ISMA

Post-Dialogue Reflections

I had the wonderful opportunity of attending a dialogue yesterday, entitled “Deceitful? Distracting? Or Dedicated? Evangelicals & Current Controversies”, which was organised by Kairos Dialogue Network (KDN) and the STM Centre for Religion and Society. [1]

First off, I have to say that I was greatly encouraged by the number of muslims who attended the dialogue, especially since the event was held on Wesley Methodist KL’s grounds, albeit in a multipurpose hall. There were also attendees from IKRAM (Pertubuhan Ikram Malaysia), ABIM (Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia), and the CFM (Christian Federation of Malaysia).

Bishop Emeritus Dr Hwa Yung started off his presentation by briefly mentioning a few issues which have recently arisen, namely, accusations against YB Hannah Yeoh’s biography [2], the planned Jerusalem Jubilee event [3], the CEO of CENTHRA (Centre of Human Rights Research and Advocacy)
calling for evangelicalism to be outlawed in Malaysia [4], and YB Nik Abduh’s statement that Christians have infiltrated a major political party in the country to carry out their Christianisation agenda [5].

Dr Hwa Yung went on to say that such issues are based on a confusion of terms, a misrepresentation of who evangelicals are, and religion being highly politicised. He then explained the difference between evangelicals, evangelicalism, and evangelism, based on an article written by local Christian theologian, Dr Ng Kam Weng. [6]

The fact that the CEO of a think tank conflated such terms [7] are highly illustrative of why interfaith/interreligious dialogues are necessary! If the CEO of a think tank could make such a mistake, what more us ordinary folks?

Dr Mazlee, later in the dialogue, gave an example of Christians praying for the establishment of the kingdom of Jesus Christ, and how Muslims may be alarmed because they fail to understand what a Christian means when he/she says that. Understanding each other can most definitely, allay unnecessary fears and conflicts.

During his allotted time, Dr Mazlee Malik raised a good point, suggesting that one of the ways forward is by dialoguing, but more specifically, by engaging more mainline islamic groups such as ABIM, PERKIM (Pertubuhan Kebajikan Islam Malaysia), and MACMA (Malaysian Chinese Muslim Association). Or even figures like the Mufti of the Federal Territories and/or the Mufti of Perlis, both of whom represent the more mainstream Islam.

On top of Dr Mazlee’s suggestions, I would like to put forth certain propositions for the consideration of any party concerned in this matter.

Firstly, civil societies like Kairos Dialogue Network should go even further than what Dr Mazlee suggested, by engaging with groups like ISMA (Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia) which are perceived as more hard-line.

Its president, Dr Abdullah Zaik Abdul Rahman, has been under the spotlight in recent years due to a few controversial statements he has made [8] [9]. It would be good for him to be able to present his views on interfaith matters, free of any misrepresentation, and to be allowed defend them under scrutiny (either through the questions of fellow panellists or by way of questions from the audience).

Inviting speakers of differing views would also make the dialogues more productive. As much as I respect Dr Mazlee and his willingness to participate in these dialogues, his moderate views might result in the dialogues being an echo chamber or information cocoon of some sort.

Perhaps these dialogues could also be streamed live on platforms such as Facebook and/or Youtube. Although yesterday’s dialogue was recorded, a live stream would allow the entire discussion to be shared on social media, hence raising awareness about the existence of such events. People who could not attend the dialogue due to a plethora of reasons would be able to have access to the content of what was discussed, in the event there is a livestream.

Besides that, the moderator, Rev Dr Sivin Kit mentioned before the start of the Q&A sessions that the organisers are aware of suggestions that the dialogues should be conducted in the national language and be held elsewhere. It is my sincere hope that the organisers can implement these recommendations in the future. Having these dialogues in the national language would allow the information discussed to be heard and .understood by a greater majority of Malaysians.

Furthermore, if muslim groups are open to this idea, future dialogues could/should be held on mosque grounds (not necessarily at the area where prayers are conducted if that would be inappropriate). Understandably, not all Muslims are comfortable entering church grounds. Thus, having it on mosque grounds would it much easier for Muslims to participate in these dialogues.

It cannot be stressed how important interfaith dialogues are, especially in our multireligious society. Efforts by organisations such as KDN should be applauded. Ordinary Malaysians should make time to attend these events as it would allow them to have their misconceptions corrected, and to allow them to ask any pressing questions they may have been dealing with.

[1] http://bit.ly/2sY8Hxr

[2] https://www.themalaysianinsight.com/s/3574/

[3] https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2017/06/246100/home-minister-bans-jerusalem-jubilee-gathering-malaysia; see also Christ Church bishop Jason Selvaraj’s criticism of the planned event ( https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2017/06/246008/christian-leader-questions-insensitive-jerusalem-jubilee-celebration)

[4] https://www.themalaysianinsight.com/s/5196/

[5] https://www.themalaysianinsight.com/s/5405/

[6] http://www.krisispraxis.com/archives/2017/06/evangelical-essentials-correcting-ill-informed-muslim-activists-and-fitnah-against-christians

[7] https://www.themalaysianinsight.com/s/5196/; see also Joshua Woo Sze Zeng’s article addressing the history of evangelicalism (http://m.themalaymailonline.com/what-you-think/article/three-things-about-evangelicalism-malaysians-should-know-joshua-woo-sze-zen/)

[8] http://m.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/in-work-paper-isma-claims-multiple-global-conspiracies-to-wipe-out-malays/

[9] http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2014/01/13/isma-islam-under-threat/

*This article was featured in Free Malaysia Today

Should Hudud Be Implemented For All?

A reply to:
Implement hudud for all, not only Muslims, says ISMA

As if the entire hoo-ha about hudud wasn’t enough, ISMA went on to say that it should be applied to non-muslims as well. That stirred a lot of unrest among non-muslims in Malaysia and many voiced their displeasure. Especially on social media

Of course ISMA is entitled to voice their opinion (enshrined in Article 10 of the Federal Constitution). But their opinion(s) should be made with respect to the highest law of our land or it would reflect badly on their intellect. Plato once said, “Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something”

Article 11 of the Fedeal Constitution guarantees the freedom of religion. Article 11(1) states that “Every person has the right to profess and practice his religion and subject to Clause (4), to propagate it”

If hudud were to be imposed on non-muslims, the right of non-muslims to practice their religion would be infringed. How? While most churches use non-alcoholic beverages when partaking the Holy Communion , some Malaysian churches do use wine to represent the blood of Jesus

Hudud covers an offence called syarbul khamr (a.k.a drinking alcohol). Will Christians then be flogged 80 times for observing a practice considered holy to them? Christians would no longer be able to freely practice their religion, hence infringing Article 11

Also, under hudud, only free, adult Muslim men are eligible to testify. The status of a women’s testimony under hudud is an unresolved issue. Some Muslim scholars believe the testimonies of TWO women equate to the testimony of ONE man

What then about testimonies of non-muslims? (presuming they are subjected to hudud). Does it count for anything?

According to an article by Sp4n4r ,
“Non muslims are allowed to testify in Hudud cases. The only difference is that their testimony will not be sufficient
for a hudud conviction and will only lead to a Takzir conviction

However, in cases where there is an absence of any muslim witnesses, the testimony of a non muslim will be
accpeted for a hudud conviction with two conditions:

A) He/she has never been proven to be a liar
B) He/she is a believer of a religion and practices his/her religion”

However, Muslim women activist and
filmmaker Norhayati Kaprawi
, takes a different stance and says “Based on PAS’s current hudud enactments in Kelantan and Terengganu, only Muslim males are eligible to be court witnesses. The testimonies of non-Muslims (and also
Muslim women) are not accepted in PAS’s hudud-style Islamic courts” 

Clearly there are A LOT of unresolved issues. Perhaps ISMA should contribute on sorting out the hiccups related to hudud instead of churning out bootless statements such as “hudud should be implemented for all and not only muslims”

What Happened To 1Malaysia?

Click here for an introduction as to the concept of 1Malaysia

That article is a supplement to this article. Anyways, back to the topic at hand, “What happened to 1Malaysia?” Many of us wonder if Barisan Nasional (BN) is still championing this concept after Malaysia’s 13th General Election (GE)

Prior to the election, BN used this as their catchphrase. The whole idea was basically to rally Malaysians together and preserve the thin fabric of unity holding Malaysians together

After GE 13, Utusan (a government owned Malay language newspaper) caused a nationwide controversy with it’s “What More Do The Chinese Want?” headline. BN was obviously disappointed with the fact they did so much yet did not get the votes of the Malaysian Chinese. But of course nothing justifies the use of such insensitive remarks

After that fiasco, Perkasa and ISMA had their fair share of moronic statements (e.g. ‘ban malay bibles’, ‘what are the non-muslims’ contribution to the nation?’). Mind you, BN over the past few years have financially contributed to Perkasa and ISMA’s cause. The fact that happens doesn’t reflect very well on our supposedly moderate Prime Minister

So a year after GE 13, the question on the minds of Malaysians is, “What happened to 1Malaysia?” Was our PM just fooling around with the idea of racial unity in order to get votes? If he is still serious about maintaining racial unity, he needs to come down hard on any organisations/individuals spewing racism and religious extremism

Make an example out of those quarters and let the whole world know that Malaysia DOES NOT tolerate racism & religious extremism!

* Read it also at The Malaysian Insider

ISMA, You Screwed Up

Recently ISMA put its foot in its mouth when its president Abdullah Zaik Abdul Rahman said non-muslims “should be thankful that they have more than what
they need in this country”. “I don’t see what their contributions are for them to be given so many privileges in the first place,”

He issued that statement because the non-muslims opposed the plan to implement hudud. Rudely put, what Mr Abdullah Zaik Abdul Rahman said is, “Non-muslims should keep their mouths shut because they have not contributed to the nation” (as per http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/what-are-your-contributions-to-the-nation-says-isma-warning-non-muslims-ove)

Regarding the contributions of non-muslims,  http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/10-contributions-of-non-muslims-to-malaysia summed it up pretty well. I however, would like to add a few thoughts of my own

Firstly, any Malaysian educated about our history will be able to tell ISMA that every race has contributed to the nation. The British would only let us taste independence if Malaya could get all the races to unite. Does ISMA really think that if the non-muslims did not support the idea of independence that we would be able to celebrate our 57th independence this year on the 31st of August? Nay I say!

Furthermore, what is embarrassing for ISMA is, after their racially insensitive statements, Dr Mahathir unloads on them saying that their statements only hurt the country. When will ISMA realise that they are in a delusional world? Together with Perkasa of course (http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/shut-up-your-comments-hurting-the-country-dr-m-tells-isma)

Lastly, what is even more epic is the fact that ISMA said non-muslims must continue to pay taxes but should just leave the Malays and Muslims to run the country. Isn’t that an acknowledgment of a contribution of non-muslims to the nation?

The tax paid by non-muslims are the very money used by the Government for development, paying the salaries of civil servants, as well as funding certain pro-Government NGOs (ahem ahem). Therefore, ISMA’s statements are non-sequitur and oxymoronic to say the least
(http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/pay-taxes-but-leave-malaysias-future-to-us-isma-tells-immigrant-citizens)

Dear ISMA, perhaps instead of coming up with statements that accurately reflect your intellect, you should focus on how YOU can help contribute to the nation. Just for the record, racially insensitive statements DOES NOT contribute to the betterment of the nation!  

Alas I conclude, “ISMA, you screwed up”

Were The Indians And Chinese Imported To Dispossess Malays Of Their ‘Birthright’?

The article: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/indians-chinese-imported-to-dispossess-malays-of-birthright-isma-claims

“Indians and Chinese were brought into Malaysia to weaken the Malay identity and undermine the community’s birthright to peninsular Malaysia on the pretext of multiculturalism.” This could not be further from the truth. Anyone who has studied our colourful history knows that the Chinese were brought in as tin miners while the Indians were brought in as estate workers

It was the Industrial Revolution at that time. As far as the British colonizers were concerned, they only wanted workers to help them achieve their economic agendas. Nothing in our history textbooks suggest that the British wanted to “weaken the Malay identity” using the Chinese and Indians as ISMA absurdly claims

“Abdul Rahman claimed that the entry of the Chinese and Indians had been a “cunning and evil” conspiracy by the British to weaken the Malays who were opposed to its occupation.” In all fairness to the British, some Malay rulers welcomed the Brits with open arms

1. In Perak, Raja Abdullah and Raja Ismail fought for the throne and the former requested the Brits to acknowledge him as the ruler of the state. That led to the “Perjanjian Pangkor 1874”

2. In Negeri Sembilan, Dato Kelana and Dato Bandar fought over Sungai Ujong. The former got the British to help strengthen his position. In exchange, the Brits got full authority to collect taxes at Sungai Linggi

So many chapters in the high school history textbooks talk about how the British wanted Tanah Melayu for its riches in natural resources. Nothing indicates that the British brought in foreign labour to weaken the position of the Malays.

The textbooks do say that the Brits brought in their own people to take up positions of power in order to strengthen their position in Tanah Melayu. Whoops. Been blaming the wrong people all this while?

At the end of the day, it depends on how you want to see things. Through the lenses of racial bigots, historical facts not in favour of their opinion counts for nothing

Things that happened in the past should be left in the past. Does it matter more how I got here or what I have done since I got here? After 56 years of independence (approaching 57 this year), we still have certain groups harping over how the Chinese and Indians were brought in

Every race has contributed to the development of the nation. Because of the blood and sweat of our forefathers, we are where we are now. No one race deserves to be here (in Malaysia) more than another!