Loyal Followers

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Is Malaysia an Islamic Country?

Article 3 of the Federal Constitution says Islam shall be the religion of the Federation. That is all. Despite that, for whatever reason, many claim that Malaysia is actually an Islamic country, whatever that may mean. Documents available from our historical archives however say otherwise.

History shows that the insertion of a provision that Islam is the religion of the Federation does not negate from the fact that Malaysia is a secular country. It wasn't intended to negate from that fact.

The record has to be put straight.

Note: This video is courtesy of KS Tan who posted it on YouTube.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The symptoms and the disease

I would like to congratulate the police force for a job well done in arresting 8 suspects for the church attack. Granted, the police had had a lucky break when one of the arrested person sought treatments for burns on his chest and hand, but the arrests would not have been possible without diligence on the part of the police force. Well done.

On the same footing, I hope these people would, upon completion of a thorough investigation, be immediately charged under section 436 of the Penal Code for causing to destroy a place of worship by fire. That section carries a penalty of 20 year imprisonment.

And I do hope the AG Chambers would successfully prosecute these persons, if a case has been made out against them in the investigation papers.

I am sure the Home Minister would be pleased to note that the police has done a great job. Congratulations to him too for under his tutelage the police has managed to solve this utterly ugly crime.

We must not forget however that the attacks on the churches are but just symptoms of a far more malignant disease in our society. We cannot continue to focus on treating the symptoms all the while without giving attention to the debilitating  cancer that our society is patently suffering from. Without that treatment, we would soon descend into a deep and dark pit of racial disharmony, disintegration and religious intolerance.

First of all, the attacks are symptomatic of a society which is scornful of valuable discourses and civil disagreement. It is a display of a degree of shallowness and obvious disability to articulate on an issue in order to put forth a viable position or stand  on that issue. The obvious reaction then would be to resort to our primordial instinct, namely, to stamp our authority by inflicting fear and show of strength.

Secondly, the attacks reflect a culture which is lacking in civility, humility and good manners. Contrary to what Minister Rais said recently, I do not think this erosion of civility from our cultural vocabulary is caused by facebook, twitter, myspace, the blogs (this blog included) or the Internet generally.

The erosion of good manners and civility is a result of years and years of social neglect in our schools, our work place and  our homes led by the behaviours and mannerism of some of our so called leaders. One of our so called elderly statesman - I am sure about the "elderly" part but am not too sure about the "statesman" part - reflected this neglect a day or two ago by claiming, among others, that the holocaust had failed as a final solution. I do not have to elaborate more on this. As we lawyers say in Courts, res ipsa loquitor, the facts speak for themselves.

Thirdly, the attacks are the culmination of ultra-nationalistic - read, racist - stance taken by some of our so called leaders. Racism in Malaysia is insidious. That is because it is tacitly supported or even encouraged by governmental policies and actions or at the very least quietly acquiesced by the powers that be.  It is further muddied by the equation of a particular religion to a particular race. Thus we have a situation of interchanging nationalistic-pseudo-religiosity stance whenever certain issues are raised.

Issues which are perceived to be against Islam would be viewed as against the Malay race. And vice versa. This inter-play between religion and race gives racism in Malaysia a deeper and more insidious effect on our society. Suffice if I say that the fuse has been lighted and we should not wait to find out the exact length of that fuse.

When I was in the university, the concern was racial segragation and polarisation. That has however transformed into a full blown racial intolerance and marking of racial (and religious) territory. Soon, if not treated, hatred would set in. And God helps us in that event.

There must be an honest approach to this problem. And a fully consistent one. It does not help for a leader to cavort and emphatise with the plight of some cow head stomping group on one hand and on the other to set out to spray acid laced water on peaceful demonstrators against the ISA. It does not help for the police to arrest some candle carrying men and women sitting in some car parks while at the same time a threatened demonstration in some mosques were deemed alright unless "national security is threatened."

That kind of inconsistencies result in credibility deficiency. And when the authorities lack credibility or is perceived as lacking in credibility, no amount of earnestness or even honesty could make up for its credibility crisis. That is why nowadays many have grown cynical about every actions taken by the authorities, especially the police, the MACC and even the Courts.

At the core of our social cancers is our school and education system. We are so deep in our misplaced emphasis on getting as many A grade as possible that we forget to imbue our little ones with the concept of nation building and racial integration in our schools. A famous person once told me that a school in Bangsar even had a racial profile on the games played in school where the Malays would play football, the Chinese, basketball and the Indians, hockey not long ago.

Back in Pengajian Islam classes, we have ustaz and ustazah who see absolutely no problem in prying into the privacy of a student's family by asking students whose parents do not pray at home to put up their hands. This actually happened to a neighbour of mine who actually went to the school to complain to the ustazah for doing so.

Racial segregation and polarisation are further made worse by a culture of exclusionism perpetrated by our religious authorities. The banning of the usage of certain Arabic - and I choose the word Arabic deliberately as these words are not Islamic words but Arabic - words from being used by non-Muslims is but an example of this culture of exclusionism. That serves to isolate the Muslims from other religions and consequently the Malays from other races.

Day in and day out, Muslims - and hence, the Malays - are reminded that we are different from the others. That we have different - and more - rights than the others. That we are always weak and under siege. That we have to unite so that we are stronger. Day in and day out we have this imaginary bogeyman following us, always trying to confuse us, always trying to take our rights and what is ours, always waiting to exploit our weaknesses.

We are a threatened race. We are a besieged  race. And we have to be aware of this. And we have to treat "them", the bogeyman, with extra caution.

This is the disease permeating the air which we all breathe now.

The attacks on the churches are just but a small symptom of this disease.

The police, the MACC, the FRUs, the RELA and whatever NGOs that we have are not in a single position to treat this disease.

It is in us to do something about it. And it is for the government to take an honest lead.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Are they any less Islam than us?



A friend of mine sent this picture from  Africa. This picture was taken by him in Lusaka, Zambia. It is of a Hindu temple sitting serenely beside a Muslim mosque.

Zambia is of course a Southern Africa country. Lusaka is its capital. United Nation numbers for 2007 state that 68% of Zambian are living below national poverty line. Their per capita income is just USD395 per annum.

It is officially a Christian nation. 5% of its populace are Muslims and most of the Muslims stay in urban areas.

They are nothing compared to us in terms of material possession, education, health care, infrastructure and whatever.

But in terms of inter-faith understanding and harmonious co-existence on this borrowed place, we, especially our cow-head-carrying zealots and noisy insecure "defenders of Islam",  have so much to learn from them.

All the wealth and education certificates which we possess don't make us a better human being.

Because at the end of the day, life is a journey from the lowest point on the ground that we stand - the soil which God used to make all of us - to the highest point of humanity - which is God's spirit which He blows into Adam after He shapes him from soil.

Until and unless we attain that highest level, or at least seek to attain it, we are nothing.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The "Allah" Controversy - the political ramifications

The controversy surrounding the usage of "Allah" by non-Muslims, particularly the Christians, in Malaysia continues to rage even as at the time of writing this article. The Malaysian Insider just reported that a ninth church - this time in Kota Tinggi, Johore - had been vandalised.

The year 2009 was about to end when Yang Ariff Justice Lau Bee Lan held that the word "Allah" may be used by the Herald in its newspaper. That decision has almost redefined the phrase "ending the year with a bang."

Viewed with the benefit of hindsight, there were of course political opportunity loss on the part of the Barisan Nasional. In a land where everything from the slaughtering of cows for distribution to the poor and needy to the building of a free trade zone are perfect fodders for politics, the Allah issue was never far from being one as well.

In the last half of 2009, I actually thought that the Prime Minister was in the political driving seat. He was in control. His 1 Malaysia concept and sloganeering, although leaving much to be desired from the view point of the urbanites, was gaining support from the heartland. The Chinese and Indian supports were slowly coming back to him and his government despite the impotence and lameness of the two most important protagonists which were supposed to represent the two races within the government, namely the MCA and MIC respectively.

The public relation machinations of the government were working full steam and in overdrive. The Prime  Minister and his men were all over the place, winning nods of approvals from the people on the street.

In the meantime, power base in UMNO was being broaden. And his hard line approach towards the opposition was well received within the UMNO circle, especially at the grass root level. The Perak power grab, orchestrated and executed by him, although crude and almost unrefined, served to cement the belief among UMNO members that in Dato' Seri Najib Razak, UMNO has a powerful leader who is not afraid to use his power for the benefit of UMNO. Gone were the days of the lembik leadership that they had under the stewardship of Tun Abdullah.

And so, despite various issues ranging from Teoh Beng Hock's death at the MACC state head office to the PKFZ debacle, the Prime Minister was looking good.

On the corporate side, the Prime Minister, in not too long a time has also managed to straighten out the various important agencies and government linked companies to his liking. Top editors of major UMNO linked newspapers were replaced. The state mass media was in good hands in Minister Rais Yatim.

Khazanah Nasional was in control and ever willing to toe the line. The EPU was dismantled thereby getting rid of old and unwanted elements. Petronas was a bit more difficult to deal with as proven by the fact that the PM's favoured nominee for a board seat was rejected not once but twice. No matter what, the PM later managed to get what he wanted and Encik Omar now gets his board seat.

So, everything was going in accordance with plan.

In the meantime, the Pakatan Rakyat was in utter disarray. This was a party who perfected the art of shooting one's own foot, not once, not twice but continuously like they were using an Uzi instead of a revolver.

They had Hassan Ali and gang running riot against their own leadership. They also had Zul Noordin wanting to amend the Federal Constitution to make Islamic law the highest law of the land. Then they had Wee Choo Keong creating havoc. In the PKR front, Azmin Ali, Zaid Ibrahim, Jeffrey Kitingan and Anwar Ibrahim were locking horns. Then PAS lost a by-election in Negeri Sembilan. All hell broke loose.

The PR was losing ground. Everything was going haywire. In PAS, apart from the Hassan Ali and Nasa factor, there was also the Tuan Guru Nik Aziz controversy. That prompted a special muktamar to sort out various issues. Due to the shenanigans of Hassan Ali and cohorts, non-Muslims support for PAS was fast disappearing. It looked like it was  difficult for PAS to regain the trust of non-Muslims after the hard line approach displayed by Hassan Ali and gang.

Within all these controversies surrounding the PR, the Prime Minister could continue to concentrate at rebuilding the support base for UMNO. And he was relishing the prospect. Surveys by independent pollsters actually showed that supports for the Prime Minister and his 1 Malaysia concept were actually improving with time. Malaysia apparently was warming up to him.

However, he made a mistake. And a big one that turned out to be.

The Allah issue was brewing in the Court. And on the last day of 2009, the issue exploded.

In hindsight, the Allah issue could have been used by the Prime Minister to score even more points, especially among the non-Malays. Had the PM thrown his weight in support of the Christians while at the same time used the massive public relation machinations to explain the real issues to the Malays and to pacify them, then the PM would have killed two birds with just a single stone.

However, that was not to be. The PM and the Home Minister had chosen to appease the Malays by initially taking a loose stand against those who were planning to demonstrate in various mosques around KL after the Friday prayer. At the last minute, the Home Minister appeared to have changed his mind and came out with another indecision and almost lame position. He decided to leave it to the police to decide, when in fact, the police came under his Ministry!

The move backfired spectacularly when churches were torched. As of now, the political damage to both the PM and the Home Minister, as well as to the government, is almost irreversible.

By pandering to the hard line Malays, the PM, Home Minister and the government was not winning any new support. That is because the hard line Malays (or ultra Malays) have always supported UMNO anyway. So there was not going to be any change in the support of UMNO or the government by adopting the stand against the usage of Allah by the Christians.

In contrast, if the PM had taken an opposite stand on the issue, new support from the Christians would have been forthcoming, giving a new dimension to the concept of 1 Malaysia which the PM is selling with absolute vigour nowadays. Apart from the Christians, non-Malays of other faiths would also see the PM's action as a sign of accommodation for themselves. And this will give the PM a consequential support from this group as well.

At the same time, the hard line UMNO supporters would not withdraw their supports for the PM. Any splinter group from within UMNO who might be unhappy for the PM's decision in that event could be persuaded and coaxed through the massive state controlled mass media, which include Bernama TV, RTM, TV3, TV7, TV9, NST, MM, UM and the Star.

The PM and the government would be swimming in this great tidal of supports. Alas, things were not to be. Instead now, we have a situation where supports from the hard line Malays remain unchanged. And the PM can forget about supports from the Christians and the non-Malays of other faiths. The Malay urbanites on the other hand would continue to be critical of the PM and the government.

The Allah issue is really and opportunity loss for the Prime Minister, UMNO, BN and the government.

On the other side of the fence, the Pakatan Rakyat, and that includes PAS, is coming out smelling like roses on a hot spring day. There is not much guessing to know why.

The BN is back to square one.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Malaysian Muslims Must Condemn Any Act of Violence Towards People of Other Faiths Petition

Fellow Muslim brothers and sisters,

In the name of solidarity, in the name of our country and in the name of Allah, I implore you to sign this petition.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Our Failings

"And as the flames climbed high into the night; To light the sacrificial rite; I saw Satan laughing with delight; The day the music died."

American Pie - Don McLean

And so, this is what has become of us. A nation where the music has long since died.

We have banished our conscience at the foot of political expediency. We have long since been only moved to claim what is ours or what we believe to be ours and ours alone. We have long since been only moved to protect our rights or what we believe to be our rights.

We have been indoctrinated to think and we do think that everything in this land has a proprietary right attached to it. And we draw a line. These are mine. Those are yours. And into my area you should not encroach. We are like wild dogs pissing everywhere to mark our territory.

We have also been taught to differentiate fellow humans based on the colours of the skin. And the faith that we bear. And the language that we speak. And we now believe that only us and us alone are right. Everybody else is wrong. And we also now believe that only us and us alone matter. Everything else does not.

Soon we realise that we even have to own our race and the colour of our skin. We also have to own our language. That is sacrosanct. It cannot be Bahasa Malaysia nor Bahasa Kebangsaan. It has to be Bahasa Melayu. Because that is us. Because that language belongs to us. That is ours. We must possess it. We must  not let it go. And we piss and we piss, drawing lines to mark our territory. While others have gone to the moon and back.

Now we own our faith. And our God. We now piss all over to mark and re-mark our territory, again and again. And again, this is our territory. Ours. Mine. Not yours. And don't you dare encroach into my area. Because you have no right over what is mine. You had better get away from it.

We have locked away our capacity to engage and to argue in a locker room somewhere between Putrajaya and KLCC. We have thrown away the keys. We have deleted civility, good manners and human decency from our hard disk.

All that we have is anger. And our capacity to strike. We have built an impenetrable firewall to ward off any kind of tolerance or rationality. Those will be blocked and quickly booted out from our system.

When we perceive a challenge - and we do that very quickly - we will strike.

The State meanwhile cavorts us. It condones us. When we carry a severed and bloodied cow head from a mosques to protest against some Hindu temple, the State gently met us. The State listened to us. The State said it understood our grievances. The State was sorry that our grievances were not heard by others. The State concluded that we had no bad intention. The State shook our hands, sat with us and pacified us.

And so we threatened to show our might, to protect what is ours. To defend God, our God who is definitely not your God. We are angry. Our area has been encroached. And together we must rise to protect what is ours. Together we must defend what is ours. Allah, this God is ours.

And the State stands by the side of the road saying it will not do anything against our plan. The State suddenly says it is powerless to stop us because according to the State, "people will demonstrate if they want to".

The State apparently says that there is a balancing act which has to be done, namely, our interest as an angry people and the interest of the national security. And accordingly, the State implies that we can carry out our threat up to a point when national security is threatened. But that point is not defined. It is still subject to discretion and interpretation.

We are relieved and happy to note that we could demonstrate our anger. Because before this we note that even candle-lighting vigilers singing Negara Ku have been arrested and detained. Even lawyers coming to the aid of their clients have been arrested and detained by the State.

What more an anti-ISA rally. The State came with all its might. It was there with its truckloads of baton wielding officers and that monstrous tank spewing acid laced water against us. It was there with that water and canisters of tear gas. It was there with batons. Even children were arrested and detained.

But this time, the State was meek. So we can do whatever we planned. And whatever we planned is in the name of God. We planned to protect God.

How dare you encroach into our area? And in the name of Allah, we strike.