A Malay is an UMNO Construct


August 3, 2017

A Malay is an UMNO Construct .Go figure

by S. Thayaparan

http://www.malaysiakini.com

 

Image result for zahid hamidi is a javanese

Zahid Hamidi is a Melayu SeJati defined by UMNO.

Image result for Najib the Bugis Warrior Even  a Bugis is a True Malay  since he is UMNO President

 

“I want to be a normal member. Because I cannot do anything (for the Malays).”

– former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad

COMMENT | Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has chosen to insult the Indian community with his “attack” on Pakatan Harapan chairperson and former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Indian pedigree and subsequent actions as not being a Malay “trait”.

To be honest, I had been expecting something like this for a couple of months now – “The only thing that is different this time is because the Malay community is fractured, and UMNO has had to play the race and religion card against its own. Playing the race and religion card against your own community is a recipe for disaster, especially when the country does not have an alternative to the Islam proscribed by UMNO.”

Since the struggle for the Malay soul – read: vote – is now between UMNO and Bersatu, this whole idea of demonstrating “Malay-ness” becomes the battleground, instead of real policies which would take the Malay community in a new direction.

I never understood what a “Malay” sejati was anyway. As far as I can tell, to UMNO, any Malay who is not in the UMNO fold in not a true Malay.

I remember when then Prime Minister Mahathir chided his Malay/UMNO base (during numerous annual general meetings) on their “mudah lupa”-ness , their laziness , their ineptitude, their incompetence and their general “tidak apa” attitude , in other words, “traits” which he found detestable, the sycophants that surrounded him went to the press and claimed that the good doctor was giving them strong medicine because he really loved UMNO and wanted the best for UMNO and its members.

Once out of UMNO, he becomes an Indian

Do you think I am seditious when I talk about these Malay traits? Mahathir has more or less said the same. The former premier said Malays had failed because they were lazy and sought the easy way out by reselling their shares, licences and contracts to non-Malays.

“They cannot be patient, cannot wait a little, they want to be rich this very moment… no work is done other than to be close to people with influence and authority in order to get something,” he said. “After selling and getting the cash, they come back to ask for more.”

Perhaps Zahid should take the former Prime Minister’s advice and learn from the Chinese: “If we take out the Chinese and all that they have built and own, there will be no small or big towns in Malaysia, there will be no business and industry, there will be no funds for the subsidies, support and facilities for the Malays. Learn from the Chinese.”

Again, if you think I am racist or seditious for defining the narrative in such a way, please keep in mind that the reason why we have buffoons like these UMNO ministers blathering on about authentic Malays is because the current opposition de facto leader, Mahathir Mohamad admitted that he “failed” to change the “Malay” mindset:

“What else (can I do) … I have tried to be an example, tried to teach, scolded, cried and even prayed. (But) I have failed. I have failed to achieve the most important thing – how to change the Malays.”

Now, of course, the UMNO narrative is that because he was not an authentic Malay, what he really did was use UMNO for his personal interests. This is kind of a joke because UMNO has always had special privileges for its members, all the rest are discounted citizens.

Mind you these are the same traits that some folks believe would seep into their respective cultures, so Zahid is not the only person who is worried about the authenticity of his race and religion. Go figure.

However since this is the Deputy Prime Minister we are talking about here, he never stops to consider that maybe just maybe, there is a Malay proverb that addresses this specific trait because such traits exist in the Malay community as they do in all communities.

As this kind of basic logic is way over the head of a political operative like Zahid, what we are left with is the kind of Malay (ketuanan) trait that makes some Muslims worry for the mental health of their community.

This is the same kind of Malay “trait” that makes a group like Jaringan Melayu Malaysia (JMM) lodge a report against Marian Mahathir for “liking” a twitter post support of the LGBT community. Of course if some prominent person liked a Twitter post in support of some banned Islamic extremist group, these same people would have no trouble supporting a “like” and demonizing detractors as Islamophobic.

While some folks may argue that these are the “traits” of the Malay community and they would also argue that we should be mindful lest the other – pendatang – communities are tainted by such traits, ultimately what we are dealing with is the racist nature of mainstream politics here in Malaysia.

I am kind of fuzzy on the logic behind this attack. Is Mahathir not an authentic Malay because of his Indian heritage, or because he left UMNO and is now working with the opposition?

If not leaving UMNO is a Malay trait, then what does it say about all those other Malays who have left UMNO? What does it say about those Malay who are not “tainted” by pendatang ancestry but who no longer are part of the UMNO establishment or who have been in UMNO?

And if working with the opposition is not a Malay trait then what does it say about the numerous UMNO /Malay political operatives who are working with PAS, a supposedly opposition party and at one time the arch-enemy of UMNO?

“This is our culture. We do not know what is hardship, we only want things to be easy,” is how Mahathir defined Malay culture. Is he wrong? Of course Zahid will say that all these utterances of Mahathir just prove that he is not an authentic Malay ignoring the fact when he was saying them in the various UMNO general assemblies, the sycophants were prostrating themselves before him and acknowledging their sins.

Ibrahim Yahya, the Deputy Prime Minister’s aide, claimed that the politics of hate that is sowed by the opposition is destroying the country, but the reality is that that the politics of hate defines this country. This is just another example of what I have always said.

Malaysia: GE-14 will be later rather than sooner


June 15, 2017

Malaysia: GE-14 will be later rather than sooner

by P. Gunasegeram@www.malaysiakini.com

QUESTION TIME | With Prime Minister Najib Razak embroiled in a larger number of imponderables right now, GE14 will likely be later rather than sooner even if the opposition is in disarray and making contradictory moves which confound rather than clarify what they stand for.

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But wouldn’t the fact that the opposition is so much in a tizzy that it can’t even unequivocally name a prime minister in the event of that unlikely victory let alone key cabinet posts, means that now is the time to strike by calling for elections? That depends on what your chances of victory are and whether they will increase or decrease if you wait.

Under the Federal Constitution, the 13th Parliament will automatically dissolve on June 24, 2018, exactly five years after its first sitting and the 14th general election or GE14 has to be held within two months after that, by Aug 24 next year. That means GE14 has to be called within the next 14 months.

What are BN’s chances if GE14 is held right now? The common wisdom seems to indicate that BN would win, but there are several factors that may weigh against that. First, latest available polls indicate that approval ratings for the government are down.

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The GE 14 Winner

Next, one recent poll indicates that Sabah may not be the fixed deposit state that it has been before – and that could perhaps extend now to Sarawak as well following the death of the popular, reform-minded, tough-talking chief minister Adenan Satem.

And, there seem to be some polls indicating that cost of living is an issue and with inflation figures hitting record eight-year highs of 4.5% annually, that is something which will figure heavily in voters’ thoughts.

Meantime, news such as Sarawak Report alleging that jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s prosecutor at the Sodomy II trials, Muhammad Shafee Abdullah received RM9.5 million from Najib’s accounts – and lack of denial so far – has added an explosive political element into the heady mix, rekindling a long-smouldering sensitive issue with many voters, especially Malays.

And that’s just one piece of news – others include Malaysia’s newfound closeness to China which may find some traction with local Chinese in terms of votes but which can be opportunistically used to turn Malay votes against BN.

Serious questions are being asked about the massive Forest City development in the Johor Straits and the influx of Chinese citizens on completion and the use of illegal Chinese labour. Concern has been expressed about the massive RM55 billion East Coast Rail Line to be built and financed by China, widely thought to be massively overpriced.

Let’s look at some of these in turn.

Approval rating takes a dive

The only reliable poll that I can locate for a serious downturn in Najib’s approval rating dates back to October 2015 and was done by the reputable Merdeka Center, which does not seem to have carried such polls subsequently. This indicated that the approval rating among Malays for Najib’s government dropped to below 50% for the first time since February 2012.

Singapore’s The Straits Times (ST), citing a survey by Merdeka Center, said only 31 percent of Malay voters was satisfied with the government. The fall among Malay voters was drastic as it had stood at 52% in January 2015. The survey was revealed to analysts in the financial sector, according to ST.

Since then, even more revelations have come up regarding what is still considered as one of the major failures of the Najib administration, 1MDB and the loss of billions, with the US Department of Justice reports mid-last year which substantiated that over US$3.5 billion was stolen from 1MDB, not to mention the China issues.

If anything, the approval rating for Najib may have deteriorated even further. And then there is a poll, this one last month, again by Merdeka Center for Malaysian Insight, which indicated that Sabah may not be a fixed deposit state in GE14. It involved 905 voters, covering all age groups and demographics.

Among the key findings were some 52% of the respondents were dissatisfied with the state government; some 49% of the respondents believed that Malaysia was headed in the wrong direction, with their primary concern being the cost of living and lingering unhappiness over the goods and services tax; some 66% of respondents were unhappy with the economic situation in Sabah; some 56% of those surveyed said they were feeling the economic crunch; nearly 70% of respondents also wanted greater autonomy for Sabah to run its finances and administration. Sabah voters continue to have grave concerns about illegal immigrants and want this issue debated fully in the run-up to GE14.

Meantime, a forum in Singapore earlier this week was told that the cost of living was the number one issue for GE14. The panelists included Ibrahim Suffian, director of Merdeka Center; Ong Keng Yong, Singapore’s Ambassador-at-Large and former High Commissioner to Malaysia; and Selena Ling, head of Treasury Research and Strategy at OCBC Bank.

“Many Malaysians have actually gone beyond the issue (1MDB), and this has been bundled together in what they perceive to be leadership weaknesses,” Ibrahim was quoted as saying.

Image result for Najib Razak

 

It is clear why UMNO is moving towards an alliance with PAS, supporting the introduction of much harsher sentences under syariah law and leaning towards Islamic fundamentalism – to bolster Malay support. But at the same time, this very move is going to alienate and even jeopardise the fixed deposit votes from across the South China Sea where they practice a much more liberal form of Islam.

Double-edged sword

The issue of moving closer to China is a double-edged sword. Chinese Malaysian voter support could increase from this, especially since the Chinese Ambassador has been moving closely with politicians in some of the constituencies that MCA and Umno contest in, implicitly and explicitly supporting the ruling party.

But Malay voter support may reduce if the opposition, especially with people like former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad in their ranks, can use this to highlight the unnatural closeness with China which even permits open interference by Chinese diplomats in Malaysia’s internal affairs.

Meantime, the Indian vote has been courted with the Malaysian Indian Blueprint but scepticism remains over this document whose success will depend on implementation. The track record here is sorely lacking.

The maltreatment of Indians at the Police lockups, lack of sympathy for their economic plight, and lack of recognition for their contributions amongst others are not factors that will turn them significantly towards BN in GE14.

While expectations are of a BN victory, the situation is not quite so clear when you put it down on paper which is what Najib’s advisers and strategists would have done. That explains why UMNO is embracing Islamist PAS, hugging agnostic China and unveiled a blueprint for Indian advancement. But indications are that it is not working – yet.

Just as the opposition needs time, perhaps BN and UMNO need it even more. And they are hoping that some future confluence of events will be more favourable. If there is an unlikely window of opportunity, they will take it. Will BN’s chances be better if elections are delayed? Perhaps but it is not likely to be much worse.

Even if there is a significant chance of losing, although small, why take it now when you have 14 months to go? Lots of deals can be done in that time, the opportunity for patronage and corruption is tremendous, and there is more time to cover the obvious holes so they remain out of sight.

Najib can still set his sights on winning after the 14 remaining months in power. Unlike British Premier Theresa May, he knows it is better to be safe and in power now instead of sorry by rushing into an election and potentially losing it. Voter behaviour can be rather unpredictable.

Watch for GE14 not earlier than the middle of next year. Still not convinced? Okay, note that GE12 was held on March 8, 2008. Abdullah Ahmad Badawi stepped down after the polls reversal for BN and Najib became Prime Minister in 2009.

From 2011, there were intense speculations of an early election but GE13 was eventually only held on May 5, 2013, five years and two months after GE12 – full term in other words. Najib will do the same again, unless there is an unlikely massive voter shift towards BN because he knows how to be safe rather than sorry.


P GUNASEGARAM is waiting for the next big shift in voting patterns after GE12 when the opposition took five states in Peninsular Malaysia – it may be sooner than you think. E-mail: t.p.guna@gmail.com.

Najib Razak’s BN to retain Putrajaya


June 15, 2017

Najib Razak’s BN to retain Putrajaya, says former Singapore envoy to Malaysia Ong Keng Yong

by FMT Reporters

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

ST Global Forum discussion on next general election concludes 1MDB, billion-dollar deals with China will have no impact on how the majority vote.

PETALING JAYA: Barisan Nasional (BN) will continue its hold on Putrajaya by winning the next general election (GE14), as the status quo in Sabah and Sarawak and support from Malays in Peninsular Malaysia will remain, The Straits Times (ST) reported.

Image result for Ong Keng and Din MericanSingapore’s Ambassador at Large Ong Keng Yong (center)

This was the conclusion drawn from an ST Global Forum panel discussion held in Singapore yesterday. The forum was entitled Malaysia’s Next GE: The Perils And Prospects.

“I don’t think that it will be worse than what Prime Minister Najib Razak or the BN obtained in 2013. For the Malay voters, I think they will stick with what they know,” said Ong Keng Yong, who is Ambassador-at-Large at Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign affairs, Former High Commissioner to Malaysia and Secretary-General of ASEAN.

Another speaker at the forum, Merdeka Center director Ibrahim Suffian concurred, saying that even though Najib’s popularity remains low, BN remains the most trusted brand among Malay voters.

According to the Singapore daily, the rationale proffered by the speakers, which also included OCBC Bank Treasury Research and Strategy head Selena Ling, was that all the billion-dollar scandals and headline-grabbing deals with China would not have an impact on the vast majority of voters.

Describing the issues surrounding 1MDB as “approaching historical status”, Ibrahim said many Malaysians have gone beyond the issue. “1MDB has now been bundled as just being part of what is perceived as leadership weaknesses,” he was quoted as saying.

Image result for Najib RazakThe Likely GE-14 victor

Ambassador Ong believes the cases that have emerged over allegations linked to 1MDB in other countries, including Singapore, the United States and Switzerland, has only affected Kuala Lumpur’s standing from an international standpoint, but it “has not greatly harmed Najib or UMNO” in the homefront.

Meanwhile, Ling told the forum that Malaysia’s economic data was healthy, but that too would be of minimal consequence.“When it comes to elections, people are going to vote on bread-and-butter issues. It is not going to be because growth is 5% or less than 5%,” she said, according to ST.

The panelists all agreed that Najib’s biggest challenge will be overcoming the growing unrest over the cost of living, with the GST and lower value of the ringgit having an impact on the price of goods.

The reality on the ground remains harsh according to Ibrahim who spoke about the struggles of Malaysians, both young and old.“Young people are worried about finding a good job, married couples are concerned about whether they can afford a home and whether they can get a pay rise, while most retirees do not have sufficient savings to tide them over,” he was quoted as saying by ST.

The speculation over when Najib will call for GE14 is mixed with some predicting it will be held in the last quarter of this year, or early next year. However, the Prime Minister has until next June to decide when he wants to dissolve Parliament.

The Federal Constitution states that a general election needs to be called when Parliament is dissolved or it reaches a maximum term of five years. The current Parliament kicked off its term on June 24, 2013, therefore Parliament will automatically be dissolved as of June 24, 2018.

As a general election needs to be called no later than two months after Parliament is dissolved, therefore, the last possible date for the next general election (GE14) will be August 24, 2018.

Malaysian Opposition: If you are serious, tell us who is your Prime Minister after GE-14?


June 6, 2017

Malaysian Opposition: If you  are serious, tell us who is your Prime Minister after GE-14?

By Azmi Sharom

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Image result for mahathir as alternative prime minister

Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Wannabes for Political Opposition

Sometimes I wonder: does the opposition want to lose the next general election (GE14)?

Apart from the usual racist fear-mongering that UMNO loves to indulge in, the latest example being the distasteful and utterly low class competition asking for essays on why Lim Kit Siang is racist; their favourite weapon to use against the opposition is to say that they are divided and not able to rule.

Obviously this is not accurate. Penang, Selangor and Kelantan are all in opposition hands and they have not collapsed. In fact, Penang and Selangor are doing quite well, despite the recent shenanigans of PAS.In other words, the opposition has shown that they can rule. At least at the state level.

But recently, the claims of division appear to be accurate. Until today the opposition has not come up with a clear choice for Prime Minister. This is an important issue because when it comes to general elections, Malaysians like to be able to picture who their PM will be.

One thing is for sure, DAP and Amanah will not be putting forward a potential PM. DAP knows that most Malay voters are still paralyzed with insecurity, so much so that even if DAP was to put forward a Malay potential PM, most Malays will run screaming in terror.

The Malays will believe that anyone from DAP is really Chinese and they can’t accept a Chinese prime minister. Sad, but true. Amanah won’t do it because they are small and humble.

Image result for Anwar alternative prime minister and Zaid Ibrahim

Zaid Ibrahim (DAP) and Anwar Ibrahim (PKR)?

So, that leaves PKR and PPBM. There are sounds that some want Dr Mahathir Mohamad to stand for elections and be the possible next PM. PKR seems adamant that they can make Anwar Ibrahim PM if they win, even though he is in jail and there are a host of legal obstacles in their way.

And there have been very public spats about this. Namely between PKR Vice-President Rafizi Ramli and DAP’s Zaid Ibrahim.

I want to tell these politicians one thing. Don’t think you are so big and important and popular. Don’t think for one second that your public quarrels are simply each of you standing up for your principles.

Let me tell you: this kind of thing sickens the voters. Even those who would vote opposition and those who are young. While you publicly spat about who should be PM you are alienating an electorate who are hungry for change. You are in actuality hijacking the chance of victory despite having the advantage of opposing a deeply unpopular PM and government.

Image result for Najib Razak the next PM of Malaysia

The likely Prime Minister of Malaysia Najib Razak–Inheriting  Massive Problems of his own making

Why? Because you want to play your own egotistical political games.I mean, seriously, the only choices that the opposition can come up with is an old man who laid the foundations for all the trouble we are in and another old man who is (fairly or unfairly) in jail?

There is no one else that you can all agree on? That really is pathetic and makes Barisan Nasional’s criticisms of you seem utterly valid. There is not much time left before GE14, who knows if they can get their act together.

Azmi Sharom is a law lecturer at Universiti Malaya.

This commentary was first published in Sin Chew Daily.

 

An Opposition Grand Coalition can defeat the BN?


May 24, 2017

Here’s why an opposition grand coalition can defeat the BN

Image result for Mahathir as the next PM

Although the gerrymandering will continue, the significant difference is that Dr Mahathir’s new party will be competing for Malay votes in the small towns and villages.

By Koon Yew Yin@www.freemalaysia-today.com

According to news reports on the celebration of UMNO’s 71st Anniversary, Prime Minister Najib Razak had teased his supporters by asking if he should dissolve Parliament as early as the following day.

Some observers see it as a sign that he is very confident of a victory and that he may call for an election soon.However, there are two sayings which he needs to be reminded of.

One is the old saying “Pride comes before a fall” The other is a quote attributed to Harold Washington, the first African-American elected as Mayor of Chicago: “Let’s not be overconfident, we still have to count the votes.”

Barisan Nasional sponsored analysts, who dominate the official media, have been saying that the BN has more than the required number of votes to win the next election by a comfortable margin. In fact, some are so confident that they are assuring BN of a more than two-thirds majority. Because these analysts are tied to the BN money machine, this message of a big BN victory will be drummed into our heads over the next few months.

But is this big BN victory a sure thing? Going by my knowledge of politics in Perak, I wish to differ.

Tide turning against BN

In Perak, most voters have not forgotten that power was “stolen” from the then Pakatan Rakyat by the BN. In the next election, many voters will want to correct the injustice and vote for the opposition.

Included in this group will be most of the civil servants as well as Felda settlers who have been regarded as UMNO’s and BN’s vote banks.To some extent these voters have also been PAS’ vote banks.

But will the Malay civil servants and Felda settlers continue to allow themselves to be swayed by racial and religious politics and vote with their hearts rather than with their heads in the next election?

Or will they realise that both UMNO and PAS have let them down badly and are not worth the support that the two parties have been provided with during the past 50 years and more?

Image result for Mahathir as the next PM

In addition to Sabah and Sarawak, this guy is Najib’s Secret Weapon (?). Perak is not reliable predictor of GE-14 outcome. Furthermore, the Opposition is in disarray. PKR wants Anwar as the next Prime Minister. Mahathir is ambivalent on this matter since he may have someone else. Will there be two Deputy Prime Ministers to accommodate DAP? Those in Amanah also want a piece of the action. Allocation of seats will be a challenge for the opposition. I witnessed what Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim had to undergo in 2008.

Finally, Najib has all the advantages of incumbency and the resources to wage an aggressive campaign. So brave is the man who  dares to predict the outcome of GE-14. –Din Merican

Today, everyone, except for the elite, are suffering from a socio-economic crisis arising from the mismanagement of the economy and pervasive corruption. Food is more expensive, transport prices have soared, education costs have escalated.

According to Cuepacs president Azih Muda, civil servants have ended up heavily in debt to manage rising living costs, to the point that more than 60,000 of them risk bankruptcy.

“This is a direct effect of the hike in cost of living. Civil servants end up taking up a lot of loans and this is unsustainable and they are unable to manage their finances,” Azih told the foreign news agency Reuters.

This report was, understandably, not carried in the mainstream Malay media. Neither have the numerous reports on the financial mess inflicted on Felda settlers through the launch of Felda Global Ventures Berhad.

This time, I am sure the revolt of the Malay masses will take place. And when this revolt led by the civil servants and Felda settlers happens at the polling booth, a new page in our nation’s history will be reached.

Battle for change led by Dr Mahathir

Image result for A confident Najib

Fittingly, the battle for change will be led by Dr Mahathir. Several weeks ago, I attended a Parti Pribumi Bersatu meeting at Padang Rengas, Kuala Kangsar, where I took the opportunity to renew my friendship with him and gave him a copy of my book,” Road Map for Achieving Vision 2020” which was partly inspired by Dr Mahathir’s vision for our nation’s future.

It is not only the Malay masses who will push for change. Today we have a new opposition coalition which will operate as a single entity against the BN.

Featuring PPBM, DAP, PKR and Parti Amanah Negara as its component members, the opposition coalition will also include East Malaysian parties. This is an unprecedented grand coalition of Malaysian anti-BN voters which, in my opinion, can bring about the biggest upset in our political history once it gets its act together.

In the last GE, the opposition secured more than 51% of the total votes, but in terms of state and parliamentary seats, the opposition had less than BN because of the gerrymandering.

Although the gerrymandering will continue during the next election, the significant difference is that Dr. Mahathir’s new party under Muhyiddin Yasin will be competing for Malay votes in the small towns and villages.

I believe, too, that PAS is deeply divided under President Hadi Awang, who is presently sick and unable to exert much influence. Once it becomes clear that the new grand opposition coalition will win, I expect many PAS leaders and voters to join the opposition and quit the friendship with the BN.

 

A Secular Islam Possible for Malaysia?


May 11, 2017

A Secular Islam Possible for Malaysia?

by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee@www.malaysiakini.com

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The recent PAS Muktamar brings to the forefront – yet again – the question of whether secular Islam is a possibility in an increasingly racially and religiously acrimonious and divided Malaysia.

Secularism has been defined as the separation of public life and civil/government matters from religious teachings and commandments, or more simply the separation of religion and politics. It is an evolution that the great majority of the world’s nations have gone through – some quickly, others more slowly.

However, almost all nations, even as they develop at uneven speeds, have inevitably gravitated towards a separation of religion and state.

Today, except for a few countries such as Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Iran and Yemen, most nations – developed and developing – view a religiously-based state as a throwback to a more primitive form of government; and a historical era in which life was nasty, brutish and short, except for the religious elite.

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Secular states in which governments are neutral in matters of religion and public activities, and where the states’ decisions are not dictated or influenced by religious beliefs, are the opposite of theocratic states.

At the same time it needs to be noted that not all secular states are alike. Thus we find states with a comprehensive commitment to secularism; those that are more accommodating to religion; and others that, although committed to neutrality, will selectively actively cooperate with religions.

Whatever the degree of secularity, secular states, except those which morph into totalitarianism or autocratic systems, are committed to the implementation of national and international norms protecting the freedom of religion or belief, and abide by constitutions which guarantee the equal treatment of different communities of religion and belief within society.

In sharp contrast the theocratic state has a God or a particular deity to be the supreme civil ruler. Also the God’s or particular deity’s commandments are held to be the definitive law of the land; and the authorities and their representatives who interpret the commandments claim a superior or divine duty in running the affairs of state and society.

Debates on merits ongoing, but no poll held

Debate on the relative merits of theocratic and secular states has been ongoing for several hundreds of years in both Muslim and Christian worlds. In our era, a poll of the world’s foremost leaders – including religious – on what they may view to be a superior form of government – secular or theocratic – has never been held.

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The Late Karpal Singh is right but when he was Prime  Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir had the audacity to claim that Malaysia is already an Islamic state, while his successor promoted Islam Hadhari and Najib Razak embraced Hadi Awang’s Hududism and Zakir Naik.  As a result, the Malays have become a confused people.–Din Merican

But if one were to be undertaken today, I will not be surprised if the polled group of religious leaders – despite their concerns about the negative impact that a sharp break separating public life from religion could have on their congregations – will agree that a secular state is the correct path to progress and a better life for their religious communities.

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I expect too that few among the religious leaders would want a return to the days when there was a fusion of religious and political authority, even if they may personally benefit from the shift of power in society.

For, make no mistake about it, history – past and current – is replete with examples of how theocratic states, even after co-opting or hijacking secularised concepts of equality and justice, have invariably lapsed into religious tyrannies with dire consequences for all of the citizenry.

As Thomas Paine, one of the founding fathers of the United States noted, “Of all the tyrannies that affect mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst; every other species of tyranny is limited to the world we live in; but this attempts to stride beyond the grave, and seeks to pursue us into eternity.”

The crisis in Malaysia

Secular Malaysia today is facing a crisis with Muslim politicians from both sides of the political divide seeking to strengthen conservative Islam through castigating its moderate and liberal proponents, and by making the case that supporters of a secular Islam are kaffirs, traitors and enemies of the religion.

The situation has become so bad that few Muslims in the country are willing to take a public stand on the issue or declare support for secular Islam for fear of reprisal by religious extremists.

The sole exceptions that have stood out have been non-political figures, such as Mariam Mokhtar, Noor Farida Ariffin and some other members of G25, Syed Akbar Ali, Marina Mahathir, Haris Ibrahim, Din Merican, and Farouk Peru, and an even smaller number of politicians, notably Zaid Ibrahim and Ariff Sabri.

Image result for Lim Teck Ghee

One sees in their messages to fellow Muslims in this country some of the same concerns that are animating liberal and secular Muslims in other parts of the world, viz:

  • The rejection of interpretations of Islam that urge violence, social injustice and politicised Islam;
  • The rejection of bigotry and oppression against people based on prejudice arising from ethnicity, belief, religion, sexual orientation and gender expression;
  • Support for secular governance, democracy and liberty; and
  • Support for the right of individuals to publicly express criticism of Islam (see ‘Muslim Reform Movement’ by M Zuhdi Jasser and Raheel Raza et al).

Unfortunately, these messages – partly because they are communicated in English and partly because the mainstream Malay (and English ) media have chosen to ignore them – are unable to reach the Malay masses – whether in rural or urban communities. They have even failed to elicit support from the unknown number of open-minded and liberal Muslims who are now openly branded as “deviants” by Islamic religious authorities.

In the Malay world, it is Malay politicians and the Islamic elite and bureaucracy who have a monopoly over the variant of Islam that is propagated to the masses. It is a variant that is currently feeding on heightened ethnic and religious insecurities and jealousy, so as to make it much more difficult, if not impossible, to have a rational discourse on secular Islam, save that advocated by Umno and PAS.

LIM TECK GHEE is a former World Bank senior social scientist, whose report on bumiputera equity when he was director of Asli’s Centre for Public Policy Studies sparked controversy in 2006. He is now CEO of the Centre for Policy Initiatives.