Zakir Naik: Peace Preacher or Hate Monger

April 20, 2016

(@KLIA on the way back to Phnom Penh)

Zakir Naik: Peace Preacher or Hate Monger

by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee

Dr. Zakir Naik, the controversial Muslim televangalist, is no stranger to Malaysia. He was here first in 2012 to deliver lectures in Johor Baru, Shah Alam, Kuantan and Kuala Lumpur. According to the organizers of the first lecture series, their objective was to promote harmony among people of various religions.

He is now into his second lecture tour series here. Presumably his objective to spread the message of peace, love and brotherhood among the various religions and Islam remains unchanged.

But perhaps his presence is also to emphasise the superiority of Islam over other religions; and as stated in the website of the Islamic Research Foundation of which he is President and founder, “about the truth and excellence of Islamic teachings – based on the glorious Qur’an and authentic Hadith, as well as adhering to reasons, logic and scientific facts”?

His main claim to fame (and contrariety)  in Malaysia comes from being recipient of the Ma’al Hijrah Distinguished Personality award by Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah in 2013 for his significant service and contribution to the development of Islam. He has also received various other awards and honours – all from Islamic governments or organizations.

That said, his standing with some non-Muslim governments and organizations is less creditable and more controversial. The religious television channel, Peace TV, which acknowledges him as its main ideologue as well as driving force, has been banned by his own government, the Indian government, for its anti-Indian malicious content.

This is a reasonable statement

The station has also been in trouble with various broadcasting authorities for some of its content and Dr. Zakir himself has been banned from entry to the United Kingdom, Canada and Singapore – in the UK, for allegedly “engaging in unacceptable behaviour by making statements that attempt to justify terrorist activity and fostering hatred.”

It could be that Dr. Zakir has been unfairly targeted and victimized for his religious zealotry and popularity with the Muslim community. He has claimed, for example, that he has been quoted out of context for his views on terrorism.

But if he has been misquoted or has recanted for his earlier views on Al Queda and his support of Islamic terrorism, what are his perspectives on Islam and other religions which have enabled him to gain such a huge following among Muslims all over the world, and have him placed so high up on the pedestal?

Peace Preacher or Hate Monger.

Critics who have followed his lectures and preaching – Dr. Zakir, following the example of Christian telemarketers, describes himself as “a dynamic international orator of Islam and comparative religion – have expressed concern over his conservative and extremist views on a wide range of subjects, including apostasy and the propagation of other faiths in Islamic states, both of them major issues in Malaysia.

On the former, he is said to have argued that Muslims who convert from Islam should not necessarily receive death sentences, but that under Islamic rule those who leave Islam and then “propagate the non-Islamic faith and speak against Islam” should be put to death. Another source states that according to Dr. Zakir “there is no death penalty for apostates in Islam, until the apostate starts to preach his new religion; then he can be put to death.”

On the latter, Dr. Zakir has noted that while he appreciates that people of other religions allow Muslims to freely propagate Islam in their country, “the dissemination of other religions within an Islamic state must be forbidden because (he believes) other faiths are incorrect, so their propagation is as wrong as it would be for an arithmetic teacher to teach that 2+2=3 or 6 instead of 2+2=4.”

Similarly Dr. Zakir has argued, “regarding building of churches or temples, how can we allow this when their religion is wrong and when their worship-ping is wrong?”

Similarly, The Times of India in a profile piece on Dr. Zakir has argued that “the Wahabi-Salafist brand of Islam, bankrolled by petro-rich Saudi Arabia and propagated by preachers like Naik, does not appreciate the idea of pluralism.”

The article quotes Muslim scholar Wahiduddin Khan: “Dawah, which Naik also claims to be engaged in, is to make people aware of the creation plan of God, not to peddle some provocative, dubious ideas as Naik does.”

He adds: “The wave of Islamophobia in the aftermath of 9/11 and the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan have only added to the Muslims’ sense of injury. In such a situation, when a debater like Zakir Naik, in eloquent English, takes on preachers of other faiths and defeats them during debates, the Muslims’ chests puff with pride. A community nursing a huge sense of betrayal and injustice naturally lionises anyone who gives

A community nursing a huge sense of betrayal and injustice naturally lionises anyone who gives it a sense of pride. Never mind if it’s false pride.”

Whether Dr. Zakir should have the right to be in Malaysia and to speak on comparative religions may be controversial but in our part of the world apparently lacking appropriate Islamic “wise” men and leaders to look up to, hopefully it is not false pride that Dr. Zakir is peddling but the doctrinal and institutional re-caliberation of the religion so that Malaysians can be reassured of its contribution to our religious and racial peace and harmony.


Malaysia: Najib’s RM 2.6B – Generous Donation or Grand Corruption

Malaysia: Najib’s RM 2.6B – Generous Donation or Grand Corruption

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

President SukarnoIn the 1950s the Americans were alarmed with the leftist-leaning and shrill anti-Western rhetoric of Indonesia’s Sukarno. To neutralize him, they concocted a scheme to blackmail the man by portraying him as other than a true nationalist.

So on one of his many visits to America the CIA secretly set-up Sukarno to be in the company of high-priced hookers, and then clandestinely filmed him in his frolics. Sukarno must have felt that he was already in heaven with some of his 72 “virgins!”

The plan was to screen snippets of the tape in the movie houses of Jakarta. Surely in pious Muslim Indonesia such scenes would enrage the audiences such that they would take to the streets demanding Sukarno’s downfall.

Thus far everything went according to the well-rehearsed script, one that would be repeated in different places and with different players.

Imagine the horror of the local CIA station agent when the audiences instead roared their approval of their President! “Yeah! Itu jantan kita!” (That’s our stud!) they roared as Sukarno, like the bunny, powered by the Eveready battery, kept going and going (or coming and coming)! “It’s about time one of us gets to screw them, they did that to us for years!”

The Indonesians could not conceal their pride in their leader’s virility, perhaps fantasizing a part of themselves in him.

My long preamble here is to put forth a simple proposition. While the reality may be the same, the perceptions may be radically different. The world and many Malaysians may view Najib’s RM2.6 billion “donation” as corruption on a grand scale, but to red-shirted Malays and their UMNOputra patrons, it is but a measure of an Arab’s high regard for their man.

Najib and Rosmah2

Pardon my comparing Najib with Sukarno. Najib is no Sukarno in leadership talent or oratorical skills; he is in priapic proclivities. It is not coincidental that Najib’s spinmeisters would have the donation come from the Middle East, the land of the Prophet. To Muslim Malays, the Arabs and their desert are blessed. In Saudi Arabia even the flies on your food are halal. As for the ensuing diarrhea, well, that’s Allah testing you.

This truism – differing perceptions of the same reality – extends in nature. A rotting carcass is revolting and haram but to vultures, a heavenly gift. Does the fastidious diner have moral superiority over the scavenger vulture?

Dispensing with the relativism, let’s examine Najib’s bonanza from a practical and more consequential perspective. Najib claims that the money was reward for his “exemplary” leadership, and to ensure that it be continued. More directly stated, it was to fund his re-election.

Thus one fact or precedent is now established. Malaysian leaders and elections can be bought, or at least influenced by foreign money and individuals. That is significant, and pivotal. Today, a “generous” Arab; tomorrow, the CIA! Next could be China or Singapore. Before long, a non-Arab Middle Eastern state! With the ringgit fast becoming worthless, topping the RM2.6 billion should be easy.


Besides, money is not the only means of influence peddling. The Americans and Singaporeans in particular are more sophisticated. They are not crude, careless, or stupid like the Arabs as to write a massive check or drop off a bundle of cash.

Consider that many children of Third World leaders end up at top American universities despite not having super SAT scores. Similarly many Third World leaders are invited as visiting fellows and professors. They lap up the accolades! If those refined tricks fail, there is the White House visit or a presidential golf game.

Likewise with Singapore; Malaysians covet invitations to address institutions there, a reflection of its influence. The Republic today is far different from the early days of Lee Kuan Yew when its leaders took every opportunity to snipe across the causeway.

Today Singaporeans are active partners in the development of the southern corridor. They choose their partners prudently however, preferring for example, the Johore royal family. The same shrewd calculation applies as to whom they invite to address them.

China too is learning fast. The Chinese are now partnering with the Johore royal household to develop some swamps at the tip of the peninsula. With the sultan on your side, there won’t be too many intrusive questions.

It’s worth reminding that not too long ago the same royal family sold off the entire island of Singapore. With this propensity to sell, what else would they dispose of next?

Yet another perspective to Najib’s bonanza is to analyze its opportunity cost. Granted we do not know how or where he spent the money; Najib is still trying to spin that one out. Nonetheless even a devalued RM2.6 billion could buy you both Australia’s Anna Creek and the Texas King Ranch (world’s and America’s largest respectively), with plenty left over. And if you run both outfits in other than the manner of Sharizat family’s National Cattle Feedlot, there would be plenty of jobs and halal meat for generations of Malaysians and others.

Back to nature’s vultures, beyond gluttony they do provide a useful service, as with cleaning up the environment and preventing the spread of diseases. They deserve our respect. Najib and his vultures on the other hand pollute our social environment and corrode the integrity of our institutions through their corrupt deeds. They deserve our contempt.

Apart from the lucky few around Najib who benefit directly from him, what purpose would there be for the others to view his loot as reward for his performance instead of an act of grand corruption?

Maruah M2

I can understand (though condemn) Najib’s ministers and UMNO warlords for being his ardent cheerleaders. They could not otherwise afford those luxuries; these characters have no marketable skills or professional accomplishments. Their flair for “sucking up” is appreciated only by insecure and untalented superiors. To these unabashed supplicants, even Najib’s crumbs are worth scrambling for. Absent that they would be back to their old kampong mode.

Those whom I feel most sorry for are the young red-shirted pemudas (youths) and pink-frocked puteris. Surely their maruah (reputation) is worth much more than just the few hundred ringgit for their free trips to the capital city, plus their complimentary colorful attires and perhaps a sarong pelekat or two.

I would support them if they were to demand their share of the booty. Not as direct handouts as that would quickly end up in the hands of those retailers at Low Yat Plaza but to create enduring programs to train them as plumbers, mechanics, and electricians, or to improve our schools and universities.

They could then benefit from those initiatives and do something meaningful with their lives, quite apart from contributing to society and having a bright future. That would be a legacy worth bequeathing to their children and grandchildren. Those values and sense of self-worth are worth cultivating. Itu maruah Melayu tulin! (That’s respect to a genuine Malay.)

Maruah shapes our perception of reality. Our maruah says that when we receive money or favors for which we are not entitled to or have not worked for, that is corruption, not donation. Those who claim otherwise have no maruah.

Prime Minister Najib and Tension in his Cabinet

June 2, 2015

Prime Minister Najib and Tension in his Cabinet

by Joe Fernandez

Najib and His Cabinet

Speculation is rife that Hishammuddin Hussein and Najib Abdul Razak, first cousins on their mothers’ side, are no longer on the same page in the Cabinet. This is not only with reference to the 1MDB scandal, which hangs like the carcass of the proverbial albatross around the Prime Minister’s neck, but a host of other issues which have bogged down his administration.

Former Premier Mahathir Mohamad has said that Najib is no leader and not fit to be Prime Minister. Either a leadership must be effective, as in Mahathir’s case for 22 years, or the followers must be effective to make up for the leader’s failings.

Hishammuddin, who is Defence Minister and  UMNO Vice President, seems to be agreeing now with Mahathir.

Along with Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Hishammuddin was absent from the Cabinet meeting last Friday, during which Najib issued an ultimatum that those who were not with him on the 1MDB Roadmap – read by critics as the Save Najib Roadmap – should leave the Cabinet. Najib didn’t have an “otherwise” hint in his ultimatum, that is  the rebels who refuse to quit would alternatively be sacked or left out in an imminent Cabinet reshuffle.

Najib did not mention sackings or a Cabinet reshuffle because that would split the Cabinet, the government, and UMNO right down the middle. He does not seem to realize that his quit demand would have the same effect.

Hishammuddin, and others too, are unlikely to take Najib’s ultimatum lying down. When push comes to shove, the reading on the way forward is clear. It does look like the cousins are on the verge of parting company.

Hishammuddin made his position clear yesterday in a Twitter message, the contents of which have reportedly been dismissed by Najib. The Prime Minister was left wondering why Hishammuddin did not  discuss the contents of the tweet with him first instead of going public with his stand on the matter. It has been speculated that he rejected the demands in the tweet but did not go any further.

The tweet calls for a rationalisation plan, and governance and accountability in getting out of the scandal created by 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a company wholly owned by Ministry of Finance and touted as a strategic investment and development company. “There must be transparency in both,” tweeted Hishammuddin.

He is likely to win widespread public support for the position he has taken. Muhyiddin had the same response when he briefed four UMNO divisions in Janda Baik not so long ago on 1MDB and demanded that the entire board be sacked and the Police called in.

The issue is clear. While the Cabinet is bound by the convention of collective responsibility the fact remains that Najib has kept his colleagues in the dark on 1MDB and perhaps other matters as well.

The proof of this lies in Clause 17 in 1MDB’s Memorandum and Articles of Association, which states that the company must have the “written approval” of the Prime Minister only on any deals made by it, additions to the board or removals from it. The result: Najib saw no reason to keep his Cabinet colleagues in the loop on 1MDB.

Najib himself admitted as much to the media when he revealed that he had a heart-to-heart talk with Muhyiddin, before UMNO Supreme Council meeting, and promised to keep him in the loop in future.

Even before his tweet, Hishammuddin had outlined his position on 1MDB. Early last month, he called for a forensic audit of 1MDB by an independent international audit firm. Hishammuddin had then said that the independent forensic audit should be done on all 1MDB transactions since its inception.

He urged the Federal Government to speed up its current investigations and not merely wait for the Auditor-General to complete its work.

“In this context, I urge the Auditor-General to quickly prepare its report and present it to the Public Accounts Committee,” he said in a statement. “I propose that the 1MDB board appoint another international independent audit firm to check, verify and publicly declare all the firm’s assets and liabilities, as well as the status of its investment portfolio and current cash flow situation.”

Hishammuddin said he shared the concerns that had been raised on various allegations surrounding 1MDB, including its sale of land in the Tun Razak Exchange (TRX) financial district to Tabung Haji. He said the pilgrims fund should ensure that all its deals are above-board and its integrity protected.

Incompetent, dishonest and shameless Najib Razak clings his job

May 10, 2015

Phnom Penh by The Mekong

Incompetent, dishonest and shameless Najib Razak clings his job

TAWAU 10 May 2015. Perdana Menteri, Datuk Seri Najib Razak ketika Perhimpunan Solidariti Rakyat Sabah di Padang Perbandaran Tawau. NSTP/Datu Ruslan Sulai

TAWAU 10 May 2015. Perdana Menteri, Datuk Seri Najib Razak ketika Perhimpunan Solidariti Rakyat Sabah di Padang Perbandaran Tawau. NSTP/Datu Ruslan Sulai

Datuk Seri Najib Razak declared tonight that he will not succumb to calls for his resignation and even urged for support from Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, telling his harshest critic not to disrupt UMNO by making “too much noise”.

At a function in Tawau, Sabah, the embattled Prime Minister, in his strongest response yet to Dr Mahathir, reminded the latter that he had supported him during his tenure in government. “In 1987, I was among those who supported him. Why he (Dr Mahathir) remained as Prime Minister? Because we were united in difficult times.

“When in difficult times we support him to remain in power. If we did not support the leader during trying times, Dr Mahathir would not have been the Prime Minister for 22 years,” Najib was quoted in Bernama as telling a large crowd for the “Sabahans Solidarity Gathering” at a field in Tawau.Therefore, do not forget the past, when he (Dr Mahathir) was the Prime Minister, we fully supported him. Now he is not the Prime Minister, so return the support.

“Even if you cannot support, don’t make too much noise and disrupt the party. We can clarify the 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) issue,” he said, according to the national news agency.

Dr Mahathir, the country’s longest serving former prime minister, has been at the forefront of the ongoing attacks against Najib’s leadership, even saying recently that the prime minister should resign before Barisan Nasional (BN) loses the next general election.

Chief among Dr Mahathir’s concerns is the leadership’s handling of allegations surrounding 1MDB, the state-owned investment firm that has amassed a debt pile worth over RM42 billion in just a few years.

But Najib said tonight that Dr Mahathir has issued conflicting remarks about 1MDB, noting that the veteran leader had at one time claimed that the firm has lost RM42 billion but at another, he reportedly said it owes RM42 billion.

According to Bernama’s report, the prime minister then said that the government will have its own way of solving the 1MDB issue, if given time.

“I will only bow to the people and party members. As long as the people and members of UMNO support me and have trust in my leadership, I will continue to carry on,” he was quoted saying.

Although Najib has ordered a federal audit on the 1MDB, the latest controversy that emerged earlier this week on the firm’s land deal with Lembaga Tabung Haji (LTH) has led to top leaders in his party coming forward to publicly express concern.

On Friday, Najib’s Deputy Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin chimed in from his working visit in Milan, Italy, and said that Putrajaya must be proactive over the attacks against 1MDB and not merely react to the criticism against the state-owned firm.

Apart from Muhyiddin, UMNO leaders like Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein and Khairy Jamaluddin have also weighed in on the LTH-1MDB land controversy.

Explaining the matter for the second time today, Najib again insisted that LTH’s purchase of the land from 1MDB was not a bailout for the troubled investment firm. According to Bernama, he claimed the LTH could have made a RM170 million profit from the investment but because the purchase was made an issue, he decided to advice the pilgrims fund to sell the plot of land.

“Since the facts of the purchase has been twisted and became a hot topic, you can say it was like ‘shooting oneself in the foot’. This is what I call ‘not rationale’ because why are we doing this? For the benefit of the people, so, give us a chance to do it.

“Every issue can be solved but let the leaders solve such issues,” he was quoted saying. Najib has been criticised for his alleged haste in advising LTH to sell the land in question ― a 1.56-acre plot in the Tun Razak Exchange (TRX) that it had purchased last month from 1MDB.

LTH reportedly paid RM188.5 million at RM2,773 psf for the land, which is 43 times what 1MDB paid four years ago when it purchased the plot for just RM4.5 million at a rate of RM64 psf.

A blog called “The Benchmark” first raised speculation on the purchase when it published purported documents of the controversial transaction that critics now claim could be a bailout for 1MDB.

According to LTH Chairman Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim yesterday, the move to sell the land was a complete U-turn from the Fund’s Board of Directors’ decision on Friday not to do so.Responding to the announcement, several lawmakers said today that 1MDB should instead cancel the transaction entirely and refund the RM188.5 million paid by LTH.