Malaysia’s Long History of Election Rigging

March 10, 2018

Malaysia’s Long History of Election Rigging


Image result for Najib Razak and Mahathir Mohamad of the same mould


In many countries in Southeast Asia, having elections is a meaningless exercise; in the end, the same party always ends up ruling the state.

Malaysia is a prima facie example. The quality of elections in Malaysia has been poor, primarily because of the practices of the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition. Methods such as gerrymandering, misuse of institutional tools, elite cohesion pacts, and malapportionment have been used to retain power in the past – including by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, just tapped by the opposition as their candidate. With that in mind, it’s worth looking at what Malaysian leaders have done to cling on to power in the past, while at the same time degrading the sanctity of elections in the region.

Elections in Malaysia have become a one-sided affair over the years. The BN returned to power for the thirteenth time in 2013, and not solely because of the reforms they have carried out in Malaysia. Scholar Kai Ostwald, in his article “How to Win a Lost Election,” argued that methods such as gerrymandering – the manipulation of district boundaries to advantage one party — have been used by the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) to win elections. To create an additional district, the approval of two-thirds of the parliament is required and UMNO has always had a majority in parliament; thus from time to time they have redrawn district boundaries in their favor to capture the maximum number of votes, or to defy votes to the opposition. The fact that, as Ostwald points out, there were only 104 districts in Malaysia at the time of independence compared to 222 in 2013 speaks volumes about gerrymandering and the resulting quality of elections.

In his article, Ostwald has further highlighted the use of malapportionment by the Barisan National coalition to gain seats in the parliament. Malapportionment is the manipulation of electoral district boundaries to the ruling party’s advantage, wherein the pro-government districts have fewer voters and pro-opposition districts have many more.

Some amount of malapportionment is justifiable to improve the relationship between the representative and its constituents, and to give fair representation to Bumiputra people. But its excessive use by the UMNO has made the people lose faith in free and fair elections and derided the quality of it. In 2013, the use of malapportionment led to the incumbent BN winning 54 percent of parliamentary seats while losing the popular vote by a margin of around 4 percent. Ostwald insists that this has violated the “one-person, one vote” principle, that is fundamental to any democratic institution. Thus it has undermined elections at all levels.

Image result for Electoral Fraud in Malaysia

This is made possible by a partisan election commission that has refrained from keeping checks and balances over political parties. The election commission is supposed to act as an ombudsperson, but the fact that the head of state appoints the civil servants makes it a prejudiced body. Such practices have hollowed out the essence of elections in Malaysia. Though elections may have been frequent, they have always been well prepared for in advance by the ruling party.

Ostwald looked at the 2013 elections; Jason Brownlee, in his article “Bound To Rule,” explores former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s practices for dominating both national and inter-party elections in Malaysia. Mahathir faced opposition from some factions of the UMNO in the 1980s. Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and Musa Hitam, two prominent members of the party, rallied against Mahathir and ran for party president and vice president. To counter this challenge, Mahathir “prevailed by distributing cabinet and party positions to undecided delegation leaders,” according to Brownlee. After he won the elections, however, he got rid of the seven people in his cabinet who were not his supporters.

Later in the decade, Musa decided to run for reelection against the UMNO and gained ample support from his hometown. If Musa had succeeded, it could have been the biggest challenge to Mahathir’s political career. To counter this, Mahathir invited Musa Hitam and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah to join his cabinet. “Through the party’s organs, Mahathir had wooed Musa and his partisans back before they could compete separately in the next parliamentary elections,” Brownlee explained. However, Mahathir still faced opposition from Razaleigh and his newly formed alliance. This time in 1990, Mahathir dissolved parliament earlier than expected and shortened the campaign time, which caused serious damage to the opposition.

When the outcome is already apparent, elections hardly hold any value. Leaders in Malaysia have exploited the resources of the party and institutions and have made the most important part of democracies, the election, a secondary process.

Image result for Electoral Fraud in Malaysia

Gerrymandering, malapportionment, and the misuse of institutional tools are all methods used by the ruling coalition to manipulate the electoral process. This has directly as well as indirectly degraded the quality of elections and has eroded the faith of scholars in the Malaysian electoral system. With Mahathir as the opposition candidate now, it will be interesting to see if this year’s elections will be fair and square or whether the Najib Razak government will degrade the electoral practice to a new low.

Shrish Srivastava is a freelance foreign affairs writer.

RUU 355: The Bloody Fool Speaker Pandikar Amin !


February 23, 2018

RUU 355: The Bloody Fool Speaker Pandikar Amin

by Din Merican

On February13, 2018, I wrote about Tawfik Tun Dr Ismails’s case against the Speaker and secretary of the Dewan Rakyat for wrongfully allowing the tabling of a Bill by PAS chief Hadi Awang seeking to increase the sentencing powers of the Syariah Courts more famously known as the RUU355 case.

Image result for tawfik tun dr ismail

Tawfik Tun Dr Ismail claimed that Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia acted unconstitutionally by allowing the tabling of Hadi’s Motion and RUU355 without consulting the Conference of Rulers and breaching various laws and the standing orders of Parliament. This amendment would also create inequality in the law amongst Malaysians especially Muslims for purported Syariah criminal offences as the Syariah laws in the states are not uniform.

This case showed that PM Najib and UMNO were playing politics with religion and the Speaker behaved deceitfully in Parliament. See link:

Rosli Dahlan


My friend Lawyer Rosli Dahlan, who represented Tawfik, pointed out to Judge Dato Wira Kamaludin Said that Pandikar was misleading the court and showed that the doctrine of Parliamentary supremacy does not apply in Malaysia.

Lawyer Rosli revealed the abuse of parliament by the politicians to pass bad laws for political mileage without concern for the Rakyat especially Muslims. He also said that the Speaker committed treason against the Sultans by sidelining and disregarding the Rulers role to be consulted under Article 38 of the Constitution.

To avoid answering to Rosli’s charges about his treasonous behavior, Pandikar applied to strike out Tawfik’s case by claiming that as Speaker he has absolute immunity and is not answerable to the Courts.

Speaker Pandikar arrogantly defended his deceitful ways by saying -“If you have power, you are powerful. If you don’t use that power, you are a bloody fool!”

On Thursday afternoon February 22, 2018, Judge Kamaludin delivered his verdict that Parliament is not supreme and that the Speaker of Parliament is also subject to the Court’s jurisdiction.

The Judge said -“I agree with En Rosli and in my opinion, the court has jurisdiction to hear this case,” and directed Pandikar to file his affidavits. “I want affidavits to be filed in quick. We cannot keep Parliament waiting,” he said.

By these firm words, Judge Kamaludin has shown to Speaker Pandikar that he is not above the law. Pandikar has been put into his proper place and is now forced to eat the humble pie that he is not as powerful as he thinks he is. Judge Kamaludin is showing to Pandikar that a speaker who thinks he is powerful is actually the ultimate bloody fool!

Pandikar who had arrogantly refused to answer to the affidavits by Tawfik is now being treated like a delinquent child who refused to hand up his homework. Judge Kamaludin is now chiding Pandikar that he will be punished if he doesn’t file his affidavit.

Once again my friend Lawyer Rosli Dahlan is taking to task public functionaries who misbehaved and abused their powers regardless even if he is the Speaker of Parliament. I salute him for his bravery. Rosli had previously sued Attorney General Gani Patail and successfully moved the court to rule that Gani’s does not have absolute unbridaled powers as Public Prosecutor.

The RUU355 case is significant because a High Court Judge is brave enough to instill discipline even in the Speaker of Parliament that there must be respect and compliance with the Constitution. It is significant because a member of the public is suing the Speaker of Parliament not to sideline the Rulers in matters that involve public policy. This case symbolises the people defending their rulers. Daulat Tuanku!

Thank you Tawfik, thank you Rosli for showing us that Pandikar is the ultimate bloody fool!

Former UMNO MP can challenge Dewan Rakyat Speaker on RUU355, court rules – – Updated: 22 Feb 2018 3:58PM – The Malaysian Insight

Malaysian Politics: Is the opposition at odds with civil society?

January 9, 2018

Malaysian Politics: Is the opposition at odds with civil society?

by S

It does not take a majority to prevail … but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.”
― Samuel Adams

COMMENT | A young reader ended his opening salvo of a lengthy email exchange with – “Sir, you were part of the problem.” I began the first of my responses, with – “Son, I am still part of the problem.” I get that young people are frustrated. They look around and they see old men with their old poisoned dreams leading the charge for a supposedly better future.

Image result for Mahathir in Pakatan Harapan

Dynastic Politics in Malaysia

Amongst other issues, this young man wanted to know if I was familiar with the writings of Hafidz Baharom and his piece – “Don’t vote if they don’t change” – and what I thought about young people not voting, and why it is that the opposition seems to be at war with activists and civil society groups.

Well, as to the first part, I read everything that Hafidz writes. I already made my case as to why I think not voting is not an option. Mind you, I am not saying that Hafidz is wrong; just that I really want to see what happens if Pakatan Harapan takes control of the federal government. Does this sound flippant?


Here is the thing. In all my writings, I have made it clear that I do not think that corruption is the existential threat facing Malaysia. I think extremist Islam is. I want to see if a Harapan-led government with a strong non-Malay/Muslim voice stems the tide of what I believe will eventually destroy this country. That is why I am voting. Others, of course, have different reasons.

As for the opposition seeming to be at war with activists, many people who are involved in “civil society” (honestly, I am not familiar with the current nomenclature) have written to me describing a hostile environment when it comes to activism and oppositional politics. Things have become worse, with the ascension of the former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the bête noire of many activists – for good reason – as the captain leading the charge to oust current UMNO grand poohbah, Najib Razak.

Many long-time activists infused with fresh talent, who assumed that Harapan state governments would be more conducive to change, tell me that most times getting the “meeting” is easier than it is with the BN regime, but actually getting things done, is more or less the same. Often, they are admonished to not “bite the hand that feeds them,” which seems like a common rejoinder these days.

The corrupt Blue Rogues play the race and religion card to create fear for Malay support

There was a time when activism and oppositional politics were not mutually exclusive. There was a time when “civil society” and oppositional personalities worked closely to highlight issues that former minister Zaid Ibrahim termed the “real stuff.” I suppose that is the double-edged sword of civil society making “tremendous progress since 2008” as articulated in the “birds of feather” declaration.

I do not think civil society made tremendous progress. I think the opposition political elite made tremendous progress buttressed by civil society groups, who did not really understand the nature of the beast. There is this assumption that just because the politics of civil society groups and oppositional political parties aligned, there was some sort of understanding. Politicians say a whole lot of horse manure to get elected and count on activists to pass their message, but once elected rely on their bases (partisanship) to stay elected.


The rise of a credible opposition and contender to the throne of Putrajaya meant not that issues or principles were taking centre stage but rather the rise of a new cabal of political elites who were just as interested in maintaining power as their political opponents. What made it even more tenuous for civil society types and activists was that the alternative press and social media which was “issue driven” become partisan echo chambers, where party affiliation trumped anything else. In other words, if you are not with us, you are against us.

Many activists are in support of the “birds of feather” declaration. Actually, I know many people who belong to diverse “civil society” groups who support this initiative. Indeed, there is nothing in that declaration that any rational person would disagree with. Yet many opposition supporters write to me asking me to tell these “selfish” people not to rock the boat and destroy Harapan’s chance of removing the corrupt Najib and his cronies from power.

Civil Society activists

I know a few people on that list. I do not say this to name drop, but only that “selfish” is not a term I would use to describe them, ever. Furthermore, many of those groups in that list do far more constructive and productive work than some state administrations and definitely the federal government. To dismiss, mock or vilify what they say, especially if you (like me) have a different view, I would argue is, well – and I really dislike using this word – unpatriotic.

That is the only word I can think of especially when what these folks are reaffirming are democratic and egalitarian principles that would actually save Malaysia. If only political parties, like Hafidz writes, were not “too chickenshit to actually stand for something contrary to public opinion, and would rather coast along for fear of losing their vote base, while trying to convince the conservatives to vote for them.”

Someone asked if I was a “crypto-Mahathirista” since I had penned two pieces, essentially arguing that Harapan should commit to the game they want to play. I write too plainly to be a crypto anything. You can disagree with what I write. You can accuse me of many things but waffling or obscurantism is not on the list. So while I disagree with Suaram adviser Kua Kia Soong, it is not because I think he is wrong but it is because for this election, I am committing to the game that I keep telling Harapan to commit to.

Lastly to answer the question in the title of this piece. It is not that the opposition is at odds with civil society. It is the opposition has become part of the establishment.The establishment is always at odds with civil society.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.


Malaysian Government caught Pol Pot’s habit of banning books and persecuting writers and public intellectuals

December 31, 2017

Malaysian Government caught Pol  Pot’s habit of banning books and persecuting writers and public intellectuals

by FMT Reporters

Image result for Zaid Ibrahim's Book on Islamisation


Former Law Minister Zaid Ibrahim says his book “Assalamualaikum: Observations on the Islamisation of Malaysia”, which was launched in October 2015, has now been banned by the government.

The former minister took to Twitter to make public the decision which comes under the jurisdiction of the Home Ministry.

“So the year didn’t end that well, My book ‘Assalamualaikum’ is now banned. Looks to me this govt prefer Muslims to burn effigies of political opponent(s), destroy beer bottles than reading books,” he tweeted earlier today.

In the book, Zaid shares his thoughts on a new and fresh conversation about the role of Islam in Malaysian politics and in public life.

A check with a local bookstore website indicates that the book, which was on sale for RM19, is banned.

FMT is still waiting to get confirmation from the Home Ministry on the banning of the book. This is the latest case of book banning related to publications that touch on Islam.

Image result for Farouk Musa and Din MericanDr. Ahmad Farouk Musa and Blogger Din Merican


On October 3, the Home Ministry had announced the banning of five books with Islamic content, by Turkish author Mustafa Akyol, and two Malaysians – Ahmad Farouk Musa and Faisal Tehrani.

Image result for Faisal Tehrani.
Prolific Writer Faisal Tehrani


In an official government gazette dated September 28, 2017, the Home Ministry said the books were banned as they were likely to be prejudicial to public order as well as to alarm public opinion.

The sole English book banned was “Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty”, written by Akyol, and which has been an international best-seller since it was first published in the United States in 2011.

Image result for Akyol's book on Islam without extremes

The Bahasa Malaysia version of the book, “Islam Tanpa Keekstreman: Berhujah Untuk Kebebasan” was also banned. Aside from Akyol, Farouk, Nur Asyhraff Mohd Nor and Shuhaib Ar Rumy Ismail are also credited as authors for the translated work.

Two of Farouk’s own books – Wacana Pemikiran Reformis (Jilid 1) and (Jilid 2) – were also banned.

The publisher of the three books in BM is Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF), an Islamic NGO of which Farouk is chairman.

‘More corruption than anytime in history’

Image result for Najib Razak

At the launch of his book in 2015, Zaid had said that Malaysia was deeply divided along racial, religious and class more than ever before.

“We have more corruption than at anytime in our history. Greed has become a way of life. Democracy and Rule of Law have been pushed aside.”

“Jakim, proclaiming itself as the protector of Islam, is more involved in big business and overseas travels than in promoting the principles of the religion,” he had said, referring to the Malaysian Islamic religion development department by its acronym.

“These are the complete antithesis of an Islamic government. Islam is a pristine, pure and a simple religion. It’s a religion of peace, promoting honour and integrity.”

Saying then that he was hoping for the book to be a conversation starter, Zaid said: “If the idea of Islamisation was to promote Malaysia as the country that exemplifies the virtues of the religion, then we have failed.”

Malaysia tackles the Jihadi Mess with its “best in the world” deradicalization progamme

December 4, 2017

Malaysia tackles the Jihadi Mess with its  “best in the world” deradicalization progamme

by Mariam

Image result for Nur Afiqah Farhanah Che Samsudim


On November 24, a 26-year-old woman named Nur Afiqah Farhanah Che Samsudim was sentenced to eight years in prison in a Malaysian high court for attempting to enter Syria in a bid to die a martyr’s death.

Although she was on her way to the Middle East, Nur’s story has achieved disturbing relevance with the collapse of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria as jihadis flee on their way back for sanctuaries in Southeast Asia.  How many Nurs there are – or their male counterparts – is unknown. But according to Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, regional groups such as Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines, Jemaah Islamiyah and others serve as what he called a “home away from home” for those fleeing the deteriorating situation in Mosul and other Middle Eastern cities.  Malaysia faces accumulating its own share of the fleeing returnees and what to do about them.

Nur’s father died when she was 17. She became a mistress until her lover died in 2014. Stricken by grief, she married her lover’s younger brother, a drug addict, but the marriage only lasted two months. She then resumed her studies in medicine before being befriended by a man on social media who agreed to marry her on condition she travel to Syria.

Having sold her car to fund her ticket to Turkey, Nur entered Istanbul on August. 30, 2016 and was finally caught trying to cross the border into Syria in February of this year, to be deported back to Malaysia.

Nur’s loneliness, the change in her personal circumstances and her vulnerability, made her easy prey for ISIS propagandists. Had she been persuaded by her internet lover that going to Syria would give new meaning to her life, help her overcome grief and her daily frustrations? What prompted her to tell her mother that she was migrating to Syria to have a martyr’s death? And can Nur and her fellow victims be turned around?

The Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Zahid Hamidi says yes, that his Home Ministry’s program to deradicalize former prisoners, is “the best in the world.”  The results, he told a crowd in Kuching in February of 2016, are encouraging and recognized internationally.

“We are not praising ourselves, this is a recognition by the United Nations, Interpol and others,” Zahid said, “which is why Malaysia hosted the International Deradicalization Conference last month.”

The Principal Consultant of JK Associates, Khen Han Ming, works in close collaboration with the media and law enforcement agencies on global security issues, intelligence and terrorism.  He is a skeptic.

The prevention of radicalization in prisons is all about damage control. Khen said, “Inmates jailed for non-terror related offences meet other inmates who may have become radicalized, either as sympathizers or members of a wider terror network, prior to their detention.  Harsh conditions of confinement, overcrowding, racial divisions and isolation of inmates are to blame for radicalization.

“In a recent exposé by The Straits Times, a 53-year-old former ISA detainee was shown to have been actively recruiting inmates in Tapah Prison after he was arrested in February 2013, for terror offences.”

Radicalization in prison, isn’t just a Malaysian problem. It is a worldwide phenomenon. Khen lists those who were radicalized whilst in prison.

“Guantanamo Bay once housed Said Ali al-Shiri, the late al-Qaeda leader who masterminded the 2008 attack on the US embassy in Yemen,” he said. “The current al-Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was radicalized in Egyptian prisons, while the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi attempted to recruit fellow inmates to help him overthrow the government in Jordan.”

Richard Reid, the 2001 “shoe bomber” who attempted to blow up an airliner on a flight between Paris and Miami with explosives in his shoes, was radicalized while imprisoned in the United Kingdom.

Although the British, European Union and American governments have yet to find an effective strategy, in Malaysia, Zahid is all praise for his own program. Implemented under the Malaysian Prisons Department blue ocean strategy, steps so far used on 130 convicts were outlined by Zahid.

Convicts were separated during detention to stop their influence on other convicts, and 97 percent of those who have been rehabilitated, haven’t returned to their activities, he said. The department has close cooperation with the Malaysia Islamic Affairs Department (known by its Malay-language acronym JAKIM), psychology experts and NGOs.

“As a result, it makes Malaysia an example of the most successful country in the de-radicalization program, the best example in the world,” Zahid said.

However, Khen dismisses Zahid’s claim. “Zahid also said, in his entry in The Journal of Public Security and Safety, that “there is no formula by which one can measure the effectiveness of a given law, or in this context, the rehabilitation program. An effective de-radicalization program can be gauged by its rate of recidivism.”

Recidivism rates, he said, “can be very misleading because they reflect only what is known to intelligence services, which is limited to public knowledge. The 2004 Saudi de-radicalization program, also known as “PRAC” (Prevention, Rehabilitation, After-Care) was also described as one of the “best rehabilitation programs in the world,” and a role model for many countries.

It was considered a complete success until five years later, Khen said, when 11 former Guantanamo inmates and program graduates “were discovered to have returned to al-Qaeda.”

Another method for tackling radicalization is via community outreach programs involving both the private sector and NGOs. The aim is to take away the appeal of extremist groups like ISIS by disrupting radical and extremist narratives.

“We need a systematic program, which emphasizes inclusiveness rather than exclusiveness, and which delegitimizes extremist ideologies such as the “them against us” mentality,” Khen said. Citing the approach adopted from The Ministry of Home Affairs of Singapore, he added, “Community outreach clinics, or hotlines which offer help to people-at-risk, or individuals with information, widen the channels of communication and accessibility to information, which would otherwise be difficult.”

He strongly believes that local celebrities can help counter extremist views: “Malaysian Sultans and members of the Royal Household are increasingly getting involved, by speaking up against the encroaching Talibanization of our country. Celebrities have a huge following and are sometimes considered more reliable than politicians. They also have the capability to break the barrier of political distrust. They are often the symbol of solidarity and unity, when we see a terror attack, overseas.”

Many in the field agree that terrorism and violent extremism is a battle of ideology that must be addressed at many levels, using a multilateral approach. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution.

Badrul Hisham Ismail, the Program Director for IMAN, an organization which conducts research on society, religion and perception, told local media that to achieve successful rehabilitation and reintegration  into society, “we need to regain or rebuild trust and confidence, not only in society, but also between governments, civil societies and communities, to ensure strong collaboration and cohesion across all levels.”

Badrul added: “It is not only the responsibility of government or authorities. Each of us must play a crucial role in maintaining and promoting social cohesion and inclusivity – the remedy for any form of extremism.”

Khen, who has been involved in the provision of security services for over a decade, agreed and said, “Private sector involvement helps to address these issues, which affect everyone. Radicalization is not limited to religious indoctrination, but includes socio-political groups and similar groups.  We need to combat radicalization and violent extremism by disengaging them at their source, by advocating moderation and activism, to disrupt the spread of radical ideologies.

“Unless and until the main source of the problem is addressed, we are doomed to repeat the cycle.” The state, he said, shouldn’t waste its time and resources on de-radicalization programs but instead focus on addressing the root cause of extremism.

Image result for Mustafa Akyol


Despite this, the authorities can appear to contradict themselves. In September, the Turkish moderate writer and journalist Mustafa Akyol, who was invited to give a series of talks in KL, was detained, while the Indian fugitive ‘terror-mentor’ Zakir Naik was given a safe-haven in Malaysia and made a Permanent Resident.

A controversial preacher, Zamihan Mat Zin, who outraged Malaysians and the Malaysian Royalty with his radical views on separate launderette facilities for “unclean” non-Muslims and his intolerance in race and religious matters, was found to be part of the deradicalization program.

Mariam Mokhtar is a Malaysian journalist and a longtime contributor to Asia Sentinel

Malaysia’s Najib Razak fans the flames of Religious Intolerance

October 20, 2017

Malaysia’s Najib Razak fans the flames of Religious Intolerance

by Mariam Mokhtar.

Image result for Chicken Najib Razak

Chicken Najib Razak fans the flames of religious intolerance

Malaysia has been thrown into a royal shambles by a growing rivalry between the country’s nine religiously moderate sultans and its conservative mullahs, considered by many to be “nouveaux royals” vying for the attention of ethnic Malay Muslims.

Political and social observers believe that if the controversy is left unchecked, it could undermine the position of the corruption-scarred Prime Minister, Najib Abdul Razak.

Image result for Tough Sultan of Johor


Johor people are proud of Major General Sir Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Sultan Abu Bakar, who ruled Johor for 64 years from 1895 to 1959 and his successors. Born on September 17th 1873, he ascended the throne on June 4th 1895 following the death of his father Sultan Abu Bakar. He was proclaimed on September 7th 1895 and was crowned on November 2nd of the same year. He celebrated his diamond jubilee of his accession on his 82nd birthday, a world record at that time. Sultan Sir Ibrahim also declined to become the first Yang Di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia in 1957 and so did the subsequent Sultan of Johor, Sultan Sir Ismail.Johor Mesti Sentiasa Jadi Johor

Image result for Tough Sultan of Johor

HRH Sultan Ibrahim Ismail Ibni Baginda Al Mutawakkil Alallah Sultan Iskandar Al-Haj, born on 22 November 1958 during the reign of his great grandfather Sultan Ibrahim, is widely admired and respected by all Malaysians

On October. 10, the Royals, who serve as the hereditary titular heads of nine of Malaysia’s 13 states and who even today have a deep reserve of loyalty from feudal rural Malays, called for unity and religious harmony after what they described as “excessive actions” in the name of Islam, a rare intervention into the public arena.

“It is feared that the excessive actions of certain individuals of late can undermine the harmonious relations among the people of various races and religions,” said the statement, signed by the Keeper of the Rulers’ Seal, Syed Danial Syed Ahmad, according to a report in the state-run news agency Bernama.  “The Rulers feel that the issue of harmony has deep implications if any action is associated with and undertaken in the name of Islam.”

Najib is normally swift to act against members of the Malaysian public who condemn the royal households, the Islamic institutions, or his administration. But last week, after the Malay rulers issued the royal rebuke, Najib was silent.

Leaders of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the country’s biggest ethic political party, understand the potency of conservative Islam to manipulate ethnic Malays, who make up about 60 percent of the population. The other 40 percent are comprised of Chinese, Hindus, East Malaysian ethnic Bumiputeras, and others.

The nine royal households, who by tradition and the Constitution are the guardians of Islam in their respective states, are believed to oppose the implementation of hudud, or harsh Islamic law, and a bill before the parliament to enlarge the power of the Syariah Courts. They are also said to be alarmed about recent events like the banning of certain books and the arrest and deportation of authors and speakers including the Turkish academic, Mustafa Akyol.

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A series of religious-related incidents has pitted the mullahs and the government against the royal households. Last month, the Kuala Lumpur City Council cancelled the annual Oktoberfest event, a Germany-inspired celebration of the passing of the seasons and of beer-drinking, and told the organizers that the event was a sensitive issue. They did not say who considered it sensitive or how it would affect Muslim sensitivities.

Days later, a launderette in Johor issued a statement saying that its services were only for Muslim patrons. The owner deemed that items belonging to non-Muslims would “contaminate” items of clothing worn by Muslims and invalidate their prayer.

The public were outraged by this act and HRH Sultan of Johor Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar waded in, warning the owner that the business would face closure by him if it did not stop operating as if it was in the Taliban portion of Afghanistan. After the dressing-down, the launderette owner apologized for his action and offered his services to people of different faiths.

The Royals have thrown the ball into Najib’s court, but he has refused to play. His relationship with the Sultans is increasingly tenuous, but his reticence to make a stand is regarded as weakening his own position.

The nature of the Sultans’ intervention is regarded as an indication that the royals are fed up and irritated as in fact are many of the country’s urban Malays by the erosion of community integration, as are many professionals among the Malay population, who say they are at the end of their tether with Najib and fundamentalist Islam. At a recent wedding, some even said they wouldn’t mind if a Chinese were to become prime minister, an astonishing heresy in the country. Many said they are openly encouraging their children to migrate. Nonetheless, the opposition as a political force remains splintered and a long shot against Najib and UMNO in an expected general election which must be called before the middle of 2018.

“The royals, too, feel their position is threatened. They may be Malay and act as the guardians of Islam, but many, when away from prying eyes, lead a very western lifestyle,” a political analyst told Asia Sentinel. “Some royals spend an appreciable amount of time in the west and enjoy a lifestyle that many of their Malay subjects can only envy. With rising Islamic conservatism, the ordinary Malays cannot emulate this western lifestyle in Malaysia.”

The Royals are compelled to speak out before extremism takes root and undermines their royal status, another social critic said. “In Islam everyone is considered equal, and only in Saudi Arabia are kings above the law. The Malaysian royals are taking the initiative and acting before their own existence is questioned by the extremists.”

As an example, he said, in April 2016, the Sultan of Terengganu, Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin stripped the state’s chief minister Ahmad Razif of all state-awarded titles because Razif had presented a controversial Indian zealot, Zakir Naik, with three islands.

Najib is not known for issuing retractions, denials or affirmations, as he has normally depended on a coterie of loyal supporters, most of whom belong to his inner circle, to lash out on his behalf.

However, the Royal dressing down has thrown Putrajaya, the seat of government, into disarray and political observers wonder if Najib will order an immediate shakeup of the Department for the Development of Islam in Malaysia, known by its Malay-language initials JAKIM.

Image result for harussani zakaria

It takes a Siti Kassim to put Perak’s Chief Mullah Harussani Zakaria in his proper place

Several other religious experts including two influential muftis, Asri Zainul Abidin of Perlis and Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri of the Federal Territory also admonished the launderette owner in Muar and another “Muslim-only” launderette operating in Perlis.

The Royals are compelled to speak out before extremism takes root and undermines their royal status, another social critic said. “In Islam everyone is considered equal, and only in Saudi Arabia are kings above the law. The Malaysian royals are taking the initiative and acting before their own existence is questioned by the extremists.”

As an example, he said, in April 2016, the Sultan of Terengganu, Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin stripped the state’s chief minister Ahmad Razif of all state-awarded titles because Razif had presented a controversial Indian zealot, Zakir Naik, with three islands.

Najib is not known for issuing retractions, denials or affirmations, as he has normally depended on a coterie of loyal supporters, most of whom belong to his inner circle, to lash out on his behalf.

However, the royal dressing down has thrown Putrajaya, the seat of government, into disarray and political observers wonder if Najib will order an immediate shakeup of the Department for the Development of Islam in Malaysia, known by its Malay-language initials JAKIM.

Several other religious experts including two influential muftis, Asri Zainul Abidin of Perlis and Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri of the Federal Territory also admonished the launderette owner in Muar and another “Muslim-only” launderette operating in Perlis.

In an unprecedented move, however, an Islamic preacher, Zamihan Mat Zain, fired back at the Johore Sultan and the Perlis and FT muftis for their stance, claiming that Muslims were only trying to lead good lives.

In a YouTube video, Zamihan termed Malaysia an “Islamic state” and said that being clean was Islamic. He was shocked, he said, that the small issue of the Muslim-only laundrette had been blown out of proportion, and become a worldwide sensation.

At a graduation ceremony at the Tun Hussein Onn University, the Johor Sultan called Zamihan “an empty tin with no brains,” adding that he was “very arrogant,” “haughty” and someone who believed he was the only one who had the right to scorn people of other races.

The Sultan of Johor’s criticism was swiftly followed by a similarly worded statement from the Perlis Crown Prince, Tuanku Syed Faizuddin Putra Jamalullail. The other Sultans delivered the October 10 Royal rebuke, saying Malaysians should focus on tolerance, moderation, and inclusivity for life in a diverse, multicultural Malaysia.

The statement, signed by the keeper of the ruler’s seal, Syed Danial Syed Ahmad, said, “The rulers are of the opinion that the damaging implications of such actions are more severe, when they are erroneously associated with, or committed in the name of Islam.”

In a further development, the royal rebuke has finally forced Jamil Khir Baharom, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (PMD), who also heads JAKIM, into the open. JAKIM is under the control of the Prime Minister’s department, with an annual budget of RM1 billion (US$236.7 million). Calls for the accounts to be audited and made transparent have been ignored.

Jamil was silent when the issue of safety, teaching quality and the mushrooming of illegal tahfiz, or religious schools cropped up, but Zamihan, who took potshots at the Sultan, has forced Jamil to seek an audience with the Johor Sultan, who in turn ordered the state religious authority, JAIJ, to sever ties with JAKIM.

Zamihan initially denied he was attached to JAKIM, but it was revealed that he is an “Islamic affairs officer” who has been seconded to the Home Ministry’s publications and Koranic text control division. His videos and talks are often inflammatory. It is also alleged that preachers are paid about RM20,000 per month.

Anyone who thinks that this battle royal is just another religious incident that will soon blow over is wrong. Najib knows that clipping the religious preachers’ wings would seriously erode his powerbase, but he is caught in a dilemma of his own making. Rural, feudal Malays are making it crucial that Najib’s political future be determined by his ability to conciliate the royal households and the demands of the power-hungry, conservative Islamic clerics whom he has fostered. Najib has unleashed a hydra which he may be unable to control.

Mariam Mokhtar is a liberal political commentator in Malaysia