Friday, August 31, 2012

Secular or Islamic state?: Dr Farouk and the peacocks

 By:— Rama Ramanathan

I do not know Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa, whom I believe is a medical doctor who lives in Kuala Lumpur. I do know that he is a Muslim who is being belittled and mocked by some others who also speak for Islam in Malaysia. I say this because soon after his 2,000-word piece “Arguing for a secular state” appeared, a 5,000-word piece was loosed upon him by two writers from Himpunan Keilmuan Muslim.
What I find egregious about the attack on Dr Farouk by Imran Mustafa and Wan Mohd Aimran Wan Mohd Kamil in “The bankruptcy of the Islamic vs secular state debate” is their insinuation that they are “learned scholars and men and women of spiritual discernment and of pure and upright character; scholars and saints,” while Dr Farouk is ignorant, superficial, devilish, pretentious, brazen, blind, debilitated, obeisant, simplistic, unreasonable, unfair, futile, inflexible, hypocritical, schizophrenic (I may have missed a few).
When respondents resort to name calling, we know the author of the original paper has either exposed a glaring weakness, or has proposed something which could displace the entrenched. Thus my interest in what Dr Farouk has to say. His is a wide-ranging article. In the interest of brevity, I’ll restrict myself to six themes.
Hudud. Dr Farouk feels compelled to write about the Islamic/secular state at this time because the Islamic state, especially in its manifestation as hudud, is often raised in the build-up to the general election. I note that hudud is the rod the MCA repeatedly uses to beat the DAP for the latter’s willingness to work together with PAS, the Islamist party in Malaysia.
Dr Farouk indicates that PAS is divided over whether the hudud penal code (which to me means cane those who consume alcohol, cut off the hands of those who steal and stone women who commit adultery) should be implemented. He labels those who support such penalties “medievalists,” and labels those who do not support such penalties “Erdoganists.” He highlights an alternative view of hudud which space does not permit me to discuss here.
Dhimmi. Dr Farouk says many Islamists think an Islamic state is comprised of three groups of people: Muslims, Dhimmis and Harbis. Dhimmis are those who agree to submit to Muslims by paying a special tax called jizyah which buys them the protection of the state; Harbis are people who are hostile to Islam. He even points out that well-known, centuries-old Islamic laws prohibit Dhimmis from riding animals within city limits and require Dhimmis to wear distinctive clothing and even bells so that it will be clear to all that they are Dhimmis.
Tolerance. Dr Farouk’s purpose in pointing out those features is to state the obvious: those “medieval” laws are now common knowledge for most Malaysians. I have known about those laws for many years — thanks to the extensive coverage of Islam after 9/11. Dr Farouk is challenging Malaysian Muslim scholars and leaders to recognise that there is a diversity of opinion amongst Muslims about these matters. He’s pointing out that large numbers of Malaysian Muslims are also eager to recognise the rights and aspirations of non-Muslims, who are equally citizens of Malaysia. He’s pleading for tolerance.
Diversity. Dr Farouk brings up the very practical question of “who interprets”? I think immediately of the practice of various difference forms of government in “Islamic” countries, for instance, in Indonesia, Jordan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the various expressions of Islam, e.g. Ahmadiyyas, Ismailis, Shiites, Sunnis, Wahhabis, etc. He points out that there is no one person whom Muslims can claim is the final authority, not even the Grand Syeikh of al Azhar and the Saudi mufti. Further, he points out the difficulty of arguing against those who say “it’s mandated by the divine will of God.” I recall that this is why churches often caution Christians not to say “God says”.
Citizenship. Dr Farouk explicitly mentions citizenship. His critique of “medievalism” is not that it’s old (which his attackers obtusely say is what he is claiming). His critique of medievalism is that it doesn’t have room for present-day realities — which include the constitution of Malaysia, the understanding of citizenship and universal human rights. It’s easier to attack Dr Farouk for his purported ignorance and deprecation of history than to face his challenge and answer how the proposed “Islamic state” will work with modern realities.
Piety. One of the most compelling of Dr Farouk’s passages concerns true piety.  He says:
“Any regime that imposes piety because of the belief that it is part of the doctrine ‘commanding the good and preventing the wrong’ like Saudi Arabia, for instance, is basically creating a community of hypocrites [rather] than genuine piety.
“Genuine piety only arises through personal choice. And that choice only becomes possible when there is freedom. In other words freedom to sin is a necessary medium to be sincerely pious.”
That made me think immediately of the hypocrisy in the current regime in Malaysia after 55 years, so eloquently expressed by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah:
“[Tengku Abdul Rahman] called a press conference and had a beer with his stewards when his horse won at the Melbourne Cup. He had nothing to hide because his great integrity in service was clear to all. Now we have religious and moral hypocrites who cheat, lie and steal in office but never have a drink, who propagate an ideologically shackled education system for all Malaysians while they send their own kids to elite academies in the West.”
Imran and Aimran’s bitter attack caused me to study Dr Farouk’s paper carefully. They flaunt their ability to quote stellar Muslims from the history of Islam; they think they show they’re “cool” by making reference to the RSA; they choose to ignore the history of Malaya and Malaysia and current realities.
I am repelled by their response. I am attracted to Dr Farouk’s thought. I respect Dr Farouk for thinking deeply about 20th-century realities in our ethnically-fractured Malaysia, for taking seriously his neighbours and digging deep into his heritage to unearth and courageously promote such views.
You’ve probably heard the saying “as proud as a peacock,” and you may have seen peacocks displaying their feathers, preening, showing off. Do you know that peacocks are worthless and that they can barely fly? They can fly about six metres, but they can’t land. They can only crash.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Mahathir, you have not' triumphed’

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad may have been aiming 'a tad too high' when he likened himself with 'dictators' such as Mubarak, Hitler, Marcos and Gaddafi.
“Saya ingin tahu daripada pelawat ke blog saya tentang apakah yang saya telah lakukan semasa saya menjadi Perdana Menteri Malaysia yang menjadi bukti bahawa saya adalah seorang Diktator.” – Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Mahathir in his posting ‘Diktator’ recently asked readers of his blog Che Det, (of which this writer is one) for reasons why he has been unceremoniously dubbed a dictator.
He mentions Mubarak, Hitler, Marcos, Ceausescu, Mussolini, Gaddaffi and Saddam Hussein – all dictators of ill repute, notorious and certainly of dubious prominence but may I humbly suggest to Tun Mahathir that maybe he might be aiming a tad too high when linking himself to these dictators.
Any one of them would easily rate a mention in the top 20 dictators in our lifetime.
Unfortunately Mahathir may, at most, be mentioned as a dictator by the DAP Rocket and few other bloggers.
He flatters himself by thinking that he is in their company. These days he does seem bothered about what people write about him…visions of mortality perhaps.
Let’s start from the beginning – from the time when he was a doctor and had to have the biggest car around and a Chinese driver!
Right from that time in his life Mahathir was already into making it known that he could afford a big car and a Chinese driver!
But then as now, who really cares?
His next memorable work was the writing of his book the Malay Dilemma – and we know what that was all about.
Insecure Mahathir

Then as Minister of Education, the changes he made to our education system has had adverse ramifications until today for the Malays and for all Malaysians.
My first memory of Mahathir’s time as Prime Minister was his insistence that all government servants use a name tag.
Who can forget that Lat cartoon about that civil servant with a name tag right across his chest!
I mention all this because it gives us an idea of what kind of person this Mahathir is.
A very insecure little man who seeks attention and recognition from others with grand empty supercilious gesture that falls short of any real substance.
There are always a few of these ‘Walter Mitty’ types in our midst.
A Walter Mitty is “an ordinary, often ineffectual person who indulges in fantastic daydreams of personal triumphs”
Our tragedy is that this ordinary, ineffectual person who indulges in fantastic daydreams of personal triumphs became our Prime Minister!
He had grand designs.
This ‘almost a Malay’ used the most fundamental tools – education and all government machinery under his control – to try and establish ‘his’ Malay race as the first amongst equals in our nation.
Ustaz Reduan Tee said even as a Chinese, he stills champions the Malay!
Mahathir, an ‘almost Malay’

The irony of it all must have not been lost on Mahathir because we have this ‘almost a Malay’ not championing his people from Kerala but the Malays because he now becomes part of the ‘Tuans’ in Malaysia.
This daydream of his never became a reality as evident in the situation the Malays find themselves in today – never an equal among the other races and always the ‘Johnny-come-lately’ behind the Chinese.
But it did okay for Mahathir, his family and his cronies. They are rich beyond their dreams – at our expense.
For Mahathir,  his family and his cronies are the proof that his grand design for Ketuanan Melayu has been achieved!  Yes it has Tun Mahathir but at whose expense?
This 13th GE will be a defining moment in our nation but it has a historical before and after.
Umno is now facing the real possibility of defeat at the polls and this is because of the historical before!
The ‘historical before’ of what 22 years of Mahathir rule has turned Umno and Barisan Nasional into – a corrupt, arrogant and isolated political entity that is unable to understand the aspiration of its own people.
The ‘historical after’ is what we are trying to achieve with Pakatan Rakyat – change for the better.
Mahathir still clueless

Even in his heroic daydreams, Mitty does not triumph, several fantasies being interrupted before the final one sees Mitty dying bravely in front of a firing squad.
And all of them have faced their personal firing squad in one form or another. None of them died bravely!
You are in the midst of being blind folded and about to be taken to meet your firing squad – though like your Diktator article indicated, you are NOT going bravely – still protesting your innocence, still clueless of what and why you are about to be sentenced for.
And you’re obviously still wanting assurance from the people that you have indeed triumphed in your personal daydreams. Tun Mahathir you have not triumphed.
Mahathir, while you see Putrajaya, Twin Towers, the North South Highway, KLIA, Petronas Twin Towers as massive business opportunities given to the Malaysian businessmen and it is your legacies to our nation – we see waste, costs overruns, massive debts and mismanagement of our resources and wealth to benefit your family, your cronies and Barisan Nasional.
While you see 22 years of political stability, we see the misuse and abuse of every imaginable public and government apparatus for the benefit of your political agenda to keep you in power for that 22 years.
And we all, together with Umno, now have to live with the consequences of that selfish 22 years that kept you in power.
It will take a long time before our society deals with these failures. Because your government failed, we the people have had to take the initiative of making these changes ourselves.
You used race and religion to divide and rule our people.
CT Ali is a reformist who believes in Pakatan Rakyat’s ideologies. He is a FMT columnist.