To know where to go, you must first know where you are


But those days are long gone and will never return. Malays over the last 50 years or so have been what I call Arabised? And who Arabised them until they have become so intolerant, sensitive and inconsiderate?


Raja Petra Kamarudin

Over the last five years since I have been living in the UK, quite a number of Malaysians have dropped by to visit me. Some I have met before back in Malaysia while many are actually ‘strangers’ (people who have never met me but ‘know’ me through Malaysia Today). Their purpose of visiting me is just to chat, mainly about what has been happening in Malaysia since the 2008 general election (which is coming to six years now).

The usual question they ask me is: where is Malaysia heading for? Where are we going with all this race and religion controversy? What is the future going to be like, not only for us but also for our children (and for me it would be for my grandchildren)? What lies ahead of us? Where are the politicians taking us?

I can see that the developments in Malaysia since 2008 concern these people. And they have reason to be concerned, of course. But then most of these people who visit me to talk to me are what I would consider as centrists (or atas pagar, as the Malays would say). These are people who are neither pro-Pakatan (Rakyat) nor pro-Barisan (Nasional). They are just Malaysians who seek a better future for themselves and for their children/grandchildren.

Many of my friends have children studying overseas, a large number here in the UK. And they confess that they have told their children that once they complete their studies and if they are able to remain in the country they are studying then better they do not return to Malaysia. Give up your Malaysian citizenship if necessary, and become UK citizens if that is possible (or Australian, US, etc., citizens).

This appears to be people who have given up on their country and feel that their children are better off living outside Malaysia. And let me assure you that I am not just talking about Malaysians of Chinese ethnicity. Even Malays are talking the same thing.

There are one million Malaysians living and/or working overseas the last time I checked back in 2010. I do not know the figure today but I do not see why that figure should have come down. I suppose one million is nothing considering that five million foreigners have gone to Malaysia to live and work (and many now have Malaysian citizenship, or at least a Malaysian IC).

But the problem here is, most of the five million foreigners in Malaysia are ‘lower level imported citizens’ (if I may put it that way without sounding as if I am insulting foreigners in Malaysia) while most of the one million Malaysians living/working overseas are those with brains. Hence can five million lower-educated foreigners compensate for the one million brains that the country has lost?

My response to the questions these people ask me that I mentioned in the second paragraph of this article (where is Malaysia heading for, etc.) is that before we should even ask where we are going we first need to know where we are.

The analogy I used in my argument is as follows.

Say you phone me and ask me how to get to my house. I will then ask you where you are. Depending on where you are there would be many alternatives to get to my house.

You reply you do not know where you are.

Now that would be a problem. If you are in Paris then I would suggest you take a direct flight to Manchester. If you are in London, then the easiest way would be to take a Virgin Train (which takes only 2 hours to cover the 300 miles distance) rather than drive (which takes 4 hours and costs more to rent the car). If you are currently in Liverpool, then maybe a bus would be better. And if you are already in Manchester, then just tell me where you are and I can go and fetch you.

The problem is you do not know where you are. You do not even know whether you are already in the UK. So how do we discuss how to get to my house when we do not have a starting point as a reference? You first need to know where you are before we can settle the matter of how to get where you want to go.

Malaysians hate history. They think that studying history is a waste of time. Hence most Malaysians do not understand Malaysian history or even the history of the religion they profess and believe in. So how to engage in an intelligent discourse when you are steeped in ignorance?

Let us take a simple issue — that is really not that simple but is certainly the hot issue of the day. And that issue is the use of the Allah word (kalimah Allah) by the non-Muslims.

There are enough good articles and opinions written by Muslims (even today itself). And they all address some very valid and sensible points. And most of these opinions are that the Allah word is not exclusive to Muslims and, in fact, Allah is a pre-Islamic name for God. And they explain why they say this with some very strong and indisputable arguments.

That would be well and fine if we are discussing Islam or the Allah word in the context of history (which most of them do) or in the context of theology (which also some of them do). But then the Allah controversy has nothing to do with ignorance regarding history or a misunderstanding of theology. It is all about politics.

And this is why the debate fails. You fail to understand where we are so you fail to get to where you want to go. You think we are discussing history and/or theology and you present your views regarding history and/or theology whereas this is a political problem. And that is what we should be discussing instead.

In other words, to know where to go, you must first know where you are. And we do not know where we are so we are clueless about where to go.

Some argue that the Christians have been using the Allah word long before Merdeka. Hence, by tradition and convention, there should be no problem with Christians continuing to use the Allah word.

That is true and appears like a good argument. But let me show you how many things have changed since Merdeka and just because it was done 60 years ago back in 1954 that does not mean it can still be done today in 2014.

In 1973, when I married my Catholic wife, Marina (then named Mable), the Imam of Masjid Negara told her that she needs not convert to Islam. Catholic girls can marry Muslim boys without converting (but not the other way around). However, today, one of my friends, a Catholic girl, is still not able to marry the Malay boy she intends to marry because she refuses to convert to Islam.

Has the law changed? And if it has not changed then how could we do that in 1973 but not in 2014?

In the 1960s, Malays could drink beer. In fact, if you can remember, beer commercials featured Malays drinking beer. So, Malays were even used for beer adverts back in the 1960s. Has the law changed since then? If not then why are Malays now arrested when they are caught drinking in a pub? And try putting Malays in a beer commercial and see what will happen.

So, what could be done in the old days, today, is no longer allowed. You no longer even see Malay movies showing Malay girls in bareback and short skirts dancing the go-go like back in the old days. Hell, they even protest about Hard Rock Café opening a branch in Putrajaya when no such thing is being planned.

Why are the Malays nowadays so sensitive about all sorts of things when in the past the Malays were easy going, laid back, fun loving and party animals? You loved the Malays of the 1960s. You hate the Malays of this new Millennium.

Okay, to analyse this and to answer just this one paragraph above will require an article the thickness of a PhD thesis. And since I am not submitting a thesis for my PhD and you do not like reading long essays (and this one is already long enough as it is), let me attempt to answer that question in the shortest possible manner.

In the old days, religion was religion and politics was politics. Today, religion is politics. Hence, when you talk and write about religion and about what was allowed in the past (meaning history, convention, tradition, etc.) and ask why it has changed today, your arguments would go nowhere. You are talking about religion and the history of religion whereas the problem is politics.

And that means we need a political solution to solve the Allah word impasse. And rest assured it is an impasse, which is never going to be resolved until the politicians agree to sit down and find a political solution to this problem.

Is it fair to use religion and the Allah word for political gain? If you need to ask that question then you are too ignorant to participate in this discussion. Of course it is fair! Have you not heard the saying that all is fair in love and war? And politics is war.

Fair and unfair are subjective. To the winner it is fair and to the loser it is unfair. Let me give you another example to demonstrate what I mean.

Europe’s economy was practically destroyed by the First World War. To rebuild its economy they needed oil and the Ottomans were sitting on the largest oilfield in the world. Hence, to get their hands on this oil, the Europeans had to destroy the Ottoman Empire.

Sykes and Picot had already drawn up the new map of the Middle East detailing how they would carve up the Middle East between the various European powers. Now they only needed to bring down the Ottoman Empire.

They sent Thomas Edward Lawrence to the Arabian Peninsula to organise the desert Bedouins into a rebel force and in time the Ottomans were driven out. The Europeans then cut up the Middle East into many smaller countries and controlled them. They then plundered all the oil wealth.

Today, many of these countries are the centre of revolutions and political turmoil. The way the Europeans carved up the Middle East and created many smaller countries was a recipe for disaster. The borders of these countries were badly planned and because of that we will never see peace in the Middle East until the end of time.

Is what the French and British did fair? Well, it may not be fair to the Arabs, Persians and Turks, but it was certainly fair to the Europeans. And that is what matters. Because of what they did, Europe goes on to prosper and the Arabs, Persians and Turks go on to kill each other.

And, until today, the Muslim world is a threat to world peace. And now we find that the Middle East version of Islam is also a threat to Malaysia’s peace. How you long to return to the days when Malay boys could drink and Malay girls wore bareback and short skirts and Catholic girls could marry Muslim boys without having to convert to Islam.

But those days are long gone and will never return. Malays, over the last 50 years or so, have been what I call Arabised? And who Arabised them until they have become so intolerant, sensitive and inconsiderate?

Well, you tell me.

Oh, and JAIS was just following the law, says the Pakatan Rakyat Selangor EXCO Member. And the law is the law. So there!


Seizure of bibles in line with dept’s SOP, says state councillor

(Asiaone) – The Selangor Islamic Religious Department’s (Jais) raid on the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) is not illegal and did not breach any law, according to state executive councillor for Islamic Affairs Sallehen Mukhyi.

He said the raid and seizure of 321 bibles in Malay and Iban from BSM’s office last Thursday was in accordance with the department’s standard operating procedure (SOP).

Sallehen said the raid was also carried out in line with provisions stipulated under the Selangor Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation Among Muslims) Enactment 1988.

(Section 11 of the Enactment states that “all offences and cases under this Enactment shall be deemed to be seizable offences and seizable cases for the purpose of the Criminal Procedure Code.)

“It was in line with Jais’ current SOP but we will fine-tune the SOP,” he said after meeting Catholic newsletter The Herald’s editor Father Lawrence Andrew.

He said under the amended SOP, the state government must be informed before any raid.

Sallehen said Jais director Ahmad Zaharin Mohd Saad and the department’s enforcement chief had explained to him that the raid was carried out following public complaints of alleged proselytisation.

He stressed that the state government was fully behind Selangor ruler Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah’s decree prohibiting non-Muslims from using the term Allah in their worship.

Sallehen also said he had made several proposals during the meeting, including the setting up of a platform for inter-religious dialogues.

“Sensitive issues must not be politicised or used for political mileage,” he said.

Father Lawrence said whatever he had stated was based on Article 11 of the Federal Constitution, which provided for the freedom of religion.

“Each religion has the right to manage its own matters. One cannot come in and tell another what to do,” he said, calling for a peaceful approach towards the issue.

“Let’s be brothers and sisters. Let’s build bridges. Our country is about muhibbah, friendship and goodwill,” said Father Lawrence.

In Penang, a Buddhist monk urged Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim to make a stand on the issue.

Rev Dr Sumana Siri, founder of the Buddhist Realists’ Centre in Penang, said Khalid had not responded clearly to the issue.