Category Archives: Letters

MOH – Letter to the Press

22 May 2018

Unlike the controversies surrounding the choice of the minister of education,  which we in no uncertain terms debunked in an earlier mail (http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/opinion/2018/05/18/doctors-to-doctors-on-mahathirs-cabinet-line-up/),  it was relatively plain sailing for the post of minister of health.

Notwithstanding, there are major and pressing issues within the health ministry which needs to be immediately addressed.  Suffice to mention among these grievances, the dwindling budget allocation for health (2% of GDP in the public sector), shortage of hospital beds in the ministry of health (MOH), the lack of synergy between the MOH and the private health sector, incessant complaints from junior doctors due to a “toxic MOH work culture”, the need to harness the talent pool among health care professionals (HCP) to flourish the MOH centres of excellence to mitigate the brain drain, increasing the opportunities for  medical officers to pursue postgraduate studies, the challenges of non-communicable diseases (NCD), and ageing population, plugging leakages in the MOH finances and the escalating costs of healthcare.

Therefore in our humble opinion, the next immediate, urgent and important task for YB Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad is to source for wisdom, experience and talented persons who will advise him professionally. His team need to headhunt for the best brains & hearts from amongst the medical fraternity for this national duty.

We, the rakyat, will not tolerate mediocrity in our quest for Universal Health Coverage (UHC) for our citizenry.

Just short of a royal commission, he will need to re-examine and re-evaluate the status of the health of Malaysians and the healthcare services currently available at service to the rakyat.

His advisors will need to report specifically on 4 areas of concern, namely;

1 the existing and future needs for accessible, safe and quality healthcare services,

2 the resources required to actualize these services

3 to make recommendations to the minister of the necessary infra-structure, provisions, resources (urgent and important, must have, can wait, can do without) and

4 zero towards the objective of universal health coverage “ensuring that all our rakyat have access to needed promotive, preventive, curative and rehabilitative health services, of sufficient quality to be effective, while also ensuring that the rakyat do not suffer financial hardship when paying for these services”

We are very sure that there have been studies to address some or all of these issues. They advisory board does not need to reinvent the wheel!

The wise, experienced and eminent persons on the advisory board should collate all of these information and synthesise the roadmap to ensure the good health of all Malaysians and the healthcare services required to actualise this.

In the final analysis, the KPI of the minister is to ensure ensure health for all Malaysians, that no Malaysian is left out,  and that Malaysians stay healthy.

 

Dato’ Dr Musa Mohd Nordin
Damansara Specialist Hospital

 

Dr Johari Bux
Tung Shin Hospital

Abused junior doctors

Abused junior doctors
by Shazee Ali Ghazali

Letter from a young MPF’ian (Shazee Ali Ghazali, Monash 2007)

I am an 18 year old about to start medical studies in two months and as a result have been reading with great interest the on-going debate surrounding the working environment of housemen and junior doctors.

I have friends who are studying medicine at the moment, friends who have completed their studies and are beginning work, and friends who are already successful doctors.

I am at a loss to fully comprehend the divergent views I read in the newspapers about the medical culture related to the working ambience of the young doctors.

There are those who complain about long working hours and unreasonable on-call duties. And there are those who swear by this method, like the current Health Minister (NST Dec 15, 2006) and the president of MMA (NST Nov 30,2006) arguing it is the ideal method in training a doctor for the real world.

In my humble opinion, doctors need to experience the stress and long hours that come in the early stages of their career in order to prepare themselves for the road ahead. Before starting university most medical students know what they are getting themselves into and they just have to keep their heads down and take what comes.

But having said that, there is no point in working a doctor to his bone only for him to make an error due to fatigue or the loss of sleep. One would create unnecessary risks to the patient and compromise the quality of medical care. Isn’t that just being contradictory to being a doctor?

What is even more disturbing are the stories of bullying of housemen and junior doctors by their superiors. I think this goes against the ethics of being a doctor. As care givers doctors learn bedside manners and learn to deal with all sorts of people. Communication is vital. Those who abuse their power, humiliate and bully are in gross violation of the oaths they take. How can one be a likeable, friendly and successful doctor while being an arrogant, cruel and harsh superior?

What is needed in Malaysia is a balance between clinical training that comes with long hours and a generous dose of humanity from all quarters involved in the training and nurturing of these young doctors.

The ordinary layperson trust doctors with their life, most of the time blindly because they have so little knowledge of medicine. Our responsibility is to honour that trust and heal them with our hard earned medical knowledge and skills, with a mega dose of empathy, love and compassion. If we make a mistake, due to negligence brought on by fatigue, we have failed ourselves, our profession and a life dear to family and friends may be lost.

Abused junior doctors who grow up to become abusive consultants

Abused junior doctors who grow up to become abusive consultants
by Dr. Musa Mohd. Nordin

15th Dec 2006
The Editor NST

Dear sir,

I refer to the Health Minister’s outburst as headlined “Stop your whining, housemen told” ( NST Dec 15, 2006).

Hitherto, many doctors who were “enslaved” in the 24-36 straight call hours of medical apprenticeship due to the paucity of numbers would vouch for the good that it has endowed them in their future medical careers, as reiterated by the Health Minister. Many senior doctors, from the high offices of health ministers, medical directors, deans, consultants down to specialists and registrars would rationalise this as part of the gruelling training process of any wannabe doctor.

Junior doctors are hammered with multiple anecdotes of nightmarish calls including “graveyard shifts” which their seniors have had to endure during their clerkship and yet survived unscathed. Junior doctors continue to suffer in silence and are led to believe by their seniors that this is all part of the tradition of medical training. This “medical tradition” in due time becomes entrenched in the system because the values continue to be perpetuated by “abused junior doctors who grow up to become abusive consultants”.

There is however a major flaw in this premise because there is a world of difference between what is deemed as training and what is downright bullying (for want of a better word) and being inhumane. The latter work culture I am afraid is more prevalent within our local medical circles. One of my paediatrician colleagues even hastened to add that the local medical culture is second only to the military in harshness.

“It may seem a strange principle to enunciate as the very first requirement in a hospital that it should do the sick no harm.” (Nightingale F. Notes on Hospitals. London, England: John W. Parker and Sons; 1859). Florence Nightingale echoed what Hippocrates first said “first do no harm”.

And as alluded to by others, the overworked and fatigued doctor poses a risk to patient care, compromising quality medical care and resulting in errors. The American Academy of Paediatrics demonstrated that the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) imposed limits on resident work hours resulted in less patient errors due to fatigue and less doctors falling asleep whilst driving from work. The paediatric residents in the Neonatal and Paediatric Intensive Care Units ( NICU & PICU ) and their program directors rated residents well being as the factor most enhanced by the work hours limit (Paediatrics 2006;118:e1805-e1811).

It goes without saying that training, internship and residency are fundamental to the nurturing of a medical professional and his preparedness for future clinical responsibilities. Long hours, after office hours and on call hours are part and parcel of this holistic training to ensure an adequately and appropriately trained doctor who will discharge his duties with evidence based medical know how, hands on skills, display and prescribe humanitarian values.

Many who have had the benefit of medical training in the US, UK or Australia at the undergraduate or postgraduate level, would very quickly discern the cultural divide in the Malaysian way of training our junior doctors compared to their own training during their house or registrar jobs.

It would not be too far fetched to suggest that our housemen and junior medical officers, the lowest in the medical tier, are not infrequently harassed, intimidated and humiliated by their senior colleagues ( senior medical officers, registrars, specialists, consultants, head of departments, and deans included ). And this domino effect of psychological harassment goes right up the echelon to those in high office.

The oft echoed clarion call of professionalism and team work remains a loud noise which fails to transform into true deeds in ward rounds, case discussions, journal clubs, audit sessions or mortality reviews. The human and professional value, to quote our PM, “modal insan”, of the junior doctor as an important member of the medical management team is ill recognized and hence unappreciated. It would not be an exaggeration to suggest that their fate is doomed as cliched “yours is not to question why, yours is just to do and die”.

This unhealthy work ambience has somewhat improved over the years but there is much more that needs doing to make the working lives of the junior doctors bearable, enjoyable, a truly learning and meaningful experience.

Those crazy, inhumane call hours should have long been thrashed in the bin of painful medical history never to be repeated. And yet our junior doctors continue to be “enslaved” like their predecessors. Is there truly a lack of “enlightened HODs” who could sort this technicality at their various judicial levels? Maybe they ought to learn a lesson or two about innovative rostering from the good ex-matron in Sungai Buloh (NST 13 Dec, 2006)

A surgeon colleague of mine in his MOH (Ministry of Health) days, who gave the weekend off to all who did calls the preceding 48 hours was ticked off by his HOD because this was against the rules. Many of these ludicrous rules which often burdens the junior doctors most, ought to be scrapped and consigned to the archives of “medical non-sense”

More importantly, those in the highest of office in the Ministry of Health (MOH) and universities ought to address these oft recurring scenarios apart from many other pressing issues which concerns these voiceless and helpless junior doctors.

The tragic death of Dr. Nor Baizura in her course of duty, exposing the lack of insurance cover and compensation for the most junior of doctors in the medical hierarchy, is but one such issue.

It is most unfortunate when senior members of this profession of healing and caring, love and mercy, fail to display this very same compassion and benevolence towards those most junior and most vulnerable in their midst.

Dr. Musa Mohd. Nordin
Damansara Specialist Hospital
119 Jalan SS20/10
Damansara Utama
PJ 47400
Tel : 603-77222692
E-mail : musa@mpf.org.my

Response to Mingguan Malaysia

Response to Mingguan Malaysia
by Dr. Sheik Johari Bux bin Sheik Yaacob Bux

Ketua Pengarang
Utusan Malaysia

Tuan, Assalamu Alaikum

Tajuk utama Mingguan Malaysia 22 oktober 06, “Tangani ekstremis agama” yang di petik dari kata-kata menteri Kemajuan Luar Bandar, Datuk Abdul Aziz Shamsudin kepada pemberita di Miri adalah amat dikesali.

Ia nya seolah-olah menggambarkan bahawa ekstremisme agama adalah suatu gejala besar yang mengancam keharmonian kaum dan menggagalkan projek-projek kerajaan.

Ini bertentangan sekali dengan semangat dan langkah bijaksana Kementerian Dalam Negeri yang telah membebaskan tujuh tahanan ISA tempoh hari.

Memang kita akui bahawa ekstremisme agama adalah suatu gejala yang membahayakan dan harus ditangani dengan tegas dan bijak. Namun didalam konteks Malaysia yang diakui dunia sebagai negara Islam contoh, fenomena ini adalah terlalu kecil dan mudah ditangani oleh pihak yang berwajib.

Menggembar-gemburkannya sehingga menjadi tajuk utama akhbar hanya akan mengundang tohmahan, prasangka dan prejudis terhadap agama Islam. Sekali gus ia mengeruhkan lagi keharmonian masyarakat kita yang berbilang kaum dan agama.

Lebih malang jika ianya diutarakan semata-mata untuk saham politik tanpa adanya sebarang bukti yang kukuh. Adakah kita ingin dilihat sebagai jaguh dalam “war on terror”dan mendapat pujian dan sanjungan dari barat?

Sesunggunhnya, kegagalan projek-projek pembangunan adalah berpunca sebahagian besarnya dari gejala rasuah, ketidak-telusan, campurtangan politik dan kelemahan jentera pentadbiran. Kami mengalu-alukan keperihatinan dan penekanan terhadap hal-hal ini yang menjadi misi utama pentadbiran Perdana Menteri Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Kami berharap akhbar-akhbar Malaysia akan lebih bertanggung jawab dan bersikap lebih bijaksana dalam menyajikan berita dan maklumat kepada rakyat. Kami juga berharap agar anggota-anggota kabinet lebih berhemah dalam memperkatakan isu-isu agama.

Memberi gambaran bahawa ekstremisme agama adalah serius di negara kita akan menjejaskan hubungan antara kaum dan melembabkan aliran modal asing, sekali gus memberi kesan negatif terhadap pertumbuhan ekonomi kita.

Dr. Sheik Johari Bux bin Sheik Yaacob Bux
Ahli Lembaga Pengarah
Muslim Professionals Forum
Suite 1810, 18th Floor, Plaza Permata, Jalan Kampar,
Kuala Lumpur 50400
Tel : 03-40427139

Response to “Hate Ideology a Threat to Unity” NST Oct 20, 2006

Response to “Hate Ideology a Threat to Unity” NST Oct 20, 2006
by Dr. Musa bin Mohd. Nordin

On God’s chosen day, Friday, of His blessed month, Ramadhan, Muslims worldwide would immerse themselves in prayer and contemplation. The men folk would congregate in the mosques to listen to the Friday sermon, perform the obligatory Friday prayers, celebrate the solidarity and fraternity of this one ummah and offer alms to help mitigate the suffering of humanity world over.

It is most unfortunate that some have chosen this choicest of day and month, in her Friday -sermon-, to spew unprovoked insinuations that the bulk of her fellow Muslim Malaysian citizenry are propagators of the -hate ideology- (see Hate ideology a threat to unity, NST page 12, Friday, Oct 20, 2006).

Amongst the luminaries (or is it culprits) of this band wagon of the -ideology of hate and intolerance- and the mobilization to -halt any further democratization and liberalizing of this country- are the likes of;

  1. ACCIN ( Allied Coordinating Committee of Islamic NGOs ), whose roll of members includes JIM, ABIM, Malaysian Chinese Muslim Association (MACMA), Islamic Information & Services (IIS), Research & Information Centre On Islam (RICOI) and many others
  2. Defenders of Islam (PEMBELA), a fraternity of at least 80 Islamic NGOs
  3. Mothers In Iman (MII), incorrectly labelled Mothers Against Apostasy, which includes ladies in the Muslim Professionals Forum ( which she has also selectively singled out ) who spearheaded its inception in close collaboration with ladies from the 80 NGOs in PEMBELA.
  4. And her hit list continues.

It would seem that virtually all the main players in the Islamic NGO and professional scene are guilty of being agent provocateurs of this -hate ideology- which she furthers adds -poses a clear and present danger ( not very original I might add in her choice of cliche ) to the Malaysia that we know and love-.

An early morning SMS from a doctor friend sums it succinctly, -The writer is correct about a hate culture – her own hatred and disgust for all those who do not share her views on Islam.-

Our Prime Minister himself has not been spared of her Friday rantings. She alleged that the PM -sent the wrong signal- when he ordered the clampdown on public debate related to issues of religious sensitivities. She disputed the wisdom of the PM’s directive and that the gag order was a sign of weakness, the government kow-towing to the assault of the Islamist (see -MPF lauds PM’s directive-, Aug 04, 2006, www.mpf.org.my)

She coined the term Islamist supremacist to refer to those whose -use of mob intimidation and threat violence worked in coercing the government- into submission thus restricting the freedom of expression . This is very reminiscent of the adulterous spinning of Islamic terminologies ala President Bush. Moving from -the axis of evil- outdated by 2006, to -Islamist, Islamic radicalism, militant jihadism- deemed too academic and jargony, to his recent favourite -Islamofascist- and more currently referring to the Islamic terrorist enemy as wanting to -establish, extend and spread the Caliphate-. I wonder how the Home Ministry would view her flagrant disregard for the Ministry’s autonomy and independence and their being black mailed in broad daylight by a bunch of Islamist supremacist !

Now she fears for the judiciary which is similarly being threatened by this mob rule of law. The AG chambers has a committee which deliberates on these fragile issues of religion and the law. I understand that the writer’s grouping was part of this committee until they were unceremoniously removed because of their dishonouring the rules of engagement decided by the committee.

It makes one wonder who is the one displaying the mob rule culture and undertaking unilateral decisions to project and champion their own version of Islam vis a vis the law.

The sublimity and loftiness of this religious and intellectual discourse has plummeted rock bottom with the multiple name callings and abusive brandings by the writer. But then, she has a comprehensive and exhaustive repertoire of journalistic jargon, among others branding the drafters of the Islamic Family Law Amendments bill as -misogynists- and -patriarchal-.

Despite all this, our religion of peace and compassion, of the mind, body and soul, teaches us, nay commands us to -Call unto the way of thy Lord with wisdom and fair exhortation, and reason with them in the better way- (Surah XVI, An-Nahl : 125).

We recognize and respect the views of a miniscule of Muslims who champion a hyper liberal interpretation of Islam – making Islam subservient to prevailing secular notions of rights, freedoms and gender equality. Understandably, they would view some or all of the Shariah rulings as being too restrictive or embarrassing to their western and secular sensibilities. It is most unfortunate that the human rights language has been notoriously abused by a few individuals and groups who are pushing for Malaysian Muslims to jettison their religious traditions and adopt wholly the west’s post modern materialism and secular ideologies.

These differing percepts are anticipated and humanly inevitable. Nonetheless, such views remain a minority within the larger Muslim community, however fashionable and vociferous they may be with the generous media space accorded to them at the expense of mainstream views. The wisdom being to recognize that these differences and anomalies are strictly and entirely a religious in-house issue, normal to any religious community, and best resolved intra-faithfully.

We however regret that these few Muslims, anxious to be decorated as champions of progressive, Liberal Islam have turned these normal internal differences into national issues by seeking the support of those outside the faith who share the common desire for complete secularisation of society, to force religion and spirituality into the private domain (see MPF Press Release, Policing Morality, March 2005, www.mpf.org.my)

Not withstanding, these differing jurisprudential and philosophical opinions are being solicited by the legal authorities both civil and Shariah, in an attempt to crystallize the authentic and unadulterated Islamic position within the context of the Malaysian law. To disengage unilaterally from this process and undertake a roadshow of vengeance does not augur well for oneself nor one’s organization.

The Muslim Professionals Forum recognize and reaffirm the inalienable right of any individual or group to express their opinions in a public forum within the stipulates of the law. We’ve similarly had our share of -hate mails- and the writer’s most recent piece fails to disguise her venomous contempt and hostility of the public space accorded to all others notably towards the -tactical sprouting of new Islamist NGO- for a fertile and healthy discourse. The few isolated incidents of misdemeanours were grossly exaggerated and extrapolated as representative of the mainstream Muslim position.

The writer alludes to democratization as a desired ultimate goal but fails to mention the thousands of massacred Muslim children, women, men, the old and infirmed, conveniently described as collateral damage in Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, , Afghanistan and Chechnya amongst others, killed in the name of DEMOCRACY. Instead, she chose to highlight the one alleged case of death threat. This strangely is not -hate ideology- to her but perhaps an acceptable adverse effect of the roadmap towards the utopia of democracy.

From the very outset, our modus operandi has been one of enlightened discourse, discussions and negotiations within the context of the law, more recently under the auspices of the legal chambers of the country – can one be more legitimate and democratic than this ?

(see -Article 11 demonstration in Penang-, 19 July 2006, www.mpf.org.my).

The writer quoted Clive Kessler to reinforce her notions of the threat of these -pious new Malay Muslim middle class activists-. Unfortunately, we have a rather adverse view of the mentioned authority. It is very difficult to take a -long time commentator on Malaysian politics and Islam- seriously if he is unable to tell the difference between Islam Liberal and Islam Hadhari ( see -Response to Clive Kessler’s- article www.mpf.org.my ).

Suffice for me to quote a short excerpt from our response; -Those who take the effort of objectively evaluating the papers presented at our (MPF) Liberal Islam seminar will easily recognize Professor Kessler’s malicious slander, “…. the Muslim Professionals Forum (MPF) held an all-day event to give unbridled rein to such criticism of the Prime Minister’s religious orientation and supporters under the banner “Liberal Islam: A Clear and Present Danger”. To equate Liberal Islam with Islam Hadhari is most preposterous and highly irresponsible. Suffice for us to highlight one simple fact which escaped Professor Kessler – the keynote address at our seminar was delivered by respected scholar Muhammad Uthman El-Muhammady, distinguished fellow at ISTAC, formerly a fellow at IKIM and the government’s most recognizable spokesperson for Islam Hadhari. It is plain obvious that he had not read the conference papers. His is a mere gut reaction based on a blind support for a particular interpretation of Islam which has little acceptance among Muslims-.

The writer must be extremely desperate to have to extract a quote from Astora Jabat, ex-columnist Mingguan Malaysia to substantiate her writings. His infamous, weird, wayward and unschooled fatwas (edicts) are well known to all and sundry.

We have more than a sprinkling of Islamophobic writers who would like to conjure an image of the “Malaysian Islamist” as some sinister guy with hostile bearded faces, adorning a robe, sporting large weird turbans, no fun guys, who beat their women-folk , hate having non-believers as neighbours and are walking time bombs! The public opinion survey by Dr. Patricia Martinez of Universiti Malaya’s Asia-Europe Institute which polled 1,029 randomly-selected Malaysian Muslims across the peninsula between Dec 15 and 18, 2005 would be a rude awakening to their coloured journalistic egos and debunk many of their ill informed suppositions and generalizations.

“- Some of the findings really repudiate some of the claims being made about Muslims, or even what many of us have assumed. For example, the growing orthodoxy, which came through in the survey, does not mean that Peninsular Malaysian Muslims are growing less open to diversity in the country. The results also discredit some of the assumptions and generalisations about Malaysian Muslims– (The Sun, 6 Sept 2006).

— As such, claims writ large about who Muslims in Malaysia are and what they want, feel and need, are sometimes exaggerations if not generalisations. The results are mixed, neither confirming only moderation nor indicating overwhelming orthodoxy. But what the survey results do confirm, hearteningly, is that Muslims are able to live with the diversity that is Malaysia, and the reality that is our world-. (NST, Opinion: Thumbs up to living in Malaysian diversity, 10 Aug 2006).

The overwhelming majority in the survey defined themselves primarily as Muslims rather than by their national identity as Malaysians and a resounding 97.1% were comfortable living alongside people of other faiths. This heightened Islamic religiosity should not be interpreted as worrying trends of exclusivism or extremism, as many have elected to erroneously conclude. Instead it is back to basics, back to the holy text and the traditions of the prophet, reflected in the sacred Islamic law (Shariah). The Shariah is the epitome of the Islamic spirit, the very manifestation of the Islamic way of life based on an unqualified submission to the will of God. -For each We have appointed a divine law and a traced out way. Had Allah willed He could have made you one community. But that He may try you by that which He as given you- ( Al-Quran; V:48 ).

In practice, our co-religionists have always been able to exercise the right to opt for the westernised lifestyle without regard for Shariah “with impunity”. We have always respected the lifestyle choices of our fellow Muslims. The least we ask of them is to reciprocate this respect and not to denigrate Islam and the Shariah. (see MPF press release -Shariah enactments tramples civil liberties with impunity? April, 2005)

The undertones and sentiments of her writings -hate ideology a threat to unity- are not only divisive to Muslim unity and solidarity, but also sow the seeds of racial and religious divide by making the non-Muslims feel that they have been deliberately marginalised and maligned by the Muslims. That is the CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER.

Dr. Musa Mohd. Nordin

Founding Director

Muslim Professionals Forum

Suite 1810, 18th Floor, Plaza Permata,
Jalan Kampar,
Kuala Lumpur 50400
Tel : 03-40427139

Response to “Hate Ideology a Threat to Unity” NST Oct 20, 2006

Response to “Hate Ideology a Threat to Unity” NST Oct 20, 2006
Puan Mimi Nora Abdul Majid

TAKE A LOOK IN THE MIRROR AND SEE THE HATRED IN THYSELF
In her NST column of 20 Oct 06, Zainah Anwar takes Muslim self-loathing to a new height, lambasting all who disagree with her views of Islam as purveyors of a “culture and ideology of hate”. And why not, Muslim self-loathing and self-hate has become very marketable since September 11. Irshad Manji and Hirsi Ali have made careers out of it. Zainah herself has occasionally basked in the international limelight.

People with prejudice against Islam and the Islamophobic media would pat you on the back and give you media access that others can only dream of. Neoconservative think-tanks and western foundations who take it upon themselves the burden of a civilizing mission to bring ‘democracy’ to the Muslim world (i.e secularizing Muslim mainstream society beyond recognition) would give you support and international exposure.

Yours is the courageous voice of the most ‘oppressed’ in Muslim societies, when in reality such women usually come from a privileged background, with western education and a highly westernized lifestyle out of touch with the mainstream values and traditions of their society.

Now out of a sense of noblesse oblige and a deep embarrassment of something they don’t fully understand, they embark on a mission of bringing their sisters out of the bondage and slavery of mainstream Islam. If Zainah is Tunisian, Moroccan or from some other Muslim country where such efforts are going on in earnest, it might work.

Her chronic self-loathing has made her believe her own and the Islamophobes’ propaganda that Muslims who don’t subscribe to her interpretation of Islam as some ominous force wearing black robes who oppress their women and leave them toiling at home the whole day, hate having nonbelievers as neighbours, and bent on killing those they don’t like.

But she lives in Malaysia where Muslim women have made significant strides in the various professions, public administration, politics and even in the corporate world, yet remaining well at ease with the teachings and values of mainstream Islam. Compared to them, Zainah’s strengths seem to be her brash outspokenness and a fool’s courage of delving too deeply into things that she has no prerequisite knowledge.

For, Islamic jurisprudence and Quranic exegesis are academic disciplines in their own right. Perhaps it is this realization that is making her desperately lash out in all directions, attacking all the Muslim NGOs who have joined together to express concerns over the secular ambitions of a few that seem to be targeting Islam specifically . Everyone who disagrees with her idea of what Islam should be are purveyors of a “hate ideology” that “halt any further democratization and liberalizing of this country”.

The list includes ACCIN, JIM, ABIM, MACMA, and PEMBELA, an umbrella organization of some 80 Muslim NGOs which obviously takes its name from one of its key founders, the Peguam Pembela Islam.

We accept that there are weaknesses in the institutions and agencies that are tasked with the administration of Islam and Muslim affairs in this country. That is quite understandable given that our religious officials largely come from an educational and social background that may may not equip them with the necessary skills and understanding when dealing with delicate issues in Malaysia’s more urban environment where many more Muslims have adopted the western lifestyle and there is greater interaction between Muslims and non-Muslims.

But Zainah has disingenuously been using these institutional weaknesses to attack the Shariah, the institution of the Ulama and the teachings of mainstream Islam especially where they concern moral precepts and gender issues. In doing so many Muslims feel that she has helped mislead non-Muslims to have a negative view on Islam and perpetuate old prejudices, and emboldened some with powerful positions in the media to join the Islamophobia bandwagon in a very public manner. This has hurt Muslim sensitivity to a point that it is causing serious distrust between Muslims and non-Muslims.

In her latest column she cranks up her crusade on mainstream Islam a few notches as a response to Muslims, through the various established and newly formed NGOs, who raised their concerns over the handling of the Azlina Jailani’s apostasy case. A Muslim who chooses to leave the religion (murtad) has to go through the proper procedure as stipulated by law, just as someone who wishes to enter the fold of Islam has to. However, Zainah and colleagues in the Article 11 Forum have turned this into a “human rights” issue rather than one of procedure, attempting to force-feed their views of how the relevant constitutional provisions are to be interpreted in a manner that is highly provocative and extremely insensitive to mainstream Muslim sensitivities.

It is not unexpected that such a vile affront can and did lead some Muslims to be agitated and issue words that she rightly identified as “hatred” and “threats”. This knee-jerk reaction is unequivocally regrettable and unacceptable. However, none of these can be attributed to the NGOs she attacked. These NGOs have acted in a very responsible manner in voicing out their legitimate concerns and actually helped rein in the emotions in the street and defused the tension.

None of the statements issued by PEMBELA or its affiliates could be described as representing “an ideology of hatred”. After all among the founders of PEMBELA are some of Malaysia’s highly illustrious and respected lawyers and former presidents of the Bar Council. But Zainah’s infantile, hyperbolic rhetorics are not the least surprising. Her trademark style is to liberally name-call those who disagree with her Liberal Islam agenda as “fanatics”, “extremists”, “supremacists” etc to hide her lack of substance in her arguments.

Yes, we heard that there were death threats against the founder of Article 11 Forum. We condemn such uncivilized actions and believe that the police should investigate the matter. But knowing Malaysians, nobody would be so foolish as to think that the Article 11 Forum founder is worthy enough to be turned into a martyr.

We think that the Prime Minister was wise enough to put a limit to this cultist approach to “freedom of expression” in the interest of the nation’s social harmony and stability without needing to succumb to “pressure” from PEMBELA.

Yes, we too want to restore the “Malaysia that we know and love”, a Malaysia whose constitution guarantees the place of Islam as the religion of the Federation, where the Shariah in its presently limited sense can co-exist with civil law and non-Muslims are guaranteed the freedom of following and practising the religion of their choice. This has worked reasonably well that we have received worldwide accolades and recognition as a model Muslim nation.

It is only when those with a skewed focus on what constitutes fundamental human rights, and exploiting the current environment of relative openness, pursue their secular vision shared by the few with such dogged fanaticism that we are seeing an unprecedented crack in our religious harmony.

Finally, Zainah takes great pains to advertise her commitment to democracy. She lamented that this “ideology of hate and intolerance” is halting “any further democratization and liberalizing of this country.” Big words indeed. But Zainah talks about democracy and liberty only when it suits her crusade against mainstream Islam. When it comes to the fundamentals, where was she?

The dark events of 20 September 1998 and what followed is still fresh in the memory of those who are truly concerned with the health of our democracy. Never mind about the 2 protagonists (the then PM and his deputy) locked in a mortal political combat. Malaysians witnessed with horror the unprecedented rape of our institutions of democracy in that macabre game of politics – the Judiciary, the office of the Attorney General, the police, the civil service…where citizens who had legitimate rights to protest were beaten in the streets and some of those around the ex-deputy PM suffered a fate much worse. We did not hear a squeak from Zainah even when she later had the power and authority of a Human Rights Commissioner.

One cannot help being very suspicious of her pious platitudes to democracy and liberty. When it comes to mainstream Muslims exercising those very rights within the limits that our Constitution accords us, she tells the whole world that we are a hateful and intolerant lot. Someone should pass her the mirror.

Puan Mimi Nora Abdul Majid
Founding Member

Muslim Professionals Forum ( MPF ) & Mothers in Iman ( MII )
Suite 1810, 18th Floor, Plaza Permata,
Jalan Kampar,
Kuala Lumpur 50400
Tel : 03-40427139

Letter to Guardian : Islam is for freedom of choice and freedom of speech

Letter to Guardian : Islam is for freedom of choice and freedom of speech
by Dr. Azzam Tamimi

From Rushdie to the Pope, Islam has been wronged in the name of freedom of speech though in fact it is the one religious tradition that has always stood for freedom of choice and speech

So much injustice has been done to Islam over the issue of freedom of speech. Certain quarters choose to champion the cause of freedom of speech by indulging in acts whose primary objective is to tarnish the image of Islam through unfounded claims and to demonize it or demean its Prophet Muhammad through what they describe as literary or art works. Muslims have been put on the defensive episode after episode since the despicable novel by Salman Rushdie through the ugly Danish cartoons all the way down to the irresponsible remarks by Pope Benedict XVI. Muslims had every right to be offended because as they saw it these were not innocent exercises of freedom of speech but deliberate abuses that say nothing but untruth about Islam and its Prophet. However, the resort by some Muslims to violence has damaged their cause even further. Islam has been the victim at times of deliberate abuse and at times of irrational responses to such abuse by ignorant Muslims.

In fact, Islam – as shown clearly by its history and as its sources reveal – has always been a struggle for freedom of choice and of speech.

For thirteen years since receiving the first Qur’anic revelation in Mecca in 610 CE, Prophet Muhammad responded to the ‘elders’ who rejected his call to worshipping the One and Only God, Allah the Creator, by challenging them not to ‘obstruct the way’ between him and the people. “Let the people choose” was his slogan. Instead, the elders of the tribe of Quraysh, who feared the loss of their power and prestige, used every resource at their disposal in order to prevent any public discussion of what the Prophet had to say about the paganism the Arabs inherited from their forefathers. And it was not just paganism but a way of life littered with some of the most heinous atrocities committed against the weak and the vulnerable. Prophet Muhammad’s message was perceived as a revolution, a rebellion aimed at liberating minds and souls from human-imposed shackles and restrictions.

There is no better proof to the fact that Islam stands for freedom of thought and of expression than the esteemed status “the seeking of knowledge” is assigned in the Qur’an as well as in Prophetic traditions. The first word of revelation was iqra’, meaning read or learn or recite. “Learn in the Name of your Lord who Created man, out of a (mere) clot of congealed blood; learn in the Name of your Lord, the Most Bountiful, Who taught (the use of) the pen and taught man that which he knew not.”

Before Islam came to them, the Arabs prided themselves of being an illiterate community; very few of them learned anything apart from poetry and elementary astronomy enough to help them cross the desert at night. Still, very few of them ever left Arabia or interacted with the bastions of civilizations to the north and the south. While the Arabs despised Jews and Christians, the Qur’an called them the ‘People of the Book’ and linked itself to their religious traditions. Despite having been revealed first to the Arabs, the language of the Qur’an spoke in universal terms to the global human community. From day one, this was not meant to be a religious tradition for a particular racial or ethnic group but for the whole of mankind claiming direct link to all preceding divine missions from Noah through Abraham and Moses all the way down to Jesus.

As an eternal guarantee of the human freedom to choose, the Qur’an declared that “there is no compulsion in religion” and that no person’s conversion to Islam would be acceptable if not out of an absolute free will. Yet, Islam spread out of Arabia in all four directions in record time and the Ummah rapidly grew into a huge community. There is no evidence whatsoever that conversion was coerced although incentives might have been introduced by political regimes at times either in favour of conversion or in favour of discouraging it. What attracted millions of people was the liberating message of the new religion which declared that “an Arab is no better than a non-Arab, a white is no better than a black and a yellow is no better than a red.” The two great empires of the day, that of Byzantium and that of Sassania, had been oppressive powers that suppressed and persecuted the nations that came under their influence. Wars of attritions between the two empires augmented the suffering of millions of people who were being turned into fuel for a conflict that raged for several decades. Not only did the rising Islamic power provide a better alternative but it also emancipated many nations that had been enslaved by the two decaying powers.

It did not take long for Islam to provide humanity with great centres of civilization where scholarship flourished like never before. Philosophers and scientists – Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Sabian alike – turned cities such as Baghdad, Cordova and Seville into minarets of enlightenment for the benefit of all humanity not only innovating but also building on the legacies of the Hellenistic and Persian civilizations. Without the contributions of such centres of learning Europe today would still be in total darkness.

Today, most Muslims live in countries that are governed by despots who, like the elders of Quraysh, fear for their prestige and influence. In majority Muslim countries the police and intelligence services have no job other than muzzle people and make sure that nothing but what pleases the autocratic ruler is said or even whispered. It is not unusual for a person to lose his or her life for speaking out in public in contradiction to the wish of the despot. The largest number of prisoners in any given Muslim country happens to be prisoners of conscience. Few criminals or thieves are in prison because the real thieves are those in power. In fact, much of the struggle that has been going on in Muslim countries from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans is about freedom. People are fighting for the freedom not only to say what they wish but even the freedom to dress the way they like. It is here that the roots of ‘terrorism’ happen to be. The reason why some people resort to violence in Muslim countries is the lack of space for discussion about issues that matter and the brutality with which people who dare speak out are met.

Those of us Muslims who live in the liberal West appreciate more than anybody else the great bounty of being able to say what we like and to be able to lead the way of life we choose. It is because of this that many of us are gravely concerned that one of the repercussions of the U.S.-led war on terrorism is that the liberal West is undermining one of its most treasured achievement. The defence of freedom of speech in the USA and Europe is becoming increasingly selective. This was supposed to be a political right to be employed by those who are governed against those who govern. Now, authorities in the alliance for war in Afghanistan and Iraq are heading in the direction of stifling the public so as not to question policy or criticize the perpetration of blunders. What is of greater concern is that leading authorities in the liberal West are the backers of some of the most autocratic regimes across the Muslim world.

Freedom of speech is not about the right to publish offensive cartoons or to claim about Islam what is false and unfair but it is to stand up to tyrants and oppressors and prevent them from doing in our name what we abhor and detest. What is frequently claimed to be freedom of speech today is nothing but abuse most intended to settle scores or accomplish fame or perhaps infamy.

Religious Pluralism – Response to your guest columnist – Dr Chandra Muzaffar

Religious Pluralism – Response to your guest columnist – Dr Chandra Muzaffar
by Dr Musa Mohd. Nordin

Sunday 18 June 2006
Dr Musa Mohd. Nordin
musa@mpf.org.my

Board Member,
Muslims Professionals Forum
c/o Damansara Specialist Hospital
119 Jalan SS 20/10
Damansara Utama
47400 PJ
Tel/Fax : +603-77293173

Dear Sir,

I read Chandra’s personalised inferences of the pluralist theology with much disbelief ! (What pluralism means to Islam; Sunday Star 18 June 2006). The pluralism as propounded by the likes of Chandra et al is of course very appealing because it embraces religiosity with a mega dose of tolerance, mutual respect and “muhibbah”. Unfortunately, what he scripted in his Sunday column has never been the bone of contention among theologians who are in the thick of the debate on religious pluralism. Quite obviously, he is missing the thread of the discourse on religious pluralism.

His sole reference to the social sciences paradigm of pluralism lacks research, hence much restricted and un-holistic. Simply put, he has done a gross injustice to the scholarly works of theologians of religious pluralism. I was not able to identify the writings of any pluralist theologian in his Sunday piece to substantiate his variant, personalized flavour or even mutation of the pluralist model.

I can only benchmark my grasp of the pluralist theology against the writings of renowned scholars of religious pluralism , the likes of Ernst Troeltsch (1865-1923), William E. Hocking (Re-thinking Mission 1932), Arnold Toynbee (1889-1975), Wilfred Cantwell Smith (1916-2000, Towards a World Theology 1981) and John Harwood Hick (1922-present) et al.

Despite our differing understanding and interpretations of religious pluralism, many would concur that John Hick remains the icon of the pluralist theology. Amongst the modern scholars of theology, Hick is probably the foremost in paying meticulous attention to the issues of religious diversity and theorizing religious pluralism in such a profound manner. He reconstructed the theoretical basis of the pluralist theology, theorized and popularized it to such an extent that it has now become synonymous with his name.

In his contribution to the The Encyclopedia of Religion, Hick defined religious pluralism as “…the term refers to a particular theory of the relation between these traditions, with their different and competing claims. This is the theory that the great world religions constitute variant conceptions and perceptions of, and responses to, the one ultimate, mysterious divine reality.the view that the great world faiths embody different perceptions and conceptions of, and correspondingly different responses to, the Real or the Ultimate, and that within each of them independently the transformation of human existence from self-centeredness to reality-centeredness is taking place.” [Hick, John, ‘Religious Pluralism,’ in Eliade, Mircea (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Religion (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1987), Vol. 12, p. 331].

Hick adds “Other religions are equally valid ways to the same truth”. It simply describes the different theophanies of the same truth.

To further elucidate this phenomenon of religious pluralism, another advocate, Paul Knitter contends “All religions are relative – that is limited, partial and incomplete, one way of looking at something. Deep down, all religions are the same”.

It would not be too far fetched to summarise that the pluralist truth claim asserts that all religions, theistic or non-theistic, can be considered as ways through which man can attain salvation, liberation and enlightenment. They all represent authentic responses to the same transcendent “Real” and are thus valid manifestations of the “Real”.

Herein lies the hidden yet clear danger of the pluralist truth claim. It is absolutist in the sense that it is all too eager to relativise all of the existing absolute religious truth claims. Epistemologically, relativising the truth claims implies (though rarely recognized by the pluralists and Chandra alike) denying or at the very least degrading the absolute truth claims.

In simpler terms, the theology of religious pluralism has undermined the absolute truth claims of all the religions on the world stage. It has relativised all the truth claims and have equated all religions as being relatively the same. Pluralism is degrading if not denying the absolute truth claims of these religions.

Secondly, it’s pluralistic-claim has inevitably added another “new ism on the block”, albeit man-made, to the phenomenon of religious diversity. Putting it differently, religious pluralism transcends the conflicting and relative truth claims among religions, claims a facade of democracy and world peace and is the “absolute messiah” to the phenomenon of religious diversity. That is, the other religions are not cool!

The late Ismail Faruqi wrote “The (truth) claim is essential to religion. For the religious assertion is not merely one among a multitude of propositions, but necessarily unique and exclusive”.

Thus any attempt to relativise the uniqueness and exclusivity of all religions, as Hicks et al has undertaken with their theology of religious pluralism, will inevitably add a new problem to the existing truth claims at best. Or at worst threaten the very existence of religions.

The pluralistic “all paths lead to the same summit” paradigm is not that benign, tolerant, democratic and embracing as first perceived! On closer examination, this pluralistic truth claim is in fact extremely problematic.

This “disguised enmity” of absolute religious truth claims is hardly surprising considering religious pluralism was gestated within the context of western secular liberalism; which had an innate abhorrence of anything metaphysical.

Wayne Proudfoot, in Religious Experience (1985) wrote “The turn to religious experience was motivated in large measure by an interest in freeing religious doctrine and practice from dependence on metaphysical beliefs and ecclesiastical institutions and grounding it in human experience”

The notion of religious pluralism is alien to Islamic ideological or theological framework. It began to encroach into Islamic thought after the second World War when Muslims were exposed to education in western traditions and hence the overt or covert onslaught of western cultural hegemony.

And the spread of this idea within the Islamic discourse has been partly encouraged by the works of Western Muslim mystics. Isa Nuruddin Ahmad better known as Frithjof Schuon emphasized in his book The Transcendent Unity of Religions, that deep down all religions are the same (esoterically they are the same); though their rules , morals and ritual may differ (exoterically different). He called this the Perennial Religion (Religio Perennis)

Syed Muhammad Naquib Al-Attas argues that the transcendent unity of religion is not found even at the esoteric level because each religion has exclusive or differing concepts of god. He adds, such transcendent unity cannot be deemed “religion” only religious experiences.

Islam perceives religious diversity and plurality as a “Sunnatullah”, the behest of the Al-Mighty. Hence, a religious truth claim, is an absolutist doctrine, must be respected as such, not simplified or relativised, let alone negated.

Islam accords special status to Judaism and Christianity, categorically calling their adherents, “Ahl al-Kitab” (People of the Book). It identifies itself with the People of the Book as the “Abrahamic family” within the Semitic Tradition (Hanifiyyah), the tradition of Abraham who is recognized as the father of the three Semitic religions.

References to other religions is however less straight forward. They are mentioned in a generic manner as implied by the Quranic injunctions on :

  1. Universality of the prophetic mission; “And verily We have raised in every nation a messenger, (proclaiming) : Serve Allah and shun false gods …” (16:36)
  2. And the unity of mankind, “Ummatun Wahidah” ; “Mankind were one community, and Allah sent Prophets as bearers of good tidings and as warners, and revealed therewith the Scripture with the truth that it might help judge between mankind concerning that wherein they differed…” (2:213) Islam’s concept of “al-Hanifiyah” is the divine prescription towards all other non-Islamic religions. It allows “all the other religions” to be fully “others” without any reduction, deconstruction or relativisation. It acknowledges the plurality of religions and allows the adherents of all religions the plurality of laws to govern their lives within the aegis of their religious beliefs and principles. This is the gift of “al-Hanifiyah” to humanity.

This unlike the wave of religious pluralism which deconstructs absolute truth claims, relativises religions and equates them within the parameters of human religious experiences of the Transcendental Reality. In short, it is unwilling to let others to be really others. Therein lies the clear and present danger of religious pluralism.

Response to A Brand New Life NST 18 March 2006

Response to A Brand New Life NST 18 March 2006
by Dr. Musa Mohd. Nordin

23rd March 2006
The Editor NST
Dear sir,

I read your headliner article with much interest (A Brand New Life; NST; 18th March 2006). It brings hope to many affected families. Christopher Reeves best known as Superman, a staunch supporter of embryonic stem cell research did not live long enough to witness any major breakthroughs in stem cell cures for his spinal paralysis.

Nonetheless, it is important that we do not lose perspective of the limitations of this new technology and thus send wrong messages and create false hopes to your readers. Private cord blood banks has hyped on similar anecdotes and isolated examples to go on an onslaught of emotional marketing of private collection and storage of umbilical cord blood.

As a member of the National Committee on Human Cloning and Stem Cell Research, we have deliberated these issues but have yet to make them public. For the former, draft laws are already in the Attorney-General’s chambers.

There is universal interest in discovering and developing a permanent source of cells which would be capable of generating any cell type and which would avoid the problem of transplant rejection. These cells called human stem cells have the unlimited capability to divide and the potential ability to develop into most of the specialized cells or tissues of the human body. Hence the potential to generate replacement cells and tissues to treat many conditions including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, leukaemia, stroke, heart attack, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and spinal cord injury.

The National Blood Bank has already been collecting and banking cord blood as part of their non-profitable National Cord Blood Bank. The National Cord Blood Bank would be available to doctors to search the public registry for possible unrelated but matched samples as an alternative source for stem cell transplantation.

The issue is clouded further by the sales pitching and often non-evidence based medicine claims of private cord banks. Undoubtedly, parents would be vulnerable to “emotional marketing” at the time of the birth of their child. Professor Nick Fisk, Chairman of the Royal College of Obstetrics & Gynaecology Scientific Advisory Committee said “We are concerned that commercial companies are targeting pregnant women with such emotive literature when the scientific evidence is not yet there to back up their claims”.

There are no accurate estimates on the likelihood of children requiring their own stored cord blood. The best guess of this ever happening ranges from 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 200,000. There is therefore only a tiny and remote chance of children ever requiring to utilize their own stored cells.

Scientific indications for collection and banking of cord blood are far and few in between. In families where there is a known genetic disease that can be treated by cord blood transplantation, cord blood collection and storage are recommended for siblings born into these families. Cord blood collection is also recommended in specific settings eg

1. A sibling who is suffering from leukemia, just in case he relapses and may require cord blood transplantation
2. A sibling in whom cord blood transplant is indicated but has no match related donor available.

The storing of cord blood privately by private cord banks is based on the premise that the sample is stored specifically for use within the family concerned and more specifically the child’s own future use (autologous transplant).

Autologous transplantation itself maybe problematic because the use of one’s own stem cells may not cure the underlying pathology. In the case of leukaemia and other congenital disorders eg thalassaemia and Fanconi’s anaemia; transplanting ones own stem cells with the defective genetic and immune structure (thus causing the disease) would only be returning the disease to oneself.

The 80-100ml of umbilical cord blood collected at birth may not be adequate when the baby grows into an adolescent or adult. The volume of cells is insufficient if he should ever require it later in life.

Thus, the concept of a ‘biological insurance’ which is much hyped by the private cord banks is therefore actuarially unsound given the very low estimates on the likelihood of use, or the need of using one’s own cord blood for transplantation. The emotional marketing is however burgeoning the bank balances of private cord banks.

In the final analysis, public cord blood banking should be expanded for the benefit of the wider population. Collection of altruistic donations of cord blood and directed donations for families at high risk should be encouraged. The National Cord Blood Bank was set up to achieve these objectives at no cost. Rather than just to keep the cord blood banked for one’s own use, it should be made available to others who may need the cord blood in the allogenic (genetically different) setting.

Dr. Musa Mohd. Nordin
Consultant Paediatrician & Neonatologist
musa@mpf.org.my
Damansara Specialist Hospital;
119 Jalan SS 20/10
Damansara Utama
Petaling Jaya 47400

Sensitivity of non-muslims to Islam

Sensitivity of non-muslims to Islam
by Farah Pang Abdullah

March 22, 2006
The Editor (editor@thestar.com.my)
STAR Publications
Malaysia

I am alarmed by ‘Mosquito” who wrongly misquoted Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Dept. at his meeting with 43 Muslim NGOS on March 20 at the Parliament House. Her caption ‘Refusing to engage in dialogue a disservice to Islam’ can cause concerns to both Muslims and non-Muslims alike. I was personally present at the press conference and sat beside the minister. So I heard all he had to say.

He did not say that Muslims should not engage in dialogue with non-Muslims. In fact he reminded all of us that our harmonious coexistence is the result of our mutual respect for our religions and culture.

What he did say and rightfully so, was to tell non- Muslims not to make inflammatory and unwarranted remarks about Islamic jurisprudence as it is a specialized science with a specific methodology. He also said that Muslims do not make offensive comments about other religions in the country and asked that the same be given to Islam.

I was the spokesperson for the NGOs that day and I supported what the Minister said. I also publicly declared that we look forward to have dialogues with our non-Muslim friends in order to promote a better understand of Islam. I even gave a copy of my statement to your reporter present.

I hope I have cleared the air for ‘Mosquito’ and I support her in her call for Muslims to engage non-Muslims in dialogue for mutual understanding of our religions.

Signed (pl call me at 016 2445405 to confirm authenticity)
Farah Pang Abdullah
8 Lorong Burhanuddin Helmi 3
Taman Tun Dr Ismail
Kuala Lumpur