Measuring Islamicity yet again

March 2, 2015

Measuring Islamicity yet again

by Zainah Anwar (01-03-15)

Zainah AnwarA Syariah Index funded by taxpayers’ money remains unused and unknown to the public while a new study has been launched.

FOR some five years during the premiership of Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the Malaysian Govern­ment spent millions on a major effort to develop the Maqasid al-Shariah Index to measure the “Islamicity” of a country, both in terms of governance and society.

A team of over 10 international Islamic scholars from diverse parts of the Muslim world, representing all schools of law in Islam, worked with ratings and indexing experts from the Gallup Poll to develop the methodology and measurable indicators for what is supposed to be a rigorous index that can be used to measure how Islamic a country is on the basis of how well it has delivered on the goals of Syariah – to protect and promote life, religion, intellect, family and property.

It seems there was much debate among the scholars on how best to go forward with this huge project. None of them believed that a focus on hudud law and punishments was the way to go to measure how Islamic a country is. But all agreed that nothing but justice can be objective of Islamic law. They developed documents to define the essential features of syariah-compliance governance and embarked on a rigorous exercise over several years to define in scientific, measurable ways what each objective of Syariah should be.

What does protecting and promoting life, religion, family, intellect, and property mean today, and in accordance with Islamic principles? And what are the indicators and ratings indexes that should be used to measure if OIC governments have delivered on the objectives of Syariah to deliver justice, to do good, to advance life and society for all?

For example, in developing the index on protecting life, they looked at data to indicate a govern­ment’s achievement on providing food, housing, healthcare, infrastructure, and other basic needs. The focus was on deliverables to advance the life of citizens.

Except for one public presentation at the International Institute forImam Feisal Rauf Advanced Islamic Studies last year, nothing more has been heard of this study, which was led by Imam Feisal Rauf from the Cordoba Institute, and included two Malaysian experts. A book on its methodology and findings was supposed to be published by the end of last year, but until today there is no news of the publication. Malaysia, not surprisingly, came out well among the OIC countries measured by this Index.

But now another study has been launched by the current Prime Minister to develop yet another Syariah Index based on the maqasid principles. Why? Has anyone examined the Maqasid Index already developed with millions of ringgit of taxpayers’ money? Why is there a need to launch yet another project to develop a similar index? Do they even know this Maqasid Index was initiated, completed and funded by the same Prime Minister’s Office, just by the last office holder?

The methodology of this new Syariah Index project is already under question. Looking at the survey questionnaire sent out to UMNO members, this new project seems like an approval rating exercise.

The 13-page questionnaire made up of 146 questions covers six issues – Islamic law, politics, economics, education, health, culture, infrastructure and environment, and social. For each issue, a list of questions is prepared to measure how well the government has done under the five categories: religion, life, intellect, family and property. Respondents are asked to rate on a scale from strongly disagree to strongly agree.

For example, to measure whether Islamic laws in Malaysia have protected life, it asked three questions: whether zakat, wakaf institutions, JAKIM and the state religious departments uphold Islam; whether government “shelter centres” for syariah criminals are effective and whether distribution of zakat is effective.

On protecting intellect, it asked if laws to prevent alcohol consumption are effective, if the quality of human resources is adequate and if information on Islamic law is easily obtainable.

In its measurement on social issues, it asked questions on the effectiveness of enforcement agencies’ efforts to prevent Christianisation activities, the system to determine the qualification of religious preachers, the process of inculcating understanding of fardu ain and fardu kifayah in society, and the adequacy of programmes in mosques throughout the country!

And it goes on and on in this random mode of haphazard and arbitrary leading questions being asked of respondents. They were in fact asked to rate if the Malaysian Government has done enough to measure how Syariah-compliant Malaysia is.

I am not sure if the research team has any clue how serious and rigorous a process for deve­loping an index that is meant for global use should be. What is the purpose of setting up yet more committees and spending more money to duplicate what has been done just a few years ago by the very same office of the Prime Minister?

Perhaps the team can start by examining the Maqasid Index book manuscript, titled Islamic Government and Rule of Law Index. Have they consulted the experts from the previous team? Why the need for a new team and a new Index? What is the budget for this new initiative?

rehman-scheherazadeThey could also read the academic papers available online writtenhossein_askari by two Professors at The George Washington University, Hossein Askari (right) and Scheherazade Rehman (left), who have developed the “Islamicity Index” and the “Economic Islamicity Index” and who are now working on their own Maqasid Index. They are also working with the Islamic Development Bank to develop a Syariah-based index of socio-economic development.

Their Islamicity Index mea­sured economic and human development, laws and governance, human and political rights, and international relations in accordance with a set of Islamic principles. For example, for economic and human development, they developed 12 fundamental Islamic economic principles that included indicators on equal economic participation, economic equity, personal property rights and sanctity of contracts, poverty prevention and reduction, etc.

Compare this to some of the indicators on economic achievements in the Malaysian Syariah Index survey: “numbers of Islamic insurance consumers are increasing” (how is a respondent supposed to know that?), “financial institutions practising syariah-­compliant finance principles expand” and “prostitution and LGBT phenomena is not a concern in Malaysia (?)” It is hard to fathom the methodology and logic behind these questions and what they are really trying to measure.

As with so many things to do with religion in this country, much suspicion has been aroused as to whether this effort to ­develop yet another Syariah Index on the heel of one just completed, unused and unknown to the public, is yet another effort to lull Muslims into believing how Syariah-compliant this government is.

Never mind if in the end, it is the Muslims that they proclaim they want to protect and serve who will become the biggest losers in this race to prove who is more Islamic than the other. In Kelantan, we see a state government desperate to implement the Hudud law even while any right-minded citizen would think that it should be focusing its attention on helping the rakyat to rebuild their lives and property and repair the massive damage to infrastructure and goods caused by the devastating floods.

When you have nothing much to showcase for your achievements, press the Islam button and hey presto, the rakyat will be pleased – so they think.

Rosmah with NajibAt the federal level, a government that has lost popular support in two successive elections and that is desperate to prevent further regression, again and again turns to race and religion to create a siege mentality that the Malays cannot survive without the dominant ruling party in power.

This is all a charade. The sooner we wake up to the games politicians play with religion in order to stay in power or to win power, the more strategic we can be to bring about the real change that we the rakyat are desperate for.

Zainah Anwar is the internationally acclaimed co-founder and former executive director of Sisters in Islam (SIS Forum) and the co-­founder and director of Musawah, a global movement for equality and justice in the Muslim family. She is a former member of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam). The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.


PM dodges 1MDB scandals

March 2, 2015

PM dodges 1MDB scandals


DAP’s Tony Pua says PM is either complicit in the company’s hanky-panky or guilty of gross negligence and incompetence in managing 1MDB.

najib-tony-puaTime to Fix 1MDB mess

Tony Pua has said that the Prime Minister cannot continue to disassociate himself from the gross failings of 1MDB in light of the current revelations detailing how the company played a role in an elaborate scam to siphon money.

He said this in response to recent documents involving a US$1billion Petrosaudi investment transaction that was exposed by the Sarawak Report and which pointed clearly towards “an elaborate scam to siphon money from 1MDB into a Swiss bank account owned by Jho Low’s private company”.

The MP for Petaling Jaya Utara said, “Even if the Prime Minister is indeed not complicit in the serious hanky-panky in the company, he is guilty of gross negligence and incompetence in managing 1MDB under his Ministry.”

Condemning Najib’s continued assertion that 1Malaysia Development Berhad was in “sound financial health” Pua pointed out three facts that were in direct contradiction to the PM’s statement namely that the company was unable to repay a RM2 billion loan without “begging” billionaire Ananda Krishnan for help; that 1MDB had requested for a RM3 billion emergency bailout fund from the Cabinet; and that 1MDB was unable to show proof that it had US$1.1 billion (RM3.9 billion) parked anonymously overseas after disposing of its Cayman investments.

“How can the Finance and Prime Minister allow the 1MDB shenanigans to sink to the current level of RM42 billion in debt while becoming practically insolvent?,” Pua asked.

He also pointed out Najib’s attempt to dismiss the Sarawak Report as being politically motivated, saying that in his triple roles as PM, Finance Minister, and Chairman of the 1MDB Board of Advisors, it was irrelevant whether this was so and that Najib was duty bound to get to the bottom of the scandal.

“I, for example, would seek to expose all corrupt activities of the ruling government to remove them during the next general elections. What is more important, is whether the documents and email communications are genuine,” Pua said.

Kanda, newly appointed president and group executive director of Malaysia's state investor 1Malaysia Development Bhd, poses for photographs in Kuala Lumpur1MDB’s New Miracle Man

He added that if indeed the documents are proved to be genuine, then the government must answer for the “brazen abuse of power” and added that Najib cannot continue to distance himself from 1MDB by claiming he was not directly involved in its day-to-day operations.

Throwing his support behind DAP elder statesman Lim Kit Siang who has called for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into 1MDB’s RM42 billion debt, Pua added that the move is important so the truth would come out and that the “crooks behind and abetting the scams will be punished and put behind bars”.


Najib says father Razak was principled man

March 2, 2015

COMMENT: We are not talking about Tun Abdul Razak. Our Second Prime Minister is known by all men and women of my generation as a leader who put people first before self. He left us a legacy that will remain unmatched for a long time. He was an astute politician who served us with distinction to be remembered as Bapa Pembangunan. I  am for one an admirer of Tun Razak’s leadership style and personal qualities. His son, the present Prime Minister, is not even a chip of the old block.

Tun Razak and Zhou Enlai

This issue today is the leadership  and policies of the sixth Prime Minister, Dato Seri Najib Tun Razak who took over in 2009. Najib is not focusing on the job. He has failed us all. As a result, our country has lost its sense of direction and is moving into a state of disrepair. It is in my view going to take drastic measures before we can move forward. Life is more than  just politics, be it of race or religion. It is about hard work, good governance and public accountability.–Din Merican

Najib says father Razak was principled man

najib-tun-razak-565x375All his Policies have failed–NATO

Malaysia’s second Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein was a principled man who had placed the nation’s interests before his own, said his son Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Najib, who is the current Prime Minister, also spoke of Razak’s integrity and frugal life throughout his political career.

“Throughout his service in the government, Tun Razak was never involved in any corrupt practices and power abuses. “He (Tun Razak) always placed national interests far above any personal interests until his deeds to the country became a public memory to the people,” Najib was quoted saying in the statement yesterday by local paper Berita Harian.

Najib added that Razak was well-known for living a moderate and thrifty lifestyle from the time he joined politics to the time he became the nation’s leader.

The same statement was also cited by UMNO-owned daily Utusan Malaysia, with both newspapers saying that Najib was backing his four siblings’ statement last week on Razak’s frugality and integrity.

The Malay-language papers said Razak had never used government funds to pay for his children’s education abroad, with his late father-in-law and key corporate figure Tan Sri Mohamed Noah fully footing the bill.

In the wake of a recent article in the New York Times speculating on the family’s wealth, four of Razak’s children last week said that he was a man of “utmost integrity” and a frugal man.

In a joint statement, sons Datuk Johari Razak, Datuk Nizam Razak, Nazim Razak and Datuk Seri Nazir Razak said the whole family was “extremely concerned” over news reports that speculated over the origins and size of Razak’s supposed wealth.

“We wish to put on record that Tun Abdul Razak was a highly principled man, well-known to all who knew him for his frugality and utmost integrity and any statement or inference to the contrary would be false and misleading to his memory and to his service and sacrifices for the nation. We take issue with anyone who taints his memory, whatever the motive. We would also like to add that our whole family is united on this issue,” the four said in the brief statement on February 24.

Razak, now remembered in the footnotes of history as the nation’s Bapa Pembangunan (Father of Development), took over the reins of the country on September 22, 1970 at the age of 48. He died from leukemia on January 14, 1976, leaving behind five sons.



Will Najib do right by the people come March 8?

March 2, 2015

Will Najib do right by the people come March 8?

 The finest thing for him to do is to announce his retirement.


by Aspan

Rosmah and Najib 1mdb

This March 8, there will be an assembly of about 170 UMNO division heads, a congregation to show solidarity with Najib whose support from ordinary people like you and I is fast dwindling.

Najib is experiencing a leadership crisis at a level never before experienced by any previous Prime Minister in our country. He is probably hoping the assembly will repress the incessant calls by many quarters for him to retire and live in repentance ever after.

The pressure for Najib to resign is swelling. To some, he has only one choice, and that is to resign promptly, failing which he will face the grave consequence of being forced out by whatever other means by pressure groups that are working full-time to ensure that he leaves, if possible promptly. At the moment, Najib is managing the country like a grieving father who has lost all his children. No one from the Cabinet is going out in the open to protect his leadership.

If the report of a Cabinet rejection of his proposal to bail out 1MDB for RM3 billion is true, then this is another big setback for the besieged Premier; it can be construed as a head-on rebellion against his leadership, or at least a vote of no confidence. If that is the case, Najib is now a spent force technically and he has no reason to stay on as Prime Minister.

Right now Najib is unable to focus on governance. He has to spend all his efforts on saving his premiership. He has to concentrate his energies on playing personal politics, leaving him no time for the people. He has lost all direction in steering the government. If he still wants to continue loitering in Putrajaya, he and the other Cabinet members will have to take responsibility for any adverse consequence the country will face.

If Najib goes, the entire Cabinet must go with him as they are equally culpable for all the blunders the country is facing. The magnitude of evils committed by the current government is so alarming that only radical change will undo them.

The people are tensely waiting to hear what Najib will say at the March 8 gathering. Will he ask the UMNO division leaders to defend him in his position? Or will he read a glowing, self-written testimonial of his supposed successes?

Or will he instead announce his graceful retirement and ask all those present to support his move because he wants to see the country remain in one piece? That will be the finest thing for him to do. He has to impress upon his audience that his retirement is the best means of keeping the country together and united. This will be his biggest contribution to the country.

Such a move will be etched in history and Najib will be remembered as a leader who loves his country enough to sacrifice position and power. Of course, the move must be followed by all the members of his Cabinet. If Najib is replaced by any member of his weak Cabinet, then it will be as if no change has taken place. In my blog writings, I have consistently advanced the opinion that someone with a high level of magnanimity and integrity as well as experience and capacity as a planner has to be in charge to effect the change we are desirous of.

This is what ordinary Malaysians like you and me essentially want to see. We want structural change for the country. What we really need to do is to start the nation anew.

That is why not anyone among the current members of the Cabinet and the UMNO Supreme Council is fit to take the mantle. This time we must be fully in gear to find the right leader to lead in making the required changes. I am not saying that those in the UMNO Supreme Council have no role to play in the process of change.

Najib’s not looking good politically, says Roger Mitton

March 1, 2015

Najib’s not looking good politically, says Roger Mitton

by The Malaysian

Criticism against Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak appears to be gaining steam outside of the country, with The Myanmar Times now jumping onto the bandwagon.

In its opinion page dated February 23, the writer Roger Mitton, presented a bleak picture on the issue, describing it as a “gluey black sea of venality the likes of which has not been seen in this region since the days of President Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines.”

He said things are so bad that UMNO-owned newspaper, Utusan Malaysia, had to carry an editorial to try to exonerate Najib and shift the blame elsewhere.

Rosmah and Najib 1mdb

“It failed, of course,” he said, adding it was because the newspaper was arguing against facts that indicate “Najib is steadily sinking into the treacly pit of corruption and maladministration.”

Mitton said the controversy surrounding debt-ridden 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and Najib’s stepson, Riza Aziz, as reported by the New York Times, recently also were not helping in lifting his image for the better.

Riza and Jho LowBest of Friends–Riza and Jho Low

“It is hard to truly comprehend the full magnitude of this gigantic, nepotistic malfeasance, and even the illustrious New York Times took three pages to try to do it,” he wrote. The Myanmar Times’ article also alleged that Riza, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor’s son, was responsible for most of the woes brought about by the 1MDB debacle, due to his association with Penang businessmen Jho Low.

“Why and how? There is no clear answer, except to recall that Najib is under the sway of Rosmah, a shopaholic wrecking ball, who shrugs off ridicule and ignores how her actions thwart her husband’s premiership,” he wrote.

Mitton went on to say that the personal damage to Najib “is piffling compared to the disastrous effect the huge 1MDB losses are having on the already fragile Malaysian economy.”

Adding on, the article said that political support for the ruling party in Malaysia was also diminishing, taking note the results in the last general elections that saw the voting pattern swaying towards opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

He said that since the failure to reverse the drop in votes experienced by his predecessor, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Najib has clung onto the UMNO leadership by appeasing his key support base, the Malays, “and marginalising the Chinese and Indian communities.”

Followed by the move to keep the Sedition Act and Anwar’s jailing, Mittton said “these actions signal a premier running scared.” He said that in any case, Najib’s survival may depend more on Umno elders the likes of former PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, and former Finance Ministers Tun Daim Zainuddin and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.

“Since they have all turned against him, though, the omens are not good.” he said.



‘RM2.5bil 1MDB funds sent to Jho Low’s firm’

March 1, 2015

‘RM2.5bil 1MDB funds sent to Jho Low’s firm’


Jho Low with KeysThe RM2.5 billion (US$700 million) which was listed as a loan repayment from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) to Petrosaudi International (PSI) during 1MDB’s joint venture with Petrosaudi in 2009, was actually a “front” to channel the money to a company controlled by tycoon Jho Low (seen with Alicia Keys left), online news portal Sarawak Report alleged yesterday.

It claimed it had obtained confidential email exchanges and the whole joint venture agreement worth RM3.6 billion between 1MDB and Petrosaudi made in September 2009.

Last week, Sarawak Report revealed contents of the joint venture agreement which stated that 1MDB had to undertake to repay a RM2.5 billion loan that Petrosaudi had taken from its parent company, Petrosaudi International.

However, in its report yesterday, it exposed alleged email communications that revealed that Petrosaudi had agreed to act as a “front” for the money to be channeled to a foreign company allegedly controlled by Jho Low and his business associates.

The controversial Penang-born tycoon had been constantly linked to Prime MinisterRosmah and Najib 1mdb Najib Abdul Razak (right) in the past, and was alleged in the report to have acted as though he represented the PM in communications with both PSI and 1MDB chiefs.

In fact, according to the report, Jho Low and his business associates were constantly copied in all email communications regarding negotiations pertaining to the joint venture.

PetroSaudi: Emails false

Sarawak Report said that in spite of official denials, the documents showed that the entire joint venture deal was “conceived, managed and driven” by Jho Low. The report also states that 1MDB bosses were kept out of the loop, and were only given an overview of PSI’s portfolio merely days before the massive joint venture agreement was penned in London.

Malaysiakini has contacted 1MDB and PetroSaudi for a response. In a statement to The Rakyat Post, PetroSaudi said the emails are false and that the news reports are “malicious”.

Sarawak Report’s full article can be accessed here. The report was in collaboration with London’s The Sunday Times.

The Sunday Times reported that a source close to Low dismissed claims that he was a secret broker as “without merit”, because he had said this year that he gave his views to 1MDB on various matters. He had not profited personally from the fund nor has he been employed or retained by 1MDB, the source said.

Similarly, the Malaysian government told the UK newspaper that Prime Minister Najib is not involved in 1MDB’s  day-to-day operation.

“Views expressed by certain quarters concerning 1MDB should be examined in light of political motivation. However, if any wrongdoing is proven, the law will be enforced without exception.”

Low strikes back

Meanwhile in another development, Low has threatened to sue The Edge and its related news site The Malaysian Insider over articles on his involvement with 1MDB, the latter reported today.

According to the report, Low in a letter of demand dated February 26 pressed for the retraction of “false and defamatory assertions” in an article titled ‘Razak family concerned about inheritance talk, say siblings’ published in the news portal on February 24. Low’s lawyers also demanded the publications from writing articles of that sort in the future.

However, The Edge chief executive officer Ho Kay Tat in a note which accompanied the letter of demand published, said the group was standing by the stories written and will not cease publishing such articles.

“We would like to state here that The Edge Media Group stands by all the articles we have published about Mr Low and about 1MDB, and we will continue to publish news stories about Mr Low and about 1MDB as and when it is merited,” Ho was quoted saying.