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.

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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.”

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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.

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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

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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.

https://irfront.net/post/articles/articles-english/restoring-the-reformist-mind/

 

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).

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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.

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

 

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.

Image result for GE-14 when?

 

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.

Image result for Rosmah Mansor

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.