Archive for September 26th, 2016

Excommunicating Saudis? A New Fracture Emerges in Islam

Wall Street Journal
Sept. 22, 2016

International conference in Russia’s Chechnya leaves out Saudis, creating fresh religious strife — this time within Islam’s Sunni sect

Political conflicts in the Middle East between the Saudi-led camp of Sunni powers and a rival Shiite camp led by Iran have already morphed into a religious war. Now, a theological dispute within Sunni Islam is causing another regional political rift — a result of an initially obscure conference in Russia’s Chechen Republic.

Chechnya’s strongman Ramzan Kadyrov — just re-elected with a modest 98% of the vote — is a follower of the Sufi current of Sunni Islam. The diverse and more mystical version of the Muslim faith is one long at odds with the puritan Islam promoted by Saudi Arabia and based on the teachings of 18th-century cleric Mohammed ibn Abdel Wahhab.

Normally, Mr. Kadyrov, a former Islamist rebel known for his fierce loyalty to President Vladimir Putin and for using his Instagram account to solicit citizens’ help in locating a missing cat, isn’t considered an authority on Islamic affairs, at least not outside Chechnya. But buoyed by Russia’s new influence in the Middle East after last year’s intervention in Iran-allied Syria, he managed to bring some of the Muslim world’s most famous luminaries to a conference in late August in the Chechen capital of Grozny.

The conference, co-sponsored by an Islamic foundation in the United Arab Emirates, was attended by the imam of Al-Azhar Grand Mosque in Cairo, advisers to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, influential Yemeni cleric Habib Ali Jifri and the mufti of Syria, among others. Its mission was no less ambitious than determining who qualifies to be a Sunni Muslim. Read the rest of this entry »


Najib should seek parliamentary support through a motion when Parliament reconvenes on Oct 17 to refute allegation that Malaysia has become a global kleptocracy

Together with three DAP MPs, Teresa Kok (Seputeh), Zairil Khir Johari (Bukit Bendera) and Steven Sim (Bukit Mertajam), we made a five-day visit to Jakarta and Jogjarkata to meet with leaders of political parties and Islamic organisations as well as public intellectuals to understand the development of Islam and democracy, and the dangers of Islamic extremism, in a country with the largest Muslim population of some 220 million out of a national population of 250 million people.

One thing that struck us during the discussions we had during our visit in Jakarta and Jogjarkarta was the central place of Pancasila among the major Indonesian political and intellectual leaders in the nation-building process in the country, as compared to Malaysia, where the “establishment” political and intellectual leaders have virtually forgotten about the Malaysian counterpart to Pancasila, the Rukun Negara!

Leaders of the two largest Muslim organisations in Indonesia, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, have no qualms in publicly stating, whether in private discussions or public forums, that their commitment to Pancasila was an important reason why the Islamic State concept was not suitable or appropriate for Indonesia, although it has the largest number of Muslims for any country in the world!

How many Malaysian political and intellectual leaders in the country are still committed to the five principles of Rukunegara, viz:

• Belief in God.
• Loyalty to King and Country.
• Upholding the Constitution.
• Rule of Law.
• Good Behaviour and morality. Read the rest of this entry »


Najib, Mahathir and the timing of Malaysia’s polls

Ooi Kee Beng
The Straits Times

According to its Constitution, Malaysia has to hold its next general election by Aug 24, 2018. That is still almost two years away. And yet, rumours of early elections persist, both at the state and federal levels.

This needs some explaining, given how Prime Minister Najib Razak waited until almost the last minute to go to the polls back in 2013.

The exercise to delineate constituency boundaries now being concluded heightens speculation that early polls are coming. Having lost its two-third majority since 2008, the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) has not been able to increase the number of parliamentary constituencies; it is now able only to realign the existing ones – or rename them. And that, it is doing.

That in itself is a substantive exercise of power, especially with the independence of the Election Commission that is in charge of the delineation being in serious doubt. Read the rest of this entry »

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