Najib Razak to launch a Malaysian Shariah Index


January 26, 2016

Najib Razak to launch a Shariah Index to track Progress towards an Islamic State in Malaysia

by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee

It looks like the Prime Minister is not fiddling while the country burns or is he? In stead of focusing on the economy and matters of serious concern for the well being of the country, he seems to be singing of an old tune which he hopes  can save the nation.

March 28, 2016,  Najib Razak will  announce the creation of Malaysian Syariah Index report which seeks to track the implementation of the Islamic agenda and the level of syariah-compliance. Syariah requirements will be applied for the protection of Islam of life, the mind, protection of the race and protection of property.

Initial reports indicated that the index would be applied to only certain areas of life. However, it now appears that it will assess progress in the application of shariah law, politics, economy, education, health, culture, infrastructure and environment, and society. This looks like virtually all aspects of life in the country will be subject to the requirements of Islamic religious standards. Is Malaysia an Islamic state?

According to the committee of wise politicians, bureaucrats, academicians and religious experts engaged in formulating the index this is the first such index in the world.

Many are not aware of the enormous difficulties and challenges faced by the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (JAKIM) which, in collaboration with the International Islamic University of Malaysia and the Islamic Missionary Foundation, developed this scientific and all encompassing index.

Recently the Sultan of Johor was reported to have said that he did not understand why JAKIM needed nearly RM1 billion a year in allocations. A month earlier, Deputy Minister, Asyraf Wajdi Dusuk had said the 2016 budget was not enough for the federal religious agency.

JAKIM has been very reticent on disclosing how its budget has been spent. But we can have no doubt that a fair chunk of its policy oriented budget – RM10 million or more? – has gone towards this pioneering effort which has involved possibly the largest number of local researchers engaged in a single project in the country’s history.

Taxpayers in the country who are always complaining about government extravagance should be especially appreciative that their contributions in this scholarly scientific work are being used to pave the way for their smoother passage through the pearly gates of heaven and to avoid the fires of hell. Also important to bear in mind is that innovation (and halal certificates) do not come easy or cheap.

Some are of the opinion that the index alone has definitely put Malaysia in the Guinness Book of Record. It should also land us in the forefront of religiously governed countries in the world, that is, if we are not already there.

Once the index is implemented, Muslims in the country will become the most religiously and scientifically monitored, and presumably also most religiously compliant society, in the world.

How will Malaysia’s Muslims View the Index?

In fact, it is difficult to know what Malaysian Muslims are thinking of, and how they will respond to this index, especially since it seeks to measure and to protect their minds, race (is there a Muslim race?) property and life itself from temptation, enticement, and all other kinds of pollution and evil surrounding them.

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There have been a few voices of concern and dissent. But the country’s Islamic power elite and intelligentsia who hold the strings of power and monopolize the media have dismissed them as coming from unrepresentative, liberal, secularized, western value and morally bankrupt slivers of our society that are traitors to the religion and race .

As for the non-Muslims, they have kept a deafening silence which is increasingly their response to the waves of islamization coming to our shores. For now, UMNO’s partners in the Barisan will be reassured by the Prime Minister’s view that the proposed index is good for them.

In his keynote address on February 10, 2015 during the launch ceremony of the index held at Putrajaya, Najib noted that “if we together accept the values of discipline, trust, justice, efficiency, effectiveness and transparency as universal values, then we will accept the two functions of the Malaysian Shariah Index that I mentioned just now.”

And the Non-Muslims and Possible Critics?

Given the widely held view among UMNO ministers that non-Muslims, especially Chinese, are prone to practicing the antithesis of the values the Prime Minister has identified, the Barisan component party leaders will surely be grateful to Najib for stopping the rot that is taking place in non-Muslim society; and bringing non-Muslims up to syariah compliant standards.

After all, as the Prime Minister also noted, non-Muslims have readily accepted Islamic banking and halal certification. Islamic trolleys may be a bit difficult to accept by ordinary Malaysians but surely there should be a warm welcome extended to Islamic standards in law, politics, economics, education, health, culture, infrastructure and environment, and in the social spheres.

A critic of this historic breakthrough hitherto dominated by western trained social scientists has lamented that two key areas that have been in the news recently have been inadvertently left out by the distinguished panel of experts in developing this measure. He was referring to terrorism and corruption.He is wrong.

Inside sources have leaked that besides deviants, perverts, gays, lesbians, and other similar “scumbags” of Islamic society, the index is targeted at Isis types such as suicide bombers, militants and other extremists. However this targeting is of a different kind  since it is not the intention to physically identify or eliminate these extremist groups.

Instead, the index is a subtle strategy aimed at discouraging them from launching their acts of terrorism in Malaysia since they will be aware of the great effort that the Government is putting into ensuring that our economy and society meets the highest Islamic standards. This, in addition to the finding that Malaysians have abnormally high levels of sympathy for the IS terrorist group, virtually amounts to a double insurance policy against the occurrence of the genre of religious terrorism found in other countries.

As to the issue of corruption, the last word should go to the Prime Minister whose name will forever be associated with the index, besides the unfortunate and unnecessarily publicised episode of the political donation into his personal account.

Speaking at the appreciation ceremony held for the 133 researchers from five local universities that made up the index research team, the Prime Minister said that “[w]e cannot jump to conclusions based only on the general point of view. Sometimes, our views are influenced by our own personal experience. Maybe because the matter was not labelled as Islamic, or it was being influenced by political consideration, that had caused our conclusions to stray from the reality.”

Those adept at deciphering garbled political language have concluded that what the Prime Minister is saying is that the issue of “corruption” should not be part of the index.

The Merchants of Hate


January 18, 2016

The Merchants of Hate

by Cmdr S. Thayaparan
http://www.malaysiakini.com

“Virulence is the sound of a self-selecting community talking to itself and positively reinforcing itself with no obligation to answer to anyone or look anyone in the eye.” – Thomas L Friedman, The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century

After the Paris attacks, when bellicosity as some sort of catharsis permeated the discourse, Andrew J Bacevich from the realist school of American political discourse wrote, “Rather than assuming an offensive posture, the West should revert to a defensive one. Instead of attempting to impose its will on the Greater Middle East, it should erect barriers to protect itself from the violence emanating from that quarter.

The Teachers of Hate

“Such barriers will necessarily be imperfect, but they will produce greater security at a more affordable cost than is gained by engaging in futile, open-ended armed conflicts. Rather than vainly attempting to police or control, this revised strategy should seek to contain.”

This article is not about the West’s reaction to the threat of Islamic extremism but rather on whether we, as a nation, have a “defensive” posture when it comes to the IS? The answer is an emphatic “no”. Before we go any further, perhaps it is best to define what the goals of IS are.

While the discourse is dominated by polemics dispersed by left- and right- wing propagandists, The Atlantic ran a piece titled ‘What ISIS (IS) really wants’ by Graeme Wood, which has already garnered kudos and brickbats from both sides of the Western ideological divide. I happen to agree with the piece, and the cliff notes version by Steven Rosenfeld published by Alternet.

Rosenfeld lists six takeaways from the Wood piece:

(1) IS is Islamic. Very.

(2) IS is the most extreme of extremist sects.

(3) To IS, required punishment; to others, war crimes.

(4) Top prophecy: they’re in the battle for end times.

(5) IS has allure for true believers.

(6) Countering evil in our time – in which Wood writes, “The ideological purity of the Islamic State has one compensating virtue: it allows us to predict some of the group’s actions. IS has an obligation to terrorise its enemies – a holy order to scare the shit out of them with beheadings and crucifixions and enslavement of women and children, because doing so hastens victory and avoids prolonging conflict.”

No doubt, many Muslims are offended by the piece but I think our situation in Malaysia requires more open dialogue than the pandering that passes as “tolerance”.

In Dean Johns’ remarkable piece, he asks, “Is Islamic State a boon for BN?” and details the dissonance that emanates from UMNO regarding this Islamic extremist group.

Dean wrote (on Malaysians involved in the recent suicide bombings) “… Najib’s cousin, Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, far from echoing such piously politic remarks, seemed to hark back to Najib’s original ’emulate the bravery of IS’, urging with the oddly apparently admiring comment that the Malaysian suicide bombers were ‘not only not afraid of dying, but aimed to do something others will not even think of'”.

It is this kind of obscenity that permeates the rhetoric coming, not only from UMNO, but also nearly every political Muslim entity in this country. In press reports, Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Ahmad Zaid Hamidi says that supposed pro-IS detainees have to be separated from the general prison population because “they have been found to influence other criminals in joining the ideology”.

In my piece about Malaysiakini’s interview with Yazid Sufaat, I wrote, “It should surprise nobody that the thinking of someone like Yazif could be shaped in this country. His search for a deeper understanding of Islam led him first to his local imam, then to the shores of a foreign land where he is charged with funding sectarian violence. And when he is finally incarcerated under the ISA, it’s done in secrecy and his wife is threatened and imprisoned for a spell. After seven years, this wanted Islamic terrorist is released because, in his words, he capitulated to the desires of his captors. And after being released he mocks his captors: What kind of rehabilitation is this?”

We live in a country where the idea of racial and religious superiority is embedded in our Federal Constitution. We live in a country where political parties are segregated by race and religion and where the dominant ethnic group is constantly told that their race and religion constantly needs to be defended.

UMNO leadership tells the Malays that they are the only ones capable of defending their race and religion and Opposition political groups reinforce this idea by pandering to Malay sensitivities in the guise of realpolitik.

‘Ketuanan Melayu’ propaganda

Malays are taught, through the ‘Ketuanan Melayu’ propaganda, that their race and religion are superior to the “Other” communities, who are “pendatang” and who are always attempting to usurp their position.

The apparatchiks of the state are not sanctioned when they proudly and defiantly claim they are “Muslim” first, which they use to subvert the law with the aim of maintaining religious hegemony. Government institutions are defended as Malay/Muslim institutions and every incident is turned into a racial one.

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The most glaring examples are where a criminal act by a group of Malays was instead turned into a political and racial enterprise, with UMNO creating “Malay-driven” Low Yat 2 enterprise; and non-Muslims are told that their only avenue is the syariah court when the issue is plainly a civil one, albeit concerning Islam in a most insidious way.

Islam is used as a weapon against any progressive thought, movement or individual, and opposition political parties clamouring for the Malay/Muslim vote ape policies and rhetoric all the while, claiming a difference in policy and methodology.

Meanwhile, non-Malay oppositional groups are demonised as anti-Malay and Muslim, and in a foolish attempt at Malay relevance, form alliances and pacts with supposedly like-minded Islamic political groups, thereby injecting them into the mainstream of Malaysian politics.

In an environment like this, is it any wonder that confused young men, filled with a sense of superiority and purpose, seek out extremism as a natural extension of their religious beliefs? Is it any wonder that they find similarity and welcome in extremist teachings that most rational people would find to be anathema?

For years, the Biro Tata Negara courses told Malays that they were under siege. This is not a defensive posture. In reality, this is exactly what extremist groups like IS need. They need young, foolish men filled with a sense of superiority fuelled by unearned self-righteousness to carry out barbaric acts in the name of promulgating their scared religious beliefs. This, coupled with the rampant corruption and all-consuming hypocrisy, is fertile ground for groups like IS.

So the more disturbing question is: Is BN a boon for the Islamic State?

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

A Stricter Islam Displaces Old Ways in Malaysia


January 18, 2016

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Unprecedented Public Display of Piety in Kuala Lumpur on New Year’s Eve (December 31, 2015)–Dataran Merdeka–led by Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Zahid Hamidi

A Stricter Islam Displaces Old Ways in Malaysia

by James Hookway

http://www.wsj.com/articles/a-harsher-islam-displaces-old-ways-in-malaysia-1452748999

Conservative Wahhabi doctrines are redefining the way Islam is practiced; some rituals have been banned

Kelana Indra Sakti is one of Malaysia’s most successful shamans. Framed testimonials from his customers hang from his office walls. In the driveway of his house he keeps a stretch Mercedes-Benz limousine given to him by a grateful client. His name, meaning “Adventurer, Heavenly Magic,” was bestowed on him by one of Malaysia’s wealthy sultans.

Lately, though, Mr. Kelana has supplemented his consultations with readings from the Quran.“People just expect it these days, so I do it,” said the 70-year-old shaman.

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Islamic Conservatives in serious discussion

Islam in Malaysia, and Southeast Asia, is taking a more conservative turn. The Muslim faith, brought here by Arab traders hundreds of years ago, has coexisted for generations with Malay customs such as shamanism, other forms of traditional medicine and the country’s sizable Buddhist, Christian and Hindu communities.

But more recently, conservative Wahhabi doctrines, often spread by Saudi-financed imams, are redefining the way Islam is practiced and, for some, eroding the tolerance for which the country has been known.

Signs of change abound, from the Arab-inspired architecture of Malaysia’s administrative capital to the more widespread application of Shariah, the Islamic law code largely based on the Quran.

In the northeastern state of Kelantan, one of the most conservative parts of the country, lines in supermarkets are separated by gender, and men are banned from watching women’s netball tournaments. In December, Malaysia’s first Shariah-compliant airline began flying. The airline guarantees pork-free meals and bans alcohol, in line with Islamic teaching, and its flight attendants are required to cover their heads with the hijab.

Politicians, meanwhile, are now competing with each other to show off their Islamist credentials. The opposition Pan-Islamic Party strict adherence to Shariah has helped build its support in rural areas. And a government investment fund—under the control of the Muslim-oriented ruling party—was recently set up to pay for village leaders to make the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.

The government’s recently established Department of Islamic Development of Malaysia writes sermons delivered in mosques nationwide each Friday, according to Malaysian analyst James Chin of the University of Tasmania.

Some Muslim academics and opinion leaders have begun to push back, saying the Arabization of Islam in the country has gone too far. Last year, Marina Mahathir, the daughter of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, complained that Malaysians were being taught formal rituals over the substance of the faith.

Malaysian security officials now worry that the changed climate is encouraging younger Muslims to turn to less tolerant forms of the faith. Security forces have detained over 120 people for suspected ties to Islamic State in the Middle East; scores of others have traveled to Syria to join it.

The cultural shift is complicating life for Malaysians holding on to shamanism and other old Malay customs. At a recent medical conference at the National University of Malaysia, just south of Kuala Lumpur, doctors and psychologists gathered to hear how a variety of ailments can be helped with readings from the Quran.

“We’ve forgotten old Islamic treatments and how they can help,” said one of the participants, Hamidi Abdul Rahman, president of Professional Islamic Support and Nurture Group, a faith healing group.

In Kelantan state, the shift is more pronounced. The local Islamist (PAS) government has outlawed traditional healing rituals, leaving musicians who lead them to practice under cover of darkness.

Performers such as 84-year-old Yar Daut shrug off what he says is a misplaced attempt to turn Malaysia into Arabia. “What nonsense. We’ve been performing like this for over 200 years,” he said as he mopped sweat from his brow during a break from his band’s practice sessions.

Malaysian author Eddin Khoo says that in some cases traditional music and rituals are surviving precisely because they are being driven to the margins.“The best way to make something appealing is to ban it,” Mr. Khoo said. “People are finding a way to keep it alive, whether the religious authorities go along with it or not.”

Mr. Kelana, who is Muslim, says he still has steady demand for his services, which usually involve counseling patients who have problems with their love lives or businesses.“They still need my help, and it’s my job to assist them,” he said as two young women in Muslim head scarves waited for him at his clinic.

Some shamans, or bomohs in Malay, have gotten into trouble with the law, though. Religious authorities declared in April that a well-known bomoh, Ibrahim Mat Zin, deviated from Islamic teachings when he performed a rite to locate the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 with a pair of bamboo binoculars and a couple of coconuts.

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Mr. Ibrahim, better known as Raja Bomoh Sedunia, or King of All the Bomohs in the World, denies doing anything wrong.Mr. Kelana reckons it is better to bend with the wind, as he puts it. It helps that he doesn’t need to perform any special rituals to figure out what is wrong with his patients. He says he can see an aura surrounding a person, and this provides all the information he needs to suggest a course of treatment.

If his clients want him to perform some spells or incantations, as in the old days, or read from the Quran, well, he’s ready to do that.“If it fits the part, why not?” Mr. Kelana said.

This pragmatic approach has won him a loyal following. He counts politicians on his client list. One patient, Nur Suzana, said she had traveled all over Indonesia and Thailand looking for shamans to deliver a cure when she said she was troubled by a jinn, or evil spirit.“Only Kelana Indra Sakti could help me,” she said after her visit.

Some imams at Mr. Kelana’s local mosque are coming around to his methods, he said. They have begun referring worshipers to him for help with their problems. “I’ve become the last resort, but people are still coming,” he said.

Write to James Hookway at james.hookway@wsj.com

 

 

 

Malaysia: Time to be your own Man, Mr. Prime Minister Najib Razak.


January 17, 2016

COMMENT:  I will re-title Jocelyn’s article “Forty Years in Politics–Time to be your own Man, Mr. Prime Minister Najib Razak”. 

Of the 6 Prime Ministers, Najib is the first chief executive of our nation to rely on his illustrious father, Tun Abdul Razak Hussein to bolster his much shattered image. His forty years in politics have come to nothing, given his performance as our Prime Minister since taking over from Tun Abdullah Badawi in 2009.

He let many people who pinned a lot of hope for change including me down. No matter what Jocelyn chooses to write to re-image the man, I do not see how Prime Minister Najib can recover from being perceived as a weak, dishonest and lying politician. He excited the nation with his 1Malaysia concept and other early initiatives, which I thought were consistent with the promise he made to me in 2010 at the Maybank Malaysian Golf Open held at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and  Country that he would make Malaysia great again.That is what a leader is expected to do. In stead, he became a politician of the worst kind Malaysia has seen since Independence in 1957.

Tunku Razak and Hussein

I do not know what motivated him to play dirty”Cash is King” politics and smear Malaysia’s image to the rest of the world right before our very eyes. Not for power. I think. Because he has awesome power which he inherited from Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. He used that power to outwit his political opponents from within UNMO including the  Tun and his faction, and  subdue his critics in the Opposition and civil society. Maybe it is greed, cynicism, and arrogance.

I do not need to defend my statement that Najib abused power with impunity since the evidence  is clear for all of us to see, despite all the cover-ups. Here is Malaysia’s astute politician who could have used the  power of his office for the greater good of all Malaysians and become a truly progressive leader. In stead, he has used race and religion and state coffers to divide and rule the nation and mismanaged the economy.

Jocelyn quoted UMNO leaders who are sycophants and cronies to praise him. Her article could have been more balanced and  accurate if she had interviewed ordinary citizens who are victims of his failed economic policies and divisive politics. It is true that Najib’s smart politics is working for him. He may be “UMNO’s marathon man and also the great survivor given the way he swam to shore after a ­tumul­tuous 2015.”But for how long?

Durability comes with competency and integrity, both of which are sadly lacking in Prime Minister Najib. If he possessed there qualities, he  could have been his own man and not depend on Tun Razak’s goodwill. Stop shedding crocodile tears.  –Din Merican

Najib’s Marathon Journey

Dato’Seri Najib Tun Razak will mark his 40th year in politics next month, a journey that he embarked on following the death of his father Tun Abdul Razak Hussein.

IT has been a nostalgic week for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.The media has been brimming with ­articles and documentaries about his late father and Malaysia’s second Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein.

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Malaysia’s second Prime Minister was one of a kind. He rose to power on the embers of May 13, his policies were bold and impactful but the candle burned out too soon. He was only 53, in the hot seat for barely six years when he died of leukaemia in London on January 14, 1976.

Najib, the eldest-born, has been quite ­central in the string of events ­commemorating the 40th anniversary of his father’s death. His emotions bubbled to the surface and he teared up when paying tribute to his father at a seminar on Thursday. It was probably a combination of sentimental and filial feelings as well as a certain realisation of the journey he has traveled in his father’s footsteps.

At 63, he has outlived his father by a good 10 years. He has also outlasted Razak as Prime Minister. Najib will mark his own 40th year in politics next month.Razak’s death was an immensely sad and poignant junction in the lives of his wife Tun Rahah Noah and their children.It also pushed Najib into the world of ­politics. He was then only 23. It was unlikely he had politics on his mind but he was the firstborn and was expected to rise to the occasion. He took over as MP for Pekan after winning the seat without a contest.

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February 21 will be 40 years to the day of the start to his political career. Politics can be such a ruthless game and it is amazing he has survived this long. His more visible contemporaries from back then include Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, 78, and Lim Kit Siang, 75.

Najib has often told his close political ­circle that politics is a “marathon run”. If that is so, then he is UMNO’s marathon man and also the great survivor given the way he swam to shore after a ­tumul­tuous 2015.

Every single one of those 40 years in politics has been spent in positions of some responsibility and power. He was immediately appointed a deputy minister in 1976. In 1978, he contested a state seat within the Pekan parliamentary area and went on to become the Mentri Besar of Pahang.

There had been a crisis between the palace and the then Mentri Besar who had to resign and Najib was a timely ­solution. His ties with the Pahang palace is still as smooth to this day and that says a lot about his finesse with regard to the Malay Rulers.

He first mentioned his four ­decades in ­politics at the UMNO General Assembly last December. “It was his way of telling us that it has been a long journey, with lots of ups and downs,” said Kapar UMNO division chief Dato’ Faizal Abdullah.

It was not a sentimental message but a pointed reminder to his ­audience and ­particularly to those trying to topple him that he is no pushover.As one political insider pointed out, Najib is a product of the system. It is in his blood, he knows where all the nerve points are, and which buttons to press.

But Najib has often pointed out that throughout his career, he has only contested a post when it became vacant. He has never tried to topple an incumbent.“He went up step by step. He knows the terrain, he is very experienced and he has seen it all. That’s why it is not easy for anyone, including Tun Mahathir, to take him on,” said Faizal.

It took Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim a mere 11 years from the time he became Permatang Pauh MP to become Deputy Prime Minister.Najib was born with a silver spoon in his mouth but it took him 28 long years to become Deputy Prime Minister and ­another five years to reach the top post.

But nothing in all those years could have quite prepared him for his annus horribilis in 2015. It was terrible being the target of attack by the once formidable Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad but he made it through.

There are basically two ways to remove a sitting Prime Minister. One is via his party and the other is through a vote of no ­confidence in Parliament.In Najib’s case, UMNO stood by him, the powerful division chiefs rallied around him and the endorsement he received at the party general assembly in December said it all. On top of that, he has the numbers in Parliament.However, Dr Mahathir and also the 1MDB issue have damaged him in a way that no one else could.

Although Dr Mahathir has backed off somewhat since the rationalisation plans for 1MDB were put into place, UMNO politicians think the elder man is merely waiting for the next opportunity to attack. The perception in UMNO is that Dr Mahathir no longer cares whether his attacks on Najib will also bring down their party or Barisan. The chasm between the two men is beyond repair.

Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who is a great admirer of Razak, was invited to speak at one of the events commemorating Razak’s legacy. But it is understood that Dr Mahathir was not invited to any of the events, which is quite sad because Dr Mahathir and Razak enjoyed a certain political bond in their time. Razak had brought Dr Mahathir back into UMNO in the 1970s and the latter had ­conti­nued Razak’s legacy of development ­during his premiership.

The irony is that surviving Dr Mahathir has also strengthened Najib’s hand in UMNO.“When politicians survive this kind of ­crisis, they come out stronger than before because they would have defeated or ­eliminated their key opponents and ­enemies,” said a former Putrajaya official.

The best example is Dr Mahathir himself. His political might grew each time he ­defeated or axed those who were against him such as Tun Musa Hitam, Tengku Razaleigh and Anwar.“Those who were predicting Najib’s demise last year did not realise he is such an ­experienced party man. He understands the UMNO psyche. At the end of the day, as long as the party is with him, he will be there,” said a long-time friend of Najib from his days as UMNO Youth chief.

Najib’s political longevity is also thanks to the political network he established during his years in the Youth wing. He continued to cultivate them even after he moved up the party.

Recently, he was seen visiting PAS ­President Dato’Seri Hadi Awang in IJN. But he had gone to IJN specifically to visit Johor ­politician Dato’Nasir Safar who was also hospitalised there.

Nasir is from his old UMNO Youth circle and he was one of those who stood by Najib last year. Najib is not a touchy-feely person but they held hands as they posed for a photo.“He remembers names and, without fail, he will have a buka puasa every year for our batch. Any of our friends who passes away, he is the first to go and he will find out if the family needs any help. The friendship is there even after so many years. He looks out for them, they go the extra mile for him,” said his old UMNNO Youth friend.

This network of friends and allies forms an important part of his support base.It is what the above political insider calls the “batch system”. They rise together as a batch and when he is in danger, they are there behind him.

Dr Mahathir and the 1MDB issue almost did Najib in but his 40 years of experience held up. Some of his friends in UMNO refer to him as the “tai chi master”, in the sense that they had not anticipated many of his survival moves. In any case, he outmanoeuvred the old maestro.

And now that the party is in calmer waters, some of the UMNO division chiefs joke that what Najib went through in 2015 was reminiscent of the movie, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

The title of the movie comes from a Chinese idiom in which the tiger and dragon refer to concealed danger and people with hidden skills, and the idiom is often used as a reminder to never underestimate anybody.Najib’s annus horribilis is over. The year 2016 will present a different kind of ­challenge as he grapples with the economy.

Forty years and a second lease of life – that is more than any tiger, dragon or politician could ask for.

Tawfik Ismail–On JAKIM and Matters of Religion


January 9, 2016

Tawfik Ismail–On JAKIM and Matters of Religion

by Daniel Albakri

http://www.thestar.com.my

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G25 member and former UMNO MP Tawfik Ismail (pic) says he stands firmly by his conviction that matters of religion are solely the purview of the rulers, as enshrined in the Federal Constitution, even as he is being investigated for sedition.

Tawfik, who is the son of Malaysia’s Second Deputy Prime Minister Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman, said he told this to the Police as well as his views on the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (JAKIM) when questioned for about an hour at the Shah Alam Police station on Friday.

“I wasn’t inconsistent in my views. I wasn’t talking about anything more than following the constitutional boundaries that delineate roles in the country.The issue is that the power of religion should remain in hands of the rulers. That is their role in the constitution,” he said.

Tawfik said he told the Police his statements on abolishing JAKIM, which were what got him into trouble, were in response to a question posed to him in an interview last year on what he felt was different now in the Government.

“The question arose: what do I feel is the difference between today and when Tunku and Tun Abdul Razak were at the helm of the country.I said that the biggest difference was that JAKIM, under the Prime Minister’s office, is now usurping the role of the Sultans and the state religious authorities,” he said.

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He reiterated his opinion that the roles held by JAKIM could be taken over from existing ministries. “Their responsibilities can be borne by the Health and Trade ministries. You don’t need another department to enforce it at the expense of the Government,” he said. However, he added that did not hold anything against the Police for conducting the sedition probe on him.“I believe the Police have a duty to investigate any matter that has been raised as a concern to the public. They are right to do that,” he said.Tawfik added that his views were his own and did not represent those of G25.

Saudi Money and the Spread of Wahhabism In South Asia


January 8, 2016

Saudi Money and the Spread of Wahhabism In South Asia

By Akhilesh Pillalamarri, Columnist

http://georgetownsecuritystudiesreview.org/2014/12/20/the-radicalization-of-south-asian-islam-saudi-money-and-the-spread-of-wahhabism/

The Spread of Wahhabism

A new school of Islam from Saudi Arabia is transforming South Asia’s religious landscape. Wahhabism, a fundamental Sunni school of Islam originating in Saudi Arabia, entered South Asia in the late 1970s. With public and private Saudi funding, Wahhabism has steadily gained influence among Muslim communities throughout the region.

As a result, the nature of South Asian Islam has significantly changed in the last three decades. The result has been an increase in Islamist violence in Pakistan, Indian Kashmir, and Bangladesh. While governments in South Asia have not initially made the connection between Saudi Arabian money and the radicalization of Islam in their own countries, it is now clear that Wahhabism’s spread is increasing fundamentalism in South Asia.

Islam in South Asia has traditionally been distinct from Middle Eastern Islam. Sufism –mystical Islam – as well as elements of syncretism with Hinduism and other native religions characterize South Asian Islam. Muslim rulers throughout South Asia in the medieval period were often isolated from the rest of the Muslim world and relied upon a large number of non-Muslim subjects.[1] Consequently, South Asian Islam incorporated customs mainstream Islam frowns upon, such as visiting the shrines and graves of holy men, meditative practices influenced by yoga, and the use of music for worship.[2]

Due to the influence of Wahhabism from Saudi Arabia, South Asian Islam began to change as private individuals and the Saudi government poured money into South Asian mosques and madrassas.[3] As a result, many South Asians are now Wahhabis or members of related sects that practice a form of austere Islam similar to the type found in Saudi Arabia. One of these sects is a conservative movement known as the Deobandi movement, which, while indigenous to South Asia, is influenced by Wahhabism. The great rivals of the Deobandis in South Asia are adherents of the Barelvi movement, which was formed in reaction to the Deobandis and seeks to preserve the Islamic practices of South Asia, especially pilgrimages to graves and shrines.

Saudi influence entered Pakistan during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the subsequent war in the 1980s, in the form of funds for madrassas and mosques in Pakistan, in order to create and train mujahedeen to fight atheistic Soviet Communism. Saudi Arabia’s government money funded both Deobandi and Wahhabi madrassas throughout Pakistan, and Saudi charities also poured money into Pakistan with the blessing of the Saudi government.[4] Initially, the mushrooming of Wahhabi and Deobandi groups worked to produce mujahedeen to fight in the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. Later, elements of the Pakistani government, notably the Pakistani intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), saw the spread of Wahhabism as useful in creating jihadist proxies to influence Afghanistan and Indian Kashmir. As a result, despite the end of the Soviet-Afghan war in 1989, the influence of Wahhabism continued to grow in Pakistan. Additionally, due to the poor nature of Pakistan’s education system, Saudi-funded madrassas educated many of the most impoverished who would have otherwise not had a chance to go to school.

Today, Saudi money continues to fund Wahhabi and Deobandi groups that promote their ideology in Pakistan with the tacit approval of the Pakistani government. The success of Saudi money in converting Muslim groups to Wahhabism has since been replicated in other parts of South Asia, including parts of India and Bangladesh. In the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, Saudi influence has led to 1.5 million people, from a population of 8 million, to affiliate with Wahhabi mosques.[5] A Saudi-funded group, Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith claims 16 percent of Kashmir’s population as its members and has built 700 mosques and 150 schools.[6] Police in Jammu and Kashmir believe this is the result of a $35 billion plan approved by Saudi Arabia’s government in 2005 to build mosques and madrassas in South Asia.[7] Additionally, Saudi Arabia distributed free religious literature and provided stipends to Wahhabi preachers.[8]

In Bangladesh, individuals radicalized in Wahhabi-funded mosques have coalesced under the fundamentalist organization Hefazat-e-Islam, which was implicated in the January 2014 incident when its members took to the streets in violent protests and demanded the implementation of Islamic law in Bangladesh.[9] In Jammu and Kashmir, the practice of visiting shrines has declined and the use of burkas among women has increased.[10] There is a general fear that the influence of Wahhabism throughout South Asia will dilute moderate interpretations of Islam in South Asia.

Saudi Arabia has several motivations in spreading Wahhabism throughout South Asia. The first is a genuine zeal for spreading the movement’s teachings. It has been the policy of the Wahhabi movement to evangelize from its inception, and Saudi oil money gives it the means to do so.[11] Saudi Arabia’s initial success in Pakistan showed Saudi Arabia that South Asia, with its relatively weak governments and lack of regulation on foreign money, is fertile ground for the spread of Wahhabi influence.[12] Additionally, Saudi Arabia noticed the ease with which Wahhabis formed strong bonds with the region’s native Deobandis.[13] Another reason Saudi Arabia is spreading Wahhabism in South Asia is to counter the influence of Shia Iran. Since the Iranian Revolution of 1979 created an expressively Shia state, Saudi Arabia has promoted Wahhabism wherever it could in order to fight Shia Islam. This includes South Asia, where Saudi Arabia wants to counter Iran’s tendency to use Shias groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan to expand its political influence in those countries.[14]

Unless governments throughout South Asia take steps to limit the influence of Saudi money and encourage alternative sources of funding for mosques and madrassas, Saudi-funded Wahhabi influence will continue to spread throughout South Asia, radicalizing its Muslims, and hampering efforts by South Asian governments to fight radical Islam and promote modernization.

[1] John Keay, India: A History (London: HarperCollins, 2004), 279.

[2] Barbara D. Metcalf, Islam in South Asia in Practice (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009), 13.

[3] Ahmad Rashid, Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan, and Afghanistan (London: Allen Lane, 2012), 202.

[4]Hussain Haqqani, Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military (Washington: Brookings Institution Press, 2005), 191; Riaz Muhammad Khan. Afghanistan and Pakistan: Conflict, Extremism, and Resistance to Modernity (Washington: The Woodrow Wilson Press, 2011), 185.

[5] Tariq Mir, “Kashmir: The Rise of a Hard Faith,” Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, December 13, 2011, http://pulitzercenter.org/projects/kashmir-india-pakistan-sufi-wahhabi-islam.

[6] Asit Jolly, “The Wahhabi Invasion,”India Today, December 23, 2011, http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/saudi-charities-pump-in-funds-through-hawala-channels-to-radicalise-kashmir-valley/1/165660.html.

[7] Jolly, “The Wahhabi Invasion.”

[8] Tariq Mir, “Purifying Kashmir,” Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, May 8, 2012, http://pulitzercenter.org/reporting/kashmir-salafi-islam-saudi-arabia-al-kindi.

[9] “Anarchy at the Ballot Box: Bangladesh Rising,” Vice News, April 15, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMgykLxfAwU#t=469.

[10] Jolly, “The Wahhabi Invasion.”

[11] Ed Husain, “Saudis Must Stop Exporting Extremism,” The New York Times, August 22, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/23/opinion/isis-atrocities-started-with-saudi-support-for-salafi-hate.html.

[12] Chowdhury, “Muslim by Religiously Liberal.”

[13] Khan, 186.

[14] Abbas Nasir, “Zia’s Long Shadow,” Dawn, July 6, 2012, http://www.dawn.com/news/732329/zias-long-shadow.