Loyal Followers

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Season's Greetings



Here's to wishing everybody a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Please be safe this festive season. May the new year bring all of us God's blessings, peace of mind, good health and a good life.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Dear Santa…

Hi there.

Hope this letter finds you in excellent good health, amidst your busy schedules as Christmas, and hence, Christmas eve approaches.

I know. This letter is a bit late. But I hope it is okay with you. Actually, I had posted a hard copy of this letter in January this year using Pos Laju. Recently however, that letter was returned and marked “return to sender.”

I called up Pos Laju to find out the reason for this letter being so returned. This was how the conversation went (I hope you don’t mind. It’s in the original language. I am sure as a saint, you would understand it anyway).

Pos Laju girl: Hello, selamat pagi dan salam 1Malaysia Encik.

Me: Hi, selamat pagi.

PL girl: Eh, erm..Encik Melayu?

Me: Ya, saya.

PL girl: Assalamualaikum Encik. Boleh saya bantu?

Me: Mualaikummusalam. Saya sebenarnya nak tanya ni. Kenapa surat saya yang saya kirim bulan Januari lepas dikembalikan? Alamatnya Santa Claus, TheOnlyOne, North Pole.

PL girl: Oh, tunggu jap yer, saya cek.

…3 minutes later…

PL girl: Terima kasih Encik kerana menunggu. Erm…sebenarnyer Cik, surat Encik tu haram.

Me: Haram? Ada surat haram dan halal ke sekarang ni?

PL girl: Eh, ada Encik. Semua surat kena cek dulu halal ke haram. Kalau haram, kami takleh hantar Encik. Masuk neraka nanti. Surat kepada Santa Claus tu haram Encik. Sebab Santa Claus tu ialah seorang santo Kristian.

Me: Oh, itu kes berat tu Dik. Neraka jahanam ke?

PL girl: Ye Bang, eh, Encik. Neraka jahanam.

Me: You tau tak, perkataan “jahanam” tu sebenarnyer kan, adalah dari perkataan Yahudi “gehenna” you tau. Itu tempat dier orang bakar anak-anak lelaki dier orang dulu-dulu tau, kat Lembah Hinnom. Perkataan tu pun haram Dik. Yahudi tu!

PL girl: Iyer ker? Hamaigod.

Me: So, surat haram you all takleh hantar la yer?

PL girl: Takleh Bang, eh, Encik.

Me: Ada tak surat CIMB ker, Maybank atau RHB ker you all hantar?

PL girl: Ada gak. Kenapa?

Me: Surat-surat bank yang kenakan bunga atau faedah ni haram you all tau tak? Surat Bank Islam dan Muamalat jer yang you leh hantar. Itu halal.

PL girl: Yer ker Encik?

Me: Yer lah.

PL girl: Habis orang Islam yang makan gaji kat bank-bank tu gaji dierang halal ker haram Encik?

Me: Tak tahu ler saya. Kena tanya JAKIM lah. Kita orang biasa mana tahu. Okay, assalamualaikum.

PL girl: Wassalam.

I hope you wouldn’t be upset because you are deemed haram in my country. You are not alone however. Recently, a book on Lee Kuan Yew – yes, that guy who always ask you to turn Singapore into a continent every Christmas – was also deemed haram. Oh, a book on Doraemon had also be deemed haram before.

The only wonder I have is why is it that books like Hikayat Hang Tuah, Merong Mahawangsa, Sejarah Melayu and Hikayat Inderaputera or Anggun Cik Tunggal have not been declared haram. As you might know dear Santa, those folklore contain all sorts of stories about magic stones, super human powers, the ability to see the future and sprinkled with Hindu elements. Some of the books are even mandatory reading in our schools. Don’t you think they should be declared haram too yah?

While we are it, hey, haven’t you read what some Saudi clerics said recently? Yes. They said if the women are allowed to drive, there will not be any virgins left. Hahahah…this dear Santa, is definite proof that women love having sex while driving.

In Malaysia you see, a recent Durex survey revealed that 39% of women cheat their partner while only 33% of men do so. Perhaps that’s because women in Malaysia drive a lot, no?

Then we also have some dunggus somewhere declaring that women should not be left alone with bananas, cucumbers, zucchinis and the likes. Apparently they should be accompanied by their relatives or husband to confront such lustful objects of (sexual) desire.

I am now just afraid that we in Malaysia might just decide to catch up with these mullahs and start declaring soon that men should not be left alone with papayas and watermelons.

Oh well.

I know you are busy. So, let me be direct about what I want for Christmas this year.

Well, before that, allow me to explain why I believe in you, even though there is not an iota of evidence that you exist.

You see, I am Malay. I believe in Hang Tuah and the keris which he obtain by conning Taming Sari, the Javanese warrior. Well, the name of that keris is also Taming Sari, you see. Just quite why Hang Tuah did not change the name of the keris to Hang Tuah or Proton Saga or whatever after he took it away from Taming Sari is beyond me to comprehend.

I and almost all Malays believe in Hang Tuah and Taming Sari, even though there is not a shred of evidence, other than folklore storytelling, that they existed. And recently, one of our so called leaders even described the Internal Security Act as equivalent to the Taming Sari, which, according to him, is the weapon which was to protect our (the Malays) interests.

I know. David Cameron will never say that the English interests are to be protected by the Excalibur. And the Norwegian Prime Minister of course will not say that Thor’s hammer was supposed to protect Scandinavia. That’s because they are idiots who do not believe in their own folklore. I for one believe dear Santa, even though I am not Scandinavian, in the Valkyrie!

Anyway, I digress.

The reason for this e-letter is to tell you what I want for Christmas this year.

I would like to have, dear Santa, please please please, grovel grovel grovel, a tunnel which is not so smart, but which actually works.

I have been a really really good boy this year. So I think I am entitled to two requests. My next request is this. I read a report yesterday that TNB expects to record losses in the first quarter of 2012 as long as it has not yet received the cash from Petronas and the government. The report says that “the company's president and CEO Che Khalib says the cash-flow position of TNB is still in critical position until it receives the cash from the government and Petronas.”

Okay. Here’s my next request.

Please dear Santa, grant me the intelligence and wisdom to understand how a company which owns a monopoly business of providing an essential item to 27 million people plus all the investors and businesses in the whole country could record losses and have cash flow problems if the government or the nation’s cash cow, Petronas did not help?

I know. This will be hard for you dear Santa. But please at least try to grant me this one.

Thanking you in anticipation.

Tada!

p.s. Salam to all the elves.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Selamat Menyambut Maal Hijrah/Awal Muharram


ARTiculations mengucapkan selamat menyambut Maal Hijrah/Awal Muharram kepada semua umat Islam dan selmat bercuti kepada semua sahabat se-Malaysia.

Hijrah itu saya rasa bukan sahaja meliputi penghijrahan fizikal daripada satu kawasan geografi ke satu kawasan geografi yang lain. Penghijrahan sifat, akal dan keperibadian daripada satu titik kebawahan kepada satu titik ketinggian jauh lebih penting dan dituntut oleh agama. 

Moga kita semua mencapai penghijrahan yang bermakna.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Anti-apostasy law – the legal dynamics

I wonder whether the proponents of anti-apostasy laws have given thoughts to various legal issues which will undoubtedly arise in the event anti-apostasy laws are passed.

First of all, article 11 of the Federal Constitution guarantees the right of every person to profess and practise his religion. Freedom of religion, as this article guarantees, is deemed to be so important and universal so much so that the Federal Constitution guarantees it for every person in Malaysia as opposed to just her citizens.

By contrast, freedom of speech and expression, the right to assemble and the right to form associations are only guaranteed for Malaysian citizens. Such is the universality and fundamentality of freedom of religion that every person within Malaysia is guaranteed of that right.

The right to practise a religion is absolute. That right is not limited to the right to choose a religion but also the right to practise the religion of choice in accordance to the person’s belief and faith. In other word, under our Federal Constitution, one can not only choose a religion of his or her choice, but also to practise his or her religion freely, without any mullahs, monks, priests or prophets, real or otherwise, telling him how to do this and that.

Being so, anti-apostasy laws would run foul of article 11 as soon as it is passed. It is a non-starter. In legal jargon, it is void ab initio.

There are only two very narrow restraints which the Federal Constitution allows in so far as freedom of religion is concerned.

Firstly, laws may be passed to control or restrict the propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among Muslims. This means, a law may be passed for example, to prohibit anybody or group from propagating Christianity to Muslims. This provision however, does not allow any law to be passed to prevent a Muslim from leaving Islam or to punish Muslims for doing so.

Secondly, any person is not allowed to practise his or her religion in any way which may be contrary to any general law relating to public order, public health or morality. This simply means that if your religion requires you to slaughter five pigs at Dataran Merdeka every Friday at precisely 12.30pm, you cannot do so even though article 11 says you are free to practise your religion. Similarly, if your religion requires you to have sex with your daughter and your wife at the same time, you are not allowed to do so, although of course, it is open to you to argue that you may do so spiritually and not physically. (excuse me, I have to laugh…hahaha).

So, that’s about it. Quite how the proponents of anti-apostasy laws are planning to overcome this Constitutional hurdle to their beloved anti-apostasy laws is beyond me. I suppose, they would also seek to amend the Federal Constitution along with the anti-apostasy laws.

Assuming the Constitutionality issue is overcome, then comes the jurisdiction clanger. This is what I normally refer to as the judicial ping-pong or pass-the-bucket.

You see, in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia or anywhere else in the civilised world, every arm of the country’s administration would defend it’s jurisdiction and powers so fervently. Of course here in Malaysia, our judiciary, in the form of the highest Court of the land, ie the Federal Court, have always done it’s darndest best to disclaim its jurisdiction and powers. It’s almost funny really.

Whenever cases involving Islam come to our Federal Court, it will, without fail hold that it does not have the jurisdiction or power to hear such cases because they involve matters concerning Islam. Never mind the fact that the matter also involves serious and multiple Constitutional issues which have far-reaching consequences and ramifications on our society and nations. As long as the word Islam appears of the Court papers, the Federal Court will tremble in its pants and disclaim jurisdiction.

Sometimes, the Federal Court will cling to some technicalities in order to refuse hearing such hot potatoes of a case. See Shamala and the skirt of technicalities, as an illustration of this.

The oft-relied Constitutional provision for this disclaimer of jurisdiction is of course article 121 (1A), which says that our Courts shall have no jurisdiction in respect of any matter within the jurisdiction of the Syariah Courts.

So, assuming anti-apostasy laws are passed and a man is going to be charged for being an apostate. The first question is, in which Court is he supposed to be charged?

He cannot be charged in our civil Courts. Because quite simply, our civil Courts will say whether or not that man is an apostate would depend on whether he has really left Islam and that would be a matter for the Syariah Court to deal with. So, our civil Court will gladly disclaim jurisdiction.

And so, our guy would then have to be put in the black maria and driven to the Syariah Court. Okay, hold on to your seat guys, this is going to be one hell of a ride.

He is then produced before a Kadhi/Syariah Judge and charged. The charge might read as follows:

“Bahawa kamu, Jakim bin Jais, telah didapati tidak sembahyang Jumaat sebanyak tiga kali berturut-turut dan telah dengan itu keluar dari agama Islam dan dengan itu telah melakukan kesalahan di bawah seksyen 3 Akta Anti-Apostasi.”

(“That you, Jakim bin Jais, has been found not to perform the Friday prayer for three consecutive times and accordingly you have left the religion of Islam and accordingly has committed an offence under section 3 of the Anti-Apostasy Act.”)

So far so good.

Suddenly Encik Jakim says, “err…excuse me,  item 1 of List II of the Ninth Schedule of the Federal Constitution says that Syariah Courts shall have jurisdiction only over persons professingthe religion of Islam. Since according to the charge I had left the religion of Islam, you, the Syariah Court, have no jurisdiction or power over me. Thank you very much and assalamu’alaikum.”

So, we have a situation where our civil Courts disclaiming jurisdiction and power because of article 121 (1A) of the Federal Constitution and the Syariah Courts having killed it’s own jurisdiction by the very charge that it is supposed to hear.

This jurisdiction issue, to me, cannot be cured or solved. Even if the Federal Constitution is amended to allow the Syariah Courts to have jurisdiction, such amendment would still run foul against the doctrine of equality and anti-discrimination on the ground of religion.

Will the rocket scientists who are proposing the anti-apostasy laws solve this conundrum please?

Assuming the aforesaid issues are solved and either our civil or Syariah courts are given the jurisdiction, have we ever ever imagined how the case is going to proceed?

Let’s get back to Encik Jakim’s case. Finally, after the Federal Constitution and all sorts of other laws are amended to charge him, he is charged before the Syariah Court.

Encik Jakim then says, “okay, you are accusing me to be an apostate, which means I have left Islam. So, for me to leave Islam, I have to be a Muslim first. You have to prove that I was a Muslim in order to prove that I have left Islam. Can you tell me what is Islam and what is not?”

Oh uh…

During an enquiry headed by Justice Munir under the Punjab Act II 1954, Justice Munir had set out to establish just that, ie, what is Islam or who is a Muslim.

He then sets out to ask, what in the opinion of several  ulamaks, were the "irreducible minimum conditions which, a person must satisfy to be entitled to be called a Muslim." Here is some of their answers.

Quote:

"Maulana Abul Hasanat Muhammad Ahmad Qadri, President, Jami’at-ul-Ulamai- Pakistan

Q.— What is the definition of a Muslim ?

A — (1) He must believe in the Unity of God.

(2) He must believe in the prophet of Islam to be a true prophet as well as in all other prophets who have preceded him,

(3) He must believe in the Holy Prophet of Islam as the last of the prophets (khatam-un-nabiyin).

(4) He must believe in the Qur’an as it was revealed by God to the Holy Prophet of Islam.

(5) He must believe as binding on him the injunctions of the Prophet of Islam.

(6) He must believe in the qiyamat.

Q.—Is a tarik-us-salat a Muslim ?

A.—Yes, but not a munkir-us-salat

Maulana Ahmad Ali, President, Jami’at-ul-Ulama-i-Islam, Maghribi Pakistan

Q.— Please define a Muslim ?

A.—A person is a Muslim if he believes (1) in the Qur’an and (2) what has been said by the prophet. Any person who possesses these two qualifications is entitled to be called a Muslim without his being required to believe in anything more or to do anything more.”

Maulana Abul Ala Maudoodi, Amir Jama’at-i-Islami

Q.—Please define a Muslim ?

A.—A person is a Muslim if he believes (1) in tauheed, (2) in all the prophets (ambiya), (3) all the books revealed by God, (4) in mala’ika (angels), and (5) yaum-ul-akhira (the Day of Judgment).

Q.—Is a mere profession of belief in these articles sufficient to entitle a man to call himself a Musalman and to be treated as a Musalman in an Islamic State ?

A.—Yes.

Q.—If a person says that he believes in all these things, does any one have a right to question the existence of his belief ?

A.—The five requisites that I have mentioned above are fundamental and any alteration in anyone of these articles will take him out of the pale of Islam.”

Ghazi Siraj-ud-Din Munir

“Q.—Please define a Muslim ?

A.—I consider a man to be a Muslim if he professes his belief in the kalima, namely, La Ilaha Illalah-o-Muhammad-ur-Rasulullah, and leads a life in the footsteps of the Holy Prophet.”

Mufti Muhammad Idris, Jamia Ashrafia, Nila Gumbad, Lahore

Q.—Please give the definition of a Musalman ?

A.—The word ‘Musalman’ is a Persian one. There is a distinction between the word ‘Musalman’ which is a Persian word for Muslim and the word ‘momin’. It is impossible for me to give a complete definition of the word ‘momin’. I would require pages and pages to describe what a momin is. A person is a Muslim who professes to be obedient to Allah. He should believe in the Unity of God, prophethood of theambiya and in the Day of Judgment. A person who does not believe in the azan or in the qurbani goes outside the pale of Islam. Similarly, there are a large number of other things which have been received by tavatir from our prophet. In order to be a Muslim, he must believe in all these things. It is almost impossible for me to give a complete list of such things.”

Hafiz Kifayat Hussain, Idara-i-Haquq-i-Tahaffuz-i-Shia

Q.—Who is a Musalman?

A.—A person is entitled to be called a Musalman if he believes in (1) tauheed, (2)nubuwwat and (3) qiyamat. These are the three fundamental beliefs which a person must profess to be called a Musalman. In regard to these three basic doctrines there is no difference between the Shias and the Sunnies. Besides the belief in these three doctrines, there are other things called ‘zarooriyat-i-din’ which a person must comply with in order to be entitled to be called aMusalman. These will take me two days to define and enumerate. But as an illustration I might state that the respect for the Holy Book, wajoob-i-nimaz, wajoob-i-roza, wajoob-i-hajj-ma’a-sharait, and other things too numerous to mention, are among the ‘zarooriyat-i-din’ ”

Maulana Abdul Hamid Badayuni, President, Jami’at-ul-Ulama-i-Pakistan :

Q.—Who is a Musalman according to you ?

A.—A person who believes in the zarooriyat-i-din is called a momin and everymomin is entitled to be called a Musalman.

Q.—What are these zarooriyat-i-din ?

A.—A person who believes in the five pillars of Islam and who believes in the rasalatof our Holy Prophet fulfils the zarooriyat-i-din.

Q.—Have other actions, apart from the five arakan, anything to do with a man being a Muslim or being outside the pale of Islam?

(Note—Witness has been explained that by actions are meant those rules of moral conduct which in modern society are accepted as correct.)

A.—Certainly.

Q.—Then you will not call a person a Muslim who believes in arakan-ikhamsa and the rasalat of the prophet but who steals other peoples’ things, embezzles property entrusted to him, has an evil eye on his neighbour’s wife and is guilty of the grossest ingratitude to his benefector?

A.—Such a person, if he has the belief already indicated, will be a Muslim despite all this”.

Maulana Muhammad Ali Kandhalvi, Darush-Shahabia, Sialkot

Q.—Please define a Musalman?

A.—A person who in obedience to the commands of the prophet performs all thezarooriyat-i-din is a Musalman.

Q.—Can you define zarooriyat-i-din ?

A.—Zarooriyat-i-din are those requirements which are known to every Muslim irrespective of his religious knowledge.

Q.—Can you enumerate zarooriyat-i-din ?

A.—These are too numerous to be mentioned. I myself cannot enumerate thesezarooriyat. Some of the zarooriyat-i-din may be mentioned as salat, saum, etc.”

Maulana Amin Ahsan Islahi

Q.—Who is a Musalman?

A.—There are two kinds of Musalmans, a political (siyasi) Musalman and a real (haqiqi) Musalman. In order to be called a political Musalman, a person must:

(1) believe in the Unity of God,

(2) believe in our Holy Prophet being khatam-un-nabiyin, i.e., ‘final

authority’ in all matters relating to the life of that person,

(3) believe that all good and evil comes from Allah,

(4) believe in the Day of Judgment,

(5) believe in the Qur’an to be the last book revealed by Allah,

(6) perform the annual pilgrimage to Mecca,

(7) pay the zaka’at,

(8) say his prayers like the Musalmans,

(9) observe all apparent rules of Islami mu’ashira, and

(10) observe the fast (saum).

If a person satisfies all these conditions he is entitled to the rights of a full citizen of an Islamic State. If any one of these conditions is not satisfied, the person concerned will not be a political Musalman.

(Again said) It would be enough for a person to be a Musalman if he merely professes his belief in these ten matters irrespective of whether he puts them into practice or not. In order to be a real Musalman, a person must believe in and act on all the injunctions by Allah and his prophet in the manner in which they have been enjoined upon him.

Q.—Will you say that only the real Musalman is ‘mard-i-saleh’ ?

A.—Yes.

Q.—do we understand you aright that in the case of what you have called a political (siyasi) Musalman, belief alone is necessary, while in the case of a haqiqi Musalman there must not only be belief but also action?

A.—No, you have not understood me aright. Even in the case of a political (siyasi) Musalman action is necessary but what I mean to say is that if a person does not act upon the belief that is necessary in the case of such a Musalman, he will not be outside the pale of a political (siyasi) Musalman.

Q.—If a political (siyasi) Musalman does not believe in things which you have stated to be necessary, will you call such a person be-din ?

A.—No, I will call him merely be-amal”.

The definition by the Sadr Anjuman Ahmadiya, Rabwah, in its written statement is that a Muslim is a person who belongs to the ummat of the Holy Prophet and professes belief in kalima-i-tayyaba." End quote.

Justice Munir then concluded:

"Keeping in view the several definitions given by the ulama, need we make any comment except that no two learned divines are agreed on this fundamental. If we attempt our own definition as each learned divine has done and that definition differs from that given by all others, we unanimously go out of the fold of Islam. And if we adopt the definition given by any one of the ulama, we remain Muslims according to the view of that alim but kafirs according to the definition of every one else."

Encik Jakim then asked which test of “Muslimness” or “Islamness” that is going to be adopted by the prosecution?

After a long and tedious trial, the Court might be ready to declare that Encik Jakim bin Jais has committed apostasy and ought to be punished.

Just before the Court does so, Encik Jakim says, “do you know that under the Amman Message, which is endorsed by Malaysia, as a member of the OIC, you are prohibited from making a declaration of apostasy against another Muslim?”

This takes Encik Jakim and the learned Syariah Judge to the Amman Message. It says, among others, the followings:-

"Circa 2004, H.M. King Abdullah II of Jordan sent the following three questions to 24 of the most senior religious scholars from all around the world representing all the branches and schools of Islam: (1) Who is a Muslim? (2) Is it permissible to declare someone an apostate (takfir)? (3) Who has the right to undertake issuing fatwas (legal rulings)?

Based on the fatwas provided by these great scholars (who included the Shaykh Al-Azhar; Ayatollah Sistani and Sheikh Qaradawi), in July 2005 CE, H.M. King Abdullah II convened an international Islamic conference of 200 of the world's leading Islamic scholars 'Ulama) from 50 countries. In Amman, the scholars unanimously issued a ruling on three fundamental issues (which became known as the 'Three Points of the Amman Message'):

  1. They specifically recognized the validity of all 8 Mathhabs (legal schools) of Sunni, Shi'a and Ibadhi Islam; of traditional Islamic Theology (Ash'arism); of Islamic Mysticism (Sufism), and of true Salafi thought, and came to a precise definition of who is a Muslim.

  2. Based upon this definition they forbade takfir (declarations of apostasy) between Muslims.

  3. Based upon the Mathahib they set forth the subjective and objective preconditions for the issuing of fatwas, thereby exposing ignorant and illegitimate edicts in the name of Islam."

(The full message can be viewed here).

It continues:-

"These three points were unanimously adopted by all the members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference summit at Mecca in December 2005. And over a period of one year from July 2005 to July 2006, the Three Points were also unanimously adopted by six other international Islamic scholarly assemblies, culminating with the International Islamic Fiqh Academy of Jeddah, in July 2006. In total, over 500 leading Muslim scholars worldwide unanimously endorsed the Amman Message and its Three Points."

Malaysia is of course an OIC member. In fact, Tun Abdullah, while being our PM, was the Chairman of OIC. Among the 500 "leading Muslim scholars" who "endorsed the Amman Message" are:-

  • H.E. Dato’ Seri Abdullah bin Haji Ahmad Badawi
  • Prime Minister
  • Dr. (sic) Anwar Ibrahim
    Former Deputy Prime Minister
  • Dato’ Dr. Abdul Hamid Othman
    Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister
  • Prof. Dr. Kamal Hasan
    President of the Islamic International University, Kuala Lumpur
  • Prof. Dr. Mohammad Hashim Kamali
    Dean of the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilisation
  • Mr. Shahidan Kasem
    First Minister of Perlis State, Malaysia
  • Mr. Khayri Jamal Al-Din (sic) - (presumably this means YB Khairy Jamaluddin)
    Deputy Chairman for the Youth Sector, the United Malays National Organisation
  • Dr. Salih Qadir Karim Al-Zanki
    International Islamic University

    (See the full list here).

  • I think Encik Jakim would be given an acquittal after that.

    Thursday, November 10, 2011

    The Curse of Eve - a bedtime story*

    By The Special Correspondent

    *This awesome piece was written by The Special Correspondent, a very special personal friend of mine, for the magazine Homme, which in turn published it some time back. I would like to share this with all of you. Many thanks to The Special Correspondent for his consent for the republication of this story here. For the record, The Special Correspondent is part man part computer chip who owes his life to the chip more than anything else. He is currently at the tail end of his mid-life crisis but is fast sliding into an old life crisis. According to him, he had had nine near-death experiences. One thing for sure though, he can only count up to one.

    Our story begins thus, as do all bedtime stories …

    Once upon a time, far, far away, there lived a poor sod called Adam. God made him from dust. He was immortal. Our hero lived in a beautiful garden called Eden. In the garden there was a Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. If Adam ate its fruit, he would know the difference between … yes, good and evil. And that would be bad, or must have been, because God told Adam that if he ate from it, he would surely die (Genesis 2:16). Our hero got lonely. So God created Woman from his rib to be his ‘helper’. God loved them. He made them in his image, perfect and sinless. They would never be ill, never be harmed and never die. And God was a real sport when he said, “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:27).

    And how could they not live happily ever after? …

    I must pause here. There is a tiny dispute of fact. This tale in Genesis of the Christian God, his Adam and Eve, suggests that Eve was the first woman. However, a Jewish book called The Alphabet of Ben Sira (circa 8th Century A.D.) tells the story of Lilith; that she and not Eve, was Adam's first wife, created at the same time and from the same dust. Claiming to be thus created equal, Lilith refused to sleep “under him”. This was a problem for our hero who, ever the ladies man, insisted,

    I will not lie beneath you, but only on top. For you are fit only to be in the bottom position, while I am to be the superior one.

    Lilith freaked. She flew away into the air where she ‘knew’ many demons, spawning hundreds of baby demons a day. And thus was coined the oath “I wouldn’t sleep with you if you were the only man in the whole universe”. Adam sobbed to God, “O Sovereign of the Universe, the woman you gave me has run away”. Oh boo hoo. But God was good to Adam, so he sent three angels after her. They threatened to drown her if she refused to return to him. “O piss off” she must have said, because they did. So God, perhaps regretting Free Will a little, made Eve, but this time from Adam’s rib to prevent her from leaving him.[1]

    I readily accept this version as Genesis 1:27 suggests a woman before Eve, but more so because Lilith sounds really hot. Despite Lilith, the consensus is that Eve represents Woman and that She did not come into existence in her own right but only to fulfill man’s needs. This is significant, as we shall see.

    Where was I?

    Ah yes. There was a serpent in the garden who was actually Satan (Revelations 12:9). Before he lost the War in Heaven, he was called Lucifer, God’s first and most beautiful angel, the Angel of Light. The Morning Star. He felt that although Adam and Eve would be eternally happy in paradise, they would also be eternally ignorant. So he persuaded Eve to eat the forbidden fruit for then her eyes would be opened, and like God, she would have knowledge. She ate. The now wicked Eve then seduced poor Adam into taking a bite himself. Immediately his eyes were opened. With all this knowledge, he realised he was butt naked and so put on an apron (Genesis 3:7).

    But then he heard God walking in Eden in the cool of the day. ‘O bummer’, he must have thought and he hid. But God called for him and Adam said, “I heard the sound of thee in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” (Genesis 3:10). (What happened to the apron?).

    God figured it out (well, of course He would) and asked, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” Adam blamed Eve, “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:12). Eve blamed the snake, “The serpent beguiled me, and I ate (Genesis 3:13).

    God didn’t buy it. The serpent got off lightly though, probably because it was Satan and he was only doing his job. But it was off on its belly for the rest of its life. And to be hated by Eve and her children (oh that must have hurt).

    Adam was cursed (for listening to evil wifey, of course), (Genesis 3:17-19):

    And to Adam he said, Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, You shall not eat of it’, cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

    But Eve’s curse was worse (Genesis 3:16):

    To the woman he said, “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.

    And God banished them from Heaven, to the East of Eden. And Death did come to Adam and Eve.

    The Christians, in another one of their cool euphemisms like ‘the Rapture’, call it ‘the Fall’. I think ‘the Almighty Cock-Up’ would be more appropriate. But I don’t get what’s so awful about knowledge. Certain Gnostic sects actually honour the snake for bringing knowledge to Adam and Eve. But it is the treatment of Eve that is truly baffling.

    Her curse is two-fold. The first was increased pain[2] during childbirth and in raising children.[3] There is also the post natal extra fat, wider hips, stretch marks and of course, the sag. And children will always find ways to break a mother’s heart. Coincidence? Perhaps not. Women have more pain in childbirth than any other creature.

    God 1, Woman 0.

    And the Puritans took the Curse very seriously. In 16th and 17th century Europe, midwives were tried and burned at the stake as witches for administering any form of pain relief. There was an outcry from the Church when chloroform was discovered and used in childbirth by Sir James Simpson in the early 19th century. It was seen as an unholy attempt to rebel against God’s curse on Eve. Even Queen Victoria was heavily criticized for having used anaesthesia with the birth of her 8th child.

    But Eve’s second curse is the real cracker: “… yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” I confess I am thoroughly enjoying the very suggestion of a man’s divine right to rule over his wife. After all, Adam did name her Woman because she was created of man (Genesis 2:18-23). This is no slip of the quill; Genesis earlier recognised the headship of man before the Fall (Genesis 2:18 and 2:22). This means that God’s later ruling ‘he shall rule over you’ cannot be a punishment in itself and is accordingly, simply the way things are. So to obey God’s edict the wife must submit to her husband, I surmise with glee. What’s worse is ‘desire’ is interpreted as Woman’s need to ‘control’[4] her husband. This is a curse because her need can never be fulfilled, as man’s headship is an edict of God that cannot be usurped.

    God 2, Woman 0.

    St. Paul himself did not accept Woman’s control over man. He said (I Timothy 2:11-15), “And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.”

    The Twentieth Century New Testament provides a truly brave translation of this clause, “But women will find their salvation in motherhood”. Try telling Liz Taylor that childbearing and submission to her husband (singular) are her salvation.

    But the puritans condemn Eve for the consequence of her deeds. This is what they say. She disobeyed God and seduced Adam to follow suit. Adam was then punished because he ‘listened’ to her over God. Consequently, God cursed the Earth. Their sin, which had not been forgiven by God, was bequeathed to all their descendants. To absolve Man of this ‘original sin’, God sacrificed Jesus, his son in Christian dogma. (Umm, why God did not simply forgive us all without crucifying Jesus is not for me to ask.)

    So Eve caused Adam’s sin, the original sin of all Man, the death of Christ and the end of the world. It’s like blaming the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil for a tornado in Texas.[5] All butterflies should have their wings removed and like Woman, find salvation in raising larvae.

    The reality, however, is that women are attributed with the qualities of the Biblical Eve, unworthy, manipulative and filled with deception and guile.[6] As an example, see Ecclesiastes 7:26-28: “I find more bitter than death the woman who is a snare, whose heart is a trap and whose hands are chains. The man who pleases God will escape her, but the sinner she will ensnare ... while I was still searching but not finding, I found one upright man among a thousand but not one upright woman among them all”.

    Orthodox Jewish men in their morning prayers recite the following benediction to Yahweh, “Blessed be [God] King of the universe that Thou has not made me a woman.[7] And another: “Praised be [God] that he has not created me a gentile. Praised be [God] that he has not created me a woman. Praised be [God] that he has not created me an ignoramus.” Equating Woman with gentiles is a little harsh.

    But there are limits to this sexist Biblical nonsense. The joke ends with the original Protestant, Martin Luther, if he actually[8] said: “If they become tired or even die, that does not matter. Let them die in childbirth, that's why they are there”.

    Ironically, there is no Quranic condemnation of the Muslim Eve and her purdahpracticing daughters. In the Islamic version of our story (2:31-36), (7:19-25), (20:115-123), Allah never blamed Eve for Adam’s sin and neither Eve nor her daughters were cursed with the misery depicted in the Bible. The Hadiths may say otherwise, but not the Quran.

    The real disappointment is Adam, or at least the Genesis/Ben Sira version. He is a wuss. He was given Lilith but went whinging to God when she left him for demons. He was then given Eve. But he could not even say ‘No’ to her for God’s sake. He hid behind aprons and even blamed Eve for disobeying God. Clearly, he was no match for Woman. He was conned by Eve and bollocked by Lillith; but in her defence, Lilith cannot be blamed for refusing to spend eternity with a poof like Adam.

    God, of course, is far more formidable. So after more than 3,000 years, Christian puritans must be appalled at Woman’s late charge in the 21st century in meeting her Curse.

    The epidural has all but rendered pain in childbirth obsolete. God 2, Woman 1. And in the modern home, her control over her domesticated husband (inexplicably called a pussy) is all but complete. God 2, Woman 2. And even without a Hilary win, we have women prime ministers and presidents who, despite St. Paul, rule over nations of men. God 2, Woman 3. Oh ... and what was that Curse again?

    Thus endeth the story. Oh, I almost forgot. … And Woman lived happily ever after.


    [1] This is the version of the Armenian writer Avetik Isahakyan.

    [2] There has been some argument about the translation: the word translated as ‘pain’ is the Hebrew etzev. The Christian apologist will argue that to ensure consistency, etzev means ‘toil’ as is used in relation to Adam in Genesis 3:17 and not ‘pain’. This remains a minority view. The Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible to translate etzev in Genesis 3:16 made by 70 scholars in 300 B.C. uses the Greek wordlupĂȘ, meaning also pain of body.

    [3] The curse could not have been of actually having children as the earlier command was “be fruitful, and multiply” (Genesis 1:27).

    [4] In the same sense as in Genesis 4:7: “[Sin's] desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”

    [5] See Edward Lorenz’s lecture in 1972 for the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

    [6] The following quotes are taken from the controversial article Women in Islam Versus Women in the Judaeo-Christian Tradition, The Myth and The Reality by Sherif Abdel Azim, Ph.D. But see the rebuttal in A Response to Sherif Abdel Azeem's Eve's Fault and Eve's Legacy by Anthony Wales.

    [7] Daily Prayer Book. (Phillip Birnbaum translator) (NewYork: Hebrew Publishing Co., 1977) pg. 18.

    [8] See The Gospel According to Woman by Karen Armstrong for the source of this quote.

    Friday, October 28, 2011

    Compulsion in Islam?

    With all due respect to Associate Professor Dr Ridhuan Tee Abdullah - a well known academic, ulamak and preacher in Malaysia - I must admit of being astounded by his remark at a forum entitled 'Hudud: Its dilemma and implementation' organised by Malay-language daily Sinar Harian in Shah Alam on 25th October 2011. (His speech at the said forum can be viewed on YouTube.)

    At around the 9th minute of the video, Dr Ridhuan  strongly asserted that Islamic law has to be implemented by force and there is no other way to educate the non-Muslims on Islamic laws than by force. Dr Ridhuan added that the most opportune time for “us” to do so was after the 13th May 1969 incident and lamented the fact that “we” had let that opportunity gone.

    During the speech, Dr Ridhuan lamented the fact that non-Muslims, especially the Chinese, have a negative view of Islamic state and hudud generally. Speaking from experience, as a Chinese, Dr Ridhuan insisted that he knows the Chinese’s attitude towards Islam and that that attitude has not changed.

    Firstly, I must confess that I am more than a little bit perplexed by Dr Ridhuan’s attempt to connect the racial riot of 13th May 1969 with the idea of an Islamic state and the implementation of hudud or Islamic laws in Malaysia.

    The riot of 13th May 1969, as far as I know, had nothing to do with the desire by any particular section of our society, including the Muslims/Malays, for an Islamic state or for the implementation of Islamic laws in Malaysia.

    If the mainstream version of the riot were to be believed, that riot was caused by the economic imbalances between the Malays and the non-Malays, giving rise to a deep and seething anger between the two sections of the society culminating in racial hatred. This was sparked by the unprecedented  victory of the DAP in the general election immediately preceding the riot and the subsequent victory march by the DAP. The whole situation was worsen by the election campaigns which were full of racial rhetoric and overtone and the killing of some Chinese suspected to be communists.

    Never have I read about the riot being anything about Islam, Islamic state or the implementation of Islamic laws. Even the non-mainstream version of the riot has omitted mentioning anything about those issues being the possible cause of the riot.

    As neither Islam, Islamic state  nor Islamic laws was part of the catalyst or cause of the riot, how could Dr Ridhuan surmise that the most “opportune of time” to implement Islamic laws in Malaysia was after the riot? There is an obvious lack of cause, causation and result here. I mean, Dr Ridhuan may very well say that 31st August 1957 would be the most opportune time for all of us to choose Islamic state as the governing model of our nation. I would certainly understand that remark because that was the starting point of Persekutuan Tanah Melayu as an independent state. But to relate the choice of an Islamic state as a model “after” the riot of 13th May 1969 is as perplexing as any suggestion that the most opportune time to implement Islamic laws in Malaysia would be just after the Bersih rally, for example.

    Regardless of the lack of any tangible connection between the May 13th riot and the issue of Islamic state, Dr Ridhuan had, by his remark, obviously – or even perhaps, inadvertently – exposed the notion, which could be popular among the neo-right winged-nationalist in contemporary Malaysia that the May 13th riot was “won” by the Malays or Muslims.

    Premised on this notion of a “victory” being achieved by the Malays/Muslims during the May 13th riot, Dr Ridhuan quite obviously thought that the Malays/Muslims, as the victors, could have imposed an Islamic state model on Malaysia or implement hudud/Islamic laws as the laws of Malaysia after the said “victory.” Conversely, the non-Muslims, particularly the Chinese, as the “vanquished”, would not have been able to resist such forceful imposition of Islam on them at that point of time.

    That, to my mind, would have been the natural conclusion of Dr Ridhuan’s remark.

    With all due respect to Dr Ridhuan’s scholarly position, I view that with sadness.

    The May 13th riot has no victors. Malaysia as a nation, society and people were all losers on that fateful day and from that dark blot on our history. May 13th 1969 was an absolute failure of all of us as a people. It was a day when we had left our power to reason and rationalise and let our primordial kinship and tribalistic emotions to take over. It was a day when we discarded civility and civilisation and opted for barbarism.

    Victory on the May 13th riot and its aftermath, in my opinion, could only be measured by our collective ability and willingness, as a people and a nation, to learn the lessons brought about by the riot and to take measures to address the causes which sparked the riot. Anything else is a failure.

    The notion that the Malays/Muslims could have done anything, including imposing an Islamic state model during its aftermath, is a perversion and represents an almost nihilistic view of the riot, its causes and consequences. It is yet another unwelcome addition to the plethora of abuses to which the Malay psyche has been subjected all this while. As a Malay Muslim, I find it absolutely objectionable.

    Dr Ridhuan’s lamentation that the Chinese, particularly, has a negative view of Islam and that their negative attitude towards Islam has not changed while at the same time asserting that hudud or Islamic laws must be implemented by force is, with respect, the peak of irony.

    It is an irony because one of the main reason why the non-Muslims throughout the world have such a dim view of Islam is answered by Dr Ridhuan himself in his statement that Islamic laws should be implemented by force, regardless of any party’s objection to it.

    To many, the attitude of some of our ulamaks and mullahs are reflective of Islam’s supposed intolerance of others, most particularly other faiths and not to mention cultures, breed and creed.

    If Dr Ridhuan would stop and think at the repercussion of his assertion as such, he would realise that by making that assertion, he had managed to isolate millions of non-Muslims from the beauty of Islam, a faith that was premised on absolute respect for each other. Dr Ridhuan would do well to realise that the  Kharijite-ist approach towards maintaining Islam as the one and only faith does not bode well with Islam’s core teaching of mutual existence, respect and co-operation.

    If we were to force the implementation of Islamic laws in Malaysia, by extension, why don’t we, as Muslims, force everyone to convert to Islam then, if I may ask? The answer is provided by God Himself, when in the Quran He says:-

    “Let there be no compulsion in religion.  Truth has been made clear from error.  Whoever rejects false worship and believes in God has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that never breaks.  And God hears and knows all things.” (Quran 2:256)

    Then He says again:

    “If it had been your Lord’s will, all of the people on Earth would have believed.  Would you then compel the people so to have them believe?” (Quran 10:99)

    Dr Ridhuan insisted that as a Chinese coming from a family who are staunch non-believers of Islam, he knew how the Chinese feel about Islam. His disdain for the parties whom he always describes as “ultra-kiasu” is well known. Dr Ridhuan may have his own deeply personal reason for that. It is not for me, or for anybody else, to judge him for that. But surely Dr Ridhuan should not let his disdain prevent him from being just. The Quran says:

    “O you who believe! Be upright for Allah, bearers of witness with justice, and let not hatred of a people incite you not to act equitably; act equitably, that is nearer to piety, and be careful of (your duty to) Allah; surely Allah is Aware of what you do.” Quran 5:8)

    Muslims and non-Muslims must be made to know and realise that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was sent as a “mercy for all the world” (Quran 21:107). He was not sent to force or compel anybody towards Islam or Allah. God says:

    “Nothing is (incumbent) on the Messenger but to deliver (the message), and Allah knows what you do openly and what you hide.” (Quran 5:99)

    “So if they dispute with you, say ‘I have submitted my whole self to God, and so have those who follow me.’  And say to the People of the Scripture and to the unlearned: ‘Do you also submit yourselves?’  If they do, then they are on right guidance.  But if they turn away, your duty is only to convey the Message.  And in God’s sight are all of His servants.” (Quran 3:20)

    Why then do we want to force Islam on anybody? Isn’t that un-Islamic?

    The Quran repeatedly tells Muslims not to interfere with the affairs of non-Muslims. It also implored us to always be fair and just to them. Even when we argue with them, we are supposed to be civil and maintain good manners.

    “So if they come to you, (O Muhammad), judge between them or turn away from them.  And if you turn away from them never will they harm you at all.  And if you judge, judge between them with justice.  Indeed, God loves those who act justly.” (Quran 5:42)

    “Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and goodly exhortation, and have disputations with them in the best manner; surely your Lord best knows those who go astray from His path, and He knows best those who follow the right way.” (Quran 16:125)

    Throughout Islamic expansionism, non-Muslims, particularly the Christians and Jews, have always been treated with respect. No effort was made to force them to follow the Islamic way of life. It is exactly this tolerant approach which had driven even Western historian to conclude without bias:

    ‘The tolerance of Muhammad towards the Jews and Christians was truly grand; the founders of other religions that appeared before him, Judaism and Christianity in particular, did not prescribe such goodwill.  His caliphs followed the same policy, and his tolerance has been acknowledged by skeptics and believers alike when they study the history of the Arabs in depth.’ ( LeBon, Gustav, ‘Arab Civilization,’ p. 128)

    ‘The Muslims alone were able to integrate their zeal for their own religion with tolerance for followers of other religions.  Even when they bore swords into battle for freedom for their religion to spread, they left those who did not desire it free to adhere to their own religious teachings.’ (Robertson, as Quoted in Aayed, Saleh Hussain, ‘Huquq Ghayr al-Muslimeen fi Bilad il-Islam,’ p. 26).

    Yet, every day we hear of mullahs wanting to impose this and that, not only on fellow Muslims, but also non-Muslims. In Malaysia, in newspapers and on the internet, non-Muslims read all sorts of accusations being made against them on a daily basis by none other than people of high authority. In articles written on blogs and comments made on such articles, curses are thrown at non-Muslims, names are called and various threats are made against them, needlessly.

    Civility and dare I say, the way of Islam have been thrown out of the window by Muslims themselves.

    Is it then any wonder why non-Muslims all over the world nowadays view Islam with negativity as well as prejudice?

    Note to potential commentators: Please be civil and nice in your comments. Inappropriate comments in any way, will be deleted.

    Tuesday, October 25, 2011

    PAkS – Parti Anti-konsert Se-Malaysia

    I am just aghast. No. Correction. I am just pissed off.

    Is there nothing else that PAS Youth do other than objecting against concerts? What is PAS Youth’s take on our ballooning national debts? What does PAS Youth think of the Euro-zone problems and its potential impact on global economy in general and on Malaysia, in particular?

    Elton John is coming to Malaysia. As he is apparently gay, PAS Youth thinks that his concert is “incompatible” with Malaysian culture.

    Pahang PAS Youth chairman Shahril Azman Abdul Halim was quoted by the Malaysian Insider as saying:

     

    The authorities are aware that hedonism or excessive entertainment akin to poison is spreading fast among Muslim youths “……..“It is this culture that brings the downfall of morality in a society and encourage activities such as promiscuity drinking fornication and also cause them to neglect their religious duties.”

    Going to a concert is a hedonistic act? And it causes a “downfall of morality.” Ah, of course, going to a concert also causes promiscuity, drinking and fornication. What else is new?

    I suppose the father who raped his 2 month old baby son is an avid concert goer. And all those kids in Kelantan who fornicate are also avid concert goer. And those young girls who kill their babies are also avid concert goers too I suppose. And half of the male population in Malaysia would turn gay and start ramming each other’s ass once Elton John touches down at KLIA.

    I am sorry, but will Elton John sing on stage or perform a homosexual intercourse act on stage and ask concert-goers to join him while in Malaysia?

    I remember the day Michael Jackson came to Malaysia. Boy, after the concert, all of us were holding our crotch on the streets!

    What I really hate about some people, politicians and political parties is their self-righteousness and holier-than-thou attitude.

    You have your values and others have theirs. I have mine as well. Can you all just please respect me and my personal space please? Why must you try to impose your values on me and others? Have I tried to impose my values on you?

    Oh, there was this guy on twitter who ventured to ask me why I am supporting homosexuality. I suppose when one is blinkered one would be justified to be stupid eh? The point is the concert, not the homosexuality, get it?

    There are hundreds of stateless street kids around Chow Kit area in KL. The 10 year old sister will be taking care of the 5 year old brother while their mother is earning some money with a customer in a small room somewhere near. And all of us live in complete apathy to their problem. And their problem is basic, real basic.

    PAS Youth. That is hedonistic. What are you all doing about it?

    I just wish all this mullahism crap would disappear from Malaysia and her political landscape. I suppose UiTM would get a Nobel peace prize first before that happens.

    Happy Deepavali

    wp_Janubaba_dilwali_2009728119473F7OCN

    Here’s to wishing all Malaysians of the Hindu faith Happy Deepavali, the day when lights triumphed over darkness and good over evil. May the light continue to be shone upon all of us. God bless.

    Friday, October 21, 2011

    American Pie Revisited*

    *originally published at Navel Gazing and published here on August 23rd 2010 and republished for new readers/followers of this blog.

    I heard he sang a good song,
    I heard he had a style
    And so I came to see him,
    To listen for a while
    And there he was this young boy,
    A stranger to my eyes

    Those are part of the lyrics from Killing Me Softly, popularised by Roberta Flack. It was written by Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel. Originally, it was recorded by Lori Lieberman but it was the Roberta Flack version which had thrust this beautiful song into pop folklore, sweeping the world by winning 3 grammys including the coveted “Song Of The Year” award.

    I like the song. The soulful Roberta Flack version is always touching and emotive, to say the least. And the recent Fugees’ version (featuring va va voom Larryn Hill), despite it’s hip hop proximity and influences, is also one to be savoured.

    Not many people know but this song was inspired by a poem written by Lieberman titled “Killing Me Softly With His Blues”. Lieberman wrote that poem after watching a then unknown singer performing. This particular singer later became a famous folk rock singer who wrote one of the best, and the most enigmatic folk rock song of all time. Who was he? Who was this singer whom Lieberman saw and who was:-

    Strumming my pain with his fingers
    Singing my life with his words
    Killing me softly with his song
    Killing me softly with his song
    Telling my whole life with his words
    Killing me softly with his song

    That singer was the then unknown Don McLean. The singer/composer who would later penned hits such as the beautiful, and yet disturbing and haunting “Vincent”, a tribute to non other than Vincent Van Gogh. Just consider this:

    And when no hope was left inside
    On that starry, starry night
    You took your life as lovers often do -
    But I could've told you, Vincent:
    This world was never meant
    For one as beautiful as you
    .”

    McLean’s lyrics are always filled with emotive imageries and metaphors, and hauntingly beautiful multi layered colours. Along this line, American Pie was composed, recorded and released in 1971.

    The song bucked the then prevailing trend in that it was more than 8 minute long. Many among the production people were pessimistic about the song when McLean wanted to record it. But of course, the rest, as they say, is history.

    The song became some kind of an anthem among folk rock fans across the globe. It is, for example, listed in the Song Of The Century education project at number 5 song of the 20th century. But what actually interested many fans about the song is its lyrics and their meaning.

    I must say that in terms of enigmatic lyrics, American Pie must rank up there together with Procol Harum’s haunting “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” and Robert Plant’s gibberish laden “Stairway To Heaven”. Plant’s “Stairway To Heaven” is a heavyweight in itself, being a 6-minute something epic rock with arrangement so complicated that it had even been compared with a Beethoven’s piece.

    Jimmy Page’s riffs in that song is among the best riffs in any rock songs ever. In my opinion, that riffs are almost similar in stature as that of David Gilmore’s riffs in “Comfortably Numb” (voted by Rolling Stones Magazine as the best rock riffs ever). The only thing which would have made Stairway To Heaven even better, to me, is a 2 minute co da with an inter play between Page’s acoustic guitar and his monster Les Paul! I wish!

    In contrast, Procol Harum’s number was shorter in length. It remains to date as one of the most frequently covered song in history although Annie Lennox’s cover would, in my opinion, rank as the best. The lyrics were enigmatic, to say the least. Plant’s lyrics in Stairway To Heaven were seemingly gibberish. In fact, it is a known fact that Plant himself did not like the song, refusing to perform it live. Once, he famously, or rather infamously, referred to the song as “that little wedding song”! Blasphemy!

    I digressed, yes. It’s hard not to when I am talking about something which I absolutely love.

    Okay, back to American Pie. Lyrically, American Pie became the “greatest mystery in rock and roll history”. Such was the enigma and mystery of the lyrics that the song spawned hundreds of interpretations while Don McLean maintained a dignified silence about its meaning save for admitting that the song did refer to Buddy Holly and that the album American Pie was dedicated to him. On August 3, 1993, a letter was published where McLean among others said:

    "As you can imagine, over the years I've been asked many times to discuss and explain my song "American Pie" [June25]. I have never discussed the lyrics, but have admitted to the Holly reference in the opening stanzas. I dedicated the album American Pie to Buddy Holly as well in order to connect the entire statement to Holly in hopes of brining about an interest in him, which subsequently did occur... Sorry to leave you all on your own like this but long ago I realized that songwriters should make their statements and move on, maintaining a dignified silence."

    And so, it is well established that American Pie did refer to Buddy Holly. “American Pie” to me refers to the America of the old days, where people would live in happiness and peace, days where greed and power were not too important, days of innocence where people would be listening to their favorite music and danced in the gym, days where Richie Valen and Buddy Holly ruled. The song is a study in rock and roll music development in America intertwined with a social study of the American psyche of the late 50s running through the 60s, paying attention to how things changed after a certain date, the turning point being “the day the music died”, namely, the day Buddy Holly died in an air crash in 1959 together with Richie Valen (as portrayed in the movie La Bamba) and the Big Bopper.

    "But something touched me deep inside
    The day the music died
    So bye-bye, Miss American Pie
    Drove my chevy to the levee
    But the levee was dry
    And them good old boys were drinkin' whiskey and rye
    Singing this will be the day that I die
    This'll be the day that I die
    ."

    To McLean, the day Buddy Holly died marked a shift of some sorts in the history of rock and roll in particular and in the socio-political scene of America generally. America of old was portrayed in various imageries and metaphors which are filled with innocence and nonchalant attitude.

    Well, I know that you're in love with him
    'Cause I saw you dancin' in the gym

    You both kicked off your shoes

    Man, I dig those rhythm and blues

    I was a lonely teenage broncin' buck
    With a pink carnation and a pickup truck

    All these would change, quite irretrievably on the day the music died.

    But I knew I was out of luck
    The day the music died

    Thereafter he traced the emergence of Bob Dylan, a fact which was juxtaposed against the decline in popularity of Elvis Presley (I think):

    “Oh, and while the King was looking down
    The jester stole his thorny crown

    It also contained some vague reference to the cover of Dylan’s album titled “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” where Dylan posed in a red windbreaker ala James Dean. It would be remembered that James Dean wore a red windbreaker in “Rebel Without A cause”, a defining moment in American film industry: -

    When the jester sang for the King and Queen
    In a coat he borrowed from James Dean

    And a voice that came from you and me

    I could go on and on about the various facets of the lyrics and what they could possibly mean. Among the more interesting events alluded in the lyrics are the rise of Rolling Stones; the political inclination of the Beatles; the murder of Tate by Charles Manson; the famous Woodstock concert; and the infamy of the Rolling Stones’ concert at Altamont where a young man was beaten and killed by a member of the Hell’s Angel who was engaged as security crew. These are but some of the events related in the song. Events which formed a lasting impression on America and the world in general.

    Whatever it is, I never failed to be saddened by the last few verses of the song, which to me, is still relevant to the whole world and indeed to Malaysia and our society in the present days. As the electric instruments and percussions stop and McLean is left strumming his acoustic guitar, the tempo slows down and he sings, in a melancholic voice:

    I met a girl who sang the blues
    And I asked her for some happy news

    But she just smiled and turned away

    I went down to the sacred store

    Where I'd heard the music years before

    But the man there said the music woudn't play

    And in the streets the children screamed

    The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed
    But not a word was spoken

    The church bells all were broken

    And the three men I admire most

    The Father, Son and the Holy Ghost

    They caught the last train for the coast

    The day the music died

    The girl who sang the blues was of course Janis Joplin, a singer full of verve and emotions, with a voice which would make even the hardest of hearts weep, a singer who was saved from the streets a hippie and turned into a blues star but later was found dead with foams in her mouth courtesy of a handful or bottleful of LSDs.

    When asked for some happy news, she would just smile and turn away and the man at the music store said the music just wouldn’t play. The children screamed, the lovers cried and the poets dreamed. And the father, son and the holy ghost, they took the last train for the coast.

    These lyrics never fail to make me sad as I ponder and fear for my children’s life in future Malaysia. The music has long died in Malaysia. And if I had asked the girl who sang the blues, I am sure she would just smile and turn away. It is sad, but true. Just read our newspapers nowadays. Just listen to our politicians. The mullahs. Just look at Malaysia today. American Pie is worth more than we ever realize.

    May God have mercy on us.

    Wednesday, October 19, 2011

    Ladies & Gentlemen, we have safely landed…

    Ding dong…a very good evening Ladies and Gentlemen, we have safely landed at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Welcome to Malaysia.

    The local time is 5.35pm. The weather is slightly cloudy with the usual monsoon rain expected in about 30 minutes time and the current temperature is 34 degrees Celcius. For those who think that the rain in Malaysia is similar to the rain in Paris, London or New York, please note that our monsoon drains are 8 feet deep and 4 feet wide and run for hundreds of kilometres. They cost 30,000 Malaysian Ringgit per foot to build and 30 million Malaysian Ringgit to maintain per month. We take our rain very seriously, Ladies & Gentlemen. And you would be well advised that the rain in your country is nothing, repeat, nothing compared to the rain in our country.

    A bit about Malaysia for you. Malaysia is truly Asia.  We have the Talibans in some states and government agencies. Please do not ever ever bring with you a Bible in Bahasa Melayu, the national language. Sorry, I have to be more specific. No Bible in Bahasa Melayu is allowed in Peninsula Malaysia. Eh, sorry, I have to be more particularly specific. No Bible is allowed in Bahasa Melayu in the Peninsula Malaysia other than the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur, our capital and Putrajaya, our administrative capital. In the states of Sabah and Sarawak, Bible in Bahasa Melayu is kosher.

    By the way, Bahasa Melayu is also known as Bahasa Malaysia or Bahasa Kebangsaan. As to why it has three names, let’s not get into that or otherwise you all would never disembark this plane.

    By the same token, please do not use the word Allah if you are not Muslims unless you are in Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya or the states of Sabah or Sarawak. So Ladies and Gentlemen, beware of the state boundaries while in Malaysia. For example, if you are in Kuala Lumpur going towards PJ Hilton, do stop at the Kuala Lumpur/PJ boundary to throw away your Bible in Bahasa Melayu, if any. And stop using the word Allah too. As a rule of thumb, you would know when to do that when you exit a toll plaza, if you use a highway, that is.

    So, as I was saying, we have the Talibans. Then we have the Bangladeshis, Pakistanis and various races from the Indian sub-continents. Venture along the Bukit Bintang areas at night and you will see many Chinese from China, Vietnamese,  Myanmarese and Cambodians, all of them women. Somewhere in Ampang, you will see many Koreans. Venture into some of our private colleges which teach English – without students although there are many student names on the register – and you will probably see some Iranians. And that’s apart from the thousands of Indonesians, Thais and Philippines here.

    We are truly Asian, indeed.

    Speaking of Talibans, if you happen to be an American couple of 60 years of age or more, please be careful while you are in your hotel room. Your room may be raided at 3am and both of you dragged in a hearse or kereta mayat to a religious agency’s office for “khalwat.” After finding out that you are not Muslims, you would be duly released.

    So, don’t worry too much about it. It is part of our effort to give you a full “Malaysian experience”, an experience which you will not forget and will ever remember.

    Thank you for flying with us, MAS, Malaysia Air-Asia System, ooops, sorry, the Malaysia Airline System. Here at MAS, we give a lifetime warranty that Malaysia will not turn into an asylum. This lifetime warranty is good for 10 days or until you go completely insane, whichever comes first.

    While in Malaysia, please do not hesitate to drive around. Rent a car, like our national car, the Proton. Mind you, Proton gives a lifetime warranty that it’s power windows will work. The lifetime warranty is good for 10 years or until 250000 km, whichever comes first. A double lifetime warranty that all four tyres will continue rotating is also in the pipeline, we heard.

    Do switch on the television set and watch our national channels please. The contents are guaranteed to be inoffensive by the Minister of Information himself. So you can watch all the programmes without being worried that any of them might offend you, your wife or girlfriends, your kids, your mother or anybody. All offensive programmes, including advertisements or public announcement services have been removed. Do not worry.

    However, there might at times be shown on our national channels some black & white video clips of half naked men in a towel in a hotel room waiting to have sexual intercourse with a nice little sex worker during prime time. That is not offensive. So please do not be offended by that.

    While you are having your nice Italian, French or plain old English dinner, there might be some discussions on our national television channels about how semen could be found in the ass without any penetration of the ass and the likes. That is also not offensive. Sorry if you find that offensive. You are obviously hyper-sensitive social miscreants from the West who are too concern with political correctness. Get real please.

    For those of you who are Christians, please be careful while talking to the Muslims over here. They are very weak and they could be proselytised to Christianity very easily. If that happens, you are at fault. You could be dragged in a hearse or kereta mayat to any religious office and be interrogated. They might raid your hotel and do whatever.

    As a guide, please conceal your crucifixes while talking to your Muslim friends. If you wear crucifix on your necklace or bracelets, do conceal it. If you have a crucifix tattoo on any part of your body which could be seen by your Muslim friends, please remove those tattoos before meeting your Muslim friends. They might get offended or worse still, they might convert to Christianity after meeting you. Trouble, I tell you!

    Now, I wish to make a special announcement to all of you who are British. We are sorry and please accept our most fervent apology for saying all this while that you lot had colonised us. We now say you have never colonised us. Repeat. You, the British, have never colonised us.

    All those times, you were only protecting us from the evil Dutch, Portuguese and Thais. In fact, looking at our nation 54 years after you all had left, we now think that you were actually protecting us from ourselves. Our deepest  gratitude to you all. Never mind the fact that all our Sultans or Malay Rulers had to follow and do whatever you said. You have been very kind to station your advisers in all our states to advise our Rulers and forced them to follow such advices. Thank you also for permanently rearranging our society.

    For all that you have done in protecting us, we have repaid you with our tins and all our other natural resources. We are just so thankful that you did not manage to find oil in our country during your time here. Otherwise, you would have also taken them all.

    We have also allowed you to convert our land into rubber estates and named our roads in your British names. In fact, we are sorry to have stolen your British names and used them for our roads, schools, temples, churches and others. You have been very kind.

    You might ask why our Father of Independence screamed out Merdeka, Merdeka, Merdeka (Free, Free, Free) at the stroke of midnight of 31st August 1957 had we not been colonised by you? Well, it seems that he was only celebrating the divorce of his good friend from his three wives.

    The point is, you have not colonised us. Sorry for saying so for the past 80 years or so.

    For those of you who are inclined to know our contemporary political and societal issues, please be advised that you will not impress Malaysians in any of your conversation with us if you talk about our newly read budget for 2012, the fast rising inflationary rate, the impact of the global economy, particularly the impact of the forthcoming Europe meltdown, or the United States’ debt ceiling or similar matters.

    The most recent issue in our political arena, which is being discussed everywhere for the past 3 days is the squeezing of tits. In local lingo (use the local lingo if you want to impress us ya!) that is called “ramas tetek.” You can start your conversation with anyone of us by asking, “eh, true ahh that fler ramas the tetek?” And just follow the flow of the conversation after that.

    If you want to impress your Malaysian friend more after that, throw in some discussions about sodomy. Then try discussing about the possibilities of semen ending up in the ass without penetration. Come up with your own theory, like the semen could fly into the ass. Something like that. Then talk about sex videos. You will surely be a hit with the locals in no time.

    Ladies and Gentlemen, it has been a pleasure serving you and we hope to see you again on our flight. A very good evening from me, your friendly stewardess, Norazilawati Azreen Sherry binti Mahat.

    (silent)

    ….

     

    ….

     

    Ding dong. This is your chief crew, Tony Fernando. On behalf of Captain Ahmad, welcome on board flight MH481 to London. We apologise for Cik Norazilawati’s mistake in reading the arrival greeting instead of a departure greeting just now.

    Our flight to London will take 13 hours……….

     

     

    Tuesday, October 04, 2011

    Hudud – Federal vs State Legislative Powers

    I have stated in my article, Of wet dream, nightmare and Marty McFly that the implementation of hudud is a Constitutional impossibility until and unless two-third of our Members of Parliament would vote to amend the Federal Constitution to allow it to happen. I also grimly stated in that article that the time when such Constitutional amendment is moved would be the first time when our Members of Parliament would vote solely or predominantly along racial and religious line regardless of party policy or party whip.

    The Bar Council has since issued a statement which basically echoes my opinion. Lim Chee Wee, the Bar Council’s President was quoted as saying:

    “Hudud cannot be implemented within the current constitutional and legislative framework.”

    My friend, the learned Professor Aziz Bari was reported to have disagreed with the Bar Council’s view. The learned Professor was quoted to say:

    “The key here is Islam, not criminal law.”

    The learned Professor pointed out that the Federal Constitution has set out the respective jurisdiction and powers of the Federal and State legislature. As the powers to legislate on matters pertaining to Islam rests with the State, he argued that the State, including Kelantan, may pass hudud laws accordingly. He also refuted that such move would result in double jeopardy for Muslim wrongdoers as, in his words:

    “In other words, two systems is not a problem and we are not the only country in the world where this duality prevails.”

    I have the highest of respect and regard for the learned Professor but I beg to differ on his opinion on this matter.

    While I acknowledge and admit that the respective State Legislative Assembly (“SLA”) has the power to legislate on matters pertaining to Islam, I am somewhat doubtful that the SLA may pass any kind of law which creates offences and prescribes punishment for those offences in accordance with the tenet of Islam, especially when such offences and punishments are already created and prescribed by the Parliament.

    The Federal Constitution divides the legislative powers between the Parliament and SLA quite clearly. The Parliament, or loosely, the Federal government, has the power to legislate over matters specified in List 1 (or otherwise known as the “Federal List”) of the 9th Schedule of the Federal Constitution. The SLA on the other hand may legislate on those matters in List II (also known as the “State List”) of the 9th Schedule. In addition, there are matters which may be legislated by both the Parliament and the SLA. These are contained in List III of the 9th Schedule (also known as the “Concurrent List”).

    Included in the Federal List is, among other things, “civil and criminal” law; the constitution of all courts other than the Syariah Courts and the jurisdiction and powers of all such courts.

    That much is clear. All this while, it is the Parliament which creates and defines all criminal offences as well as prescribing all punishment for those offences. There is no doubt about that. (In this respect, there are already laws governing murder, theft and slander, which are three of the hudud offences prescribed by the Quran. The only hudud offence which is not criminalised by the secular law is adultery).

    In the meantime, the SLA may pass laws relating to several Islamic matters. Let’s reproduce the whole paragraph 1 of the State List, so as not to cause any confusion*:

    Except with respect to the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur and Labuan,

    i. Islamic law and personal and family law of persons professing the religion of Islam, including the Islamic law relating to succession, testate and intestate, betrothal, marriage, divorce, dower, maintenance, adoption, legitimacy guardianship, gifts, partitions and non- charitable trusts; Wakafs and the definition and regulation of charitable and religious endowments, institutions, trusts, charities and charitable institutions operating wholly within the State; Malay customs. Zakat, Fitrah and Baitulmal or similar Islamic religious revenue, mosques or any Islamic public places of worship,

    ii. creation and punishment of offences by persons professing the religion of Islam against precepts of that religion, except in regard to matters included in the Federal List;

    iii. the constitution, organisation and procedure of Syariah courts, which shall have jurisdiction only over person professing the religion of Islam and in respect only of any of the matters included in this paragraph, but shall not have jurisdiction in respect of offences except in so far as conferred by federal law,

    iv. the control of propagating doctrines and beliefs among persons professing the religion of Islam;

    v. the determination of matters of Islamic law and doctrine Malay custom. (emphasis is mine).

    *The above provision is actually contained in one paragraph. I have broken it into several parts denoting the different areas of Islamic matters which the SLA may legislate to maintain clarity.

    The learned Professor opined that “power on Islamic law belongs to the State.” He then referred to the decision of our Supreme Court (then, the highest Court in Malaysia) Mamat bin Daud vs Govt of Malaysia where the Court held that a provision in the Penal Code which impacted on Islamic law was invalid as the Parliament had no power to legislate over Islamic matters. The learned Professor therefore challenged the Bar Council’s view that the Kelantan State does not have the power to enact the hudud law.

    It is quite clear from the State List reproduced above that various Islamic matters are within the purview of the SLA. The decision in Mamat bin Daud reinforces the view that strict adherence to the respective lists by the Parliament and the SLA in enacting laws is called for. In that case, a provision was included in the Penal Code by the Parliament which makes it an offence for anybody to cause religious disunity. The purport of that section was to maintain public order, a matter which is quite obviously within the purview of the Parliament. However, in a 3-2 majority decision (with the late Eusoffee Abdoolcader, among others, dissenting), the Supreme Court held that that provision impinges on Islamic matters, which is in the State List and consequently the Parliament had no power to legislate on it.

    It follows from that decision that the Court jealously guarded the purview, width and breadth of the respective Federal and State lists. No amount of encroachment will be allowed by either the Parliament or the SLA on each other’s powers. Although the offence created by the Parliament in that case falls under public order, which comes under the purview of the Parliament, the Court still viewed that as an encroachment of the SLA’s power to legislate on Islamic matters.

    It is therefore clear and obvious that the Court took a strict and stringent approach in determining the rights and powers to legislate of the Parliament and the SLA.

    Applying that strict rule, it is my humble opinion that the Kelantan State Legislative Assembly does NOT have the power to legislate on hudud laws or the power to create criminal offences and prescribe “Islamic” punishments for those offences. Matters concerning civil and criminal laws are clearly within the power and purview of the Parliament by virtue of the Federal List.

    To allow the Kelantan State Legislative Assembly to enact a law to create hudud offences and prescribe punishment for those offences would amount to the usurpation by the Kelantan State Legislative Assembly of the Parliament’s power to legislate over criminal matters. Applying the strict approach in Mamat bin Daud case, any law passed by the Kelantanese State Legislative Assembly as such would be void for being ultra vires the Federal Constitution.

    Is it true that hudud comes within the State List and therefore the SLA has the power to legislate on it? We have to analyse the above State List to answer this question.

    Paragraph (i) above concerns family, personal, inheritance and trust matters. That much is clear. Hudud does not come within the ambit of paragraph (i) above.

    The bone of contention is paragraph (ii) above. It states that the SLA has the power over the creation and punishment of offences by persons professing the religion of Islam against precepts of that religion, except in regard to matters included in the Federal List.

    There are three important points to be made about this provision.

    Firstly, the said provision is far narrower than the power given to the Parliament. Paragraph 4 of the Federal List spells out in the widest term possible the power of the Parliament to legislate over “civil and criminal law.” That includes everything under the sun. The only exception is “Islamic personal law relating to marriage, divorce, guardianship, maintenance, adoption, legitimacy, family law, gifts and succession, testate and intestate.” Any other matters would come within the power of the Parliament to legislate.

    Contrast that provision to paragraph (ii) above. Paragraph (ii) does not say “Islamic civil and criminal laws.” Nor does it say “the creation and punishment of offences IN the precepts of that religion.” It also contains a very important exception, namely, “except in regard to matters included in the Federal List.”

    That brings me to my second point. Paragraph (ii) above only gives the SLA power to create and punish offences AGAINST the precepts of Islam. It does not give power to the SLA to create and punish offences IN the precepts of Islam. The established hudud offences, namely, murder, adultery, slander and theft are not offences against the precepts of Islam. They are offences within or in accordance with the precepts of Islam.

    The failure to observe and appreciate this aspect of the provision has often led to a misconception that the State has the power to create any kind of offences as long as those offences are regarded as offences IN Islam. That is entirely wrong.

    No less than our Federal Court, in Sulaiman Bin Takrib v Kerajaan Negeri Trengganu & Anor has, with respect, fallen into such interpretational misdeed when it held that the SLA had power to create offences “against the precepts of Islam” although by doing so, a criminal offence would be create so long as no such offence has been created by the Parliament. Former Chief Justice Abdul Hamid in his judgment says:

    “In the instant case, as the offences are offences against the precept of Islam, as there are no similar offences in the federal law and the impugned offences specifically cover Muslims only and pertaining to Islam only, clearly it cannot be argued that they are “criminal law” as envisage by the Constitution.”

    It has been my absolute pleasure and honour to have appeared before the learned CJ on some occasions. FCJ Abdul Hamid was a learned Judge for whom I have the highest of respect. However, his Lordship’s test in the above case is, in my humble opinion, wholly unsatisfactory.

    The test is not whether there has been an offence created by the Parliament on the issue at hand. Rather the test is whether the offence created by the State Legislative Assembly is “against the precepts of Islam.” In this respect, offences AGAINST the precepts of Islam are totally different in nature and manifestation from offences IN the precepts of Islam.

    This brings me to my third point. Paragraph (ii) above clearly prohibits the SLA from legislating on matters which “are included in the Federal list.” How clearer can that be? Is there any ambiguity there?

    The prohibition is as clear as daylight. As long as the matter sought to be legislated by the SLA is included in the Federal list, the SLA is prohibited from legislating on it. That prohibition is absolute. Applying Mamat bin Daud above, that prohibition must be strictly observed. It does not say the prohibition only applies if the matters are included in the Federal list and they have been legislated by the Parliament. CJ Abdul Hamid is wrong in Sulaiman Takrib case in this respect.

    It is clear therefore that the State list does not vest the Kelantan State Legislative Assembly, or any other SLA for that matter, the power to pass hudud laws or to create criminal offences. The law passed by the Kelantan State Legislative Assembly on hudud, in my humble opinion, is void for being ultra vires the Federal Constitution.