For my son, when he grows up, this site will be my legacy for him. The decisions his mother and I made for him, to understand them, to learn from them and to lead a life without prejudice and to succeed in it on his own merit.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Religion by colour

Are you more Islam than anyone

I don’t have any racist intention in this writing. My goal is to educate everyone that discrimination is not something that you want to go through in your life. I have gone through many levels of discrimination in my life right from primary school until today. It is not my fault to be born an Indian ethnic, Muslim and Malaysian.

By AO Musa

If I have a choice I will choose the best. What is most painful is the way society treats you. I’ve gone through this and now my children are going through the same problem. This situation has never changed from the past 32 years and in fact is getting worse every day.

I hope after you read this, you will better understand the feelings of a discriminated citizen. I’m proud of what I am and I prefer to be known as an Indian Muslim rather than change my race to Malay. This is my story ….

If you are an Indian in race and Islam in faith, then you will be automatically called a “convert”. That is what is planted in most of the Malays' brain in Malaysia, no matter whether adults or children. I don’t blame the children as they learned this from their parents.

For the past 32 years, I always get this from most of the Malays that I come across in my life. A Malayalee by race and Islam in faith has dragged me into this discriminated stance for as long as I can remember. “Saudara baru ke?” “Bila masuk Islam?” “Satu family ke masuk Islam?” is something that I am used to hearing. At first, I always took the trouble to explain to them that I’m Islam from the beginning and never converted.

However, at one point of time I started to question myself “am I surrounded by idiots or don’t I have any sign of Muslim in me?” At this point, I started to do my research about my own family background. I learned that my great grandfather on my mom's side was a dae’i migrated from Yemen to India somewhere in the 1800’s to start his life as a merchant and also to preach about Islam. Married to my great grandmother who is the daughter of one of the prominent Muslim leaders in the state of Kerala (but I’m not in any way associated with TDM!).

My grandfather was also one of the notable figures in Kerala who fought for the freedom of India as well as a highly respected religious teacher. It was told to me that when he passed away (3 days before I was born), the state of Kerala announced a public holiday as a sign of mourning and respect for his contributions to the country and the state.

My great grandfather on my father's side migrated to Malaya from India also somewhere in the 1800’s to become a religious teacher in Rawang. Rawang used to be a plantation area and the majority of the population there were Indians. There were a number of Malay communities but further down towards Serendah to Tanjong Malim. He was invited by the Indian Muslim community who migrated earlier since there were not many religious teachers around to educate their children. I was told that during this time, the Islamic knowledge among the Malays was very poor. Mixing religion and culture is something that blended into their daily life.

The point is, I couldn’t find the point when my ancestors converted to Islam. As far as I ccould track, all of them were Muslims. This makes sense since Islam was brought to India by Malik Bin Dinar somewhere in 625 AD. The first mosque built in India was in Kodungallur, Kerala in 629 AD which was about 22km from where my ancestors came from. There are high chances that they converted to Islam during the Prophet Muhammad's lifetime (571 – 632 AD).

Islam came to Malaya somewhere in the 12th-13th century. The Terengganu Stone Monument was found at Kuala Berang, Terengganu where the first Malay state to receive Islam in 1303, Sultan Megat Iskandar Shah, known as Parameswara prior to his conversion, is the first Sultan of Melaka. He converted to Islam after marrying a princess from Pasai, of present day Indonesia. The conversion of the Sultanate of Malacca by Rowther and Marakkar traders from Tamil Nadu into Islam is the milestone of Islamification of Malay people in Malaya or Tanah Melayu (fact from Wikipedia).

So, the Indian Muslims converted to Islam 700 years before the Malays even heard about Islam. History tells us that Islam is brought to Malaya by Indians, Arabs and Chinese and yet we are the ones called converts. Yes, we are converts and in fact all of us are converts. However, Malays should not forget that the Indians are 700 years senior than them in Islam.

Who is the “convert” now? Are you still telling me that you are more Islam than anyone else???

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Dave save the day

This is a clip from the movie "Dave". I wouldn't go into details about what the plot and story line is for this movie, but in essence, we look at everyday issues with such complex approach that we sometimes forget that the simplest of answer will just solve the day. Maybe our mind is only fulfilled if the problems are more challenging and we get a sense of accomplishment. Just view and see.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The right pedestal to speak up

The price of speaking up
By Jacqueline Ann Surin
CONSIDER this. Despite the available evidence of Al Islam's unethical undercover report in which the magazine's Muslim journalist spat out the holy communion to photograph, no action is going to be taken. The Attorney-General's Chambers decided this despite the police reports and a memorandum lodged by Catholics about the insensitive treatment of a holy sacrament in Christianity.

Then consider this. Because some Muslims perceive that Islam is being challenged by a non-Muslim journalist, English-language daily The Star could potentially lose its publishing permit. At the same time, because some Muslim groups have taken offence at a statement by Sisters in Islam (SIS), the Muslim women's group will likely be investigated under Section 298A of the Penal Code for causing disharmony and disunity on grounds of religion.

What exactly do these developments tell us about the Barisan Nasional (BN) administration's idea of justice and fairness? And how can citizens make sense of how our government is responding to these issues?

Muslim "sensitivities" paramount

It's clear that when it comes to defending a particular faith community's sensitivities, Muslim sensitivities trump all others. And because the majority of Muslims in Malaysia are racially categorised as Malay, it would be logical to surmise that the BN government is only interested in defending Malay-Muslim Malaysians' rights.

Other faith communities, mostly comprising the other races, will just have to contend with being second-class citizens who will not be accorded the same protection as the majority.

Actually, the state shouldn't even be in the business of defending those who have been personally offended by the views or actions of others. Indeed, Al Islam's offence was unethical journalism and acting in ways which were un-Islamic despite its pretext of acting in the ummah's interest. Hardly a crime against an individual or the state. No, the state should not be in the business of penalising offensive actions or words.

But since the state has decided to be the guardian of public sensitivities through various legal provisions, it needs to demonstrate that it will treat all citizens and their complaints fairly and equally.

By not doing so, the BN administration, now under Datuk Seri Najib Razak's leadership, is clearly proving that it is incapable of treating all citizens with equality. And that if you're not a Malay-Muslim in Malaysia, there are no guarantees that the state will do right by you.

How else would we be able to make sense of why the administration will not act on addressing Catholics' hurt feelings, but will immediately snap to action when some Muslims' sensitivities are affected?

Price to pay

There is another lesson to be learnt from what has happened recently. If one speaks up for justice and compassion in Malaysia, there is a strong likelihood that there will be a penalty to pay. More troublingly, it is the state that will ensure a price is exacted against citizens who speak up against injustice.

What exactly was The Star's managing editor P Gunasegaram's crime when he appealed for compassion in the name of religion in his 19 Feb 2010 column titled Persuasion, not compulsion?

Why was The Star made to feel so threatened by the state that it felt compelled to remove Gunasegaram's column from its online version, issue a public apology, and censor long-time columnist Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir?

Sure, at least five police reports have been lodged against The Star, including by the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (MAIS). But what crime was committed that the daily should be given a show-cause letter by the Home Ministry? And why is it a crime for a non-Muslim to reasonably appeal for justice and compassion in the name of Islam? How does doing that denigrate and undermine Islam? How can it even be offensive to Muslim sensibilities when Islam preaches justice, peace, compassion and fairness?
To be sure, the argument used by these complainants — that no non-Muslim should speak up about the administration of Islam in Malaysia — is actually just a red herring. Because SIS, too, hasn't been spared from the wrath of those who have been "offended" by the organisation's statement condemning the clandestine caning of three Muslim women for "illicit sex".

And what was SIS's crime? Seems like it was that SIS spoke out against the state's use of Islam to justify the cruel and inhumane punishment of Muslim women for a private sin the state should have no business policing. Its crime was that it was courageous enough to speak up against abuse of power in the interest of justice and compassion.

So what can we conclude? It's not about whether one is Muslim or non-Muslim. Anyone, regardless of faith, who dares to challenge the state's interpretation of Islam will be threatened and punished until they back down.

Really, we shouldn't be too surprised that the BN administration is doing this. After more than 50 years of BN rule, there are more than enough examples of how the government will crack down on those who speak up for truth and justice. From arrests under the Internal Security Act and charges under the Sedition Act to the closure of newspapers including The Star during 1987's Operasi Lalang, the BN is a government that will be neither challenged nor held accountable.

Hence, the use of Islam and the introduction of the notion that Malaysia is an "Islamic state" is really just another way to stifle challenges and attempts at holding state power accountable. After all, God's laws, unlike human-made laws, are sacrosanct and cannot ever be challenged. How convenient, no? This, then, is what our current government is all about. My question is, do we really want more of the same?

Jacqueline Ann Surin wishes more citizens, newspapers and organisations would stop allowing state and non-state actors from bullying us into submitting to injustice and violence. She believes that standing up to bullies is the best way to stop them from getting their way.