Posted: 22 Sep 2013 08:36 PM PDT
A week prior to the death of Chin Peng on 16 September 2013 in Bangkok, I finished reading No Dram of Mercy, a book by Malayan World War II civilian heroine Sybil Kathigasu.
I felt something important was missing from the book and the articles I read about the Kathigasus'. Chin Peng's death helped me see more clearly.
Perhaps I can rest now.
In this (long) essay, I have selected some content from No Dram of Mercy, which was completed in or before 1949, but released only in 1954.
Most who have written about the Kathigasus' emphasize the medical side of the story – their clinics in No. 141 Brewster Road, Ipoh and in No. 74 Main Street, Papan; their 'chance' evacuation to Papan; the causes and descriptions of Sybil's injuries.
Since the clinics, evacuation and injuries are well covered by others, I have omitted discussion of them.
The content I have selected is mainly designed to serve my goal which is to suggest reasons why publication of No Dram of Mercy was delayed.
I propose that the same reasons account for Umno's refusal to recognize Chin Peng, the well-recognized leader of the long defunct Communist Party of Malaya, and Umno's belligerent prevention of the return of Chin Peng's ashes to his homeland, Malaysia.
First, some similarities between Sybil Kathigasu and Chin Peng.
Similarities between Sybil and Chin Peng
Sybil is the only Malaysian woman ever to be awarded the George Medal, Britain's highest civilian award for bravery. Chin Peng was the recipient of two British military medals for his role during World War II, and later the civilian OBE (Order of the British Empire) award.
Both Sybil and Chin Peng were heavily engaged in resisting the Japanese.
Both Sybil and Chin Peng were denied access to the public at key moments of their lives.
Posted: 21 Sep 2013 10:51 PM PDT
The Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project recent report on Muslims values towards extremism which was based on its face-to-face interviews conducted in 11 countries makes for interesting analysis. 822 Malaysians participated in the survey. 522 of them identified themselves as Muslim. When asked whether violence such as suicide bombing is justified to defend Islam from its enemies, 5% of the Malaysian Muslims surveyed said it is 'often justified', 22% said 'sometimes justified', 12% said it is 'rarely justified', 58% said it is 'never justified', while 3% indicated that they did not know or refuse to answer.
In 2010 Malaysia had 28.3 million citizens of which 61.3% identified themselves as Muslim. This is 17,347,900 people. If the Pew Research Center's sample was representative of Malaysian Muslims, then the survey results would be the general view of Malaysian Muslims. If we then extrapolate the survey results, the following propositions could be made:
There are at least 3 important observations to be made from the above propositions.
First, about 6.7 million Malaysian Muslims, which is 39% of total Malaysian Muslims think that violence can be justified to defend Islam. If among the 520,437 who refused to answer the question because they were either afraid or embarrassed to reveal their inclination for the justification of violence to defend Islam, then the actual number would be higher. This suggests that close to half of Malaysian Muslims think that violence such as suicide bombing can be justified to defend Islam from its enemies. An important caveat, this does not mean that those who think so would actually participate in violent acts or sign-up for suicide bombing mission. As highlighted by sociologist Charles Kurzman,
Kurzman likened this to the popular cultural icon of Che Guevara, "For decades, left-leaning American and European youths have taped Che posters to their dorm-room walls without lifting a finger to overthrow capitalism." Likewise, Muslims' inclination towards the justification of violence in defence of Islam does not necessarily lead them into extremist activity.
Second, this observation redirects our attention to the United Malays National Organisation's (UMNO) [ii] relation with Islamic extremism since the 9/11 terrorist attack in America. Lest we forget, the planning of the 9/11 attack took place in what is now known as the 'Kuala Lumpur al-Qaeda Summit'. In his study on Malaysia's connection to international terrorism, Joseph Liow noted that ever since the 1990s, "There were already indicators that Malaysia was proving to be a reliable transit point, if not an actual haven, for international Islamic militants long before the September 11 attacks."[iii] In a recent press statement, Datuk Mohamad Fuzi Harun, the director of Malaysian police's counter-terrorism special task force, revealed that Malaysia "was used as transit to a third country, fund-raising as well as recruitment of new suicide bombers." There were no less than 10 international terrorist groups operating in Malaysia since the 9/11 attack.[iv]
Malaysia being a fertile ground for Islamic extremism is partly caused by the Islamisation agenda of UMNO. As Liow has commented,
Gordon Means similarly observed,
Both Liow and Means have shown that the UMNO-led government has played an important role in enabling, though not outright and formally encouraging, extremism in the country by way of sanctioning religious revivalism and Islamisation. Patricia Martinez has cautioned that such political dealing with Islam exposes the country to "the danger in playing catch-up with fundamentalists and militants" to be the authority that define Islam for local Muslims. The government will always be in the losing end as "Southeast Asian Muslim ummah in the periphery of the Islamic world, many (but certainly not all) Muslims perceive everything in the heartland of the Middle East as authentic and best, and thus receive fundamentalists and militants as more pious when they adopt the idiom, language and culture of the heartland."[vii]
Third, this report highlights the urgency for Muslims to re-look into the rhetoric of "enemies of Islam" used arbitrarily by members belonging to right wing ethno and religio centric groups such as UMNO and Perkasa. If violence is perceived as justifiable to defend Islam from its enemies, then there is a serious cause for Muslims to discern over the criteria required for one to be categorised as such.
The on-going controversy over the word 'Allah' is a good example; should Christians be categorised as 'enemies of Islam' simply because they use the word 'Allah' in their religious observation? The highest Islamic authority in Malaysia, the Department of Islamic Development (JAKIM), certainly thinks so, as seen in their disseminated Friday sermon dated 30 August 2013 in which Christians are called 'musuh Islam' (Malay: 'Enemy of Islam'). One of the reasons JAKIM persistently forbids Christians from using the word 'Allah' is due to the allegation that such usage places Allah as one of three gods.[viii] This is another manifestation of UMNO-linked organisations' flirting with extremism and their lack of discernment when it comes to other religions such as the concept of Christian Trinity.
JAKIM's view goes against more than 400 signatories comprising Grand Muftis, Islamic scholars, and Muslim leaders around the world who endorse the document 'A Common Word Between Us and You'. To these signatories, Islam and Christianity are founded on the common ground of monotheism. As stated in the summary of the document provided by the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought in Jordan:
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