Monday, August 31, 2009

‘Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka!’ … from what?

Ketuanan Melayu has brought the country to the brink of disaster, and so when its leaders asked Malaysians to show their patriotism over the Merdeka weekend, some citizens declined to wave the flag.

In the last two weeks or so, the government has been exhorting us citizens to hoist the Jalur Gemilang to mark the nation’s independence anniversary. Show your patriotism, they said, show your appreciation to the freedom fighters for having successfully fought the hated colonial masters. Show that you love this country!

Now that this auspicious day has passed, I have a confession to make. I did not put a flag on the top of my car, nor in front of my house, or at the office building where I work. Patriotism (or the lack of it), appreciation of past leaders and love for the country have nothing to do with it. It’s the lethargy and despondence of the spirit that has been responsible.

The truth of the matter is that I have plenty of patriotism: I pay income tax, contribute positively to the economy, respect my fellow Malaysians irrespective or race, religion or creed, obey the laws of the land, visit Malaysian holiday destinations, and ‘buy Malaysian’ whenever possible. I voted in the last general elections.

I have a lot of appreciation for our past leaders like Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tan Siew Sin and V. Sambanthan.

I was born in this country and like a salmon loyal to its stream of birth I have a natural love and affinity for it. So far I have not done anything that might compromise its dignity, welfare and prestige. In short, I am quite patriotic, proudly so, and don’t anyone ever doubt it.

The lethargy and despondence come from the not-so-sudden realization that, yes, we have been independent from the yoke of British imperialism since 1957. In theory we secured our freedom since that date. We should then be free to taste and practice the basic human freedoms as contained in the universally accepted UN Declaration of Human Rights like for example, freedom of expression, of worship, of seeking my own happiness. I am free to do ‘my own thing’ so long as I do not inconvenience others or break the laws of the land.

But of late this has not happened. Something else has for the last 52 years. I have been denied my basic freedoms by the very institution that had the responsibility of securing them from the British colonialists. I have come to realize that my own national leaders have slowly tried to stifle my individuality, my freedom, my private space, and my well-being; in favour of their selfish interests. They’d want me to subscribe to their perception and understanding of what I should be, and how I should behave. They want me to subscribe to their perception of truth. Once they succeed then they’d do anything and everything to realise their selfish personal targets, like for instance milking the treasury dry.

Islamic state

All these also on account that our Ketuanan Melayu political leaders have elected to convert Malaysia into an Islamic state. Unfortunately under Islamic philosophy ‘freedom’ has a subtle twist in its meaning from the universally accepted one.

In Islam, freedom is the ability to do things that God has allowed me to do, but not to do what He has forbidden. This falls under the ambit of the religious mantra amri bil ma’aruf nahi an almunkar (do good, but if you can’t do good, do not do bad). In this-worldly terms, it falls under the ambit of the ‘Islamic Declaration of Human Rights’ (which I shall abbreviate as IDHR), the Islamic version of the more universal UNDHR.

Among the ‘good’ things I am allowed to do under the IDHR are of course the five daily prayers, fasting and the other three of five pillars of Islam. Among the ‘bad’ things I am not to do are like eating non-halal meat, drinking liquor, and having sex outside marriage.

Freedom in Islam therefore of a limited kind: I am free to do what I am told to do, and not free to do what I am told not to do. That’s freedom? I wonder.

And then this ‘freedom’ is tied with the elements of reward and punishment: if I do what I am supposed to do, then I get rewarded by getting ‘pahala’ or merit points. If I still do what I am not to do, then I incur a ‘dosa’ or demerit points. In the Hereafter I go to heaven should my pahala merit points total more than my dosa points.

The possibility of going to hell has its own feature, it strikes fear in my mind and underlines the coercive and compulsive nature of Islam.

And alas, the political leaders of today have learned a lesson from the coercive nature of religion and the fear element that it entails. By skillfully utilizing them, they mould my mind in the manner they want. I am to think in the manner they want me to think. I am to behave in the manner the government wants me to behave. I am encouraged and indeed molded to be conservative, conformist, and to pay a lot of attention to the Hereafter. I am not allowed to think creatively,
originally, analytically and confidently!

We have all sorts of rules and regulations that are designed to infuse fear into the minds of the people -- like the ISA, OSA, and a string of others. These laws have one common message: “Watch your words, or else!”

The ‘or else’ is the coercive part and the part that instills fear. I might be put under detention for lengthy periods (like a few years) without the benefit of any charge, due process and hearing at all!

Put all these together and it’s mind-boggling and most disturbing.

In other words, the otherwise secular government has gotten into the act of inserting and emulating elements of coercion and fear in its day-to-day management and governance. Today we are not to mention the name ‘Altantuya’; of making comments pertaining to religion (read it as Islam); of worship (as recently built temples and churches are ‘hidden’ in factory sites, shop houses, and terrace houses). We are not to wear black or yellow shirts in places designated entirely at the discretion of the police. We are not to read many books, periodicals, magazines, even watch certain films and videos banned by the authorities.

We are not to do many things the authorities deem dangerous to the security of the country, like holding demonstrations. Muslims can’t buy or sell beer from the neighbourhood convenience store like 7-Eleven. Nizar Jamaludin, the displaced chief minister of Perak was chastised for carrying a candle at a funeral.

The number of ‘can’t do’ things increase by the day so much so that there can come a time when there are more ‘can’t do’ than ‘can do’ things in this country.

There is another reason why I had this despondency and lethargy over the Merdeka weekend. It relates furthermore with the continued Islamisation of the country. It pertains to the Islamic way of defining morality and law.

Morality and law

To me morality is the empathy felt by one individual towards another individual like one healthy and wealthy man noticing a beggar sitting and waiting for alms on the road side. The man ‘feels’ for the beggar, takes out his wallet, draws one ringgit, and deposits the money into a bowl or cup the beggar has put in front of him. That’s morality.

The good thing about morality is that

1. it is a feeling of empathy and even sympathy by one person for another.

2. This feeling is expressed in some way, like by way of the man giving some money to help improve the welfare of the beggar.

3. Mainly, the act of charity is entirely voluntary in nature.

4. No punishment will befall the man had he not felt any sympathy and had not given any money to the beggar.

5. Morality can change from time to time and from one culture to another.

Morality in the universal understanding is therefore a voluntary act made by one person in favour of another person. Law is different from morality. Mainly it is legislated, i.e. it’s debated and discussed in a legislative assembly (like our Parliament).

Take the case of income tax to illustrate the point. The country’s income tax structure is debated in Parliament, and when voted into law will be applicable to all citizens.

Being so, law has the following features:
i) It is applicable to all citizens.
ii) All citizens are obliged to pay their taxes.
iii)Non-payment is an offence.

Law is different from morality in one important sense, that it is legislated, meant to cover not one individual but the entire country, is mandatory and punitive. But the law can be changed. Should any citizen be unhappy with any law, he can then inform his elected representative in the law-making body. The citizen’s representative will then bring up the matter for debate. Decisions to rescind or continue the law will then be taken.

The law is therefore flexible and reflects the ‘good’ things enjoyed by the citizens. Even so, law is an act of Parliament that everybody must follow. The voluntary element does not exist in law. Compulsion has taken its place.

Within this universal context, morality cannot be legislated. For once morality is legislated, it automatically becomes law.

Islamic morality and law

This brings me to the question of morality and law within the Islamic philosophical ambit. Morality in Islam is different. Good morality in this case has nothing to do with the empathy of one person in favour of another. Instead it is not doing a thing that God (through the Syariah law) has decreed a person not to do.

For example, a woman is not to expose her ‘aurat’ apart from her face and palms. So she is dressed pretty much in a loose robe, like the women of Taliban fame. Should she uncover even a bit of her elbow for example, then she is deemed immoral. Wearing a skirt, a sleeveless blouse, not covering her hair are all immoral acts. There is no voluntary act, empathy and even a second party involvement in Islamic reckoning of morality.

In Islam, both law and morality are under the ambit of amri bil ma’aruf nahi an almunkar as stated above. This means that all good things are moral and legal, and all bad things are immoral and illegal.

Under this perception, a good moral act like giving charity is of equal status and meaning to a good legal act, i.e. law is morality and morality is law.

The common features of Islamic morality and law are summarized thus:

• They are centrally determined. In other words all the ‘good’ things have been pre-determined by God as have all the bad ones.

• They are not passed by any house of Parliament.

• Mankind has no say in the principles and contents of the centrally determined ‘good’ and ‘bad’ things.

• Being centrally determined by God, they are inflexible.

• The people are compelled to accept and practice Islamic morality and law.
We see the application of morality being equitable with law in the case of Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, caught drinking alcohol a year or so ago. This act is immoral in the eyes of the Islamic guardians. She is therefore guilty of contravening

Syariah law, and to be punished by caning.

Kartika made the admission that she has been guilty of a religious offence and is willing to submit to six strokes of the rotan. But she made a request for this to be done in public.

The matter caught the attention of the sentinels of human rights and the international press and news institutions like BBC and CNN, and suddenly the secular government was caught flat-footed. Malaysia, a moderate Islamic state and spectacularly successful on the economic front (or at least this is the image it has always tried to portray) and now caught applying a law more fit for the days of old!

In the era of computers and the Internet, of stem-cell engineering and the International Space Station, the ‘progressive’ and Islamic Ketuanan Melayu regime is strangely regressive.

Confusion quickly reigned:

i) Najib Tun Razak the prime minister told Kartika not to accept the punishment so willingly but instead to make an appeal. This prime ministerial ‘opinion’ smells of damage control: doesn’t it have the connotation that she’d be let off upon the appeal?

ii) Hishamudin Hussein the Home Minister admitted that the country knows little about the ‘technicalities’ of religious caning, like for example how thick the cane should be, how hard the stroke and how high the arm of the punisher is to be raised above the elbow line.

An expert on religion, Musa Awang vice president of Pembela the coalition comprising Islamic NGO's, however, pooh-poohed this item (Malaysiakini / August 27, 2009) claiming that there are in fact many qualified caners around. He further reportedly said that leaders should not exploit the matter to gain political mileage. He did not name the leaders and the nature of the political mileage.

iii) Harussani Zakaria the mufti of Perak, the ulama usually having the absolute last word on things of this nature, stated that the caning should rightly be for 80 strokes. So the sentencing of Kartika for six strokes has been a very good compromise.

iv) Pembela reportedly slammed the government for deferring the execution of the judgment. Syariah Lawyers Association president Mohamad Isa Ralip representing Pembela further reportedly said "We want all executive powers to stop interfering in the judiciary be it Civil or Syariah matters. The government, especially Muslim women ministers, should not challenge, insult or question the Syariah Court's decision." He said, in effect “Prime Minister Najib, go fly kites!”

All said and done, this sad episode more than justifies my despondency over the Merdeka weekend – the Ketuanan Melayu leadership doesn’t seem able to do things right even with religion, the thing they hold dearest in their heart and mind. They therefore would not be able to do things right with other technical things in the modern world, like managing the country and steering it to prosperity; or, in managing Malaysians of different creeds and background; or, to maintain and strengthen the competitiveness of the country’s industrial economy to meet with the stiff competition from abroad.

This is only one of the latest demonstrations of the ineptitude of the Ketuanan Melayu leadership. There have been many in the past, all at different levels of magnitude and with devastating consequences. The breaking down of the judiciary, the implosion of the education system, the depletion of foreign investments, the tremendous outflow of knowledgeable and skillful human resource due to emigration, and the expanding schism between the ethic groups being the more obvious ones. In short, Ketuanan Melayu has brought the country to the brink of disaster.

So when the leaders asked me to show my patriotism over the Merdeka weekend, I said ‘Please excuse me’. I did not shout ‘Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka!’ nor did I plant any flag. It was my show of protest against their sorry performance as leaders of this country that I am otherwise patriotic about and dearly care for, always.

- AB Sulaiman - Centre for Policy Initiatives

Bovine 1 Malaysia !

By Neville Spykerman

AUG 31 — Really, what’s there to celebrate? Fifty-two years of simmering tensions?

The ugly episode by the bull-headed protesters who showed no cow sense last Friday illustrates that 1 Malaysia is really just a load of bull.

The organisers, who must have been infected with some strain of mad cow disease, should give themselves a pat on the back for literally taking the bull by the horns to illustrate their intolerance.

Knowing full well that the cow is sacred to Hindus, they carried a severed bull’s head by the horns from the state mosque in Shah Alam to the state secretariat to voice their beef against the relocation of a Hindu temple to their pastures.

The bovine adventure by the herd numbering 50, some with children in tow, captured headlines around the world and successfully put Malaysia in the world’s spotlight again.

“Protesters in Malaysia march with severed cow head to protest building of new Hindu temple”, headlined the Associated Press story in the

“Muslims protest with butchered cow head against Hindu temple”, headlined the story in

The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Jakarta Post; you name it, all carried the story of the cow-head demo in Shah Alam.

If that’s not enough, the senseless acts of desecrating the sacred cow is also now on YouTube for the world to see.

Here at home, people must ponder, was this protest about cowing the state into backing down from relocating the temple or was it about regaining the cash cow Selangor?

In the meantime, the government will continue to promote 1 Malaysia till the cows come home.

Happy Merdeka?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Hussein Hamid - "I Have Been Deceived!"

UMNO can no longer fool the Malays hook, line and sinker. What I cannot understand is why it took them, me included, so long to realise that Mahathir's battle cry of "Ketuanan Melayu" was simply to raise the morale of the Malays into blindly supporting him and his cronies, so that he could do virtually what he liked.

He was a smart cookie, he really fooled the Malays all the way to the bank and got them to idolise him along the way. His talent at deceiving people, not only the Malays but Chinese and Indians is a classic example few can match. The joke is he is not even a true Malay(Indian father) but he talks as if he is the TRUE BLUE MALAY and GREAT defender of the Malay race.

The best joke of all is that up till this day, there are well educated, well informed and God fearing Malaysians who think he was a good Prime Minister and still admire him.

His mistake was to go after Anwar and there he exposed his vicious side and slowly all his secrets are being exposed. As long as UMNO/BN is in power he is safe.

One day. . . . soon.....


".... If I am called a TRAITOR for denouncing UMNO as failing to defend the special rights of the MALAYS and the MONARCHY, then let me stand beside ANWAR and BE A TRAITOR.
Was it not YOUR (UMNO ) President Mahathir who stripped away the legal privileges of the Sultans?

(And) I did NOT hear of Sultans willing to allow the Malays to suffer economically as they do in Kelantan, just because the people in that state choose to have, as their government, a party that is NOT UMNO.
...… And YOU call us traitors to the Malay cause?

Are the people in Kelantan not Malays?

I am sick to my stomach of UMNO leaders and their cronies taking, taking AND taking for themselves what is rightfully for the Malays that they say they have been championing.

Let me say it again – it is a GIVEN fact that UMNO is corrupt. UMNO is greed. UMNO is deceit. UMNO is dishonor.

I now stand up and point my finger at them and say to myself: I have been GUILTY OF KEEPING QUIET.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

As Bad As the ISA!

Yes you must sign. No you cannot refuse.

Did you know that there is a law in Malaysia that requires a person being interviewed by the police in relation to a case to sign a waiver giving up his/her rights to have a lawyer present when his/her statement is being recorded by the police?

In other words..............Yes, you have the right to have legal counsel present when we 'interview' you.

Yes, you are required to sign this waiver giving up that right.Yes, you are required by law to sign this waiver.

Yes, you cannot say "No".

And you thought that the ISA was the only thing we needed to get abolished!