Thursday, March 26, 2015

Hudud questions we need answers to

by Azly Rahman



Over the last few days, I have been writing the following notes on my Facebook page, concerning the Sharia law component of the hudud. These are made in between my lecture sessions on philosophy, politics, and education and I hope that they will interest readers in sharing with me their answers to these important questions of the day.

WHAT KIND OF GOD?

stoning one to death
cutting off one's hands
beheading
100 and more lashes
and the range of punishments
in broad daylight
aren’t all these images of barbarism?
does this not show the brutality of Islam?
I thought the God of the Muslims is merciful and gentle
is this really God’s law?
if so, what kind of god?
*and yes I have these questions as they have now come to me
in which I hope for gentle answers *
- ar

ON THE HUDUD
remember this ...

The Quran is not a juridistic or judicial text... it is a compendium of short notes and narratives on morality, on stories pointing to earlier texts contained in the Bible and the Torah... it does not contain suggestions for punishment or strict legal framework of laws... is it therefore a source of God’s law?

The sharia is a human construction, derived from centuries of controversies amongst scholars and schools of thought with the ultimate aim of providing identity to this new group of believers called ‘The Muslims’.

In the hudud, stoning to death is from the Jewish text and practice. So is the suggestion of a death penalty for apostates borrowed from early Christianity. Other forms of punishment, such as beheading, crucifixion, burning to death, all have their origin in early Babylonian times. To say that the hudud is derived from God’s law and cannot be questioned is not correct, signifying one’s unwillingness to read about the origin of Islamic law, let alone the origin of punishment.

This is what is ailing our society that do not read much on the geneaology of morals and the historicity of punishments. And when perspectives pointing to alternate truths are presented, a jihad against these ‘perspective givers’ are called upon.

Who says one cannot question hudud, Man-made laws misunderstood as law passed down directly from God? Because it is Man-made law, we therefore have those who see the hudud as barbaric, and those who see it as a framework of a good social control, however archaic. What is said as “god’s revelations” most often become a big mess of confusion when it comes to human beings, especially the priest class, try to put them down as law...

Thou shall not kill... but why stone one to death ?
Where did Man go wrong?
What is he not reading?
And worse, why must his priests insist there must be separate religious laws for the kings and the slaves? - ar

ALL MUST DISCUSS


No one is a real expert - even the clerics, the ‘erdogans’, the hard-core liberal-seculars and the little ayatollahs are disagreeing violently amongst themselves.

It is each citizen’s right to question any concern they have before things become law. One cannot be intimidated, silenced, threatened, jailed for asking questions dear to their democratic lives... that is what democracy and citizenship is all about - participation and dialogue.

It is the right of every citizen to gather freely and safely in a democracy to petition for the removal of governments and leaders that are lousy and only there to slowly kill society and humanity through taxation without representation, daylight robbery, and all kinds of thievery to support a lifestyle far-removed form the reality of poverty of the many.

On the hudud issue - To put a stop to dialogue is not democracy, it is demono-cracy... and we have seen many of these kinds of systems in countries calling themselves Islamic, especially. Would you folks, agree? - ar

LET KELANTAN HAVE ITS OWN LAW

as how Sharia is said to be
successful in Nigeria
it might work
it might not
but let it be only for the Kelantanese, shall it be?
the will of the people - who voted for a theocracy
For there is no compulsion in religion,
let alone in Islam, the Kelantanese version
For - why must religious interpretation be universalising
as if there is no spiritual difference
between you and me -
- ar

IN THE LONG RUN...

The implementation of hudud
the romanticising of an Islamic state
might be the best invitation
for Isis-like enthusiasts to fight easier than tooth and nail
for an easier jihad
for a perfect synergy
to set up a Taliban-like state...
right here in Malaysia
and what then next... ? - ar
*or - am I making strange connections here? *

to swallow hypocrisy with a gulp of little pride remaining
why don’t the promoters of hudud
and the propagandist of ultra-nationalism
work in synergy and in perfect harmony
with tears of repentance flowing in parliament buildings...
why not create a good enough sharia index
to measure how much the politicians and plunderers and robber-barons alike
have stolen from the people, how those political murders are to be gauged, how hideous and anti-Islamic those in power are spending adorning themselves, and how much the country is being brought down by those spewing religious rhetoric as well...
why not? why not? - ar
*and long live the wolves of wall street*

ALL TEXTS...

be they religious, philosophical, cultural, scientific
be they transmitted orally
or crafted through writing as literacy
are the work of Man
from the mind of men
from the imagination of Man
all religious are the work of the priest class
each a genealogy of morals, of myths, of implausibilities, of miracles
building on early stories of Man’s attempt to make sense of the word
of the creation of many gods
the opticon, the panopticon, the synopticon of Man’s delusions
and the struggle to consolidate those gods into One, into Many, into None
has it been proven otherwise that these are not of human creation
- would you agree with this proposition? - ar

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Nigeria a model hudud-state?

by Azly Rahman





Will Kelantan have strategic alliances with the Boko Haram, one day? It was implied that Nigeria is practising good Islamic governance, but what is the message?

I suggest all of us debating the implementation of the hudud study the transcultural flow of ideas and we will see how fast Malaysia will turn into a Taliban-land. Don’t we have people well-versed in global politics and political philosophies in our country - to guide politicians to the path of modernisation with moderation, liberalism with inclusiveness and transcultural ethics?


Didn’t a Kelantanese leader praise the Malaysian Isis jihadists some time ago and will this become a reason to bulldoze even the rights of non-Muslims and ‘no-hudud-please’ Muslims alike? No - call it hudud or God’s law as you wish, but those implementing are human beings with motives we will never know - power corrupts, absolutely power will corrupt absolutely.

I don’t know, It is best to speak about the virtues of a secular-humanist state because we are all human beings making mistakes and in a system that will not tolerate human follies, a reign of terror will ensure... and why would the champions of the hudud from the major political camps wish to emulate Nigeria? Is this fervour a gift from PAS to the non-Muslims who voted for them in the last general election.

Each Muslim is different

All Muslims are not created equal these days; each one is a complex construction of the history, culture, and politics of Islam. Even of the metaphysics of Islam. Most importantly education and socialisation are the twin pillars of this idea of ‘to have or not to have hudud’ or ‘to what extent must the Sharia law govern the lives of Muslims’.

Is a Muslim educated in Yemen, Pakistan, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, or even Indonesia, or even Kelantan, created as equal as those educated in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Europe, Singapore, or even in Johor?

Which Muslim educated in which country and state has the right to impose the ideas of Sharia law and hudud more than those in other places?

Will we see the emergence of Boko Haram Muslims in Malaysia?

Who has the right to say the ‘liberal Islam’ is less Islam than Boko Haram’s type of Islam? Why would Malays of the Islamic faith be kow-towing to the dictates of those other Malay-Muslim who not only are happy to be ignorant of Western foundational ideas but also think that because they are educated in Arab-speaking countries and louder in their chants for an Islamic state they have the right to speak about Islam and become guardians of the ‘morality of the ummah’?

What makes those calling for the implementation of a comprehensive Sharia, the hudud, en route to an ‘Islamic state’ think that all Muslims must also agree?

What makes them believe that these Malay-Muslims are not already fed-up and even nauseated by the urging for this or that type of ‘Islamic-ness’ which includes waging war on other races and religion in multicultural Malaysia - instead of waging peace and ensuring that Malaysia will not see the rise of Boko Haram’s type of Muslims?

Aren’t peace-loving Muslims in Malaysia more interested in having their children learn about diverse ideas to become world-wise citizens able to live is a complex and globalising world, rather than follow the urgings warning Muslims against ‘liberal ideas’ these Boko-Haram-inspired Muslims think only mean Western ideas that will turn human beings into lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders?

How obsessed with the libidinal and the sexual can these groups be?

Study the virtue of liberalism

Is that how much these Muslims understood what knowledge is about? Should we even care? Should progressive Muslims care when, in order to succeed in many ‘Western and infidel nations of liberal institutions of the advanced nations’ the foundational courses are all about ‘liberal ideas’?

Do you think these progressive Muslims are going to care about those ‘liberal-bashing’ Boko-Haram-inspired Muslims to discourage their children to even explore what ‘liberalism’ means?

And these ‘enemies of liberal ideas’ got their college/university degrees, did they not? Did they not learn about western and liberal ideas and pass their exams and at least learn a bit of good things about it?

This is a similar situation of the hypocrisy we see demonstrated in the case of those who oppose the teaching of Mathematics and Science in English.

Many are distinguished professors who wrote their dissertations in English yet they are intoxicated by a strange out-of-whack nationalistic sentimentality, chose to produce hypocritical and damaging statements denying especially the Malay-Muslim children and youth of the importance of exploring liberal ideas and other languages including the English language; the lingua franca many of the Boko-Haram-type of Muslims would call “language of the infidels/kaffirs”.

Who need these kinds of Muslims and their urging for an ‘Islamic state’ when the stench of hypocrisy has filled the Malaysian air - like the poisoning of the sky through the Kuala Lumpur haze?

Think about it - what actually is this hudud debate about? Who is benefitting from this? This is Malaysia’s talk of the town that everybody - non-Muslims as well - needs to be engaged in.

Friday, March 13, 2015

1Malaysia - now vomiting + Dr. MAHATHIR'S QUESTIONS on 1MDB

by Azly Rahman




Like many Malaysians, I am vomiting through the dungeons of my soul reading the reports daily on the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), if it is true that the  leaders of this country are bankrupting it.

This is especially so when 1MDB may one day suck the blood, sweat, and tears dry out of the long and difficult years of investment of the Malaysian public, especially the kampung folk, the rubber tappers, the small businessmen and labourers of any race, not to mention the filthy work of secrecy we are seeing operating in the government, at a time when the nauseating hypocrisy of slogans such as "high-income nation," "world-class education" and "syariah index" are trumpeted and shoved down the throat of the people who are kept in fear and silence for criticising the run-amuck of the nation's "global-smart-partnership of Ali-Baba and John and Hollywood-hedonistic bloodsucker-filthy corporate-crony-useless-sons and daughters of sicko-capitalists".

Excuse me for the long running sentence. And excuse my little explosion too. The spirit of the New York beat poet Allen Ginsburg is running amuck in me today.


And excuse me while I kiss the sky and vomit through my bruised soul, as a Jimi Hendrix song would go screaming. What then must we do, in the midst of those in power pounding on the helpless crying for help in demanding justice and decency of making ends meet - especially to be reading stories of bloodsuckers and big-time conmen partying in yachts while the rakyat drowns in broken sampans and broken spirits?

And these premature talks about a replacement prime minister and who that might be too bores me to death.

Same old mould, I believe. These are mere dynastic wars over wealth and power that have become a disease of the nobility of politics as what it should be about: public service.

Same breed of emperors in new clothes

What do all these mean if what we are getting will perhaps be even worse vendetta and a continuation of the installation of the same breed of emperors in new clothes preying upon the poor and the helpless, using the state apparatuses to maintain a jet-setting lifestyle and lying to the people to beg for a mandate to rule?

Fools we have become and made to be, haven’t we?

My immediate worry is this:

With a bailout plan for 1MDB, even to pay just the interest of the loans and the new, horrifying numbers on the newly defined loan/bonds, what are we looking at? Will the rakyat's pension plan/life savings/national unit trusts and the like be used to help these crooks out?

Have we not learned from the experience of other countries how public funds were used to bail out such "Cayman Island" investments?  Do the people know enough about the kind of dictators, global CEOs and glorified money-launderers who stash their money in secret vaults in Switzerland, Singapore and those Islands?

What makes you think that your KWSP/EPF money is still going to be safe - when no one seems to want to tell the truth and what we are reading is about a barely 30-year-old kid and an investment punk partying till he pukes and investing our money till we all puke?

Why have we come to this point in history? You nationalists out there, tell me.

Now, parliamentarians we put to work - in your comfortable sittings, you better ask the government how the rakyat's savings are going to be wiped off dry!

This is totally insane a country! Yes - my beloved country I still love to see things go well for the next generation.

But in the next two generations our children may have to eat grass, wood and stones.

Progress towards a failed state...

Like Jonathan Swift’s suggestion to fatten up babies in The Modest Proposal to solve the Irish potato famine, I’d propose something less radical: just give each family a plot of land for them to plant food, raise chickens, and live in communes and live a life of dignity without falling prey to glorified gamblers. This country is gone and going to the dogs - with this progress towards a failed state.

Why do we still have these people running our country and running it down? And when the people speak up, you in power throw them in jail so that you folks in power can run free, looting and looting while speaking Greek and geek and those GST and your gobbledygook of your syariah index lying through your behind.  Excuse my little explosion again. Now the blood of the poets Rimbaud and Rendra combined, is boiling in me.

How filthy and corrupt can man get! Can't we teach one another to live within our means and be grateful and to think of others?

All these while I thought our economists, political scientists, and investment strategists in this and that national and high-strung high impact steering committees are well-versed in the Keynes-Hayek debate and the intricacies of the nation’s economy as it rides the wave of national reform and globalisation.

We seem to pride ourselves in this nationalistic obsession with our own version of command economy and be wary of letting the market solely dictate, and angry at any attempt by global empires to tell us what to do and how to behave – in the name of sovereignty. We seem to be in control of our “culturally-constructed commanding heights” but what is happening now?

Those entrusted to control the economy are gambling with it, big time, and letting the big-time gamblers sell the country off. Worse, do we not know what is happening to our national financial assets as many are guessing that they are being used to recover the money we lost through our secret wheeling and dealing in the world of casino capitalism, where “wolves of Wall Street” race with the velocity of money?

We can never know the truth – just like the truth of what happened to the missing Flight MH370, that I wrote about in April last year.

This is what we have become - a secret society of leaders making secret deals and using some acts to punish those who wish to know the truth – especially when the life savings of those who slog for this world of indentured servitude is at stake.

This is a case that might be worse than America’s Enron and Subprime Fiasco combined; a world too big to fail but crumbled like Humpty Dumpty and all.

What then must we do?

 Dr. MAHATHIR'S QUESTIONS


Written by Che Det
15 March 2015

1. UMNO telah mengadakan majlis penerangan tertutup yang dihadiri oleh sebahagian dari Ketua-Ketua Bahagian pada 8 Mac. Keputusan majlis mengikut akhbar ialah menyokong penuh Presiden parti.

2. Tidak diketahui tentang penjelasan oleh Presiden berkenaan kontroversi 1MDB, yang sedang dibincang dengan meluas oleh rakyat. Bahawa perkara ini dibawa oleh parti lawan, justeru itu ia adalah fitnah belaka tidak mencukupi untuk rakyat menolak tuduhan-tuduhan berkenaan 1MDB.
3. Rakyat masih tidak puas hati berkenaan 1MDB. Mereka bincang perkara ini dimana sahaja. Jika mereka tidak puas hati dan tidak sokong Barisan Nasional (BN) dalam PRU akan datang, BN mungkin kalah. Dan jika BN ditolak, sokongan kepada Presiden oleh pemimpin bahagian UMNO tidak lagi bermakna.

4. 1MDB bukan buat hutang biasa seperti Kerajaan yang biasanya berjumlah hanya ratusan juta sahaja. 1MDB telah hutang berbillion Ringgit. Walaupun 1MDB bukan Kerajaan tetapi ia adalah badan yang ditubuh dan dimiliki oleh Kerajaan sepenuhnya dengan modal sebanyak 1 juta Ringgit. Ada juga jaminan oleh Kerajaan terhadap beberapa hutang 1MDB. Oleh itu Kerajaan tidak boleh dakwa bahawa ini masalah syarikat dan bukan masalah Kerajaan.

5. Kerajaan sudah melantik Auditor General untuk memeriksa akaun 1MDB. Tetapi ini tidak akan menjawab banyak soalan yang telah dikemukakan dan dibincang oleh rakyat.

6. Dakwaan-dakwaan yang telah dibuat terhadap 1MDB bukan berbentuk tuduhan melulu. Ia disertai dengan fakta yang jelas, iaitu jumlah hutang, siapa yang mengurus, siapa yang menerima wang berbillion Ringgit, pelaburan yang dibuat, dimana wang ini disimpan, dalam bentuk apa.

7. Nama Jho Low disebut berkali-kali. Demikian juga nama-nama syarikat miliknya. Tuduhan dibuat berkenaan dengan pembelian rumah mewah olehnya di London, New York dan Holywood. Lepas itu rumah dijual kepada anak tiri Perdana Menteri dengan harga ratusan juta Ringgit. Sudah tentu ini tidak disebut dalam akaun 1MDB yang akan diperiksa oleh AG.

8. Pada mulanya duit Riza Aziz dikatakan warisan harta kekayaan dari keluarga Tun Razak. Kemudian dakwaan ini dinafi. Soalannya jika tidak dari keluarga Tun Razak dari mana datang wang yang banyak ini. Apakah ianya hasil dari perniagaan? Jika ya, apa perniagaan, dimana? Sudahkah cukai pendapatan dibayar? Kepada Kerajaan mana?

9. Pelaburan ratusan juta untuk filem “The Wolf of Wall Street” oleh Riza Aziz, anak tiri Dato Sri Najib datang dari mana? Filem ini tidak memberi keuntungan. Tidak mungkin filem ini membiayai rumah mewah yang dibeli dengan ratusan juta Ringgit atau Dolar Amerika.

10. Semua perkara-perkara ini tidak akan terdapat dalam akaun 1MDB. Tetapi rakyat ingin tahu kerana melibatkan Jho Low. Dan Jho Low disebut-sebut berkenaan dengan pengurusan 700 juta USD dari 1MDB.

11. Ada yang disebut berkenaan Petro Saudi yang juga menerima bayaran ratusan juta dolar dari 1MDB Benarkah Petro Saudi ini mendapat konsesi kawasan minyak dan gas di Argentina, di Turkmenistan dll. Apa buktinya? Benarkah JV dibuat dengan Petro Saudi sebelum ‘due diligence’ dibuat. Katanya sementara 1MDB melabur USD1 billion dalam JV dengan Petro Saudi, tetapi Petro Saudi tidak melabur satu sen pun. Apa jadi kepada wang IMDB dalam JV tidak jelas.

12. Apa sebabnya lebih dari 6 billion Ringgit (Dollar) disimpan di Cayman Island? Kerajaan tidak pernah simpan duit di lain negara selain pembelian bond. Apakah bond dibeli? Apa hasilnya?

13. Katanya wang sebanyak USD1 billion sudah dibawa balik dari Cayman dan disimpan dalam bank Singapura. Kononnya Bank Negara menjadi masalah kerana proses menyimpan wang yang banyak mesti melalui proses yang rumit. Bolehkan Bank Negara jelas kenapa menimbul masalah sedangkan 1MDB adalah syarikat Kerajaan yang dikuasai oleh Kementerian Kewangan. Jika mudah di Singapura kenapa susah sangat di Malaysia?

14. Urusan Kerajaan pernah dirahsia. Tetapi soal bayar balik hutang adalah public knowledge (dalam pengetahuan orang ramai). Orang ramai ingin tahu benarkah Ananda Krishnan memberi pinjam RM 2 billion untuk bayar faedah ini. Apakah faedah yang dikenakan oleh Ananda? Apa cara bayaran balik hutang Ananda? 1MDB dikatakan untung. Kenapa tidak dapat bayar faedah 2 billion Ringgit.

15. Juga diketahui umum ialah permohonan hutang sebanyak 3 billion dari Kerajaan baru-baru ini. Apakah Kabinet melulus pinjaman yang begitu besar ini? Apakah syarat yang dikenakan? Bagaimanakah hutang ini akan dibayar balik oleh 1MDB.

16. Tanah Kerajaan di Jalan Tun Razak dan Lapangan Terbang Sungai Besi telah dibeli oleh 1MDB. Apakah harga yang dibayar? Apakah tanah ini yang dikatakan asset 1MDB? Bagaimanakah dinilai harga tanah ini? Kerajaan berhak mendapat pulangan yang setimpal apabila tanah ini dijual kepada sesiapa pun. Berapakah harga satu kaki persegi. Tanah berdekatan dijual dengan harga RM7000/- satu kaki persegi. 1MDB juga membeli tanah di Pulau Pinang. Apa harganya. Apa jenis pembangunan yang dicadangkan. Sudah dimulakah?

17. Jika tanah-tanah ini menjadi aset 1MDB, apakah nilai tinggi aset ini disebabkan kenaikan (revaluation) dari harga belian yang murah dan harga pasaran yang tinggi.

18. 1MDB meminjam lebih dari 10 billion Ringgit untuk beli beberapa stesyen janakuasa. Harga yang dibayar dikatakan lebih tinggi dari harga pasaran. Lesen stesyen-stesyen ini akan mati tidak lama lagi. Kenapa tidak tunggu hingga lesen mati sebelum membeli. Harga selepas mati lesen tentu amat rendah. Membeli dengan harga tinggi sebelum lesen mati amat merugikan.

19. Wang untuk membeli stesyen janakuasa dipinjam. Laporan menunjuk komisyen sebanyak lebih dari 10% dibayar kepada Goldman Sachs untuk mengurus penjualan bond.

20. Jika komisyen 10%, 1MDB akan dapat hanya 90% dari jumlah yang dihutang. Tetapi faedah perlu dibayar keatas 100% jumlah hutang. Ini menghairankan!

21. Biasanya hutang yang dijamin oleh Kerajaan dikenakan faedah 3%. Hutang yang diurus oleh Goldman Sachs dikenakan faedah sebanyak 5.9%.

22. Jumlah hutang sudah meningkat kepada 42 billion Ringgit. Faedah keatas jumlah ini, jika hanya 5% pun akan berjumlah 2.6 billion Ringgit setahun. Ini adalah satu jumlah yang amat besar.

23. Sebaliknya jumlah keuntungan dari pelaburan dalam stesyen janakuasa tidak akan mencukupi untuk membayar faedah ini. Demikian juga pelaburan untuk beli tanah di Kuala Lumpur dan Pulau Pinang tidak akan beri apa-apa pulangan sebelum di bangun atau dijual.

24. Sesungguhnya 1MDB menimbul banyak soalan tentang pengurusan dan kegunaannya. Dan jumlahnya juga amat besar. Rakyat berhak merasa curiga akan cara dan kegunaan wang mereka yang banyak ini.

25. Ulasan bahawa semua tuduhan adalah fitnah tidak mencukupi. Mereka yang mendakwa bahawa ada penyelewengan dalam pengurusan 1MDB berani membuat kenyataan terhadap Kerajaan dan individu-individu tertentu walaupun terdedah kepada tindakan saman malu. Tetapi mereka mendakwa mereka memiliki bukti-bukti yang jelas seperti e-mail, surat perjanjian dan bukti-bukti lain. Tarikh dan nama-nama diberi tanpa bersembunyi. Pembohongankah tuduhan mereka!!

26. Sehingga kini Kerajaan tidak menjawab secara yang masuk akal. Umpamanya 1MDB tidak punyai masalah kerana asetnya lebih dari hutang. Tetapi hanya untuk bayar faedah 2 billion, tidak ada wang sehingga tidak dapat tutup akaun ikut jadual. Kemungkinan terpaksa hutang untuk bayar faedah.

27. Sejak Arul Kanda Kandasamy mengambil jawatan CEO, banyaklah kenyataannya yang tidak munasabah yang dibuat. Kononnya wang di Cayman sudah dibawa balik. Kemudian wang ini tidak boleh bawa balik. Kemudian sudah dibawa balik tetapi disimpan di Singapura.

28. Yang diperlukan bukan audit biasa buku akaun. Yang diperlukan ialah siasatan forensik oleh polis akan tuduhan yang dbuat terhadap beberapa orang yang terlibat dengan pengurusan wang 1MDB.

29. Jika ini tidak dibuat dan dibuat secepat mungkin, sokongan rakyat yang sudah pun merosot dalam PRU 2008, 2013 akan merosot lagi. Besar kemungkinan BN akan kalah pada 2018, walaupun ketua-ketua UMNO sokong dan terima dengan puas hati penerangan yang dibuat. Ingatlah undi orang UMNO sahaja tidak cukup untuk menang pilihanraya.


TAMAT

Friday, March 06, 2015

Why distribute only the Quran?

by azly rahman




Why not distribute free copies of the scriptures of other religions? I have been reading the complaint of those reading about the latest antic of a nation struggling with the complexities of hypermodernity. I believe I can understand why the negative reaction.

Free copies of the Quran, I believe, should not be distributed as if one is on a national roadshow giving out free minyak kapak (camphoric ointment) - complete with minivans like those used by start-up hip hop and rap artistes. This reminds me of the work of the members of the Christian denominational group Jehovah’s Witness who would go around the neighbourhood handing out pamphlets on ways to true salvation.

All religious texts need to be treated within their rightful context, to be accorded the status of serious literary and literary text first and foremost.

They are to be used as texts in courses that invite interfaith dialogue in which all texts are held in equal high esteem to be debated of their content using discursive and dialogical methods that might hopefully bring about some common truth and weed out many common falsehoods.

One cannot ban the use of the word ‘Allah’ one day, and force others to read the text that contain the name on another and expect non-Muslims to be happy and ready to learn... at best that is hegemonic, at worst idiotic.

Humanism and rationalism

We must go back to the drawing board of our approach to teaching religion in terms of curricular design and how to juxtapose or even infuse it with core ideas of humanism and rationalism. This will take another few decades given the complexity of our society and its present evolution of ‘half-bakedness’ of hypermodernity.


Here in the United States, I have had the opportunity to teach two summer classes on ‘Religions of the World’ and ‘Introduction to Religion’ in a college where I have also been asked, for the last several years, to teach ‘Islamic Scriptures’.

I find it liberating to conduct classes after classes in which my students not only are American and foreign-born Muslims but also Jews, Christians, Catholic, Buddhists, Hindus, Atheists, Agnostics, and even Pagans.

At the end of each semester, they have a different perception of each other - more in-depth understanding of what could have remained antagonistic. We read the Quran and the Hadiths and look at the scriptures from a hermeneutic perspective - situate it in the present and projecting it into the future.

Most often, our discussions on jihad evolved into a reflection on the struggles for the human self to explore suffering, violence, and liberation in all religious traditions. It includes passionate discussions on media representation of the concept.

I often wonder if what I am doing is possible in Malaysia but I certainly have the confidence and hope that given the most peaceful way to approach it, a lot can be gained. Essentially religious dialogue need not be painful.

It ought to help foster deep understanding and dispel misconception of ANY religion. It ought to make us become deeply religious and to learn to explore what others believe, to respect them, to learn from the universal themes of spirituality, and ultimately to contemplate our existence within the context of the struggle between Good and Evil and to evolve as more ethical and rational beings - so that we may participate better as political and social beings.

Major scriptures

We need to do more than just print our copies of the Quran to distribute to those reluctant to accept them in light of the image of Islam these days.

We need to revamp undergraduate foundation courses in our public and private to include one that teaches the classics of the thoughts of the Eastern and Western tradition and the scriptures of the major religions.

But then again, our university students are not even allowed to be involved in politics and to engage freely in public forum on political matters - how might this be possible with interfaith dialogue then?

We have a long walk to mental freedom and to a philosophical understanding of Islam and other religions. Unfortunately we are now known as people who are good at disrupting dialogues. I hope this perception will change.

But then again, education is about hope, peace, empathy, intelligence, and liberation - these we must use as a basis for a new design once we see major restructuring efforts under way undertaken by perhaps a new political, social, and educational arrangement.

Let us look at possibilities in interfaith dialogue. Let education for peace and justice do that. This should be our commitment to an evolution of a world wise society I wrote about in last week’s column.

I end this week’s opinion piece with these verses:

MERE MORTALS, or
Mantra of a Minimalist

mere mortals we might be
magnificent though within
making sense of our maddening world
of machiavellian moods of Man’s antics
meanderers we have become
mystified by the mediated selves we have been turned into
and when the moments of truth arrive
mirrors will invite us
to multiple worlds
we have made
out of memories we have made
but who knows...
who wants to know?
mere mortals we might be
a speck of dust
but a proud evolution
only if we know - ar

Saturday, February 28, 2015

World wise before world class

by Azly Rahman




Each Malaysian university need not aspire to become "world class", but to start becoming 'world wise' instead. These are my thoughts on the issue of the culture of our universities.

Tradition of intellectualism, freedom of inquiry, adaptability, quality of teaching, production of intellectual and ground-breaking artifacts, the undying pursuit of truth for the betterment of society, the championing of diverse philosophical thinking along with a diverse and global student population rigorously selected and admitted...

These are amongst the elements that make a university not only world class, but 'world wise'.

Malaysia’s road to world class-ism is a long and winding one due to the following hurdles we have created:

  • A political governance that imposes a style of anti-intellectualism on campuses;
     
  • A culture of fear of thinking, retarding critical sensibility permeating;
     
  • A lack of encouragement of radical thinking amongst the faculty;
     
  • A culture of high-stakes testing and post-high school teaching;
     
  • A society as a force fast moving towards mono-cultural mono-religious thinking;
     
  • A nation helpless in determining the freedom of inquiry that ought to be championed by universities;
     
  • A government that insists on the appointment of politically-connected and aspiring educational leaders to lead universities;
     
  • A mission and vision of the university that do not have a statement which guarantees academic freedom and the protection of free speech as the key foundations of its existence;
     
  • A grand curriculum that is weak in the philosophical, sociological, humanistic, and cultural traditions of the East and the West;
     
  • A population of students and faculty weak in the mastery of the English Language;
     
  • The entire misconception of the aim and purpose of education in an increasingly globalising and predatory world;
     
  • The lack of skills of faculty as Socratic thinkers and the mastery of the art and science of teaching and inspiring;
     
  • The model of Industrial Age of education still in use in a Post-Industrial Cybernetic world...
And these are amongst the few.

Where do we go from here to make things better - even of it takes a hundred years?

Seems that the farther away society is from nature, the closer it is to materialism; the more people love money more than humility, the deeper truth may be buried.

So, we ought to at least read 'The Epic of Gilgamesh' and learn from the tension between the illusions of civilisation and civility.

Fights over money and materialism

This is what Malaysia is now facing. The fights in Malaysian politics - to the point of murder, mayhem and madness - are over money and materialism.

Dr Martin Luther King Jr often talked about three things that destroy humanity: racism, militarism, and materialism.

And Malcolm X had his famous saying: "Show me a capitalist and I will show you a bloodsucker."

What's nauseating is the growing critical mass of support for this dying regime over-killing the little hope we have for the flowering of critical and moral sensibility.

Why? Because the process of educating for hegemonic and totalitarian ends have been very successful with better ideological state apparatuses built to sustain the political-dynastic progress.

And in all these, we have created a one-dimensional two-sided society arguing over issues versus non-issues, parroting theories and clich├ęs'.

We are in a theatre of the absurd and will be staying in it for a long, long time (Time to read Moliere again and relive my college freshman years in those Literature classes).

In the life of one's mind, the greatest challenge is to think as freely as one can allow oneself to live in a culture that is increasingly shackling, disabling, controlling, and oppressing.

From this, too, the question of how can we design a suitable education system comes into being... of the perfect process of schooling - one that will respect the dignity and freedom of the human mind. But how? It must begin with the universities.

What is so complex about the definition of a university for it to be misunderstood? A university is a secularly-sacred institution of scholarly pursuit of ideas that must not be used to create further divisions in society - be they divisions and sub-divisions based on race, colour, creed and national origin.

It is a place wherein the universality of ideas must reign, guided by philosophies that will bring humanity closer to a more meaningful democracy.

A university is not merely a diploma mill and a production-house of academic Taylorism.

It is not an institution to put a 'quality control' stamp on the minds of students so that they may become merely good workers in a Total Quality Management-inspired company.

It is not a game of production and reproduction and schooling the mind into total submission.

A university is not a place wherein the discoveries of new bodies of knowledge must point to the dictates of party politics and that ‘truth’ must be acquired through ‘methods’ designed by and derived from the structural-functionalism of politics.

It must not be a place to canonise the ideology of this or that dubious leader whose interest is in self-emulation and deluding oneself to grandeur. A university has more respect than that.

The university is above politics. It must educate politicians. The professor must guide politicians - a professor who is a philosopher-ruler and one who is incorruptible and preserves the culture of free inquiry and human liberation is the best professor a nation can ever have.

Professing knowledge and helping others grow intellectually is not the same as packaging propaganda and helping others become retarded by it.

And so, we must engineer a revolution to make our institutions wiser and to move society to become 'world wise' instead of prematurely appraising our institutions as “world class”.

Friday, February 13, 2015

A FLAWED UNIVERSE?




beauty is higher than truth
love reigning more supreme than religion
the self more superior than the state
and we have structured the universe in error
putting the love for things
more than the love for fellow human beings
we are in a state of constant flux, hence
vacillating between evil ... and diabolism
how must we detach ourselves
to escape from sufferings -- of our own design?
you tell me deus ex machina


-- azly rahman


Friday, February 06, 2015

Why not Datuk Seri Bruce Lee next?

by Azly Rahman



 I like the fact that Jackie Chan is now a Malaysian ‘Datuk’. I think he is funny. I like some of his movies. Some are bawdy, though. I hope his partner, the African-American actor Chris Tucker in ‘Rush Hour II’, will also get a datukship.

But I think posthumously my most favourite and bestest of the best actor I grew up trying to be, Bruce Lee, a student of Philosophy, should be given a Datuk Seri. He has so much influence in my idea of anti-colonialism that if I were not an academician, I would have been Bruce Lee.

I love his movies and watched them a plenty. I wanted to learn kung fu or karate but unfortunately my mother (bless her soul) did not allow me, in fear that I would beat up the kampong kids for no reason.


And why is Bruce Lee (right) as an anti-colonialist much appreciated by Malaysians? That will be a long essay and analysis on characterisation and representation required, after watching all of his movies again. But simply put, his original philosophy of the martial arts and inner strength is well used to fight for justice

But I liked to also suggest Muhammad Ali the boxer, the champ, the pretty-face fast-talking greatest of the greatest American hero be given a Tan Sri or any Malaysian award of the highest degree. He, too, was an anti-colonialist. He beat up Joe Bugner, Joe Frazier and Antonio Inoki.

He was also in Kuala Lumpur that one day in the mid-70s and I remembered my high school cancelled class and brought its only black-and-white TV to the dining hall and all of us watched ‘a black man beat up a white man’ - symbolic of decolonisation and Malaysia’s entry into ‘modernisation and progress’ modelled after theories produced by the best and the brightest of the Office of the Kennedys.

So, Muhammad Ali (left in photo, during his fight with Joe Bugner), who floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee should be given a Tan Sri. He is more famous than Jackie Chan or Lady Gaga.

If we consider those international figures that has a great influence on Malaysian culture, I’d nominate all the members of the Rolling Stones to get Tan Sris, too. I think they taught us, especially Johoreans like me, what liberalism and being free means. They taught us liberal democracy through their lyrics, music, and the free-spirit they embody.

They may have taught many of us that even in rock and roll there is a hidden message of spirituality; a much needed guard against beheading-happy jihad-calling loonies.

And I’d also nominate the best guitarist in this Newtonian galaxy for a Tan Sri. He is Jimi. Or Jimi Hendrix. Because Jimi is not only a Cherokee but he is against Christopher Columbus and his Spanish conquistador cronies. So, Tan Sri Jimi Hendrix will be an appropriate hero for Malaysians - just like Datuk Chan the Jackie.

Just imagine that

So - imagine, Bruce Lee, Muhammad Ali, Rolling Stones, and Mr Hendrix the Jimi all wearing baju Melayu and songkok in a solemn and calming ceremony, accepting those state honours. Just imagine that.

And don't forget to give one to Sean Connery, who played in the movie ‘Entrapment’ with Catherine Zeta-Jones; a story about a con-man stealing money from the Petronas Twin Towers. Now it is a reality. Money stolen aplenty as in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) - just like in the movies. But Datuk Seri Sean Connery will be a good one to be.

But I will campaign one for Mr Bean! Definitely. Even kids love him and wouldn’t mind calling him Datuk Kacang (‘Easy Datuk’).

We are getting better at rewarding  entertainers of international stature for reasons we do not fully understand. We must also start rewarding critical thinkers, activists, public intellectuals, and groups that have been calling for sensible and peaceful changes without fear or favour.

These are the real deserving folks in our midst we are failing to honor. Their work is more long-lasting that these international performers who might only be interested in expanding their cultural hegemony in the matrix of culture industry profiting big entertainment businesses primarily.

We must be wiser in identifying patriots - those, as Thomas Jefferson would say, who dissent and in the process, provide us with a set of critical eyes and perform the highest acts of patriotism.

Those giving the state rewards, take note.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Friday, January 23, 2015

New paradigm in education: The child, the city, the curriculum

by azly rahman



I want to share some notes I had this week on how to turn our cities into classrooms.

In between looking those lecture notes on Globalisation, Philosophy, Humanities, Urban Education and Assessment reflecting, dreaming of good things, doing intense creative visualisation, listening to John Coltrane’s album ‘A Love Supreme’, renews my hope in educating others so that they may know a bit more about the world, understand the complexities of the children of the Millennium generation they are entrusted to educate, finding ways to engage those urban and ‘ghetto-gangsta’ kids, turning the ‘city into a classroom’ instead of a matrix of dehumanisation, designing projects and good and new artifacts of learning, understanding the link between global issues and the philosophical self as reflected in the reading of major world text in Humanities, and helping teachers and educational leaders design authentic and humanistic assessment strategies so that human beings will not be forever buried under statistics and numbers but continue to flourish and evolve, like Post-Modern Romantics - because as Coltrane said, “It’s all a world of ‘A Love Supreme’.”

Exciting. I thank thee, Socrates!

Last few days I took a short break from Facebook, and came back with this message:

HI FOLKS
BACK IN THE FACEBOOK LOOP ...

How’s the world doing these last few days... Malaysia ... same old, same old...?


More suicide bombings, Je Suis this and that, more fights between the old and new Malaysian political foes, that unresolved murder case of the Mongolian model, extradition complications...

We need more good stories of people helping others, overcoming of insurmountable barriers, the everyday heroes in action, of good Samaritans, success stories in education, tales from the trenches of teaching, good teachers doing good work, less nauseating stories of politicians and hypocrisy, kids coming up with good and new inventions...

Aren’t we all sick of today’s news reports?

I decided to think of the city as a way to redesign our education system, since most of the world’s population will be living in cities in this century. I came up with the following notes on the relationship between the city, the child, and the curriculum:

1. I want to think of the ‘city as educator’ rather than a space of alienation, and to design an educational system around the child and the city. Again, the child is central and the city must be his/her resource. How do I do this?

2. When we were growing up, we were not angels... we played truant... we played ‘hookie’ as the Americans would say... We ‘tuang kelas’... We ‘panjat pagar’... We ‘ponteng kelas’ and , as Malaysians would say, and where did we go? Not to the jungle and hang out with chimpanzees... Not to the village/kampong to run around in the padi fields... We go to the ‘city’... or ‘town’...

We hated school... We love the city... Why? How do we turn the city into a ‘classroom’ so that we will run to the ‘global classroom and learn’ and use the school as ‘research centres’ and teachers become resource persons, rather than correctional officers forcing us to learn and to button up our ‘baju kurung’. How do we do this - flip the classroom and turn the city into a great classroom? Any thoughts?

What’s in the mind of the city boy or girl?

3. What goes on in the mind of the city boy or girl these days? Is the school ready to nurture his/her cognitive abilities? Are our teachers prepared to help the city child develop his/her fullest potential, using the city as resources? Do the teachers understand what the ‘Millennial generation’ (of the 21st century) wants or even what it means?

Or what schools should do to house these ‘intellects and a product of the city and its urbanisation process’? What do you educators and parents out there think?

4. The media these days seem to focus on the arguments, debates, fights, and even war amongst adults... Amongst those who, in their old age, want to settle scores and install family members as next leaders, maintaining dynasties.

We have neglected to honour and nurture our most precious national asset - our children and our youth, to provide them with the best educational context they can be in to develop their minds to the max and to become good citizens who value lifelong learning and become compassionate members of our society.

We are doing the opposite - showing our ugliness as older members of society, setting bad examples through corruption, conspicuous consumption, blowing up people with C4, glorifying jihadists, showing our hypocrisy in selective prosecutions, confusing culture with religion and killing each other in the name of god. We are a horrible generation and unfit to be leaving a legacy to our precious children and legacy.

How do we correct this? How do we renew the prosperity of our educational system?

5. Okay, seriously folks... If you don't want those girls to be hugged by K-Pop singers you better create an educational system that’s poppin’ well enough that those kids will love hugging themselves and coconut trees only. How about that as positive narcissism and cultural pride?

I know I will be writing more on ways to improve the lives of our children - our greatest asset, and how the urban environment can be used by skilled teachers and innovative educational planners and imaginative curriculum designers to make learning more exciting on our way to chart a better and less alienated future for our youth.

I hope our policymakers and politicians will stop fighting and start doing their job educating. We have seen enough nonsense done not in the interest of the child, haven’t we?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The ‘baju kurung’ vs ‘baju kurang’ debate: Only in Malaysia?

by Azly Rahman



Unfortunate. Even sad news. About that poor girl who got sent off because she wore a ‘Malay baju/dress’ on her first day of school, as reported.

This is more puzzling than the ‘Allah Controversy’ that I have been writing about. She was not only eager to be in school but what she wore the first day represents what she was feeling - in this case culturally.

The ‘baju kurung’ is the most gentle of the Malay dress; even the name ‘kurung’ connotes ‘shackling’, ‘confining’, ‘controlled’, ‘thinking and wearing something not outside the box’, ‘in the box/didalam kurungan’, and a range other connotation, signs, signals, signifiers, and representation (the entire semiotic jingbang and shebang of modesty) any Malaysian can think of. Right?

The ‘baju kurung’ is the most ‘nerdish girl-dress’ but its nerdish-ness is not without dignity and cultural pride.

Now explain to us gently: did she wear ‘baju kurung’ or ‘baju kurang’; the latter is the exact opposite of the Malay dress but the most revealing of dresses that reveals things either translucently or transparently or opaquely.

‘Baju kurang’ or ‘lesser dress’ is the exact opposite of shackled dressing; it is the official dress code of many a gangsta schoolgirls in the Bronx, East LA, East Philadelphia, Miami, or even Detroit, birthplace of Motown.

It is worn by girls who think that every day is an audition day of Beyonce, and Lady Gaga, Madonna, Kim Kardashian, or Queen Latifah to attract boys like Snoop Dogg or Jay-Z or 50 Cent. (equivalent to 50 American cents X current Malaysian Ringgit that makes no sense). That's what the ‘baju kurang’ girls attract.

So - can't the Malaysian educators-administrators under scrutiny be able to tell the difference between ‘baju kurung’ and ‘baju kurang’? Or maybe these administrators need to be sent to the Bronx or ‘Da Hood’' to see what ‘baju kurang’ looks like and to appreciate the intense feeling of those non-Malay-Muslims wishing to wear ‘baju kurung’ on the first day of school and not to be sent back home in humiliation - just for wanting to look Malaysian and very modest.

Now, it is fine if the poor girl came to school with ‘baju kurang’ or immodestly dressed and be sent home in a school gardener’s spare T-shirt to cover her ‘dress-lessness/kurang-ness’. That would be fine - in the same manner boys trying to look like K-Pop-Gangsta wearing sagging pants (‘fesyen seluar terlondeh’) inspired by US-Prison Fashion trying to ‘look fresh’ walking around the school like herniated folks - that I can understand.

That is boys’ ‘baju kurang’ fashion or to put it correctly, ‘baju kurang ajar’ when there is not respect for the public when one wears such, even though in a free-speech country such as France.

Be wise, pick your fights

So, Malaysian teachers. Be wise, pick your fights. Choose the best. Those worth fighting for. We have a lot to struggle for on our way to build a great education system. You don't need such a bad publicity.

You leaders are better than this - because in you we trust to bring education to greater heights.

In this case, the greater heights means not talking about ‘baju kurung with tudung only allowed’, but about new ideas in school reform, more engaging and intellectually challenging curriculum, Socratic-teaching methods infused, making students better thinkers and masters of concepts, appreciating and celebrating diversity, taking pride in one’s culture and also in exploring other people’s culture... and more.

These are the themes of out daily toil and struggle as educators and administrators.

Aren’t you folks supposed to be ‘philosopher teachers’ rather than ‘correctional officers’?

Time to go back to school. Teacher Education 101. To shed that ‘baju kurang’ attitude and move outside the box but still appreciating those wearing ‘baju kurung’.

I am now done with my complaint!

But how can we train our school administrators better - especially in matters of diversity, cultural literacy, and equal opportunity in a country badly in need of education for race and religious harmony?

Lecture: Edward Said

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Lecture: Noam Chomsky

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Lecture: Jacques Derrida

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Lecture: Jean Paul Sartre

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Movie: 1984

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Movie: Animal Farm

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Movie: Chicken Run

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Poems: Rumi

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Dialogue on Religion: Karen Armstrong

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Dailogue on Religion: Huston Smith

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Islam

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Humanism

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Jainism

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Sikkhism

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Hinduism

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Bahai

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Confucianism

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Taoism

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The Bhagavad Gita

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Jesus of Nazareth

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Siddharta Gautama

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Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh)

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