Monday, June 06, 2005

The one about dancing the cha-cha...

Hi there! Apologies for the long silence. Have to keep reminding myself not to let this blog die a natural death!

Recently, there has been much said about the state of Islam in our country and elsewhere. There has also been a crucial case on the Internal Security Act decided on Thursday. Basically, it all just feels like one step forward and two steps back... and a cha-cha-cha!

So, what's been happening? Well, Deputy Minister in the PM's department Dr Abdullah Mohamed Zin has duly informed us Malaysians that - when Muslims are at prayer, five times a day, all entertainment at those times – on radio, television, on stage, in night clubs, restaurants and elsewhere – must stop. Men and women at these places must be segregated at all times. The learned Deputy Minister says that the Islamic development department's new rules demands it.

"It does not matter if they are Muslims or non-Muslims, or if no Muslims are in the audience. It is a blanket rule all must agree, or face the consequences. The non-Malay and non-Muslim parties in the National Front (BN) did not object; the head of non-Muslim religions were not consulted. It sets religious freedom a step backward." says MGG Pillai, famed and fearless journalist on his website -

He goes on to interestingly comment that: "This unilateral official rewriting of Islam and its place in Malaysian society has nothing to do with Islam; it has all to do with a BN government caught in a squeeze between a failure of its governance and a Malay ground which finds its place in Malaysian society has declined despite constitutional protection and massive government policies meant for their sole benefit. Thirty-five years after, the Malay is as disadvantaged now as at the start of the New Economic Policy in 1970. The establishment hijacked the NEP in time, especially in the past two decades when the then prime minister, Tun Mahathir Mohamad, rewrote the rules to concentrate Malay wealth in a few favoured hands, who took that as a sign to rape and pillage at leisure. The beneficiaries were limited to a narrow band of UMNOputras, cronies of the establishment and hangers-on, their familes and those around them."

No dancing around rhetorics there.

There has also been huge reactions to stories of the Quran being desecrated in Guantanamo Bay. It has created furore amongst the Muslims worldwide and despite Newsweek withdrawing its original report, it remains a sore point and no less true. Whilst this is clearly an example of the US's misguided and excessive backlash against Islamic fundamentalism and what they see as terrorism; there is a fundamental difference between the written word and the word that is written. Admittedly, the bible does not have the same status to Christians as the Quran would have to Muslims. My religion taught me that if the physical book upon which the Word of God is written, is taken from me and destroyed, my faith remains. It is but a book and should be respected no more than any other book. The words which are in it, however are inspired by God and should not be forgotten.

The Quran is believed to be the exact words of God revealed to the Prophet Muhammad through the Angel Gabriel. The Arabic version is sacred as it is believed to be transmitted by God. Hence the physical attachment to the Quran by the Muslims. But my question is this - should there be a country in this world which bans the book in which the Quran is printed, would the Muslims in that country loose their faith? Or would they be considered less holy? The Word of God should live in all of us - and not find its permanent home inked upon paper invented by Chinese and printed by machines originally invented to print the bible.

The PAS AGM just finished and in their elections, new blood being the younger liberal leaders were brought into power showing a clear shift in their political intentions. Obviously the older clerics are seen to be past their "expiry" date. Although this would normally be seen as indicative of reforms within the hardline Islamic party, the failure of Dr. Siti Mariah Mahmud, their first woman candidate contesting a top post, to be elected showed that they are not ready yet to accept women in the upper ranks. Another two steps back...

On another topic, the Federal Court recently strengthened the draconian ISA by adding that the authorities have no time limit to act after an alleged offence. The judgment now means that anyone can be picked up and put back in detention even though they have committed no offence for years. Sigh...

I've gone on long enough. Just want to leave you all with this quote from Zainah Anwar from "Sisters in Islam":

"Faith that does not come from the heart is not faith. It's merely fear of punishment."

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