Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Deputy UMNO Youth head, Khairy Jamaludin ( November 16, 2006) at the People’s Progressive Party Youth wing convention warned that there are limits to freedom.

He said while there was all the open atmosphere where government policies and leaders could be criticised by the media and where issues could be discussed, he said that there were limits that needed to be adhered. According to him, racial sensitivities still exist and that we should respect these boundaries.

The government, he said, could revert to a more controlled atmosphere if certain people chose to abuse this freedom. He hoped that the few people who were bent on testing the limits would not be too extreme, as this would prompt restriction.

Khairy warned that ”UMNO Youth will come down hard on those who breach the limits and ignore the boundaries of law and racial sensitivities”.

The question is why warn others when much of the needless saber rattling and blood curdling talk had come from UMNO?. In fact for the first time, Malaysians witnessed the worst manifestation of negative, divisive and destructive polemics when speakers at the UMNO general assembly ignored the boundaries of law and sensitivities.

Remember Malacca delegate Hasnoor Sidang Hussein bluntly stated that “ UMNO is willing to risk lives and bathe in blood in defence of race and religion.”

Remember Trengganu delegate Razali Idris who reminded that “Malay rights cannot be challenged, or else the Malays will run amok and May 13 will recur.

Remember UMNO Youth exco member Azimi Daim who said “when tension rises, the blood of Malay warriors will run in our veins”.

Remember UMNO delegate from Perlis who directed his question at youth chief Dato Seri Hishammuddin Hussein: “Datuk Hisham has unsheathed his keris, waved his keris, kissed his keris. We want to ask Dato Hisham when is he going to use it”.

Prior to these Malaysians have witnessed how UMNO youth members violently disrupted the APCET conference and has not forgotten when one UNMO Youth exco member during the Suqui controversy threatened to burn down the Chinese Assembly Hall and were equally alarmed when recently a group of UMNO members barged into Puchong M.CA Member of Parliament office and demanded retraction and apology for his speech in the Parliament simply because the Member of Parliament raised the concern of lack of non muslim places of worship.

Even the concept of Bangsa Malaysia held dearly by Malaysians have suddenly become unacceptable and untenable to the Johor Menteri Besar Dato Ghani Othman who fears that the concept could pose a threat to national stability. Instead of using the concept of Bangsa Malaysia to strengthen racial unity, and particularly when Malaysia is just one year away from celebrating 50 years of nationhood, there are politicians who endure to ensure divisiness.

Thus it must have come at no surprise when New Sunday Times (of all newspaper !) November 17, 2006 at pg 25 reported that since November, more Malaysians now more than ever are selling their properties and cars and are seeking to migrate.

According to a migration agent, they used to get on an average 15 to 20 enquiries a day. However between November 15 and November 19, 2006 there were 6,500 enquiries for Australia, 5,500 enquiries for New Zealand, 4,000 enquiries for Canada and 3,500 enquiries for other countries including Norway and Switzerland. And who exactly are migrating? According to another migration agent the callers were of all races-Malays, Chinese and Indians.

The newspaper also reported that real estate agents also revealed that an increasing number of people mainly from middle income groups and above and owned properties worth RM 250,000 and more of wanting to sell their houses and the reason given by most of them is that they are migrating and needed to dispose of their houses. Like real estate agents, used car dealers are also getting enquiries from would be emigrants. A used car dealer is quoted as telling that there was an increased number of sellers in the market recently.

Irresponsible acts, divisive, provocative and seditious polemics from politicians hoping to score sectarian points has without any doubt done grave damage to the Malaysian psyche and nation building particularly. There is indeed a quiet soul searching going on. Importantly, Malaysians are most concerned about their future and more importantly about the destiny of Malaysia. Many are fearful that recent events may well be the manifestation of a future Malaysia. Perhaps it is the apprehension and the wariness of the future which is precipitating many to consider migrating. More worrying is the fact that even Malays are considering to emigrate. That to me does not bode well for Malaysia and Malaysians.

Monday, December 11, 2006


Let us be honest. In Malaysia, no one is forced to become a Muslim. Whatever the reason for the conversion, no convert who having voluntarily embraced Islam, could not later claim he did not know the consequence of his conversion. In fact having embraced Islam voluntarily one expects him to be a good practicing Muslim.

The problem with some is that after having embraced Islam, they then either keep their new faith shrouded in secrecy or worst of all continue to follow the practices of former religion, sometimes brazenly open. Infact, many family members only come to know of the loved one’s conversion at death. That is when the problem arises. That is when the body tussle between the family and religious authorities begin.

Much of this could have easily been avoided if he had been honest, forthcoming and informed his family members of his conversion. By shrouding his conversion and keeping this as a dark secret, family members on his death instead of mourning his death, invitingly and inevitably become embroiled in a body tussle when religious authorities make a claim for his body. This is not only distressing for his family members but also brings religion and particularly Islam into open conflict.

All too often family members caught in such a situation proffer claims that the deceased during his lifetime continued to eat pork, drink alcohol or participate in non-muslim religious ceremonies. It must be remembered that these are not grounds to show that he had “renounced Islam” or had not been following his new faith. His actions would merely at worst make him a “bad” Muslim but never an apostate.

If he had embraced Islam voluntarily then family members must acknowledge his new faith and more importantly accept the fact that he must be buried according to Muslim rites however painful and distressing it may be.

Monday, December 04, 2006


The Star 1st December reported that the Barisan Nasional Johor State Assemblyman for Kemelah Ayub Rahmat defended the controversial action of the woman who sent an SMS alleging the baptism of Muslims (read www.normanfernandez.blogspot.com) and further said that the SMS senders should not be blamed as ‘it was a wariness over the possibility of apostasy reoccurring”.

For a start it is mind boggling that a Johor State assemblyman would waste precious assembly time and demean the august Assembly by raising not only an issue which occurred in another state (Perak) but worst of all insult non muslims and particularly Catholics, by showing solidarity with the woman.

If he has nothing much to say and which obviously he doesn’t have, then he should shut up and conceal his ignorance and stupidity. It would have been better if he had given others the opportunity to speak. Even stranger was his ignorance or the matter which almost disrupted peace, security and harmony so much so that police and the government had to step in and quickly resolve the issue. Obviously he was oblivious to all these and was beyond comprehension for this small minded and myopic politician.

Instead of ticking off the woman who sent the malicious and false SMS and the Muslim mob which descended and disturbed a religious celebration at the Our Lady of Lourdes Church Silibin, the assemblyman found no wrong and to add insult to injury makes an open pronouncement justifying and approving their action. Would he approve should a Christian mob pursuant to a malicious and unverified SMS descend and gather outside a mosque.?

While one does not expect Muslim assemblymen to rebuke the said Assemblyman for his idiocracy, what is perplexing was the indifference and the muted silence of Non Muslim assemblymen from MCA, MIC and GERAKAN who neither had the courage to immediately stand up and rebuke the assemblyman nor call on him to retract the statement let alone stand up and clarify the issue. These are the leaders voters have entrusted their votes to !.

Stranger still is the assemblyman’s logic that “wariness” was the reason for the Muslim mob to gather outside the Silibin Catholic church. Perhaps the assemblyman ought to know that wariness is never a justification for mob reaction. In fact in such situation it becomes all the more important that one should act and think rationally in seeking and verifying the truth. That’s what sensible right thinking people and people guided by religion would do.

The action of the Kemelah assemblyman maybe is the face of a future Malaysia. If leaders like the Kemelah assemblyman cannot think rationally, what hope is there for the flock.

Bahang dan kesan daripada mesyuarat perwakilan UMNO masih belum reda. Rata-rata gelagat dan ucapan beberapa perwakilan mendapat kecaman. Namun masih ada yang mempertahankan apa yang berlaku dalam mesyuarat UMNO tahun ini sebagai perkara biasa yang juga berlaku dalam mesyuarat parti-parti lain.

Suka atau tidak politik Malaysia adalah politik perkauman. Apatah lagi dengan hampir kebanyakkan parti- parti politik di Malaysia berteraskan perkauman sudah tentu matlamat utamanya adalah perjuangan untuk kaumnya.

Justru itu, sudah menjadi lumrah bahawa mesyuarat tahunan mana-mana parti yang berteraskan kaum, intipati mesyuarat, ucapan dan bahas akan menyentuh kepentingan kaumnya. Ini adalah hakikat dan sudah diterima semua. Kerana itulah apabila kedengaran laungan “bangsa, agama dan negara”, bangsa yang dimaksudkan bukanlah perjuangan untuk bangsa Malaysia tetapi perjuangan untuk kaumnya.

Nada mesyurat tahunan UMNO tahun ini bertukar daripada desakan kepada ugutan dan ucapan bertukar kepada hasutan perasaan kurang senang yang dipendam menjadi benci terbuka. Seolah-olah para perwakilan dalam mesyurat tahunan tahun ini mendapat lesen terbuka dan restu untuk bertindak sedemikian.

Untuk kali pertama kita menonton gelagat para perwakilan yang memberi tepukan gemuruh apabila wakil naik berang seolah-olah melepaskan perasaan dan pandangan yang selama ini terpendam. Ada wakil yang sekadar membidas kaum Cina. Tidak kurang juga yang begitu marah dengan kaum Cina. Malahan pemimpin serta parti komponen BN sendiri tidak terlepas dari bahang kemarahan para perwakilan.

Masyarakat bukan Melayu tergamak melihat wakil bahagian memberitahu perhimpunan bahawa keris telahpun dihayun, sudah pun dicium dan menghasut dengan persoalannya bila pula keris akan di gunakan. Lebih mengerikan adalah mendengar wakil yang bercakap pasal keris dibasahi darah. Amaran bahawa “amuk” yang juga digunakan dalam bahasa Inggeris adalah asalnya perkataan Melayu dan bahawa orang Melayu boleh naik amuk juga menjadi bahan bahas.

Tidak kurang rimas juga apabila melihat keris yang tidak bersalut dicium. Apabila di tegur, orang bukan Melayu di katakan tidak tahu budaya orang Melayu. Mungkin ramai tidak mengetahui bahawa budaya hayun dan mencium keris mula wujud hanya dalam dua tahun kebelakangan ini. Kita tak pernah sebelum ini melihat Tun Abdul Razak ataupun Tun Hussein Onn menghayun dan mencium keris dalam mesyuarat tahunan.

Semua orang politik harus menerima hakikat realiti bahawa Malaysia ini bukan lagi dan tidak lagi kepunyaan mana-mana kaum. Jika lahir di sini kita berhak memanggil Malaysia negaraku. Juga semua harus akur bahawa suka atau tidak Malaysia adalah dan sudahpun menjadi negara berbilang kaum.

Justru itu, biarpun politik Malaysia masih berkobar dengan semangat perkauman dimana yang di pentingkan dan dipertengahkan adalah perjuangkan untuk bangsa, agama dan negara, namun orang politik tidak terkecuali daripada etika politik untuk bertindak sebagai politikus tanggungjawab (responsible politician).

Ini bermakna bercakap ada rukunnya dan berucap ada batasnya. Rukunnya ialah, sesuatu isu biarpun sensitif boleh pertengahkan secara rasional. Lihat bagaimana Mufti Shuib berucap. Tema ucapannya Melayu Kelas Ketiga Mentaliti Kelas Pertama dan Melayu Kelas Pertama Mentaliti Kelas Ketiga. Beliau tidak meracau tetapi mesej yang di sampaikan di akhir ucapan terusik dinaluri semua yang mendengar.

Tidak dapat dinafikan ada mereka apabila berucap bercakap dengan semangat berkobar-kobar dan mengapi-apikan. Malahan mereka menjadi pilihan dan tarikan ramai. Jika itu menjadi cara penyampaian hujahnya, beliau masih bertanggungjawab untuk memastikan bahawa ucapannya tidak menyongsang kearah hasutan dan ugutan sehingga menyemarakkan benci. Di kacamata orang rasional beliau ibarat samseng jalanan. Dahlah cakap pun semberono, mesej pula melampaui batasan. Inilah yang menjadi di mesyuarat UMNO kali ini.

Rukun kelima RukunNegara ialah “Kesopanan dan kesusilaan”. Ini adalah rukun hidup rakayat Malaysia. Namun apa yang di paparkan di mesyuarat tahunan UMNO kali ini ialah hasutan dan ugutan yang mencemar rukun kelima rukun Negara. Peribahasa Melayu menyatakan menang sorak, kampong tergadai. Ya, ucapan berapi-api mungkin telah mendapat tepukan gemuruh, tetapi cakap celaru sudah membawa padah. Orang bukan Melayu sudahpun berasa rimas dengan masa depan mereka. Pelabur asing mungkin juga akan membuat perhitungan mereka. asing ?

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Next blog - With effect of 1 December 2006, new post shall appear every Monday.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


On November 4, 2006 Prime Minister Dato Abdullah Ahmad Badawi unveiled the blueprint for Iskandar Development Region (ISKANDAR). It is hoped that the 2500 sq.km zone would turn Johor into a world class business hub to be on par with Hong Kong and Shenzen in China.

The plan is to turn ISKANDAR into a business haven with high tech industries and the building of international theme parks, a water front city, a medical park and educational facilities. This in turn is expected to spur migration of manufacturing companies from Singapore and the region to Johor. To attract Singaporeans and foreigners, there will be an area designated as Free Access Zone (FAZ) which would allow foreigners and primarily Singaporeans to enter, live and work in the FAZ with no passport, immigration and custom clearance. Infact foreigners could also live in FAZ but travel to work in Singapore.

However, for five days potential investors saw the worst manifestation of negative, divisive and destructive and piquant polemics, enough to make any potential investor to give ISKANDAR (and Malaysia) a miss. What was on display for potential investors was sabre rattling talk, bone chilling warnings and blood curdling speeches where speakers without mincing words targeted and directed their anger against the Chinese. Then there was act of kissing the unsheathed keris (a recent phenomenon in the UMNO general assembly) seen as an adversarial act. Perlis delegate openly questioned “Dato Hisham has unsheathed the keris, waved the keris, kissed his keris. We want to know when is he going to use it”. UMNO exco member Datuk Azimi Daim warned ‘ when tension rises, the blood of Malay warriors will run in our veins”. Malacca delegate Hasnoor Sidang proclaimed that UMNO’s willingness to risk lives and bathe in blood. Other speakers talked about becoming amok if their rights were questioned.

For ISKANDAR to succeed it will naturally require participation and investment from foreigners and particularly Singaporean Chinese. However, after hearing all this incendiary language and watching open display of kissing an unsheathed keris would they still be attracted to investing in ISKANDAR? Would it not be wrong for them to believe that there is something seriously wrong in Malaysia and that their investment maybe safer elsewhere.

The question now is in the aftermath of the recently concluded UMNO general assembly would foreigners be interested or even be attracted to invest in ISKANDAR? Delegates who were spewing venom against the Chinese forgot to realize that investors require not only a condusive business environment but also an environment which provides safeguards for their business, personal property and their lives. Singaporean Chinese have not forgotten the destruction of Chinese businesses and bloodbath against the Chinese during the riots in Indonesia during the Asian financial crisis.

In the case of Johor, there is no denying that the Johor economy is to a large extent dependent on Singaporean investors and particularly Singaporean Chinese. For ISKANDAR to succeed it will very much dependant on Singaporean Chinese investors. The Singapore and Indonesian government are in advanced stages of setting up special economic zones in Indonesia particularly in the Riau Islands of Batam and Bintan.. After listening to the blood curdling threats against the Chinese and the sinister connotation of the act of kissing an unsheathed keris, would foreigners and particular Singaporean Chinese investors be keen to invest or even live in ISKANDAR ?

The speakers who warned about bloodbath and running amok forgot to realize the threat posed by Vietnam. Vietnam is fast rising and is seen as an alternative to China. For the investor and particularly Singaporean Chinese why would they want to risk their investment in Malaysia. Instead Vietnam in comparison may now be seen not only as an attractive and viable alternative but more importantly a safer option for their investment. For all the sufferings done by the American to the Vietnamese, Vietnam does not begrudge or threaten Americans or their investments.

Watching delegates lapping-up to inflammatory speeches against the Chinese and the adversarial act of kissing keris which received vociferous applause, gives any potential investor an impression that all is not well in Malaysia and that there are percolating undercurrents awaiting to implode. Already Malaysia is suffering from a drop in Foreign Direct Investment and if investors had doubts about Malaysia, the five day ransfest may have convinced to give ISKANDAR a miss. That is a real pity because in truth ISKANDAR could succeed.

In the rush to score sectarian points, UMNO delegates forgot that in a globalised economy, the last thing an investor need is a climate of fear and danger.

ISKANDAR, unfortunately may have to pay the price for the piquant polemics.

Monday, November 20, 2006


All right thinking Malaysians and particularly Catholics are outraged at the intimidating actions of ill informed groups of Muslims who on November 5, 2006 pursuant to an SMS came in droves and gathered outside Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Silibin, Ipoh Perak causing fear and anxiety to the worshippers. ( Read The Herald November 12, 2006)

The SMS message said:-
A number of Malays will be baptized by Dato Azhar Mansor this Sunday at the Slibin Church, Ipoh. Recently 600 students from Ungku Omar Polytechnic have converted to Christianity. Revealed by the Perak Mufti this afternoon at the state masjid. Please forward to all who stand for Islam. ( Translation )

The original SMS in Malay (and unedited) said:-
Sejumlah Melayu akn dibaptiskan oleh Dato Azhar Mansor Ahad ini di Gereja Selibin IPO. Seramai 600 plajar Poli teknik Unku Omr Ipoh telah msuk Kristian baru2 ini. Pendedahan oleh Mufti Perak ptg ini di masjid Negeri. Sampaikan SMS kpd orang-2 yang mahukan ISLAM .(sic)

That malicious SMS ( which had indeed been circulating for almost three days before the incident ), on November 5, 2006 was enough to mobalise Muslim protestors ranging from individuals to political parties-read PAS and Muslim NGO’s to gather outside the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes. In truth what was to take place and did indeed take place in the Church was the First Holy Communion celebration for 98 children.

In the aftermath and in the days following the incident, the Perak Mufti Datuk Seri Harussani Zakaria began to shed some light on the issue. He first revealed that a woman from Selangor whom he later named as Raja Sherina as the originator of the text message. The woman had apparently on October 21, 2006 at 9.33 am sent the said SMS to him.

According to the Mufti, this woman had claimed that she had studied at the International Islamic University and the Al-Azhar University in Cairo. On her return from Egypt she was doing social work with missionaries when she converted. However, she claimed that she later returned to Islam.

The Mufti further claimed that the woman and her husband had come back to his house on October 22, 2006 to confirm the substance of the message.

According to the Mufti, the Perak Mufti Department then decided to record his meeting with Raja Sherina and copies of the VCD were later handed over to Special Branch, Perak Menteri Besar, the Prime Minister’s Department and the Islamic Development Department for further action.(read NST pg.12).

Thereafter on November 2, during a meeting at the conference room of the state mosque with members of non-governmental organization the Mufti once again brought up the issue of the SMS. The Mufti then claimed that on November 3, 2006 he was informed that a number of NGO’s who attended the meeting would hold a peaceful protest against the alleged baptism. As the highest religious official of the state, the Mufti could have and should have in no uncertain terms stopped the proposed protest. Instead he made some sheepish attempt by discouraging the protestors before leaving town for Syria.

What all this means is that as early as October 22, 2006 and some 12 days before the alleged baptism ceremony, the Mufti and many others already had knowledge of the SMS and the impending “baptism “. Thus the Mufti as a religious leader could and should have acted with greater responsibility first preventing the protest and secondly and more importantly verifying the authenticity of the SMS. Neither of this was done. Instead time was spent doing a VCD recording!. The 12 days was a period long enough for the Mufti and all concerned to do among others number of thing:-

a. Investigate further about Raja Sherina background and verify the truth of her claim;

b. Since the national mariner Azhar Mansor was said to be going to perform the baptism rites, why did the Mufti or other authorities not contact and obtain confirmation from him. After all he was in Langkawi. A denial by Azhar Mansor could have expeditiously resolved and concluded that the SMS was false;

c. Find out the procedure how one is baptized into Catholism. For the uninitiated, in Catholism only a priest can conduct the baptism rites. Thus no lay Catholic and worst of all a recent convert would not be allowed to perform the baptism rites and that includes Azhar Mansor even if he had converted;

d. In the spirit to ensure religious harmony, the Mufti could have verified the authenticity of the SMS with the Church. Naturally this would have been easier had there been open channels of communication;

e. Investigate and verify if there was any truth that 600 students of Ungku Omar Polytechnic had indeed converted to Christianity.

Perhaps it may not be wrong to assume that what was hoped for, was to catch the Church in the act. That would have been sensational news and Azhar Mansor would have been the icing. Instead and thankfully the SMS and the alleged event has turned out to be one big hoax and now the Mufti is scurrying away and hoisting the blame solely on the messenger. The SMS turned out to be not only malicious but also mischievous, irresponsible and has without any doubt has damaged inter-religious relationship. Now the authorities are searching for Raja Sherina and Raja Sherina (if caught) could be charged under the Sedition Act or under the Multimedia and Communication act.

Strangely, the Mufti now advises that should anyone receives similar text message on such issues, he should forward them to the police and the authorities instead spreading them. Fair advice, Then why did he without first verifying the authenticity of the SMS, on November 2, 2006 made the SMS known to others particularly to the NGO’s .? As a religious leader, does he not know that his exalted position requires him to act with prudence and a greater responsibility is required from him.

This is what Johan Jaafar writing in his column NST Point Blank on November 18, 2006 (about the Mufti) had to say:-
“ Now this person have been known to make ridiculous statements on almost everything-banishing AIDS sufferers to an island, giving out fatwa (decrees) that smoking is haram and even stating frightening figures about Muslims who have become apostates”.

Incidentally, in February 2006 the Mufti made a sensational revelation claiming that 250,000 Muslims (of which 100,000 were Malays) had apostised themselves while 100,000 more had submitted their application to do so. Never mind that he was never able to substantiate his claim save for stating that these figures were obtained from “reliable sources”. Still it was enough for some NGO’s and political parties read PAS to go on the overdrive. In the end on November 11, 2006 Malaysiakini reported the findings by Dr Mohd Azam Mohd Ali, professor of law at University Technology Mara who basing on official data obtained from the state syariah court, religious departments and the National Registration Department recorded that from 1999 to 2003 there were 750 applications. Of these, only 220 were granted throughout the five years and most of these were applicants who were converts to Islam. Clearly the figures bandied around by the Mufti has been debunked.

The Catholics and Non Muslims are most relieved at the swift reaction and response by the police and the government. Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said that firm action must be taken against those who had spread the SMS message because the “SMS message is dangerous as it can lead to racial disputes and create a tense situation”.

The Prime Minister according to a report in the NST is reported to have told his cabinet that this was a matter which could not be treated lightly. The Prime Minister also wants those responsible be severely punished because “they did with the intent to provoke anger”. The good Prime Minister could not be more correct. Catholics and Non Muslims are most comforted by the Prime Minister when he returned to the issue of the said SMS during the UMNO General Assembly when the Prime Minister when addressing the issue of intolerance said:-

“ It is this same group who makes such proclamation that are conjuring imaginary threats aimed at inciting Muslims, hoping that they (Muslims) will become more intolerant of others.
Their agenda is to see Malaysia torn apart, for us to fail as a multi racial, multi religious nation. This is not Islam.

For example, so many SMSes have been sent, claiming mass baptisms of Muslims and the purported formation of a Malay Christian Association. There are even those who claim- without proof-that hundreds of Malay Muslims have become apostates.

This kind of incitement whips many Malays into a frenzy because we do not have a culture of seeking to verify what we hear, preferring to believe everything we are told.

It is such unfounded claims which lead to many becoming angry and even militant.

But when the lies are exposed, those who create them scurry into hiding, nowhere to be seen and not even attempting to rectify the situation or to calm things down.”

The good Prime Minister could not have said any better. He has soothed the pain and anguish of the Catholics. However the authorities must show courage and take this matter seriously and not only investigate but also apprehend and prosecute the individuals and groups that have deliberately tried to sow hatred and racial ill-will in this country.

If the perpetrators and those involved are not apprehended and prosecuted, then there is every danger that an ill-informed group could merely being suspicious of the language and skin-tone may on a Sunday appear at the church doorstep to inspect and verify if the Indonesians migrants, Sabahan and Sarawakian or even Filipinos attending praise and worship are indeed Christians.

Never again should the Catholics and Non Muslims be subjected to such trepidation and that the legitimate exercise of their faith including religious and holy ceremonies in peace should be respected and protected.

Surah al Hujraat 49 : 6 - O you who believe ! if a sinner comes to you with any news, ascertain the truth, lest ye harm people unwittingly, and afterwards become full of repentance for what ye have done.

Surah al Hujraat 49 : 12 – O ye who believe ! Avoid suspicion as much (as possible) for suspicion in some cases is a sin.

Fr Bernard Paul : “ A sad state of affairs.. because it shows how gullible people are and how quickly they believe in lies rather then checking first before responding. They are disrupting our religious service. This is our Sunday celebration ! Its unjust…

Monday, October 30, 2006


I have read your letter dated 21st October 2006 addressed to the “citizens of Malaysia”. It is not often a commoner writes a letter addressed to ALL Malaysians. But then you are different, I suppose. Since I am a recipient of your letter permit me to reply.

For a start, your letter seem to be cast a picture of a man who believes that he has been victimized and finds all his avenues to seek justice has been closed. Believe me, many Malaysians have experenced this. At least you have the internet as an avenue all thanks to the Instrument Of Guarantee signed by your administration guaranteeing no censorship of the internet. Malaysians can read about your plight. Many Malaysians never had this opportunity.

I note that you have signed off the letter as a Malaysian citizen and a Commoner. But judging from your regular tirades and ripostes against the present administration it gives the impression that you either have difficulty accepting the fact that you are no more the prime minister or you continue to believe that you are omnipotent.

You have had the luck and privilege of being chosen as the Prime Minister of Malaysia. For 22 years you lead Malaysia. You have been credited for engineering Malaysia’s rapid modernization. Malaysia’s physical transformation is obvious. After all you presided over a period of phenomenal growth and at the end of your tenure, Malaysia bristled with concrete symbols from a gleaming airport to an impressive skyline.

Internationally, for 22 years you made your voice heard and the world was your stage. Your acerbic comments made you a spokesman for the third world and your tirades against the West meant that Muslim countries could not have found a better friend than you.

Now, it is for the people and history to judge your legacy and the present political climate do allows the people to judge and freely express the opinion. There are many policies of your administration which have benefited Malaysia and Malaysians. Similarly there have been many policies and action of yours which Malaysians found to be despicable and reprehensible and pray it never happen again.

Reading your letter, it would seem that your main grouse and as clearly stated in your letter is that “the questions and issues raised have not been answered”.

Having acknowledged that you are a “commoner”, it is then well worth remembering that that the government of the day owes no duty to respond to your demands for explanation. At least this was what your 22 years in office had taught the common citizens.

You claim that a climate of fear has enveloped this country and allegedly Malaysia has become a police state. All because supposedly in your opinion no one is allowed and dares to criticise the prime-minister. You claim that the main-stream media are not allowed to admonish the prime-minister and functions that may involve criticizing the prime-minister are harassed, threatened by police and government leaders. Wasn’t this the hallmark of your 22 years administration ?

Surely you have not forgotten the reason why Tun Musa Hitam left office. Remember the pliant media which became your hatchetmen when during the tussle for the UMNO presidency it highlighted the headgear worn by Tengku Razaleigh (never mind you had worn a similar headgear in the past). Remember how easily you got offended and roused a national anger simply because the then Australian prime minister Paul Keating criticized and called you a recalcitrant.

You allege that under the present administration people are being detained and interrogated repeatedly. Lest you forget, October 27 was the nineteenth anniversary of the infamous Operation Lallang ? Remember the Anwar Ibrahim “black-eye” incident which you diagnosed the injury as self inflicted ?. Yet you have the temerity to call Pak Lah’s administration “police state”!

You demand the right to speak and require space and forum to criticize and more importantly demand that the present administration answers your questions. This is strange coming from a person who used all available apparatus to silence dissent. The willful silence by the majority of the population to comment, criticize or oppose you was because of the climate of fear you had created. The heavy price paid by the brave who stood up to you made many to keep quiet and apolitical.

Now that you have retired as Prime Minister, no one is asking you to just fade away. Having acknowledged that you are a commoner, live and experience life of a commoner. Only then you will realize what life for a commoner was for 22 years when questions were aplenty but answers were never forthcoming.

By the way you have yet to answer my 17 questions. ( See Malaysiakini)

Saturday, October 21, 2006


Today is Deepavali. To all Hindu friends and readers Happy Deepavali.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in his Deepavali Message said ” it is my hope that the unique practice of celebrating the festivals together in peace and harmony will be continued. Deepavali is a holy day for Hindus and celebrated together with other Malaysians of all backgrounds, had become one of the major festivals of this country. It was a day of merriment which should be celebrated with friends including those of different faiths and culture”.

That is not how Malaysian Islamic insurance company, Takaful Malaysia Head of Shariah Department Mohd Fauzi Mustaffa apparently views Deepavali. In a circular in the form of email circulated on October 3, 2006 to all 2000 staff it stated ” Takaful Malaysia’s corporate culture that is rooted in the Shariah totally forbids greetings involving the gods of Hindu clients or of other religions. Muslims who have inadvertently wished Hindus a Happy Deepavali, Happy Durga Pooja and Happy Lakhsmi Pooja must immediately repent and not repeat it in the future”.

Naturally it sparked such a furor and anger. Minister-in the Prime Minister’s Department Abdullah Mohamed Zin must be commended for coming out quickly and scoffing Fauzi’s view saying that such a view was based on a narrow understanding of Islam. The Minister said that saying pleasantries were important for racial harmony and wishing someone Happy Deepavali does not mean that you have embraced his beliefs and religion. The Mufti of Perak Datuk Harussani Zakaria clarified that Muslims are permitted to extend greetings to those of other faiths in conjunction with their respective festivals. Finally, Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (IKIM) Director General Syed Ali Tawfik Al-Attas, called for Mohd Fauzi’s sacking and that he should repent for his arrogance in thinking that he has knowledge on the matter.

Having come under fire and following the outcry, Fauzi capitulated and on October 17, apologized saying that this was his personal opinion and did not reflect the views of the company. Well, Fauzi you can stick your apology up where the sun don’t shine, you bigot !. Takaful Nasional ( who had first stood by the comments claiming that they had first taken advice from religious experts on the issue) realizing the ground swell, placed a full page Deepavali greeting to Hindus in the newspapers. What a turn around from a company who has no qualms about accepting non –muslim customer’s money but not their friendship).

With the apology and the advertisement, the issue now may have been laid to rest but there is no denying that damage has already been done. If each Takaful Malaysia staff has an average family of five members, it can be safely assumed that Fauzi’s email has now poisoned 10,000 minds.

Lest we shrug off this incident as an isolated issue, it must be remembered that similar incidents had occurred in the past. In 2004, the government organized a national-level Christmas celebration but then imposed an unofficial ban on all Christian religious symbols and hymns that specifically mention Jesus Christ as it was to be televised on TV. In a strongly worded letter to the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM), Rev. Father O.C Lim formally complained that “ the presence of the King and his wife, the Sultan of Selangor, the prime minister and other cabinet ministers “can never take place the absent of the birthday boy (Jesus) in what purports to be His birthday celebration. To call it a cultural event (as rationalized by Christian politicians than Christians) is to downgrade Jesus to a cultural sage like Confucius”.

CFM, the government’s liaison partner in organizing the event tried to pander the government by saying that sensitivities of a certain community must be respected especially in a government sponsored public event. Arts and Culture and Heritage Minister Dr Rais Yatim later “denied” that there was any such ban.

Malaysia with a multiracial population, it is inevitable that most of the festivals celebrated have religious connotation. These gatherings which are devoid of religious rituals are occasions when working colleagues, relatives and friends gather celebrating friendship. Alas for Fauzi, pluralism and diversity is objectionable and instead align his views with the Wahhabi fatwa circulating worldwide for years which declared that celebrating the religious festival of others is tantamount to approving their religious faith.

Malaysians and particularly non-muslims are alarmed at how fast Malaysia is regressing and is concerned with rise of religious polarization and alienation. There is a growing force becoming emboldened and turning into public their private prejudices. Professor Clive Kessler writing in Asian Analysis wrote that there is a long march towards desecularisation of the Malaysian life. His prescient analysis could not be wrong

Zainah Anwar writing in NST October 20, 2006 said “perhaps Fauzi’s position and his actions are symptomatic of where we have gone with our understanding of Islam, our education system, our socialization process, our politicization, and our sense of citizenship within a multi ethnic and multi religious society, that he today not only shows no love nor respect for fellow citizens of a different race and religion but also feels he has a right to turn his dogmatic personal piety into an office directive for all to obey”.

Zainah Anwar summed it up rightfully when she said “The mode out there is very clear. It is this hate ideology that posses a clear and present danger to the Malaysia that we know and love. It comes not from those who believe in upholding the Federal Constitution and the rule of law but those bent on forcing a rewriting of the Constitution and shifting the consensus for civil and political order in Malaysia”.

It is a warning well worth reflecting. Lebanon is a sober reminder.
Happy Deepavali.

“We are a nation of many nationalities, many races, many religions-bound together by a single unity, the unity of freedom and equality. Whoever seeks to set one nationality against another, seeks to degrade all nationalities. Whoever seeks to set one race against another seeks to enslave all races. Whoever seeks to set one religion against another, seeks to destroy all religion.”- Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Monday, October 09, 2006


Though I am a Catholic, one magazine I enjoy reading without fail is AL-ISLAM, a monthly current affairs magazine which allows me not only to have a better understanding of Islam but also to obtain the Islamic perspective on various issues. Being a magazine for Muslims it is only natural that the magazine takes an Islamic slant. I have got no complaints with that.

What caught my attention in the October edition of AL-ISLAM was an article at page 29 by by M. Hifzuddin Ikhsan Di Nek Kamal. The title:-

Yahudi dan Nasrani

How’s that for a title which does no good for race relations and inter-religious tolerance in Malaysia ? It wasn’t too long ago when The Sarawak Tribune had its licence revoked while number of newspapers were either censured or suspended for having published an insulting cartoons deemed insulting to Muslims.

I am not a racist or a religious bigot. Again it is not the title of the topic I found distressing but the contents of the article. The article carried extracts of a khutbah given on the 18th August 2006 at Masjid Wilayah Persekutuan, Jalan Duta Kuala Lumpur by Imam Haji Mohammad Mohd Zin.

While the crux of the khutbah was on the holy month of Rejab and the event of Israk and Mikraj, what distressed me was the Imam’s diatribe against the Jews and the Christians. The Imam said and I quote

“ Di dalam al-Quran, berulang kali dinyatakan bahawa bangsa ini merupakan golongan yang ganas dan kerjanya hanya mengajak serta mengajar manusia melanggar ajaran Allah. Tindakan ini di lakukan kerana Yahudi dan Nasrani mahukan kebebasan mutlak dan gemar mengikut hawa nafsu mereka sahaja.”

Di sebabkan itu mereka sanggup membunuh dan membuat kerosakan tanpa ditegur oleh sesiapapun. Oleh itu, hari ini kita melihat keganasan Yahudi serta Nasrani di bumi Palestin dan Lebanon berleluasa dengan mereka terus membunuh kaum wanita dan anak kecil sewenang-wenangnya.

Dengan menjahanamkan Palestine serta Lebanon mereka berharap dapat menundukkan umat Islam dan membangkitkan kebencian dunia kepada kita. Kekejaman serta kerosakan yang dilakukan oleh Yahudi dan Nasrani sejak dulu kini dan selamanya adalah bukti kebenaran al-Quran. Sikap dan akhlak buruk mereka tidak pernah berubah walaupun diutus banyak para anbia pada bangsa mereka.”

Reading the article which is clearly calculated to denigrate and insult Jews and Christians, I cannot but help make comparasion with the Muslim reaction when the Pope quoted a conversation while giving a lecture to Catholic theologians. That quote was deemed offensive and was sufficient to set off fire-storm in the Muslim world. In Malaysia there were groups continuing to protest even after the Pope had apologised.

But here in a multi-racial and multi religious country we have an Imam making an open declaration of hatred. There are only two possibilities to the Imam’s hyper-bole, either it did not occur to the Imam that his Khutbah or extracts of it would be reported or it did not matter to him if others (particularly Christians in Malaysia) would be offended by his khutbah.

Reading the article, it becomes amply clear that the Imam ‘s view is not only offensive and seditious but his contorted logic displays religious bigotry.

For a start the title of the article itself is offensive. It is a flippant and callous statement clearly made with the intention to denigrate the Jews and the Christians. Remember how Muslims get terribly upset when western media potrays Islam and Muslims negatively, tarnishing the whole community simply because of the action of a few. Taking the cue and a similar standpoint, would it be fair if Jews and Christians also equate all Muslims with violence simply because of the actions of 9-11 terrorist, the Bali Bombers, Hamas, Talebans, Laskhar-al-Thoiba, or nearer home Jemaah Islamiah. Definitely not.

I am firmly of the believe that there is no such thing as a destructive race as claimed by the Imam. However in every race and religion and Islam including, there are fringe elements who are evil and destructive and who commits acts of violence in the name of race and religion,

I am also perplexed and stunned by the Imam’s revealation that the holy Quran declares that Jews and Christians are “golongan yang ganas” and that “kerjanya hanya mengajak serta mengajar manusia melanggar ajaran Allah”. This is definitely something I did not know and being a former student in Diploma in Shariah Law and Practice at I.I.U.M, I wonder how come my lecturers like Prof. Qaruffa, Prof Saedon or even the late Prof Ahmad Ibrahim hid this fact from me(if there is).

The good Imam ought to know that it isnt too difficult and doesn’t take too much for one to denigrate another’s religion. Anyone and that includes religious leaders can easily justify their “view” by claiming reference to and quoting from some book or persons that the others religion is viiolent and its faithful adherents evil. One qustion comes to mind, just what benefit would one derive by desecrating or insulting another’s religion.

The Imam’s contorted logic gets darker when he alleges that the Jews and the Christians “ sanggup membunuh dan membuat kerosakan tanpa dapat ditegur oleh sesiapapun”. Such certitude.

If Jews and Christian are ready kilers then what about the Palestinians who equally have a long history of violence against the innocent. What about Palestinians who massacred innocent Jewish athletes, what about the Saudi hijackers who crashed and killed a planeload of innocents passengers ? what about the actions of the Janjawids in Sudan who carried about a systematic killings and massacre against the southern Christians and animist ? what about the Sunnis and the Shiahs in Pakistan and Iraq who are in open conflict and have no qualms about killing each other ?

Syed Akbar Ali in his book To Digress A Little gives a narration about the cycle of violence between the Sunnis and Shiahs in Pakistan. In Iraq the sanctity of the holy month of Ramadan does not deter the Sunnis and the Shiahs from continuing to kill each other. The Sunnis and Shiahs in Pakistan and Iraq to quote the Imam ”sanggup bunuh” and even “tanpa dapat di tegur”. Thus it no surprise that former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir is quoted as saying that many Muslim nation spent time and energy planning and fighting each other. I am sure Dr Mahathir was refering to the Iran-Iraq war, the Gulf war and the cycle of violence in Afganistan, Pakistan, or Iraq. Muslims against Muslims.

It must be recognised that killing and evil doing are not the characteristic and exclusive domain of any particular religion as wrongly implied by the Imam. But there are many who commit violence in the name of religion and justifies their actions based on their holy book.

Then there is the disparaging assertion that “hari ini keganasan Yahudi serta Nasrani di bumi Palestine dan Lebanon berleluasa.” Admitedly the Israelis and the Palestinians are in open conflict but acts of “keganasan” have been pepertrated by both parties against each other. “Keganasan” have been committed by all parties. Israelis against Palestinians and Palestinians against Israelis. Israelis have shot dead Palestinians and Palestinians have bombed crowded Israeli cafes. In fact there are also ‘keganasan” between the Palestinians themselves .

In Lebanon, the country for long period of time has been wrecked by sectarian violence and killings. The Amal militias, Druze Muslims, Christian Phalangist and even Hamas all have committed acts of violence against one another at one time or another. In the recent conflict in Lebanon, even the Christians were not spared from violence and destruction from the Israelis.

Thus to claim that the Jews and the Christians are solely responsible for the violence is not only misconceived but a calculated lie.

Malaysia a country where all major religions are represented have in recent years seen an accelerated regression. Instead of seeing inter-religious understanding and tolerance, there is now a growing religious polarisation. Religious intolerance is on the rise and it does not help when religious leaders of all people wedge discord by brazenly declaring that another religion or people evil.

Religious leaders and particularly in Malaysia must realise that their position comes with a responsibility and they have an important role to play. They should use the pulpit to preach religious tolerance and understanding and not use their position to sow hatred with their myopic views and contorted logic.

Remember we reap what we sow.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


Once there were three trees on a hill in the woods. As they were discussing their hopes and dreams, the first tree said : "Some day I hope to be a treasure chest. I can be filled with gold, silver and precious gems. I can be decorated with intricate carvings and everyone will see my beauty."
Then the second tree said : "Some day I will be a mighty ship. I will take kings and queens across the waters and sail to the corners of the world. Everyone will feel safe in me because of the strength of my hull."
Finally, the third tree said : "I want to grow to be the tallest and straightest tree in the forest. People who see me at the top of the hill will look up to my branches, and think of the heavens and God, and how close I am to them. I will be the greatest tree of all time and people will always remember me."
A few years after that, a group of woodsmen came upon the trees. One of them looked at the first tree and said : "This look like a strong tree ... I should be able to sell its wood to a carpenter." He began to cut it down. The tree was happy because he knew that the carpenter would turn him into a treasure chest.
At the second tree, the woodsman said : "This look like a strong tree; I should be able to sell it to the shipyard." The second tree was happy because he knew he was on his way to becoming a mighty ship.
When the woodsmen came upon the third tree, he was frightened because he knew that if they cut him down, his dreams would not come true. One of the woodsmen said : "I don't need anything special from my tree. I'll take this one, and he cut it down.
When the firts tree arrived at the carpenter's, he was made into a feed box for animals. He was then placed in a barn and filled with hay. This was not what he had hoped for at all.
The second tree was cut and made into a small fishing boat. His dreams of being a mighty ship and carrying kings had come to an end. The third tree was cut into large pieces and left alone in the dark. The years went by, and the trees forgot about their dreams.
One day a man and woman came into the barn. She gave birth and they placed the baby in the hay in the feed box made from the first tree. The man wished that he could have made a crib for the baby, but the manger would have to do. The tree could feel the importance of this event and knew that it had held the greatest treasure of all time.
Years later, a group of men got in the fishing boat made from the second tree.One of them was tired and went to sleep.While they were out on the water, a great storm arose and the tree didn't think it was strong enough to keep the men safe. The men woke the sleeping man, and He stood and said, "Peace", and the storm stoopped. The tree knew then that it had carried the King of Kings.
Finally, someone came and got the third tree. It was carried through the streets as people mocked the man carrying it.When they came to a stop at the top of a hill, the man was nailed to the tree and left to die there. When Sunday came, the tree realised that it was strong enough to stand at the top of the hill and be as close to God as possible because Jesus had been crucified on it.
Each of the trees got what it wanted, although not in the way it had imagined. In the same way, God's plans for us are not always our plans, but they are always the best.

Monday, October 02, 2006


The Star Sataurday 30th September 2006 edition carried a news and pictorial feature on Pekan Rabu, Johor Bahru.

Pekan Rabu modelled on the original Pekan Rabu in Alor Star was built in 2005 and is a three storey complex designed to mirror the Johor Malay architure. The 7577 sq m complex and built at a cost of RM 7 million has 116 stalls, an exhibition area and 200 parking lots. Pekan Rabu is under the charge of Pekan Rabu Corporation and the state Economic Planning Unit. It was built on a site that priviously housed a whole sale market and was planned as a one stop centre for bumiputras to sell a diverse range of goods among others such as salted fish, clothes, handicrafts and cakes.

A year on instead of bustling crowds, Pekan Rabu is practically eeriely silent, deserted and devoid of customers. Despite the incentive of the RM600 monthly rental being waived as well as the water and the electricity charges being waived, most traders prefer to keep their shops shut.

So what went wrong ? How could such a place with a 350,000 population within a 8KM radius and so close to commercial and residential area turn out to be a flop?

While it is commendable, that the state authorities have assisted the Malays who wish to venture into trading, but I believe it was wrong to turn PekanRabu into a 100% malay trading post. What was so difficult to let traders of all races trade there? Presently why would any Chinese and Indian flock to this place when they can buy all the Malay goodies elsewhere and shop somewhere else where it is more multi cultural.

Secondly, the location of Pekan Rabu is sandwiched between Giant Hypermarket on the right and left and also KIP Mart Tampoi. KIP Mart Tampoi is a bustling place where one can buy products ranging from Jamu to Keropok to Malay delicacies. Then there is the pull factor of a real multicultural atmosphere with Malay, Chinese and Indian stalls. Why bother then to go to Pekan Rabu. For handicrafts ? Well one can go to Danga bay which offers a greater and a variety of choices.

Thirdly, one wonders if the stall holders chosen are genuine business traders. For a complex to be successful, shops must remain open even during the slump. Traders have to support each other. Instead most traders in Pekan Rabu have "gulung tikar". Why not give up the shop instead of keeping the shop shut. It is only natural that when shops are kept shut and when that happens it has a knock on effect on the remaining shops which are open. There is no more shopping atmosphere. In any event, it must be noted that from the beginning, the shops in Pekan Rabu sold a mismatch of things which were hardly enticing to the shoppers. Maybe the Pekan Rabu Corporation and EPU should have been not only selective in n selecting the tenants and but also should have ensured the correct mix of business.

It is a shame that this place could not have been turned into a food paradise offering genuine Johor dishes. The location was perfect, good catchment area and more importantly it was also close for Singaporeans using the 2nd Link. Unfortunately the managers of Pekan Rabu sought to challenge Giant and KIP Mart.

What next for Pekan Rabu ? Judging from the statement by State Entrepreneur and Cooperative Development committee chairman Samat Ariffin who said that there were plans to intergrate an immigration department on the Pekan Rabu complex to help draw customers. He is quoted to have said that with the immigration department there the traders will be assured of customers as 1500 to 2000 people go to the department daily. Imagine 116 shops catering for 1500 customers. Each shop getting about 10 customers !

Unless some better idea can be thought of, Pekan Rabu has all the classics of yet another expensive folly.

Last Friday 22nd September 2006 as I was driving along Jalan Air Molek, Johor Bahru, I saw a banner on the fence of the old Johor Bahru prison. It was a call to Muslims to protest against “pope yang biadab” (yes those were the exact words).

While I sincerely belief that the quote was offensive, I was most relieved when the Pope with all humility apologized to all Muslims and made it known that the quote does not reflect his own views. He apologized openly not once but twice.

Thus I find it sad that despite the Pope having expressed his regret and apologized twice, there are still those who reject the apology and instead deem appropriate to continue to make the Pope’s speech an issue. Isn’t apologizing and forgiving an honourable virtue?

Growing up In Kuala Lumpur, I remember one South African preacher Ahmed Deedat who found in Malaysia a captive and receptive audience for his venomous sermons against Christians. He used to return to Malaysia regularly espousing his hatred for Christianity all couched in his bile sermons. I used to wonder how in a multi-religious country, the government could be so indifferent to the sensitivities of the Non Muslims and instead accord him such an honorable privilege.

Naturally we Christians were hurt but we suffered in silence. There was no demonstration or calling him to apologise. One day I heard that he had suffered a stroke but what made me very happy was when I heard that he had also lost his ability to
speak. That was the end of him.

Then who could forget Al-Arqam and its leaders who had some warped ideas for Muslims, Malaysia and Non Muslims. Thank God, Dr Mahathir’s government took them on and arrested the whole lot and incarcerated them under ISA. The main leader upon release was reduced to a drooling mess and unable to speak coherently.

I am an avid reader but alas there are some bookshops in Johor Bahru and Kuala Lumpur (Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman) which stocks and sells books which disparages Christianity. I used to wonder how these books could be permitted for sale when it is offensive to Christians. You do not see any banner calling for protest. Alas what could the Christians do but to pray that no one buys these books. One such bookshop in Landmark Mall has already closed down.

Perhaps those and particularly PAS who rejected the Pope’s apology and instead called for the “perhimpunan” could also ensure that in future that Christians and Christianity will also not be slandered and books which are offensive to Christians will not be sold in bookshops.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Room Services: Morny, ruin sorbes.

Guest : Sorry, I thought I dialled room services.

RS : Rye, ruin sorbes! Morny! Djewish to ordor sun teen ?

G : Ah yes. I’d like some sausages, toasts and eggs.

RS : How July dunn?

G : What!

RS : How July dunn? Pry, boy or pooch?

G : Oh, the eggs! How do I like them? Scrambled please.

RS : Ow July dee soarass…crease?

G : Crisp will be fine.

RS : Hokay. An santos?

G : What?

RS : Santos. July santos?

G : I don’t think so.

RS : No? Judo one toes?

G : I feel really bad, but I don’t know what ‘judo one toes’ means.

RS : Toes! Toes! Why dju Don Juan toes? Ow bow Singlish mopping we bother?

G : English Muffins? I’ve got it. You were saying ‘toast’ and English Muffins
would be fine.

RS : Copy?

G : Sorry?

Rs : Copy … tea … mill?

G : Coffee please, and that’s all.

RS : One Minnie, asruin torino fee, strangle ache, crease baychem, tossy Singlish
mopping, we bother honey sigh, and copy… rye?

G : We bother what? You mean with butter! Thanks!

RS : Tendjewberrymud!

G : You’re Welcome!

[This blog differs from my usual blogs. Instead of writing my own views on the matter, I have culled from the newspapers viewpoints of these imminent and learned Muslims on the issue”. A common thread in all these viewpoints is the call to challenge a view with reason and not by violence.]

On the 12th of September 2006, Pope Benedict XVI delivered a speech at Regensburg University, Germany. The speech titled Faith, Reason and the University, Memories and Reflection was a prolusion, an inaugural speech, delivered to an assembly of faculty and students at the beginning of the new academic year. By definition, it was an academic exercise, interdisciplinary and the eyes and years of scholars and would be scholars.


“Generally, it was about the convergence of the Christian faith with Hellennistic reasoning of God being tied to Reason, that He would not act unreasonably and “not to act reasonably is contrary to the nature of God”.

Reason was so important that it should even be “necessary and reasonable to raise the question of God through the use of reason”, but three waves of dehellenisation movement in the development in the development of the understanding of religion in the West has brought about a “dangerous state of affairs for humanity… when reason is so reduced that questions of religion and ethics no longer concern it”.

The Pope suggested that to overcome this danger there should be a new coming together of reason and faith by overcoming “the self imposed limitation of reason to the empirically veritable”.

(Tun Hanif Omar writing in his column “Points of View” The Sunday Star 24th September 2006.

In his speech the Pope was trying to show how western society including the church has become secularized by removing from concept of Reason its spiritual dimension ad origins which are in God. In early Western history, reason was not opposed to faith but according to the Pope, but instead fed on it.


Where Muslims have found the Pope’s speech extremely objectionable was when the Pope recounted a 14th century discussion on Christianity and Islam between Byzantine Christian emperor, Manuel 11 Paleologus and a Persian scholar. The Pope quoted the dialogue from a recent book by Prof. Theodare Khoury, an expert on Byzantine, who reprinted the text of the dialogue between emperor Manuel 11 Paleologus and a Persian scholar. The Pope recounted what that the emperor had said “ show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached”.

The Pope without so much as a sentence to say that he did not hold to this view continued that, “ the emperor goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable… and not acting reasonably is contrary to God’s nature
(Tun Hanif Omar wrting in his column Points of View Sunday Star 24th September 2006).”


Never mind that the emperor had also said violence is something unreasonable… incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of soul and never mind that the Pope no less that five times referred to this sentence, quoting the passage was sufficient to touch off a firestorm of impassioned reaction, protest and violence.

Some are of the view that the Pope ought to have made it clear at the onset that he did not agree with the emperor’s view but the question is, would the reaction be any different had the Pope disassociated with the emperor’s view.

So how have the reaction to the Pope been ?

In Basra, protestors burned an effigy of the pope, an Iraqi group linked to al Qaeda posted on a website threatening war against “worshiper’s of the cross” In Turkey a man tried to storm a Protestant church with a fake gun, in Somalia a nun was shot dead, In Nablus, Israel, two Anglican Churches were fire bombed. Then the usual rent-a mob was out in full force in Afganistan, Pakistan and Indonesia. In Malaysia, it was reported that a small demonstration took place in Kampung Baru and in Johor Bahru there was a call to protest against the Pope.

“But here it pays to take a degree of objective distance from the issue and look at the matter from a broader perspective. While the comments made by the Pope were morally questionable both in its content and intention, one also has to question the logic at work in the reaction of some Muslims to the event. It has been reported that many an Islamist group had reacted to the speech of the Pope with calls of violence and retribution. A stupid and counter productive reaction if any, for it simply reinforces the stereotypical view (repeated bt the Pope) that Islam is a religion of the sword and that Muslims are fundamentally violent.

Consider the following statements that were issued by one radical Islamist group in Iraq said to be linked to Al- Qaeda : In a press statement the Mujahideen Shura Council stated bluntly that “ We shall break the cross and spill the wine.. God will (help) Muslims to conquer Rome… God enable us to slit their throat and make their money and descendants the bounty of the mujahideen”. In bellicose terms bordering on the hysterical the statement then proceeded to “tell the worshippers of the cross (the Pope) will be defeated and that “you will only see our swords until you go back to God’s true faith Islam”. If the pope’s speech had done damage to inter-religious dialogue, then such a reaction was calculated to ensure that the final nail would be hammered into the coffin.

It remains an oddity till today that many Islamist groups react to provocation at a drop of a hat and that their reaction often follow the predictable path of rhetoric and pyrotechnics. Fiery speech may gain a group some precious minutes on TV screen, but in the long run they do untold damage to the understanding and image of Islam (both in the eyes of Muslims and other faith communities) that will take ages to heal.

It would be hypocritical for some of these Islamist groups to demand an apology from the Pope while remaining blissfully oblivious to the venomous speeches and tirades that issue forth from their own ranks, be it in the form of mosque sermons, videos, pamphlets, recordings or death threats. Muslims cannot and should not demand respect for our faith as long as we are not prepared to show respect to the belief of others.

Yet how many Muslims have criticised the extremist and the conservatives in their midst who continue to ply the crown with sordid stories of “Christian conspiracies against Muslims, or with lurid account of the alleged “decadent, immoral lives and values of the so called “infidels”.

Stupid, insulting and even destructive comments from either community should be met with rational voice tempered with logic and morality and not the threats of violence couched in filmsy rhetoric of victimhood.

If Muslims felt insulted by the Pope’s comments, then we need to realize that many non Muslims likewise feel insulted by barbed accusation and slander that have come from some self appointed spokesmen of Islam.

Muslims need to remember that in our reaction to abuse and slander we are nonetheless guided by a moral principle that is higher. One cannot react to slander with even more slander; anymore than one can react to racism .

If the moral compass has been lost by the Pope, our duty as Muslims alike is to restore this balance and not let the ship of humanity flounder even more.
(Dr Farish Ahmad Noor from Centre for Modern orient Studies in Germany writing in the SUN September 25, 2006 “Slander Cannot Be Met With Slander”.

“Throughout the Muslim world religious leaders, presidents, politicians and intellectuals joined their voices to protesting masses angered by perceived insult to their faith.

Whatever, their judgements, they should adopt a more reasoned approach in their critical remark for two reasons.

Firstly, certain parties manipulate crises of this kind as a safety valve for both their restive population and their own political agenda.

Secondly, what we are witnessing is mass protest characterized primarily by an uncontrollable out pouring of emotion providing proof that Muslims cannot engage in reasonable debate. Some arguing, that the Pope had offended Muslims, demanded a personal apology.

(Pope Benedict)… the questions he asks Muslims are those of the day : questions that should be answered clearly with solid arguments. To start, we must not accept that “jihad” be translated as “holy war”. Our priority should be to explain the principles of legitimate resistance and of Islamic ethics in conflict situations, not encourage people to protest violently against the accusation that they believe in violent religion.

The Pope’s reductionism has done nothing to help the process of reappropriation : a critical approach should not expect him to apologise but simply and reasonably to prove him that historically, scientifically and ultimately spiritually, he is mistaken.”
(Tariq Ramadan president of European Muslim Nettwork, Brussels writing in the September 25th, 2006 edition of the Star, “Understand the real reason why Pope was wrong”.)

Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi, Professor of Law, UITM, Shah Alam writing in New Straits Times cautioned “Muslims must not react to Pope’s Benedict’s inflammatory comments in a way that provides fodder for Islam-haters. Instead, they should exhibit tolerance and patience.”

Hashim Muzadi, head of Indonesia’s largest Islamic organization, Nahdiatul Ulama “ If we remain furious, then the Pope will be proved correct”.


The Pope has said that he was deeply sorry for the offence caused by his remarks and has also delivered a papal expression of regret saying ‘These were in fact quotation from a medieval text which do not in anyway express my personal thought”.

My own honest view is that the Pope could have chosen to express his thoughts without necessarily referring to the said objectionable dialogue. Infact the speech and its message could have been presented without reference to the dialogue. Perhaps, it would have been wiser had the Pope at the onset of the quote made it clear that the quote was not in any way reflective of his own opinion.

Still, the truth is that the feelings of the Muslims have been hurt and it has to do not with the speech but by recounting the offending dialogue.

But at the end of the day, the Pope is the father of my faith and however wrong the Pope is, I cannot and will not condemn Him but express my regret.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


RR Mahendran was a lawyer in private practice in Johor Bahru. On the 5 th of September 2006, RR Mahendran passed away. He was 40.

His area of practice was civil law and quasi-criminal primarily specialising in Habeas Corpus applications for which he deservedly developed a reputation and respect. As a lawyer, he was thorough in his research, meticulous in the preparation, persuasive in his articulation and unrelenting in his mission. He had all the hallmarks of an excellent lawyer.

There is no denying that in his early years of practice he was more often than not dogged in some personal battle or embroiled in some controversy. In fact controversies found a friend in him and even at death it never left him. Many still remember his Anglo-Saxon address to a stunned judge.

But in the last two to three years there was a remarkable change in him. Perhaps he finally found in his wife, Susan his anchor. He became focused in his practice, developed a passion for golf and was a maniacal supporter of Liverpool though the team more often than not fell short of his expectation. He had was a zest for life.

He was generous in kind and cash to many worthy causes of the Bar. He donated freely.

RR Mahendran had his faults and his shortcomings – even at death. Who are we to judge his faults or cast aspersions on him. Did Jesus not say, let the man who had not sinned cast the first stone It is for him to make peace with his God and knowing him he will file a habeas corpus just to get a meeting with God to resolve matters.

Let us remember RR Mahendran above all as a lawyer, proud that he was one of us and more importantly he was from the Johore Bar.


Tuesday, September 12, 2006


On Monday, 4th September 2006, the New Straits Times published a letter by Azlan Ramli a former Malay Mail reporter giving a poignant account of his meeting with the late Rev. K. Sri Dhammananda Nayaka Maha Thera, the Buddhist Chief Priest of Malaysia and Singapore who passed away on the 31st August 2006.

The letter by Azlan Ramli is published as had appeared.


Honoured and humbled by thoughtful gesture

AS a reporter with The Malay Mail between 1994-2005, I met Rev K. Sri Dhammananda several times – usually during Wesak Day celebrations he led at the Buddhist Maha Vihara (temple) in Brickfields and on a few other occasions.
On Christmas Day, 1998, I was assigned to cover a party for some 200 underprivileged children. It was held at the Vihara in Brickfields.
Organised by a group of Christians, the Santa Claus was a Hindu and the contributor for all the ballons adorning the party area was a Muslim.
December 1998 was also the month of Ramadan. By the time I arrived at the Vihara, it was 6.30pm and many children were already playing around, taking photos with Santa and being entertained by a clown, among others.
As the time approached for buka puasa, I was busy thinking of where to go for my dinner. The Reverend, the Vihara’s religious adviser back then, must have been observing me. As if he had read my mind, he calmly said : “Young man, don’t think too much. You can buka puasa here. I will accompany you”.
“Please forgive us. We only have vegetarian dishes here,” he humbly and smilingly added, while leading me to a dining table somewhere in the Vihara’s premises.
So there we were, sitting at the dining table, together with a few other priests in their saffron robes and a spread of vegetarian dishes was laid out in front of us.
As I was checking my watch, the Reverend brought out a small pocket radio transistor, and tuned in to a Bahasa Malaysia radio station.
As scheduled, the muezzin recited the call for the evening prayer through the little speaker, which also marked the moment to breakfast.
“Go ahead, Azlan,” he told me to start first. Only after I had my first gulp of water for the day did he and the other priests start eating. I was honoured and humled at the same time.
The fact that I didn’t go to a KFC outlet or the teh tarik stall wasn’t because I didn’t know how to turn down an invitation of the chief high priest of Malaysian and Singaporean Theravada Buddhism. It was buka puasa in a Buddhist temple for me, during a Christmas party.
The Reverend’s humble gesture greatly raised my respect and admiration for him.
During that brief encounter with him, my personal tolerance and understanding of other people’s faiths, beliefs and cultures was greatly altered for the better.
In less than an hour of dining together, his simple humility made me a better person, more open-minded and drastically changed for the better my ways of looking at the world I live in.
To me, the Rev Dhammananda was a great Buddhist and more importantly, a great human being.
Malaysia and its Buddhist community lost a very special person on Aug 31.
With much sadness, I bid farewell to him.

Ironically on the same day I had received an email from friend, Adeline, recounting her unfortunate experience at an event organized by one of the government’s ministry. Being upset and understandably she courageously wrote a letter to the ministry.

Adeline’s letter is published as contained in the email I received.

I was a guest at the recent launching of ‘Pameran Perjuangan Ke Arah Kemerdekaan’ & the new publication by our highly respected YB Datuk Seri Utama Dr. Rais Yatim. I was deeply disappointed to note that several matters of import in the interest of our country’s multi-cultural society failed to be respected and incorporated into the event.

There were dignitaries both local and from the various foreign consulates there but the Event Managers were absolutely oblivious to their presence and were not sensitive to local ethnic sentiments. How can we truly say we can proud of our multi-ethnic society when we practice total disregard and disrespect of others.

For one, the event managers failed to ensure that their dancers who represented the Chinese & Indians were indeed of that ethnic race!

Is it that hard to get one Chinese and Indians each?.. furthermore, instead of dressing to reflect the national costumes from various parts of the country, eg Minangkabau, Kadazan, etc, some of the dancers were dressed in appallingly unsuitable costumes!

When it was announced that a rep from each ethnic race would deliver the key to the chest containing YB’s Book, it did not happen as such.

These small gestures sends waves of messages to the invitees..both local & foreign..

Further to that, the beautiful collection of exhibits were all titled only in Bahasa Malaysia. Our foreign guests would have gone back wondering why did they even bother to attend! The food served for VIPs were not labeled to indicate what they were???

…Beef was placed at the table without label. Insensitive to say the least.

How can we preach harmony, mutual respect and racial solidarity when simple gestures like these reflect blatant disrespect and disregard of others.

I was deeply saddened by this event rather than proud of it. I truly wanted so much to purchase the book YB had written but the event had sapped the patriotic mood out of me. Frankly I don’t think anyone’s going to take this comment at all seriously but I had to say my piece in the true sprit of Nationalism.

Both YB & our esteemed Deputy Prime Minister delivered such beautiful speeches surrounding national unity & harmony between people of many races in our country yet sadly that message failed to reflect upon KeKWa’s handlng of the same event.

I believe it is time for KEKKWA to Walk The Talk if it truly aspires to achieve the very objectives it stands for.

The ministry’s response was;

Subject: Re: Aduan Perkhidmatan Awam
Date: Fri, 18 Aug 2006 09:27:47 +0800(CST)

Behalf of the Ministry, We would like to thanks for your concerning and response by giving the information about the quality of the services which provided by government servant.

For your information, this hotline only received the complaining about misbehaviour of the government servant which contradicted to our Budi Bahasa and Nilai-nilai Murni Campaign.

Therefore, action can only be made if your compaining is related to our observation.

Thank you.

[ note: Notice the reply which is written in atrocious English and is a testament to how low the standard of English has fallen but more importantly notice also the tone of the reply which neither addresses the complaint nor is apologetic for its transgression.
--Norman ]

The compassionate act by the Rev. Dhammanananda as recounted by Azlan Ramli serves as a great example of religious understanding and racial tolerance. On the contrary, the act of serving beef at KEKKWA’s function ought not to be dismissed as an administrative hiccup suffice to be resolved with an apology or even worst to reason out that the Hindus and the Taoist guest at the function were provided with other options.

The act of serving beef at a government organized function can only fortify the view that despite all the sloggering of multi racial, multi religious and multi cultural Malaysia, in truth, many of us and worst of all the government continue to be ignorant, insensitive and indifferent to another’s and particularly the minority races cultural and religious norms. In fact many a times Hindus have complained about beef being served by organisers at functions attended by Hindus. It would seem that the main concern to the organisers of functions where food is served is to ensure that no pork is served. On the other hand, beef is provided as an option. Infact I (a Christian) together with a Hindu friend Kuna, had to move a resolution in the Annual General Meeting to stop the Johore Bar from serving beef at functions organiused by the Johore Bar.

Recently, Malaysia celebrated 49 years of independence. We may have achieved nationhood but honestly it is questionable if we have not lived as Malaysians. As Malaysians, we are obliged to know and understand each other and that includes knowing ,understanding and more importantly respecting cultural norms and religious sensitivities but alas ! after 49 years there are Malaysians who remain ignorant and worst of all insensitive.

Imagine after 49 years, the government, of all people still do not know that Hindus and Taoist do not consume beef.!!!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Recently, in Parliament, Mohd. Shafie Mohd Salleh (BN- Hulu Langat), suggested that the government implant a microchip in illegal immigrants or make them wear an unremovable bracelet to prevent them from returning to Malaysia. (Malaysiakini 30th August 2006).

Ironically, a microchip with such possibilities had indeed become became available when on September 5, 2003 Dr Mahathir Mohamed announced that the government had for an undisclosed amount bought the intellectual property rights to a miniature microchip from a Japanese company FEC Inc. Dr Mahathir Mohamed claimed that the aptly dubbed Malaysian Microchip (MM) and measuring 0.5mm x 0.5mm - approximately the size of a decimal point was so small and so revolutionary that the microchip could be embedded into currencies to passport and even inside human bodies. Since the microchip also came with a built-in antenna, there were a myriad of possibilities.

Then, a year later, on the 2nd March 2004, the government announced that it would begin commercial production of the microchip which initially would be manufactured in Japan and thereafter production will be shifted to Silterra (M) Sdn Bhd, a wafer fabrication firm belonging to Kedah state government.

Three years after the first announcement it would be good to know whatever has become of Malaysian Microchip?

Thursday, August 24, 2006


Malaysia’s offer and readiness’ to contribute troops as part of United Nations peacekeepers to Southern Lebanon raises a number of issues.

Firstly, as a general rule, peacekeepers are deployed when a ceasefire is in place and parties to conflict has given its consent. Malaysia on the on the other hand views Israel with utter contempt. Demonisation of Israel receives official sanction. The Education Minister, Dato Seri Hishamuddin, encourages the burning (infact calls for more burning) and desecration of the Israeli flag. The Foreign Minister proposes that the Organisation of Islamic Conference to arm Hizbollah to fight Israel. Then there is the Malaysian media devoid of any impartiality, which not only absolves Hizbollah from any blame but instead attempts to portray the conflict as a religious conflict.

Now is it any surprise why Israel is objecting to the presence of Malaysian peace-keepers ?. Further, could impartiality and neutrality be maintained by our Malaysian peace keepers particularly after having being fed on a diet of Jewish hatred . After all, during the Bosnia conflict, Malaysian peacekeepers even burned down a church.

Secondly, Malaysia and Malaysian soldiers has no business in the present conflict particularly when countries like Egypt, Jordan, Oatar, Oman or even Bahrain, all countries in the Middle East which either have diplomatic ties or trade ties with both Israel and Lebanon are non committal but instead hope someone else, read Malaysia would do guard duties. Why can’t, other O.I.C countries like Nigeria, Gambia, Tunisia or even Mauritania which have either diplomatic or trade ties with Israel and Lebanon cannot be forthcoming and committing their soldiers to peacekeeping duties. I am certain peacekeepers from these countries would be acceptable to all warring factions.

Why should Malaysia risk the life of its soldiers just to earn some brownie points from the O.I.C. In any event, I am certain that Malaysian soldiers took oath to defend our country and they for a moment would not have imagined that their country would put them to the risk of death in another country’s conflict.

Malaysia should reconsider its proposal.

Monday, August 07, 2006


Thank God good sense prevailed when Prime Minister Dato Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi ticked off Khairy Jamaluddin and UMNO Youth’s for talking big in calling for boycott of United States products.

Lest it is forgotten, those having the warped idea of calling for a boycott may well worth to be reminded that United States is Malaysia’s largest trading partner and the largest foreign investor in Malaysia. In 2005 Malaysia-United States trade was valued at US $ 44 Billion with U.S imports from Malaysia standing at almost US$ 34 Billion. This by itself should be a sobering reminder of the importance of maintaining and even forging good relations with United States.

United States companies are also engaged in manufacturing of semiconductors and other electronic/computer products and also in oil, gas and petrochemical sectors, all providing Malaysians with employment. Even Mc Donald’s Restaurant and Coca-Cola the potent symbols of Americanism provides employment to thousands of Malay-Muslims.

Adding to this are the technical trainings, scholarships and grants preferential treatments and other assistance provided to Malaysia by United States. “The action to boycott can backfire on Malaysia” said Dato Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Rightly said particularly when remembering that one George Soros singularly was capable of bringing Malaysia to its knees.

Bravado and brinkmanship, naturally has its limits.


Thursday, August 03, 2006


In Malaysia, freedom of right to practice religion is a fundamental right which is enshrined under Article 11 of the Federal Constitution.

Article 11(1) of the Constitution states:-
(1). Every person has the right to profess and practice his own religion and subject to Clause (4), to propagate it.

The limitation as provided in Clause 4 states that State and Federal laws may control or restrict the propagation of any religious doctrines or believes among persons professing the religion of Islam.

Thus, Article 11 in effect clearly envisages that a person has:-

Firstly, the right to embrace and profess a religion of his choice;

Secondly, the right to practice, perform and participate in rituals and practices of his religion and this includes the right to congregate with others of the same faith in a common place of worship; and

Thirdly, the right to propagate the tenets and teaching of his religion subject to and being mindful of Article 11(4) of the Constitution

This article however seeks to explore specifically Article 11 (3) of the Federal Constitution.

Religion is practiced by profession of faith and as such any meaningful practice of religion would obviously requires people professing the same faith to be able to congregate together at a common place of worship in order to be able to perform the rituals and practices of the religion. This constitutional guarantee is indeed provided under Article 11(3).

Article 11(3) of the Constitution states:

Every religious groups has the right to:-

(a). to manage its own religious affairs;

(b). to establish and maintain institutions for religious or charitable purposes; and

(c). to acquire and to own property and hold and administer it in accordance with the law.

Regretfully, this constitutional guarantee in Article 11(3) is bridled with obstacles.

Presently, Non Muslim are facing difficulties in obtaining not only land for the construction of places of worship but worst of all applications for places of worship are either rejected or approvals not forthcoming. Adding to these problems are the insensitive actions of local authorities in demolishing places of worship. Infact in recent months many Hindu temples in Selangor and Negeri Sembilan has been demolished by the authorities. More often then not these temples were demolished without the authorities providing a proper alternative place and even if an alternative land is provided, it comes with absurd condition such that the temple cannot be more than 10 feet by 10 feet ! (note: for comparison, a graveyard is usually 6 feet by 6 feet ) It is no surprise that in recent months there have been a number of skirmishes when temples were being demolished.

Further, it does not necessarily mean that even if the authorities have given approval, construction can commence and or continue unhindered. Sometimes even after approval, the construction of the places of worship can continue to touch a raw nerve. Thus, incidents of objections, protest and even stop order and revocation of approval are not uncommon.
The Shah Alam Catholic church is a classic example where approval granted was revoked and the authorities then alienated another piece of land and midway through construction the approval and the alienation of the land was once again revoked. Once again the Catholic Church had to make application for permission for approval and alienation of land to construct a church. Since approval was not forthcoming and faced without any choice, a legal action was filed. Good sense finally prevailed when the matter was resolved out of court when the authorities relented and approved the alienation and construction of a Catholic Church. Imagine it took the Non Muslim ( Catholics ) almost 20 years to enjoy the constitutional guarantee under Article 11(3) of the Constitution.

This is rather unfortunate particularly when we claim to be multi cultural, multi religious and multi racial, we are also quick to cast aside the spirit of tolerance and understanding. Worst of all the Non Muslims find it difficult to reconcile how the authorities are steadfast in refusing permission for places of worship can readily and expeditiously approve “rumah urut badan dan batin”, massage parlours masquerading as brothels and even love hotels. To add insult to injury these establishments which are mushrooming at an alarming rate are located in residential areas.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed took office as the forth prime minister of Malaysia on the 16th July 1981. For 22 years until he stepped down in October 2003, Dr Mahathir was not only the longest serving prime minister of Malaysia but has also been credited for engineering Malaysia’s rapid modernization earning him the soubriquet of Bapa Kemodenan Malaysia (father of modernization).

Malaysia’s physical transformation is obvious. After all, Dr Mahathir presided over a period of phenomenal growth and at the end of Dr Mahathir’s tenure, Malaysia bristled with concrete symbols from the gleaming airport to the impressive skyline.

Dr Mahathir left office in a blaze of endearment and glowing tributes. Three years later, the period for veneration is over and the shenanigans of Dr Mahathir’s rule are slowly being untangled and the warts of his administration are beginning to show.

A reappraisal of his legacy will show that the transformation of Malaysia has come with a price.


The Malaysian judiciary before Dr Mahathir though conservative was however fairly independent and was the envy of the region. Today it is a mere shadow of its former glory. In fact there has been cases of the Chief Justices who left office in a shadow of controversy.

Judicial independence from the executive was so severely compromised that it was reduced to becoming a chimera in the Dr Mahathir’s period. The judiciary not only became subservient but also the tool of the executive.

A clear case of political subservience can be seen in the Lim Guan Eng case. Lim Guan Eng was sentenced to 18 months jail under the Sedition Act and Printing Presses and Publication Act for publicly exposing the case of statutory rape of a 15 year old girl. On the other hand, the then Attorney General conveniently withdrew the criminal charges for statutory rape against the Former Chief Minister of Malacca. In a strange twist, the 15 year old girl in the Lim Guan Eng’s case gave evidence on oath that the Chief Minister did indeed have sex with her.

For the Malaysian judiciary, a critical watershed was the removal of Tun Salleh Abas as the Lord President and the suspension of five Supreme Court judges and the eventual sacking of two of them. In the aftermath of the crisis, even the Supreme Court was renamed as the Federal Court while the Lord Presidents position was renamed to Chief Justice.

There are various interpretation of these events but the main outcome has been the judiciary becoming politically compliant and the strengthening of the hands of the executive.

Then there was the Anwar Ibrahim saga, when in 1997 Dr Mahathir used homosexual shenanigans as the reason to sack Anwar Ibrahim the then Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister. The government brought sodomy and abuse of power charges against Anwar Ibrahim. No matter what the twist and turns were in this highly published case, once Anwar Ibrahim incurred the wrath of Dr Mahathir, the outcome became a forgone conclusion. Anwar Ibrahim was found guilty and sentenced to six years imprisonment for corruption and nine years imprisonment for sodomy.

Much has been written about this saga but the root cause which led to the expulsion of Anwar Ibrahim from the government and party was power. Dr Mahathir perceived Anwar Ibrahim moves as an attempt by Anwar and his supporters to grab power. This earned Dr Mahathir’s wrath and he responded with vigour and without scruples.


At independence Malaysia inherited English as the language of public education. However, English language became a politically sensitive issue and was viewed as a relic of the colonial.

Thus in the aftermath of the 1969 race riots and in the upsurge of Malay nationalism, English was sidelined and replaced by Bahasa Malaysia as not only the national language but the National Education Policy made Bahasa Malaysia the medium of instruction in schools.

It was also thought that with Bahasa Malaysia as the medium of instruction, it would give Malay students an equal footing or even better a head against Non Malay students. Thirty years later, unfortunately it is the Non Malays students who have became adept in Bahasa Malaysia, English and their mother tongue being another advantage. Whatever initial advantage the Malay students had has been surpassed with the Non Malay students being conversant in almost three languages. The Malay students are now doubly disadvantaged when Dr Mahathir reversed the teaching of maths and science from Bahasa Malaysia to English

Now in a globalised and knowledge based economy with English and Mandarin becoming a prerequisite, nationalism has come with a heavy price.

This can particularly be seen in the field of Information Technology. In 1996, Dr Mahathir came to California to promote Malaysian Multimedia Super Corridor. Bill Gates described it “amazing”. Ten years later it is Bangalore, India which is making waves and much of it has to do with competency in English.

Thirty years later, after Bahasa Malaysia becoming the medium of instruction, and now recognizing that the Malaysia’s education system was losing its competitive advantage and particularly the standard of English was deteorating, in a complete reversal of policy, Dr Mahathir attempted to remedy the situation by ordering the teaching of maths and science in English. However, having allowed and watched the rot set in , the reversal came a little too late.

There is a general decline in English competency. Thus it did not come at a surprise when the Human Resource Minister recently revealed that there are almost 60,000 unemployed graduates mostly Malays and most of them were not proficient in English.

Under Dr Mahathir, not only there was a gradual decline in the Malaysian education system but the education system itself became polarized. Teachers instead of teaching were often more concerned with forms and dressing. Instead of building on the heritage of the mission schools, school administrators worked hard to malay-nise the school.

While in the past, children of all races mixed freely and studied together and thereby building common bond, friendship and understanding, many parents and particularly the Chinese seeing national schools were on a slide lost faith began to send their children to vernacular schools. Schools could have been the best place to initiate and cultivate national unity but that opportunity has long gone. Malaysians have regressed and have become polarized from school age.


Industrialisation and privatization has been the centerpiece of Dr Mahathir’s era. Dr Mahathir wanted to transform Malaysia from an agricultural based economy to a regional industrialization hub. To achieve this, Dr Mahathir had his ambitions, initiatives and plans and launched his favoured projects with flourishes of economic nationalism. In the end many of the projects entailed huge problems, flaws and abuses and even needed government bailouts at the expense of public funds.

An example is Perwaja Steel which was Dr Mahathir’s showpiece steel plant which was to spearhead the country’s industrialization is today a spectacular failure, having lost billions by mid 1990.
Proton another of Dr Mahathir’s pet project is now floundering with plummeting car sales and is looking for a suitor. On the other hand late upstarts Thailand’s motor industry has grown and developed to the extent that Rayong is called Detroit of the East.

Together with industrialization, privatization was to have been the centerpiece of Dr Mahathir’s efforts to leapfrog to a first world status from a third world one and privatization of government assets were carried out with a zeal. Privatisation was also meant to be an effective tool for redistribution of wealth. A noble vision. Unfortunately, Malaysia’s privatization first launched in 1983, got off to a wrong footing because many projects were instead awarded to political favorites without competitive bidding. Worst still, handpicked elite who were linked to Dr Mahathir and UMNO who got the big awards and they in turn saw it as an instant ticket to richness.

The government’s public assets were privatized at discounts but the government used public funds to renationalized assets at prices far exceeding market levels. The government linked businessmen were doubly blessed by firstly benefiting from the privatization and secondly when crisis struck to be able to walk away unscathed from the debts and liabilities. Soon government linked businessmen were comforted to know that it was alright to fail for the government would ultimately bail them out using public funds.

It was this blurring of the relationship and boundaries between business, politics and state which inevitably gave rise to patronage, bailouts and corruption and with the consequence of billions of public funds been wasted or squandered.

The proof can be seen in the aftermath of the 1997 financial crisis. In the 1997 economic crisis, the top 10 borrowers hogged a staggering US 36 billion of the non performing loans and these borrowers were the fortunate few who had Dr Mahathir’s imprimatur.

Much is said about Dr Mahathir’s defiance of the International Monetary Fund following the 1997 economic crisis which was widely blamed on East Asian corruption, cronyism and nepotism. Many economist have praised Dr Mahathir’s handling of the crisis using unconventional method and it must have been most gratifying for Dr Mahathir. To be fair, Dr Mahathir’s capital control seemed eminently sensible in September 1998 when there seemed no end to the Asian crisis.

Dr Mahathir blamed the 1997 on the currency speculators and particularly George Soros for the financial crisis. During the worst of the Asian crisis Dr Mahathir even hauled out a copy of the protocols of the Elders of Zion and blamed the Jews rather than his own mismanagement. Dr Mahathir conveniently forgot that his government was also responsible for the very expensive speculative failures when Bank Negara suffered multi billion ringgit losses from its massive purchases of sterling before the sterlings collapse in September 1992.

For Dr Mahathir, it was the currency speculators, the west and the Jews which caused the crisis but never his mismanagement.

Dr Mahathir has been praised for saving Malaysia but lost amidst the laudatory praises is the question as to how did Malaysia end up in this mess in the first place. Was Malaysia’s economy so pernicious that it could take one man George Soros to cripple Malaysia’s economy?

Looking back, Dr Mahathir Mohamed should bear responsibility for it was his own flawed policies and major failures in implementation and for not checking abuses in high places, political and corporate which had created the mess. It had to take the 1997 crisis to lay bare his economic management.

Reevaluating Dr Mahathir legacy will show that although he had the hardware but by using the wrong software, the drive has developed major fault.

Norman Fernandez