Gauging The Hudud Thing in Malaysia


March 14, 2017

Gauging The Hudud Thing in Malaysia–Political Islamism out of UMNO’s desperation

by Rashaad Ali

http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2017/03/08/gauging-support-for-islamic-law-in-malaysia/

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The Desperate Godfathers of Hududism in Malaysia–UMNO’s Najib Razak and PAS’Hadi Awang

The 18 February 2017 rallies both for and against the bill to amend the 1965 Criminal Jurisdiction Act, known as RUU 355, have opened yet another political and social schism in Malaysian society. RUU 355 began as a private member’s bill by the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party’s (PAS) President Hadi Awang and seeks to raise the penalties for certain crimes that fall under the jurisdiction of sharia courts in Malaysia.

Public opinion appears divided on the issue, as the continued politicisation of religion takes precedence over authentic religious debate on the matter. Some see the bill as a facade for the eventual entry of hudud — Islamic — laws into the country. PAS held the rally in support of the bill, which drew a reported 20,000 people, while the counter rally was organised by the non-governmental organisation Bebas and drew a much more modest crowd of around 200.

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Hudud –The  Political Hypocrisy of  It All

Support for the bill is significant enough. Various surveys, including one conducted recently amongst university students, indicate Malay-Muslim support for the amendment and for the implementation of Islamic laws. The pro-RUU 355 rally emphasises this and the numbers indicate some level of moderate success for PAS — mobilising 20,000 odd people for a rally is no small feat.

But as the subject of this bill is central to the party’s aims, larger numbers could have been expected. This suggests a difficulty in appealing to urban folk and that mobilised supporters from other, more remote parts of the country account for the majority of the turnout.

Image result for zaid ibrahim dapThis Guy does not  know where he is coming or going in Malaysian Politics–UMNO to PKR to DAP and what next?

The counter rally, held at the same time but at a different location to the PAS gathering, better demonstrates the mood regarding the bill. While the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) was critical of the bill when it was first announced, it eventually distanced itself from the counter rally completely. The only DAP name who attended was Zaid Ibrahim, and that was in his individual capacity rather than as a party member.

The DAP’s absence is unsurprising as the issue puts it in a difficult position: the DAP may not support the bill, but attending the counter rally would cement the perception that they are an anti-Malay and anti-Muslim party. The discourse surrounding this issue has been very black and white; support for the bill is seen as a Muslim’s religious duty, while opposition to it is deemed vehemently anti-Islamic.

The general public’s low attendance at the counter rally suggests that the issue was not significant enough to take to the streets in numbers. For Malay-Muslims, the fear of reprisal for attending a rally seen as anti-Islamic is a significant factor in keeping people away. It appears easier for the pro-RU 355 rally to draw Malays, as the narrative is more populist, keeps with a conservative Islamic position and is supported by major Malay parties like the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) and PAS.

As for non-Muslim participation, it appears this issue is neither relevant nor attractive enough to drag would-be participants out of bed in the morning. They can hardly be blamed as many voices from the pro-RU 355 camp constantly state that the amendment will not affect non-Muslims.

Although this amendment does not mean that non-Muslims are suddenly going to be tried under sharia law, having two legal systems for two different groups of people brings the notion of equality before the law into question. For a multicultural country that should seek to be inclusive instead of exclusive, these amendments are not helpful, especially when considering the knock-on effect it will have on the country as a whole.

Past cases of overlapping jurisdiction between sharia and civil courts, such as conversion cases or burial rights of non-Muslims indicate that the separation of the courts is not clearly defined. While the bill aims to raise the penalties for certain crimes under sharia law such as murder and theft, some constitutional experts argue that these crimes fall strictly under the purview of federal, not sharia, law. This bill exacerbates an already highly polarised society divided along racial and religious lines.

It is also another episode in the overall Islamisation trend happening in Malaysia that directly and indirectly affects all groups in society. Various incidents in the past few years point to how religious relations in the country can easily sour. A church was forced to take down its cross display in 2015, there have been recent issues with the usage and distribution of paint brushes containing pig bristles and there is now moral policing of dress code at government buildings.

The issue is complicated further because it is primarily for political rather than religious purposes. Putting aside PAS’ ambition to see this through, the bill is an obvious affirmation of the party’s own religious credentials. In the current climate, this helps to regain the trust of its core supporters, which also explains why the UMNO has jumped on the bill’s bandwagon. It helps the UMNO bolster its image at a time when the administration has suffered a dip in popularity. The timing of this issue is also convenient, as elections are due to be held by 2018.

As it stands, it would not be surprising if the bill passes next month when it comes to parliament. Opposition members who oppose the bill are likely to be absent from the vote for fear of being branded anti-Islamic. If the amendment passes, the biggest concern is whether it will worsen existing racial and religious polarisation in the country. Given the political dimension of the bill and the looming general election, a more inclusive Malaysia is not yet on the horizon.

Rashaad Ali is a research analyst with the Malaysia Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

This article was first published here on RSIS.

 

 

Malaysia Takes a Turn for the Religious Sinister Side


March 7, 2017

Najib’s Malaysia Takes a Turn for the Religious Sinister Side

by Asiasentinel Correspondent

http://www.asiasentinel.com

The fate of Koh is evidently meant as a warning to non-Muslims. In the context of Peninsular Malaysia, where Malays are deemed to be children incapable of making their own decisions about religion, it is also a racist message to the non-Malay 30 percent of the population: leave us to our intolerance or we will punish you.

In the longer run, it may also be a message to the peoples of more tolerant Sarawak (where only 33 percent are Muslims) and Sabah that they do not belong in a nation whose political leaders rely on religious bigotry for their survival.

Image result for Pastor Raymond Koh Keng Joo

Two very worrying trends in Malaysia may have come together: the rise of religious intolerance and the use of murder as a political weapon.

The well-organized kidnap and disappearance of a Chinese Christian pastor, Raymond Koh Keng Joo on Feb. 13 in the middle of Petaling Jaya, a suburb of Kuala Lumpur, was clearly driven by his promotion of Christianity. His disappearance and the lack of any news or ransom demand suggest he has likely been killed and his body disposed of. If so, whether his corpse was blown up in the manner of Altantuya Shaaribu, the pregnant Mongolian model and translator murdered by then-Defense Minister Najib Razak’s security personnel, or in a drum of concrete like 1MDB investigator from the Attorney General’s department, Kevin Anthomy Morais, or otherwise, remains to be seen.

What is clear is that the broad daylight morning kidnap operation was brazen and highly organized. Witnesses and a video posted on-line reported that three large SUVs, two following cars and two motorcycles were involved, with masked men holding up traffic, blocking Koh’s car, seizing him and bundling him into one of the vehicles. Witnesses reported that there were at least five abductors, who were driving black 4x4s, and that one of them calmly filmed the incident. The operation of less than a minute took place just 100 metres from a police complex.

Despite the evidence of witnesses and the video, the police have made no progress either in identifying the kidnappers or tracing the victim. Koh’s family has offered a RM100,000 (US$22,500) reward for his safe return but there has been no response. It is not clear how much effort an increasingly politicized police force has invested in finding Koh and his kidnappers.

Koh was viewed by some Christian groups as being too high-profile for his own good given the rise in Muslim fanaticism in what is supposed to be multi-ethnic, multi-religious nation. In 2011 Koh was accused by the Selangor Religious Affairs Department of trying to convert Malays to Christianity. However, the issue was dropped due lack of evidence.

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One the Islamic Hypocrite and the other the Islamic Bigot–God Help Malaysia

The kidnap and possible murder coincides with the introduction into parliament by the head of Parti Islam se-Malaysia (PAS) leader Abdul Hadi Awang of a long-delayed bill to increase the powers of sharia courts which in turn could lead to the introduction of hudud, seventh-century Islamic corporal punishments including amputating limbs of thieves and stoning to death of adulterers, more likely, in this society, adulteresses while their lovers walk free.

Although the bill is unlikely to become law, the massive 1Malaysia Development Bhd. scandal, in which as much as US$1 billion of public funds is suspected to have flowed into Prime Minister Najib Razak’s  bank account, and other scandals besetting the prime minister are making him ever more susceptible to trading religious intolerance for support at the polls, a scenario that the rural-based PAS is only too happy to take advantage of.

Although an absurdly skewed electoral system makes a nonsense of democracy in Malaysia, Najib has become increasingly ruthless in his treatment of critics and is open to all methods of keeping himself in office ranging from asking Chinese state companies to help to bail out 1MDB and Muslim extremists who claim they represent Malay interests but in practice like to impose medieval Arab forms and dress on Malays.

Image result for Najib the hypocriteKetuanan Melayu Leaders

The fate of Koh is evidently meant as a warning to non-Muslims. In the context of Peninsular Malaysia, where Malays are deemed to be children incapable of making their own decisions about religion, it is also a racist message to the non-Malay 30 percent of the population: leave us to our intolerance or we will punish you.

In the longer run, it may also be a message to the peoples of more tolerant Sarawak (where only 33 percent are Muslims) and Sabah that they do not belong in a nation whose political leaders rely on religious bigotry for their survival.

 

NY Times Book Review: Jesus Christ in Islam


March 4, 2017

NY Times Book Review

Recommended Read:  Jesus Christ in Islam

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Jesus in Islam

Mehdi Hasan

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2009/dec/23/religion-islam

Muslims don’t worship Jesus, but they do revere him and believe about him much that Christians do.

So you’re telling me you believe in Jesus, as well as Muhammad?” I remember the perplexed look on my Christian friend’s face a few years ago. I had dropped a theological bombshell on him in revealing that Jesus was considered by Muslims to be a prophet of God.

“Not only do we believe in Jesus,” I replied, pausing for maximum dramatic effect, “we also believe in the Virgin Birth.” My friend’s eyes widened with surprise, his mouth agape.

Christians, perhaps because they call themselves Christians and believe in Christianity, like to claim ownership of Christ. It thus comes as a huge surprise to many of them – my friend included – to discover that the world’s second-largest faith, Islam, also stakes a claim to him.

Jesus, or Isa, as he is known in Arabic, is deemed by Islam to be a Muslim prophet rather than the Son of God, or God incarnate. He is referred to by name in as many as 25 different verses of the Quran and described as the “Word” and the “Spirit” of God. No other prophet in the Quran, not even Muhammad, is given this particular honour.

In fact, Islam reveres both Jesus and his mother, Mary (Joseph appears nowhere in the Islamic narrative of Christ’s birth). “Unlike the canonical Gospels, the Quran tilts backward to his miraculous birth rather than forward to his Passion,” writes Professor Tarif Khalidi, in his fascinating book The Muslim Jesus. “This is why he is often referred to as ‘the son of Mary’ and why he and his mother frequently appear together.” In fact, Mary, or Maryam, as she is known in the Quran, is considered by Muslims to hold the most exalted spiritual position among women. She is the only woman mentioned by name in Islam’s holy book and a chapter of the Quran is named after her.

But the real significance of Mary is that Islam also considers her a virgin and endorses the Christian concept of the Virgin Birth. “She was the chosen woman, chosen to give birth to Jesus, without a husband,” says Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, an imam in Leicester and assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain.

For Muslims, however, the Virgin Birth is not evidence of Jesus’s divinity, only of his unique importance as a prophet and a messiah. The Trinity is rejected by Islam, as is Jesus’s Crucifixion and Resurrection. The Quran castigates Christianity for the widespread practice among its sects of deifying Jesus (and Mary), and casts the criticism in the form of an interrogation of Jesus by God:

And when Allah saith: O Jesus, son of Mary! Didst thou say unto mankind: Take me and my mother for two gods beside Allah? he saith: Be glorified! It was not mine to utter that to which I had no right. If I used to say it, then Thou knewest it

Muslims cherish and venerate Jesus the prophet – but, I often wonder, are we paying only lip-service to his life and legacy? Where, for example, is the Islamic equivalent of Christmas? Why do Muslims celebrate the birth of the Prophet Muhammad but not that of the Prophet Jesus? “We, too, in our own way should celebrate the birth of Jesus … [because] he is so special to us,” says Mogra.

In recent years, the right-wing press in Britain has railed against alleged attempts by “politically correct” local authorities to downplay or even suppress Christmas. Birmingham’s attempt to name its seasonal celebrations “Winterval” and Luton’s Harry Potter-themed lights, or “Luminos”, are notorious examples. There is often a sense that such decisions are driven by the fear that outward displays of Christian faith might offend British Muslim sensibilities, but, given the importance of Jesus in Islam, such fears are misplaced and counter-productive. Mogra, who leads the MCB’s interfaith relations committee, concurs: “It’s a ridiculous suggestion to change the name of Christmas.” He adds: “Britain is great when it comes to celebrating diverse religious festivals of our various faith communities. They should remain named as they are, and we should celebrate them all.”

Amid tensions between the Christian west and the Islamic east, I believe a common focus on Jesus could help close the growing divide between the world’s two largest faiths. Others agree. “We don’t have to fight over Jesus. He is special for Christians and Muslims,” says Mogra. “He is bigger than life. We can share him.”

A Wahhabi Prophet comes to Najib’s LaLaLand


March 2, 2017

A Wahhabi Prophet comes to Najib’s LaLaLand

by S Thayaparan@www.malaysiakini.com

“My biggest fear is that the enlightened Arab thinkers are going to leave the Arab world in search of fresh air: somewhere far away from the sword of the religious authorities.”– Raif Badawi, ‘1,000 Lashes: Because I Say What I Think’

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UMNO’s Grand Poobah and his Fan Club

A long-time reader of my writings and someone who has become a friend asked me what I thought about the visit of the House of Saud. “The Prime Minister must be really desperate,” he said and was taken aback when I disagreed.

In my opinion, UMNO President Najib Abdul Razak is in a better position than the current monarch of Saudi Arabia. Maybe it is because Saudi Arabia is heading into (1) extremely choppy financial waters, (2) waging an ideological and proxy war with Iran, (3) leading a “coalition” against Yemen, and (4) promulgating its version of Islam (Wahhabism) which has resulted in blowback across the world.

1) As reported by CNNMoney – “After years of raking in huge sums of oil money, these days Saudi Arabia is pulling out all the stops to raise cash. The kingdom is reportedly planning to take out a US$10 billion loan from a group of banks, possibly paving the way for its first international bond sale.

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“The problem is Saudi Arabia needs oil prices at over US$100 a barrel to break even on its budget. The kingdom spends heavily on perks for its huge population of nearly 30 million. Now it’s being forced to reverse some of those gifts, as highlighted by the recent 50 percent gas price hike. Saudi Arabia’s ‘lavish social spending program is on a collision course’ with cheap oil, (Zach) Schreiber said.”

(Schreiber was CEO of hedge fund PointState Capital who walked away with US$1 billion after betting that oil prices would crash three years ago.)

2) Did anyone else read Iranian Foreign Mohammad Javad Zarif’s op-ed piece in the New York Times, titled ‘Let Us Rid the World of Wahhabism’? I certainly did –

“Saudi Arabia’s effort to persuade its Western patrons to back its shortsighted tactics is based on the false premise that plunging the Arab world into further chaos will somehow damage Iran. The fanciful notions that regional instability will help to ‘contain’ Iran, and that supposed rivalries between Sunni and Shiite Muslims are fueling conflicts, are contradicted by the reality that the worst bloodshed in the region is caused by Wahhabists fighting fellow Arabs and murdering fellow Sunnis.”

3) Just last month the United Nations warned Saudi Arabia and its “allies” that war crimes may have been committed in the Yemen conflict – “A Saudi Arabia-led military coalition has carried out attacks in Yemen that ‘may amount to war crimes’”, UN sanctions monitors reported to the world body’s Security Council, warning coalition allies including the United States, Britain and France that they are obligated to respect international humanitarian law.

4) Again, from the New York Times, last year – “Small details of Saudi practice can cause outsize trouble. For at least two decades, the kingdom has distributed an English translation of the Quran that in the first surah, or chapter, adds parenthetical references to Jews and Christians in addressing Allah: ‘those who earned your anger (such as the Jews), nor of those who went astray (such as the Christians).’ Seyyed Hossein Nasr, a Professor of Islamic studies at The George Washington University and the editor-in-chief of the new Study Quran, an annotated English version, said the additions were ‘a complete heresy, with no basis in Islamic tradition’.”

Compared to the above, being labelled a kleptocrat at the centre of the country’s biggest financial scandal pales in comparison. Furthermore, unlike the wolves baying at the door of the House of Saud, the opposition towards this Najib regime is fractured, with certain members of the coalition still thinking–how naive– they can deal with PAS.

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It is pointless talking about the human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia. It is pointless pointing out the fact that the so-called moderate form of Islam practiced in Malaysia is anathema to the kind of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia. It is pointless going over the so-called “donation” that was – or not to be – from the Kingdom.

Forestalling another Arab Spring

Remember, when Islamist political parties PAS and UMNO were arguing about UMNO actually used the donation to “uplift” Muslims?

I certainly do – “PAS Vice-President Iskandar Abdul Samad in a statement that was revealing of the UMNO strategy but at the same time an unintentional condemnation of Islam, questioned the efficacy of the use of dubious funds in the eradication of Muslim poverty, here in Malaysia.

“Would it have been acceptable to PAS if the so-called gift from The House of Saud was used to ‘uplift’ Muslims here in Malaysia? Of course, PAS splinter group Amanah is equally myopic in its version of how Islam is practiced in Malaysia.”

I contend there is nothing we can and should take from the Saudi Kingdom. I would argue that the reason why Malaysia is a so-called moderate state is because however dismally we have managed to resist the excesses of the House of Saud, we still have a multi-ethnic population whose contribution to politics, economics and culture has maintained a fast fading line between what the Wahhabis and their ilk want and what is secular and rational.

Saudi Arabia has been embarking on social programmes for years putting money in the hands of its citizens. This is not nearly enough because with records highs in unemployment and poverty, the country is the poster child for what Islamic states would look like if Wahhabism managed to overrun the world.

The issue here is not whether you think that BR1M is a question of corruption. When the UMNO Grand Poobah notes with satisfaction that the House of Saud is considering adopting a similar plan of putting money into the bank accounts of needy citizens, they are doing this because they have screwed up the economy to the point that people are living in (even more) poverty and the House of Saud is attempting to forestall another Arab Spring.

Saudi jails are filled to bursting point with not only ordinary people who have fallen foul of pernicious Wahhabi laws but also extremely dangerous fanatics who wish to wage war on the House of Saud and have bloody hands from not only domestic terror attacks but also plying their trade on foreign soil.

This of course is to be expected. If former United States Ambassador to Afghanistan and the United Nations, not to mention Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad is to be believed, officials from Riyadh admitted that they were funding extremists for years in part because of cold war hegemonic stratagems and their great game with Iran.

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Writing for Politico, Khalilzad (pic above) claimed that measures were currently under way to divest the system of its Islamic extremism. The said measures included:

  • New limits on the ability of the religious police to arrest dissidents.
  • Purges of extremists from the government and greater efforts to monitor their influence in security institutions.
  • The appointment of new religious leaders to counter Islamic extremism on theological grounds.
  • The transformation of the Muslim World League – a key Saudi arm for supporting Islamic movements abroad – by the appointment of a new leader and a decision to stop supporting Islamist madrassas abroad.

I suppose we should be grateful that Saudi petro dollars may run out and they will not be able to fund an ideology they know to be corrosive and barbaric. However, I am not holding my breath. Islamic State is a self-funded criminal organisation. The world over we have Muslims who do not think to question their religious beliefs, especially those which pits them against their fellow men and this is because of the efforts of the House of Saud.

I end this piece with another jailed Saudi dissident Raif Badawi’s quote as to what I think of this visit to Malaysia by Saudi King Salman Abdulaziz Al Saud – “Any religion-based state has a mission to limit the minds of its people, to fight the developments of history and logic, and to dumb down its citizens. It’s important to stand in the way of such a mentality, to deny it from continuing its mission to murder the souls of its people, killing them deep within while they are still alive and breathing.”

More often than not, the truth hits close to home.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.

Stand and Speak Up for Malaysia


January 3, 2017

Stand and Speak Up for Malaysia

by Mariam Mokhtar@www.malaysiakini.com

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For some of you (in fact most of us, Mariam), 2016 was a horrible year. I agree.

In the space of one year, four of the publications I used to write for stopped publishing. The media is slowly being strangled by an overly sensitive government, and worse still, it knows how to apply the screws. To stop you from hearing the truth. To silence you. To make you behave. To make you conform to its vision of the ideal citizen.

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Reject Extremism

Police reports, followed by complaints to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), attacks by UMNO Baru thugs, are de rigueur. Guerrilla tactics like splashing red paint on office walls, or leaving dead chicken outside an office entrance, are warnings for a successful publication to back-off, or face more threats.

Editors and owners of the publications are arrested and grilled. Some are taken to court. Readers are at risk of having their Facebook posts scrutinised, and face possible arrest. But you know what?

There is great hope for all Malaysians. A decade ago, only a handful of Malaysians would dare complain. Over the years, the numbers of Malaysians who are brave enough to speak out have grown from a trickle to a raging torrent. We are emboldened. We feel empowered.

Image result for Stand and Speak Up for MalaysiaTo KSN Ali Hamsa and all Civil Servants of Malaysia–A Reminder from Tun Abdul Razak (1967)

The government may try to close down all the alternative papers, but their foolhardiness has only fueled our resolve.

Social media, at least in Malaysia, is the new alternative media. It is free and immediate. It has spread like wildfire. Naturally, there are disadvantages and the lack of verification of facts and the occasional grammatical errors  and sloppy language are outweighed by the speed of transmission.

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Reject them–Najib, Mahathir and Mullah Harussani

Today, as we start 2017, more Malaysians than ever are exercising their vocal chords. It is heartening to know that the once great silencer of dissent, former PM Mahathir Mohamad, has joined the long queue which wants its voice to be heard. Bittersweet irony!

There is much scope for optimism in Malaysia, but you must be truthful to yourself. It is time we stopped whining about Malaysia going down the slippery slope, and blaming UMNO Baru for the state of Malaysia today; time we stopped criticising the opposition for being hopeless, and time we stopped thinking that Malaysia will never recover.

When you look into the mirror, are you man enough to realise that you are part of the problem that has brought Malaysia to its present state?

You may realise that removing Najib Abdul Razak will not solve Malaysia’s problems, because UMNO Baru is also part of the problem; but do you understand that changing the party which heads the government is not sufficient? Before we can change others, we need first, to change ourselves

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Sorry, Mariam, I disagree. Removing Najib Razak is the essential first step to solving our problems. I believe that UMNO can reform itself with a change of leadership. It has little choice; if it wants to remain in power, UMNO must stop playing the race and religion card and serve all Malaysians. 

UMNO Baru is the creation of Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. We forget that he destroyed our institutions of governance. It is ironic that most Malaysians now think that the former Premier is our champion for change. That is pathetic. –Din Merican

How many of you think as a Malaysian? Many of you are so ensconced in your community, your beliefs, your prejudices and your way of life, that you do not believe that any of Malaysia’s ills have anything to do with you.

Blaming the nameless ‘others’

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Stand Up for Malaysia–National Unity

You blame the nameless ‘others’ for Malaysia’s fall from grace.The Malays for their apathy and bigotry. The Chinese for forging ahead and for being kiasu. The Indians who demand equal rights, by ironically demanding that their rights be upheld before all others.The East Malaysians who blame their plight on ‘orang semenanjung’.

We hunger for land and the riches that come from the jungle, and from clearing the jungles to make plantations, and we think nothing of trampling over the rights of the Orang Asli.

The Muslims demand that everyone else is judged by their standards, and the non-Muslims shy away from getting involved in what they perceive as Muslim matters. Many non-Muslim mothers are denied justice if their spouse becomes a Muslim.

We are deaf and blind to the suffering of the lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. We consider ourselves the educated townies, and look down our noses at the rural folk.We are too absorbed in our affairs because we do not think of ourselves as Malaysian, and it is this flaw which the politicians take advantage of to further their interests.

Malaysia suffers because we perceive everyone else is a convenient scapegoat, when actually we are at fault.The politicians love the sound of their own speeches, and they have learned the art of filtering out our voices. So, if you want real change, learn to manage your politician, and not the other way round.

You must treat him or her as you would a lazy servant. You pay the politicians’ wages, so you have the right to demand performance. Politicians are out of touch with the rakyat and most important, they are not mind readers. You have a voice, learn how to use it in 2017.

NB: Happy New Year.

 

On Holier than Thou Putrajaya Idiot Paul Low


December 27, 2016

On Holier than Thou Putrajaya Idiot Paul Low

COMMENT by S. Thayaparan

http://www.malaysiakini.com

‘Using religion as a political weapon always results in self-inflicted wounds.’

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful.”

– Seneca

Really dumb ideas have no problem escaping from the Prime Minister’s Department but Paul Low’s suggestion that the Christian community must be politically relevant and “be able to influence policy in a way that reflects the righteousness of God almighty”, is probably the dumbest idea I have ever heard. It is right up there with how Hindraf used religion – Hinduism – as a means to highlight the disenfranchisement of the Indian community and of course, how Islam has been weaponised in Malaysia.

What exactly does “righteousness of the almighty” mean? Furthermore, how do religious groups influence policy if not by getting into bed with craven politicians by means of campaign donations and the rest of the sordid transaction between church and state? You want to know why Hinduism is regressive in this country. The answer is simple, because the MIC got into the business of religion.

So let me get this right. Paul Low – who works for a Muslim regime – thinks that the Christian community should not engage in politics but still find a way of influencing policy. This is probably the most disingenuous double speak emanating from a Putrajaya minion I have ever heard.

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Add to this Kuala Lumpur Archbishop Julian Leow’s disingenuous contention that “politics and political parties must be distinguished”. Really? In one of my numerous pieces about the so-called ‘Allah’ controversy, I referred to the reality that oppositional politics and religion were intimately entwined. I wrote:

“Meanwhile the DAP who has more or less locked down the Chinese vote, continues to coddle the Christian evangelical movement within its rank, which finds expression in the putrid sloganeering of youth movements like ‘Rise up it’s time to take Subang for Jesus’ endorsed by certain religiously-inclined DAP leaders.”

What this does is give pro-UMNO propagandist the opportunity to further the narratives that Islam is under threat and that opposition parties are attempting to destabilise the country by religious means. Using religion as a political power tool always results in self-inflicted wounds.

Nowhere is this more evident in the unholy alliance between the supposedly secular DAP and vehemently religious PAS. Meanwhile, PKR was standing in the sidelines waiting for the whole thing to blow up so they could reconcile with PAS.

This is not to say that I think religious people should not make their voices heard in a milieu where there is no separation between mosque and state. When writing about the reality of religion in politics, I made two points:

1) “When the political, social and economic reality is predicated on religious superiority and oppression, religious people need to find ways to express themselves in democratic spaces and at the same time realise that the only security they have against further aggression is by supporting secular values.

2) “What I have been contemptuous of is the agenda of Christian politicians using religion as political capital and claiming to be secular while funding Islamic organisations to pander to the Malay/Muslim vote.”

Moreover, point two, the intersection between Christians and Muslims in the opposition have done the most harm because the discourse was framed by craven politicians who were not interested in promoting secular values in both religions, but with creating and maintaining political power.

It is all about credibility. “Credibility is achieved by politicians who leave their religious affiliations at the door and this is especially important for non-Muslim politicians when it comes to dealing with the UMNO state.”

I have made this argument before: “I have argued that the non-Malay power structures are contributing to the indoctrination process by supporting UMNO-enabled institutions thereby setting back any kind of progressive movement in the Malay community. Furthermore, I have been critical of opposition parties that have been reluctant to redefine and propagate ideas that are the exact opposite of the UMNO narrative of what it means to be Malay and Muslim.”

In addition, let me be very clear. I think there should be an exchange of ideas between religious groups but this should not be at the expanse of secular ideas. The problem with the DAP/PAS dalliance is that it was not based on the idea of promoting a progressive secular agenda but attempting to subvert the Malay/Muslim vote which ultimately destabilised the Muslim party, worsening the religious discourse in this country.

Neat little boxes

If Paul Low was really interested in religious freedom, he would be advocating secular values that inhibit religious interference of any kind from political parties and the UMNO state. Those secular values would include limiting the state or any governmental organisation from funding, assisting or favouring any one religion. Of course, Paul Low will not advocate any of this.

A while back I took exception to this whole idea of categorising Muslim and Christians into neat little boxes and argued that secular values are not anathema to any religious community or at least those in the community who could go beyond their religious indoctrination:

“What exactly is a ‘true’ Muslim or ‘true’ Christian for that matter? Someone who believes that religion should not be politicised? Someone who believes that you should not mock another’s religion? Someone who believes that religion should not intrude in the private lives of members in any given society? Someone who believes that there should be a separation of church/mosque and state? These are not ‘true’ religious values but rather true secular values or secular humanist values, if you like.”

Instead, Paul Low prefers to throw fuel on the religious fire by encouraging Christians to be more vocal, using the kind of religious polemics – “almighty” and “religious conviction” – that is mana to pro-UMNO propagandists but yet covering his behind by telling them not to engage with politics.

When the Sabah Council of Churches “pray for divine intervention in the challenging state of affairs of our nation for our sake and the sake of our next generation” you know the plot has truly been lost.  Really, divine intervention?

Moreover, that is really the problem with religion and politics in a Muslim-dominated country.  Unlike Western secular democracies where Muslims have a right to voice their dissent, non-Muslims only have the option of praying for divine intervention.

It is extremely frustrating because all these issues of corruption, incompetent governance, racism and the host of other calamities facing this country are not religious issues. Ultimately anyone who uses religion as a means of political expression loses in a country where the religious game is fixed.