No presidential speechwriter ever wrote a speech for his boss totally on his own.
THE other day I gave a speech in front of a bunch of women who both learn and teach public speaking. Which meant that I had to work hard on my speech, to make sure that it made sense and that I knew it well enough to sound convincing.
In fact I work hard every time I have to give a speech.
I am unable to say anyone else’s words so I have to write every word myself.
Before I do that, I have to read and research my topic so that I can speak with some credibility.
Then I try and write a different speech each time even if I’m talking about more or less the same things, if nothing else for me not to get bored and let that boredom creep into my voice.
Being sincere and passionate about your subject is to me very important.
Which is why I don’t understand how some politicians can get up and simply read out a speech that they’ve never seen before.
At least that’s what it sounds like when you read that they’ve made a speech full of terms they don’t understand, as well as invented new nonsensical ones.
I do get it that some people are too busy to write so many speeches themselves.
In that case, they employ really great speechwriters.
President John F. Kennedy employed Theodore “Ted” Sorenson who wrote his inaugural speech in 1961 that included that famous line “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper columnist William Safire wrote speeches for President Richard M. Nixon and until recently Jon Favreau was Director of Speechwriting for President Barack Obama.
British Prime Ministers also have their speechwriters but Winston Churchill was so skilled an orator, he wrote all his speeches himself.
It’s obvious we don’t have our own Winston Churchill. At the same time, we obviously don’t have a Ted Sorensen either.
In any case, no presidential speechwriter ever wrote a speech for his boss totally on his own.
A major policy speech starts off with discussions between the speechmaker and his entire policy team on the points that need to be made.
Then the speechwriter writes a draft setting the general tone of it. The final speech still has to be vetted and finalised by the person giving it.
If there is anything unclear in the speech, it has to be thrashed out completely because otherwise the public will surely demand to know what it all means.
Thus it is strange that any politician would ever consider giving a speech full of terminology that made no sense and which he would then be forced to clarify. Nor is clarification on Facebook a good substitute for issuing a proper statement.
If I were caught in such a situation, I would haul up whoever wrote the speech, bend their ears until they yelled in pain and tell them they are never to write a speech again. Actually I’d just fire them.
But maybe I’m being generous in suggesting that there are people who are fooled into making speeches that they had no hand in writing, where literally the speechwriters put words that they did not believe in their mouths. But to actually deliver such a speech, without a thought for the many implications of its words, leaves many issues unaddressed.
If that speech is to be believed, then the logical follow-up is to withdraw from all human rights bodies that Malaysia is a member of, including the United Nations.
To be a member of the Human Rights Council which Malaysia is, makes no sense.
There might not even be any point in being a member of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) that does recognise human rights too, albeit with some tweaks. And domestically, Suhakam should be disbanded.
But if human rights are bad for Malaysians, how do we talk about violations overseas?
How do we describe the plight of the Palestinians or of the Rohingyas if not as human rights violations?
What do we call concern about them if that is derided as mere “human rightism”?
When people are deprived of their homeland, nationality, food, shelter, education, jobs and healthcare, how do the anti-human rights people describe the situation? The way things should be?
Or do they simply not care?
> Marina Mahathir is a human rights activist who works on women, children and HIV/AIDS issues. Her column in this newspaper goes back 25 years and has likewise evolved because, in her own words, “she probably thinks too much for her own good.” Marina continues to speak out and crusade for causes that she passionately believes in. The views expressed here are entirely her own.
The Star : Test hudud on political leaders, says Zainah Anwar (11 May 2014)
Test hudud on political leaders, says Zainah Anwar
by d kanyakumariKUALA LUMPUR: Considering the turmoil generated by the proposed implementation of PAS’ hudud law in Malaysia, a test run should be imposed on those in power, suggested Zainah Anwar, director of Musawah (equality in Arabic), a global movement for equality and justice in the Muslim family. "It should be imposed on Ministers and Members of Parliament. If this test run is approved and works, maybe then we can see if it is suited to be implemented for the rakyat," she said during a forum entitled 'Hudud in Malaysia' on Sunday.
"The Quran speaks of justice and equality, compassion and kindness, not inflicting fear among the people,” said Zainah, co-founder and former director of Sisters-in-Islam.
She said that based on the implementation of hudud in other countries, it is the marginalised who will suffer. "The people who actually end up getting punished are the poor, the illiterate and the women. This way the only thing we see growing is Islamophobia," she said at the forum which was attended by about 150 people. Zainah argued that non-Muslims are questioning the issue because this is with regards to public law and policy. "There is no Buddhist or Christian law, but there is Islamic law and this affects the people, therefore they possess the right to question. "There are 1.6 billion Muslims around the world and not all of them possess the same mentality," she said adding that she like many others personally submits to God but not all man-made laws. Zainah called on lawmakers to stop putting the rakyat through this argument as scholars and religious leaders themselves are not in consensus.
Muslims are benefiting from other people’s inventions, but in Malaysia all sorts of schemes are invented to relieve other Muslims of their money.
AS those who are familiar with Japan will know, their toilets are the best in the world. Not only are they clean and odourless, they have also invented toilets that clean, dry and warm you. They can even provide music while you sit on the potty.
Going to the bathroom is a pleasurable experience in Japan almost anywhere.
Now they have gone one step further. Being used to such wonderful toilets at home, the Japanese find the very different bathroom experiences abroad a great chore.
Not only is it difficult to find clean toilets everywhere, they often come equipped with nothing more than paper.
Only a limited number of countries have embraced the hand bidet.
As always, necessity is the mother of invention, certainly to the Japanese.
So they invented the natural follow-up to the toilet bidet: the portable toilet spray.
This is a small battery-operated device with a nozzle that you attach to a water bottle and instantly you have a spray to wash yourself with when you go to a “dry” toilet.
Now you can feel fresh wherever you go and don’t have to desperately search for acceptable toilets or carry wads of wet tissues with you.
Now the really amazing thing is this: getting clean after going to the toilet is a very Islamic thing to do.
But the people who invented the super-duper toilets and the portable toilet spray are Japanese who are mostly NOT Muslim.
Yet we are the ones who are enjoying and benefiting from their innovation.
This is not the first time that Muslims are benefiting from other people’s inventions.
I found a very cool clock that tells the Muslim prayer times designed by some young men from Holland.
A whole slew of Muslim products are made in Communist China.
Once upon a time, Muslim scientists and inventors devised many things that benefited the world.
It turns out that five inventions by Muslims that had a great global impact were coffee, algebra, degree-granting universities, military marching bands and cameras.
Coffee was apparently discovered by shepherds in Yemen and its popularity spread all over the Ottoman Empire and then to Europe.
People gathered in European coffee houses to discuss ideas that then led to the Enlightenment.
Today our people gather in coffee shops to mostly gossip.
Algebra may not be everybody’s favourite subject in school but it was one of the greatest contributions of the Muslim Golden Age to the modern world.
Developed by the great scientist and mathematician Muhammad ibn Musa Al-Khawarizmi, who lived from 780-850 in Persia and Iraq (oops, he might have been a Syiah!), this was a system by which algebraic equations could be used to solve real world problems such as zakat contributions and inheritance divisions.
Without Al-Khawarizmi’s work in developing algebra, modern practical applications of mathematics, such as in engineering, would not be possible.
Education was always an important part of early Muslim culture.
Mosques doubled as schools and eventually more formal schools known as madrasa were established.
Interestingly, the first formal madrasa was Al-Karaouine, founded in 859 by a woman, Fatima al-Fihri in Fes, Morocco.
The leading scholars in North Africa and the brightest students came to Al-Karaouine to study a range of subjects from “secular to religious sciences”.
At the end of their years of study, they would be given an ijazah which qualified them to teach.
This trend spread through Muslim Spain to Europe and now all universities grant degrees, not all of which are worth the paper they’re printed on.
I’m uncertain how military marching bands benefited the world but the ubiquitous modern camera owed its existence to Ibn Al-Haytham, one of the greatest scientists in Cairo in the 1000s who first noticed what happened when light went through a pinhole into a black box.
Before this discovery long before Mr Kodak, Ibn Al-Haytham also invented the scientific method, the basic process by which all scientific research is conducted.
Ibn Al-Haytham would be very bemused to see how people neglect his method in the way they think today.
I found out all of this through Google, which was also not invented by a Muslim.
The last Muslim I remember inventing something that benefited society was Prof Muhammad Yunus’ microcredit programmes which improved the lives of many poor women.
For that, no Muslim country has ever given him any awards in recognition of his effort.
Every day I read about all sorts of schemes invented by Malaysian Muslims to mostly relieve other Muslims of their money.
Given that so many people still feel the economic pinch despite these schemes, I’m putting my money on the Japanese toilet spray. At least it makes me feel clean.
> Marina Mahathir is a human rights activist who works on women, children and HIV/AIDS issues. Her column in this newspaper goes back 25 years and has likewise evolved because, in her own words, “she probably thinks too much for her own good”. Marina continues to speak out and crusade for causes that she passionately believes in. The views expressed here are entirely her own.
SIS response to “Hudud is a matter of choice for Muslims” (13 October 2011)
SIS response to “Hudud is a matter of choice for Muslims”
In response to Dr Siti Mariah Mahmud’s letter (9 Oct), Sisters in Islam would like to assert the following points:
1. Dr Siti Mariah states that the proponents of Hudud law must present their case in detail first, before it can be opposed. The truth is, the Kelantan Hudud Enactment was adopted 18 years ago, and the Terengganu Enactment has been in existence for over nine years. This means that PAS’ position on crime and punishment under Hudud with all its chilling details have been around for some time now for a full and complete scrutiny and evaluation. We are therefore curious as to why this has been pulled out of the closet at this point in time.
2. In fact, the PAS position on Hudud has worsened. The drafters of the Terengganu bill did not see it fit to take into consideration the concerns and objections raised in 1993. Instead, they added yet another discriminatory position – to inflict women with 80 lashes if they reported rape and were unable to prove it. (see http://www.sistersinislam.org.my/news.php?item.907.10)
3. SIS maintains its opposition to the enforcement of Hudud laws in Malaysia on the same grounds it made in 1993 and in 2002 based on the man-made
Hudud laws of Kelantan and Terengganu:
• They discriminate against women.
• They disqualify three quarters of Malaysia’s population as witnesses – all Muslim women and all people of other faiths.
• They select the most unforgiving and most severe juristic opinion (fiqh) to be codified into law.
• They fail to look at the nass (text) in the Qur’an for the hudud punishment as a whole, focusing only on fixed penalties. No mention is made of repentance, reform and forgiveness provided for in the Qur’anic verses on the four hudud offences of theft, robbery, illicit sex and slanderous accusation.
• They add two other crimes - apostasy and shurb (consumption of alcohol) even though the punishments are not prescribed in the Qur’an.
• They are unconstitutional.
• They infringe international human rights standards and Malaysia’s treaty obligations by providing forms of punishment which can be regarded as "torture, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment".
For details of arguments, please refer to several SIS statements on the PAS Hudud enactments and the confusion between rape and zina at the SIS website (www.sistersinislam.org.my) and to Prof Muhammad Hashim Kamali’s book "Punishment in Islamic law: An Enquiry into the Hudud Bill of Kelantan", Ilmiah Publisher 2000, and his article published in the Arab Law Quarterly, Vol 13:3 (1998), pp 203-234.
4. For illustration, let us point out just two gross misogynistic readings of the Qur’anic text:
“And those who launch a charge against chaste women, and produce not four witnesses (to support their allegations ) – flog them with eighty stripes and reject their evidence ever after.” (Surah An-Nur 24:4)
This is a Qur’anic message meant to protect women from slanderous accusations of zina.
But in the hands of men, this verse was distorted into Section 46 (2) of the Kelantan Enactment which states: “In the case of zina, pregnancy or delivery of a baby by an unmarried woman shall constitute evidence on which to find her guilty of zina and therefore the hudud punishment shall be passed on her unless she can prove to the contrary”;
and Section 9 of the Terengganu bill which stated that a woman who alleged rape could be guilty of making a false accusation (qazaf) and be whipped 80 times if she could not prove otherwise.
Following an outcry over this, PAS then amended their allegedly “divine Hudud” law to allow a rape victim to bring qarinah (circumstantial evidence) in lieu of four male witnesses to the rape. Even then the burden of proof remains on the woman, not on the law enforcement authorities to investigate and make the case against the alleged rapist. Why should Muslim women suffer this gross injustice?
5. The very fact that glaring contradictions have been exposed between several of these man-made provisions with the actual letter and spirit of the divine text also raise serious doubts as to the propriety of the other provisions in the Kelantan and Terengganu Hudud laws. For example, the general rule is that circumstantial evidence (qarinah) is not a valid method of proving a hudud offence. The offence must be proved through eyewitness testimony or confession only. Thus the majority of fiqh schools hold that pregnancy is not admissible as proof of zina because it is circumstantial evidence. Moreover, it contradicts the clear Qur’anic demand for testimonial evidence of four eyewitnesses in cases of zina. And yet PAS chose a minority opinion of the Maliki school of law, which is harsher, to enact into law.
6. The record of enforcement in countries such as Pakistan and Nigeria have brought Islam and Hudud law into disrepute. Those tried were mostly women and the poor. In the end public outcries of injustice and repeated calls for repeal forced the Pakistani government to weaken its Hudood Ordinance through the Protection of Women Act in 2006. Research done by the National Commission on Women in Pakistan showed that 80 per cent of the women in prison were there for offences under zina. Another earlier research showed that over 1,000 women were in prison for zina, compared to only two men. So the question arose: where were the men with whom these women were allegedly indulging in illicit sex with? Most of the women in jail were in fact there because their husbands had accused them of adultery. The vast majority were found guilty by the lower courts but were acquitted on appeal to the Federal Syariah Courts. Yes, in the end justice prevailed, but by then, these women, denied bail under the Hudood Ordinance, had spent years in jail pending trial. Their lives and reputation were destroyed, and they were ostracised by family and society.
7. The record of enforcement of the Muslim Family laws and the Syariah Criminal Offences laws in Malaysia with the public record of gender bias, selective prosecution and abuse leave us with little confidence that justice can be indeed be done with further expansion of the Syariah jurisdiction in this country, especially with regards to women and those most disempowered.
8. Questioning whether the Hudud laws as codified by the men of PAS in Kelantan and Terengganu will bring about justice and equality in society is not equivalent to questioning the word of God in the Qur’an. Sisters in Islam acknowledges that the Qur’an has prescribed punishment for the crimes of theft (sariqah), robbery (hirabah), adultery (zina) and slanderous accusation (qazaf). The question is whether the man-made Hudud laws with all their flaws in substance, procedure and record of enforcement do really reflect the word and intent of God and will serve the objectives (maqasid) of syariah and the public interest (maslahah). Or will they in fact bring harm (mafsadah) to the individual and to society at large?
Dr Siti Mariah claims that it is the right of every Muslim to decide if they wish these laws to be implemented on them. We absolutely agree that every citizen has the freedom to wish and to believe. But they do not have the freedom to impose their beliefs on others through the use of the coercive powers of the state. PAS and its leaders must acknowledge that there is a huge public divide, even among scholars of Islam, on the application of Hudud in this modern age. There are those who believe in the immediate enforcement of Hudud, as many PAS members and supporters do. Others believe it is dependent on the pre-existence of a just society so that any violations will constitute such an affront that merits such severe punishment. And they say, in fact, this just society where everyone is provided for in a fair and equitable manner is impossible to achieve, thus making Hudud “almost never applicable.” Yet others still believe that the Hudud punishments provided for in the Qur’an were specific and contextual and no longer applicable in contemporary society. What is more important is to focus on Islam’s universal message of equality and justice. The record of Hudud laws in substance and practice in contemporary society has not achieved these Syariah objectives. It has in fact generated fear and revulsion towards Islam and feeds into Islamophobia.
Wouldn’t we as Muslims engender more love for Islam and its practices if we concentrate our time, energy and resources in finding ways to end poverty and all forms of corruption, ensuring social justice for all citizens and establishing a rule of law that is just and fair?
Wouldn’t we bring people to the faith by being compassionate, kind and respectful of others who differ from us? If we are serious about wanting Islam to be a source of law and public policy, how does being intolerant, cruel, biased and belligerent engender faith in the justice of Islam?
Stop this obsession with being right in our doctrine. Can we all please concentrate on being just in our practice?
Sisters in Islam 13 October 2011
The Star - Sharing The Nation - Let's not be hoodwinked into hudud (4 May 2014)
Malaysians who support the hudud law should be looking at Tunisia as it tries to build what could be a model of democracy in the Arab world.
SINCE PAS in Kelantan passed its version of hudud law in 1993, and in Terengganu in 2002, there have been endless debates on this issue, dividing Muslims, political parties and coalitions, and causing much dread and trepidation among most right-minded citizens of Malaysia about the future of the country.
The only difference between then and now is that today we find federal ministers and leaders from Umno – a party that clearly rejected the imposition of hudud punishment on Islamic, Constitutional and public interest grounds in the past – supporting the enforcement of hudud law.
And there are leaders within PAS who have publicly said that hudud should not be a priority of the party.
This resurrected debate on hudud law, yet again, is really nothing more than political gamesmanship. We all know hudud law cannot and will not be implemented in Malaysia. Crime is a federal matter. The Constitution needs to be amended with two-thirds majority support for this fundamental change to pass through. That is not about to happen.
Moreover, why should Malaysia – a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country that sells itself as leading a global movement of moderates, that is vying for a seat on the UN Security Council, that has been a member of the Human Rights Council and will likely vie for a seat again, that takes pride in its ranking as the 24th most competitive nation among 148 countries in the Global Competitiveness Report – damage all that for a law that has brought much disrepute and inflicted injustice to many Muslim communities?
Why should Malaysians support further expansion of the syariah jurisdiction in this country when the implementation of the Islamic Family laws and the Syariah Criminal Offences laws has led to much controversy and disputes, and charges of discrimination against the rights and interests of women and non-Muslims? These long-standing charges and wrangles remain unresolved to this day.
Does the political leadership really want to incur more wrath and face more contentious disputes that it has shown no will and no ability to resolve? It is obvious the Malaysian public will no longer be cowed into silence and submission when their rights are being trampled on. The hudud road ahead can only lead to more social unrest and political and economic instability.
So instead of dithering and hedging with “no, not yet”, “yes, but”, let’s summon the political courage to say no to hudud law once and for all. There are many grounds and much scholarship and experience to say no to hudud – Islamic, Constitutional, human rights principles, public interest and lived realities.
Malaysians who support hudud law should be looking at Tunisia as it tries to build what could be a model of democracy in the Arab world.
Rachid Ghanouchi, the Tunisian ideologue for many Islamists globally and leader of the al-Nahda ruling party, openly pledged his support for a secular and pluralist society, with respect for human rights and women’s rights. He promised not to dismantle Tunisia’s progressive Personal Status law that banned polygamy. The party conceded to demands that the new Constitution does not refer to syariah as a source of legislation. The state is now constitutionally mandated to take pro-active steps to achieve parity for women in politics and in the workplace.
In Morocco, also governed by an Islamist party, the amended Constitution framed equality within the comprehensive definition of human rights – political, social, civil and cultural rights. It states clearly that all forms of discrimination are prohibited, including, explicitly, gender–based discrimination.
None of the three Arab states – Tunisia, Morocco, and Egypt – that have recently passed new Constitutions ever raised the imposition of hudud law. It was a non-issue. The trajectory of reform towards a democratic constitutional framework is clear. Certainly, Saudi Arabia is not a model for them. Neither are Pakistan, Nigeria or Sudan, where their record of hudud enforcement showed those persecuted were mostly women and the poor.
In Pakistan, public outcry of injustice and repeated calls for repeal forced the government to dilute its Hudud Ordinance through the Protection of Women Act in 2006. Research done by the National Commission on Women in Pakistan showed that 80% of the women in prison were there for offences under zina (illicit sex) laws. Another earlier research showed that over 1,000 women were in prison for zina, compared to only two men. The gross discrimination and injustice against women in the end made the law unenforceable.
And yet in Malaysia, there are those still obsessed with damnation and punishment to prove Muslim piety. How about getting obsessed with the hundreds of commands, exhortations, values and principles to do good in the Quran that we ignore or violate on a daily basis?
The command for us to be kind and compassionate at all times, the duty of a man to provide for and protect his wife and children, and the obligation of a leader to be just and fair in his rulings are just a few. These are huge Islamic obligations that so many of these men obsessed with hudud have failed to practise personally as a father, a husband or a political leader or have failed to set systems in place so that justice is done for all.
Do they really think they can win votes by stoning Muslims to death, chopping off hands and feet and sending women to prison because they cannot find the four pious Muslim men who witnessed the rape and their police report is used as evidence of zina? Sisters in Islam has consistently been against the hudud law of Kelantan and Terengganu on several grounds:
> They discriminate against women.
> They disqualify three quarters of Malaysia’s population as witnesses – all Muslim women and all people of other faiths.
> They select the most unforgiving and most severe juristic opinion (fiqh) to be codified into law.
> They fail to look at the nass (text) in the Quran for the hudud punishment as a whole, focusing only on fixed penalties. No mention is made of repentance, reform and forgiveness provided for in the Quranic verses on the four hudud offences of theft, robbery, illicit sex and slanderous accusation.
> They add two other crimes – apostasy and shurb (consumption of alcohol) even though the punishments are not prescribed in the Quran.
> They are unconstitutional.
> They infringe international human rights standards and Malaysia’s treaty obligations by providing forms of punishment which can be regarded as “torture, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment”.
While the source of hudud law may be divine, there is nothing divine about the process of interpretation, codification and implementation of the law. It is a man-made law with all its inherent flaws. And it will be enforced by flawed human beings who will then proclaim that those crying out against the injustice perpetrated are all against Islam, against God, against syariah.
PAS and Umno leaders need to recognise the huge public divide, even among scholars of Islam, on the application of hudud in this modern age. There are those who believe in the immediate enforcement of hudud, as many PAS members and supporters do, and even some in Umno. Others believe it is dependent on the pre-existence of a just society so that any violation will constitute such an affront that merits severe punishment, supported by the community.
And they argue that this just society where everyone is provided for in a fair and equitable manner is impossible to achieve, thus making hudud “almost never applicable”.
Yet others still believe that the hudud punishments provided for in the Quran were specific and contextual and no longer applicable in contemporary society.
What is more important is to focus on Islam’s universal message of equality and justice, of compassion and repentance. The record of hudud laws enacted in several countries, both in substance and practice, has not served the public interest nor the cause of justice. It has, in fact, brought Islamic law into disrepute, generated fear and revulsion towards Islam and feeds into Islamophobia.
So let us not be hoodwinked into false choices. The debate is not between Islam and secularism, not between hudud law and civil law. These are false binaries created to divide us for political gain. The choice before us is between democracy and despotism, between good governance and corruption, between equality and discrimination, between social justice and inequity.
Who does not want to choose democracy, good governance, equality, and social justice? Authoritarianism, corruption, inequity and injustice happen whether the government is secular or Islamic. So let not the political puppet masters toy with our emotions and loyalties by playing the politics of race and religion and detract us from what really matters.
Let’s focus our time and energy on doing good deeds, instead of battling over doctrine. You win people over to respect your religion by being kind, compassionate, just and respectful of others. When your belief makes you intolerant, cruel, chauvinistic and belligerent, you turn people away from religion. It is as simple as that. > Zainah Anwar is the internationally acclaimed and award-winning co-founder and former executive director of Sisters in Islam (SIS Forum) and the co-founder and director of Musawah, a global movement for equality and justice in the Muslim family. She is a former member of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam). The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.
The Sun Daily: NGOs bring up human rights issues in meeting with Obama (29 April 2014)
NGOs bring up human rights issues in meeting with Obama
PETALING JAYA: The controversial proposal by the PAS-led Kelantan state government to introduce hudud Law cropped up in the meeting between 10 civil society representatives and US President Barack Obama.
Bar Council president Christopher Leong said the issue was also raised by Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF) chairman Dr. Ahmad Farouk Musa and Sisters in Islam (SIS) executive director Ratna Osman.
"It was conveyed to Obama during the meeting that there is a proposal to introduce hudud law; this is very worrying and it would not be a good thing for Malaysia.
"Any criminal justice system with any bodily mutilation as part of its teachings is unacceptable in this day and age," he told theSun yesterday.
Obama was also informed that fatwas declared by Islamic authorities, which are not legally binding, are applied in practice by government departments.
Leong used the examples of government agencies refusing to reverse a child's status as a Muslim even though he or she was converted unilaterally by a Muslim convert parent who is married to a non-Muslim.
The abuse of laws to stifle or deny freedom of speech, such as charging dissidents with the Sedition Act and controlling the print media with the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) was also discussed at the meeting.
Leong informed Obama that detention without trial has been reintroduced in Malaysia under the pretext of combating serious crime via amendments to the Prevention of Crime Act.
He told Obama that the US can be a moral compass and lead other nations including Malaysia to abolish detention without trial by first abolishing the Guantanamo Bay facility.
Leong pointed out that when Obama visited the National Mosque, he was commended by Imam Tan Sri Syaikh Ismail Mohammad for addressing the imam with his limited knowledge of Bahasa Malaysia and Arabic.
"The Imam reportedly found it endearing that Obama replied him with 'insya Allah' and 'terima kasih'; it is ironic in the sense that non-Muslim Malaysians would be liable to criminal offences in most states throughout Malaysia if they said 'insya Allah'," he said.
Leong said Obama has agreed to help address human rights issues in Malaysia while local civil societies have agreed to do the same in return.
He also personally agreed with Obama's assertion that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak intends to push forward moderation and economic reforms but there are elements from within and outside the government working against him.
Ratna said the issue of racial and religious extremism kept cropping up during the meeting and Obama seemed shocked at some of the revelations by the non-governmental organisations.
"We all agreed that this is not good for a multicultural and religious society like Malaysia; we also talked about the vilification of human rights defenders, and the government's attack on the call for free and fair elections," she said.
When discussing the "Allah" issue, Obama was also surprised to find out that it was the government who appealed a high court decision that the Catholic publication the Herald could use "Allah", which resulted in the appellate court reversing the ruling.
He was equally taken aback when he learned of a fatwa that declared female genital mutilation to be compulsory when discussing women rights issues.
"Although Obama can see Malaysia's development, Muslim women are still being dictated by a conservative and patriarchal Islam, which affects the lives of Muslim women," Ratna said.
She said while the President did not directly comment on any of the issues, he was clear that the government must not take away the right of the people to practice their own religion. Source: http://www.thesundaily.my/news/1031004
The Star - Musings - When the world turns upside down (24 April 2014)
Common courtesy has been poisoned by those with nothing better to do than to think of endless ways to be rude to others.
IN recent times I have felt like Alice in Wonderland. In Lewis Carroll’s tale, Alice falls down a rabbit hole and suddenly the whole world is turned upside down.
She either becomes too small or too big, and all the odd characters around her speak in riddles. The world of Wonderland is a very puzzling place.
The world I live in too has become a very puzzling place. Things mean differently from what they used to, and reason and logic are no longer what they were.
Once upon a time, being kind to others was a very good thing to be. We were taught by parents and teachers to be nice to others regardless of who they were, because how we behaved was a direct reflection of how we were brought up.
We were also taught to be fair to others, to not take what was not ours and to be considerate to those who were older and wiser than us.
Today we are told that while being kind is still a good thing, we have to mind who we are nice to. Being considerate and polite to some people is now considered a mortal sin simply because they believe in things differently from us.
We cannot, for instance, wish that a dead person rests in peace because apparently having not believed in the same faith as we do, they cannot possibly have a peaceful afterlife.
While in all likelihood the dead person will not know what we wished them, there is still the living family and loved ones to consider. Surely we should not add to their sorrow by wishing their deceased husband or father ill in the afterlife. Not unless we want them to dislike us.
What was once just harmless common courtesy has now been poisoned by those with nothing better to do than to think of endless ways to be rude to others. Happiness today is defined by how many people you can make unhappy each day.
When we lost all those people in MH370, did anyone differentiate between which families they sent their sympathies to and which ones they didn’t? Didn’t that tragedy affect everybody equally?
Aren’t the families of MH370 now all forever linked to one another by this common disaster, regardless of who they are and where they come from?
Yet the loss of one person to an equally tragic car accident (as well as his assistant) was treated as if it was cause for celebration. Where once people were mindful not to show their ill feelings publicly, today they are advertised proudly. The world down that rabbit hole has come to the surface.
In a time not too far away, people thought that the cutting of hands and the stoning of humans were too uncivilised for a modern democratic country like ours. When some tried to introduce it, it was greeted with derision.
Today, even the most unlikely people are welcoming it as if it is the answer to all our problems. Is it because people we admire because they have lots of money have now decided that they will impose such barbaric punishments on their citizens and non-citizens alike?
For what reason do we admire this move when, apart from conspicuous consumption, there is absolutely nothing else to say about that country? Why do we choose to ignore that this new “justice system” exempts the elite from the same punishments they want to impose on everyone else?
Is that why our elite are also rushing to endorse this new move? Because they know that it will not affect them at all, only those who are poor and marginalised as well as those whom they dislike?
What sort of society do we foresee when the poor are left crippled because they cannot afford to get justice from this system so many are now eager to introduce? If it is meant to be better than what we have now, what do these improvements look like?
What, for example, would be the equivalent of the Domestic Violence Act in the hudud laws? Or will it be completely void because in a pure “Islamic” state, men will be able to beat their wives with impunity?
Today, reason is being chiselled away daily only to be replaced by religious gamesmanship, with no thought for what the consequences will be.
Everyone is trying to outdo one another with ever more “religious” pronouncements, even though so little of it makes any sense at all.
Is a religious state merely about punishing people? How does such a state deal with practical issues like globalisation or climate change, or even more mundane domestic issues like our water woes, public transport or even education?
Or is the answer simply to be like the Queen of Hearts and say “Off with his head!”?
> Marina Mahathir is a human rights activist who works on women, children and HIV/AIDS issues. Her column in this newspaper goes back 25 years and has likewise evolved because, in her own words, “she probably thinks too much for her own good”. Marina continues to speak out and crusade for causes that she passionately believes in. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.
The Sun Daily: Hindu mum ecstatic over return of son (9 April 2014)
Posted on 9 April 2014 - 05:26am Bernard Cheah firstname.lastname@example.org
PETALING JAYA: S Deepa's (pix) heart almost burst when she saw her six-year-old son, Mithran, yesterday after an absence of nearly a year.
"I am especially happy to be able to have Mithran back as I have been longing to see for so long,' said the 30-year-old clerk who had handed him to her estranged husband, Izwan Abdullah, last year after a Syariah Court order that the child stay with his father.
Deepa, who gained custody of Mithran, 6, on Monday after the Seremban High Court ordered that custody of the boy and his sister, Sharmila, 9, be given by their Muslim father to their Hindu mother, is ecstatic that she can finally see him daily and do the things for him that a mother should.
"I am looking forward to raising both my children. I will do my best for them,' she told theSun, adding that Izwan had only taken custody of Mithran and left Sharmila with her.
Deepa's first priority is to admit Mithran in a school in Jelebu where she lives, adding that Sharmila is in a Chinese vernacular school in the same town.
She said her children are equally happy to be with her, adding that she will be having a thanksgiving ceremony for her extended family soon to celebrate Mithran's return.
Seremban High Court Judge Datuk Zabariah Mohd Yusof on Monday also allowed Deepa's application to dissolve her civil marriage as Izwan, a Hindu when he married her, had converted to Islam.
Deepa claimed that both Sharmila and Mithran were converted without her knowledge last year.
Deepa said she was trying to file an application by the end of the month to obtain a declaration that the conversion of her children was illegal and unconstitutional.
Women's Aid Organisation advocacy officer Sally Wangsawijaya said the organisation, which have been helping Deepa in her legal battles, will provide emotional support and advice on what to do next.
Sisters in Islam programme manager Suri Kempe applauded the court decision, adding that Zabariah's decision spoke volumes about the misuse of unilateral conversions to Islam to secure custody of children.
Deepa’s rights: enforce court orders and amend family laws
Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), Letter to the editor, 10 April 2014
Two days ago, we were elated by the news that S. Deepa, a client of Women’s Aid Organisation, was awarded custody of her two children, now aged 6 and 9, by the High Court. Justice was served - or so we thought. Just one day later, things took a turn for the worse. Enforce the two court orders - reunite mother and son Deepa has gone through a lot. She survived domestic abuse by her ex-husband. In April last year, her children were converted to Islam unilaterally by her ex-husband without her knowledge or consent. Her children were taken away from her. To claim her rights, Deepa turned to the justice system. She obtained an interim protection order (IPO) to protect herself from further abuse, and she went to the courts to obtain custody of her children. And despite the injustices she faced, she never asked that the father not be allowed to see the children. Yesterday, one day after Deepa won custody of her children, the ex-husband, assisted by an unknown man, reportedly violently abducted the son from Deepa’s home. By acting violently towards Deepa, the ex-husband had breached the interim protection order (IPO). By abducting the son, the ex-husband had breached the High Court custody order. Two court orders have been breached, which warrant his immediate arrest.
Yet now, a day later, Deepa’s son has still not been returned to her, and no action has been taken against the ex-husband. We have been informed that the police are still awaiting instructions from the deputy public prosecutor before making any arrests or retrieving the child. Amend family laws - prevent future injustices None of this should have happened in the first place. When the ex-husband unilaterally converted his children to Islam, he was gaming the system. He created an unfair advantage for himself, and obtained custody of the children in the Syariah courts, where Deepa had no chance to tell her side of the story. We’ve seen this happen before, with S. Shamala, R. Subashini, and Indira Gandhi. And though we have seen some positive High Court judgments, we need to rectify our laws to fill all gaps and to make absolutely clear that the rights of the non-converting spouse must be upheld. The Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act must be amended, including to spell out that the consent of both parents are needed to convert the religion of their children, and that when a spouse converts, the non-converting spouse must be notified about the conversion and its legal implications. Deepa had faith in the system. We hope that the system lives up to her faith by ensuring she is reunited with her son immediately. And if women are to have faith in the system in the future, we must ensure that our laws ensure their rights are upheld.
For more information Yu Ren Chung email@example.com 010 225 7971
- Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) provides shelter, social work, and counseling services for women who experience domestic violence, and advocates for women’s human rights. Together, we change lives.
The Star - Musings - Tidapathy is 'biasa lah' (10 April 2014)
Shoddy work is considered normal and we now accept standards which are much lowered.
SOME years ago, I remember there was a lot of discussion on the “tidak apa attitude” in our country.
Many Malaysians, it seems, had a very nonchalant outlook on their work. If anything was not quite working well, “tidak apa lah”. It doesn’t matter. If someone hadn’t finished their work but it was time to go home, “tidak apa lah”. When something is made shoddily, “tak apa lah”.
We put up with below par products, attitudes and work because they all still functioned, more or less. So why put in the extra mile to do something properly?
After years of the “tidak apa attitude”, we now have the logical follow-up catchphrase: “biasa lah”. That’s normal. And usually it refers to when something goes wrong.
Let me give two illustrations.
Some years ago after I had moved into a new house, there was a huge power surge which blew out a total of 27 electrical appliances and lights. One power outlet melted and burnt a patch of my parquet floor. Phones that were being charged were all fried.
When the technicians from the power company turned up, their explanation for this phenomenon which could have burned my house down was “biasa lah”.
Apparently it is perfectly normal for the earth wire on the electrical poles outside houses to be so badly fixed that there is nothing to stop power surges that are so strong, we could still get a shock from the microwave oven even after the power had been turned off.
After I made some noise, the power company told me to claim compensation from them for all the repairs that needed to be done.
To cut a long story short, it took me nine months to be compensated but not before we had to endure many unanswered emails and made to feel as if we were claiming more than we should have.
When I complained about this, I was told the same thing: “Biasa lah.”
Another story: When I needed to fix broadband in my house, five young men turned up from the phone company. They were dressed as if they were going to hang out at the 7-Eleven.
It soon became clear that only one young man was doing the work while the other four stood around to watch.
Things naturally did not proceed at jet speed. It soon got dark, making it difficult to see the cables they were trying to lay in my garden.
Did they have a torchlight so they could continue to work? Of course not. Instead they innovated. Four of them stood around the sole worker and used their mobile phones to give him light to work in.
Seeing their plight and feeling a bit frustrated by now, I lent them my torchlight. When they finally completed their job, they packed up and went home, torchlight and all. I had to spend another two days tracking them down to get them to bring it back. But, “biasa lah”.
What all this means is that after years of tidak apa, we have come to a situation where shoddy work is considered normal.
We have become so inured to it that we accept standards which are much lowered. People now tell you that they didn’t reply your email from two months ago but provide no excuse for it. That’s just the way it is.
I really wonder where this is going to lead. Are our standards going to deteriorate further until, despite our fancy buildings, we truly become a Third World country again?
The street sign where I live displays one street name on one side and another street on the other side. How could that have happened in this bureaucracy-obsessed country? Doesn’t anybody supervise their subordinates’ work?
I am afraid that if this “biasa lah” attitude carries on, we will see a real deterioration in all our services and professions.
Already, sales people who can’t answer any questions have a tendency to disappear rather than face an irritated customer.
Sooner or later, our trains will be even later, roads will go unrepaired and more strange radar blips will be ignored.
Compare this with my recent experience in Japan. I was buying a T-shirt in a boutique. When I went to pay, the cashier looked at it, left and returned with another T-shirt identical to the one I had picked.
“The one you chose,” she told me, “is from this season and therefore has no discount. The one I brought is from last season and is 30% off. Which would you like?”
I can be excused for gaping for a while at such beyond-the-call-of-service honesty. But that is the mark of a really advanced country. In Japan, “biasa lah” means you just received exemplary service.
> Marina Mahathir is a human rights activist who works on women, children and HIV/AIDS issues. Her column in this newspaper goes back 25 years and has likewise evolved because, in her own words, “she probably thinks too much for her own good”. Marina continues to speak out and crusade for causes that she passionately believes in. The views expressed here are entirely her own.