Promoting an understanding of Islam that recognises the principles of
justice, equality, freedom, and dignity within a democratic nation state

UPR (Semakan Berkala Sejagat) : Laporan Comango – Honey Tan Lay Ean (24 October 2013)
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UPR (Semakan Berkala Sejagat) : Laporan Comango – Honey Tan Lay Ean

24 Oktober merupakan tarikh sambutan Hari Pertubuhan  Bangsa-Bangsa Bersatu. Kebetulan pula pada hari ini, Suruhanjaya Hak Asasi Manusia PBB akan mengkaji Malaysia dalam Proses Semakan Berkala Sejagat (UPR) untuk menilai tahap kemajuan Malaysia untuk memelihara, melindungi dan memenuhi hak-hak rakyat.

Sebagai sebahagian daripada proses UPR, gabungan NGO-NGO Malaysia dalam proses UPR (Comango) telah menghantar laporan ke Pejabat Pesuruhjaya Tinggi Hak Asasi Manusia PBB (OHCHR) pada Mac 2013. Ianya boleh dilihat di laman sesawang OHCHR. 

Laporan COMANGO yang dikemukakan telah banyak menerima kritikan negatif dari individu dan pihak bukan kerajaan  seperti Gagasan NGO Muslim dalam proses UPR (MUPRO) dan Persatuan Peguam Muslim Malaysia (PPMM). Satu seminar yang bertajuk ‘Ancaman Liberalisme’ telah dianjurkan oleh Yayasan Dakwah Islamiah Malaysia (Yadim) dan Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (ISMA) dengan tujuan mempersoalkan isu-isu yang dikemukakan dalam laporan COMANGO. Kami juga menjadi mangsa sasaran serangan badan kerajaan iaitu Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia (JAKIM). Apabila  khutbah Jumaat dikeluarkan pada 18 Oktober 2013, JAKIM menggesa pihak berkuasa untuk mengambil tindakan tegas terhadap kami.

Aduan mereka mengenai laporan COMANGO terbahagi kepada dua kategori : mengancam Islam sebagai agama rasmi Malaysia dan mengancam kedaulatan Malaysia. Justeru, Jakim telah membuat tuduhan yang tidak berasas mengenai COMANGO sebagai agen konspirasi liberal global. Kesemua tuduhan ini adalah tidak benar.

Sebagai bukti bahawa COMANGO mengancam posisi Islam sebagai agama rasmi Malaysia, mereka menyatakan bahawa kami membangkitkan isu murtad dan perkahwinan sama jantina walhal ianya tidak benar. Kami menyokong kebebasan beragama serta hak individu untuk bebas dari keganasan tidak kira wanita, kanak-kanak, orang tua, orang kurang upaya tanpa mengira orientasi seksual dan identiti jantina. COMANGO memperjuangkan hak untuk bekerja, hak untuk hidup, dan hak untuk privasi dan kita memperjuangkan kebebasan bersuara dan berpersatuan. Kesemua hak dan kebebasan ini terkandung dalam Perlembagaan Persekutuan yang merupakan undang-undang tertinggi di Malaysia.

Cadangan yang dikemukakan oleh COMANGO supaya Malaysia  meratifikasi Konvensyen Antarabangsa mengenai Hak Sivil dan Politik (ICCPR) dikatakan sebagai sebuah langkah untuk meggalakkan murtad. Ini adalah tidak benar sama sekali kerana negara-negara Muslim seperti Mesir, Jordan, Bahrain, Iraq, Pakistan, Indonesia, Yemen dan Afghanistan telah meratifikasi ICCPR.

Apabila COMANGO menyeru Malaysia untuk meratifikasi Konvensyen Antarabangsa mengenai Pembanterasan Segala Bentuk Diskrimainasi Kaum (CERD), kononnya unsur-unsur perundangan Barat akan disemaikan ke dalam sistem keadilan tempatan dan ini akan memaksa Malaysia untuk mengikut telunjuk sekular Barat. Hakikatnya, sebahagian besar daripada sistem undang-undang Malaysia adalah berdasarkan sistem perundangan Inggeris – memang sejak Merdeka dan sebelum itu lagi. Dalam apa jua keadaan, tuduhan itu adalah palsu kerana banyak negara Islam telah mengesahkan CERD. Ini termasuk negara-negara seperti Arab Saudi, Emiriah Arab Bersatu, Indonesia, Jordan, Libya, Yemen dan Qatar.

Ancaman yang dianggap sebagai pemusnah kedaulatan Malaysia ini tidak mengambil kira situasi di mana Malaysia telah pun meratifikasikan tiga konvensyen hak asasi manusia yang utama dan juga banyak perjanjian ‘bi-lateral’ dan ‘multi-lateral’ yang lain, terutamanya yang berkaitan dengan pembangunan ekonomi negara. Sudah tentunya isu kedaulatan telah dipertimbangkan terlebih dahulu dan tidak dianggap sebagai ancaman. Ini menunjukkan bahawa isu kedaulatan yang dibangkitkan oleh MUPRO, JAKIM dan lain-lain boleh dipertikaikan.

Sekiranya terdapat sebarang kekeliruan mengenai perkara yang dikemukakan di dalam laporan COMANGO, ini adalah kesan daripada salah tafsir. Setakat ini, hanya satu e-mel sahaja dari seorang individu yang telah dihantar kepada kami untuk mendapatkan penjelasan . Malah, tiada usaha daripada mereka untuk meminta penjelasan atau perbincangan dengan pihak kami. Jelas ternyata tindakan mereka memilih media sebagai arena untuk menyuarakan ketidakpuasan hati mereka menandakan tujuan sebenar mereka.

Penglibatan Malaysia dalam proses UPR telah banyak memanfaatkan kita. Kerajaan menempuh kemajuan dalam arena hak-hak asasi manusia yang kami percaya adalah hasil daripada proses UPR itu. Beberapa contoh termasuk: pengecualian terhadap reservasi yang terdapat pada Konvensyen mengenai Penghapusan Segala Bentuk Diskriminasi Terhadap Wanita (CEDAW) dan Konvensyen mengenai Hak Kanak-Kanak (CRC); pengesahan dua Protokol Pilihan kepada CRC; pindaan kepada Akta Keganasan Rumah Tangga 1994; penarikan balik rayuan dalam kes Noorfadilla yang memutuskan bahawa CEDAW mempunyai kuasa undang-undang di Malaysia; dan jemputan rasmi untuk lawatan dari  Pelapor Khas PBB Keselamatan Makanan.

Penglibatan COMANGO dalam proses UPR adalah selaras dengan mukadimah Rukun Negara kita: kami berdedikasi bagi memastikan supaya hak-hak manusia dapat dipelihara dan dilindungi agar rakyat Malaysia dapat hidup dalam masyarakat yang adil, dengan pendekatan terbuka terhadap tradisi kita yang kaya dan pelbagai. Haluan ini telah ditetapkan: biarlah kita kekal tulus dan sambung apa yang kita sudah mulakan.

FZ.com - ISMA twisting my words, spreading falsehood (13 November 2013)
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'ISMA twisting my words, spreading falsehood'
13.11.2013
By Marina Mahathir

I REGRET that ISMA is maintaining its stand in slandering me in their flyers by calling me a 'mastermind' behind COMANGO. Further it is maintaining its bully tactics by twisting my words in my last statement.

I am indeed a proud member of Sisters in Islam (SIS) which for 20 years has fought for justice and equality for Muslim women in Malaysia. When we first established ourselves, we were among the first women's groups that insisted on referring to the al-Quran and Sunnah for the ethical principles underlying our fight for justice for women.

Today our work has inspired many other women's groups working in Muslim countries because we all believe that the message of the al-Quran is about justice and equality.

This is the basis of my beliefs, that all human beings are created by the One God, the Most Compassionate, the Most Beneficient and Most Merciful.

I believe that unlike human beings, God makes no mistakes and therefore he creates each human being as He wants them to be.

It is therefore our role to respect God's decisions and His creations and the imperative is for us to treat each and everyone of God's creations with respect, dignity and humaneness, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation and disability.

As God said in Surah Al-Hujurat, Verse 13: O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.

I reiterate that ISMA is spreading a falsehood by saying that I am a mastermind behind COMANGO. I was indeed well aware that SIS is a part of COMANGO and was certainly well aware of the report COMANGO was preparing for the UPR process. But I never attended any meetings nor was personally involved in the production of the report, which is only one of 28 NGO reports on human rights in Malaysia.

As anyone should know, NGO reports are part and parcel of the UN review process and there is nothing unusual about the report. I know the report, I support it not least because it is nothing that ISMA says it is, as anyone who would care to read it on the Office of the Commission on Human Rights website would know.

It is therefore disengenuous of ISMA to claim that COMANGO is deliberately going overseas to destroy the image of Malaysia and of Islam. The world actually already knows what goes on in Malaysia via the Internet.

As COMANGO has already pointed out, Malaysia regularly attends UN meetings to report on its progress in meeting its obligations under various UN treaties and conventions.

In many instances, it takes the UN recommendations and implements them. One very recent example is the 30% allocation for women on company Boards, recommended under the UN Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

ISMA is refusing to acknowledge that they have printed and distributed 70,000 flyers which contain a falsehood about me. This is my complaint. It is disingenuous of ISMA to try and distract from this issue.

Surah Al-Hujurat Verse 12 states: O you who have believed, avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin. And do not spy or backbite each other. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his brother when dead? You would detest it. And fear Allah ; indeed, Allah is Accepting of repentance and Merciful.

This is the Islam of my faith. I would hope it is also ISMA's.
Kenyataan Akhbar oleh Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir tentang tuduhan oleh ISMA (13 November 2013)
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Kenyataan Akhbar oleh Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir tentang tuduhan oleh ISMA

13 November 2013

Saya kecewa ISMA tetap menegaskan keputusan mereka untuk memfitnah saya sebagai ‘dalang ' di sebalik COMANGO. Tambahan pula, ISMA meneruskan taktik membuli dengan menyelewengkan kata-kata saya dalam
kenyataan mereka yang terkahir.

Memang saya bangga menjadi ahli Sisters in Islam yang telah giat berjuang selama dua puluh tahun untuk menegakkan keadilan dan kesaksamaan bagi golongan Muslimah di Malaysia. Sejak peringkat awal penubuhan lagi, Sisters in Islam adalah antara gerakan wanita yang utama yang merujuk kepada Quran dan Sunnah untuk menekankan prinsip-prinsip etika dalam membela keadilan untuk kaum wanita.


Kini, usaha kami sudah menjadi ilham kepada organisasi-organisasi wanita di negara-negara Muslim yang lain dalam pendirian kita bahawa Al-Quran ke arah keadilan dan kesaksamaan.


Ini adalah asas kepercayaan saya, bahawa semua manusia dicipta oleh Tuhan yang Satu, Maha Pengasih, Maha Pemurah dan Maha Penyayang. Berbeza dengan manusia, Tuhan tidak membuat kesilapan dan oleh itu dia
mencipta setiap insan mengikut kehendak-Nya.


Oleh itu, peranan kami adalah untuk menghormati keputusan Allah dan ciptaan-Nya.  Ia satu keharusan untuk kita menilai setiap insan ciptaan Tuhan dengan maruah, rasa hormat dan perikemanusiaan, tanpa mengira bangsa, agama, orientasi seksual dan keupayaannya.

Seperti yang difirman Allah dalam Surah Al -Hujurat, ayat 13:
Wahai umat manusia! Sesungguhnya Kami telah menciptakan kamu dari lelaki dan perempuan, dan Kami telah menjadikan kamu berbagai bangsa dan bersuku puak, supaya kamu berkenal-kenalan. Sesungguhnya
semulia-mulia kamu di sisi Allah ialah orang yang lebih taqwanya di antara kamu,. Sesungguhnya Allah Maha Mengetahui, lagi Maha Mendalam PengetahuanNya.


Saya ingin mengulang penegasan saya bahawa ISMA menyebar fitnah dengan mengatakan bahawa saya adalah dalang di sebalik COMANGO .

Saya sedar bahawa SIS adalah sebahagian daripada peserta Comango. Saya juga sedar bahawa laporan Comango disediakan untuk proses UPR. Tetapi saya tidak pernah menghadiri mana-mana mesyuarat atau terlibat secara
peribadi dalam menghasilkan laporan tersebut, yang hanya salah satu daripada 28 laporan NGO mengenai keadaan hak asasi manusia di Malaysia.


Sepertimana yang semua orang tahu, laporan-laporan NGO adalah sebahagian daripada proses kajian semula PBB dan tiada apa-apa yang luar biasa mengenai laporan Comango. Saya tahu mengenai laporan itu dan saya menyokongnya tidak kurang kerana ia bukan seperti apa yang ISMA katakana. Ini jelas bagi sesiapa yang cukup mengambil berat untuk membacanya melalui laman web Pejabat Suruhanjaya Hak Asasi Manusia akan tahu.


Jadi amatlah tidak jujur bagi ISMA untuk menyatakan bahawa COMANGO ke luar negara untuk memusnahkan imej Malaysia dan Islam. Seluruh dunia memangpun sudah peka terhadap apa yang berlaku di Malaysia dengan
adanya internet. Seperti apa yang dijelaskan COMANGO, kerajaan Malaysia sering hadir ke mesyuarat-mesyuarat PBB untuk melaporkan perekembangannya dalam  memenuhi kewajipan untuk akur kepada pelbagai perjanjian dan peretujuan PBB. Biasanya, kerajaan menyetujui dan melaksanakan perjanjian-perjanjian berikut. Satu contoh baru-baru ini ialah alokasi 30% untuk wanita menganggotai jawatankuasa sesebuah syarikat, dasar yang disarankan Penghapusan Segala Bentuk Diskriminasi Terhadap Wanita (Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women / CEDAW).


ISMA berkeberatan untuk mengaku bahawa mereka sudah mencetak dan menyebar 70,000 flyer yang mengandungi fitnah terhadap saya. Ini aduan saya. ISMA berlaku tidak jujur apabila mereka ingin mengubah isu.


Surah Al-Hujurat, Ayat 12 menyatakan:
Wahai orang-orang yang beriman! Jauhilah kebanyakan dari sangkaan kerana sesungguhnya sebahagian dari sangkaan itu adalah dosa; dan janganlah kamu mengintip atau mencari-cari kesalahan dan keaiban orang; dan janganlah setengah kamu mengumpat setengahnya yang lain. Adakah seseorang dari kamu suka memakan daging saudaranya yang telah mati? Maka sudah tentu kamu jijik kepadanya. dan bertaqwalah kamu kepada Allah; sesungguhnya Allah Penerima taubat, lagi Maha mengasihani.


Ini Islam kepercayaan saya. Saya amat berharap bahawa ia juga Islam kepercayaan ISMA.
Press Statement by Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir in response to Isma's allegation (13 November 2013)
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Press Statement by Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir in response to Isma's allegation

13 November 2013

I regret that ISMA is maintaining its stand in slandering me in their flyers by calling me a 'mastermind' behind COMANGO. Further it is maintaining its bully tactics by twisting my words in my last statement.

I am indeed a proud member of Sisters in Islam which for twenty years has fought for justice and equality for Muslim women in Malaysia. When we first established ourselves, we were among the first women's groups that insisted on referring to the Quran and the Sunnah for the ethical principles underlying our fight for justice for women. Today our work has inspired many other women's groups working in Muslim countries because we all believe that the message of the Quran is about justice and equality.

This is the basis of my beliefs, that all human beings are created by the One God, the Most Compassionate, the Most Beneficient and Most Merciful. I believe that unlike human beings, God makes no mistakes and therefore he creates each human being as He wants them to be. It is therefore our role to respect God's decisions and His creations and the imperative  is for us to treat each and everyone of God's creations with respect, dignity and humaneness, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation and disability.

As God said in Surah Al-Hujurat, Verse 13:
O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.

I reiterate that ISMA is spreading a falsehood by saying that I am a mastermind behind COMANGO. I was indeed well aware that SIS is a part of Comango and was certainly well aware of the report Comango was preparing for the UPR process. But I never attended any meetings nor was personally involved in the production of the report, which is only one of 28 NGO reports on human rights in Malaysia. As anyone should know,  NGO reports are part and parcel of the UN review process and there is nothing unusual about the Comango report. I know the report, I support it not least because it is nothing that ISMA says it is, as anyone who would care to read it on the Office of the Commission on Human Rights website would know.

It is therefore disengenuous of ISMA to claim that Comango is deliberately going overseas to destroy the image of Malaysia and of Islam. The world actually already knows what goes on in Malaysia via the Internet. As Comngo has already pointed out, Malaysia regularly attends UN meetings to report on its progress in meeting its obligations under various UN treaties and conventions. In many instances, it takes the UN recommendations and implements them. One very recent example is the 30% allocation for women on company Boards, recommended under the UN Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

ISMA is refusing to acknowledge that they have printed and distributed 70,000 flyers which contain a falsehood about me. This is my complaint. It is disingenuous of ISMA to try and distract from this issue.

Surah Al-Hujurat Verse 12 states:
O you who have believed, avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin. And do not spy or backbite each other. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his brother when dead? You would detest it. And fear Allah ; indeed, Allah is Accepting of repentance and Merciful.

This is the Islam of my faith. I would hope it is also ISMA's.

Kenyataan Akhbar oleh Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir tentang tuduhan ISMA mendakwa beliau merupakan 'dalang' disebalik COMANGO. (11 November 2013)
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Kenyataan Akhbar oleh Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir tentang tuduhan ISMA mendakwa beliau merupakan 'dalang' disebalik COMANGO.

11 November 2013

Pada hari Jumaat 8hb November, Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (ISMA) telah mengedarkan 70,000 risalah di masjid-masjid di seluruh negara yang menuduh saya sebagai salah seorang 'dalang' di belakang gabungan NGO yang dikenali sebagai COMANGO. Tuduhan ini adalah palsu sama sekali  Walaupun saya adalah ahli Lembaga Pengarah Sisters in Islam yang juga diantara 54 NGO dalam COMANGO, tetapi saya tidak langsung terlibat dalam proses mengeluarkan laporan COMANGO.

Saya menganggap kata-kata palsu dalam risalah ISMA ini memberi gambaran yang amat buruk mengenai diri saya dan mencemarkan nama baik saya. Oleh itu, saya meminta ISMA dan pemegang jawatan tertinggi ISMA menarik balik tuduhan ini dari semua media massa, termasuk media online, mengikut syarat-syarat yang saya tetapkan, dengan serta-merta. Jika ISMA gagal membuat sedemikian, saya akan mengambil tindakan undang-undang terhadap mereka.

Saya juga memandang berat penerbitan semula risalah ISMA di media cetak dan online dan juga menganggap tindakan ini sebagai turut mencemar nama baik saya. Oleh itu saya juga meminta semua media massa menarik balik penerbitan risalah ini atau saya akan mengambil tindakan undang-undang terhadap penerbitan tersebut.

Sekian, terima kasih.
Press Statement by Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir in response to ISMA's recent claim that she is one of the masterminds behind COMANGO (11 November 2013)
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Press Statement by Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir in response to ISMA's recent claim that she is one of the masterminds behind COMANGO

11 November 2013

Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (ISMA), in a flyer distributed at mosques throughout the country at prayers on Friday Nov 8, accused me of being one of the 'dalangs' (masterminds) behind COMANGO. This is wholly untrue. Although I am a Board member of Sisters in Islam, one of the NGOs in the coalition, I was not involved in any way in the COMANGO process.

Therefore I view this allegation by ISMA as defamatory and demand that ISMA and its office bearers withdraw it immediately with a public clarification in all media, including social media, on my terms. Failure to do so will result in my taking legal action against them.

I also view very seriously the republication of ISMA's flyer in various media, both mainstream and online, and regard this also as defamatory. I therefore request that all media publish my clarification immediately as well or also face legal action.



The Star - Sharing The Nation - New BEE is from same old mould (3 November 2013)
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New BEE is from same old mould

Sharing The Nation by zainah anwar


Making progress?: Bumiputras employed in the professional and management category have outstripped Chinese and Indians, while those qualified as doctors, engineers, and architects are almost proportional to the country’s racial composition.
Making progress?: Bumiputras employed in the professional and management category have outstripped Chinese and Indians, while those qualified as doctors, engineers, and architects are almost proportional to the country’s racial composition.

There is need for a thorough evidence-based review of Malaysia’s affirmative action policies that began with noble objectives 40 years ago.

THAT the New Economic Policy has succeeded in eradicating poverty and eliminating the identification of race with economic function is not disputed.

Malaysia’s poverty rate has plummeted from over 50% in the 1970s to only 1.7%, according to the 2012 Household Income Survey.

Bumiputras employed in the professional and management category have outstripped Chinese and Indians, while those qualified as doctors, engineers, and architects are almost proportional to the country’s racial composition.

Similarly, bumiputra corporate equity has gone up from only 2.4% in the 1970s to 23.5% in 2011, and according to other measurements, even higher.

These are all laudable achievements. No one is questioning the twin objectives of the New Economic Policy.

However, the debate today remains how best to achieve these objectives in the context of a more globally competitive environment, persistent income inequality over the past 10 years, growing intra-ethnic income inequality and other divides such as rural/urban, and peninsula Malaysia/Sabah-Sarawak.

Given these inequities and the rising intra-ethnic income inequality among the bumiputras and between Malay and non-Malay bumiputras, most of whom live in Sabah and Sarawak, isn’t it time for the Federal government to start addressing the needs of poor bumiputras through a differentiated approach?

Can an affirmative action policy targeted at bumpitras continue to treat this ethnic group as one homogenous community when data show increased intra-ethnic inequality as one outcome?

Should a policy designed to build national unity from the ashes of May 13, 1969, continue on the basis of ethnicity when this has resulted in increased communal tensions and undermine social cohesion?

What should be done?

Many Malaysians believe the unexpected announcement of the Bumiputra Economic Empowerment (BEE) programme was more of the same and politically motivated to appease Umno’s own Tea Party hardliners in the run-up to party elections.

It is short-term in approach and does not address weaknesses in policy-making and implementation, which has seen billions allocated to bumiputra economic empowerment and dozens of policy instruments and schemes over the decades still failing to build the resilient bumiputra commercial and industrial community and address the needs of those left behind.

What is really needed today is not more handouts to bumiputra but a serious policy review of affirmative action policies of the past 40 years, where they have worked and where they have failed, and what best long-term steps should be taken to address the various inequities in this country.

This review should be based on empirical evidence and data, not on emotions, threats and accusations.

Should the NEP continue to be race-based or needs-based to end poverty, regardless of ethnicity?

A persuasive argument can be made that even if affirmative action is based on need, the bumiputras being the majority population of this country will still be the group that will benefit the most. As reported in the New Economic Model for Malaysia, of the bottom 40% of households that earn less than RM2,000 a month, 77.2% are bumiputras.

In effect, 80% of Malaysian households earn less than RM5,000 per month.

It is no wonder that, according to the Internal Revenue Board, only one million of the 12.7 million Malaysians in the work force are eligible to pay tax, making wages and salaries contribution to Malaysia’s GDP very low.

The EPF reported that 78.6% of its contributors earn less than RM3,000 monthly. The low salary can be explained by the fact that some 77% of Malaysian workers have only SPM qualifications.

These are all troubling data in a country that aims to attain developed country status, with per capita income of RM48,000 by 2020.

Even if this is achievable, without addressing the gaping income inequality, this high income country status will remain an illusion for the individuals making up 80% of Malaysian households earning less than RM5,000 a month.

Obviously, the details of the BEE still need to be worked out. A major concern is that the policy announcement made no mention of targeting the bottom 40%, to reduce the inequity gaps between the rich and poor, the urban and rural, the bumiputras in the peninsula and those in Sabah and Sarawak, where poverty rates are higher.

There is also worry that a resort to quotas yet again will further reduce bumiputra competitiveness and resilience in an increasingly interconnected, globally competitive world economy.

Much has been written and debated on the effectiveness of affirmative action policies to redress historical injustices. A new book on the New Economic Policy, The New Economic Policy in Malaysia: Affirmative Action, Horizontal Inequalities and Social Justice (National University of Singapore Press, 2013), edited by Edmund Terrence Gomez and Johan Saravanamuttu, suggests four lessons to be learnt.

> First, the duration of affirmative action. Any such policy based on horizontal inequalities (inequalities based on culturally defined groups, rather than individuals or households) must have a time limit. Research shows that the most successful period of the NEP was its social restructuring phase in the first 15 years.

Significant progress was made to eradicate poverty, increase bumiputra ownership of share capital, increase bumiputras in the professional and management category of occupations, and reduce income disparity between bumiputras and non-bumiputras. The focus on education for bumiputras paid high dividends in creating a bumiputra professional and middle-class group.

The question being asked today is whether the results of continuing affirmative action policies and instruments are worth the billions of resources poured in, and worth the impact on economic growth, efficiency and competitiveness, and bumiputra independence and resilience.

> Second is inequality of access. This has led to growing intra bumiputra income inequality. Who are those who have benefited most from IPOs allocated to bumiputras?

Even then, the government has admitted of the RM54bil worth of stocks allocated to bumiputras since 1971, only RM2bil remains in bumiputra hands.
A clear spatial divide (disparities between beneficiaries in different regions) has appeared where poverty is most severe in the Malay heartland of Kelantan, Terengganu, Kedah and Perlis and among the orang asli and non-Malay bumiputras, with Sabah being the country’s poorest state with a poverty rate of close to 20%.

> Third, affirmative action should focus on providing high quality primary and secondary education to better prepare bumiputras to take advantage of the tertiary educational opportunities offered to them.

The high unemployment rate among bumiputra graduates, and the high percentage of local bumiputra graduates being absorbed into Government and statutory bodies show a lack of capacity to acquire a sound education that can lead to more competitive advantage in the labour market.

A study on the impact of exclusive bumiputra admissions quotas and academic performance was revealing.

Of the 271 first semester students studying linear algebra in an engineering faculty, only 13.6% of those who scored an A in matriculation mathematics scored an A in the university course, while 61.6% of those who scored an A in STPM mathematics scored an A in university algebra.

Evidently, the STPM of the national school system prepared the students better for university than the specially set-up matriculation system to improve bumiputra performance in maths and science.

> Fourth, preferential treatment in business to produce a bumiputra commercial and industrial community has failed to propel the growth of a large robust pool of independent bumiputra businesses.

According to a study, in spite of intensive privatisation and a policy of “picking winners”, no bumiputra-owned firm appears in the Top 10 lists of companies either by revenue, profit or return on revenues.

State support for development of Malay capital has fostered the expansion of a bumiputra rentier class and a corrupting intertwining of business and politics that undermine economic confidence, growth and competition.

Before more handouts are given out in the name of a presumed homogenous bumiputra community, there is need for a thorough evidence-based review of Malaysia’s affirmative action policies that began with noble objectives 40 years ago, now mired in cynicism that the policy has largely benefited and enriched an elite class of hand-picked cronies the most.

Already, questions are being asked on who will benefit most from the RM10bil being pumped into ASB2, when some 75% of unit holders of ASB actually own only an average of RM611 per person.
The Star - Sharing The Nation - Only in Malaysia: where we have gone wrong with fatwa (4 August 2013)
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Only in Malaysia: where we have gone wrong with fatwa

Sharing The Nation by Zainah Anwar

Sunday August 4, 2013


Formulating laws: File picture of Parliament in session. The legislative authority to make laws in Malaysia lies with Parliament and the state assemblies, not the fatwa committees.
Formulating laws: File picture of Parliament in session. The legislative authority to make laws in Malaysia lies with Parliament and the state assemblies, not the fatwa committees.

Fatwa are only advisory opinions to guide a Muslim to lead a life according to Islam.

I WONDER how many Malaysians know that under the Syariah Criminal Offences laws of this country, it is a criminal offence for a Muslim to defy, disobey or dispute or to give, propagate or disseminate any opinion concerning Islamic teachings, Islamic law or any issue, contrary to any fatwa for the time being in force.

And that we must be the only country in the Muslim world that has turned the opinion of the ulama into the law of the land without going through the legislative process and then makes it an offence for anyone to challenge that opinion.

That this is a gross violation of constitutional guarantees of fundamental liberties and has no basis in Islamic legal history seem to escape those who drafted the laws and passed them in Parliament and state legislative assemblies.

As long ago as 1997, Sisters in Islam had submitted a memorandum to the then Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed, alerting him to the Shariah Criminal Offences (SCO) federal and state laws.

We pointed out that in Islamic legal thought, fatwa are mere advisory opinions and do not have the force of law; to make it a crime to challenge a fatwa in force is to equate the opinion of a Mufti to the infallible word of God; the legislative authority to make laws in Malaysia lies with Parliament and the state assemblies, not the fatwa committees; the right to restrict fundamental liberties lies solely with Parliament and thus the provisions in the law that punish indecency amounts to an unconstitutional trespass on federal powers.

He ordered the suspension of the law and for the Attorney-General’s chambers to conduct a full study. This occurred after the public outcry over the arrest and charging of three young women for violating a fatwa by taking part in a Miss Malaysia Petite beauty contest which drew public attention to the existence of these draconian provisions in the SCO laws.

But when the ruckus died down, so it seems did the review. The public was not informed of any progress.

So these laws remain on the books. Whenever the opportunity arises, the law is revived to threaten and intimidate those who dare to have an opinion different from those in religious authority. So much for Malaysia being touted as the model moderate Muslim country.

In 2005, when another public outcry broke out over the arrest and treatment of 100 young Muslim women and men at the Zouk discotheque, Sisters in Islam yet again submitted another memorandum to the Government calling for a comprehensive review and repeal of the SCO laws.

This time SIS supported its position with research by two legal experts who studied the laws from constitutional and fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) perspectives.

How much more does it take for this government to realise that forcing people to believe what they do not believe does not constitute faith?

That is why every time a fatwa is issued that makes no sense to the public or the law is enforced that violates the fundamental liberties of citizens, there is a public outcry. And then those in religious authority get insulted and are befuddled as to why so many Malaysians, even Muslims they say, dare to challenge their views and contradict fellow Muslims.

Not a crime

My friends and scholars I know in the Arab world are stunned that a modern country like Malaysia could be so close minded when it comes to Islam.

Everyone, literally everyone I meet, knows that fatwa are only advisory opinions to guide a Muslim to lead a life according to Islam. They are theological and legal reasonings given in question and answer form. If at all it is binding, it is only to the questioner, certainly not binding on a whole population and certainly not a crime to disobey.

In fact, if you don’t like the fatwa given by your local mullah, you can go to another one to ask for another opinion and it is left to your conscience to decide which fatwa you want to follow. Everyone understands that in the end it is between you and God.

Truly, only God knows best. The state has no role to play to force you to believe or obey a fatwa and send you to prison or fine you for disobeying the opinion of someone in religious authority. And the media certainly does not sensationalise and incite hatred against anyone for not following a fatwa.

But for some people in Malaysia, this Islamic tradition that has enabled Islam to thrive and grow for hundreds of years in all social and cultural contexts seems an alien tradition.

And yet there are hundreds of fatwa listed in the e-fatwa portal of Jakim and the state religious authorities on a whole range of issues, from whether it is harus (permissible) to dye one’s hair black (only for jihad purposes or for a woman to please her husband), to the use of indelible ink on voters’ fingers (permissible). Some are gazetted, most are not.

For example, many states have issued fatwa that say smoking is haram; Selangor and Penang gazetted, the others did not. Selangor, Pahang and Penang have issued fatwa that declare Amanah Saham Bumiputra (ASB) and Amanah Saham Nasional (ASN) as haram (forbidden), but the National Fatwa Council states it is harus. Some other states followed suit to state it is harus, but not those three states.

So who is right and who is wrong?

All fatwa are justified in the name of Islam. So when there are so many fatwa on the same issue, some making it haram, some harus, some gazetted, some not, some states have them, some don’t, what then is the “Islamic” position on any particular issue?

This would not pose a problem if, like other Muslim countries, the Malaysian authorities have the wisdom to leave it to the conscience of the individual to decide which opinion or which teaching he or she wants to follow and leave it to God to decide in the end whether that person has committed a sin by obeying or disobeying.

But when the state tries to play God, it leads us to the conundrums we are in today. For the public will question the basis upon which some states decide to gazette one fatwa but not another. On what basis is action taken against those who violate a fatwa?

Thousands of Muslims in Selangor and Penang violate the smoking fatwa on a daily basis, and yet none of them has been accused of insulting Islam or charged for violating a fatwa. Why not?

Neither has any tobacco company been charged for propagating and disseminating their opinions on smoking through advertising and promotion that clearly violate the fatwa.

On the scale of wrongdoings, the public wonders why corrupt politicians and officials or the thousands of fathers who fail to pay maintenance to their children are not accused of insulting Islam. It is this selective persecution and hypocrisy that rile public opinion.

Difference of opinion

There is a good reason as to why fatwa never have the force of law in Islamic history. Because to do so is to, in effect, equate the opinion of the ulama to the word of God.

One reason why the doctrine of binding precedent did not evolve in the Islamic legal tradition is due to the belief that the opinion of one mujtahid (a jurist qualified to interpret legal issues) can never be regarded as the final wisdom in understanding the infinite message of the Quran.

Another jurist can give an equally valid opinion based on his learned understanding of the text. In the context of law-making in a democracy, these differences of opinion should be debated in public and the legislative body will then decide which opinion it wants to turn into law to serve the best interest of society. Public law must be open to public debate and pass the test of public reason.

But in Malaysia, disobeying a fatwa has become elevated to insulting God, insulting Islam. Yes, the state religious authority could consider it an insult to what it considers its learned opinion on Islam; but this cannot constitute a crime, nor can it equate its opinion to God as that would be tantamount to shirk (associating others with God).

If it is the Islamic tradition to make it a crime to have differences of opinion in Islam, how then did numerous schools of theology and numerous schools of law develop in Islamic history?

In the canons of Islamic juristic scholarship written by the classical scholars of Islam, no one accuses another of insulting Islam for differences of opinion. Only politicians and those with aspirations to power and control do that.

The tragedy of Muslims today is that while we say we want to restore Islam to its past glory, we are instead doing a grave injustice to our rich legal tradition. We bring the religion into disrepute and ridicule in our obsession to make all Muslims think only in the way the state deems fit.

That the coercive power of a modern nation state is then used to impose this one point of view on a whole community of Muslims is unprecedented in Islamic history. And obviously unenforceable in a democracy as there would be public outrage.

We have abused what is authoritative in our Islamic tradition for authoritarian purposes. And this has no place in a democracy nor in Muslim practice.
The Star - Musings - A lesson in real harmony (7 November 2013)
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A lesson in real harmony

Musings by marina mahathir

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Sarawakians are used to living with such religious diversity and have no time for the sort of angst that we over in the peninsula have.

WHEN I was a little girl in Alor Setar, I thought that Malaya did not extend any further than my home state. I did eventually learn that in fact it was much bigger when we visited my grandparents in Kuala Lumpur. But for a long time, my child geographical imagination was severely limited.

As an adult, of course I have been all over the country. And despite being a pretty small one, there are distinct differences in environment, atmosphere and attitudes in dif­ferent parts of the country, not to mention different dialects and food.

There is enough variety already within peninsular Malaysia without us even experiencing what is on offer over the water, in Sabah and Sarawak.

It is this diversity that makes our country wonderful.

Recently, I was invited to Kuching to speak to some young people about social media and whether it contri­butes to social cohesion.

I always jump at the chance to cross the water and it was a bit of a shock to realise that I hadn’t been to Kuching for some five years.

Besides the many culinary joys to be found there, it is always interesting to check out what Sarawakians are up to.

My hosts were two NGOs – Angkatan Zaman Mansang (Azam) and the Islamic Information Centre (IIC) – both coincidentally run by women.

Azam was set up 30 years ago to do development work among Sarawakians.

Today, they focus a lot on youths and support young people to do many things, including volunteering to bridge the gap between urban and rural youths.

The IIC is only five years old but it was set up with some particular missions in mind. The first is to educate Muslims about Islam, the second is to educate non-Muslims about Islam and the third, and most interesting of all, is to educate Muslims about other faiths.

Muslims make up only 30% of Sarawak’s population, so it would be difficult to avoid other faiths in daily life.

So IIC set out to build relationships between the different faiths so that they may understand each other better.

The centre itself strives architecturally to be inclusive, borrowing elements from the housing styles of different ethnic groups in Sarawak, including the Iban, Bidayuh, Orang Ulu, Malay and Chinese.

Their surau holds Friday prayers in English and provides translations in various local languages so that no one feels alienated in those surroundings.

Their resource centre contains many books on religion, particularly Islam, but their CEO was very proud to inform me that it contains a Bible as well.

Besides talks and panels for Muslims on Islam, they also often hold talks for non-Muslims on various aspects of the faith. And to educate Muslims about other faiths, they take groups of Muslims to visit other houses of faith to learn about them.

Last year, they organised a forum with Azam on fasting, and how it is found in every religion.

This year’s forum on social media was organised by both NGOs in the Christian Ecumenical Worship Centre and was attended by young people of every faith, including a visiting group of Muslim students from a public university in the peninsula.

Everyone was very relaxed, ate lunch together and the programme was designed so that those who had to go off to Friday prayers had ample time to get to the mosque.

While such a forum may have raised eyebrows in the peninsula, or may even not have been organised out of fears of vocal criticism from certain parties, these types of events are not at all unusual for Sarawak.

Sarawakians are used to living with such religious diversity and have no time for the sort of angst that we over here have.

Some families have members of different faiths, so excluding some people from family events and festivities is simply not an option.

I listened with astonishment the big-heartedness of the local religious authorities.

For instance, every year at the Maal Hijrah (Muslim New Year) cele­brations, alongside the usual Muslim recipients of the Tokoh Maal Hijrah awards, there is always a non-Muslim, one recognised for his or her efforts to foster better relations between the different faith communities.

What’s more, the Maal Hijrah parade also includes a contingent of non-Muslims.

For someone from KL, used to the ever greater segregation on the basis of religion, this information was jaw-droppingly awesome.

But it is also sad to think of such harmony as being unusual.

Once upon a time it was not uncommon either in our part of the country.

We respected and lived with each other and did not claim names and beliefs to be exclusive to us.

But with changing attitudes, I feel as if I need to go to Kuching just to breathe.

> The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.
The Star - Musings - The cost of telling the truth (24 October 2013)
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Musings by MARINA MAHATHIR

Thursday, 24 October 2013

It takes courage to stand one’s ground, but the greatest reward is the ability to sleep at night, knowing that one’s conscience is clear.

WHEN parents try to teach their young children certain values and behaviours, consistency is the key.

When you tell children that lying is wrong, then they must never catch you telling untruths.

If you say there’s no money to buy some fancy new toy, then you can’t come home with a brand new car without them wondering how come you can afford that.

Children have natural radar for hypocrisy. It is tuned to catch any inconsistencies, white lies or complete untruths that parents spout because these grate against the natural sense of fairness that kids have.

And every time they catch their parents out, a small bit of parental authority erodes.

This anti-hypocrisy radar is only maintained if the child doesn’t then learn that to be hypocritical is more rewarding than to be true to one’s own conscience.

If they find that there is nothing to be gained from telling the truth, and everything to gain from fudging facts, then the children grow up with their moral compass askew.

They learn not to take responsibility for their own misdeeds but to blame others for it.

Thus you get stories, for example, about kids who blame their maids for not putting their homework in their schoolbags on the day they are meant to pass them up.

Unfortunately there are more and more adults behaving in this way these days.

I can only assume that once they did have a conscience, believed in certain things but along the way grew to learn that being true to that conscience is no way to get ahead in life.

As children, they might have had a strong sense of justice, of instinctively knowing when something is unfair.

But when they become adults, that instinct is put aside because it’s not a ticket to advancement. Besides if everyone else is doing it, why be the exception?

To be the exception requires the strength of moral character that is able to withstand the pressures that come from others, whether family, colleagues or bosses.

It also requires the courage to take whatever blowback that might come from standing one’s ground, some of which undoubtedly will have implications to more than one’s self.

But for those with such courage, the greatest reward is the ability to sleep at night, knowing their conscience is clear.

These days I find myself wishing I knew more people of such moral fortitude because they do seem thin on the ground.

I see people who have no qualms about making themselves popular by preaching the oppression of those who have no voice.

I shudder to read of people who blithely believe that the rule of law should only apply to themselves but not to others.

If one were ever to accuse them of any crime, they immediately plead that they are innocent, but they accord no such consideration to those they don’t like.

They say that those of us who open our mouths in protest have no respect for the law, when they themselves barely hesitate to override those very same laws.

The tragic thing is that these types of people think they are leaders, because in the popularity contests they indulge in, they win.

Never mind if their means of winning would hardly fit a child’s description of fairness, what matters most is that they win.

I look at the lineup of the so-called leaders we have and I have to despair.

Not a single one of them would be anyone I would look up to.

None are names that would come immediately to mind as those who could take us confidently into the future, to take our place among the best in the world.

Instead I see people whose minds remain in an ancient age where might is always right, and the majority always wins. And a fat wallet is everything.

Many years ago I was in a country much poorer than ours where I met a young politician who seemed just the type of dynamic leader the country needs.

There were rumours that he would stand for election as the mayor of their capital city.

But when I asked him, he replied that he was not going to.

“It takes a million US dollars to have a running chance of winning that post,” he said.

It wasn’t that he did not have the money because he came from a wealthy family but he did not feel that was the right thing to do.

Today I saw a quote about how much it takes to stand for party elections in our country.

It costs four times more to run for elections in a party of three million members than to stand for mayor of a city of 18 million.

Enough said.

> The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.
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