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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sweden drops rape accusation against founder of WikiLeaks


Stockholm, Sweden (CNN) -- Swedish authorities say they have revoked an arrest warrant that had alleged rape against Julian Assange, the founder and editor of the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, less than a day after issuing it.

Assange is "no longer wanted" and "is not suspected of rape," Chief Prosecutor Eva Finne said in a statement posted on the agency's official website Saturday. He is also no longer arrested in absentia, the statement said.

The arrest warrant filed Friday had also mentioned a molestation charge, but molestation -- which is not limited to child victims in Sweden -- is not a crime punishable behind bars in Sweden.

Karin Rosander, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office, told CNN affiliate TV4 that Assange is still being investigated for molestation. Earlier, Rosander told CNN that Assange was arrested in absentia Friday night, and faced charges in relation to two separate instances, but she did not have more detail about when the alleged crimes occurred or the identities of the alleged victims.

Assange denied the allegations in a posting Saturday on the WikiLeaks Twitter page, saying, "The charges are without basis and their issue at this moment is deeply disturbing."

WikiLeaks had also called the arrest a "dirty" trick in a Twitter post early Saturday morning.

Assange was in Sweden last weekend, but it wasn't clear whether he was still in the country and, thus, couldn't be reached for comment.

Rosander told TV4 that the decision to make the arrest was made by an "on-call prosecutor," and that the arrest was revoked Saturday by the chief prosecutor. Rosander said such differences in prosecutorial judgment are common in Sweden.

She also said she does not believe that Assange had contacted police yet.

Swedish media, citing unnamed sources, reported that two women, ages 20 and 30, took the allegations against Assange to police Friday, leading to the warrant issued by the first prosecutor. The AftonBladet, a respected Swedish daily, said the 30-year-old woman told the newspaper that the younger woman approached her with a story similar to hers -- that she had consensual sex with Assange but that the situation had turned abusive.

Rosander would not confirm the reports.

An elusive figure, Assange reportedly lives part-time in Sweden. He told the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet this week that he chose Sweden to host several servers for WikiLeaks because of the country's privacy laws.

He also told the paper, in an interview published Monday, that he had been in Sweden because he wanted a safe place to go after the high-profile leak of U.S. documents related to the war in Afghanistan.

A statement was posted by the "WikiLeaks team" on the website earlier Saturday, saying, "We are deeply concerned about the seriousness of these allegations. We the people behind WikiLeaks think highly of Julian and and he has our full support."

WikiLeaks will continue its work as "Julian is focusing on his defenses and clearing his name," the statement said.

WikiLeaks has sparked major controversy by posting some 76,000 pages of the Afghan documents online last month, in what was called the biggest leak since the Pentagon Papers about the Vietnam War.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates criticized the leak, saying it would have a significant negative impact on troops and allies, revealing techniques and procedures.

Assange has defended the leak by saying it can help shape the public's understanding of the war. He said the material was of no operational significance and that WikiLeaks tried to ensure the material did not put innocent people at risk.

Assange reportedly has spent his life developing the tech skills needed to set up WikiLeaks. When he was a teenager in Melbourne, Australia, he belonged to a hacker collective called the International Subversives, according to the magazine Mother Jones.

He eventually pleaded guilty to multiple counts of breaking into Australian government and commercial websites to test their security gaps, but was released on bond for "good behavior," the magazine said.

As WikiLeaks has grown and published increasingly high-profile items, Assange has found himself the target of what he says are many legal attacks -- though not necessarily of the type he now faces in Sweden.

"In my role as Wikileaks editor, I've been involved in fighting off many legal attacks," Assange said in an e-mail to the BBC earlier this year. "To do that, and keep our sources safe, we have had to spread assets, encrypt everything, and move telecommunications and people around the world to activate protective laws in different national jurisdictions.

"We've become good at it, and never lost a case, or a source, but we can't expect everyone to go through the extraordinary efforts that we do."

In a news conference following the release of the Afghan documents, Assange said the site has 800 part-time volunteers and a loose network of 70,000 "supporters."

Tamil daily editor receives death threat

MS Maryanandy, the editor-in-chief of Tamil daily Malaysia Nanban today lodged a police report claiming he had received a death threat over the telephone.

Maryanandy said an Indian youth telephoned him at about 9pm yesterday and issued the threat after hurling some abusive words.

"Speaking in Tamil, he threatened to kill me and attack the Malaysia Nanban newspaper office if the daily continues to report on the problems of Indians," he told reporters after making the report at the Sentul police headquarters.

Maryanandy also said that a director of the newspaper, Shafee Zaman Sikandar Batcha, received a death threat and a similar warning about the publication over the telephone 10 minutes before he did.

He said the newspaper reported the news in the hope of seeking solutions to the problems faced by the Indian community.

"All the news is neutral. We do not take sides," he said.

Sentul police chief ASP Zakaria Pagan confirmed receiving the police report and said the matter would be investigated under Section 302 of the Penal Code.

- Bernama

Malaysian Court of Appeal denies justice to Hindu widow whose husband’s body was snatched by Islamic extremist state.

Body snaching

And neither will this widow Kaliammal get justice in the Federal Court, Malay-sia’s highest Court.
The Court of Appeal held that only the Syariah Court can hear an alleged conversion to Islam of her husband which the widow has no knowledge. But in full knowledge that Madam Kaliammal and her non muslim lawyers are not even allowed to even step their foot in the Syariah Courts and no muslim lawyers will take up her case.
So much for Justice in One Malay-sia.
P.Uthayakumar
New Scan-20100821175955-00001

Penang tells Umno to stop politicising sermon issue

GEORGE TOWN, Aug 21 – Penang today told Umno to stop politicising claims that Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng’s name was mentioned in Friday sermons, saying the Malay party should just lodge reports to police and the Islamic authorities for investigations.

Deputy Chief Minister I Datuk Mansor Othman and state religious affairs executive councillor Abdul Malik Kassim however admitted that some prayer leaders had mentioned Lim’s (picture) name in the context of seeking Allah’s grace to get the chief minister convert to Islam.

However, they maintained in a joint statement that Lim’s name was never used to replace the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, as claimed by the state Umno and splashed in party-owned newspaper Utusan Malaysia yesterday. Another Malay daily, Sinar Harian, also carried the report by state news agency Bernama.

“Let investigations be conducted. If the allegation is true, we will not think twice take action,” they said, adding that only “insane imams” would replace Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s name with Lim’s.

Yesterday, Malik denied Penang Umno liaison chief Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s allegations that Fridays sermon in several mosques in the state had replaced the name of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin with Lim’s.

He said the state or the religious affairs department have not received or issued any directive regarding the issue.

Mansor and Malik today said “Umno’s dirty politics have tarnished the names of khatibs and imams in the state”.

“Some mosque committee members have backed Umno’s allegation by claiming that Lim’s name was indeed used in Friday sermons. However, his name was used in a different context where it was prayed that Allah would show him the right path for him [Lim] to embrace Islam,” they said.

They said the allegation was serious because it could incite anger and hatred between the different races in the state.

They added that the allegation also victimised Lim who had never gotten himself involved in the state’s religious administration.

“Lim Guan Eng was the first among all mentri besars to ban sports betting in the state. Is Umno holding a grudge against him because although he was not a Muslim, he humiliated Umno by being the first to ban sports betting which was legalised by Umno?” they asked.

Both PKR leaders also said Umno’s efforts to portray the state government as discriminating the Malays and Islam will not succeed as the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) administration had done more for the community than previous Barisan Nasional (BN) administrations.

They cited the doubling of allocations for Islamic affairs administration from RM12.3 million in 2008 to RM24.3 million in 2010 and contributions for the fasting month and for religious schools.

“Is BN and Umno angry that the Chief Minister is willing to attend Islamic religious events, such as the Ihya Ramadan contribution, Maulidur Rasul and organising breaking of fast events at Penang mosques which wasn’t done by previous chief ministers?” they asked.

The truth: Racism is rife in Malaysia

By Qayum Rahman
KUALA LUMPUR: From housing to jobs, education to citizenry, bigotry in Malaysia is a simmering cauldron.
Since MCA’s boldly brazen demand last weekend for an end to the 30% bumiputera equity, it’s not only the politicians and NGOs who are openly slamming each other over a broad range of unfair policies but the man-on-the-street is also spewing his disgust.

In Kuala Lumpur, a recently married engineer, who declined to be named, said he had trouble renting a double-storey property in a housing estate in Old Klang Road because he was Indian.

“It’s not the first time I have faced this problem. A Chinese landlord is not likely to rent you a room or house. It took me three months to find a landlord who would rent a house to us and even then we had to reassure him many times... I had to show him my payslips!” he said.

In Penang, Nabriza Ghazali, a private sector employee, said racism was rife in the commercial sector which is controlled by the Chinese community.

She said the situation was so bad that it was difficult for Malays and Indians to secure high-paying jobs in certain sectors although they had the right qualification.

“Many Malays and Indians who have been in employment for years and who are qualified for higher posts don’t move up. This is mostly because the Chinese who are less qualified and with lesser experience are given priority.

“I have had the experience of going for a job interview and the first question they asked me was if I knew Chinese. The employer said their company was looking for someone who was fluent in Chinese to liaise with other employees,” she said.

Another employee, Edmand Steven Grumach, echoed Nabriza’s views.

He said many private sector workers in Penang had problems “even getting an interview” because many of the large companies including the manufacturing sector required employees to speak Chinese.

“This condition is not applicable to low-paying jobs… it clearly shows the racist attitudes by employers. As a private sector employee, I hope that companies in Penang will not be bias and provide all with equal job opportunities,” he said.

Now an open truth

According to Penang Malay Association deputy chairman Azmi Merican, racism in the job sector was now an open truth.

“It has become so extreme that it is denying Malays and Indians of opportunities in the private sector. Race has always been a priority with the Chinese and the majority of Malays and Indians have been deprived of employment opportunities for irrational reasons.

“Among the reasons made mandatory in the Penang private sector is that applicants must be fluent in the Chinese language and most of the positions are limited to the Chinese community.

“Many of the positions advertised in the papers carry this condition. It is a subtle oppression of the Malays and Indians in Penang,” he said.

Azmi said even if there were Malays and Indians who met the criteria, the salary scale offered to them as compared to the Chinese, was different.

“Now it's the new Chinese community which controls the private sector in Penang. But what was once a subtle practice of racism was now open and obvious. The Chinese are always touching on bumiputera equity but the Malays don’t complain about their (Chinese) racist practices in the commercial sector,” he told FMT.

Azmi said although it was understood that the Chinese community practiced double standards it had never been raised as an issue but now they (the Chinese) were openly voicing their dissatisfaction with the Malays and the policies enshrined in the constitution.

"If the Malay and Indian communities don’t voice up to the way the Chinese treat them than they will continue to be sidelined,” he said.

Missing billions: Taib in the spotlight again

By FMT Staff

KUCHING: The so-called “billionaire” Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud is back in the news. This time for the RM1.825 billion allocated to “persons unknown” in 2009.

In an explosive revelation, investigators claimed that the amount represented more than half of the State Development Budget.

Sarawak Report, in disclosing the figures, made available in a DAP report, said Taib failed to account for RM4.8 billion of government expenditure over the past three years alone (2009 included).

Below are excerpts of the article which appeared in the portal.

Secret projects:
DAP, which recently triumphed over Barisan Nasional in the Sibu by-election, has produced a closely argued Alternative Budget for 2010, in which they demand a return to proper accounting methods, so that taxpayers can know exactly how their money has been spent.

This is their right and it is also Malaysian law, in line with the rest of the civilised world.

DAP figures show that Taib has not only reserved 80% of the state’s entire Development Budget to the three ministries controlled directly by him, but that shockingly, most of that money has been spent on “secret projects” about which he has provided zero information.

Under the circumstances, the people of Sarawak are entitled to assume that the money has been stolen.

Taib appears to think he can get away with not telling the people where he has decided to spend this money, but we can be certain that none of these secret projects benefitted the impoverished people whose lands he has taken for palm plantations now owned by his family and friends.

So what is going on and how has all this money disappeared? DAP budget documents provide a detailed analysis.

Firstly, it outlines the extraordinary level of personal control that Taib has assumed over Sarawak’s expenditure.

The septuagenarian personally manages the three main spending departments in the state. This means that almost every spending decision has to go through him and that no other minister can do anything without getting his permission.

In particular his three ministries (the Finance Ministry, Planning and Resources Ministry and Chief Ministry) together control 80% of the Development Budget, which alone accounts for around three quarters of all money spent, although it is argued that many of the projects would more sensibly belong under different departments.

Secondly, the documents explain the secretive system that the chief minister has developed for allocating more than half of this huge sum of money.

Where is the money going?

Over the past years, Taib employed a highly mysterious expenditure category termed “Government Contribution towards Approved Agencies Trust Fund” into which this money is channelled.

There is no specification as to who these “Approved Agencies” are or which Trust Fund is being referred to and the government has consistently refused requests for information on the subject.

It could be going to his aunty, his sister, cousins, kids, or mistress... how is anyone supposed to know and what right has he to keep it secret?

Thus, in 2009 RM1.825 billion (59.3% of the total state budget of RM2.430 billion) is unaccounted for in the Development Budget, according to DAP's calculation.

In 2008, it was RM1.719 billion (60% of the total RM2.865 billion) and in 2007, it was RM1.257 billionn (54.8% of the total RM2.294 billion).

DAP raised a valid question as to what is the point of carefully auditing 40% of the budget if the remaining 60% is kept secret?

Legal battle over Iban land

By FMT Staff

KUCHING: It’s a perennial tale of Sarawak natives battling for their land against corportate outfits and the state government. Taking a stand on Wednesday, 80 representatives from three longhouses turned up at the Kuching High Court to face BLD Resources Sdn Bhd. The much anticipated trial of the residents of Rumah Ranggong longhouse against BLD Resources, the Sarawak Land and Survey Department and the Sarawak government got off to a lively start with the representatives of the longhouse holding a peaceful demonstration in front of the court complex.

The representatives came in two buses and congregated in front of the court complex at 9am. They held a short demonstration before proceeding into the court house where the trial started at 10am.

Three witnesses from three neighbouring longhouses were called to testify and acknowledged the existence of the native customary rights (NCR) claims of the residents of Rumah Ranggong and their communal boundary between them.

The three witnesses are Tuai Rumah Belili anak Liom from Rumah Belili, Buak anak Jenau from Rumah Ampau and Tuai Rumah Umpor Anak Lunsa from Rumah Umpor.

At 4pm, the trial was adjourned. The next hearing was set for Jan 24 –28, 2011.

Sued for trespassing

In 2008, BLD Resources sued Changgai Anak Dali, an Iban, for allegedly trespassing into BLD's plantation.

Changgai disputed this suit saying that he and the residents of Rumah Ranggong have NCR over the said land.

In 1999, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between BLD Sdn Bhd (sister company of BLD Resources), Sarawak Land Development Board (SLDB) and the NCR landowners at Ulu Niah, where Rumah Belili and Rumah Ranggong were the participating longhouses, to develop the Ulu Niah NCR land based on the joint venture project called “konsep baru”.

However in 2008, Changgai and his fellow villagers discovered to their horror that their NCR JV project was cancelled - reason given was the government made a mistake saying the land is NCR.

Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Alfred Jabu and the then Sarawak Minister for Housing Celestine Ujang handed out the 10% upfront payment worth RM294,990 in 2001 to the participants of the scheme.

The promised dividends or bonus payments for the participants of the scheme were not paid until 10 years later when the residents protested against BLD's suit.

In 2008, Jabu in an attempt to pacify the angry villagers handed a cheque amounting to RM436,708.20 in dividends and bonuses to 226 participants of the Ulu Niah NCR Joint Venture Project.

However, the suit made by BLD against them was not withdrawn and worse still, the state government does not recognise the land as NCR.

In court on Wednesday, Judge Albert Linton presided while Harrison Ngau Laing represented the Plaintiffs headed by Changgai Anak Dali and a few others from Rumah Ranggong.

George Lo represented the first defendant, BLD Resources Sdn. Bhd. and Joseph Cheoh represented the Sarawak Land and Surveys Department and the Sarawak State Government.

Victims cry foul, lodge report against police

By Zefry Dahalan - Free Malaysia Today

SEREMBAN: It was an improbable story. Four family members were beaten up in their house by a gang of 20 thugs. Three of the victims lodged a police report, but two were promptly arrested.

Now the two victims have lodged a report against the Rembau district police for alleged abuse of power.

It all started on Aug 15 when the gang entered the house of E Nadeson at Ladang Perhentian Tinggi, Sungai Gadut.

Using helmets, wood and bottle, they assaulted Nadeson, 48, his wife, his six-month pregnant daughter and his son-in-law S Sivakumar, 25.

Parti Sosialis Malaysia Negri Sembilan secretary S Tinagaran, who spoke on the victims' behalf, said Nadeson called the police who arrived 40 minutes later after the attack.

Nadeson's wife, daughter and Sivakumar were taken in an ambulance to the Tuanku Jaafar Hospital.

Sivakumar received six stitches on his head, while his wife who sustained wounds to her abdomen is still in the hospital.

"On Aug 16, Nadeson, his wife and Sivakumar lodged a report at the Rembau district police. After an officer recorded the statement, both Nadeson and Sivakumar were arrested under the Riots Act,” Tinagaran said.

"Why did the police use the Riots Act to arrest the victims? They arrested only three of the assailants.

"On Aug 17, all five were released,” Tinagaran said at a press conference yesterday.

He said he was puzzled why Nadeson and Sivakumar were held in the first place.

"We want to know why the victims were arrested. We also want to know why the three assailants were released.”

No confidence in police

Tinagaran said the two victims want an investigating officer from the Negri Sembilan headquarters
to take over the case.

"They don't have confidence in the IO from Rembau,” he added.

Tinagaran also want the police to give protection to Nadeson and his family.

He also questioned why the Rembau police have still not given them a copy of the police report lodged by Nadeson and Sivakumar.

"I was told by Nadeson and Sivakumar that the Rembau police will only give the copy once they are represented by a lawyer," he said.

Meanwhile, Rembau PKR secretary Norazizi Abdul Aziz said the incident showed the public no longer trust the police institution.

"Where is the justice when the victims were assaulted in their own house by outsiders, and yet the police arrested the victims?

"I want an explanation from the state police chief, Inspector-General of Police and Minister of Home Affairs. We want to know what is happening in the police force,” Norazizi said.

Later, Tinagaran, Norazizi and other state PKR leaders accompanied Nadeson and Sivakumar to lodge a report at the Seremban police station, which is next to the police headquarters.

Manogaran to Muhyiddin: You are a hypocrite

By Zefry Dahalan
TELUK INTAN: Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin today was accused of putting on an act when he ordered the setting up of a task force to investigate allegations that a school principal had made racial slurs against her students.
Teluk Intan MP M Manogaran slammed Muhyiddin for being hypocritcal and double-faced about the whole affair.

In the incident on Aug 12, SMK Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra principal Siti Inshah Mansor allegedly uttered offensive remarks against non-Malay Muslim pupils during the launching of the school's national day celebrations.

Siti Inshah was reported to have said that "Chinese students should go back to China" and likened Indian students to "dogs".

Muhyiddin, who is also Education Minister, ordered the setting up of the task force to be headed by ministry's deputy secretary-general (management) Rosli Mohamed.

Said Manogoran: “He (Muhyiddin) is merely play acting. He should know that the Biro Tata Negara (BTN or National Civics Bureau) emphasises racial hatred in its training modules.”

"Doesn't he know that principals, headmasters, teachers and civil servants sent to BTN for so-called self-motivational courses are indoctrinated to hate other races?”

"Principals or teachers should use common sense and be sensitive about other races. But I blame the government for this kind of incident.

"Where are we heading if the government stirs up racial sentiments with the Malays through BTN courses?”

Manogaran also said it was common to see Indians or Chinese being treated rudely when they deal with government departments.

He added that the BTN courses conducted by the Umno-BN government are merely aimed at making Malays hate non-Malays.

He said he doesn't have any confidence that Muhyiddin, the State Education Department or Public Service Department will take action against the principal.

"The most they will do is tranfer her to another school or give her a warning. This is just to appease the disgruntled parents,” he added.

NGO hits out at racist 'venomous' principal

By FMT Staff

KUALA LUMPUR: A local "racial unity" NGO has condemned the recent alleged racist remarks by the school principal of Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra in Kulai, Johor. Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM) said its members were appalled that such "venomous bigotry... has emanated from an educator entrusted with shaping the character of our Anak Bangsa Malaysia".

"We are saddened that the alleged remarks go against the very precepts of Rukunegara that schoolchildren have been religiously reciting for the past 40 years," said SABM in a statement.

"It is equally distressing to note that she is the head of the school that carries the name of our beloved Bapa Malaysia!"

SABM also condemned the initial response from the Ministry of Education in saying that the incident was a “misunderstanding” arising from “miscommunication”.

However, SAMB welcomed the ministry's move to establish a task force to investigate the incident following widespread public outcry.

"We hope that the task force will conduct a full, fair and transparent investigation and the report will be made public. We call upon the government to take expeditious action in implementing the recommendations of the task force," said SABM.

"We urge all Malaysians to send a clear and unequivocal message that we as a civilized society will not condone any form of racism, which seems to have reared its ugly head in recent times in our beloved land."

In the incident on Aug 12, SMK Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra principal Siti Inshah Mansor allegedly uttered derogatory, offensive, insensitive and racist statements against non-Malay Muslim pupils during the launching of the school's national day celebrations.

The principal was reported to have said that "Chinese students should go back to China" and likened Indian students to "dogs".

The principal had also allegedly labelled non-Malays as “penumpang” (passengers) in the country during her speech.

Early last week, a second case of a “racist principal” also emerged in Kedah.

A principal was reported to have allegedly told off several non-Muslim students to "balik negara asal China" at a national school in Bukit Selambau, Sungai Petani.

It was reported that the principal had scolded the students for taking breakfast at the school compound, saying they were insensitive because Muslim students are fasting. At that time, the canteen was closed.

Why I say Muslims don’t understand Islam



Islam says that 124,000 Prophets were sent by God although only 25 are mentioned by name in the Quran. And, according to Islam, every community without exception received a Prophet, sometimes more than one at one time.

NO HOLDS BARRED

Raja Petra Kamarudin

This was a comment posted yesterday by Malay Ultraman in my article The perception of right and wrong:

Salam and greetings.

Faith is so precious. Yet, it doesn’t carry a price tag. It can’t be bought or sold. Even a father can’t transfer the same faith to his children.

Being a Muslim, as what being written in scriptures, Allah had sent down thousands of anointed prophets since Adam pbuh until prophet Muhammad pbuh.

When the prophets delivered the message about "ilah" and the only God, there were sceptics, denials and rejection very much like what we are seeing in MT. These people asking questions like "why can’t God send an angel rather than a mere human being? Why can’t God descend himself? Why can’t we worship whatever we like? Why can’t we do whatever we enjoy to do?” Why is this, why is that, all kind of intelligent questions, and very much like we are seeing now.

YM Raja Petra, you are very smart. I believe you have read Surah Yassin and read the translation as well. Then, you can relate your piece of writing to Yassin. See how it works.

May Allah bless you, Insyallah.

By the way, MT has always been a good platform to bash Islam. I never see anybody bash other religions. What a great job! I hope you are not advocating Atheism.

**********************************************

I really don’t know what Malay Ultraman is trying to say. What is the point he is trying to make?

This is the problem with some ‘apologists’. They feel it is their religious duty to ‘defend’ Islam but they don’t understand what the issue is and are certainly less equipped to engage in a debate.

If you had understood what I wrote, you will see that my article was not an Islam bashing article at all. In fact, it is not even about Islam. For all intents and purposes, it should be the Christians who should be upset with me, not Muslims like Malay Ultraman.

My article talks about the Christian era of almost 2,000 years ago. I was of course not specific but any learned person would know that I was talking about Nicaea of the 300s, an era before Islam. This was a city that is now in Turkey but then part of the Eastern Roman Empire under Constantine. Resulting from this, the Nicene Creed was adopted and, more than 50 years later, the doctrine of the Trinity became the akidah (foundation) of the Christian faith.

Malay Ultraman, Islam was even not around yet then.

Of course, just like in all religions, Islam included, not every Christian accepted this and many opposed what was decided in the 300s. And those who rejected the ‘new Christianity’ were persecuted and killed.

That was what I was referring to.

Christianity came to England’s shores around the years 100-200 and for more than 1,000 years England was under papal authority. Then, around the 1500s, during the reign of King Henry VIII, England broke away from Rome and the Church of England was founded.

York refused to adopt the ‘new Christianity’ and it revolted and tried to declare its independence from England. The revolution was put down and the leaders all hanged and their bodies left to rot. Henry VIII also ordered all the churches in York to be burned to the ground.

That, Malay Ultraman, is what I was talking about in my article and I even mentioned that until today no Catholic can sit on the throne of England or became the British Prime Minister. Remember the case of Tony Blair who converted to Catholicism only after he retired as Prime Minister?

So, Malay Ultraman, you need to read more than just the Surah Yassin, as you suggested I do. The issue has nothing to do with the Surah Yassin or even Islam. And, as I said, if anyone should get upset it should be the Christians, not you.

You mentioned ‘angels’ in your comment. I take it you are talking about Malaikat. Are you aware that Malaikat comes from the word Mal’akh, which is a Hebrew word meaning a messenger of God or an angelic envoy?

You also mentioned ‘ilah’. Il or El means God for both the pagan and Israeli religions. And Ilahi means ‘The God’ or the Chief of Gods. So the word existed before Islam and was even a word that pagans used for God.

Malay Ultraman, Muslims must read more than just the Quran, the Surah Yassin of course being one small part of the Quran. I also suggest you read more than just the scriptures. And when I mention scriptures you take it I am talking about the one sent down to Prophet Muhammad whereas there is more than just one scripture.

Malay Ultraman, you also talk about the thousands of Prophets whom God sent to humankind. Islam says that 124,000 Prophets were sent by God although only 25 are mentioned by name in the Quran. And, according to Islam, every community without exception received a Prophet, sometimes more than one at one time.

What is the purpose of Islam telling us all this? Why not just talk about Prophet Muhammad and leave it at that? Why talk about 124,000 Prophets and tell us that every community has received a Prophet from God?

So you see, Malay Ultraman, there is still much we need to learn and things may not be exactly what we think they are.

My pursuit of religious knowledge is not focused on trying to learn about the differences between the many religions. I am exploring the possibility that there is only one religion. You, Malay Ultraman, would say that there is only one religion, Islam, and that all other religions are false. Yes, I have heard that argument thousands of times from fellow Muslims.

I am not about to agree or disagree with that. I reserve judgment at this stage mainly because I consider myself not yet fully learned enough to come to any conclusions. And I admit I am still looking for the answers.

So what is the focus of my research then? Simple. Is there a possibility that there is actually only one religion and that through the ages it transformed and mutated into versions 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and so on?

In other words, what is the oldest religion? And did this religion change over time so that, for example, the religion of Moses is an improved version of the religion of Abraham and the religion of Jesus is an improved version of the religion of Moses and the religion of Muhammad is an improved version of the religion of Jesus?

Is this far fetched? If it is then why would the Quran say that the true believers or submitters (Muslim) are those followers of Moses and followers of Jesus who abide to the teachings of Abraham? And do we not call Judaism, Christianity and Islam the Abrahamic faiths, which means the roots are all in Abraham’s teachings, as what the Quran declares?

Note that the Quran says the followers of Moses and Jesus who follow the teachings of Abraham. The Quran does not even mention the followers of Muhammad in that particular verse.

So, if all religions are merely new versions of the old religion then we should go back even further -- before Moses, Jesus or Muhammad -- and see where it all started. This would then take us to what Islam calls the Majusi or fire worshippers. Islam regards these as also ‘People of the Book’, which means Islam recognises this religion.

Yes, Zoroastrianism, the religion I am talking about, overlaps Islam in many areas. They also have the kabah and the practice of tawaf and they take wuduk before they conduct the ritualistic prayers just like in Islam, and much more.

So, Malay Ultraman, hold your horses and don’t be too quick to label any discussion on religion as an Islam bashing exercise. And when I talk about faith that is not meant to bash Islam. It is meant to show that faith can make us accept what cannot be proven, that is all. And religion needs faith because without it we would never believe in religion since very little can be proven according to modern standards of what is considered proof.

Why fast during Ramadan if one is non-Muslim?

Buka puasa! (© Amrufm | Flickr)
Buka puasa! (© Amrufm | Flickr)
HOW many non-Muslims do you know who fast during Ramadan? And why would they?
So far, I’ve found two non-Muslims who are conscientiously fasting the whole of Ramadan. Of these two, one fasts the Muslim way, eating only at sahur and iftar in accordance with the Muslim prayer times. The other doesn’t follow the fasting timetable and does a partial fast of eating only one meal a day at dinner.
There were more I spoke to who said they fast but only for a day or two out of the entire month of Ramadan. For this, what I call the “casual” group, fasting usually means skipping lunch and only eating in the evening, usually because a buka puasa buffet feast with Muslim friends has been planned in advanced.
The reasons for non-Muslims fasting during Ramadan included a) wanting a personal challenge, b) to accompany Muslim friends or colleagues, or c) to show solidarity.
Showing solidarity. Er, but why?
(© zainiabdullahpjk@zakulaan | Flickr)
(© zainiabdullahpjk@zakulaan | Flickr)
It’s “to show solidarity” which intrigues me the most. I’ve found that overall, among non-Muslims who’ve fasted during Ramadan whether conscientiously or casually, “solidarity” was the first thing off the top of their heads when I asked why they did it.
And yet, just what does “showing solidarity” mean in our context where Muslims and Malay Malaysians are the majority? And where non-Muslims have to abide, not by choice but by decree, to various directives such as a ban on new non-Muslim clubs in schools and a ban on using the word “Allah” when it isn’t exclusive to Islam?
Or where non-Muslims have no say in the unilateral conversion of children if one’s spouse converts to Islam, and have to give up burial rights over a deceased Muslim family member’s body? Why should solidarity be shown with the majority if such are the circumstances for the minority?
Unpacking solidarity
Maybe I am totally wrong in looking at solidarity this way. Maybe I am taking politics too personally. But I think, after awhile, even the toughest of cynics cannot help but feel disheartened and resentful of the frequent labelling of non-Malay Malaysians, and by extension, non-Muslims, as “pendatang”, as ingrates, and as plotters who will one day take over the country.
As if to reinforce the position of non-Muslim citizens in Malaysia, the cow-head protestors were merely fined RM1,000 for illegal assembly, no charges were pressed against the Al-Islam magazine reporters, and a police report has now been lodged against a church for staging a play during Ramadan.
How do I not let such insults and disrespect eat into me? One could say that it’s all just political posturing or media spin. And yes, that may be true but only some of the time.
Ahmad Ismail (source: Oriental Daily), against a map of Malaya (public domain. Source: wikipedia.org)
What about the times lesser-known figures like Datuk Ahmad Ismail, Datuk Nasir Safar, and most recently, a school principal in Kulaijaya, Johor, said similar things about non-Malay and non-Muslim Malaysians? These incidents suggest that it isn’t always just politics; that such views do have currency on the ground. Maybe Utusan Malaysia is merely reinforcing is subscribers’ perceptions.  Maybe Perkasa is just echoing the voice of its 200,000 members.
Confused, I asked two non-Muslims who fast during Ramadan why they do it and what they get out of it. It’s best to let their own words speak for themselves.
Tricia Yeoh, Selangor state government researcher:
“I observe the full fast timetable, waking up for sahur at dawn and breaking fast at iftar in the evening.
“Despite the fact that we [in Malaysia] are so exposed to different communities, many of us either can’t be bothered or don’t have the initiative to truly take the effort to understand the other.
“I don’t think [the question of solidarity with the majority or minority] matters. As a human being, my commitment and my responsibility is to do what I can to understand people and the environment around me.
(pic courtesy of Tricia Yeoh)
Tricia Yeoh (pic courtesy of Tricia Yeoh)
“I want to know what makes people tick. And in order to do that, you have to enter into their world. Obviously [Ramadan] will not mean the same thing for me as it does for them because I lack the spiritual element which Muslims apply to it, but the physical fast is the extent to which I can enter into their world.
“[Disciplining the body also] makes you question whether there are other excesses I don’t need. It gets you focused on what’s important in life and often that comes back to the communal aspect of coming together as a family or as a people. I wake up for sahur alone in my house as I’m the only one in my family doing it, but knowing that there are hundreds of thousands of families all doing the same thing at the same time is special. As much as possible, I try to break fast with others who are Muslims.
“The communal experience is a beautiful thing that we sometimes lose in an increasingly individualistic society. But if we were to think bigger, then communal also means looking out for the nation’s best interests. Those who are fasting should be reminded that there’s a greater purpose out there and the borders between races ought to thin. It’s all the more essential for everyone to step into the shoes of the ‘other’ in this time and age. We all have to make these efforts, these baby steps.”
Dr Ong Kian Ming, political analyst and USCI lecturer:
“I don’t follow the fasting timetable strictly. I fast in the sense that I eat only one meal a day at dinner. It’s to stand in solidarity with Muslims and it is also good discipline for me. It’s about learning to control my physical appetite and is the part of Ramadan I find attractive — learning to mengawal nafsu, or controlling one’s desires.
Ong Kian Ming
Ong Kian Ming
“Showing solidarity is basically about just trying to understand my Muslim friends better. I’ve always been inspired by the book To Kill a Mockingbird, about standing in somebody’s shoes and seeing life from their point of view. It’s something we should all do, to understand and sensitise ourselves to others.
“Extending these ideas about controlling desires and understanding the other to a national level, I think we ought to fast from the desire to be accusatory of each other and instead try to see things from each other’s perspective.
“I also have a personal dimension to fasting and I’m fasting for Sarawak because of several issues — state elections might be held soon, the bumiputera rural population there have been severely neglected, and I’m fasting as a way of hoping that change will come for these people. I try to accompany my fast with prayer and to give to charity whatever money I save from not eating.”
Pockets of hope
I’m still not fully convinced about the need to show solidarity if that is the reason for participating in a Ramadan fast as a non-Muslim. Maybe I am selfish and want some kind of reciprocation in understanding, or I unnecessarily attach too much political baggage to the idea of adopting aspects of the dominant culture and religion.
I do agree, however, that it is important to step into the shoes of the other. And maybe the value of fasting and breaking fast with Muslim friends is to at least remember that despite the prevailing national rhetoric, there are still pockets of hope where genuine interfaith friendships exist.

MCCBCHST CALLS FOR A CHORUS OF DISAPPROVAL

Rev. Dr. Thomas Philips
President
MCCBCHST
21 August 2010


In the light of the latest, in an increasing line of provocative racist remarks, this time by a principal of a school in the state of Johor, MCCBCHST calls upon the authorities to take prompt, and appropriate action to demonstrate that such dastardly acts and words perpetrated by government servants regardless of their rank is not and will not be tolerated in Malaysia.

The Johor school incident occurring as it did in the runup to the coming National Day celebrations casts a sombre shadow over the nation’s commitment to a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society where all citizens can be guaranteed a shared destiny in Malaysia as Malaysians based on peace and justice.

The time has passed whereby mere platitudes and words from the national leadership and enforcement authorities in themselves will be enough. The nation needs just and fair actions rather than just words.

MCCBCHST calls for its component religious communities and all other Malaysians regardless of ethnic or religious affiliation to join together to pray that the sitting government will take responsibility to take appropriate action to stop blatant racist acts and utterances.

At the same time, let all peace-loving, fair-minded Malaysians join together to raise an unignorable chorus of disapproval against racism in all its forms.

LET US STOP RACISM BEFORE RACISM STOPS OUR NATION.

Bumiputera Equity: I Was Only Giving My View, Says Chua

IPOH, Aug 22 (Bernama) -- MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said on Saturday, his speech at the recent Chinese Economic Congress which touched on the Bumiputera equity issue was just stating his views, not a form of demand.

He said that when such a congress took place, there would be views being voiced out.

Speaking at a news conference after chairing the Perak MCA meeting here, Chua said MCA welcomed the advice of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, reminding leaders of Barisan Nasional (BN) component parties to resolve problems in the BN spirit of consensus.

Chua said the party thanked the prime minister for the advice, which he said was in line with the BN's vast experience in dealing with issues of common interest.

The MCA president's remark at the congress, in which he called for the gradual removal of the 30 per cent Bumiputera equity, received a wave of protests particularly from Umno leaders and members.

In another development, Chua said the Perak MCA viewed the draft of the Ipoh Local Plan 2020 as an important document and would form a special committee to scrutinise it.

He said the committee would also carry out discussions and dialogues with traders, petty traders, school managements and other stakeholders affected by the plan.

"Input, suggestions and issues raised during the dialogue would be included in a memorandum to be forwarded to the state government for consideration," he said.

Costs soar after health services privatised

By Anil Netto,

Ever since health care support services in general hospitals were privatised, costs have soared.
In 1996, health care support services were privatised to three companies: Faber Medi-Serve Sdn Bhd (FMS), Radicare (M) Sdn Bhd and Pantai Medivest Sdn Bhd.
In 1997, the payments made to these companies added up to RM340 million, broken down as follows:
  • Faber RM127m
  • Radicare RM150m
  • Pantai Medivest RM63m

In 2009, costs rocketed to over RM1.0 billion, made up as follows:
  • Faber RM452m
  • Radicare RM377m
  • Pantai RM214m
For the 13 years from 1997 to 2009, the three companies were paid a total of RM8.7 billion, broken down as follows:
  • Faber RM4.0b
  • Radicare RM3.2b
  • Pantai Rm1.5b
The above information was provided by Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai in response to an oral question in Parliament on 8 April 2010 by Dr Lee Boon Chye.  The MP for Gopeng had wanted to know how much was paid to these concessionaires .
Now, let’s look at Faber Medi-Serve (FMS) more closely.
In June 1995, the government decided to award the company a 15-year concession (hey, that means the concession ends this year!) “to manage, operate and provide five core support services to 71 out of the 123 MOH-owned hospitals”.
FMS’ business centres on clinical waste management, building and facility engineering management, linen and laundry, biomedical engineering, and cleansing and janitorial services.
FMS currently provides such support services to 75 public hospitals in Perlis, Kedah, Penang, Perak, Sarawak and Sabah. The firm is a subsidiary of Faber Group Berhad and a member of the UEM Group of Companies.
The substantial shareholders of Faber Group Berhad as at 31 March 2010 are as follows:
  • UEM Group Berhad 34.29% (direct)
  • Khazanah Nasional Berhad 34.29% (indirect)#
  • Universal Trustee (Malaysia) Berhad 23.42% (direct) (who is behind this?)
# Deemed interest by virtue of its substantial interest in UEM Group Berhad
According to its Annual Report 2009, Faber Group Berhad actually has a 43 per cent ownership interest and voting power in FMS. (Who owns the rest of FMS?)
For the year ending 31 December 2009, Faber Group Berhad posted a profit before tax of RM141 million on the back of turnover of RM805 million.

BN clamps down on more books, Chinese radio

By Nathaniel Tan,

Knowing full well how they feel, I wanted to express solidarity with Kim Quek, Amir Muhammad, Pang Khee Teik, Jerome Kugan, et al. Their two books pictured above have been confiscated from bookstores – years after their publication :P
(I can just imagine our government officials pouring over Body 2 Body: “Eh, maksud ‘and gave it to him’ itu… homoseks ke?” You got more speculation to add? :)
That’s not the only clampdown of today – looks like the government is also coming down hard on Chinese radio. Feeling that 9% heat there, BN?
This ridiculous clampdown on fundamental rights of responsible freedom of expression is deplorable, and puts paid any delusions we might have of a reformed BN government.
It’s almost impossible to believe that they’d be so stupid as to think this would make them more popular in the long run. Perhaps they really have written off the urban areas completely.