Saturday, December 23, 2006

Increase in toll rates must be justified

The authorities may have many reasons to justify the planned increase in the toll rates come Jan 1. Some of their reasons may have merit and need to be considered positively. On the contrary, as consumers, most Malaysians would vehemently oppose moves which would pinch their pockets.

The peoples’ displeasure to the toll rate increase is based on two factors. These are the prevailing traffic congestion and the deplorable condition of highways. There is also the unfair double taxation where one has to pay both road taxes and increasing toll charges.

Paying toll, most would agree, is inevitable for the convenience enjoyed and for comfort of travel. The question here is whether the prevailing traffic and road conditions really justify the frequent increase in toll rates.

Our highways have become heavily congested and today’s traffic jams are common even on dual carriage highways and expressways. Despite all the highways, one has to cope with the traffic crawl everyday, which is causing so much stress and inconvenience to city dwellers.

In fact, we have to pay for inconvenience and hardship - not convenience and comfort. Furthermore, many of our highways are in a deplorable state with potholes, poor drainage and lighting. They appear to be in state of constant repair, which adds to the traffic jams which in turn, causes more inconvenience and dangers to the road users.

The facilities along the Plus highway are grossly inadequate and not well-maintained. The rest areas are overcrowded especially during festive seasons and long weekends. Most of these areas are inconvenient and not conducive for resting when breaking a long journey.

There is also increasing frustration with the non-transparent manner in which money collected from road tax is spent on maintaining our roads and highways. There is a need for more openness on the expenditure of public funds for such purposes. If this is done, Malaysians will be more amenable to further toll increases.

While paying toll may be inevitable, it is not fair to keep increasing the toll rates without a parallel increase in the quality of the highways and associated facilities. Attitudes like, ‘If you want it, you pay for it’ will only aggravate the anger and frustration. None of us want traffic jams but we not only have them but are also forced to pay for them.

Dr.Chris Antnony

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Being proud of our heritage

The past is a lesson for the present and future

Despite the ongoing protests against the actions of the authorities, there seem to be an systematic and planned demolition of heritage buildings in the country. The most recent of these was the Bok House in Kuala Lumpur and the former Uplands School in Penang.

It simply goes to show the lack of respect for the wishes of the rakyat by the local authorities who blatantly bulldoze their decision without due consideration for the peoples opinion.

The Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry which pledges to protect and maintain all heritage sites and buildings appears to be either dumb founded or offering excuses every time a historical site or building is destroyed.

Our national heritage is something we should all be proud of, but unfortunately our authorities are bent on destroying them one by one. If this trend were to continue soon all historical events and contributions of past generations, to our success as well as failures, will be totally erased. Our future generations will never get to know and appreciate the greatness of past leaders and citizens who sacrifice so much to bring our nation to where it is today.

Most of our social ills are due to our ignorance of the sacrifices of earlier generations. If only children appreciate the sacrifices of their parents, many of them will be better people. Similarly if only the younger generation appreciate the contributions of their forefathers, then many of the ills in the society will never surface.

Why are our authorities bent on demolishing our historical sites and buildings?The Penang Heritage Trust vice-president Tunku Ismail Mohammad Jewa says these are done in the name of the “almighty ringgit”. The almighty ringgit surely is an important consideration in all our decisions in development but it should not be the one and only criteria.

The past, both good and bad, is a lesson for the present and the future. Unless we learn to appreciate the contributions of the past it would be almost impossible to progress now and in the future. We must be more serious in our endeavors to preserve our heritage to be used as lessons by the future generation.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Replace tolerance with understanding

I write in response to two articles in theSun of Nov 28. The first is "That racist tone of voice" by Zainon Ahmad in his column What They Say. The second is "This race needs a flat podium" by Amir Mahmood Razak in Freespace.

I write because I marched in the Merdeka parade in Malacca as a child, with a lantern in my hand. My classmates and I carried a string of lanterns with cutouts that spelt Merdeka. I heard Tunku Abdul Rahman shout "Merdeka!" umpteen times.

I write because when I was a teenager in Form Four my friends and I danced in the Merdeka celebrations on the Malacca Padang. The organisers were so impressed that they invited us to dance before Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman when he visited the town soon after. It was the closest I ever got to him.

I write because when I was 17 and in form six, I wrote an essay for my general paper entitled "Malaysia". I wrote of Tunku Abdul Rahman's vision and I ended the essay quoting his words "... this melting pot of many nations ..."

A year later reality struck. The education department sent a circular that the school prefects could not be appointed through democratic elections as was the age-old practice.
It seemed pupils were touching on sensitive issues in their campaigns and upsetting some students. The reality has stuck with me ever since. The many nations would not be allowed to melt.

So when I was an adult and more articulate I wrote a short story entitled "Merdeka" in commemoration of our 25th year of independence. It was published twice and a few people might remember it.

Now I write because I owe it to myself and the country of my birth to say my piece to those who hardly know what they are talking about when they scream about their perceptions of Bangsa Malaysia. We, the common people of all races have been manipulated for a very long time by politicians who, for their very own political ends and financial gains, have kept us servile, fearful and even promoted ignorance. Thanks to stifling policies by tunnel-visioned politicians, I have had university students who have refused to participate in an academic discussion or a debate because they were afraid to speak their minds on issues of religion, politics, or sex education!

They complained in terrible fear when roommates used holy beads, statues or holy pictures. I have had students who crept into my room, shut the door and whispered questions to me about my religion because they were confused. Then they told me not to tell anyone about our two-minute conversation. When my department had a talk on Islamic values, I was the only non-Muslim who attended. The speaker and the rest of the audience did not know what to make of my presence.

Everybody talks about racial and religious tolerance, and then some sad souls who have never even known a war, triedÊto prove their loyalty by screaming about matyrdom and bloodbaths. Text messages are sent and announcements made of a church event, by people who did not realise that they could actually call the church and talk to someone there to verify information. The order of the day seems to be "confrontation". I have not heard anyone talk about racial and religious understanding or of dialogue.

When I visited the US a few years ago I was invited to do an informal presentation to a group of young men and women who had to care for delinquent children. The children were of mixed races and there was a need for cultural sensitivity. I talked of "Multi-ethnicity: Tolerance vs understanding." Yes, there is a difference.

The word "tolerance" carries in it an element of resentment. We tolerate something or someone because we are forced to put up with it or with the person. And we don't have to bother with understanding. We don't have to know more about the thing or persons we tolerate. The more we tolerate, the more we resent, till eventually our patience wears out.

The word "understand" on the other hand implies that we take the trouble to find out things. Understanding is born out of healthy curiosity. It asks questions openly, it is not afraid of new knowledge, it brings broad vision, multiple perspectives and most importantly it brings peace because we understand. In understanding we do not lose ourselves but are able to see ourselves in the greater scheme of things.

We were once a world model of a plural society and we merited international attention for it. In the last couple of weeks we have disgraced ourselves internationally. How many of us can say that we have, out of healthy curiosity, read the Holy Books of the other faiths in our multi-religious country? How many of us have courageously and respectfully walked into all the other faiths' places of worship to see what they were like? How many of us have, out of respect for our friends and converted relatives, attended the ceremonial rites of birth, marriage and death for them? If we have not, then we have no right to call ourselves Malaysians, let alone Bangsa Malaysia.

I have sat at temples of Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists; I have entered mosques and churches, participated in weddings and funerals of all of these, eaten their food and read their books. Yet I have not lost the faith that I was born into. So what are so many people afraid of? Each other? The bullying holy men and politicians? Themselves?

If we really educated ourselves and our children about each other's faiths and cultures, if the education system ensured that the curriculum enabled this multicultural education of our children, then we would not be embarrassing ourselves as we are doing today. We would also not be losing our more intelligent children to foreign lands where they have a better chance of being their intelligent selves.

The catch phrase "tolerance" has to be replaced with "understanding" if we are to redeem our dignity as a multi-racial and multi-religious Malaysia. May I end by saying that no politician or religious leader in this country should have a right to office if he or she has not acquired a deep understanding of all the faiths, cultures and histories of the people in this country.

Angela Jessie
Petaling Jaya
Sun,Dec12,2006
Developing a human capital

I refer to the report “PM: Good 3 years but more to be done” (Star Dec 13).

It is reassuring to know that the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, while happy with his achievements he over the last 3 years, also recognizes that he has to do more to narrow certain “lopsidedness in development in both human and physical infrastructure”.

Yes, we take pride in having fantastic mega structures but is our human capital equally well developed? Unfortunately most of these mega projects are in fact the work of foreign expertise. Human capital, in the development of a progressive nation is of utmost importance and it must be cultivated among the locals.

The PM rightly pointed out that we need people who are be mentally, physically, spiritually and morally strong. It may be easy to have people who are clever but lack these attributes that are essential for a truly progressive society.

In order to have a proper human capital we need proper training especially for the young. This has to start very early in schools and as Abdullah says we have to seriously look into our school curriculum to adapt to modern day advancements especially in the fields of science and technology. A proper mindset based on rational and logical thinking is of utmost importance in the development of a progressive modern society.

Every citizen, irrespective of ethnicity, is a potential human capital and must be given a fair opportunity to contribute his talents to the development of the country. We must put aside our differences, which are mainly in form rather than substance, and look at the many common factors that bind us as Malaysians.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Harness the energy in UNITY

I refer to the report “Sultan tells of his vision for Selangor” (Star December 12).

Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah’s vision for Selangor and His Majesty’s desire to see every child born in his state to be given a hope, that with dedicated efforts, they, too, have a chance to make their dreams come true is very encouraging. We hope that this vision be extended to include every child born in this beautiful country of ours and not Selangor alone.

Malaysia has gone through tremendous changes and has achieved a high level of economic, social and spiritual development which we are all proud of. As the Sultan of Selangor says there are many areas that still need to be improved to ensure that the citizens of various races could live good and comfortable lives.

We should not stop here but continue to build on our achievements to reach much greater heights. In this struggle the talents of all citizens should be full tapped. Everyone’s contribution, however small it may be, is invaluable and should not be underestimated or ignored.

Everyone regardless of his race and religion should be given the opportunities to strive for a stake in the fortunes of the nation. The global world today is very competitive and challenging, with unfair advantage to the rich and powerful nations, who have total monopoly over the economic and political systems.

To succeed we need to pool all the resources at our disposal especially the human capital so that we can put up a reasonable challenge against these giants of the world. Our diversity of cultures makes us unique. It offers us the source of strength that others do not possess. If only we can unite as Malaysians we should be able to harness the insurmountable energy that no one can match.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Illegitimate citizens in own Motherland

The recently concluded 57th UMNO Annual General Assembly opened the eyes of many of us, non-Muslims and non-Malays, to the hard political reality prevalent in our beloved nation, we call our motherland.

Instead of focusing on the numerous issues facing the country, the members of the dominant party, chose to preoccupy themselves with racial and religious ultra-extremism. The only reassuring statements for the non-Malay Malaysians were from the Umno president and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.Even his appeals for moderation appeared to have fallen on deaf ears, as throughout the assembly, speaker after speaker delivered fiery and emotional attacks on other races.

Regrettably this anti-non-Malay and non-Muslim stance was most obvious in the youth wing which makes us shudder at what is in store for us and our children in the future in our own motherland. Our fears are not unfounded as even the PM has acknowledged that we have reached a dangerous point in the history of the nation.

The Chinese and Indians have been staunch supporters of UMNO in all elections, so why this growing antagonism in UMNO towards them now?

All forms of threats and challenges are leveled at us to which we are becoming immuned.Our voices of dissent are in fact being suppressed by uncalled for threats and a newly emerging mob mentality like the violent disruption of the peaceful Article 11 forum in Penang and the false SMS fiasco in Ipoh where, groups of Muslims gather in force to surround a church on mere speculation and rumours. It saddens us to realize that the authorities seem to condone such behaviour as demonstrated by inaction against these unlawful perpetrators.

We are told not to question the special rights of Malays and the position of Islam. We are accused of damaging the sanctity if Islam. We are also told bluntly that there is no religion above Islam. Groups that promote inter-faith dialogue and harmony by stressing on universal human values, like the Inter-Faith Council,Penang Global Ethics Project, Pusat Komas and Sisters in Islam (SIS), are singled out to be condemned.

Several delegates have called for war against non-Malay agendas, claiming that they are ready to "bathe in blood" to protect their rights and that "the blood of Malay warriors will run in our veins". They warn the other races not to question the Malay rights and warn even their own BN counterparts not to interfere with their special privileges. Even senior non-Malay ministers are rudely criticized. Where is our professed Asian virtue of respect for elders?

In fact their attitude towards us is summed up by the MCA Youth leader’s statement that even the opposition has not been as poisonous with their words compared to the racist remarks spewed by the Umno delegates who are our friend and partners in the ruling coalition.

As the proceedings were televised live, these delegates have succeeded in painting a picture of a racially segregated and tensed Malaysia to foreigners. When foreigners watch this, what do you think will be their impression? In many countries, such rhetoric is considered bigotry and racist.

We are accused of questioning the special position of the Malays and Islam. In fact the majority of us have come to accept this as a fact of life. We are not against the NEP as it is only right and proper that any social imbalance among the races should be addressed to preserve national harmony.

The NEP and its target of 30% equity by bumiputras was never opposed by the non-Malays who understand the importance of uplifting the welfare of the bumiputras. In fact many of us in civil service before have worked hand in hand with our fellow bumiputras towards that endeavor.

Despite 30 over years of implementing polices to uplift the Malays we are still told that they have far behind the target at a mere 18.9%.On the contrary two other reports reveal that it had actually surpassed the target.

We are merely asking for are our rights as enshrined in the constitution. We have come to a situation where all our rights in education, economy, culture and religion are denied and our future appears bleak and hopeless. Our yearnings to serve the nation, in government service, police and armed forces are not appreciated and unjustly denied.

Is it wrong and a crime to demand in a civil manner for our rights as citizens in our own country?

As the PM says Umno, and the Malays, as the dominant members of the ruling coalition, must always be fair and just to all Malaysians. The minority non-Malays have no one else to depend if their dominant partner turns against them.

Recent events in Malaysia, both in and out of the Umno AGM, have sent the message to every non-Malay that the leaders of this country will not protect them and their families. We are helpless against the power and might of the forces arrayed against us. We are not sure what to do next. Our calls for dialogue are rejected. Mob rule is becoming the norm on mere speculation and rumours.

Whether we like it or not we are Malaysians and are here to stay during good and bad times. This is a fact which must be accepted by all. Let us show fellow Malaysians and the rest of the world that we are and could be a civilized peace-loving nation, instead of one that indulges in fighting imaginary enemies.

God has bestowed us with a beautiful country, full of resources and devoid of natural disasters like earthquakes, drought, floods, forest fires, volcanoes, typhoons and hurricanes. He has also bestowed us with diverse cultures and faiths so as to allow us to develop the virtue of tolerance for others.

Let us appreciate and share these divine gifts fairly among us so that we can all live life to the fullest as one united nation, Malaysia, and not fight each other in His name.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Rule of law should prevail


Let’s submit to the rule of law not emotions

I refer to the report “Cabinet wants religious status of dead man verified” (Star Dec 7).

All peace loving Malaysians with goodwill and who want justice to reign would heartily welcome the cabinet’s decision to direct the Attorney-General (AG) to look into the case of Rayappan Anthony to confirm his religious status. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi must be praised for his wisdom and fairness in arriving at suchunprecedented decision.

By handing the responsibility to the AG, the cabinet has rightly endorsed that the case should be under the jurisdiction of the civil courts. The question of fairness of the syariah courts is not the issue here but who should justly handle such cases.

We hope and pray that the AG and the civil courts can come with a reasonable and just decision on this important case that could become precedence for similar cases in the future. We hope justice will be done based on the law and facts and all the parties concerned would listen to good sense for the well being of the nation.

We are encouraged by the AG Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail’s statement that all parties must respect each other's religion and should sit down and discuss the matter to reach an amicable solution. In a Multi-racial and multi-religious society like Malaysia, dialogue in a civil manner is the only way to overcome problems like these that inevitably surface from time to time.

There can never be one sure winner all the time. Every community should compromise and they should consider the whole picture, not just be myopic in just looking at the interest of their own community.

At the highest level, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and the cabinet, has set the tone of moderation, goodwill and fair play, it is now up to us to adopt these virtues in our dealings with all. We must submit to the rule of law at all times and at all costs, not blinded by emotions and prejudice.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Dress code and morality

Education not laws the solution

I refer to the report “MPKB: Cover up or else” (Star Dec 5).

The Kota Baru Municipal Council (MPKB) has announced that it would “no longer tolerate indecent dressing” by women, both Muslim and non-Muslim. It is planning to impose a fine of RM500.00 on women found to spot such dressing which they describe as sexy.

This has brought opposing response from several women organizations like Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) Wanita MCA, Women's Development Collective and The All-Women’s Action Society (Awam).

Any move to educate people to dress decently should be welcomed. In fact not only Islam but all religions also preach morality and decent dressing is an important aspect of such a code. In has to be emphasized that morality is just not about dressing alone. Morality involves a wholesome behaviour that embraces all the virtuous human values.

Civic mindedness, respect for elders, upholding the laws of the country, being courteous and caring for the underprivileged are all important aspects of good morality. So are honesty and integrity in all our actions. A decently attired individual need not necessarily be a morally righteous person.

The authorities should work to arrest the deteriorating standard of morality in society instead of being obsessed with what women wear. Will enforcing a rigid dress code curb the sex-related social ills in our society such as illicit sex, adultery, abortions, incest and rape?

It is very sad that even those who are supposed to be role models for our children appear to be leading immoral lives themselves. What we need is not a strict dress code for our women but a proper education to inculcate good values in our people especially the young.

In fact the majority of our women are mature enough and have the appropriate sense of dressing and do not need legislation to enforce what they wear, as that is a basic individual right.

Like all other town councils,MPKB,has many other pressing issues to handle. Instead of being a “moral police” it should give priority to these other pressing issues and find ways to improve the livelihood of the residents of Kota Baru, concentrate on cleaning the drains and parks, collecting rubbish and providing other amenities they are entrusted with.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Honour your father and mother

Life has become highly competitive these days and we have to spend a large part of our energy and time trying to earn enough to support our family. In the process we tend to overlook the plights of one important group of people who were responsible for what we are today – our aged parents.

Our most common sin as children was disobeying our parents and being rude to them. Very often we were angry with them for not allowing us to do as we wished, forcing us to study and reprimanding us when we did something wrong.

Despite all the punishment that they meted out on us for our various offences, there was no doubt in our minds of their love and concern for us under all circumstances.

We can recollect the sleepless nights they spent taking care of us when we were sick, the moments of anxiety they went through when we were involved in some accidents and the tears they shed during intense prayers for our recovery.

We remember the strenuous labour and the mental stress they endured to earn a meager income to provide us with some basic comforts in life and a decent education, which they themselves were denied. All they lived for was the well being of our future not theirs. They did all that without any ulterior motive that one day we will repay that gratitude.

Today many of us are parents ourselves and only now fully appreciate the extent of love parents have for their own children. We understand the pain and anxiety we have to endure when our children suffer from all forms of ailments and failures in their lives. We realize the severity of the heartache when our children refuse to heed our advice and meet disaster as a result.

Some of us may be unfortunate to have our children inflicted with terminal illness and we are aware of the tremendous pain it causes us everyday. Some of our parents too would have undergone such great torment in their lives.

Today many of us may are successful and are better off in life than our parents. Many, even our friends and relatives, would be jealous of our achievements especially when we are better than them. The only people who feel proud when we “overtake” them in life will be our parents. The joy and happiness that accompanies the successes of our children are immense and insurmountable.

We may have grown older and become more successful but sin against our old folks is still our common weakness although we may not realize it. In our later life, disobedience to parents is expressed in the form of negligence and apathy towards them when they become incapacitated and of no use to us.

We become calculative among the siblings of who should take care and provide for them when they are no more in a position to earn. When they become ill or handicapped we conveniently pass the responsibility of caring for them to others. We give the excuse we are too busy and have no time and no money. I admit it is not easy to take care of elderly parents who are invalid, especially in a fast moving materialistic world, but we fail to realise it is our responsibility and ours alone. We cannot run away from it.

The greatest fear among elderly people is loneliness. This is particularly true for those who have lost their spouses and are all alone in this cruel world. For many of them, it is not money, gifts or food that they need. All they ask for is the love of fellow humans in particular their children and grandchildren, to spare some time for them.

The strange thing is that this fear is also a feature when we were children. As a child when we too were fearful to be alone, but then our parents were there to console and reassure us with their loving embrace. They did that willingly and with great love and passion.

But when they are in living in fear at the twilight of their lives, we as children are not there to comfort them. We are too busy with our jobs and families. We blame the fast moving and competitive society we live in as an excuse for our negligence and indifference.

Very often we, the children become upset when our old parents become terminally ill.We are prepared to spend thousands of ringgit for their treatment and subsequently give them a grand funeral service. We even offer prayers and hold elaborate memorial services and rituals for the dead but lack the same enthusiasm in being supportive and being with them when they were alive.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Increasing toll rates

Increasing toll for increasing traffic woes

I refer to the front page report “Toll to go up” (The Star, Nov 28).

Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu may have many reasons to justify the planned increase in the toll rates come January 1, 2007.Some of his reasons may have merits and need to be considered positively.On the contrary as consumers, most Malaysians would vehemently oppose such moves.

Paying tolls, most would agree is inevitable for the convenience and comfort of travellers. The main question here for us as the road users is whether the prevailing traffic and road conditions really justify the frequent increase.

Road travel in our country has become the main, at times the only available mode of transport. Federal and state trunk roads used to be our main routes for travel for many decades. These became hazardous due to over congestion and as such highways were constructed at very high costs for the convenience of travelers, especially inter stare travel.

Because of the high cost involved in their construction, imposition of tolls was inevitable and most road users accepted it willingly. People did not mind paying a little for the great convenience and safety of the travel on improved highways.

With the passage of time these highways too became heavily congested and today traffic jams are common even on dual carriage highways and expressways. We have come to a situation as it was in the seventies when highways were not available. Despite the congestion and jams, we still have to pay the ever increasing toll charges.

Furthermore our highways are in a deplorable state, with potholes, poor drainage and visibility. They appear to be in state of constant repairs, which add to the traffic jams causing more inconvenience and added dangers to the road users.

The facilities along the highways too are grossly inadequate and not well maintained. The rest areas are overcrowded especially during festive seasons and long weekends. Most of these areas are inconvenient and conducive for rest when breaking a long journey.

In actual fact we are paying for increasing traffic jams and deplorable state of our highways leading to a unacceptably high accident and mortality rates. Is it fair to keep increasing the tolls without a parallel increase in the quality of the highways and associated facilities?

Dr.Chris Anthony

UMNO General Assembly 2006






27 November 2006

Fear-mongers drown out genuine issues

It would be an understatement to say that the just-concluded Umno General Assembly has caused a great deal of concern among right-thinking Malaysians, regardless of race. The language by many of the delegates was disgraceful. Although the prime minister did make conciliatory gestures in his closing address, the fact remains that not one of the Umno delegates, with the exception of Markiman Kobiran, publicly said anything against such behaviour. This to me indicates that such thinking is reflective of the thinking of the rank and file and that is worrying. This is not some fringe group we are talking about here, this is Umno and it is the ruling party.
However, let us look upon the positives. I remember many years ago in sunny England, talking to a South African friend and we both agreed that the thing about apartheid era South Africa was that at least you knew exactly where the racism was, unlike in Britain where it was more insidious. The same can be said in our situation now, the blatant bigotry and the racism have risen to the surface. It is there in plain view and should now be dealt with.
The language used in the general assembly was the language of war and death. Blood was a recurring theme and there was even a call to "use the keris". Now, no matter what Hishammuddin Hussein might say about the keris being merely a symbol, it is still a weapon and the imagery of him being asked to use that weapon is quite simply one of violence.
When there is talk of war and threats, the purpose is to frighten. And the purpose of frightening people is so that they, in their fear, will turn to a saviour. The fear is that of the non-Malay (and some "traitorous" Malays of course) and their ever-present threat to Malay privileges and Islam. The saviour naturally is Umno.
A point not only made by the delegates but also by the RTM presenter covering the general assembly. Therefore, it must surely be true.
But let us first see whether this fear is justified. Just as the American and British public should have demanded more firmly from their governments "where are those weapons of mass destruction that is going to destroy us?", we the people of Malaysia, particularly the Malay people of Malaysia, should be asking "where is the threat to our constitutional privileges and the religion of Islam?"
Rights vs privileges
Firstly, let's examine the issue of Malay privileges. Incidentally, it is not "Malay rights". There is no such thing as a racial "right" to be given special treatment. And that is not me being argumentative, it's the Constitution. You won't find "Malay rights" in the supreme law of our land, instead, you will find terms such as "special position" of Malays. The difference is more than semantics. A right implies something inalienable. A privilege on the other hand is a benefit, presumably given to those who need it.
It is inconceivable that discrimination, whether affirmative or not, can be considered a right. It is in direct contradiction with that most fundamental of true rights, equality among all human beings.
This privilege was made a fundamental part of the Constitution to protect the Malays from being overwhelmed economically, administratively and politically from the immigrant ethnic groups of the time. In return those groups were given the protection and security of citizenship. This is our famous social contract.
How is this constitutional provision being threatened? By people merely questioning it? Is that a threat? Have questions become a threat in this country? What the delegates did not bother pointing out to the people of Malaysia is that for such privileges to be taken away would require a constitutional Aamendment that would need the two-third support of the Dewan Rakyat, the Dewan Negara and approval from the Conference of Rulers. Hardly likely, no matter who is in government. So why is there such a fear?
'Threats' to Islam
With regard to the threat to Islam, again, it is merely fear mongering. A so-called danger is the matter of apostasy. The official numbers of converts out of Islam is miniscule and a large percentage of those are for people who had to embrace Islam because of marriages which have since failed. Shafee Muslims are given every single opportunity to practise their faith in this country and their perpetually delicate sensitivities are guarded to the point of comedy. For example, when was the last time you saw a pig on the cinema screen? So again, my question remains, where is the threat?
The so-called threats are made up based on narrow-minded thinking and untruths. For example, the Konrad Adenaur Foundation programme in Penang where people are brought around on a tour of various houses of worship is apparently a serious threat. How can it be? Unless your faith is so weak that the visiting of a temple would turn you into a Hindu.
The idea of such programmes is to emphasise the peaceful and neighbourly intent of all religions. And what is wrong with that? Are these so-called "defenders of Islam" saying that only Islam promotes such values? If that is the case, all other religions must surely be solely about evil practices. Only the most bigoted can possibly believe that.
The Interfaith Commission is another handy bogeyman. The IFC is not an NGO or an organisation of any kind; it was a proposed statutory body. The purpose of this body was to provide a forum where interfaith issues could be discussed and advice given to the relevant bodies in the event of conflict. It was not a judicial body with authority to make binding decisions. It can in no way usurp the jurisdiction of the syariah court, the civil court or even the penghulu court.
But the Malay press painted a different picture. The IFC was going to emasculate the syariah court and it was going to encourage and enforce the conversion of Muslims out of the religion it seems. Either the writers of such slander did not read the Constitution of the proposed IFC or they did and they decided to just write what they wanted anyway. Besides, the idea has been all but scrapped and for it to work it needs to be passed by Parliament.
I don't think that this is going to happen. So what we have here is delegates raising the ghost of the IFC as a threat when in fact it never was a threat and having been shelved by the Umno-led government, it's effectively dead anyway. How much simpler can this be put? There was no threat.
In the face of such bigotry, I am reminded of Akbar Shah, the greatest of the Moghul emperors. He protected people of all faiths and protected the freedom of worship for all. And he encouraged debate and communication between religions as well. It's a good thing that this man, the leader of one of the greatest Muslim empires ever known, was not Malaysian because he would have probably been branded a threat to Islam.
Genuine issues ignored
All this fist-waving and calls to arms is sad not only because it shows the unacceptably ugly reality of prejudice in our country, but more importantly, by raging against imaginary dangers and shooting at shadows, time is wasted and genuine issues are not being properly debated. Even the prime minister bemoaned the fact that the true threat of corruption was not discussed in any depth.
And why was the issue of the wastage of public funds not discussed? For example, the spending of millions of public money to send Malaysian astronauts to space to play batu seremban. Supposedly it is to encourage interest in science. Perhaps it would have been better to debate whether this will promote interest in science or maybe, just maybe, using the money to build proper science labs in government schools, would be a better option.
And if the issue of apostasy has to be debated, instead of vicious calls for punishment (as if cruelty is going to make one's religion more endearing), maybe the debate should be why are those Muslims who are converting out of Islam so disillusioned? When looking at a problem, the first port of call should be oneself. It's a lot harder than pointing accusatory fingers quivering with rage at others, but ultimately more meaningful.
Issues such as the Asli (Asian Strategic and Leadership Institute) report must be studied with cold reason and not emotive screaming. It is of vital importance to know the truth and that means looking at works from independent bodies like Asli. It is important because we need to know what is working and what is not in order to make sure we do not head towards economic and social meltdown.
It is the future of Malaysia that we should be concerned about and honest discussions about what we can do to secure that future is what we need to hear from the so-called leaders of the country. Not the scoring of cheap shots and not the obtaining of political mileage from appealing to the lowest and basest instincts of man.
If we are not mature enough to rationally examine what this country truly needs, and more importantly, if the leaders of the nation are not mature enough to do this, all of us, Malays, Indians, Chinese, indigenous peoples, all us ordinary Malaysians, we will suffer.
Azmi Sharom
Kuala Lumpur

Monday, November 27, 2006

Live telecast – a right move

Openness would act as restraint

The recently concluded UMNO General assembly may have caused a lot of controversies and negative impressions of the ruling party, but the one most important point in its favour was the decision to telecast its proceedings live. It is a step in the right direction in line with our Prime Minister’s call for a more open and accountable administration.

It is noteworthy that UMNO deputy president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has admitted that some speeches during the just concluded assembly “have gone overboard" and were extreme. Even the PM has acknowledged that we have reached a dangerous point in the history of the nation as far as racial unity is concerned. He tried to calm the situation by his moderate stance at the winding up speech, asserting that Malaysia is for all races and that UMNO will take care of all.

If the proceedings were not telecast live, it would not have received so much adverse reactions from the public and our leaders will never realize that race relations in the country is not that rosy as had been painted all these while. It is regrettable that MCA and MIC have opposed future live telecasts. They should know that their closed-debate over the years have not brought the races together.

On the contrary, openness in the form of live telecast, could in fact restrain the delegates from uttering words and phrases that would be offensive to other races.

Some of the delegates especially from the youth wing were oblivious to the likely ill effects that their statements could have on other communities. They were least bothered that what they utter at the meeting could deeply hurt the feelings of fellow Malaysians of other ethnicity. This is the result of a system that encourages living cocooned within their own community with little or no interaction with others.

The only way out of our present predicament is open, rational and civil dialogue, bearing in mind the sensitivities, fears and anxiety of all the races. This may not be easy, and may take a long time, but with full commitment and the might of the government machinery we have a reasonable chance of achieving a certain degree success.

Our leaders of all political parties must impress upon their members that the Federal Constitution guarantees the right of all the citizens and that all races are here to stay, in the land they consider as their motherland. Nobody is threatening to rob others of their rights as all they ask for is their own rights as enshrined in the federal constitution. We should not over-react to imaginary threats as that would only create chaos.

In the meantime, steps to educate the future generation should also be implemented now without any delay. Children from all races must be taught to understand and respect the sensitivities of other races. Free mingling of people of all races from young, freedom of expression and open dialogue in a civil manner must be actively encouraged as these would help instill tolerance towards others.

We hope the leaders will not only continue with live telecasts of future UNMO assemblies but also encourage other political parties and even parliament and state assemblies to do likewise. In the long run only openness will act as a restraint on our words and deeds.

Our ethnic diversity is here to stay.Whether we build on it or destroy it,depends entirely on us and we alone can determine our destiny.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Friday, November 24, 2006

UMNO General Assembly 2006

Delegates scream, but PM decides
Dr A Mohanraj
Malaysiakini,Nov 23, 2006


For all those who have been shocked, shaken ,dismayed - or even devastated - by the outbursts at the recent Umno general assembly, I write this to pacify them. Some of the speeches were downright comical and certainly more in rhetoric than in substance.

This is nothing new at the Umno assemblies. The previous years and, in particular, in the early years of Umno, the assemblies must have witnessed even more vicious utterances by the delegates. Only then the public did not get to hear them.

The assemblies are perhaps the only opportunity for delegates who are otherwise non-entities to make their voices heard in a hall-full of passionate people in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur. Oratory flair, humour and sychopancy among others take precedence over substance. After the assembly, every delegate goes back feeling proud of himself having spoken his mind .

This ventilation can be healthy at times. This, however, is unwise and certainly in poor taste when done under the watchful eyes of local and foreign media, the diplomatic corps and the pathetic leaders of BN component parties. The Umno delegates chose to speak like school bullies.

The prime minister may smile, laugh, nod or frown at the speeches but ultimately he decides what to take seriously and what to ignore. He has no choice, because the seat of the prime minister comes with responsibilities and the mandate to make sound, practical and acceptable decisions for the betterment of the nation. Whoever who holds the position of prime minister knows that. At times, he has no alternative but to be a statesman rather than a politician.

Pak Lah, in his inimitable style, has assured us that he is prime minister for all and not just for the Malays. Delegates can scream their heads off but the prime minister decides when to hear and when to listen.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Marginalisation of minorities

Are we marginalised?

The Minister Mentor of Singapore accused the Malaysian government has systematically marginalized her citizens of Chinese origin. This was vehemently denied by the Malaysian government including its own Chinese Ministers in the cabinet. Since then there has been considerable debate on this issue of marginalization.

What is marginalization? Is it true that certain communities in the country are being marginalized? The Oxford Dictionary defines marginalization as 1.relating to or a situation at or in a margin. 2. of minor importance.

Therefore when we say a community is marginalized it means it is pushed to the periphery and given minor importance. In accordance with this definition we can safely say marginalization is a universal practice of the majority against the minority.

In a truly democratic state the minorities are protected by law against blatant abuses and discrimination against them. The ruling majority is entrusted to ensure that the minorities are really protected. The political system, the judiciary, police and armed forces are in place to ensure that the rights of the minorities are protected in accordance with the laws of the country. This is practiced more satisfactorily in most developed democratic nations of the West as compared to developing and under-developed nations.

Do we as the minority non-Malay and non-Muslim communities enjoy this protection from the government agencies? The unwillingness to act against the newly emerging mob mentality like the violent disruption of the peaceful Article 11 forum in Penang, the false SMS fiasco in Ipoh where, groups of Muslims gather in force to surround a church on mere speculation and rumours and against those who made seditious speeches at the recent UMNO General Assembly are indicators that we and our families will never be protected from these perpetrators of unlawful actions.

Let’s analyze what is taking place in our own multiracial and multi-religious country which our leaders acclaim to be a model for other multi-ethnic nations to emulate.


At birth

The first act after a child is born is the registration of its birth which requires one to state the ethnicity and religion of the child. So even at birth Malaysians are categorized as Malays, Chinese, Indians or others. Why can’t we do away with just stating we are Malaysian instead of mentioning our ethnic origin?

In school

When the child goes to school, again he is repeatedly asked to state his race and religion in all registration forms. Even streamlining of classes is based on race. It is not uncommon to group all Malays into one class and non-Malays into others. The reason given for this is to facilitate religious instruction for Muslims and moral for non-Muslims. Religious instruction for children should be encouraged but it should be for all, regardless of religion.

Moral classes, emphasizing universal values, should also be common for all, Muslims and non-Muslims, alike. Why are Malaysians at such a tender and innocent age exposed to separate moral and value systems?

Prayer sessions in schools, before important functions and examinations are held only for Muslims. The non-Muslims are left to idle away during these sessions. Isn’t this segregation of our children in schools for religious purposes amounts to discrimination?

Selection of students for posts as prefects, heads of clubs and sports are again based on race. Non-Malay students unless possess extra-ordinary skills, which not many do, are not selected to represent the school or state.

Teachers, who are predominantly Malays, these days don’t even know much about the background of their pupils of other races.

Then there is different dress code for Muslims and non-Muslims which further segregate the kids even at primary level.

At university level

Entry into public universities which is based on two totally different examinations, Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia(STPM) and Matriculation, is profoundly unfair. There is widespread perception that the selection process for university entrance favors the matriculation over the STPM students. Less than 10% of the matriculation seats are offered to non-Malays.

As STPM carries less weight for entry into public universities, many of the non-Malay students, even those from poor background, are forced to shun away from this once popular local examination in favor of A-levels, which is apart from being a foreign examination is also very costly, tuition fees alone coming up to more than RM13,000.By this unfair practice, slowly but surely the non-Malays are systematically eliminated from being considered for courses in public universities. Why can’t all races sit for the same common exam?

Every year we see numerous non-Malay students with maximum results in STPM exam being blatantly denied places in public universities for critical courses like Medicine, Pharmacy, Dentistry, Law and Engineering. Many of these students are from extremely poor financial background. Scholarships are not awarded to them based on merit as claimed. What do we expect them to do? Can we blame them if they resort to criminal activities to earn a living?

The vast majority on non-Malay students, including the brilliant ones from poor families, are forced to further their education in private institutions, with questionable credentials,at exorbitant costs, often amounting to hundreds of thousands of ringgit. Many poor parents have to mortgage their houses and properties to finance them. Highly precious EPF savings are utilized leaving the parents at the mercy of their children at the twilight of their lives.


Job opportunities

After completion of their studies job opportunities are also hardly available to non-Malay Malaysians. The posts in civil service, police, armed forces and even government linked companies(GLC) are “reserved” for bumiputras leaving the private sector highly competitive for the non-bumiputras.Forty percent of the population are given less the 10% of jobs in the government sector. If this isn’t discrimination what is it?

For those few, who are lucky to be employed in these services, promotions by real merit are difficult to come by. Heads of departments, state directors of the various departments, director generals, state secretaries and chief secretaries of ministries are all for bumiputras.

Religious segregation

During the sixties and seventies, school and office canteens sell food for all races. Today these canteens cater for Muslims only. Chinese and Indians are not allowed to sell their food even if halal.

In the years following independence Malaysians of all races mix freely, playing, eating and even praying together. They celebrate all the festivals together true spirit of muhibbah.Today each community celebrates its own festival among the members of its own community. In fact these days our Muslim friends are reluctant to dine in the homes of non Muslim friends.

Although Malaysia is a secular country where the federal constitution guarantees freedom to practice ones own religion, this freedom of religious worship, in actual fact, is greatly impeded. Local authorities are reluctant to approve the building of churches and temples let alone providing funds for such projects. There is blatant disrespect for non-Muslim faiths.

Civil laws are being replaced by Syariah laws that are slowly becoming the supreme law of the land. There seems to be 2 sets of laws in the country, Syariah for Muslims and civil for non-Muslims. Inter-faith problems are sensationalized and dialogues to solve them are denied. The non-Muslims are denied recourse to their problems that involve Muslims.


Conclusion

Don’t all these considerations amount to marginalization of the non-bumiputra minorities? If not then what are they?

Lee Kuan Yew said the Chinese are marginalized in Malaysia and in return the Malaysian government claims that the Malays in Singapore are marginalized. Both these may be true but what is also true is that the indigenous groups and Indians in both countries have been pushed out of the margins, a situation we call elimination, which is more extreme than marginalization.

We claim that Malaysia is a multi-racial and multi-religious country, and truly it is. Our leaders claim we are a model nation for the world to emulate as far as ethnic relations are concerned, sure enough it should be.

We have all the great religions in our country, Islam, Christianity, Hinduisms and Buddhism. All of them are unanimous in their teachings - to share what you have, however scanty it may be, with those who are less fortunate regardless of race or creed.

Malaysia is blessed with abundant natural resources and there is plenty of wealth for all its citizens. All we need is to be true followers of our respective religions and share what we have with fellow countrymen, regardless of color or creed.

Until and unless we get rid of our selfishness in accordance of our religious teachings, we will never be a model nation for the world.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Live telecast of UNMO General Assembly

Openness would act as restraint

I refer to the report “Rethink on live telecast” (Star Nov 21).

The recently concluded 57th UMNO General assembly may have caused a lot of controversies, but the one most important point in its favour was the decision to telecast its proceedings live.It is a step in the right direction in line with our Prime Minister’s call for a more open and accountable administration.

It is encouraging that UMNO deputy president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has admitted that some speeches during the just concluded assembly were extreme. Even the PM has acknowledged that we have reached a dangerous point in the history of the nation as far as racial unity is concerned.

If the proceedings were not telecast live, it would not have received so much adverse reactions from the public and our leaders will never realize that race relations in the country is not that rosy as had been painted all these while.

Some of the delegates especially from the youth wing were oblivious to the likely ill effects that their statements could have on other communities. They were least bothered that what they utter at the meeting could deeply hurt the feelings of fellow Malaysians of other ethnicity. This the result of a system that encourages living cocooned within their own community with little or no interaction with others.

Children from all races must be taught to understand and respect the sensitivities of other races. Free mingling of people of all races from young, freedom of expression and open dialogue in a civil manner will help instill tolerance towards others.

In a similar way, openness in the form of live telecast, could in fact restrain the delegates from uttering words and phrases that would be offensive to other races.

We hope the leaders will not only continue with live telecasts of future UNMO assemblies but also encourage other political parties and even parliament and state assemblies to do likewise. Our ethnic diversity is here to stay and in the long run only openness will act as a restraint on our words and deeds.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Monday, November 20, 2006


Monday November 20, 2006
Dr M gets Mother Teresa award
Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is the first Malaysian to Tun Dr Mahathir
Mohamad
receive the Mother Teresa Memorial International Award for Social Justice.
The award was presented during a ceremony at Taj President Hotel in Mumbai, India, yesterday.
Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir received the award on behalf of his father, who is recuperating from a mild heart attack.
Dr Mahathir’s personal assistant Adzlin Azhar said the award was given in recognition of Dr Mahathir’s efforts in pushing through national unity in a multiracial and multireligious country.
“During his tenure as the Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir had ensured that economic development and progress was enjoyed by all, regardless of their ethnic and religious backgrounds,” she said when contacted yesterday.
“The award was given in honour of his achievement.”
Adzlin said the award, given by the Harmony Foundation, was to honour men and women of integrity.
Dr Mahathir, who suffered a mild heart attack on Nov 9, was discharged from Institut Jantung Negara on Nov 14.
A family friend said Dr Mahathir was feeling bored as he is accustomed to a hectic routine.
“He will probably start writing his memoirs again to keep himself busy.”

UMNO must be fair to all

Fairness is strength not weakness

The only reassuring statements for the non-Malay Malaysians were from the Umno president and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. He persistently called for moderation before, during and after the recent UMNO General Assembly.

Unfortunately his appeals had fallen on deaf ears as throughout the assembly, speaker after speaker delivered fiery and emotional attacks on other races. This has caused a lot of anxiety, fear and alarm among us, who all these years have contributed so much to the development of the nation which we have come to regard as our permanent home.

What is happening to our major partner in BN? As the PM says Umno, and the Malays, as the dominant members of the ruling coalition, must always be fair and just to all Malaysians. The minority non-Malays have no one else to turn to if their dominant partner turns against them. Whether we like it or not we are Malaysians and are here to stay during bad and good times. This is a fact which must be accepted by all.

A large part of their criticisms are due to failure of dialogue and communication among the races. There is a dire need for dialogue not only to solve problems but also to merely understand and appreciate our differences. Unfortunately there are forces that are bent on opposing such dialogue because of misperceptions that have created suspicion in their minds.

There have been accusations that we are questioning the special position of the Malays and Islam. In fact the majority of us have come to accept these as a fact of life. We are merely asking for are our rights as enshrined in the constitution. We have come to a situation where all our rights in education, economy, culture and religion are denied and our future appears bleak and hopeless.

Our yearnings to serve the nation, in government service, police and armed forces are not appreciated and denied.

As the PM points out everybody wants fairness which was a strength and Umno being the dominant partner in the BN must use this strength to discharge its responsibilities in a trustworthy and responsible manner. UMNO must be responsible not only to the Malays but also to other races who have accepted its
leadership.

God has bestowed us with a beautiful country, full of resources and devoid of natural disasters like earthquakes, draught, floods, forest fires, volcanoes, typhoons and hurricanes. He has also bestowed us with diverse cultures and faiths.

Let us appreciate His gifts and enjoy life to the fullest as one united nation and not fight each other in His name.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Mob rule

7 November 2006

Rule of law, not mob rule, should prevail

I refer to the report “Cops to probe baptism SMS” (Star,November 6).

The fiasco caused by the rumours through SMS, claiming that a group of Muslims will be baptised at a church in Ipoh caused a great deal of anxiety and tension. As far as investigations reveal, there is no truth in the rumour that is spread by irresponsible people out to create chaos in our multi-racial and multi-religious nation.

This particular incidence is not an isolated one. Of late this mob mentality appears to be gaining momentum and if not checked will become the norm for achieving the desires of a particular group.

We welcome the strong condemnation by the Prime Minister and his deputy of those responsible for the false SMS. I am sure peace loving Malaysians of all faiths will join them in their call for severe punitive action these people with skewed ideas. It is also reassuring to know that the police have taken this rumour mongering seriously and investigating to determine the source of it. The police must be commended for acting quickly to bring the situation under control without any violence.

We hope they act swiftly and professionally to trace and reprimand those responsible and take preventive measures to stop such dangerous actions of these irresponsible people out to cause trouble. Only a firm and uncompromising police action would act as a deterrent for others who may want to carry out such devious plots.

Action must not only be taken but must also be seen to be taken, without fear or favour, against those responsible. The rule of law must prevail under all circumstances. Mob rule for whatever reason must not be allowed by any community.

Spiritual leaders of respective religions must preach goodwill and tolerance among their followers. They should make them be more aware of the sensitivities of other religions and advocate respect and love for their followers. Religion should be always a means to peace never violence.

Followers of all faiths should discard their egotistic attitude and refrain from actively propagating and converting others to their own religion as this will only create ill-feeling and suspicion. They must instill the concept that all faiths may differ in their approach but are equal and lead their followers to one same God. Moreover faith dwells in one’s heart and cannot be converted to another by persuasion or force unless he is willing to do so.

In a country like Malaysia, with its diverse religions and cultures, inter-faith problems are inevitable from time to time. They are best solved through dialogue in a civil manner and not through mob rule aroused by emotion. Mob rule and threat of violence are never the way to solve our inter-faith problems. Malaysia which is leading the call for inter-faith dialogue at the international level, must also promote such dialogue at national level, among the various religious groups in the country.

In the final outcome, true peace and harmony really depends not just our leaders or the police force alone but rather one the maturity and wisdom of our citizens. As peace loving Malaysians of all faiths, we must show that maturity and wisdom by rising up to say “NO” to religious fanatics and “YES” to moderation, tolerance and inter-faith dialogue. We should not allow the extremist minority in each of our religions to ruin the peace and harmony which we have cherished and nourished all these years.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Church ceremony brings in angry crowd

Malaysiakini,Nov 5


A false and malicious SMS sent out by unknown persons almost caused a racial incident in Ipoh, Perak today. Believing the content of the SMS, a large crowd of angry Muslim Malaysians, including several religious organisations, gathered at a church this morning to stop the alleged mass conversion of Muslims to Christianity. The SMS said that the conversion would take place this morning. By law, conversion of Muslims into any other religion is illegal.

However in actual fact, the church this morning was conducting a baptism ceremony for some 110 children of Indian origin. The gathered crowd however refused to budge, wanting to wait until the church function was over.

The police had to dispatch a team of the Federal Reserve Unit to keep watch on the situation. Perak police chief Abdul Aziz Bulat said that the FRU was stationed at the church compound from 7am till about 1pm. By then the crowd had dispersed without any incidents. Religious department to investigate Abdul Aziz said he will continue to monitor the situation and probe further into the malicious SMS. “We don’t know the source of the SMS.

Maybe there are people who want to cause religious disturbances,” Bernama quoted him as saying. He added that it was worrying that there are people who are keen in sending such malicious messages. It is the work of irresponsible people who just want to create racial tensions, he added. He advised the public not to be easily influenced by such mobile phone messages as it could cause unwanted incidents in the country.

Meanwhile Bernama also reported that the Perak religious department too will be investigating the matter and take appropriate action against anyone found sending the false and offensive SMS.
Iraqi tribunal sentences Saddam to hang

By HAMZA HENDAWI,
Associated Press Writer

Saddam Hussein was convicted and sentenced Sunday to hang for crimes against humanity in the 1982 killings of 148 people in a single Shiite town, as the ousted leader, trembling and defiant, shouted "God is great!"

As he, his half brother and another senior official in his regime were convicted and sentenced to death by the Iraqi High Tribunal, Saddam yelled out, "Long live the people and death to their enemies. Long live the glorious nation, and death to its enemies!" Later, his lawyer said the former dictator had called on Iraqis to reject sectarian violence and refrain from revenge against U.S. forces.

The trial brought Saddam and his co-defendants before their accusers in what was one of the most highly publicized and heavily reported trials of its kind since the Nuremberg tribunals for members of Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime and its slaughter of 6 million Jews in the World War II Holocaust

"The verdict placed on the heads of the former regime does not represent a verdict for any one person. It is a verdict on a whole dark era that has was unmatched in Iraq's history," Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq's Shiite prime minister, said.

Some feared the verdicts could exacerbate the sectarian violence that has pushed the country to the brink of civil war, after a trial that stretched over nine months in 39 sessions and ended nearly 3 1/2 months ago. The verdict came two days before midterm elections in the United States widely seen as a referendum on the Bush administration's policy in Iraq. U.S. and Iraqi officials have denied the timing was deliberate.

In north Baghdad's heavily Sunni Azamiyah district, clashes broke out between police and gunmen. Elsewhere in the capital, celebratory gunfire rang out.

"This government will be responsible for the consequences, with the deaths of hundreds, thousands or even hundreds of thousands, whose blood will be shed," Salih al-Mutlaq, a Sunni political leader, told the Al-Arabiya satellite television station.

Saddam and his seven co-defendants were on trial for a wave of revenge killings carried out in the city of Dujail following a 1982 assassination attempt on the former dictator. Al-Maliki's Islamic Dawa party, then an underground opposition, has claimed responsibility for organizing the attempt on Saddam's life.

In the streets of Dujail, a Tigris River city of 84,000, people celebrated and burned pictures of their former tormentor as the verdict was read.

Saddam's chief lawyer Khalil al-Dulaimi condemned the trial as a "farce," claiming the verdict was planned. He said defense attorneys would appeal within 30 days.
The death sentences automatically go to a nine-judge appeals panel, which has unlimited time to review the case. If the verdicts and sentences are upheld, the executions must be carried out within 30 days.

A court official told The Associated Press that the appeals process was likely to take three to four weeks once the formal paperwork was submitted.

During Sunday's hearing, Saddam initially refused the chief judge's order to rise; two bailiffs pulled the ousted ruler to his feet and he remained standing through the sentencing, sometimes wagging his finger at the judge.

Before the session began, one of Saddam's lawyers, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, was ejected from the courtroom after handing the judge a memorandum in which he called the trial a travesty.

Chief Judge Raouf Abdul-Rahman pointed to Clark and said in English, "Get out."
In addition to the former Iraqi dictator and Barzan Ibrahim, his former intelligence chief and half brother, the Iraqi High Tribunal convicted and sentenced Awad Hamed al-Bandar, the head of Iraq's former Revolutionary Court, to death by hanging. Iraq's former Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan was convicted of premeditated murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Three defendants were sentenced to 15 years in prison for torture and premeditated murder. Abdullah Kazim Ruwayyid and his son Mizhar Abdullah Ruwayyid were party officials Dujail, along with Ali Dayih Ali. They were believed responsible for the Dujail arrests.
Mohammed Azawi Ali, a former Dujail Baath Party official, was acquitted for lack of evidence and immediately freed.

He faces additional charges in a separate case over an alleged massacre of Kurdish civilians — a trial that will continue while appeals are pending.

The guilty verdict is likely to enrage hard-liners among Saddam's fellow Sunnis, who made up the bulk of the former ruling class. The country's majority Shiites, who were persecuted under the former leader but now largely control the government, will likely view the outcome as a cause of celebration.

Al-Dulaimi, Saddam's lawyer, told AP his client called on Iraqis to reject sectarian violence and called on them to refrain from taking revenge on U.S. invaders.

"His message to the Iraqi people was 'pardon and do not take revenge on the invading nations and their people'," al-Dulaimi said, quoting Saddam. "The president also asked his countrymen to 'unify in the face of sectarian strife.'"

In Tikrit, Saddam's hometown, 1,000 people defied the curfew and carried pictures of the city's favorite son through the streets. Some declared the court a product of the U.S. "occupation forces" and condemned the verdict.

"By our souls, by our blood we sacrifice for you Saddam" and "Saddam your name shakes America."

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad issued a statement saying the verdicts "demonstrate the commitment of the Iraqi people to hold them (Saddam and his co-defendants) accountable."
"Although the Iraqis may face difficult days in the coming weeks, closing the book on Saddam and his regime is an opportunity to unite and build a better future," Khalilzad said.

Two U.S. officials who worked as advisers to the court on matters of international judicial procedures said Saddam's repeated courtroom outbursts during the nine-month trial may have played a key part in his conviction.

They cited his admission in a March 1 hearing that he had ordered the trial of 148 Shiites who were eventually executed, insisting that doing so was legal because they were suspected in the assassination attempt against him. "Where is the crime? Where is the crime?" he asked, standing before the panel of five judges.

Later in the same session, he argued that his co-defendants must be released and that because he was in charge, he alone must be tried. His outburst came a day after the prosecution presented a presidential decree with a signature they said was Saddam's approval for death sentences for the 148 Shiites, their most direct evidence against him.

About 50 of those sentenced by the "Revolutionary Court" died during interrogation before they could go to the gallows. Some of those hanged were children.

"Every time they (defendants) rose and spoke, they provided a lot of incriminating evidence," said one of the U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

Under Saddam, Iraq's bureaucracy showed a consistent tendency to document orders, policies and minutes of meetings. That, according to the U.S. officials, helped the prosecution produce more than 30 documents that clearly established the chain of command under Saddam.

One document gave the names of everyone from Dujail banished to a desert detention camp in southern Iraq. Another, prepared by an aide to Saddam, gave the president a detailed account of the punitive measures against the people of Dujail following the failed assassination attempt.
Saddam's trial had from the outset appeared to reflect the turmoil and violence in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

One of Saddam's lawyers was assassinated the day after the trial's opening session last year. Two more were later assassinated and a fourth fled the country.

In January, chief judge Rizgar Amin, a Kurd, resigned after complaints by Shiite politicians that he had failed to keep control of court proceedings. He, in turn, complained of political interference in the trial. Abdul-Rahman, another Kurd, replaced Amin.

Hearings were frequently disrupted by outbursts from Saddam and Ibrahim, with the two raging against what they said was the illegitimacy of the court, their ill treatment in the U.S.-run facility where they are being held and the lack of protection for their lawyers.

The defense lawyers contributed to the chaos in the courtroom by staging several boycotts.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Open reply to Dr M’s ‘Why I criticise the PM’

Norman Fernandez
Malaysiakini,Oct 31, 06

Dear Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, I have read your letter addressed to the ‘citizens of Malaysia’. It is not often a commoner writes a letter addressed to all Malaysians. But then you are different, I suppose. Since I am a recipient of your letter, permit me to reply.

For a start, your letter seem to be cast a picture of a man who believes that he has been victimised and finds that all his avenues to seek justice have been closed. Believe me, many Malaysians have experienced this. At least you have the Internet as an avenue, all thanks to the Instrument Of Guarantee signed by your administration guaranteeing no censorship of the Internet. Malaysians can read about your plight. Many Malaysians never had this opportunity.

I note that you have signed off the letter as a ‘Malaysian citizen and a commoner’. But judging from your regular tirades and ripostes against the present administration, it gives the impression that you either have difficulty accepting the fact that you are no more the prime minister or you continue to believe that you are omnipotent.

You have had the luck and privilege of being chosen as prime minister. For 22 years you lead Malaysia. You have been credited for engineering Malaysia’s rapid modernisation. Malaysia’s physical transformation is obvious. After all, you presided over a period of phenomenal growth and at the end of your tenure, Malaysia bristled with concrete symbols from a gleaming airport to an impressive skyline.

Internationally, for 22 years you made your voice heard and the world was your stage. Your acerbic comments made you a spokesman for the Third World and your tirades against the West meant that Muslim countries could not have found a better friend than you. Now, it is for the people and history to judge your legacy and the present political climate does allow the people to judge and freely express their opinions.

There are many policies of your administration which have benefitted Malaysia and Malaysians. Similarly there have been many policies and actions of yours which Malaysians found to be despicable and reprehensible and pray may never happen again.

Reading your letter, it would seem that your main grouse and as clearly stated in your letter is that ‘the questions and issues raised have not been answered’. Having acknowledged that you are a ‘commoner’, it is then well worth remembering that the government of the day owes no duty to respond to your demands for explanation.

At least this was what your 22 years in office has taught the common citizens. You claim that a climate of fear has enveloped this country and, allegedly, that Malaysia has become a police state. All because supposedly, in your opinion, no one is allowed and dares to criticise the prime minister. You claim that the mainstream media are not allowed to admonish the prime minister and public functions that may involve criticising the prime-minister are harassed, threatened by police and government leaders. But wasn’t this the hallmark of your 22 years of administration?

Surely you have not forgotten the reason why Musa Hitam left office. Remember the pliant media which became your hatchet men? Which during the tussle for the Umno presidency highlighted a certain headgear worn by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah (never mind you had worn a similar headgear in the past)? Remember how easily you got offended and roused a national anger simply because then Australian prime minister Paul Keating criticised and called you ‘recalcitrant’?

You allege that under the present administration people are being detained and interrogated repeatedly. Lest you forget, Oct 27 was the 19th anniversary of the infamous Operation Lalang? And remember the Anwar Ibrahim ‘black eye’ incident which you diagnosed as self-inflicted? Yet you have the temerity to call Pak Lah’s administration a ‘police state’!

You demand the right to speak and the space and forum to criticise and more importantly demand that the present administration answers your questions. This is strange coming from a person who used all available apparatus to silence dissent. The willful silence by the majority of the population to comment, criticise or oppose you was because of the climate of fear you had created. The heavy price paid by the brave who stood up to you made many to keep quiet and apolitical.

Now that you have retired as prime minister, no one is asking you to just fade away. Having acknowledged that you are a commoner, live and experience life as a commoner. Only then you will realise what life for the commoner was for 22 years when questions were aplenty but answers were never forthcoming.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Youth must be exposed to the challenges in life

30 October 2006

Provide challenges for youth

Deputy Education Minister Datuk Noh Omar’s says schools may expel students who take part in illegal motorcycle races or join Mat Rempit groups. This, I am afraid may not be the right move and in fact may be counterproductive.

It is the flaws in the education system over the last two decades or so that has given rise to a new culture among youths that has manifested in the form of Mat Rempit.This has to be recognized and accepted as a fact.

These misguided youths need education and rehabilitation and there is no better place to do that other than in schools. By expelling these wayward students would be alienating them from the means that could be used to provide these services to our young men and women.

What is needed is the revamping of our education system so that our schools become instruments of wholesome education not a place to collect A’s as it is now. More emphasis must be placed on extra-curricular activities, sports, moral and civic education. Religious and cultural activities are important but care must be taken not to over emphasize on them. Doing so may be counterproductive as it tends to be an obstacle to the curious and experimenting young minds.

Our youth from schooldays must be allowed to freely compete with one another without favouritism.They must be forced to strive among the best for excellence based purely on merit. Without this unbiased competition, there is no real challenge in the lives of our youngsters. They become confident that they will be given everything without any genuine effort on their part.

Outside schools more recreational activities should be made available. Sports and social activities which were the passionate among the youth in the sixties and seventies are not available freely to our youth today.Excellance in sports is no more glorified as it used to be. There are no real incentives and no great rewards for those who perform superbly in sports and social and literary activities.

As a consequence of this lack for the need to strive, they have a lot of free time which they idle away doing nothing. This is an important cause of resorting to undesirable activities like illegal racing and formation of Mat Rempit gangs.

There is a dire need to create a culture of work and healthy competition for our young men and women and reward those to succed.Unless we can provide that environment, engage them in healthy and fair competition, they will be devoid of the real challenges in life and ultimately succumb to undesirable activities to the detriment of the nation.

Dr.Chris Anthony

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30 October 2006

Let's train ourselves to more tolerant

I refer to the report “PM: Be more tolerant to boost multi-racial ties” (Sunday Star Oct.29).

The call by the Prime Minister on Malaysians to learn to be more tolerant so that race and religion will no longer be sensitive issues in the future is very encouraging and must be taken seriously by citizens of all race and creed.

It is disturbing to note that after almost 50 years of attaining independence, racial and religious issues continue to be very sensitive and create a lot of anxiety among the people. In fact there is general acknowledgement that race relations over the years has become worse and is continuing to deteriorate further with time.

In fact our younger generation today seems to be less tolerant of racial and religious diversity as they are not exposed to communal living with others.They live cocooned within their own community and have grown up ignorant of the sensitivities of communities other than their own.

We must accept that this is a manifestation of the failure of our political system, especially the education system, which has failed to instill the comradeship among the various ethnic groups.In fact by segregating the races for whatever reason,we have only succeeded in instilling suspicion and even hatred among our people of various races,even as early primary school age.

This is very unhealthy and we must take immediate steps to rectify the unfavorable situation before it does irreparable damage.

Instead of confronting and solving the problems related to race and religion in a civil and unemotional manner through dialogue, they are shunned and pushed under the carpet, only to resurface later with greater magnitude.

Of late at least there is some acknowlegement by our leaders of the existence of serious inter-ethnic probems in the country which may be a good sign.Recognising the problem alone is not enough, it is more important to take steps to overcome them amicably by discussion and dialogue.

Our children from young must be taught the importance of living together in peace and harmony. They should be made aware of the sensitivities of other ethnic groups and must learn to tolerate them. As parents and teachers,we must drill into them the concept that all races are here to stay and have an equal stake in the good and bad of the nation. Poverty and ill-health in any one community would ultimately affect the peaces and stability of all.

Let us also share the Prime Minister’s hopes that the people will train themselves and their children to become more tolerant so that issues pertaining to race and religion will no longer be sensitive in years to come. This is not only a responsibility of every citizen but also the most important act of patriotism to the nation.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Singapore’s success story a fact

I share with Dr Chris Anthony the sentiments expressed in his letter Universities: Boost national pride to reap success.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad rebutted Lee Kuan Yew’s apology letter on the marginalisation issue to our prime minister, blaming LKY for being ‘too proud’. After Anthony’s letter, I can’t help but to agree with Dr M that LKY is indeed proud of his country’s achievement and if our country could achieve the same results as Singapore, I certainly think Dr M would feel proud too. Don’t we wonder how can a small country of a population of 4.4 million peoples can achieve so much? Not to mention that it does not have our abundant resources of oil and gas and land mass.

A recent issue of The Economist said that Singapore reserves stands at US$130.7 billion while Malaysia only has US$79 b. This shows how well they manage their country’s financial affairs. In the same issue of the magazine, under the title ‘A survey of talent’, Singapore’s education policy was explored.

I quote: ‘One of the most successful schools at getting students into American Ivy League universities is Raffles Junior College in Singapore’. And this is just one of their 17 junior colleges in Singapore. I was told by a friend who studied in UK that for the past many years, Cambridge and Oxford received the most students from a single country, Singapore, and not from where we would think, China or India.

And given the fact that Singapore sends her best students to the best overseas universities, I would think that only their second best students study at National University of Singapore. Even so, the NUS can achieve an international ranking of 19, on par with Tokyo University and only behind Beijing University.

The NUS is one of the top three universities in Asia! Look at the position of Singapore Airlines and MAS. SIA doesn’t even have space for domestic routes yet it is flying high, competing internationally and recording profits year after year. How can they do it?

Dr M always looks down on our neighbour, talk downs to them about being a small country. Yet just look at the above few real life examples and results on who can actually stand taller, at least in the eye of international community. The facts stand out very clearly

Anonymous
Malaysiakini OCT.26 2006

Univesities: Boost national pride to reap success

Dropping standard of MU

In World University Rankings 2006 published by the Times Higher Education Supplement and conducted by
QS Quacquarelli Symonds, UKM rose by 105 places to break into the top 200-ranked universities for the first time, climbing from 289 last year to 185.

UM, however, continued its downward spiral, by dropping a further 23 places to 192. Its ranking fell from 89 in 2004 to 169 last year, causing a national debate on the status of the premier university and the validity of the criteria used for the rankings.

There has been all round applause on the improved ranking of UKM. We must give credit to all involved in the better performance of UKM but ranking 185 is not something to shout about. Instead of questioning the validity of the criteria used for the ranking it would be wise if we on then quiet work harder to achieve a much better ranking, probably among the top 10, in the years to come.

It is really disappointing but not surprising that UM is continuing to drop further from 89 to 192 within two years. As a former graduate of the premier and oldest university, I am indeed embarrassed of its standing.

In the seventies UM had many prominent academicians of international recognition but today we are not able to name any such personalities.UM at its inception was at par with NUS but the latter is now far ahead at number 19 spot. In fact if we compare more closely, at all levels we are no where near NUS. What has gone wrong with our once premier university?

Our leaders and the relevant authorities are genuinely not at all perturbed by the deteriorating standard of our institutions of higher learning. They question the ways of grading these institutions and always blame others, especially the West, for conspiring and being bias against us.

The failure to practice real meritocracy in staff affairs and intake of students is the main causes of the dismal performance of our universities. Brain drain is a regrettable accompaniment of this policy.

Many of our lecturers have left for the so-called greener pastures overseas due to very shoddy treatment they received at local universities. Their talents are not tapped and rightfully rewarded. Rightful and well deserving promotions are denied and given to more junior and less capable ones. It is a strange situation where our own intellectuals are better recognized in foreign countries than in their own motherland.

Intake of students too is far from ideal. The best of the matriculation students are given scholarships and sent overseas, a practice that is not only detrimental to the standard of our own universities but an insult to them as well. If we do not hold our institutions with high esteem, who else will?

Many students with maximum possible results in the STPM examination are not offered the courses they seek. In the end only mediocre students are admitted to pursue studies at our own local universities. How we compete with prominent foreign institutions with such a myopic practice?

The great national pride and patriotism we had are slowly but surely being eroded and replaced with patriotism and pride for ones own race and religion. We prefer the prosperity of our own community than that of the nation.

The talents of all Malaysians must be tapped fairly without prejudice. Only this will reverse the present trend to place national pride above all other interests. Unless we actively do that the future may not look encouraging.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Slamming the brakes on interreligious dialogue

Aneel David Kannabhiran
Malaysiakini,Sep 22, 2006


“Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus - with the central question on the relationship between religion and violence in general, in these words: Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached. The emperor goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul.”

Excerpt of Pope Benedict XVI’s Sept 12 speech at the University of Regensburg.

The first reaction by most Catholics in Malaysia on reading about the fallout over the Pope’s speech was most likely: “Why did he have to say such a thing?” Many would also ask that, if he wanted to drive home the point that religion and violence are incompatible, could he not have used Catholic examples - the Crusades for instance?

The Pope’s statements regarding Muhammad and Islam are ill-conceived, insensitive and ill-timed only because Muslims, from present and past evidence, believe that their religion must never be criticised or questioned - even by their fellow Muslims, more so by those of other religions.

Therefore it would not take any stretch of the imagination what their reaction to the Pope’s comments on their Prophet and religion would be. Churches in Palestine have been fire bombed and a nun in has been murdered in Mogadishu (possibly in relation to the controversy). Protests in India and Pakistan have turned violent.

The Muslim reaction, ironically, bore testament to the Pope’s reference: Muslims will not stop at violence to defend their religion. The sabre rattling by Malaysian parliament insisting that the Pope retract his statements and apologise is also typical of this ‘attack mentality’.

The only surprising response came from Indonesian clerics who urged non-violence and forgiveness. Calculated risk One could speculate that Benedict’s speech was a calculated risk to test if they would react in typical fashion or practice the peaceful, tolerant approach of ‘true Islam’.

This would lead one to conclude that the Pope is either very shrewd or very foolish. The pontiff’s limited apology is probably as far as the Vatican will compromise. In their minds, presumably, any further bowing to the Islamic world’s pressure will only show that Christianity can easily be cowed by another religion.

The Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) has hopefully put the matter to rest by accepting the pontiff’s amends. If, as Benedict later explained, the true meaning of his address “was and is an invitation to frank and sincere dialogue, with great mutual respect”, is it any wonder that any efforts at dialogue or interfaith understanding is met by reluctance, suspicion and summary rejection? The pontiff should re-think a more appropriate approach if ‘dialogue’ is indeed his objective.

One gets the impression that Benedict is far out of touch with realities on the ground. He spends most of his life amongst his own kind and probably never in his life had to live in a Muslim majority community. However, if one were to read and comprehend the full text of the pontiff’s lengthy and somewhat complicated speech, one would discover that it was essentially about the weaknesses of the Western world, its irreligion and disdain for religion and that both Christianity and Islam share a commonality in rejecting the linking of religion and violence.

The reason for the references to the 14th century emperor’s contentions, although not directly expressed by the pontiff, could have been to demonstrate that the current (mis)perception of Islam by Western Christians has existed since then. Non-Muslim perception is based on what is reported - most of what one reads about Islam in newspapers are terrorist attacks perpetrated by Muslims in the name of their religion. The only jihad that is reported is of the ‘holy war’ variety.

Thus, can one blame non-Muslims, especially those in the West for perceiving Islam as a violent religion? Lip service Religious leaders from every faith repeat that terrorism in the name of religion is a violation and betrayal of any religion, but stop short at naming Muslims as the most prevalent perpetrators of such violence. Pope Benedict XVI is probably the first non-Muslim leader to dare say this publicly.

Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, who is also Chairman of the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) in his speech, ‘Dialogue, the Key to Multireligious, Multiethnic and Multicultural Societies’ at the 2004 World Council of Churches, spoke of those “who practise their faith in absolutist terms” and “misinterpret the very religion that they profess”. Badawi went on to admit that “Muslims are responsible for a number of terrorist acts committed today”, and further reiterated that, “the Palestinian issue or the conflict in Iraq are not just Muslim grievances. These are problems of universal concern”.

Therefore, the contention by some ‘analysts’ that America and its involvement in the Israel-Palestine-Middle East crises is the ‘root cause’ of each and every terrorist attack worldwide is beginning to sound pathetic. Every time a terrorist attack occurs, the Muslim moderates will repeat yet again that “Islam is a religion of peace, tolerance and non-violence”.

If this is the belief of the majority of Muslims, how is it the extremists in minority seem to be having the upper hand? Isn’t it time for Muslims to engage in intra-religious dialogue with the extremist elements within their faith? This question was put to Indonesian professor of Islam and Comparative Religion Syafa’atun Almirzanah in the September 2004 issue of CANews, who agreed, but pointed out that because Islam is a poly-interpretable religion it was difficult to arrive at commonality. “It is much easier to initiate dialogue between Christians and Muslims, than to initiate dialogue between progressive, liberal Muslims and our hard-line fundamentalists.

We invite the most extreme fundamentalist leaders for dialogue, but they often either decline outright, or become argumentative during the dialogue,” she said. OIC’s role Thus it would take an Islamic organisation with more clout to bring all Islamic denominations to the dialogue table. The OIC could very well be such an organisation. The OIC has to use all its power to compel all Muslim nations to participate in a hard intra-faith dialogue.

The objective of this dialogue must be: i) to compel all Muslim nations to rein in and control the extremist factions within their faith, urging them to relinquish their single-minded focus on the ‘holy war’ aspect of jihad, and subsequently arrive at an unwavering and demonstrative consensus that Islam is indeed “a religion of peace, tolerance and non-violence”, and, ii) to conscientise Muslims toward being more open-minded, rational and less sensitive when faced with questions and constructive criticisms from non-Muslims.

Until such a time, all attempts at dialogue between the major religions and Islam will have to be put on hold.

ANEEL DAVID KANNABHIRAN is a Malaysian, committed to the reform agenda of various human rights and social justice issues including that within the various religious institutions.

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