22 November 2014


Pendapat Anda?

The Philippine Star

There was a time when I would not be caught dead supporting Anwar Ibrahim. This was the time of development and the virtues of authoritarianism in getting things done.

Mahathir was my hero. He still is – for the brave stand he took during the 2008 Asian financial crisis against all odds and criticisms from western financial moguls especially against George Soros whom he accused of sabotage. He introduced controls to protect the Malaysian ringgit. That was also the time when he went against Anwar Ibrahim when it seemed that his deputy prime minister was wavering in his support for Mahathir’s policies.

Close Filipino friends were in Kuala Lumpur for the trial of Anwar Ibrahim for sodomy. We stood at different parts of the courtroom. I went to see Mahathir in his office outside the city convinced that it was the development path that was more significant than Anwar’s fight for freedom and democracy.

The same Filipino friends of Anwar Ibrahim in court have sent his speech in Georgetown University to this column as he awaits the decision from Malaysia’s High Court expected any day.

* * *

Ibrahim’s speech in Georgetown addresses Filipino reformists of today, too.  I like especially the part when he said that he would return to Malaysia soon. He could opt not to. But he said the cause of democracy is a habit of the heart.

He could not leave the youth he had inspired to continue the job. It would be unfair to them. In a way, we who have worked hard for constitutional reform in the Philippines for many years can learn from his speech. Like him we continue to fight against those who would destroy our institutions because we believe that we can mature in a democracy and continue the fight for reform and save our institutions under a rule of law. We must have faith and preserve our values. All this I take to mean as a response equally relevant to us in Bayanko.

It would be so easy to give up, but who is to do it if so many are mesmerized by what they think is progress and development?

* * *

In the same speech, he compares the Reformasi as the journey to Ithaka. This is a poem written by Constantine Cavafy. I would like to share this poem with this column’s readers as a source of inspiration to keep them strong and determined for the struggle now and in the days ahead.

“When you set out for Ithaka ask that your way be long, full of adventure, full of instruction. The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops, angry Poseidon – do not fear them: such as these you will never find? as long as your thought is lofty, as long as a rare emotion touch your spirit and your body.

The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops, angry Poseidon – you will not meet them unless you carry them in your soul, unless your soul raise them up before you.

Ask that your way be long. At many a Summer dawn to enter with what gratitude, what joy – ports seen for the first time; to stop at Phoenician trading centres, and to buy good merchandise, mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony, and sensuous perfumes of every kind, sensuous perfumes as lavishly as you can; to visit many Egyptian cities, to gather stores of knowledge from the learned.

Have Ithaka always in your mind.

Your arrival there is what you are destined for. But don’t in the least hurry the journey. Better it last for years, so that when you reach the island you are old, rich with all you have gained on the way, not expecting Ithaka to give you wealth. Ithaka gave you a splendid journey. Without her you would not have set out. She hasn’t anything else to give you. And if you find her poor, Ithaka hasn’t deceived you. So wise you have become, of such experience, that already you’ll have understood what these Ithakas mean.” It is not just for the few but for the rare and “crazy.”

* * *

News reports have been coming out that “we are now in a post crisis period.” I was with a group last night who were not aware of the reports. If we are now in this post crisis situation what is the government doing about it?

“The Nasdaq reports that “looking back to between 1945 and 2008, we see that the frequency of financial crises and recessions is quite high: on average, there is one crisis every 58 months (using data from the US National Bureau of Economic Research). In other words, statistically speaking we should expect the beginning of the next crisis in April 2015, which would end by March 2016. So are we in a post- or a pre-crisis period?”

There is another perspective to the crisis. This comes from Jose Alejandrino, member and adviser  of Bayanko. He gathers facts that are available in many news reports.

‘The Japanese economy sank further in the 3rd quarter after a severe contraction in the previous quarter, pushing it into recession. The Russian economy is on the edge of recession due to economic sanctions imposed by the West as punishment for interfering in Ukraine. The Eurozone is also on the brink of recession due to high debt, low growth, and high unemployment. The German economy, the powerhouse of Europe, only grew by 0.1 percent in the 3rd quarter.?IMF’s managing director Christine Lagarde and Bank of England governor Mark Carney warned of a spectre of stagnation sweeping Europe.?The economies of the emerging markets are all slowing down.? All this will impact severely on the US economic recovery.

A world recession cannot but affect the Philippines. In my previous postings, I warned of external and internal factors that will hit the Philippines in 2015. A world economic recession is the  external factor. It will reduce considerably the country’s exports and manufacturing, increasing further the already high unemployment and poverty rates. These are the internal factors. The social repercussions will add to the revolutionary situation already present in the country with a do-nothing government and wide discontent. It could sweep away the established order.”

Is this the divine intervention that will happen to finally awaken Filipinos to the dire economic and political situation in the Philippines?

22 November 2014


Pendapat Anda?

Middle East Monitor

US citizen Mohamed Soltan has been in an Egyptian jail for over a year, and on hunger strike for nearly all of that time. He has smuggled a letter out of prison to mark his 27th birthday today (November 16th). There is also another hearing in his trial today, and the judge in charge of the case is the same one who sentenced the Aljazeera journalists to lengthy jail terms, as well presiding over the trial of known activists Ahmed Douma and Alaa Abdelfatah. The text of Soltan’s letter is as follows:

For the first time in the pre-season, I came late to JV basketball practice. I had made the team at 336 pounds, during my junior year in high school, even though all of my classmates were playing varsity I was just happy to make the team. That day, Coach Slappy looked at me as I entered the gym, and without giving me the chance to explain my tardiness he put his index finger up and circled it in the air, directing me to run laps. I was OK with the punishment for the tardiness, but what I wasn’t OK with was his insistence on the “finger-circling” when I asked and continued asking as I ran, “How many laps coach?”

That day I felt that I had received the worst punishment. I could have ran 100 laps had the coach let me know how many laps I needed to run, but the psychological punishment was, for me, nothing short of torture. That day I ran 29 laps around the basketball court, but every lap felt like it would be the last one. By the time Coach Slappy remembered to tell me to stop I was mentally and physically drained.

I remember this story as my 27th birthday, my second in prison, approaches and as I finish 290 days on hunger strike. One hundred and fifty pounds lighter and exactly 10 years later, I am sitting in an underground Egyptian dungeon reflecting on that basketball season and its relevance to my current circumstances. I have lost the sense of hunger; I lose consciousness often; I wake up to bruises and a bloody mouth almost daily; and physical pain has become the norm, with my body numb as it eats away at itself. None of that is as painful as the psychological torture that the ambiguity of my detention (which is under an indefinite temporary holding law) is imposing. This is a dark and gloomy nightmare; I have no clue about how it descended on me so suddenly; I don’t know how long it will last; nor do I know how and when it will end. Although it is a much more extreme feeling than that of Coach Slappy’s punishment, it is nonetheless similar; mental and physical depletion. I do not know how long until this “punishment” ends, so every day passes like it is the last, slow and excruciating.

And just when the rare tears filled up my eyes as I went down memory lane to that basketball season, it all began to come together. That year I stopped smoking sheesha, lost 60 pounds, worked extra hard every practice, and moved from benching the JV team to 6th-man, to a starter. By the end of the year I was on the varsity basketball team with my classmates.

I realised then that, on that one day when Coach Slappy decided to punish me, he was testing my mental strength, my potential, and whether I had enough heart for the game. He kept this up for the rest of season, and I was certainly transformed into a better basketball player. My mental strength would be cultivated through these tests because I trusted him and that he was making me a better player.

I could not help the tears flowing down my bony cheeks as I thought of my weakness and inability to fully trust in God’s wisdom as much I did Coach Slappy’s. There is no comparison of course; this current test is much more extreme and definitely more painful, but just like the former made me stronger so too is this going to make me stronger. Just like I was prepped to be a better basketball player, I am being moulded by God to be a wiser human being, an effective leader, and a stronger advocate of freedom and peace. My coach’s words, “Hate every moment of training but love and cherish every second of victory,” are ever-so relevant today.

A ray of optimism has lit my heart. That’s the thing about birthdays, anniversaries, New Years, etc.; they inspire reflections over the past, thoughts and emotions around purpose, priorities, plans, future and hope.

I wipe my tears and, just as I begin to prepare for night prayer to thank God for all His blessings, I smile as I remember what I told myself 10 years ago during the 29th lap: “This has an end.”

Lieman maximum security prison
13 November, 2014

22 November 2014


Pendapat Anda?

Huffington Post

Young diaspora Muslims are flocking to Syria and signing up with ISIS to fight in a cosmic war while others plot domestic violence against secularism in their adopted homelands. Nothing as horrific as 9-11 or 7-7 has yet to take place but some believe it’s just a matter of time.

What do western, anti-religion secularists recommend to discourage domestic jihadism? Grit-your-teeth tolerance? Or systematic protest through freedom of speech, manifested in the media as ridicule and humiliation?

Convening recently in October at the spectacular Tower Hotel in London, a two-day conference about The Religious-Right, Secularism and Civil Rights brought critical activists together to discuss the global rise of the religious-Right and how secularism is the only viable solution to this creeping influence.

The UK’s hardcore, anti-religion secularists were in a majority at this conference and it was obvious that most of them believe religious tolerance in their society has gone too far. Political correctness has distorted society’s perception of Islam, they say, giving diaspora Muslims too much breathing space among educated, socially progressive citizens who otherwise cannot stomach theocracy, misogyny or homophobia.

“Is the BBC part of the solution or part of the problem?” someone yelled from the audience on the first day of the conference.

This reference to media deserves attention. Although there were six outstanding panels over the two-day period, none of them focused on freedom of speech and its role in what some interpret as a dangerous rhetoric of gratuitous ridicule. All references to incidents of public anti-Muslim sentiment were celebrated and endorsed by the conference participants, including the recent comments of American comedian, Bill Maher who said on his popular HBO talk showReal Time that Islam is “the only religion that acts like the mafia.”

Only one of the conference’s speakers warned about the consequences of provoking diaspora Muslims. And he was dimly booed.

Pervez Hoodbhoy is one of South Asia’s leading nuclear physicists and social activists, perhaps one of Pakistan’s most esteemed intellectuals. He gave an informative presentation entitled: “Has the Islamic State Ever Been a Historical Reality?” Hoodbhoy is a man worth listening to yet his closing comments were not well received.

(To paraphrase:) “Free speech can be a luxury and sometimes it is not worth the consequences.”

After eight years, the existential question still haunts many Danes: were the Mohammed cartoons worth the lives of the 200 plus that died in the subsequent riots of 2006?

Many ideological secularists might very well say yes; that free speech trumps any and all practical considerations for a peaceful relationship with Muslims (or any other religious community).

Nevertheless, research has demonstrated that intentional ridicule of Muslims is undeniably counter-productive to peaceful co-existence. Take as an example, the anti-Muslim subway ads in 2012 that called Palestinians “savages,” i.e., uncivilized, barbaric and ferocious; less than human.

It’s humiliating to call someone savage. And humiliation matters.

Humiliation is visceral and existential. The Latin root of ‘humiliation’ is ‘humus,’ which translates as ‘dirt.” “When you are humiliated, “says psychiatrist and philosopher, Neel Burton, “you can almost feel your heart shrinking.” Psychologists say that a person who has been humiliated often becomes preoccupied or obsessed by his humiliation and may react with rage, fantasies of revenge, sadism, delinquency, or terrorism.

Shame and humiliation are factors virtually always cited by the social psychologists and political scientists that study religiously driven terrorism. Why? Because feelings of humiliation are one of the most frequently cited “root causes” of the conversion to radical Islam. One Palestinian trainer of suicide bombers has said: “Much of the work is already done by the suffering these people have been subject to. . . Only 10 percent comes from me. The suffering and living in exile away from their land has given the person 90 percent of what he needs to become a martyr.”

We’re better informed today than we were in 2005-2006 and many of us who live in Denmark have a more nuanced understanding of the cartoon crisis. We’ve taken a step backwards and looked at the cultural context in which it happened.

And here it is:

Denmark is one of the most civilized societies on planet earth with highly ethical citizens, yet this rigorous Scandinavian culture has also bred a roughness of character in Danes whereby their DNA is coded with irony. In Denmark, you must not take yourself too seriously. Everybody is a candidate for mockery or the butt of a joke. Danes even make fun of their Royal family.

Consequently, the concepts of shame and dishonor are almost unheard of.

Zurich University has more to say about this. In a famous study about shame and the fear of ridicule - gelotophobia - they compared Danish culture to 72 other countries. At the top of the chart in first place is the Middle East with Asia in second place. Denmark is at the very bottom in 72nd place.

Did Jyllands-Posten’s editors expect that people would die in response to the cartoons? Of course not. Just as fish can’t perceive the water they swim in, the journalists who commissioned the cartoons – because they are Danish – didn’t understand the significance or consequences of shame and humiliation. Their agenda was simple. They wanted Muslim immigrants to “get over” being so sensitive. They wanted them to act just like Danes.

But in the absence of a cultural precedent for irony, mockery and self-ridicule, it was like slapping a baby.

It took courage for Pervez Hoodbhoy to stand before the London secularism conference and warn us about gratuitous offense; how we should avoid humiliating diaspora Muslims, if we can. But it wasn’t a message many people wanted to hear. “What’s our alternative?” someone yelled to him from the audience.

Yes, indeed. This is the question. Is there an alternative to peaceful co-existence? Anti-religion secularists might dream of the day when human experience does not include religion, but it’s not likely to happen any time soon, most certainly not in our lifetime.

What do we do in the meantime?

One option is to try and convert one billion Muslims to atheism. Another is to support the growing movement of progressive Muslims, the ones that mainstream media hardly ever mention.

Progressive Muslims integrate human rights into their catechism, including full agency for women and their LGBT colleagues. They support the separation of church and state and are grateful for procedural secularism that protects them from their enemies: internally, the ones who call them apostates; and externally, the ones who say they are “not Muslim enough” to be taken seriously. You can read about these independent thinkers in Critical Muslim, a quarterly magazine of ideas and issues that features revolutionary thinking about Islam and what it means to be a Muslim in an interconnected world.

And as for hate-speech-as-free speech, I vote for a large dose of common sense.

20 November 2014


Pendapat Anda?

[Not related with the video, below is the response from The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) regarding this issue earlier]

CAIR Responds to ‘Bizarre’ Move by UAE

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 11/16/14) — The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today responded to reports that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has added CAIR to its list of “terrorist” groups.

In a statement, CAIR said:

“We are seeking clarification from the government of the United Arab Emirates about this shocking and bizarre report. There is absolutely no factual basis for the inclusion CAIR and other American and European civil rights and advocacy groups on this list.

“Like the rest of the mainstream institutions representing the American Muslim community, CAIR’s advocacy model is the antithesis of the narrative of violent extremists.

“We call on the United Arab Emirates cabinet to review this list and remove organizations such as CAIR, the Muslim American Society and other civil society organizations that peacefully promote civil and democratic rights and that oppose terrorism whenever it occurs, wherever it occurs and whoever carries it out.”

Among its many anti-terror initiatives, CAIR recently joined a number of national and local Muslim scholars and leaders in Washington, D.C., to release a first-of-its-kind open letter in Arabic (with English translation) signed by more than 120 international scholars of Islam and Muslim leaders refuting the ideology of the terrorist group ISIS and urging its supporters to repent and “return to the religion of mercy.”

CAIR: U.S., World Muslim Leaders’ Open Letter Refutes ISIS’s Ideology, Urges Supporters to ‘Repent,’ ‘Return to the Religion of Mercy’


CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

20 November 2014


Pendapat Anda?


Anwar Ibrahim’s appeal at the Federal Court to reverse his conviction of sodomy by the Court of Appeal went on for eight days.

This was in stark contrast to the hasty two days of hearing at the Court of Appeal, which had overturned the earlier decision of the High Court to acquit Anwar of the sodomy charge.

Some quarters have pointed out that the hastiness in which the Court of Appeal had sat and convicted Anwar came ahead of PKR’s planned “Kajang Move”. The timing, of course, could have been mere coincidence.

Well, what’s past is past; we now await with bated breath the Federal Court’s decision on Anwar’s final appeal. Dare we hope that justice will triumph? Anwar’s defence team is claiming that the entire sodomy episode is part of a conspiracy to thwart the federal opposition leader’s political progress. The prosecution ask, in turn, “what political conspiracy?”

No matter the outcome of the appeal, life has to go on for the opposition leader. In Parliament recently, he raised some very important questions about the financial operations of 1MDB. Rafizi Ramli (PKR) and Tony Pua (DAP) too have been asking for clear answers on the actual liabilities of 1MDB and whether there has been full disclosure of the operations of this state ’sovereign fund’. The debt of 1MDB has soared to RM42bn, and should the firm fail for any reason there is grave concern that the ’letters of support’ issued would be tantamount to a sovereign guarantee implying serious financial obligations for the government.

Najib as the Prime Minister, Finance Minister and Chairperson of the Board of Advisors of 1MDB, owes a fiduciary obligation to the people of Malaysia to make full disclosure of the actual financial health of 1MDB. Perhaps the Auditor Generalshould also reconsider the calls made for its operations to be thoroughly re-audited.

Malaysia has been on the path of neo-liberalism for many years. This ideology, if left to run its course unchecked and without appropriate state intervention, can only mean greater hardship for the ordinary average income earning families in Malaysia, so argues the Member of Parliament of Sungei Siput. Achieving high gross domestic product (GDP) growth means little to the ordinary rakyat especially the poor people if it doesn’t translate to an improvement in their quality of life.

Dr Jeyakumar points out that more than 50 per cent of the total families in Malaysia have a combined family income of RM4200 or less. This makes it very difficult for them to make ends meet. About 29 per cent of the families actually earn less than RM3000 per month and they have to struggle even harder; we are referring to 8.7 million lives.

Some solutions, on health and housing, are suggested but does the government of the day have the political will and the heart to do what is right for the people of Malaysia?

The Muslim transgender community received a boost and scored a significant victory last week when the Court of Appeal ruled that they have the right to dress and behave as women. In a landmark decision, a three-member bench led by Datuk Mohd Hishamuddin Mohd Yunus, said section 66 of the Sharia Criminal Enactment violated Articles 5, 8, 9, and 10 of the Federal Constitution. The Negri Sembilan Islamic Religious Department (Jain) has already indicated that it intendsto appeal to the Federal Court.

But with the landmark decision now in place, ripples have spread. The decisionessentially highlights the supremacy of the Federal Constitution. Constitutional lawyers are now curious as to how the courts are going to decide on several pending controversial cases such as the right to use the word Allah and the Borders case, where the Federal Court is set to decide on the challenge against a Selangor state legislation that bans religious publications deemed to be un-Islamic.

It would be useful to read the cogent arguments put forth by Shad Saleem Faruqion how the Federal Constitution is supreme.

Recently the authorities resorted to banningIndonesian Muslim scholar Dr Ulil Abshar Abdalla from entering Malaysia – purportedly because they were concerned over the impact of hisprogressive views on Islam. But modern technology had the last say: Ulil was able to participate via Skype in the Third International Conference on Human Rights and Peace and Conflict in Southeast Asia. This demonstrates thatideas can still flow across physical borders no matter the obstacles.

Finally, in full support of the articles of the Federal Constitution that provide for the freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of association AND the pursuit of academic freedom, we urge all right thinking Malaysians to rally behind the University Malaya students who are being probed for organising the talk by Anwar Ibrahim in University Malaya on 27 October.

20 November 2014


Pendapat Anda?

Press Statement by Gooi Hsiao Leung dated 20th November 2014

1.     I refer to the media report yesterday in which the Attorney General, Abdul Gani Patail gave his reasons for not prosecuting Perkasa President Ibrahim Ali over his threat to burn the Bible.

Abdul Gani Patail’s explanation that they could not find any element of “intent” to charge Ibrahim Ali are mere excuses for not wanting to prosecute him.

3.      The refusal to prosecute Ibrahim Ali is a failure on the part of the Attorney General to uphold his oath of office to enforce the law without fear or favour.

4.     A person should be criminally charged if the facts discloses an offence in law. It is not up to the AG to accept Ibrahim Ali’s explanation that he had no intention to commit an offence. It is for Ibrahim Ali to explain and convince the Court that his intentions or actions were excusable in law.

5.     It is the Court’s duty and not personally up to the AG to decide Ibrahim Ali’s guilt or innocence under the law.

6.     Again, the AG’s reasoning that is not an offence to defend one’s religion is utterly nonsensical in this case. A person’s right to defend his religion does not give him the right to incite one group of religious faith to cause disharmony, disunity, or ill-will against another group of people of different faiths. Such an act is clearly an offence under Chapter XV in respect of offences relating to religion, and in this particular case, under s.298A(1) of the Penal Code.

7.     Since the AG is reluctant or unwilling to take up this case, in the public interest, I call upon him to instead, to give a “fiat” to the Bar Council the authority to prosecute Ibrahim Ali on behalf of the government – The appointment of a private lawyer to prosecute in a criminal matter is nothing new – as the appointment of Datuk Shafee in Anwar Ibrahim’s case has set the precedent.

8.     In this connection, I urge the Bar Council to approach the Attorney General to apply for the fiat to initiate criminal proceedings against Ibrahim Ali as this is a matter of great public importance.

9.     Failure on the AG’s part to positively respond to my call herein to issue a fiat, would confirm the public’s strong suspicions that the AG is not impartial, and is enforcing the law selectively. Just as a person who incites others to burn the Quran would clearly be a punishable criminal offence, equally Ibrahim Ali must be brought to court to face the full brunt of the law for inciting others to burn the Bible.

Member of Parliament for Alor Setar
Head of Office International Affairs, Parti Keadilan Rakyat

20 November 2014


Pendapat Anda?

Published on 19 Nov 2014

This talk was given at a local TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences. Malaysian Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim talks about his commitment to the ideals of empowerment, justice, and equity. His trials have included arrest and imprisonment for his unrelenting campaign against corruption and but he soldiers on as the strongest-ever challenge to the ruling coalition in Malaysia. In this talk, he explains his determination to continue the “Reformasi” campaign and the struggle for freedom and democracy despite a looming five-year prison sentence.

Malaysia’s Anwar Ibrahim, once a rising political star expected to succeed Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, is now the leader of the Malaysian Opposition. The creator of the “Reformasi” campaign of reforming the Malaysian political structure, he is an ardent supporter of democracy and is an authoritative voice in bridging the gap between East and West. He is viewed as one of the forefathers of the Asian Renaissance and a leading proponent of greater cooperation among civilizations.

About TEDx, x = independently organized event In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)

19 November 2014


Pendapat Anda?

 The Evolution of a Muslim Democrat: The Life of Malaysia’s Anwar Ibrahim. By Charles Allers. New York: Peter Lang, 2013. 345 pp.


Any attempt at offering a biography of Malaysia’s enigmatic politician Anwar Ibrahim (b. 1947) will be intriguing for many reasons. Perhaps more than any other political igure in contemporary Malaysia, Anwar has led a life whose vicissitudes have seen him oscillating from high points — popular student irebrand, social activist–intellectual, rising star of the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), handpicked protégé of  Prime  Minister  Dr  Mahathir  Mohamad (b. 1925), minister and deputy prime minister, right down to the lowest points that one can imagine — twice an Internal Security Act (ISA) detainee, convict stripped of human dignity, constantly excoriated opposition leader and purported hypocrite accused of heinous sexual crimes unbecoming of a professed Muslim holding leadership aspirations in religiously conservative Malaysia. Harnessing information from variegated sources, including personal interviews and published analyses of Malaysian politics and of Anwar Ibrahim’s diverse roles in it, The Evolution of a Muslim Democrat should be commended for ably capturing the different and even contrasting nuances of Anwar’s political life.

Far from being a blatantly lattering portrayal of Anwar Ibrahim as a consummate political leader once touted to be Malaysia’s “Prime Minister in waiting”, Allers’ account does not refrain from detailing episodes of Anwar’s political career that have exposed him to allegations of inconsistency, opportunism and unprincipled politicking. One example is Anwar’s alleged compromise on money politics during his days of ascendancy in UMNO, culminating in the victory of his Wawasan (Vision) Team — of which present Prime Minister Najib Razak and Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin were members — in the fractious party elections of 1993. While employing analyses proffered by scholars critical of Anwar’s having indulged in patronage politics such as K.S. Jomo, Edmund Terence Gomez and Kikue Hamayotsu, Allers balances his account by citing



the analyses of Peter Riddell, Meredith Weiss and Khoo Boo Teik, among others, all of whom are inclined to offer mitigating factors in explaining Anwar’s antics in exculpatory terms.

Another instance of vacillation in Anwar Ibrahim’s political posture that Allers chronicles is his position on the draconian ISA, which had authorized detention without trial since its inauguration in 1960. Quoted in 1992 having defended the selective retention of the Act, Anwar remained mute for the large part of Prime Minister Mahathir’s recurrent instances of recourse to the oppressive legislation. These instances resulted in gross violations of human rights, as during the Operation Lallang round-up against civil rights campaigners in 1987 and the government’s clampdown on the Darul Arqam dakwah (missionary) movement in 1994. Only when out of power, and after undergoing the traumatic experience of both preventive and judicial incarceration from the time of his post-sacking arrest in 1998 until 2004, did Anwar unwaveringly oppose the ISA. For the record, Prime Minister Najib Razak eventually announced the repeal of the ISA in September 2011, but replaced it the following year with the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act of 2012.

Just prior to Operation Lallang, Anwar — in his capacity as minister of education and with the backing of the chauvinistic UMNO Youth then led by Najib Razak — also clashed with proponents of Chinese-medium education  who  resented  what  they  regarded as Anwar’s unwarranted intrusion into their affairs. Such dabbling in ethnocentric politics, which diehard Anwar supporters would rationalize as a means of winning over the grass-roots Malay-Muslim support necessary for political advancement in UMNO, remains a black spot in his career. That career has featured an otherwise inclusive appeal to harmonious ethno-religious relations in the manner of convivencia in medieval Spain. The question of Anwar’s mixed history of yielding to pragmatic politics aside, Allers gives prominence to pluralism as a major aspect of Anwar’s religio-political thought that has gained credence globally, especially since his heavy-handed treatment by Malaysia’s ruling establishment  after  1998. Amidst the trials and tribulations that have befallen Anwar as a political



practitioner, Allers argues that his numerous writings and speeches relect fundamental consistency, rooted in his irm belief in not only the compatibility of but also the convergence between Islamic and universal principles such as freedom, justice and democracy. Anwar has been critical of Muslim leaders who have denied their citizens the rights due to them as human beings. Such criticisms have not, however, stopped Anwar from being honoured by his co-religionists with frequent accolades and speaking invitations from the Muslim commonwealth, not least from Turkey and Indonesia — the two countries to which he has most often referred as model Muslim democracies.

On the whole, Allers’ book is a sympathetic rendering of Anwar’s professional life, but it falls short of being unduly laudatory. Notwithstanding contradictions pertaining to his political praxis and the continually scurrilous attacks upon Anwar’s reputation engineered by Malaysia’s state-controlled mainstream media, the fact that an American-based pastor could take the trouble to conduct both primary and secondary research in producing The Evolution of a Muslim Democrat speaks volumes about Anwar’s untainted image in the eyes of admirers worldwide. Upon reading Allers’ book, one may wonder if Anwar would not have fared better as a globe-trotting international statesman preaching the virtues of democracy in an increasingly plural world. He was, after all, once considered for the post of secretary-general of the United Nations — a itting position from which to articulate a vision that has resonated across borders on matters such as “transcending tolerance” and masyarakat madani (civil society).

Anwar Ibrahim has, however, been at the end of the day, a true Malaysian and Malay-Muslim at heart. Sacriicing the comforts of possible retirement amidst global adulation, he has remained irst and foremost  concerned  with  reform  in  Malaysia.  On  the  basis of his capricious record, sceptics might nonetheless see in him a power-hungry individual intent on avenging the injustices done unto him, his family and his loyalists. His detractors, meanwhile, will be perennially scheming to prevent his rise to the apex of national leadership. This is evident in the recent Court of Appeal ruling



dismissing his previous High Court acquittal on fresh allegations of sodomy. This unexpected verdict rendered meaningless a by-election dubbed the “Kajang Move” and designed to install Anwar as chief minister of Selangor, purportedly as a launching pad to the prime ministership.

Whatever the outcome of his judicial troubles, Anwar’s place in Malaysian history is assured. While Anwar’s practical contribution remains constricted, his post-Reformasi discourse and programmes offered to Malaysians a viable alternative to the condescending, hegemonic and racialist politics to which they have been subjected by the UMNO-led political establishment since independence. Putting aside technical weaknesses such as the frequent presence of too many quotations from authors of divergent viewpoints in single sentences, The Evolution of a Muslim Democrat manages to capture Anwar’s undying vision of a better deal for Malaysia, Malaysians and Malay-Muslims. Allers contextually locates the heritage of that vision in Malaysian Islam’s legacy of sui-centric religious tolerance and Anwar’s own socio-religious upbringing at home and school, particularly at the English-orientated secondary institution, the Malay College of Kuala Kangsar. Whether Anwar’s lofty ideals see the light of day during his lifetime is left for Malaysians to decide in forthcoming polls.


Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid

School of Distance Education, Universiti Sains Malaysia, 11800 Penang, Malaysia; email:

[email protected]





DOI:  10.1355/sj29-3n

Adat and Indigeneity in Indonesia: Culture and Entitlements between Heteronomy and Self-Ascription. Edited by Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin. Göttingen: Universitätsverlag Göttingen, 2013. 240 pp.


Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin has contributed to academic debates about indigenous Balinese traditions and rituals for the last two decades. Her latest edited volume targets a wider readership than fellow

This review was published on Sojourn Magazine.

19 November 2014


Pendapat Anda?

Islam with a Heart[1]

Professor Emad El-Din Shahin
Visiting Professor, Georgetown University
Distinguished Visiting Scholar, Columbia University
Professor of Public Policy,The American University in Cairo
Editor-in-Chief, The Oxford Encyclopedia of Islam and Politics

“We have Sent you but a Mercy to Humankind” Qur’an

“I am but a gift of Mercy” Prophet Muhammad

“People are of Two kinds: Your Brother in Faith or Your Equal in Creation” Ali Ibn Abi Talib


What I am trying to accomplish in this piece is to revisit the connection between Islam and politics and place both within a humanistic and ethical framework. While I am not challenging the significance of governance (hukm) within the Islamic legal and historical contexts, I seek to shift the focus of our intellectual attention, at least at this critical juncture, away from the state to the human being and from law to ethics.

My main argument is that the human being, and not the state, should be at the core of Islamist political activity… and that ethics should be the foundation of our new perspectives of the Shari`a. These two domains were in fact at the heart of the Muslim intellectual endeavors during the Renaissance of Islam in the 10th century and the essence of the movement of Islamic modernism since the beginning of the twentieth century. These two movements were universal in appeal, humanistic in focus, inclusive in practice, and ethical in essence. I am hoping that my lecture today can help reclaim some of these values.


16 November 2014


Pendapat Anda?

Program 1: Kuliah di IIIT Virginia

The International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT)
Public Lecture on the “Reflections on the Aftermath of the Arab Spring” by Anwar Ibrahim

Founder and Board Member, IIIT. Leader of the Malaysian Opposition. Former Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia

Tuesday, Nov.18. 6:30 – 8:00pm.
IIIT Library. 500 Grove St Suite 200, Herndon, VA

Space is limited !!!
To RSVP please email [email protected]

Program 2: Wacana ilmu di Stanford University

“Islam and Democracy: Malaysia in Comparative Perspective”
Featuring: Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim. Malaysian Politician. Leader of Opposition (Pakatan Rakyat), Malaysia

Thursday, November 20, 2014 from 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM (PST)
Stanford, CA

~ Welcome Remarks and Introduction by Prof. Larry Diamond, Director for Stanford Center for Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL)
~ Talk by Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim
~ Panel Discussion; moderated by Prof. Larry Diamond
~ Question and Answer Session

RSVP: http://dsai-20141120-stanford.eventbrite.com

15 November 2014


Pendapat Anda?

Foreign Policy

Harassment. Arbitrary arrest. Torture. Over the course of the last two months, Myanmar’s Rohingya minority has faced a brutal campaign of subjugation by the state.

Oct. 3, while sitting at home in an isolated village close to Myanmar’s border with Bangladesh, Farid Alam, a 36-year-old businessman and community leader, was summoned by the local border police to one of its bases in a nearby camp. On arrival, he was arrested and quickly driven to the agency’s headquarters. There, he was brutally tortured to death — a visitor from out of town who saw his body noted that one of his legs was broken, his penis burned, and his testicles smashed.

Alam’s murder is part of a recent escalation of violence in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state perpetrated by state forces against an ethnic minority known as the Rohingya, according to the Arakan Project, a Bangkok-based rights-monitoring group. Since September, the group has documented a spike in abuses, such as arbitrary arrests and even torture, by the Border Guard Police (BGP), a government agency that deals with suspected illegal immigrants, and by the military. At least four people, the group says, were confirmed to have been either beaten or tortured to death in custody.

The spike in violence has driven thousands to flee Myanmar via the sea in what has been described by the Associated Press as “one the largest boat exoduses in Asia since the Vietnam War.” Some 16,000 Rohingya have fled the country by boat since mid-October, according to the latest estimates by the Arakan Project — a figure nearly double that which it recorded during the same period last year.

U.S. President Barack Obama, who is visiting Myanmar this week, has claimed the country as one of his chief foreign-policy successes. However, Myanmar’s transition has been undermined by ongoing human rights abuses, particularly in Rakhine. The predominantly Muslim Rohingya community has faced dire circumstances since sectarian conflict broke out between the group and its largely Buddhist ethnic Rakhine neighbors in June 2012. According to Human Rights Watch, pogroms committed against the Rohingya in 2012 at the hands of ethnic Rakhine mobs and state forces amounted to a “campaign of ethnic cleansing.” Following this, the Rohingya endured a series of deadly sectarian attacks perpetrated by groups of Rakhine, typically with impunity. In all, as a result of these events, several hundred have died, and around 140,000 Rohingya remain confined to squalid camps for the displaced. Yet in the months leading up to Obama’s visit, as documented in a series of Arakan Project reports given exclusively to Foreign Policy, the Rohingya have faced perhaps the most sustained campaign of targeted abuse by security forces in years.

In mid-October, Abu Tayab, a 27-year-old man, was arrested by the BGP after returning to Myanmar from a visit to neighboring Bangladesh. Brought to an immigration facility in Nga Khu Ya, his dead body, riddled with signs of torture, would be released the next day to a medical clinic for a postmortem, according to the group.

About a week after this incident, another man was found dead. Locals had witnessed the 42-year-old man being apprehended in Kyauk Pyin Seik village. Showing signs of assault, his body was later found in a river.

In addition to the killings, the Arakan Project has documented 144 arbitrary arrests in 28 locations in recent weeks. (Ye Htut, spokesman for Myanmar President Thein Sein, did not respond to a request to respond to the allegations.)

The allegations have emerged as Myanmar’s government has begun to implement its recently announced “Rakhine State Action Plan.” The strategy’s exact details have not been made public, but leaked draftsoutline the government’s plans. The policy offers members of the minority group two options: either present official proof of their family’s long-term presence in Myanmar while self-identifying as “Bengali” — in line with the government’s belief that the minority is largely composed of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh — or face confinement to internment camps and eventual resettlement abroad. Those who comply will be granted the chance to achieve a form of second-class citizenship. (Rohingya would be granted what amounts to citizenship, though the government could revoke it at any time pursuant to controversial junta-era legislation.)

Currently, very few look likely to assent to the government’s plan. Lewa reported that communities have been subjected to beatings, looting, and blockades by the security forces for not complying with “family list verification” exercises led by visiting immigration officials.

“It seems that the authorities may have been trying to get some Rohingya to classify themselves as Bengalis without their consent,” as per the requirements of the Rakhine State Action Plan, she noted.

With the issue of Rohingya migration being placed center stage in mediacoverage of Obama’s trip to Myanmar, the president has taken the opportunity to speak out against the Rakhine State Action Plan and emphasize his support for full citizenship rights for members of the group.

Yet it is unlikely that these statements can stem what Lewa calls “new surges of violence.” Matthew Smith, executive director of Bangkok-based NGO Fortify Rights, amplified these concerns, observing that attempts to force some Rohingya into referring to themselves as Bengalis, combined with the abuses outlined by Lewa, are likely to continue, contributing significantly to the increases in Rohingya maritime flight.

The persecution, he said, represents “various forms of ethnic cleansing at work.”

To some advocates, the timing of the recent abuses suggests some sort of coordination. Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, observed that “an escalation of these attacks, especially at the outset of the traditional sailing season, when the weather in the Andaman ocean calms down, is far too convenient to be a complete coincidence.”

“It appears that the ethnic Rakhine and their allies in Burma’s security forces are doing what they can to empty Rakhine state of the Rohingya,” he added, “one boatload at a time.”

15 November 2014


Pendapat Anda?


Sasterawan Negara Datuk A Samad Said menasihatkan agar masyarakat Melayu tidak taksub dengan dakwaan sesetengah pihak yang mengatakan bahawa bangsa itu kini semakin terancam.

Katanya, masyarakat perlu memahami bahawa Malaysia diperintah oleh seorang pemimpin Melayu yang turut mewakili parti yang dikatakan memperjuangkan bangsa itu.

Oleh itu, beliau hairan kerana masih timbul dakwaan dakwaan masih timbul bahawa kedudukan orang Melayu kini terancam, katanya  yang lebih mesra dengan panggilan Pak Samad.

“Saya harapkan masyarakat Melayu janganlah terlalu taksub dengan hebahan bahawa orang Melayu sedang terancam.

Macam mana orang Melayu terancam? Macam mana agama, Melayu terancam apabila orang yang berkuasa di atas adalah orang Melayu selama lima dekad. Apa yang dia buat duduk di atas selama lima dekad itu?

“Kalau kedudukannya itu tidak mampu membuat orang Melayu berfikir secara waras, keluar (turun) sahaja.

“Biar orang Melayu lain (yang tadbir). Dia tadbir lima dekad. Bukan satu dekad,” katanya dalam satu temubual denganMalaysiakini.

Kebimbangan seperti itu antara lainnya dibangkitkan oleh anggota majlis tertinggi Umno, Tan Sri Ibrahim Abu Shah yang percaya orang Melayu tidak akan dapat menguasai pentadbiran sekiranya Umno dan BN tewas dalam pilihan raya umum akan datang.

Perkara sama turut dibangkitkan oleh Menteri Komunikasi dan Multimedia Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek yang dilaporkan mendakwa orang Melayu kini berasa tidak dialu-alukan di sebuah negeri yang dipimpin sebuah parti pembangkang.

Walau tidak menyatakan parti khusus, beliau dipercayai membayangkan negeri Pulau Pinang yang diterajui DAP.

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