Thursday, January 29, 2015

Make The Rukunegara The Preamble Of The Constitution by Dr. Chandra Muzaffar

From articles and letters in the media, meetings and seminars among the intelligentsia and conversations with people from different walks of life, it appears that there is a great deal of concern about ethnic relations in the country.

Concerned Malaysians should focus their energies on how together we can improve the ethnic situation in this beloved land of ours. Yayasan 1Malaysia would like to suggest the following five approaches.

One, Malaysians should imbibe the fundamental principles of the Malaysian Constitution. They should understand in depth the “just balance” embodied in this cherished document. This balance should guide each and every Malaysian as she seeks to exercise her rights and discharge her responsibilities towards the nation.

By privileging the position of the Malay Rulers, the Malay language and Islam, the Constitution acknowledges that the Malaysian Federation had evolved from Malay polities, while at the same time it is cognizant of the contemporary environment reflected in the conferment of citizenship upon the non-Malay communities and mirrored in the rights accorded to their languages and religions. 
Likewise, it balances the status of the indigenous people with the interests of the then newly domiciled non-indigenous communities. The powers of the Central government are juxtaposed with the powers of the states within a Federal system. Individual and collective freedoms are balanced with the demands of public order.

Through our schools and universities, community centres and religious-cum-cultural outfits, public institutions and private businesses, political parties and civic organizations, we should have inculcated in the nation this idea of a justly balanced constitution from the first day of Merdeka.  Even today after 57 years of Independence there is really no concerted attempt to instill in our people a deeper appreciation of the Constitution and its significance for their lives.  This is one of the reasons why we have failed to create greater social cohesion within our diverse population.

Two, we have also failed to harness the strengths of the Rukunegara to forge a deeper understanding among our people of the aspirations of this nation. The five goals and the five principles of the Rukunegara announced to the nation on Merdeka Day, 31st August 1970, should have been adopted by the Malaysian Parliament as soon as parliamentary rule was restored in February 1971. Even more important, the Rukunegara should be incorporated into the Malaysian Constitution as its preamble.

Our Constitution does not have a preamble. Since the Rukunegara lays out goals and principles for the nation, it is ideally suited as a preamble--- a preamble that would provide Malaysians with a clear conception of their mission and their destiny. It envisions greater unity among the people; a democratic way of life; a just society where the prosperity of the nation is equitably shared; a liberal approach towards the nation’s rich and diverse cultural traditions; and a progressive society oriented towards modern science and technology. To achieve these goals Malaysians should be guided by belief in God; loyalty to king and country; the sanctity of the constitution; the rule of law; and good conduct and behavior.

The Rukunegara was given some emphasis in the public sphere for a few years after the death of Tun Abdul Razak who led the consultative process that gave birth to this far-sighted instrument of nation-building that goes beyond ethnic and religious boundaries. However, it was sidelined from the eighties onwards. Because it was denied a role in bringing people together, the ensuing vacuum was filled by other forces that were gathering momentum at the level of the masses. One of these forces was ‘Islamic resurgence’ which was largely propelled by rapid Malay urbanization and the intensified ethnic dichotomization of society. The other was increasing non-Malay alienation and anger shaped by some of the negative consequences arising from the implementation of the New Economic Policy (NEP), divisive communal political rhetoric and the dramatic expansion of Chinese education.  Indirectly, therefore, the marginalization of the Rukunegara made it easier for communal and sectarian elements to occupy the public space.

Three, neither the adoption of the Rukunegara as the Constitution’s preamble nor the socialization of the nation into the Constitution will improve ethnic relations if justice is not seen to be done in concrete terms. There should be a holistic approach to justice that is fair to everyone, regardless of ethnic, religious, regional or gender affiliation. Such an approach would be in consonance with the spirit of the Constitution and the Rukunegara.   

What this means is that the poor and the needy should be helped because they are poor and needy. The widening gap between the have-a-lot and the have-a-little should be closed. There should be no hindrance to non-Malay mobility in the public and civil services just as there should be no obstacles to the advancement of Malay and other non-Chinese staff in Chinese owned corporations. Efforts to make various sectors of the economy more multi-ethnic should continue.

Four, governance in both the public and private sectors should fulfil the highest standards of honesty and competence. In similar vein, the delivery of goods and services should be efficient. These aspects of good governance impact indirectly upon ethnic relations since perceptions of who manages or delivers a service, or who allegedly gives or receives a bribe are sometimes conditioned by ethnic sentiments.

Five, Malaysians should be made aware in a much more conscious manner that they share a multitude of spiritual and moral values as human beings and as inheritors of diverse religious and cultural traditions. From compassion and love to kindness and humility, from living in harmony with the environment to the primacy of the family, the values that unite us are far more powerful than the differences that divide us. It is a shame that shared values as an approach to forging inter-ethnic and inter-religious understanding and harmony has yet to emerge as the central theme of cultural and religious discourse in the country.

Nonetheless, ordinary Malaysians have demonstrated when confronted by grave challenges such as the recent floods in various states that they are capable of heart-warming acts of kindness and compassion transcending religious and ethnic barriers. In their deeds, lie the seeds of hope for genuine unity in the Malaysia of tomorrow.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Noam Chomsky on Charlie Hebdo: one man's terrorism is another's war on terror

THE WORLD reacted with horror to the murderous attack on the French satirical journal Charlie Hebdo. In the New York Times, veteran Europe correspondent Steven Erlanger graphically described the immediate aftermath, what many call France’s 9/11, as “a day of sirens, helicopters in the air, frantic news bulletins; of police cordons and anxious crowds; of young children led away from schools to safety.

It was a day, like the previous two, of blood and horror in and around Paris.” The enormous outcry worldwide was accompanied by reflection about the deeper roots of the atrocity. “Many Perceive a Clash of Civilizations,” a New York Times headline read.
The reaction of horror and revulsion about the crime is justified, as is the search for deeper roots, as long as we keep some principles firmly in mind. The reaction should be completely independent of what thinks about this journal and what it produces.
The passionate and ubiquitous chants “I am Charlie,” and the like, should not be meant to indicate, even hint at, any association with the journal, at least in the context of defense of freedom of speech. Rather, they should express defense of the right of free expression whatever one thinks of the contents, even if they are regarded as hateful and depraved.
And the chants should also express condemnation for violence and terror. The head of Israel’s Labor Party and the main challenger for the upcoming elections in Israel, Isaac Herzog, is quite right when he says that “Terrorism is terrorism. There’s no two ways about it.”
He is also right to say that “All the nations that seek peace and freedom [face] an enormous challenge” from murderous terrorism – putting aside his predictably selective interpretation of the challenge.
Erlanger vividly describes the scene of horror. He quotes one surviving journalist as saying that “Everything crashed. There was no way out. There was smoke everywhere. It was terrible. People were screaming. It was like a nightmare.” Another surviving journalist reported a “huge detonation, and everything went completely dark.”
The scene, Erlanger reported, “was an increasingly familiar one of smashed glass, broken walls, twisted timbers, scorched paint and emotional devastation.” At least 10 people were reported at once to have died in the explosion, with 20 missing, “presumably buried in the rubble.”
These quotes, as the indefatigable David Peterson reminds us, are not, however, from January 2015. Rather, they are from a story of Erlanger’s on April 24 1999, which made it only to page 6 of the New York Times, not reaching the significance of the Charlie Hebdo attack. Erlanger was reporting on the NATO (meaning US) “missile attack on Serbian state television headquarters” that “knocked Radio Television Serbia off the air.”
There was an official justification. “NATO and American officials defended the attack,” Erlanger reports, “as an effort to undermine the regime of President Slobodan Milosevic of Yugoslavia.” Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon told a briefing in Washington that “Serb TV is as much a part of Milosevic's murder machine as his military is,” hence a legitimate target of attack.
The Yugoslavian government said that “The entire nation is with our President, Slobodan Milosevic,” Erlanger reports, adding that “How the Government knows that with such precision was not clear.”
No such sardonic comments are in order when we read that France mourns the dead and the world is outraged by the atrocity. There need also be no inquiry into the deeper roots, no profound questions about who stands for civilization, and who for barbarism.
Isaac Herzog, then, is mistaken when he says that “Terrorism is terrorism. There’s no two ways about it.” There are quite definitely two ways about it: terrorism is not terrorism when a much more severe terrorist attack is carried out by those who are Righteous by virtue of their power.
Similarly, there is no assault against freedom of speech when the Righteous destroy a TV channel supportive of a government that they are attacking.
By the same token, we can readily comprehend the comment in the New York Times of civil rights lawyer Floyd Abrams, noted for his forceful defense of freedom of expression, that the Charlie Hebdo attack is “the most threatening assault on journalism in living memory.”
He is quite correct about “living memory,” which carefully assigns assaults on journalism and acts of terror to their proper categories: Theirs, which are horrendous; and Ours, which are virtuous and easily dismissed from living memory.
We might recall as well that this is only one of many assaults by the Righteous on free expression.
To mention only one example that is easily erased from “living memory,” the assault on Fallujah by US forces in November 2004, one of the worst crimes of the invasion of Iraq, which opened with occupation of Fallujah General Hospital.
Military occupation of a hospital is, of course, a serious war crime in itself, even apart from the manner in which it was carried out, blandly reported in a front-page story in the New York Times, accompanied with a photograph depicting the crime.
The story reported that “Patients and hospital employees were rushed out of rooms by armed soldiers and ordered to sit or lie on the floor while troops tied their hands behind their backs.”
The crimes were reported as highly meritorious, and justified: “The offensive also shut down what officers said was a propaganda weapon for the militants: Fallujah General Hospital, with its stream of reports of civilian casualties.”
Evidently such a propaganda agency cannot be permitted to spew forth its vulgar obscenities.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The power of different courts by Prof Shad Saleem Faruqi - The STAR

In a country with a supreme Constitution, the courts cannot be ousted on issues of constitutionality.
LIKE most legal systems, Malaysia has many streams of justice. The Magistrates Courts, Sessions Courts, High Courts, Court of Appeal and Federal Court constitute our “civil court” system. Side by side with civil law, other systems of law and mechanisms for dispute resolution exist.
> Each State has its own hierarchy of Syariah Courts. These courts apply enacted
Islamic law and Malay adat in spheres limited and defined by Schedule 9, List II, Paragraph 1.
> Sabah and Sarawak have native laws enforced by Native Courts.
> Under Articles 182-183 of the Federal Constitution, a Special Court exists to try cases by or against Malay Rulers.
> There are scores of statutory tribunals known by a variety of names like Industrial Court, Court Martial, Valuation Tribunal, Commissioner of Income Tax and Disciplinary Committees and Tribunals.
> Private sector organisations like clubs, businesses and industries have their own domestic tribunals.
Such “legal pluralism” beautifully recognises the multiplicity of fountains from which our law emanates. But it also creates conflicts of jurisdiction. Up to now, the general statutory and judicial approach was to respect the separateness of parallel streams of justice and to accept that a valid decision of a special court or tribunal was final and conclusive and not appealable to the ordinary civil courts.
To this separateness and autonomy, one exception was always in place. By virtue of the supreme Constitution and many statutes like the Specific Relief Act, the superior civil courts retained a supervisory, “review power” to examine the constitutionality and legality of all determinations by inferior courts, tribunals and quasi-judicial bodies.
In the years since the insertion of Article 121(1A) which states that civil courts “shall have no jurisdiction in respect of any matter within the jurisdiction of the Syariah courts”, the supervisory power of the High Court in relation to syariah laws and syariah court decisions has come under severe questioning.
There are views that the Federal Constitution “does not limit the Islamic code”, that “syariah courts are not subject to the Constitution” and are of equal status to civil courts.
These views have undoubted populist appeal but questionable legal basis.
They fail to distinguish between what is aspirational and what is the legal reality. The Federal Constitution’s scheme of things is quite different.
Constitutional supremacy: According to Article 4(1), the Constitution is the supreme law of the Federation. No person, authority or institution, including a State Assembly or a syariah court, is above the Constitution.
Judicial review: Any law, whether federal or state, primary or secondary, civil or religious, pre-Merdeka or post-Merdeka, is subject to constitutional review by the superior civil courts in accordance with Articles 4(1) and 162(6). It is established law in Latifah Mat Zin v Rosmawati Sharibon (2007) that questions of constitutionality are for the civil and not the syariah courts to adjudicate upon.
Islam: Though Islam has a most exalted position as the religion of the Federation, the syariah is not the basic law of the land. In Che Omar Che Soh (1988), it was held that the Constitution and not the syariah is the litmus test of legality.
Article 3(1) on Islam as the religion of the Federation is qualified by Article 3(4), which clearly states that “nothing in this article derogates from any other provision of the Constitution”. This means that Article 3(1) does not override any other provision of the Constitution.
Article 121(1A): Under Article 121(1A), the syariah courts are immune from interference only as long as they remain within their jurisdiction, i.e. within powers conferred on them by state enactments. State Enactments in turn must confine themselves to the 26 topics allocated to them by Schedule 9 List 2 Paragraph 1.
Thus, a Muslim marriage or divorce is outside the purview of the civil courts. But if the State Enactment violates the Federal Constitution, the civil courts can invalidate it. Take, for example, the recent Negri Sembilan cross-dressers’ case.
If a Syariah Court acts unconstitutionally, e.g. it tries a non-Muslim for a syariah offence or it dissolves a civil marriage in which one party is a non-Muslim as in the Indira Gandhi case, the High Court is empowered to declare otherwise.
Likewise, if syariah officials act illegally as in the 2013 Borders Bookstore case, where they unlawfully seized a book that was not yet banned and then interrogated a non-Muslim employee of the bookstore which they have no power to do, the civil courts can issue the necessary declaration.
In a country with a supreme Constitution, the courts cannot be ousted on issues of constitutionality. For example, under the Second Schedule of the Constitution, Part III, Para 2 “A decision of the Federal Government (on deprivation of citizenship) shall not be subject to appeal or review in any court”. Despite such explicit language, courts have been willing to examine the exercise of the minister’s discretion.
Status of syariah courts: The status of syariah courts is determinable by looking at the mode of their creation; matters within their jurisdiction; persons subject to their control; and penalties they may impose.
The High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Federal Court are established by the Federal Constitution. In the appointment of judges to these courts, the Prime Minister, the top judges, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the Conference of Rulers are involved.
In contrast, syariah courts are not created by the Federal or State Constitutions but are established by ordinary State Enactments. Most of the safeguards available to superior court judges are not conferred on syariah judges.
Syariah courts do not have a general power to try all issues of Islamic law. According to Schedule 9, List II, Para 1 only the following are within their jurisdiction: 25 personal law matters plus power to punish offences against the precepts of Islam except in relation to matters in the Federal List or covered by federal law. Almost all hudud offences like murder, robbery, theft and rape are triable by federal courts and, therefore, outside the jurisdiction of syariah courts. Likewise, homosexuality, gambling and betting are penal code offences.
Syariah courts have jurisdiction only over persons “who profess the religion of Islam”. A non-Muslim is not subject to the syariah court. His acquiescence is irrelevant. Jurisdiction comes from law, not from consent.
Under the Syariah Courts Criminal jurisdiction Act 1965, Syariah courts have the power to impose six strokes of the rotan, RM5,000 fine and three years’ jail. In comparative terms, this is lesser than the jurisdiction of a Magistrates Court!
It should be clear, therefore, that on existing law it is not correct to attribute to enacted Islamic law or to syariah courts a legal superiority over constitutional provisions and total immunity from constitutional review by the civil courts.
Of course such an aspiration may come to pass one day, if the pace and range of Islamisation continues. But we are not there yet. The Constitution is still supreme. Proponents of “one country, two systems” or two equal and parallel legal systems have to be level-headed about the legal, political, economic and social implications of such a significant change to the constitution’s basic structure.
Any proposal for change must be accomplished in accordance with constitutional procedures and not simply by the might of public opinion. Under Articles 159(5) and 161E, the consent of the Conference of Rulers and the Governors of Sabah and Sarawak will be needed.
> Prof Shad Faruqi is Emeritus Professor of Law at UiTM. He wishes all readers a Happy New Year. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

10 Prinsip Wasatiah Warga Malaysia

Wahai Warga Malaysia

Mari kita wasatiahkan Malaysia. Amalan wasatiah wujud dahulu, kini dan pada masa hadapan.

Mari kita bersama-sama praktikkan 10 prinsip Wasatiah Warga Malaysia.

1. Saya akan bertanggungjawab. Saya tidak akan menunggu yang lain untuk mengamalkan konsep wasatiah. Saya akan mengambil langkah pertama. Saya adalah agen wasatiah.

2. Saya akan mengamalkan konsep kesyukuran. Saya akan menggunakan apa yang sedia ada dan tidak merungut. Saya tahu sedikit apa yang ada adalah cukup untuk maju ke hadapan jika saya ikhlas dan taqwa.

3. Saya tidak akan tamak. Saya tidak akan merungut tentang mengapa yang lain lebih kaya, tetapi mengambil berat terhadap yang kurang bernasib baik.

4. Saya akan sentiasa berfikiran positif dan sentiasa melihat masalah sebagai peluang. Walaupun seseorang bercakap menyakitkan hati, saya akan melihatnya sebagai peluang untuk memahami apa yang mengganggu hati seseorang itu.

5. Saya akan sentiasa bersikap kritikal terhadap diri sendiri dan komuniti saya. Jika saya adalah seorang yang beragama Islam, saya akan kritikal terhadap individu beragama Islam lain terlebih dahulu. Jika saya seorang yang beragama Kristian, saya akan kritikal terhadap individu beragama Kristian lain terlebih dahulu, dan sebagainya.

6. Saya akan jujur kepada kedua-dua belah pihak. Saya tidak akan menjadi hipokrit.

7. Saya akan mengamalkan "Golden Rule" iaitu kod etika yang mengatakan bahawa saya akan berkelakuan sepertimana saya mahu dilayan oleh orang lain. Saya tidak akan berkelakuan buruk, di mana saya juga tidak mahu dilayan sedemikian.

8. Saya akan mengambil berat dan mempraktikkan kepelbagaian dan keharmonian. Saya yakin dengan penuh hati bahawa kepelbagaian adalah anugerah Allah yang terbaik dan tanda-tanda kebesaranNya.

9. Saya akan sentiasa menambah nilai kepada orang lain, kepada setiap situasi dan apa sahaja yang berinteraksi dengan saya.

10. Saya akan sentiasa mengamalkan sikap pengasih. Saya akan cepat memaafkan dan melupakan. Saya akan sentiasa beri peluang kepada keamanan.

Saya percaya bahawa majoriti rakyat Malaysia bersikap wasatiah. Kita adalah antara golongan yang yakin di hati bahawa rakyat Malaysia mahukan yang terbaik buat diri mereka sendiri dan juga untuk rakyat Malaysia yang lain, kerana negara ini tidak akan maju secara keseluruhan jika ada yang ketinggalan.

Mari amalkan sikap wasatiah.


Anas Zubedy
Kuala Lumpur

Monday, December 22, 2014

Have A Meaningful Christmas - Tomorrow in The STAR

Sybil Kathigasu (1899 - 1948) selflessly took on the duty to help others during Japanese occupation of Malaya with the means she had as a nurse.

Let us be Moderate: Principles for a Moderate Malaysian.

Dear brother and sister Malaysians,

Come make Malaysia moderate. The practice of moderation is our past, present and future. Let us together follow the Principles for a Moderate Malaysian.

1.  I will take ownership. I will take responsibility. I do not wait for others to act in moderation. I will take the first step. I AM THE AGENT OF MODERATION.

2.  I will practice the spirit of thankfulness (kesyukuran). Instead of complaining, I work with what I have. I know deeply that the little that I have is enough to move me forward if I am sincere and conscious.

3.  I will not be greedy. I will not complain about why others are richer than me but worry more about the poor in my midst.

4. I will always choose the better meaning and always see all problems as opportunities.  Even if someone says hurtful words, I will see it as an opportunity to know what is painful in the other person’s heart.

5. I will first be critical of myself and my own community. If I am a Muslim, I will be critical of other Muslims’ wrongdoings first. If I am a Christian, I will be critical of other Christians’ wrongdoings, and so on.

6. I will be honest on both sides. I will not be a hypocrite.

7. I will practice the Golden Rule. I will treat others as I would like others to treat me. I will not treat others in ways that I would not like to be treated.

8. I will embrace and practice diversity and inclusion. I will believe with all my heart that diversity is one of God’s greatest signs and gifts.

9. I will always add value to everyone, every situation and everything that I interact with.

10. I will always practice mercy. I will be quick to forgive and forget. I always give peace a chance.

At zubedy, our programs draw strength from shared values and traditions. We believe that at heart, all Malaysians want good things for themselves and for their brother and sister Malaysians, simply because our nation cannot prosper as a whole if some of us are left behind.

Let us be first and foremost, Malaysians.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Need for consultative process - The STAR

WE, a group of concerned citizens of Malaysia, would like to express how disturbed and deeply dismayed we are, over the continuing unresolved
disputes on the position and application of Islamic laws in this country.
The on-going debate over these matters display a lack of clarity and understanding on the place of Islam within our constitutional democracy.
Moreover, they reflect a serious breakdown of federal-state division of powers, both in the areas of civil and criminal jurisdictions.
We refer specifically to the current situation where religious bodies seem to be asserting authority beyond their jurisdiction; where issuance of various fatwa violate the Federal Constitution and breach the democratic and consultative process of shura; where the rise of supremacist NGOs accusing dissenting voices of being anti-Islam, anti-monarchy and anti-Malay has made attempts at rational discussion and conflict resolution difficult; and most importantly, where the use of the Sedition Act hangs as a constant threat to silence anyone with a contrary opinion.
These developments undermine Malaysia’s commitment to democratic principles and rule of law, breed intolerance and bigotry, and have heightened anxieties over national peace and stability.
As moderate Muslims, we are particularly concerned with the statement issued by Minister Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom, in response to the recent Court of Appeal judgement on the right of transgendered women to dress according to their identity.
Jamil viewed the right of the transgender community and Sisters in Islam (SIS) to seek legal redress as a “new wave of assault on Islam” and as an attempt to lead Muslims astray from their faith, and put religious institutions on trial in a secular court.
Such an inflammatory statement from a Federal Minister (and not for the first time) sends a public message that the Prime Minister’s commitment to the path of moderation need not be taken seriously when a Cabinet minister can persistently undermine it.
These issues of concern that we raise are of course difficult matters to address given the extreme politicisation of race and religion in this country.
However, we believe there is a real need for a consultative process that will bring together experts in various fields, including Islamic and Constitutional laws, and those affected by the application of Islamic laws in adverse ways.
We also believe the Prime Minister is best placed with the resources and authority to lead this consultative process.
It is urgent that all Malaysians are invested in finding solutions to these longstanding areas of conflict that have led to the deterioration of race relations, eroded citizens’ sense of safety and protection under the rule of law, and undermined stability.
There are many pressing issues affecting all of us that need the urgent leadership and vision of the Prime Minister, the support of his Cabinet and all moderate Malaysians. They include:
i) A plural legal system that has led to many areas of conflict and overlap between civil and syariah laws. In particular there is an urgent need to review the Syariah Criminal Offences (SCO) laws of Malaysia.
These laws which turn all manner of “sins” into crimes against the state have led to confusion and dispute in both substance and implementation.
They are in conflict with Islamic legal principles and constitute a violation of fundamental liberties and state intrusion into the private lives of citizens. In 1999, the Cabinet directed the Attorney-General’s Chambers to review the SCO laws.
But to this day, they continue to be enforced with more injustices perpetrated.
The public outrage, debates over issues of jurisdiction, judicial challenge, accusations of abuses committed, gender discrimination, and deaths and injuries caused in moral policing raids have eroded the credibility of the SCO laws, the law-making process, and public confidence that Islamic law could indeed bring about justice.
ii) The lack of public awareness, even among top political leaders, on the legal jurisdiction and substantive limits of the powers of the religious authorities and administration of Islamic laws in Malaysia.
The Federal Constitution is the supreme law of the land and any law enacted, including Islamic laws, cannot violate the Constitution, in particular the provisions on fundamental liberties, federal-state division of powers and legislative procedures.
All Acts, Enactments and subsidiary legislations, including fatwas, are bound by constitutional limits and are open to judicial review.
iii) The need to ensure the right of citizens to debate the ways Islam is used as a source of public law and policy in this country.
The Islamic laws of Malaysia are drafted by the Executive arm of government and enacted in the Legislative bodies by human beings.
Their source may be divine, but the enacted laws are not divine. They are human made and therefore fallible, open to debate and challenge to ensure that justice is upheld.
iv) The need to promote awareness of the rich diversity of interpretive texts and juristic opinions in the Islamic tradition.
This includes conceptual legal tools that exist in the tradition that enable reform to take place and the principles of equality and justice to be upheld, in particular in response to the changing demands, role and status of women in the family and community.
v) The need for the Prime Minister to assert his personal leadership as well as appoint key leaders who will, in all fairness, champion open and coherent debate and discourse on the administration of Islamic laws in this country to ensure that justice is done.
We especially urge that the leadership sends a clear signal that rational and informed debate on Islamic laws in Malaysia and how they are codified and implemented are not regarded as an insult to Islam or to the religious authorities.
These issues may seem complex to many, but at the end of the day, it really boils down to this: as Muslims, we want Islamic law, even more than civil law, to meet the highest standards of justice precisely because it claims to reflect divine justice.
Therefore, those who act in the name of Islam through the administration of Islamic law must bear the responsibility of demonstrating that justice is done, and is seen to be done.
When Islam was revealed to our Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. in 7th century Arabia, it was astoundingly revolutionary and progressive.
Over the centuries, the religion has guided believers through harsh and challenging times.
It is our fervent belief that for Islam to continue to be relevant and universal in our times, the understanding, codification and implementation of the teachings of our faith must continue to evolve.
Only with this, can justice, as enjoined by Allah S.W.T. prevail.
1. Tan Sri Datuk Abdul Rahim Din
Former Secretary-General, Home Ministry
2. Tan Sri Ahmad Kamil Jaafar
Former Secretary-General, Foreign Ministry
3. Tan Sri Dr Aris Othman
Former Secretary-General, Finance Ministry
4. Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican
Former Director-General, Health Ministry
5. Tan Sri Datuk Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim
Former Secretary-General, Finance Ministry
6. Tan Sri Datuk Dr Mustaffa Babjee
Former Director-General Veterinary Services
7. Tan Sri Nuraizah Abdul Hamid
Former Secretary-General
Energy, Communications and Multimedia Ministry
8. Tan Sri Dr Yahya Awang
Cardiothoracic Surgeon and Core
National Heart Institute
9. Datuk Seri Shaik Daud Md Ismail
Former Court of Appeal Judge
10. Datuk Abdul Kadir Mohd Deen
Former Ambassador
11. Datuk Anwar Fazal
Former Senior Regional Advisor
United Nations Development Programme
12. Datuk Dali Mahmud Hashim
Former Ambassador
13. Datuk Emam Mohd Haniff Mohd Hussein
Former Ambassador
14. Datuk Faridah Khalid
Representative of Women’s Voice
15. Datuk Latifah Merican Cheong
Former Assistant Governor
Bank Negara
16. Lt Gen (Rtd) Datuk Maulob Maamin
Lieutenant General (Rtd)
17. Datuk Noor Farida Ariffin
Former Ambassador
18. Datuk Ranita Hussein
Former Suhakam Commissioner
19. Datuk Redzuan Kushairi
Former Ambassador
20. Datuk Dr Sharom Ahmat
Former Deputy Vice-Chancellor
Universiti Sains Malaysia
21. Datuk Syed Arif Fadhillah
Former Ambassador
22. Datuk Zainal Abidin Ahmad
Former Director-General
Malaysian Timber Industry
23. Datuk Zainuddin Bahari
Former Deputy Secretary-General
Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and
Consumerism Ministry
24. Datin Halimah Mohd Said
Former Lecturer
Universiti Malaya and President, Association of Voices of Peace, Conscience and Reason (PCORE)
25. Hendon Mohamad
Past President
Malaysian Bar

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Beset by anger & hate - The STAR

The pervasive political atmosphere is stifling rational discourse.

WHAT has the song First Cut Is The Deepest got to do with political sentiments in Malaysia?

That was my precise thought when a rather inebriated guest singer proudly made references to his ethnicity and the recently concluded Umno general assembly before and after his rendition of the song at a popular local pub on Sunday.

For those who are unfamiliar with the 47-year-old tune, it sums up the anxiety of entering a new romantic relationship while still suffering from the hurt of one’s first love.

Most people associate it with British rock icon Rod Stewart, but the poignant song was written by Cat Stevens, now known as Yusuf Islam, in 1965.

Stevens, born Steven Demetre Georgiou, composed it when he was still a struggling songwriter and sold it for £30 to P.P. Arnold, a former Ike and Tina Turner backup singer, who turned it into a hit in 1967.

Cover versions by Keith Hamp­shire and Sheryl Crow also became huge hits, but Stewart’s classic interpretation remains the most renowned.

What was the song’s connection to the Chinese community and not being understood by Umno, as the guest singer said after his three minutes on stage? I was left wondering, too.

Perhaps it was yet another manifestation of the pervasive political atmosphere in the country today.

It is scary, but everything in Malaysia is somehow associated with politics and the overbearing anger and hatred it begets is stifling.

As expected, last week’s Umno general assembly provided more fodder for the ill will to go on.

Party president and Prime Mi­­nister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has come under fire for declaring that the Sedition Act would not only remain but would be strengthened.

His detractors are denouncing it as a “flip-flop”, but the decision clearly had the support of the party, which secured 88 of Barisan Nasional’s 133 seats in the 13th general election last year – one short of the total of 89 won by Pakatan Rakyat parties.

It is true that Umno needs to go beyond its Malay heartland base and gain support in the urban areas to remain relevant, but only the politically naive would expect a leader to go against the tide of the grassroots.

In any case, whatever Najib does has never been right in the eyes of those opposed to his leadership. It has always been the case of damned if he did and damned if he didn’t.

Much has been said and written about the assembly, but for someone who has observed such gatherings for three decades, it was a rather tame affair.

Sure, there were some heated moments, the expected venting of communal frustrations, the usual clownish remarks and attempts at bashing a particular community, but Najib and his deputy Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin drummed home some pertinent points at the end of it.

Muhyiddin brought home the stark reality that Barisan, which lost its two-thirds majority in Parliament for the first time in the 12th general election, could be ousted from Putrajaya with just a loss of 2% support in the next polls.

Amidst the rhetoric, Najib sent the most important message – Umno needs the support of the other races to remain in power – stressing that this was why Tunku Abdul Rahman formed the Alliance, which evolved into Barisan Nasional under Tun Abdul Razak.

A close friend, a retired politician who has served as a Member of Parliament for two terms, said such assurances might do little to sway diehard supporters of Pakatan Rakyat, but had restored a semblance of hope among those who want to see the return to rational politics in the country.

Both sides of the political divide have to pull back from digging deeper trenches separating Malaysians from each other.

The rational and moderate among us must remind political leaders and their supporters that there is more to life than trading insults and perpetuating endless hatred.

Malaysians must be made to realise that politics has always been about battles between competing interests and attempts to balance partial truths.

Instead of looking at the complex perspectives involved, we are constantly drawn into the partisan hate through simplistic beliefs about being right and wrong, or good versus evil.

With today’s digital technology and widespread use of social media, it is even easier for those bent on stirring discord to get quick and extensive coverage.

In the old days, rookie journalists were reminded that just because somebody says something shocking it would not mean that it was news.

Not anymore. Any rabble-rouser for a small and insignificant group can now manipulate the media into getting ample attention by making incendiary remarks.

But there is a limit to how much political rancour and hate people can stomach.

Even in countries where two party systems of democracies are practised, voters are being turned off by the intense politicking, especially when there is no difference between the parties when it comes to corruption or standard of governance.

As a result of this aversion, what is being referred to as “anti-politics” is very much in the air in Europe.

The United Kingdom’s 64-year-old Political Studies Association has set up an Anti-Politics and De-Politicisation Specialist Group dedicated to providing a forum for researchers examining the trend.

According to the group, “anti-politics” appears to have marginalised political debates, taken power away from elected politicians and fostered an air of disengagement, disaffection and disinterest in politics.

The way politics is being played in Malaysia, I wouldn’t mind a dose of it here.

Associate Editor M. Veera Pandiyan likes this observation by F. Scott Fitzgerald: The test of first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

Article taken from The STAR