With Lee’s passing, Mahathir is the last of South East Asia’s Mohicans


March 31, 2015

With Lee’s passing, Mahathir is  the last of South East Asia’s Mohicans

by Eileen Ng

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Two of Asia’s best-known strongmen, Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew and Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohamad, had much in common — a streak of authoritarianism, little tolerance for dissent and vision that changed the face of their countries.

Lee and Dr. MahathirBut friends they were not, and the two rarely saw eye to eye. In fact one of their only agreements was to move their countries’ time — which was 7 ½ hours ahead of GMT — forward by half an hour to be in line with world time zones.

“”I am afraid on most other issues we could not agree….I cannot say I was a close friend of Kuan Yew, but still I feel sad at his demise,” Mahathir wrote on his blog on Friday.

With Lee’s death at age 91, Mahathir remains the last of a generation of old guards in Southeast Asia, which boomed economically under their authoritarian leadership and came to be known as the “tiger economies.” Indonesia’s Suharto, spoken in the same breath as these two, died in 2008.

Both Lee and Mahathir were English-educated leaders, who successfully delivered economic prosperity — to varying degrees — and gave international prominence to their countries. They were respected, but ruled with iron fists, curbing civil liberties and using harsh laws against political opponents.

Yet Lee and Mahathir leave starkly different legacies from their time in power. During his 31 years as Prime Minister, Lee transformed Singapore, a marshy island trading post with no natural resources, into Asia’s richest nation as measured by GDP per capita, five times higher than Malaysia. He crushed corruption at all levels, built a top-notch, efficient bureaucracy, set up an excellent education system and focused on creating world-class service industries that would be competitive in a global market.

Mahathir, meanwhile, fostered a patronage system by giving out contracts to his cronies, and his policies increased bureaucratic red tape. Despite having far more resources and a much bigger workforce, he promoted and protected inefficient industries such as steel and cars with tariff protection.

“Both men are equally Machiavellian in their methods. They are both alike in the kind of politics they employ but Lee Kuan Yew achieved much, much more than Mahathir despite having a lot less resources and capital,” said Malaysian political analyst Ibrahim Suffian.

Although the two were contemporaries — Mahathir is only two years younger — Lee shot to prominence much earlier. He was already the prime minister of Singapore when it became independent of British colonial rule in 1963. The same year the small island-nation joined neighboring Malaya to form the Federation of Malaysia, believing it needed to be part of a bigger country to survive. Mahathir became a Parliament member in 1964, and that was the first time the two met.

“We crossed swords many time during the debates. But there was no enmity, only differences in our views of what was good for the newborn nation,” Mahathir wrote.

But the federation was a marriage that was doomed to fail. For one, the ethnic Malay leaders of Malaysia were suspicious of Lee, an ethnic Chinese. Soon ideological and political differences surfaced, and Singapore was expelled from the federation in 1965, leaving Lee to set his own course with a vision that until today defines Singapore.

He ensured that the country ran on meritocracy. He demanded the best prices and most efficient companies handle government projects. Government-linked companies compete for projects with private companies. Although ethnic Chinese are a majority in Singapore, and Malays and Indians form large minorities, nobody gets special preference.

“Despite his autocracy, Lee Kuan Yew was driven with building meritocracy that saw Singapore grow by leaps and bounds, but Malaysia is hobbled by its racial politics and insecurities,” Ibrahim said.

Mahathir, who became Prime Minister in 1981, championed an affirmative action program for the country’s Malay majority, which to this day is the root cause of deep disenchantment among the minority Chinese and Indians. Mahathir saw the Malays — with good reason — as downtrodden and gave them privileges in business, education and housing. He promoted race-based politics to ensure that his Malay party dominated politics. That legacy continues.

Lee faced criticism for the strict limits on free speech and public protest, which he insisted were necessary to maintain stability and order and to promote economic growth in his multi-ethnic, multi-religious country. Although his electoral politics to quash the opposition were questionable, his People’s Action Party, or PAP, has members from all races.

“Lee was an unshakeable bulwark against majoritarian tendencies that could have easily overwhelmed Singapore,” said Cherian George, a Singapore author, academic and commentator. “Lee went to the extent of amending the republic’s Constitution to stop any party from sweeping into power without minority support,” he wrote on his blog on Sunday.

Mahathir, a doctor-turned-politician and Malaysia’s fourth Prime Minister, helped turn the country from an agricultural backwater into a key trading nation during his 22-year rule before stepping down in 2003. With the help of massive petroleum and palm oil revenues, he oversaw grand infrastructure projects such as the Petronas Twin Towers, which once were the world’s tallest; he also built a technology hub, a new capital city and an F1 race track.

He also used a security law allowing indefinite detention without trial against political opponents and critics. And unlike Lee, he was no friend of the West. In fact, he lost no opportunity to criticize it, especially the U.S. war in Iraq.

Singapore’s higher wages, standard of living and merit-based system have drawn tens of thousands of Malaysians, mainly ethnic Chinese, to the city-state. A 2011 World Bank report said more than 1 million Malaysians live abroad and warned the outflow of skilled workers could hurt Malaysia’s economy.

Lee stepped down as Prime Minister in 1990, but remained a commanding presence in Singapore politics and the region for decades. He also successfully groomed his son Lee Hsien Loong, who became Singapore’s Prime Minister in 2004.

Mahathir, however, failed to retain much clout after he resigned. Today he is seen by many as a former leader who rails against his successors and bemoans in his blogs the weak governance of a country he once dominated. A recent blog comment captured his ever-critical outlook: There’s “something rotten in the state of Malaysia.”

Editors and Executives of Malaysian Insider are arrested


March 31, 2015

Editors and Executives of Malaysian Insider are  arrested

The Police arrested the three editors from The Malaysian Insider on Monday evening, in connection with a March 25 article about a proposal to allow the strict enforcement of Islamic law, the publication said.

“We do not think that the arrests were necessary, as they can meet the police any time to have their statements taken,” said Ho Kay Tat, publisher at The Malaysian Insider’s parent company, Edge Media Group, according to the news site. “We call on the police to release them immediately.”

Jahabar SadiqOn Tuesday, Mr. Ho was arrested, along with Jahabar Sadiq, The Malaysian Insider’s chief executive, the publication said. On the same day, a court denied a police request to continue holding the three editors, Lionel Morais, Amin Shah Iskandar and Zulkifli Sulong. The three were expected to be released Tuesday evening, according to Syahredzan Johan, a lawyer for the company.

All five men were arrested on suspicion of violating Malaysia’s Sedition Act and Communications and Multimedia Act, Mr. Johan wrote on Twitter.

Malaysia’s government has recently pursued sedition charges against outspoken politicians, scholars and other figures, an effort that critics say is meant to intimidate the country’s opposition. In mid-March, Nurul Izzah Anwar, a member of Parliament and daughter of the imprisoned Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, was arrested and accused of sedition after questioning the independence of the country’s judiciary in a speech.

The investigation of The Malaysian Insider centers on a March 25 article that described a meeting of the Conference of Rulers, a body of Malaysian sultans, reporting that they had rejected an Islamist party’s proposal that would allow strict punishments under Shariah, or Islamic law. The conference said that it had never announced such a decision and pursued legal action against The Malaysian Insider, the publication said.

The Center for Independent Journalism, based in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, and the Southeast Asian Press Alliance, based in Bangkok, called the move against the publication “an assault on media freedom and an act of intimidation in using police powers of arrests and detention.”

If the March report was found to be untrue, it could be corrected without the need for police raids and criminal investigations, the groups argued.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/01/world/asia/malaysian-insider-arrests.html?ref=world&_r=0

The Islam Reformers vs. the Muslim Zealots


March 30, 2015

The Islam Reformers vs. the Muslim Zealots

by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

A Hirsi AliAyaan Hirsi Ali is a Fellow of the Future of Diplomacy Project at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, a visiting fellow of the American Enterprise Institute and founder of the AHA Foundation. She is the author of the newly published book “Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now.”

The ferment we see in the Muslim world today is not solely due to despotic political systems, and it is not solely due to failing economies and the poverty they breed. Rather, it is also due largely to Islam itself and the incompatibility of certain of that faith’s key tenets with modernity. That is why the most important conflict in the world today is between those who are hell-bent on preserving, and even increasing, these incompatibilities, and those who are bravely prepared to challenge them — not to overthrow Islam but to reform it.

Forget the crude distinction between “extreme” and “moderate” Muslims. Rather, we should distinguish among three groups of Muslims.

The first group is the most problematic. Those in this category envision a regime based on sharia, or Islamic religious law. They aim not just to obey the Prophet Muhammad’s teaching but also to emulate his warlike conduct after his move to Medina. Even if they do not themselves engage in violence, the people in this group do not hesitate to condone it.

The second group — which composes the clear majority throughout the Muslim world — is loyal to the core creed of Islam and worship devoutly but is not inclined to practice or preach violence. Like devout Christians or Jews who attend religious services every week and abide by religious rules in what they eat and wear, these “Mecca Muslims” focus on religious observance. Sometimes some members of this group are mistakenly termed “moderate.”

In the third group is the growing number of people who were born into Islam but who have sought to think critically about the faith in which we were raised. These are the Muslim dissidents. A few of us have been forced by experience to conclude that we could not continue as believers yet remain deeply engaged in the debate about Islam’s future. But the majority of dissidents are reformist believers who have come to realize that their religion must change if its followers are not to be condemned to an interminable cycle of violence.

The first group — the Islamist zealots — poses a threat to everyone. In the West, the existence of this group promises not only an increasing risk of terrorism but also a subtle erosion of the hard-won achievements of feminists and campaigners for minority rights: gender equality, religious tolerance and gay rights. And anyone who denies that this threat is growing — not only in Europe but in North America, too — just hasn’t looked at the data on immigration and on Muslim immigrants’ attitudes.

But the zealots’ vision of a violent return to the days of the prophet poses an even bigger threat to their fellow Muslims. They are undermining the position of the majority who simply want to lead a quiet life. Worse, they pose a constant lethal threat to the dissidents and reformers. We are the ones who face ostracism and rejection, who must brave all manner of insults, who must deal with the death threats — or face death itself.

Western policymakers today are so fearful of being accused of Islamophobia that they generally won’t touch Muslim reformers with a 10-foot pole. They would much rather make nice with the self-proclaimed representatives of “moderate Islam,” who on close inspection often turn out but to be anything but moderate. For this reason, our leaders are missing the boat on the Muslim Reformation.

“It is not your job,” Western governments are told, “to help bring about religious change.” So Western leaders stick to their decade-old script: “Islam is a religion of peace.”

But during the Cold War, no American president said: “Communism is an ideology of peace.” None said: “The Soviet Union is not truly communist.” Rather, the West celebrated and supported dissidents such as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Andrei Sakharov and Václav Havel, who had the courage to challenge the Soviet system from within.

Today, there are many dissidents who challenge Islam. Yet the West either ignores them or dismisses them as “not representative.” This is a grave mistake. Reformers such as Asra Nomani, Irshad Manji, Tawfiq Hamid, Maajid Nawaz, Zuhdi Jasser, Saleem Ahmed, Yunis Qandil, Seyran Ates, Bassam Tibi and Abd al-Hamid al-Ansari must be supported and protected. These reformers should be as well known in the West as Solzhenitsyn, Sakharov and Havel were generations earlier.

The reformers’ task will not be easy. Nor was that of the Soviet dissidents. Nor, for that matter, was that of the Protestant reformers. But the Muslim Reformation is the world’s best shot at a solution to the problem President Obama calls “violent extremism.” The time for euphemism is over. The time for reform of Islam is, at long last, now.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-islam-reformers-vs-the-muslim-zealots/2015/03/27/acf6de6c-d3ed-11e4-ab77-9646eea6a4c7_story.

A Response to Western Interventionism

Why Islamic Reform is Delayed

by Ismael Hossein-ZADEH

Recent geopolitical turmoil in the Arab/Muslim World, and the resulting proliferation of radical movements and groupings such as Al-Qaeda and ISIL, seems to have provide plenty of incendiary fodder for the propaganda mill of the proponents of the theory of “the clash of civilizations,” according to which the roots of conflicts in the Muslim world must be sought in Islam itself, in its alleged “incompatibility” with modernization and Western values [1].

Instead of calling the Charlie Hebdo or the 9/11 terrorist attacks mass murder criminal acts, proponents of this pernicious theory do not seem to be able to resist the politically expedient temptation of calling them acts of “war on our way of life” [2].

Although questionable, this explanation of terrorism and the concomitant justification of war and militarism harbor an element of dangerously misleading plausibility: once the public is convinced that the “hostile and irredeemable Islam or Islamists are out in force to drown our civilization,” pre-emptive war would be hailed as the logical response. The danger is further compounded because this explanation of terrorism possesses the power of self-fulfilling prophecy, the power to make what is theorized appear real.

Not only do such explanations tend to sow the seeds of hatred and ignorance, and are bound to poison international relations, but they also fail the test of history. The history of the relationship between the modern Western world and the Muslim world shows that, contrary to distorted popular perceptions in the West, from the time of their initial contacts with the capitalist West more than two centuries ago until almost the final third of the twentieth century, the Muslim people were quite receptive of the economic and political models of the modern world.

During that period of more than a century and a half, the majority of the political elite and/or national leaders viewed the rise of the modern West, and its spread into their territories, as an inevitable historical development that challenged them to chart their own programs of reform and development. Not only did the political elite, the intellectuals, and government leaders view reform and modernization as the way of the future, but so did many Islamic leaders and scholars, known as “Islamic modernizers” [3].

It was only after more than a century and a half of imperialistic pursuits and a series of humiliating policies in the region that the popular masses of the Muslim world turned to religion and the conservative religious leaders as sources of defiance, mobilization, and self-respect. This historical background indicates that for many Muslims the recent turn to religion often represents not so much a rejection of Western values and achievements as it is a way to resist or defy the oppressive policies and alliances of Western powers in the Muslim world. It also means that explanations of derailed and delayed historical transitions in the Muslim world, that is, of an Islamic reformation, rest more with the policies of the Western powers in the region than the alleged rigidity of Islam, or “the clash of civilizations.”

Early Responses to the Challenges of the Modern World

Not only did the early modernizers of the Muslim world embrace Western technology, but they also welcomed its civil and state institutions, its representational system of government, and its tradition of legal and constitutional rights. For example, the Iranian intellectuals Mulkum Khan (1833-1908) and Agha Khan Kermani (1853-96) urged Iranians to acquire a Western education and replace the Shariah (the religious legal code) with a modern secular legal code. Secular political leaders of this persuasion joined forces with the more liberal religious leaders in the Constitution Revolution of 1906, and forced the Qajar dynasty to set up a modern constitution, to limit the powers of the monarchy and give Iranians parliamentary representation [4].

Even some of the Ottoman sultans (kings) pursued Western models of industrialization and modernization on their own. For example, Sultan Mahmud II “inaugurated the Tanzimat (Regulation) in 1826, which abolished the Janissaries [the fanatical elite corps of troops organized in the 14th century], modernized the army and introduced some of the new technology.” In 1839 Sultan Abdulhamid “issued the Gulhane decree, which made his rule dependent upon a contractual relationship with his subjects, and looked forward to major reforms of the empire’s institutions” [5].

More dramatic, however, were the modernizing and/or secularizing programs of Egypt’s renowned modernizers Muhammad Ali (1769-1849) and his grandson Ismail Pasha (1803-95). They were so taken by the impressive achievements of the West that they embarked on breakneck modernizing programs that were tantamount to trying to hothouse the Western world’s achievements of centuries into decades: “To secularize the country, Muhammad Ali simply confiscated much religiously endowed property and systematically marginalized the Ulema [religious leaders], divesting them of any shred of power” [6].

In the face of dire conditions of underdevelopment and humiliating but unstoppable foreign domination, these modernizing national leaders viewed reformation not only as the way out of underdevelopment but also out of the yoke of foreign domination.

Not only the secular intellectuals, the political elite, and government leaders but also many Islamic leaders and scholars, known as “Islamic modernizers,” viewed modernization as the way of the future. But whereas the reform programs and policies of the political/national leaders often included secularization, at least implicitly, Islamic modernizers were eclectic: while seeking to adopt the sources of the strength of the West, including constitutionalism and government by representation, they wanted to preserve their cultural and national identities as well as Islamic principles and values as the moral foundation of the society. These Islamic modernizers included Jamal al-Din al-Afghani (1838-97), Muhammad Abduh (1849-1905), Qasim Amin (1863-1908), and Shaikh Muhammad Hussain Naini in Egypt and Iran; and Sayyid Ahmad Khan (1817-98) and Muhammad Iqbal (1875-1938) in India.

To be sure, there was resistance to change. But, by and large, nationalist reformers in many Muslim countries did manage to pursue vigorous agendas of social, economic, and political change. John Esposito, one of the leading experts of Islamic studies in the United States, describes the early attitude of the political and economic policy makers of the Muslim world toward the modern world of the West:

Both the indigenous elites, who guided government development programs in newly emerging Muslim states, and their foreign patrons and advisers were Western-oriented and Western-educated. All proceeded from a premise that equated modernization with Westernization. The clear goal and presupposition of development was that every day and in every way things should become more modern (i.e., Western and secular), from cities, buildings, bureaucracies, companies, and schools to politics and culture. While some warned of the need to be selective, the desired direction and pace of change were unmistakable [7].

Distorted, Derailed and Delayed Reformation

Resistance to change is not limited to Muslims or the Muslim world; change almost always generates resistance. In fact, the Christian Church’s nearly 400-year resistance to capitalist transformation in Europe was even more traumatic than that of the Muslim world. The resulting travail of transition created more social turbulence than has been observed in the context of the Muslim world. Whereas the Church of the Middle Ages anathemized the very idea of gain, the pursuit of gain and the accumulation of property are considered noble pursuits in Islam.

Opponents of transition to capitalism in Europe not only tried (and almost hanged) Robert Keane for having made a six-percent profit on his investment and “prohibited merchants from carrying unsightly bundles” of their merchandise, but also “fought for the privilege of carrying on in its fathers’ footsteps” [8]. As Karen Armstrong, author of a number of scholarly books on religious fundamentalism, points out, during the nearly 400 years of transition, the Western people often “experienced . . . bloody revolutions, reigns of terror, genocide, violent wars of religion, the despoliation of the countryside, vast social upheavals, exploitation in the factories, spiritual malaise and profound anomie in the new megacities” [9].

Muslim societies, like less-developed societies elsewhere, are expected, or compelled by the imperatives of the world market, to traverse the nearly four hundred-year journey of the West in a much shorter period of time. Furthermore, the travails of transition in the case of these belatedly developing countries (vis-à-vis the case of early developers of the West) are often complicated by foreign interventions and imperial/colonial pressures from outside.   External pressure has included not only direct colonial and/or imperial military force, but also covert and creeping pressure exerted from the more subtle market forces and agents such as the International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organization and credit rating agencies like Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s.

Despite its turbulence, the painful process of transition to capitalism in the West was largely an internal process; no foreign force or interference could be blamed for the travails of transition. And the pains of transitions were thus gradually and grudgingly accepted as historical inevitabilities. Not so in the case of belatedly developing countries. Here, the pains of change and transition are sometimes perceived not as historical necessities but as products of foreign designs or imperialist schemes. Accordingly, the agony of change is often blamed (especially by the conservative proponents of the status quo) on external forces or powers: colonialism, imperialism, and (now) neo-liberalism.

Actual foreign intervention, realizing and reinforcing such perceptions, has thus had a retarding or delaying impact on the process of reform in the Muslim world. For intervention from outside often plays into the hands of the conservative, obscurantist elements that are quite adept at portraying their innate opposition to change as a struggle against foreign intrusion, thereby reinforcing resistance to reform, especially religious reform. Today, for example, U.S. and European interventions in the internal affairs of many countries such as Egypt, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Jordan, Turkey, and Nigeria far from facilitating the process of reform or helping the forces of change in these countries, are actually hurting such forces and delaying reform as they plays into the hands of their conservative opponents and strengthens the forces of resistance.

Contrary to the rising political influence of “radical Islamists” in recent years/decades, radical Islamic circles of the earlier periods did not sway much power over the direction of national economies and policies. Their opposition to Western values and influences was often in the form of passive “rejection or elusion” [10]. They simply refused to cooperate or deal with the colonial powers and their institutions (such as modern Western school systems) spreading in their midst: “They did not attempt to assume direct political control but used their position to preserve tradition as best as they could under the rapidly changing conditions of the time.” And while they “remained an important factor in influencing public opinion . . . , they basically used their position to encourage obedience to those in power” [11].

To the extent that conservative Islamic figures or groups actively opposed policies of change, such obscurantist challenges were almost always defeated, coerced, or co-opted by the modernizing, reforming, or revolutionary secular nationalist leaders. Thus, in all the major social movements of the first two-thirds of the twentieth century (that is, in the anti-colonial/anti-imperial national liberation movements as well as in the subsequent radical reform movements of a “non-capitalist” or “socialist-oriented” character of the 1950s and 1960s) national leadership and economic development programs lay with secular nationalists.

Those programs were fashioned either after the U.S. model of economic development, as in the case of the Shah of Iran and the King of Jordan, or after the Soviet model of “non-capitalist development,” as in the cases of Nasser’s Egypt, for example. While it is now relatively easier to see, in hindsight, the shortcomings and the failures of those development programs, such programs did at the time hold promises of lifting the respective societies out of dependence, poverty, and underdevelopment.

As long as the hopes and aspirations that were thus enlivened remained animated, the appeals of vague promises of an “Islamic alternative” were not strong enough to challenge the rule of the secular nationalist leaders and their development programs—and that meant, as mentioned earlier, the first two-thirds of the twentieth century.

By the late 1960s and early 1970s, however, it became clear that the largely US-sponsored industrialization and development programs in the Muslim (and other less-developed) countries were highly selective, extremely uneven and mostly geared to the interests of transnational corporations and their elite comprador allies in the host countries. All the propitious factors and circumstances that had until then nurtured the dreams of economic progress, democratic rights, and political sovereignty seemed unreal and disappointing. And as those hopes and dreams turned sour, the promises of an “Islamic alternative” began to sound appealing—hence, the resurgence of “political Islam” since the 1970s.

In brief, historical evidence refutes the claim that Islam and/or the Muslim world are inherently incompatible with modernization, and that, therefore, the rise of an Islamic militancy in the last several decades, and the violent reactions such as the Charlie Hebdo and 9/11 terrorist attacks, are essentially manifestations of “the clash of civilizations.” Close scrutiny of the Muslim world’s early responses to the challenges of the modern West reveals that, despite sporadic resistance, the overall policy was moving in the direction of reform and adaptation. That policy of adaptation and openness continued from the time of the Muslim world’s initial contacts with the modern world in the late eighteenth and the early nineteenth centuries until approximately the last third of the twentieth century. The recent resistance to Western values and the quest for a return to the Islamic ethos—and the concomitant delay in the Islamic reformation—are therefore more the products of interventionist geopolitical policies of Western powers than the purported rigidity of Islam.

Ismael Hossein-zadeh is Professor Emeritus of Economics (Drake University). He is the author of Beyond Mainstream Explanations of the Financial Crisis (Routledge 2014), The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism (Palgrave–Macmillan 2007), and the Soviet Non-capitalist Development: The Case of Nasser’s Egypt (Praeger Publishers 1989). He is also a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion

References

[1] Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York: Touchstone Books, 1997); Bernard, Lewis, What Went Wrong: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).

[2] This essay draws heavily on Chapter 5 of my book, The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism (Palgrave-Macmillan 2007).

[3] John O. Voll, Islam: Continuity and Change in the Modern World, Second ed. (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1994).

[4] Karen Armstrong, Islam: A Short History (New York: The Modern Library, 2000).

[5] Ibid., p. 150.

[6] Ibid., pp. 150-51.

[7] John Esposito, The Islamic Threat (NY: Oxford University Press, 1992), p. 9.

[8] Robert Heilbroner, The Worldly Philosophers (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1972), p. 35.

[9] Armstrong, Islam: A Short History (cited above) p. 145.

[10] Wu Guying, “Middle East: The Roots of Conflict,” Asia Times (22 November 2002): <http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/DK22Ak05.html&gt;.

[11] John O. Voll, Islam: Continuity and Change in the Modern World (cited above), p. 94.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/02/09/why-islamic-reform-is-delayed/

Malaysia after Hudud: A Nation Divided


March 29, 2015

Malaysia after Hudud: A Nation Divided

By Zurairi AR and Boo Su-Lyn

No Hudud in MalaysiaTHIS?

Hudud has for the past two decades largely been treated as a mere fringe topic among Malaysians, a political hot potato tossed back and forth between local parties as they canvassed for Muslim votes during elections.

But last week, when the Kelantan legislative assembly passed amendments to its Shariah Criminal Code II enactment — dubbed the hudud Bill — the controversial Islamic penal code quickly became a legitimate public concern.

Now, if PAS, the Islamist party that governs Kelantan, next succeeds at the federal level in getting more legislative amendments approved, hudud, an Islamic punishment system under Shariah law, will be implemented for the first time in a Malaysian state.

Although the law would only be confined to Kelantan, it must be noted that PAS’s manoeuvre in Kelantan has already roused the ambitions of other Islamist groups and scholars who wish to see hudud sweep the country. All eyes are also on Terengganu, which had also passed a similar but still ungazetted enactment with hudud elements in 2002.

The ball is now in Parliament’s court, but analysts and observers are already warning that should hudud get implemented in other states, the Malaysia we know today will head towards an irreparable divide.

A legal system divided

Malaysia has always practised a dual-track legal system, although for the Muslims, legal disputes on family matters like marriage, divorce and inheritance, and the precepts of Islam, are dealt with under the Shariah law.

The implementation of hudud, however, will see the Shariah courts encroaching on offences already covered in the civil justice system, specifically the Penal Code. These include crimes like sariqah (theft) and hirabah (robbery). Hudud’s companion qisas, meanwhile will legislate the offence of murder, which is also already covered by civil law.

According to amendments in Kelantan’s hudud Bill, however, once enforced, hudud will only apply to Muslims. For example, a Muslim guilty of theft in Kelantan can be punished by amputation of his limbs, under Section 7 of the state’s hudud law.

But in the Penal Code, the same crime committed by a non-Muslim prescribes a maximum seven-year jail term or fine or both, according to Section 379 of the legislation.

The prospect of subjecting criminals to two different punishments for the same crime by virtue of their religious backgrounds, however, could prove complicated in a diverse nation like Malaysia, analysts said.

Hudud2OR THIS?

“How do you enforce this in a plural society? Of course it would lead to injustice between Muslims and non-Muslims, especially if the crime involves perpetrators of different religions,” political analyst Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Hassan said in a recent phone interview.

“I think this contradicts the principles of Islam, where there exists variations and injustice in the punishment for the same crime.” At the crux of the argument is the Federal Constitution, the supreme law of the country that is the bedrock of Malaysia’s foundation.

If hudud is to be implemented, it would mean that the Federal Constitution will have to be amended to legislate against crimes already under the Penal Code, said Nizam Bashir, who is both a constitutional and Shariah lawyer.

“What seems to be missing from the conversation at this point of time is what the framers of the Constitution has envisaged as the appropriate balance of powers in a federal system of government like Malaysia. Simply put, we were always meant to have a strong central government,” Nizam told Malay Mail Online.

“Having said that, this does not mean that states have no power or the monarchs’ role are trivialised in some way in the Constitution. It is far from that.

“But it is very clear that the central government was always meant to take centre stage on matters like crime, and one can see why as it would promote public order,” the lawyer added.

The same sentiment was expressed by Malaysian Bar President Steven Thiru, who in a statement on March 20, said implementing hudud laws would fundamentally alter Malaysia’s secular Federal Constitution in ways never intended.

“If hudud were brought into the criminal justice system, it would result in the importation of Islamic penal law into a secular system. This would result in a rewriting of the Federal Constitution,” Steven warned.

Lawyers have also claimed that the implementation of hudud in Kelantan will lead to more constitutional challenges being filed in court against the Islamic penal code.Constitutional lawyer New Sin Yew pointed out that the civil courts were forced to intervene in previous cases of Shariah courts overstepping their jurisdiction, such as M. Indira Gandhi’s child custody dispute with her ex-husband who is a Muslim convert.

“Certain aspects of the state enactment like sariqah or hirabah will be challenged in the civil courts because only the civil courts have the power to decide on constitutional issues,” New told Malay Mail Online, referring to the hudud Bill.

“And certain punishments like the death penalty and amputation will be challenged for violating federal law,” he added, noting that the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 limits the punishments Islamic courts can impose to three years’ jail, RM5,000 fines or six strokes of whipping.

These challenges are bound to widen the chasm between the two legal systems, especially with minister in charge of religious affairs Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom alleging last year of a “new wave” of assault on Islam here, and accusing rights groups of colluding with enemies of Islam to put its religious institutions on trial in a secular court.

A society divided

The discrimination in punishment among Muslims and non-Muslims will also lead to bigger problems in society as Malaysians would be treated differently in the eyes of the law, Nik Abdul Aziz suggested.

Already, clear divisions have appeared between those in support of Kelantan’s hudud and those who do not, as demonstrated in the recent case of BFM presenter Aisyah Tajuddin.

The young Muslim journalist earned heavy criticism over a satirical video produced by the popular business radio station where she was seen criticising the PAS government’s bid to introduce the law in Kelantan.

“This phenomenon will bring about clashes, discontent, and other problems … When the public is not being managed fairly, it will bring towards a discriminatory pattern,” warned the analyst, who is also a retired former head of Dakwah Studies Department in Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

“Islam emphasises fairness. Under the roof of fairness, only then can you guarantee economic and social stability.”

RATNA_OSMANRatna Osman and Zainah Anwar

Meanwhile, the dismissal of women’s role in hudud also has women rights group Sister in Islam (SIS) worried over the treatment of women in the future, especially Muslim women. SIS’s Executive Director Ratna Osman pointed to Section 41 of Kelantan’s hudud Bill, which specifies that only an adolescent and fair male Muslim can stand as a witness in the cases of zina (illicit sex) and liwat (sodomy).

“This disqualified non-Muslims overall and Muslim women, and this contradicts with equality that is promised under Article 8 of the Constitution, that guarantees equality for all regardless of race and gender,” Ratna told Malay Mail Online.

“The fact that women are disqualified as witnesses in the code, is against the practise of Islamic laws on evidence,” she added, citing several hadith—collections of Prophet Muhammad’s sayings and deeds—where women’s testimonies were accepted in criminal cases.

She also took issue with the provisions in Kelantan’s bill governing qazaf (false accusation of zina), which puts the burden of proof on women in cases of rape, and the li’an provision, which allows a husband to accuse his wife of adultery under a sacred oath.

“You will find because of this gender inequality, a lot of cases, in Iran particularly, where husbands are always using li’an as a means to put their wives in jail. It is an easy way out of marriage,” Ratna claimed.

She also pointed to how in other countries like Pakistan, it is always the women who are convicted of zina while their male partners escape prosecution.Apart from that, Ratna also noted the difficulty in criticising the implementation of hudud after Kelantan passed its hudud Bill.

The space of discourse, even among Muslims, is rapidly shrinking with the authorities now warning laymen against discussing hudud and religion in general, as the voice of discontent continues to grow unfettered online.

Against their critics, PAS has so far resorted to labels from “immorals” and “liars”, which Kelantan Mentri Besar Datuk Ahmad Yaakob uttered when tabling the bill, to “parrots” and “unforgivable ignorants” in PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang’s open letter a week after.

A country divided

In its video, BFM and Aisyah had asked how exactly hudud would fill the rice bowls of Kelantan folks, especially as the state remains one of the poorest in the country. The question has still remained unanswered, but critics told Malay Mail Online that the trickle down effect of hudud’s implementation in plural Malaysia will inevitably impact even bread and butter issues.

“Why must we rush in hudud, when the priority should be on social justice, eradicating poverty, access to health services, urban cleanliness? There are a lot of things in Islam we can implement,” Nik Abdul Aziz suggested.

“This hudud punishments will lead to bigger implications. If there is a huge case of theft, wouldn’t you have one race with fewer hands than the others? That is why we have to think this out thoroughly.”

There is already global fear that Malaysia risks losing its identity as a model of religious moderation and multiracialism if hudud goes ahead, as expressed by an influential group of retired Malay senior civil servants dubbed G25 on March 25.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak invariably touts Malaysia’s reputation to the international community and investors as a so-called moderate Muslim country, especially in his address to the United Nations as recent as September last year. But this image has continued to take a beating with recent actions taken by religious authorities, especially in the case of the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims.

Having hudud nationwide might be the nail on the coffin for his campaign, according to some. “If hudud were ever to see the light of day in Malaysia we can be sure that there will be a massive outflow of investment, wealth and people from Malaysia,” tycoon and philanthropist Koon Yew Yin wrote in his blog on March 22.

“It is not only the locals who will leave. The international community—including foreign investors—has been more loud and vociferous in expressing concern about the growing Islamisation in the country.”

“Adoption by Parliament — even if a two-thirds majority is not obtained — will be the beginning of the end for moderate and inclusive Islam in the country. Is the Middle East model of fundamentalist Islam which has brought destruction and disaster the model that Malaysian Muslims want to follow? I do not think so,” he added.

On March 19, the Kelantan state assembly approved the Shariah Criminal Code (II) (1993) 2015 Enactment with 31 votes from PAS lawmakers supported by 12 from UMNO.

PAS now plans to put forward two private members’ bills in Parliament to enable Kelantan to enforce hudud ― one will seek approval for the state to legislate punishment for crimes under the Penal Code.

The other seeks to amend the Shariah Courts (Criminal) Jurisdiction Act 1965 to enable Islamic courts to mete out punishments like the death penalty for apostasy and amputation of limbs for theft. PAS has said it only needs a simple majority in Parliament, or 112 MPs in the Dewan Rakyat, to amend the Shariah Courts (Criminal) Jurisdiction Act.

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/snapshot-of-malaysia-after-hudud-a-nation-divided#sthash.dOTRpc39.UE8fsUth.dpuf

“Moderate” Malaysia with Hudud–Wrong signal to the World, says G25


March 25, 2015

“Moderate” Malaysia with Hudud–Wrong signal to the World, says G25

http://www.themalaysianinsider.com

Group of 25Malaysia will send a signal to the world that it has abandoned moderation should the PAS-led Kelantan government be allowed to enforce hudud in the state, said the G25, a group of retired high-ranking Malay civil servants who want a rational discourse on Islam.

The group said Malaysia would be seen as a country governed by religious laws that were subjected to the interpretation of clerics, and urged Putrajaya to protect the Federal Constitution as the country’s supreme law.

“Since Independence, this country has chosen the path of moderation. The Prime Minister has continued to steer the government along this path and has launched the Global Movement of Moderates to show to the world that the country is committed to the principle of moderation.

“The imposition of PAS’s hudud laws will signify to the world that Malaysia has abandoned the moderate path. We will be seen as a country governed by religious laws which are subjected to the vagaries of interpretation of the ulama who are also fallible human beings,” G25 said in a statement.

The group said that a multiracial country with an open economy like Malaysia could not afford to alter the secular character of its Constitution to allow for the implementation of PAS’s hudud enactment.

G25 added that it supported Dr Chandra Muzaffar’s view that the Federal Constitution was not un-Islamic, and said any attempt to amend the Constitution to allow hudud’s implementation would violate the Malaysia Agreement.

It also raised doubts as to whether Kelantan’s hudud law, as detailed in the Kelantan Shariah Criminal Code (11) Enactment, 1993 (Amendment 2015) would succeed in upholding justice, given the diversity of juristic interpretations of the law.

G25 added that the Kelantan government was pushing for hudud without even having met the conditions required for its implementation, as outlined by Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Chairman of the World Union of Muslim Scholars.

Al-Qaradawi had said that a society must ensure the economic needs of the people were met, employment opportunities were provided for all, and poverty was eradicated before hudud could be enforced, said G25.

“In light of the above elucidation by Sheikh Qaradawi, can any state in Malaysia claim to have satisfied the pre-conditions in order to allow for the implementation of Hudud?” said G25.

The group also cited Islamic scholar Professor Hashim Kamali, who analysed PAS’s original 1993 enactment and found that it “failed to be reflective either of the balanced outlook of the Quran or of the social conditions and realities of contemporary Malaysian society”.

Hashim, who heads the Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS), also said, “the Hudud Bill exhibited no attempt to exercise Ijtihad (creative thought) over new issues such that would fulfil the ideals of justice and to encourage the development of a judicious social policy.”

G25 said that a perusal of the 2015 hudud enactment revealed it continued to emphasise punishment rather than repentance and rehabilitation as espoused in the Quran.

“Many other prominent Muslim scholars such as S.A.A. Maududi, Salim el-Awa, Muhamad al-Ghazali, Mustafa al-Zarqa and Cherif Bassiouni 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 induce the opposite result and frustrate, rather than satisfy, the Islamic vision of justice and fair play.

“In addition, they emphasise that the Hadith, as recorded in Sahih Al-Bukhari, and which is also a legal maxim, provides that Hudud must be suspended in doubtful situations,” said G25.

Hadi3PAS President Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang is seeking to table a private member’s bill in Parliament during the current sitting ending April 9, which, if passed, would allow the Kelantan government to enforce hudud in the state.

The bill is to amend the Shariah Courts Act (Criminal Jurisdiction) 1965, which limits the power of the Shariah courts to a maximum penalty of RM5,000 in fine, three years’ jail and six strokes of the rotan.

An amendment is required in this law to enable Kelantan to carry out hudud law, after the state assembly on Thursday unanimously passed the Shariah Criminal Code II Enactment 1993 (Amendment 2015).

If tabled in Parliament, Hadi’s private member’s bill only needs the support of 112 MPs, or a simple majority, for it to be passed if the full house of 222 MPs are sitting.

Barisan Nasional (BN) has yet to issue an official statement in support of hudud, while BN Back Benchers Club Chief Tan Sri Shahrir Samad said the 87 Muslim UMNO MPs and 10 Muslim PBB MPs may vote based on their conscience.

However, UMNO MP Datuk Nur Jazlan has already stated he will not support the enforcement of hudud, while Padang Rengas MP Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz became the first minister from the party to dismiss attempts to implement hudud in Malaysia, saying such talk was “stupid” as it could never legally happen.

De facto Law Minister Nancy Shukri yesterday, similarly dismissed the chance of hudud being implemented in Kelantan, saying the private member’s bill on the issue will not get a single vote from Sarawak lawmakers in Parliament. –
– See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/hudud-laws-will-signal-malaysia-has-abandoned-moderation-says-g25#sthash.4yJaYLbV.dpuf

Ask our Government to serve us


March 24, 2015

Ask our Government to serve us

by TK Chua@www.freemalaysia.com

I belong to a generation that is familiar with John F Kennedy’s call to his countrymen to “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” More than half a century has passed since that call, but I think it still resonates with many of us.

But today I want to be “unreasonable” and “defiant”. I want to ask what Malaysia (read the government) can do for us, the ordinary Malaysians.

We ordinary Malaysians have done much for the country. We are hardworking, enterprising, law abiding (in fact, quite docile actually) and we pay our taxes. We live frugally, save up, educate our children, and bring in foreign exchange earnings. We open up new growth areas, build new factories and townships as well as generate income and wealth. We do charity whenever we can. We never hesitate to help when disasters or calamities strike. We support and participate in programmes initiated by the government to the extent that we can. We play by the rules.

Now it is the government’s turn to do its part. What can the government do for us?

Najib and RosmahFirst, I want the government to provide us leadership – yes, true leadership, not incompetent, “silent” and autocratic leadership. We want leaders with vision for public duties and services, not leaders whose preoccupation is to form GLCs and sign another procurement contract or MOU. We want leaders whom we can revere, not fear; love, not loathe; and cooperate, not act only when compelled. Have we had one such leader lately? Is there one leader in Putrajaya who is like Joseph, the Premier of Egypt during the Pharaoh’s era (since many of our politicians are so “pious and religious”, I thought this example is most appropriate)? We demand that leaders spend more time and effort administering, less on matters concerning the afterlife.

Second, I want this country to provide us security and protection from crimes and harm. Citizens of this country have no right to bear arms. We therefore demand that the police do their job. Control, investigate and prosecute all crimes committed quickly and professionally now. Malaysians do not deserve to live under constant fear of robberies, burglaries, snatch thefts, rapes and threats of rape as well as murder.

Third, we demand that the government manage and protect our livelihood. We want the government to protect our savings by managing inflation and the value of our ringgit responsibly. We demand that the value of our compulsory savings in EPF is preserved when we retire ten, twenty or thirty years down the road. Otherwise our EPF contributions would be just another form of tax on our income.

We demand that our quality of life is maintained through sustained preservation of the ringgit’s value. We demand that the government rip apart monopolies, dismantle crony capitalism and provide a level playing field for all. We demand that actions be taken now; we don’t want mere promises and words.

Fourth, we demand that the government contain our fractious race relations and deal with religious extremism sternly and quickly. There is no need for posturing and pretending. The authorities should know who the real culprits and instigators are. There should be no double standards and condoning of the culprits and instigators.

We demand that this country be administered fairly and justly and without fear or favour. We accept there are issues which are sensitive. But we demand that we are given the democratic space to discuss at least the implementation of these issues without harassment and interference. We must allow the contest of ideas. Otherwise, it is dogmatism and authoritarianism, which will eventually send this country into oblivion.

Fifth, we want the government to concentrate on the business of government. Please, it is not the business of the government to be involved in beef supply, property development, buying and operating hotels and restaurants all over the world, buying and selling energy assets or be a hedge fund manager putting money in offshore banks. All these, the private sector can do better.

We demand that the government give us good governance, provide us with competitive schools, efficiently run hospitals and public transport and ensure that our environment is clean and sustainable. We demand that the government manage our water resources and our habitat with care and utmost urgency.

Sixth, we demand persistent and consistent enforcement of laws, rules and regulations for the good of the majority. Good laws without firm and fair application will not make a good society. Just look at violations on our roads and highways, illegal and haphazard parking (now even along main roads), haphazard house renovations, uncollected rubbish, clogged drains, filthy eateries, pests and stray dogs and cats running around and illegal hawking and littering. Just look at the number of illegal immigrants in the country and their pervasive impact on our society. We have the most bloated civil service in the world and yet the usual excuse for lackadaisical enforcement is lack of manpower. No, it is not due to lack of manpower and resources. Enforcement agencies ought to know the real reasons why they are ineffective and not productive. We demand that they buck up and fix it now.

We can make more demands, but that should be enough for now.

T K Chua is an FMT reader.

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