Saturday, January 16, 2010

I was away for a week! I am back so here is my follow up article to the issue that still plague the nation.

I was surprised that my writings has increase a tremendous hit on my blog. I am not a good writer neither am I an UMNO member or any political party member. I try to be non partisan but it is difficult. I believe in the government of the day unabashedly I am an UMNO supporter but sometimes in my heart I am disgusted with that party. My principle is more socialist thus I would be a member of PSRM or PRM but that is in my heart but for all practical purposes I do not belong to any party and it suit me fine.

UMNO of yore has a place for me but UMNO now or UMNO Baru do not accord me a place in them. My belief and voice is drown by the hawks it created after 1969. The affect of this coup de ta come about gradually ever since one of their Hawks got the Prime Ministership mantle, a total disintegration of political check and balances were dismantle. Yes, since Tun Mahathir took over in 1981, he dismantle every thing that make a country democratic. He started Malaysia on the road of Islamisation,but for what? Only to fulfill and attract the Islamic group to support UMNO. He did that regardless of the stand made by Tunku and other Malay leaders before him that this country must remain secular and to muzzle the Islamic group is not by putting them in jail but by education the Malay masses which was done progressively so that the Malays could then take their place as able Man who could lead and reason things out not emotionally but factually .

For being slow to react and the changes made of the Malay masses were too slow, he was punish. 1969 racial riot was the result, whether or not justified, it was with the help of Tun Mahathir and Tun Musa! Tun Mahathir shows his coarseness by not adhering to Malay culture of not divulging letters disparaging the leader and keep it behind close door. He use that letter and any other arsenal to bring Tunku down, even whispering, creating rumors that Tunku was playing gin rummy with his Chinese Friends when Kuala Lumpur was burning, insinuating that Tunku was like Nero who watch Rom burn! The art of Malay gentleman conduct is always to "jaga air muka" of our leaders and it is the Asian way, but (I am sorry to allude) the mix blood in him make him less Malay in attitude than the Malays he represent. He will use what ever arsenal he has to remain in power even cheating as claim by Semangat(spirit of) 46 supporters in 1987 to win the presidency.

He destroy capable leaders of UMNO whom he perceive as a threat. In the book the reluctant politician you will see that Tun Dr Ismail opposes him from joining back UMNO. His remark against Tunku which was done publicly cannot be forgiven. In the book the Unmaking of Malaysia written by Tun own's nephew the son of his sister and a former GM of Bernama, Ahmad Mustapha Hassan, you would read about Mahatihr. About his proud father who cherish his Indian blood( like Munsyi Abdullah- to me a Malay traitor), you would read a not so glowing tribute on him.

Why am I alluding to this is the Government Gazette pertaining to the use of Allah. Words such as “Allah,” “Baitullah,” “Solat,” and “Kaabah” were gazetted as exclusive to Muslims under a gazette (Warta P.U (A) 15/82) and circular (Pekeliling KKDN. S.59/3/6/A) dated Dec 5 1986. This law which was pass is not legislative it is procedural, it can be regarded as a by law where the Minister, in this case the Home Affair Minister decide to enact some rules so that any words, amendments is clear. It is a ruling thus a by-law. Offending the law would result you in breaking the law but the punishment is less severe. It is a ruling that can be disregarded by the Minister concern .The ruling made by the judge nullified this law. This law in fact is regarded as unenforceable and invalid. Those who know laws would tell you this ruling is ultra vires against the constitution, it can be challenge which Herald did and won(the first stage).

Those who understand law would also tell you that is why the previous Prime Minister then discuss the ruling with the churches and agreed as long there is 'for Christian only' on the mast it was alright. I always think Marina Mahathir mantle as a liberal literate woman is hollow! Because those who follows his father ascendancy to power knew that Tun Mahathir assume the Minister post in March 1986 from Tun Musa Hitam who had a fallout with him. He was the Minister from March 17, 1986 till January 10, 1999. So this ruling was under his reign. He was the one responsible for introducing this ruling thus a wise ruler should know that by introducing this ruling complication could arose if down the line some hawk decided to enforce it. So who was at fault then, yes,no other than the genius Tun Dr Mahathir! Although under him, like I wrote before, being a strong leader he could reign in the hawks but if the leaders after him are weak, which to me he is at fault, then they have a hard time in controlling them.

In 2007 the Herald did a series of article in which she is portray as sympathetic to the opposition. These articles although for members only stir the anger of the establishment. My readers must take note that Christians are mostly represented by professionals and well heeled Malaysians. They play a part in the shaping of the Malaysians mind although they constitute only 8% of the population. Thus the article is deem as going against the establishment which the church must look as the protector, that is why using the strong arm tactics of a hooligan, the Minister at that time decide to affirm the ruling.

So all this thing were never about Allah, it was about politics. It was about teaching the church a lesson. It was to flex her muscle so that the church remain bipartisan but it has snowball until this issue cannot be control anymore. The ruling were pass by a Mamak Prime Minister who by all means need the support of the grassroots after all in 1987 he was facing an uphill battle in retaining his presidency thus he need to play to the gallery. And decade later was affirm again when the establishment found out that the church allegedly cross the line in her editorial.

To me the Church and all liberal thinking Malays should have oppose the ruling in 1986. Marina Mahathir should lead the pack but all remain muted. Me?, well I have always love Ku Li and Tunku and on record I have voice my displeasure on Tun leadership many times but left unheard. I am sad what I have predicted is coming true but that's what you pay if you are honest.

Jakim says ‘Allah’ ban must include Sabah and Sarawak

By G. Manimaran

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 16 — The Islamic Development Department (Jakim) maintains that Christians should not be allowed to use the word “Allah” and rejects the suggestion that the word could be used in East Malaysia while remaining banned on the peninsula.

Jakim director-general Datuk Wan Mohamad Sheikh Abdul Aziz said there should not be two sets of laws and rules to deal with the “Allah” issue.

The federal government’s highest Islamic body joins Christian leaders who also rejected today the suggestion made by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz who claimed in an interview with East Malaysian newspapers yesterday that the federal government had agreed for the word to be used in Sabah and Sarawak.

Wan Mohamad from Jakim said that since there were already rules on the matter, the word “Allah” should not be used by churches anymore. “We must respect the decision of the Cabinet.

“If we follow the spirit of respecting laws there has already been a decision at national level so they should not use the word,” he said.

He said that if the word “Allah” was allowed for Christians in Sabah and Sarawak it would not solve any problems because of the migration and mobilisation of people from the two East Malaysian states to the peninsula.

“That does not solve matters...we are in a small country and we need standard laws and rules.

“We must be more systematic...there cannot be two sets of laws. There are decisions made at national level by the Cabinet.” Wan Mohamad was referring to the Cabinet decision on May 16 1986, when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was Prime Minister, when it was decided that the word “Allah” were among words that non-Muslims would not be allowed to use.

Words such as “Allah,” “Baitullah,” “Solat,” and “Kaabah” were gazetted as exclusive to Muslims under a gazette (Warta P.U (A) 15/82) and circular (Pekeliling KKDN. S.59/3/6/A) dated Dec 5 1986.

On Jan 3 2008 Tun Abdullah Badawi’s Cabinet reaffirmed the restriction against non-Muslims from using the word “Allah” in their publications.

Before that the various Cabinet had also reaffirmed the ban at meetings on Oct 18, 2006 and Nov 1, 2006.

Ten states except for Sabah, Sarawak, Penang and the Federal Territory are also enforcing the Non-Islamic Religions Enactment 1988 which restricts the use either verbally or in print of the word “Allah” for non-Muslims.

Yesterday Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, had indicated that Putrajaya may allow Christians to use the controversial word, but only in East Malaysia.

“Christians in Sarawak and Sabah need not worry over this issue because it is a common tradition there. I have been to an Iban church service and I heard the word “Allah” used there,” Nazri was reported saying in an exclusive interview with a Kuching-based newspaper last Thursday.

“Muslims here in Semenanjung cannot accept it as ‘Allah’ was never used in Christian preaching until recently and they questioned the motive behind the substitution of ‘Tuhan’ for ‘Allah’,” he allegedly added in justifying the ban in the peninsula.

The “Allah” row started in 2007 after the Home Ministry invoked a 1986 Cabinet directive banning non-Muslims from using certain Arabic words when it refused to renew the publication permit of the Catholic tabloid, Herald.

The Catholic church later challenged the government’s decision and on Dec 31 last year, the Kuala Lumpur High Court ruled that the Herald has the right to use the word “Allah” for its Malay edition.

Another legal battle over the word “Allah” is also expected, as a Sarawakian Christian, Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill had earlier this week challenged the seizure of religious compact discs containing the word “Allah”, which took place in 2008 at the Sepang airport’s low cost carrier terminal.

Nazri’s pledge, which was front-paged by The Borneo Post today, comes just about one year before Sarawak is scheduled to have its state election.

The current state assembly’s term expires in mid-2011

Gus Dur: A champion of pluralism

By John McBeth

JAKARTA, Jan 16 — Icon of religious tolerance, enemy of radical Islam and champion of women and ethnic minorities, history will always be kind to the late Abdurrahman Wahid — whether Indonesia declares him a national hero or not.

But he was also an enigma, whose disastrous presidency ended with him trying to get the military to head off his impeachment by the House of Representatives, sorely tarnishing his reputation as a democrat in the process. Indeed, as analyst Marcus Meitzner points out, his greatest legacy as a politician may be the Indonesian elite’s subsequent reformation of the political system to ensure a similar scenario was never repeated.

I got my first taste of Abdurrahman’s erratic behaviour back in the mid-1990s during interviews over cups of sugary tea at the run-down headquarters of Nahdlatul Ulama, the mass Muslim organisation he headed with an iron grip from 1984 to 1999. Mostly, it was perfectly rational political discourse, but there would always be a moment when he dropped a piece of outrageously salacious gossip into the conversation that seemed totally out of place.

Of course, the man known as Gus Dur had a wicked sense of humour and he may have had a good laugh as I left, still wondering whether he actually believed what he had told me.

But after a stroke in early 1998, those seemingly irrational moments became more pronounced. Aides complained that instead of taking sensible advice, he would often listen only to people who had a juicy story to tell.

Abdurrahman did not play a key role in then-President Suharto’s downfall five months later. His alliance with opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri worried Suharto, but Abdurrahman did nothing to actively oppose him. In the end, with Suharto gone, the manner in which he subsequently became Indonesia’s first democratically-elected president makes for far more interesting analysis than many of the disappointments that attended his 21 months in power.

In mid-1999, when I interviewed him at his house in the southern Jakarta suburb of Ciganjur, he was not feeling well and spent the hour lying on his bed, a Dutch widow clenched between his bare knees and his face half buried in a pillow.

As I strained to hear what he was saying, he took me aback by confidently predicting he would win the October presidential run-off in the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR). Frankly, it seemed a lot of bluster, for Megawati looked to be a shoo-in after her Indonesian Democratic Party for Struggle (PDI-P) had won a commanding 33 per cent of the vote in the July legislative elections. But by getting MPR chairman Amien Rais to endorse him, the wily Abdurrahman calculated only too well what would happen next.

Without understanding the consequences of what it was doing, PDI-P led the vote rejecting incumbent B J. Habibie’s accountability speech, killing off his election bid and turning the contest into a two-horse race. The former ruling Golkar party, already split over the unpopular Dr Habibie, joined the Muslim parties in the centre (where Abdurrahman had his base of support) and Megawati was doomed.

Abdurrahman’s confrontational approach to the military, beginning with his plan to replace the the palace security guard with police officers, left him fighting political enemies on all fronts and eventually led to widespread disillusionment with civilian governance.

While much has been made of his stroke, it was clearly his blindness and his inability to read the body language of those around him that made him increasingly insecure and affected his previously acute sense of timing. For many, his presidency was the lowest point in the post-Suharto era. With the country still in turmoil following the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis, it seemed the civilians were dropping the ball.

“He (Abdurrahman) would always listen to your views — then he would simply ignore them,” presidential spokesman Dharmawan Ronodipuro says of that period. “There were so many different facets to him.”

Two of Abdurrahman’s main accomplishments as president were to demystify the office itself and to remove discriminatory practices against ethnic Chinese. But it is his earlier pre-presidential years that former presidential secretary Ratih Hardjono likes to remember.

Despite what happened later, she still sees him as the first civilian leader to broach the subject of democracy. “He studied Suharto very carefully,” she says. “In a way he took on some of (Suharto’s) personality in the way he emulated some of his strategies.”

While Indonesians struggle to fine- tune a balanced assessment of Abdurrahman’s life, the one thing that finds little argument is the late 69-year-old president’s standing on Islam.

What is worrying for many people is that with his death — and that of fellow Muslim intellectual Nurcholish Madjid in 2005 — there is now no one of real stature to speak out against the way the central and local governments continue to give ground to Islamic extremism. Often, the culprits are politicians, who perceive the benefits to be gained from currying favour with fundamentalist Muslim clerics.

Why they do that is unclear. Abdurrahman may well have been the champion of pluralism, but it is the voters themselves who have consistently shown in three successive elections that they believe religion is not the business of the state. — The Straits Times

Hints of pluralism in Egyptian religious debates

CAIRO, Aug 31 – Writing in his weekly newspaper column, Gamal al-Banna said recently that God had created humans as fallible and, therefore, destined to sin.

So even a scantily clad belly dancer, or for that matter a nude dancer, should not automatically be condemned as immoral, but should be judged by weighing that person’s sins against her good deeds.

This view is provocative in Egypt’s conservative society, where many argue that such thinking goes against the hard and fast rules of divine law.

Within two hours of the article’s posting last week on the Web site of Al Masry al Youm, readers had left more than 30 comments — none supporting his position.

“So a woman can dance at night and pray in the morning; this is duplicity and ignorance,” wrote a reader who identified himself as Hany. “Fear God and do not preach impiety.”

Still, Banna was pleased because at least his ideas were being circulated. Banna, who is 88 years old and is the brother of Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, has been preaching liberal Islamic views for decades.

But only now, he said, does he have the chance to be heard widely. It is not that a majority agrees with him; it is not that the tide is shifting to a more moderate interpretative view of religion; it is just that the rise of relatively independent media — like privately owned newspapers, satellite television channels and the Internet — has given him access to a broader audience.

And there is another reason: The most radical and least flexible thinkers no longer intimidate everyone with differing views into silence.

“Everything has its time,” Banna said, seated in his dusty office crammed with bookshelves that stretch from floor to ceiling.

It is a testament to how little public debate there has been over the value of pluralism, or more specifically of the role of religion in society, that so many see the mere chance to provoke as progress.

But now, more than any time in many years, there are people willing to risk challenging conventional thinking, said writers, academics and religious thinkers like Banna.

“There is a relative development, enough to at least be able to present a different opinion that confronts the oppressive religious current which prevails in politics and on the street, and which has made the state try to outbid the religious groups,” said Gamal Asaad, a former member of Parliament and a Coptic intellectual.

It is difficult to say exactly why this is happening. Some of those who have begun to speak up say they are acting in spite of — and not with the encouragement of — the Egyptian government.

Political analysts said that the government still tried to compete with the Muslim Brotherhood, a banned but tolerated Islamic movement, to present itself as the guardian of conservative Muslim values.

Several factors have changed the public debate and erased some of the fear associated with challenging conventional orthodoxy, political analysts, academics and social activists said. These include a disillusionment and growing rejection of the more radical Islamic ideology associated with Al Qaeda, they said.

At the same time, President Obama’s outreach to the Muslim world has quieted the accusation that the United States is at war with Islam, making it easier for liberal Muslims to promote more Western secular ideas, Egyptian political analysts said.

“It is not a strategic or transformational change, but it is a relative change,” said Asaad, who emphasised that the dynamic was for Christians as well as Muslims in Egypt. “And the civil forces can unite to capitalise on this atmosphere and invest in it to raise it to become a more general atmosphere.”

Two events this summer highlighted the new willingness of a minority to confront the majority — and the overwhelming response by a still-conservative community.

In June, a writers’ committee affiliated with the Ministry of Culture gave a prestigious award to Sayyid al-Qimni, a sharp critic of Islamic fundamentalism who in 2005 stopped writing, disavowed his own work and moved after receiving death threats for his writing.

Muhammad Salmawy, a committee member and president of the Egyptian Writers’ Union, said he thought Qimni had been honoured in part because “he represents the secular direction and discusses religion on an objective basis and is against the religious current.”

What happened next followed a predictable path, but then veered. Islamic fundamentalists like Sheik Youssef al-Badri asked the government to revoke the award and moved to file a lawsuit against Qimni and the government.

“Salman Rushdie was less of a disaster than Sayyid al-Qimni,” said Badri in a television appearance on O TV, an independent Egyptian satellite channel. “Salman Rushdie, everyone attacked him because he destroyed Islam overtly. But Sayyid al-Qimni is attacking Islam and destroying it tactfully, tastefully and politely.”

But this time Qimni did not go into hiding. He appeared on the television show, sitting beside Sheik Badri as he defended himself.

A second development involved a religious minority, Bahais, who face discrimination in Egypt, where the only legally recognised faiths are Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Nine years ago the state stopped issuing identification records to Bahais unless they agreed to characterise themselves as members of one of the three recognised faiths. The documents are essential for access to all government services.

An independent group, The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, won a court order on behalf of the Bahais that forced the government to issue records leaving the religious identification blank. The first cards were issued this month. While the decision was aimed specifically at solving the problem faced by the Bahai community, the case tapped into the evolving debate, said the group’s executive director, Hossam Bahgat.

“It is an unprecedented move to recognise that one can be Egyptian and not adhere to one of these three religions,” Bahgat said. Still, he remains less than optimistic; most of the public reaction to the Bahais’ legal victory was negative, Bahgat said.

“It is known that you are apostates,” read one of many comments posted on Al Youm Al Sabei, an online newspaper.

But there has been at least a hint of diversity and debate in response to Banna’s remarks on belly dancers. Hours after they were posted, some readers began, however tentatively, to come to his defense. “Take it easy on the man,” an anonymous post said. “He did not issue a religious edict saying belly dancing is condoned. But he is saying that a person’s deeds will be weighed out because God is just. Is anything wrong with that?” – NYT

Khairy: Umno straying from middle ground

Khairy (hand on face) during his visit to the Metro Tabernacle church. — File pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 16 — Umno no longer commands the middle ground and if it continues on this trajectory, the party’s fortunes can no longer be certain, Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin said.

Reflecting on the party’s role in the raging ‘Allah’ controversy, he said the party is on a road that is taking it away from being a party for all.

“Nobody wants to be a loser, but we’re definitely not straddling the middle ground any more. It might become what PAS used to be — a party that appeals to just a certain base. It’s scary,” he told The Straits Times in an interview.

PAS is the opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia.

Asked if he thought that Umno’s rhetoric had created a tense situation, Khairy, 34, said he believed so.

At times, the party has too quickly taken a hardline approach, and especially now with the 1 Malaysia approach, this is just not reflective of that, he said.

Khairy said Umno was trying to reflect the sentiments of Peninsular Malays who did not want Christians to use the word "Allah", but it did so in a way that went out of control.

He said it could have reflected this sentiment equally well by calling for a dialogue with the Church, rather than taking a polarising hardline position.

However, he did not believe the dominant ruling party will allow itself to self-destruct as it has always shown that it is able to be pragmatic.

The recent attacks on nine churches, one convent school and a Sikh temple had become a turning point of sorts for Umno, which forms the backbone of the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition.

The attacks came amid heightened tension after the High Court allowed a Catholic newspaper to use ‘Allah’ to denote the Christian God.

Umno has been put on the defensive as many blame it for creating an atmosphere of racial polarisation that made it ripe for violence to flare.

To many people, Umno is equated with radical views such as those expressed by an Umno Youth member, Akhramsyah Muammar Ubaidah Sanusi, who wrote in his blog that the Church was “reaping what it had sown”.

Umno had become increasingly hardline after the BN suffered stunning losses in the 2008 general election, as it sought to appeal to its core constituency.

Khairy, despite leading the traditionally hardline Youth wing, has fast become one of its most moderate voices. He was among the first Malay leaders to visit the arson-hit Metro Tabernacle Church on Jan 8.

Once seen as a radical himself, he has been consistent in his message since becoming Umno Youth chief last year.

Khairy sees the church attacks as a crossroads in Malaysian history, and disagrees with some Umno leaders who brush off the incidents as minor because of the minimal physical damage to the churches.

He said the government’s response has been too slow and disparate, especially at a time when public signalling is crucial during a crisis.

“You can talk behind closed doors, but you have to tell people what you are doing and that’s not coming through,” he said.

He noted that each side is hardening its position each day, and no one is taking the middle ground.

“The longer it drags, it becomes harder for either side to accept any solution,” he said.

Khairy holds an in-between view of the controversy. He said that while ‘Allah’ is a generic term carrying a generic meaning for God in Arabic-speaking countries, many Malays in the peninsula see it as having a specific meaning. ‘Allah’ was not used here before Islam arrived.

“In the peninsula, the Malays accepted Islam and the name ‘Allah’ because we distinguished it from other meanings of God. But it’s different in Sabah and Sarawak. The Muslims there are more open towards the generic usage of Allah,” he said.

He, thus, hopes the government would consider a compromise, for example, that the Herald’s publication in East Malaysia be allowed to use ‘Allah’ but not for the newspaper’s peninsular edition.

“That’s going to be tough for both sides to accept,” he conceded. — The Straits Times

‘Allah’ issue splits Malay community

Father Lawrence Andrew, Herald’s editor, holds up an old copy of the Bible believed to contain the word “Allah”. - Picture by Jack Ooi

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 16 — Law lecturer Azmi Shahrom has been getting more e-mail messages than usual, and they are all from angry Malays who do not like his views on the raging ‘Allah’ controversy.

Azmi, from University of Malaya’s law faculty, is among those who see nothing wrong with Christians using ‘Allah’ to refer to the Christian God as, he says, it is a generic Arabic word for God.

“Scripturally, it’s clear that it’s not exclusive to Islam,” he told The Straits Times. But many Malays do not agree.

The ‘Allah’ issue has divided not just Malaysians of the Muslim and Christian faith (and Sikhs as well), but has also split the Malay community into bitter halves.

Since the High Court ruled on New Year’s Eve that the Catholic newspaper Herald can use ‘Allah’ to denote the Christian God, many Malays have expressed outrage. But a significant number say they do not have a problem with it.

The difficulty is gauging the extent of support for either side.

Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin, who takes an in-between position, said it is fair to say that the issue has split the Malays, but it would be impossible to know how big each segment is.

Among those who do not mind the Christians using ‘Allah’ are former premier Mahathir Mohamad’s daughter Marina Mahathir, Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) MPs like Khalid Samad and Dzulkefly Ahmad, lawyers like Haris Ibrahim, academics like Azmi, and many more ordinary Malays.

On the other side are Marina’s brother Mukhriz Mahathir, Muslim groups like the Malaysian Islamic Youth Movement, bloggers like Umno Youth member Akhramsyah Muammar Ubaidah Sanusi, and of course, the protesters who demonstrated at the mosques a week ago.

Akhramsyah has taken a strong position, writing in his blog: “Am I advocating violence? No, I am not. I am saying that Malay violence is inevitable, at least if the current trend of apologising for Malay anger rather than addressing it continues.”

Marina had labelled as ‘idiots’ those who mourn the ‘loss’ of the word ‘Allah’. In response, Akhramsyah said he was merely conveying the ‘whispered screaming’ of the Muslims.

Their exchange shows how intensely Malays are split on this issue. Initially, when the court decision first came out, many Muslims of all political persuasions protested against it.

As Azmi noted, the fault line in the Malay community has always been along political loyalties, rather than theological differences. In other words, most Malays think alike on religious issues.

But the debate changed after opposition Islamic party PAS issued a statement that there was no prohibition on Christians using ‘Allah’.

Since then, there has been hardly any PAS dissent. It could be party discipline — or it could be, as Azmi believes, the result of information provided to party members.

“The reasoned views will be found in places like Harakah (PAS’ newspaper), and so it’ll be PAS supporters getting the information,” he said. “Malay opinion can be shifted if there’s debate, but the problem is that this is now too limited.” — The Straits Times


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