The Curse of The Obsession With Single-Issue Politics by M. Bakri Musa


March 23, 2015

The Curse of The Obsession With Single-Issue Politics

by Dr.M.Bakri Musa, Morgan-Hill, California (received via e-mail)

bakri-musaWe Malays are obsessed – and cursed – with the single-issue politics of bangsa, agama dan negara (race, religion and nation). We have paid, and continue to pay, a severe price for this. Our fixation with those three issues detracts us from pursuing other legitimate endeavors, in particular, our social, economic and educational development. Perversely and far more consequential, our collective addiction to bangsa, agama dan negara only polarizes us.

We, leaders and followers alike, have yet to acknowledge much less address this monumental and unnecessary obstacle we impose upon ourselves. The current angst over hudud (religious laws) reflects this far-from-blissful ignorance. With Malays over represented in the various dysfunctional categories (drug abusers, abandoned babies, and broken families), and with our graduates overwhelmingly unemployable, our leaders are consumed with cutting off hands and stoning to death as punishments for thievery and adultery. Meanwhile pervasive corruption and endemic incompetence destroy our society and institutions. Those are the terrible consequences of our misplaced obsession with agama.

If we focus more on earthly issues such as reducing corruption, enhancing our schools and universities, and on improving economic opportunities, then we are more likely to produce a just and equitable society. That would mertabatkan (enhance the status of) our agama, bangsa dan negara on a far more impressive scale.

Make no mistake, if we remain marginalized or if we fail to contribute our share, then it matters little whether Malaysia is an Islamic State or had achieved “developed” status, our agama, bangsa dan negara will be relegated to the cellar of humanity. Our hollering of Ketuanan Melayu (Malay Supremacy) would then be but a desperate and pathetic manifestation of Kebangsatan Melayu (Malay Poverty).

A Historical Perspective

For the first half of the last century, our fixation was, as to be expected, on nationalism. Our forefathers were consumed with the struggle to be free from the clutches of colonialism, and the right to be independent. With merdeka a reality in 1957, the obsession then shifted from negara to bangsa, from merdeka to bahasa (language). Today with Malay language specifically and customs generally accepted as the national norms, our mania has now shifted to agama.

While our passion for negara and bangsa had a definite and definable endpoint (independence and Malay as the national language respectively), what is the goal with our obsession on agama? ISIS Malaysia? And as for entry into heaven, only Allah knows that.

We have forgotten, or are unaware in the first place, the price we paid for our earlier obsessions. Consider our nationalistic fervor of yore. While we Malays were consumed with treating the colonialists as white devils and fighting them, non-Malays seized every opportunity to work with and learn from them. In our smugness and misplaced sense of superiority we asserted that we had nothing to learn from those colonials and outsiders, blithely ignoring the obvious evidences to the contrary, just like the Japanese before the Meiji Restoration.

What has umno achieved Bakri M

As a result when independence came, non-Malays were much more equipped to take full advantage of that fact while we Malays were still consumed with endlessly shouting merdeka and rehashing an established reality. A decade later we found ourselves marginalized while the non-natives were busy taking over opportunities left behind by the British. Then like a wild boar caught in a trap of its own making, we lashed out at everyone and everything, with ugly consequences for all.

It took the brilliance and foresightedness of the late Tun Razak to first of all recognize the underlying pathology and then craft an imaginative and effective remedy.

As for our struggle for independence, let me inject a not-so-obvious observation. Our merdeka came less from the battles of our jingoistic warriors, more from British realization that colonialism was no longer chic. Indeed it became an affront to their sensibilities. I would be less certain of that conviction had our colonizers been the Chinese or Russians. The Tibetans and Chechens will attest to that.

We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the British for another reason. They cultivated sensible leaders amongst us and dealt harshly with the radicals. Consequently we were blessed with post-independent figures like Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Razak while spared the likes of Sukarno and Ho Chi Minh.

Had we been less arrogant culturally and instead learned from the British, we would have been able to give full meaning to our merdeka. There was much that we could have learned from a nation that ushered in the Industrial Revolution and the Scientific Age.

Folly of The National Language Obsession

The May 1969 race riot should have taught us the obvious and very necessary lesson that we must prepare our people well so they could make their rightful contributions and not be left behind. It did not. Instead we shifted our obsession, this time to language. Bahasa jiwa banga (Language the soul of a race), we deluded ourselves.

With that we sacrificed generations of precious and scarce Malay minds to the altar of the supremacy of Bahasa. We also squandered what precious little legacy the British had left us, specifically our facility with English. Imagine had we built on that!

Yes, Malay is now the national language, a fact affirmed by all. Less noticed or acknowledged is that while non-Malays are facile with that language they are also well versed in others, in particular English. Not so Malays, with our leaders eagerly egging on our fantasy that knowing only Malay was sufficient.

DPM MalaysiaWith English now the de facto language of science, commerce and international dealings, not to mention the language of global consumers especially affluent ones, our Malay-only fluency is a severe handicap. We are lost or ignored abroad, or even in Malaysia within the private sector. Again we are being left out because of our misplaced obsession.

The sad part is that we are only now just recognizing this tragic reality. Deputy Prime Minister Muhyyddin (who is also in charge of education) was stunned to learn that our students fared poorly in international comparisons. He is still stunned for he has yet to come up with a coherent solution.

Our Current Delusion with Religion

Judging from the current obsession with hudud, we have learned nothing from our earlier follies with bangsa dan negara.

Faith is a personal matter. This is especially so with Islam. Our Holy Book says that on the Day of Judgment we would be judged solely by our deeds. We cannot excuse them based on our following the dictates of this great leader or the teachings of that mesmerizing ulama. Islam is also unique in being devoid of a clergy class. There is no pope or priest to mediate between us and Allah, or a prophet who died in order to expiate our sins.

The now vociferous and overbearing ulama class imposing itself upon us is a recent innovation (bida’a) in our faith.  As is evident, this obsession with hudud does not bring Muslims together. Far from it! Hudud also creates an unnecessary chasm between Muslims and non-Muslims. Islam should bring us together.

To Muslims the Koran is the word of Allah, its message for all mankind and till the end of time. That is a matter of faith. While hudud is based on the Koran it is not the Koran. The present understanding of hudud is but the version interpreted by the ancient Bedouins. It is the handiwork of mortals, with all its imperfections. We should not be bound by it but be open to more enlightened readings of the holy book.

We paid dearly for our earlier obsessions with race and nationalism. What would be the price this time for our fixation with religion? Look at the Middle East today. Ponder Nigeria with its Boko Haram. Contemplate being under the brutal ISIS, the messianic Talibans, or the puritanical Saudis.

We have yet to recover from our earlier follies with nationalism and Bahasa, yet we blithely continue making new ones with our current obsession on religion. The mistakes we make this time could well prove irreversible.

Dispense with this public fixation with religion. Instead focus on adil and amanah (justice and integrity), the tenets of our faith. We cannot be Islamic if we are devoid of both. This should be our pursuit, from eminent Malays to not-so-eminent ones, from Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

If our leaders do not lead us there, then dispense with them and pursue our own path forward. Unlike the earlier colonial era, this time there is no superior power except for Allah to guide us find and groom enlightened leaders. We are on our own. As per the wisdom of our Koran, Allah will not change our condition unless we do it ourselves.

Dr. M.Bakri Musa’s latest book, Malaysia’s Wasted Decade 2004-2014. The Toxic Triad of Abdullah, Najib, and UMNO Leadership, has just been released. It will be available soon at major online outlets like Amazon.com.

Musa Hitam Urges UMNO to make a stand on Hudud


March 22, 2015

Tun Musa Hitam urges UMNO to make a stand on Hudud

http://www.themalaysianinsider.com

Musa HitamUMNO should make a stand now on PAS’s hudud and not pretend to be surprised with the Islamist party’s push for the implementation of the Islamic criminal law in Kelantan, says Tun Musa Hitam.

The former Deputy Prime Minister said hudud is not suitable for a country like Malaysia, expressing his disappointment over UMNO’s slow response on the issue.

“I am disappointed that UMNO appeared to be shocked (by PAS’s move) and until now have yet to decide on its stance. I have been worried about this for some time,” he said in a statement from Cordoba, Spain.

“UMNO must take a firm stance. This national issue has a very long implication to the country, both domestically and internationally,”

He said as UMNO could not afford to be seen as trying to outdo PAS on this issue.”Don’t try to be more PAS than PAS themselves. UMNO should not be trying to out-PAS PAS!”, he said.

With PAS’s partners, DAP and PKR deciding not to support PAS’s hudud bill should it be tabled in Parliament, the onus is now on UMNO and Barisan Nasional to clarify whether it supported the bill.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is expected to make an announcement on BN’s stand on PAS’s hudud soon. Several BN component parties had given their views during the recent meeting and it was up to the Prime Minister to disclose it.

Musa, who is also the former UMNO Deputy President, said when it comes to hudud, the people should not be surprised with PAS’s hudud bill as the party has been championing the issue consistently for a long time.

“And to the opposition parties in Pakatan Rakyat, do not pretend you are not aware of it too,” he said. At the same time, Musa reiterated his stance that hudud is not suitable for a country like Malaysia.

“As a former UMNO leader, I strongly believe in my heart that since its establishment until today, UMNO’s stance too has been that hudud is not suitable for a multi-religious, multi-racial country like Malaysia,”

Musa said that if he was wrong about it, UMNO should make a decision on its stance immediately and not brush off the matter. “The nation will not the only one that is going to pay for the consequences, UMNO too will feel its bad effect, more so that it has served the country for so long, Do not let this destroy UMNO from within… don’t self destruct.” he said.

PAS Pesident Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang is seeking to table a private members’ bill in Parliament during the current sitting ending April 9 to enable Kelantan to implement amendments to the state’s hudud laws which have drawn outrage from his own PR allies.

The conservative Islamist leader sent a notice to Parliament on March 18, after the Kelantan state assembly unanimously approved the Shariah Criminal Code 11 1993 (Amendment 2015), or hudud bill.

Hadi’s notice, which was confirmed by a senior party leader who said it was to amend Act 355 (Shariah Courts) which limits the powers of the court and is an impediment to implementing the hudud law.

Act 355 or the Shariah Courts Act (Criminal Jurisdiction) 1965 limits the shariah courts to a maximum penalty of RM3,000 in fine, five years’ jail and six strokes of the rotan.

An amendment is required in this law to enable the Kelantan hudud amendments to take effect. However, PAS allies PKR and DAP say hudud laws are not part of Pakatan’s common stand.

http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/no-shock-surprises-with-pass-hudud-says-musa-hitam

Why Not Hudud


Why Not Hudud

by Hafidz Baharom@www.malaysiakini.com

I have Kelantanese relatives based in Kuala Lumpur. I have a Kelantanese mother, so that explains pretty much where I am coming from.

Throughout the years, many have tried to get me interested in my Islamic faith, from Quran lessons at the Iqra’ Institute to my name suddenly appearing on the registration roll for a religious school which I did not attend.

Karen Armstrong Latest Book

Instead, my interest in religion was catered for by a book my father bought. It was ‘The History of God’ by Karen Armstrong, a book that Malaysia had banned until she came to Kuala Lumpur. My interest was then further piqued by Reza Aslan’s ‘No God But God’. And thus, these two authors – a former nun and a Shiite – are pretty much my go to reads on religion.

Aslan’s book detailed how even the early scholars of Islamic jurisprudence found themselves tortured by the very people who were tasked to implement ‘God’s Law’. Armstrong’s latest book, ‘Fields of Blood’, details how religion itself left a bloody trail in history from the definition of scapegoat all the way up to the schisms in religion.

Every historian highlighting the Crusades from a Christian point of view have highlighted the phrase that launched their armies to the Holy Land; God wills it. Those three words have been the scapegoat for the murder of intellectuals and scholars, the hanging of African-Americans during the age of slavery, the decapitation of people in Saudi Arabia, the burning of a Jordanian pilot in war-torn Syria and now, the passing of hudud law in Kelantan.

In each and every case, God is used as a justification for violent treatment against mankind, from maiming to hanging to amputation, decapitation and even having a human barbecue. The exact same reason was paraphrased to establish Israel at the expense of Palestinians, inevitably launched the Second World War, and even the attacks in Paris.

Hadi3
Hudud is his Only Political Capital
And now it is being used in Kelantan. Personally, I have no idea if what was passed by the Kelantan state assembly is even constitutional. A similar case that we could see with the denunciation of slavery and the secession of Confederate states that led to the American Civil War.

Even then, one side had argued that slavery was a God-given right. Similarly, I would wait for the law to be put to the test. Will the people of Kelantan all around Malaysia found to be in offence of their laws be dragged across state lines to be held accountable, similar to how slaves who escaped were dragged kicking and screaming across the Mason-Dixon Line?

Leading to a schism?

Will we see other states suddenly legislating against these actions and thus, leading to a schism which will lead to a similar separation as America experienced? Unfortunately for us, we don’t have a Lincoln who would threaten a civil war or an end to the hudud implementation.

Instead, we have a toothless federal government which has done nothing but remain mum, even when a woman in the media is getting death threats for speaking up against this ridiculous topic. And this is exactly how I perceive hudud law; a ridiculous topic.

Kelantan is one of the poorest states in the federation of Malaysia. It has seen its natural resources plundered for the wealth of the few and for all its talk of being ‘Islamic’, there is nothing Islamic about inequality in wealth and opportunities which the state suffers greatly from.

A quick look at the statistics provided by the relevant authority shows that the state has an increasing number of its population venturing out to other states to pursue education and jobs.

So I only have this to say to the members of the Kelantan state assembly; if you truly see value in implementing God’s Law, have it apply on yourselves to the fullest extent before applying it to anyone else.

God’s law dictates you pay true tithes on your business and empty out your baitulmal annually and give it to the poorest of your people. Have you done so? God’s law dictates you are only lease holder for the Earth, yet I notice no such harsh penalties for pollution and illegal logging. Why is that?

There are many aspects of God’s law that is not even looked at or bothered by the Kelantan state assembly, and this would make them all hypocrites. So, what does God’s law dictate on these people? To be frank, it would mean their special privileges under Article 153 would all be revoked.

This is all, of course, the rambling views of someone who looks at religion from a historical aspect with a layman appreciation of Islam.

I was taught that to preach religion, one had to actually follow it to the letter before doing so. Thus, why would I support a law which I would never in my life follow to the letter, Godly or not.

After all, not everyone in this country even believes in the same God, let alone the existence of a god. As such, do you punish someone who does not even believe in the same fate you do that awaits them? What if you’re wrong? And the most important question of all; what if you’re wrong? Would you be willing to bet your afterlife on your actions?

This is basically the main point of God’s covenant in all laws He so dictates. It’s a risky thing to bet your life, it is truly another to bet eternal damnation for your wrongdoings.

I’d rather not bet the wrath of my deity on punishing others while I myself do not adhere to His will. But since Kelantan wishes to do so, I hope they have considered the consequences of such a covenant.

 

Why Islam needs a Reformation


March 21, 2015

MY NOTE: I posted Ms. Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s essay this morning to encourageDin Merican New rebuttals of her views from my enlightened readers. When I came back to my computer about an hour ago, I found to my horror that my post went missing. I do wish to speculate  what happened. I can only attribute its disappearance and comments from my readers to some technical error.

Ms. Ali’s essay is indeed controversial as the person herself. She was persecuted for her heretical views on Islam and had to live in the United States to avoid harm to her life and limb. But that is not the point.

My purpose in this blog is to encourage reasoned discourse and promote exchange of views on the state of Islam in our contemporary world, especially in our own country where PAS  including UMNO assemblymen has voted in favour of hudud with amendments in Kelantan. Politics has gotten in the way of religion, thanks to both PAS and UMNO and that cannot be to the good of Malaysian society. –Din Merican

The Saturday Essay

Why Islam Needs a Reformation

To defeat the extremists for good, Muslims must reject those aspects of their tradition that prompt some believers to resort to oppression and holy war

A Hirsi Ali“Islam’s borders are bloody,” wrote the late political scientist Samuel Huntington in 1996, “and so are its innards.” Nearly 20 years later, Huntington looks more right than ever before. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, at least 70% of all the fatalities in armed conflicts around the world last year were in wars involving Muslims. In 2013, there were nearly 12,000 terrorist attacks world-wide. The lion’s share were in Muslim-majority countries, and many of the others were carried out by Muslims. By far the most numerous victims of Muslim violence—including executions and lynchings not captured in these statistics—are Muslims themselves.

Not all of this violence is explicitly motivated by religion, but a great deal of it is. I believe that it is foolish to insist, as Western leaders habitually do, that the violent acts committed in the name of Islam can somehow be divorced from the religion itself. For more than a decade, my message has been simple: Islam is not a religion of peace.

When I assert this, I do not mean that Islamic belief makes all Muslims violent. This is manifestly not the case: There are many millions of peaceful Muslims in the world. What I do say is that the call to violence and the justification for it are explicitly stated in the sacred texts of Islam. Moreover, this theologically sanctioned violence is there to be activated by any number of offenses, including but not limited to apostasy, adultery, blasphemy and even something as vague as threats to family honor or to the honor of Islam itself.

It is not just al Qaeda and Islamic State that show the violent face of Islamic faith and practice. It is Pakistan, where any statement critical of the Prophet or Islam is labeled as blasphemy and punishable by death. It is Saudi Arabia, where churches and synagogues are outlawed and where beheadings are a legitimate form of punishment. It is Iran, where stoning is an acceptable punishment and homosexuals are hanged for their “crime.”

As I see it, the fundamental problem is that the majority of otherwise peaceful and law-abiding Muslims are unwilling to acknowledge, much less to repudiate, the theological warrant for intolerance and violence embedded in their own religious texts. It simply will not do for Muslims to claim that their religion has been “hijacked” by extremists. The killers of Islamic State and Nigeria’s Boko Haram cite the same religious texts that every other Muslim in the world considers sacrosanct.

Instead of letting Islam off the hook with bland clichés about the religion of peace, we in the West need to challenge and debate the very substance of Islamic thought and practice. We need to hold Islam accountable for the acts of its most violent adherents and to demand that it reform or disavow the key beliefs that are used to justify those acts.

As it turns out, the West has some experience with this sort of reformist project. It is precisely what took place in Judaism and Christianity over the centuries, as both traditions gradually consigned the violent passages of their own sacred texts to the past. Many parts of the Bible and the Talmud reflect patriarchal norms, and both also contain many stories of harsh human and divine retribution. As President Barack Obama said in remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast last month, “Remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.”

Yet today, because their faiths went through a long, meaningful process of Reformation and Enlightenment, the vast majority of Jews and Christians have come to dismiss religious scripture that urges intolerance or violence. There are literalist fringes in both religions, but they are true fringes. Regrettably, in Islam, it is the other way around: It is those seeking religious reform who are the fringe element.

Any serious discussion of Islam must begin with its core creed, which is based on the Quran (the words said to have been revealed by the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad) and the hadith (the accompanying works that detail Muhammad’s life and words). Despite some sectarian differences, this creed unites all Muslims. All, without exception, know by heart these words: “I bear witness that there is no God but Allah; and Muhammad is His messenger.” This is the Shahada, the Muslim profession of faith.

The Shahada might seem to be a declaration of belief no different from any other. But the reality is that the Shahada is both a religious and a political symbol.

In the early days of Islam, when Muhammad was going from door to door in Mecca trying to persuade the polytheists to abandon their idols of worship, he was inviting them to accept that there was no god but Allah and that he was Allah’s messenger.

After 10 years of trying this kind of persuasion, however, he and his small band of believers went to Medina, and from that moment, Muhammad’s mission took on a political dimension. Unbelievers were still invited to submit to Allah, but after Medina, they were attacked if they refused. If defeated, they were given the option to convert or to die. (Jews and Christians could retain their faith if they submitted to paying a special tax.)

No symbol represents the soul of Islam more than the Shahada. But today there is a contest within Islam for the ownership of that symbol. Who owns the Shahada? Is it those Muslims who want to emphasize Muhammad’s years in Mecca or those who are inspired by his conquests after Medina? On this basis, I believe that we can distinguish three different groups of Muslims.

The first group is the most problematic. These are the fundamentalists who, when they say the Shahada, mean: “We must live by the strict letter of our creed.” They envision a regime based on Shariah, Islamic religious law. They argue for an Islam largely or completely unchanged from its original seventh-century version. What is more, they take it as a requirement of their faith that they impose it on everyone else.

I shall call them Medina Muslims, in that they see the forcible imposition of Shariah as their religious duty. They aim not just to obey Muhammad’s teaching but also to emulate his warlike conduct after his move to Medina. Even if they do not themselves engage in violence, they do not hesitate to condone it.

It is Medina Muslims who call Jews and Christians “pigs and monkeys.” It is Medina Muslims who prescribe death for the crime of apostasy, death by stoning for adultery and hanging for homosexuality. It is Medina Muslims who put women in burqas and beat them if they leave their homes alone or if they are improperly veiled.

The second group—and the clear majority throughout the Muslim world—consists of Muslims who are loyal to the core creed and worship devoutly but are not inclined to practice violence. I call them Mecca Muslims. Like devout Christians or Jews who attend religious services every day and abide by religious rules in what they eat and wear, Mecca Muslims focus on religious observance. I was born in Somalia and raised as a Mecca Muslim. So were the majority of Muslims from Casablanca to Jakarta.

Yet the Mecca Muslims have a problem: Their religious beliefs exist in an uneasy tension with modernity—the complex of economic, cultural and political innovations that not only reshaped the Western world but also dramatically transformed the developing world as the West exported it. The rational, secular and individualistic values of modernity are fundamentally corrosive of traditional societies, especially hierarchies based on gender, age and inherited status.

Trapped between two worlds of belief and experience, these Muslims are engaged in a daily struggle to adhere to Islam in the context of a society that challenges their values and beliefs at every turn. Many are able to resolve this tension only by withdrawing into self-enclosed (and increasingly self-governing) enclaves. This is called cocooning, a practice whereby Muslim immigrants attempt to wall off outside influences, permitting only an Islamic education for their children and disengaging from the wider non-Muslim community.

It is my hope to engage this second group of Muslims—those closer to Mecca than to Medina—in a dialogue about the meaning and practice of their faith. I recognize that these Muslims are not likely to heed a call for doctrinal reformation from someone they regard as an apostate and infidel. But they may reconsider if I can persuade them to think of me not as an apostate but as a heretic: one of a growing number of people born into Islam who have sought to think critically about the faith we were raised in. It is with this third group—only a few of whom have left Islam altogether—that I would now identify myself.

These are the Muslim dissidents. A few of us have been forced by experience to conclude that we could not continue to be believers; yet we remain deeply engaged in the debate about Islam’s future. The majority of dissidents are reforming believers—among them clerics who have come to realize that their religion must change if its followers are not to be condemned to an interminable cycle of political violence.

How many Muslims belong to each group? Ed Husain of the Council on Foreign Relations estimates that only 3% of the world’s Muslims understand Islam in the militant terms I associate with Muhammad’s time in Medina. But out of well over 1.6 billion believers, or 23% of the globe’s population, that 48 million seem to be more than enough. (I would put the number significantly higher, based on survey data on attitudes toward Shariah in Muslim countries.)

In any case, regardless of the numbers, it is the Medina Muslims who have captured the world’s attention on the airwaves, over social media, in far too many mosques and, of course, on the battlefield.

The Medina Muslims pose a threat not just to non-Muslims. They also undermine the position of those Mecca Muslims attempting to lead a quiet life in their cultural cocoons throughout the Western world. But those under the greatest threat are the dissidents and reformers within Islam, who face ostracism and rejection, who must brave all manner of insults, who must deal with the death threats—or face death itself.

For the world at large, the only viable strategy for containing the threat posed by the Medina Muslims is to side with the dissidents and reformers and to help them to do two things: first, identify and repudiate those parts of Muhammad’s legacy that summon Muslims to intolerance and war, and second, persuade the great majority of believers—the Mecca Muslims—to accept this change.

Islam is at a crossroads. Muslims need to make a conscious decision to confront, debate and ultimately reject the violent elements within their religion. To some extent—not least because of widespread revulsion at the atrocities of Islamic State, al Qaeda and the rest—this process has already begun. But it needs leadership from the dissidents, and they in turn stand no chance without support from the West.

What needs to happen for us to defeat the extremists for good? Economic, political, judicial and military tools have been proposed and some of them deployed. But I believe that these will have little effect unless Islam itself is reformed.

Such a reformation has been called for repeatedly at least since the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the subsequent abolition of the caliphate. But I would like to specify precisely what needs to be reformed

I have identified five precepts central to Islam that have made it resistant to historical change and adaptation. Only when the harmfulness of these ideas are recognized and they are repudiated will a true Muslim Reformation have been achieved.

Here are the five areas that require amendment:

1. Muhammad’s semi-divine status, along with the literalist reading of the Quran.

Muhammad should not be seen as infallible, let alone as a source of divine writ. He should be seen as a historical figure who united the Arab tribes in a premodern context that cannot be replicated in the 21st century. And although Islam maintains that the Quran is the literal word of Allah, it is, in historical reality, a book that was shaped by human hands. Large parts of the Quran simply reflect the tribal values of the 7th-century Arabian context from which it emerged. The Quran’s eternal spiritual values must be separated from the cultural accidents of the place and time of its birth.

2. The supremacy of life after death.

The appeal of martyrdom will fade only when Muslims assign a greater value to the rewards of this life than to those promised in the hereafter.

3. Shariah, the vast body of religious legislation.

Muslims should learn to put the dynamic, evolving laws made by human beings above those aspects of Shariah that are violent, intolerant or anachronistic.

4. The right of individual Muslims to enforce Islamic law.

There is no room in the modern world for religious police, vigilantes and politically empowered clerics.

5. The imperative to wage jihad, or holy war.

Islam must become a true religion of peace, which means rejecting the imposition of religion by the sword.

I know that this argument will make many Muslims uncomfortable. Some are bound to be offended by my proposed amendments. Others will contend that I am not qualified to discuss these complex issues of theology and law. I am also afraid—genuinely afraid—that it will make a few Muslims even more eager to silence me.

But this is not a work of theology. It is more in the nature of a public intervention in the debate about the future of Islam. The biggest obstacle to change within the Muslim world is precisely its suppression of the sort of critical thinking I am attempting here. If my proposal for reform helps to spark a serious discussion of these issues among Muslims themselves, I will consider it a success.

Let me make two things clear. I do not seek to inspire another war on terror or extremism—violence in the name of Islam cannot be ended by military means alone. Nor am I any sort of “Islamophobe.” At various times, I myself have been all three kinds of Muslim: a fundamentalist, a cocooned believer and a dissident. My journey has gone from Mecca to Medina to Manhattan.

For me, there seemed no way to reconcile my faith with the freedoms I came to the West to embrace. I left the faith, despite the threat of the death penalty prescribed by Shariah for apostates. Future generations of Muslims deserve better, safer options. Muslims should be able to welcome modernity, not be forced to wall themselves off, or live in a state of cognitive dissonance, or lash out in violent rejection.

But it is not only Muslims who would benefit from a reformation of Islam. We in the West have an enormous stake in how the struggle over Islam plays out. We cannot remain on the sidelines, as though the outcome has nothing to do with us. For if the Medina Muslims win and the hope for a Muslim Reformation dies, the rest of the world too will pay an enormous price—not only in blood spilled but also in freedom lost.

This essay is adapted from Ms. Hirsi Ali’s new book, “Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now,” to be published Tuesday by HarperCollins (which, like The Wall Street Journal, is owned by News Corp). Her previous books include “Infidel” and “Nomad: From Islam to America, A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations.”

PART III: PAS’s folly – awareness and containment


March 20, 2015

The Art of the Matter–Art Harun

PART III: PAS’s folly – awareness and containment

In the introduction of the Kelantan hudud bill its architect declared that those who question whether the legislation would bring in equal justice are “liars and immoral”.

This unbecoming language is what one expects of a fanatic dictator, rather than a genuine democratic leader. It speaks to the decay in the political fabric of Malaysia that is coming from leaders, who have lost the plot in having a national consciousness and the broader decline taking place in democratic governance.–Bridget Welsh

by Bridget Welsh@www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT: In the introduction of the Kelantan hudud bill its architect declared that those who question whether the legislation would bring in equal justice are “liars and immoral”.

This unbecoming language is what one expects of a fanatic dictator, rather than a genuine democratic leader. It speaks to the decay in the political fabric of Malaysia that is coming from leaders, who have lost the plot in having a national consciousness and the broader decline taking place in democratic governance. Given the passage of the Kelantan hudud bill, what are the likely political implications that will evolve from this measure?

Some political parties will begin the politics of containment, while others will fan division and will continue to use hudud for political gains. As of now, it is important to remember that no hudud measure will take effect. They are all measures on paper.

With respect to those who favour these measures, on many levels hudud does not holistically reflect the ideas of justice embodied in Islam or any faith for that matter and brings to light serious questions about fairness and administration of the rule of law for all of Malaysia’s citizens.

The stoning, chopping and whipping urged in the enactments are now threats over the public without adequate protections; they make up the politics of fear that has been deeply engrained in the Malaysian political landscape.

No implementation does not mean that there measures are not unimportant. Quite the contrary. The people of Kelantan in particular will be hurt economically by the bill, as its leaders across the political divide failed them in thinking holistically about their development.

Real questions can be asked about priorities and timing, namely whether Kelantan in the wake of the floods should be introducing these measures. Questions about fairness also can be asked about who will be potentially affected by these measures, those who engaged in corruption that contributed to the flooding or ordinary citizens.

These are beyond the issues of minority rights, religious freedom and the rights and protections of the constitution that emotionally divide the country in views.

There will be other important political tests ahead as well. Unlike in the two previous pieces, this piece looking at the broader political consequences of the passage of the bill yesterday. The fluidity of Malaysian politics will create opportunities ahead. The hudud issue will likely only remain a weapon of division if national leaders continue to wield it as one.

Sharing blame – a missing ‘vote of consciousness’

In opting for a touted ‘vote of conscience’ for UMNO members in Kelantan, the Najib Abdul Razak government did not lead. In fact, the Najib administration effectively took the stance of allowing the reintroduction of Kelantan hudud law to move forward without opposition.

This was driven by Najib’s weakness, not strength. It will feed extremist religious divisions and make the task of governing Malaysia’s multi-ethnic mosaic more difficult. Najib’s inaction speaks to his failing leadership as Prime Minister and as the leader of UMNO.

It is sadly not the first time when a divisive issue emerged and the PM went missing. Najib may not be able to survive in office until GE-14 and his inaction on the hudud law will only make his struggle for survival in office harder.

Najib’s weak leadership over hudud does in fact have damaging consequences beyond himself. By most measures, Malaysia’s position in the region economically and politically has taken a serious beating in the last year, from airline disasters to the recent poor performance in the stock market caused by the shocking 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal.

The Kelantan hudud bill will add to these negative perceptions, and hurt the country by discouraging investment and reinforcing the view that the country does not effectively offer protections in the rule of law.

To date, every country or region that introduced hudud – all in political efforts to shore up political legitimacy – has suffered an economic and political backlash. Malaysia does not have the resources of a Saudi Arabia and Brunei to weather yet another storm as effectively.

For Najib, there will be two tests ahead for the hudud bill. The first will be whether the UMNO leadership will move ahead with implementing hudud legislation at the national level. PAS with less than 10 percent of the Parliament do not have the numbers to go ahead. UMNO will be the national driver.

UMNO’s hudud partnership with PAS is driven by the goal of destroying the opposition and PAS in particular. Of late, the actions of the Najib government have repeatedly shown an apparent willingness to carry out actions that damage the country to hold onto power.

A national constitutional amendment allowing hudud is supposedly currently not on the cards, despite PAS ulama grandstanding, but given the climate of crisis and weakness that surrounds both Malay parties and the apparent void of national statesmanship leadership of Najib’s government, not to be ruled out.

The second test is whether Najib will direct its members to follow a ‘vote of consciousness’ rather than one of ‘vote of conscience’. This is a vote that at its core gives all Malaysians confidence in their place in the country and faith in their constitution. It is not one that adopts the practice of the ‘politics of tyranny or the majority and punishment’ carried out in the supposed name of democracy by the conservative PAS ulama.

Whether Najib will be conscious enough to provide wise national leadership in his politically beleaguered state is unclear. One should not underestimate the betrayal, fear and anger that many Malaysians across faiths feel about the passage of this bill that divides the country.

High costs of UMNO primacy and insecurity

The political effects of unanimous support for the Kelantan hudud bill goes beyond UMNO. It was not just Pakatan that was betrayed by its coalition partners, the same happened to the parties within the BN. UMNO has been adopting a primacy for some time, which has deepened post-GE13.

Gerakan, MIC, MCA and other component parties in East Malaysia will all have to come to terms with this act of UMNO and conservative PAS ulama political partnership. They have to come to terms with the fact that they are also allied with a party that supported hudud.

The Kelantan hudud bill will have ripple effects from the cabinet to the Sarawak elections. The pressures inside the BN component parties is there, and they face the same problem as Pakatan partners do over the hudud issue. The glue that keeps Barisan together is power and money, but there has been a similar sense of betrayal at play.

As discussion of the bill evolves, expect pressure within the BN to rise, with Najib becoming the target of these frustrations. He failed to protect the component parties within the BN. A key test ahead will be how the component parties manage in the shadow of UMNO dominance.

Where that pressure will be most felt will be is in East Malaysia. UMNO will now have to face the music in Sabah, and the vote yesterday will assure that in the short-term UMNO is not entering Sarawak. But, it is hard for East Malaysians to distance themselves from the action of their fellow party members in Kelantan, as they are of the same party.

Their  politics of containment have already begun in East Malaysia and they are coming on less reception ground. Since before 2013 there has been a powerful wave of federalism taking root in East Malaysia and this will likely deepen.

Another key test ahead will be the how UMNO can convince its East Malaysian partners to work with them, when this UMNO ‘vote of conscience’ showed a lack of consciousness of genuine national leadership of all of Malaysia’s citizens.

Pakatan separation inevitable, not irrevocable

The main immediate focus however is understandably the opposition, the coalition and individual parties. It was PAS conservative ulama intention to break up Pakatan, but they and their hudud partnership with UMNO is not exclusively responsible for the opposition coalition’s strains.

As I have written elsewhere, the causes of Pakatan’s problems cannot be boiled down exclusively to hudud or to PAS, there must be some shared responsibility. The Kajang move, differences in style and the reality of catering to different constituencies have made for a problematic marriage.

The Kelantan hudud bill will now force the opposition partners to come to terms with the issues that have divided them. This is never easy. Addressing Kelantan hudud will be the Pakatan’s greatest test.

On all sides questions are being asked. How do you work with a partner you no longer trust, a partner who you see as selfish, a partner who is unable to fulfill responsibilities and a partner who thinks and claims to represent a core group of views that are so different from your own? Most would say you don’t. Others would say you have to try.

As with every problematic relationship, there is a need for distance and reflection. Statesman leadership requires that a difficult decision be carefully considered. How Pakatan will solve this problem will reveal how it will govern, and unlike UMNO it does not have the same resources and bounty of position to woo support and keep the coalition together.

The strategic response to the hudud issue divides all the Pakatan parties. The Kelantan PKR representative’s vote and Selangor Menteri Besar Azmin’s Ali’s own alliance with PAS ulama point to some of these ambiguities.

Pakatan will face even more public pressure than the BN component partners. The decision will have spillovers for governance in Penang and Selangor. While both of these governments can survive without PAS, there will be political implications for exclusion.

Pakatan partners will likely need to enter a long cooling off period for assessment and review. Urgings for freezes have already begun. This distance will allow the path ahead to emerge.

After the PAS election this June, it will be clearer whether the PAS members will vote for a leadership that has opted for personal power and undermined the party’s option at national power or will allow for the possibility of collaboration.

As the opposition moves forward, PAS will need to show that it has something to offer politically besides its focus on hudud and reaffirm its commitment to Pakatan emphatically in its party polls.

The other Pakatan component parties will also have to find common ground, work toward respecting the choices of others, move away difference, and strive to build a stronger fabric of leadership for Malaysia. Pakatan will now have to engage in its own politics of containment and national consciousness.

There are limited reasons for optimism, but the possibilities of learning on all sides offers promise and a path ahead.

Part I: PAS’s hudud folly – a political putsch

Part II: PAS’s hudud folly – it’s not chosen by all


BRIDGET WELSH is a Senior Research Associate at the Center for East Asia Democratic Studies of National Taiwan University and can be reached at bridgetwelsh1@gmail.com.

Why NO to Hudud Law for Malaysia


March 19, 2015

Why NO to Hudud Law for Malaysia

by Azrul Mohd. Khalib@www.themalaymailoneline.com

najib-on-hududNajib must have forgotten what he said on September 25, 2o11

The tabling of the Shariah Criminal Code Enactment II 1993 (Amendment 2015) in the Kelantan State Assembly and any move to amend the Federal Constitution to allow for the implementation of hudud at the State and Federal levels needs to be opposed by all right thinking Malaysians.

Personally, I will never support the imposition of hudud in this country. These are my four reasons:

Hudud is not needed in Malaysia.

The law should be and is more than just about punishing others. It is about the deliverance of justice. The penal laws at the centre of hudud were written during a time when harsh measures were necessary to impose peace, order and stability amidst a period of lawlessness, conflict and turmoil. They were guidelines for civilised behaviour formulated when and where there were few laws and men. Hudud was necessary there and at that time. Today, in our country, hudud law is neither necessary nor required.

We already have civil and criminal laws which provide for separate sets of laws and punishments. One of the primary tenets of Islam is about the deliverance of justice. The discourse surrounding the adoption and implementation of hudud in this country has barely made justice a mention, much less a priority. It has, however been very much about politics, punishing other people and posturing to “out-Islam” each other.

The adoption of hudud into practice, to me, would represent a failure of our existing legal systems to deliver justice. It would also represent a repulsive need to show others how Islamic we are and how holy we can be at the cost of signing away the liberties and freedoms of others.

Instead of delivering justice, hudud would compromise our existing systems and result in situations which cannot be easily explained away by holy verses and theological arguments.

Lack of accountability, transparency and standard of care.

Our religious department officials have hardly been paragons of these virtues. Whenever these issues are brought up, they have bristled with outrage, indignation and accused others of undermining or questioning their authority.

JAKIM’s Director General Datuk Othman Mustapha recently denounced the questioning of religious authorities as being part of a liberalism movement. As if you needed to be part of an ideology, belief system or movement, to be able to ask questions and demand accountability and transparency from civil servants who are paid with our (Muslim and non-Muslim) tax money.

In 2012, an amendment was made to the Mufti and Fatwa (Kedah Darul Aman) Enactment 2008 by the Kedah state government and passed unanimously by the State Legislative Assembly. The amendment made any fatwa of the state Mufti or Fatwa Committee, whether gazetted or not, unable to be challenged, appealed, reviewed, denied or questioned in any civil or Shariah court. In short, approving a measure which would effectively put a fatwa above the law and above the Federal Constitution.

NIK RAINA INTERVIEWNik Raina–Victim of JAWI’s Persecution

Consider the case of Nik Raina who has been pursued relentlessly by the Wilayah Persekutuan Religious Department (JAWI) despite a defective charge. JAWI’s actions were determined by three courts of law (civil and Shariah) to be illegal, of bad faith and unconstitutional. Yet they still are pursuing her after three years. This case has been the very definition of injustice and a neglect of the standard of care required of a legal criminal case. Instead they have been dependent on the tactics of bullying, intimidation, fear and oppression in the hope that they can beat Nik Raina into submission and defeat.

Islam requires the utmost prudence, caution and compassion in the enforcement of the law and prosecution of cases. The enforcement of hudud will be dependent on the religious departments to demonstrate a clear understanding of the basic legal principles of justice, fairness and compassion. They must also be open to dialogue, criticism and debate. They must be accountable, transparent and exercise prudence and care in enforcement of the law.

Based on recent examples and their behaviour, the parties involved in the discussion of hudud which include religious authorities, thus far have been anything but transparent and open with their intentions. They feel that they are above criticism. That they can do no wrong and are infallible. They feel themselves accountable to no one and need not explain themselves. That to criticise them is to question Islam.

Peddling away fundamental freedoms.

There is a reason for the Shariah system to be where it is under the Federal Constitution of Malaysia. Imposition of the hudud law involves changing the very agreement in which this country was founded on.

Hadi3The Father of Hududdism

Make no mistake, the attempts to rewrite the Constitution are no longer silent. Those who make the self-righteous claim to the mantle of champions and protectors of Islam seem to not hesitate to peddle away our freedoms and liberties at the altar of politics. Such repulsive behaviour is not the exclusive domain of one particular party but can be seen across the chamber and even in the civil service.

There will be those who will ask, why should you be afraid if you have nothing to fear? We know all too well that we have much to fear when the state becomes engrossed in persecuting its own people, looking for sin, finding fault where there is none, jumping at shadows and imagined threats. We have seen enough evidence of it.

Anyway, why should being a Muslim make it alright to be tyrannised and inflicted with injustice? Do Muslims not have the right as non-Muslims to equal protection and treatment under the law? Are we as Muslims to be deprived of rights and freedoms guaranteed under the Federal Constitution simply because of our religion? Why do we allow ourselves to be subject to possible bias, discrimination and religious tyranny?

Implementation of hudud will, without any doubt, affect all regardless of religions, ethnicity or creed. Non-Muslims should not and must not be silent just because they are allegedly not affected by the proposed laws. The eroding of our fundamental freedoms and civil liberties in the name of religion, affects everyone.

We must not allow these people to sacrifice our fundamental freedoms and rights for votes which will last only so long as the next election cycle or the setting of the sun. In these circumstances, there is no such thing as kasi chance lah. What is taken away will be very hard to be given back. If implemented, hudud will change our way of life as we know it in Malaysia.

Unjust means do not equate to Islam and justice.

jamil-khir-baharom

The reasons used to justify the imposition of hudud have not evolved far from “It’s God’s law!” and calling those who criticise its imposition as liars, infidels and munafiks. This lazy defence of hudud not only amounts to religious blackmail to accept it wholesale but also implies that questioning it makes a person less of a Muslim in the sight of God.

These are some of the arguments which the champions of hudud in this country depend on. The great Islamic caliphates of old held great stock in intellectual curiosity and debate. Religious leaders back then were often also lawyers, students of jurisprudence, mathematicians, astronomers, medical doctors, philosophers, explorers and teachers. They were wise men and women who drew on the lessons of the world to decide when to use the spoken word, the pen and the sword to arbitrate and administer justice. Compare them to who we have enforcing religious laws in this country today.

The Quran also clearly states that there is no compulsion in religion. Yet, those who fight for hudud in this country tolerate no dissent or contrarian opinions and require unthinking, unblinking and blind obedience. When people tell you that you shouldn’t or are not allowed to use your mind or akal to reason or rationalise these issues, you know, you have a problem. They want unquestioning compliance and obedience.

Yet, the first word revealed to the illiterate Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was Iqra, which means read or recite. It implies the need to learn. That there should neither be blind adherence nor unthinking compliance. Doing so would make us vulnerable to abuse, exploitation, bigotry and injustice which are all too human.

And as those who enforce hudud are human, they are neither infallible nor free from bias or prejudice. Vulnerable to ego and pride. Sins of arrogance, takbur and bongkak. We have seen evidence of this in the Nik Raina case.

How can we also trust these same people to implement and enforce a criminal code when they have barely been able to keep up on matters such as ensuring the rights of women on issues of inheritance, divorce and child custody?

Finally, let us not be naïve in thinking that non-Muslims will not be affected by these measures. The contents of a Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (JAKIM) strategic paper which states that hudud should be applicable to all, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, tells me that regardless of whether there is the requisite two-thirds majority support in Parliament, there are people working actively behind the scenes to make this universality a reality. The words of a former Chief Justice bring to mind how far up such sympathies can go. We cannot afford to be complacent. This is not just a political issue. This imposition affects all of us.

Muslims and non-Muslims have a right to speak out as we, as Malaysians, are all stakeholders of this country. At the end of the day, it is beholden on us as citizens of this country to decide how Malaysia should be. We look to the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong and the Sultans to safeguard the interests of all citizens, Muslims and non-Muslims.

For me, I will not subject myself or those who I care for and love to those who would use God’s name in vain in their overzealous pursuit for godliness and to demonstrate their individual or collective piety.

For all these reasons, I will never support hudud in Malaysia and I will resist any  measure which seeks to change the fundamental nature of Malaysia and its people.

*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.