Malaysia: Questions to ponder


July 26, 2015

COMMENT: I cannot disagree with Zainah Anwar on the issues she raised in her article.  Spot on, but we have reached beyond theKamsiah and Din 2015 CNY pondering stage since the rot started long before Najib became the 6th Prime Minister in 2009.

Who was the Prime Minister who brazenly stated that our country is an Islamic state and who played the race card? Let us not forget that he came to power on the back of ultra-Malay nationalism and Islamism. Who destroyed our system of governance to leave as his legacy a powerful office of Prime Minister and a UMNO President who cannot be challenged.

He now is the man who is leading the charge to overthrow Najib from high office. He cannot conveniently say that he is not good at picking his successors (Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Najib Razak). He eliminated some outstanding UMNO leaders like Tun Musa Hitam, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim and created UMNO  Baru so that he could govern without opposition from his party and Parliament with the help of a compliant Judiciary and a civil service which  he could manipulate to achieve his political goals and perpetuate his rule (he did it for 22+ years).

Mahathir Lawan Najib

Today we have become a failed nation led by a kleptocracy under the leadership of a weak and corrupt Prime Minister Najib Razak.  UMNO is beyond redemption. In stead, we have to ponder whether UMNO of pagar makan padi types should continue to govern our country.

For me the answer is clear: No, UMNO which is trapped in a culture of patronage, cronyism, and corruption cannot be expected to revamp itself and govern differently. But what is the alternative?

Right now, given the fact the political opposition is in total disarray and UMNO is without a replacement, we have no choice but to endure the pain and agony of Najib’s transformational leadership for a few more years. The Economist could be right in coming to this conclusion. May God save Malaysia.–Din Merican

Malaysia: Questions to ponder

As issue and more issues made the headlines, will there be an implosion of all the things that Malaysia had built over the years?

I AM beginning to feel as if this country and its rakyat are being crushed and pummelled by wrecking balls.

JELAJAH JANJI DETEPATI / KULIMThe wrecking ball of race and religion, of insatiable greed, of never-­ending sense of entitlements, of unpunished crimes and abuses, of ideology over rational thinking, justice, and fair play.

These concerns are nothing new. What’s new is the breathtaking scale, the endlessness of it all, and the shamelessness with which the perpetrators display their unscrupulous, destructive and criminal behaviour, in words and deeds.

 The seeds of this rot were sown a long time ago. Any dominant party in power breeds its own seeds of destruction. For too long, too many of its leaders and party apparatchiks get away with all manner of transgressions. They tend to believe they are immune from any form of retribution.
LOW_YAT_HOOLIGANS_120715_TMISETH_0

I was in Geneva two weeks ago and UN officials and activists I met were asking what was happening to Malaysia.How did things get this bad? We were once a model country that others looked up to as a prosperous, progressive, politically stable, multi-ethnic society. We are a high middle-income developing country, not a basket case.

Now we are looking more and more like another banana republic, with scandals galore making global headlines. The deep concern many feel that these wrecking balls could lead to an implosion of everything that we have built over the ­decades is real. And what is scary is that there are people who are priming for trouble to break.

The Low Yat plaza riot will not be the last in their scheme of things. Thank God, the IGP and his forces acted fast in nipping the problem in the bud and stating the facts clearly and unambiguously. It was a crime; not about one race trying to cheat another.

Najib and 1MDBAll those who exploited the situation by making hate speech to manufacture racial conflict must be charged for their role in inciting violence.

Lessons must be learnt fast if we want to stop those determined to destroy the country in order to remain in power and preserve what they believe are their lifetime entitlements – on nothing but the basis of birth.

As desperation over the inevitable closing chapter sets in, there will be more attempts to ignite fires of racial conflict.

The truth is the ruling elite is becoming more and more beleaguered – under the weight and scope of allegations of misappropriation of public funds, plummeting popularity and finding itself devoid of new blood and new ideas, and certainly bereft of courage and will to bring the transformation needed to win back public support.

Let’s manufacture more threats to add to the standard “Malays under threat”, “Islam under threat”. Now it’s “national security under threat” as more and more damning evidence of mind-blowing brazen sleaze and corruption is revealed.

Who is really threatening whose survival? And what has happened to the warnings given at the UMNO General Assembly last year that UMNO must “change or be dead”? It looks like the choice UMNO has made is very clear.

Unless a new breed of young far-sighted leaders come forward with the will and courage to change the system – political and economic – to become more inclusive, more just, more honest, more transparent, we are really seeing the end of a long era in Malaysian politics. Time has run out for this old form of authoritarian politics and rule by a privileged elite.

Trust Us GangIn their book Why Nations Fail, Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson argue with evidence across history and geography that authoritarian “extractive” political and economic institutions designed by elites in order to and perpetuate their power at the expense of the majority of the people are bound to run out of steam.

The pride we have in our beloved country is that was NOT our history. That was not how Malaysia began. But today this is where we are heading.

Just look at the alleged Mara scandal. An agency set up to redress a historical econo­mic injustice against the Malays ends up led by people cheating the very group they are supposed to help, pocketing millions in barefaced shenanigans.

A policy vehicle pumped with hundreds of millions of taxpayers money to eradicate poverty on the basis of race gets abused by the privileged elite of that race.

This is yet another case of pagar makan padi. Those entrusted to protect you, instead betray you. And there are many more such scandals, just waiting to be surfaced.

Let’s ask some hard questions here. Why after decades of rigorous development planning, 40% of Malaysian households earn only about RM1,847 a month?Why after more than four decades of the NEP, 75.5% of those at the bottom are bumiputras?

Why in spite of the billions poured into education and boarding schools, 64.3% of the bumiputra workforce have only SPM qualifications? Why some 90% of the unemployable university graduates are bumiputras?

Why of the RM54bil worth of shares pumped to bumiputra individuals and institutions between 1984 and 2005, only RM2bil remained in bumiputra hands today?

And why oh why should the bumiputras continue to raise a begging bowl and ask for more of the same kind of handouts from the same ruling elite? The bottom 40% get crumbs. Let’s focus our attention on these priorities.

Malaysia: Najib is above the Law, shame on the Enforcers and the Judiciary


July 15, 2015

Malaysia: No one is above the Law, but Najib is the Special One

by Manjit Bhatia

Najib in Prayer2

As corruption scandals plague the Prime Minster, this is the moment Malaysians should openly demand justice in their country – something the law and judiciary won’t give them.

When on  July 8, Defence Minister Hishamuddin Hussein declared that no-one in Malaysia is “above the law”, many Malaysians would have either shrieked in horror or laughed till their stomachs hurt. But nobody would have shuddered at the idea that Hishamuddin would shamelessly tell another bald-faced lie or trumpet yet another cockamamie from his loft.

Coming from a regime renowned for hiring congenital liars and compulsive shysters since 1969 — although one could also revisit some wild porkies told in the 1950s and 60s — Hishamuddin’s attempt at grabbing the political middle-ground, to be seen as some sort of conciliatory ‘statesman’-like figure, flatly slammed back into his face.

Most Malaysians will have experienced the crudely thwarting ability of the 58-year-old ruling UMNO-Barisan Nasional regime to make the country’s laws bendable. So pliant are they, that today Malaysia’s laws are inherently farcical. Malaysian laws, in general and specific terms, are a disgrace.

Malaysian laws serve UMNO-BN’s narrow, immediate, ideo-political and economic interests. Malaysians understand there is no such things as equality before the law, let alone justice in this increasingly pariah, Third World state with grand pretensions of becoming an “advanced nation” by 2020.

Najib Razak, Hishamuddin’s cousin and boss, Malaysia’s Prime Minister, and Finance Minister to boot, is directly implicated in a monstrous corruption scandal, the likes of which Malaysians have never seen. Some US $700m is alleged to have been transferred to several bank accounts in his name, while 2 million ringgit has been allegedly deposited into his wife’s bank account. It is difficult to see Najib extricating himself with comprehensive inculpability, much less virtuousness, from the mounting shambles around his integrity and political legitimacy.

Hisham_Keris

This is precisely the moment Malaysians should openly demand justice in their country along principles of ‘justice as fairness’. It will not happen. Hishamuddin, an UMNO Vice-President who, in 2005, while clutching the traditional Malay keris (short-sword), threatened to spill non Malay-Muslim blood in the name of Malay superiority, knows this well. So, too, Malaysia’s Bar Council, which has remained peculiarly quiet. Not a squeak.

To all intents and purposes, the entire Malaysian cabinet, including Hishamuddin, would have been aware that the monies transferred into Najib’s personal bank accounts — exposed by The Wall Street Journal on 2 July — had been used to rig the 2013 elections and yet again defraud Malaysians of their right to regime change.

That outcome is now history. But it is another ugly chapter in this country’s growing repulsiveness when added to its penchant to also practice racism and religious bigotry. No court in Malaysia will sit in judgment on these matters. If and when it does, judgment almost always never comes in a hurry, if at all.

Islamic groups — financed by taxpayers and ideologically supported by UMNO, an exclusively Malay-Muslim political party — engage in body and identity snatching: recurring episodes of forced, surreptitious and illegal conversions of non-Muslims to Islam.

Their blackguard actions are soiled in the politics of Islamising the country for purely desperate politically reasons. The greater the Muslim base of Malaysia’s 30 million population, the better the chance of the right wing UMNO continuing to rule Malaysia under false pretenses.

Not that the regime-pliant judiciary would dare preside against the illegalities of the 2013 general elections that clearly depicted UMNO’s fraud, led by Najib. Since 2014, Malaysia’s Federal and Appeals courts have deferred the decision to declare the 2013 poll null and void to the Registrar of Societies. ROS is answerable only to the home minister, a draconian character. In historical terms ROS augments UMNO’s autocratic rule and electoral fraud alongside the regime’s handpicked Election Commission.

Ruling politicians are accorded the same treatment by Malaysia’s ‘laws’, and at a much higher level: they are effectively untouchable. Like all former Inspector-Generals of Police, the current IGP is not a public servant but a puppet of UMNO, whom he and his police force, debauchedly corrupt, protect, come hell or high water. It makes lighter work for Malaysia’s judges.

Mahathir Mohamad-2014

In his time as Prime Minister (1981-2003) Dr Mahathir did his darnedest to destroy the constitution and substantively reduce the position of Malaysia’s monarchs. They are today voiceless, powerless, and were happy to become a despotic class. To the extent that Mahathir for the most part hid behind his repressive laws and the malleable judiciary, Najib has been doing likewise in his bid to stifle popular dissent and the potential for mass revolt.

Murdered Mongolian ex-model Altantuyaa.

Najib has learnt well from his mentor. Mahathir’s political cretins, in the Gramscian vernacular, have gotten away with some of the worst graft accusations, mostly via their business cronies. Najib and perennially bungling ministers and senior bureaucrats know they need never fear fronting a Malaysian judge. So much so, the rort has continued like an unbridled market for lecherous grubbiness.

Najib has never been before a judge for all the scandals that have erupted under his charge as either a minister in other portfolios, and as prime minister and finance minister since March 2009. His name continues to be linked to the cold-blooded murder of 28-year-old Altantunya Shaariibuu, the Mongolian model and translator in the scandalous Scorpene submarines deal when Najib was defense minister.

To be sure, Najib is most unlikely to be indicted, despite the fact that there is sufficient evidence to, at the very least, raise the possibility if not probability of corruption and electoral fraud. After all, laws in Malaysia are severely asymmetrical and deeply prejudiced. Malaysian laws serve to dispense immediate justice on behalf of its political masters, advance their self-interests as well as those of the filthy-rich class of Malaysians with direct political connections.

There is literally no dispensation or indeed chance of dispensation of credibly proper and full justice against UMNO-BN chieftains and or their business cronies regardless of the existence of irrefutable evidence of various illegalities in their depraved wealth accumulation.

This situation is not helped when the IGP refuses to investigate any of them but is happy to make chronically ill-thought political judgments on behalf of his puppet masters. His investigatory judgments based in law are non-existent.

It is also not helped by the current attorney-general, whose job description is scarcely dissimilar to the IGP’s; the foremost protection of the odiously corrupt, deceitful and treacherous UMNO-BN regime.

UMNO ministers have crawled out of their hiding holes to state and restate with hyena-like frequency that Najib is not legally bound to step down, even as various investigations into his alleged corruption proceed apace. Or that he need not step down at all because he has not broken the law.

The second claim is true — so far, and up to a point. The first one, though, is born of heightened scandalous stupidity. At stake are the names of the offices of prime minister and finance minister and of the country (already damaged goods).

Malaysia is almost wholly dependent on international financial markets, international investors, and international trade for its national income, where the budget deficit is inching up, the current account is narrowing by the month, where unemployment is rising, and where domestic and international capital flight could whack the economy sideways and backwards.

But never mind, just as long as patron Najib, UMNO-BN politicians and their cronies and nepotists remain above Malaysia’s spineless laws. They need not worry in any case: there are no laws in Malaysia to speak of in the first place.

Manjit Bhatia is head of research at AsiaRisk, an economic and political risk consultancy firm.

http://asiapacific.anu.edu.au/newmandala/2015/07/14/the-law-in-malaysia-is-an-ass/

Malaysia: The Low Yat Plaza Incident is the Hand Maiden of Racists


July 14, 2015

COMMENT: The Najib Administration must not  be dismissive of  this incident. His divide and rule politics of religious exclusivity and racial differentiation has come to roost and is now beginning to threaten communal harmony  and political stability with attendant effects on an already difficult economy.

There is so much anger and frustration in Malaysia that the situation can flare up at the slightest provocation. Pekida and other UMNO-sponsored Malay right-wing elements, the Chinese triads and Indian terror groups  can pounce into action to create chaos.

Kee Calm Eat Kangkung

The Prime Minister must cease playing survival politics and get down to the serious business of governance. Otherwise, like William Shakespeare’s Richard The Third ( Act 5, scene 4, 7–10) he can be expected to be trading his besieged  kingdom for a horse. –Din Merican

Malaysia: The Low Yat Plaza Incident is the Hand Maiden of Racists

by Boo Su-Lyn
Low Yat Plaza  V2

The Low Yat Plaza riot which injured five people was scary with its disturbing racial overtones, and we don’t do Malaysia any favours by pretending that the whole incident had nothing to do with racism.

The original incident seemed simple enough. A Malay man allegedly stole a smart phone from a Chinese trader at a shop in Low Yat Saturday. He was caught and handed over to the Police. Then the upset man brought a group of friends over who allegedly assaulted the workers from the mobile phone outlet and damaged the store, causing about RM70,000 in losses.

The story then took a strange racist twist, with rumours suddenly popping up on social media about how the “cheating” Chinese had tried to sell a counterfeit phone to the Malay man. The Police, by the way, have reportedly dismissed claims about the counterfeit phone.

A riot broke out at Low Yat the following day, with disturbing videos of the violent Malay mob attacking a car with passengers cowering inside, as well as three journalists from the Chinese press.

The shoplifting was not unusual and had nothing to do with race, certainly. But the subsequent fallout was motivated by racism, with all the belligerent calls on social media to #BoikotCinaPenipu and to boycott Low Yat. There were hostile calls for Malay unity and vague threats of assault, with a photo of a gunman and the words “Call of Duty Low Yat” on Facebook.

Low Yat Plaza violence

There were even calls for arson. Malays were painted as victims, oppressed by the Chinese. At the mob gathering on Sunday night, a Malay man is seen in a video making a racist speech about how Malaysia is “bumi Melayu” and how the Chinese humiliated the Malays.

Police, politicians and the public have been quick to say that the Low Yat incident was not about racism, but just a simple case of theft. Wake up and smell the coffee — the Low Yat riot was racially motivated and it shows how ugly things can get when the economy is bad.

For all our campaigns about “moderation”, the truth is, racism exists in this country and we can’t ignore it. People look for scapegoats when the economy is in the doldrums. The Jews were made a scapegoat for Germany’s economic problems after World War I.

It is easier to blame a person from another ethnic group living near you, who is sitting in the same LRT and eating at the same fast food restaurant in which most of the counter staff appear to be Malays, for robbing you of opportunities in life.

LOW_YAT_HOOLIGANS_120715_TMISETH_0

It is  easier to get angry at news of someone from another race ripping off your fellow brethren over something tangible like a phone, than at the purportedly missing billions in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal.

After all, you don’t know exactly how many of those billions come from your taxes. And you don’t see physical cash from your taxes being diverted into someone’s personal bank account.

It’s easier to hit a fellow Malaysian of a different skin colour over perceived injustices, compared to trying to slap the Prime Minister who’s protected by bodyguards and whom you only see in the news, not on the streets.

The government too should be blamed for allowing, and even encouraging, circumstances for a riot to happen. The race-baiting in Utusan Malaysia, the refrain for Malay unity, and Friday sermons that repeatedly label minority groups as “the enemy” have all contributed to this powder keg of racial tension.

A minister who brazenly called for Chinese traders to be boycotted should have been sacked. But instead, he remains in government. The ethnic conflict between the Malays and Chinese is driven by the perception that the Chinese are significantly wealthier. It’s unclear how much of that is really true.

A Khazanah Research Institute study shows that 26 per cent of Bumiputera households earn less than RM2,000 per month, compared to 20 per cent and 14 per cent of Indian and Chinese households respectively. So it is arguable if the Chinese really do dominate the economy.

Racism is not just caused by politicians who use the race card to get support. There are things that do not make it in the news – the wariness of the Malays at eating or drinking at Chinese coffee shops, the unnatural fear of pork to the extent of shunning Chinese ice-cream sellers, the undercurrent of complaints against the Chinese for stealing the country’s wealth and for trampling on the rights of the Malays.

There’s breeding resentment on both sides. The Chinese complain about not getting equal treatment and having to work twice as hard to get the same opportunities as the Malays, who receive coveted positions at public universities, housing discounts etc. They look down on the Malays and perceive them as “lazy”.

When a Malay is hardworking and does make it to the top, they say she’s an exception, not the rule. This makes for uncomfortable reading. But we need to confront racism head on.

We need to acknowledge that we hold racial stereotypes and that such stereotypes comfort us. They make us feel good about ourselves. They make us feel superior. We can laugh at racist jokes but we secretly place our colleagues, acquaintances, civil servants, and traders into racial stereotypes that they happen to fit in.

I myself am guilty of doing it. I compare the Chinese and Malay nasi lemak sellers at the wet market that I regularly go to. The Chinese nasi lemak seller is fast and efficient, but she’s very careful with her portions, always measuring them so she does not give too much.

The Malay trader’s nasi lemak is tastier and he lets customers dole out their own portions, charging a far cheaper price too. But he arrives at a later time than the Chinese, which means fewer customers, and he’s slow.

So I secretly think that the Chinese is a better businesswoman, even though I prefer buying from the Malay nasi lemak seller (when he arrives early enough).And I allow myself to take comfort in the (dangerous) belief that yes, the Malays may get everything handed to them on a silver platter, but we Chinese can still beat them because we’re better, smarter and faster than them.

I feel uncomfortable admitting this in writing. But I must, just like all of us must similarly admit the racial stereotypes we hold if we want Malaysia to move forward. We will never eradicate racism by burying our heads in the sand and pretending that it does not exist.

We need to perhaps befriend more people of other races. Maybe even get into interracial relationships and have babies of mixed ethnicity. Then maybe, just maybe, Malaysia will be a little less racist.

Culture–The Social Glue and Identity


July 7, 2015

Culture–The Social Glue and Identity

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

culture-and-exportingEvery group of humans whether dwelling in the same cave or working for the same corporation must share some common goals, values, and worldview, as well as everyday routine practices. This is what culture means; it is the social glue that binds the members together and differentiates them from others. Far from being society’s oppressor, culture is its savior.

The human baby is not born a carnivorous hunter or a vegetarian ascetic anymore than it is born an Aryan or Chinese. The baby may have Aryan characteristics (sharp nose, blond hair, and blue eyes) or that of a Chinese (moon face, jet black hair, and epicanthic folds) but those features do not make what it will be. Whether that baby will turn out to be a proud bearer of a swastika or marches the streets waving Mao’s Little Red Book depends upon the culture in which it has been raised.

Tune to BBC News. If you close your eyes you would assume the announcer to be a lithe English lassie. Look at the screen and your preconceived images would be shattered for behind that flawless British voice might be a lady of African descent or a Semitic-looking Arab woman, minus the purdah of course.

The process by which a group instills its collective ways and values upon its new members – acculturation – is by nature conservative, to uphold prevailing norms and standards. The dark-skinned BBC announcer could not possibly sound so elegantly authoritative had she been brought up in Southside Chicago or a Soweto township.

I had a childhood friend back in the old village. Born as I was during the terrible deprivation of the Japanese Occupation, his family, like so many poor Chinese families in rural Malaysia at that time, was forced to give him up. Growing up in his adopted Malay family, he was no different from the rest of us. I was not even aware that he was adopted despite his obvious non-Malay features.

Later as a teenager he became extremely chauvinistic, espousing fanatical sentiments of Malay nationalism. Even that did not trigger any irony on my part. On one occasion he was particularly virulent in his denunciations of the immigrants while within hearing distance of my parents. When he was gone my father laughed, remarking that someone ought to hold a mirror to my friend’s face whenever he was indulging in his racial demagoguery. Only then did it register on me that he was Chinese looking. The incongruity of his being a Malay supremacist.

My digressing short story here must have an uplifting ending. My friend did indeed outgrow his adolescent delusions and become a successful businessman with a multiracial and international clientele. Today he is the paragon of the liberal, progressive Malay, the ones the PERKASA (the acronym of a Malay ultra right-wing group) types love to hate.

Just as my friend’s upbringing (his acculturation) turned him into an insular, chauvinistic nationalist, his later vocation reformed him into an open, worldly businessman. Later, I will pursue this unappreciated but important role of trade and commerce in liberating minds.

The Dayak WarriorCulture provides the backdrop for much of our learning and experiences, as well as the environmental (both physical and social) stimuli that our brain is exposed to. These are what shape our view of reality, or in the language of neuroscience, the subsequent patterns of neural networks. Culture conserves the values and norms of that society and transmits them unchanged to the next generation.

Culture is also internally consistent even though to outsiders some of its norms and practices may appear destructive or non-productive. To the Mafia of southern Italy, being violent and vengeful are valued traits, to maintain family ‘honor.’ In not-so-ancient China members of the triad maintained their strict code of silence through uncompromising and merciless enforcement; the price for breaching being gruesome death. Then there are the “honor killing” of the Pashtuns and the self-immolation suttee where a widowed Indian would throw herself on her husband’s funeral pyre.

Those destructive acts must have served some purpose otherwise the culture would have abandoned them long ago. The Chinese code of silence was perhaps a protective reaction to the brutish local warlords, while “honor killing” and suttee were meant to demonstrate the supreme value of family honor and marital fidelity. In that culture a widowed woman would be treated so harshly and discriminated against so mercilessly that she would be driven to prostitution or home wrecking.

To someone from a culture where infidelity is the norm (if we can believe Hollywood movies and the scandals involving Bill Clinton and Arnold Schwarzenegger), suttee and honor killing seem barbaric and way out of proportion.

Likewise hudud’s stoning to death for adultery; to Muslims it reflects the sanctity of marriage and the high premium we place on marital fidelity. Humans being human, the culture does provide an outlet to minimize the possibility of imposing this harsh penalty; thus multiple wives or even “temporary” ones. The ancient Chinese accepted concubines.

As an aside, despite hudud’s current notoriety, it is well to remember that during the four centuries of Ottoman rule, the actual number of cases of “stoning to death” was only one. Compare that to the number of deaths through suttee burning and gentleman’s duel.

The Anglo Saxons’ “duel unto death” is on the same plane as suttee and honor killing; the difference merely in means and methods. The underlying principle and end result are the same – a matter of “honor” and the senseless taking of a life respectively. It illuminates my point that culture is internally consistent. It is futile for anyone, especially outsiders, to pick and choose a particular element of a culture and pronounce it regressive or uncivilized. The true and only meaningful test of a culture is how it prepares its people to stresses and changes, especially when those are sudden and dramatic, or imposed from the outside.

Kassim Ahmad: Hudud Law, Again!


July 3, 2015

Please note that this article appeared in this blog sometime ago, March 23, 2015 to be exact. It is worth repeating since it explains hudud law clearly. Najib and Hadi should read it and stop playing political games with this matter.–Din Merican

Kassim Ahmad: Hudud Law, Again!

Human history is littered with errors that came to be accepted later as “facts”. We are not talking of small errors. We are talking of big ones. That explains the rise and fall of nations. One author has described this historical evolution as “recurring, multilinear, yet ascending.” That means on the whole we are progressing, but the line of progress is not ascending linear, but multilinear, sometimes ascending, sometimes descending.–Kassim  Ahmad

Kassim Ahmad on Hudud LawSome Muslims pride themselves for upholding what is called the hudud punishments. Do they really know what they are talking about? They think it is God-ordained law. Are they right?

They should remember the lessons of history. Did the Jewish Prophet Moses bring the religion of what is now known as Judaism? The answer is: No. Did Prophet Jesus, also a Jew, bring the religion of what is now known as Christianity? Again the answer is: No. Did Prophet Muhammad, an Arab, bring the religion of Sunnism and Shi’ism? Again the answer is: No.

Human history is littered with errors that came to be accepted later as “facts”. We are not talking of small errors. We are talking of big ones. That explains the rise and fall of nations. One author has described this historical evolution as “recurring, multilinear, yet ascending.” That means on the whole we are progressing, but the line of progress is not ascending linear, but multilinear, sometimes ascending, sometimes descending.

Hashim_kamaliLet me cite just one authority, Professor  Mohammad Hashim Kamali. This paragraph is taken from his book, Punishment in Islamic Law: An Inquiry into the Hudud Bill in Kelantan (Kuala Lumpur: 2000) is very telling: “When we compare the Quranic usage of hadd (in the sense of limit) with the use of this term in fiqh, we notice that a basic development has taken place, which is that the term hadd has been reserved to signify a fixed and unchallengeable punishment that is laid down in the Quran or Sunnah. The concept of the ‘separating or preventing limit’ of the Quran is thereby replaced by the idea of fixed punishment.” (p. 46)

There you have another example of a major error made by great scholar.The term hududu’l-Lah (God’s boundaries) occurs in the Quran 14 times, none of which refer to fixed punishments, as understood by some Muslim jurists. One scholar opined that, “The unchangeability of the hadd punishment is supported by the interpretation of the Quranic verse: ‘These are the limits of Allah. Do not transgress them.’” (2: 229) The verse does not actually mean what he says it means.s. That is precisely why the Quran warns us of idolizing leaders or scholars. We could be kind if we choose to pardon them by saying that it was their understanding, or their ijtihad, which must be reviewed by the next generation.

Let us take some of the so-called hudud punishments. Cutting of the head for apostasy, when the Quran advocates complete freedom of belief, some 1,400 years ahead of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Take note also that the divine order to our courts is to judge among people with justice. (See Quran, 4: 58) Surely God Who decrees upon Himself mercy (Quran, 6: 12) cannot enact such archaic and barbarous laws.n Rights; stoning for adultery, cutting of the hand for theft are three of the six or seven of the so-called fixed punishments propounded by Muslim jurists.Take note these run  the Hudud punishments contrary to the teachings of the Quran.

The term ‘hudud’ul-Lah’, meaning the boundaries of God, simply means in every action there is a boundary that one should not overpass. Take the case of eating: one must eat to survive, but he must not overeat. In between there is a boundary set by God that he should not cross. As in the case of eating, so in all cases of human activities. It is sometime called ‘The Golden Mean’, the middle cause.

See how even great scholars have made mistakes. That is precisely the reason why God warns us of idolizing leaders. It is incumbent upon succeeding generations to re-evaluate the legacies they inherit from the older generations.

It is to be remembered that Muslim jurists of the four schools differ much in their views. We need not go into them. We should take note that these punishments are taken from the Torah. They crept into the so-called sunnah/hadith, or Prophetic traditions, that is, traditions ascribed to Prophet Muhammad. Muhammad’s name is so great among Muslims that anything said to originate from him is sacrosanct.

We should also note that the Quran has two dimensions, the historically-bound, and the universal. The historically-bound will be surpassed when the historical context no longer prevails. They will pass over into the universal. The two universal principles are: equal punishment, and merciful punishment. The first means punishment equalling the crime, and the second means lightening the punishment, up to and including pardon. We can see that the two universal principles have been imbibed into all modern civilized societies.

Take not that Brunei has last year declared that it would implement Hudud punishments, with the exception, according to reports, that Brunei royalty is exempt from them.

The final and unchallengeable proof that there is no such thing as the hudud fixed punishments is that they are nowhere mentioned in the Medina Charter promulgated by Prophet Muhammad himself when he migrated to Medina.

KASSIM AHMAD is a Malaysian freelance writer. His website is http://www.kassimahmad.blogspot.com

We Are Malay-Muslims, so we can do as we please


July 3, 2015

COMMENT: This article  by lawyer Syahredzan Johan on the entitlement of Malay-Muslims isdr-ahmad-farouk-and-din-merican being shared widely on social media.The article originally appeared on LoyarBuruk’s website in 2012. It was translated into Malay in 2013. And this is still relevant today.

We are too full ourselves that we expect non-Muslims not too eat during fasting day. We Malay-Muslims have become “holier than thou” bigots with an entitlement mentality that defies common consideration for Malaysians who are not Muslims. My generation of Muslims were taught differently. We do not wear Islam on our sleeves. Yes, we fast and respect the month of Ramadan with special prayers and read the Holy Quran. At the same time, we never prevented others from eating during the day in Ramadan since they are not Muslims.

We uphold the constitution under which Malaysians have equal rights.Unfortunately under Najib and his predecessors (Mahathir and Badawi) who play the politics with Islam and race, Malay-Muslims are made to feel special and exceptional. That gives us the ground to trample on the rights of Malaysians of other faiths. Our leaders pander to the whims and fancies of ulamas like Perak’s Harussani and Hadi Awang,  religious functionairies in JAKIM and JAWI and so-called intellectuals like Ridhuan Tee Abdullah and other self appointed interpreters of Islam .

Let us accept that we are not exceptional people; in fact, today we are a lost generation with inferiority complex; we are unable to think for ourselves or decide between what is right and wrong. We allow ourselves to be misled led by ulamas with warped minds who use Islam as an instrument to promote a kind of mullahism. We must learn to be exemplary Muslims who respect the dignity of difference.  –Din Merican.

We Are Malay-Muslims, so we can do as we please

by Syahredzan Johan

Syahredzan Johan

So you are fasting. The sun is bearing down on you, your stomach is growling and your throat is parched. It is only 12.30 in the afternoon; you still have hours to go before you may break your fast. All of a sudden, a non-Muslim person appears before you, enjoying an icy cold can of your favourite cola. He looks like he is savouring the cola. You could imagine the sensation of that very same cola filling your throat with diabetes-inducing caffeine goodness. So you flare up. How dare this person drink in front of you? Does he have no respect for the holy month of Ramadan, to be wantonly quenching his thirst in full view of Muslims? Does he not know that Muslims form the majority of this country and therefore must be respected?

This is the basic premise prevalent amongst many Malay-Muslims in this country. Muslims form the majority and therefore they are entitled to be respected. Malay-Muslim sensitivities must not be offended; the Malay-Muslim public must be protected from harm, confusion and many other bad and insidious things that may threaten the ummah. In recent times, these deep rooted sentiments are brought to the fore by opportunistic politicians. Thus it appeared as if Malay-Muslims have become more and more intolerant of minorities.

Malay-Muslims are entitled not to have a Hindu temple in the vicinity of their housing estate. Malay-Muslims are entitled to dictate what names others may use to invoke the Creator. Malay-Muslims are entitled to stop the sale of alcohol beverages and deny the establishment of a cinema in Malay majority areas.

Every Friday, Malay-Muslims are entitled to abandon their civic consciousness and park all over the place as if the streets belong to them. Malays-Muslims are entitled to blare religious ceramahs to every corner of the neighbourhood and into the wee hours of the night.

The Prime Minister must be Malay-Muslim, the civil service must be filled with Malay-Muslims and government bodies are seen as Malay institutions, tasked first and foremost to safeguard Malay and Muslim interests.

This premise of entitlement has also been used to justify the persecution and discrimination against sexual and religious minorities, purportedly because Article 3 provides that Islam is the religion of the Federation. So we say that LBGTs do not enjoy protection of the Constitution because their sexual orientations are against Islam, although we conveniently forget that other things, like gambling, are also forbidden in Islam but are still legal in this country. Books are seized and banned and fatwas are made absolute. In a recent decision, the Federal Court went so far to say that the integrity of the religion needs to be safeguarded at all costs. Does ‘at all costs’ include the supremacy of the Federal Constitution as the highest law of the land?

Make no mistake, this is not about Islam. It is about how we justify the discrimination, persecution and blatant disregard for fundamental liberties, all in the name of religion. It is how we view and treat others as inferior to us because we believe that we are entitled to do so. We permit transgressions because we labour under this presumption that Malay-Muslims, by virtue of being Malays and Muslims, are entitled to the best of the country as they occupy a higher standing than the rest of the rakyat out there.

There is no legal or constitutional basis for this. Article 3 does not make Malaysia an Islamic state and Article 4 expressly provides that the Federal Constitution is the supreme law of the land.  Article 8 provides that every citizen is equal before the law and enjoys equal protection of the law. The oft quoted Article 153 does not make Malay-Muslims superior in law or fact, it only provides for the reservation of quotas for Malays and natives of Sabah and Sarawak in certain matters.

So what if Muslims are the majority? We have such a flawed understanding of democracy; as if in a democracy, the rights of minorities are inferior to the rights of the majority. That is why we have a Constitution, which protects and guarantees the fundamental liberties of citizens from the tyranny of the majority.

We find ourselves up in arms at the fate of Muslims minorities in other countries like Thailand, Philippines, Myanmar and China.  We invoke freedom of religion when we hear of minarets being banned in Switzerland or burqas being banned in France. But if the rights of Muslim minorities should be protected in the face of the majority, why is it that we do not have the same vigour to protect the rights our non-Muslim minorities? Why must the rights of others here only be exercised if we deem those rights as exercisable?

So before you take offence at someone who is drinking in front of you while you are fasting, take a step back and think of your religion. Put aside your sense of entitlement and think; just because you are fasting, does it mean that everyone else around you must stow away their food and drinks?

Remember what Islam has instilled in you, not what Muslims have told you.