Saturday, March 26, 2011

Religious Issue, Ethnic Issues, Sex Scandals - Are these just government strategies to distract,....?

Governments, and even political parties, do sometimes try to distract the attention of its people from discussing issues of importance for the future good of the country and its people, by  sometimes drawing their attention to other matters, sometimes some scandals involving the opposition personalities, sometimes even matters that just affect selected ethnic groups or religious communities, and, sometimes even to something that involves even other countries and/or their leader.

The object most of the time is to just keep people away from discussing and highlighting the failings and the wrongs of the current government in power. The ownership and control of print media, televisions and radio stations assist them in doing this for they can choose what to highlight, and what to hide. They have control over what facts or opinions to highlight. It also help when the country also have 'official secret laws', and a general lack of transparency and accountability - as it makes it very difficult for anyone to counter matters raised by government simply because we cannot verify facts (and/or have access to be able to find and show contradictory facts), and at the end of the day may only have to depend on opinions and views only.

In a multi racial multi-religious country like ours, issues concerning certain ethnic group or religion is a good distraction from the issues of corruption and mismanagement. Other distractions that work in Malaysia have been sex scandals.

Why do the government do it? Maybe to show who is 'boss' and who should just be 'loyal' and just follow. Maybe, it is a means of getting certain compromises, i.e. government will lay-off and allow certain things...provided that you continue to vote for BN in the coming elections. Maybe, it is an opportunity for the government to 'look good', when they do after that they back down reasonably. I wonder whether such tactics will work anymore...
The recent issue involving the Christian Bibles, is just one such distractive issue - and note that it all started by reason of an action by the government. Remember also the 'Allah" issue which started with a government action concerning the permit of the Catholic Herald.

Why does the government do it? Is it just only a distraction - or also a strategy to divide peoples that would come together on all other major concerns affecting the country but not so much when it is an issue affecting religion. I hope that groups, including civil society groups, not of the ethnic/religious groups affected will also come out in solidarity with those most affected. 

The other issue currently the is Interlok issue, primarily being raised by Indian  or Indian majority groups, even though people who have gone through that book say that the authors depiction of  other from the Chinese and Malay communities are also not that good. I personally believe that on the grounds of freedom of expression and opinion, the book should not be banned or censored, but the question is really about whether these book should have been 'implicitly approved' by the government when they choose to use it in schools. I believe that the book should not be used in schools, as students/young persons/children are so easily influenced, more so when there is a lack of teachers with the necessary skill and mindset who would be able to highlight these generalization and correct perspectives of young people in the spirit of being 1Malaysia and ending prejudices.

Coming back to the recent issue of Christian Bibles in the Malay language, we have to be reminded that freedom of religion is guaranteed in our Federal Constitution, and the only limitation placed on religions other than Islam, is a restriction imposed on "..the propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among persons professing the religion of Islam.."[Article 11(4)] - there is no restriction when it comes to persons not professing the religion of Islam. So even if there is to be restrictions imposed on periodicals/books of religions other than Islam, it should only be "Not for Muslims", maybe including the words "in Malaysia" as such restrictions are not there in many other countries. But, the issue is a bit more difficult and sensitive when it comes to the main religious Books like the Bible - for the inclusions of such words may amount to 'defacement' especially if it is some 'chop' placed on the front cover by government departments. I am sure that our Muslim brethren will also protest vehemently if government agencies place 'chops' and markings in their religious books.

Malay is now the main language in Malaysia, especially amongst the younger and middle-aged generations, and sometime some of our leaders are ignorant to think that it is still English only. As such there is not only books/publications but also songs and prayers in Malay, that is used all over the country in worship and prayer. For Malay Christian publications, there is a great dependence on things published in Indonesia, and of course church unity demands that same/similar words are used for everyone when it comes to a particular language. 

The good thing that has happened over the years is that Malaysian Christians, today, no more silently accept 'persecutions' and/or wrong treatment by the State, today they stand up and fight for their rights. This is a good thing.

But, while we fight for rights on our religious and/or ethnic issues, let also not forget on some of the other important issues like corruption, mis-management, abuse of power, detention without trial, denial of freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, death in custody, etc...

3.  Religion of the Federation.

(1) Islam is the religion of the Federation; but other religions may be practised in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation.

(2) In every State other than States not having a Ruler the position of the Ruler as the Head of the religion of Islam in his State in the manner and to the extent acknowledged and declared by the Constitution of that State, and, subject to that Constitution, all rights, privileges, prerogatives and powers enjoyed by him as Head of that religion, are unaffected and unimpaired; but in any acts, observances of ceremonies with respect to which the Conference of Rulers has agreed that they should extend to the Federation as a whole each of the other Rulers shall in his capacity of Head of the religion of Islam authorise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to represent him.

(3) The Constitution of the States of Malacca, Penang, Sabah and Sarawak shall each make provision for conferring on the Yang di- Pertuan Agong the position of Head of the religion of Islam in that State.

(4) Nothing in this Article derogates from any other provision of this Constitution.

(5) Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall be the Head of the religion of Islam in the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya; and for this purpose Parliament may by law make provisions for regulating Islamic religious affairs and for constituting a Council to advise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong in matters relating to the religion of Islam.

11.  Freedom of religion.

(1) Every person has the right to profess and practise his religion and, subject to Clause (4), to propagate it.

(2) No person shall be compelled to pay any tax the proceeds of which are specially allocated in whole or in part for the purposes of a religion other than his own.

(3) Every religious group has the right -
(a) to manage its own religious affairs;
(b) to establish and maintain institutions for religious or charitable purposes; and
(c) to acquire and own property and hold and administer it in accordance with law.
(4) State law and in respect of the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya, federal law may control or restrict the propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among persons professing the religion of Islam.
(5) This Article does not authorise any act contrary to any general law relating to public order, public health or morality.

'Christian Publication' instead of 'For Christianity'
Terence Netto
Mar 24, 11
Catholic Bishop Paul Tan Chee Ing urged the use of the previous designation 'Christian Publication' in place of the government-proposed 'For Christianity' on imported copies of the Al-Kitab, currently held up at ports in Kuching and Klang by reason of bureaucratic trammels.

The Home Ministry's requirement that copies of Al-Kitab be stamped with serial numbers and with the 'For Christians Only' label has run into opposition from Church leaders and Christian groups.

bishop paul tan chee ingThe Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) are meeting next week to discuss a new compromise proposed on Tuesday by Idris Jala, minister in the Prime Minister's Department, that impounded copies of Al-Kitab be stamped 'For Christianity' rather than with the inherently restrictive 'For Christians Only'.

Speaking to Malaysiakini today in his capacity as Catholic bishop for the Malacca-Johor diocese, Bishop Paul Tan, who is also president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Malaysia, said:

"This may smack of frivolous jousting over semantics but the previous designation of 'Christian Publication' on copies of Al-Kitab agreed to between the government and the CFM in the 1980s is a more neutral and innocuous label than the government proposed 'For Christianity' label."

The vocal prelate had earlier denounced as "flatly unacceptable" the Home Ministry's requirements that impounded copies of Al-Kitab be stamped with serial numbers and 'For Christians Only' label before they can be released.

Bishop Paul Tan was the president of the CFM in the 1980s when an understanding between CFM and the government was reached on stamping imported copies of the Al-Kitab with the label 'Christian Publication'.

"The label 'For Christianity' is unwarrantedly restrictive whereas 'Christian Publication' is not. I would plump for the latter any day," opined Bishop Paul Tan.

"The Bible is the good news of salvation meant for all who are moved to hear it," he reiterated.

"In Malaysia, we adhere to the restriction on its dissemination to Muslims because that is the law of the land. We abide by that restriction because of the constitutionally mandated status of Islam as the country's official religion," he explained.

A hot potato since 1986

Since 1986 the Al-Kitab has become a hot potato because of a government ban that year on the use of theological terms such as 'Allah' by non-Muslims.

The term for God is freely employed in the Indonesian version of the Bible, Al-Kitab, which is the scriptural text used by Christians in Sabah and Sarawak for something like eight decades now.

Borneoan Christians were exempted from the government proscription against non-Muslim use of the term 'Allah'.

The exemption rendered the issue dormant for the better part of two decades before it flared anew early last year after the High Court ruled in favour of Christian use of the term 'Allah'.

The Home Ministry gained a stay of the court judgment but that only brought a tenuous relief from the simmering controversy.

With elections scheduled in Sarawak and a general election looming, the government is anxious to avoid stirring the ire of Christians over the issue. - Malaysiakini, 24/3/2011, 'Christian Publication' instead of 'For Christianity'

Sikhs back opposition to stamping of Al Kitab
Mar 22, 11 3:32pm
The Malaysian Gurdwara Council today backed Christian Malaysians in opposing the home minister's order that the words 'For Christians Only' and 'by order of the Minister of Home Affairs', as well as a serial number, be stamped on the inside cover of each copy of the Al Kitab.

These requirements imposed by the home ministry are offensive as any person who respects the Holy Scripture of any religion will be insulted by this action, council president V Harcharn Singh said in a statement today.
"We stand in solidarity with our fellow Christian brothers and support their decision not to take delivery of the endorsed copies until the conditions imposed are withdrawn," he said.

Last week, Putrajaya decided to release the 30,000 copies of the Malay language Bible impounded for about two years in Kuching and in Port Klang. 

However, the copies were stamped with the home ministry order without the consent of the importers.

NONEHome Minister Hishammuddin Hussein (right) has defended the decision to place the ministry stamp on copies of the Al Kitab that were impounded, saying it was not "defacement" but standard practice.

Harcharn also said the Sikh community was heartened to learn that a large section of the Muslim community did not condone the home ministry action.

Last Friday, PAS Ulama Council chief Harun Taib called for the unconditional release of copies of the Al Kitab which have been impounded since January 2009.

Yesterday, PKR Wanita chief Zuraida Kamaruddin said BN leaders were focusing on the wrong target by ordering that the Malay language Bible be stamped with 'For Christians Only' and serial numbers.

She also applauded the church group's decision not to collect the copies that have been stamped.

Apart from Zuraida, several BN and Pakatan Rakyat politicians last week also took the common ground of calling on the government to allow the Malay language Bible to be circulated without conditions. - Malaysiakini, 22/3/2011, Sikhs back opposition to stamping of Al Kitab

Despite the government softening its stand on the Al-Kitab, the controversy continues to stir debate, this time by the Malaysian Consultative Council for Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikism and Taoism (MCCBCHST).

azlanIn a statement today signed by five MCCBCHST leaders, the council takes issue with the alleged promise by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to release 5,000 copies of the Al-Kitab impounded at Port Klang.

The Christian Federation of Malaysia, an umbrella body which represents 90 percent of churches in the country, claims that the promise was made during a Christmas party in December 2009.

“They were not (released). And when he was so informed last Christmas, he could only express surprise that the copies of the Al-Kitab are still being held by the authorities.

“This situation begs a first pair of questions: Does our current prime minister wield any authority? And if he does not, who does?” read the statement.

Al-Kitab cannot be 'restricted item'

In an attempt to quell the growing discontent over the seizure of the Al-Kitab, which includes 30,000 copies impounded at Kuching, the government announced on March 15 that it would be released, with two conditions.

NONEOne condition states that it would be stamped with the words “For Christians Only” and serialised. This move has received heavy condemnation

The council also takes offence over a phrase in the stamp that reads “by order of the minister of home affairs”.

“This means that the Al-Kitab is now considered a restricted item and the world of God has been made subject to the control of man,” read the statement.

The council stressed that Malaysians from various faiths, including Muslims, have come out in support of CFM's position and more are expected to voice their support soon.

Gov't pitting religions against each other?

They said that what is pertinent to note is that Islam promotes religious freedom and this was once promised by first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman and in the Achtiname of Muhammad (also known as Muhammad's Covenant with the Saint Catherine Monastery).

“It would appear that the authorities would have Malaysians believe that the current developments about the release of the Al-Kitab (is a) Muslim and Christian conflict in our beloved country.

“The politicial leaders definitely do not have a finger on the pulse of the nation. They are definitely wrong in what they are doing.

“The preceding now begs a second set of questions: After Christians have been 'fixed', who next?”.

Following protests by Christian groups, the government relented and now only wants to stamp the words “For Christianity” on the Al-Kitab, either at the source of print or at the ports.

Christian leaders have said that they needed time to study the proposals. - Malaysiakini, 25/3/2011, Interfaith council: Christians now, who next?
from Christian leaders who claim that their holy book had been desecrated.

1 comment:

Eric Mudasi said...

Singapore: The appointment of Brigadier-General Ravinder Singh, a Sikh, as the next chief of the Singapore Army is the culmination of a long tradition of the community serving in uniform, both as policemen and in the armed forces, in the city-state.

Their role in Singapore belies their small number: There are only an estimated 12,000 to 15,000 Sikhs in Singapore, a nation of five million people. Their number is small even when compared to 100,000 Sikhs living in Malaysia. Sikhs came to this part of Southeast Asia as soldiers and policemen during the British era.

Brig. Gen. Singh will replace Major-General Chan Chun Sing as army chief March 25.

Singh, 46, currently deputy secretary (technology) in the defence ministry, was previously commanding officer, 3rd Signal Battalion; commander, 2nd Singapore Infantry Brigade and assistant chief of general staff (plans); head joint communications and information systems department.

He has also held the posts of head joint plans and transformation department; commander 6th Division and chief of staff - joint staff. Singh holds a Master of Arts (Engineering Science) from the University of Oxford, Britain. He also holds a Master of Science (Management of Technology) from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US.

He joined the Singapore Armed Forces in December 1982. Brig Gen Singh is also the first non-Chinese Chief of Army in nearly 30 years. Colonel Mancharan Singh Gill was the first ever when he took up the post in 1982, the report said.