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Rising Up To The Challenges Of Islamic Extremism And Militancy In Malaysia

Malaysia is a secular democracy. Even so, Islam occupies a significant position in its politics and has been able to influence political discourses and practices. For the Malay-Muslim majority, Islam is more than just a system of beliefs and an ethnic identity marker in a multi-ethnic society. It is also a cultural resource from which concepts, principles, rules, norms and laws are drawn to provide basis for government and to argue for political and social reforms. This being the case, it is not surprising to find Islam being entrenched in the Malaysian Constitution as the official religion of the Federation and its constituent states. Political parties, non-governmental organisations, loosely structured congregational groups (jemaah) and militant or radical groups also draw on the Islamic idiom appearing on the country’s political landscape in the last four decades and engaging the state in conflict over the latter’s domination and control of Islamic symbols, leadership and institutions. Some of these Islamist groups operate within the national boundary and some develop extensive networks that transcend national borders.

Irrespective of their goals, organisational structure and the extent of networking, the activities of Islamic political party, politically-engaged Islamic NGOs, jemaah and militant groups are of great concern to the Malaysian authority in case they cause political instability, disrupt racial harmony, hamper economic development, endanger regime survival and threaten national security. Furthermore, in the post-conditions 9/11 and especially with the global war on terror, evidence of Islamic militancy in the country can easily cause the international community to regard Malaysia as a ‘hotbed of terrorism’, a label that it can do without if it wants to avoid external political pressures or military intervention and to attract foreign investment into the country. To date and consistent with the current policy of controlling and monitoring religious groups, the Malaysian government has at its disposal two laws which can be invoked to weaken or suppress those Islamist groups whose activities are deemed to disrupt civil order.  They are the provision in the Administration of Islamic law concerning ‘deviationist teachings’ in Islam (ajaran sesat) and the Internal Security Act (ISA). While it is normal to expect the Malaysian government to use these mechanisms to suppress undesirable Islamist groups, however, the action, if and when taken, could also be construed as a violation of civil liberties. Not only that, it can also invite criticisms from the Malay-Muslim populace as being anti-Islamic. Such criticisms can easily reduce the state’s credibility as the key transmitter of Islamic doctrines, policies and programmes in the country. Worse, it would put the government in a bad light vis-à-vis PAS, its main rival in politics.

Since the 1970s, Malaysia has identified Islamic extremism and militancy as one of the threats to its national security. Although relatively small in number and strength, groups operating under this tendency caused serious security concern to the state, which in turn adopted the twin strategies of suppression and engagement to respond to these challenges. The state has openly declared that it will not tolerate any group or activity that can create disunity and disturb racial harmony in a country whose survival is highly dependent on internal peace and stability. While the state considers it important to eliminate threats and challenges from Islamic extremism and militancy, it is also mindful of the fact that antagonistic policies towards Islamic groups might result in a backlash that will endanger regime security and national unity. It must be said that in reality, in Malaysia, the influence of Islamic extremists and their activities is limited due to certain factors, of which some are unique to Malaysia, as well as the effectiveness of measures taken to eliminate this influence.

The Development of Islamic Groups in Malaysia
Islamic organisations and movements in Malaysia have been in existence even before the rise of the phenomenon of Islamic revivalism of the 1970s. The oldest and the most established of these groups is the Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS), a political party that has become the main rival of the current ruling component party in the Malaysian government, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO). PAS has been in existence since 1951 and advocated an Islamic state goal, an objective that it has not renounced until today. Although currently it is able to lead the government in only two states (Kelantan and Kedah), following the general election of 2008, as a form of political Islam, the party is a force to reckon with having gained strong support from rural-based Malays in the states of Kelantan, Kedah, Perlis and Terengganu in several general elections. The support for PAS has also broadened to include many urbanbased followers in other states such as Perak, Selangor and in Kuala Lumpur.

Aside from PAS, there are now a number of Islam-oriented nongovernmental organisations and institutions occupying the civil society space in Malaysia. These organisations grew out of the need and desire to provide social and economic facilities to Muslims while some are devoted to raising the level of Islamic consciousness in the community. Among them are the Yayasan Dakwah Islamiah (Islamic Dakwah Foundation), Pertubuhan Kebajikan Islam Malaysia (Malaysian Muslim Welfare Organisation, or PERKIM), the Malaysian Muslim Youth Movement, (Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia or ABIM), Malaysian Muslim Students Association, Sisters in Islam and others. Institutions set up by the government or supported by it include the Institute of Islamic Understanding (IKIM), the Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilisation (ISTAC) and the Department of Islamic Advancement (Jabatan Kemajuan Islam or JAKIM). The establishment of these organisations were not politically-motivated, but to support social and religious activities of its members and target groups. PERKIM for example, is an organisation which was set up to look into the welfare of new converts to Islam, while others emerged out of practical considerations and the need to promote greater consciousness about Islam. These groups and many others continue to exist and have not developed into militant groups.

A growing challenge for the authorities since the 1970s had been the activities of dakwah songsang (deviant dakwah) groups with some propagating activities that were considered as extremist in nature and thus posed a serious threat to public order and racial harmony. Two violent incidents in 1978 and 1980 served to highlight the seriousness of potential extremism and militancy in Malaysia if they were not contained. In 1978, a group of Muslim fundamentalists, caught desecrating all statues in a Hindu temple except one, were beaten to death by a vigilante group of Indian temple guardians. In October 1980, another incident occurred, that confirmed the fears of the authorities about the violent potential of certain deviant groups, when a group of Muslims attacked a police station in Batu Pahat in Johore. Although both incidents appeared to be ‘minor’ by international standards, in Malaysia, they were looked upon as worrying trend and therefore needed to be ‘nipped in the bud’. It served to discourage other potential extremist groups from developing and propagating terrorist acts.

This early period also witnessed the surfacing of groups associated with dakwah songsang and Islamic radicalism. In 1977, a Penang-based Crypto cult emerged to claim that the Malaysian government was not giving Islam its proper due and aimed to set up a theocratic order by means of violent jihad. The government took action to clamp down the movement only in 1992 as it did not think that the group’s activities then were serious enough to threaten public order and national security. Another group, whose interpretation of Islam was in opposition to the government, was the Koperasi Angkatan Revolusi Islam Malaysia (KARIM, or Malaysian Islamic Revolutionary Front). Formed in 1974 in Kuala Lumpur, KARIM preached the overthrow of government through violence. It was later banned and its leaders detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA). In 1980, riots by farmers in Kedah demonstrating against the government’s move to introduce a forced-savings scheme were traced to a militant organisation Pertubuhan Angkatan Sabilullah, which according to the government had numbered among its associates, members of the opposition party, PAS. These groups were relatively unknown to the public and their influence did not spread beyond the confinement of their groups. One of the reasons for their inability to expand their influence was the small membership and effective action by the government through the use of strong measures to control and suppress their activities, often in the name of national security.

State Response: Rationale and Mechanisms
Realising that religious extremism, if not checked may endanger domestic harmony, public security and in the worst scenario, regime survival, the Malaysian government formulated and implemented two approaches to counter and contain the danger. These can be summed up as suppression and engagement which have proven to be effective in combating religious extremism. In the words of former Minister of Home Affairs, Tun Musa Hitam, Malaysia’s comprehensive strategy for combating extremism consists of a “complex process of accommodation (when this is fully justified), co-optation (when this is required) and confrontation (when it is necessary)”. Since the 1970s, contestations emerged from Islamic groups whose aim was the eventual replacement of the regime in power with a ‘more’ Islamic one, if not with one that is completely Islamic. Such groups include Arqam, an organisation which became radicalised and manifested its violent opposition to the authority since 1988. It is said to have an extensive network in Singapore, Thailand, and Indonesia and even in Central Asia.5 The government feared that the group might subvert established Islam, create disunity among Muslims and eventually take over power. In responding to this challenge, the government used both repressive and dissuasive methods. Throughout the 1990s, the Malaysian public witnessed a systematic campaign against Arqam, launched through the mass media and the distribution of pamphlets, Friday sermons and public lectures in mosques and offices. Investigations were conducted to ascertain whether or not the activities of Arqam were dangerous and threatening to the national security and racial harmony. In 1994, Arqam was accused of harbouring extreme political ambitions and that its leaders had plans “to capture political power through magic and violence”. In August 1994, the National Fatwa Council issued a ruling which declared the teachings of Arqam as “deviationists” (ajaran sesat), resulting in the banning of the organisation by the government. Arqam’s leader, Ashaari Muhammad fled to Thailand, but was later arrested in September the same year and brought back to be detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA). He was subsequently released in 2004. Deprived of its leadership and subjected to constant surveillance from the Malaysian authorities, Arqam never got back to its former ‘glory’.

Not all government’s policy of using force in tackling challenges to regime security from Islamist groups have been successful. The Memali incident of November 1985 illustrates the limits to the use of force to suppress what was perceived as extremism. The police raid on the villagers, ordered by the then acting Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affairs, Musa Hitam, resulted in the death of 17 people (14 civilians and 4 policemen). The government White Paper, published after the incident blamed the confrontation on the extremists who were trying to spread deviationist teachings and disrupt public order. As for the Minister, the affair dented his political credibility and wisdom in his ability to handle sensitive issues such as responding to challenges coming from Islamic groups. Although the affair happened more than two decades ago, it is neither forgotten nor forgiven, for its memory is still being kept alive by relatives of survivors. The Islamic Party of Malaysia, PAS, commemorates this incident, a source of embarrassment for the government, as proof of the government’s injustice in dealing with opposing Islamic groups.

The beginning of the new millennium witnessed a growing threat to the government from Islamic extremist and militant groups in Malaysia. An incident related to militant Islamic activities surfaced in June 2000 when a group which called itself as ‘Al Maunah’ managed to successfully pull off an arms heist at a Malaysian Army Reserve Camp in Perak, stealing weapons from the armoury. It proved to be a huge embarrassment for the government given the manner in which the group managed to penetrate the camp’s security structure by dressing up in military uniforms and driving jeeps painted in camouflaged green. Their leader, Mohamad Amin Razali, confessed that they were on a mission to overthrow the Malaysian government by force. The siege by the Malaysian security forces resulted in the surrender of the group’s members. Its leader was tried for waging war against the King, convicted, and was hanged in August 2004. Other members received various degrees of sentences, including life sentence and detention under the ISA. The government did not take any action against the group prior to this as there was no proof that their activities were disrupting public security or detrimental to national security.

The dismantling of the Al Maunah group was followed by other operations to suppress several other militant Islamic organisations and groups whose activities were considered threatening to public security. They include a militant Islamic group, the ‘Jihad Gang’, a group that was connected to a range of crimes over a period of two years, including the bombing of a church, an Indian temple, the murder of a politician and several other criminal activities.12 Their criminal activities made it easier for the government to justify their elimination. Another militant group, the KMM — Kumpulan Militan Malaysia (the Malaysian Militant Group) founded in 1995 by a Malaysian, Zainon Ismail, also advocated the overthrow of the Malaysian government and subsequently, the establishment of an Islamic regime. Like the Al Maunah group, KMM’s operational strategy was a combination of criminal activities and political militancy. It was believed to have a wide networking with external militant groups in the region, including Majlis Mujahidin Indonesia (MMI), Jemaah Islamiah Singapura (JIS) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). KMM also dispatched its members to take part in the conflict in Ambon, Indonesia between Christians and Muslims. The Malaysian government launched a nationwide operation to capture KMM members between December 2001 and January 2002, resulting in the arrest of more than 70 members, including one of its leaders, Nik Adli Nik Aziz, and detained them under the ISA.

In many of these security operations (police and military) against Islamic extremist groups, the Malaysian government resorted to the use of the Internal Security Act (ISA) to detain those arrested in the operations. While the general public in Malaysia on the whole seemed not to mind the use of the ISA on militants and extremist elements, there were segments of society which viewed this with concern. In August 2001, the Malaysian Bar Council released a statement viewing “with concern the alleged threat to national peace and security posed by members of the KMM”. At the same time, it noted “with equal concern the use of the ISA in the arrest of such persons”. The Council suggested that these arrests can be affected through other available statutory provisions such as the Penal Code, Arms Act or Firearms Act. It also urged the government to allow detainees access to their constitutional rights and to trial in a court of law. However, such dissenting opinion did not affect the efficacy or the continued usage of ISA as a mechanism to control extremism and militancy in the country. 

Putting Them Back on the Right Track: De-Radicalisation Programme
As indicated above, suppression is only one of the means available to the state in its campaign against Islamic militancy. A more subtle method is engaging groups or individuals into renouncing their activities regarded as prejudicial to national security. Engagement constitutes policies and programmes designed to win the hearts and minds of the target groups with the aim to neutralise or to win them over. In Malaysia, this has been successfully employed earlier during the war against communist insurgents. Later use of the ‘soft’ method is based on the refinement, adaptation and elaboration of the methods used during this period.

Malaysia’s engagement policy of Islamic extremists includes a programme designed at “de-radicalisation”, targeting those detained under the ISA. The government has formulated a structured programme designed to rehabilitate those individuals or groups who have been involved in activities considered as jeopardising national security. The Malaysian deradicalisation programme is a concerted effort between the police (Special Branch) and various government agencies. The role of the police/Special Branch in this programme is focussed on the issue of national security, although in principle the Special Branch remains as the main architect of the rehabilitation programme. The Malaysian de-radicalisation programme is different from that of many other countries in that it separates those detained under the ISA from the common criminals because they need a different type of rehabilitation. De-radicalisation programme for religious extremists for example, requires the role of religious institutions such as JAKIM to take care of the spiritual aspect of the treatment.

The programme consists of three stages, namely the early detainment period, the detainment period and the post-detainment period. In the first stage, the individual who commits an offence prejudicial to national security can be detained for a maximum period of 60 days for investigation purposes. The main aim at this stage of detention is to “win over” the detainee through various methods. If the authorities are satisfied that the detainee no longer poses a threat, then he may be released. If not, he will be sent to the Kamunting Detention Centre for two years, and may be further extended if an extension is necessary.

The second stage of de-radicalisation process begins once the detainee is placed at the Kamunting Detention Centre, which is under the purview of the Prisons Department of Malaysia. While undergoing the rehabilitation programme, a detainee has access to the rights of reassessment and opportunity to appeal to the Advisory Board which meets to review the case every six month. The rehabilitation programme, known as “Human Development Programme” (HDP) covers three areas of discipline development, personality enhancement and social skills and training programme. The main objective of the HDP is to enable a detainee to return to the fold of society without much disjuncture since the modules in the programme are designed to gradually ‘mould’ them to the values and practices of the society that they have deviated from. At the Detention Centre, a detainee will undergo rehabilitation programme to ‘disengage’ himself from his past activities. Relevant agencies and individuals are asked to collaborate in this programme in teaching and facilitating modules tailored to the purpose of rehabilitation of detainees. There are three main issues of contention among Muslim detainees that the deradicalisation programme aims to correct. The first is the association of jihad among detainees with violent means and act of martyrdom. The second is the contention that Malaysia is not an Islamic country since it does not implement the Hudud law, and that its political system is Western oriented. The third is the detainees’ hatred against the West, especially the United States and its policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian issue. The modules taught during the detention period seek to provide detainees with a correct understanding of Islam, expose them to various issues in the Muslim world through open intellectual discussions with experts. The third stage in the rehabilitation programme is the post-detainment period which begins immediately after the release of the detainee. Even after his release, an ISA detainee will need to keep in ‘close contact’ with the police by way of regular reporting to the police station nearest to his domicile.

Although there is no survey available to determine the success of this programme, it is believed that the Malaysian de-radicalisation programme has been successful in rehabilitating extremists and eliminating their activities. Despite its unpopularity, the ISA has been effective as a mechanism to contain the spread of extremism and militancy in Malaysia. It has unwittingly created and instilled fear into the minds of the public of the consequences of jeopardising the nation’s political stability and national security. While there are those who opposed the ISA even if employed with good intention, there are others who view it as a ‘necessary evil’ to prevent the nation from descending into chaos. Some argued that this is preferable to inviting external powers to safeguard the nation’s security and handle delicate issues of religious extremism. 

Future Challenges and Conclusion
The success of countering extremism and militancy in Malaysia is due to a host of factors. Malaysia is a moderate Muslim country, a situation born out of several circumstances and factors. The majority population of the country, the Malays, have a peace-loving culture, a culture of tolerance and willingness to help. While the Malays are known to be religious, they are not fanatics. Their understanding of ‘jihad’ is not translated as armed struggle, but that of a moral struggle. The idea of ‘jihad’ as an armed struggle is an alien culture being introduced from outside. Until today, the idea of ‘violent jihad’ has not caught up with Muslims in Malaysia. There is no group important enough to propagate such jihad. In addition, there is no concrete issue that can be turned into a common cause that can be exploited to galvanize the population’s support for a violent jihad. This is in contrast to other Muslim societies such as in the Middle East or Pakistan where a culture of political violence seem to be continually perpetuated.

A recent survey indicated that among the Malay-Muslims in Malaysia, there is preference for a gradual change in society, as opposed to violent change. This attitude is in tandem with the culture and character of the Malays who would normally consider every aspect of a subject before making changes in society, even when these changes are to be made in the name of Islam. Another contributing factor in facilitating the efforts at combating religious extremism in Malaysia is the streamlining of religious education through the Ministry of Education and religious authorities. The Ministry provides guidelines on ‘standardised’ religious education made available to students. The monitoring of religious schools and pondok schools reduced the potential of these institutions into becoming a ‘hotbed’ of extremism and militancy or a ‘factory’ for producing jihadis as in the case of Pakistan. Contrary to some foreign media reports of the support for Osama bin Laden among Malaysian youths because they were found to be selling and wearing Osama T-shirts, in reality, there is no real excitement for Osama or Taleban among youths in the country. Malaysian youths have become savvy about generating income from an unlikely source and a phenomenon, for these same guys would be selling and wearing Michael Jackson or Che Guevara T-shirts. Such action would indicate an entrepreneurial prowess rather than a commitment to an ideology or a political cause.

In general, Malaysia enjoys political and social stability, peace and economic development that most citizens do not want to relinquish because they have a stake and interest to keep it going. The monarchy, an important pillar of Malay society has always acted as a ‘pacifier’, provider of moral guidance and a symbol of mediation in an adverse situation. As the head of Islam, the monarchy in Malaysia has the authority, both at the formal and informal levels, to guide religious activities and orientations. Radicalisation to the Malays would be contrary to the culture of peace and harmony of their society and its ‘adab’ (civility). The monarchy, as a respected institution, and one that is seen as above politics, serves as a moderating influence that restrains radical attitude and activities among Malay-Muslims in the country. The multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multireligious character that Malaysia is, are factors that act as a deterrent to religious extremism in the country. The state is fully aware that it has to develop and cultivate a policy of moderation so as not to antagonise the various groups and to stop them from falling into extremist groups of different religions and cultures. Malaysia’s uniqueness lies in its ability to balance and accommodate different demands specific to different ethnic and religious groups with the necessity of oneness of the nation. With a small population and a fairly controlled and disciplined society, the prospect of an over-excited militant galvanizing the population towards the path of violence has a much smaller chance of success in comparison to a country easily consumed by mob passion such as Pakistan or Indonesia. The success of Malaysia’s containment of religious extremism and deradicalisation policy must be seen in the light of these factors that are unique to Malaysia.

By any standard, especially in the Muslim world, violence resulting from religious extremism and militancy in Malaysia is an exception rather than the rule. Unlike Pakistan, which is going through a period of intense terrorist activities, Malaysia does not have the dynamics of militancy, poverty and political instability that can precipitate upheavals to the country. Malaysia’s Islamic radicals do not have the strength or the grounds to galvanise the support of the masses. Despite being politically divided between two major political parties, the majority Malay-Muslim population of Malaysia share a common aim and an equal opportunity to promote the interest of their group. Such situation is not found some Muslim countries with a politico-sectarian divide. In retrospective, it can be said that the Malaysian authorities’ denial of the growth of Shiism in the country is a form of pre-emptive measure to stem out potential sectarian violence. In addition, Muslims in Malaysia do not feel aggrieved by any denial of fundamental rights unlike the case of Malay-Muslims in Thailand, or that of the Muslim minority in the Philippines. But it remains vulnerable because of the country’s proximity to troubled areas and the exposure to transnational linkages of terrorist network in an age of globalisation. Malaysia also has open borders and fairly liberal immigration rules that could lead to intrusion by persons who may be prejudicial to the nation’s security.

There is a growing consciousness in Malaysia about democratic space and the role of civil society among citizens and rulers alike, although at the moment it is still restrained. Media in Malaysian is not entirely free, unlike that in Pakistan or Indonesia where it can fuel passion and violence through reporting and description of sensitive events and issues. The Malaysian media accept this limitation of its role through a kind of selfcensorship to avoid instigating pandemonium or creating violence. The state takes a pre-emptive measure to ensure the delicate balance and vulnerable peaceful co-existence between groups of different and opposing intentions through control of the media, a measure that can be described at best, as out of necessity, but hopefully a temporary one.

It is common to make a correlation between the level and condition of socio-economic development with the rise of religious extremism and militancy. In Malaysia, the socio-economic development can be seen as a two-edged sword. It reduced the situation of poverty and deprivation that pushed many, out of frustration, into seeking solace in violent jihad, a fact occurring in many Muslim societies. Malaysia has been able to remove this root of discontent and grievances in society. However, on the other hand, it is also noted that many cases of violence and forms of religious extremism and the push for change among Muslim groups come from the middle class, who after having achieved some measure of economic and social comfort; they now claim political rights due to them. Some do this out of dissatisfaction over the current system and want a change. Their dilemma is that economically they benefit from the system while their ideological inclination is not fulfilled. At this juncture, these groups cannot afford to destroy the foundation of their economic and social well-being, since the future is unpredictable. The challenge for the Malaysian state is how to balance the inevitable demand for democratic rights with that of keeping the situation under control. 

In conclusion, it is observed that confrontations between Islamic extremist groups and the government in Malaysia is an exception rather than the rule. They do not take place on a large scale or nation-wide, but are confined to certain groups with demands ranging from reforms within existing socio-political framework to a regime change by force. The state introduced laws, some of them controversial, to deal with the challenges and threats to its national security. Among these laws, the most prominent is the ISA, which, the criticisms and opposition levelled at it, is still in use. With the event of September 11, 2001, criticisms of ISA became slightly muted, enabling the government to justify its use without causing too much embarrassment. It lends credibility to what the government has been doing all along: that it was necessary to use repressive measures to eliminate the dangers that militancy pose to national security. The success of Malaysia’s de-radicalisation programme can be attributed to several factors, of which the most important are its societal values. The Malaysian political system and societal values allow little room for religious extremism and militancy. The state and society find consensus on the value of moderation, the understanding of Islam as a religion of peace and the appropriate strategies to deal with contestations coming from extremist groups and individuals.

Getting to the root of religious extremism in Malaysia

The article in Sunday Star July 7 by Zainah Anwar of Sisters of Islam, titled Ripe for the plucking, tackles the real issue behind how and why young Malaysian men become indoctrinated into extremist ideology, establishes a clear link between the appeasement of bigots by the domestic Political Elites and how it influences young men who are willing to lay down their lives for a cause such as the Syrian conflict. While there is concern among political authorities of certain Malay Muslim young men turning into sectarian militants, there is lack of action to stop the anti-Shite and anti-Christian propaganda in the country. Is it not true that there is similar anti-Shite and anti-Christian sentiment among militants in Syria that has resulted in the displacement and pogrom of minority communities in that country? The author has pulled the bull by its horns by addressing the state of religious bigotry in Malaysia.

Malaysia today is going through a very delicate situation where fellow citizens who are Christians and Shite Muslims are portrayed as enemies who are bent in usurping the supremacy of Islam in this country. One of the major characteristics of religious type bigots is that they see the world in a black and white fashion. For example, they like to make a black and white distinction between religion and secularism without understanding that there are elements of similarity between both, especially on values of equality, social justice and compassion. There are secularists who are religious but do not support the dominance of any religion in the public domain. This shows that goodness can be seen in complexity which does not harm religion. For religious bigots, anyone who does not share their religious ideology and identity is regarded as an enemy. They hide behind emotional slogans of protecting religion when the actual fact is that they have placed religion in an ideolegalistic cocoon where liberating religion has become a great necessity.

It is vital for politicians, Muslim intellectuals and religious authorities to get to the root cause of why such thinking is emerging in moderate Malaysia. Is it due to close ideological ties between Malaysia and Saudi Arabian religious and political elites who have strong influence on religious leaders in this country? International commentators of global politics have pointed out the role that Saudi Arabia has played in supporting rebels in Syria besides the role of reinforcing the divide between Sunni and Shite communities. Are the current religious bodies influenced by the religious and ideological orientation of this particular state? Is religion deliberately distorted and manipulated to create scenarios where there could be rallying cries to support a particular political party whose support among unban electorate has been reduced since the 2008 general election? Is religious education and indoctrination in schools and universities based on the link between faith and reason or is it based on ideological construct which aims for religious supremacy where there is no room for reasoned discourse?

Blaming fellow citizens of different ethnic and religious orientation, secularism or the West for the ills plaguing a community will not solve problems because it is based on a reactive emotional behaviour rather than on a proactive behaviour that is rooted in values and willing to understand and to be understood in a reasoned manner. It is time that Political Leadership and intellectuals who support a progressive Malaysia start to take action and play a critical role to bring back Malaysia to a middle path before the country is destroyed by ethno-religious bigots. This could be done by dialogue and reasoning on the complexity of identity based on Islam and how it is affecting inter-ethnic and religious ties in the country. Such discourse should be held in the public domain, universities and in the media. The clock is ticking and it is time for the Political Leadership to be proactive, to prevent a distorted understanding of religion that could cause a situation where there is no turning back. The involvement of young Malaysian men in the sectarian conflict on Syrian soil portrays this reality.

Stop defending religious extremism


KOTA KINABALU: The SIB Sabah Church wants the Attorney-General (A-G) and de-facto law minister to stop defending religious extremism and instead take immediate action against those wanting to burn Bibles.
Rev Jerry Dusing, President of the Sidang Injil Borneo or the Evangelical Church of Sabah, said the failure to act against religious bigotry and extremism can only serve to embolden such extremists to become more incendiary in their posture against non-Muslims. 

"The views of both the A-G and the law minister are both obnoxious and unacceptable. It is clear that under Article 8(1) of the Federal Constitution, all persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law," said Dusing. 

"Even Muslim leaders in the Government reject such extremism. We welcome the statement by Sabah Legislative Assembly Speaker Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak that telling Malaysians that it is right for Ibrahim Ali (Perkasa President) to call for the burning of the Bible is not something that Muslims in Sabah and Sarawak will endorse," he added. 

"We are indeed very encouraged that the Sabah Speaker pointed out that even if Christians do not protest such statements, Muslims in Sabah and Sarawak would still feel uncomfortable with something like that and that Tun Dr Mahathir should speak out with a voice of moderation and not with a voice of extremism (in defending Ibrahim Ali)." 

Dusing said: "Both the A-G and the law minister should understand this very well as their oaths of office demand that they uphold and defend the constitution as the supreme law of the land. 

"The A-G cannot choose to keep silent on this issue when the whole nation is waiting for a response from him. On such an important issue, it is only fair for all Malaysians to know that justice and fairness is not only done but seen to be done. The Federal Constitution is the supreme law of the land. The supremacy of racism and religious bigotry cannot be seen to be condoned and defended by our government," he added.
We have come a long way since the formation of Malaysia, he said, adding the formation of Malaysia was based on the understanding that this nation would be multi-cultural and multi-religious. 

"In our pursuit of building this nation, there must be mutual tolerance and respect for one another's background and beliefs. Religious extremism must not be tolerated and we must nip this in the bud," said Dusing. 

In January last year, Ibrahim had on record called on Muslims to seize and burn copies of Bibles which contain the term "Allah" or other Arabic religious words and that it was the only way to stop non-Muslims from stirring the sensitivities and sentiments of the majority of population in the country.

Malaysia's Finance Minister Performance (1990-till todate)


IF BN wins the election, our deficit will ballooned to RM 1 trillion in 10 years time.  

Our kids will either find jobs in Indonesia or work as maid in Arab Saudi. Please choose !!!


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10. 1,100 hektar di Sungai Karap Umpama Mantap Sdn Bhd – Abu Bekir Taib.
11. 10,000 hektar di Lot 1208 Sungai Karap – Abu Bekir Taib.

12. 50 hektar … di Jalan Tusan, Sibuti – Ukiran Mantap Sdn Bhd – Abu Bekir Taib.

13. 4,000 hektar di Sungai Bok, Tinjar – Log Oak Promotion Sdn Bhd – Abu Bekir Taib.
14. 4,500 hektar di Sungai Tutoh Syarikat Radiant Lagoon – Abu Bekir Taib.

15. 5,000 hektar di Sungai Karap & Sungai Kulak – Amgreen Gain Sdn Bhd – Ibrahim Mahmud (abang/adik Taib).

16. 50 hektar … di Sungai Karabungan, Niah – Hamid Sepawi (sepupu Taib) & Hasmi b Hasnan.
17. 31,000 hektar … tanah NCR di Long Lamai – Merawa Sdn Bhd (anak syarikat Samling Global).

18. 2,600 hektar di Jalan Setium – Mega Bumimas Sdn Bhd (anak syarikat Ta An – Hamed Sepawi (sepupu Taib).

19. 10,000 hektar di Similajau – Sahua Enterprise Sdn Bhd – Mohamid Morshidi bin Abdul Ghani (Setiausaha BN Sarawak).

20. 4,500 hektar … di Similajau – Derawan Sdn Bhd – Mohamid Morshidi bin Abdul Ghani (Setiausaha BN Sarawak).
21. 15,000 hektar … tanah NCR kaum Penan di Ba Jawi Samling Plywood (Miri) Sdn Bhd.

22. 1,600 hektar … di Setuan – Hasmi Hasan (proksi Taib).

23. 10,000 hektar di Sungai Takan & Ulu Sungai Nyatak, Tatau – Ikrar Bumi Sdn Bhd Elia Geneid (anak saudara Taib).
24. 8,000 hektar … di Balingian (sebahagian besar kawasan ini asalnya adalah hutam simpan Setuan Besar) – Saradu Plantations Sdn Bhd, Organic Treasure Sdn Bhd & Kumpulan Parabena Sdn Bhd – Raziah Mahmud (adik Taib) & Robert Geneid (ipar Taib).
25. 10,000 hektar … di Ulu Mukah – Sarawak Plantations Entiti perniagaan ini telah diswastakn, 60% pegangan saham dimiliki olh Hamid Sepawi (sepupu Taib) & Hasmi b Hasnan.

26. 5,000 hektar … di Mukah – Delta Padi Sdn Bhd (Taib Mahmud) & LCD (pengerusinya ialah Taib Mahmud).
27. 5,000 hektar di Sungai Bawan – Palmlyn Sdn Bhd Taib Mahmud & Arip Mahmud.

28. 13,000 hektar di Sungai Bawan Golden Star Ace Sdn Bhd – Taib Mahmud & Arip Mahmud.

29. 4,000 hektar di Sungai Sikat, Mukah – Bella Magic Sdn Bhd – Abu Bekir Taib.
30. 5,000 hektar di Kenyana Rajah Mutiara Sdn Bhd Taib Mahmud & Arip Mahmud.

31. 2,000 hektar di Loba Kabang – Victoria Square Development Sdn Bhd Ibrahim Mahmud (abang/adik Taib).

32. 2,050 hektar di Penasu Igan – Victoria Square Development Sdn Bhd Ibrahim Mahmud (abang/adik Taib).
33. 5,000 hektar di Antara Batang, Oya & Batang Mukah – Kub Sepadu Sdn Bhd – Hamid Sepawi (sepupu Taib).

34. 10,500 hektar di Sungai Retus – Hariyama Sdn Bhd Taib Mahmud & Arip Mahmud.

35. 768 hektar … di Pasai Siong, Sungai Retus – Masretus Oil Palm Plantation Sdn Bhd Ibrahim Mahmud(abang/ adik Taib), Yahya bin Ibrahim (anak saudara Taib) & Mahmud bin Ibrahim (anak saudara Taib).
36. 400 hektar … di Tulai Meradong – Delta Padi Sdn Bhd (Taib Mahmud) & LCD(pengerusinya ialah Taib Mahmud).

37. 2,000 hektar … di Batang Lebaan, Sibu – Delta Padi Sdn Bhd (Taib Mahmud) & LCDA (pengerusinya ialah Taib Mahmud).
38. 100 hektar … di Sungai Lengan, Sibu – Delta Padi Sdn Bhd (Taib Mahmud) & LCDA (pengerusinya ialah Taib Mahmud).

39. 600 hektar … di Sungai Melayu, Meradong – Sarawak Plantations – Entiti perniagaan ini telah diswastakan, 60% pegangan saham dimiliki olh Hamid Sepawi (sepupu Taib) & Hasmi b Hasnan.
40. 1,113 hektar di Batang Lassa – Europalm Sdn Bhd (anak syarikat Ta Ann Holdings) – Hamid Sepawi (sepupu Taib).

41. 1,500 hektar … di Jin Matu, Daro – Europalm Sdn Bhd (anak syarikat Ta Ann Holdings) Hamid Sepawi (sepupu Taib).

42. 90 hektar … di Kampung Tebang, Batang Lassa,Daro – Multi Maximum Sdn Bhd (anak syarikat Ta Ann Holdings) Hamid Sepawi (sepupu Taib).
43. 15,000 hektar di Pulau Bruit – Eastern Eden Sdn Bhd & Poh Zhen Sdn Bhd – Arip Mahmud (abang/adik Taib), Ali Mahmud (abang/adik Taib) & Azerina Mohd Arip (ipar Taib).

44. 7,700 hektar di Paloh Delta Padi Sdn Bhd (Taib Mahmud) & LCDA (pengerusinya ialah Taib Mahmud).
45. 9,000 hektar di Sungai Machan Tengah – Polar Tower Sdn Bhd – Abu Bekir Taib (anak Taib).

46. 5,000 hektar … di Sungai Selepong & Sungai Kawasan – Ample Agro Sdn Bhd – Fatimah Abdul Rahman (kakak/adik kpd YB Norah binti Abdul Rahman yg juga sepupu Taib).
47. 70,000 hektar di Bijat Land District, Sri Aman –beberapa buah syarikat yg diuruskan olh Titanium Management Sdn Bhd – Abu Bekir Taib (anak Taib Mahmud).

48. 2,300 hektar di Sungai Klauh & Sungai Dor – Tabaruk Abadi Sdn Bhd Ali Mahmud (abang/adik Taib Mahmud).
49. 700 hektar … di Sungai Batang Klauh – Sarawak Plantations Entiti perniagaan ini telah diswastakn, 60% pegangan saham dimiliki olh Hamid Sepawi (sepupu Taib) & Hasmi b Hasnan.

50. 900 hektar … di Melugu,Sri Aman – Sarawak Oil Palm – Entiti perniagaan ini juga telah diswastakan, 60% pegangan saham dimiliki olh Hamid Sepawi (sepupu Taib) & Hasmi b Hasnan.
51. 7,000 hektar di Simunjan Gedong Plantation Sdn Bhd –Naroden Majais (ahli politik BN).

52. 5,000 hektar di Batang Sadong – Indranika Jaya Sdn Bhd – Naroden Majais (ahli politik BN).

53. 5,600 hektar … di Batang Sadong – Hydroflow Sdn Bhd – Naroden Majais (ahli politik BN).
54. 700 hektar … di Antara Sungai Igom – Poliga Sdn Bhd – Ahmad bin Su’ut (bomoh Taib Mahmud).

55. 1,000 hektar … Sarawak Plantations – Entiti perniagaan ini telah diswastakan, 60% pegangan saham dimiliki olh Hamid Sepawi (sepupu Taib) d Hasmi b Hasnan.
56. 500 hektar … di Munggu Kupi, Serian – Ahmad bin Su’ut (bomoh Taib Mahmud).

57. 354 hektar … tanah NCR penduduk Kampung Segenam, di antara Batang Sadong & Ensengai Road, Serian –diberikan kpd Usaha Jasamaju Sdn Bhd –pemegang saham Usaha Jasamaju Sdn Bhd ialah Asset Teamwork Sdn Bhd (125,000 unit saham), Ting Kang Hwa (187,500 unit), Betty Yii Pick Koung (7,500 unit), Wong Kuok Kai (325,000 unit), Lau Hie Ping (75,000 unit), Wong Kuo Hea (375,000 unit), Knightswealth Sdn Bhd (50,000 unit), Chai Min Kian (125,000 unit), Lim Choo Tad (25,000 unit), Siew Meng Kun (55,000 unit), Century Merit Sdn Bhd (125,000 unit), Transwill Sdn Bhd (125,000 unit) & Butrasemari Sdn Bhd (900,000 unit) – Nota : Lau Hie Ping, Wong Kuo Hea, Lim Choo Tad, Siew Meng Kun drpd Ta Ann Holdings & Chai Min Kian adalah politikus parti komponen BN Sarawak iaitu SUPP. Butrasemari Sdn Bhd berkait dgn Abdul Hamid Sepawi (proksi Taib Mahmud) yg merupakan Pengerusi Eksekutif Ta Ann Holdings.
58. 3,305 hektar … di Sebangan – Quality Concrete Holdings Berhad Raziah Mahmud (kakak/adik Taib).

59. 10,000 hektar di Sungai Bakong & Sungai Karap – Polar Red Sdn Bhd – Abu Bekir Taib (anak Taib Mahmud).
60. 700 ekar (283 hektar)… di Batu 13, Kuching – Mesti Bersatu Sdn Bhd, LCDA (pengerusinya ialah Taib Mahmud) & Lanco Plantations (keluarga Arip Mahmud – abang/adik Taib).

61. 1,300 hektar … di Kemajuan, Lembaga Sarawak Plantations – Entiti perniagaan ini telah diswastakn, 60% pegangan saham dimiliki olh Hamid Sepawi (sepupu Taib) & Hasmi b Hasnan Kekayaan perbadi Taib ialah AS$ 15 Billion (RM 46 Billion) Harta keluarga AS$21 bilion (RM64 bilion)    


Dear all please remember this all RAKYAT money
 not UMNO / BN money !!!

  
Don't you think Pakatan Rakyat deserves your vote for a change for the better at the next General Election?  
  
Or you going to keep vote corrupt & racist party like UMNO & BN ?? 
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Now, Sarawak chapters of Jais, Jakim must state their stand

KUCHING: The 321 Bibles seized in Jan 2 have been released. While not all is lost, not all is solved either.
Sarawak and Sarawakians still need greater assurance related to the Bible issue, which a state legislative assembly member has brought to the attention of the august house currently in sitting.

But before we go further into that, it certainly looks like a guarded statement from the Association of Churches Sarawak (ACS) chairman Datuk Bolly Lapok after he took possession of the Bibles, saying ACS was grateful for the intervention of the Selangor Sultan in the matter.

He said the sultan and ACS were keen to see an end to the impasse surrounding the Bibles “based on a practical and common sense solution which recognised that the use and distribution of Bibles containing the word Allah was against state laws”.

“The ACS accepts the resolution that has been achieved in this instant. It is hoped that the spirit of compromise underlying the resolution may be viewed as a step towards enhancing interfaith understanding and harmony in Malaysia,” he added.
(From left): Bolly and the Sultan of Selangor

The sultan did not return the Bibles to ACS; Majlis Agama Islam Selangor (Mais) did.
Bolly was given the Bibles in what The Star described as “a simple ceremony” at the Istana Alam Shah in Klang in the presence of Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, Mentri Besar Azmin Ali, Jais officials and leaders and representatives from the Christian community.

A Majlis Agama Islam Selangor (Mais) statement signed by its chairman Datuk Mohamad Adzib Mohd Isa said the Selangor Sultan hoped that the distribution and printing of Bibles containing the word Allah would no longer be done in Selangor, which is an offence under the Non-Islamic Religious Enactment (Control Development among Muslims), 1988.

Earlier in the same statement, Adzib said Mais’ returning of the Bibles to ACS was on the strict conditions that they are not to be distributed in Selangor and only for use by Christians in Sarawak.
“The settlement is to respect each other’s religious beliefs and maintain the sensitivity of various religions in the country.”

There was no report of what Sultan Sharafuddin said at the “simple ceremony” beyond what was contained in the Mais statement.

That’s how powerful Mais is. The same goes for Jabatan Agama Islam Selangor (Jais).
Let’s retrace the Bible seizure episode for a clearer picture of the powerful Mais and Jais.
On Jan 2, Jais raided the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM)'s premises in Damansara and seized the Bibles, claiming it contravened a 1988 Selangor enactment, which prevents non-Muslims from using the word ‘Allah’.

The case was referred to the Attorney-General's Chambers by the Selangor government.
In June, Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail declared the case closed, said the seized books did not involve issues of national security and ordered Jais to return them to BSM.

Mais did not agree with the AG's decision to close the case and refused to return the Bibles.
Adzib said: “The reason given by the Attorney-General for not prosecuting those involved will cause confusion among the Muslims.

“As the authorities on Islam in the state, Mais and Jais are very concerned over any attempt to tarnish the sanctity of Islam by misusing Quranic terms or names, a move we believe could be used for proselytising.”
Which saw the Selangor government, then helmed by Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, stepping in and adopting the AG's stance.
Khalid referred the matter to the palace, with Sharafuddin ordering Mais and Jais to refer the matter to the courts to decide whether the bibles should be returned or destroyed.
Mais remained unfazed and unmoved with Adzib saying the decision to not comply with the state government’s order to return the Bibles was made at a meeting between Mais and Jais.
“We have decided not to return the Bibles as the Selangor executive council has no jurisdiction to instruct Jais to return items seized during any investigation.
“We are adhering to the Criminal Procedure Code that says items seized in the course of an investigation can be referred to the court to be disposed of.”

He said it was decided in that meeting of Mais and Jais that there was a case against BSM under the Non-Islamic Religion (Control of Propagation among Muslims) Enactment 1988.
It is against this backdrop that PKR’s Ba Kelalan assemblyman Baru Bian has requested at the current sitting of the Sarawak Legislative Assembly that the Sarawak state government obtain the Sarawak chapters of Jais (Sarawak) and Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim)’s stand on Sarawakians’ rights to use the word ‘Allah’.

Baru, who is state PKR chairman, said State Islamic Council (Mais) members and their administrative arm Jais are appointed by the Yang di-pertuan Agong and they are therefore answerable to the king and not the chief minister.
“The chief minister appears to have no say in the affairs of Mais and Jais. Jakim, which has branches in Sarawak, is a unit under the Prime Minister’s Department, and presumably, they are answerable to the prime minister and not to our chief minister.”

Baru said Jais and Jakim’s stand is necessary to allay fears of many Sarawakians and in support of Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem’s stand.

“I’m thankful for the voices of the Chief Minister and Land Development Minister Tan Sri Dr James Masing (Parti Rakyat Sarawak president) who have consistently rejected religious extremism that is being propounded by several groups in Peninsular Malaysia.

“Indeed, there is no place in Sarawak for supremacist and hate-mongering bigots and we must strive to keep them out of Sarawak. However, I must voice my concern that Jais and Jakim have not stated their stand on our rights to use the word ‘Allah’,” Baru said.

Tan Sri Dr James Masing doesn’t want to hear of another Bible-seizing incident.

“I don’t want to see or even hear of another incident involving the seizure of our Bibles. Don’t let it happen again,” the outspoken Land Development Minister from Sarawak.

He was commenting on the return of the seized Bibles today to the Association of Churches in Sarawak which signalled an end to the religious saga that hogged the nation since January this year.

The release of 321 copies of the holy book, however, came with two conditions; one, that they are not to be distributed in Selangor, especially among Muslims, and two, they are only for Christians in Sarawak.
Nevertheless, for Christians throughout the country, news of the release of the Malay and Iban-language Bibles was a welcome relief.

Arguing that the seizure was illegal in the first place as it went against the Federal Constitution, which guaranteed freedom of worship, Masing felt that some overzealous officials had gone overboard.
“It’s illegal in the first place…even the AG has ordered the Bibles to be returned. They should not have detained the holy book until now,” he said.

The minister appeared upset with the conditions that the Iban-language Bibles should not be distributed in Selangor and could only be used in Sarawak.

His concern is understandable as there is a sizable Sarawak population in Selangor who are Christians. And this group has been using the Malay and Iban-language Bibles.
So what happens to the thousands of Sarawak Christians residing in Selangor who have all along been using the Iban-language Bibles?
Says Masing: “There should be no restriction for Sarawak Christians in Selangor as long as these Bibles are only for them. Of course it would be wrong if they are given to non-Christians.”    
The controversy began in January this year when Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) officials seized the Bibles from the Bible of Society of Malaysia (BSM) on grounds that the Bibles violated a 1988 Selangor enactment which prohibited non-Muslims from using the word "Allah".
The Bibles were handed to the chairman of the Association of Churches in Sarawak, Rev Archbishop Datuk Bolly Lapok, in a simple ceremony at the Istana Alam Shah in Klang witnessed by Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah and Menteri Besar Azmin Ali.

After the ceremony, Azmin had twitted that an “amicable solution” had been reached.
Unlike his predecessor, Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim, Azmin had taken a tougher stand and stood up for the Christian community, arguing that the Bibles did not belong to the Muslims and therefore should be returned to the Christians.

“Islam has never asked its followers to disrupt the harmony of other faiths. It is our duty to respect the practice of the other religions in the country. This is a multi-religious society. This is not Saudi Arabia or Sudan. This is Malaysia. This is Selangor.”

His remarks were welcomed by the Christian community.
The MCA, meanwhile, in urging Azmin to ensure there is no repeat of the fiasco, regrets the condition which prohibits the distribution of the Iban-language Bibles in Selangor.

Gan
The party’s Syariah Law and Policy Implementation Special Task Force chairman Gan Ping Siew questioned how Sarawak and Sabah Bumiputeras working in the armed forces, police force, civil service or studying on the peninsular alongside with Orang Asli Christians whose first language is Bahasa Malaysia would refer to their scriptures.

He called on state governments to look into the relevant provisions in the state enactments to enable Malay-speaking Christian Bumiputeras and Orang Aslis to have access to Bahasa Malaysia or native-language versions of the Bible in their homes and places of worship in the peninsula. 

Prepare for ‘exclusive’ religious extremism Malaysia

The Washington Post June 26 commentary headline screams: “Muslims don’t own the term ‘Allah’ in Malaysia or anywhere else”. Surely, the right to use the word or term “Allah” has become a global embarrassment for Malaysia. Even Muslim clerics in Islamic countries agree with the headline. So, just what is the Malaysian government’s agenda in hanging Malaysia out to dry to the world over just one universal word or term that had been in use globally long before the founding of Islam. 

All peace-loving Malaysians cannot help but see the “Allah” issue as an Umno agenda to consolidate its Malay political base following two consecutive disastrous 12th and 13th General Elections (GE12 and GE13). In GE12, the Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN) lost its traditional two-thirds majority in Parliament and in GE13, it fared worse, losing the popular vote for the first time in electoral history. BN-Umno is now ruling Malaysia as a “minority” and the only way to see why the “Allah” issue is being manoeuvred by the BN government is nothing more than political expediency. Surely, Umno’s “Allah” is not being used for “exclusive”, worse still, not for “reclusive” like North Korea. The “Allah” row has surely confirmed Umno’s resolve to remain in power at all cost – bukan demi rakyat dan negara (not for people and country). 

How else to see it any other way when the BN-Umno administration ignores facts and the rest of the world to put Malaysia in the limelight for all the wrong reasons. The Washington Post’s Religion News Service writer Salaam Bhatti wrote: If a Muslim reads a Catholic newspaper in the Malay language and sees the word “Allah,” he might mistake it as a reference to the Quran and become a Christian when he learns those are actually references to the Bible. At least, that’s the reasoning Malaysian Muslim groups used when they pushed Malaysia’s Supreme Court to ban a Catholic newspaper from referring to God as “Allah”. On Monday (June 23), Malaysia’s Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that found the term “Allah” belonged to Muslims. 

Now, the Catholic Church in Malaysia is no longer permitted to use the word “Allah” in its Malay-language newspapers, even though “Allah” has been used for centuries by all faiths in the area when referring to God. As is precedent in countries with this type of oppressive behavior, the oppression will only increase. It is crucial to understand the true impact this unjust decision will have, and it is also important to understand the best solution to overcome this intolerance. First, the negative impact. This decision provides support to an extremist base to place additional restrictions on religious minorities. 

Larger restrictions rarely take place overnight; they take time to plan and play out. For example, in neighboring Indonesia, the constitution states that freedom of religion is guaranteed. That’s ironic, because Indonesia made it illegal to be an Ahmadi Muslim, and now a rapidly growing movement is trying to ban Shiite Islam. Malaysia is no different. Its constitution declares Islam to be the official state religion and allows other religions to practice peacefully. Yet it is illegal and a jailable offense to be a Shiite Muslim in Malaysia. The ban on Catholics using “Allah” in print will head in the same direction. Hate groups will create protests and pressure the government into imposing stricter laws, such as completely disallowing non-Muslims from using the word “Allah.” This isn’t a fantasy. This is the same route Pakistan took 40 years ago. 

Pakistan enacted anti-blasphemy laws that led to copyrighting Islamic terminology and practices. Likewise, oppression of freedom of conscience creates a hellish environment. These laws and hate movements will empower people to find, persecute and kill minority Muslims and non-Muslims for their faith. Again, this is not without precedent, but the same route of other countries in the region, such as Indonesia and Pakistan, where Ahmadis, Shiites, Hindus, Christians and atheists face such danger. But it’s not too late to reverse the problem. Here’s the secular solution provided by a leading religious voice: His Holiness the Khalifa of Islam and worldwide leader of Ahmadi Muslims, Mirza Masroor Ahmad. His Holiness has advised two fundamental requirements to resolve such conflicts: 

First, keep matters of religion and state separate. His Holiness repeatedly advised that “Khilafat (Caliphate) has no interest in power or government.” Just the same, Islamic religious leadership on any other level should follow that separation. If this doesn’t happen, then matters relating to one religion will be enforced on all others. “Instead of pointing fingers at one another and instead of hurting the feelings of each other,” he said, “we should instead join together as one and work toward the progress of the nation and towards establishing peace in the world.” Second, in April, His Holiness reminded Muslims that Allah is “the source of peace.” However, as we saw in the Malaysian courts, Allah became a source of anxiety for Catholics and other religious minorities who fear they’ll be targeted next. God as a source of peace would not want to be associated with a name-sharing squabble. 

After all, the Arabic term “Allah” predates Islam. Muslims have no ownership over it. The Quran mentions “(t)hose who remember Allah standing, sitting, and lying on their sides.” That reference is not exclusive to Muslims. Rather, all people have a right to remember Allah whenever and however they wish. It’s a pity that the Malaysian government tries to prevent Catholics from remembering Allah while they’re reading their newspapers standing, sitting and lying on their sides. (Salaam Bhatti is a deputy spokesman for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, USA, and is an attorney in New York.) Since BN-Umno does not fear a global backlash, affecting investor confidence and therefore the country’s future, Malaysians can expect to see race and religious bigots and zealots rule the day. Prepare to accept reality and live to adapt to religious extremism in Malaysia.

The rise of radical Islam in Malaysia

“This unwillingness to confront Islamism risks the 21st Century being characterised by conflict between people of different cultures” – Tony Blair (Guardian, April, 23, 2014).

Tony Blair’s call to confront radical Islam echoes that of many liberal tolerant politicians who have seen how radical Islam has eaten into the fabric of their society. Countries like Holland, France, Germany, Britain who have for years bent backwards to accommodate Muslim immigrants have had enough.

People are voting for extreme right parties in droves as a reaction to radical Islam. The problem is mostly caused by the inability/refusal of radical Muslims to adapt to the host culture. Not just that, they demand that institutions cater to and/or conform to their Islamic principles. Most of the time the governments of those countries bend backwards to accommodate them.

At this point it is pertinent to ask if any Islamic country (Saudi, Kuwait, Bahrain) has tried in any way to accommodate the religious needs or lifestyle of the non-Muslims in their society? In the Gulf States there are no churches. Christians worship in private houses discreetly, ever so afraid of being found out.

None of the Islamic Countries practise religious or cultural tolerance. Yet Muslims who come from such countries which do not tolerate other religions, demand and expect the full extent of their ‘rights’ in the countries they emigrate to like Britain. But if only it were as simple as that, asking that their religious needs be met, but it’s not. Communities have seen radical Islam intrude into their lives. Demands have been made which impinge on their rights.
Dubbed ‘Operation Trojan Horse’, British authorities are investigating an alleged plot by Muslim fundamentalists to Islamise public schools in England and Wales by infiltrating school boards and appointing Muslim head teachers or pushing out those who did not bend to their views.
There have been complaints by ex-head teachers that they have been forced out by the majority Muslim Board of Governors for challenging their orders to scrap sex education, or stop citizenship classes because they were deemed “un-Islamic” and introduce Islamic Studies into the curriculum or to only allow halal food in the school, or segregate boys and girls.

The head teacher of Ladypool Primary School in Birmingham, Huda Aslam, who was appointed by a majority Muslim School Board, banned Santa Claus, or the singing of carols (except for non-religious songs like Jingle Bells), the giving of presents or the mention of Jesus as the Son of God. Yet these are traditions that have been celebrated for centuries.

Muslim groups say that such allegations are unfounded and motivated by Islamophobia. But Khalid Mahmood (Labour MP – Birmingham) a practising Muslim, attested that many school board members are Salafists and Wahabbis who are intent on imposing their views in the classrooms and the day to day
running of schools.

He believes British Education officials have previously resisted getting involved in disputes with Muslim Boards for fear of being called racist or anti-Islam. We shall have to wait for the findings of the investigation to know the truth of the matter.

The point is, complaints about radical Islam are not confined to one country. It is widespread across Europe. And it is not an overnight phenomenon either; critics in Britain say it has been going on for well over 20 years but because authorities have not taken any action for fear of being branded anti-Islam it has been allowed to fester.

The problem has in fact become global. Even the largest Muslim country in the world, Indonesia, is worried about the rise of radical Islam. The Mayor of Bogor has ignored the supreme court order to allow a church to be opened for worship. This issue has been going on for years and the congregation has taken to worshipping on the street outside their church. The police will not act and the President is impotent. Everyone is afraid of the extremists. With a change of mayor this year the members of the church hope the new mayor will fulfill his election promise to lift the ban.

There was a case where a person was convicted of killing an Ahmadhist and he was given a six month sentence. Was the judge bias or afraid? The homes of Shiites have been burned and the people driven out by Sunnis in one district in Java. The government dared not take action against the perpetrators. Today organisations like the National Anti-Shia Alliance are openly calling for the persecution of Shiites. Extremist groups are inciting hatred against anyone who hold different views. But the minority sects are fighting back despite the lack of support from the authorities.

Ahmadists have ignored the call by the Indonesian Ulama Council (MUI) to stop their activities citing Pancasila, the State Philosophy and the Constitution of 1945 which guarantees freedom of religion. In Aceh the government has enforced hudud and applied it to non-Muslims. (Under the peace agreement with the central government Aceh was given autonomy on religion).

Except for pockets of religious fanatics Indonesians are in general tolerant and liberal (especially post Suharto’s “new order” regime). North Sumatera had a Christian governor despite being a Muslim majority province. Jakarta’s Deputy Governor is a Chinese Christian. He will be Governor should Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo wins the presidency in July which pundits expect him to. In the recent parliamentary election (April 2014) none of the Islamic parties made much headway. They could not gather enough votes to have bargaining power with the secular parties. This is a rejection of politics in religion if you like and a rejection of religious extremism.

When local Muslim extremists tried to pressure the director (a Christian lady) of a regency in Jakarta to resign Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo the governor would not give in; saying that religion or gender had nothing to do with his appointments, that only merit and ability mattered. The extremists ended their protests because the majority in the community took heart from Jokowi’s firm stand and did not support them.
So it can be done. If these religious bullies are stood up to they will back down – that’s how bullies are – they are basically cowards. Such firm leadership is encouraging; yet unless the President takes strong measures against religious extremism Indonesians are afraid Islamic radicalism will infect their society.

What about the rise of radical Islam in Malaysia?
We are not immune to radical Islam judging by recent events. But although it has gained prominence recently it is not an overnight phenomenon. It can be said that radical Islam has its roots in the early 70s when a new type of Malay students entered university. Unlike the students of the 50s and 60s these students were “more rural in origin . . . more deeply attached to religious rituals . . . seem to be less analytical and less critical in their thinking. Less confident and less secure both emotionally and intellectually, these students do not want to encounter new ideas and new theories . . . and become dogmatic advocates of a narrow backward Islam. It is at this point that the religion becomes a tool, an instrument to serve their own interests. They have a vested interest in seeing that their type of Islam triumphs.” (Chandra Muzaffar, Islamic Resurgence in Malaysia pp30 & 31).
Many from that generation are now in positions of power in the civil service, police, armed forces, academia and religious bodies. Many have made a career in politics, some becoming ministers. Perhaps this explains the rise of radical Islam; why the government does not prosecute those who incite religious (and racial) hatred. Why despite the fact that every international scholar of Islam (including many local ones) declaring that there is nothing in the Quran that forbids non-Muslims from using the Arabic word “Allah” the government still panders to the extremists who demand their narrow views be enforced.
This explains why the bureaucrats in local governments have for years done everything within their power to impede the building of places of worship of non-Muslims. The Shah Alam Catholic Church took nearly 30 years to build due to government harassment. This is why we have so many shop-house
churches today because permission to build was almost impossible to obtain.

And now the legality of such churches is questioned under the “building use” by-law. There are no provisions for burial land for non-Muslims in many town plans and applications for burial land are met with bureaucratic foot-dragging.

Radical Islam has frightened the non-Muslims so much that many have tried to second-guess what is required of them to the extent that they comply even before they are ordered. Many mission schools have removed symbols of their religion so as not to offend the ‘sensitivities’ Muslims. Yet over the years thousands of Muslim students have passed through these schools (including the prime minister) without being offended…or converted.

But sensitivity applies to both sides; today “doa” is said at school assemblies without regard for the sensitivities of the non-Muslims. And students must take Islamic Civilisation as a foundation subject in universities. While school canteens must be halal, serving beef is acceptable despite the Hindu students.
Putting up a stand is not about being against Islam per se, it’s about standing up to religious bullies; it’s about fair play, tolerance and a ‘live and let live’ philosophy as practised by the Tunku and his government. That was a time when a tolerant and benign Islam was practised. Non-Muslims did not feel discriminated against and moderate Muslims did not feel pressured to conform or threatened. There was more inter-racial mixing and the nation was more cohesive.

It’s also about not letting fundamentalist Muslims dictate the agenda for our country. If liberal, tolerant Muslims think it won’t affect them, they should think again because hudud impinges on every aspect of their lives too. Look at the ridiculous situation in Aceh where the authorities have decreed that women cannot ride a motor bike straddled (they can ride side-saddle). This has affected thousands of Muslim women who depend on the ‘moto’ to ‘cari makan’.

But it is more serious than just riding a bike. These radicals will not tolerate any views other than theirs. The Shiites and Ahmadyists in Indonesia have suffered under those supposedly of their own faith just because they interpret the Quran differently. We have our own example in 1985 where 14 Muslims were shot and killed in Memali.
We are told that Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance so what went wrong? Far be it for me to comment on how Islam should be practised but it is worth noting the comments of Nurrohman Syarif a lecturer at the State Islamic University (UIN), Bandung:

“… the best way to minimise the influence of the theology of “hatred” is by promoting the theology of peace and tolerance.” He goes on to say “First, differences should be accepted as God’s plan (Surah- verse- al-Maidah/5:48). This verse shows the purpose of God in allowing differences is clearly to test a believer, in competing with one another in virtuous deeds. Unfortunately many Muslims . . .are more concerned with orthodoxy or interpretation of correct beliefs, which is actually the domain of God, instead of orthopraxis or correct living.”

Second, there should be no coercion in religion or belief (al-Baqarah/2:2.56). Religious freedom is vital to demand responsibility for the follower regarding his belief. How can someone be asked for responsibility if he or she has no choice at all? So even the Prophet Mohammed is forbidden to coerce or intimidate others in matters of belief.

Third, there should be no insults toward people with different beliefs or faiths (al-An’am/6:108). Fourth, because God is said to have the highest authority in determining deviation or heresy, the final decision on different sects should be left to God (al-An’am/6:159 and al-Nahl/16:125).

Fifth, as a community is supposed to be moderate (wasatan), Muslims are not allowed to claim their monopoly on heaven or paradise (al-Baqarah/2:62 and al-Maidah/5:69). Sixth, all human beings irrespective of their skin colour, religion, gender, race, ethnicity, or political affiliation should be treated as honourable persons as fellow descendants of Adam (al-Isra/17:70 and al-Hujurat/49;9-13).
To counter the theology of hate, Muslims should endorse a theology of peace and harmony by accepting diversity as a blessing (rahmat). While religion cannot totally be separated from politics, politicisation of religion should be avoided. Politicisation here refers to abuse of religion as a political tool to gain or preserve power by categorising those with different beliefs or political orientation as an enemy.

Since the theology of hate is often accompanied by an intimidating, egocentric way of thinking, critical thinking should be given space to minimise it. For Muslims, such thinking is part of ijtihad (individual reasoning), which was highly endorsed by the Prophet Mohammed.” – Nurrohman Syarif – Jakarta Post, April 25, 2014.

If only the government observes the six points listed above by Nurrohman Syarif there will be no institutional racial discrimination, or discrimination and persecution of other religions. If Muslims apply ijtihad they will not be misled by religious extremists and demagogues. Has radical Islam taken hold in Malaysia? In my optimistic moments I’d like to think not yet (not fully) but the threat of a radical Islam that combines religion with politics and which opposes a pluralistic society is real.

“Unless moderate, tolerant Malaysians (including Muslims) take a stand it will take hold. “The threat of this radical Islam is not abating . . . This struggle between what we may call the open-minded and the close-minded is at the heart of whether the 21st Century turns in the direction of peaceful co-existence or conflict between people of different cultures.” – Tony Blair.

In our country’s context it is a struggle between tolerant, liberal and peaceful Malaysians of all races and religion and the narrow minded few who want to impose their own brand of Islam on everyone. Should the extremists who spread the “theology of hatred” win against those who preach “the theology of tolerance and peace” it will turn a peaceful and tolerant country where different races and religions have lived side by side for a very long time into a Taliban state. We adopt hudud at our peril. It’s too depressing to ponder such an outcome.

Religious extremism: View of an East Malaysian Muslim

The recent upsurge of religious extremists movement in Malaysia looks like planned and strategised in subtle way, and one wonders if the country is turning into a breeding ground for the groups.
Religious extremists boast their struggles using NGOs as shields, under the pretext of "Islamic struggles". Ordinary citizens, especially non-Muslims, feel intimidated by their extreme, sometimes seditious remarks, which makes walking on Malaysian streets uncomfortable. The media too can be blamed for their aptness in sensationalising the issue of race and religions. Had they not given coverage, there is no way they could be where they are now.

When we talk about religion, there is a different perception among people in Sabah compared with Malaysians in the peninsula. Majority of Sabahans don’t share sympathy about the plight of Muslims from southern Philippines as they had experienced hell for the last fifty years or so, no matter what Tun Dr Mahathir said on the Project M.

Labour might be cheap because of their presence but the overall quality of life of Malaysians has declined, because those who migrated to Sabah were poorer than Sabahans, some were even criminals or escapees from prisons.

The biggest threat now economically in Sabah is not the Filipinos but those newly arrived from Celebes Island. There are 17 million in the crowded Celebes Island who look at Sabah as gold mine. My point is that Malaysia's religious extremists are all based in the peninsula, at the very nose of the people in power, and as such there is this suspicion for their inaction. We notice many extremists were the offshoots of Umno, which is why they are untouchable, such as Ibrahim Ali, the president of Perkasa.

We have heard such statements as "if you don’t like Malaysia go back to China" or "go back to India" or wherever. This kind of saying hurts. Malaysians in Sabah don’t share this view and can’t stomach it. Religion isn’t the only line of connection. Blood connection has always been thicker here. I have in fact written this phrase time and times again, as a Muslim I am disgusted because of the behaviour of my fellow Muslims.
If they, the extremists in the peninsula, can say to their neighbours next door, what about us, who are thousand miles away and as such so much less significant to them. Only a matter of time this same people would tell us to go back to Borneo. If that is the case, we ought to be thinking of doing something before it’s too late.

Among the most notable leaders now is a Muslim educated from a reputable Islamic institution Al Azhar University, Abdullah Zaik Abd Rahman, who has been behaving like a graduate of Boko Haram. But of course Egypt is no longer a suitable place to seek knowledge. I wouldn’t recommend. Malaysia should stop sending students to this part of the world. If the taste of pudding is in the eating, then we have had it. Don’t waste public money. If patriotism is what the government is for, they may not getting it all. Instead, some came back as religious bigots.

This reminds me of a TV discussion a few years back on why Christians in East Malaysia can use the word "Allah" but not in West Malaysia. The answer from one NGO leader was that it’s all right for East Malaysia to use "Allah", but it is not proper for Muslims in West Malaysia to allow Christians to use it. When asked why, he simply said, "Not proper". My question: Is he implying that Muslims in Sabah and Sarawak are not proper? – May 15, 2014.
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