutter thinking in the country is reflective of the nation as a whole or whether it is merely the work of a relatively small group of idiots.

Be that as it may, things look bleak and being as immersed in Malaysiana as one is, then it is an understandable reaction to feel utterly blue. It is as though one is swimming in sewage when the rest of the world is drifting in clear blue waters.

But this is not the case at all. For anyone with a semblance of concern for principles of democracy and humanism, this is a generally bleak period all over the world.Just north of us, the military has undone the progress that Thailand has been making towards being a truly democratic nation. In a few short days, years of development in the political arena of the nation has been inexorably pushed back.

In Egypt, the same story of a military, used to determining the fate of the nation, destroying the democratic progress also make for depressing reading. Add to that the unthinkable sentencing to death of scores of people in a legal process so ludicrous that to call it a kangaroo court would be an insult not just to kangaroos but to marsupials as a whole; the only logical feeling would be revulsion.

The Indian election has seen the rise of a man with a past so dubious that it makes one wonder how this could have happened. Although cleared of any direct (but without any mention of indirect) responsibility of the massacre in the state of Gujarat in 2002 when he was governor, the stigma remains.

It would appear that this stain is no block to success. The people of India have chosen to ignore this blot in their history and they went ahead and chose Narendra Modi as prime minister in huge numbers, ostensibly because he can lift them out of their current economic stupor.

Europe too is not spared this rise of the extreme right wing. So-called Eurosceptic parties such as the UK Independence Party (UKIP) in Britain and the French National Front have won big in the European Parliament elections.

Although they wave the flag of sovereignty and they make opposing European interference in domestic affairs (particularly immigration) their primary platform, this does not hide the fact that these parties have some loathsome ideologies which can only be deemed as racist.

What with all this going on, is the world then poised on the precipice of fascism and hatred? I do not know. What I do know is that despair must not be allowed to triumph. In Thailand, it is hoped that having tasted democracy the people will not stand for military rule for long.

And the situation in Egypt must also be taken in context. Considering that country has never had an elected leader before Mohamed Morsi, their democracy is practically foetal. If one is to consider the “Arab Spring” as a process and not as an event, only time can tell if they can restart the process of democratisation following this drawback.

India has a strong tradition in upholding the rule of law and their judiciary is at the forefront of this effort. The existence of separation of powers and checks and balances would, it is hoped, hold back any gross abuse of power in the world’s largest democracy.

The ample democratic spaces in Europe too mean that it is imperative for those who find UKIP and the French National Front repulsive to intelligently and convincingly confront the extreme right. The extreme right work by pandering to negative perceptions and knee-jerk reactionarism.

This has to be countered with sober reasoning which deals with those perceptions, not just factually but in a way which confronts them without sneeringly (as the left was prone to doing) dismissing the concerns that they raise.

As for us, if we truly care about the direction of our country, there really is no choice. The discordant and shrill voices of thuggery and hatred must be met head on; to do nothing is not an option.


Azmi Sharom lectures on environmental and human rights law in a public university. He can be reached at azmisharom@yahoo.co.uk. The views expressed here are entirely his own.