Malaysia:Expressing an Opinion or doing Research IS deemed an unlawful act


April 2, 2017

Only Chimpy Malaysia where expressing an Opinion or doing Research IS deemed an unlawful act

by Azmi Sharom@www.thestar.com.my

Image result for Academic Freedom in Malaysia

FIVE school teachers have been given show cause letters by the Education Ministry for being “excessively” critical of the Government in public forums and the like. I wish I could find out what they said; it would be nice to see what “excessive” is.

The Education Minister also said that civil servants should be loyal to the Government and any criticism should be done via the “correct channels”. But all this silencing of educators is not undemocratic, he says because it is done via the law – namely the General Orders which civil servants are bound by.

How quaint. These are really old justifications that have been used for decades. Firstly, one has to wonder what “proper channels” there are and whether they are effective or not. If these channels are not open to the public (and I am certain by “proper” it is meant “discreet”) then they can easily be ignored.

Secondly, just because a law exists to silence people, that does not make it right. A power provided by legislation can be just as undemocratic as an unfettered discretionary power.

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These five teachers are facing the beginnings of disciplinary action for things which they did outside of the classroom. But the Youth and Sports Minister has chipped in saying that things done within the classrooms should not be used as a “political platform”.

Well, sure, it would be unseemly and inappropriate for any sort of political campaigning to be done in classrooms. Kind of pointless as well, since schoolchildren can’t vote.

But I wonder; what if a history teacher decides to point out the fact that UMNO was late in joining the calls for independence and in fact the originator for that call was the Malayan Left. Would this be political?

And that is just within the context of schools. Universities offer courses and have departments whose entire purpose is to examine critically what happens in society, which includes what the Government does.

A Social Science Department that does not cover race-based policies in the country will not be doing its job. An economics department that does not explore the effect of corruption on the well-being of the country will not be doing its job. A law faculty that does not criticise unjust laws and judgments will not be doing its job.

However, recently, public universities have received a circular, once again written under the authority of legislation meant to control civil servants, where we have been told that we can’t say or do anything that could be deemed as manifesting disloyalty to King, country and government.

Well, I can tell you that makes my job as a Human Rights and Environmental Law lecturer very simple then.bI think I can just turn up to class for the rest of the semester with a guitar and sing Kumbaya with my students for an hour.

Of course I won’t do that. This is because my responsibility as a lecturer, and a teacher’s responsibility, is first and foremost to our students. Our job is to broaden their horizons and to show them not just what is, but what can and should be.

As long as what is being taught is backed up by good research and sound reasoning, then what is said should not be penalised. If we do our jobs well, we produce thinking graduates and by this we serve the people and the nation. Not the Government.

It is not just teachers and lecturers who have been under the cosh recently; university students have not escaped either. Nowadays any show of dissent from students will ensure disciplinary hearings. But one student in particular has had the full force of so called anti-terrorism laws, and all the intense pain and stress that implies for her and her family, used against her.

Image result for Siti Nor Aishah Atan

This is what I feel today about the Najib Administration. –Din Merican

Siti Nor Aishah Atan was a Master’s student in Universiti Malaya. She was apparently doing research on terrorism, and as part of her work she had in her possession, surprise surprise, books related to the subject. She was arrested last year for being in possession of “illegal” books.

The High Court released her on the grounds that there was no evidence that the books were “illegal”. She was then rearrested and detained without trial under the Prevention of Crime Act for 60 days.

Upon her release she was made to wear an electronic tag and report to the Police once a week. Meanwhile, the Attorney-General’s Chambers, unhappy with the High Court, appealed the decision and she was detained without trial again, now under the Special Offences (Special Measures) Act.

My question is this: Siti has been under investigation and watch since September last year; she has been detained for two months, and she has had her movements monitored, so why the need to detain her further? Unless, this girl from Terengganu, is some sort of genius terrorist mastermind (which is the reason why one presumes the A-G’s Chambers are so dogged) or the investigating agencies are utterly incompetent for not being able to find enough evidence to charge her properly in court.

Besides, what she was doing was research. Surely in the face of very real terrorist threats the world over, such research should be carried out and not punished. But then, in a land where civil servants are expected to be docile and lecturers are faced with restrictions which are designed to cow them into total intellectual impotence, logic does not really come into the equation.

The State of a Paranoid Government: Malaysia’s Freedom in Jeopardy


December 4, 2016

The State of a Paranoid Government: Malaysia’s Freedom in Jeopardy

by Aedi Asri@www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Zahid Hamidi says the task force, consisting of the Police, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, Bank Negara Malaysia and the Attorney-General’s Chambers will also check on civil society movements receiving overseas funds.

zahid-hamidi-demonstrasi-jalanan

DPM Zahid Hamid, that’s what happens when you lose your legitimacy to govern; people power takes hold. Civil society organizations are formed, and citizens take to the streets to protest. Then you stifle and intimidate them, and the people react and the whole situation repeats itself in a vicious circle of repression, reaction and suppression. 

Governing for all its complexities is,  in fact, simple if you genuinely want to serve people. But not, if you are incompetent and corrupt. Our leaders like you never learn the lessons of history, and that is people power triumphs in the end.–Din Merican

The government has set up a task force to monitor and investigate movements which are seeking to “overthrow the government”, says UMNO Acting Deputy President Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

In his winding up speech at the 70th Umno general assembly, Zahid, who is also home minister, said the task force comprised the police, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, Bank Negara Malaysia and the Attorney-General’s Chambers.

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“Let the task force do its job independently. If they find solid evidence, then action will be taken,” he said.

Zahid claimed there were some organizations here which had been been influenced by the idea of what he called “the Color Movement”, which, he said, was being pushed by an institution known as the Center for Applied Non-Violent Action Strategies (Canvas).

The Color Movement, he said, wanted to accomplish revolutions without violence by training, planning and developing strategies to oust democratically-elected governments.

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He said the Color Movement was a concept founded by Gene Sharp through the Albert Einstein Institute, which, he added, received funds from the National Endowment for Democracy, International Republic Institute , George Soros Foundation and the Open Society Foundations (OSF).

In recent years, Zahid claimed, Color Movement activities had been carried out in Ukraine, Lebanon, Iraq and Kuwait, among other countries.

“In Malaysia, some organisations have been found to be influenced by the idea of the Color Movement, too, including Suaram, BERSIH, Bar Council, Malaysiakini and Sarawak Report,” he claimed.

According to a report in the South China Morning Post (SCMP) published on Nov 3, civil society organisations in Malaysia had received funds from OSF in recent years.

This was confirmed by the OSF in their response to queries from the Hong Kong-based publication.

OSF had also admitted to providing small grants to election reform coalition BERSIH shortly after it was formed in 2011 but said it did not currently support the group.

“The Open Society Foundations are proud to have supported civil society in Malaysia for 10 years. Claims that the Open Society Foundations funded attempts to overthrow the government in Malaysia are entirely false.

“The Open Society Foundations support justice, accountability and democratic practice around the world, and in Malaysia our grant-making to civil society includes efforts to promote public health, foster fair migration policies and encourage the civic and political participation of all Malaysian citizens,” OSF was quoted as saying in an email reply to SCMP.

 

The Stove of Consciousness


June 4, 2015

NOTE: Things can get pretty dull and numb in Malaysia. Day in day out we read about politics of opposing camps within UMNO and between Pakatan Rakyat and UMNO-Barisan National over the 1MDB financial scandal. The infantile mudslinging  antics will not get us anywhere.  Najib himself is playing games to remain in power. Governing takes a backstage right now. After all, loss of power can be disastrous for him and more so for his ambitious and greed driven spouse Rosmah Mansor, the self-styled FLOM.

For Najib Razak all options are now on the table. It is rumored  that since the country is a mess and paralyzed neck down, he may–to save himself being charged for corruption, conflicts of interest and abuses of power–declare a state of emergency, suspend Parliament and rule the country NOC-style like what his father Tun Razak did after the May 13, 1969  tragedy, albeit under different circumstances.

The government has stalled and no body is in charge. Usually, like in Japan, the Chief Secretary to the Cabinet and Head of the civil service takes control and the government functions. Unfortunately, in Malaysia, our Chief Secretary is busy with consoling the Prime Minister in stead of ensuring that  his civil servants do their work. Perhaps, he is preparing himself for the right time to abandon the incumbent captain and reach out to Najib’s successor. Carma.

We ourselves have become very agitated and frustrated since we have been pushing for change since 2008; yet we are no closer to the goal of removing the present lot of leaders from the seat of power.  So if I may suggest, let us just sit back , have tea tarik and relax at least for today.

What better way to find relief than to engage in some philosophical banter. Maybe, after reading about Rene Descartes and his stove, sanity can return and we will back to do battle. Let not fatigue make us abandon our mission to make our blessed country better. –Din Merican

The Stove of Consciousness

http://www.consciousentities.com/?p=1169

by Peter Hankins

Decartes

I have been reading A.C. Grayling’s biography of Descartes: he advances the novel theory that Descartes was a spy. This is actually a rather shrewd suggestion which makes quite a lot of sense given Descartes’ wandering, secretive life.

On balance I think he probably wasn’t conducting secret espionage missions – it’s unlikely we’ll ever know for sure, of course – but I think it’s certainly an idea any future biographer will have to address.

I was interested, though, to see what Grayling made of the stove.  Descartes himself tells us that when held up in Germany by the advance of winter, he spent the day alone in a stove, and that was where his radical rebuilding of his own beliefs began.  This famous incident has the sort of place in the history of philosophy that the apple falling on Newton’s head has in the history of science: and it has been doubted and queried in a similar way. But Descartes seems pretty clear about it: “je demeurais tout le jour enfermé seul dans un poêle, où j’avais tout le loisir m’entretenir de mes pensées”.[I sat all day shut up alone in a stove, where I had ample opportunity to nurture my thoughts.]

Some say it must in fact have been a bread-oven or a similarly large affair: Descartes was not a large man and he was particularly averse to cold and disturbance, but it would surely have to have been a commodious stove for him to have been comfortable in there all day. Some say that Bavarian houses of the period had large stoves, and certainly in the baroque palaces of the region one can see vast ornate ones that look as if they might have had room for a diminutive French philosopher. Some commonsensical people say that “un poêle” must simply have meant a stove-heated room; and this is in fact the view which Grayling adopts firmly and without discussion.

Personally I’m inclined to take Descartes’ words at face value; but really the question of whether he really sat in a real stove misses the point. Why does Descartes, a rather secretive man, even mention the matter at all? It must be because, true or not, it has metaphorical significance; it gives us additional keys to Descartes’ meaning which we ought not to discard out of literal-mindedness. (Grayling, in fairness, is writing history, not philosophy.)

For one thing Descartes’ isolation in the stove functions as a sort of thought-experiment. He wants to be able to doubt everything, but it’s hard to dismiss the world as a set of illusions when it’s battering away at your senses: so suppose we were in a place that was warm, dark, and silent?  Second, it recalls Plato’s cave metaphor. Plato had his unfortunate exemplar chained in a cave where his only knowledge of the world outside came from flickering shadows on the wall; he wanted to suggest that what we take to be the real world is a similarly poor reflection of a majestic eternal reality. Descartes wants to work up a similar metaphor to a quite different conclusion, ultimately vindicating our senses and the physical world; perhaps this points up his rebellion against ancient authority. Third, in a way congenial to modern thinking and probably not unacceptable to Descartes, the isolation in the stove resembles and evokes the isolation of the brain in the skull.

The stove metaphor has other possible implications, but for us the most interesting thing is perhaps how it embodies and possibly helped to consolidate one of the most persistent metaphors about consciousness, one that has figured strongly in discussion for centuries, remains dominant, yet is really quite unwarranted. This is that consciousness is internal. We routinely talk about “the external world” when discussing mental experience. The external world is what the senses are supposed to tell us about, but sometimes fail to; it is distinct from an internal world where we receive the messages and where things like emotions and intentions have their existence. The impression of consciousness being inside looking out is strongly reinforced by the way the ears and the brain seem to feed straight into the brain: but we know that impression of being located in the head would be the same if human anatomy actually put the brain in the stomach, so long as the eyes and ears remained where they are. In fact our discussions would make just as much sense if we described consciousness as external and the physical world as internal (or consciousness as ‘above’ and the physical world as ‘below’ or vice versa).

If we take consciousness to be a neural process there is of course, a sense in which it is certainly in the brain; but only in the sense that my money is in the bank’s computer (though I can’t get it out with a hammer) or Pride and Prejudice is in the pages of that book over there (and not, after all, in my head). Strictly or properly, stories and totals don’t have the property of physical location, and nor, really, does consciousness

Does it matter if the metaphor is convenient? Well, it may well be that the traditional inside view encourages us to fall into certain errors. It has often been argued (and still is) for example that because we’re sometimes wrong about what we’re seeing or hearing, we must in fact only ever see an intermediate representation, never the  real world itself. I think this is a mistake, but it’s one that the internal/external view helps to make plausible.  It may well be, in my opinion, that habitually thinking of consciousness as having a simple physical location makes it more difficult for us to understand it properly.

So perhaps we ought to make a concerted effort to stop, but to be honest I think the metaphor is just too deeply rooted. At the end of the day you can take the thinker out of the stove, but you can’t take the stove out of the thinker.

Here are two responses on Peter Hankin’s Views of the Stove:

Scott Bakker says:

Coming out of the Continental tradition I was literally trained to regard the metaphorics of inside/outside as a conceptually bankrupt way to consider subjectivity. Moving onto Wittgenstein only reinforced this outlook. But I’m nowhere near so convinced anymore. Just for instance, how should we make sense of ‘shut ins’?

The stove, like the skull, is simply a convenient way to understand the flow of information. Hiding in a stove allowed Descartes to conceal information regarding his existence. Hiding in the skull, it seems fair to reason, allows consciousness to do the same more generally. You could say this is why we find neuroscience so flummoxing: it’s like hearing Descartes voice, then finding the stove empty when we throw the door open. An externalist approach to consciousness is simply one of the ways we can explain the ’empty stove problem.’ Descartes was never there in the first place! He’s actually a larger system that includes the kitchen, the village, what have you. My preferred approach is just to say that Descartes simply isn’t what we thought he was, that what we see locked up in our own stoves doesn’t exist.

Imagine if Descartes, like Plato’s prisoners, was *born* in his stove, then just ask the question of information flow. The most he could see (access) of himself in the stove would be cramped shadows, indeterminate shapes which would *have* to be his informatic baseline for ‘self,’ whereas through the cracks of the door he could see bright swathes of the external world. Now if he were placed opposite another stove and watched it open, would he recognize the high-fidelity, unbounded figure revealed as a version of himself?

Probably not, *especially* given his genius for rationalization. He can’t trust what he sees through the cracks, but these cramped shapes he knows with certainty – How could he not when they are all the information he has ever had?

I bake, therefore I am.

Nowadays I’m inclined to think the problem isn’t so much the metaphorics of inside/outside generally so much as the way they are posed. We just need to look at the inside/outside in the proper way.

Vijay Vikram says:

I do so agree with you about the internal vs external. It is a habit we inherited from Descartes. It is the mind/body problem.

Alternately, one may posit that internal and external are both aspects of a something we may call experience, awareness, dasein or manifestation or narrative or being or some such. Or to take it further, anything that shows up is, in effect, the world, the universe. And it shows up in what? Therein lies the paradox, for anything we may posit as a fundamental ground for manifestation– anything prior to manifestation– cannot be described since any description belongs to manifestation itself and so cannot be prior to manifestation. And the notion “prior to manifestation” is manifestation too. So, is there such a thing as “prior to manifestation” that could be a fundament for the world?

This issue is, however, a red herring. For the fundamental characteristic of the universe and of any particularity at all–is that it is. In other words, any and all of universe exhibits its fundamental character to us moment after moment, inescapably in the simple fact that it is–whether thought or thing or sense or feeling or objectivity or subjectivity and so on.

To put it more simply—-the fundamental character of the universe is ever and everywhere and always–patent.

This Side of Paradise

http://www.godwardweb.org

The only thing you need to know to understand the deepest metaphysical secrets is this: that for every outside there is an inside and for every inside there is an outside, and although they are different, they go together.– Alan Watts

Your inside is out and your outside is in.
 Your outside is in and your inside is out– The Beatles

Where do philosophers get their ideas? In the case of René Descartes, who is regarded as the founder of modern philosophy, he literally cooked them up. Once, in a bid to escape the cold, he had crawled into a large stove* and spent the day there. He was then 23 years old, en route to Ulm while serving in the Bavarian army. Alone with his thoughts, he began laying the intellectual groundwork for his famous cogito: “I think, therefore I am.”

This was not intended as a stand-alone statement but as the culmination of a chain of reasoning that began when he wondered what he could know for certain. He rejected everything he could know through his senses, since his senses could deceive him. Even his own body might be a mirage. But his thoughts were another matter. He could doubt just about everything, but he could not doubt his own doubts. And so the stuff he thought about when he was alone with his thoughts became the foundation for his existence.

Descartes concluded that mind and matter were two different “substances,” each occupying its own realm. The mind was immaterial, a “thinking thing” with no extension in space, whereas matter had extension but could not think. The two could causally interact, but it remained unclear how a mental event could affect a physical one, or vice-versa. As a byproduct of Cartesian dualism, Descartes had introduced a problem that has occupied philosophers ever since: the so-called mind-body problem.

The mind-body problem is not the only issue that arises when you give the mind a life of its own. Descartes had wondered whether his senses were playing tricks on him, conjuring up an external world that was actually a dream or the work of a demon. Addressing the same question, the 18th-century German philosopher Emmanuel Kant concluded that we can never truly know what lies outside ourselves, since our perceptions of the world are mediated by our senses. Even time and space, in Kant’s view, are not attributes of the eternal world but part of the perceptual framework through which we apprehend it. The notion that reality is to some degree in the mind rather than outside it is common currency not only among many modern philosophers but also among quantum physicists. As the physicist Erwin Schrödinger expressed it, “Mind has erected the objective outside world of the natural philosopher out of its own stuff.”

While Kant and others were raising doubts about the independent existence of the outside world, the Scottish philosopher David Hume was calling into question the “me” inside – the one entity that Descartes believed was beyond doubt. Looking within himself, Hume found no evidence of a single, simple and continuous self, only a bundle of perceptions in perpetual flux. He wrote, “I never can catch myself at any time without a perception, and never can observe any thing but the perception.” At no time was he able to catch a glimpse of the self that was supposedly having all these perceptions. In the theater of the mind, it would appear, the show is always on, but for all we know it may be playing to an empty house.

Kant and Hume between them had not only demolished Descartes’ neat certainties about the world, but they had effectively demolished the world itself, whether inside or out, depending on whom you asked. Not only was the self unknowable and perhaps illusory but so also was the world beyond the self. How could this be? Perhaps the problem stems from the notion that there is an “inside” and an “outside” to one’s experience. Like Descartes, alone with his thoughts inside a stove on a cold day in November, we imagine the thinking part of ourselves exists somewhere “in here” and everything else is “out there” in the world. We may arbitrarily assume “in here” is inside our bodies, but the part we can see is just as much “out there” as the chair we are sitting in or the tree outside our window. And the things that are “out there” may, in fact, be entirely contained within our consciousness, which is “in here.” So where do we draw the boundary between the two?

Make no mistake: it is we who draw the boundary. We cannot carve out a space for ourselves “inside” without simultaneously creating an “outside.” This bifurcation of consciousness occurs naturally at around age two with the development of an autonomous self. And although this process may occur naturally, it does not come without cost. The price we pay for acquiring a bit of personal space is that we now find ourselves on the outside of everything else. The psychic toll is dramatized in the biblical creation story, when Adam develops a will of his own and is expelled from Eden. So what would happen if we could once again experience life whole? We would find ourselves back in paradise, no longer on the outside looking in

*There is some dispute as to whether it was a stove or a room heated by a stove; however, the word Descartes used in relating the incident was poêle, or stove, in the original French: “Je demeurais tout le jour enfermé seul dans un poêle, où j’avais tout le loisir m’entretenir de mes pensées.” (“I sat all day shut up alone in a stove, where I had ample opportunity to nurture my thoughts.”) Regardless, it makes for a good story. 
Rene Descartes, Discourse on Method, 
Emmanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, 
David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature,  
Genesis 3.

Criminalizing Malaysia’s Opposition


May 13, 2015

Phnom Penh by The Mekong

The Opinion Pages | Op-Ed Contributor

Criminalizing Malaysia’s Opposition

by Nurul izzah Anwar, Member of Parliament

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/13/opinion/criminalizing-malaysias-opposition.html?ref=world&_r=1

World leaders need to tell Mr. Najib and his cronies that trade and economic considerations, including the much talked about Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, will not be placed above civil and political rights. It’s time for Malaysia’s friends around the world to stop giving our leaders a pass on sharply declining human rights and the rule of law.–Nurul izzah Anwar

Nurul IzzahKUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Last Thursday, my mother was elected the new member of Malaysia’s Parliament from Permatang Pauh, a seat that was wrested away from the opposition through the politically motivated conviction of my father, Anwar Ibrahim, a former Deputy Prime Minister and the country’s Opposition Leader. In February, the highest court in Malaysia sent him to prison for five years on trumped up charges of sodomy. He is serving his third prison sentence since 1999.

In March, I delivered a speech in Parliament focused on good governance and judicial reform on behalf of my father. The reading was deemed seditious by the government, and I was arrested and locked up overnight.

The Sedition Act, which criminalizes speech uttered “to excite disaffection” against the government, is one of this administration’s favorite cudgels. Its definition is so broad that it gives the government sweeping powers to arrest and lock up critics under the guise of punishing “sedition” or in the ostensible pursuit of maintaining public order.

In the last two years, it has been used successfully to harass or prosecute scores of people, mostly government officials, including several members of Parliament. The cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, better known as Zunar, was hit with nine charges under the Sedition Act — mostly based on tweets allegedly attacking the Judiciary over the verdict against my father. His artwork and cartoons were confiscated, and he is now out on bail.

In addition to harassing me and persecuting my father, the state has applied constant pressure on my mother, a state assemblywoman, in hopes that she will wilt both physically and psychologically. The Police have also hinted of their plans to interrogate my younger sister, Nurul Nuha, who is leading March 2 Freedom, a coalition to free my father.

We are running out of family members for officials to arrest on bogus charges. What’s most alarming is that the government’s actions are part of a much larger pattern of threats to the rule of law and human rights. In recent months, every week or so brings news of the politically motivated detention of a government critic. I am out on bail now, but my arrest is intended to silence me and to warn other would-be government critics.

The United Malays National Organization, known as UMNO, and its allies have been in power since independence in 1957. The tempo of state repression quickened two years ago after the 2013 parliamentary elections when the opposition won 51 percent of votes cast, versus 47 percent for the government.

Through gerrymandering and the creation of uneven electoral districts, the ruling coalition clung to power by holding on to 60 percent of the seats. The Electoral Integrity Project, an international organization, recently rated Malaysia as having the worst electoral-district boundaries in the world and among the worst election rules. This places Malaysia alongside countries like Zimbabwe, Angola and Egypt.

The opposition’s showing at the polls two years ago was a political near-death experience for Prime Minister Najib Razak and the ruling party. It was answered with investigations, arrests and imprisonment.

Meanwhile, UMNO, whose main constituency has historically been the ethnic Malay Muslim majority, with help from its pliant coalition partners, has cynically raised the mercury on issues related to race, religion and the Malaysian royal family, so as to keep the mult-ethnic opposition coalition on the defensive.

Religious freedom in a country with sizable Christian, Buddhist and Hindu minorities is now endangered as public figures vying for popular support among Muslims have supported the persecution of religious minorities. Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the population, have been a prime target.

Last month, for example, in one high-profile incident, demonstrators in Petaling Jaya demanded that Christians remove a cross from the exterior of their church — and the cross was removed. And in 2013, Ibrahim Ali, a leader of Perkasa, a Malay supremacist organization, allegedly publicly endorsed the burning of Bibles.

Instead of focusing on dissenters, government officials should be doing their jobs. For one thing, Malaysia’s economy needs revamping. A sizable portion of the working population in a young country of 30 million citizens still remains eligible for welfare cash handouts. We are too reliant on natural resources. The gap between the rich and poor has been growing and is now among the widest in the region. Our education system remains weak and incoherently structured, creating an unemployable class with poor career prospects.

The Pakatan Rakyat opposition coalition that my party is a part of aims to focus on structural reforms in key economic policies with the goal of creating a clean and more effective government. Reducing inequality and the cost of living, providing affordable housing, good governance and a serious fight against corruption are our priorities.

Malaysia’s answer to extremism has been economic opportunity. Now that this deal is faltering, and now that the borders are porous — more than 1,000 refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh landed on our shores on Monday — there is a risk that extremism could find a home here.

It’s encouraging that Mahathir Mohamad, the country’s former long-time Prime Minister, has recently become Prime Minister Najib’s fiercest critic, attacking him as corrupt and incompetent.

But we need louder voices to condemn what’s happening here. World leaders need to tell Mr. Najib and his cronies that trade and economic considerations, including the much talked about Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, will not be placed above civil and political rights. It’s time for Malaysia’s friends around the world to stop giving our leaders a pass on sharply declining human rights and the rule of law.

The Islam Reformers vs. the Muslim Zealots


March 30, 2015

The Islam Reformers vs. the Muslim Zealots

by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

A Hirsi AliAyaan Hirsi Ali is a Fellow of the Future of Diplomacy Project at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, a visiting fellow of the American Enterprise Institute and founder of the AHA Foundation. She is the author of the newly published book “Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now.”

The ferment we see in the Muslim world today is not solely due to despotic political systems, and it is not solely due to failing economies and the poverty they breed. Rather, it is also due largely to Islam itself and the incompatibility of certain of that faith’s key tenets with modernity. That is why the most important conflict in the world today is between those who are hell-bent on preserving, and even increasing, these incompatibilities, and those who are bravely prepared to challenge them — not to overthrow Islam but to reform it.

Forget the crude distinction between “extreme” and “moderate” Muslims. Rather, we should distinguish among three groups of Muslims.

The first group is the most problematic. Those in this category envision a regime based on sharia, or Islamic religious law. They aim not just to obey the Prophet Muhammad’s teaching but also to emulate his warlike conduct after his move to Medina. Even if they do not themselves engage in violence, the people in this group do not hesitate to condone it.

The second group — which composes the clear majority throughout the Muslim world — is loyal to the core creed of Islam and worship devoutly but is not inclined to practice or preach violence. Like devout Christians or Jews who attend religious services every week and abide by religious rules in what they eat and wear, these “Mecca Muslims” focus on religious observance. Sometimes some members of this group are mistakenly termed “moderate.”

In the third group is the growing number of people who were born into Islam but who have sought to think critically about the faith in which we were raised. These are the Muslim dissidents. A few of us have been forced by experience to conclude that we could not continue as believers yet remain deeply engaged in the debate about Islam’s future. But the majority of dissidents are reformist believers who have come to realize that their religion must change if its followers are not to be condemned to an interminable cycle of violence.

The first group — the Islamist zealots — poses a threat to everyone. In the West, the existence of this group promises not only an increasing risk of terrorism but also a subtle erosion of the hard-won achievements of feminists and campaigners for minority rights: gender equality, religious tolerance and gay rights. And anyone who denies that this threat is growing — not only in Europe but in North America, too — just hasn’t looked at the data on immigration and on Muslim immigrants’ attitudes.

But the zealots’ vision of a violent return to the days of the prophet poses an even bigger threat to their fellow Muslims. They are undermining the position of the majority who simply want to lead a quiet life. Worse, they pose a constant lethal threat to the dissidents and reformers. We are the ones who face ostracism and rejection, who must brave all manner of insults, who must deal with the death threats — or face death itself.

Western policymakers today are so fearful of being accused of Islamophobia that they generally won’t touch Muslim reformers with a 10-foot pole. They would much rather make nice with the self-proclaimed representatives of “moderate Islam,” who on close inspection often turn out but to be anything but moderate. For this reason, our leaders are missing the boat on the Muslim Reformation.

“It is not your job,” Western governments are told, “to help bring about religious change.” So Western leaders stick to their decade-old script: “Islam is a religion of peace.”

But during the Cold War, no American president said: “Communism is an ideology of peace.” None said: “The Soviet Union is not truly communist.” Rather, the West celebrated and supported dissidents such as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Andrei Sakharov and Václav Havel, who had the courage to challenge the Soviet system from within.

Today, there are many dissidents who challenge Islam. Yet the West either ignores them or dismisses them as “not representative.” This is a grave mistake. Reformers such as Asra Nomani, Irshad Manji, Tawfiq Hamid, Maajid Nawaz, Zuhdi Jasser, Saleem Ahmed, Yunis Qandil, Seyran Ates, Bassam Tibi and Abd al-Hamid al-Ansari must be supported and protected. These reformers should be as well known in the West as Solzhenitsyn, Sakharov and Havel were generations earlier.

The reformers’ task will not be easy. Nor was that of the Soviet dissidents. Nor, for that matter, was that of the Protestant reformers. But the Muslim Reformation is the world’s best shot at a solution to the problem President Obama calls “violent extremism.” The time for euphemism is over. The time for reform of Islam is, at long last, now.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-islam-reformers-vs-the-muslim-zealots/2015/03/27/acf6de6c-d3ed-11e4-ab77-9646eea6a4c7_story.

A Response to Western Interventionism

Why Islamic Reform is Delayed

by Ismael Hossein-ZADEH

Recent geopolitical turmoil in the Arab/Muslim World, and the resulting proliferation of radical movements and groupings such as Al-Qaeda and ISIL, seems to have provide plenty of incendiary fodder for the propaganda mill of the proponents of the theory of “the clash of civilizations,” according to which the roots of conflicts in the Muslim world must be sought in Islam itself, in its alleged “incompatibility” with modernization and Western values [1].

Instead of calling the Charlie Hebdo or the 9/11 terrorist attacks mass murder criminal acts, proponents of this pernicious theory do not seem to be able to resist the politically expedient temptation of calling them acts of “war on our way of life” [2].

Although questionable, this explanation of terrorism and the concomitant justification of war and militarism harbor an element of dangerously misleading plausibility: once the public is convinced that the “hostile and irredeemable Islam or Islamists are out in force to drown our civilization,” pre-emptive war would be hailed as the logical response. The danger is further compounded because this explanation of terrorism possesses the power of self-fulfilling prophecy, the power to make what is theorized appear real.

Not only do such explanations tend to sow the seeds of hatred and ignorance, and are bound to poison international relations, but they also fail the test of history. The history of the relationship between the modern Western world and the Muslim world shows that, contrary to distorted popular perceptions in the West, from the time of their initial contacts with the capitalist West more than two centuries ago until almost the final third of the twentieth century, the Muslim people were quite receptive of the economic and political models of the modern world.

During that period of more than a century and a half, the majority of the political elite and/or national leaders viewed the rise of the modern West, and its spread into their territories, as an inevitable historical development that challenged them to chart their own programs of reform and development. Not only did the political elite, the intellectuals, and government leaders view reform and modernization as the way of the future, but so did many Islamic leaders and scholars, known as “Islamic modernizers” [3].

It was only after more than a century and a half of imperialistic pursuits and a series of humiliating policies in the region that the popular masses of the Muslim world turned to religion and the conservative religious leaders as sources of defiance, mobilization, and self-respect. This historical background indicates that for many Muslims the recent turn to religion often represents not so much a rejection of Western values and achievements as it is a way to resist or defy the oppressive policies and alliances of Western powers in the Muslim world. It also means that explanations of derailed and delayed historical transitions in the Muslim world, that is, of an Islamic reformation, rest more with the policies of the Western powers in the region than the alleged rigidity of Islam, or “the clash of civilizations.”

Early Responses to the Challenges of the Modern World

Not only did the early modernizers of the Muslim world embrace Western technology, but they also welcomed its civil and state institutions, its representational system of government, and its tradition of legal and constitutional rights. For example, the Iranian intellectuals Mulkum Khan (1833-1908) and Agha Khan Kermani (1853-96) urged Iranians to acquire a Western education and replace the Shariah (the religious legal code) with a modern secular legal code. Secular political leaders of this persuasion joined forces with the more liberal religious leaders in the Constitution Revolution of 1906, and forced the Qajar dynasty to set up a modern constitution, to limit the powers of the monarchy and give Iranians parliamentary representation [4].

Even some of the Ottoman sultans (kings) pursued Western models of industrialization and modernization on their own. For example, Sultan Mahmud II “inaugurated the Tanzimat (Regulation) in 1826, which abolished the Janissaries [the fanatical elite corps of troops organized in the 14th century], modernized the army and introduced some of the new technology.” In 1839 Sultan Abdulhamid “issued the Gulhane decree, which made his rule dependent upon a contractual relationship with his subjects, and looked forward to major reforms of the empire’s institutions” [5].

More dramatic, however, were the modernizing and/or secularizing programs of Egypt’s renowned modernizers Muhammad Ali (1769-1849) and his grandson Ismail Pasha (1803-95). They were so taken by the impressive achievements of the West that they embarked on breakneck modernizing programs that were tantamount to trying to hothouse the Western world’s achievements of centuries into decades: “To secularize the country, Muhammad Ali simply confiscated much religiously endowed property and systematically marginalized the Ulema [religious leaders], divesting them of any shred of power” [6].

In the face of dire conditions of underdevelopment and humiliating but unstoppable foreign domination, these modernizing national leaders viewed reformation not only as the way out of underdevelopment but also out of the yoke of foreign domination.

Not only the secular intellectuals, the political elite, and government leaders but also many Islamic leaders and scholars, known as “Islamic modernizers,” viewed modernization as the way of the future. But whereas the reform programs and policies of the political/national leaders often included secularization, at least implicitly, Islamic modernizers were eclectic: while seeking to adopt the sources of the strength of the West, including constitutionalism and government by representation, they wanted to preserve their cultural and national identities as well as Islamic principles and values as the moral foundation of the society. These Islamic modernizers included Jamal al-Din al-Afghani (1838-97), Muhammad Abduh (1849-1905), Qasim Amin (1863-1908), and Shaikh Muhammad Hussain Naini in Egypt and Iran; and Sayyid Ahmad Khan (1817-98) and Muhammad Iqbal (1875-1938) in India.

To be sure, there was resistance to change. But, by and large, nationalist reformers in many Muslim countries did manage to pursue vigorous agendas of social, economic, and political change. John Esposito, one of the leading experts of Islamic studies in the United States, describes the early attitude of the political and economic policy makers of the Muslim world toward the modern world of the West:

Both the indigenous elites, who guided government development programs in newly emerging Muslim states, and their foreign patrons and advisers were Western-oriented and Western-educated. All proceeded from a premise that equated modernization with Westernization. The clear goal and presupposition of development was that every day and in every way things should become more modern (i.e., Western and secular), from cities, buildings, bureaucracies, companies, and schools to politics and culture. While some warned of the need to be selective, the desired direction and pace of change were unmistakable [7].

Distorted, Derailed and Delayed Reformation

Resistance to change is not limited to Muslims or the Muslim world; change almost always generates resistance. In fact, the Christian Church’s nearly 400-year resistance to capitalist transformation in Europe was even more traumatic than that of the Muslim world. The resulting travail of transition created more social turbulence than has been observed in the context of the Muslim world. Whereas the Church of the Middle Ages anathemized the very idea of gain, the pursuit of gain and the accumulation of property are considered noble pursuits in Islam.

Opponents of transition to capitalism in Europe not only tried (and almost hanged) Robert Keane for having made a six-percent profit on his investment and “prohibited merchants from carrying unsightly bundles” of their merchandise, but also “fought for the privilege of carrying on in its fathers’ footsteps” [8]. As Karen Armstrong, author of a number of scholarly books on religious fundamentalism, points out, during the nearly 400 years of transition, the Western people often “experienced . . . bloody revolutions, reigns of terror, genocide, violent wars of religion, the despoliation of the countryside, vast social upheavals, exploitation in the factories, spiritual malaise and profound anomie in the new megacities” [9].

Muslim societies, like less-developed societies elsewhere, are expected, or compelled by the imperatives of the world market, to traverse the nearly four hundred-year journey of the West in a much shorter period of time. Furthermore, the travails of transition in the case of these belatedly developing countries (vis-à-vis the case of early developers of the West) are often complicated by foreign interventions and imperial/colonial pressures from outside.   External pressure has included not only direct colonial and/or imperial military force, but also covert and creeping pressure exerted from the more subtle market forces and agents such as the International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organization and credit rating agencies like Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s.

Despite its turbulence, the painful process of transition to capitalism in the West was largely an internal process; no foreign force or interference could be blamed for the travails of transition. And the pains of transitions were thus gradually and grudgingly accepted as historical inevitabilities. Not so in the case of belatedly developing countries. Here, the pains of change and transition are sometimes perceived not as historical necessities but as products of foreign designs or imperialist schemes. Accordingly, the agony of change is often blamed (especially by the conservative proponents of the status quo) on external forces or powers: colonialism, imperialism, and (now) neo-liberalism.

Actual foreign intervention, realizing and reinforcing such perceptions, has thus had a retarding or delaying impact on the process of reform in the Muslim world. For intervention from outside often plays into the hands of the conservative, obscurantist elements that are quite adept at portraying their innate opposition to change as a struggle against foreign intrusion, thereby reinforcing resistance to reform, especially religious reform. Today, for example, U.S. and European interventions in the internal affairs of many countries such as Egypt, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Jordan, Turkey, and Nigeria far from facilitating the process of reform or helping the forces of change in these countries, are actually hurting such forces and delaying reform as they plays into the hands of their conservative opponents and strengthens the forces of resistance.

Contrary to the rising political influence of “radical Islamists” in recent years/decades, radical Islamic circles of the earlier periods did not sway much power over the direction of national economies and policies. Their opposition to Western values and influences was often in the form of passive “rejection or elusion” [10]. They simply refused to cooperate or deal with the colonial powers and their institutions (such as modern Western school systems) spreading in their midst: “They did not attempt to assume direct political control but used their position to preserve tradition as best as they could under the rapidly changing conditions of the time.” And while they “remained an important factor in influencing public opinion . . . , they basically used their position to encourage obedience to those in power” [11].

To the extent that conservative Islamic figures or groups actively opposed policies of change, such obscurantist challenges were almost always defeated, coerced, or co-opted by the modernizing, reforming, or revolutionary secular nationalist leaders. Thus, in all the major social movements of the first two-thirds of the twentieth century (that is, in the anti-colonial/anti-imperial national liberation movements as well as in the subsequent radical reform movements of a “non-capitalist” or “socialist-oriented” character of the 1950s and 1960s) national leadership and economic development programs lay with secular nationalists.

Those programs were fashioned either after the U.S. model of economic development, as in the case of the Shah of Iran and the King of Jordan, or after the Soviet model of “non-capitalist development,” as in the cases of Nasser’s Egypt, for example. While it is now relatively easier to see, in hindsight, the shortcomings and the failures of those development programs, such programs did at the time hold promises of lifting the respective societies out of dependence, poverty, and underdevelopment.

As long as the hopes and aspirations that were thus enlivened remained animated, the appeals of vague promises of an “Islamic alternative” were not strong enough to challenge the rule of the secular nationalist leaders and their development programs—and that meant, as mentioned earlier, the first two-thirds of the twentieth century.

By the late 1960s and early 1970s, however, it became clear that the largely US-sponsored industrialization and development programs in the Muslim (and other less-developed) countries were highly selective, extremely uneven and mostly geared to the interests of transnational corporations and their elite comprador allies in the host countries. All the propitious factors and circumstances that had until then nurtured the dreams of economic progress, democratic rights, and political sovereignty seemed unreal and disappointing. And as those hopes and dreams turned sour, the promises of an “Islamic alternative” began to sound appealing—hence, the resurgence of “political Islam” since the 1970s.

In brief, historical evidence refutes the claim that Islam and/or the Muslim world are inherently incompatible with modernization, and that, therefore, the rise of an Islamic militancy in the last several decades, and the violent reactions such as the Charlie Hebdo and 9/11 terrorist attacks, are essentially manifestations of “the clash of civilizations.” Close scrutiny of the Muslim world’s early responses to the challenges of the modern West reveals that, despite sporadic resistance, the overall policy was moving in the direction of reform and adaptation. That policy of adaptation and openness continued from the time of the Muslim world’s initial contacts with the modern world in the late eighteenth and the early nineteenth centuries until approximately the last third of the twentieth century. The recent resistance to Western values and the quest for a return to the Islamic ethos—and the concomitant delay in the Islamic reformation—are therefore more the products of interventionist geopolitical policies of Western powers than the purported rigidity of Islam.

Ismael Hossein-zadeh is Professor Emeritus of Economics (Drake University). He is the author of Beyond Mainstream Explanations of the Financial Crisis (Routledge 2014), The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism (Palgrave–Macmillan 2007), and the Soviet Non-capitalist Development: The Case of Nasser’s Egypt (Praeger Publishers 1989). He is also a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion

References

[1] Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York: Touchstone Books, 1997); Bernard, Lewis, What Went Wrong: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).

[2] This essay draws heavily on Chapter 5 of my book, The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism (Palgrave-Macmillan 2007).

[3] John O. Voll, Islam: Continuity and Change in the Modern World, Second ed. (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1994).

[4] Karen Armstrong, Islam: A Short History (New York: The Modern Library, 2000).

[5] Ibid., p. 150.

[6] Ibid., pp. 150-51.

[7] John Esposito, The Islamic Threat (NY: Oxford University Press, 1992), p. 9.

[8] Robert Heilbroner, The Worldly Philosophers (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1972), p. 35.

[9] Armstrong, Islam: A Short History (cited above) p. 145.

[10] Wu Guying, “Middle East: The Roots of Conflict,” Asia Times (22 November 2002): <http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/DK22Ak05.html&gt;.

[11] John O. Voll, Islam: Continuity and Change in the Modern World (cited above), p. 94.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/02/09/why-islamic-reform-is-delayed/

Malaysia after Hudud: A Nation Divided


March 29, 2015

Malaysia after Hudud: A Nation Divided

By Zurairi AR and Boo Su-Lyn

No Hudud in MalaysiaTHIS?

Hudud has for the past two decades largely been treated as a mere fringe topic among Malaysians, a political hot potato tossed back and forth between local parties as they canvassed for Muslim votes during elections.

But last week, when the Kelantan legislative assembly passed amendments to its Shariah Criminal Code II enactment — dubbed the hudud Bill — the controversial Islamic penal code quickly became a legitimate public concern.

Now, if PAS, the Islamist party that governs Kelantan, next succeeds at the federal level in getting more legislative amendments approved, hudud, an Islamic punishment system under Shariah law, will be implemented for the first time in a Malaysian state.

Although the law would only be confined to Kelantan, it must be noted that PAS’s manoeuvre in Kelantan has already roused the ambitions of other Islamist groups and scholars who wish to see hudud sweep the country. All eyes are also on Terengganu, which had also passed a similar but still ungazetted enactment with hudud elements in 2002.

The ball is now in Parliament’s court, but analysts and observers are already warning that should hudud get implemented in other states, the Malaysia we know today will head towards an irreparable divide.

A legal system divided

Malaysia has always practised a dual-track legal system, although for the Muslims, legal disputes on family matters like marriage, divorce and inheritance, and the precepts of Islam, are dealt with under the Shariah law.

The implementation of hudud, however, will see the Shariah courts encroaching on offences already covered in the civil justice system, specifically the Penal Code. These include crimes like sariqah (theft) and hirabah (robbery). Hudud’s companion qisas, meanwhile will legislate the offence of murder, which is also already covered by civil law.

According to amendments in Kelantan’s hudud Bill, however, once enforced, hudud will only apply to Muslims. For example, a Muslim guilty of theft in Kelantan can be punished by amputation of his limbs, under Section 7 of the state’s hudud law.

But in the Penal Code, the same crime committed by a non-Muslim prescribes a maximum seven-year jail term or fine or both, according to Section 379 of the legislation.

The prospect of subjecting criminals to two different punishments for the same crime by virtue of their religious backgrounds, however, could prove complicated in a diverse nation like Malaysia, analysts said.

Hudud2OR THIS?

“How do you enforce this in a plural society? Of course it would lead to injustice between Muslims and non-Muslims, especially if the crime involves perpetrators of different religions,” political analyst Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Hassan said in a recent phone interview.

“I think this contradicts the principles of Islam, where there exists variations and injustice in the punishment for the same crime.” At the crux of the argument is the Federal Constitution, the supreme law of the country that is the bedrock of Malaysia’s foundation.

If hudud is to be implemented, it would mean that the Federal Constitution will have to be amended to legislate against crimes already under the Penal Code, said Nizam Bashir, who is both a constitutional and Shariah lawyer.

“What seems to be missing from the conversation at this point of time is what the framers of the Constitution has envisaged as the appropriate balance of powers in a federal system of government like Malaysia. Simply put, we were always meant to have a strong central government,” Nizam told Malay Mail Online.

“Having said that, this does not mean that states have no power or the monarchs’ role are trivialised in some way in the Constitution. It is far from that.

“But it is very clear that the central government was always meant to take centre stage on matters like crime, and one can see why as it would promote public order,” the lawyer added.

The same sentiment was expressed by Malaysian Bar President Steven Thiru, who in a statement on March 20, said implementing hudud laws would fundamentally alter Malaysia’s secular Federal Constitution in ways never intended.

“If hudud were brought into the criminal justice system, it would result in the importation of Islamic penal law into a secular system. This would result in a rewriting of the Federal Constitution,” Steven warned.

Lawyers have also claimed that the implementation of hudud in Kelantan will lead to more constitutional challenges being filed in court against the Islamic penal code.Constitutional lawyer New Sin Yew pointed out that the civil courts were forced to intervene in previous cases of Shariah courts overstepping their jurisdiction, such as M. Indira Gandhi’s child custody dispute with her ex-husband who is a Muslim convert.

“Certain aspects of the state enactment like sariqah or hirabah will be challenged in the civil courts because only the civil courts have the power to decide on constitutional issues,” New told Malay Mail Online, referring to the hudud Bill.

“And certain punishments like the death penalty and amputation will be challenged for violating federal law,” he added, noting that the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 limits the punishments Islamic courts can impose to three years’ jail, RM5,000 fines or six strokes of whipping.

These challenges are bound to widen the chasm between the two legal systems, especially with minister in charge of religious affairs Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom alleging last year of a “new wave” of assault on Islam here, and accusing rights groups of colluding with enemies of Islam to put its religious institutions on trial in a secular court.

A society divided

The discrimination in punishment among Muslims and non-Muslims will also lead to bigger problems in society as Malaysians would be treated differently in the eyes of the law, Nik Abdul Aziz suggested.

Already, clear divisions have appeared between those in support of Kelantan’s hudud and those who do not, as demonstrated in the recent case of BFM presenter Aisyah Tajuddin.

The young Muslim journalist earned heavy criticism over a satirical video produced by the popular business radio station where she was seen criticising the PAS government’s bid to introduce the law in Kelantan.

“This phenomenon will bring about clashes, discontent, and other problems … When the public is not being managed fairly, it will bring towards a discriminatory pattern,” warned the analyst, who is also a retired former head of Dakwah Studies Department in Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

“Islam emphasises fairness. Under the roof of fairness, only then can you guarantee economic and social stability.”

RATNA_OSMANRatna Osman and Zainah Anwar

Meanwhile, the dismissal of women’s role in hudud also has women rights group Sister in Islam (SIS) worried over the treatment of women in the future, especially Muslim women. SIS’s Executive Director Ratna Osman pointed to Section 41 of Kelantan’s hudud Bill, which specifies that only an adolescent and fair male Muslim can stand as a witness in the cases of zina (illicit sex) and liwat (sodomy).

“This disqualified non-Muslims overall and Muslim women, and this contradicts with equality that is promised under Article 8 of the Constitution, that guarantees equality for all regardless of race and gender,” Ratna told Malay Mail Online.

“The fact that women are disqualified as witnesses in the code, is against the practise of Islamic laws on evidence,” she added, citing several hadith—collections of Prophet Muhammad’s sayings and deeds—where women’s testimonies were accepted in criminal cases.

She also took issue with the provisions in Kelantan’s bill governing qazaf (false accusation of zina), which puts the burden of proof on women in cases of rape, and the li’an provision, which allows a husband to accuse his wife of adultery under a sacred oath.

“You will find because of this gender inequality, a lot of cases, in Iran particularly, where husbands are always using li’an as a means to put their wives in jail. It is an easy way out of marriage,” Ratna claimed.

She also pointed to how in other countries like Pakistan, it is always the women who are convicted of zina while their male partners escape prosecution.Apart from that, Ratna also noted the difficulty in criticising the implementation of hudud after Kelantan passed its hudud Bill.

The space of discourse, even among Muslims, is rapidly shrinking with the authorities now warning laymen against discussing hudud and religion in general, as the voice of discontent continues to grow unfettered online.

Against their critics, PAS has so far resorted to labels from “immorals” and “liars”, which Kelantan Mentri Besar Datuk Ahmad Yaakob uttered when tabling the bill, to “parrots” and “unforgivable ignorants” in PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang’s open letter a week after.

A country divided

In its video, BFM and Aisyah had asked how exactly hudud would fill the rice bowls of Kelantan folks, especially as the state remains one of the poorest in the country. The question has still remained unanswered, but critics told Malay Mail Online that the trickle down effect of hudud’s implementation in plural Malaysia will inevitably impact even bread and butter issues.

“Why must we rush in hudud, when the priority should be on social justice, eradicating poverty, access to health services, urban cleanliness? There are a lot of things in Islam we can implement,” Nik Abdul Aziz suggested.

“This hudud punishments will lead to bigger implications. If there is a huge case of theft, wouldn’t you have one race with fewer hands than the others? That is why we have to think this out thoroughly.”

There is already global fear that Malaysia risks losing its identity as a model of religious moderation and multiracialism if hudud goes ahead, as expressed by an influential group of retired Malay senior civil servants dubbed G25 on March 25.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak invariably touts Malaysia’s reputation to the international community and investors as a so-called moderate Muslim country, especially in his address to the United Nations as recent as September last year. But this image has continued to take a beating with recent actions taken by religious authorities, especially in the case of the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims.

Having hudud nationwide might be the nail on the coffin for his campaign, according to some. “If hudud were ever to see the light of day in Malaysia we can be sure that there will be a massive outflow of investment, wealth and people from Malaysia,” tycoon and philanthropist Koon Yew Yin wrote in his blog on March 22.

“It is not only the locals who will leave. The international community—including foreign investors—has been more loud and vociferous in expressing concern about the growing Islamisation in the country.”

“Adoption by Parliament — even if a two-thirds majority is not obtained — will be the beginning of the end for moderate and inclusive Islam in the country. Is the Middle East model of fundamentalist Islam which has brought destruction and disaster the model that Malaysian Muslims want to follow? I do not think so,” he added.

On March 19, the Kelantan state assembly approved the Shariah Criminal Code (II) (1993) 2015 Enactment with 31 votes from PAS lawmakers supported by 12 from UMNO.

PAS now plans to put forward two private members’ bills in Parliament to enable Kelantan to enforce hudud ― one will seek approval for the state to legislate punishment for crimes under the Penal Code.

The other seeks to amend the Shariah Courts (Criminal) Jurisdiction Act 1965 to enable Islamic courts to mete out punishments like the death penalty for apostasy and amputation of limbs for theft. PAS has said it only needs a simple majority in Parliament, or 112 MPs in the Dewan Rakyat, to amend the Shariah Courts (Criminal) Jurisdiction Act.

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/snapshot-of-malaysia-after-hudud-a-nation-divided#sthash.dOTRpc39.UE8fsUth.dpuf