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Intellectual Revolution: The Necessity of the Thinkers and the Revolutionary Minds

Posted: 25 Jul 2013 01:11 PM PDT

By reason of fear and reprisal, persecution and state violence, some scholars, instead of embarking on ground-breaking enterprise and earth-shaking endeavor would rather avoid the great possibility of offending the powers that be and instead leave their country of origin and hesitantly exile themselves to other lands that is more tolerant and appreciative of their talents, potentialities and bright ideas.
Jose Mario Dolor De Vega - Philosophy lecturer, Polytechnic University of the Philippines  
This humble paper is an affirmative response to the lucid and scholarly essay of Ms. Natalie Shobana Ambrose's "Empowering our thinkers", The Sun Daily, July 12th.

Though I overwhelmingly concur to her general proposition, I beg the indulgence of the reader that I may be allowed to adumbrate and elaborate on the various theses that she laid down.

Indeed, "throughout history, the most dangerous people to any regime have not been the thugs, thieves or murderers but rather the thinkers and the intellectuals. For centuries governments have crafted laws limiting the opinions and vetoing findings of studies from being publicised or rubbishing theories that do not fit with their agenda. So much so modern academics find that they constantly self-censor or thread far away from what is deemed sensitive or controversial subjects as a form of self-preservation and survival."

Said dangerous people, namely the thinkers, the intellectuals, the iconoclasts, the mavericks and independent observer has always been the irritating thorn to any regime, especially a state that is perceived to be unjust, unfair and perverted.

More often than not, said regime's program to neutralize these individuals is to either eliminate them or silence them by sending them to the dungeon or by banishing them altogether from the territory of the said country.

Another vicious method being resorted into by these kinds of regimes is to enact laws that stifle, delimit, impede and denounce the unorthodox opinions of the said intellectuals.

Added to this is the Macheviallian act of the said regimes of harassing, questioning and denying the very position of these intellectuals whose radical views do not subscribe or follows the "official" program of the state.

These evil regimes also forced the thinkers and the independent observers to conform to the state-sanctioned policy.

Some, gave in due to pressure, hence instead of pursuing their research and project up to its conclusion; they engage in an internal conflicting act of censoring themselves, editing their work, doctoring their data, altering their findings and worst, some even decides not to proceed with their endeavor at all.

The reason is plain and simple: they have to engage in all these preposterous and ridiculous means for purposes of self-preservation and survival. 

This is a shame!

As the writer contended:        

"This missing voice is a great tell-tale of how authoritarian a government is and how much or little such talent is valued in the society. We see this throughout the world – talented academics who would rather bypass the red tape of taking on local issues as study topics instead embark on ground-breaking research in other lands so as to not rock the boat back home.

"Malaysia has not been spared in this respect. Not only have we lost bright stars to other lands by limiting the very essence of their work, we have also inevitably dumbed down our thinkers through fear, bureaucracy and threatening their livelihoods.

"Malaysia is going through fascinating transformation both socially and politically. In the last 10 years, the change has been profound. Yet so little study has been done amid all the political cacophony, and the Malaysian academic voice has been rather quiet. We have to ask the question why."


By reason of fear and reprisal, persecution and state violence, some scholars, instead of embarking on ground-breaking enterprise and earth-shaking endeavor would rather avoid the great possibility of offending the powers that be and instead leave their country of origin and hesitantly exile themselves to other lands that is more tolerant and appreciative of their talents, potentialities and bright ideas.

This is a tremendous loss to the native land of the said researcher and a big goldmine to the adopted country.


This is a clear case of brain drain to the country of origin and as already noted; a gold mine to the new country or sanctuary.

The one that will benefit from the product of the intellectual labor and academic insights of the said scholar will not be his/her own native country but the nation that is presently adopting the said researcher.

This is not a new phenomenon, when Socrates was condemned to death unjustly by the stupid mob, his student Plato cannot bear the thought to stay in the city that killed his teacher so he decided to leave Greece for a while.

The same is true of Aristotle, when his student Alexander the Great dies, he also decided to leave Athens, saying thus that his act of leaving is his way of "saving the Athenians from sinning twice against Philosophy."

The writer's question is totally in point: why is it that despite the fact that Malaysia is going through a fascinating transformation both socially and politically in the last 10 years wherein the changes has been so rapid and utterly profound; ironically so little study has been done amid all the political cacophony and why the Malaysian academic voice has been rather quiet?   

This is irony of all ironies, indeed!

It is beyond dispute that it is the author herself that squarely answered her own query.

Undeniably, the local bright stars are leaving the country due to the lack of equal opportunity, unfair policy, unjust government selection program, social injustice and the stupid conception of the state of affirmative action.

Added to these list of grievances and complaints is the irrefutable fact that "we have also inevitably dumbed down our thinkers through fear, bureaucracy and threatening their livelihoods."

This is a shame!

Again, we return to the perennial social evils of the problem, namely: the act of the state in belittling, mocking, irritating, questioning, and harassing the thinkers through fear, bureaucratic brouhaha and economic blackmail.

Not added to this is the state's act of political persecution such as dismissing the academic from the university or college, suing the said lecturer, teachers or professor and engaging in a character assassination of the said intellectual by using the vast powers of the government to disrepute the integrity of the thinker and put into doubt the product of his/her labor and scholarly work, when the only fault of the said academic is that his or her work is critical of the government or run counter to "the official line" being promoted by the state. 

For those who decided to stay and confront bravely the perverted system of corruption, they must also face the full wrath of whole state machinery.

This is precisely the reasons why the thinkers and intellectuals had not taken advantage of this hotbed of potential study topics and areas of possible research.

Imagine an academic that will write a thesis which title is: How could the BN form the government when they are only voted 49% of the population?

Will the government accept that kind of research?

And what do you think will happen to those intellectuals who had undertaken the said studies? How are they going to be treated?

The answer is: either they are dismissed from their posts, or their contract will not be renewed or perhaps they will see themselves at the dock appearing before a court answering some silly and flimsy charges or their books will be ordered to be banned or they may die accidentally or they may disappear mysteriously or they may struggle economically to find some sponsor or funding that will going to support their work.

I concur with the writer that the problem I feel lies in space. The exact term being use in political science is the so-called "democratic space".

Again, the bold questions posited by the writer are highly in point:

Is there a space where people are empowered to provide evidence-based critique?


Yes, there is a certain degree of "space", but here's the caveat: be ready and be willing to face the repercussions and consequences of your intellectual actions.

A true thinker and a genuine intellectual that proceeded to present an unorthodox work to the public must be ready and utterly prepare to hear the following idiotic and preposterous charges:

a. "if you don't like it here, leave!"

b. "go back to where you came from"

c. "what more do you want, ingrate?"

All of these are the price that an intellectual and a scholar have to pay and confront bravely in order to his or her quest of pursuing the truth and consequently spreading his or her ideas and thoughts to the public and the world!

"It seems far easier for a foreigner to write a book, article, thesis on Malaysian issues than it would be for a local. If we don't agree with their findings – we can rubbish it as not correctly understanding Malaysia since they are an outsider. Of course the other argument is that Malaysians are too emotionally embroiled to carry out such studies. Perhaps there is some truth to it but that is not a good enough reason to leave a gaping hole in research work by local thinkers."


On the Question of Empowering the Intelligentsia?

The great Russian novelist, Maxim Gorky said that the existence of the intellectuals is necessary in any form of society.

In my view, an intellectual has no nationality, because genius is universal. Nonetheless, I concur with the author that a community must produce its own thinkers and intellectuals before the world claim him or her.

Therefore, the Malaysian academic must rise above their "emotional embroidery" and carry out their studies --- against all odds and regardless of the adverse consequences --- whatever they may be.

To quote the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson:

"I am ashamed to think how easily we capitulate to badges and names, to large societies and dead institutions."

The Role of the Intellectuals

Professor Noam Chomsky said that "it is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and to expose lies."

To quote from my article:

What is an intellectual?

According to Wikipedia, an intellectual is: a person who uses thought and reason, intelligence and critical or analytical reasoning, in either a professional or a personal capacity and is:

1. a person involved in, and with, abstract, erudite ideas and theories;

2. a person whose profession (e.g. philosophy, literary criticism, sociology, law, political analysis, theoretical science, etc.) solely involves the production and dissemination of ideas, and

3. a person of notable cultural and artistic expertise whose knowledge grants him or her intellectual authority in public discourse.

Based these definition, an intellectual is a person or an individual who is involved or is engaged in creating erudite ideas (whether abstract or not) and making some theories.

The primordial duty of the intellectual is to disseminate ideas. He or she is of notable culture and held some artistic expertise which standing gives him/her a sense of intellectual authority in public discourse.

Who are the intellectuals?

There is no iota of doubt that the intellectuals are the philosophers, the teachers, the writers, the poets, the artists and the like!

The French existentialist philosopher and Marxist revolutionary, Jean Paul Sartre pronounced that the intellectuals are the moral conscience of their age. He passionately believed as he himself lived his life the way he wrote and taught that: the task of the intellectuals is not limited by merely observing the political and social situation of the moment, but undeniably to be involved and engaged actively in all of society's issues and concerns. Finally, he also maintained that part and parcel of the duty of an intellectual is to serve as a voice of the marginalized, the oppressed, the idiots, the exploited, the lowest members of the society and indeed to speak out—freely—in accordance with their consciences.

Professor Noam Chomsky, like Sartre also subscribes to the belief that a true intellectual must not be silenced nor cowed. They must always stand for the truth and condemn all the injustices and inequalities in the world.

Hence, on this ground, an intellectual is not only a member of his/her community, but a citizen of the world. This is in conformity with Professor Foucault's concept of the universal intellectual!

Are they necessary for one society?


Yes, indeed! The intellectuals are truly necessary and indeed important in one society or political community. Their ultimate function is to serve as the critic of their society's malaise. It is not an exaggeration to state that the intellectuals are precisely the eyes and soul of the community. ("The Significance of Social Sciences in Education, the University and the making of the Intellectuals", Etniko Bandido Infoshop, May 5, 2012; "Creating students of substance and character", February 3, 2013, The Star)

I completely concur with the author that "for a Malaysian though, embarking on potential research topics within the range of race relations, governance, electoral process, human rights, security, migration history and the likes is best left untouched. The retribution is not worth the contribution to the academic discourse – and this happens in a country where we enjoy "democratic comforts".

The writer then listed her suggestions and what she perceived is the antidote the pressing problem that she saw in the Malaysian society and its academe.

"Malaysian intelligentsia needs to be empowered – both from the inside and out. How though?

"First, our universities, research institutes and think-tanks should be given the mandate to be neutral – not just on paper but also in accepting and engaging in research and study findings that are pertinent to today's Malaysia, even if it makes the politicians uncomfortable. Of course this should be done within the confines of the analysis being transparent and evidence-based."


Indeed, universities, research institutes and various think-tank academic groups must be given mandate, not simply for purposes of neutrality, but most importantly for objectivity.

Our duty is to let the university as free as possible to discharge its social function of creating intellectuals who are critical thinkers that will lead to their being civic-minded and responsible citizens.

The quest to unravel the varied and complicated truths of the social dynamics of one's society demands that said institution are not shackled by bureaucratic intervention and governmental reprisal.

The universities must be given their independence and autonomy to conduct their own independent research and academic undertaking without thinking of whether the result of their project will please the powers that be or not.

Definitely, the said venture must be done "within the confines of the analysis being transparent and evidence-based". Besides being transparent and evidence-based, said endeavor must also be daring and courageous to make public the product of the said work --- whatever its findings are.    

"Information should be readily available and funding provided with no swaying strings of political positioning attached. This of course is the ideal, perhaps then we should first, start with undoing the politicisation of administrative posts if genuine change is to happen. Also there needs to be a paradigm shift that thinkers are not traitors but rather people who can contribute knowledge to informed decision making. It is also important for thinkers to be actively engaged with decision makers without bias, reducing the gap between the different levels of society."


Let me highlight the various problems listed by the author, namely:

1.   the inaccessibility of the information;

2.   said information is inaccessible because of lack or deficient funding;

3.   lack or deficient funding due to political machinations and attachment of political positioning;
4.   the politicization of administrative posts;

5.   the tendency for the thinkers to be tagged or called or be accused of being traitors; and,

6.   the necessity for the thinkers to be actively engaged with decision makers without bias.

In fairness to Malaysia, these problems or dilemmas or imbroglios and conflicts are not exclusive to them! 
Universally, intellectuals have face and confronted all or some of these issues, yet they are not a reason and they are not an excuse for the intellectuals to abandon their duty and betray the people's trust! 

The author is correct for demanding a paradigm shift to the powers that be for them to change their view of thinkers.

However, despite the existence of all these problems and challenges that a thinker and/or an intellectual must confront, he or she must resigned to the fact and be prepared that he or she may be tagged or called or be accused of being a traitor, radical, a danger, a menace, etc.

That is the price one has to pay for being an intellectual.

"Second, the public should demand for such high standards in academics and thinkers, only then will our intellectual movement be reliable and powerful enough to support reforms in a peaceful manner. Such public support is important for an intellectual revolution to take place."


I agree that the public should demand for a high standard in academics and thinkers, yet the process should not end there. The intellectuals, the academics and the thinkers themselves must also demand recognition, support and solidarity from the public.

The duty of the intellectual is to study his or her society and everything about it, then craft it into a public discourse for the public's consumption for their eventual acquisition of higher knowledge, which the thinker hope will lead to the development of the political consciousness and maturity of the people as a whole and all these in the end, if we combine will make the people and the general public responsible citizens, not only of their community, but of the whole world.

The obligation of the public is to listen to the intellectuals and the thinkers with regard to the latter's view of their society. Besides listening, the people must also act upon the suggestions, studies and programs laid down by the intellectuals.

The intellectuals are researching and studying for their society and the people must study and act accordingly on the said social research to further enhance the validity, accuracy and veracity of these social realities.

The creation of a just society is not only the function of the thinkers; the people themselves must also contribute to attain the said goal.

The intellectual and the masses must forge a dialectical and symbiotic relationship! Undeniably the former serves as the social vital element, while the latter acts as the instrument of the social nucleus!

Why? The intellectual or thinker is nothing without the people and the people will not develop maturity and consciousness that would utterly be necessary in order for them to cultivate their civic-mindedness, sense of community and responsible citizenship (both locally and globally) and corollary to this, the people themselves will be powerless without the helping hand and enlightened guidance of their thinkers, academics and intellectuals!

In theoretical terms, the intellectuals and the masses are theory and practice. They must unite to form a single collective whole! It is only on this way that an intellectual revolution shall ensue!    

"Third, the intelligentsia themselves need to restore the confidence that the academic world is untouched by political rhetoric and not governed by fear. Start by reinstating critical discourse and continue by measuring your worth not in local currency but of international standards. Allow students to be involved in substantive debate and empower the younger generation with academic freedom – start within the confines of your own classroom."


One way to restore the confidence of the intelligentsia to the academe is for the government to allow more universities to be independent and autonomous.

The court's ruling on the Universities Act is a welcome development, but still a lot more is needed to be done.

As I've stated then in my article:

I APPLAUD the ramifications of the decision by the Court of Appeal in upholding freedom of expression.
Section 15(5)(a) of the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971 restricts students from "expressing support or opposing any political party".

The court said this provision was in direct contravention of the Federal Constitution, by virtue of the fact that it violates the constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression.

Justice Hishamuddin Yunus said he "failed to see how a student who expressed support for or against a political party could bring about an adverse effect on public order or morality".

I think he said it well.

If we were to limit the sociopolitical exposure of our young to prevailing conditions and social milieu, we would be doing them a disservice.

Instead of creating critical-minded and civic-oriented citizens, who are responsible, bold, dynamic and proactive, we are moulding apathetic, lazy and passive people, who by virtue of their inadequacy and being puerile, cannot contribute to society.

Universities should be the breeding grounds for reformers and thinkers, and not an institution to produce students trained as robots.

A true democratic society is not afraid to allow its citizens to enjoy and exercise their rights to the maximum, so long as the citizens themselves use those said rights intelligently and responsibly.

Universities gear students to become independent and critical-thinkers so that they can become responsible members of society and cosmopolitan citizens of the world. ("Universities and University Colleges Act: Breeding grounds for reformers", The New Straits Times, November 9, 2011)

It is my firm and ardent view that a great way to reinstate critical discourse in the university is to offer compulsory the subject of Philosophy and other Humanities subjects to all our college and university students nation-wide.

My core suggestion to the Malaysian educators and policy makers is for them to support and encourage the Liberal Arts programme.

Why? What is the importance of this subject/programme for the advancement of critical public discourse?

As I said then in one article:

THERE is no doubt that the subjects of Liberal Arts education, such as Philosophy, Ethics, Logic, Sociology, Anthropology, etc, - the Humanities as a whole - is the branch of knowledge that specifically deals with the study of what makes us human.

Hence, the value and importance of a Liberal Arts education.

In the words of Michael Roth, President of Wesleyan University: "Liberal learning introduces them to books and music, the science and philosophy that form disciplined yet creative habits of mind that are not reducible to the material circumstances of one's life (though they may depend on those circumstances)... The habits of mind developed in a liberal arts context often result in combinations of focus and flexibility that make for intelligent, and sometimes courageous risk-taking for critical assessment for those risks." A Liberal Arts' education is the source of critical thinking. Critical thinking is the capacity to think independently beyond the ordinary conception of prevailing reality.

Its mind is reason; while its heart is humanism. The precise utilisation of critical thinking will undeniably lead our students to the joys of critical analysis which in turn will certainly give them the philosophical tools necessary and pertinent for the conscious and bold exercise of complex insights.

In the words of Chris Hedges, "The capacity to think is the only bulwark against any centralised authority that seeks to impose mindless obedience. There is a huge difference, as Socrates understood, between teaching people what to think and teaching them how to think."

It is in this exact sense that I overwhelmingly subscribe to the contention advanced by Professor Azhari-Karim of Universiti Sains Malaysia Penang ("Arts on the losing end" - NST, May 9).

He said, "One way is to teach Philosophy once again. This subject has been long absent from the curriculum for undergraduates. The idea is to refocus attention on the Arts and Sciences as being in the very rubric of knowledge and re-emphasise the philosophy of knowledge as a starting point for all academic pursuits." 

This is in conformity with the argument of Ganesan Odayappen ("Education is beyond race and politics" - NST, May 2,) of Kuala Lumpur who said in his letter: "When we talk about educating a nation, we must understand clearly what it means, how it is going to be achieved and its objectives. A nation which is striving to be a developed one needs tremendous human intellect and knowledge." 

A Liberal Arts education is absolutely necessary for the continuous progression and development of a country. There is no shadow of doubt that this type of education, which centres on humanism and universal reason, is truly beyond race, politics, religion, sex, gender, cultural background and other discriminatory categories.

Humanism is the study of being a good man in the truest sense of the word; while the central aim of a Liberal Arts education is to further cultivate and harness the humanity of Man's humanism. ("Nurturing Critical Thinking", The New Straits Times, May 11, 2011)    

"Most importantly, do not hide behind the protection of the Chatham House Rule (When a meeting, or par thereof, is held under the rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.) – use it sparingly so that your work is exposed for the betterment of the country."


I would like just to add that a true academic and intellectual is a brave soul. He or she must not be afraid to pursue the ultimate conclusion of his or her studies and projects and he or she must be prepared to be mock, ridicule, antagonize and even ostracize.

The same thing happened to Einstein, Galileo, Tesla, etc. they were isolated, persecuted, hounded, mocked, etc., but where are they now? Hence, just be brave and carry on with your studies.

The intellectual is like the individual which Friedrich Nietzsche said "has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."    

"It's a long road ahead yet one that is vital and necessary in our democratic process. Malaysia in this instance pales in comparison with the vocal scholarly voices in Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines. It's time we studied ourselves, our communities, our societies, our politics, our beliefs, our history and our democracy without fear – who better than someone with local knowledge, who better than a Malaysian?"


Yes, it may be a long road ahead for the Malaysian academia, yet to paraphrase a Chinese saying: the first great step on a long journey begun with the first step itself.

The March of Reason must continue at all cost…
Jose Mario Dolor De Vega
Philosophy lecturer, Polytechnic University of the Philippines 

‘Allah’: Uthaya’s misconceived arguments

Posted: 24 Jul 2013 05:07 PM PDT

FMT LETTER: From Aidil Khalid, via e-mail

I refer to Uthaya Sankar SB's article, 'Allah dalam Teks Hindu dan Sikh'. I find the thrust of the author's arguments that the word 'Allah' had been used in the Hindu and Sikh scriptures, while partially true, had been shed under erroneous, misconceived and misconstrued contextual lights, the result of which is a grave misrepresentation of the true colours of those two religions particularly with regards to the concepts of god and Allah.

Let me be clear on one thing. Under no circumstances do I claim to be an expert in the field of religious comparison. It is also incumbent upon me with all humility to state that my knowledge on Sikhism, Hinduism or even Islam for that matter, is very much limited. Regretfully I had not delved enough in theology, and it follows therefore that my understanding is only to the extent that it is possible for a layperson reading a subject that is deeply difficult, extremely voluminous and highly complex.

But on the other hand, since I delve in the law as a profession, at the very least I have a general idea of the history of those religions insofar as the law is concerned. This is particularly since our laws often refer to Indian cases as persuasive authorities – with disputes of religious nature that arose in India in light of its vastly multi-religious society had resulted in fundamental issues on religion being crept into the authoritative judgments of the justice system, and thereby establishing definitive accounts of the respective religions.

Of particular relevance is an Indian case of Inder Singh vs Sadhu Singh and Anr AIR 1943 Cal 476, wherein the Calcutta High Court, in deciding whether or not a marriage between a Hindu and a Sikh could be said to be legally valid, had addressed and discussed rather lengthily, the historical context of the dawning of Sikhism.

The fact that Sikhism at its initial state was not regarded as a religion of its own but rather as a branch or a sect of Hinduism is pertinent for it goes to show how the religion that was founded in the 15th century, later absorbed or at least reflected upon some of the practices of other religions that existed then. This is of paramount importance, as we shall see in due course, to our understanding of the proper context to which the word 'Allah' is used in their scriptures today.

The learned judge, Khundkar J, in his written judgment of the above case observed as follows:

"Guru Nanak who founded Sikhism and was the first of Sikh gurus broke away not from Hinduism, but from certain features of that religion which he considered objectionable. Nanak and his followers were really dissenters who aspired to establish a reformed and purified Hinduism. Nanak preached monotheism similar to that of Hinduism in Vedic times. He disapproved of caste, preached against idolatry and condemned the veneration of saints, pilgrimages, and worship at shrines… It was not until the time of the 10th and last Guru, Gobind Singh, that a fundamental cleavage from Hinduism was attempted … He did away with the Hindu rites such as Kiria and Sradh, prohibited worship of shrines and samadhs and rejected the Hindu religious books, the Vedas, Purans and Shastras. The strict followers of Guru Gobind Singh, known as the Akalis, declared that they were not Hindus."

Just as important to the judgment above in establishing the fact that Sikhism began as a movement to purify Hinduism, is also the fact that the Sikh scripture Sri Guru Granth Sahib that was cited by the Uthaya in his article, is a compilation of works that included and referred to various other texts and sources, among others the Hindu texts as well as Islamic.

In this regard, I presume that perhaps the author was not aware that Sheikh Farid, who's name he name-dropped in his article to support the contention that the Sikhs had used the word 'Allah' in their scriptures, was actually a Muslim sufi of the Chishti order in Punjab, with his full name being Khwaja Fariduddin Masud Ganjshakar. Indeed, his works could be found in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, but that is the very nature of the scripture itself in which teachings of various holy men from various religious orders were included. Thus when Sheikh Farid referred to 'Allah' 12 times in the scripture, there could be no doubt that he was referring to the concept of 'Allah' in accordance with the systems of belief in the religious order to which he subscribed.

While for Guru Nanak, Guru Arjan Dev and Kabeer who's name the author had yet again name-dropped to say that they referred to 'Allah' 18 times, I do not wish – and indeed I am not capable – to go in depth into their holy teachings. But suffice would it be for me to say that their references to the word 'Allah' as they did, must be read in the proper contexts so as to ensure that any attempt to understand their meanings would not be misguided, rather than sweepingly conclude that just because the word appears in their works, Allah is therefore the name that they refer to as god.

Perhaps the quotation from Guru Arjan Dev would shed some light into this contextual aspect. Guru Granth Sahib, Raga Bhairon at page 1136, is thus quoted:-

"I observe neither Hindu fasting nor the ritual of the Muslim Ramadan month; Him I serve who at the last shall save. The Lord of universe of the Hindus, Gosain and Allah to me are one: From Hindus and Muslim have I broken free. I perform neither Kaaba pilgrimage nor at bathing spots worship; One sole Lord I serve, and no other. I perform neither the Hindu worship nor the Muslim prayer; To the Sole Formless Lord in my heart I bow. We neither are Hindus nor Muslims; Our body and life belong to One Supreme Being who alone is both Ram and Allah for us."

It is clear that the references to Allah, Kaaba, Muslim prayer and Ramadan in the text quoted above were for comparison. They were not affirmative creeds dictating the name of God to which one should pray to, but rather cited for explanatory purposes so as to espouse breaking free from those religious doctrines. By the same token it is like when the Quran in 53:19 used the words 'Latta' and 'Uzza', which are the names of idols of the pagan Arabs. To conclude that just because the Quran cited the two names they are therefore the names of gods and goddesses that the Muslims believe in, is simply absurd, for the context upon which those words were used indicated that they were stern reminders from god against worshiping such deities.

It astonishes me very much to read that the author even went as far as to cite a popularised version of the song, Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram, to support his argument. The popularised version of the lyric of a song, as would be known to any reasonable person of at least some level of intellect, being a literary work of a lyricist has nothing to do whatsoever with religious doctrine – at least not authoritatively. So while the words appearing in songs may be right, it could also as much be wrong.

Why the author cited the song to support his contention is best known to him alone. I vaguely remember that Uthaya was the very person who barked so loudly in criticising the supposed error in Abdullah Hussain's novel, Interlok (student edition), and demanded that the word pariah be removed. I could not help but wonder what would he say if the book of the learned national laureate were to be used and cited as an authority to support the history of pariahs coming to the Malay Peninsular? If such a notion were to be held as absurd, then citing lyrics of a popularised version of a song for religious doctrine would be just as absurd.

As for the author's contention that the word Allah could also be found in the Hindu scriptures of Rigveda and Upanishad, I would be most grateful if he could just provide some supportive evidence or at least cite the relevant passages rather than leaving it to a mere bare assertion. My knowledge on Hinduism may be very limited, but I was made to understand – to which I stand corrected – that while there are references to iḷâ (for instance in verses 2/1/11 and 1/13/9 of Rigveda) and alâ (for instance in verses 3/30/10 and 9/67/30 of Rigveda), reference to Allah however could not be found anywhere in the Hindu holy books.



The Malaysian Indian Curse

Posted: 23 Jul 2013 09:15 PM PDT


Natesan Visnu 

The Indian leadership in Malaysia has always been a subject for criticism. The Indian leadership has not seen a leader with capability to steer the community for socio-economic growth.

To date the Malaysian Indians are still plagued with fundamental issues of identity card issues, job opportunities, Tamil schools, poverty, displaced estate workers, university seats, alcoholism, gangsterism, etc. The resolution for most of the issues are political in nature and merely window dressing. The outcomes are usually temporary and the issues continues to haunt Indians. In a nutshell, the Indian leadership in Malaysia has failed to resolve the issues plaguing the community for years.

Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) has been the fore runner championing the Indian issues for years. MIC has launched various programs and initiatives to uplift the Indian community with National Land Finance Cooperative Society (NLFCS), MIC Education Fund, Maju Institute of Education Development (MIED), SPECIAL SECRETARIAT FOR EMPOWERMENT OF INDIAN ENTREPRENEURS (SEED), Yayasan Strategik Social (YSS), AIMST University, TAFE College, Yayasan Pemulihan Sosial (YPS), Putera MIC, Puteri MIC, Pemuda MIC and Wanita MIC. The MIC arms has failed to achieve the objectives to uplift the Indian community. MIC leaders has been under heavy criticism and the failure of MIC has paved way for new political parties and activists to champion for Malaysian Indian rights. HINDRAF, HRP, IPF, PPP, etc are the result of MIC's leadership failure in performing their duties for Malaysian Indian community.

The Indians in Malaysia has not forgotten the debacle by MIC during the Telecom share scandals. Traditional MIC supporters have lost their life savings investing with MAIKA. The political will and greed of MIC members have caused MAIKA to fail as an entity that was supposed to uplift the Malaysian Indians. If MAIKA was managed by professionals, it would have been a social business entity that could have shaped the direction of the Indian community 25 years ago. On that note, the MIC leadership has failed the Indian community in MAIKA's case.

The reality is the Indian community is 'cursed' with bad leadership that has crippled the growth of the community. The Indian leadership mentality in this country needs to be reshaped and the current leaders needs to be 'educated' with leadership lessons or forced to resign in order to allow the new breed of leaders to take helm of the Indian leadership.

The root cause for the disparity among the Indians are the caste (jati) system inherited from India. The recent fiasco in the MIC presidential election is surrounded by the caste support for the top post. The Mukkulathors and Kounders are the dominant caste and the current President is aligning the candidates with the respective caste. Despite education, the leaders are still playing caste sentiments in politics. In this context, who shall we blame for the Indian community being backward? The leaders for campaigning based on caste or the Indian community for practicing the caste system till today without regards to human values?

The social stratification of the Indian community has hampered the progression of the Indians and we are the root cause for our downfall because of our choice to practice the caste system. Mahathma Gandhi, B.R.Ambedkar, Periyar EV Ramasamy spent their life fighting for eradication of the caste system. Their achievements have helped uplift the Dalits in India. In the Malaysian context, the caste system is the root cause for our political and economy failure and the Indian community in general should take responsibility for the society's collapse.

The Indian leadership should abandon the caste system and embark on a reconciliation program among the Jatis. The focus should be on electing leaders based on their education background, contributions, leadership qualities, etc not Jati. The ancient Hindu text suggested that the caste system is flexible and not rigid. The flexibility has allowed a lower caste sage Valmiki to compose Ramayana. On that note, that implicates that anyone who works hard can liberate their life from the clutches of the mundane caste system and poverty.

New strategies are required for the downtrodden Indian community. In the informative age, the best practices from various sectors should be studied further for implementation. The flexibility in Hinduism for social change could be implemented through 'sanskritization'. Sanskiritization means a process "a low or middle Hindu caste, or tribal or other group, changes its customs, ritual ideology, and way of life in the direction of a high and frequently twice-born caste. Generally such changes are followed by a claim to a higher position in the caste hierarchy than that traditionally conceded to the claimant class by the local community … ."

Translating to a modern context of sanskirization, the Malaysian Indian community should be empowered through socio-economics and education. Adapting on Prof. Muhammad Yunus social business framework, the Indian leaders should study the framework and implement the strategies for the Malaysian Indian community. Yunus' idea has been widely accepted and proven success in Bangladesh, a country poorer than Malaysia. The program such as Grameen Danone has created small entrepreneurs that can earn a decent living with simple business ideas.

For education, there are approximately 10,000 Indian students finishing SPM yearly. The issues with higher education could be resolved easily if AIMST adapts social business practices instead of a profit maximizing organisation. Political leaders could easily build a university similar to Taylors' Lakeside Campus in 20 acres of land for a cost less than half a billion. Two universities for Indians could resolve the issues of higher education seats. The universities could be managed using the social business frameworks for sustainability and business growth.

To summarise the issues above, the failure of Indian leadership and practice of caste system in Malaysia has clearly contributed to the backwardness of the Indian community. The Indian leadership should consider the issues plaguing the society and formulate strategies that will benefit the Indian people. MIC, Hindraf, HRP, PPP etc. should initiate the social reform program before the Indian community loses faith with the Indian leaders.

The curse on the Indian community continues and a massive movement from the political and NGO leaders to implement various programs with proven track record could assist to liberate the poverty strickened Indian community. The ball is in the politicians' court and its their turn to return the favor. 

Beware of conversions and act to prevent it

Posted: 23 Jul 2013 02:46 PM PDT

Let me take you all back to 1983 when we gathered at Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall. The Christians were then on an aggressive campaign of converting Hinduism with lies and ridicule of Hinduism. They included the Evangelists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Tamil Methodist Church and others. Film actors and recently converted paid fanatics were brought in to this country to spread lies and falsehood about our religion.

FMT LETTER: From A Vaithilingam, via e-mail

A little over 30 years ago the Malaysia Hindu Sangam organised a massive Anti Conversion Rally at the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall in Kuala Lumpur on May 12, 1983. Many will be surprised to note that the rally then was to alert Malaysian Hindus on the unethical conversion of Hindus to Christianity. Today, however, we are gathered to alert Hindus on laws enacted in 1988 victimising non Muslims by splitting our Courts into two, i.e. the Civil Court and Syariah Court.

This form of helpless victimisation was highlighted by the sudden claim of the dead body of Mt Everest climber Moorthy. No member of his family, not even his mother or his wife, knew that he had converted to Islam!

Jabatan Agama Islam claimed the body after the Syariah Court declared him a Muslim. The High Court ruled, without calling for evidence that the Syariah Court's ruling was the end of the matter. The wife lost all the way in the Courts.

Then we also had Shamala's case, after her converted husband unethically converted their two children without the knowledge and consent of the mother. Here again the Syariah Court endorsed the conversion and the High Court again said it could do nothing about the conversion of the children without the mother's consent.  Although granting custody of the children to the mother, the Judge ruled that she could not "expose" the children to any religion other than Islam. I understand that Shamala was forced to run away from the country because of this, and the Federal Court refused to allow her case to proceed.

The non Muslims are now being punished for the mistake made in 1988 by our non Muslim MPs of the ruling party who voted in favour of Article 121(1A) of the Federal Constitution giving the required 2/3 majority to approve the amendment. The Opposition voted against it. The ruling party members explained to us that they were assured that the amendment was to prevent Muslim husbands going to Civil Court after losing their cases in the Syariah and had nothing to do with non Muslims! We are now the victims of the hurriedly passed laws of the past era when proposals were not handed to the members with sufficient time to read the contents.

The time has now come for the Federal and State Governments to review Article 121 (1) and (1A) of the Federal Constitution, and all the other laws which are allowing conversion to Islam to discriminate against non Muslims.

It is now realised that at least one Islamic law was amended in the early 90s with the Hansard different from the final Gazetting of Laws! Further, in the words of the architect of Article 121(1A) Abdul Talib the amendment was never meant for the Civil Court judges to abdicate their duties and power of implementing justice for all citizens including non Muslims.

In my personal experience as a former president of both MHS & MCCBCHST I have found most of those who converted to Islam were not aware that unlike other neighbouring countries Malaysia is strictly enforcing the law of apostasy. Once you go into Islam it is an almost impossible hurdle to revert to one's former religion. This is something most unusual to Malaysia, and is not found in Singapore or Indonesia. Therefore, it is most necessary for non Muslims to understand this rule.

I wish to appeal to the authorities concerned that when conversion into Islam is carried out, it must be carried out with the knowledge of next of kin. This notice to close relatives should have a reasonable time space. Further, both the father and mother must consent if below 18 years of age. In fact it is better if no conversion at all is done under 18 so that the child can decide when becoming a major what religion he or she wants to practice. I have seen hundreds of those who have converted with the knowledge of parents or next of kin living as happy Muslims whilst those who are converted without the knowledge of relatives are often faced with miserable experiences. We should note that such cases are few but they often gain bad publicity.

Hinduism is one of the oldest religions in the world spreading over a period of more than 5000 years. It has survived through conquests and heavy prosetylation of many Religions.  It has enriched the world with with great philosophers, saints and sages.

It has no plans to spread conversion of others to Hinduism. We do not trouble families or break them up though others have broken ours. We want to live in peace. Other religions do not have to fear of being converted to Hinduism.

Let me take you all back to 1983 when we gathered at Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall. The Christians were then on an aggressive campaign of converting Hinduism with lies and ridicule of Hinduism. They included the Evangelists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Tamil Methodist Church and others. Film actors and recently converted paid fanatics were brought in to this country to spread lies and falsehood about our religion. But the effect of the Rally in 1983 was great: the Hindus arose and with the support of Government official these liars had to return home. House to House campaign was conducted by Hindus. More religious training programmes were held. Youths rose up, conversions were reduced and we all became more aware. We are NOW faced with the similar situation again.

Today the conversion band of Christians are out again. Now the situation is quite different. Evangelists are setting up churches in villages and streets. Nothing wrong in that, but, they have now local Pastors who talk about devil being in you when their God is not in you as though they have cured all their followers in the world! Why are their own kind dying everyday? Hindus must not be taken for a ride by such sentiments. Hospital visits are made by these Pastors especially looking out for 'death bed' patients. They attempt to touch the hearts of those in the non Christian family in this venture of death bed conversion!

We in the MCCBCHST have stood by together in all our difficulties. This is also happening to other non Christian members in the Majlis. I suggest that that the Christian Federation of  Malaysia (CFM) make a study of our complaints and that they themselves take the necessary action to prevent these excesses.

Finally, I appeal to all the Hindus in Malaysia to unite and be more alert and aware of the campaigns of conversion. From today onwards form religious awareness campaigns in all our Hindu neighborhoods. Teach your children Hindu knowledge, culture, heritage and the great teachings of our Saint and Sages. This ancient heritage of ours is spreading in the world without any effort to convert others to our religion.

The writer is former president of Malaysia Hindu Sangam & currently its advisor. The speech above was delivered at a Conference on 'Awareness Against Conversion' at the Sri Subramaniam Temple Hall, in Batu Caves over the weekend.


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