Saturday, September 22, 2012

Senseless rage over anti-Islam film

Islamic Renaissance Front

The Islamic Renaissance Front views the recent murders and uproar over the film “Innocence of Muslims” with much sadness and bafflement.
All available facts suggest that “Innocence of Muslims” is not even a film. What is currently known about it was available in the widely circulated YouTube clip which ran for a total of some 13-odd minutes. What is worse, most critics are in agreement on the film’s utterly poor quality — cheap sets, mediocre actors, bad voice-overs and incomprehensible narrative — all of which explains why no one had even heard of the so-called film until Muslims decided to make a fuss about it.
Indeed, the added tragedy is not so much that the film is Islamophobic, which it clearly is, but that the unnecessary attention given to it by angry Muslims, eventually gave the film far more publicity than it deserves.
The question is why. What is behind the apparent trend of Muslim hypersensitivity? For the protests is just one occurrence out of countless others before, whereby masses of Muslims occupy public space to pressure some form of censure, punishment or banning of some product for insulting Islam. Rather than to reflect, negotiate or dialogue the tenor has often been to confront and suppress.
The most well-known case to date was the furore over Salman Rushdie’s “The Satanic Verses”. More recently there were the Danish cartoons. Even the rather well produced “The Message”, directed by Moustafa Akkad in 1976 with Anthony Quinn as the main actor, which did not portray the Prophet at all was deemed by many Muslims to be offensive. A Muslim group staged a siege against the Washington DC chapter of B’nai B’rith, threatening to blow up the building and its inhabitants under the false belief that Quinn portrayed the Prophet.
We now witnessed the needless deaths of dozens of innocent civilians as a result of violent protests that only reinforced the distorted image of Islam as a religion of violence and intolerance. It portrays the vicious face of a religion that was supposed to be a religion of peace and compassion.
The West? 
When one observes the discourse closely, one will find that what underlies the narrative is a sense of defeat and insecurity upon being overwhelmed by what is often broadly termed as “the West”. This sentiment is an obvious continuation of an earlier resentment against Western colonialism, which almost all Muslim-majority countries today experienced in one form or another. Daily life in the age of globalisation too has seen an increase of presence by Western products as well as political and cultural values. Geopolitically, the presence of Western military forces in Muslim countries is all too apparent and overwhelming.
All this has somehow been viewed by Muslims as a sign that Islam is left behind, in one way or another, as a civilisation. That in turn further reinforces the anxiety of powerlessness before fearful imaginations of a monolithic behemoth called “the West”. From there, everything Islamic is juxtaposed against it, giving rise to a mood of scepticism against anything and everything that comes from the so-called “West”.
Towards openness and dialogue
But the situation is not that simple. While there has been much decline in science and learning in the Muslim world, which is undeniably tied to a history of colonial exploitation, Muslims must learn to take responsibility for the course of their own progress. Thus, rather than to recoil in defensiveness against everything Western or offensive, there must be instead, an attitude of critical reflection and openness to ideas.
Progress requires freedom, for no genuine learning can proceed when power is imposed from without on what can be said and heard. To embrace this is not to embrace or justify Islamophobic or racist sentiments. It is rather to affirm that racist or Islamophobic sentiments are best dealt with through dialogue, learning and empathy rather than brute force or coercion.
Hate must be combated. Oppression must end. But Muslims will only fail themselves if they proceed in a stupor of insecurity and anger.
Islam is a religion of patience and compassion 
There is nothing in Islam that says hate must be combated with more hate. Recall, when the Prophet Muhammad was just beginning his mission, a woman placed faeces at his door in hatred of Islam. Muhammad endured the humiliation peacefully, neither choosing to retaliate in anger or violence, to exemplify that ethos of calm and compassion that defined the eventual success of Islam in Mecca.
Conservative Muslims tend to regard such instances as inevitable given that Muslims did not get in power until Medina, but they forget the historical fact that it was Muhammad’s exemplary character as a clear-headed leader in Mecca that compelled the Medinans to turn to him as an arbiter and leader for their fragmented city in the first place.
Calm and compassion needed in Malaysia too
Yesterday, thousands gathered outside Masjid Jamek Kampung Baru and the US Embassy to protest the “Innocence of Muslims”. Interestingly this saw members of the Islamist party (PAS) and the main ruling Malay party (Umno) marching for a similar cause for once, even prompting the Umno Youth chief to invite PAS to join the ruling coalition.
It is too early to say if this will lead to anything but it does reveal again an age-old fact about Malay politics, namely in how the vagueness of “Malay and Muslim unity” is used as a pretext to overlook other more concerned issues, such as socio-economic justice and multiracial solidarity. Emotions and passions reign ahead of clear-headed rationale and human values.
The Islamic Renaissance Front once again calls for all Muslims to focus on the central agenda of Islam and that is the end of oppression and the establishment of a just society whereby all citizens irrespective of race and creed are treated equally. Enough lives, time and effort have been wasted over this film. It is time to move on and wake up.
* This Islamic Renaissance Front statement carries the names of Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa, Ahmad Fuad Rahmad, Fadiah Nadwa Fikri, Rizqi Mukhriz and Ehsan Shahwahid.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Mahathir’s perverted logic: good material in,garbage out.

By: Sakmongkol AK 47

Dr Mahathir is living in fear nowadays. He has to forsake his restful days to help out UMNO. Which means that Najib is incapable of leading UMNO. That can only be the most rational deduction.
He is now the torch bearer for UMNO. UMNO must be rational he says and he says that while cavorting with the most irrational UMNO surrogate, Ibrahim Ali and Perkasa. UMNO members must now support Ibrahim Ali if UMNO leaders choose Ibrahim as candidate in GE13. UMNO members must be rational to accept a most irrational Malay candidate. That’s the inverse logic of Mahathir. Good material in, garbage put. We know Dr Mahathir- he does the opposite of what he says.
Mahathir is urging Malays to stand on their heads. Not good, too much blood rushing to the brain. Malays must now stand upright naturally. Rejecting UMNO and its ways, is the rational behavior. Supporting UMNO goes against the rational.
UMNO can get 2/3 majority if its members do not sabotage candidates chosen by the leadership. He is just confirming that despite having 3.2 million members, it hasn’t got leadership talent. Hence his UMNO is full of half past six leaders. He is saying that in advance because he knows that Najib will field many non-UMNO members as candidates in the next election. We wish him and Najib good luck. After leading UMNO and its successor party for so long, both don’t seem to understand the UMNO Malay mind.
I am beginning to think that what Daim once told me will become true. Come nomination day, UMNO is 70% fit to do battle. Come election date, it has lost 30% of the seats.
Mahathir’s motives behind his overarching and at times forceful articulation on behalf of UMNO are irrelevant to us. Malaysians must remind him that in 2004, Pak Lah got the biggest mandate in history with courtesy from Mahathir. People gave Pak Lah the biggest mandate, because they were celebrating the exit of Mahathir. It wasn’t because of Pak Lah who in 2008 then led UMNO/BN to its most disastrous outing. Let us now do a second celebration to give Najib and UMNO its most crushing defeat.
He faces the grim prospects of seeing his UMNO dispatched in the coming general elections. For 22 years, UMNO and he became one. So at stake is actually his legacy.
I will not dispute the opinion of many that Mahathir is the best PM we have ever had. Perhaps people are mesmerized by his vision of a grandiose Malaysia. He was swilling to back up his vision by embarking on the grandest of physical developments. During his term of office, Malaysians marveled at Putrajaya, Daya Bumi, PETRONAS Twin towers, KLIA and many other monumental developments. Malaysia was flooded with first world facilities unrivalled by many countries in south East Asia. In the Muslim world, Mahathir was hailed a hero especially by the despotic rulers in many Arab speaking world.
From Mahathir they have learnt one object lesson-people can be deceived an comforted into submission by giving them illusions of greatness.
Given those physical achievements how do we rate Mahathir? Since this is a season of idioms and allegories, I would to share with readers a story.
It’s about a rich and powerful person. Let us call him Dr X.  While endowed in those areas, Dr X is a sickly person. Not a single month passes without him contacting and developing some debilitating illnesses. He has gone to the best hospitals and private clinics but to no avail. So he made a covenant with Allah, that if during 3 months, he is free from any illness, he will bestow a gift of a dwelling or its equivalent to orphans. A promise to Allah is a solemn one and our subject in this story knows that.
After the vow and promise, Dr X was free from all form of sickness and illness. Still to reinforce his belief that this has indeed been a miracle from God, he extended the trial period to another month. Even after varying the original covenant, the Dr X did not contact any illness.
He is now convinced that this was indeed a benediction from God. So he now must honor his part of the covenant.
So he started an advertisement to offer one of his palatial properties in the city. He offers for sale a property worth RM30 million with enough rooms and compound to potentially house an orphanage. He offers to sell the property for the sum of RM500, 000. With the provision that whoever buys the property at RM 500,000 must also buy an old cabinet inside the house for RM29.5 million. Therefore there were actually 2 items for sale. The house and the old cabinet. He found one serious willing buyer who duly signed the necessary papers buying the house and the cabinet.
In his own ways, Dr X is a sufficiently religious person.  He hasn’t forgotten his covenant with God. He takes RM500, 000 and hands over the money to the trustees of an orphanage entrusting them to use the money to build an orphanage. Dr X has therefore fulfilled his promise to God. Having done that, he still makes RM 29.5 million.
It’s true – Mahathir has given so many things that Malaysians can be proud of. The value of all those is RM500, 000. Mahathir has taken RM29.5 million.
DR Mahathir is busy nowadays giving MPs and ADUNs from the various states pep talks. Presumably he has been telling the UMNO legislators the same advise. Be rational. But he must not forget- every UMNO legislative member who attended the meetings with Mahathir at the Perdana Foundation, think and believe that they are as winnable as Najib and Muhyidin are.