Malaysia as a highly centralised polity in practice under Najib Razak (or Mahathir Mohamad) will continue

March 8, 2018

Malaysia as a highly centralised polity in practice under Najib Razak (or Mahathir Mohamad) will continue

by Kai Ostwald, University of British Columbia

Image result for Najib's Centralisation for Control

GE-14 will be a bitter and acrimonious contest between two exponents of a centralised Federalism

As Najib has given no indication of reversing or even slowing the centralisation trend, a fundamental departure from the status quo is unlikely should UMNO and its allies prevail in the 2018 general election. With Mahathir Mohamad — under whom the consolidation of power in the Prime Minister’s Department gained momentum — at the helm of the opposition coalition, it is unclear whether even Malaysia’s first post-independence change in government would precipitate real change on this front.–Kai Oswald

Election season has once again arrived in Malaysia as the country prepares to hold its 14th general election within the first half of 2018. The competitive nature of the last two general elections has fuelled widespread speculation about the possible defeat of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) for the first time in the country’s post-independence history. This has been especially true following the reincarnation of Mahathir Mohamad as the leader of the Pakatan Harapan opposition coalition and the unprecedented changes to the country’s party system. The pending election has also renewed focus on contentious political issues like the ongoing re-delineation of electoral districts and the systematic manipulation of the electoral process, which are both certain to impact the election’s outcome.

A clear commonality in these discussions is the overwhelming focus on federal-level politics. To someone unfamiliar with Malaysia’s political history, this may seem surprising in light of the country’s formal institutional structure, which theoretically involves significant decentralisation to state and local levels. The systematically constructed Regional Authority Index, for example, which captures the formal authority of sub-national governments, ranks Malaysia as the most decentralised country in Southeast Asia ahead of countries like Indonesia and the Philippines. Given this, why does the federal level so substantially overshadow sub-national politics in Malaysia?

There is a simple answer to why this has occurred: the UMNO-led government has been systematically hollowing out sub-national government autonomy in Malaysia for decades. While this process has been a consistent feature of the country’s post-independence years, it accelerated during Mahathir Mohamad’s tenure as Prime Minister and has advanced further under Najib Razak. The result is that Malaysia now functions as a highly centralised polity in practice. This has important implications for contemporary politics in the country and its broader development.

The gradual usurping of resources and competencies by the federal government is driven by its efforts to consolidate power in UMNO’s inner core. Undermining sub-national autonomy not only insulates against opposition challengers but also protects the party’s inner core from intra-party challengers.

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Malaysia’s Seat of Federal Power–The Prime Minister’s Office in Putrajaya

Why does this matter for Malaysia’s contemporary politics? The overwhelming beneficiary of centralisation — especially over the past three decades — has been the Prime Minister’s Department. A variety of new agencies, programs and statutory bodies are housed within the Department and thereby bypass the numerous institutional constraints that faced Malaysia’s early post-independence leadership. These institutions have substantially increased the Prime Minister’s capacity to directly shape Malaysia’s economic, social and political development. With the stakes for the control of the Department perpetually growing, Prime Minister Najib Razak and other UMNO elites have been willing to take greater risks to ensure the continuity of their power.

Despite being constrained by diminishing autonomy and dwindling budgets, sub-national politics has not lost all relevance: securing control of state- and local-level governments has improved the quality of the opposition. The opposition is able to accrue meaningful governing experience rather than being perpetually relegated to observer status, as is the case in most other single party-dominant systems. This has given the opposition an opportunity to demonstrate alternative governance models to the electorate and has expanded the platform for policy experimentation. Independent of the normative value of more pluralistic politics, this nascent form of inter-state policy competition has animated political debates in Malaysia and produced some positive spillovers for governance in general.

Ultimately, much is at stake in the relationship between the federal and sub-national governments. Perceptions of federal overreach have fueled local resentment in some areas, which has in turn spawned identity-based movements that challenge core principles of the contemporary Malaysian identity.

In significant opposition strongholds like Penang and Selangor, federal overreach has deepened the cleavage between the ruling UMNO-led coalition and the population. This hinders political reconciliation and alienates substantial segments of the electorate. Just as importantly, if the theoretical benefits promised by decentralisation are taken seriously, then returning some autonomy to local tiers of government may provide a much-needed boost to help Malaysia escape the middle income trap, which has proven resistant to other efforts.

Image result for Najib Razak-Zahid Hamidi Partnership


As Najib has given no indication of reversing or even slowing the centralisation trend, a fundamental departure from the status quo is unlikely should UMNO and its allies prevail in the 2018 general election. With Mahathir Mohamad — under whom the consolidation of power in the Prime Minister’s Department gained momentum — at the helm of the opposition coalition, it is unclear whether even Malaysia’s first post-independence change in government would precipitate real change on this front.

Kai Ostwald is an assistant professor in the School of Public Policy & Global Affairs and the Department of Political Science at the University of British Columbia.

This commentary is based on ‘Federalism Without Decentralization: Power Consolidation in Malaysia’, which was published in the Journal of Southeast Asian Economies.

Deal Between Anwar and Najib Razak? :The Worst Possible News for Malaysia

November 21, 2017

Deal Between Anwar and Najib Razak?: The Worst Possible News for Malaysia

by P.

Image result for Anwar and Najib

Is there something brewing here which is suggestive of some kind of a deal materializing between these two once staunch allies? Like they say, there are no permanent enemies in politics and politics is the game of the possible, or is it the impossible? Never mind, you get the drift.–P. Gunasegaram

QUESTION TIME | In Malaysia where conspiracy theories arise at the drop of a 10-sen coin, the visit by Prime Minister Najib Razak to jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who is in hospital following a shoulder operation, has started tongues a-wagging. And how they are wagging!

Is there something brewing here which is suggestive of some kind of a deal materialising between these two once staunch allies? Like they say, there are no permanent enemies in politics and politics is the game of the possible, or is it the impossible? Never mind, you get the drift.

After all, who would have thought that former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, widely held responsible for Sodomy 1 which put Anwar in jail for six years until 2004, would now be working with him to topple BN and Najib? If that can happen, why not a reconciliation, or even a deal, between Najib and Anwar for mutual benefit?


Even the burying of past differences between Mahathir and Anwar is difficult to understand. How does a person who spent years in prison, was beaten after he was arrested, had his life ruined and political future now in tatters, forgive the person who was held to be most responsible for this?

And was it not what Mahathir did in terms of consolidating his power within UMNO – technically UMNO Baru as the old UMNO was dissolved as part of plans implemented by Mahathir – that now makes it near impossible to remove a sitting UMNO President and Prime Minister because of all that such a person has at his disposal in terms of power?

Now this, Najib visits Anwar in the hospital with his wife Rosmah Mansor and with Anwar’s wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail present and the gossip bandwagon goes berserk, although it is more likely to topple than to sustain over the next few days.

Here was the man who pushed Sodomy 2 against Anwar with Anwar’s accuser having seen him – Najib – before making his police report. And Anwar is in jail again for a further five years from 2015, more or less putting paid to his political career unless Pakatan Harapan wins the next election. The chances of that are pretty low right now.

How could Anwar countenance a visit from this man who was responsible for his prison sentence in the first place with a lot of people believing that Anwar’s sentence was terribly unfair with admission of evidence that could have been tampered with? If Anwar’s trial was fixed, as he himself claimed, then only one person could have been responsible.

How could he even consent to see this person? As difficult as this is to understand for people like me, those who understand Malay culture say that nothing should be read into the meeting. The PM went to see a former friend and ally who was ailing – nothing more, nothing less.

But talk is not so easily stopped because Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, at one time one of Anwar’s closest friends and allies, visited him as well. Perhaps there is nothing but those visits perhaps indicate to Mahathir that two can play the game – if Mahathir can reconcile with Anwar, Najib can reconcile with him too, with all that it implies for Mahathir.


What about the stolen money?–1MDB 

But is it as simple as all that really? No. Because if somehow Najib and Anwar ally, who becomes the enemy then? Surely not Mahathir now. And what about 1MDB? What does it mean for all that the opposition has been saying about billions stolen and still unaccounted for?

And what about the allegations, with some evidence, that UMNO and BN are tainted with 1MDB money and that they support Najib only because of that? Will all this be conveniently swept under the carpet forever more and everybody lives together happily ever after?

There can be only one deal that will allow this – in that permutation or combination of both, Anwar has to become Prime Minister, no less. That will entail Najib continuing for a while and then making way for Anwar – which means that Anwar has to be within BN or some larger conglomerate.

Anwar Ibrahim– A political chameleon or a publicity seeking politician?

How that may form boggles the mind but remember that after the May 13, 1969, riots and emergency rule, Najib’s father Abdul Razak Hussein persuaded (coerced?) the substantial opposition then into a coalition in 1973 forming Barisan Nasional, with the only significant party out in the bitter cold – that being DAP. If Anwar and Najib make a deal whereby Anwar is rehabilitated and Najib carries on, for a while at least, that is the worst possible news for Malaysia because all sections of the political divide – both ruling and opposition parties – will implicitly sanction the greatest theft this country has ever known and multiple events of gross mismanagement and lack of governance.

I don’t believe this will happen but I would have been far more comfortable if Anwar had not consented to meet Najib – and yes, if he had not done a deal with Mahathir too. But then who am I but just another insignificant citizen of Malaysia?


Malaysia: The Ambitious Home Affairs Minister

August 9, 2017

Malaysia: The Ambitious Home Affairs Minister

by Mariam Mokhtar

Image result for Zahid Hamidi the racist

Prime Minister Najib Razak–There is a knife behind your back, watch it!

Is Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi a liability, a loose cannon or Najib Abdul Razak’s loyal henchman? It is never a proud moment when one scores an own goal, so what was Zahid thinking, when he attacked the lineage of the former PM, Dr Mahathir Mohamad?

In one fell swoop, Zahid undermined his boss Najib’s “1Malaysia” pledge of a diverse nation. On the other hand, many Malaysians feel that Zahid may have done them a favour by inadvertently airing the sensitive issue of “ethnicity”.

In the past, Malay nationalists have taken pot shots at the non-Malays, and told the Chinese to “balik Tongsan” and the Indians, to “balik India”. Now, the Malaysians of Indonesian stock can be told to “balik Indon”.

More importantly, when Zahid commented upon Mahathir’s Indian heritage, he attracted jibes of “The pot calling the kettle black” because of Zahid’s Indonesian origins.

With that attack backfiring, Zahid then criticised Mahathir for his role in the Memali massacre of 1985. This may damage Zahid more than it will Mahathir.

Zahid has grabbed the wrong end of the stick. Eye-witness accounts allege that Umno Kedah had warned Mahathir that the charismatic and influential PAS ustaz, Ibrahim “Libya” Mahmood, was their greatest threat in the (then) upcoming general election of 1986. They predicted that UMNO Kedah would lose to PAS.

Musa Hitam (photo) has already said that Mahathir was in KL and not in Beijing on the day of the incident. The critical question is, why 32 years later, PAS and its leader, Abdul Hadi Awang, are aligning themselves with UMNO-Baru? Mahathir once said, “Melayu mudah lupa”. Zahid should question PAS’ allegiance with UMNO-Baru after the betrayal.

Does Zahid’s personal staff enjoy the schadenfreude of seeing him make public gaffes? His speech, in English, at the United Nations, made Malaysians squirm with embarrassment. Even my grandparents’ generation, living in the kampung, speak better English. Zahid’s speech writer probably over-estimated Zahid’s proficiency in English.

When Zahid was the Defence Minister, in 2012, the English version of Mindef’s official website became a Twitter and Facebook sensation. His humiliation was made complete when he closed down the site and admitted that his staff had relied on the free online services of Google Translate. A similar Manglish caption was also used to welcome former President Barack Obama to Malaysia.

Zahid’s lack of commitment to the rakyat

Malaysians are furious about Najib’s assertion that an Arab Prince made a RM2.6 billion donation and yet Zahid took only three minutes to address Parliament about this serious issue. Three minutes is the time it takes to cook a perfect soft-boiled egg. Zahid’s casual attitude towards this matter shows his lack of commitment to the rakyat.

During the September 2015 Red Shirt rally, the red-shirts went on the rampage, damaging property, cussing and insulting others. Their leaders had little control over them.

Zahid publicly supported the red-shirts’ mission to “defend” Malay dignity, and said, “Do we keep quiet when our dignity is challenged, and when we are pushed against the wall? …we will rise to defend our dignity.”

What is so dignified about trashing public property during a rally? How had Malay dignity been challenged? Why defend MO1 and the missing billions of ringgit?

We want compassionate leaders, but two examples demonstrate their lack of empathy with the public. When seven Orang Asli (OA) school children disappeared from their rural boarding school, in August 2015, the security forces only conducted their search and rescue mission on the fifth day of their disappearance.

Valuable time was lost because the authorities dismissed the parents’ concerns. Seven weeks later, two children were found a stone’s throw away from the school. Five had perished.

In 1998, Zahid, who was a close ally of the former DPM, Anwar Ibrahim, criticised corrupt government officials during Mahathir’s tenure. Now, Zahid is the Home Minister and DPM. He has restricted Anwar’s family’s access to him and curtailed prison visits during Raya.

Anwar’s daughter, Hana explained her father’s treatment, when she said, “Power can change people. My family and I have seen this phenomenon, since 1998.”

When Zahid became the Home Minister in 2013, he claimed that 250,000 Shi’ite Muslims were hiding in Malaysia, and started a systematic witch-hunt to track them. Former PAS Deputy President, Mat Sabu, was also accused of involvement in Shi’ite activities.

This targeting of religious minorities is worrying. With a DPM who previously expressed support for the Malay gang, Tiga Line, one wonders if the abductions of Pastor Raymond Koh and social activist, Amri Che Mat, are linked to the criminal underworld.

As DPM, Zahid may have the heads of departments and the Armed Forces at his beck and call, but now, he must be feeling isolated. His increasingly incoherent and personal attacks have isolated the non-Malays, virtuous Malays, the mamaks and the Shi’ites; in other words, decent, law-abiding Malaysians.

Incredibly, Zahid has managed to make both Mahathir and Najib look good.

Muzzling Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad

July 12, 2017

Muzzling Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad

by S.

“The one pervading evil of democracy is the tyranny of the majority, or rather of that party, not always the majority, that succeeds, by force or fraud, in carrying elections.”

– John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton

COMMENT | So now we have proof that UMNO members “cover” for their president. We have proof that the corruption of UMNO Presidents are covered up by UMNO members. We have proof that UMNO members will overlook any kind of malfeasances to keep their leader in power.

Image result for Mahathir and Zahid Hamidi

All UMNO Leaders are filthy rich

We have this proof because UMNO Vice-President Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is now acting Deputy President of the party, admitted as much when he told former Prime Minister and de facto opposition leader Dr Mahathir Mohamad to shut up or recite Quranic verses to Allah, whichever comes more easily.

This is what Zahid said: “He unveils the flaws of the present leaders, don’t forget we also used to cover his flaws. Don’t let it be our turn to show his shame and ‘scabs’. There is so much that we can reveal.”

Let us unpack this statement. We can discern three important facts from it.

1) Zahid does not dispute that the current UMNO leader and Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak has “flaws” and in this case, the only flaws that the current de facto opposition leader Mahathir is unveiling are the numerous corruption scandals that are plaguing this regime. You would note that the UMNO acting Deputy President is not disputing those flaws, indeed he acknowledges them as human “weakness” that every UMNO politician (leader) has.

2) He acknowledges that UMNO members “cover” the flaws of their leaders. So, as an UMNO member, he is admitting that over the years Umno has engaged in acts to cover the possibly criminal or unconstitutional acts of their leaders to safeguard the position of Umno and the position of the President of UMNO and the office of Prime Minister of this country.

3) That by claiming “there is so much we can reveal”, Zahid is admitting that UMNO members have evidence of wrongdoing and have purposely concealed these alleged criminal acts from the state security apparatus, the Judiciary, the Press but more importantly, the public.

So, let me be clear. What Zahid’s statements reveal is that (1) UMNO members know that their leaders are corrupt (flaws); (2) that UMNO members cover for their leaders; and (3) UMNO members have evidence of the wrongdoings of their leaders.

How do UMNO members cover for their leaders? Now, I am just spitballing here, but they would have to ensure that their leaders are insulated from the banalities of accountability. This would mean that independent institutions that are meant to investigate and prosecute the “flaws” of politicians would have to be accountable to members of UMNO, whose primary goal is to cover for their leaders.

This would mean that the security apparatus, the judiciary and the press would have to answer to UMNO because these would be the institutions that the UMNO leader and Prime Minister would need “covering” from.

In other words, UMNO members, like Zahid and every other UMNO member who are covering for their dear leader, are collaborators and/or accomplices to the crimes committed by their President. I am merely clarifying what the acting UMNO Deputy President said.

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Partners in Power or Rivals for Power?

So, when UMNO members defend the indefensible, when they claim that their leaders have done no wrong, when every state apparatus clears UMNO leaders of wrongdoing, what we are left with is the knowledge, articulated by the UMNO deputy president, that all this was done because UMNO members cover for their leaders.

So, this means that the so-called Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on the foreign exchange market (forex) issue of the past is merely an attempt by UMNO members to “reveal” the wrongdoings of Mahathir? This would also mean that this RCI is indeed politically motivated in defence of the current UMNO President and Malaysian Prime Minster because Zahid publicly threatened to “reveal” the “shame” and “scabs” of the former Prime Minister.

And why was Salleh shocked?

So, let’s take this issue of the “appointments as additional judges to the Federal Court”, which has received a fair amount of justified criticism from members of the Bar and former judges. Former Chief Justice (CJ) Abdul Hamid Mohamad had warned that “an extension of a CJ’s tenure beyond the 66 years and six months may compromise the independence of the Judiciary”.

In other words, what the Najib regime is doing may affect the independence of the Judiciary. This brings us to Communications and Multimedia Minister Salleh Said Keruak’s shocking revelation that Mahathir, in his interview with The Guardian implied that jailed political prisoner Anwar Ibrahim “was fixed up by a corrupt Judiciary and the Judges were dishonest”.

Here is the problem. If UMNO members cover for their leaders and the only way they can do this is if they control the apparatus of the state, then why is it shocking that a former Prime Minister implies that the state, through the Judiciary, covered up a political problem for an UMNO President?

If UMNO members cover for their leaders, and the only way they can cover for their leaders is by controlling the apparatus of the state and concealing evidence (as articulated by Zahid), then why is it a surprise to the Communications and Multimedia Minister that the former Prime Minister implies a conspiracy by the state (during his tenure) to imprison a political opponent?

If by stacking the Judiciary in favour of UMNO politicians means that it would be easier to “cover” the flaws of UMNO Presidents, then why should we be surprised by the fears and warnings that this would lead to an unnatural relationship between the executive and the Judiciary as articulated by former CJ Abdul Hamid?

With this in mind, how can we not believe that this move by the Registrar of Societies (ROS) to compel the DAP to hold a further round of its central executive committee (CEC) elections is anything but a political gambit by the UMNO state to neutralise a political opponent of a compromised UMNO President before the upcoming general election?

Concerning this crippling of the DAP, this quote from Lim Kit Siang’s blog needs to be addressed.

“In fact, it has led even independent observers to swallow hook, line and sinker to believe in these fake news and false information. For instance, one independent commentator described the whole ROS fiasco as ‘a ticking time bomb of DAP’s own design’ that should have been addressed a long time ago in a transparent manner. How is the ROS fiasco ‘DAP’s own design’?”

Which is the more plausible proposition?

1) That I have swallowed hook, line and sinker the fake news and false information of this regime and its propagandists.


2) That I was sincerely questioning the strategies (as it were) of an opposition political party that is in the cross hairs of this regime, the state apparatus that they control and the propagandists who serve them.

I will leave rational readers to decide which they think is more plausible. Ultimately, muzzling Mahathir says more of the collective guilt and complicity of UMNO members, rather than the agenda of the former Prime Minister turned de facto opposition leader.

Double-Speak–The UMNO Political Culture

December 6, 2016

Double-Speak–The UMNO Political Culture

by KJ

Image result for Double Speak Najib Razak

Double-Speak is a political way of life for Malaysia’s Prime Minister–Why can’t we say that he is a liar?

Is double-speak natural to human beings and the only way to become a true-blue politician worth his/her weight? An UMNO Deputy Minister and an equally idiotic Deputy Speaker of Parliament could not see anything wrong with that MP’s wrong speech and impure motives about another MP.

The victim of this abuse was a lady Member of Parliament; whose dignity was obviously denied but our Deputy Speaker appeared to play down the incident. It was clearly recorded vide a video-clip of our parliamentary session distributed to me from Singapore.

Sadly, too, if Parliament is our symbolic leadership head of our nation-state’s parliamentary democracy system; it is sad that the rotting of our fish-head has begun in that August House. My only retort to the deputy minister is: “padan muka” with this note: our grandchildren are watching and learning from your uncouth conduct.

Hadi’s public misinformation

Was Ustaz Abdul Hadi Awang, the President of PAS, also participating in doubles-peak with his Act 355 amendments agenda? While he is a Member of Parliament for Marang, is he not elected to do at least two things; one, is to represent all the people in Marang and two, to speak up on bills and handle concerns in Parliament for both his party and his constituency.

But, my question to him: is he only a Member of Parliament for Muslims with complete disregard for non-Muslims who live in Terengganu?

My take is that Hadi’s Act 355 amendments is simply mischievous and therefore malicious in intention. It is absolutely an attempt to open back doors for hudud implementation in the whole of Malaysia; without labelling it as such. My previous column argued eight reasons against it but allow me now to appeal to all my Muslim friends in Malaysia to explain why we (as Christians) have little choice but to oppose this bill.

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The Village Idiot and UMNO Clown with his Corrupt Boss

First, think of Malaysia as existing practically at three levels of reality. These are federal, state and local levels. That means that when one is a federal citizen, that role ascribes and observes certain rights and obligations to all of Malaysia and to all her citizens; there cannot be inequity of citizenship. That is a universal expectation of citizenry anywhere in the world; even when some are treated more equal than others.

Therefore, while his bill was promoted and projected as a bill for Kelantan (one state) to dispense new Syariah by-laws with new limits; the simple fact is that federal law is being mobilised to enable state level criminal prosecution, and therefore its application is always national and federal.

Allow Kelantanese to breathe green air?

Can we assume, for arguments sake, that Kelantan gets this bill for Syariah system compliance and was not designed with hudud intent in mind. Let us grant this right to one of the nine states with rulers; as their second level of operational reality; state-level existence.

Whether we like it or not, such an enablement includes Sabah and Sarawak, too. But, please help me think through the real consequential issues and concerns of all other state jurisdictions at local levels premised on this Kelantan hypothetical experiment.

Therefore my simple but honest question to every Malaysian living in urban and suburban areas is as follows:

If criminal law is now a jurisdiction of any state and consequently their local government Administrations; cannot these authorities also later be mandated that, for example, only Muslims can live in a particular geography of Kelantan; whatever their logic or reasons?

Can non-Muslims therefore be disallowed to buy homes in some other specified area? Or, can it be stipulated that their beaches, like Pantai Cahaya Bulan (PCB), are now only for Muslim-specific attired swimmers? Non-Muslim can therefore be excluded, right?

Of course, supermarkets with male and female lanes become a mandatory given; if not halal and non-halal carts.Is all the above mere fiction from my head, or is there some element of reality to all of it?

The reason I ask these questions is that only our criminal laws can distinguish between the purity of intentions versus obvious and real evidence of wrongdoing. This is our practical but real level of human existence. Any differences or gaps between one’s espoused theory and the one-in-use is always a matter of spiritual consideration and never the domain of public policy of any state.

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Once Friend, now a Political Foe

Therefore, regardless of what Hadi or anyone says; the new bill gives unlimited jurisdiction for the Kelantan state government to colour their air green and it can insist that everyone can only breathe and live such green air; in Kelantan. How else could the Selangor Islamic Affairs Department (JAIS) have raided Damansara Utama Methodist Church or DUMC (a church complex) without a police search permit merely on suspicion of some wrongdoing?

This gap between intentions and real action causes a lot of doubt and makes citizens question true political motives. For example, in a BBC interview with Maria Chin Abdullah, they could not understand why she was released before the court’s habeas corpus hearing.

My answer is simply that the Home Affairs Minister could not defend their abuse of the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma); as former Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail so clearly already explained from the Hansard records what were the real intentions for the enactment.

God or Allah is our creator

Before the 2013 GE, Ustaz Hadi attended a meeting chaired by Anwar Ibrahim and attended by a whole group of NGOs and promised all of us that the word ‘Allah’ can be equally used by Muslims as with non-Muslims. I was there and heard his promise. But today they do exactly the opposite. Can we trust such politicians, even when they speak with green tongues?

Therefore, my only question to Ustaz Hadi is as follows:

Do we really believe in different Gods?

Is not intention in faith always a personal human faith matter and not a matter anyone else’s religious enforcement? Is not such responsibility for faith always a personal matter and not for the state?

How then can anyone justify all ‘forced limits to human intentions?’ Are we then not taking over God’s role and responsibility, and thereby playing God?


Zakir Naik and UMNO Desperadoes

May 11, 2016

Zakir Naik and UMNO Desperadoes

by Zainah Anwar

“The question to be asked of the authorities and the Menteri Besar of Terengganu who sponsored Zakir Naik’s Malaysian visit is whether this is truly the “moderate” Islam that authorities believe in? I shudder at what deeper damage Zakir Naik’s ilk will cause with the opening up of his ideological factory in Tasek Kenyir.”–Zainah Anwar

HOW is it that Zakir Naik, a televangelist considered divisive and banned by a number of countries and frequently censured for preaching hate, instigating communal tensions and radicalising the Muslim community, can be embraced by national leaders here?


UMNO Menteri Besar Ahmad Rafiz Abdul Rahman gifted three islands in Tasik Kenyir to  Zakir Naik

And be sponsored on his tour by the Terengganu state government and rewarded with islands in Tasek Kenyir for him to train “mini Zakir Naiks” to preach his divisive and supremacist version of Islam in a multi-religious country?

And he has even grander plans for Malaysia: to spread his “Peace TV” satellite channel to Malaysia, broadcasting in Bahasa Malaysia in a joint venture with a local TV station and a training programme already underway to produce six Malaysian protégés to be part of his evangelical network.

Why have these leaders embraced the kind of Islam that Zakir Naik is propagating? Even in his home country of India, the dominant and conservative Deobandi Darul Uloom has issued several fatwas against him over the years, accusing him of “spreading mischievous things and misguiding simple Muslims to the wrong path”, that he is “religiously deviated”, and a “ghair muqallidin”, someone who does not follow the teachings of the Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah (the followers of the four accepted schools of Sunni Islam), a position upheld by Malaysia’s Islamic religious authorities.

 Just as there is a multi-million dollar industry promoting the English-speaking and suit-wearing Zakir Naik as a global Muslim evangelist of peace and an expert on comparative religion, there is a dedicated online industry out to prove him as a charlatan. These challengers scrutinise his speeches and pronouncements and counter them with referenced facts and evidence to question his breathtaking and blithe misrepresentation of science, history, names, dates and data.


A Google search on “Zakir Naik, controversies” spew out a laundry list of his views that have caused him to be banned in some countries and generated concerted attempts to get his audience to think more critically about what he claims is truth and evidence.

There is a widely viewed YouTube video where one of his dogged challengers identified 25 false statements within five minutes Zakir Naik made in a strident discussion on evolution, misrepresenting scientific and historic facts, and quoting one unknown person after another who have no record of existence, to make his points.

There’s another video where he justified his support for polygamy by stating that if every woman got married to only one man, there would be over 30 million women in the United States, four million in Britain, five million in Germany and nine million in Russia who would not find a husband!

Any rational person will instantly conclude that these countries must be practising male infanticide to have such a disproportionate ratio of females to males. It was not difficult for his challengers to use the population data to show how wrong this man is. In fact in all the countries, there are slightly more men than women. And if indeed one man marries more than one woman, he is in fact depriving other men the ability to find wives!

And yet Zakir Naik speaks to thousands who applaud and cheer him on. How could someone who unashamedly disgorges such fictional data to make his points attract a following numbering millions on social media and attract tens of thousands to his public talks? I leave it to the psychologists to analyse the state of mind of preacher and followers.

But for me, more disturbing are his inflammatory statements on a whole range of issues that should be of real concern to the Malaysian authorities if they are serious about battling extremism here. The evidence is widespread and readily available, and yet one Deputy Minister proclaimed that Zakir Naik was a “voice of moderation” who could counter extremist voices and was capable of convincing non-Muslims that Islam was a “religion of moderation”! I wonder what his sources of information were. Certainly not from his allies within Barisan Nasional. Both MIC and MCA had protested Zakir Naik’s presence here to preach his divisive message.

A quick check of his speeches in Malaysia showed a YouTube video of a speech in Terengganu where he repeatedly forbade Malaysian Muslims from wishing Merry Christmas to Christians. Because to do so, he said, is to endorse the belief that Jesus is the son of God. Does anyone know of any Muslim who believes Jesus is the son of God and whose faith is undermined whenever he or she wishes Merry Christmas to Christian friends? To say this to Malaysia that celebrates all major holidays together? Heck, the Government even sells this message of “Malaysia, Truly Asia” to the rest of the world and earn billions from tourist dollars.

The question to be asked of the authorities and the Menteri Besar of Terengganu who sponsored Zakir Naik’s Malaysian visit is whether this is truly the “moderate” Islam that authorities believe in? I shudder at what deeper damage Zakir Naik’s ilk will cause with the opening up of his ideological factory in Tasek Kenyir.

Zakir Naik’s most infamous statement that probably led to his ban from entering Britain and Canada was his much-quoted position on Osama bin Laden and terrorism in a widely viewed YouTube video of 2007: “If he (Osama bin Laden) is fighting the enemies of Islam, I am for him … If he is terrorising America the terrorist, the biggest terrorist, I am with him. Every Muslim should be a terrorist.”

Given the far-reaching consequences of that statement, he later, of course, claimed he was misquoted: “I have said Muslims should become terrorists in the sense that they should strike terror in the hearts of criminals and anti-socials.”

He believes 9/11 was “an inside job”, and that “every fool will know” it was orchestrated by George W. Bush. He supports the ban on the construction of houses of worship for those of other religions in Muslim countries. He lauds the Taliban destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas. He urges Muslims in India to support the hudud punishments for all Indians. Needless to say, he believes in the death penalty for homosexuals and for apostasy.

There is a reported list of suicide bombers and those arrested and charged with extremist violence who quoted him as their source of inspiration. One of them was found with several cassette tapes of Zakir Naik’s speeches.

Thousands flocked to his speeches in Terengganu, Malacca and Kuala Lumpur. Zakir Naik’s Salafi-Wahabi brand of Islam has seeped deep into the Malaysian Malay psyche after decades of propagation by Islamist groups, and sanctioned by the religious authorities.

But of concern to Malaysians who care about the future of this multi-religious and multi-ethnic country is the fact that such a deeply controversial and divisive figure is embraced and endorsed by the leadership. He was awarded the Tokoh Maal Hijrah award in 2013 (and the King Faisal International Prize for service to Islam in 2015) and met with the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, PAS President and a list of other VIPs on this visit.

The Ponorogo Man and His Guru

He even ventured into Malaysian politics, making headlines in Utusan Malaysia by calling on UMNO and PAS to work together to prevent the “enemies of Islam” (a favourite phrase of his) from gaining influence. “If Muslims don’t unite and gain support, we will lose in politics,” he said.

The next day were more headlines in the Utusan with rejoinders by other religious leaders, not least the Mufti of Perak, supporting Zakir Naik’s call.Was this the reward that UMNO had hoped to gain – endorsement by a charismatic evangelist to push a reluctant PAS worried about its grassroots sentiment into the arms of its once die-hard enemy?

Really? Desperate times call for desperate tactics.