The Demise of A Secular State


October 16, 2017

The Demise of  A Secular State

by S. Thayaparan

http://www.malaysiakini.com

“What the State can usefully do is to make itself a central depository, and active circulator and diffuser, of the experience resulting from many trials. Its business is to enable each experimentalist to benefit by the experiments of others, instead of tolerating no experiments but its own.”
John Stuart Mill, “On Liberty”

Malaysiakini columnist P Gunasegeram ends his latest piece, ‘I am a pendatang and proud of it,” with the appropriate “And know that I am here to stay whether you bloody like it or not because this country is mine too!” which is exactly how most non-Malay/ non-Muslims feel whenever they read about the use of the weaponised Islam in this country.

All you have to do is read the comments on social media when Johor’s HRH Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar stands up for what is right and decent when it comes to countering the agendas of Islamists in this country, who would use religion as a demarcation line to understand the frustrations non-Malays have with a system that on the one hand, finds utilitarian value in non-Malay contribution to this country, and on the other, is disgusted by their very existence as Malaysians with hopes and agendas of their own. These agendas are not necessarily different from each other but are anathema to the agendas of these state-sponsored Islamists.

Image result for hrh sultan of johor

Johor’s HRH Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar stands up for what is right and decent when it comes to countering the agendas of Islamists in this country. The Malaysian Opposition led by Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and his sidekick DAP’s Lim Kit Siang is deaf and dumb on this issue.
 

People often miss the larger narrative when it is easier to digest sound bites. When a religious school burns down, this should have been an opportunity for a national discussion on why these religious schools exists in the first place, what values they are promoting, how safe are they and the corrupt practices that goes in the creation and maintenance of these schools. Instead, nobody was really interested in this, but carried on putting all their eggs in the 1MDB basket.

The Muslims-only launderette issue becomes about how:

1)HRH The Sultan of Johor was the line in the sand when it comes to this type of religious mischief because politicians offered only mild condemnation which sounded more like bemusement, and

2) the relevance of an institution like Jakim (Islamic Development Department) to state religious bodies is questioned by the moves of the Johor Sultan, who, by cutting off contact between the federal religious authorities and his state’s religious department, is making it clear that – for the time being at least – he does not want religious extremism from the federal level contaminating Islamic moderation at the state level.

Where is our glorious opposition in all of this? As I said before – “If you are waffling on your commitment to a secular state, then you have to make your case for an Islamic state and this is where the trouble begins and ends. If oppositional Muslim political operatives and their allies would just stop using religion as the basis of critique and concentrate on furthering the agenda of the secular state, oppositional Muslim MPs would not have to worry about attempting to ‘out-Islam’ their rivals because this would not be the grounds on which they battle for votes.”

Image result for Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki

Prime Minister Ayahtollah Najib Razak, Malaysia Al-Islam

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Ayahtollah Abdul Hadi Awang–Deputy Prime Minister, Malaysia al-Islam

Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki  reminds us that BN – not Umno but BN – is committed to make Malaysia an Islamic state and of course, we will not hear anything from the MCA and MIC about this glorious agenda. Neither will we hear anything from our doughty opposition, because they have convinced themselves that they need to be “Islamic” to win the votes of the majority of the Malay community to replace the current Umno poohbah who is apparently the enemy of the state.

Which brings up the uncomfortable question of what kind of state? The enemy of an Islamic state or a secular state?

Forsaking the Constitution

Communications and Multimedia Minister Salleh Said Keruak blathers on about how we should embrace new politics – whatever that means – and not abandon the Constitution, but the reality is that by chipping away at the Constitution which is what Umno is doing in its attempt to create an “Islamic” state, it is just further evidence that the Constitution is not worth the paper it is printed on.

Meanwhile, the opposition is doing nothing about this. Nobody in the opposition has ever made statements that reaffirm the primacy of the Constitution or the opposition’s agenda of ending the Islamisation process. We do not even know if this is one of the reforms that would “save Malaysia” that the opposition intends to carry out.

 

Remember, “this meme that by benching UMNO, we as Malaysians, whatever our religion or credo, would be safe from the machinations of Islamic extremists, is irrational considering that we neither have a committed secular opposition nor Muslim politicians who openly commit to secular agendas. As long as this remains the default setting of Malaysian politics, there will never be a period where secularism is safe from encroaching Islamic extremism.”

I mean really, this whole idea of making Malaysia an “Islamic” state is really about making Malaysia more like Saudi Arabia. And you know what the Johor sultan thinks about that, right? Here is a reminder – “If there are some of you who wish to be an Arab and practise Arab culture, and do not wish to follow our Malay customs and traditions, that is up to you. I also welcome you to live in Saudi Arabia.”

But what I really want to know is, what does the opposition think of that? Does the opposition think that Malay culture should emulate Arab culture and if so, does the opposition advocate that Malays who don’t want to follow “Malay” customs and traditions are welcome to live in Saudi Arabia?

Depending on your point of view, the balkanisation of Malaysia is something that is a very real possibility because of this agenda of turning Malaysia into an “Islamic” state. This is not something that any rational person would want and I am including the Malays in this equation, because if they really wanted to live in an Islamic paradise, they would have voted for PAS a long time ago.

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Young Malaysians on a Mission: #TangkapNajib

Writing for Malaysiakini has presented me with opportunity to talk to young people from all over Malaysia. This is purely anecdotal, but what young people tell me is that they are disgusted by politics in this country. They voted for change and even on a state level, this has not happened. Most, if not all, of them say that if UMNO stops “playing” with race and religion they will vote BN because they know all over the world politicians are corrupt.

A common complaint or some variation of the same, is that Pakatan Harapan is not doing anything to stop Malaysia for becoming an Islamic state. Most young people who choose to leave do not leave because of corruption, but because of race and religion.

Image result for mahathir and lim kit siang

Pakatan Harapan is not doing anything to stop Malaysia for becoming an Islamic state.

I am beginning to realise that the idea of voting for the opposition to create a two-party system and the almost zealous advocacy (mine?) of such, is an idea of diminishing returns.

I am Sarawakian. I am a Paloi (Fool)?


October 15, 2017

I am Sarawakian. I am a Paloi (Fool)?

by Francis Paul Siah

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for Francis Paul Siah of Sarawak

 

COMMENT | “Orang Sarawak bukan bodoh, kata ketua menterinya” (The people of Sarawak are not fools, says Sarawak Chief Minister) was the header in many Bahasa Malaysia newspapers and news portals a week ago.

This proud and oft-repeated remark came from Chief Minister Abang Johari Abang Openg at a town hall session with some 5,000 Sarawakian diasporas in the Peninsula, as he took a swipe at former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad who is now chairperson of the opposition Pakatan Harapan.

Oh really, Sarawakians are not fools? Well, maybe not most of the time. But I will be honest. As a Sarawakian, I have to admit, almost grudgingly, that I have been a fool at times – made some stupid decisions not beneficial to my home state and fellow Sarawakians and am now living in remorse and regret over them.

 

Of course, for Abang Jo (photo), who is in power and feeling on top of the world as the state’s chief executive, it would be pretty dumb of him to say that Sarawakians, the people whom he is supposed to lead, are fools.

Abang Jo is such a nice and decent guy, to the extent that many find him boringly nice. He does not beat around the bush and tells you as it is – you already know what his next sentence is even before he says it. In a nutshell – he is very plain. (Think nasi lemak, without the ikan bilis and sambal).

Sarawakians miss Adenan Satem. I do too. He was a breath of fresh air, after 33 years of the “White Hair”. Sadly, he came on board to helm Sarawak too late in his life and didn’t have the time to do more.

So, what did Abang Jo actually say when he met Sarawakians in Kuala Lumpur recently? According to a Malaysiakini report, the Chief Minister reminded Mahathir that Sarawakians are not fools who can be lied to.

He cited the Pan Borneo Highway as one example of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s contributions to the state, a request which has been made since the time of Mahathir’s 22-year rule.

“Sarawakians are people with principles… We want politics that can deliver,” said Abang Johari, who claimed that Mahathir has since sacrificed his own principles by working together with DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang, whom he had demonised in the past.

“Let us determine our own destiny. Orang Sarawak bukan paloi (Sarawakians are no fools)… Don’t bluff us,” he said in pledging to continue negotiations with Putrajaya to reclaim Sarawak’s rights as provided under the Federal Constitution and Malaysia Agreement 1963.

Abang Johari earlier recalled his time serving as a state minister and difficulties to obtain funds for development, while Mahathir was still Prime Minister.

“At the time I was a minister in the (state) cabinet. We had asked if the (federal government under Mahathir) can build coastal roads,” he said, adding that the promises made were never fulfilled due to alleged short of funds.

“But when Najib came (into power), they (promised to) build roads like in the peninsula… So smooth!,” he said at the annual event dubbed Lan Berambeh Anak Sarawak, now in its 10th year, held at the Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur.

 

The 2,325km Pan Borneo Highway, across Sarawak and Sabah, was first announced as part of Barisan Nasional’s manifesto during the 13th general election and later formalised in Budget 2015.

When met by reporters later, Abang Johari described the questions asked during the one-hour session as an indication that Sarawakians in the Peninsula are happy with his administration of the state.

Among others, he cited questions raised on various state policies, including matters which touch on negotiations with Putrajaya for more rights to royalty from oil and gas activities.

‘Putrajaya leadership today is more open’

“During Mahathir’s time, we can’t ask these questions because we are in fear. Alhamdulillah the leadership in Putrajaya today is more open (to negotiations),” he added.

To Abang Jo, I salute you for your new-found courage in coming out to slam Mahathir now. I am with you on your many statements of disappointment and disillusionment with the Mahathir (photo) administration. I believe they are true.

Image result for dr mahathir mohamad

 

But I must also let you know why, as a Sarawakian, I am bodoh and still feel like a fool.

This is why. In 1963, when Sarawak was enticed to team up with Malaya, Sabah and Singapore to form the new nation of Malaysia, I just signed the agreement without really understanding its fine print.

I was just impressed when Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra brought me to Kuala Lumpur and showed me the development taking place. He promised me that Sarawak would progress in a similar fashion if I sign up.

Then some British fellows brought me to London in a big plane. Wow, that was the first time I had flown to a foreign land. I felt very important sitting down with the “Orang Puteh” to discuss the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63). Then, I sat at the high table (a British tradition for VIPs) and tucked in heartily at the many sumptuous dinners, not forgetting the fine whisky and brandy, offered.

Upon my return, I affixed my signature on the MA63, never bothered to think nor understand why my fellow Sarawakians, Ong Kee Hui, Stephen Yong and others from the Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP), were opposed to it.

 

 

Now 54 years later and with the growing voices of discontent among my fellow Sarawakians towards Malaya, with some even calling for secession, my conscience suddenly pricks me. Did I betray my dear homeland, Sarawak, and my people by signing the MA63 without fully understanding its implications?

I think I have to concede that it was foolish of me to sign MA63 blindly. I was bodoh.

If not, why must Abang Jo pledge to continue negotiations with Putrajaya to reclaim Sarawak’s rights as provided under the Federal Constitution and MA63?

About the Pan Borneo Highway, I am happy that, at long last, my home state will have a superhighway. I am happy too that the Barisan Nasional, under the dynamic and caring PM Najib Abdul Razak, now sees it fit to keep his pledge made during the 2013 general election.

Questions on Pan Borneo Highway

But I am also bodoh because I am afraid to ask pertinent questions surrounding the multi-billion ringgit Pan Borneo Highway project.

 

The first question I didn’t ask and, which I should is: “Why was Fadillah Yusof (photo), a relatively unknown leader of Abang Jo’s Parti Pesaka Bumiputra Bersatu (PBB) suddenly appointed to head the senior Works Ministry in the federal cabinet in 2013?”

Fadillah is only the PBB Youth leader. Never has a junior person like a PBB Youth leader ever been entrusted with a senior federal ministry. Hey, the Works Ministry was helmed by none other than the MIC supremo S Samy Vellu for years.

Even the UMNO Youth leader and chairperson of BN Youth, Khairy Jamaluddin, was only given the junior Youth and Sports Ministry. And the MCA Youth leader, Chong Sin Woon, was only appointed as a deputy education minister. Isn’t MCA the second biggest BN partner?

The next question I have not asked is: “Was Fadillah appointed as the works minister just because his brother, Bustari Yusof, is the head honcho of the Pan Borneo Highway project? And Bustari was recently described in the media as the “No 1 go-to person in the Najib administration” and “the man who quietly guides Najib’s hand”.

Oh, I am bodoh. I fail to see the link. So I kept quiet, even now.

Now, what about Abang Jo’s allegation that Mahathir has since sacrificed his own principles by working together with DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang (photo), whom he had demonised in the past?

Oh, that Chinese chauvinist Kit Siang! He is a racist to the core! He has even received RM1 billion from Mahathir because Mahathir wants to be chairman of Pakatan Harapan. And Kit Siang also wants to be the next Prime minister of Malaysia. Yes, let’s have a good chuckle over those allegations against the DAP veteran.

But if Kit Siang is a Chinese chauvinist and a racist, I didn’t speak up against him when DAP started its foray into Sarawak in 1979. I was bodoh then.

It is now an open secret that the then Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Rahman Yakub was the one who wanted DAP in Sarawak to compete with the Chinese-based SUPP. Rahman was having problems with SUPP, its Secretary-General Stephen Yong in particular. Rahman was a shrewd politician and a master tactician. He wanted DAP to neutralise Chinese support for SUPP.

Even though I knew it was not right to back-stab a component party member, I was afraid to speak up against Rahman because he was a powerful chief minister and he usually gets what he wants.

Now, I know I was bodoh because I didn’t have the guts to put things right even though I knew it was wrong.

Today, DAP is the strongest opposition party in Sarawak. Serve me right!

Abang Jo also stated that with Najib at the helm in Putrajaya now, he would be negotiating for more rights to royalty from oil and gas activities for Sarawak.

“During Mahathir’s time, we can’t ask these questions because we are in fear”, the chief minister said.

My interpretation is this: I lived in fear of Mahathir in the past. Now with Najib, I am not afraid anymore.

You see, I was so bodoh. Even though I am in BN, I fear Mahathir and I didn’t dare to tick him off even when he did not fulfil his promises to Sarawak, for whatever reasons.

But with Najib now, I dare to do so. Come to think of it, I am still bodoh. Why must I kow-tow to Najib? Right now, he needs Sarawak more than Sarawak needs him. He is fighting for his political survival.

If I still have to beg Najib for development projects for Sarawak, I am a fool. Things are not going right for Najib. He is a desperate man. Now is the time to demand, not beg. If we, Sarawakians, do not know how to take advantage of the situation now, then let us forever be condemned as Sarawakians who are bodoh.

 

Or, in Abang Jo’s own word – “paloi


FRANCIS PAUL SIAH heads the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS) and can be reached at sirsiah@gmail.com

Thayaparan’s Response to Kayveas’ Confused Values


October 1, 2017

Thayaparan’s Response to Kayveas’ Confused Values

https://www.malaysiakini.com/columns/396818

 

I personally have great skepticism about the theories extolling the wonders of ‘Asian values’. They are often based on badly researched generalisations and frequently uttered by governmental spokesmen countering accusations of authoritarianism and violations of human rights…”

– Amartya Sen, Foreword to ‘The Passions and the Interests by Albert O Hirschman’ (1996)

COMMENT by S. Thayaparan| Before I begin, I would just like to say that it is not constructive engaging in ad hominems with M Kayveas for presenting a contrarian view – in the alternative press – on celebrating “Asian values”. Indeed, I wish that more space was available (unlike the mainstream press) to pro-establishment types to peddle their views.

I am going to answer all the questions the PPP President posed because the reality is that these questions are rhetorical traps. These traps are deployed by those who would wish to silence people who believe that Malaysians, regardless of creed or race, have rights that the state wishes to infringe on using religious and political norms, all under the guise of “Asian values”.

 

Here goes.

Kayveas wrote: “So where is the extremism that we are screaming and hurling in every direction, in the wake of this demand to have or have not a beer festival in public space, if I may ask?”

The extremism comes from the so-called security threat that people opposed to this public event pose and the capitulation of the state to these extremists. It really does not matter if non-Muslims enjoy the right to “celebrate” in private, there is no law that says that these rights are denied in public spaces.

“So why do we fight over so-called ‘rights’ to have a beer festival in the public space when we could have gracefully enjoyed to the last drop in private space like a hotel’s grand ballroom?

The “fight” is not about celebrating alcohol. The fight is about our right as non-Muslims/Malaysians to hold activities in public even if those activities may cause “sensitivity” to certain religious groups.

 

“Should we not be thankful that alcohol is not peddled and celebrated in public venues where our young frequent to chill out?

You just claimed that non-Malays/Muslims enjoy unrestricted access to alcohol and we should be grateful for that. We can assume that young people have access to alcohol in this country. How does holding a public beer festival where young people would be restricted from publicly drinking a bad thing?

“Should we not let our Asian values triumph over this imported foreign carnival fads that often leave much to be desired in comparison to our own rooted Asian values?”

Certain towns in America are dry towns. There are laws that restrict the sale of alcohol in countries in the West. There are laws in the West about public intoxication. Therefore, when you say let our Asian values triumph, what values are you talking about which are distinct from Western values?

“Where do we go from publicly-held beer festivals?”

Yes, we should ask ourselves, what other types of festivals would the state ban and who in the state decides which festivals to ban. What if Muslim agitators decide to ban Christmas carols in public – which has happened – because Christians can listen to their carols in private?

Or what if Hindu processions were deemed “violent” and offended the sensitivities of certain racial and religious demographics? Would the triumph of Asian values still apply?

 

 

Selangor MB Azmin Ali (photo) is under pressure from religious extremists as to his decision not to ban Octoberfest in Selangor using that heinous excuse that the majority in Selangor are Malay/Muslims.

This is where we go from here.

“How about fashion festivals as in the likes of carnivals in Rio de Janeiro or Jamaica?”

Do you understand the origins of these festivals? These carnivals are a melding of Portuguese and African culture (after a troubled history of slavery), not to mention a potpourri of other influences.

It is about couture and music, dancing and joy, straight and gay, in other words “this” and “that”, mixing in peace. It is much more than scantily-clad men and women.

Take a look at social media if you want to watch naked Malaysians engaged in various sex acts.  However, if you want to have a street party, have a carnival or better yet, a Bersih march.

“Or if you would, some form of revived Woodstock that spills and oozes with drugs in the open?”

Woodstock is a music festival. Music festivals are currently “allowed” in Malaysia. What are you suggesting? That we ban music festivals, too?

I would not worry about people scoring drugs in such events. I would much rather worry of the corruption that allows for the free flow of drugs in this country. The rural meth labs. The drug traffickers who collude with elements from the state security apparatus. They pose more danger than the drugs that ooze out of music festivals.

“Or even a gay festival of sorts now that it is becoming very much a ‘westerner’ penchant?

“Penchant”? Sexuality Merdeka was banned for whatever reason and politicians and extremist activists talked of going after the “gay menace”.

 

 

Religious extremists, their apologists and collaborators did not acknowledge that Wikileaks exposed the fact that there are homosexuals in government.

I think a gay festival is exactly what this country needs if only to expose the hypocrisy that defines Asian values.

“…what is so wrong in Malaysians respecting the Asian values of moderation, consideration and believe in the eternal truth that promotes self-restraint, respect and endorsement of everything Asian?

The problem here is you haven’t defined what separates Asian values from so-called Western values.  You do not want people having beer festivals. You do not want young people exposed to drugs and alcohol.

You obviously do not like scantily-clad women because you object to Brazilian-style carnivals. You do not want homosexuals having marches and you do not want to be “Westernised”- which is kind of strange because you have no problem wearing nice Westerns suits.

These are not exactly “Asian” values. These are values that are exhibited by groups of people (normally religious) all over the world. There is nothing distinctively Asian about them unless you consider hypocrisy a distinctively Asian trait.

Also, I do not think you understand what you mean when you write this – “All Malaysians know and do cherish our superior Asian values which must remain as the bedrock of a distinctly progressive future.”

A progressive future means abandoning silly ideas about the superiority or inferiority of Asian and Western values and embracing values that do not divide us along racial and religious lines.

 

 

I wish I could say that you have voiced the genuine agenda of the UMNO establishment but the reality is that many in the opposition probably support your perspective. Hypocrisy is the most overt trait of religion, and as we can tell, the basis of “Asian” values.


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

Beware of Religious Zealots of All Stripes–Not The Christian Threat


September 29, 2017

Beware of Religious Zealots of All Stripes–Not  Christian Threat

I have retitled Ambassador Dennis Ignatius’ article . The reason is that the subject of his article is not only of the perceived threat of Christianity (and Christmas) but also of religion and politics. It is about the present state of relations between Malaysians of the Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and  others, and Malaysian Muslims.

Hannah Yeoh is not the only one to be brutalised. We have just read about the treatment of Mustafa Akyol, a scholar, author and researcher who is a Muslim, by JAWI (read my post on this blog).

Image result for Najib Razak and Zakir Naik

Ambassador Ignatius is right to point the finger at our Prime Minister who has been playing the religion card for his political advantage. His tacit endorsement of Islamic zealots and open endorsement of Indian preacher Zakir Naik has produced a reaction from members of other faiths. As a result,  he created a climate of fear of the other. He has, of course, done a lot more so that we have become a nation divided along racial and religious lines. He should stop stoking the flames of bigotry and racism before he loses control and bring irreparable harm to the soul of our country. Our Prime Minister should emulate HRH Sultan of Johor.–Din Merican

 

By Dennis Ignatius @www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Yet again, a Muslim group is raising the specter of a Christian threat to the security of the nation and the position of Islam in Malaysia.

A group of NGOs led by Jaringan Muslimin Pulau Pinang (JMPP) is demanding that the police investigate a “seditious” video by a foreign pastor which they claim would incite local Christians to start their own jihad to take over the country. The group also claims that references to “building the Kingdom of God” were somehow a sinister plot against Islam.

Image result for Hannah Yeoh

In addition, the group gormlessly regurgitated baseless allegations that Hannah Yeoh, the Speaker of the Selangor State Assembly and arguably Malaysia’s most prominent Christian, is using her book Becoming Hannah to spread Christianity and cause confusion among Muslims.

I wouldn’t be surprised if her book makes it to the Guinness Book of Records for having attracted the most number of police reports in the world.

Lost in translation

Admittedly, Christian phraseology does not often translate well in non-church settings and can give rise to misunderstanding.

“Invading” a country with the presence of God or building the “Kingdom of God”, for example, might sound ominous even though it simply means to pray that God’s presence and godly values will fill the land. It has nothing whatsoever to do with a physical invasion or a call to wage war against non-Christians. Similarly, the Kingdom of God has nothing to do with acquiring political sovereignty.

Christians certainly need to be more sensitive about how their phraseology might be perceived in a pluralistic culture, particularly when everything these days quickly ends up on social media. It might help, as well, if Christians are more judicious in what they put out on social media; not everything needs to be broadcast to the whole world.

Notwithstanding this, however, only the most delusional, irrational or obtuse would actually believe that Christians are planning an armed invasion or plotting to overthrow the government.

Becoming confused

As for Hannah’s book, as far as I know, Hannah has not encouraged Muslims to read her book and neither has she promoted it among Muslims. In fact, the vast majority of Muslims in the country would never have even heard about Hannah’s book if extremist groups had not created a fuss about it.

There are, in fact, thousands of Christian books, videos and articles available in Malaysia and, of course, millions more on the internet. That JMPP would single out the book by Hannah, who also happens to be a DAP politician, suggests that their motives are more political than religious.

In any case, it is simply asinine to blame Hannah, or any other author for that matter, if some confused and insecure person somewhere feels threatened by a book. Going by that kind of logic, we would have to close bookstores and shut down the internet just to ensure that no one gets confused. Or, perhaps, to let them remain confused and unable to think for themselves.

A spiritual matter

JMPP and its fellow travelers might also want to note that Malaysian Christians have always eschewed violence. We don’t go around threatening to attack those who don’t agree with us, burn down their places of worship or rowdily demonstrate against religious events we don’t like.We don’t resort to guns and swords because our struggle is purely spiritual. Our “weapons” are prayer and intercession, the kind you use on your knees before God rather than with your fists raised in anger.

Image result for Mustafa Akyol-- Islam without Extremes

Like other Malaysians, we love our nation and we want to see peace, justice, good governance, integrity and godly values prevail. We pray for the prosperity and success of our nation and for all its citizens. We pray constantly for our rulers, our prime minister, for the government and for the security forces too, because our Bible demands it of us.

And we try to reach out to all who are in need and defend the rights of the persecuted and marginalized irrespective of race or religion. Many Christians, including Pope Francis and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, have, for example, spoken out forcefully against the persecution of the Rohingya. In Malaysia, churches and Christian NGOs are also in the forefront of caring for refugees and other disadvantaged groups.

Rising intolerance

Of late, our nation has witnessed increasing incidents of racial and religious intolerance that threaten our very existence as a plural society. Unfortunately, intolerance and extremism appear to enjoy the tacit approval of some politicians and officials.

Image result for Mustafa Akyol-- Islam without Extremes

Every time the lalang moves somewhere in the country, PAS, for example, immediately seems to conclude that it is part of some Christian conspiracy against Islam and jumps into exploiting it for maximum publicity and political mileage.

A few months ago, they went to town on a church event in Malacca. Using highly provocative and inflammatory language, they accused the church concerned of challenging the sensitivities of Muslims and of conspiring with Zionist interests to target Malaysia. They went so far as to call on the ummah “to rise before it’s too late” as if Malaysia was on the verge of being invaded.

Even Special Branch plays to this sort of anti-Christian messaging by participating in Muslim-only seminars that discuss the so-called Christian threat. And this at a time when real jihadists and terrorists are threatening our security and well-being.

Image result for Hadi Awang the Extremist
UMNO-PAS partnership will result in a talibanisation of a liberal, open and inclusive Malaysia

 

Whatever it is, those who make much of the Christian threat ignore the obvious reality: after nearly 500 years of Christianity in Malaysia, after decades of educating countless millions of Malaysians of all faiths and all walks of life in Christian schools, Malaysia remains as Muslim as ever.

Clearly, groups like JMPP do their fellow Muslims an enormous disservice when they make them out to be weak, vulnerable and frivolous in their faith. Let me suggest, if I may be permitted to, that Muslims in Malaysia are a lot more resilient than they are given credit for.

The only ones who appear to profit from all the scaremongering are the politicians and the extremists who cynically exploit religion for their own nefarious ends to the detriment of all Malaysians.

A leadership vacuum

Thankfully, Christians in Malaysia, unlike Christians in the Middle East, do not have to stand alone. It is heartening that several moderate Muslim NGOs and leaders are challenging the rising tide of extremism and intolerance in our land.

What’s missing, however, is leadership from the government itself. The Prime Minister, in particular, has allowed things to drift for too long. His silence, indifference even, on many of these sensitive issues has created a leadership vacuum which fringe groups and extremists, including some from his own party, are now rushing to fill. His abdication of responsibility only allows sensitive issues to fester and infect our society as a whole.

Each day, our values, culture, politics, and religion are being reshaped and redefined by extremists; the longer it goes on, the harder it will be to get back on track again.

HRH Sultan of Johor has shown what inspired leadership can do in curbing extremism and intolerance. By firmly and decisively taking a stand on intolerance in his state, overruling even his own religious officials, he quickly nipped a dangerous trend in the bud.

Little wonder why Johoreans, and a great many other Malaysians as well, look up to him. If only all our politicians would follow his courageous example.

Dennis Ignatius is a former ambassador.

Malaysia’s Namby-Pamby Najib Razak


September  29, 2017

Malaysia’s Namby-Pamby Najib Razak

By Kee Thuan Chye

(received by e-mail)

Image result for HRH Sultan of Johor

The Plain Speaking Duli Tuanku Sultan of Johor

What the Prime Minister, Najib Razak, says after HRH Sultan of Johor ticked off the Muslims-only laundrette owner sounds embarrassingly hollow.

He said there was basis in HRH Sultan’s concern that the laundrette owner’s action would lead to a narrow image of Islam, contrary to the country’s desire to nurture a united, harmonious, moderate and tolerant society.

Examine his language. He comes across as wishy-washy. He is equivocating.

He doesn’t come right out to condemn the laundrette owner’s action. Instead, he says the action is perceived by HRH Sultan as … blah blah blah … and there is basis for his concern (only the Sultan’s concern, not the Government’s too?) and that the Sultan’s action should be well-received.

He adds: “The Government will remain committed to upholding the true Islamic teachings while protecting the interests of the other communities as demanded of Islam.” And pays lip service to his fond rhetoric about this country upholding “Wasatiyyah” and championing the Maqasid Syariah foundational goals.

Image result for Najib RazakThe Blabber Mouthed Prime Minister of Malaysia Najib Razak

 

At no point does he say in no uncertain terms that extremist and society-dividing actions on so-called religious grounds should stop, that the Government would take action against those who practised them.

He was not assertive and certain as HRH Sultan was in declaring such actions taboo. He did not even say they were detrimental to society.

In fact, the Government should have been the very first authority to tick off the laundrette owner. It’s a real shame that the Sultan had to step in and do the Government’s job. Najib’s tagging on to it afterwards makes him look namby-pamby.

Do we want a government that is so wishy-washy, that closes its eyes to such practices? And, no doubt, for its own political expediency, its fear of losing the extremist Muslim vote?

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I’m for a united, harmonious, moderate and tolerant society. I’m not for a wishy-washy government.

Home and away, Najib has a China dilemma


September 22, 2017

Home and away, Najib has a China dilemma

While the Malaysian leader relies on Beijing for economic succor, he’s still viewed skeptically by his country’s ethnic Chinese voting bloc with tight polls on the horizon

Singapore
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Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak looks on duringIndependence Day celebrations in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia August 31, 2017. Photo: Reuters/Lai Seng Sin

 

Prime Minister Najib Razak addressed Malaysia’s Chinese community at a well-attended gathering last week to urge support for his Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition government ahead of new national polls.

The leader called for stronger Chinese representation in his United Malays National Organization-led (UMNO) government and doubled down on promises of delivering prosperity and quality education across all of the country’s ethnic groups.

“If the Chinese voice is stronger in BN, then you are able to shape the policies and possibilities of this government even better and even stronger,” Najib said. “Without peace in the country, the Chinese will be the first to be targeted and that is why we are a moderate government committed to peace and mutual harmony.”

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While Najib placed emphasis on Malaysia as a multiracial nation and struck an overall moderate tone, others interpreted his remark as a fear-mongering veiled threat. Opposition parliamentarian Liew Chin Tong accused the premier of trying to win votes by “singling out the ethnic Chinese,” a move he said would actually undermine support for his government.

Malaysia’s next election is due by August 2018, though there is speculation that early polls could soon be announced. Najib’s outreach to the Chinese community signals an attempt to re-engage the minority voter bloc following general elections in 2013 where the BN coalition delivered its worst-ever election performance.

At the time, Najib acknowledged how ethnic Chinese voters had supported the opposition in droves, controversially characterizing their voting behavior as a “Chinese tsunami.” Najib initially vowed to undertake national reconciliation following the electoral upset, but instead has moved to burnish his Islamic credentials in a bid to consolidate support from conservative and rural ethnic Malay voters.

Ethnic Chinese communities make up around 23% of Malaysia’s population and are seen to be largely in opposition to Najib’s continued rule. His term has been defined by the international multi-billion dollar money laundering controversies related to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) state development fund he created and until recently oversaw.

Lesser noticed, however, have been perennial allegations of money politics, elite corruption, stark political polarization and a widening cultural divide between Malaysia’s ethnic and religious groups that some fear could tip towards instability if not effectively reconciled.

Image result for Najib and HadiThis strange alliance with Hadi Awang may prove costly to Najib Razak in East Malaysia where Islamisation is viewed with anxiety and suspicion.

Recent studies show nearly half the country’s ethnic Chinese population have a strong desire to leave Malaysia due to perceived discrimination, political disenfranchisement and fears of Islamization. Nearly 88% of the 56,576 Malaysians who renounced their citizenship in the decade spanning 2006 to 2016 were ethnic Chinese.

Shortly after assuming office in 2009, Najib introduced the 1Malaysia national concept, a governing philosophy which placed emphasis on ethnic harmony, national unity and efficient governance. Following the 2013 election, the Prime Minister has placed less pretense on the talking points of the scheme, opting to posture as a defender of Islam and Malay unity.

“Political parties from both sides of the divide are centered around the Malay agenda, winning votes in Malay majority constituencies. Meanwhile, government efforts like 1Malaysia and its subsequent rebranding has neither substance nor strategy,” political analyst Khoo Kay Peng recently wrote. “The concept of unity is not even at the forefront of societal discussion.”

An important aspect of Najib’s domestic agenda in recent years has been the formation of a loose alliance with the opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), which has an electoral stronghold in Malaysia’s rural and conservative north and advocates a hardline sharia punishment code known as hudud.

Abdul Hadi Awang, PAS’ influential President, was given tacit government approval to table a controversial hudud bill in parliament in 2015, which sought to ease some of the constitutional restrictions imposed on sharia courts in order to implement more severe punishments, subjecting offenders to longer prison sentences and corporal punishment.

Though observers were initially dismissive of Najib’s support for hudud, his government attempted to take over Hadi’s bill last year. The prime minister reversed course in March due to strong opposition from other BN coalition partners – notably from the Malaysian Chinese Association and other ethnic minority parties – and concerns it would dampen foreign investor sentiment.

Against a backdrop of political controversies and a deepening cultural divide, Malaysia’s upcoming general election is expected to be one of the tightest in decades. The political opposition, once a fractured grouping of disparate parties, appears more cohesive under the leadership of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who defected from UMNO and embraced opposition parties to form the Pakatan Harapan coalition.

Comeback kid: Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, 92, speaks during an interview with Reuters in Putrajaya, Malaysia, March 30, 2017. Photo: Reuters/Lai Seng Sin