Jerusalem - don’t expect Muslim potentates to really care - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Monday, December 11, 2017
Malaysiakini : COMMENT | ‘Nobody wants peace in Middle East because peace is disruptive to entrenched interests.’ “I was only the more anxious to make Jerusalem a city like the
others, where several races and several beliefs could live in peace; but
I was wrong to forget that in any combat between fanaticism and common
sense, the latter has rarely the upper hand.” ― Marguerite Yourcenar, ‘Memoirs of Hadrian’
This outrage of US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem
as Israel’s capital from Muslim leaders the world over is manufactured
at best. They are thumping their chest (or so it seems) and their
misguided allies are warning of dire consequences of peace talks in the
Middle East coming to a halt. Nobody wants peace in the Middle East
because peace is disruptive to entrenched interests. The Trump administration (or maybe just Trump) had dispatched
son-in-law Jared Kushner (who looks and behaves like an extra from the
science fiction movie ‘Gattaca’) to broker a deal between the
Palestinians and Israelis. In typical Trump hyperbole, it was touted as
the deal of the century.
In an interview, Trump (photo) gave to Israeli media as reported in the Washington Post, he said
- “We are currently in a process that has been going on for a long
time. Decades. A lot of people think that it can’t be done. And a lot of
smart people around me claim that you can’t reach an agreement. I don’t
agree. I think we can reach an agreement and that we need to reach an
As usual, reality hit the Trump administration and if the reportin the New York Times is
credible, this deal of the century included the possibility of “direct
payment to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president [which he declined]”
and of course, Saudi threats of pressing for his resignation and
replacement of someone who would accept the lopsided deal favouring the
Israelis and promoted by the House of Saud.
The most convincing rationale for this turn in US foreign policy
comes from Shibley Telhami writing for the Brookings Institute – ‘Why is Trump undoing decades of US policy on Jerusalem?’
- in a nutshell - “That the Trump administration has already given up
on its ‘deal of the century’ and is looking for ways to pin the blame on
About the only thing that Bersatu supreme council member Rais Hussin gets right in his article
is that the House of Saud is close with the Trump administration and
that the Umno grand poohbah has again put himself in a compromising
position with US foreign and domestic policy. Too bad the demographic
that matters most to Umno will never be aware of this and any other of
Shadi Hamid another Brookings writer, writing for the Atlantic – ‘The Jerusalem announcement won't really hurt America's Arab alliances’
- accurately points out that the House of Saud could have drawn a red
line for this but chose not to. The House of Saud, like every other
Islamic front in the Middle East, is too busy making deals of their own
with Trump Inc and the reality is that the Palestinian issue, which at
one time always gained traction with mobs chaffing under Islamic rule,
is slowly becoming irrelevant because Muslim populations everywhere are
straining under the yoke of theocratic rule.
Nothing to lose
Two points from the Atlantic article are worth considering:
1. “Why would an Islamic state (Saudi Arabia) - one still governed by
a strict interpretation of Islamic law - be so seemingly at ease with
such an openly Islamophobic government (US)? Wouldn’t Trump’s incitement
against Muslims in early morning tweets give them pause? Thinking as
much would make the mistake of assuming that Muslim-majority countries,
even ones historically associated with Islam, are in any real sense
‘pro-Muslim’. They aren’t.”
2. “If only there were Arab governments that were confident, cared
about actual Muslims, and could reflect and convey the frustration that
no doubt many Arabs will be feeling in the days and weeks ahead. That
Arab world, as we’ve been reminded this week, does not exist.”
Meanwhile, Palestinians who actually live in the tragedy that various
power groups attempt to exploit, have a dispirited view of this move.
To get a better understanding of how some Palestinians who actually live
there think, read the article in Haaretz – ‘Palestinians voice despair over Trump’s Jerusalem decision:
Nothing left to lose’ - "For most Palestinians living in Jerusalem, Trump’s words pose little
to no threat, as they’ve got nothing left to lose: It’s not as if
before Trump delivered his speech, there were plans to set up a real
Palestine with Al Quds, as Jerusalem is called in Arabic, as its
capital. Over the years, despair at the prospect of a viable peace
solution and the feeling of abandonment by the Palestinian leadership,
Arab world and international community have become ingrained in the
residents of East Jerusalem."
Muslim potentates always use issues like these to divert the
attention of their subjects from the very real issues they face. Nowhere
is this clearer than in a relatively stable Muslim democracy like
Malaysia, where the Jerusalem issue has become another flash point for
opposition Muslim leaders to clash with the current Umno regime in an
attempt to burnish their Islamic credentials.
PAS leader Abdul Hadi Awang called on all Muslims despite their
divergent views to protest outside the US embassy because Jerusalem was
apparently the focal point of Muslim unity and in typical Muslim
Malaysian fashion called the act a “provocation”. The real question is,
why hasn’t Hadi Awang called on all Muslims despite their divergent
views to protest against a culture of corruption that has become the
norm in Malaysia?
Meanwhile, DAP leader Lim Guan Eng wants
Prime Minister Najib Razak to convey “the Malaysian people’s concerns
over Trump’s actions to the US government.” Really? Malaysian people’s? I
get that pandering to the Muslim vote is important, but please do not
lump all Malaysians in this charade. There are many different perspectives on this issue even within the
Muslim community here in Malaysia. The plight of the Palestinians is
more than just a religious issue, and to further official narratives
just to appease people who probably subscribe to racial and religious
supremacist values is hypocrisy at its finest. I do not subscribe to the
idea that we become “Malaysians” when foreign Muslim problems are
played up locally to galvanise the Muslim communities and to project a
facade of religious and ethnic solidarity.
The Jerusalem issue is just another way for Muslim potentates to tell
their subjects to look here when they should be looking anywhere but
where they are directed.
Zaid Ibrahim and the perils of speaking one’s mind - - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Sunday, December 10, 2017
Malaysiakini : The only real radicalism in our time
will come as it always has - from people who insist on thinking for
themselves and who reject party-mindedness.” - Christopher Hitchens, ‘Christopher Hitchens and His Critics: Terror, Iraq, and the Left’
COMMENT | I have no idea how this
saga with former minister Zaid Ibrahim and his persecutors will end.
When the last principled politician spoke truth to power, he made two
statements that sum up the mess we are in now:
1. "I hope the royalty will not delve in politics. If it does, then it must be prepared to be criticised for whatever they say."
2. "The question of being anti-royalty does not arise. The Tengku
Mahkota of Kelantan saw it fit to descend into the political arena by
making a statement early this month that the non-Malays should not ask
for equal rights."
These are two powerful statements of principles from the late Karpal Singh.
The irony is, of course, Zaid said more or less the same thing when he responded to the Selangor sultan (photo).
For his defence of the former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, he
invited the usual charges of being anti-Malay and anti-royalty. He also
discovered that he had no “friends” in the opposition who were willing
to stand with him in his time of need.
When Tony Pua claimsthat
Selangor DAP has “no position” on this issue, it is complete horse
manure. A member of your political party makes a provocative statement
and DAP has no stand on this issue, and going so far as to declare that
his statement does not reflect on the party in any way because he is not
an office bearer. Does this make any sense?
Either you disagree with the statements Zaid made and make it clear
that DAP does not condone engagement with the royalty this way – which
would be strange - or, you delicately phrase a response which does not
make you sound like an arrogant political operative who just wants to
save the party's skin. It does not matter if Bersatu Youth wants Zaid to
apologise, which is at least a position taken but rather that Zaid is
from your party and has defended DAP numerous times against the assaults
of the establishment and their proxies.
Partisans claim that getting involved in this dispute is just falling
into an Umno trap, but the reality is that, Umno will always use
provocations to paint the DAP as anti-Malay. Pua’s statement is more
damaging than anything Umno can do because it makes those Malays who
stick their neck out realise that they will not receive any support for
their efforts. They will only be used as window dressing when it suits
the purposes of oppositional political elites and thrown to the hounds
when they make statements that most feel are right but are politically
In addition, what does “would have to deal with whatever
repercussions that come” mean? Zaid is being vilified by the outsourced
thugs of Umno. He has been threatened by establishment figures and
harassed by the same people who claim that DAP is anti-Malay and wish to
destroy Malay institutions, and the best DAP can come up with is to cut
Speaking truth to power
Imagine if Zaid had said the same thing when DAP political operatives
incurred the wrath of establishment figures for making provocative – in
the Malaysian context – statements. Imagine if he played the game like
Amanah, Bersatu and PAS instead of clearly articulating his stand on
issues such as race and religion, which many Malays actually subscribe
to but are afraid to voice out. Come on, anytime there were religious
and racial provocations, Zaid was the first in the fight defending the
secular and constitutional rights of all Malaysians.
When I interviewedZaid (photo),
he said – “I always believe it's better to state the right positions
clearly and unambiguously on core delicate issues even if it means we
have to ‘lose’ some support in the beginning. Politics is not just
winning; but about doing the right thing. Long-term goals are equally
The problem here is that people think that by cutting Zaid loose, it
absolves them from this fiasco. But the real problem is that every
Malaysian who wants to save Malaysia is part of this problem. We were
part of this problem when Karpal spoke truth to power and we are a part
of it now. Yes, the establishment is going to vilify you. They are doing it
already. But now every Malay who understands that he or she needs to
speak truth to power will understand that if they belong to DAP, they
are on their own. This is far more damaging than anything the
establishment can do.
And for establishment types, the narrative will be that Zaid got what
he deserved by joining the “Chinese” dominated DAP, who only used him
to run down the Malay community. Right now, they are shovelling great
huge dollops of schadenfreude down their mouths. I know, because some of
them call me gloatingly about Zaid’s latest “blunder”.
If I were DAP, I would have just issued a statement along these lines making three important points:
1. DAP prays for the safety of Zaid and his family. 2. DAP does not believe that Zaid is anti-royalty or a traitor to the Malay race. 3. DAP respects the royal institutions of this country.
This would have been the honourable thing to do. I have no idea what Zaid will do now. Seeking protection from the man
who advocates kenduri kendara gangsters seems tragic but understandable
under the circumstances. In this climate, Malay opposition
personalities get it worse and Zaid has done enough for the opposition.
An Umno friend told me, even though there may be no evidence that Umno
is still strong, but Umno can still take down the opposition.
The coming days will see changes in the narrative. Zaid will either
become a symbol of saving Malaysia or an object of derision. Either way,
he is still not going to have any friends in the political elite.
No evidence that Umno is still strong - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Friday, December 08, 2017
Malaysiakini : “Some creatures are weak, but they
survive because they're being protected by the strong for one reason or
another. You may think that, because of the circles you move in or
whatever, that you're one of the strong creatures, but you're not,
you're one of the weak ones. That's nothing against you, you're just
weak because you're young. But you've survived because you've been
protected by the strong. But they're not strong anymore, and they're
certainly not able to protect you.” – Animal Kingdom (Australian crime drama)
COMMENT | "Do not take lightly
the challenges posed by that Umno splinter party. Though we are certain
Umno is stronger and greater, do not forget that this 'flower' party
will dip our supporters. So let there be more no more cracks and
fissures in Umno. The more fractured we are, the more supporters we will
lose to them (PPBM)," sagely intones Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin in the ongoing Umno general assembly.
The problem is that Umno is not “stronger or greater” than how it was
during the Mahathir era. This is why it has to make uncomfortable
alliances with its sworn enemy PAS. This is why new laws such as the
National Security Council Act has to be introduced. This is why outsourced thugs like the red shirts have to roam the
political landscape threatening and intimidating all and sundry,
especially Malay opposition figures. This is why the royalty has to make
overt political statements condemning Malay oppositional figures and
reminding them not to destroy the Malay community or burn the country.
This is why millions of ringgit have to be pumped into the electorate
and electoral delineation exercise have to be carried out. This is why
Sabah and Sarawak have to be threatened with severe punishments if they
step out of line. This is why the Chinese community has to be vilified
and condemned as harbingers of doom to Malay institutions like the royal
houses and the sanctity of Islam. If a political party were strong, they would not have to resort to such measures.
My first two columns or thereabouts for Malaysiakini was
about the fracturing of the Malay community. It was a response to
Khairy’s badgering of the DAP on the actual numbers of Malays joining
the political party and generally about the race politics of this
country. Khairy has at one time or another attempted to redefine the
concept of “Ketuanan Melayu” to “Kepimipinan Melayu” but the reality is
that you cannot rationally redefine a racist concept into something
logical and benign.
As I have argued before,
“The concept of Malay has changed so dramatically over the years
through the social engineering agenda of Umno, these days it would be
easier for the divergent forms of political and religious ideologies
which manifest in the Malay community to further fracture the concept of
‘Ketuanan Melayu' and in the end, the Umno choke hold.” Umno began its slow descent when charismatic political prisoner Anwar
Ibrahim redefined the political landscape after he was ejected from
Umno paradise, but more importantly, when the opposition realised that
regime change was a group effort that involved the sublimation of
political egos and good-faith compromises.
While the current Umno grand poohbah can dream that Umno will survive
1,000 years, the reality is that Umno people are wondering if it can
survive the next election. Prime Minister Najib Razak’s fear that the
Malays will be “bangsat” in their own land is a self-fulfilling prophecy
of his own making. The reason why the Malay polity is fractured is
because for decades, Umno ignored the simmering class tensions within
the Malay community.
No, that is incorrect. For decades, Umno exploited the simmering
class tensions within the Malay community. This idea that the Malays
will lose power is slowly wearing thin because if anything, the Malays
already realise that they are becoming foreigners in their own lands.
While rural Malay enclaves are for the moment safe from foreigners, the
high cost of living, social problems and the numerous other
institutional failures that urban polities can withstand, are slowly but
surely agitating the rural Malay underclass.
It is pointless pushing the “Malay” rights line because it is an idea
of diminishing returns, much like the antics of the red shirts - “It is
also important to note that these red shirts are the dying embers
caught up in a fast-changing geopolitical struggle that will ultimately
undermine whatever notions of ‘ketuanan Melayu’ privilege they think is
owed. The corrupt regime that they choose to defend, that colony of
thieves and plunderers will soon pay homage to a regional power, or
maybe regional powers, whose influence will change the Malay community
in ways that one could never fathom.” I have no idea how on one hand, you can claim that your political party is not “anti-Chinese”
and on the other, claim that the Malays will lose their privileges and
institutions if the “Chinese” dominated DAP comes into power with its
Malay proxies. It is this kind of delusions that has fractured the Malay
community and weakened Umno.
Realpolitik demands that the expectations of the various communities
here in Malaysia be addressed in a way that ensures some sort of
equilibrium. However, because Umno is in a weakened state, the desire to
maintain hegemony in a fractured polity means that you have to say and
do things, or you think you have to say and do things, which could burn
this country down. When people realise that being Malay does not necessarily mean you
have a better life, and that being in Umno means you are entitled to
ride on the gravy train, people will naturally get angry and disruptive.
This is why Umno demonises everyone from politicians to jazz queens
for pointing out that the system is failing the average citizens of this
country. It is pointless attacking the messengers because ultimately
the messengers are not the ones the ordinary rakyat will blame when they
can’t buy food, or lose out on jobs and realise that their way of life
is in danger because of debts they had nothing to do with.
The irony is that what made Umno strong in the past - religion, race
and certainly, former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad - is what is
making Umno weak now.
Malaysiakini : “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” - Joseph Nye Welch to Senator Joseph McCarthy. Welch was chief
counsel for the US Army while it was under investigation for communist
activities by McCarthy's Senate Permanent Subcommittee on
COMMENT | This is the state of
Malay/Muslim politics now. We have one Malay potentate accusing another
of being a kleptocrat and in return, the alleged kleptocrat accuses his
accuser of concealing, cheating and abetting in a financial scandal that
occurred decades ago. With this in mind, what can we make of Pahang
Umno chief’s contention that non-Muslim students “are aware of Islamic teachings that emphasise on building character in every aspect of life.”
Apparently, Pahang Umno condemns any quarters who attempt to
politicise this issue of schools in Kuantan compelled to hold
after-school prayers before Muslim students can go home. Well, if
non-Muslim students are not allowed to leave school until after these
prayers, then you bet your last ringgit that someone like me, and
hopefully the parents of those non-Muslims students caught in this
ruling, would speak up.
We do not politicise religion in this country. Political elites
politicise religion in order to maintain hegemony. Religion is
politicised when the state claims that it is the sole arbiter of what
defines Islam in this country. Religion is politicised when schools are
compelled to hold after-school prayers. Religion is politicised when the
state sanctions Muslims who offer different interpretations from
state-sanctioned dogma. Religion is politicised when non-Muslims are
banned from using certain words deemed sacred to Muslims (only) in
Malaysia. Religion is politicised when non-Muslims are warned not to
interfere in Islamic affairs when it intrudes in their lives.
Forcing non-Muslim students (if this is the case) of staying in
school while their Muslim contemporaries recite their prayers does not
foster mutual understanding and tolerance. Instead what it demonstrates
yet again, non-Muslims have to abide by Islamic dictates in public
Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Asyraf Wajdi Dasuki (photo) reminds us
(again) that “good moral values”, not a comprehensive legal system,
will curb corruption. Here is the thing. He is only half-correct and
where he is wrong he is very wrong.
What will curb corruption are independent systems of enforcement and
an electorate which believes that independent branches of government
will save Malaysia. What will not curb corruption is a majority of the
electorate that believes that their religion and race are under threat
and politicians who assure them that that belief is justified to ensure
that the cookie jar will not snap shut on their hands. Asyraf reminds Malaysians that although there are issues of
“weaknesses and leakage” - why not just say corruption - that Malaysia
is not a failed state. Really?
A few months ago, 21 children died in a
religious school fire in a safety hazard set ablaze by other young
people and this was the response of the government – “The Umno establishment response to the problem is to throw more
money at these religious schools, some of which are undocumented. How
much money - our tax ringgit - has been lost because of leakages over
the long Umno watch? How much money has been lost because religious
confidence men and women have played the system and profited from it?”
With a straight face, we are told that the government wants to
produce a generation of Muslims who are balanced in the matters of the
world and hereafter. With a straight face, we are told that this
generation would be better suited to developing this country in a
balanced manner. Who does the deputy minister think he is talking to
when he makes these claims? I could hazard a guess, but what would be the point?
Khalwat at Umno AGMs
When we have a former Puteri Umno member now turned PAS acolyte reminding us that incidents of khalwat are rife
in Umno general assemblies, this is something that has been an open
secret for years. Say what you want about PAS but either they are
better at hiding their illicit activities during their general
assemblies or maybe they are just too busy plotting how to turn this
country into an Islamic paradise, but incidents of illicit behaviour are
not as overt as they are in Umno shindigs. Indeed, she is absolutely correct. Why are the state religious departments suddenly quiet? The answeris
in our voyage to become an Islamic paradise – “Muslims are at the mercy
of state religious departments. Muslims are subjected to the whims of
the syariah courts. Of course, this is also class dialectic. Muslims
elites do not face the kind of Islamic music that their average, less
economically advantaged brethren get.”
What politicians (opposition and establishment) should understand is
this. Using religion because you are ethically bankrupt or
intellectually incapable of formulating policies that would actually
save Malaysia is not something that is productive in the long term. If
the establishment thinks that is fooling their rural vote banks, they
are mistaken. What it is really doing is making them resentful and
filled with righteous belligerence that the state has failed them and
only retreating to an austere form of Islam will save Malaysia.
Meanwhile, urban Muslims caught in the crossfires of racial hegemons
vying for power are left voiceless and stranded by the wayside. Coupled
with Islamic agitators carrying grievances from who knows where, the
result is a tinderbox of clashing expectations and economic anxieties
which is fertile ground for non-state sponsored Islamic extremism.
Maybe Muslim students can learn something about the religions of
non-Muslim students. Maybe this could help save Malaysia since
mainstream interpretations of the state-sponsored religion have brought
us to two men defining the other as traitor to their race and religion.
Surely there is something in Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism and
Sikhism that Muslim students could discover that emphasises character
building? Certainly, there must be something is those religions and our
communities that makes non-Muslims economically successful and not
dependent on state welfare and in a better socio-economic position than
the privileged majority of this country.
This last part, of course, is a source of tension for the “Malay”
community or so political rhetoric from mainstream Umno politicians
would have us believe. Better yet, why not just leave religion out of
our public educational institutions because this is supposed to be a
place of education, not faith.
UM's bully tactics will not bear fruit - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Monday, December 04, 2017
Malaysiakini : COMMENT | "You
should embrace your culture. You should be proud of who you are and
your background. And how you worship God is going to be different, and
those are things that you should be proud of. But it shouldn’t be a tool
to look down on somebody else. It shouldn’t be a reason to
discriminate." – Barack Obama, in speech delivered at Universiti Malaya
I received this email from a young university student asking me to write about the recent suspension of the Chinese Language Society of Universiti Malaysia. I also received an email about the “gag order”
from UM prohibiting students and staff from making verbal or written
statements that would have “negative implications” on the government or
the university, from another student who wanted me to write about this
To be honest, I am not into this Chinese language or Indian language
or whatever other kinds of cultural societies that always seem to crop
up in Malaysia. I get why Malaysians join them, especially in
educational establishments where young people are discovering themselves
and each other, but I have never been interested in joining cultural
groups just because it is assumed that people in such societies are
simpatico with one another.
However, this young student really impressed me with the honesty in
her rambling email about what it means to be Chinese and Malaysian and
how the two were not mutually exclusive, and I was really surprised that
this young Malaysian was interested in her country, despite the
systemic inequalities she faces because of her ethnicity and gender.
The young student wrote eloquently about what the society meant to
her. While she did not elaborate on what dialect she was referring to
when she wrote about the society, what she did make clear was how much
she learnt about her culture and community and how it enriched her life.
She was adamant that the society did not intentionally skirt whatever
regulations they were in breach of, and she was extremely upset that the
society was suspended.
Meanwhile, the other young student who wrote to me was concerned that
his activism off campus would conflict with this gag order – as I was
typing this sentence, I actually mistakenly typed “gaga” order – and
that his academic pursuits would be jeopardised. This is why both wanted
to remain anonymous. I thought it was somewhat funny actually. Here the university wants
to cut down on bad press, but issues orders that invite the very thing
it wants to avoid.
I read the reasons why the Chinese Language Society was suspended,
and the only reasonable conclusion any rational person could come to is
that the university is being unreasonable, petty and engaging in
bullying tactics. The same applies to the gag order, which Azmi Sharom (photo) rightly points out is “repulsive and obtuse.”
The reality is that while there is a section of young people who are
apathetic about the democratic process, there is a young demographic who
are engaged with it, and these young people are studying in public
universities. Now, I am not saying that the UM Chinese Language Society is a
political society, but by curtailing its activities for no good reason,
the university and the government are just making clear how pernicious
they are when it comes to enforcing rules and regulations on young
people who are supposed to be acquiring an education, and all that that
What exactly has the Chinese Language Society done which warrants a
suspension? Have they made any statements or participated in political
activities outside the confines of the university? Have they engaged in any kind of “anti-establishment” activities?
Have they rallied students to engage in the democratic process? Anyone
reading this would, of course, ask: so what if they did this?
Apparently, here in Malaysia, young people in universities are not
allowed to be politically active. Go figure.
Just a bunch of kids exploring their culture
They are just a bunch of kids exploring their culture and language,
but what does that get them in an environment where racial and religious
politics seep through everything? Do not blame me or anyone else who thinks that this is a racial issue
because Malay university students have defended “Malay-only”
institutions as a right, and nothing has happened to them. I am not
talking about Malay students who have been victimized because of their
political views, but rather, students who have been involved in
activities that any rational person would realise would bring disrepute
to the university. Indeed, politicians and activists have joined them in rejecting any
kind of egalitarianism that would disrupt Umno norms in this country.
So, when I read that the heinous crime they committed was that there was
no Malay or English translations on some sign the society put up, I can
only laugh and think this is just another way the authorities are
sticking it to the non-Malays.
In addition, concerning that gag order. In 2008, University Teknologi Mara (UiTM) students marched
to then Selangor menteri besar Khalid Ibrahim’s office because he dared
moot the idea of opening that particular educational institution to
non-Malays. This is serious “political activism” and it would bring negative
implications to the university and government – if the university and
government were not conspiring with the students, that is. No wonder
public universities are their own little fiefdoms, where behaviour which
is anathema in one university is embraced in another. Azly Rahman, in writing of that fiasco, correctly pointed out
that it is the systemic dysfunction that fuels this kind of backward
thinking. “But these students are not entirely at fault. It is the
ideology and perpetrators of the ideology of undur(retreat)
itself that's at fault. It is the leaders implementing the
retrogressive ideology that is at fault… It is the systematic
indoctrination programme of ketuanan Melayu run over the decades that are advancing this UiTM philosophy of retreat.”
Then, of course, in 2002, there was that whole Akujanji loyalty
pledge that faculties all over the country decided was something
beneficial to sign because of “economic” implications. Lim Kit Siang (at
his best) rightly claimed –“ the Akujanji for
civil servants and academicians raises the question on whether the
government has lost sight of ‘core’ civil service values with selection
and promotion based on merit, political impartiality and giving the best
independent advice to government… The pledge is even more inappropriate
for public universities as it threatens their freedom to teach,
research, publish and to speak extramurally.”
These bullying tactics are not new. It is the same old bull manure,
recycled every few years when the regime is in trouble and easy targets
are needed to demonstrate that the regime is in control. What have these
measures done for the government? If anything, it has made young people who do vote and who do go to
public universities more anti-establishment. They have made academicians
cautious about putting forth ideas that would have a negative impact on
their economic well-being, which means that the government does not get
to hear the ideas that would improve the lives of people because
academicians are afraid to unpack the baggage that weighs the government
Ultimately, what these bullying tactics do is make Malaysians more
divided and distrustful of the establishment. Incidents like these make
people more likely to resort to emotional arguments instead of rational
ones because the government has demonstrated that it does not behave
You’re only corrupt once you leave Umno - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Saturday, December 02, 2017
Malaysiakini : Paris, Thursday July 29, 1830 ... The
city was gripped by rioting and armed insurrection as the people rose in
revolt against the king of six years, Charles X. Veteran diplomat Count Talleyrand looked out of the window of his
home at the Place de la Concorde. In the distance, church bells were
being rung, and the tricolour was being raised from the top of a
building nearby. "We're winning!" he remarked to his secretary. "Who is 'we', mon Prince?" came the reply. Talleyrand held a finger to his lips. "Not a word!" he said. "I will tell you tomorrow." ― Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord
COMMENT | The speed in which the
current Umno regime has lodged a report with the state security
apparatus to investigate the “recommendations” of the Royal Commission
of Inquiry (RCI) into the Forex losses is the apogee of the hubris and
lack of morality of the current government. The main targets of this report are political prisoner Anwar Ibrahim
and more importantly – he who must be neutralised at all costs – the de facto leader of the opposition and father (for good or bad) of modern Malaysia, former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Despite what proponents of this RCI may claim, this was the very
definition of a witch-hunt and the conclusions of this commission were
no doubt agreed upon before its very first sitting. It is seditious to
say this. What other conclusions can we draw from this? Indeed, what
other conclusions can we come to, when the heist of the century in the
form of the 1MDB fiasco remains clouded in bureaucratic denial and
If the ordinary rakyat have no faith in our democracy or public
institutions, it is because of the manner in which the political elite
use both to hunt down and destroy political dissent by any means
necessary. The cynical use of the state security apparatus to
“investigate” political adversaries for alleged crimes carried out
decades ago, while the country is mired in corruption, religious
provocations and crimes that destroy the fabric of our society points to
the reality that the current administration has no interests beyond
sustaining its hegemony.
There are two important points in the persecution of Mahathir or as I referred to it as the “Malaysian dilemma”. "Of course, the regime may actually incarcerate the former prime
minister. This is why all this talk about Mahathir’s financial scandals
are brought up by Umno minions and various state investigative bodies,
determined to find out ‘what exactly happened’. Umno does this because
they can lay the blame completely on Mahathir's door even though it
takes a hegemon to build a kleptocracy.
“If this happens, it is game over for Mahathir but more importantly,
it is game over for Malay oppositional forces in this country. If the
regime manages to silence Mahathir, they would effectively have managed
to silence that part of the Malay community that could affect regime
change and if they do this, they effectively destroy the opposition.
This, unfortunately, is the Malaysian dilemma."
We are living at a time when a high-ranking veteran Umno member can do business with North Korea and claim ignorance of international sanctions against that country and nobody in Umno bats an eyelid. What we are witness to is a possible criminal enterprise linked with
possible foreign intelligence services. This, of course, does not even
take into consideration the possible links between North Korean
intelligence services which does business here and possible collusion
with China operatives plying their trade in this country. Here is what I
wrote earlier on this issue – “Now let us look at the Umno veteran Mustapha Ya'akub’s defence of
facilitating what amounts to a North Korean spy/criminal enterprise here
in Malaysia. He claims –
“1. He was unaware of the international sanctions against North Korea. “2. That it was strictly business after his interaction with North Korean embassy officials. “3. A business was set up with two ‘madams’ and then later run by a
man from North Korea and that IGS (International Global System, which is
linked to Glocom) was closed down after he learnt there were sanctions
in place. “4. He started another business with the same North Korean but it did not work out.” To me, the corruption and bureaucratic negligence when it comes to
this type of issue is far more important, then what happened decades
ago. To be honest, if the current Umno regime could find a way to blame
Mahathir and Anwar for everything wrong in this country today, they
probably would. And yes, I see the irony in this statement.
Then and now
Meanwhile, the rest of the opposition is squeaking about like
headless chickens because this was an epochal corruption scandal of this
country and the most ardent voices of dissent against the Forex scandal
are now aligned with alleged masterminds of the sandal and who now
fight alongside them for regime change.
By far, this has been the most effective strategy in demonstrating
how the opposition is one of political convenience and while I am
disgusted by it, there is something to admire in the way how Umno has
managed – through no creativeness on their part – to throw the
opposition into disarray once again.
The idea of ‘who knew what and when’ it a load of horse manure. This
is politics Malaysian-style and it would be absurd to make the claim
that Umno potentates were in the dark of financial shenanigans on their
watch. Similarly, if the former prime minister and then finance minister
were in the know or misled or withheld information on that scandal, are
we to assume that all has changed in Umno culture in the intervening
Would it not be logical - nay, it is the only sane conclusion that we
could arrive at - that the current Umno grand poohbah and his deputy
are complicit in the current 1MDB scandal? Can we not assume that the
prima facie evidence of political corruption and bureaucratic
malfeasance in the 1MDB issue ultimately lands at the feet of the
current Umno masters of the universe? Do we need a RCI commission to
tell us this?
What I would really like to know is which other current Umno members
were involved in the forex losses. Of course, nobody in the
establishment is interested in that because people only seem to be
guilty of something when they leave Umno. It is as if as long as you are
in Umno, your sins are camouflaged with religious piety and racial
supremacy, which means you operate without consequences.
We survived the Forex scandal and indeed Umno thrived with huge
electoral wins. This is the cruellest twist of the blade in the sad
history of Malaysia. You could argue that the Forex scandal was the 1MDB
scandal of its day. The only thing we can learn from this is that you
are only corrupt once you leave Umno.
The kingdom and Hadi Awang - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Wednesday, November 29, 2017
Malaysiakini : "We are returning to what we were before - a country of moderate Islam that is open to all religions and to the world." - Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
COMMENT | It should surprise no
one that when Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman makes the
claim that he wants to return the kingdom to its “moderate” roots, it is
greeted with overt scepticism.
The Washington Post did a good overview
of said scepticism some of which sounds achingly familiar – “If those
reforms fail, Saudi Arabia could eventually run out of money, which
would constitute a major political risk to the leadership of a kingdom
in which many are employed by the state, or rely on de facto
state subsidies. After decades of reluctance to embrace societal or
economic changes, Saudi Arabia now appears to be pursuing both - at
While I fall into the “wait and see” camp, there are signs that
something is happening in the way how Saudi Arabia is reacting to the
way how it has enabled Islamic extremism the world over. Sure, the prince has a Vision 2030 for the kingdom that includes the creation of a sovereign wealth fund - read here
- that no doubt raises a few eyebrows here in Malaysia. The reality
(for the time being at least) is that Islamists the world over, who for
years were coddled by the House of Saud, are in a state of confusion,
which is preferable than the state of toxicity they create everywhere
PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang may be quivering with rage
over the announcement that certain Gulf states including the once
cherished kingdom has placed the organisation he is vice-president - the
International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS) - on a terror list, but
the reality is that Islamists all over the world who once looked at the
kingdom as that bright shining exemplar of Islamic supremacy, have been
caught with their pants down by the moves of the young prince.
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed writing for Arab Newsdescribed
IUMS thusly – “Since its inception, which coincided with the rise of
Al-Qaeda, the IUMS has represented a threat to Islamic societies and
moderate Islam worldwide. The IUMS was established in Qatar in 2004
while Al-Qaeda was carrying out bombings and killing people in the name
of Islam. They share the same extremist ideology. "IUMS members justified violence and started an intellectual war with
muftis and traditional Islamic scholars, undermining them in their home
countries and ridiculing their religious edicts.”
This is important, of course, because the kingdom for years was
tweaking the English version of the Quran to demonise the Jewish and
Christian communities, which is why the first line of offence as Hadi
Awang demonstrated is to claim that all this is “…driven by their belief
and admiration for the Zionist Jewish powers-that-be, more than to
trust in God, Islam and their fellow Muslims."
While political and religious opportunists attempt to make Malaysia
an “Islamic state” and make syariah law mainstream, it must be
disconcerting when the young prince of the kingdom reforms the religious
police - the bane of many Saudi women’s lives. They have been “steadily stripped
of their roles over the past year, losing powers to arrest and to
define what is right or wrong. Last week, a decree was signed to absorb
them into the interior ministry – a death knell for an organisation
central to generations of social and religious austerity in a kingdom
resistant to change.”
A holy war against the holy land?
Now some Islamists would say that news organisations like Arab News,
are propaganda organs for the House of Saud (having read much of what
Al-Rashed has written, I would never mistake him for a propagandist even
if I disagree with some of his views) but this would be missing the
point. The real point is that this is the message that the kingdom and
its allies wish to disseminate to the Islamic world. This, of course, is
of great concern to the Islamists who are used to the usual handouts
from the kingdom to sustain their own little jihads they wage against
secular or moderate societies (including Muslims) across the globe.
Kamel Daoud, the Algerian journalist, in a translated article for the New York Times
writes of his country’s experience – ‘If Saudi Arabia reforms, what
happens to Islamists elsewhere?’ - claims, “And so all manner of
Islamists are feeling the anxiety of being orphaned. The moderate camp,
blindsided, may try to play catch-up with the prince. But the
fundamentalist camp, bereft of its familiar markers, may turn against
the Saudi kingdom to claim a new kind of legitimacy — and wage a sort of
holy war against the holy land.”
All this, of course, makes Hadi Awang's claim that the kingdom (and
the others) “believed more in Zionists than in Allah and Islam”, a
little strange because what does this say of PM Najib Razak’s close ties
with the kingdom? What does this say about the donations and business
deals coming from the kingdom? What does this say about the religious
donations for educational purposes coming from the kingdom? What does
this say about Muslim Malaysians going for their religious pilgrimages
to the kingdom? What does this say about the whole “Arabisation” process
that has supplanted Malay culture?
Inspector-general of police Mohamad Fuzi Harun (photo) says
that Malaysia is not concerned with Hadi Awang’s links to this
particular group which is all fine and dandy, but this begs the
question, when will the Malaysian authorities be concerned of a group
labelled as a terror group?
I get it that a Muslim country would ignore the warnings of Western
allies on religious and ideological grounds, but when an ally like the
kingdom puts an Islamic group on its terror list, what is the excuse
beyond Hadi Awang’s Zionist-Masonic conspiracy angle for not doing
anything? Surely, this is not a case of Muslim solidarity? Unless, of
course, the Malaysian state security apparatus thinks that the House of
Saud is really part of some vast conspiracy to make the kingdom a vassal
state to the Jewish hegemon, which apparently includes Hollywood?
The rhetoric from the Saudi prince is sure to rile up “conservatives” like when he says that Saudi Arabia will “eradicate promoters of extremist thoughts", saying the country was not like this in the past.” For progressives, all this talk may not be enough but Islamists in
countries such as Indonesia for instance, are making plans to send
religious scholars to other countries if the kingdom becomes to
I hope Malaysia is paying attention because pandering to the
Islamists is only sliding backwards. The irony is that Malaysia with its
diversity should be the vanguard, but the Islamists here want us to ape
what the kingdom is showing signs that it is tiring off.
The real problem of the Malay community - By Commander (Rtd) S THAYAPARAN Royal Malaysian Navy
Monday, November 27, 2017
Malaysiakini : “The oppressed are allowed once every
few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing
class are to represent and repress them.” - Karl Marx
COMMENT | I do not think that the
problems of the Malays are that they are not unified; I think the
problem of the Malays is that they have no real choices when it comes to
“Malay” leadership. Race and religion is the basis for all “Malay”
political parties and Malay politicians are hampered by these two
imperatives – or so they say – which makes it impossible to have a
greater Malay polity that is progressive and egalitarian.
The opposition has defined this upcoming election as the election
that could save Malaysia from becoming a failed state. Opposition
political parties are blindly chasing the Malay vote hoping for regime
change. Meanwhile, the rhetoric from the Malay establishment is
indecisive and cautious because of the Malay political players involved.
This is why we get Umno secretary-general Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor hectoring Malay youths, asking them what Umno had done wrong?
It is true that Umno has provided a lot but the problem is what Umno
has provided is not worth anything next to what the non-Malays have
acquired by themselves, in most cases. Malay youths are not angry with
the other communities - at least a significant majority of them are not -
what they are angry about is that Umno gives them enough to survive and
does not give them the tools to exist independently of Umno.
Mainstream Malay leadership has blamed everyone (in no particular
order) from the Jews, the Chinese, the United States of America, the
opposition, music, alcohol, drugs, Christians, handphones, pornography,
television shows, Hindus, Buddhist, Western culture, Asian culture,
Indians, the CIA, the United Kingdom, the People’s Republic of China,
multiculturalism and excessive laughter for all that is wrong or they
think is wrong with the Malay community.
A few “Malay” rights activists I have spoken to say that because the
Chinese are “united” in opposing Umno and because the urban Malay vote
is split, Malay vote banks in the rural heartlands have to be guarded
zealously, less Malay hegemony is compromised by weak Malay leadership
beholden to Chinese (DAP) interests. These folks did not laugh when I
pointed out that this is exactly what the Najib refuseniks are saying
about the current Umno regime and Chinese (PRC) interests. Even in a major corruption scandal like the 1MDB case, race becomes
an issue. Establishment propaganda organs define the scandal as economic
sabotage by rebellious Malay leaders aligned with Chinese usurpers, all
the while shifting the blame to a “fat Chinese” hanger-on who bilked
the country of millions.
This is the kind of self-reflection that happens in mainstream Malay
politics. Remember how Ibrahim Ali, defined the National Feedlot
Corporation (NFC) scandal? I wrote in an earlier column
- “It has of course gone to ridiculous extremes as in the recent
National Feedlot Corporation fiasco, where Ibrahim Ali and his ilk
(bolstered by the right-wing state-controlled Malay mainstream press)
suggest that an issue of corruption is really an issue of race and a
racial provocation against the Malay community. The fact that the
alleged whistleblower has been identified as a non-Malay is par for the
course in this country’s national political debate.”
Whenever a struggle emerges within the ranks of Malay leadership that
is when the issue of “Malayness” becomes all-consuming in the political
landscape. For a long time, the only opposition to Umno was PAS and
nobody certainly not the majority of the Malay community ever thought
that PAS was an alternative to Umno.
This is why Umno never really considered PAS a threat. I remember in
the early days of the reformasi movement when Anwar Ibrahim aligned with
PAS and this co-dependent relationship emerged from the Anwar/PAS pact.
It was no secret even then that the religious folks within PAS were
uneasy with the alliance with someone who was branded by the state as a
sexual deviant. Before the PAS for all days, PAS friends of mine were
behaving as though they were in the midst of some sort of Stockholm
syndrome when it came to their dealings with Anwar.
Examine closely mainstream Malay politics and it is not about the
problems social and economic problems facing the Malay community but how
the Malay community is losing its relevance because mainstream Malay
power structures are beholden to “other” interests because the Malay
community is not unified. In many ways, Anwar changed this kind of
thinking by challenging the Umno regime on issues such as good
governance and wide-scale corruption but he was always hampered by the
religious imperatives of his political allies.
While the Chinese and Indian community had the (mainstream) option
over the years of embracing the DAP over the MCA and MIC, the Malays
only had PAS, until the ejection of political prisoner Anwar from Umno
paradise. Does anyone really believe that the average establishment supporter
can tell the difference between Umno and Bersatu beyond the fact that
the former can be, depending on how close an election is, gratify them
with short-term goodies?
Over the years, I have had many Malay people come up and tell me that
the problem with this country is that people do not get along. Well, I
think that people do get along but the problem is that the government
keeps introducing measures that make it very clear that they do not want
us to get along. These measures then become sacred cows, which needs to be defended by
any politician claiming to have the interest of the Malay community at
heart. How is any other community a threat, when every institution and
mechanism of power is controlled by the political elite of the
I have asked
these questions before – “What would happen if a majority of Muslims in
this country decide that they have had enough with state religious
authorities intruding in their lives? They have had enough of money
going into religious organisations while essential services that benefit
their community are underfunded and mired in bureaucratic corruption?
What would happen if they grew tired of the hypocrisy of the state where
Muslim elites were immune from the harsh glare of Islam but the rest of
the polity was not?”
Of course, if ever there was a conclave of Malay leadership these
types of questions would not be asked. Instead, the main objective of
the meeting would probably be to discuss how power could be shared while
maintaining the facade of unity which is all important to a racial and
This is why Malay youths will continue to be unhappy with Umno and
this unhappiness will eventually erupt in rage and Malaysia will not
have to be saved anymore.
No one is free from religion in Malaysia - By Commander (Rtd) S THAYAPARAN Royal Malaysian Navy
Saturday, November 25, 2017
Malaysiakini : “To you, I'm an atheist. To God, I'm the loyal opposition.” - Woody Allen
COMMENT | The last time I wrote
about Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Asyraf Wajdi
Dusuki, he was busy informing the Malaysian public that BN was committed
to making Malaysia an Islamic state. As usual, I was irate that our
glorious opposition was waffling as they normally do when it comes to
anything “Islamic” that confronts them.
“Meanwhile, the opposition is doing nothing about this. Nobody in the
opposition has ever made statements that reaffirm the primacy of the
Constitution or the opposition’s agenda of ending the Islamisation
process. We do not even know if this is one of the reforms that would
‘save Malaysia’ that the opposition intends to carry out.”
This time, it is even worse. Why on god’s good green earth would an
Amanah parliamentarian bring up the non-issue of atheism in Malaysia?
Check that. If some “moderate” Muslims make the claim that there is no
compulsion in Islam, and Amanah is marketing itself as a moderate Muslim
political entity, why would this issue be of importance to “saving
Malaysia”? Aren't these types of questions the province of religious thugs who
would clamp down on anything remotely egalitarian in this country?
Remember when the Islamists expressed concern over the atheist plague
and one provocateur claimed that the reason why some Muslims left their
religion was because they wanted to experience pleasure, I had to
remind him that this was not the case here in Malaysia. “If anything, what the official narratives of Islam in this country
have demonstrated are that Muslims have to be prevented from seeking
‘illicit’ sex, alcohol, smoking, music videos, movies, books,
pornography, the company of the opposite sex and of course, excessive
laughter. Now the reality is that many Muslims have sex, drink alcohol,
smoke, watch music videos, movies and pornography (online), mingle with
the opposite sex, and laugh a lot.
"Hence as Muslims, they already experience pleasure but what prevents
them from openly experiencing pleasure are the religious police who are
paid to ensure that they stop having pleasure. Of course, if you are a
rich Muslim, then you are exempt from the overt policing that your
average Muslim is subjected to.”
It seems to me that Amanah does not believe in free speech or
expression. Amanah merely continues the Umno/PAS narratives that Muslims
are at risk from ideas other than from their holy book. No evidence is
tendered as to how youths are influenced by atheists, only ab initio this is a bad thing. Is this the kind of "moderate" Islam we can expect from the opposition?
When Asyraf claims that there is no freedom from religion in this
country - which is religious fascism by the way – what does the
opposition think about this? Is this one of those situations where the
opposition claims that it an Umno trap to distract from the larger
issues? Well, it was an opposition member that brought it up. Is this
another situation where the opposition ignores the issue hoping it would
go away until the next time issues like these crop up?
Pundits who claim that Muslims are not free from religion in this
country are missing the point. Muslims are bound to Islam and they can
embrace no other religion or no religion at all, even if they wanted.
They are not free from religion, they are not free from Islam. Apostasy
laws, rehabilitation camps, state sanctions against Muslims who attempt
to leave Islam is evidence of this. This is not a provocative statement, this is a fact, acknowledged by
politicians, the state security apparatus, the law and Muslim activists.
In other words, they are not free from religion. Specifically, they are
not free from Islam. All other religions are irrelevant.
As reported in the Diplomat
in August, Dr Zachary Abuza, a professor at the National War College
who focuses on Southeast Asian politics and security issues, said,
“Malaysia has become steadily more intolerant, and this has been a
top-down government policy.” Abuza described the clergy as
state-sponsored with vetted sermons.
“The people most at risk are clearly the ethnic minorities, atheists,
and Christian Malays, which is actually unconstitutional. I was just in
Malaysia, and the intolerance displayed by Malays is growing. I don’t
know one Chinese or Indian that is not alarmed at where this is headed.” Constitutional experts have come out strongly against Ashraf’s “no
freedom from religion” statement but the reality is that this is not a
general declaration about religion. This is about Islam. What the deputy
minister really means is that in Malaysia there is no freedom from
Islam. The former inspector-general of police (IGP) warned atheists not
to cause unease amongst Muslims. Hindus, Christians and Buddhists have
shown no interest in stopping people from leaving their faith.
Religious provocations like threats to burn holy texts, disrespecting
religious symbols or icons, investigations into possible proselytising,
claims against other religions, banning of words, imposing dress codes
in public institutions, unilateral conversions, religious kidnapping in
custody cases, rehabilitation centres, seditious comments against
specific religions, unlawful conversions of minors, and the host of
other provocations comes from the practitioners of the state-sponsored
religion and not from minority belief systems.
When I made my case that the Rukunegara was nothing but a placebo, the first line in the piece
was “what if you had no belief in God?”, which is the first line in the
Rukunegara. If non-Muslims think they are free from religion in this
country, they are mistaken. They are bound by Islamic dictates just like
their Muslim brethren, but all this is lost in the fog of partisan
politics and political expediency. As usual, folks think that this is a joke. This is not about forcing
you to have belief in god. This is about forcing you to accept that
belief in god means that you are subjected to the same dictates of
people who have no choice when it comes to their religious beliefs.
Nobody in the establishment cares if you believe in god.
theme is that you must be mindful of the fact that the majority’s belief
in their god trumps your individual religious beliefs or lack thereof. Atheism is merely a convenient scapegoat to co-opt the beliefs of
others into a state-sanctioned belief system where the state sanctions
behaviour or ideas it considers deviant in the name of the
state-sanctioned religion, in this case Islam.
It really does not matter if, in fact and law, there is no basis for
the claim that there is no freedom from religion in this country. The
reality is that so long as the state controls a specific religion and
how it is promulgated in this country, all of us are not free from
religion, no matter how we choose to self-identify when it comes to our
religious beliefs or lack thereof.
The difference between discrimination and dress codes - By Commander (Rtd) S THAYAPARAN Royal Malaysian Navy
Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Malaysiakini : COMMENT | "I have always thought that if women's hair posed so many problems, God would certainly have made us bald." - Marjane Satrapi, "Persepolis"
Muslim-only launderettes and banning frontline staff from wearing
headscarves are not the same thing. It is not hypocritical to object to
the former and have no opinion of the latter or even not object to it at
all. There is a big difference between discriminating against a person based on race or religion and having a dress code that may –may – affect some people because of how they identify with their religion.
Some Muslim women wear headscarves. Some Muslim women do not. There is enough empirical evidence to suggest that many Muslim women face pressure to wear the headscarf, indeed one Malaysiakini
columnist related how her college-going daughter was pressured by her
female contemporaries to “cover up” but chose to deal with it in her own
This idea that there is freedom of religion in this country for the
majority, with apostasy laws, with rehabilitation camps for those who
deviate, with verboten words for non-Muslims and the constant threats
not to interfere with Islam, makes a mockery of the principle of freedom
of religion. The incidents of unilateral conversions, forced conversion by state
agencies and the countless court cases involving the trespass of the
religion of the state into our private and public domains, is also
evidence that freedom of religion is more word than deed in this
country. This is the context some people are choosing to ignore.Furthermore, this is not a question of religious beliefs. Nobody is
discriminating against Muslims in this instance. This is more to do with
freedom of expression. Some – some – Muslim women choose to express their religious beliefs by covering up.
Now if they have a choice in this, then surely they can make a choice
as to what kind of work environment they desire: a work environment
which is flexible about religious expressions, or one which has a
stricter dress code which limits their religious expression.
The last thing I want to know about anyone in the service
industry, or any industry for that matter, is what religion they
subscribe to. It does not matter if you are a Hindu, Buddhist, Christian
or Muslim. What has displaying your religious affiliation have to do
with the job you were hired to do? Do you know what is discrimination? If the hotel chooses not to
entertain customers who wear headscarves. This is discrimination. If the
hotel chooses not to entertain customers who express their religious
beliefs overtly. This is discrimination.
Some Muslim women do not think it is an obligation to cover up.
Liberals are always telling us that covering up is a choice and not an
obligation as some Muslims claim. So why is this an issue? Believe me, you could be discriminated based solely on race and there
isn’t anything you can do about it except rage on internet message
boards and support political parties that claim they are egalitarian,
when most often they make idealistic claims to stoke the base.
Dress codes for civil servants
Some people have linked this situation with overzealous civil
servants enforcing a dress code when entering public service premises. It is not for civil servants to enforce a dress code. They do not
have a mandate but more importantly, they work for the public. While government agencies may have a uniform dress code for their
staff and this may take into account religious observances (for whatever
reasons), this does not mean that the private sector should do the
Some workplaces are flexible when it comes to this issue, some are
not. People have a choice as to where they want to work. They do not
have a choice when it comes to dealing with a bureaucracy they are
PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli (photo) claims it is
time for an equal opportunity law. Unfortunately, these types of laws
work both ways. The rules apply to the private and public sector. This
is why so many Malay rights groups have always had a problem whenever
this act has been mooted.
Apparently for some Malay rights groups, equal opportunity laws go against the Federal Constitution. By this I mean, they go against the legal and social contract
concepts of Malay privileges. Unless we are talking about an equal
opportunity law which does not apply to the public sector. Then it is
not really an equal opportunity law, but rather another law to justify
the importance of political parties to their political and racial base.
A place of work is not the avenue for the expression of your
religious beliefs. Your religious beliefs have nothing to do with your
professionalism. So to suggest that practising a dress code applicable
to everyone is discriminatory is dubious and honestly mendacious.
COMMENT | I never really
understood this whole idea of “gangsterism” bandied about in the press. I
get that crimes are gang related, or that there is organised crime –
with the specifics of both not being mutually exclusive – but this
shorthand of “gangsterism,” which normally points to a specific race, is
really rather juvenile.
Not because it is not true, but rather because in a country where
non-Malay citizens are told to be mindful of their place, of course the
most marginalised communities would reflect the inequalities of the
To be honest I was a little bit disappointed that Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy was the one who demanded an apology from the Terengganu police chief Aidi Ismail (photo) for his “race and crime” remarks.
Although the Terengganu top cop implied that the majority-Malay
communities were exempt from “gangsterism” – in Terengganu, anyway –he
did not mention a specific non-Malay community. I mean, I get it. You mention “gangsterism” and you immediately think
of the Indian community. This is why I was a little disappointed that
an Indian opposition politician responded. Mess with their heads a
little. It would have confused the establishment bigots if a Malay
opposition politician was the one demanding an apology from the
Terengganu top cop for racial profiling.
That would have blown their minds and maybe offered a short respite
from the usual horse manure that flows freely from establishment types. Some folks have been sending me statistics and PDFs about race and
crime in this country, and as far as official statistics are concerned, I
am of the opinion that the statistics are skewered towards political
motives, and to reflect progress in whatever KPIs the civil and security
services are encumbered with.
More importantly, this is not really about racial profiling. This is
really about how a majority of the Malay community, be it urban or
rural, view non-Malays – Indians in this case – and the belief systems
foisted on them through years of indoctrination and partisan politics,
that they are a peaceful community, whose way of life – courteous,
religious and sedate – is always at risk because of non-Malay presence
on Tanah Melayu.
When inspector-general of police Mohamad Fuzi Harun (photo) says that Aidi did not have any intention
of making a racial remark, what he was getting at was that Aidi was
merely promulgating the greater narrative that Malays are a peaceful
religious people, who would be living in religious harmony were it not
for the influence of the “other” races.
I mean look at how some Malay-Muslim activists keeping reminding
people who live in Malay-Muslim majority areas to respect the
sensitivities of the majority in the way they behave and dress in
public. Do you get non-Muslims who are the majority in a specific area
ever telling Muslims to respect their sensitivities?
It also points to the mindset of the state security apparatus. This
belief that the Malay community is peaceful and that crimes are what
“others” do, reflects the operating procedures which has resulted in
deaths in custody, the refusal to carry out the orders from civil
courts, and an unwillingness to submit to independent bodies when it
comes to the way how they operate.
Will this change anytime soon? I doubt it. The reality is that
mainstream politics in this country is race-based, and while many
people, especially those who support the opposition, use this in an
extremely cavalier manner, the reality is that the rot goes much deeper.
A reader sent me this snippet of a past article
I wrote when she read what the Terengganu top cop said. “The police
force has become a culture of its own succoured by religion, racialism
and handouts, riddled with corruption and sharing a symbiotic
relationship with the criminal underclass of Malaysian society and
beholden to political masters who have always been engaged in protracted
internal power struggles.
But yet I can say without hesitation that there are still those
within the ranks of the PDRM, and those who have retired, who are
honourable and understand the value of a functional police force but
whose ranks are slowly dwindling over the long Umno-BN watch.”
Well yes, I did write that. However this is also not just an Umno
thing. Umno may profit from this narrative, but I really believe that
this is what a vast slice of the Malay community, especially those
without access to information and do not interact with non-Malays in
their daily lives, actually feel. Take away the “gangsterism” meme and you have the stereotype of the
honest Malay civil servant bribed by the unscrupulous Chinese
businessman. This narrative of how the Malays were gracious enough to
share their lands with interlopers and are now in a state of chaos
because of different cultures fighting for space in this beautiful
country is rehashed in so many variations that it has become part of the
emotional make-up of a large slice of the voting demographic.
And these odious memes are needed, because how else to explain the
quagmire the Malay community finds itself in. Writing of the futility of
Malay privilege, I said,
“Those other communities who seem to profit from this land, although
they do not have but more importantly, do not need those special rights
and privileges which were supposed to elevate the Malay community but
instead has left them trailing in the wake of the progress of the
What’s the point of demanding an apology form this particular police
officer? Forget about messing with the crime statistics, or redefining
crime, or even that the state is mired in financial corruption. What we
are really talking about here is an idea. The idea that if only they were not these pendatangs,
holding back our religion, corrupting our race, attempting to take our
power, we as a nation and people would be better. This is propaganda
that money can't buy.
Nobody, certainly not proponents of mainstream Malay politics, will ever apologise for that.