Two Kerbau Men of Malaysian Deliverance

December 4, 2017

Two Kerbau Men of Malaysian Deliverance

by Terrence

Image result for Anwar and Mahathir who is the next Prime Minister

No Harapan–A Coalition of Convenience has seldom worked before

COMMENT| Over the now fast-fading year, two narratives have marked the politics of the opposition in Malaysia.

One is on the ostensible destroyer of constitutional government metamorphosing into improbable rescuer of the country from kleptocracy.

The other narrative is the man whose eyes have so long been firmly fixed on the main chance that the more it eludes him, the shakier his judgment of the paths by which to get there.

Critics who think Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s credentials as a democratic reformer are bogus, slight an important strand in the Machiavellian approach to his political craft: the salutary sense of responsibility for what he has wrought prompts the Herculean effort to set right what has gone wrong, for which he has been hugely culpable.

Image result for Anwar and Mahathir who is the next Prime Minister

Says Netto: “Friends of Anwar Ibrahim, aware of the ambition that seethes within him, cannot seem to help him turn an obsession into irony; in politics, it is the alternative to stalemate, ignominy, and sterility.”

On the other side of the opposition’s narrative equation is this: Friends of Anwar Ibrahim, aware of the ambition that seethes within him, cannot seem to help him turn an obsession into irony. That enterprise is always useful. In life, it is the great antidote to insomnia; in politics, it is the alternative to stalemate, ignominy, and sterility.

All this is prologue for the point that last weekend’s pow-wow held by the opposition Pakatan Harapan to establish focal points for proceeding – such as who will be Prime Minister and who will be deputy should the coalition win an imminent general election (GE14) – was stymied for lack of consensus.

Image result for Wan Azizah as Pakatan Harapan's Deputy Prime Minister

Pakatan Harapan has formally proposed Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as its candidate for Prime Minister and Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail as his Deputy if the coalition triumphs in the next general election.–The

The reason: the Harapan presidential council’s choice of Mahathir as PM and Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail as Deputy should the coalition win GE14 was not assented to by the weekend’s conclave because the gaoled Anwar has to approve it first. So insisted the PKR complement at the weekend’s durbar.

PKR’s obduracy has had this ironic effect: their de facto leader who was the principal adhesive in the improbable opposition coalitions that had seminally denied the ruling BN its two-thirds parliamentary majority in 2008 (GE12) and bested BN in the popular vote in 2013 (GE13) has now mutated to become the main impediment to the coalition’s progress.

This ironic development rendered the one-and-a-half day conclave sterile rather than what it should have been – decisive moment in the shaping of the Malaysian deliverance from the precipice to which 60 years of UMNO-BN rule has conduced.

When seen against the backdrop of the Registrar of Societies’ foot-dragging on recognising Harapan as a political entity and approving its logo, the outcome damages the standing of Sungai Buloh’s most famous resident.

Prior to this, Anwar Ibrahim was the most consequential leader of the post-May 13, 1969 era of Malaysian history – on account of his ability to reshape the assumptions of the people has long aspired to lead.

Now, after last weekend’s meeting, he appears to be churlish holder-up of the consensus that should have seen Harapan progress from the Mahathir-initiated Citizens’ Declaration rejecting kleptocracy of March 2016, to the moment last weekend of a decisive coalescence of the forces ranged in support of urgent political reform.

In one of those ironies in which history abounds, this moment is the antithesis of that watershed one just over a decade ago when in a brilliant act of political divination, Anwar leveraged on an unexpectedly impactful event – the Hindraf organised March in Kuala Lumpur of bedraggled Indian Malaysians on Nov 25, 2007 – to steer the electorate to a seminal denial of BN’s traditional supermajority in parliament.

How has this reversal come about? A politician of Anwar’s sensitivity has to be wading in a political river’s currents rather than marooned on its banks to have a feel of a shifting public’s pulse.

Incarcerated, he is abnormally dependent on what his cohorts tell him of what is happening beyond the walls of the prison.

Because PKR is a congeries of disparate political forces, different rapporteurs tell him different things.

If he had been out in the open air, his sensitive political antennae would pick up the important signals and act accordingly.

In prison, processing what he hears from others and filtering it through the distorting prism of his vaulting ambition, Anwar has become a weathercock, drifting on winds of circumstance.

That is the reason why he is sympathetic to a faction of PKR (factional strife in PKR is largely the result of his mishandling of rivalries within the party) which wants the 21 seats won by PAS in GE13 to be uncontested by Harapan, an issue that was raised over the weekend.

This is something that, if insisted upon, will result in PKR losing votes and may even eventuate in a DAP decision to go it alone in GE14.

The non-Muslim aversion to PAS is running at an all-time high and can turn against PKR if the party insists on cohabitation with what the “nons” see as bogus Islamists.

Attenuated from political realities, physically enfeebled by imprisonment, Anwar is out of sorts.

Meanwhile, battling age and infirmity, Mahathir is rising in the estimation of the leadership cohort of Harapan.

All of last week he was rumoured to be ill and in bed. But when the weekend’s deliberations began he rose to the occasion – to listen carefully, summarise succinctly what was said, render with clarity his take, and point the direction in which things should go.

It was as much a physical feat of endurance as it was a political tour de force.

Excepting an unenamoured few, all who watched and have been observing since the time of the Citizens’ Declaration of March last year know that when push comes to shove, the denizen of Permatang Pauh cannot match the nonagenarian from Titi Gajah, Kedah Darul Aman.

Image result for dr. mahathir mohamad

Still a Force to be reckoned with in Malaysian Politics while Anwar Ibrahim Languishes in Sungai Buloh Prison

It appears that, as the great bard said, age cannot wither Mahathir nor the daunting challenges Harapan faces stale his resilience.

The narrative of national rescue, pace the weekend’s cogitations at the Perdana Leadership Centre in Putrajaya, has recessed for Sungai Buloh to take things in. Anwar risks more by stalling than by inaction caused by fear of being swept up by forces he can no longer control.

Saudia Arabia puts itself in the bull’s eye

December 3, 2017

Targeting Islamic scholars from Malaysia to Tunisia, Saudia Arabia puts itself in the bull’s eye

By James M. Dorsey

Image result for crown prince mohammed bin salman

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Hamad I Mohammed / Reuters file

By declaring the Qatar-based International Union of Islamic Scholars (ILUM) a terrorist organization, Saudi Arabia is confronting some of the world’s foremost Islamic political parties and religious personalities, opening itself up to criticism for its overtures to Israel, and fuelling controversy in countries like Malaysia and Tunisia.

In a statement earlier this week, Saudi Arabia charged that ILUM was “using Islamic rhetoric as a cover to facilitate terrorist activities.” The banning of ILUM goes to the heart of the Gulf crisis that pits a UAE-Saudi-led alliance against Qatar and is driven by United Arab Emirates Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed’s visceral opposition to any expression of political Islam.

The UAE for several years has sought with little evident success to counter ILUM’s influence by establishing groups like the Muslim Council of Elders and the Global Forum for Prompting Peace in Muslim Societies as well as the Sawab and Hedayah Centres’ anti-extremism messaging initiatives in collaboration with the United States and the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum.

The ban appears to have been designed to position Saudi Arabia as the arbiter of what constitutes true Islam and marks a next phase in a four-decade long, $100 billion campaign waged by the kingdom to counter Iran by spreading for the longest period of time Sunni Muslim ultra-conservatism, that often served as an ideological inspiration for jihadist philosophy – an iteration ultra-conservatives have condemned.

ILUM “worked on destroying major religious institutions in the Muslim world, like the Council of Senior Scholars in Saudi Arabia and Al-Azhar in Egypt,” one of the foremost institutions of Islamic learning, charged Abdulrahman al-Rashed, a prominent Saudi journalist and columnist for Al Arabiya.

Al Arabiya’s owner, Waleed bin Ibrahim al-Ibrahim, was among the kingdom’s top media barons arrested in Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s recent purge of members of the ruling family, senior officials, and businessmen under the mum of anti-corruption.

“The terrorism project hiding under Islam launched its work around the same time organizations which issue extremist fatwas (religious legal opinions) were founded. Like al-Qaeda and ISIS (an acronym for the Islamic State), these jurisprudential groups said they refuse to be local as they view themselves as global organizations that cross borders. The most dangerous aspect of terrorism is extremist ideology. We realize this well now,” Mr Al-Rashed said.

The Council of Senior Scholars, despite having endorsed Prince Mohammed’s reforms in a bid to salvage what it can of the power sharing agreement that from the kingdom’s founding granted his ruling Al Saud family legitimacy, is a body of ultra-conservative Islamic scholars.

Various statements by the council and its members critical of aspects of Prince Mohammed’s economic and social reform since his rise in 2015 suggest that support among its scholars is not deep-seated.

Prince Mohammed recently vowed to move the kingdom away from its embrace of ultra-conservatism and towards what he described as a more “moderate” form of Islam.

Speaking to The New York Times, Prince Mohammed argued that at the time of the Prophet Mohammed  there were musical theatres, an absence of segregation of men and women, and respect for Christians and Jews, who were anointed People of the Book in the Qur’an. “The first commercial judge in Medina was a woman! Do you mean the Prophet was not a Muslim?” Prince Mohammed asked.

Authorities days later banned pilgrims from taking photos and videos in Mecca’s Grand Mosque and the Mosque of the Prophet in Medina in line with an ultra-conservative precept that forbids human images. The ban was imposed after Israeli blogger Ben Tzion posted a selfie in Mecca on social media. Authorities bar non-Muslims from entering the two holy cities.

In a statement, authorities said the ban was intended to protect and preserve Islam’s holiest sites, prevent the disturbance of worshippers, and ensure tranquillity while performing acts of worship.

Founded by controversial Egyptian-born scholar Yousef al-Qaradawi, one of Islam’s most prominent living clerics and believed to be a spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, ILUM members include Rachid al-Ghannouchi, the co-founder and intellectual leader of Tunisia’s Brotherhood-inspired Ennahada Party, and Malaysian member of parliament and Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) head Abdul Hadi bin Awang.

Mr. Al-Qaradawi, a naturalized Qatari citizen who in the past justified suicide bombings in Israel but has since condemned them,  was labelled a terrorist by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt in June as part of their diplomatic and economic boycott of Qatar. The UAE-Saudi-led alliance demanded that Qatar act against Mr. El-Qaradawi and scores of others as a condition for lifting the six-month-old boycott.

Mr. El-Ghannouchi was named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2012 and Foreign Policy’s Top 100 Global Thinkers in 2011. He was also awarded the prestigious Chatham House Prize. Mr. El-Ghannouchi is widely credited for ensuring that Tunisia became the only Arab country to have successfully emerged from the 2011 Arab popular revolts as a democracy.

The banning of ILUM has, moreover, sparked political controversy in Malaysia. Karima Bennoune, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for cultural rights, recently noted a deepening involvement of Malaysia’s religious authorities in policy decisions, developments she said were influenced by “a hegemonic version of Islam imported from the Arabian Peninsula” that was “at odds with local forms of practice.”

“Arab culture is spreading, and I would lay the blame completely on Saudi Arabia,” added Marina Mahathir, the daughter of former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad

Critics of PAS  demanded that Mr. Bin Awang, President of the group, “come clean that he does not preach hatred” in the words of former PAS leader Mujahid Yusof Rawa, and called on the government to ask Saudi Arabia for information to back up its charges against the union.

Mr Bin Awang, referring to Saudi King Salman, asserted last week that he relied on the “Qur’an (for guidance) although the ruler who is the servant of the Two Holy Cities has forged intimate ties with Israel and the United States, because my faith is not with the Kaaba but with Allah.” One of the most sacred sites in Mecca, Muslims turn to the Kaaba when praying.

“Just like Qatar, PAS had tried to ingratiate itself with Iran in an attempt to cover both bases, along with Saudi. Now the chicken has come home to roost, and just like Qatar, global minnows like PAS find themselves caught in the middle between the two Muslim world influencers,” said Malaysian columnist Zurairi Ar.

Among other members of ILUM is controversial Saudi scholar Salman al-Odah, who was among clerics, intellectuals, judges and activists arrested in the kingdom weeks before the most recent purge.

With millions of followers on social media, Mr. Al-Odah, a once militant scholar, turned a decade ago against jihadis like Osama bin Laden and played a key role in the kingdom’s program to rehabilitate militants, but retained his opposition to the monarchy.

Dr. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and co-host of the New Books in Middle Eastern Studies podcast. James is the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog, a book with the same title as well as Comparative Political Transitions between Southeast Asia and the Middle East and North Africa, co-authored with Dr. Teresita Cruz-Del Rosario and  Shifting Sands, Essays on Sports and Politics in the Middle East and North Africa.

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

November 21, 2017

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

by P.

Image result for Anwar and Najib

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


What about the stolen money?–1MDB 

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

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

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

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

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

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


Political Fatigue deepens as Azmin Ali turns Pakatan’s Brutus

October 27, 2017

Political Fatigue deepens as Azmin Ali turns Pakatan’s Brutus


by Jocelyn Tan

    There is still a sense of uneasiness about Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad among many voters. They cannot decide whether they can trust someone who can change his political alliance and views the way people change their clothes. 

    POLITICIANS sometimes become the news even when they are not around and that was what happened with Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Azmin Ali.

    His “absence” at the Pakatan Harapan rally became a talking point at the event. The rally was in Selangor and everyone had expected Azmin to play a prominent role and use the gathering to strengthen Pakatan’s hold on the state.

    He did turn up as the sun was about to set and he was mobbed by those who saw him. It was what one would call a “cameo appearance”. He was in a red sports shirt but it was not the anti-kleptocracy T-shirt that everyone, including Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, was wearing.

    He did not speak on the stage and left after about 30 minutes because he had to attend a dinner organised by some Islamic NGOs.

    By evening, word got back to him that people at the rally were asking, “where is Azmin?” So he tweeted pictures of the dinner held to raise funds for the Rohingya cause.

    Many have noticed that he seems to have scaled back on party politics to focus on his Mentri Besar duties. He is aware that Selangoreans are tired of the politicking and gimmicks.

    He wants the track record of his state government to take precedence over the politics of Pakatan.


    Azmin: He made a cameo appearance at the rally.


    Besides, his team has been burning the midnight oil to prepare the state budget which will be presented at the state assembly next month. To compound things, three of his most senior and experienced officers were suddenly transferred out to the Federal Government while his state financial officer reached retirement age.

    Of course, some thought that he did not wish to be too closely associated with the gathering because he could see that the turnout was embarrassing to say the least.

    The venue is in the heart of Petaling Jaya, it is next to the Federal Highway, there is a LRT station across the road and ample parking. The organisers had predicted a crowd of 100,000 and there have been all sorts of excuses for the poor turnout – it was the Deepavali week, young people prefer to rally on the streets and the weather was too hot.

    No matter how they explained it, the rally was a failure compared to the PAS show of force in Terengganu. The PAS rally was a sea of people in green outfits whereas at the Pakatan rally, one could see more green grass than people.

    “This is what it is like without PAS. If they cannot get PAS to come back, they are heading for defeat. But you know, it is like a football match – even though you know your team cannot beat the other team, you still got to go in and kick around,” said Andy Lim, a PKR supporter from Sungai Besar.

    PKR big names like Nurul Izzah Anwar were there but kept a low profile while others like Rafizi Ramli were noticeable by their absence.  Another PKR leader from Penang said he “clocked in” and left shortly after.


    Lim: They are heading for defeat without PAS.

    The sense is that PKR leaders were not 100% committed to the event. The PKR flags were not put up until late in the afternoon because someone forgot to bring the flag poles.

    “It laid bare what had till then been doubts about whether we have exhausted the 1MDB issue. We have misread the ground in our hurry to make gains, we have lost the young vote. But I want to read it positively, people have made up their minds, they don’t need more convincing,” said a DAP politician from Penang.

    This was Dr Mahathir’s first rally as Pakatan chairman and he looked rather tired by the time it was his turn to speak. His adrenalin would have been pumping had there been a big crowd but it was far from the Malay tsunami that Pakatan leaders had been boasting of.

    He stuck to the script and the crowd reserved their loudest cheers and claps for him even though everything he said had been said before.

    His repertoire of topics have been slowly shrinking. His claim that Malaysia is a failed state cannot be used anymore given the steady growth rates in the past few years.

    Neither is Malaysia going bankrupt given the inflow of investments. As such, it was basically a hate speech about his nemesis Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak whom he described as “musuh negara” or national enemy.

    And that is now one of Pakatan’s biggest problem. They are so focused on denigrating Najib and the ruling coalition that they come across as selling the politics of hate rather than the politics of hope.

    There is so little that is positive in their messaging and it explains why the youth cohort has lost interest in politics. No one in Pakatan wants to ask the question whether Dr Mahathir has become a liability rather than an asset.

    Petaling Jaya, where the rally was held, is a bedrock of DAP support. A survey by a Chinese vernacular paper a few days after the rally indicated that more than 80% of those who read the publication want a change of government.

    It reflected the Chinese sentiment yet they did not come out to show their support.


    Khaw: Dr Mahathir has too much baggage.


    “They support Pakatan but the urban Chinese middle class are not with Mahathir. His appeal is not in the city,” said political commentator Khaw Veon Szu.

    Pakatan leaders thought that he would be able to stir the Malay ground and unite people with his star power. But there has been this sense of uneasiness about Dr Mahathir. Can they trust someone who can change his political alliance and views the way people change their clothes?

    Many out there are still evaluating him. They see him as a bag of contradictions, someone who has brought great change to the country but who is also the cause of many lingering problems.

    For many voters, his message to topple Najib and change the government is like asking them to follow him across a fast-flowing river. He has been unable to assure them what it will be like on the side of the river, he is unable to tell them who will be the Prime Minister if Najib goes.

    Most of all, it is difficult for a 92-year-old man to inspire hope for the future because he belongs in the past. His leadership of Pakatan also failed to impress advocates of democracy abroad. The Economist wrote a strong editorial titled: “Mahathir’s return shows the sorry state of Malaysian politics”. It is quite sad that it has come to this.

    As he stood on stage that night, his diction was slurred, he stumbled several times over his words and in what some thought was a rather Freudian thing, he said: “Not sure how long more, I want to finish this work.”

    It has been a demoralising weekend but the old tiger is fighting on. A day after the rally, he was chairing a Pakatan council meeting to discuss their alternative budget.

    Azmin was present at the meeting. His flitting appearance at the rally had come on the heels of that strange exchange of tweets between him and the Prime Minister.

    Najib had tweeted a picture of him and a smiling Azmin on the sidelines of the Conference of Rulers, with the cryptic caption: “Senyuman ada makna tu” (a smile full of meaning).

    The pair was surrounded by the Mentris Besar of Perak, Terengganu, Kedah, Perlis and Melaka as well as the Chief Minister of Sarawak. It was quite a powerful photo but the most striking thing about it was the camaraderie of the group.

    From their big smiles and comfortable body language, it was as though the Barisan Nasional leaders regarded Azmin as their equal and someone they can work with.

    A few hours later, Azmin retweeted the picture with an equally cryptic reply: “Smile, what’s the use of crying? Take action, what’s the use of sighing?”

    What on earth was that about? His government is the most successful among the three opposition states. He has carried himself well and even a former Selangor Mentri Besar had praised his political style.

    Tan Sri Abu Hassan Omar told an online news portal that UMNO needs leaders like Azmin. He said Azmin is strong and well-liked in his constituency but is in the wrong party.

    Of course, Azmin was flattered. He thanked Abu Hassan but said that “I am not a frog”.

    In hindsight, it is apparent why Azmin was less than thrilled about the rally. Pakatan will struggle in the general election without PAS.

    Negotiation over seats between PKR and PAS has broken down and PKR seats are in danger in the event of three-corner fights.

    The uninspiring turnout at the rally showed that Pakatan has been unable to plug the big hole left behind by the exit of PAS. It was like announcing to the world: Look, look, this is all we are left with now that PAS is gone. Azmin certainly did not need that at this point in time.

    The Demise of A Secular State

    October 16, 2017

    The Demise of  A Secular State

    by S. Thayaparan

    “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

    Image result for abdul hadi awang

    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.

    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.

    Challenging Obscurantism with Reformist Mindset


    October 15, 2017

    Challenging Obscurantism with Reformist Mindset in Malaysia

    When reason gives way to dogma, obscurantism, anti-intellectualism and un civil discourse, Malaysia enters neo-Stone Age.–Din Merican

    by Dr. Ahmad Farouk  Musa

    Image result for Din Merican and Dr Farouk Musa

    “Verily, We did offer the trust [of reason and volition] to the heavens, and the earth, and the mountains: but they refused to bear it because they were afraid of it. Yet man took it up – for, verily, he has always been prone to be most wicked, most foolish”.
    [Surah Al-Ahzab, 33:72]

    cherepno-mozgovaja-travma-klassifikacijaMany interpreters derive various meanings from the word ‘trust’ that is connected to this verse; but perhaps the closest definition that describes the meaning of ‘trust’ – as per Muhammad Asad’s explanation in his commentary ‘The Message of the Quran’ – appears to be ‘reason’ or ‘intellect’, and ‘the faculty of volition’. Thus, it is primarily the superiority of intellect or the force of reason that allows for that volition. And, it is this ‘reason’ and ‘intellect’ that becomes the basis to differentiate us from all other celestial beings, including the angels.

    The angels were once commanded to prostrate before Adam because of the superiority of reason bestowed unto no other creation but the creatures called humans. In this matter, Muhammad Asad, greatly influenced by the views of Imam Muhammad Abduh, clearly establishes the importance of ‘reason’ in his debate surrounding the following verse:

    “And He imparted unto Adam the names of all things; then He brought them within the ken of the angels and said: “Declare unto Me the names of these [things], if what you say is true.”
    [Surah Al-Baqarah, 2: 31]

    2.Para5.RightThe term ‘ism’ (name), according to philologists, shows an expression of “imparting knowledge (about something)”. According to Muhammad Asad, in philosophical terms, it signifies the meaning of a “concept”.

    The subsequent verses indicate that based on the impartation of knowledge achieved from God in the form of a “name” or concept of thinking; man is therefore, in some situations, higher in status than Angels. “Name” is a symbolic expression of the formidability in defining an expression, the formidability in elaborating the views that form the unique characteristics of humankind and which makes it possible for them, in the words of the Qur’an, to become God’s vicegerent on earth.

    Image result for Din Merican and Dr Farouk Musa


    It is with that, therefore, the mission and aspirations of the Islamic Renaissance Front to rejuvenate or renew Muslim thinking or in other words, to champion the superiority of reason or simply ‘the rise of reason’. Consequently, it is not an exaggeration to say that it manifests a form of rethinking and a rejuvenation of the Mu’tazilites (Rationalists) course of rationalism in the modern world Islam.

    However, the question often asked is, what about ‘iman’ or faith? Is reason required to experience it? On this point, Imam Muhammad Abduh opines that faith is incomplete so long as it is not based on reason. According to his view reason is the only source of faith. It is due to reason that Man can recognise the signs of Divine power, not through reckless confidence by merely following along.

    The Challenges

    Image result for Din Merican and Dr Farouk Musa

    Malaysia’s Obscurantist in-Chief with India’s Fugitive Zakir Naik

    Indeed, all the challenges we face now are the same challenges the past reformists faced, that is, intellectual stagnation. And, as a result of this decline in rationalism amongst modern Muslims, we witness the decay of the Islamic world today.

    3.Para10jpgTo think that we were once a people proud of our great civilisation at time when the West was still in the dark ages. We had thousands of scientists, physicists, mathematicians, chemists, astrologists, physicians and many more fields of expertise all of which were established at the House of Wisdom in the Rationalists era. But, all of that only remains recorded in the folds of history.

    The Rationalists at that time believed that one of the ultimate traits of God was justice. This is as embodied in their usulul khamsah (five principles) or one of the five principles of the Rationalists’ doctrine. And since God is just, Man must therefore possess the will to endeavour.  Man should we willing to use reason as endowed by God to differentiate between what is right and wrong and to endeavour to uphold justice.

    And for the Rationalists, since God is most Just, verily, God will not respond to what is good and bad arbitrarily. Man will receive God’s response be it the blessings of heaven or the torture of hellfire as a result of his own choices made based on his own free will.

    Thus, whoever believes that God is the most Just, will witness the reality that man is the maker of his own actions. And accordingly, he is responsible for whatever response God gives him based on his actions by his own hands.

    This certainly conflicts with what has been extracted from works of the Ash’arites (Traditionalists). For the Traditionalists, God is most Compelling; who with His strength may cast someone who is pious and just into the hellfire and place someone who is cruel and evil into the heaven. Because that is the reality behind the power of God who is the most Compelling and the most Powerful.

    But what remains clear, God in the view of the Rationalists, is a God who is Just and not a God who is a dictator; and this is the cause behind the theological problem that existed once upon a time. And this is what we have inherited for generations.

    How Does God Interact with Us?

    Verily, God who is Most Compelling delivered to us, His creations; the message primarily in two ways, through his Revealed Book or from the Book of the Universe.

    Embodied in His Revealed Book sent down to us, i.e. the Qur’an, is the verse:

    “Verily, this Qur’an shows the way to all that is most upright, and gives the believers who do good deeds the glad tiding that theirs will be a great reward.”
    [Surah Al-Isra’, 17:9]

    However, we often forget that God also speaks to us through the universe He created. Was it not in Surah al-Imran where it was stated:

    “Verily, in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in the succession of night and day, there are indeed messages for all who are endowed with insight, [and] who remember God when they stand, and when they sit, and when they lie down to sleep, and [thus] reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth: “O our Sustainer! Thou hast not created [aught of] this without meaning and purpose. Limitless art Thou in Thy glory! Keep us safe, then, from suffering through fire!”
    [Surah Al-Imran, 3:190-191]

    4.Para19.RightIt was based on that, according to Imam Muhammad Abduh, someone could not possibly have faith in his God other than mobilising his mind and intellect to think about the creations of God the Almighty.

    This Mu’tazilite rationalism also brought them to summarise, that God, and the firmaments of His creation, should operate in accordance with rational rules that He himself has created. It was this view that successfully brought the Muslims to direction of scientific research and to the pinnacle of scientific excellence in various dimensions.

    This realm operates through a system that is determinate in as much as it is orderly, where everything functions in an organised manner, from the smallest atom; proton, neutron and electron; to the biggest planets and stars that revolve in their respective orbits.  All of them revolve in a manner that is neatly arranged by the divine natural rules.  All these natural rules are entirely pure, and many of them have mathematical properties. Water will boil at 100°C and it will freeze at 0°C. Everything that is thrown from above will land on the ground due to the attractive force of gravity.  All of these are the natural laws of the universe created by God. Only when we understand and study these natural laws and universal rules, it is then that we understand how a particular phenomenon occurs based on scientific knowledge, knowledge which itself originates from God Himself. And by pursuing and equipping ourselves with such scientific knowledge, it is only then that we may spur ourselves towards shaping a new civilisation.

    The Rationalists at that time were a group of people who deeply understood all these natural laws. They studied this various wealth of knowledge from the East and the West, translated these scientific ideas and improved upon those ideas without assuming such knowledge was obtained from a people who held agnostic beliefs about God. Due to that, they advanced in all fields of knowledge with the peak of which lead to the building of the House of Wisdom. They were the people that held to this rational theory that everything that happens must be in accordance with the natural laws determined by God, which in modern language, would be scientific knowledge.

    However, Muslims influenced by the Traditionalists’ doctrine today, assume that God who is most Compelling can do whatever that conflicts with the natural law. Because He is the God who is the most Compelling. Thus, His power does not require Him to abide by the natural laws that He created, just as how He is empowered to cast someone pious into the hellfire or to place an evil person in heaven.

    It is this kind of belief that creates so many shamans who proclaim to be able to perform all sorts of otherworldly surgeries to remove gallstones and all other kinds of spiritual surgeries. And it is belief such as this that fan the development of various pseudosciences that only use the incantations of magical spells based on the belief that because God is the most Compelling, He may do whatever He pleases to displace the laws of nature and He doesn’t have to operate within these natural laws.

    The Modern Problem

    5.Para25This issue of pseudoscience is but one of the problems that exists amongst Muslims impeding their ability to advance in the field of science. However, what is more severe is in the field of politics and statecraft. What is clear is that as result of this assumption that the Qur’an is to be executed without any room to consider the created Qu’ran which with it brings the implication that the Qur’an should be viewed from the angle of historicity, that makes it possible to face compelling issues of this age including issues like fundamental human rights, democracy and pluralism.

    Such rigid and literal views in understanding the Qur’an entraps Muslims in the Medinan  State concept or to use Professor Tariq Ramadan’s terminology from his book “Radical Reform”, an obsession with model rather than its underlying principles. In fact, for us to advance and to prove that Islam is a religion suited to and in line with fundamental human rights and the modern concepts of nationhood, the religion of Islam must, therefore, be in line with sound logic.

    Unless we can manage to achieve unanimity in giving reason and intellect its appropriate standing in facing the shifts of time and the various challenges of the era, we will not be able to free ourselves from the clutches and burdens of the past generation to move forward and to rebuild the glorious civilisation that has been lost.

    The Solution

    “Verily, God does not change men’s condition unless they change their inner selves”
    [Surah Al-Ra’d, 13: 11]

    Muhammad Asad interprets this phrase to be an illustration to the Revelation regarding cause and effect (sunatuLlah). This Revelation encompasses the life of the individual and the community. And makes the rise and fall of a civilisation depend on the quality of morality in humankind and on change “from within themselves”.

    Accordingly, Muslims will, therefore, cannot expect change merely by sitting idly and praying and hoping that a miracle will happen. They have this mistaken belief that every matter on Earth has been determined for them just as how the Traditionalists believed that our fate has been predetermined and that any effort is merely an illusion. No matter how hard we try, what has been fated will not change. With that, Muslims will therefore become the most backward people and the most unproductive in their contribution to science and technology.

    6.Para31.RightThe earliest generation of Muslims did not idly await for the arrival of al-Mahdi to rescue and to lead them. Due to that, we may see the renowned sociologist and historian, Ibn Khaldun in his ‘Muqaddimah’ (Prolegomena) fiercely opposed to the concept of the Mahdi (Islam’s Awaited Messiah) as well as rejecting all possibilities of such an event taking place as it serves only to make Muslims a more passive people.

    Indeed, the understanding of the Qur’an shook Arabia, and freed the Muslims from the shackles of tribal conflicts. Within the span of a few decades, the Qur’an spread its worldview across Arabian borders and gave birth to the first ever ideological community in history through its insistence on awareness and knowledge. It enlivened amongst its followers the enthusiasm to seek knowledge and to research freely based on rationalism and the natural laws which ended with an era which captivated others in research and scientific discovery that raised the Islamic world to the highest peak of its culture.

    This culture pioneered by the Rationalists penetrated middle-age European thought in many ways and through many paths. Ultimately it sparked a revolution in the European culture which we named as Renaissance, and later the passing of time played a major role in giving rise to what is termed as the “scientific age” in which we live in at this time.

    And this is what we currently hope for so that the culture of thinking and researching based on science of technology can be reignited again to return to the success and the glory of our past predecessors.

    AFMusaDato’ Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa is a Director at Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF), a think-tank advocating reform and renewal and the empowerment of the intellect.