Archive for January 10th, 2008

Eureka! But no…

Eureka! But no…

According to legend, more than 2,000 years ago, when Archimedes got into his bath and saw it overflow, he suddenly realised he could use water displacement to work out the volume and density of the king’s crown. Archimedes not only shouted “Eureka” – I have found it – he supposedly ran home naked through the streets of Syracuse in his excitement.

I was quite at a loss and almost given up the effort to try to understand why I could not update my blog and the signs of more and more of the WordPress functions breaking down, when I remembered a query by a poster whether I had configured the blog to reject the function embolding words. At the time, I did not really understand the query.

But this gave me a clue and I found that the use of the “bold” function in the WordPress 2.3.1 led to the rejection of the input, whether new blog or commentary. This led to other discoveries – the fatal role of most of the other WordPress functions in killing any update or new input.

This was why I was finally able to put up three blog items today, the latest article by Farish Noor on “The A, B and C of God” and two pieces of my media conference in Kampong Simee, Ipoh Timur this morning to launch “crime, law and order” as among the top general election themes in Perak state.

But I have not been able to use the WordPress functions whether to edit the blog like to “bold” or italicize passages, break up the blog, link to media reports, etc.

You will have to bear with the failure of the various WordPress functions until the WordPress glitches could be sorted out.


Samy Vellu should resign as Minister for continuing to work against the cause of Indians to end marginalisation

MIC President and Works Minister, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu was again snubbed by the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi in New Delhi while attending the “People of Indian Origin” Conference, after he had been conspicuously snubbed by the Tamil Nadu leader in Chennai last week, where Samy Vellu waited for three days for an appointment which never came!

Samy Vellu had said he wanted to explain to Indian leaders the “the real situation concerning the Indian community in Malaysia” but clearly the MIC President has lost all credibility in Tamil Nadu which has 70 million Tamils and no Tamil leader is prepared to lend him their ears.

Never before in his over 28 years as the sole Malaysian Indian Cabinet Minister has Samy Vellu brought more shame and dishonour to the MIC, government and Malaysia.

I call on Samy Vellu to resign as Works Minister not so much for being regarded as a “persona non grata” by the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and other Indian leaders, but because he has continued to work against the cause of the Malaysian Indians for justice and fair play and an end to their long-standing political, economic, educational, social, cultural and religious marginalization.

This is because Samy Vellu has continued to maintain that there had been no marginalization of the Malaysian Indians during his current visit to India – when he knows in his heart of hearts that this is untrue.

The least that Samy Vellu, as President of MIC which claims to represents the rights and interests of the two million Malaysian Indians, should so is to openly acknowledge the fact and reality of the marginalization of the Indians in Malaysia causing them to become the new underclass in the country – for it is only with the MIC ending its denial syndrome about the marginalization of the Malaysian Indians that the Barisan Nasional government could abandon its denial complex on the same issue.

Is Samy Vellu afraid of losing his Ministerial position should he speak the truth and own up to the marginalization of the Indians in Malaysia?


The A, B and C of God

The A, B and C of God

By Farish A. Noor

It has been a month now since Malaysia has been gripped in one of the most obscure and arcane of controversies over the use of the word ‘Allah’ by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. This must seem odd to foreigners for elsewhere in the world Muslims (such as the Muslims of Egypt) have no problem with their Coptic friends and neighbours using the word ‘Allah’ to refer to God. Why, even during the Coptic Christmas on 7th January the
Coptic Pope delivered his Christmas sermon with phrases like ‘Bismillah’ time and again. So why are the Muslims of Malaysia so obsessed with the idea of claiming a singular word for themselves?

For those who have studied the fundamentals of rational metaphysics in Islam, one of the first themes that is covered is often that of semantics and semiotics. Odd that many courses on rational metaphysics begins with the most fundamental of subjects itself: meaning and the relationship between the Signifier and the Signified, but then again as any scholar will alert
you, one cannot even begin to embark on the social production of knowledge without the ground rules of meaning and signification established in the first place.

The startling thing that the student learns soon enough may seem commonsensical, but crucial nonetheless: That signification is a socially determined, historically conditioned, relative and subjective phenomenon. Words mean what they do simply because the rules of signification have come to be settled by convention over time. There is no essential reason why the
idea of a tree has to be referred to with the word or symbol ‘tree’; but once that association is made then the rule for that sign is set (not necessarily in stone perhaps) and we stick to it. Otherwise even the most basic of conversations beginning with the word ‘Hello’ would not get off the ground, and we wouldn’t get very far would we?

The real difficulties arise, however, when we embark on discussions on loftier, more abstract matters like virtue, aesthetics, divinity and of course God. Here is where rational metaphysics gets sticky to a point.

For hundreds of years the Muslim world has witnessed the on-going polemic and contestation between the verificationists-positivists and the nominalists: In plain English, this refers to the dispute over how one reads scripture and how the mortal human mind interprets divine revealed knowledge. On the one hand there are the positivists who insist on empirical referents to everything that is said or signified, and who hence argue that
complex concepts like virtue and beauty are, literally, meaningless. Then on the other hand there are the nominalists who take the view that words mean what they do as we intend them to, and while empirical referents are not necessarily close at hand, the words nonetheless have meaning because they
are understood in a determined social context.

The Sufis or Muslim mystical philosophers who belong to the age-old tradition of Muslim metaphysics honed this principle to a high art, and in the lyrical ruminations and speculations of Maulana Rumi and his peers, we find the concept of divinity interrogated, explored, laid bare, adorned, embellished, dissected – all for the sake of trying to get to the Truth of the matter which the human mind, with its limited faculties, cannot encompass in its entirely. That is why, as the Sufis will remind you, there are so many names of God: From ‘Allah’, to ‘Gamal’, ‘Rahim’, ‘Rahman’ and so
forth, each of which point to a singular attribute of a divinity that is infinite. Perhaps one of the most enigmatic names of God is ‘Hu’; which during the dzikrs (recitations) of some Sufi mystics such as the followers of the Naqshabandiyya order, is pronounced ‘Who’. The Naqshabandis do not merely pronounce the word Hu, they even exhale and empty their lungs completely in a rhythmic sequence, again and again, to signify that even
speaking the name of God entails totally emptying – thus negating – your human self in the process; as if to suggest that God is all and the human is nothing.

With such a rich and complex history that points to an obvious understanding that the word ‘Allah’ is merely a symbol or sign and not the thing itself, why is it that the Muslims of Malaysia still demonstrate an understanding of normative Islam that is not only shallow, but also parochial and exclusive? To suggest that the word ‘Allah’ can only be used by Muslims as some of Malaysia’s leaders have done would suggest that God requires a copyright,
and that God would not be understood if you cannot get its name right.

Yet Islam, if it is to be the universal religion that it is, does not need an official language or uniform. Nor does it need to claim copyright to universal signifiers that are, after all, part of the common currency of public language. Once again, despite claims to being a ‘moderate’ Islamic state, the Malaysian government (or rather some of its leaders) have demonstrated a third-rate understanding of the subjects they are wont to prattle about. That this doesn’t say much about their understanding of Islam, linguistics and philosophy is bad enough; but worse still is how this reflects on Malaysia’s vainglorious ambition to present itself as a model Muslim state for others to follow. Perhaps the leaders of the country should get back to the basics, and focus more on the A, B, Cs of Islam once again…


Abdullah’s anti-crime multiprong strategy – just general election gimmick?

The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s expression of “worry” about the rising crime index and his announcement of a multi-prong strategy to combat crime lack seriousness and conviction, as they appear to be just election gimmicks to give Malaysians a false sense of security that something is being done to fight crime with the approach of the general election.

New Straits Times front-page headline yesterday, “CRIME RATE UP 13.4% – PM expresses alarm Announces remedial action” understates the gravity of the crime situation in Malaysia during the four-year Abdullah premiership.

The crime rate rose by 13.4 per cent last year but in the four years of Abdullah premiership, crime rate shot up by an even more alarming 45%.

When Abdullah became Prime Minister in October 2003, the crime situation was already out of control which was why one of his first reform promises and measures which won him all-round plaudits and support among Malaysians was the establishment of the Royal Police Commission to reduce crime to restore to Malaysians their twin fundamental rights to be free from crime and the fear of crime, whether in the streets, public places or the privacy of their homes.

After four years, Malaysia today is even more unsafe to its citizens, visitors, tourists or investors because of endemic crime.

In the past four years, the crime index had worsened from 156,315 cases in 2003 to 224,298 cases in 2007 – a sharp rise of some 45% when it should have gone down as recommended by the Royal Police Commission. For the first time in the nation’s 50-year history, the crime index last year crashed through the 200,000 psychological barrier. Women in Malaysia are now more unsafe today than four years ago – as the incidence of rape had more than doubled from a daily average of four women in 2003 to 8.5 women last year!

Is the five-prong anti-crime strategy announced by Abdullah adequate to make Malaysia a safer country than just four years ago before he became Prime Minister?

One of the five anti-crime strategies is to appoint civilians to administrative positions and thereby release police personnel for their main duties.

This is actually Recommendation No. 78 of the 125 recommendations of the Royal Police Commission to create an efficient, accountable, incorruptible, professional world-class police service to keep crime low, eradicate corruption and uphold human rights.

The Royal Police Commission proposed “Civilianising or outsourcing functions presently performed by uniformed personnel in PDRM, and re-deploying the uniformed personnel to core policing functions”. It said that such a move would immediately release 35,000 uniformed police personnel for core policing functions, i.e. fighting crime and catching criminals!

The Royal Police Commission provided a time-line for the implementation of this proposal – “In phases. Completion by May 2007”

This is January 2008 and the Prime Minister is still talking about this proposal of “appointing civilians to administrative positions to release police personnel” for their core police duties to fight crime and catch criminals! What a shame and disappointment!

DAP has decided make crime, law and order the top national theme in the next general election – which will be a first in the nation’s 50-year electoral history.

Today, we are here to launch in Perak state the DAP’s “Good Cops, Safe Malaysia” campaign theme for the next general election, starting with the visit to the Kampong Simee market just now.

Together with other DAP Perak state leaders, I will take part in a two-day whistle-stop campaign to take the DAP message of “Good Cops, Safe Malaysia” to all Malaysians as it is the basic right and expectation of all Malaysians, regardless of race, religion or political beliefs to enjoy personal safety and property security. Among the places I will visit in the weekend two-day whistle-stop campaign in Perak will be Ipoh, Teluk Intan, Taiping, Sungei Siput, Pantai Remis, Kampar and Bidor.

(Media Conference in Kampong Simee, Ipoh Timur, on Thursday, 10th January 2008 at 10 am)