What’s the Deal, Zahid Hamidi?


January 6, 2015

What’s the Deal, Zahid Hamidi?

by John R. Malott@www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT: Whenever there is an American angle to the news inambassador-john-malott Malaysia, I become very interested.

So when I read last Saturday that Home Affairs Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had sent a letter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) asserting that Paul Phua, a Malaysian citizen who is under US Federal indictment in Las Vegas for allegedly running an illegal gambling ring, is someone who has been performing services “on behalf of Malaysia’s national security,” I could not help but be curious.

The Malaysian press and websites have been focusing almost exclusively on whether Phua is a member of the 14K triad. Personally, I don’t care whether he is or not, because it is irrelevant to the real issue. The real issue is that a Malaysian citizen is allegedly involved in major – let’s put that in capital letters, MAJOR – illegal sports gambling operations in Macau and Las Vegas, activities that led to his arrest this year in both cities.

The South China Morning Post says that the raid on the gambling operations in Macau involving Phua was the largest in its history. As for the US, the FBI has carefully documented the scope of Phua’s sports betting operation in Las Vegas, which reached into tens of millions of US dollars.

Wall Street PiecePhua, Who?

The Wall Street Journal recently ran a major article on Phua and his involvement in the growing global problem of illegal online sports betting. Yet despite all the news on what Phua has been up to in Macau and the US, Zahid says that Malaysia would welcome Phua back with open arms.

In 2013, Zahid told Malaysians who were unhappy with the country’s policies to “leave the country.” Senior Malaysian leaders such as Khairy Jamaluddin have told dissidents “good riddance.”

Malaysian Defence Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, pictured in 2010What’s the Link to Phua?

Yet Zahid says that gambling kingpins who have violated the laws of my country, the US, are to be eagerly welcomed back home to Malaysia.

Phua’s Malaysian lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, who is often called “UMNO’s lawyer,” said that what Phua did was merely a revenue offence, as he was undertaking gambling activities without a licence.

“His offence is not a big deal,” Shafee said, adding offenders normally received a slap on the wrist with a fine. Shafee should know better. What Phua allegedly has done is a major criminal offence in both Macau and America, not a tax dodge, and Phua could spend many years in jail for it.

Why the letter, Zahid?

Like everyone in Malaysia, I wondered why in the world Zahid wrote that letter. In his letter to the FBI, Zahid never explained the contradiction between his assertions and the information that the Royal Malaysian Police (RMP) gave the FBI eight years ago.

To make matters worse, Zahid dug himself in even deeper by claiming to the FBI that the gambling kingpin had provided services to “projects” involving Malaysia’s national security.

This caused many people from Malaysia to Hong Kong to the US to ask the question, what national security projects has Phua been involved with?

In his letter to the FBI, Zahid wrote, “Based on our information, Mr Phua is neither a member nor is he associated with the 14K Triad.” Yet six years earlier, the Malaysian Police informed the FBI that Phua in fact was a member of the infamous triad.

Shafee AbdullahTo explain the contradiction, Phua’s lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah said that the RMP had made a “very big” mistake. He said the Police were “wrong.”

But Zahid never said in his letter that the police were “wrong.” He never told the FBI why the Malaysian government had declared Phua a triad member in 2008 but now had changed its mind.

Asked to explain the discrepancy between the 2008 report and Zahid’s 2014 letter, the Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar took a pass. He declined to comment. By refusing to back up his boss and agree that the RMP were wrong in their 2008 assessment, Khalid left his boss Zahid hanging out to dry.

Why does it matter whether the FBI’s 2008 memo was right or wrong? Now we get into the Hollywood movie or the ‘MI-5′ part of the story – and also a description of the American judicial process.

According to many Las Vegas and gambling news websites, Phua’s American attorneys are trying to get the case thrown out on civil liberties grounds.

The other five people arrested in Las Vegas with Phua have all confessed and cooperated with law enforcement. They admitted what was going on. There is no doubt; by all accounts, Phua is guilty.

His activities were witnessed and videoed by the FBI and confirmed by these five other people, his associates. The FBI also found evidence on the laptops and cell phones that were seized.

So the only way to win is procedural. You have to prove, not that Phua is innocent, but that the FBI acted wrongly and violated Phua’s civil rights. Think about that – a Malaysian citizen who violated American law now wants to be protected by the American constitution.

So Phua’s attorneys are pushing the argument that the search of the hotel villas and also the arrest warrant for Phua were not valid. They want the judge to throw the case out of court on procedural grounds.

The Hollywood movie version

Based on all the reporting from Las Vegas, here is what happened, in a Hollywood-style movie script.

After Phua and his associates were arrested in Macau, they hopped on a plane – his private US$48 million plane – to Las Vegas. They wanted to continue their illegal online sports gambling operations on the World Cup.

They checked into Caesar’s Palace into five high roller “villas,” and were given US$90 million in credit. They then demanded that the hotel staff install all kinds of Internet connections in their villas.

The hotel staff became suspicious and went to hotel security, which in turn concluded that an illegal online gambling operation was going on. Hotel security then contacted the FBI.

The FBI checked the names of the high-rollers in those suites, and “Bingo!” They found the name of Paul Phua, who only one week before had been arrested in Macau in the biggest illegal gambling raid in Macau history. And they also found that in a 2008 FBI memo, the RMP officially had fingered Phua as a member of a Chinese triad.

What happened next was even more Hollywood. The FBI disabled the Internet connection to Phua’s suites, where the illegal sports gambling operation was being conducted. With the Internet down, and Phua losing money and desperate to restore connectivity, the FBI agents then posed as Internet repairmen.

They entered the villas (allegedly without a search warrant), and then secretly witnessed and videoed what was going on. They confiscated laptops and cell phones, and it was all over. Phua’s attorneys say that because there was no search warrant, the search was illegal.

The US government no doubt will argue in response that there was “reasonable cause” to believe that illegal activity was taking place, given the fact that Phua had just been arrested in Macau for illegal sports gambling before he came to Las Vegas and because he had requested an inordinate amount of Internet connection equipment for the hotel suites.

Back to RMP report on Phua

According to various Las Vegas news websites, Phua’s attorneys say that the judge issued the arrest warrant for Phua only because the FBI:

1. hid the fact that there was no search warrant, and

2. told the judge that according to the FBI’s information from the RMP, Phua was a known member of the 14K triad.

They say that in submitting that Police report from Malaysia that Phua was a member of a triad, the FBI poisoned the judge’s mind and led him to issue the arrest warrant.

That is why it seems the US lawyers went to Shafee to get something from Zahid – to challenge the old Malaysian Police report and argue that the judge had been led astray by the FBI.

But it doesn’t matter. Zahid’s letter was all for nothing. What matters is what the FBI knew at the time they went to the judge. At that point they had official Malaysian Police information from 2008 about Phua, which they shared with the judge. That is what they knew to be the truth at that time.

The fact that months later, Zahid would – for whatever reason – write something else does not matter. What matters is what the FBI believed to be true when they went to the judge for the arrest warrant. And what they had was the RMP’s 2008 memo.

So Zahid’s memo, written five months after Phua was “caught in the act,” is worthless and not worth the paper it is printed on.

And all that leads back to the basic questions – why did Zahid write his letter to the FBI? And how has Phua contributed to Malaysia’s national security?

Addendum: After this was written, Malaysiakini reported that Zahid’s letter to the FBI “has been withdrawn from the Nevada District Court after Putrajaya objected to it being used for the defence” of the alleged gambling kingpin.

So now it is not just the Police Chief who has left Zahid hanging, it is the government as well. It is good to see that the powers-that-be in Putrajaya have better judgment than Zahid.

JOHN R MALOTT is former United States ambassador to Malaysia.

Dr. Bridget Welsh looks back on 2014


January 1, 2015

Dr. Bridget Welsh looks back on 2014: Time for Healing

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Sadly, Malaysian political leaders are increasingly not meeting public expectations. The opposition has failed miserably to work together as a viable political alternative last year, and remains on the brink of division.

The Premier has faced a growing rebellion in his own party. If UMNO’s party elections were held today, it is unlikely that he would win the presidency.–Dr. Bridget Welsh

Hope for Malaysia2No longer silent majority

COMMENT: Difficult is an understatement for the year Malaysia had in 2014. Today marks a new beginning, an opportunity for assessment and moving forward.

With so many Malaysians suffering from bouts of despair with the national leadership on both sides of the political divide, I wanted to take an opportunity to share some positive observations on the present situation and the country’s future.

Despite all the challenges the country faces, it is vital not to be blinded by negativity. Doing so will let the dark forces that have been fanned since 2013 win. Malaysians deserve better – a hope for change and the promise of better governance.

While acknowledging the devastating tragedies of last year as well as the deterioration in race relations and the woefully inadequate performance of political leaders, I highlight here developments and lessons that are strengthening, and can further strengthen, Malaysia.

Caring Malaysia
 
There were important bright spots in 2014 that should be recognised. On multiple occasions Malaysians came together across faiths in their shared humanity.

Malaysians are a generous people in giving and empathetic with others. Malaysians regularly stop when a person is in trouble, and this is often in spite of real concerns over crime. They also open their purse strings when there is need, as we are seeing with the bounty of contributions to those suffering from the flooding.

There is a deep sense of community that even in the face of adversity binds Malaysians together. Outreach across faiths and genuine caring for others’ well-being was more evident in practice than the politicised racial vitriol. This was most obvious during the airline disasters and flooding emergency, but illustrated elsewhere as well.

Recall the outrage over the attempted closing of the homeless shelters in Kuala Lumpur, or the multiple incidents where the country’s Twitter network reached out to help find a missing loved one. When it matters, Malaysians come together for one another.

No longer silent majority

2014 was also the year the silent majority found its voice. It is speaking in a noisy room, but there nevertheless. After almost two years of dangerous extremist language, growing irrational anger, and often sheer stupidity, more are coming out to advocate the views of those of the largely silent majority.

Group of 25 The Eminent Group of 25
Much has been made of the Eminent 25, an important group of the Malay elite. They are not alone. Pharmacist Syed Azmi Alhabshi, whose well-meaning ‘Touch a Dog’ programme to promote understanding across faiths, was appreciated (as testimony of the crowd) and the abuse and threats he faced for doing so were not well-received.

There is also strong public support for much-needed checks on the abuses of the unaccountable religious authorities who continue to think they are the ‘chosen’ ones to persecute innocent people like the Borders bookseller. There is similarly broad disdain for confiscation of other faiths’ holy texts, their desecration and endorsement of the urging to ‘burn’ religious texts – a shameful disgrace for any human being, least of all supposed leaders.

This is just not right, and ordinary Malaysians acknowledge it, even if the political environment is such that it is hard to say so in public without facing a battery of attacks. From the excessive cancerous corruption to everyday criminality, Malaysians are concerned and speaking out against these problems.

This is not new. Voting patterns since 1999 show that citizens want a fairer and better government, one that respects and listens to them. This is not going away, even if the Election Commission is acting in a non-transparent manner to further manipulate the electoral system by offering greedy political parties new seats.

Lessons from disasters

The list of problems the country – any country for that matter – faces is always long. What matters is how the leadership responds to it – the solutions.

Sadly, Malaysian political leaders are increasingly not meeting public expectations. The opposition has failed miserably to work together as a viable political alternative last year, and remains on the brink of division.

The Premier has faced a growing rebellion in his own party. If UMNO’s party elections were held today, it is unlikely that he would win the presidency.

Golf Diplomacy
Najib Razak has often been the ‘absentee PM’, prioritising a photo-op for a meeting on a trade deal that is effectively dead over the suffering of his people in one most serious national emergencies the country has faced since independence – an event that has not even yet been declared an emergency.

The ineffective actions of state governments, particularly Kelantan, whose Menteri Besar was briefly trapped in his own house instead of helping and leading rescue efforts, were equally disheartening. Now however is the time to look ahead.

The key is to learn the lessons from these disasters. Whether it is with regard to missing airplanes or flooding, these problems can be better addressed through pro-active, early measures.

This year offers Malaysia opportunities to lead in these areas – to use ASEAN as a forum to enhance regional airline security, to form a domestic and international task force for flood prevention and relief.

Lessons can be taken from steps adopted in Jakarta and elsewhere. These measures can range from simple more environmentally aware waste management and better effective storm warning systems, to harder but as essential toughening on corruption and illegal logging.

With crisis there is opportunity, and 2015 is a year for finding the silver lining and assuring that more lives are saved in pro-active action rather than reaction.

A time for healing

Part of the solution lies with bringing in more independent expertise. It is said knowledge is power, and we learned over the last year that learning can lead to better responses to crises. An example is the response to airline tragedies.

One reason for this is that more technocratic knowledge was brought into the assessments. It is essential to have people who understand not only the problems Malaysia faces, but to include those who can offer solutions.

Technocrats can offer more insights. The Najib mode has been to throw money at problems, but this is not enough. More needs to be done to look at the underlying causes and options ahead. This extends from flooding to development challenges. Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia (BR1M) is clearly not enough to address the needs of poorer Malaysians.

Part of the change towards knowledge involves changing mindsets. Good government is not about a photo-opportunity on a golf course or standing on the back of a garbage truck. It involves cooperation and compromise, which have been largely absent in much of last year’s political life.

This new year is a time for healing. These are not easy to do, especially in Malaysia’s diverse and politically fragmented society. They take courage.

Obsession with Hudud
The year ahead will indeed show whether Kelantan’s ulama leaders recognise that they do not have the skills to be in charge of this devastated state and make way to more capable leadership. The year ahead will also reveal whether those not engaged in dialogue will start talking to one another and moving past differences.

The year ahead will see whether politicians put aside politicking for the people. Many do not have faith in any of these developments, and frankly I too am not optimistic on the political front.

Where my hope lies is with the reality of greater pressure on leaders to buck up, to live up to expectations and importantly in the inherent caring character and spirit of the majority of Malaysians who have a clear sense of priorities – the needs and well-being of their fellow human beings.

With my faith in the wisdom of ordinary people, I remain hopeful in the prospects and possibilities of the new year.


BRIDGET WELSH is a Senior Research Associate at the Center for East Asia Democratic Studies of National Taiwan University and can be reached at bridgetwelsh1@gmail.com.

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s New Year Message


December 31, 2014

This is what the Prime Minister said in his New Year Message and I quote: “Our economy is on track to grow by 5.7% this year, and 4.7% in 2015. Our deficit is falling, our reserves are strong; we have trusted financial institutions, low unemployment, and record levels of foreign investment. Malaysia’s economy is well placed to weather any storms.” All I can say is that I hope our Prime Minister is right. For my part, I am less optimistic and so I urge Malaysians to be more realistic.  Let us be prepared since 2015 is likely to be a difficult year.  — Din Merican

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s New Year Message

Twelve months ago, in my New Year message, I looked forward to a ‘prosperous and united’ Malaysia. 2014 did bring prosperity for Malaysia – our economy grew strongly. But it was also the year we were united in grief.

In the space of a few months, we lost 93 Malaysians. And we found ourselves at the centre of the world’s attention – not once, but twice.

The disappearance of MH370, and the destruction of MH17, are part of our story now. My heart reaches out to those who lost loved ones; and I share their sorrow. Like so many Malaysians, my family too was touched by tragedy.

This has been the most challenging year of my career – and one of the most difficult years in Malaysia’s history. But I take heart from the way we came together, as one nation, to #prayforMH370 and #prayforMH17.

In mosques, churches and temples, in shopping malls and online, Malaysians responded to these tragedies as one. In the face of two unimaginable disasters, we found unity. I believe we will come out of these twin tragedies stronger and more determined. We have been tested by disaster, but the spirit of the nation remains strong.

I am proud of the way we responded to these crises. We did not get everything right, but when MH370 went missing, we were able to bring together 26 nations – including China and the US – in a search that spanned half the globe. When Malaysia asked, the world answered.

And a few months later, when we found ourselves in the middle of a conflict zone, Malaysia was able to get the breakthrough that no one else could – securing the return of the bodies and black boxes from MH17. Quiet diplomacy helped bring us closer to finding out what happened to MH17, and securing justice for those who died.

Najib and Obama in Hawaii

Najib: “We are used to floods in Malaysia. But I was shocked by how bad the situation became”.Really, Sir!

At the end of the year, we faced new challenges. Northern states suffered terrible flooding, with lives, homes and livelihoods lost to the rising waters.

We are used to floods in Malaysia. But I was shocked by how bad the situation became. The scale of the destruction was profound, with so many people going through intense personal suffering. The Government’s priority is to get help to people who need it now – with the supplies and assistance for those who are stranded or displaced – and financial support, so that people can get their lives back together.

An aerial view of flooded streets of the National Park in Kuala Tahan, Pahang

Next year, our priority is recovery: to rebuild the infrastructure, the businesses and the homes that were damaged or lost. We must ensure that the development we pursue is environmentally friendly, so that we are not making future floods more likely – or more damaging.

As we continue the rescue and rebuilding operations, I pray for those who are still at risk. And our thoughts are with our brothers and sisters in Indonesia, as they continue the recovery of Indonesia AirAsia flight QZ8501.

Yet amidst the tragedies, there were high points too. 2014 was also the year we celebrated the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations with China. In Beijing, I stood in the hall my father visited back in 1974, and pledged that China and Malaysia would remain ‘partners for prosperity; connected by history, and firm in our commitment to peace’.

We also welcomed a US President for the first time in five decades. Back in 1966, Lyndon B Johnson saw rubber plantations; President Obama met young Malaysian computer programmers and entrepreneurs. It is hard to think of a better example of Malaysia’s remarkable development.

Every year, our country grows in stature. And every year the outside world takes a greater interest in Malaysia – in our people, our history and our future. These trends are set to continue in 2015, as we assume a bigger role in our region, and the world.

Next year we will chair ASEAN, as we prepare to launch the ASEAN Community. This is a momentous time for ASEAN, for its member states, and for the people of South East Asia. In 2015, under Malaysia’s chairmanship, we will lay the foundations for deeper regional integration. For the people of ASEAN, this will mean more opportunities – with more jobs, and easier ways to do business.

In 2015, we will also hold a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Far from just a diplomatic badge of pride, this is a chance for Malaysia to state our support for key objectives – including a dignified and secure future for the Palestinian people – and make a real contribution to global security problems.

Clearly, Malaysia will play a much bigger part in world affairs in the year to come. It is important that we continue to be a positive player, pushing the issues that we care about, and representing our people, our interests and our businesses. That is the only way we can ensure that Malaysian and South East Asian voices are heard.

But despite all the global attention, my focus is on the rakyat. Next year, I hope we can build a safer, more prosperous, and more equal society. The starting point is security. My greatest responsibility as Prime Minister is to ensure the safety and security of the Malaysian people. In recent years we have seen increasing threats from terrorist groups within Malaysia. In addition to our existing programmes to combat terrorism, we have also introduced a new terrorism white paper.

We are also strengthening our co-operation with foreign intelligence agencies, because the threat of violent extremism goes way beyond our borders. The so-called Islamic State continues to try to tempt people to join their war. Although they have had most success recruiting from Western nations, some Malaysians have fallen victim to this propaganda.

Our position is quite clear. As I said at the UN General Assembly this year, ‘the actions of these militants… violate the teachings of Islam, the example set by the Prophet Mohammed, and the principles of Islamic law. We reject this so-called Islamic State. We reject this state defined by extremism. And we condemn the violence being committed in the name of Islam’.

Yet security for Malaysians is not just about protection from violence, but also about social and economic security. So in the year to come, I also want to focus on maintaining our economic record, and strengthening the bonds between our people.

In a globalised economy, risks can spread far and fast. No country is isolated from global events. We have already had a taste of the challenges that will come in 2015, with the falling oil price over the past few weeks affecting everything from the ringgit to rubber.

Cheaper oil is a double-edged sword. It makes some things cheaper for consumers, but it also reduces government revenues – money we spend on development and support for the people.

Other nations are facing the same challenges, and some are already under great stress. Yet Malaysia has been fortunate to escape the worst downsides – because the fundamentals of our economy are still strong.

Our economy is on track to grow by 5.7% this year, and 4.7% in 2015. Our deficit is falling, our reserves are strong; we have trusted financial institutions, low unemployment, and record levels of foreign investment. Malaysia’s economy is well placed to weather any storms.

In last year’s message, I talked about how we were getting our finances under control whilst the global economy was strong.I wrote that ‘by acting responsibly now, we will strengthen Malaysia’s economy in the long-term – and the benefits will be felt much more widely. By taking the steps needed to make Malaysia’s economy stronger, we are not only protecting our nation against financial crises, we are also opening up new jobs – and new opportunities’.

We need to be proactive, to build a resilient economy that is prepared for any eventuality. With global events causing problems for many countries, I am pleased that we have already taken measures to protect our economy. Just last week, the World Bank confirmed that Malaysia remains in a strong position precisely because we acted to rationalise subsidies.

But keeping economy resilient means constantly anticipating risks, and acting to strengthen the economy whenever possible. It is with this in mind that we are introducing the GST next year. The GST will replace, not add to, the existing sales tax – and many goods will be exempt. It will help strengthen the government finances, so that we can continue productive expenditure – on things like roads, schools and hospitals – for the benefit of the people. And alongside the GST, we will continue the reforms to make our economy more competitive, which will bring more opportunities for our businesses, and higher income for the people.

Although we are exposed to global risks, we have strong fundamentals, and clear and consistent government policy. So I am confident that Malaysia’s economy will continue to grow, and bring more jobs and a better standard of living.

Our challenge is to ensure that that applies for all Malaysians, not just a few. In the months and years ahead, I want us to focus not just on GDP growth figures, but on the lives and needs of the rakyat. Although Malaysia’s economic performance has been exceptional, I know that people do not always feel they are getting their piece of our national success.

So alongside our efforts to strengthen our economy – by raising incomes, reducing spending, and boosting productivity – we will also work to reduce inequality by narrowing the gap between the rich and poor.

Last year, I said I looked forward to a more prosperous and united Malaysia. Although this has been a difficult year, we have achieved both. In 2015, as we prepare to play a bigger role on the world stage, I want us to work together to build a safer, more prosperous, and more equal society. I wish you all the best for the year ahead.

Compassionate Najib cancels holidays in Hawaii due to Floods in Malaysia


December 26, 2014

READ THIS from The Washington Post: What Game is this Pro-Democratic Party tabloid (since the days of Philip Leslie “Phil” Graham and Katherine Graham’s friendship with John F. Kennedy) playing? Najib is a victim of US domestic politics.–Din Merican

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2014/12/25/world-leader-criticized-for-playing-golf-in-hawaii-but-its-not-obama-this-time/

Floods in Malaysia: PM Najib got the message and will return home after golfing with President Barack H. Obama in Hawaii

http://www.themalaysianinsider.com

http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/najib-to-supervise-flood-relief-works-arrives-home-saturday

Dato’ Seri Najib Razak will return to Malaysia tomorrow to personally oversee the emergency response to Malaysia’s worst flooding in decades that has seen nearly 120,000 people evacuated, after a torrent of criticism about his golf round with US President Barack Obama.

A government spokesman said the Prime Minister will fly to Kelantan to chair a meeting and receive briefings from the National Security Council, the National Disaster Management and Relief Committee, the state government and local emergency responders.

The media statement said Najib will also meet people affected by the flooding and discuss new measures to support those who have been displaced.

Golf with Obama, Floods in Malaysia“I am deeply concerned by the floods”(?)

“I am deeply concerned by the floods. I feel for the people who have lost their homes, and the families who have lost loved ones.While I have been away, I have been in constant contact with the National Security Council and the National Disaster Management and Relief Committee, who have assured me that they are doing everything they can to help those who have been affected. But I want to see the situation for myself and be with the people,” Najib was quoted as saying in the statement.

Najib had come under heavy criticism, following news and pictures of him golfing with the US President in Hawaii, at a time the country was hit by severe floods.

“Najib’s rounds surprised some of his countrymen, who are calling on him to return home to deal with massive flooding that has displaced tens of thousands,” said the Washington Post in a report today.

The daily noted that Obama had also come under attack for playing golf after the beheading of American journalist James Foley by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) militant group.

Floods in Malaysia StatsYesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin defended his boss, and said he would monitor the flood situation while Najib took his “well-deserved” break.

 

Race Relations: Act Now before It’s too late


December 10, 2014

Race Relations:  Act Now before It’s too late

by Sonia Ramachandran@www.theantdaily.com

No religion in the world preaches hatred or violence and Islam is no exception.

However, one cannot deny that a recent spate of violence that has permeated most domains of the world press of late has been related to the group calling itself the Islamic State (IS) which aims to form a global caliphate.

One will also remember the infamous 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre in 2011 that was attributed to Al-Qaeda terrorists which were also carried out in the name of Islam and their Muslim brothers.

Though Malaysia is spared such extreme acts of violence perpetrated in the name of religion, we too have not been spared some acts (not just Muslim ones) that have caused cracks in the nation’s wall of religious and racial harmony.

Din and Farouk MusaOne of the main factors towards this violence in the name of Islam is the influence of the extremists’ interpretation of the Quran, says Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF) Chairman and Director Dr. Ahmad Farouk Musa.

One such widely distributed translation, said Ahmad Farouk, is the one by Dr Muhammad Taqiyuddin al-Hilali and Dr Muhsin Khan which is also informally known as the Hilali-Khan translation.

 “This translation creates a mindset that is hostile to people of other faiths. The whole translation is based on the “Theory of Abrogation” or “an-nasikh wal-mansukh” in Arabic.

“This English translation has misled Muslims and people of the other faiths with a translation that is out of context and has pitted Muslims against the rest of the world,” Ahmad Farouk said at a roundtable discussion on the topic “Is Islam a Religion of Peace?” organised by IRF on Dec 7.

This English translation, he said, was distributed to English-speaking Muslims who perform the Haj in Saudi Arabia as well as most mosques in the United States.Fears abound that it might also be distributed in Malaysia.

Ahmad Farouk, who is also a cardiothoracic surgeon, said the number of comments in parenthesis in the Hilali-Khan Quran is excessive and instead of clarifying the text or explaining a word or phrase that cannot be easily translated into English, the comments instead make the text difficult to follow and often distort the meaning.

“The appendices contain discussions of Christian versus Muslim beliefs that read more like a polemical debate and really do not belong as part of a translation,” said Ahmad Farouk.He illustrates his point by providing a few examples.

The Hilali-Khan translation of the Surah al-Fatihah (The Opening) (which is read 17 times a day) is as follows:

“Guide us to the straight way. The way of those whom you have bestowed Your Grace, not (the way) of those who have earned Your Anger (such as the Jews), nor those who went astray (such as the Christians).”

“This basically gives the impression that the Quran denounces all Jews and Christians. Obviously this is a great untruth.

“This translation is then followed by extremely long footnotes which justify this hateful message based on the traditions from the texts that go back to the Middle Ages (Ibnu Kathir, Qurtubi, at-Tabari) as if these are the only interpretations, and without any discussion on the history of these commentaries and the traditions on which they are based,” said Ahmad Farouk.

Another example Ahmad Farouk provides is the Surah Ali-Imran, which the Hilali-Khan translated version reads as:

“You (true believers in Islamic monotheism and the real followers of Prophet Muhammad and the Sunnah) are the best people ever raised up for mankind.”

A footnote to this verse explains the “best people” are those who “you bring with them with chains on their necks till they embrace Islam (and thereby save them from eternal punishment in hell-fire and make them enter paradise in the hereafter).”

“I believe that propaganda such as the Hilali-Khan Quran and other materials coming primarily out of Saudi Arabia are one of the major root causes feeding extremist ideas among Muslims and violence against churches and against minorities,” said Ahmad Farouk.

Closer to home, he said the problem with Malaysia is the Wahhabi (radical literalists) doctrine creeping into the government administration.

“This is especially so with the formation of Ulama Muda Umno (ILMU) which is comprised of 100 per cent Wahhabis and Salafis (literalists). Some of this Wahhabis are also in the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim).

“The government should really understand the threat of such doctrines that basically encourages a monolithic type of Islam that does not tolerate any differences in opinion, what more pluralism. The government should do something about this,” he told The Ant Daily.

Ahmad Farouk’s fears cannot be discounted with the growing number of Malaysians seeming to join the IS cause.

It was reported that the police are watching the Malaysian Armed Forces as several personnel have been detected to be IS sympathisers with two members apparently arrested in Kuala Lumpur late last month on suspicion of channelling funds to Malaysians joining IS militants in Syria.

A Royal Malaysian Navy officer was among three men arrested in Sabah in June for being part of a militant group planning to undertake suicide bombings in Syria and Iraq. As of November 13, 39 Malaysians had been identified as fighting alongside IS in Iraq and Syria with five reportedly killed.

On December 9, The Star reported that Malaysia’s second IS suicide bomber was identified as Ahmad Affendi Abdull Manaff from Tumpat, Kelantan who is believed to have driven a bomb-laden truck into a military installation in Homs, killing about 50 of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s soldiers.

Since Reuters reported that IS also announced intentions to bring Afghanistan, Pakistan and India under its control, Malaysia may not be too far away from its aspirations.

In view of all this, the government should start heeding Ahmad Farouk’s words as well as those penned by 25 prominent Malays who penned an open letter calling for a rational dialogue on the position of Islam in a constitutional democracy.

These prominent Malays include the former Home Affairs Secretary-Ahmad Kamil JaafarGeneral Tan Sri Datuk Abdul Rahim Din, former Foreign Affairs Secretary-General Tan Sri Ahmad Kamil Jaafar, former Health Ministry Director-General Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican, former Malaysian Bar President Hendon Mohamad and National Heart Institute (IJN) cardiothoracic surgeon and core-founder Tan Sri Dr Yahya Awang, who also happens to be Ahmad Farouk’s former boss.

 “…But we believe there is a real need for a consultative process that will bring together experts in various fields, including Islamic and Constitutional laws, and those affected by the application of Islamic laws in adverse ways.

“We also believe the Prime Minister is best placed with the resources and authority to lead this consultative process. It is urgent that all Malaysians are invested with finding solutions to these longstanding areas of conflict that have led to the deterioration of race relations, eroded citizens’ sense of safety and protection under the rule of law, and undermined stability,” said the 25 prominent Malays in their letter.

Before extremism becomes the order of the day and race relations deteriorate further, the government of the day must not only do something, but must also be seen to be doing something – before it is too late.

http://www.theantdaily.com/Main/Race-relations-time-to-act-now-before-it-s-too-late#sthash.7iZrQ64B.1hrKKMOU.dpuf

Where are we heading as Malaysians?


December 6, 2014

Where are we heading as Malaysians?

by Balan Moses

Balan-Moses-ENG NEW-1WHERE are we heading as a nation?

A culture of “offendedness” seems to be growing with some from the different races and religions getting offended at the slightest opportunity over real or imagined slights.

Police reports are lodged and statements issued to the media, sometimes exacerbating the situation and taking it to unexpected heights.

The thing that people are failing to understand is that things said in the heat of the moment cannot be withdrawn as the damage will have been done.

I feel that some Malaysians are failing to understand that we are all the same behind our different colours, creeds and mother tongues: we are human beings with the same wants and needs.

We want unity; we want peace; we want a stable future for our children; we want to go to sleep at night unafraid; we want to be able to smile at other Malaysians.

I believe there is a need for Malaysians to go back to that basic emotion called “love” for us to rally around one another as a nation.

The Youngbloods ran home the truth behind “love” in their 1967 song “Get Together” where they called on people to “….smile on your brother, everybody get together, try to love one another, right now.”

I know it is corny to quote from songs but sometimes the lyrics hit the right spot.

Our situation can be likened to a marriage that is going through difficulties. It is easy to divorce one another but what of the interests of the children?

I believe this marriage between the various races and religions in Malaysia can be saved. But it is going to require a lot of effort and sincerity. It just requires resolve from all concerned to protect what is our common heritage as a nation and people.

There can be no winner take all and loser lose everything. Malaysians need to sit down and consider our history and what it has taken to being us to where we are right now as a people.

It does not matter where we came from geographically and when we came to this glorious nation called Malaysia. The debate will never end if we were to engage in this.

What is important is what we do here and now as it will decide the fate of the nation. We need to pull together as a people against external forces which may one day challenge our sovereignty as a nation be it politically, economically or socially.

A house divided will fall. At such crucial times, we need to be firmly united as one so that we can thwart these forces that will come against us. It will too late if we only decide to put aside our differences and coalesce when the threat is imminent.

The time is now for Malays, Chinese, Indians, Iban, Kadazan, Orang Asli and the hundreds of other groups that make up Malaysia to consider our situation in the history of time.

We cannot expect our children and our children’s children to unravel the complications that we put into motion now.Too much water would have flowed under the bridge and they may not have the wherewithal to deal with such matters at that point in time.

The authors of such complications should have the moral courage to resolve them right now and leave behind a Malaysia that is intact for generations to come.

If we engage in an eye for an eye, we are asking for a land of the blind and one-eyed.I feel that there are millions of moderates among Malaysians who do not subscribe to extreme views and who just want to live together peacefully.

They realise the wisdom of seeing the problem from the other person’s perspective, the need to give and take on contentious issues and most of all mutual respect. These are the founding principles when Malaya was born in 1957. There should be no going back on what was decided upon by the founding fathers.

Wiser and cooler heads have to prevail, especially on religious matters which are close to everyone’s hearts.

The Chinese couple that got married according to Malay tradition the other day touched me as it was a small but meaningful gesture that can go a long way to bring mutual understanding to two rich cultures.Is there more that we can do to help us understand each other better?

http://news.abnxcess.com/2014/12/a-multi-racial-marriage-that-can-be-saved/