Archive for category Islam

How Muslim Governments Impose Ignorance

Mustafa Akyol
New York Times
MARCH 16, 2016

ISTANBUL — I recently spent a few days in Malaysia, where I was promoting the publication of the Malay edition of my book, “Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty.” The publisher, a progressive Muslim organization called the Islamic Renaissance Front, had set up several talks for me in Kuala Lumpur. As any author would be, I was happy to learn that the team was enthusiastic about my book and had been getting good feedback from audiences and readers. But I was troubled by something else that I suspect many Muslim authors have experienced: My publisher was worried about censorship.

The risk, I was told, was that the Department of Islamic Development, a government body that “was formed to protect the purity of faith,” could ban the book if it was viewed as violating traditional Islamic doctrine.

So far, the Malaysian government has not banned my book. But if it did I wouldn’t be surprised. The department has already outlawed more than a thousand books translated into Malay. Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” was banned because, according to the home minister, it “goes against Islamic teachings,” and even “endangers public harmony” — whatever that means. “Islam: A Short History,” a fairly sympathetic study by the best-selling author Karen Armstrong, was similarly banned for being “incompatible with peace and social harmony.” Read the rest of this entry »

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PAS, oppose a corrupt and oppressive gov’t, not DAP

by Syerleena Abdul Rashid
24th March 2016

COMMENT It is most unsettling that PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang would continue to demonise DAP in such an uncouth manner by using religion and race to push through his party’s far right wing agenda.

Given the present stream of hateful rhetoric out there, it is only inevitable and expected that some politicians much like Hadi would exploit the conservative political agenda that only reinforces Umno’s ‘divide and rule’ tactic.

Recently, through Utusan Malaysia, PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang had called for the unification of Malays to oppose opposition party DAP, whom according to him, “has bigger plans, more than just controlling the economy” – insinuating that the Muslim Malays in this country will suffer great oppression in the hands of a ‘Chinese chauvinist’ party.

As slanderous as it sounds, remarks like this verify the intricacies of fear mongering by unscrupulous political leaders and this is extremely harmful.

Malaysians must understand that proponents of conservative views necessitate rational discourse based on facts that are absolutely free from emotions and pious fervor. Malaysia is in fact a multicultural country where Islam and Malay rights are protected in our federal constitution. Read the rest of this entry »

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Malaysians can contribute to the international dialogue among Muslim and social democrats to draw on the values and principles of Islam and social democracy to establish a common core agenda for a free, just and good society

DAP’s contribution in the beginning of this series of dialogues among Muslim and social democrats have its genesis in the fact-finding visit by DAP MPs to Jordan and Egypt in April, followed by a visit to Tunisia and Turkey in October, last year.

It stems from the belief that Malaysians can contribute to the international dialogue among among Muslim and social democrats to draw on the values and principles of Islam and social democracy to establish a common core agenda for a free, just and good society.

It is recorded that during Prophet Mohammad’s time, there were about 5,000 people in pre-Islam Mecca and the first batch of Muslims numbered 60 – 70 people.

In pre-islam Medina, there were about 15,000 people. The ratio during the War of Badr in 623 AD had been given as 313 Muslims and 1,100 non-Muslims.

Today, over 1,400 years later, Islam is the second largest religion in the world with some 1.6 billion adherents, and is set to become the world’s largest religion by 2070, ending two millenniums of Christian dominance.

The question which must challenge mankind down the ages is how they could contribute to the development of knowledge and wisdom when Muslims could grow from a few thousand followers to 1.6 billion adherents in 1,400 years. Read the rest of this entry »

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Breaking our silence

Lyana Khairuddin
The Malaysian Insider
2 March 2016

It has been quite a week for all of us affiliated with The Malaysian Insider.

The outpouring of support from the public only amplified the debate on our freedom of expression and access to information. It appears that Malaysians collectively need to stand up for our rights, to be empowered by information and be allowed critical thought process rather than continue to be infantilised by the powers that be.

Further, the decision to block a whole website over one article seems an over exaggeration. The impact is an oppressive silencing of many diverse Malaysian voices that is allowed a platform through this portal.

We are now forced to be outsiders, yet our concerns and voices remain Malaysian. Read the rest of this entry »

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Umat Islam atau menteri keliru?

Amin Iskandar
The Malaysian Insider
21 February 2016

Apabila menteri atau timbalan menggunakan hujah “mengelirukan umat Islam”, persoalan sering kali timbul dalam sanubari penulis, apakah benar umat Islam begitu lemah sehingga mudah dikelirukan atau pemimpin itu sendiri yang sering keliru?

Di sebuah negara di mana majoriti penduduknya beragama Islam, pemimpinnya Islam, media arus perdana dikuasai orang Islam jika mereka masih lagi mudah dikelirukan, ertinya, umat Islam di Malaysia merupakan yang paling lemah di dunia.

Ketika mengharamkan penggunaan kalimah Allah bagi bukan Islam satu ketika dulu, hujah “mengelirukan umat Islam” turut digunakan.

Terbaru dalam isu restoran menggunakan tanda “tiada babi”, Timbalan Menteri Di Jabatan Perdana Menteri Datuk Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki berkata, tindakan akan diambil kepada pengusaha kerana mengelirukan umat Islam. Read the rest of this entry »

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What other intellectual and mental prowess and feats are University of UMNO “graduates” capable of?

In the last two days, “graduates” of University of UMNO have been showing off their intellectual and mental prowess and feats.

The first was the new UMNO information chief, Tan Sri Annuar Musa who declared that the RM2.6 billion donation deposited into Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s personal banking account is “not a big sum” to face one general election.

Can Annuar share with ordinary Malaysians who do not have benefit of being ”graduates” of University of UMNO what would be “a big sum” to face one general election in Malaysia – RM50 billion, RM100 billion or RM200 billion?

Malaysia’s election laws stipulate that the maximum expenditure legally permissible for a parliamentary candidate is RM200,000 while the maximum legal expenditure for a State Assembly candidate is RM100,000.

With 222 Parliamentary seats and 505 State Assembly seats contested in the 13th General Elections, this meant that the maximum election expenditures permitted by Malaysian election laws came to RM44.4 million by all UMNO/BN’s 222 Parliamentary candidates and RM50.5 million by the 505 UMNO/BN State Assembly candidates, or a total of RM94.9 million – just short of RM100 million!

The RM2.6 billion “donation” to Najib is 26 times more than the legally permissible election expenditures for all the 222 Parliamentary and 505 State Assembly candidates from UMNO/Barisan Nasional.

But this is clearly only “chicken-feed” for fighting one general election as far as the new UMNO Information chief is concerned. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Amman Message and intra-Muslim peace

— Syed Farid Alatas
Malay Mail Online
February 1, 2016

FEBRUARY 1 — Hostility between Sunnis and Shiites has become a dominant feature of intra-Muslim relations today. Indeed, the first decades of the 21st century will be known as a period of protracted conflict between these two major denominations of Islam.

Twelver Shiites, who form up to 29 per cent of the global Muslim population, are in the majority in Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Iran and Iraq. They also constitute important minorities in countries such as Lebanon, Kuwait, Turkey, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.

The history of Islam is characterised by numerous instances of violence and hostility between Sunnis and Shiites. The confrontations were often initiated by Sunni rulers and, sometimes, by the religious elite who were co-opted by the state. Read the rest of this entry »

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The illiberal threat to Islam

Zairil Khir Johari
The Malaysian Insider
25 January 2016

Central to the idea of liberalism, be it political, economic or social in context, is human agency – the capacity for individual human beings, acting rationally, to make choices deemed to be in their best interest.

However, freedom of choice and conscience alone is insufficient if it is not complemented by the necessary space, both in the personal sphere and the public realm, to act upon those choices without discrimination or victimisation.

Conversely, illiberalism refers to the lack of such fundamental freedoms. An illiberal polity is, therefore, one where diversity is not tolerated, and where being different invites persecution, whether by society or the state.

It is one where conformity is not only approved of, but even coercively imposed. In Islamic terms, it is where ijtihad (independent reasoning) is suppressed and taqlid (to follow blindly) is expected.

In an illiberal state, speech and expression are censored and dissent is suppressed. In most cases, citizens are kept in check through the fear of an existential threat – often through the construction of an “other”. Read the rest of this entry »

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‘The Economist’: While Indonesia fights Islamic State, Malaysia politicises Islam

Malay Mail Online
January 24, 2016

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 24 ― Indonesian social movements are attempting to counter jihadist influence, but the Malaysian government has completely politicised Islam until there is little space for more peaceful interpretations, The Economist said.

In an analysis of the Jakarta bombings published yesterday, the London-based weekly publication noted that supporting or joining the Islamic State (IS) is not illegal in Indonesia, though the Indonesian government is considering preventive detention laws to curb terrorism.

“The country’s two biggest Muslim social movements — Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama — have been trying to counter jihadist propaganda.

“In Malaysia, however, the government itself has thoroughly politicised Islam, leaving little room for dissent from its harshest rules. A study last year found more than 70 per cent of Malaysia’s ethnic-Malay, Muslim, majority support hudud laws such as stoning for adultery. Another found that 11 per cent of Malays viewed IS favourably,” said The Economist in an article titled “After Jakarta.” Read the rest of this entry »

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What Indonesia Knows About Blocking the Islamic State

Joshua Kurlantzick
January 20, 2016

Smart strategy has made the largest Muslim-majority nation a tough environment for the Islamic State.

In the wake of last week’s attacks in Jakarta, which killed seven people, fears are growing that the largest Muslim-majority nation in the world is going to be hit by a wave of Islamic State-linked bombings and shootings. The potential for mayhem seems obvious. Indonesia’s open society and high social media penetration make it easy for young Indonesians to access Islamist sites and Facebook pages, and the Sunni Muslim insurgency has released several videos in Indonesian in an apparent recruiting effort.

Indonesia is a country of thousands of islands, with porous borders and many soft targets: The militants launched bombs and opened fire in broad daylight in one of the busiest neighborhoods in Jakarta. And Indonesians have fought in Syria and Iraq and returned. The Soufan Group, a consulting security consulting group, believes that at least six hundred Southeast Asians have traveled to Syria to fight with the Islamic State and then come back to their home countries. Indeed, the alleged ringleader of last week’s Jakarta attacks, a militant named Bahru Naim, is currently living in Raqqa, Islamic State’s hub. Read the rest of this entry »

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Enough of this nonsense! Malaysia was created as a secular nation

— Clive Kessler
Malay Mail Online
January 19, 2016

JANUARY 19 — Enough of this nonsense! Enough already!

Malaya and then Malaysia was created as a secular nation.

Denial of this basic fact has become commonplace in recent times.

The pioneers in promoting the revisionist myth that there was or is nothing secular in the nation’s origins or about its Constitution have been the creative legal innovators and myth-makers of the PPMM: Persatuan Peguam Muslim Malaysia (Malaysian Muslim Lawyers Association) –- notably Datuk Zainul Rijal Abu Bakar — and their like-minded associates in CENTHRA, the Putrajaya-based and Saudi-friendly Centre for Human Rights and Advocacy, headed by on Azril Mohd Amin.

Their lead is followed, and their disruptive views are echoed, by a horde of Utusan Malaysia scribes and ideologues and, in their wake, a claque of well-connected writers and publicists and ambitious politicos.

In the absence of any clear refutation, their increasingly unchallenged view now threatens to become “the default position”, the received and undeniable truth.

But are they right?

In short, no. And for three main reasons. Read the rest of this entry »

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Our politics created Malaysian Isis

– Saefullah Norhaidi
The Malaysian Insider
19 January 2016

I was recently in Kuala Lumpur when Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) carried out its attack in Jakarta, marking the entrance of a new terrorist movement, in the Southeast Asian region.

It is clear now, Isis wants its voice to be heard, its presence felt. I have no idea whether this has any connection to it, but that very evening, I saw police forces walking in the miscellaneous places we were walking around in Kuala Lumpur.

Now is definitely the time when governments in this region will start to become intensely vigilant and more vehement in deterring the harmful growth of Islamic radical movements in their respective countries. Read the rest of this entry »

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Indonesia Attack Brings Islamic State to Southeast Asia’s Door

Chris Brummitt and Rieka Rahadiana
January 15, 2016

A deadly gun-and-suicide bomb attack claimed by Islamic State in central Jakarta shows the growing reach of the jihadi network from outside its base in the Middle East.

The assault on a Starbucks cafe and a police post in the Indonesian capital, while unsophisticated, was the first in Southeast Asia to be directed or inspired by IS, and follows months of warnings by security officials that its members posed a threat to the region.

“Paris in November, Istanbul this week and Jakarta today,” Hugo Brennan, Asia analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, said on Thursday. “This latest attack can be seen as further evidence of Islamic State’s increasing ability to inspire deadly attacks in cities around the globe.”

For Indonesia, which has more Muslims than any other nation, it was a grim reminder of the resilience of a radical fringe that has existed since independence. In the 2000s, militants linked up with al-Qaeda to carry out a string of attacks, the last in Jakarta in 2009 on luxury hotels, but have been under pressure from a concerted crackdown by security forces. Read the rest of this entry »

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Are UMNO Ministers and leaders prepared, 66 years after Datuk Onn suggested it, consider opening UMNO doors to non-Malays to become an inclusive Malaysian political party?

The pathetic statement by the Communications and Multimedia Minister, Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak that fielding more Malay candidates in the next general elections does not make DAP a multiracial party is the latest proof of the narrow-minded and petty mentality of the present UMNO leadership, which is completely bogged down by the politics of race and the failure of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s 1Malaysia Policy.

Malaysia is a plural society and the racial, religious, linguistic and cultural diversity of the country is a national asset and not a liability.

Malaysians will continue to be Malays, Chinese, Indians, Dayaks, Kadazan-Dusun-Muruts, Orang Asli or Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Taoists, Sikhs but the success of Malaysian nation-building will be measured by our ability to create an overarching common national identity where we are Malaysians first and race, religion, region and socio-economic status second – in othe words, where despite our racial, religious, linguisticm, cultural and socio-economic differences, we accept each other as Malaysians first above all else.

In this context, UMNO Ministers and leaders like Salleh Said Keruak should welcome DAP reaching out to get more Malay, Dayak, Kadazan-Dusun-Murut and Orang Asli support and emulate the DAP example to graduate from Malay to become Malaysian leaders instead of decrying such a development.

Is UMNO prepared to emulate the DAP’s example and reach out to all non-Malays and non-Muslims by welcoming them into UMNO ranks? Read the rest of this entry »

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To fight Isis, US should encourage moderate Islamic agenda in Malaysia, says report

The Malaysian Insider
15 January 2016

The US should encourage Malaysia to pursue a “genuinely” moderate Islamic agenda if it wants to thwart militant group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis), according to a report titled “Indonesian and Malaysian Support for The Islamic State”.

The report, produced by the United States Agency for International Development, said Malaysia’s counter-terrorism efforts had achieved some success but was curtailed by government support for conservative Islamic interests.

It said Putrajaya’s right-wing bent, borne out of the need to arrest Umno’s declining support, alienated an important Muslim population that could have helped in combating the militants’ influence.

“At the broadest level, the US government should encourage and support genuinely moderate domestic Islamic agendas in both Indonesia and Malaysia,” read the report, published on January 6 and available online.

“In the Malaysian case, the moderate Islamic image it projects internationally is not reflected in domestic policy that is increasingly sectarian and hostile, not only to minority religious rights but also to progressive Muslim views.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Why Ibrahim Ali did not find me objectionable as anti-Malay and anti-Islam when he sought my help in the seventies to escape detention under ISA as a student leader?

It is amusing and comical that Perkasa chief Ibrahim Ali claims that he suffered sleepless nights after the DAP declared that it is not anti-Malay or anti-Islam.

He claimed to be shocked by the statement and said he could not sleep for 50 hours.

Clearly, Ibrahim Ali was still talking when sleep-walking.

Can Ibrahim explain why he did not find me objectionable as being allegedly anti-Malay and anti-Islam when he frantically sought my help as Parliamentary Opposition Leader when he was trying to escape detention under the Internal Security Act for his activities as a student leader in the seventies?

I had raised this issue once publicly some five years ago, and Ibrahim Ali did not dare to challenge the veracity of my statement.

This show the quality of leadership of the Perkasa chief. Read the rest of this entry »

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Can Prime Minister and Cabinet end the greatest injustice in the Najib premiership – ensure Indira Gandhi’s re-union with her daughter within 48 hours after the Prime Minister, Cabinet, Parliament and Judiciary have failed her for seven years?

Tomorrow is the Cabinet’s weekly Wednesday meeting.

One of the issues the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak and the 36 Ministers in the Cabinet must wrestle with is what they could to end one of the greatest injustices in the Najib premiership of six year nine months – where a mother had been forcibly separated from her 11-month old baby daughter not for one or two years but for seven years!

The Prime Minister, the Cabinet, Parliament and the Judiciary have all failed Indira Gandhi and the Constitution, the laws, the courts and the system of governance have been manipulated to deny Indira her fundamental rights as a mother to see, hold and touch her daughter!

The same week that Najib became the sixth Prime Minister of Malaysia in April 2009, Indira found that her three children had without her knowledge or consent been unilaterally converted to Islam by her ex husband, who had converted to Islam a month earlier.

That started Indira’s long and still unending legal battle for control and custody of her three children. Read the rest of this entry »

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The truth hurts

by Mariam Mokhtar
11th January 2016

Just because a Malay talks and writes about the injustice meted out to non-Muslims, it does not mean that the Malay is bashing his own race, nor is he denigrating Islam. Malays, in particular, refuse to acknowledge that most critiques are not about the religion, but are in fact criticisms of the Malays who have misinterpreted a particular phrase, or religious edict.

If PAS, Umno Baru and the respective religious institutions are critical in stopping alleged conversions of Malays to Christianity, why were there no mass conversions of Malays during the colonial era, when none of these political parties nor institutions existed?

Many Malays appear to see the conversion issue as a numbers game. Many Malays are also religious hypocrites. Read the rest of this entry »

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Saudi Arabia has bigger problems than Iran

— Tobin Harshaw
Malay Mail Online
January 8, 2016

JANUARY 8 —Saudi Arabia’s feud with Iran over the beheading of a prominent Shiah cleric led to a lot of overwrought speculation about Sunni-Shiah tensions rising to tear up the Middle East. Those more steeped in regional affairs point to the other 46 men beheaded, almost all of whom were Sunnis charged with terrorism.

The theory here is that the execution of the preacher, Nimr al-Nimr, was less about provoking Shiahs than pre-empting domestic outrage over the deaths of so many Sunnis, who make up 85 per cent of the country’s population. The kingdom has rarely been concerned with domestic opinion in its 90 years of statehood. Does Saudi Arabia now fear unrest among the masses? Should it?

Outside of North Korea and the New England Patriots, few institutions are more opaque than the Saudi royal court. But over the last year, the first in the reign of 80-year-old King Salman, the famously hidebound monarchy has undergone a shocking and risky makeover.

Salman, who took over last January 23 on the death of his half-brother King Abdullah, was widely expected to be just a caretaker. Instead, he took care of business. Within months, he replaced the anointed crown prince with his nephew Mohammed bin Nayef, the longtime interior minister. Yet he also watered down this new heir’s influence by dismantling the crown prince’s previously independent court.

The real winner was the king’s young son, Defence Minister Mohammed bin Salman, who became deputy crown prince and gatekeeper to those seeking the king’s attention. The prince was named head of the new Council of Economic and Development Affairs, which took over many powers of the finance ministry, and was given control over Saudi Aramco, the state-owned oil monopoly. (Yesterday, he suggested that the kingdom may consider selling a stake in the oil giant.) Read the rest of this entry »

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The Saudi blueprint

Jan 9, 2016

The desert kingdom is striving to dominate its region and modernise its economy at the same time

FOR years Saudi Arabia seemed inert, relying on its vast oil wealth and the might of its American patron to buy quiet at home and impose stasis on its neighbours. But oil prices have tumbled, America has stood back from leadership in the Middle East, the region is on fire and power has shifted to a new generation—notably King Salman’s 30-year-old favoured son, Muhammad bin Salman. A sandstorm of change is rousing the desert kingdom.

The visible result is the brutal treatment of dissent at home and assertiveness abroad that has just been on chilling display. On January 2nd Saudi Arabia executed 47 people. Most of them were terrorists linked to al-Qaeda but some, including a prominent Shia cleric, simply called for the fall of the ruling House of Saud. After Iranians set fire to the Saudi embassy in Tehran in protest, the kingdom cut diplomatic, trade and air links, a grave and foolish escalation in a febrile region.

Away from the headlines, however, a different assertiveness could prove equally consequential. Prince Muhammad has drawn up a blueprint designed to throw open Saudi Arabia’s closed economy and government—including, he says, the possible sale of shares in the national oil firm, Saudi Aramco.

Coupling geopolitical swagger with sweeping economic change is a gamble. The outcome will determine the survival of the House of Saud and shape the future of the Arab world. Read the rest of this entry »

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