The Tariq Ramadan Scandal and the #Balancetonporc Movement in France

The Tariq Ramadan Scandal and the #Balancetonporc Movement in France

by Adam Shatz

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Professor Tariq Ramadan, 55, was said to have attacked Henda Ayari (pic above) after inviting her to his hotel room following a conference on Islam in Paris in 2012. The 40-year-old author, who spoke about the allegations on social media, claimed she had decided to “name and shame” Prof Ramadan as a “pervert guru” following the Harvey Weinstein scandal.–The Telegraph

Soon after the #MeToo movement formed in the United States, in response to the Harvey Weinstein scandal, #balancetonporc (“expose your pig”) erupted in France. The effect has been an unprecedented blow to what Sabrina Kassa has described, in Mediapart, as the “patriarchal belly” of a country where harassment and other sexual crimes have often been concealed, or explained away, by a Gallic rhetoric of flirtation and libertinism.


In 2008, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who was the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, was subjected to an internal I.M.F. inquiry over allegedly coercing a subordinate to have sex with him. Although he apologized for his “error of judgment,” he was celebrated in the French press as “the Great Seducer.” Had he not been arrested in New York, in 2011, on charges (which were eventually dropped) of assaulting Nafissatou Diallo, a maid, in the presidential suite of the Sofitel Hotel, Strauss-Kahn, a powerful figure in the Socialist Party, might have been elected President of France in 2012.

The #balancetonporc movement has exposed prominent men in business, entertainment, and media, but the most high-profile scandal has been that surrounding Tariq Ramadan, an Islamic scholar and activist whom several women have accused of rape and sexual abuse. (Ramadan has denied all allegations.)

Ramadan has been a controversial figure in France for more than two decades—a kind of projection screen, or Rorschach test, for national anxieties about the “Muslim question.” Like Strauss-Kahn, he has often been depicted as a seducer, but the description has not been meant as a compliment: he has long been accused of casting a dangerous spell on younger members of France’s Muslim population, thereby undermining their acceptance of French norms, particularly those pertaining to secularism, gender, and sexuality.

Born in 1962, in Switzerland, Ramadan is the son of Said Ramadan, an exiled Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leader who was the son-in-law of Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. Tariq Ramadan, who is not a member of the Brotherhood, is nonetheless a religious conservative—a “Salafi reformist,” in his words—who has long preached the virtues of female “modesty” in dress and sexual comportment. (His brother Hani Ramadan, the head of the Islamic Center in Geneva, is notorious for his support for stoning female adulterers, his hatred of homosexuals, and his belief that the attacks of 9/11 were a Western conspiracy.)

In the nineteen-nineties, Tariq Ramadan attracted a following among French Muslims, both in the banlieues and in the professional middle classes. His message was simple, revolutionary, and electrifying: Islam was already a part of France, and so Muslim citizens were under no obligation to choose between their identities. They could practice their faith freely, even strictly, and still be French, so long as they respected the country’s laws. French Muslims, he argued, should overcome their “victim mentality” and embrace both their faith and their Frenchness. By the same token, France should recognize that Islam is a French faith; Muslim citizens are scarcely in need of “assimilation” into a country to which they already belong, a paternalist notion with roots in France’s colonial history. He did not object to laïcité, the French code of secularism, but he argued that it was applied in discriminatory ways against Muslims, particularly when it came to the wearing of the foulard (head scarf), which was ultimately banned in public schools, in 2004.

Ramadan, with his elegantly trimmed beard, sports jackets, and open shirts, cut a charismatic, rather silken figure. (He is arguably the inspiration behind Mohamed Ben Abbes, the Muslim who becomes France’s President in Michel Houellebecq’s novel “Submission.”) A kind of Muslim Bernard-Henri Lévy, he appeared to be as fluent in the jargon of Parisian intellectualism as he was in that of the Quran. Although not of the left, Ramadan earned the respect of some of its most prestigious figures, including Edwy Plenel, the former editor-in-chief of Le Monde and the founder and publisher of Mediapart; Alain Gresh, the former editor of Le Monde Diplomatique; and the sociologist Edgar Morin. When Ramadan spoke, politicians and journalists, Muslim celebrities and shopkeepers, imams and anti-globalization activists listened. By the early two-thousands, he was juggling so many audiences that, as the Islam expert Bernard Godard, a former official in the Interior Ministry, said, he seemed to be at once “everywhere . . . and nowhere.”

Then, in 2003, at the height of his influence, Ramadan’s campaign to ingratiate himself with the French intelligentsia began to crumble. First, he provoked an uproar with an article accusing a group of prominent “Jewish” intellectuals—one of whom was not, in fact, a Jew—of abandoning universalist principles in their defense of Jewish and Israeli interests. The outrage was even louder when, during a televised debate with Nicolas Sarkozy, who was the Interior Minister at the time, he declared his support for a “moratorium,” but not a ban, on stoning women in cases of adultery. Ramadan made it clear that he was personally opposed to the practice, but, as a Muslim theologian, he explained, “You can’t decide on your own to be progressive without the communities; it’s too easy.”

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“Frère Tariq,” a book published in 2004  by  Caroline Fourest

In “Frère Tariq,” a book published in 2004, the journalist Caroline Fourest luridly portrayed Ramadan as an unreconstructed member of the Muslim Brotherhood who “plays on the weaknesses of democracy to advance a totalitarian political project.” Never mind that Ramadan had made no secret of his beliefs, even on the controversial matter of stoning; he was a practitioner of what Fourest called a “double discourse.” If he advocated respect for French law along with observance of Islam, this was further evidence of his malign intentions.

Since then, the French élite has come to regard Ramadan as a danger, inciting the restless, alienated Muslims of the banlieues to Islamization, or even jihadism. Ramadan has found it difficult to organize public meetings with his supporters in France; his attempt last year to apply for citizenship (his wife has French citizenship) was unsuccessful. In 2009, he took up a chair at Oxford—financed by the emirate of Qatar, through one of its foundations—and now spends much of his time in Doha, where he runs a government-subsidized center on Islamic law and ethics. These days, his interlocutors are more likely to be orthodox clerics in the Muslim world than European intellectuals.

Most French Muslims have either grown tired of his heavy-handed cult of personality or simply outgrown him. As for the jihadists of the Islamic State, with whom conspiracy theorists on the French right believe him to be in cahoots, they have condemned him as an apostate because of his belief in democracy.

Ramadan looked on his way to becoming a has-been—albeit one with two million fans on Facebook—when, on October 20th, a forty-year-old Muslim woman named Henda Ayari publicly accused him, among other things, of raping her in a Paris hotel room in 2012. Ayari, who has since received death threats, is a former Salafist who broke with Islam and became a devout feminist and secularist à la française. She is something of a heroine in the extreme-right circles of the fachosphère, where Islamophobia is a ticket of admission. (“Either you are veiled, or you are raped,” she has said of women’s condition in Islam.) Ayari’s political affiliations raised some eyebrows, but a week later, a woman identified as “Christelle,” a French convert to Islam, claimed that Ramadan raped her in a hotel room in 2009. Seven days later, new accusations surfaced, this time from three of Ramadan’s former students, who were between the ages of fifteen and eighteen when they were allegedly raped. According to numerous sources, the accounts are multiplying.

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Dr.Tariq Ramadan (center), Dr. Noam Chomsky and Author Karen Armstrong

And yet the Ramadan affair has never been simply about whether Ramadan committed the crimes for which he is charged, or even about the suffering he allegedly inflicted on his accusers. Ramadan, who has taken a leave of absence from Oxford, claims that he is the victim of a campaign of defamation. His closest supporters have raised cries of a Zionist conspiracy, a theory echoed by his fundamentalist brother Hani.

Ramadan’s adversaries in the French establishment have been quick to seize upon the accusations as an opportunity to discredit their own critics. On November 5th, Manuel Valls, who served as Interior Minister, and then Prime Minister, under President François Hollande, denounced Ramadan’s intellectual interlocutors as “complicit” in his alleged crimes. Valls, the son of Spanish immigrants, is a hard-line secularist who has helped make a home for anti-Muslim demagoguery, as well as anti-Roma prejudice, in the Socialist Party. (He has described the very concept of Islamophobia as the “Trojan horse” of Salafists.) As Prime Minister, he helped push through the temporary emergency measures proclaimed after the terrorist attacks in 2015, parts of which have now been written into law, and thus normalized, under President Emmanuel Macron.

Valls had never before expressed much concern for the victims of sex crimes by powerful men. In fact, he had deplored the “unbearable cruelty” of Strauss-Kahn’s arrest in New York. (A few members of the Socialist Party, including Strauss-Kahn himself, claimed that he was a victim of a plot engineered by President Sarkozy, who saw Strauss-Kahn as a threat to his reëlection. Sarkozy denied the allegations.) But in early October, Valls condemned the journalists at Mediapart as left-wing fellow-travellers of political Islam; later, he insinuated that Plenel had deliberately concealed what he knew about Ramadan’s sexual depravities. (Valls made no such public accusations against either Bernard Godard, who worked under his authority in the Interior Ministry, or Caroline Fourest, although both admitted that they had long been aware of rumors about Ramadan’s mistreatment of women.) It is perhaps no coincidence that Plenel, the president of Mediapart, had skewered Valls in his 2014 book, “Pour les musulmans,” an eloquent critique of Islamophobia in French public life, which was inspired by Émile Zola’s 1896 denunciation of anti-Semitism, “Pour les juifs.” In fact, Plenel was responsible for publishing a five-part profile of Ramadan, by Mathieu Magnaudeix, which portrayed him as an authoritarian, egotistical “showman” who “built his renown on a mix of bad buzz (him against the élite) and a seduction worthy of the best televangelists.”

Plenel insisted that he had known nothing of Ramadan’s misconduct, adding that one of the most thorough reports on what Mediapart has since called the “Ramadan system” of sexual abuse had appeared in Mediapart hardly a week after the scandal broke. But the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo soon recycled Valls’s charge against Plenel. Since the shooting at its offices, in January, 2015, Charlie Hebdo has acquired a halo of martyrdom, and “Je Suis Charlie” has become a motto almost as sacred as “liberté, egalité, fraternité.” At the same time, the magazine has become increasingly provocative in its mockery of anything to do with Muslims or Islam. The cover of the November 8th issue featured a grid of four caricatures of Plenel, under the headline “Ramadan affair, Mediapart Reveals: ‘We didn’t know.’ ” In the drawings he is covering his mouth, shielding his eyes, and plugging his ears—the three monkeys who don’t speak, see, or hear evil. (Charlie also published a cover on which Ramadan declares himself the “sixth pillar of Islam,” as an enormous erection bulges from his pants.) Within a couple of weeks, the Ramadan affair had morphed into the Plenel-Valls-Charlie affair: a debate less about Ramadan and his treatment of women than about French intellectuals, their relations with Ramadan, and their views of Islam in French life.

On Twitter, Plenel derided the caricature as an “affiche rouge,” an allusion to the notorious red poster distributed by the German occupiers in Paris, in 1944, as part of their efforts to vilify a group of resistance fighters as a “foreign conspiracy against French life.” Charlie’s front page, he argued, was an extension of “a general campaign . . . of war against Muslims” in France. In response, Laurent (Riss) Sourisseau, the editorial director of Charlie, accused Plenel of “condemning Charlie to death a second time.” To accuse Charlie of whipping up anti-Muslim hatred, as Plenel did, is to risk being accused of incitement, as Valls surely knew when, on November 15th, he declared, of Mediapart, “I want them to be removed from public debate.”

For many in France, Ramadan’s alleged guilt was not so much evidence of the prevalence of misogynistic behavior in France, or a betrayal of his religious obligations, as it was evidence that he was no different from other “Islamic obscurantists” who preach modesty to women while taking cruel advantage of them, as Sylvie Kauffmann, Le Monde’s editorial director, argued in an Op-Ed for the New York Times. This prism has a history as old as French colonialism. As Joan Wallach Scott argues in her new book, “Sex and Secularism,” the idea of the repressive yet lustful Muslim patriarch has long served to deflect attention from French society’s discrimination against women, just as Muslim women’s “purported state of abjection” has been held up as “the antithesis of whatever ‘equality’ means in the West.”

In recent years, Muslims in France have discovered that it is not enough to respect France’s laws: to truly belong to France, they must denounce bad Muslims, praise Charlie, and make other shows of loyalty, just as their ancestors in colonial North and West Africa learned to honor “our ancestors, the Gauls.”

The more French they have become, the more their Frenchness, their ability to “assimilate,” seems to be in question, which has deepened their sense of estrangement. Muslim organizations and institutions have largely refrained from commenting on the Ramadan scandal—a silence that, for some, has been an expression of solidarity with a fellow-Muslim who has long been vilified in France. Others who have been asked to comment publicly on the Ramadan affair have chosen to remain quiet as a result of their discomfort, or perhaps irritation, at being summoned to pass yet another litmus test to prove their worth as citizens, or at the “Islamization” of the affair, in which Ramadan is either viewed as a victim of an anti-Muslim conspiracy or as a symbol of Muslim sexual violence.

Lallab, a Muslim feminist association, was never asked to comment on #balancetonporc, but immediately fell under pressure from the media to respond to the accusations against Ramadan. It was, a spokesperson wrote, “as if we were Muslims before being women . . . As if we only had the legitimate right to denounce violence committed by other Muslims.”

Another product of this historical estrangement was the birth, in 2005, of the Parti des Indigènes de la République (the Party of the Indigenous People of the Republic), a groupuscule composed largely of activists of North and West African heritage who flaunt their alienation from French society as a badge of pride. The P.I.R. sees French Muslims and other people of color as internally colonized, eternally second-class citizens, and advocates a politics of separatism far more radical than Ramadan’s message of inclusion. Houria Bouteldja, the Party’s charismatic spokeswoman, has in recent years won notoriety for her defense of Muslim men accused of sexual violence. Faced with “testosterone-fuelled virility among indigenous men,” she has argued, women of color should look for its redeeming side, “the part that resists colonial domination,” and stand with their brothers. But the many accusations against “Brother Tariq” appear to have given even Bouteldja pause. In a terse and uncharacteristically restrained statement on Facebook, she warned against “racist instrumentalization of this affair” but also said that the court should decide “if the facts are true and if Henda Ayari is honest in her approach.”

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Desperately seeking cheap publicity

While most of the commentators on the Ramadan Affair have been—as tends to be the case with conversations about Islam, laïcité, and terrorism in France—white and male, some of the most important insights on the scandal have come from those Muslim feminists who are dismayed both by the prejudice of Valls and Charlie, and disappointed with Bouteldja’s seeming indifference to victims of abuse. For them, the scandal dramatizes the need for the kind of “intersectionality,” or understanding of the overlapping nature of racist and sexist oppression, that has been a part of feminist discourse in the U.S. since the late eighties. As Souad Betka wrote in an essay published in the online magazine Les Mots Sont Importants, “we Muslim feminists refuse to sacrifice the struggle against sexism and patriarchal violence to the fight against racism.” For several years, she wrote, Muslim feminist activists had told her of their ordeals with Ramadan’s “insults, manipulation, and sexual harassment.” But the anti-racism activist groups in which these women worked had chosen to ignore sexual violence perpetrated by “indigenous” men for fear of fanning French Islamophobia. It was little wonder that Muslim women like Henda Ayari were turning to writers like Caroline Fourest for “support that others, closer to them, have been too late in providing.” For much of French society, Betka wrote, “a Muslim man is always more than a man. He is the tree that represents the forest.” For Manuel Valls and Charlie Hebdo, Ramadan represents the threat of Islamic conquest; for Ramadan’s Muslim supporters, the umma itself. For those caught between Valls’s racist manipulation of Ramadan’s alleged crimes and his supporters’ denial of them, the most radical act is to insist that he is nothing but a man.



The cancer of Islamist extremism spreads around the world

November 3, 2017

The cancer of Islamist extremism spreads around the world

by Fareed Zakaria


This week’s tragic terrorist attack in New York was the kind of isolated incident by one troubled man that should not lead to generalizations. In the 16 years since 9/11, the city has proved astonishingly safe from jihadist groups and individuals. And yet, speaking about it to officials in this major global hub 10,000 miles away, the conclusions they reach are worrying. “The New York attack might be a way to remind us all that while ISIS is being defeated militarily, the ideological threat from radical Islam is spreading,” says Singaporean Home Minister K. Shanmugam. “The trend line is moving in the wrong direction.”

The military battle against Islamist extremist groups in places such as Syria and Afghanistan is a tough struggle, but it has always been one that favored the United States and its allies. After all, the combined military forces of some of the world’s most powerful governments are up against a tiny band of guerrillas. On the other hand, the ideological challenge from the Islamic State has proved far more intractable. The terrorist group and ones like it have been able to spread their ideas, recruit disaffected young men and women, and infiltrate countries across the globe. Western countries remain susceptible to the occasional lone wolf, but the new breeding grounds of radicalism are once-moderate Muslim societies in Central, South and Southeast Asia.

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Governor Basuki “Ahok” Purnama after the sentencing in his blasphemy trial in Jakarta on May 9, 2017. © 2017 Reuters

Consider Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, long seen as a moderate bulwark. This year, the governor of Jakarta, the country’s capital and largest city, lost his bid for reelection after he was painted by Muslim hard-liners as unfit for office because he is Christian. Worse, he was then jailed after being convicted on a dubious and unfair blasphemy charge. Amid a rising tide of Islamist politics, Indonesia’s “moderate” president and its mainstream “moderate” Islamic organizations have failed to stand up for the country’s traditions of tolerance and multiculturalism.

Or look at Bangladesh, another country with a staunchly secular past, where nearly 150 million Muslims live. Founded as a breakaway from Pakistan on explicitly nonreligious grounds, Bangladesh’s culture and politics have become increasingly extreme over the past decade. Atheists, secularists and intellectuals have been targeted and even killed, blasphemy laws have been enforced, and a spate of terrorist attacks have left hundreds dead.

Why is this happening? There are many explanations. Poverty, economic hardship and change produce anxieties. “People are disgusted by the corruption and incompetence of politicians. They are easily seduced by the idea that Islam is the answer, even though they don’t know what that means,” a Singaporean politician explained to me. And then, the local leaders make alliances with the clerics and give platforms to the extremists, all in search of easy votes. That political pandering has helped nurture a cancer of Islamist extremism.

In Southeast Asia, almost all observers whom I have spoken with believe that there is another crucial cause — exported money and ideology from the Middle East, chiefly Saudi Arabia. A Singaporean official told me, “Travel around Asia and you will see so many new mosques and madrassas built in the last 30 years that have had funding from the Gulf. They are modern, clean, air-conditioned, well-equipped — and Wahhabi [Saudi Arabia’s puritanical version of Islam].” Recently, it was reported that Saudi Arabia plans to contribute almost $1 billion to build 560 mosques in Bangladesh. The Saudi government has denied this, but sources in Bangladesh tell me there’s some truth to the report.

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How to turn this trend around? Singapore’s Shanmugam says that the city-state’s population (15 percent of which is Muslim) has stayed relatively moderate because state and society work very hard at integration. “We have zero tolerance for any kind of militancy, but we also try to make sure Muslims don’t feel marginalized,” he explained. Singapore routinely gets high marks in global rankings for its transparency, low levels of corruption and the rule of law. Its economy provides opportunities for most.

Asia continues to rise, but so does Islamist radicalism there. This trend can be reversed only by better governance and better politics — by leaders who are less corrupt, more competent and, crucially, more willing to stand up to the clerics and extremists. Saudi Arabia’s new crown prince spoke last week of turning his kingdom to “moderate Islam.” Many have mocked this as a public-relations strategy, pointing to the continued dominance of the kingdom’s ultra-orthodox religious establishment. A better approach would be to encourage the crown prince, hold him to his words and urge him to follow up with concrete actions. This is the prize. Were Saudi Arabia to begin religious reform at home, it would be a far larger victory against radical Islam than all the advances on the battlefield so far.


The Theocratic Threat to our Constitution and Democracy

October 20, 2017

The Theocratic Threat to our Constitution and Democracy

By Mohamed Tawfik Tun Dr Ismail

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The danger in Jakim preacher Zamihan’s video is not just the inflammatory racial slurs on the non-Muslims, specifically non-Malay non-Muslims, but the dare he threw to the Constitutional Monarchs and the elected Government of the day to make him a Martyr for the Islamo-Fascist agenda.

This agenda, from his own mouth and as a Jakim officer, is to replace the monarchical system with a theocracy when he dismissed and belittled the Sultan of Johore’s decree on the Muar laundrette.

It was reinforced a few days later when the Deputy Minister in charge of Jakim publicly declared it was Barisan Nasional’s goal to create an Islamic State in Malaysia, ignoring the Constitution as well as ignoring what many in East Malaysia believe to be the secular foundation upon which Malaysia was formed. He erroneously declared it was Umno’s agenda for the last 60 years, ignoring the secularism of Umno’s leaders till Umno’s demise in 1988.

The means of implementing this has been to test the limits of the relationship between the monarchs and the government. Something as innocuous as renaming the main roads after the sultans was not to flatter them, but to do it as a fait accompli without their consent.

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If the Government could get away with this the next step is to erode their powers over religion. If the Rulers resist, then a Zamizam type assault would come into play to test the waters. There is no need here to rehash the Kassim Ahmad episode where jurisdiction is ignored and harassment becomes the means of punishment.

No need to repeat Jawi’s heartless response when after Kassim’s demise, Jawi declared it had no further interest in the case, as though Kassim’s death was the end they sought. What more the vigilantism practiced by catching sons for khalwat with their mothers, or married couples caught for legitimately being together?

The above actions not only alarm ordinary citizens but also undermines the institution of Rulers, for is it not in their name that such actions are taken? In fact is it the case of the tail wagging the dog when Zamizan is summoned by his superiors to explain himself, as though Jakim has no control over it’s officers?

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Is it also the same in the Mustafa Aykol case where the officers act of their own accord in the mistaken belief they are “protecting the image of Islam” when the end result to the world at large is to demean and diminish the beauty of Islam, and belittle the warmth and hospitality that Malays are known for?

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The Malaysian King and HRH Sultan of Johor

I suggest that the Conference of Rulers among themselves appoint a Privy Council to advise them on Constitutional issues and reassert their powers over religion to thwart any attempt by stealth by the Islamo-Fascist to impose a theocracy. It is time for the sultans to assert their authority over religion as His Majesty the Sultan of Johore has done.

The Cabinet, Members of Parliament and the Civil Service have sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution, and those who openly defy the constitution like Zamizan should be punished not just for sedition, but also for treason against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the people of Malaysia.

Tawfik Ismail is an FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.



Increasing Islamisation will trigger mass hijrah

October 2, 2017

Increasing Islamisation will trigger mass hijrah

by Dr. M.Bakri Musa
Morgan-Hill, California

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This is what will remain in Malaysia with increasing Islamization

In his recent blog “Hijrah To London,” Datuk Zaid Ibrahim wrote on the Erasmus Forum lecture he attended celebrating Martin Luther. Zaid highlighted the exemplary humanist qualities of both great Christian leaders. He went on to make a short side comment urging young Malays to emigrate.

He had a torrent of responses, not on Erasmus or Luther, the focus of his essay, rather his side commentary, which was more an expression of his despair and frustration over the increasing role of Islamist extremists in Malaysia, as well as Malay (and thus Muslim) leaders’ egregious corruption and mind boggling incompetence.

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Zaid urged young Malays not to repeat his mistake in not undertaking Hijrah (emigrating).

For Muslims, following the seerah (the Prophet’s sayings and practices) is the highest expression of faith. Malay men already ape it with gusto in such areas as having long beards and multiple wives. So why not hijrah?

Zaid is no ordinary Malay, Malaysian, or mortal. After qualifying at a local MARA institution, he went on to London University to get an additional law degree. He later founded Malaysia’s largest law firm, and the first to have foreign branches. He is also an entrepreneur and philanthropist.

Zaid remains unique in that he is the only Malaysian Minister to have resigned on a matter of principle. To be historically meticulous, Dr. Ismail did too, but he was ailing and had contemplated retiring. More telling, Zaid’s reputation soared with his resignation. No minister or even prime minister could claim either point.

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PAS’Nik AbduhA Member of P.Ramlee’s Tiga Abdul (remamed Abduh)

Boundaries are meaningless in today’s globalized world. In practice however, that’s true for only two groups. First are the poor, destitute, and desperate. For them, survival comes ahead of visas and passports, or political boundaries, as Western Europe now discovers. Second are gems like Zaid. With their wealth, language fluency, entrepreneurial flair, and social graces, they are welcomed in London, Sydney, and New York, or even Dubai and Bahrain.

Most Malays, young or old, male or female, are not like Zaid. Most lack skills, could speak only the local kampung dialect, and have minimal entrepreneurial desires. The Rempits, both Mat and Minah, are more typical. No country would want them. Even Malaysia would be better off without them. At least the Minah Rempits could work abroad as maids, a la the Filipinos and Indonesians. The Mat Rempits are but a road menace.

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Mat and Minah Rempits–By-Product of Islamisation

After over sixty years of Malay rule, with the sultans, prime ministers and most ministers being Malays, and public institutions in Malay control, how come we produce a glut of Rempits and scant few of Zaids? If you leave things alone, simple momentum would dictate that the Zaids would grow in number, his sterling success inspiring others.

It would not be far wrong to suggest that it is not incompetence, stupidity, or even dereliction of duty by Malay leaders that we are inundated with the Rempits and not blessed with the Zaids, rather a deliberate policy, the willful intent of Malay leaders, incredulous as that may sound.

In mid 1960s in Canada, I met a Malay graduate student from Brunei who would later become his country’s top educator. I remarked on the splendid educational opportunities afforded young Canadians and added that wouldn’t it be wonderful if a rich country like Brunei were to do likewise for its young. Then Brunei could again assume its pivotal role in Malay civilization.

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The Father of Mat Rempit-ism

I was stunned when he disagreed, and with atypical Malay forcefulness. Educating them would only make them uppity, dissatisfied, and rebel, he thundered. Brunei had then gone through a near-successful coup with Ahmad Azahari sending the sultan scooting off to Singapore. He would have remained there if not for the Gurkhas.

Such a sentiment was also shared by my kampung folks. Educate your children, especially daughters, and they will marry someone from outside the village and never return. Who would then take care of you in your old age?

I was tangentially associated with Universiti Kebangsaan in 1976. I suggested then that it drop its proposed MMed program and instead have its trainees sit for the FRCS and MRCP. Those learned Malay professors, all from English-medium universities, disagreed. They would then migrate, one academic sniffed. He was no different from my fellow villagers or that Brunei guy.

Perhaps UKM was traumatized when its first Professor of Surgery, one Hussein Salleh, absconded to Australia the moment his received his professorship.

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The language nationalist Nik Safiah Karim (pic above), also the product of English education right up to her doctorate, asserted that Malaysia needs no more than five percent of her population to be English-fluent. Rest assured that her children and grandchildren would be in that select group.

Tun Razak too exhorted the masses to support Malay schools, but then sent his to England! His children, today’s leaders, and others like Khairy Jamaluddin, are doing likewise. Hypocrisy is a now the norm with Malay leaders.

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Those Malay leaders remind me of the ancient Chinese who bound the feet of their infant daughters so when they later got married, they could not run away from their husbands. Trapping by handicapping.

While I share Zaid’s concerns, I have a contrarian take. Let the likes of Zakir Naik, Hadi Awang, and that Perak Mufti loose. Their zeal would force Malays, young and old, and especially the Mat and Minah Rempits, to grab the nearest sampan to escape Malaysia.

Millions of Muslims today are forced to undertake their Hijrah not by the crusaders and atheists invading but by their own leaders. Millions are forced out of Syria not by the Israelis or Americans but by Islamic radicals.

Zaid is on to something profound. Ironically, the current frenzy of Islamization may just be the tipping point for a Malay mass hijrah.

Anticipating that, young Malays should prepare themselves for the global stage; the old kampung panggung won’t take you far. Learn another language, acquire some skills, and go beyond mere tolerating to embracing the differences we have with others.

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UMNO’s Islamic Imam–An Fugitive from India

To non-Malays, encourage Malays to be consumed with hadith and revealed knowledge. The fewer of them pursuing STEM, the less the competition for you. Support them when they want to build more Tahfiz schools, introduce hudud, or ban modern banking and finance. Not only would that make you a hero to Malays, you would also make tons of money. Malaysia’s increasing Islamization is not a crisis but an opportunity, and a very lucrative one.

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

September 29, 2017

Beware of Religious Zealots of All Stripes–Not  Christian Threat

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

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

Image result for Najib Razak and Zakir Naik

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


By Dennis Ignatius

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.

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

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

Lost in translation

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

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

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

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

Becoming confused

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

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

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

A spiritual matter

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

Image result for Mustafa Akyol-- Islam without Extremes

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

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

Rising intolerance

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

Image result for Mustafa Akyol-- Islam without Extremes

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

A leadership vacuum

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

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

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

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

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

Dennis Ignatius is a former ambassador.

Malaysia’s Namby-Pamby Najib Razak

September  29, 2017

Malaysia’s Namby-Pamby Najib Razak

By Kee Thuan Chye

(received by e-mail)

Image result for HRH Sultan of Johor

The Plain Speaking Duli Tuanku Sultan of Johor

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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