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Some thoughts on state fundamentalism in Malaysia

Posted: 25 Jul 2013 07:27 PM PDT



For one can question the state for flawed policies and violations against human rights; but how does one do that when the state enforce or legislate in the name of religion and equates its policies and decisions with "God's laws"?

by Mohamed Imran Taib, Projek Dialog

Things are getting bizarre.

Somehow, Ramadan is the preferred month to display more 'religious neurosis' in the form of an overdrive to flex one's position and power as the "guardians of Islam". Whatever happened to the spirit of Ramadan where one is encouraged to do greater self-introspection and seek peace within through the spiritual exercise of fasting?

Instead, we find more and more browbeating that targets everything, from those who do not observe the fast, to harassing the minority Shi'a community, to threatening Christians against the usage of the word "Allah" to refer to God, and more recently, to anyone who questions a gazetted fatwa as liable to be charged for "insulting Islam".

In Indonesia, such aggressive behavior will be the primary forte of vigilante groups like the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), known for their famous "sweeping" acts in Ramadan. But who needs the FPI when you have state mechanisms to enforce your zeal to earn the badge of being the "defenders of God" and the "gatekeepers of Islam"?

Such is the tragic consequent of decades of state-led ideology of "Islamization" in Malaysia.

Unfortunately, "Islamization" does not mean infusing Muslims with the sublime and universal values of Islam. Rather, it is a form of marriage between the ruling party UMNO's desire to maintain power, and the Muslim fundamentalists' desire to enforce their ideology through a take-over of state mechanisms and institutions.

Democracy compromised

That marriage spells a disaster to development of democracy in Malaysia. State authoritarianism has, ever since, been given a powerful tool to control the masses: religion.

For one can question the state for flawed policies and violations against human rights; but how does one do that when the state enforce or legislate in the name of religion and equates its policies and decisions with "God's laws"? For ordinary Muslims, legal drafts and bills pertaining to religious life are not enacted by elected parliamentarians through the act of parliament; but are primarily "God's laws" that cannot and should not be questioned.


Redeeming journalism through the conscience clause: Part 1

Posted: 25 Jul 2013 02:04 PM PDT


It's no point asking journalist and their employers to stick to a code of ethical conduct if such undertaking is not backed up with the force of law. Bad journalists can get away with unethical behaviour while good ones who try to live up to high ethical standards only end up seeing their careers destroyed or prematurely terminated by employers who demand they undertake unethical work.

Bob Teoh, My SinChew

When I suggested the introduction of workplace reform to improve the ethical conduct of both journalists and media owners by incorporating a code of ethics together with the conscience clause as part of their employment contract, it was immediately greeted with skepticism by some.

Such skepticism is understandable given that Malaysian journalism has fallen from grace. Let's face it, we have reached rock-bottom. In the current World Press Freedom ranking by Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, Malaysia has dropped 23 spots to a new low by ranking of 145 out of 179 countries.

Some take comfort that we are, after all, three steps ahead of Singapore. But this is no consolation considering Bangladesh, Libya, Kyrgyzstan, Thailand, Indonesia and Brunei are better off than us. And if that's not bad enough, Myanmar is fast catching up – it climbed 18 spots to No 151, just a whisker behind us.

Industry stakeholders especially journalists, media owners and the regulatory authorities need to redeem the profession at some point and the time is now. I was vindicated when a chief editor, who was present at a media ethics forum last Saturday where I mooted the conscience clause, stood up and said he would consider writing the conscience clause into the employment contracts for his journalists.

It's no point asking journalist and their employers to stick to a code of ethical conduct if such undertaking is not backed up with the force of law. Bad journalists can get away with unethical behaviour while good ones who try to live up to high ethical standards only end up seeing their careers destroyed or prematurely terminated by employers who demand they undertake unethical work.

It's not that Malaysia cannot produce good journalists. Many of those with high ethical conduct have managed to get jobs with CNN, Al Jazeera, Fleet Street and many more have emigrated to Australia. Many who are otherwise good but did make it overseas are buried in unmarked graves together their ethics intact.

The time has come for workplace reform. A mutually agreed code of ethics can be made contractually binding both on journalists and their employers as a term and condition governing their employment. It safeguards and balances the rights and obligations of parties. An employer can summarily dismiss a journalist for fundamental breach of ethics. Likewise, employers can be taken to task for ethical violation. An aggrieved journalist can appeal on grounds of wrongful dismissal or unfair labour practice through the usual process of industrial law.


Sarawak Reenacts Independence from Britain 50 years Ago

Posted: 25 Jul 2013 01:01 PM PDT

The last white Raja says goodbye.  

Many, if not most Malaysians are unaware that Sarawak was indeed, if only for a short time, a fully independent state before it entered into the Malaysia Agreement to form the Federation of Malaysia along with Sabah, Malaya, and Singapore, which formally came into effect on 16th September 1963, the actual birthdate of Malaysia. 

Murray Hunter

Last Monday was the 50th anniversary of Sarawak independence from Britain. Although it isn't a gazetted public holiday, local newspapers over the preceding week highlighted the upcoming reenactment of the independence ceremony, in which the last British Governor, Sir Alexander Waddell, formally handed sovereignty over to Tuan Haji Openg, the first Yang di-Pertua (Governor of Sarawak), on behalf of the people of Sarawak.  

The ceremony, forgotten in the past, appeared to be a pointed reminder to the national government in Putra Jaya that elements in both Sabah and Sarawak are demanding a more assertive approach to the governance of their own affairs.

The British took over the role of protecting Sarawak in 1888, formally becoming a colony in July 1946. On 22nd July 1963 Britain granted Sarawak full independence, where it became a sovereign state in its own right.

Many, if not most Malaysians are unaware that Sarawak was indeed, if only for a short time, a fully independent state before it entered into the Malaysia Agreement to form the Federation of Malaysia along with Sabah, Malaya, and Singapore, which formally came into effect on 16th September 1963, the actual birthdate of Malaysia. Sarawak's status, like Sabah's within the Federation was defined by the 18 Points Agreement, which gave Sarawak (20 points in Sabah) sole responsibility in governing many aspects of its territory.


There is a sentiment in many quarters within Sarawakian society that the state's rich and diverse history has been lost in favor of the 'national Merdeka' narratives dominated by the stories of the independence movement within the Malay Peninsula.  As a consequence, Liberation Day, as independence from Britain is called in Sarawak, has become a forgotten annal in Malaysia's history.


After the last planning meeting for the Liberation Day ceremony, Sarawak Resource Planning and Environment Minister (Datuk Amar) Haji Awang Tengah Ali Hasan told the media at a press conference that the facts sounding this day should be featured much stronger in national history curriculum, as this event had great significance, marking the beginning of the state being ruled by Sarawakians themselves.


This reenactment ceremony occurred at a time where there is a growing sentiment within Government to tackle planning and development more within local paradigms, in contrast to just following national agendas in the past. Just how independent and "Sarawak-centric" future development policy shapes up between Kuching and Putra Jaya will be interesting to see over the next couple of years.  

Photos courtesy of Haji Adil Haji Kiprawie


Not being well meaning

Posted: 25 Jul 2013 12:27 PM PDT

Fire and rescue personnel help to remove the body of 11-year-old Khairul Amir Azri Lani.

"The unfortunate incident should be a lesson and reminder for all tenants in public housing to pay their rent and maintenance fee." The one who said it was Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan, minister of Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government. Yes, the same Abdul Rahman who's getting a lot of "attention" lately for "justifying" and "defending" Datuk Ibrahim Ali's  "burn the bible" call. 
Mohsin Abdullah, fz.com 
SURELY we can imagine. No not only imagine. In fact, we can feel what the family of Khairul Amir Azri Lani is still going through now. The trauma, pain and sadness due to an incident a week or so ago. July 17 to be exact.
On that day, Khairul was in an elevator at Block 8 PPR flats in Desa Tun Razak in Kuala Lumpur. The elevator stopped halfway between the second and third floor. According to reports, 11-year-old Khairul tried to climb out when the elevator suddenly moved, crushing his head against the third floor. He was killed.
To an extent we can also "feel the feeling" of the residents of the Desa Tun Razak flats, some of whom were witnesses to the tragedy as they were in the elevator then. Those who did not see it happen knew about it. Nonetheless all were and still are traumatised by the incident.
And then we had a minister saying this, a day after the incident: "The unfortunate incident should be a lesson and reminder for all tenants in public housing to pay their rent and maintenance fee." 
The one who said it was Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan, minister of Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government. Yes, the same Abdul Rahman who's getting a lot of "attention" lately for "justifying" and "defending" Datuk Ibrahim Ali's  "burn the bible" call.
Anyway back to the elevator incident. 
"The local authorities can only provide maintenance if maintenance fee is collected from tenants. In many incidents, the maintenance fee and sometimes the rent are not paid and this affects the maintenance schedule by the local government. 
"We should not point fingers but we cannot compromise in terms of safety and maintenance of public housing projects and it starts (with) the tenants," said Abdul Rahman, as quoted byfz.comwriter Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani in his report recently.

Read more at: http://www.fz.com/content/not-being-well-meaning#ixzz2a7PzVCRW


A Decades-old Sad Story

Posted: 25 Jul 2013 12:06 PM PDT

It therefore looks like the Chinese did the right thing in rejecting the MCA at the last general election, causing it to fall from grace by winning only seven parliamentary seats and having to stick to its threat of not taking up government positions for the poor performance. Now at least it has some guts to say something about this issue when in the past it would keep quiet.

Now it is the MIC's P. Kamalanathan who is in Wee's former position, and he is feeling the heat – even from his own party. 

Kee Thuan Chye 
The intake of students into Malaysian public universities is a sad, sad story. A story that has been around for decades. A story that doesn't want to end.
Since the establishment of the quota system for Bumiputera students in 1973, non-Bumputera ones have had to take part in what is virtually a lottery when they apply for places. They may not get admitted, or they may not get the course of study they applied for even though they have the best results.
When the system was introduced, 55 per cent of places were reserved for Bumiputeras, although apart from Universiti Malaya and Universiti Sains Malaysia, other universities reportedly admitted more Bumiputeras than was specified in the quota.
Non-Bumiputera families that couldn't tolerate the unfairness of the system decided to emigrate with the chief aim of securing higher education for the young. New waves of emigration have since followed, resulting in a massive brain drain that is highly disadvantageous to the country's development.
Those who stayed gave up on public universities as they did not want to put up with uncertainty over their children's future. They resolved to work harder to earn money to send their children overseas.
This caused a huge flow of currency outflow. So to stem it and also to make Malaysia a future net exporter of tertiary education, the Government instituted the Private Higher Educational Institutions Act in 1996 that led to the sprouting of private colleges and universities locally.
By the end of 1999, according to Government figures, about 203,000 students had enrolled in private institutions, compared to about 167,500 in public universities. This showed the high demand among Malaysians for higher education.
Before private colleges and universities were set up in Malaysia, many bright non-Bumiputera students could not pursue higher education because their parents could not afford to send them overseas. They were deprived of the opportunity to better themselves and improve their lot in life.
I remember arguing with a Chinese multi-millionaire businessman who was then pro-Mahathir Mohamad and pro-BN (he has since changed his stance) because he didn't seem to acknowledge the unfairness of the system and the plight of the poor non-Bumiputeras. What he said still rings in my head, "No worries, the Chinese can always go to KTAR."
He was referring to Kolej Tunku Abdul Rahman which at the time was not a university college (it was established in 1969 and became a university college only in May 2013), and its graduates were awarded only diplomas. That remark was nauseating coming from a multi-millionaire.
Today, non-Bumiputera students still depend on being admitted to public universities to obtain higher education. Many of them come from poor families that cannot afford to send them even to local private institutions.
In 2002, the Government replaced the quota system with a "merit-based" one, but even under this, studies have shown that the Bumiputera intake since has been at least around 60 per cent.
In 2004, 128 non-Bumiputera students did not get into Medicine, which was their first choice, although they had obtained the highest score of 5As in the STPM (Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia) examination. The Government's shocking response to this was that they were not good enough. All of them were eventually accepted by private institutions, but some did not pursue Medicine because they did not have sufficient financial support.
This year, the sad old story is re-told.
The intake of Chinese students has sunk to 19 per cent. And it has been far worse for the Indians, with only 4 per cent admitted.
Shockingly, some non-Bumiputera students with the perfect CGPA (cumulative grade point averages) of 4.0 were not given places at all. And some who got in were not given courses of their choice. 

After 40 years, we are still hearing this old story. What is happening to Malaysia?

Read more at: http://my.news.yahoo.com/blogs/bull-bashing/decades-old-sad-story-095247536.html 

The men of God

Posted: 24 Jul 2013 04:47 PM PDT


The point is this: what action is taken against these powerful urbanites? Was the fatwa issued because it's a beauty contest per se or because it exposes parts of a woman's body? If it is the contest itself that is deemed to be dehumanising and immoral, what about bodybuilding contests for men? Will action be taken against them too? Of course not—that's why any punishment for the four girls, if meted out, will prove the hypocrisy of our ulama. They believe women are weak and can be bullied. This will draw more international ire and condemnation. We will achieve very little by punishing the girls.

Zaid Ibrahim,TMI

JAIS is preparing to take action against the four Muslim girls who participated in the Miss Malaysia World 2013 beauty contest in contravention of an earlier fatwa banning Muslims from taking part in beauty pageants. I am writing to appeal to the department to desist from doing so.

Any action by the religious authorities to enforce this fatwa will end up in another controversy that will yet again embarass the Muslim community at large. I am not against the religious council issuing fatwas on any subject they deem fit, but as in the olden days, these fatwas are meant to be opinions of the learned jurists that are issued to guide the conduct of Muslims.

The fatwa should remain an opinion or a guide, as they were when Islam was at its pristine best. In those days Muslims either followed these guides voluntarily or they did not. But they also engaged with the ulama on many societal issues and as a result, these fatwas were sometimes modified based on the community's feedback. No one was interested in punishing the recalcitrant or the wayward. They focused on finding the right path for the community, because Islam encourages questioning and thinking in search of the truth. The relationship between the community and its religious leaders then was therefore positive, constructive and dynamic.

We are obviously living in a very different era. Power is infectious: the politicians and the rich have it, as do the police and even the members of the underworld. So it's not a surprise the ulama also want power, which is why they have created so many rules. This gives them the opportunity to enforce these rules, hence exhibiting power and command. But these attempts to flex their authority always fall flat.


Get rid of the religious bigots

Posted: 24 Jul 2013 02:31 PM PDT

Is this how democracy best works in Malaysia, with the dominant race always threatening to 'finish off' the rest?

Jeswan Kaur, FMT

It is tough times ahead for the non-Muslims of this country, going by the antics of entities like Perkasa and Jati who are doing all they can to turn the former into non-persona grata.

There is no denying that as long as Perkasa and Jati exist, the affection and trust between Muslim and non-Muslims will always be strained.

Both Perkasa and Jati are notorious for causing a rift between the non-Muslim and Muslims.

In fact, the worst damage to national unity has come from entities like Perkasa and Jati – be it acts of decapitating and desecrating cow heads, ridiculing the Hindu idols, threatening anyone who dared question Article 153 of the Federal Constitution that safeguards Malay rights and privileges, calls to burn the Malay bibles and the latest being demands that the Embassy of the Holy See in Kuala Lumpur get rid of its ambassador Archbishop Joseph Marino because the latter praised a local church's campaign to include the Arabic word 'Allah' to refer to God among Christians.

In Marino's case, Perkasa and Jati wasted no time in marching to the embassy of the Holy See demanding that the Vatican appoint a new envoy to Malaysia.

When no one from the embassy turned up to entertain the antics of Perkasa and Jati led by their founders Ibrahim Ali and Hasan Ali respectively, Ibrahim was forced to hand over his protest note to the police guard.

If that was not good enough for Ibrahim, he had the gall to paste a copy of the protest note on the embassy's guard house wall.

Marino has since the uproar tendered an apology but as always 'sorry' has never been enough for Perkasa and Jati, infamous for their extremist views and anti-national outlook.

Even the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais) is not satisfied with an apology from the Vatican's envoy.

Mais claims Marino's comment over the use of the word "Allah" by Christians in Malaysia was tantamount to contempt of the rule of law assented to by the Malay rulers.

Mais chairperson Mohamad Adzib Mohd Isa said Marino, had incurred the anger of Muslims at a time when they were observing the Ramadan fast.

How has the archbishop raised the ire of the Muslims when it was the truth that he had lent support to?

Is this how democracy best works in Malaysia, with the dominant race always threatening to 'finish off' the rest?

No 'copyright' over religion

It is befuddling as to why Perkasa, Jati, the state rulers and Malay scholars refuse to accept the fact that the word 'Allah' can be used by the other races as well?

Why is there the animosity when it comes to worshiping the Creator, when there is ample evidence that 'Allah' is not exclusive to the Malays alone?

Indeed, when the rulers of state bar the non-Muslims from practising what is their fundamental right, it becomes clear that the non-Muslims have become enemies of the state and have been relegated to the status of non-persona grata.

While Mohamad Adzib is urging relevant authorities such as the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais), the police and the Home Ministry to act firmly against any Muslim or non-Muslim individual who intentionally insult the sanctity of Islam, whom do the non-Muslims turn to for help when agencies like Perkim (Pertubuhan Kebajikan Islam Malaysia) unabashedly try to convert them to Islam?

This was what a friend of mine faced just days before the fasting month began. She was at the Sungai Wang Plaza when several men from Perkim approached her armed with a barrage of questions concerning the fasting month of Ramadan.

The Perkim staff was not out to test my friend's understanding or knowledge of the fasting month. Rather, he was hoping to 'earn' a brownie point by getting my friend to renounce her Christian faith.

In the end, before my friend could take off, the Perkim representative still adamant that she give 'leave Christianity and join Islam' a thought, placed in her hands a copy of the Quran translated into English, 'A Brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding Islam' by I.A. Ibrahim, 'Have You Discovered Its Real Beauty' by Dr Naji Ibrahim Arfaj and 'What Allah says in the Quran The Truth about Jesus Christ'.

My friend ended up with unsolicited information and a copy of the Quran and other Islamic paraphernalia – what should a non-Muslim person make out of all this? Or how should she or he react?

Had my friend adopted the insensitive 'Perkasa-Jati' approach, she would have given the Perkim official a piece of her mind for accosting her with unwelcomed details about Islam.

Instead, she thanked him for sharing all that which he did and for the Quran etc.

My friend was not pleased with that experience which left her wondering why the double standard practiced by the government when it comes to proselytisation?



10 places Ibrahim Ali and gang can consider emigrating to

Posted: 24 Jul 2013 01:49 PM PDT


Finding a new home for regular people is difficult enough, when it comes to sworn racists with a panache for controversy the search becomes near impossible. I will try nevertheless.

The Malay Mail 

Before that, which bigots and why do they have to relocate?

Right-wingers all year round dare many Malaysians to leave the country if them bleeding heart liberals cannot stomach their brand of patriotism. They'd say things like "You balik China/India" (Go back to China/India) or "Kalau nak jadi orang putih, pergi ke negara orang putihlah" (If you want to be like the whites, migrate to their countries).

Often those attacked would retort with "You first" or "My country bro, you can migrate-lah."

It's a bit playground-ish, I apologise to all bigots operating currently directly in the country and partial apologies to those working out of other time zones. You deserve better.

To raise the debate, today I am going to speak up for people like Ibrahim Ali (the poster child of Malay rights groups) and Ridhuan Tee Abdullah (a man who positions himself as the special one, revealing allegedly unflattering truths about the Chinese and liberals in Malaysia).

Is it fair to ask the ignorant to leave the country, when they know so little of the world they live in? It is plain to all they know very little of their own neighbours in Malaysia, after living here all their lives, therefore what fighting chance do they have if they left for strange shores and are forced to deal with another lot of infidels?

Read more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/opinion/praba-ganesan/article/10-places-ibrahim-ali-and-gang-can-consider-emigrating-to 

Why deny top students courses of their choice

Posted: 24 Jul 2013 01:39 PM PDT


It is ironic that on one hand we spend millions to attract our talented people to return home and at the same time deny some of our brightest students courses and universities of their choice.

Baradan Kupusamy, The Star

This annual season of silliness will only force high-performing students to look elsewhere to further their studies.

One obvious benefactor is Singapore which offers scholarships, living allowances and an attractive multi-cultural environment to study in. Eventually, after graduation, jobs are offered too.

The MCA and MIC have kicked up a storm, and rightly so, over the drop in placements and the government has said a decision is pending.

But why deny our top students from studying the courses of their choice in the first place?
Why allow this mockery to take place year in, year out?
Why put them through this harrowing experience, which must surely test the limits of their love for their country.
The MCA in particular wants to know why there is a low intake of Chinese students - 7,913 successful applicants out of 41,573 for 20 public universities this year.

Its education bureau chairman Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong revealed shocking figures that show Chinese students intake at a mere 19% of the total for the new academic term.

In previous years, and since meritocracy in the university intake was introduced from 2002, Chinese student intake had never dropped below 25%.

Apart from the Chinese students, there were 30,903 bumiputeras, 1,824 Indians and 933 other races that made up the total number of successful applicants.

This state of affairs is completely unacceptable, it is unfair and bright and young students should not be put through this.
Some of the students with CGPA of 4.0 were not only not given courses of their choice but places in universities.

They had selected medicine, pharmacy and dentistry as their top choices followed by accountancy and engineering.

Even within the 19% of successful Chinese students, many are not happy with the courses they were given.
It is to avoid this mess that the government implemented a meritocracy policy in 2002 and Chinese student intake had always been above 20% whereas the Indians averaged 9%.

These students are a talent pool that would do the nation proud in years to come.

Even Dr Wee expressed worry that Singapore would be the main beneficiary of this annual intake mess in our universities.

The government has to play an annual balancing game with meritocracy on one hand and on the other, giving the under-privileged a chance at high value courses.

We are not against social engineering but these efforts at giving the under-privileged a chance should not come with a price tag in meritocracy.
You don't have to deprive the best and brightest of their right to study courses of their choice as they are a bright pool of talents that any country would value.

Some of them are also poor and under-privileged themselves and are hoping to use education as a ladder to climb out of poverty.

They have put in years of hard work, pouring over text books and going for tuition and preparing for the big STPM examination.

And some of them excel in it and at the end of the day they hope to secure a course of study of their choice and even a university of their choice.

In this respect, the government should do everything possible to ensure that the selection process is transparent and accountable.

At the moment, the selection process for the 20 public universities is opaque. We don't know how and who select the students and the qualifying criteria.

We are just told that the students are judged based on their examination results (90%) and extracurricular activities (10%).

The onus lies with the government to explain the record low number of seats given to Chinese and Indian students in the new intake for IPTAS.

It is no point dredging the world for Malaysian talents and spending money urging them to return and at the same time allow our young and bright to go without a university education, especially when our neighbours are looking out for talented Malaysian youths. 

Kredit: www.malaysia-today.net

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