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Which version of Islam will dominate Malaysia?

Posted: 10 Dec 2013 01:57 PM PST

Dina Zaman, The Malay Mail

I read Zurairi AR's piece today and agree with him. While his piece spoke about how the next General Elections will be about the Islamist agenda, the reality is that Malaysian Muslims are becoming more observant, and want Malaysia to practise Shariah law.

I base this observation (not fact) on my dealings with friends and the people I have met over the years, and in recent times, Instant Messenger Group Chats. While the calls supporting Shariah law can be rather basic at its best, and crude, it would seem that young Muslims in this country want hudud law.

However, before we get our knickers in a twist, we must also ask what is their idea of hudud law and an Islamic state.

A good friend who attended the Muktamar PAS, had a revelation. She saw a gathering of not just PAS leaders and politicians, but of men and women who asked questions about the economy, education and public infrastructure. There was little gender segregation, and the women spoke up and made sure everyone heard them. They were not wholly focussed on hudud. They were pragmatic Muslims who wanted change. They were fed up of the religious rhetoric they kept hearing.

"And this is the progressive Muslim we need and desire. Muslims who want real life solutions instead of khutbahs."

There is little space left for the current power elites who have hogged the headlines for too long, she said. The Islamists are here to stay.

Islam in Malaysia is becoming more diversified in its conversations. Some of the voices can be downright frightening – you will not believe the vitriol hurled against Malays who are considered to not have the "knowledge", and this is among Malays themselves (!) – and some can be maddening. Are these voices part of The Middle, or splinter groups that have the propensity to influence The Middle?

There are two voices of Islam that appear in our media today, and they belong to a power elite of two extremes.

First of all, because of a word limit and that meanings can take on so many forms and shapes, for this column, let us just define broadly what extremes (extremists) are. As a friend pointed out, what is a liberal and what is a conservative? It could be a bit futile to separate conservatism and liberalism where politics and religion intersect "… because most of us are liberal on some issues and conservative on others."

So for this essay, perhaps the "Extreme(ists)" are those whose arguments defy each other's, but basically rule media airtime and the public sphere. And in Malaysia, the argument is among Muslims.

In an increasingly globalised world where barriers are now falling apart, there seems to be more divisions, but the divisions and debates are among the believers themselves.

What concerns me and should worry all of us is the voice of The Middle (for want of a better word). I hesitate to say moderate, for what is a moderate? I see two voices speaking up on Islam's behalf, do these voices speak for my friends and me? Not really.

The problem with the Voice of The Middle is that they have other things to worry about, such as bread and butter issues. These issues are not unimportant, and for many Muslim Malaysians, religious debates are thought to be the domain of leaders, politicians and activists. They don't have the time, there's too much to think about and do. Also, there is the danger of fundamentalism leading the way, which limits the ability of The Middle to speak up. There is great fear in speaking out, and it is also possible they only get airtime in the English-speaking media.

When they do notice what is going on and want to pipe up, the Voice of The Middle is apprehensive. They feel that they are not equipped with the knowledge and communication tools to articulate their thoughts and feelings, and they fear persecution. Many fear the backlash more.

The Voice of The Middle is important, and could be the very Voice of Reason Malaysia needs.

But we need these voices to come out and speak up. We cannot let the engagement be the realm of a few concerned citizens only. We need more Malaysians to say, enough is enough. We must remind ourselves that we do not need to be born into greatness to do great things.

Muslims in Malaysia want an Islamic state.

What version it will be, only God knows.


Making the rakyat pay

Posted: 10 Dec 2013 09:14 AM PST

The recent price hikes are just the beginning. Tolls, public transport fares, Quit Rent, sewerage and cooking gas too will go up soon enough.

Selena Tay, FMT

No leader of a nation will trouble its citizens unless he himself is in trouble. And this seems to be the case with Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak for right now he is having trouble in servicing the nation's national debt.

The solution however is very simple. He just needs to trouble the citizens by obtaining funds from them to service the debt and that is what he is doing now via subsidy cuts.

After the petrol hike in early September, we had subsidy cuts for sugar and then the hike in assessment for KL and Ipoh followed by the hike in power tariff which will begin in three weeks time. One after another it is just bad news for the low-wage earner at year-end.

According to the former PAS Kuala Selangor MP Dzulkefly Ahmad, the low-wage earner not only has to bear the burden of these hikes but also the 'knock-on chain effect' from these price increases.

"All these hikes will cause the price of groceries and services to go up, not to mention the fact that factories will also be increasing the prices of their products.

"The low-wage earners suffer the most because they will not be getting big pay hikes to commensurate with the increase in the cost of living unlike those in the executive level," remarked the current PAS Research Director.

This will simply mean that the low income group will need to tighten up their belt more which will in turn adversely affect their standard of living.

"The inflation rate for the poor and the low-income group will be much higher than 4% which may cause them to default in their monthly loan repayments. As of now the statistics concerning the Non-Performing Loans (NPL) has been purposely kept a secret by Bank Negara.

"Will there be more bankrupt cases then?" questioned Dzulkefly, adding that the prime minister is highly irresponsible in squeezing money out of the citizens via the GST (Goods & Services Tax) which burdens the poor more than the rich.

Najib is certainly a cruel leader for reducing the subsidies and then implementing the GST. It is certainly a double-blow for the poor citizens and low-income folks.

And these price hikes which are coming fast and furious is just the beginning. Tolls, public transport fares, Quit Rent, sewerage and cooking gas too will go up soon enough.



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