Monday, July 13, 2015

Have A Meaningful Aidilfitri - Tomorrow in The STAR

“Kekayaan tidak dinilai daripada banyaknya harta tetapi kaya jiwa.”
Allahyarham Tuan Guru Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat (1931 – 2015) 

Let us be Moderate: Why choose the better meaning?

In our Wesak day message, we elaborated the third point of the Ten Principles for a Moderate Malaysian. In this advertisement, we are happy to share the fourth principle. We hope you look forward to the upcoming six.
Principle Number Four.

I will always choose the better meaning and always see all problems as opportunities.  Even if someone says hurtful words, I will see it as an opportunity to know what is painful in the other person’s heart.

1.     Why choose the better meaning?
The Quran suggests that those who choose the better meaning are those who are guided and understand better. Positive thoughts create positive actions. Therefore, those who are positive can appreciate the hikmah in any situation. When we see the good in a person, we open the door for cooperation. When we see the good in every situation, we open channels for new opportunities.

2.     How to listen to another’s heart?
Pay attention to the third conversation. When two parties communicate, there are three conversations happening at the same time. The first one is the visible words and body language. The second conversation is happening in your own head. The third conversation is in the other person’s mind. Listening to the third conversation is key to know what is in the other person’s heart. We start with practicing empathy and silencing the second conversation. Only then can we begin to better understand why the Malays are sensitive about the special position and the Chinese and Indians are unhappy with the word pendatang.

3.     How can this principle contribute to moderation?
This principle helps us move forward by providing a mechanism to mitigate problems, rather than adding fuel to fire. A nation with diverse religious, ethnic, and cultural background as well as uneven socioeconomic distribution such as Malaysia, is bound to face many challenges. When we, however, choose the better meaning and listen to each other’s hearts, we will find solutions and move forward.

At zubedy, our programs draw strength from shared values and traditions. We believe that at heart, all Malaysians want good things for themselves and for their brother and sister Malaysians, simply because our nation cannot prosper as a whole if some of us are left behind.

You and I, we must always choose the better meaning and be Moderate Malaysians.

Let us add value,

Have A Meaningful Aidilfitri.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

A moderate Malaysia at all costs by Michelle Tam - The STAR

PETALING JAYA: Moderation has never been so important in the history in Malaysia.
And in an age where some find our differences dire enough to divide us, The Star Media Group managing director and chief executive officer Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai feels there is a pressing need to focus on commonalities.
“Important values like patience, forgiveness, understanding, tolerance, the fight against corruption... we find that all religions emphasise those. So why must we talk about differences in all religions and races?” he queried.
Earlier last year, The Star initiated the Voices of Moderation campaign to pave the way for pledges for open, rational and moderate discussions from balanced voices on a variety of issues affecting the country.
The moderation campaign runs parallel with The Star’s Brave Views, Bold Ideas campaign that was launched later to encourage Malaysians to espouse moderation while being open, rational and balanced in their discussions.
Despite appreciating the support shown for the campaign, Wong finds that nothing much has changed one year on, and finds himself wishing that more people would speak up as advocates of moderation.
“If you do not speak up, you are also responsible for the state of the country,” he cautioned.
Wong also finds that Malaysian leaders tend to shy away from pertinent issues at home, even though they speak about moderation in an eloquent fashion at the world stage.
“A wrong is a wrong, and I don’t think they should remain quiet. If you want to be known for your moderation stand, you should start at home,” he said.
For instance, the only Government leader who spoke up for gymnast Farah Ann Abdul Hadi - who was criticised for her “revealing” competition attire - was Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.
“I wish that more Cabinet ministers had spoken up. Why must it be restricted to only one person?” Wong added.
Hence, he hopes that Malaysians will remain liberal-minded to avoid being hijacked by religious or racist figures.
“I don’t care what’s the colour of your skin, or your religion, or about anything else. To me, you’re either a good human being or a bad human being.
“It’s as simple as that. Because the colour of our blood is red - it’s all the same,” he added.
Running the good race
Of course, there is a price to pay for what you believe in and what you choose to stand up for.
“I’ve been sued by Perkasa, and The Star has been sued. It’s still pending. I’ve received threats whenever I write or say something,” he said.
According to Wong, some of his friends in the moderation campaign have reason to believe that they had lost certain contracts and positions - such as a directorship at a government-linked company - because of their liberal views.
With Malaysia being a melting pot and a plural society, Wong believes there is nothing wrong in declaring oneself as a secular liberal.
“We have paid a price in some form of our personal liberty, but we will continue to stand up and voice what we think should be right for Malaysia,” he promised.
However, Wong acknowledged that some Malaysians face difficulty in articulating their views, which is reflected in the local use of social media.
“We are brought up in a society where we do not question the authorities. It’s a monologue. And when people do not wish to articulate their views, we don’t really know what they think!” he explained.
Those on social media can feel much more empowered to speak their mind, albeit in an unsavoury fashion.
“They can’t articulate, they put you down, and they call you a lot of racist names, which I think doesn’t reflect your ability to think or be reasonable or be moderate. That’s the sad part of Malaysia - we are not using the platform correctly,” said Wong
Thankfully, it is not all doom and gloom on social media.
Wong lauded his fellow moderates on the platform, citing the likes of Syed Azmi, G25 coordinator Datuk Noor Farida Ariffin and Anas Zubedy as sterling advocates of the cause.
“Syed never looks at a particular person from a racial point of view - he sees their needs. I know he spends a lot of time cruising around KL at 3am, helping people. He talks to them and listens in a very patient way,” he said.
Wong also holds Anas in high regard for being brave and moderate enough to turn a critical eye on one’s own faith, as it is all too easy to criticise another religion and another race.
“When you point out the weaknesses of your own community, your own ethnic group and your own religion, you will feel a lot of pressure. When it comes to criticising your own, it’s very important. Because you want that benchmark, you want to be fair.
“Anas does that a lot and I think the pressure has always been enormous for him. For all these brave people who have spoken up, I can only salute them,” he added.
In efforts to reach the heartlands of Malaysia, including the rural areas and new villages, Wong also hopes to see more people fluent in mother tongues - such as Bahasa Malaysia, Mandarin and Tamil - spread the clarion call for moderation. 
Though Wong believes race and religion will continue to be an issue in Malaysia in his lifetime, he thinks the focus should remain on acceptance and tolerance.
“We have to be realistic. Race continues to be a dominating factor even in places like the United States. Maybe not in an institutional form, but the fact remains that it will always be a problem.
“There are things that we cannot change in our time, because that’s simply how things are made out to be. That’s why we have to work on areas that we can work on together,” he added.
For one, it must be a widely accepted fact that Malaysia belongs to Malaysians of all races.
“I find it disturbing that the country is also becoming much more religiously conservative. This is not the Malaysia that we know, this is not the Malaysia that we want.
“We want Malaysia to be what it is and has always been -  multiracial, multireligious, and we seek the views of everyone,” he concluded.

This article was taken from The STAR

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Honouring Constitutional promises by Prof Shad Saleem Faruqi - The STAR

The Federal Constitution grants to Sabah and Sarawak a number of iron-clad guarantees of their autonomy and special position.
THE “Borneoisation case” of Fung Fon Chen @ Bernard v Govt (2012) is slated for rehearing on July 23. It relates to alleged violations of Sabah and Sarawak’s special position in the Federal set-up.
When Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore joined hands with Malaya to constitute Malaysia, the significantly amended Federal Constitution granted them a number of iron-clad guarantees of their autonomy and special position.
Some in the peninsula feel that 52 years after Malaysia Day the special rights and privileges must give way to more unity and uniformity on such issues as right to travel, live and work throughout the Federa­tion. Many Sabahans and Sarawa­kians, on the other hand, lament that they have been shortchanged and that there is a distinct whittling down of the privileges promised to them in 1963.
Gleaning over existing literature, a list of the main complaints may run as follows:
Political control: The Federal Government dictates political outcomes. The Federal Government’s choice of Mentris Besar and Governors does not always reflect popular sentiments in these states. The declaration of emergency in Sarawak in 1966 and the dismissal of Chief Minister Stephen Kalong Ningkan indicate that state autonomy is rather frail. Interference by Federal politicians in Sabah’s politics in 1994 led to the replacement of popularly elected local leaders.
Expanding Federal jurisdiction: Labuan was ceded to the Federal Government in 1984. Water and tourism have been federalised. Federal trespass on Sabah and Sarawak’s right in relation to amendments to the Federal Consti­tution was highlighted in the landmark decision of Robert Linggi vs Government of Malaysia (2011).
Religion: At the time of the 1963 merger, there was no state religion in these two states. Islam is now the official religion of Sabah. Articles 161C and 161D, which imposed procedural restrictions on laws favouring Islam, were repealed in 1976. The seizure of Bibles and the judicial decision on the kalimah Allah issue have angered many Sabahans and Sarawa­kians.
Finances: There is an allegation that these states do not derive the kind of financial benefit they deserve as a result of their contribution to the national coffers from petroleum, hydroelectricity and tourism.
Immigration: The influx of illegal immigrants and the alleged ‘’naturalisation’’ of thousands of them are violations of Sabah and Sarawak’s right over immigration.
Parliamentary representation: In 1963 it was envisaged that the Borneo states and Singapore shall have no less than 33% of the Dewan Rakyat seats. The percentage has now dipped to 25%.
20-Point Agreement: Within Sabah there is considerable disquiet that some of the safeguards of the ‘’20 Points’’ have not been converted to law. A prominent complaint is that Borneoisation of public services in Sabah has not proceeded vigorously. It is alleged that insufficient protection is being given under Article 153 to natives of Borneo states.
Secession: In the light of the above, a movement has sprung up asking for Sabah to secede from the Federation. Legally speaking, our Constitution contains no provision for the secession of any state from the Federation. The disintegration of the Federal union is not contemplated by the Constitution. Any attempt at separation or incitement to secede will actually amount to treason and sedition under our criminal laws.
Even the 20-Point Agreement with Sabah explicitly states in para 7 that there is no right to secession.
But what about Singapore? Contrary to what is believed by some, Singapore did not unilaterally secede from Malaysia. Its “separation” was accomplished by several mutual acts between the Malaysian Federal Government and the state Government of Singapore.
Among these were the Inde­pendence of Singapore Agreement 1965 and the Constitution and Malaysia (Singapore Amendment) Act 1965. The latter made significant modifications to the 1957 Federal Constitution and the 1965 Malaysia Act and explicitly stated, “Parliament may by this Act allow Singapore to leave Malaysia”.
Self-determination: What about international law? One has to concede that the law of nations recognises the right of a people to self-determination. The law was born in an era of decolonisation and embraces the notion that people who have a common historical, ethnic, cultural, linguistic, religious, ideological, territorial or economic identity have a right to determine the political and legal status of their territory. They may set up a new State or choose to become part of another State.
In recent memory, Crimea (2014), Timor Leste (1995) and Bangladesh (1971) travelled down the painful, blood-soaked path of national liberation.
The principle of self-determination is recognised in Articles 1(2), 55, 73 and 76(b) of the United Nations Charter and in many other international documents. However, international law scholar Abdul Ghafur Hamid asserts that the legal right of self-determination applies primarily to colonised, trust and mandated territories: “The effect of linking self-determination to decolonisation seems to deny a general right to secession of groups within a State”.
I believe that despite some ambiguity in international law, the various regions (states, cantons, provinces) of a Federation do not have a legal right to walk away from the union. A unilateral act of separation is permissible in confederations like the European Union or Asean but not in a Federation united by a written, supreme Constitution which describes the territories of the Federation.
Leaders of Sabah and Sarawak must, therefore, disassociate themselves from all separatist movements. Instead they must negotiate with the Federal Government about their discontents.
In turn, Federal leaders must recognise that Sabah and Sarawak’s restiveness is real and must be addressed. The Federal Government must return to the meticulously negotiated compromises of 1963. It must balance the concern of equity with efficiency in inter-governmental financial relations.
It must strengthen institutional me­­c­h­anisms for regular, non-partisan dialogue between the centre and the states. If the root causes of dissent and disenchantment are addressed, this Federal union can survive the challenging decades ahead.

Article was taken from The STAR

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The knowledge imperative by Prof Datin Dr Azizah Baharuddin - The STAR

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ONE of the highlights of Ramadan for Muslims is the commemoration of Nuzul Quran, which means the phenomenon of the Descendence or Revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad.
To understand the commemoration of knowledge as a critical imperative for the believer, look at the meaning of the term “Quran” itself.
The word Quran comes from the root qaraa, which means “to read/recite”.
Although it is regarded as the guide par excellence for Muslims not to be lost and ignorant, the question that is begging to be asked is to what extent/degree is it read, and read with understanding?
Besides being the mother of books (Ummul Kitab), the Quran is also ayah (signs), sent down (tanzil) at intervals.
It is hikmah/wisdom, discernment of truth and falsehood, huda/guide anddhikr/remembrance.
To illustrate its divine origin, the revelation occurred to the Prophet who was ummi(illiterate).
Recitation of the Quran is like a signature ibadah (worship) in Ramadan. That is why, in mosques and homes daily, recitation sessions (tadarus) are a must for many Muslims.
However, what needs to be highlighted is that tadabur or understanding the message of what is being read is often times taken for granted or left out altogether.
Those who have knowingly or unknowingly been in the latter situation could perhaps be reminded that God regards the recitation of the Quran as something that is of great priority for Him.
“It (the Quran) is for us to collect... and to promulgate.
“When we have promulgated it, follow thou its recital. Nay, more, it is for us to explain and make clear” (Quran – 75:17-19).
In other words, just the (proper) recitation of the Quran is itself already a very spiritually rewarding act, one in which God is at hand to ensure that enlightenment is the outcome of the recitation.
Those who have hesitated to actively synonymise the reading of the Quran with knowledge should also be reminded of another significant fact highlighting the knowledge imperative, which is that the first revelation (ayah) was/is the command to read “acquire knowledge” and learning.
“Read in the name of your Lord and Cherisher, Who created man out of a mere clot of congealed blood. Proclaim!
“Thy Lord is Most Bountiful. He who taught via use of the Pen. Taught man that which he knows not.” (Quran 96:1-5).
For Muslims, this ayah should be a constant in learning and knowledge-seeking.
That is, all learning must be in and with the name of the Creator, to Whom all acts are submitted and by Whom deeds will be judged.
This is so, to ensure that man will not transgress bounds which are brought on whenever he sees himself as self-sufficient, the same verse further explains.
This is why a condition in reading the Quran is avoidance of distractions. One should not be influenced by prejudices and small-mindedness.
Only then can the Quran speak directly to the heart. In doing this, the Quran also relies on our unfailing use of our reasoning (aqal).
This can be seen by the fact that all throughout the Quran, the expressions “do you not see...” or “do they not wonder...” and so on are very common. Faith in God is to be a product of understanding and having knowledge.
A lack of it or failure to harness such knowledge would sabotage faith, thus robbing it of its function in life, which would be doing grave injustice to the self and others.
In Islam, knowledge is linked to ibadah (worship). Learning and acquiring knowledge is worship, reading the Quran and pondering upon it (tadabur) is worship, travelling to seek knowledge is worship.
Practising or applying knowledge is inevitably tied up with akhlaq (good behaviour and morality), which principally is highlighting virtue and combatting vice, enjoining right and forbidding wrong (amar ma’arufnahi munkar).
Acquiring knowledge in order to be close to God translates into pursuing and practising it with modesty and humility so that it would lead to dignity, beauty, justice and freedom.
Knowledge is also not purely for the gratification of the mind or senses; it has to be linked to values and goals or intentions (niyyat).
To sum up, for Muslims, Nuzul Quran which takes place during Ramadan (hence the added significance of the month) is to remind them of the knowledge imperative, the main purpose of which is to gain the good of this world; not to cause destruction through waste, arrogance and greed in the reckless pursuit of materialism.
Another critical purpose of knowledge is the spreading of dignity and freedom, justice and truth. It is not to obtain power and dominance for its own sake.
Let us hope that the greatest lesson from our commemoration of Nuzul Quran would be the awareness that knowledge and power coupled with arrogance would lead us to tyranny and injustice, and that knowledge and power coupled with ethics will give us justice and freedom.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Travel :)

Why Pay More Attention to AURAT when the Quran asks us to focus on TAQWA (Righteousness)?

In the ongoing debate about dress code, we may be barking at the wrong tree.

The Quran sets clear guidance on what is the best of clothing. The more Muslims follow the Quran, the more guided we are. When we don’t, we are simply straying away from Allah. We need to be clear on what the Quran wants us to pay attention to, and act accordingly.

The Quran states clearly in the following verse that the best of clothing is dress code of Righteousness. Paying attention to Righteousness is considered a sign from Allah. Paying attention to other than that of Righteousness is considered not remembering Him.

“O children of Adam, We have bestowed upon you clothing to conceal your private parts and as adornment. But the clothing of righteousness - that is best. That is from the signs of Allah that perhaps they will remember.”
Quran 7:26

In another verse below, the Quran equates nobility to Righteousness too. The verse calls out to the entire mankind to judge a person’s dignity, decency, politeness and graciousness with Righteousness. In the sight of Allah, the most noble are those who are the most Righteous. Here the Quran stressed that Allah is the Knowing One and He is the most Acquainted and Aware to the circumstances. Failing to listen to Him may reduce us to be among the ignorant and unaware.

“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.”
Quran 49:13

Semantically, the Quran listed the characteristic of Righteousness in the verse below.

“Righteousness is not that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but [true] righteousness is [in] one who -
·        believes in Allah ,
·        the Last Day,
·        the angels,
·        the Book,
·        and
·        the Prophets
·        and gives wealth, in spite of love for it,
o   to relatives,
o   orphans,
o   the needy,
o   the traveler,
o   those who ask [for help],
o   and for freeing slaves;
·        [and who] establishes prayer and gives zakah;
·        [those who] fulfill their promise when they promise;
·        and [those who] are patient in poverty and hardship and during battle.

Those are the ones who have been true, and it is those who are the righteous.

Quran 2:177

Are we then barking at the wrong tree? Why are we then paying more attention to AURAT when the Quran asks us to focus on TAQWA (Righteousness)?

Anas Zubedy
Kuala Lumpur