Category Archives: Articles

YES MINISTER! YESSSS

15 Sep 2019

YES MINISTER! YESSSS

I have no doubt that many of you have written to your Pakatan Harapan (PH) state assemblymen (ADUN) and parliamentarians (MP) on various issues that in your humble opinion solicited their immediate attention.

A few ADUNs and MPs may have obliged and undertaken the necessary actions or remedial tasks but would it be too far-fetched to suggest that the majority have not even bothered to acknowledge receipt of your complaint, let alone revert, or only paid lip service to your suggestions, whilst a few were actually pissed off with your recommendations?

Well! Some of us never got to ascend the rarefied atmosphere of top echelons of corporate or academic leadership because we held dearly and uncompromisingly to our puritanical and religiously democratic views trained into us since our formative days in the UK. Among others, the notion that a leader should be told what he needs to be told and not what people feel he wants to be told. In short, calling a spade a spade (we hope we are being ethnically correct and colour blind) was and still continues to be a dearly held principle of engagement.

We always wondered why our peers including some very close colleagues of ours hesitated and used twenty words to convey what needed to be said in five words to our bosses. With so many words, inflexions and padded advice, much of the real essence was lost in the delivery.

After a protracted period of cold storage and exile for some, the reasons finally  dawned on us – Eureka!

There are leaders who preferred being given advice and told what they actually wanted to be told and eschewed advice on what they really should be told. Much like the case of where the emperor wore no clothes.

In the context of Malaysian political governance, either BN or PH, we would suggest that the progenies of the aforementioned emperor are still alive and thriving, though less in the latter.

Hence subordinates, who hope to curry favour for obvious reasons, tailor their counsel to get the ears of their little emperors. There exists a culture where, upon ascending a top post, people bow and scrape to their leaders and exaggerate beyond reasonable measures moderate successes and carefully gloss over cracks and pits. They know this is the culture and leaders and followers feed off each other.

Woe betide those who like the proverbial little boy dare to draw attention to the emperor’s nudity.  Our society is in its present mess not because our leaders are not smart (some undoubtedly are smart but the rest are less so) but because of an inherent internal inertia to the purveyors of not so good home truths.

No matter how smart, capable or visionary a leader is, he is subject to blind spots, either in his rear mirror, side mirror or even front windscreen if we use the similitude of a driver of a car. Blind spots can turn a pleasant drive into a tragedy. Therefore, taking cognisance from sensors allows one to make measured, careful steps to avoid dangers and help rebuild our nation’s glorious destiny.

The fact that some of our PH big wigs feel we are not up to the mark with our knowledge of their actual circumstances, thus our observations are defective and not evidential, and are therefore good reasons to be rejected outright.

I hope our ADUNs and MPs are good listeners and takes on board dissenting views with good spirits and aplomb. Kudos to the magnanimous Minister of Education who exhibited masterly PR skills in news releases when confronted with those rabble pack of university students.

Inability or unwillingness to make use of the inputs would perpetuate the culture of fawning, selective information gathering and processing so prevalent before albeit in a new Malaysia Baru form.

We however are not willing to be a party to this bodek culture and will never temper our views just because they prick our ADUN’s, MP’s or Minister’s ego.

Our political leaders are well-advised to view the UK comedy of the early 1980s, Yes Minister, which embodies authority and politics as a hypocritical world filled with double talk.

Dato’ Dr Musa Mohd Nordin
Prof Awaluddin Shaharoun

A helm to grasp, a course to steer and a port to seek

29 May 2018
“A helm to grasp, a course to steer and a port to seek”

Generically, we medical doctors are politically naïve. Doctors #Tun MM and #Datin Seri Wan Azizah are the outliers in our profession, in a good way actually.

So we stick to the stuff we do best, to cure sometimes, to relieve often and to comfort always. But when confronted with a malignant tumor or a brewing septicemia, without hesitation we are trained to execute radical surgical excision or institute powerful intravenous antibiotics.

And we sensed this scenario rearing its ugly head soon after 9 May 2018. Sticking our clinical noses into the post GE14 ambience, we are perturbed by the political nuances displayed by some of our Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders.

What is the wisdom or traction to be achieved by now suggesting post GE that “rising cost of living and the unpopular #GST were the top reasons voters swung to #PH”

It only invites derision and outrage from a large segment of PH supporters who would swear that the historical PH triumph boils down to the aura and popularity of #Tun MM.

Way back, when the opposition was still in the wilderness and finding its footings, when the idea was first mooted that #Tun MM must lead the alliance and be the PM designate, it was vehemently opposed by most in the coalition especially from PKR because it meant overshadowing the iconic PKR supremo DSAI.

It is not too far fetched to suggest that best friends became estranged and alienated. Some, being loose cannons and not much of a team player, virtually left party matters and focused on big data processes which undoubtedly was another critical success factor for PH.

But a few PH team centric guys pursued this #Tun MM for PM idea cautiously but firmly. As shrewd and wise strategists they endeavored to get the best outcome while minimising collateral damage inadvertently and eventually turned over the sceptics in PH.

This immediately transformed the opposition into a solid front that warmed to the cynical electorate who were dismayed at the earlier fractured ranks of the opposition forces. For the first time a PM designate was in place. For the first time the component parties agreed to a single logo. The first 100 days promises were enumerated in simple lingo and info-graphics. And PH were first to launch their manifesto well ahead of a nervous BN. The rest as they say is history.

In the final analysis, multiple factors contributed to the sweet PH victory at GE14. To inflate the GST and cost of living factor or for that matter the #Tun MM factor as the overriding critical success factor is much too simplistic and worse still, derogatory of other factors or other persons or other hidden hands who similarly contributed to the peaceful transition of power.

Let us instead move forward with the monumental task of rebuilding our beloved nation which has been plundered by the despicable and kleptocratic political governance of the previous administration.

PH political leaders must embrace and manifest the decorum and adab to inspire confidence and continuing support from the rakyat. Failing which, the PH leadership should discipline them appropriately to ensure that the coalition spirit is always cherished and “lone rangers” are not given a free rein to destroy the fabric of the PH camaraderie.

Let us as the rakyat, cleanse our hearts and minds of aspersions of our new leaders and allow them the space and time to get the nation back on its feet

Let us be aware of the elements in our society who are not happy with the new government and are bent on destroying it

Let us be conscious of the widespread fake news online which are planned and planted to sow discord and hostilities of the rakyat towards our elected leaders and government

Let us pray that God Al-Mighty bless our #Tun MM with good health` and longevity, because he “resembles the commander of a ship at sea. He must have a helm to grasp, a course to steer and a port to seek” to paraphrase the American historian Henry Adams.

It is a given that those who aspire to be leaders of men must have qualities that enable them to discharge their duties not only effectively but also with utmost integrity and thus the “helm to grasp”.

The new “course to steer” as manifested in the Buku Harapan lends primacy to reforming and rebuilding our once esteemed institutions of the state.

Our Malaysian ship has a new captain, #Tun MM, to chart a new course, to steer to a “port to seek” where we all seek to live harmoniously and desire that the bounty of the land be shared equitably among its people.

This Malaysian ship must not be left floundering. We all owe it to our future generations. Failure is not an option!

 

Dr Musa Mohd Nordin, Damansara Specialist Hospital

Dr Johari Bux, Tung Shin Hospital

Doctors to Doctors talk

18 May 2018

Doctors to Doctors talk

When YAB Tun announced that he would be holding the education ministry and YB Kak Wan the women’s affair, we flipped!

And upon reading this morning’s Star headlines; “Anwar: Ministerial posts for top two not contrary to manifesto” – we double flipped!

Is everyone simply being polite to YAB Tun when he rationalized his masterplan to rejuvenate the Malaysian education system? Didn’t the young Turks, the likes of YBs Dr Dzul, Khalid Samad, Chin Tong, Izzah et al in the political forum who were always loud and dissenting (in a good way) responded to YAB Tun’s plans to revolutionize the learning and teaching of our young minds.

It is as if they were mesmerized by YAB Tun or still in cloud 9 post-GE14 euphoria, or more probably it was like they “tak sampai hati” to speak against an old man’s “dying wish” for his nation’s children and their future.

We, hard core clinicians, maybe politically naive in the bargaining and jostling of political posts in the new cabinet but as far as Tun and Kak Wan are concerned we are clinically convinced on the grounds of “Evidence Based Politics” (EBP) that neither should hold portfolios in the Pakatan Harapan cabinet.

As PM and DPM, they should be the Master Jedis on the “Pakatan Harapan High Council”, mentors of the PH-Padawans, guardians trusted with the fiduciary duty to oversee the new cabinet to ensure the cherished values of Competency, Accountability and Transparency (CAT) of political governance are fully operational.

There are plenty of talents in the PH coalition and our guess is that Tun would be simply spoilt for choice!

And if our reading of Kak Wan is correct, she would not want to stay a minute longer in the cabinet!

Besides, we do not want to gestate another family dynasty in the new PH cabinet – we just rid of one on 9 May 2018.

Dr Musa Mohd Nordin
Damansara Specialist Hospital

Dr Johari Bux
Tung Shin Hospital

Permissibility of Rotavirus Vaccines

It looks like the porcine conundrum is making its rounds yet again.

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2017/07/24/medical-practitioners-affected-by-halal-debate-over-vaccination/

Suffice to begin the narrative by quoting a verse each from the Quran and the Hadiths which sums up the compassionate and humane nature of Islam.

Allah SWT says in Surah Al-Hajj 22:78: “And strive for Allah with the striving due to Him. He has chosen you and has not placed upon you in the religion any difficulty.”

And an authentic tradition narrated by Aisha (RA): “If given an option between 2 actions, the Prophet (SAW) would surely choose the easier one, as long as it is not sinful.” (Bukhari & Muslim)

And we firmly believe this spirit and approach pervades the corpus of the jurisprudence of facilitation (Fiqh Taysir). And at no point it time does it blemish the belief nor practise of the faithful because the Muslim scholars have anticipated these challenges of modernity and have reiterated, “Allah will bless the believer who recognises and engages with the new world, yet remains true to his religious values.”

History will testify that the Muslim scientists dominated virtually all aspects of knowledge and research from 600 – 1700 AD. Az-Zahrawi (930-1013 AD) the father of modern surgery was pioneering new surgical instrumentations when Europe was restricted by a religious edict in 1163 AD which instructed as follows; “All forms of surgery must be stopped in all medical schools by all surgeons.”

Is it any wonder that Martin Kramer, an American Historian wrote; “Had there been Nobel Prizes in 1000, they would have gone almost exclusively to Muslims.”

Somehow, the Muslims lost it along the way but the following hadith continues to inspire Muslims to catch up on lost ground and rejuvenate their quest for leadership in the sciences; “A word of wisdom is the lost property of a Muslim. He should seize it wherever he finds it.” (Tirmidhi)

It is in this vein that the contemporary Muslim scholar, Syakh Yusuf al-Qaradhawi has said to the effect; “Two areas of human activities (muamalat) which requires cutting edge edicts (fatwa) are economics and medicine.”

Hence, it is not surprising that the many Councils of Jurisprudence, all over the world, eg European Council of Fatwa & Research (ECFR) chaired by Syakh al-Qaradhawi,  has deliberated profusely on the many issues related to medicine and biotechnology. These Councils like the ECFR were kept informed of the latest and best practices in medicine by regular meetings with the likes of the Islamic Organisation of Medical Sciences (IOMS) based in Kuwait.

The issue of the use of substances of porcine origin in food and medicine is an archaic one. Nonetheless, the ECFR has comprehensively dealt with it, when deliberating the permissibility of the use of Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) which is manufactured using porcine based trypsin. This was published in their 11th Session of the ECFR held from 1-7 July 2003, in Stockholm.

The ECFR argued as follows:
a) what God forbids is the partaking of pork, and trypsin has nothing to do with pork

b) even if we admit that trypsin is forbidden, the amount used in preparing the vaccine is negligible, if one applies the rule that “when the amount of water exceed 2 qullah (216 litres)”, impurities no longer affect it”

c) supposing that trypsin is unclean, it is thoroughly filtered, that it leaves no traces whatsoever in the final vaccine

d) in case the three arguments forwarded are still insufficient, the haram (forbidden) is made permissible in cases of necessity.

In their concluding remarks they emphasized, “The Council urges Muslim leaders and officials at Islamic Centers not to be too strict in such matters that are open to considered opinion and that bring considerable benefits to Muslim children, as long as these matters involve no conflict with any definite text.”

Such is the latitude of rationale and magnanimity of our religious scholars (fuqaha) in addressing the bigger picture of child health, child survival strategies and the advocacy of life saving vaccines.

Rotavirus is the leading cause of severe and fatal diarrhea in infants and young children. Virtually every child in the world would have been infected with the rotavirus  (RV) by the age of five years. Globally, rotavirus gastroenteritis kills 527,000 (475,000-580,000) children under five and is responsible for millions of hospitalizations and clinic visits each year. Ninety-five percent of rotavirus deaths occur in developing countries in Africa and Asia. Muslim majority countries, Pakistan and Nigeria are 2 of 5 countries  which together contribute up to half of the global RV diarrheal deaths in 2008.

 

The manufacturing process of the two oral vaccines (OPV and RV) are similar, involving the use of minute amounts of trypsin which is later removed by ultra-filtration. Therefore, the pivotal judicial edict of the permissibility of OPV, by the European Council for Research & Fatwa can be similarly   applied to the RV vaccine.

 

RVGE  continues to scourge our youngest and most vulnerable, killing more than 1,200 children under five each day. The human tragedy is that RVGE is a vaccine preventable disease (VPD) and many of these deaths can be averted by universal mass vaccination with the RV vaccine. RV vaccination offers the best protection against severe rotavirus diarrhea, and have been shown to save lives in countries which have incorporated RV vaccines in their National Immunization Program (NIP).

 

About 90 countries in the world have introduced RV vaccination in their national  immunization program (NIP). Muslim countries which have included RV vaccination in their NIP include Pakistan, Morocco, Iraq, Bahrain, Qatar, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates and Jordan,

 

The RV vaccine has been in use in Malaysia since 2006. Since it is not part of the Malaysian National Immunization Program (NIP), it is mainly utilized in the private health sector.

 

A study of under-5 mortality in Malaysia in 2006 showed that there were 1,699 deaths. Deaths due to diarrhea was the number 3 cause of deaths, contributing 83 deaths (4.9%), after congenital anomalies (25.1%) and pneumonia deaths (9.2%). This is unacceptably high for a country moving towards a developed nation status. Many of the developed nations in Europe, US, Canada and Australia have included the RV vaccine in their NIP.

 

Discharge records from government hospitals showed that the cumulative risk of RV related disease by 5 years of age was 1 in 61 for hospitalizations and 1 in 37 for out-patient clinic visits. The out of pocket cost associated with RVGE admission was estimated at RM 106-799 in 2009,  which was 26% of the studied household income. The mean parental day work loss associated with RVGE admission was 4.8 days. All of these data suggest that the burden of RV disease is considerable and would be a substantial drain on the nation’s health expenditure.

 

At present there are no other medicines or substances which can act as an alternative to the present two oral RV vaccines. These have been studied in virtually all regions of the world and proved to be effective, safe, cost-effective and are life saving.

It behoves Muslim healthcare providers as well as religious leaders to propagate this information especially its similarity with the polio vaccination program and work to increase the utilization of the RV vaccine generally and specifically its inclusion in the NIP of Malaysia.

 

Lessons can be learnt from a precedent, an earlier fatwa issued on the use of OPV which is similarly manufactured using trace amounts of porcine trypsin. The European Council of Fatwa and Research (ECFR) chaired by Dr Yusuf al-Qaradawi and consisting of numerous renowned scholars in the Muslim world, when allowing the use of OPV added that; “the hesitation of some parents to have their children immunized with this vaccine (OPV) poses a risk to Muslim children alone. At the same time, it gives an unfavorable image which portrays Muslims as hindering a process that aims to eradicate, with God’s permission, the existence of this disease on earth once and for all. After all, this eradication cannot be complete while there is even one child on earth carrying the virus.”
We have learnt and read fatwas from religious scholars in Malaysia which unlike the ECFR and IOMS et al are individual-centric, random, ill-researched and anecdotal in nature. Their lack of grasp and understanding of the new science have made them ultra-conservative, restrictive and prohibitive in their religious edicts.

The Federation of Islamic Medical Associations (FIMA)  has endeavoured to mainstream evidence based medicine (EBM) of the highest quality and which should henceforth  dictate our best clinical practices. And importantly, it is sanctioned as Shari’ah compliant by the highest authorities of jurisprudential scholarship among Muslim scholars world-wide. This excellent collaboration of the best brains in medicine and jurisprudence has lightened the burden upon the Muslim Ummah (community). It has not only truly embraced the jurisprudence of facilitation (Fiqh Taysir) but also the jurisprudence of realities & priorities (Fiqh Waqi’ah) and the jurisprudence of balance (Fiqh Wasatiyah).

We urge the religious authorities to take cognisance of the invaluable heritage of medical fatwas that is before us and not attempt to reinvent the wheel. They should instead incorporate these shari’ah compliant best clinical practise into the corpus of our nation’s jurisprudence in medicine.

Dato’ Dr Musa Mohd Nordin FRCPCH (UK)
Chairman, Federation of Islamic Medical Associations (FIMA) Advisory Council

musamn@gmail.com

MPF Merdeka Call

31 August 2016

A Merdeka Call for Muslim religious scholarship and stewardship to righteously and effectively manage contemporary national challenges

Maszlee Malik PhD

Musa Mohd Nordin FRCPCH

Muslim Professionals Forum

 

  1. Introduction

 

The recent past has seen a plethora of incidents, which threatens to fracture the religious harmony that this nation has thus far enjoyed. The infamous “cow-head protest”, in Shah Alam in August 2009, against a proposed Hindu temple, displayed unveiled disrespect towards our Hindu citizens. More recently, cases involving shari’ah courts, consequent upon conversion of either spouse to Islam, battling for custody of their children has soured the relationship between Muslims and believers of other faiths.

 

Public statements and actions by national Muslim leaders and state religious authorities have further exacerbated the fragile religious situation. Unfortunately, the counter reaction by some quarters against these individuals and by extrapolation the religious institutions which  they represent has bordered on Islamophobia.

The emergence of these issues may be piecemeal and coincidental, but the pattern and trending is threatening the very fabric of our mutli-ethnic and multi-religious make-up. Never before has our nation witnessed such an excess of religious and racial strife since the bloody days of 13 May 1969. Many, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, has raised concerns over the apparent trend of majority Muslim Malaysia imposing their religious beliefs on the minority citizens.  There is also serious concerns that this is a purposive “divide and rule” agenda of the current leaders to create fear amongst the Muslim population (siege mentality) of the threat of the “others” and thus its  lackadaisical attitude and action towards these racial and religious incidents, which in some intances even demonstrates its condoning of the situation. Unless this malicious abuse of political and religious authority is checked with an effective and just political and societal governance we are surely on the slippery slope of anarchy.

Performance of the Muslim religious authorities

Constitutionally, religious affair is the purview of the respective states headed by the nine state rulers and the YDP Agong in the other four states  and the Federal Territories. State governments through their religious authorities (Majlis Agama Islam Negeri) oversee Islamic religious activities, and the shari’ah courts.

 

The religious awakening among Muslims in the 1990s has raised their expectations of the state religious authorities and their  management of Muslim affairs. Of late, there has been much discontent among Muslims  of the performance of the state religious authorities in their dispensation of justice and equity as mandated by the shari’ah.

 

The conservatives have chosen to support the religious authorities despite their flaws, which they do as an act of religiosity. Whilst, the liberals have called for the  total abolishment of the religious authorities, including  at the federal level, and rendering religion to the personal domain.

 

We would postulate that the majority of Muslims in  Malaysia are moderate in their views and would thread the middle ground (wasatiyah) in their acceptance of the presence of the religious authorities but are more open to the divergent religious opinions. The Selangor religious authority’s appointment of female shari’ah court judges was overwhelmingly welcomed by many who generally consider the religious authorities as being gender biased. Criticisms of the management of the khalwat issue, child custodianship and  the ineffectiveness of zakat distribution has rhymed very well with these critical Muslim individuals and NGOs who demand transparency, accountability and competency of the religious authorities at both the federal and state levels.

 

The over-institutionalisation and abuses of “Official Islam”

 

The current discourse on  Islam and Islamic law in the public and private spaces is highly inflammatory. We are witnessing  reactions and counter reactions; rivalries and hostilities between the conservative and liberal factions  whch is creating a lot of conflicts within the Muslim community in Malaysia, let alone the inter-faith exchanges.

 

This chronic intra-faith clash of theology and sociology,  would only confer benefit to the ruling establishment. Faced with the onslaught of the liberal Muslims and islamophobia in general, the state and federal governments would  appease the Malay Muslim majority by actively sponsoring activities and programs aimed at defending the religion and fronting themselves as the protectors and champions of the religion of Islam.

 

This would further heighten the angst of the liberal Muslims who would counter more ferociously with their push  for de-Islamization of the state and federal religious insitutions. Threatened by this anti-religious fervour  of the liberal Muslims, the conservatives conclude that the liberals are songsang (deviant) or a greater evil relative to the ruling government, because their uncompromising demands is synonymous with waging war against Islam and Muslims. Even though there is a prevailing perception that the current leaders are corrupt, the “conservative discourse” potrays the ruling government as the lesser evil and who protect the “ketuanan Melayu” and “kesucian Islam”. Thus, the Malay Muslims  must accept the status quo despite the perceived weaknesses of the ruling government.

 

The fine manipulation of race and religion for pragmatic political ends by the political establishment is the major stumbling block for genuine reforms of the religious mindset of Malay Muslims and the relevant religious institutions in Malaysia. This gerrymandering of the religious mindset and institutions was further engineered after 2008 when the BN government  was denied  its two thirds majority in  parliament, and lost five major states to the opposition coalition. The BN government clearly understood the emotions of Islam in the hearts of the majority Malay Muslims. Many Malays, whether a practising Muslim or otherwise,  would die to defend the ‘sanctity of Islam’ if anybody threatened to ‘belittle’ or ‘undermine’ Islam, This perennial fear-mongering of the threat of deviant liberal Muslim and the “infidels”  to dismantle our Islamic religious instituions has succesfully embedded the  ‘siege-mentality’ in most Malay Muslims. The present government’s support of the preferential tabling of the “Hudud Bill” is one such smart politico-religious move to continually nurture trust from the conservatives and protract intentionally the archaic and counter-productive debate surrounding hudud which is virtually impossible to be implemented within the current constitutional framework.

 

Embracing universal values for our common god

 

Despite the exclusiveness of each and every religion, there are nonetheless many parallel and common values which are universal in character.

 

One such principle is the equality  of all mankind, which was highlighted in Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) final sermon during his farewell pilgrimage (khutbah al-wida’):

“All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action.” (Narrated by Ahmad)

 

Another is the spirit of ‘ukhuwwah’, which philosophically connotes and implies a much wider meaning than captured by the term ‘brotherhood’. The concept of ukhuwwah is not exclusive but is both inclusive and universal. It encompasses comprehensive solidarity not only amongst Muslims, but also towards other fellow human beings which Islam considers as brethrens in humanity.

In this context, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was reported as saying that: “You will not enter Paradise until you have faith, and you will not have faith until you love each other. Shall I direct you to something, which if you fulfill it you will love one another? Spread peace among yourselves”. (Narrated by Muslim)

This inclusive Islamic discourse which embraces and mainstreams universal  values and good decorum and ethics should be assimilitated within the Malay Muslim mindset, among followers and leaders alike. The call of Islam is not towards the homogenisation of society into one culture, identity or faith but the observation and practice of good conduct and civility so as to ensure that diversity will nurture peace and the common good. The Qur’ān proclaims that differences among human beings will remain (see al-Quran: 11:118–19). Hence, it is neither possible, nor commanded, to make everyone believe in one faith (see al-Quran: 10:99). Peaceful co-existence with the other and mutual respect has always been the fundamental teaching of Islam. This is manifested through Islam’s commands to respect other faiths, to avoid interfering in matters concerning other religions (see al-Quran: 109:1–6), prohibitions against any form of compulsion and coercion in faith (see al-Quran: 2:256, 272; 10:99) and rebuking or insulting other faiths (see al-Quran: 6:108).

 

Religious hegemony and intolerance in a pluralistic society will invariably result in conflict and will only frustrate the claim that Islam is a religion of compassion, peace and freedom. Peaceful co-existence and harmonious cohesion with other religious communities has been well documented in Islamic history since the Prophet began his call to Islam in Makkah and unfolded one of the greatest political documents in human history. Sahifah al-Madinah or the constitution of Madinah (622 AD) embraced 20 major principles which included a treatise on Unity, Diversity, Conduct, Fighting Injustice, Search or Striving for Peace, Freedom of Religion and the Rule of Law. Another illustrious model was the La Convivencia in Andalusia during Islamic rule in Spain. The spirit of mutual respect and recognition did not only flourish   the Islamic civilisation, but also enhanced the Christian and Jewish intellectual and cultural traditions. Therefore, mutual respect and recognition of other believers and their beliefs are sacred and sine qua non to ensure a harmonious and peaceful co-existence.

 

Proposals for transformation

 

  1. The call for reform must not be derivedfrom a liberal and secular world view, but rather from within Islam itself. The attempt to reform the religious authorities should be seen as an Islamic transformation program which is both  important and urgent. The Muslim public should be informed that the status-quo needs to be transformed into a more Islamic institution which promotes and protects the universal values of human dignity (karamah insaniyah), justice, brotherhood of man, equality, professional competency, accountability, transparency and peaceful pluralistic co-existence
  2. Although many Muslims are unhappy with the performance religious authorities, both at the federal and state level, they do not however call for its total dissolution. That would be perceived as an act of blasphemy, and a declaration of war on Islam. The call to abolish JAKIM was  counter-productive  towards attempts to reform the religious authorities. It only reinforced the  conservatives’ discourse of the anti-Islamic agenda of the liberal Muslim in cahoots with the “infidels”. Thus, reforms of the religious authorities and the manner Islam is being administered at both the state and federal level must avoid any calls for the abolishment of any religious institutions.
  3. It is most unfortunate that one too many public statements of Muslim religious leaders have exposed their naivety of the decorum and demands of a pluralistic co-existence. And when their proclamations are criticised, the conservatives will blindly defend them instead of defending the values of truth, justice and ethics. To prevent or mitigate these incidents, one should consider reformation of the process of credentialialing of Islamic scholarship.  Evidence has shown that a holistic religious and academic apprenticeship (tarbiyah) would nurture a religious leader who is more thoughtful, wiser and scholarly in his public engagements and pronouncements. It has also been demonstrated empirically that  religious leaders who underwent the rigors of formal academic scholarship were more open-minded, receptive of   new ideas, and were more willing to engage in inter-faith dialogues. Furthermore, a better grasp and understanding of the lingua franca, and international exposure, would enhance one’s perspectives of the contemporary and problematic  issues of a pluralistic society.
  4. Moderate Muslim NGOs should step up their game, be more vocal and visual and claim the middle ground which has thus far been hijacked by racist Muslim NGOs who claim to be the legitimate representation of the Muslim voice. They ought to engage actively with other faith and non-faith organizations and hustle for more presence in the media. This would empower them to shape public opinion and debunk the false notions of race and religion, the parochial understanding of equality and ukhuwwah and their blatant impingement on other religions. The viewpoints of the moderate Muslim NGOs is important to bring some sense of mutual respect and decorum to the radical rhetoric and the racist nuances of a few Muslim NGOs.
  5. Individuals, organisations, corporate and business entities who envisage a better and harmonious future for Malaysia should engage with these moderate Muslim organizations. Multi-faith and multi-cultural activities of these organisations should be supported and funded to enhance the harmonious relations between the multi religious and multi ethnic communities in Malaysia. Proliferations of these truly Malaysian activities would nurture an atmosphere of muhibbah, engender trust and mutual respect and foster authentic religious scholarship and inter-faith exchanges.
  6. A neutral, non-governmental, and non-political platform is required to coalesce Muslim scholars, intellectuals and like-minded academics to embrace this inclusive discourse. This healthy conversation is currently being orchestrated by a few progressive Muslim organizations, but there should be a concerted effort to bring them together. And once this platform has been consolidated, it should initiate coalitions with other faith and non-faith organizations as part of a collective effort of the community towards combating radicalism and extremism.
  7. Unfortunately, the religious discourse in the public space has been monopolized by the establishment and its wide network of official and non-official apparatus. The purity of the Islamic discourse has been politicized to serve the political end points of the government in office. There are many moderate, open-minded Islamic scholars, intellectuals and academics who embrace the inclusive discourse of Islam and challenge the current paradigm of exclusivity, intolerance and rigid thoughts (jumud). There is an increasing presence of these asatizah (religious scholars) on alternative religious forums either on social media or conventional platforms who possess and demonstrate expertise in various areas of Islamic scholarship eg maqasid shari’ah (higher objectives of Islamic jurisprudence), usul fiqh (the principles of jurisprudence), ulumul quran (sciences of quran) and ulumul hadith (sciences of hadith). The young, middle class and educated Muslims and the other faith believers are warming up to this authentic Islamic scholarship which is based on sound evidences from the quran and hadiths, understood within the right context and ideas derived appropriately to meet the demands of the changing times.
  8. Nurturing the culture of mutual respect and mutual learning from an early age is crucial in nation building. Ignorance or lack of exposure of our young to the multi-faith and multi-racial make-up of our communities will lead to misconceptions, prejudices and distrust which is a sure recipe for racial and religious conflict.A muhibbah curriculum of “race, religion and culture in Malaysia” as a core subject in schools and campuses would help to nurture young minds who are schooled of the plural nature of our communities and are taught to be sensitive and respectful of the other. It wasn’t too long ago in the 60s and 70s when the multi-ethnic composition of our classrooms facilitated the spirit of togetherness and muhibbah despite our different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. However, this educational legacy has been eroded by the choices of parents to send their children to private Islamic schools and Tahfiz (Quranic memorization seminaries), national ethnic schools, private and international schools. Major educational interventions needs to be considered to reverse this unhealthy schooling trend for the future of our national unity and harmonious co-existence.

 

Conclusions

 

Allah has created all human beings with honour and dignity, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, and has elevated their status above His other creations. Almighty Allah says in the Quran (17:70);

“We gave honour and dignity (karamah) to the children of Adam”

 

As much as we would like to be honored and shown dignity, we have to recognize the dignity and honour of others. We need to understand and respect other’s religious beliefs and cultures. There is a pressing need for the citizens of multi-religious Malaysia to know and respect other’s religious beliefs and to work together. Authentic understanding and mutual respect of the other helps to evolve a sustainable religious harmony in our national quest to rebuild a “Better Malaysia” founded on the universal values of justice, equality, brotherhood, mutual benefit (masalih mushtarakah) and the dignity of humanity.

 

And as the vicegerent (khalifah) of Allah on earth and inheriting the vast treasures of peaceful initiatives of our predecessors, we Muslims need to do much better and should be exemplary in our actions and deeds towards the adherents of other faiths. Unfortunately, the Muslim leadership and its institutional apparatus in multi-religious Malaysia has fallen short of its vicegerency role to administer the communal quest for adl wa ihsan (justice with fairness and mercy) and the preservation of public interest (maslahah amah) towards all the racial and religious communities in this country.

 

The various initiatives for transformation suggested are not an exhaustive list of critical success factors. They are however pivotal issues which needs to be urgently and carefully addressed in order to nurture trust and mutual respect of the other, to harness the potential of the various faith (and non-faith) communities, to inspire a common national goal and to achieve a harmonious co-existence which would enhance national growth and prosperity for all communities in this country.

Political Accountability: An Islamic Viewpoint

Dr Maszlee Malik, Advisor, Muslim Professionals Forum (MPF)
Dato’ Dr Musa Mohd Nordin, Director, MPF

Accountability of the ruler is often used synonymously with  concepts such as answerability, enforcement, responsibility, blameworthiness, liability and other terms associated with the expectation of account-giving. The concept of accountability is a condicio, crux of the ideals and the hallmark of good governance. The concept originated from the ethics discourse which had several meanings but its application and expansion has distanced it from its original meaning. In the modern usage, the term accountability is synonymous with ‘responsibility’ and ‘answerability’. Upon electing the executive into office with the mandate to rule, tax, spend, legislate and enforce policies and laws; the citizens demand of them accountability. It is thus a double edge sword to keep in check the political executive from abusing their power and to ensure the effectiveness and efficiency of government operations.

Types of accountability
Accordingly, accountability functions as ‘the mechanism to control power, domesticating it and preventing its abuse under certain procedure by the governed upon the government which governs them’. The literature outlines eight types of accountability, namely: political accountability, administrative or bureaucratic accountability, judicial accountability, market accountability, managerial accountability, constituency accountability and professional accountability. Our focus is on political accountability, considering its relevance to our current political situation.

Political Accountability
Political accountability has been crucial in defining the rights of the citizen towards preventing injustice and tyranny by those in power. Its realisation will enshrine the very idea of good governance. It combines two major elements: enforcement and answerability. These two elements are often described as ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ accountability respectively.

Enforcement
Enforcement ensures free and fair elections which are institutional prerequisites for democracy. The “freeness” is manifested in the freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom to participate for every citizen; voter and party.

Free elections alone are not sufficient to guarantee the effective role of the accountability process. They must also be fair, whereby the rules and procedures are equally fair and protected from fraud and manipulation by those in power. For example, the elections should be held at regular intervals so that those currently in office cannot delay them indefinitely according to their political benefit.

Likewise, election as an agent of accountability empowers the voters to assess the policies and performances of their political leaders. Elected political leaders acquire their legitimacy through the voter’s voice. The result of elections might be understood simply as a declaration of who most deserve the honour of political authority.

Answerability
Answerability can be considered as the core function of accountability. Enforcement which is the foundation of parliamentary democracies, aims partly to make all parties involved to be answerable of their actions and deliverables before the people. To safeguard the answerability process, there must be ‘openness’ and ‘transparency’ in the governance process. These can only be achieved when two other major elements in an authentic ambience of accountability are present: a free mass media and  legislative scrutiny of the executive.

Freedom of the press is crucial  in any democratic country. It closely monitors the performance of the judicial, legislative and executive bodies. Thus, any abuse of office, corruption, malfunction of the system and its apparatus are reported to inform the public. An informed public would utilise its voting power to punish or reward politicians for their handling of the nation’s affair. A free press also creates an open space for the public and citizen groups to communicate with each other. Such communication undoubtedly plays a major role in a healthy democratic practice. It helps to raise political consciousness, enhances the free expression of ideas, stimulate proposals for reform, expose flawed thinking, reveal problems before they reach crisis point, mitigate errors, and articulate multiple facets of pressing national issues.

However, freedom of the media alone is inadequate without a proper mechanism to make the members of the executive answerable to the public. Answerability requires a legislative institution, which has the power to force the executive to explain its acts of omissions or commissions.  This requires the legislative to be constituted on the basis of three principles. First, the recognition of the legitimate right and role of the opposition in  all legislative matters. Second, the unrestricted parliamentary scrutiny of all policy matters, its formation, evolution and implementation. Third, the supportive role of parliamentary committees and government agencies. The active role of Anti Corruption Agency (ACA), Ombudsman or the Public Complaints Bureau in certain countries, Auditor General Office (AG), Public Accounts Committee, and other institutions must be allowed to undertake their task without any interference from the executive. Any regulation, act or law that restricts the freedom of these agencies is undemocratic and would jeopardise the accountability process.

In summary, accountability is the hallmark of good governance which embraces the enforcement of free and fair elections and answerability of the executive to the public in a political space of openness and transparency. The malfunction of any of these critical operating systems will retard national development and progress. However, the accountability system can only be highly efficient with the existence and support of other related concepts of governance such as rule of law, people participation and a higher degree of civil liberty. If political accountability is unheeded, neglected or dysfunctional, the citizen may inevitably resort to civil disobedience, street protests, rebellions or violent revolutions.

Islam and Political Accountability
Accountability in Islam derives from the concept of Amanah. Amanah as a political concept suggests that God has given the trust to human beings to deliver and promote His guidance through justice and fairness in their lives. Everyone becomes a recipient of such a trust and consequently has to stand in awe-filled reverence before his people towards whom and for whose sake he will be called upon to exercise his duty.  This concept is enshrined  in the Qur’an:
Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong: They are the ones to attain felicity.” (Qur’an, 3:104).

This verse and the similar illustrates that Islam promotes active citizenship through participation in governance. The spirit of al-amr bi al-ma’ruf wa nahy ‘an al-munkar (enjoinment of good and forbidding of evil) must be expanded from the exclusivity of spiritual-ritual dimension towards a broader and holistic horizon of moral, ethical, social and political responsibilities.

In harmony with the Quranic spirit, the Prophet was reported as saying:
Whoever amongst you sees anything objectionable, let him change it with his hand, if he is not able, then with his tongue, and if he is not even able to do so, then with his heart, and the latter is the weakest form of faith” (Narrated by Muslim).

Similarly, there are other analogous records which denote the Prophet’s position on the political life of the believers, amongst others his praise and recognition of anyone who stood against tyranny with the words of justice:
The master of the martyrs is Hamza, and whoever is killed speaking truth in the court of a tyrant ruler” (Narrated by al-Hakim).

Equally, on another occasion he justifies an act of accountability performed by an individual by associating it with Jihad:
The best Jihad is the word of truth to an unjust ruler” (Narrated by al-Tarmidhi, Abu Daud, and Ibn Majah).

These evidences from the authentic texts demonstrate  that ‘accountability’ is pivotal in articulating the purity of the spirit of amanah in political life. The high sense of accountability  empowers individuals, hence crystallising the true meaning of equality and allowing individuals to act as a benchmark for the community of believers. These inter-dependent and inter-relating concepts reveal a clear picture of how amanah works within a tawhidic worldview based society. Furthermore, in preserving and instilling the concept of accountability, the Prophet allowed himself to be accountable and criticised by his companions on many occasions. The Prophet was criticised by the companions on his decision regarding the positioning of the army during the battle of Badr. He was also urged to accept the companions’ proposal to fight the Makkan army outside Madinah when the Makkan troops were approaching Madinah during the battle of Uhud.

The practice of accountability in early Islamic political life could also be found during the period of Abu Bakr. He stressed the importance of accountability and the nature of individuals with authority in the community in his very first speech to the Muslim community after being elected as the Caliph by saying:
Cooperate with me when I am right, but correct me when I commit error; obey me so long as I follow the commandments of Allah and His Prophet; but turn away from me when I deviate” (Narrated by al-Hindi).

In fact, other companions often held him to account for his decisions and state administration. Furthermore, this was also the position of Omar when he was elected as the successor of Abu Bakr: in his very first speech after being appointed as caliph, he stressed the need for accountability in his administration, and the rights of every empowered citizen.

Omar’s policy on accountability did not end with the primitive style of verbal complaints and condemnations from the public. He established a specific office to deal with the public administrators’ accountability. The office was designed for the investigation of complaints that reached the Caliph against the officers of the State.

Another example of accountability practiced during the period of the rightly-guided Caliphs can be found in the famous letter written by the fourth Caliph, Ali ibn Abi Talib to his governor of Egypt, Malik al-Ashtar. In his advice to the governor, he asserts that:
Out of your hours of work, fix a time for the complainants and for those who want to approach you with their grievances. During this time, you should do no other work but hear them and pay attention to their complaints and grievances. For this purpose you must arrange public audience for them; during this audience, for the sake of Allah, treat them with kindness, courtesy and respect. Do not let your army and police be in the audience hall at such times so that those who have grievances against your regime may speak to you freely, unreservedly and without fear”.

Conclusion
The virtually total breakdown of  accountability in the the Malaysian political process is now evidently glaring for all too see. Officially formed in November 2006, the Coalition for Clean & Fair Elections (Gabungan Pilihanraya Bersih dan Adil) or BERSIH (meaning CLEAN in the national language, Malay), a coalition of NGOs, sought to reform the current electoral system in Malaysia to ensure free clean and fair elections. Her first public rally in the vicinity of the historic Dataran Merdeka in November 2007 was often credited for the shift in the political landscape in the 2008 general elections which denied the ruling Barisan Nasional (National Front) its two thirds palriamentary majority since 1969.

The most recent 2015 BERSIH 4 rally from 2pm, August 29th until midnight, August 30th attracted  massive peaceful public demonstrations in the streets of Kuala Lumpur, Kuching, Kota Kinabalu and concurrent Global BERSIH rallies in many capital cities. The demands were for free and fair elections, a transparent government, the right to demonstrate, strengthening the parliamentary democracy system, as well as saving the national economy. The fifth “economic demand” was in response to the alleged deposit of  RM 2.6 billion in the Prime Minister’s personal bank accounts, which his supporters claim is not corruption but a “political donation”.

And following on the BERSIH initiative, yesterday, 10 September 2015, a civil society document endorsed by 69 NGOs, outlined specifically the reforms needed for political funding to promote transparency and accountability. It was titled “Declaration on transparent and accountable political funding as the underlying framework to eliminate corruption and promote clean governance”

These responses by civil society are  authentic grass roots initiatives articulating accountability as a manifestation of amanah, to put in place operating systems that  prioritises the enforcement of free and fair election, ensure answerability of the executive within  a political sphere of openness and transparency, empower people participation in the political process, protect jealously civil liberties and safeguard the rule of law. Thus, no party, government or the opposition, would be spared from being answerable for their ex-ante and ex-post responsibilities. An effectual macro accountability system would only prevail within the tangible and real division of powers in any state. Without a real separation of power, as can be seen  absent in many countries, Malaysia included, a culture of accountability could never prevail. In the absence of a palpable atmosphere of accountability, ideal governance will unlikely be achieved.

Political Funding and Transparency: An Islamic Perspective

Dr Maszlee Malik, Advisor, Muslim Professionals Forum (MPF)
Dato’ Dr Musa Mohd Nordin, Director, MPF

It is widely accepted that the practice of good governance leads to higher investment and growth, hence development. And political accountability has been highly regarded as one of the sine qua non elements in the governance equation. Transparency in party financing as well as asset disclosure are amongst the crucial characteristics of political accountability in many developed nations. A myriad of researches and reports have shown that the lack of openness in money and politics has often contributed to the corruption of political finance. Thus, policymakers aspiring for sustainable national development must seriously address the transparency of money in politics.

Many researchers in the field of money and politics claim that too much money is either hidden, goes unreported, or is acquired from illicit sources. Secret money and corruption hurts the economy and the polity of a nation as well as distorts the behavior of politicians, hence development falters and citizen confidence in democracy wanes. Civil society in the developed world has begun to play an increasingly important role in the inquiry and unraveling of the sources of political party and campaign funds. This mechanism is however wanting in the developing world.

Why Transparency?
Disclosure is one of the many ways by which nations have tried to control the?flow of money into politics. From the perspective of the electorate and civil society, disclosure enables them to see the origins of political money, how it flows and how it may influence legislative behavior. To the politician or political parties, disclosure means giving up some modicum of privacy to gain credibility through the practice of accountability. The need for more disclosure laws means that parties simply need to be more open about their honest money and allow more transparency. In a democracy, disclosure reports are to politics, what financial statements are to businesses. Both are ‘accounting systems’; one for the accuracy of profits, the other for the level of ‘accountability’ of elected leaders.

Increasing emphasis on transparency in politics engenders a lot of benefit to the people and nation. It will first and foremost increase the legitimacy and credibility of the political governance. Illegal money can too easily find its way into the governance equation and cast aspersions. A “pornography king” was found to have contributed a large sum of money to the Labor Party in the U.K. and more than just eyebrows were raised. In Latin America, many still remember the financial scandal between the president of Colombia and the drug lords. Without disclosure, money can come from anywhere in the world, and in incredible amounts too. And since money often determines the victor in a political contest, the transparency of fiscal origins and its use are fundamental!

No disclosure means no enforcement is ever possible. Without disclosure reporting requirements for contributions, there would be no way to enforce campaign contribution limits. Without disclosure about spending, there could be no way of enforcing spending limits. Without disclosure of a donor’s identity and citizenship, there is no way to enforce bans on foreign contributions. Countries that have meagre enforcement of political finance will most likely have weak or non- existent disclosure laws.

Transparency builds confidence in the democratic process.  A government that is transparent, open and accountable enhances its credibility and enjoys the trust and confidence of its citizens. The rakyat  feels comfortable and reassured with their government and political leaders who are responsible and transparent about public and political finances. In contrast, the lack of transparency makes people lose confidence in both the government and the system.

Legislation on Financial Disclosure
Political financial disclosure can never be effective without both a legal framework and enforcement. In many countries that legislated political financial disclosure, the laws and enforcement principally contain two major structural components: 1) a provision that any financial donation or aid, including other resources such as loans or equipment etc., should be accurately and promptly reported to a designated agency/commission; 2) a disclosure law stipulates that all financial reports be made available to the public for review and analysis as soon as practicable.

Furthermore, any political financial disclosure laws would only be truly effective in promoting transparency and openness if it clearly expose five major crucial elements of the process: 1) The donor(s); 2) The amount of the donation/aid; 3) Time the donation/aid was made/given; 4) The recipient(s); the name of the party or candidate receiving the money or ?”anything of value”; 5) Purpose(s) of the donation/aid, by explicitly mentioning in detail the name of the vendor or person receiving the money identified by name and category of the expenditure.

If political parties, candidates and donors could be exposed transparently and in detail through these five elements in a timely manner and accessible to the public about their political financing arrangements, only then the laws would become useful.  Otherwise, it won’t add anything new or useful to the practice of governance.

However, getting transparency codified into law is a critical step. In many instances, disclosure and transparency often occurred randomly rather than planned for. The calls for more transparency in many countries only emerged after the exposure of big scandals involving political parties or government or politicians by the media. The classical example was the Watergate and the Enron scandals that eventually led to legal regulations on campaign finance in the US.

Nevertheless, there are a few countries who chose a gradual approach to disclosure by implementing “personal asset disclosure” as a way of opening the door for later, more comprehensive reporting by candidates and parties instead of having specific laws for political financial disclosure. Every country works through this at its own pace. In the US for example, it took almost 40 years between disclosure laws being enacted and disclosure laws being enforced.

The Islamic Experience
The Qur’an instructs:
“Allah commands you to deliver the trusts to those to whom they are due; and whenever you judge between people, judge with justice…” (Qur’an, 4: 58).

In another verse:
“Follow God, follow the Prophet, and those from among you who have been entrusted with authority” (Qur’an, 4: 59).

The fundamental principles of governance based on the Qur’anic concept of trust (amanah) and its implication on society are illuminated by these verses.

On elaborating the general idea of trust upon each individual, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said:
“Behold, each one of you is a guardian, and each one of you will be asked about his subjects. A leader is a guardian over the people and he will be asked about his subjects; a man is a guardian over the members of his household and he will be asked about his subjects; a woman is a guardian over the members of the household of her husband and of his children, and she will be asked about them; a servant of a man is a guardian over the property of his master, and he will be asked about it.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Amanah within the individuals’ self will create self-accountability to guide his conduct, which will create an inner feeling of responsibility to deliver the trust given and enable him to refrain from corruption and mismanagement.

Amanah is thus the underpinning philosophy for accountability, transparency and competency in serving the society whether in the public or private sector. Such a system with effective supporting institutions will bring the governance process closer to the notion of iman (faith) as the fruit of amanah. Furthermore, self-realisation of such concepts within individuals will contribute towards the micro-discipline of society.

The Prophet (pbuh) had demonstrated the articulation of amanah in his life as he was known, even before becoming a prophet, as al-amin (the trustworthy). Furthermore, in preserving and instilling the concept of accountability, the Prophet, as a leader, allowed himself to be held accountable and criticised by his companions on several occasions.

When Ibn Lutaybiyah an Amil (tax collector) during the time of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) returned to Madinah, he was seen loaded with tax revenues, and asserted that a substantive portion of the revenue was given to him as tokens from certain people. The Prophet (pbuh) reminded him saying:
“What is wrong with the man whom we appointed as a tax collector and he said this is for you and that was given to me? If he stayed in his parent’s house, would something be given to him?” (Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim)

On another occasion, the Prophet was quoted as constantly reminding his companions by saying:
“Whomsoever we appoint over an affair, we shall give him provision. What he takes after that is breach of trust.” (Narrated by Abu Daud )

The practise of transparency and accountability was also documented during the rule of the rightly guided caliphs. Omar, the second caliph, whilst delivering the Friday sermon was interrupted by an ordinary person who said,
“O the leader of the believers, I won’t listen to your sermon until you explain how you came up with your long dress (Arabian robe)”.

Apparently, there was some distribution of fabric to the people and given the measure of distribution and the height of Omar; he could not have made a dress out of his single share. So, a vigilant voice of egalitarianism unhesitatingly challenged Omar, the leader of a vast caliphate. Omar’s son stood up, explaining that he gave his share to his father, so that a dress could be made to fit Omar. The vigilant voice then expressed his approval and sat down, and Omar resumed his sermon (narrated by Ibn Qutaybah, 2002: 1/55).

Omar’s policy on accountability did not end with the primitive style of verbal complaints and condemnations from the public. As for the public offices, he established a specific office to deal with the public administrators’ accountability. The office was designed for the investigation of complaints that reached the Caliph against the officers of the State. When it was first established, Omar appointed Muhammad ibn Maslamah to take the responsibility of this ombudsman-like department. In important cases, Muhammad ibn Maslamah was deputed by Omar to proceed to the location, investigate the charge and take action. Sometimes an Inquiry Commission was constituted to investigate the charge. Whenever the officers raised complaints against him, they were summoned to Madinah, and the case was brought before the Caliph himself. The caliph also dismissed governors when the people complained against them; amongst them was the Prophet’s companion, Saad Ibnu Abi Waqqas (Majdalawi, 2000: 86 and 90). The same function was conducted in a later phase of Muslim history by a specially designed office known as Diwan al-Mazalim which can be understood as the classical version of the contemporary ombudsman.

Once while delivering a sermon, Omar said:
“My rights over public funds (the Baitul Mal) are similar to those of the guardians of an orphan. If well placed in life, I will not claim anything from it. In case of need, I shall draw only as much as it constitutionally allowed for providing food. You have every right to question me anything about, any improper accumulation of the revenue and bounty collections, improper utilization of the treasury money, provision of the daily bread to all, border-security arrangements and harassment caused to any citizen.” (Ibn Saad, no date: 3: 215-19)

Omar represents the authentic practice of transparency where a ruler, as well as the state officers, should have nothing to hide from the public and are open to scrutiny of their usage of public wealth.

On, the same account he was recorded by historians to have issued a certificate witnessed by the group of elders to all duly appointed governors stipulating that the governor should not ride an expensive horse, or eat white bread, or wear any fine cloth, or prevent the people’s needs (from being satisfied) (al-Tabari, 1994: XIV/ 113).

Conclusions
The scandalous undisclosed “donation” fiasco has unearthed the malignant and deep-seated corruption of political funding in Malaysia. This has inevitably led to the overwhelming trust deficit amongst the rakyat towards her political leaders. The lack of transparency, accountability and competency of the ruling political elite has angered the rakyat and civil society who are now demanding for answers and clamouring for change.

First and foremost, the highly controversial 1MDB issue must be thoroughly investigated by the civil institutions of the AG’s office, Bank Negara, MACC and the Police without any interference whatsoever from the Executive.

Next, the undisclosed “donation” must be similarly investigated by the due process of the law. Until and unless, these two “national fiscal tragedies” are resolved justly, the rakyat and civil society will not have any trust whatsoever in the sincerity or seriousness of the political leaders towards addressing the issues of political finance and funding.

These two pressing national issues once resolved, would pave the way for legislation not only on political funding disclosure but also asset declaration by all politicians and their immediate family members.

The disclosure laws would increase overall transparency and inform the public about the financial transactions of political parties, politicians and others involved in the electoral process. Among others it would disclose the public funding of election campaigns and financial information of political parties. It requires political parties and their branches, politicians, donors and others participating in the electoral process to lodge regular financial disclosure returns with a national electoral commission. These would be made readily available for public scrutiny.

The trust (amanah) needs to be guarded jealously and the disclosure laws is designed to serve just this purpose. It behoves at this juncture to narrate the admonition of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) when he said:

“Discussions are confidential (not subject to disclosure) except in three places: “Shedding unlawful blood, unlawful cohabitation and unlawful accumulation of wealth”. (Narrated by Abu Dawud)

A Youth Speaks

A Youth Speaks
Dr Shahreen Murray

I am a bumiputera. Yet I struggle to understand what that word really means. This magical ‘status’ has allowed me certain ‘privileges’ that, growing up, I saw denied to many of my equally deserving, non-bumi friends. I could not (and still cannot) grasp the concept of legalised discrimination in a country that prides itself on multiracial diversity. Slogans like 1 Malaysia get thrown around yet none truly appreciate its meaning. In my mind, we are ALL Malaysians so shouldn’t we ALL receive the exact same treatment in our own beloved country, irrespective of race? Apparently not.

My father is Chinese-Pakistani and my mother Malay-Arabic. I am thus categorised as a Malay due to my maternal heritage, and therefore bumiputera (eventhough my father’s family too, have been Malaysian citizens for generations). I am married to a British national. My kids, only being less than a quarter Malay, are classed too, as bumiputeras due to my ancestry. I have a close friend who is a Malaysian Chinese Muslim convert and married to a Dane. Despite being as Malaysian as my own children, their adorable 1 year old son will never see the same opportunities mine do.

Coming back to KL after almost 10 years abroad gave me a rude awakening. I have been slapped in the face with cringe worthy headlines such as ‘Hidup Melayu’ and ‘Cina tak tahu berterima kasih’. I have had many discussions (and some heated debates) over the years about the dire situation in our country. The points that I hear over and over again are essentially the same:

1) I am a disgrace to my race for being ungrateful (our honourable government has afterall, handed me my lifes opportunities on a silver platter). I should just be ‘thankful’ for being born a bumi and shut up. Anak zaman sekarang memang tak bersyukur. Diberi sikit nak mintak lagi.
First of all, I AM grateful. To my supportive family who has pushed me to achieve my dreams of becoming a medical doctor. To myself, for studying my arse off my entire life, getting the grades and graduating. To the Almighty, for giving me the opportunities and the strength to never give up, even when at times it felt like the only option.

I am NOT however grateful to my government. For it is their DUTY afterall, to serve the people, such as myself, to ensure the future generation have qualifications so we can continue to flourish the country. They are not doing it as an act of selfless altruism. They do it out of moral obligation. To fulfill their constitutional responsibility. They are elected (I use that term loosely) for the sole purpose of serving the rakyat. So no, I should not be made to feel grateful for what is expected of them to do.

I am also NOT grateful for their open thievery of our hard earned money. Too many people buy into their manipulations and hypocrisy. Malaysia is a blessed country indeed. Bright young minds, beautiful weather, good food, friendly people, abundance of natural resources. And yet, here we are. Despite all that we have going for us, we are way behind in the game.

Just take a look at our neighbours-Singapore. They have much less than we do-manpower, resources, years since independence-and yet are much more advanced in every way.

Our education system is failing (qualifications attained here unrecognised internationally), the health sector is so overloaded that many are forced to resort to public donations for life saving treatments, foreign investors are fleeing due to our economical and political instability, the rate of inflation is on a rapid ascend, the general income of a ‘moderate’ family is below meagre, housing and property costs are unrealistically high due to shady deals behind each tender, car prices are extortionately steep due to the 300% taxes implemented to support personal individuals’ AP incomes, we have one of the highest number of ‘tolls per km of highway’ in the world, zero accountability in relation to corruption/murder charges amongst the upper echelons, biased judiciary and policing..the list is endless.

Malaysia has taken a lot of beating and yet here we are, still standing. This is NOT a testament to our so called leaders but to the people. We are still standing not because of them, but rather in spite of them. Our very own ‘protectors’ steal 90% of what is rightfully ours and we should be GRATEFUL for being fed that measely 10% worth of scraps and accept it graciously as charity? It just does not add up.

2) The superheroes of UMNO and BN are using their roles as our leaders to PROTECT the Malays. Without bumi rights we will be oppressed in our own country.
Lets get one fact clear: the powers that be do not care for anyone but themselves. Not even Malays. If they did, our country will not be riddled with billions in debt (hello 1MDB), the ringgit would not be so weak, poverty rates would be lower than what it is and we would see our taxes be given back to society in the form of better education, higher salaries, improved health and reliable public transportation.

If they cared, they would not be using this whole bumi spin to create a racial divide between an otherwise peaceful nation. If they cared, they would strive to permanently improve living conditions in rural areas instead of just giving out a few hundred ringgit to families before elections to secure votes. If they cared they would listen to us, the people, and let our votes matter, instead of engineering the gerrymandering to unfairly win them the election.

If they cared they would eradicate the word bumiputera. Because this heinous word is NOT about helping Malays. It is about helping themselves. Its about divide and conquer; keep the races apart to avoid unity and hence avoiding mutiny. Which explains why the same corrupt party has ruled, iron fisted, for decades. This tactic has been used countless of times throughout history and has worked its dark magic well. The Malays are tricked into a false sense of security; that they are well looked after. The non Malays breed a much justified resentment against the Malays and the cycle continues. We are all too busy bickering amongst ourselves to see the bigger picture. And in the meantime, a small minority of Malays are laughing all the way to the bank.

I was a MARA scholar. So imagine my shock and disgust when I found out about the Dudley House scandal in Australia. Now it made sense why there has been such a massive cutback on scholarships over the years. Rich influencial Malay government officials, stealing from a fund set up to help educate less fortunate Malays? This is just ONE example of how twisted the whole ‘protection of bumi rights’ is. No one is being protected; we are all being exploited in one way or another. And we are sadly lapping the propaganda up.

3) Bumi rights are there to protect Islam and its teachings.
This is a dangerous area. Please let us not confuse race and religion. In all my understanding of Islam, not once does it mention discriminating against another. Many verses in the Quran stress upon the fact that we are all equal in God’s eyes. The only thing that sets us apart is our piety and devotion to Him. Not the colour of our skin, not our race. If anything, this open racism is anything BUT Islamic.

My religion has taught me to respect others’ beliefs and to live in harmony. So even if the word bumi never existed, Islam in this country will still be Islam as it is stands today-a faith protected by the people practising it. Not protected by BN or UMNO.

And what about that Chinese convert friend of mine and many others like her? Shes a Muslim but isn’t entitled to receive bumi rights? Yes. Because bumi does NOT equal Islam. Malay does NOT equal Islam.

*Let me just add that there are MANY so called Islamic practises here that are UNislamic in nature, so much so that a renowned international Islamic Scholar once said that he was baffled at the ‘different Islam that exists here in Malaysia’…but let’s save that can of worms for another day.

4) The Chinese and Indians are more hardworking and successful. Without bumi rights, nanti apa nak jadi kat Melayu?
So they should be. If, from the day you were born, you were told that the only way up is through good ol fashioned hard work..wouldn’t that be exactly what you’d do? There is no magic DNA that exists in the blood of non Malays. They are not smarter neither are they better. They are however, pushed into a corner, resulting in them being more hardworking and resilient (I am generalising here). I have a lot of respect for my non Malay friends. They have been so patient and loyal to the country that has chewed em up and spat them out. If the shoe was on the other foot..I doubt I would be as forgiving.

We are all born with similar(ish) intellect and capabilities. Its how much effort we put in that counts. Those not being given handouts will inherently strive to perform better than those who are happy to settle with mediocrity due to a lifetime of being spoonfed. Its only natural. Einstein was dyslexic and a school drop out. Stephen Hawking has a debilitating motor neurone disease. John Nash was schizophrenic. Donald Trump was born into poverty by his immigrant mother. What do they all have in common? Adversity. And the drive to prove their worth, to carve their names in an otherwise unrelenting world.

It is human nature to want more when you have nought.

So if anything, the bumi status is creating a huge injustice for Malays. It is not so subtly implying that we need the help, because without it, we are incapable of helping ourselves. It is dumbing us down. It is undermining the efforts of those of us who actually work tirelessly to get to where we are.

I have lost count the number of times I get given a raised brow when I tell someone that I was a sponsored student. I know what they are thinking. They think that I merely got it due to my race and not the fact that I locked myself in my room for months before my International Baccalaureate finals to study. That I prepared for weeks before my University interview with foreign tutors to ensure that I excelled. And I don’t blame them. The word bumi has made Malays lose our credibility. And what frustrates me is, it should not have been this way. Malays are just as capable as everyone else in reaching for the stars. We just haven’t been given the opportunity to shine in our own light.

I’ve had the honour of meeting many successful hardworking Malays in my lifetime. In London where I worked, I knew 2 British born Malays (none of whom were remotely aware of what bumi even meant). One of them was a head professor in a reputable teaching hospital and the other a PhD holder who was soon to be the head of his specialist team. They are both Malays, born into a system where the only way to success is through hard graft and nothing else. Malays are just as capable as anyone else. Just give us a fair and equal platform to perform on. And may the best man win (Malay or otherwise). How else will Malaysia realise Her true potential if its not through the abilities of us, the future generation. Strip away the double standards and watch our countrymen rise to the occasion. Malays, Chinese, Indians, Sikhs, Kadazans, Dusuns and everyone else in between.
My rant is long and tiring. But so is our journey forward. Looking around me now, I see less and less of what’s left of the Malaysia that I knew (and loved) growing up. I watch my father, beaten from years of trying, and failing, to change the already damaged system in every little way he could.

Let us not give up hope. Let us continue to carry the torch that our parents held and strive for change. Let us, the new generation, keep our voices heard and never succumb to being bullied into silence. Let us not be lulled into a false sense of ignorance. Let us not allow recent events to doubt our respect and love for one another. We are all in this together. Let us unite once and for all, for ourselves, for 1 Malaysia. This is when we need each other the most.

Human relations in multi-religious Malaysia: Debunking the religious myths!

Maszlee Malik PhD
Musa Mohd Nordin FRCPCH
Muslim Professionals Forum (MPF)

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1. Introduction

The recent past has seen a plethora of incidents which threatens to fracture the religious harmony which this nation has thus far enjoyed. The “Cow-Head protest”, in Shah  Alam in August 2009, against a proposed Hindu temple in Section 23, displayed unveiled disrespect and hatred towards our Hindu citizens.  At least three churches in the Klang Valley were torched in early January 2010, by cowardly and utterly senseless act of a group of misguided, chauvinistic, religious bigots. This was later followed by arson attacks against two suraus in Muar in late January 2010. And most recently, on 20 April 2015, we witnessed the mindless act of incitement by 50 residents in Taman Medan over the display of a cross on a newly minted church.

These heinous acts of religious provocations, hatred and violence committed presumably in the name of Islam desecrates the very religion it purports to protect. Religious hegemony and intolerance in a pluralistic society will invariably result in conflict and will only frustrate the claim that Islam is a religion of compassion, peace and freedom.

Islam commands the believers to embrace diversity because it is part of the law of nature (Sunnatullah) that He created.

‘If your Lord so willed, He could have made mankind one people.’ Qur’an 11:118 ……..

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Solidariti Merentasi Perbezaan Mempertahankan Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradhawi

Genap setahun Maulana Abdul Kader Mulatlah, Setiausaha Agung Jamati Islami Bangladesh syahid di tali gantung akibat hukuman zalim Mahkamah Internasional di Bangladesh.

Untuk ingatan, sejak tahun 2010 lagi Perdana Menteri Hasina Wajed membentuk Mahkamah Internasional berkenaan isu kejahatan perang Bangladesh untuk mengadili mereka yang dituduh melakukan kejahatan di masa perang 1971. Namun pengadilan itu telah dikritik luas kerana menjadikan lawan politiknya mangsa dan sasaran dan bertindak tanpa melibatkan pengawasan PBB.

Hukuman penjara seumur hidup pada bulan Februari berubah menjadi hukuman mati pada bulan Disember pada 2013. Perubahan hukuman terhadap Abdul Kader Mullah berpunca dari protes golongan sekular yang menganggap keputusan asal terhadapnya terlalu ringan dan mendesak hukuman lebih berat dikenakan.

Human Rights Watch yang berpusat di New York sebelum itu mengatakan prosedur hukuman yang digunakan oleh mahkamah itu tidak memenuhi standard internasional.

Jelasnya ia satu momokan terhadap sistem keadilan, apabila disabitkan kesalahan dengan fakta yang meragukan dan penuh dengan sentimen politik dalaman Bangladesh.
Nah, kini Ummat Islam berdepan dengan satu lagi episod pemangsaan zalim dan kali ini terhadap Ulama tersohor, Prof Dr Yusuf Al-Qaradawi.

Langkah Interpol mengeluarkan waran tangkap terhadap beliau kerana didakwa terbabit dengan kegiatan kumpulan Ikhwanul Muslimin yang diharamkan kerajaan Mesir menampakkan pengguasa politik dunia yang sangat ringan terhadap sensitiviti Ummat Islam bahkan bersedia bersekongkol dengan regim diktator As-Sisi.

Tindakan Interpol jelasnya juga tidak langsung mempedulikan masyarakat antarabangsa yang mengenali tokoh cendiakawan Islam ini sebagai lambang ‘Kesederhanaan’ atau ‘Wasotiyyah’ Dunia Islam dengan kepemimpinan serta pencerahan bimbingan ilmunya, yang juga antara tokoh Ulama yang mempelupori ‘Dialog Antara Peradaban’  atau ‘Civilizational Dialogue’, sekaligus mampu menangani konflik dan ekstremisme beragama.

Semasa Kebangkitan Rakyat berdepan dengan kezaliman regim diktator Mesir beliau menekankan pendekatan aman secara demokrasi dan tidak mengizinkan Pemuda mengambil pendekatan kekerasan.

Apakah tindakan pemimpin negara Ummat Islam khasnya Malaysia yang pernah menganugerahkan beliau Tokoh Ma’al Hijrah sedikit waktu dahulu? Apakah respons kepimpinan negara-negara Ummat Islam khasnya dalam OIC?

Bahkan saya minta untuk melanjutkan penggemblengan Solidariti ini secara lebih ‘lnclusive’ dan meluas lagi dengan meminta supaya President Obama sendiri campur tangan dalam mempastikan permintaan Mesir tidak diraikan dan dilaksanakan INTERPOL.

Kalau Presiden Obama mampu melakukan Pemulihan Hubungan Diplomatik dengan Presiden Raus Castro dan Cuba, yang pernah ditanggapi Amerika Syarikat sebagai ‘Penaja Terrorisme’, maka tentunya Presiden Obama mampu mempastikan seorang tokoh Ulama terbilang di dunia Islam ini diberikan segala kemuliaan perlindungan dan tidak dihina sebegini.

Lanjutan itu juga Ummat Islam sangat berbesar hati sekiranya Pope Francis, Pontif Vatican, selaku mewakili 1.2 bilion warga Katolik Kritian menghulurkan Solidariti bagi mempastikan sekaligus gejala ‘Islamophobia’ dapat dikendurkan dalam perhubungan antara agama yang sedang melalui proses pemulihan mutakhir ini.

Membiarkan hanya Ummat Islam sahaja bertindak seolah-olah ini hanya isu Ummat Islam jelas mempamerkan erti ‘demokrasi yang lompang’ serta mengesahkan ‘hipokrasi yang mendalam’. Pastinya itu sangat mengaibkan buat pelupur dan penganjur sistem demokrasi di dunia ini.

Wajib untuk semua pemimpin negara ummat Islam bersekali dengan penggemblengan seluruh kepimpinan dan masyarakyat antarabangsa bertindak memberhentikan pemangsaan politik seperti yang dilakukan ke atas Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradhawi, bagi menjernihkan erti Kedaulatan Undang-undang atau Rule of Law dan maksud ‘Demokrasi Untuk Semua’!

Inilah antara langkah paling konkrit bagi menyuburkan budaya ‘Kesederhanaan (Moderation) dan Keharmonian Tamaddun Manusia’ dalam abad 21 Masehi ini dengan sama-sama membenteras ketidakadilan, kezaliman dan kediktatorian.

Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad, Pengarah Eksekutif Pusat Penyelidikan PAS