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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Religion is something personal

It has taken a rookie politician to put across get the message that no one has the right to play God.

Doubt is part of all religion. All the religious thinkers were doubters. – Issac Bashevis Singer, author and Nobel Prize laureate

The antipathy being shown to Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar for her candid and forthright view that everyone is deserving of religious freedom, including the Malays, reveals the feared truth that religion is a personal choice and coercion simply does not work.

The truth is Nurul Izzah has done the Malays especially a favour through her remark that religious freedom should be accorded to everyone.

It is a different matter that her comments made in a forum entitled “Islamic state? Which vision? Whose responsibility” on Nov 3 came down with a ‘Richter Scale’-like backlash.

The statements coming from the Prime Minister’s Department were typical. Minister Jamil Khir Baharom said Nurul Izzah’s remark was “misleading” and “dangerous”. His deputy, Mashitah Ibrahim, went further, calling for the young politician’s prosecution on the charge of insulting Islam.

How could any thinking person conclude that she was insulting Islam when the gist of her remark was her quotation of the Quranic verse that prohibits believers from compelling people to accept Islam?

Mashitah even hinted that Nurul Izzah was encouraging apostasy, a claim which the PKR vice-president begged to differ.

A pertinent question

It appears that there are many in this country that are unwilling to tolerate such ingenuous view of a ‘green’ politician and that too one who is the daughter of Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim.

Granted that it was anomalous for Nurul Izzah to so bravely touch on a topic so sensitive in this country, Islam; sadly, unlike her, the minds of her fellow colleagues, especially in the Barisan Nasional camp, have yet to ‘attain’ maturity.

Thinking out of the box or daring to make a paradigm shift has never been BN’s interest nor strength, hence its ‘condemn and ridicule’ approach in dealing with anything its nemesis, the Pakatan Rakyat pact does or says.

Nurul Izzah has posed a very pertinent question, one that forces everyone to ruminate and ask questions in order to penetrate to the essence of any religion. Most people who have even a rough understanding of Islam will agree that asking questions is not a sin in that religion.

The outstanding problem in this country, however, is that one is given the impression that anything bearing upon the country’s official religion and Malay rights and privileges is not to be questioned.

Still, in light of all this, Nurul Izzah dared to state what she believed to be true. She certainly was not trying to ingratiate herself with anyone by speaking her mind.

As it stands, the country’s constitution says if you are a Malay then you are automatically a Muslim. It is given that the Malays will not go against the constitution, not when it comes to religion.

But then what happens if a Malay individual wanst to denounce his religion? These are serious questions that need genuine answers, not rebuke and punishment.

Why is there the fear of addressing of even acknowledging the fact that there are some Malays who are unhappy with their religion?

Religion is a guide

Going by the harsh reactions to Nurul Izzah’s ‘religious freedom’, it pains one’s heart to see how mankind has taken upon themselves to play God, determining with an iron fist the faith of their fellow beings.

Maybe this is why the saying goes “put your confidence in God and not in man”.

Life is uncertain and likewise religion too is something that is not carved on stone. Enlightenment comes when one least expects it and with it the decision to embrace the religion of one’s choice.

It has taken a rookie politician to get the message across that religion is something personal and cannot be dictated by anyone who wants to play God. We should thank her for it.

After all, freedom of belief is everyone’s birthright, irrespective of which ‘skin’ forms the dominant race.

Or in the words of Dalai Lama: “This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness”.

Jeswan Kaur is a freelance writer and a FMT columnist.

'Black Deepavali' ahead for Kg Railway folk

With only three days left till Deepavali, some 40 residents of Kampung Railway in Sentul today held a protest for a roof over their heads as they face eviction.

This follows a Kuala Lumpur High Court decision on Oct 31 that ordered the residents to vacate the land as they were unable to prove that they had permission to occupy the area.

However, residents of the kampung whose ancestors were railway workers said their families have lived in the area for over 100 years until the Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB) land was privatised to YTL Corporation in 1993.

"All we want is an assurance that we can have a roof over our heads. This may be our last Deepavali where we have our homes, and it is a black Deepavali," said resident Darshan Singh.

According to lawyer Abdul Rashid Ismail who represents 101 of the residents, YTL and the Federal Territories and Urban Wellbeing Ministry had promised them low-cost apartments as compensation.

However, even after the eviction order, there has not been any black and white document to assure that the promise will be followed through, he said.

Hindraf to unveil Indian poor five-year blueprint

Hindraf chairperson P Waythamoorthy today announced that the movement will unveil a five-year blueprint to address the plight of the Indian poor.

"On Nov 25 at our fifth anniversary of the grand Hindraf rally of November 2007, we will be revealing our five-year blueprint to bring the Indian poor into the mainstream of national development," he told journalist at a press conference in Brickfields this morning.

p waythamoorthy hindraf pc brickfields five-year blueprintThe blueprint will outline the movement's short-term plan, which is derived from the 18-point demand to the government in 2007.

Waythamoorthy declined to disclose the plan, but said one of the solutions it proposed in the blueprint concerns the estimated 350,000 stateless Indians in the country.

On this, it will call for the government to accept statutory declarations on family background as being sufficient to issue stateless Indians in the country with a blue identity card.

Adding on, Hindraf national advisor N Ganesan said the the blueprint will seek practical solutions.

"We believe the issue of statelessness is not a technical problem but a political problem. If there is political will, then we will have a permanent and comprehensive solution," he said.

Cautious backing for Najib meet

The announcement today came immediately after a meeting of Hindraf leaders from eight states who endorsed Waythamoorthy's stance to accept Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's invitation for a meeting on condition that the 2007 ban on the organisation be lifted.
"Hindraf leaders from all eight states had their respective meetings with their state coordinators to gather feedback in respond to the call.

"In today's meeting, concerns were raised about the sincerity of the invitation and we are concerned that this is only tied to the looming general election.

"We are not exactly enthusiastic about the invitation. However, we have decided to give him (Najib) the benefit of the doubt," said Waythamoorthy.

He added that there was no deadline set for the government but he hoped the authorities will lift the ban on Hindraf "as soon as possible" so talks can commence.
"It does not make sense for the prime minister to be meeting the leaders of a ban organisation.

"So long as the ban is in place, we do not think the conditions are right for Hindraf to make the next move," he said.

Waythamoorthy noted that Hindraf had conducted 47 roadshows since August and had met over 60,000 Indians who gave the mandate for the movement to meet all parties in resolving the problems of the Indian poor.

'A force to reckon with'
Asked about the premier's sudden move to offer an olive branch, he replied: "The support for Hindraf is growing by the day and it is an indisputable fact that Hindraf is a force that represents marginalised and poor Indians."

"The government, though has been living in denial, I think they now realise Hindraf is truly the voice of the people," he said.

Asked how would MIC which represents the Indian community in the ruling coalition will react, Waythamoorthy said: "We are not concerned how they stand or what they think, we have nothing to do with them, we are here to find solutions."

Hindraf had on Aug 29, 2012 made an open request to both Najib and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim for discussion to address the problems of the Indian poor.

The movement had since met the opposition twice and on Wednesday, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Nazri Abdul Aziz said the government too wanted to engage Hindraf.

Asked if Hindraf's support for either side would be contingent upon their endorsement of Hindraf's five-year blueprint, Waythamoorthy said the movement discussed it with Pakatan leader Anwar and will "take it from there" in subsequent meetings.

MIC: Hindraf should not set conditions for PM meet

The country's largest Indian party, the MIC, is upset at Hindraf for setting pre-conditions to meet Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.

"It is not reasonable to have a pre-condition to meet (the prime minister), they (Hindraf) are the one who wanted to meet and they are now setting pre-conditions," said MIC secretary-general S Murugesan when contacted today.

He was responding to Hindraf's official statement this morning calling on the government to lift the ban on movement before it will meet Najib.

murugesan gas pc 280510"If you already have conditions, what is the point of the meeting in the first place?" he said.

Asked if Najib's attempt to engage Hindraf is an indication of MIC's failure to address the plight of the Indian poor, Murugesan (right), while rejecting it, pointed a finger at Pakatan Rakyat.

"The very fact they want to talk to the prime minister shows that Pakatan has not delivered on their promises.

"Of course if the prime minister doesn't want to meet (Hindraf), then they will say the prime minister is not listening to a segment (of society)," he said.

'MIC still represents Indians'

Murugesan insisted that MIC still representsthe Indian community and Najib's olive branch to Hindraf was just the premier's approach of being inclusive.

The landmark Hindraf protest in 2007 and its support in part helped propel the opposition to power in five states with the BN recording   its worst performance since its inception.

hindraf klang court sedition 261107 crowdHowever, after the 2008 general election, the movement had a fallout with Pakatan.

Hindraf had since commence re-engagement after open request announcement on Aug 29 on its willingness to meet both the government and opposition.

The movement had since met Pakatan Rakyat twice and on Wednesday, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Nazri Abdul Aziz said the government, too, wanted to engage with Hindraf.

Malala spurs school-for-all vow, now deliver

Editor's note: Gordon Brown served as Britain's prime minister between 2007 and 2010 after a decade as the country's finance minister, or chancellor of the Exchequer. In July this year he was appointed as a United Nations Special Envoy on Global Education by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pakistan has a new heroine and a new cause -- a girl's right to education -- and after Friday's announcements from the Pakistani government that they will adopt new measures to get every child into school by end 2015, that cause has a timetable and a deadline for delivery.

Everywhere you go in Pakistan you find people talking animatedly about the 15-year-old girl, Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by the Taliban last month.

A rickshaw touring the streets of Islamabad has a slogan posted on it: "Malala for education and peace." Go to the local girls' school and every girl seems to have written either a poem or a song, a letter or a card to Malala.

Listen to the politicians and every speech is laced with references to the courage of Malala. Meet civil society organizations and they will tell you that the audience for their educational demands has risen markedly over the last few weeks.

It seems that Malala's courage has awoken Pakistan's silent majority who are no longer prepared to tolerate the threats and intimidations of the Pakistan Taliban.

Can Pakistan convert its momentary desire to speak out in support of Malala into a long term commitment to getting its three million girls and five million children into school? Can the politicians, long-criticized for a failure to deliver, find the teachers, the classrooms and the reading materials to give millions of children a basic education?

This is what I talked about with Pakistan's leaders. Meeting President Asif Ali Zardari, and in front of a 500-strong audience, many of them from the Swat Valley where Malala was shot, I presented petitions already signed by more than one million people in the international community in honor of Malala and her cause.

These signatures were complemented with another one million signatures collected by Pakistani civil society's One Million Signature Campaign to demand free and compulsory education.

Another 100,000 signatures from out-of-school Pakistani children are the start of yet another one million-strong petition, this time from the children themselves demanding their right to school.

The president and I agreed on a series of deadlines in a plan to ensure all of Pakistan's five million out-of-school children have the opportunity to go to school.

Pakistan on Friday asked to join the Accelerated Millennium Development Goal Framework process that will allow the country to assess its current education plans, strategies and obstacles to delivery in consultation with international organizations and then work together to contribute to Pakistan's dream of education for all.

A deadline for the final draft of this accelerated plan is set for April 2013 when the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, President of the World Bank Jim Kim and myself, alongside the heads of major international agencies such as UNESCO, UNICEF, UNDP, UNFPA and the Global Partnership for Education, will meet in Washington with the Ministers of Education and Finance of Pakistan.

The aim is to match international and domestic support for realizing the 2015 goal.

Suspect's sister apologizes

Five months of intensive in-country work with the Pakistan government, civil authorities and foundations, as well as international organizations, lie ahead to ensure a detailed, budgeted plan.

I have suggested to the president that he consider involving all educational groups from civil society interested in achieving the universal goal in the processes.

Today there is new hope for the three million girls denied their right to schooling and a new chance to ensure the right to education for all.

Pakistan and the international community are united in their goals.

We now must deliver. But a more active, more engaged and more determined Pakistani people can ensure that education for all is no longer a slogan but a reality.

Pakistan's minority Hindus feel under attack

Pakistan's minority Hindus feel under attack  Associated Press

They came after dusk and chanted into the night sky "Kill the Hindus, kill the children of the Hindus," as they smashed religious icons, ripped golden bangles off women's arms and flashed pistols. It wasn't the first time that the Hindu temple on the outskirts of Pakistan's largest city was attacked, and residents here fear it will not be the last.

"People don't consider us as equal citizens. They beat us whenever they want," said Mol Chand, one of the teenage boys gathered at the temple. "We have no place to worship now."

It was the second time the Sri Krishna Ram temple has been attacked, and this time the mob didn't even bother to disguise their faces. The small temple, surrounded by a stone wall, is a tiny religious outpost in a dusty, hardscrabble neighborhood so far on the outskirts of the city that a sign on the main road wishes people leaving Karachi a good journey.

Local Muslim residents blamed people from a nearby ethnic Pashtun village for the attack, which took place in late September on the Day of Love for the Prophet, a national holiday declared by the government in response to an anti-Islam film made in the U.S. No one was seriously injured in the attack.

It was the latest in a rising tide of violence and discrimination against Hindus in this 95 percent Muslim country, where Islamic extremism is growing. Pakistan's Hindu community says it faces forced conversions of Hindu girls to Islam, a lack of legal recognition for their marriages, discrimination in services and physical abuse when they venture into the streets.

The story of the Hindu population in Pakistan is one of long decline. During partition in 1947, the violent separation of Pakistan and India into separate countries, hundreds of thousands of Hindus opted to migrate to India where Hinduism is the dominant religion. Those that remained and their descendants now make up a tiny fraction of Pakistan's estimated 190 million citizens, and are mostly concentrated in Sindh province in the southern part of the country.

Signs of their former stature abound in Karachi, the capital of Sindh. At the 150-year-old Swami Narayan Temple along one of the city's main roads, thousands of Hindus gather during the year to celebrate major religious holidays. Hindus at the 200-year-old Laxmi Narain Temple scatter the ashes of their cremated loved ones in the waters of an inlet from the Arabian Ocean.

But there are also signs of how far the community has fallen. Residents in a city hungry for land have begun to build over Hindu cemeteries, the community's leaders say. Hindus helped build Karachi's port decades ago, but none work there now.

Estimates of the size of the Hindu population in Pakistan are all over the map _ from 2.5 million or 10 million in Sindh province alone to 7 million across the country _ a reflection of the fact that the country hasn't had a census since 1998.

It isn't just Hindus who are facing problems. Other minorities like Christians, the mystical Muslim branch of Sufis and the Ahmadi sect have found themselves under attack in Pakistan, where the rise of Muslim fundamentalists has sometimes unleashed a violent opposition against those who don't follow their strict religious tenets.

The discrimination has prompted some Hindus to leave for India, activists warn, though the extent is not known. Around 3,000 Hindus left this year, part of a migration that began four years ago, sparked by discrimination and a general rise in crime in Sindh, said DM Maharaj, who heads an organization to help Hindus called Pakistan Hindu Sabha.

He said he recently talked to a group of Hindus preparing to move to India from rural Sindh, complaining that they can't eat in Muslim restaurants or that Muslim officials turned them down for farming loans. Even during recent floods, they said Muslims did not want them staying in the same refugee camps.

Other Hindu figures such as provincial assembly member Pitamber Sewami deny there's a migration at all, in a reflection of how sensitive the issue is. Earlier this year, there were a string of reports in Pakistani media about Hindus leaving the country, sparking a flurry of promises by Pakistani officials to investigate.

In India, a Home office official said the Indian government noticed an upward trend of people coming from Pakistan but called reports of Pakistanis fleeing to India "exaggerated." He said he does not have exact figures on how many Pakistani Hindus have stayed in India after entering the country on tourist visas. The official spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the topic.

There's more of a consensus of the seriousness of the problem of forced conversion of Hindus.

Zohra Yusuf, the president of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan says the pattern goes like this: A Hindu girl goes missing and then resurfaces days or weeks later married to a Muslim boy. During court hearings to determine whether the conversion was voluntary, students from nearby Islamic schools called madrassas often flood the room, trying to intimidate the judges by chanting demands that the conversion be confirmed.

Maharaj says he's tried to intervene in roughly 100 cases of forced conversions but has only succeeded in returning a girl safely back to her family once. If a girl decides to renounce Islam and return to Hinduism, she could be signing a death warrant for herself and her family even if her conversion was forced.

The Hindu community has also been hurt by a lack of unity within its ranks. Hindu society within Pakistan and elsewhere has historically been divided by caste, a system of social stratification in which the lower castes are often seen as inferior. Members of the lower castes in Pakistan say it wasn't until two girls from a high-caste family were forcibly converted this year that high-caste Hindus took the issue seriously, although it's been happening for years.

"We always fight our war ourselves," said Bholoo Devjee, a Hindu activist from Karachi, speaking about the lower castes.

In recent months the government has begun to take the concerns of the Hindu community more seriously. In Sindh province, legislators proposed a law to prevent forced conversions in part by implementing a waiting period before a marriage between a Hindu and a Muslim can go forward, and there's discussion about proposing such a law on the national level as well.

In the case of the Sri Krishna Ram temple, law enforcement authorities opened a blasphemy case against the people who rampaged through the building. But residents here are skeptical that these developments signify any long-term improvement in their plight. Weeks after the incident no arrests have been made, and the Hindus complain that no high-ranking Hindu officials have come to visit them or help them get compensation.

Sunda Maharaj, the spiritual leader at the temple, which was first attacked in January 2011, said he and the other residents do not want to move to India. "We are Pakistani," he said.

But he would like more help from the government, specifically a checkpoint to stop people from getting close to the temple and money for the Hindus to buy weapons.

"Next time anyone comes we can kill them or die defending our temple," he said.


Follow Rebecca Santana on Twitter (at)ruskygal.


Associated Press writers Adil Jawad in Karachi and Nirmala George in New Delhi contributed to this report.

9-year-old girl awarded as ‘compensation’ in rape case

Group of elders decreed that farm worker would marry off his daughter to landowner's son to settle year-long dispute. PHOTO: FILE

LAHORE: Police in Pakistan have arrested five men after a village council ordered a father to hand over his nine-year-old daughter as compensation in a rape case, officers said Friday.

A group of elders in the remote rural area of Bahalak in Punjab province made the ruling to settle a year-long dispute between a farm worker and an influential local landowner, local police station chief Mohammad Khalid told AFP.

The worker, Arshad, who goes by one name, was accused of involvement in the abduction and rape of landowner Ali Sher’s daughter, Khalid said.

“The jury on Sunday decreed that Arshad would marry (off) his daughter Sidra to Ali Sher’s 22-year old son Maqsood,” he explained.

“Arshad agreed verbally but Sidra, who is too young, remains with her family,” he said.

The marriage was not formally solemnised but the village council made Arshad agree to pay Sher Rs40,000 – a vast sum for a farm labourer in Pakistan – if he did not honour the ruling.

Khalid said Arshad and four council members had been arrested.

The practice of “vani”, giving daughters as compensation to end vendettas, is illegal and punishable by up to seven years in jail.

Pakistan is a deeply conservative country and women, especially in poor rural areas, enjoy few rights and little protection from the police.

Last week a couple in Pakistan-administered Kashmir killed their 15-year-old daughter by dousing her with acid for supposedly shaming the family by looking at two boys.

Kohilan mum on condo approval after minutes expose

Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister A Kohilan Pillay has declined to comment after the minutes of a Selayang Municipal Council (MPS) full board meeting showed he had approved the controversial Dolomite Park Avenue condominium project.

NONEKohilan, who was a Selayang municipal councillor between 1997 and 2008, said he needed time to go through all the meetings on the project before coming up with a statement.

"Let me check again the meeting minutes... I need to go through all the meetings and then I can comment," he said when contacted this morning.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, theSun reported that the minutes of MPS full board meeting of Nov 29, 2007, showed that Kohilan and 19 other councillors, including three from the MIC, had approved the project.

The project, which includes a 29-storey condominium, has been mired in controversy because it was approved despite its proximity to the iconic Sri Subramaniar Temple in Batu Caves, and beside steep limestone hills.

Kohilan had been among the prominent figures who protested against the project on Oct 26 and accused the Pakatan Selangor government of approving the luxury project.

Asked about the veracity of the minutes that showed otherwise, Kohilan replied: "God knows... I will need to check with my lawyers."
'Approved despite DOE reservations'

Prior to the minutes becoming public, Kohilan had denied approving the project, stating that it was approved by the One Stop Centre (OSC) and not by councillors at the full board meeting of the MPS.

NONEHowever, current MPS councillor Lee Khai Loon had refuted this, stating that all OSC approvals must receive endorsement from the full board meeting before approval.

Kohilan had also said that only a "planning permit" was approved during his tenure which he claims was basic and does not reveal the details of the project, such as the number of storeys.

However, according to theSun, the application for the condominium project was accompanied together with the detailed layout and building plans.

In a separate report, it was also revealed that the project was approved despite an earlier letter from the Selangor Department of Environment stating its opposition to the project as it could potentially cause landslides in the locality.

Boycott Najib meeting, urges Hindraf legal adviser

Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) legal adviser M Manoharan has advised its chairperson P Waythamoorthy and his elder brother Uthayakumar to boycott the meeting with Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.

Manoharan, who is also Kota Alam Shah assemblyperson and one of the five who were detained under the Internal Security Act in 2007, said the Indian community should not forget what the BN and Umno government had done.

NONEUsing an Indian proverb, Manoharan (right) said if you can’t change a child at the age of five, you cannot expect the person to change at 50.

“We cannot expect Najib to change drastically as he had been in the cabinet for quite some time now. Hence, I am advising the two Hindraf leaders not to meet with the PM.”

Manoharan said the community should remember the atrocities committed by BN and Umno government which had seen hundreds of their temples being demolished, limited opportunities in the civil service, and hundreds of Indians including teenagers being held in detention centres in Simpang Renggam and also in Machang.

He said there is also the Kampung Medan acts of violence, which the authorities have refused to recognise, and also the hundreds of death in custody cases and shooting death incidents involving the Indian community.

Manoharan described the worst time for Indians as the period when Dr Mahathir Mohamad ruled the country for 22 years.

“Hence, we should remember this and decide not to meet the PM at all,” he said.

He was commenting on Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Abdul Aziz’s statement on Wednesday, that Najib was willing to meet with Hindraf to discuss the issues of the Indian community.

Waythamoorthy had wanted the ban against Hindraf to be lifted, while Uthayakumar wanted the government to respond to five demands by Jan 1 before it would commit to talk.

Batu Caves and Hindraf clampdown

He said the people should remember that on the night of Nov 24, 2007, the police went in hard against protesters at the holiest Hindu shrine in Batu Caves.

“It was like a ‘mini genocide’ being committed by the authorities and this was followed by the rally the next day in Kuala Lumpur,” said the DAP lawyer.

Despite the protest, Manoharan said 31 protesters had been charged with attempted murder by the attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail himself.

The charge of attempted murder was eventually withdrawn by the AG’s Chambers in December.

Manoharan said as a result of the rally he, along with Uthyakumar and three other Hindraf leaders namely V Ganabatirau, R Kenghadharan and organising secretary T Vasantha Kumar, were detained under the ISA.

“All this, what the BN and Umno government did, should not be forgotten.”

Manoharan said if the government is committed in meeting with Hindraf then it should first apologise to all Indians for the acts they did the past 50 years.

Furthermore, he said the government should also be prepared to pay compensation to all Indians for the wrongdoing done.

“If the Australian prime minister was prepared to apologise for the atrocities it did to the Aborigines, why can’t the Malaysian government do the same following their actions on the Indian community,” he said.

He, however, did not want to reveal the amount of compensation sought.

Umno info chief asks Nurul Izzah to apologise if she had made a mistake

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 9 — Umno Information Chief Datuk Ahmad Maslan today advised Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar to stop flip-flopping on her alleged controversial statement on freedom of religion and make a public apology.

He said all evidence, such as the video recording and transcript of her speech at a forum last Saturday, had been uploaded onto the Internet, including YouTube.

It is unnecessary for the MP for Lembah Pantai to divert the people’s attention by suing newspapers and claiming that the media had misquoted her. “Everything is clear. Why must she deny it? If she had made a mistake, just apologise, and not put the blame on Umno, the Utusan (Malaysia) newspaper, and other media.

“If she had made a mistake, she should admit it and withdraw her statement. She should correct herself, repent and make a public apology,” he told reporters after chairing a meeting of speakers from Umno, here. In SHAH ALAM, Nurul Izzah, accompanied by lawyer Fadlina Sidik, went to the Selangor Islamic Affairs Department (Jais) to explain the statement she had made.

“Besides providing the explanation, I also lodged a complaint with Jais on the reports in several local newspapers alleging that I support Malays being allowed to choose their religion,” she told reporters after a meeting with Jais director Datuk Marzuki Hussin.

A pro-opposition news portal, in a report on Nov 3, had quoted Nurul Izzah as saying that people should not be compelled to adopt a particular religion, and that this should also apply to Malays.

“When you ask me, there is no compulsion in religion ... how can anyone say sorry, this (religious freedom) only applies to non-Malays, it has to apply equally,” she was quoted as saying when speaking at a forum on “Islamic State:

Which version; Who’s responsibility?” in Subang Jaya on that date. Ahmad Maslan said the Umno Information Bureau would hold information sessions on the matter at the grassroots level.

He said that based on the Federal Constitution, freedom of religion was not applicable in the context of Muslims.

“Do they want to amend the constitution if they come to power after the next general election?” he asked. — Bernama

Pakatan to protest over stateless Indians

Thousands are expected to camp outside the National Registration Department in Putrajaya until the government resolves the issue of stateless Indians.

KUALA LUMPUR: Pakatan Rakyat will stage a protest outside the National Registration Department (NRD) in Putrajaya on Dec 5 over the unresolved issue of stateless Indians in the country.

“We are going to come with tents, food and provisions and will not move from the area until the government resolves the problem of Malaysian Indians being denied identification documents,” said PKR vice-president N Surendran.

“We expect thousands to turn up, including victims, activists, civil societies, and members of Pakatan Rakyat. Although we cannot say the exact figure, we are already starting the mobilisation.”

Surendran stressed that only Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak should be blamed if the NRD’s operations were paralysed on that day – something that he said would be likely to happen.

“We don’t want to do this, but our hand has been forced due to the government’s deliberate policy to marginalise and deprive the 300,000 stateless Indians from earning a livelihood in this country,” he said.

“Considering Najib’s vast resources, he would have little trouble in resolving the issue before Dec 5,” he said, adding that should the matter be resolved before that date, the protest would be called off.

“Pakatan Rakyat holds Najib and [Home Minister] Hishammuddin Hussein personally responsible for the suffering of Indians’ due to lack of documentation.”

Surendran pointed out that Pakatan had pushed for the proper documentation of Indian Malaysians for over a year, but to no avail.

“It is easy for the government to say ‘we will register the Indians, it is a small problem and their number is only 10,000 to 20,000.’

“But I say there shouldn’t be even one person in this country without his or rightful identification documents,” said Surendran.

“We want resolution, and we think this is the only way to get a resolution,” he said, adding that the protesters were willing to camp outside the NRD for days if the situation called for it.

‘Government is lying’

Surendran also accused the government of ordering civil servants to deny issuing identification documents to Indians, particularly those from the lower economic strata.

“This is a deliberate policy on the part of the government to marginalise and push out Indians from mainstream society,” he said.

He also claimed the government was lying about the number of stateless Indians in the country.

“The number of stateless Indians in this country is about 300,000. We state very clearly the government is lying to us when they say the number is 10,000 to 20,000.

“I challenge the government to deny all this based on the evidence I provide.”

One example Surendran gave was Logeswaran Sarathrajan, 10, who was present at the press conference.

The little boy shyly told reporters over the microphone that it was his dream to attend school, but he was not allowed to do so as he did not have a birth certificate.

This was despite the fact that, according to Article 14(1)(b) in the second schedule of the Federal Constitution, he is officially a citizen, said Surendran.

The article states that “every person born within the Federation of whose parents one at least is at the time of the birth either a citizen or permanently resident in the Federation…” is a citizen by operation of law.

“One would think that the government would be fully aware of the provisions in the Federal Constitution. Logeswaran is, by operation of law, automatically a citizen,” said Surendran.

“Basically the education department is in conspiracy with the NRD to deny this child his right to education. And he is only one among 300,000 who suffer the same plight.”

Also present at the press conference was Logeswaran’s father, Sarathrajan Raman, who had been denied an IC even though he possessed a birth certificate.

Meanwhile, PKR supreme council member Latheefa Koya said that PKR would file police reports over every single officer who denied a person of their reghtful identification documents.

“This is to prove that the NRD’s actions are systematic rather than one-off,” she said.

Petronas removes ‘Do the Dappan’ ad

The national oil company said that its complementary series of television and print greetings, as well as its Deepavalli exhibition at Galeri Petronas, will continue as planned.

PETALING JAYA: Petronas had decided to remove its Deepavali advertisement for this year titled “Do the Dappan” after a public outcry.

In a statement, the national oil company said that its complementary series of television and print greetings, plus its Deepavalli exhibition at Galeri Petronas, will continue as planned.

“It has always been Petronas’ intention to help promote the common underlying values from our diverse heritage, tradition and cultures to bring multi-ethnic Malaysians together,” read the statement.

The advertisement on YouTube runs for over three minutes, and it shows a youth named Raj doing the Dappan Kuthu dance and getting unlikely people to join his dance routine.

Petronas defines the Dappan Kuthu dance as an energetic dance routine which is prominent in Tamil cinema.

However, the video received brickbats from Internet users, who claimed that the advertisement did not reflect the spirit of Deepavali.

MIC secretary-general S Murugesan welcomed Petronas’ decision to heed public feedback on the matter.

“I would also like to encourage Petronas to continue making effort in promoting Malaysia’s multi-cultural diversity. Just do thorough research before putting up anything,” he said.

Angkatan Warga Aman Malaysia (WargaAman) secretary-general S Bharatidasan also thanked Petronas for removing the advertisement out of respect to the Hindu community.

“Just be more careful next time around,” he said.

Hindraf boleh jumpa PM bersyarat – Ibrahim Ali

Perkasa mengambil pendirian positif kerana isu membabitkan kaum India juga perlu diberi perhatian.

KUALA LUMPUR: Kumpulan Hindraf boleh bertemu dengan Perdana Menteri Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak dengan syarat, tidak membuat tuntutan yang melangkaui sensitiviti Perlembagaan.

Presiden Pertubuhan Pribumi Perkasa Malaysia (Perkasa) Datuk Ibrahim Ali menegaskan, perkara itu termasuk hak istimewa Bumiputera dan perkara lain yang membabitkan dasar negara.

“Perkasa mengambil pendirian positif dengan hasrat Perdana Menteri untuk berjumpa dengan pemimpin Hindraf kerana isu membabitkan kaum India juga perlu diberi perhatian.

“Tetapi mereka (Hindraf) janganlah pula buat tuntutan luar biasa nak minta langit, bulan, dan macam-macam,” kata Ahli Parlimen Pasir Mas itu dalam sidang media di pejabatnya di sini hari ini.

Pemimpin Hindraf P Uthayakumar dalam responnya dilaporkan menggesa Najib segera menunaikan tuntutan yang diperjuangkan mereka sejak tahun 2007 sebelum bersetuju untuk mengadakan pertemuan dengan Presiden Umno itu.

Antara tuntutan yang dikemukakan adalah peluang 10,000 tempat untuk pelajar India di Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) serta pemberian skim pembangunan tanah rancangan Felda dan Felcra untuk 10,000 kaum India.

Kestabilan politik

Ahli Parlimen Pasir Mas itu bagaimanapun optimis dengan langkah rundingan terbabit bagi mengekalkan kestabilan politik.

“Kalau kerajaan tak bertemu dengan kumpulan ini mungkin pihak lain akan menangguk di air yang keruh dan mengambil kesempatan menggunakan isu ini.

“Daripada melihat orang-orang tertentu pergi ke jalan raya dan buat perkara tak berfaedah sehingga memburukkan imej negara maka eloklah duduk berbincang,” katanya.

Ditanya tentang respon Waythamoorthy, Ibrahim berkata ‘peluang keemasan’ ini perlu digunakan sepenuhnya oleh kumpulan terbabit sebelum meletakkan sebarang syarat atau tuntutan.

“Perkasa memberi sokongan dan tunggu apa hasilnya. Harap ianya membawa hasil walaupun kita tahu Hindraf adalah pertubuhan haram tapi mereka tetap rakyat Malaysia, jadi sudah tentu mereka boleh membantu masyarakat India,” katanya.

Kelmarin Menteri di Jabatan Perdana Menteri Datuk Seri Mohamad Nazri Abdul Aziz berkata Najib kini bersedia untuk bertemu dengan Hindraf bagi membincangkan masalah berkaitan masyarakat India.

Bagaimanapun masih belum ada tarikh yang ditetapkan antara kedua-dua pihak untuk perjumpaan tersebut.

‘Don’t politicise Deepavali’

Opposition DAP is against MIC holding its Deepavali open house in Batu Caves and has criticised the party's attempt to use the festivities to gain political mileage.

PETALING JAYA: The Deepavali celebration this year turned political, as an opposition MP criticised MIC for its decision to hold its celebrations at the Batu Caves Temple.

DAP’s Teluk Intan MP M Manogaran said that no political party should use the temple ground to gain political mileage, especially during an auspicious day.

“Deepavali is a cultural and spiritual day. I urge all Hindus to avoid this political function. Let us go pray at Batu Caves before and after the event,” he said.

Yesterday, MIC president G Palanivel announced that the party would hold its Deepavali celebration at the Batu Caves temple on Nov 13, between 9am and 1pm.

They would also hold an open house event at the vicinity of the temple.

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and other Cabinet ministers are scheduled to grace the function.

“We decided to hold the open house in Batu Caves because the place was a popular location for people to visit. When we choose the right place, more people will be able to come,” Palanivel told Bernama.

MIC secretary-general S Murugesan also defended the move and urged the public not to look at the celebration from a political perspective.

“It’s purely an event for all Indians to celebrate. There is no political campaigning and speeches scheduled for the day.

“Everyone is invited for the function. We are not saying only MIC members are allowed to attend it. There is no point politicising the matter,” he said.

PJS1 housebuyers deliver 135 letters to MPPJ

Block E residents action committee reiterated that it is the only committee representing the housebuyers and demanded their promised homes be built on PJS1 itself.

PETALING JAYA: There is only one committee representing the majority of the housebuyers of the stalled Block E low-cost housing project.

The Block E residents action committee chairman, M Sugumaran, said this after submitting 135 letters of undertaking to the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) today.

Also present was Hindraf Selangor coordinator MS Mahindrah.

The letters were received by MBPJ’s public relations officer Zainun Zakaria, in the presence of councillor Ghazali Shaari.

In 2003, about 200 former squatter settlers were promised low-cost houses by developer Peter Brickworks Sdn Bhd in exchange for development on the land.

Although the developer had built four buildings of low-cost housing for some of the settlers, it reneged on its promise to build the fifth block, citing a court order barring them from working on the land specified.

Last year, the Selangor state government stepped in and promised to resolve their housing problems.

Sugumaran said that the residents had received complaints from several MBPJ officers who claimed that there were another group championing their cause, causing confusion to many.

“So we have prepared this letters of undertaking, signed by the housebuyers, to confirm that we are the only committee. We also got the Commissioner of Oaths, Karam Singh, to endorse this.

“In case there are any other groups, so be it. As far as the majority [of the housebuyers] are concerned, they have endorsed us as the mediator to resolve the matter,” he said, adding the residents want their homes to be built on PJS1 itself.

‘State must make arrangements’

Sugumaran also voiced his reservation on Selangor executive councillor Iskandar Abdul Samad’s letter on Sept 20, who indicated that the buyers must consult the developer on late delivery charges, or liquidated ascertained damages (LAD).

He added that Selangor Menteri Besar Abdul Khalid Samad had promised the buyers that the state government would resolve all matters involving the housebuyers, during a meeting in July this year.

“Khalid had said that he will resolve our woes. So why do we need to go see the developer for compensation? The state needs to make the arrangements,” said Sugumaran.

With the general election looming, he said that the housebuyers were concerned that they will be left in the lurch if the matter is not resolved by then.

“We have spent a lot of money to get what we were promised in 2003 but nothing has come forth. Even to prepare this letters, we spent nearly RM500,” he said.

Airing Muslim convert’s dream stirs trouble

A Hindu group has filed a police report over an 'insensitive' radio programme which featured a speaker who converted to Islam after having a dream.

KUALA LUMPUR: In the latest episode of brewing tensions with regard to issues of faith in Malaysia, a Hindu organisation has filed a police report over a programme aired on a Tamil radio station.

State-owned radio station Minnal FM had featured an interview with a Muslim convert last night and his remarks had irked the Malaysia HinduDharma Mamandram.

Speaking to FMT, the organisation’s secretary-general Rishi Kumar Vadivelu said that the speaker claimed to be a former Hindu born in the priestly Brahmin caste.

The Indian national added that prior to converting, he was a pious Hindu and well-versed with the religion’s scriptures.

“Identifying himself as a ‘Mahaguru’, the speaker claimed that he had dreamt of the Arabic words which a Muslim recites to profess his faith.

“And when he searched for the meaning of those words, he had apparently realised that this was the truth and urged the listeners to evaluate for themselves,” said Rishi.

Following this, the Malaysia HinduDharman Mamandram convened an emergency council meeting at around 11pm and decided to file a police report on the matter.

The report was lodged with the Brickfields police headquarters here.

‘This is insensitive’

Expressing disappointment with the editorial gatekeepers in Minnal FM, Rishi asked how these officials had allowed such a programme to be aired.

“We have nothing against the promotion of Islam but the speaker has no right to make statements that belittle other faiths.

“Airing this programme is insensitive on the part of Minnal FM and airing it now, when the Hindu festival of Deepavali is around the corner, is extremely insensitive,” he said.

In view of this, he wanted the Information, Communications and Culture Ministry and Minnal FM officials to accept responsibility and ensure that such a thing did not recur.

Inter-faith issues continued to be a problem in Malaysia, especially with its status still mired in dispute as to whether it is an Islamic or secular state.

In the past, Hindus were incensed when a group of Muslims staged a street protest with a severed head of a cow, considered a sacred animal to Hindus.

The protest was held to object the construction of a Hindu temple in a predominantly Muslim neighbourhood in Shah Alam.

Hindu activists and organisations saw red when the authorities had allowed the protest to take place without hindrance and were slow in their condemnation of the act.

Of late, the church had also often found itself embroiled in controversies such as the legal tussle over the usage of the Arabic term “Allah”, accusations of proselytising of Muslims and even a plot to turn Malaysia into a Christian state.

These religious tensions remain a thorn in the flesh of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, putting his much publicised 1Malaysia slogan under the spotlight.

‘Will the cops raid Jakim?’

Weighing in on the issue, MIC leader S Vell Paari also condemned the airing of the programme on Minnal FM last night.

He said while there was nothing wrong with promoting the values of Islam, such programmes however should not serve as a cloak to convert those of other faiths.

“I know of many Muslims from Malaysia who have gone over to Australia and embraced other faiths but if I write about this in the Tamil media, would you [the authorities] be able to accept it?

“So when such remarks are made about Hinduism, we too feel slighted,” he told FMT.

The MIC communication chief said he had called up the management of Minnal FM this morning and was informed that the programme fell under the purview of the Islamic Development Department (Jakim), which came under the Prime Minister’s Department.

“With people like this in his office to undermine his efforts, the prime minister does not need to worry about the damage being inflicted by the opposition,” he said.

“There has been a huge outcry against [PKR vice-president] Nurul Izzah Anwar over her remarks which purportedly promote apostasy. But aren’t these programmes doing the same?” he added.

Now that a police report had been lodged, the MIC leader wondered if “a team of 15” would be dispatched to raid Jakim similar to how the office of news portal Malaysiakini was raided yesterday.

The police team went to the Malaysiakini office over a letter published in the portal which was related to Nurul’s remarks.

Vell Paari also suggested that since there was a slot for an Islamic programme to cater for the Tamil-speaking Indian-Muslim community on Minnal FM, perhaps the time had come to provide similar slots for those of other faiths as well.

Malaysia’s commodified Islam

At the World Halal Week held annually in Kuala Lumpur, you can purchase halal bone china, an exemplar of luxury and piety rolled into one. Malaysia is the leader in halal certification and a major promoter of the global halal industry. With markets saturated with a mind-boggling array of sharia-compliant goods that cater to a more discerning Muslim middle class, Islam can be seen as having entered more deeply into the lives of Malaysian Muslims in more commodified ways than ever before. The line between the sacred and the consumable profane have blurred, and true to the dictum that Islam is ‘a way of life’, anything which supports the notion of good Muslim personhood can now be made halal. The explosion of consumer goods imbued with spiritual meaning is a new phenomenon spurred on by the broadening middle classes disenchanted with meaningless consumerism. Now consumer goods can have real intrinsic, spiritual meaning. But how did everything beyond consumables (and indeed items beyond meat) become halal.

Commodification of culture started as a phenomenon that emerged from the early capitalist period of Fordist mass production which then intensified during late capitalism. Flexible and geographically mobile post-Fordist market approaches shifted from mass production to a more fragmented, niche market to suit every possible types of lifestyle. The ‘religious’ lifestyle or public piety characterised by halal crockery, toothpaste, make-up, and even beer can be regarded an outcome of post-Fordist modes of production. Marx’s concept of ‘commodity fetish’ may be the most relevant point of entry into understanding the commodification of objects and practices that were previously not considered commercial.

In Marx’s analysis, commodity fetish requires the concealment of the origins and processes involved in the production of a consumer product from the consumer in order to maintain the ‘religious fog’ that justifies the mystery of its self-evident value. Religious symbols and meaning as commodity fetish may behave in the same manner, in that the deeper engagement of the purpose and context of a particular symbol are sidestepped and usurped by other distracting elements that vie for the attention of the consumer. The self-evident value of a religious commodity is intrinsically located within itself rather than the processes that lead to its points of ‘origin’.

The abstraction of all other factors involved in the production of a commodity has profound consequences on not just our relationship with literal consumer products but also with symbols, religious or otherwise. The post-Fordist condition demands the proliferation of diversity and thrives on the specialisation of products (and labour). Driven by the perpetuated need for ‘new’ and ‘ever more novel-seeming goods’, styles and signifiers are extracted from their previous associations and fused together to produce new products in what Jameson calls ‘pastiche’ for new consumers in new contexts. The ease with which such meaning and symbols are removed from their original contexts may point to their increasingly depthless, untethered, and frictionless qualities.

Investigations into religious commodification have challenged theories of secularisation in modern society demonstrating that far from a wholesale decline in public belief in God and church membership, modern and rational societies, in particular those in Asia and the United States, continue to embrace religion and imbue public life with notions of religious essence. The rise of religious commodification has been argued to go hand in hand with the emergence of ‘Islamic modernity’, a political and cultural sensibility whereby modernity is embraced alongside a commitment to Islam as part of the project of modernity in its own terms as much as its approximations to western notions of modernity.

The concept of ‘Islamic modernity’ have a Lyotardian suspicion against the grand narrative of western modernity in favour of a more hybrid and reflexive modernity inflected with faith-based sensibilities where non-western contexts experience the rise of advanced economies and public cultures. The Islamic modern can be located in the popular consumption of Islamic media and Islamic forms of consumerism that at times exist, not without friction, alongside orthodox Islamic beliefs and practices.

When does a symbol cease becoming sacred and becomes simply a commodity bereft of its spiritual meaning? Can they become both? Halal products now have become more than just a spiritual choice but made to be synonymous with quality. However, there is considerable debate among practitioners and scholars about the effects of commodified forms of Islam. Some have praised the increased presence of Islam in the marketplace as it encourages the incorporation of Islamic values into the everyday practices of Muslims. Others have been less celebratory, arguing that the commercialisation of Islam appeals to superficial expressions of piety. Where does one draw the line for halal products? Does the choice to not utilise halal products make one less a conscientious Muslim?

The circulation of Islamic symbols outside the formalist domains and authority of the state and religious institutions and into the market and the media coheres with the emergence of Muslim publics. Facilitated by increasing access to new modes of communication, the creation of the Muslim public sphere challenges the authority of conventional religious institutions and fosters the building of a civil society and the ‘global ummah (community)’. The so-called Islamic revivalism across Muslim societies of the world coupled with increased communication and economic opportunities have boosted the production of things ‘Islamic’ which occurs alongside the increasing adoption of a public pious image amongst the consumer middle-class.

With all things considered, it is not an understatement to say that Islam is big business. But in Malaysia, where the conflation of ethnic and Islamic identity is a political and socioeconomic issue, consumer habits aligned with aspirational piety form just another disciplinary mode to reinforce the boundary markers of such an identity. To purchase halal products may just be another way of asserting one’s Malay identity. In the mounting challenges to Malay privilege and positive discrimination, Islamic consumerism may be a way to reinstate a sense of meaning and belonging. Perhaps unexpectedly, Malaysia’s mall culture and ethnic/religious anxiety over the loss of institutional privilege were destined to become kindred spirits.

Alicia Izharuddin is a final year PhD candidate at the Centre for Gender Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies where she specialises in religious cinema in Indonesia.

SIS: ‘Islam is not a one way street’

Zurairi AR, The Malaysian Insider

Freedom of religion must also include the liberty to change one’s religion, a Muslim women’s group said today following the uproar sparked by a speech by PKR lawmaker Nurul Izzah Anwar on the issue.

In a press statement to the media, Sisters in Islam (SIS) asked how Muslims demanding freedom for potential Islamic converts to enter the religion could at the same time deny exit to those looking to leave Islam.

“Faith by compulsion may lead to hypocrisy,” the group said.

When contacted by The Malaysian Insider today, SIS programme manager Suri Kempe clarified that the NGO is not asking for anyone to “actively leave Islam”, merely the freedom to leave the religion for those who no longer believed.

“Islam is not a one way street,” Suri said.

The PKR vice president’s statement at a public forum entitled “Islamic State: Which version, whose responsibility?” in Subang Jaya last Saturday, has resulted in attacks from several religious hawks and Umno politicians suggesting that her remarks meant she supported Muslims renouncing Islam and turning “murtad” or apostate.

Nurul Izzah has since lodged a report with Selangor religious officials to clarify the matter, and will take legal action against Umno-owned newspapers Utusan Malaysia and Berita Harian as well as a number of blogs for allegedly twisting her statement.

Apostasy and freedom of religion is a contentious issue in Malaysia, where the Malays — who make up 60 per cent of the 28 million population — are constitutionally defined to also be Muslims.

While freedom of religion is guaranteed for non-Muslims under Article 11 of the Federal Constitution, all Malays are Muslims under the law.

Islamic laws forbid Muslims from renouncing their religion and the country’s Islamic legal system has provisioned that a state must impose mandatory punishment for apostasy.

The country’s dual system of both Islamic law and federal law has resulted in controversies to the freedom of religion under Article 11 when Muslims try to convert to other religions.

The prominent cases include Lina Joy (Azalina Jailani), Revathi Massosai and Nyonya Tahir (Wong Ah Kiu).

Whoever’s in charge of Hindraf now, tell Najib to go screw himself

By Harris Ibrahim,
When the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC), established post the BERSIH 2.0 rally last year to lend an impression that efforts were being made to look into the need for reforms to our electoral process sat to hear testimonies of those who stepped forward to assist the Committee, the PSC took the position that they could not hear the BERSIH 2.0 steering committee representatives given that the Home Minister had issued an order outlawing the steering committee.

Strange, then, that Najib, according to his errand boy Nazri, is now willing to talk to outlawed Hindraf to discuss solutions to the Indian community’s long-standing problems. Malaysiakini has the story HERE.

The only viable solution, not just of the woes of the Indian community but of every one of the 40% marginalised in the country, that I can think of, is to see the end of the UMNO / BN reign post the 13th GE.

And I would urge the leadership of Hindraf to see beyond just the plight of the marginalised Indians as they contemplate this move by Najib.

Two other Malaysiakini reports, HERE and HERE, have Waythamoorthy and Uthayakumar respectively setting conditions before Hindraf will meet with Najib.

Uthayakumar wants 5 of 18 demands submitted to the Pak Lah administration in 2007 implemented by 1st January, next year, before Hindraf will accede to a meeting with Najib.

Wayhta wants the ban on Hindraf lifted.

“We are not too enthusiastic with the PM’s invitation as we fear it will be used by BN to gain mileage as the election is near. “However, if Najib is sincere in meeting Hindraf, he should first lift the ban on the movement and then we will talk”, Waytha is reported to have said.

As far as I know, Waytha is the chairman of Hindraf and therefore this appeal goes out to him.

Hindraf’s relevance and vitality in our national politics today does not turn on Najib according you legitimacy.

Hindraf has the the respect and admiration of so many because it rose to challenge, without compromise, a corrupt and tyrannical regime.

Do not be seen to be, or perceived, as compromising now, by negotiating with the very robbers and thieves who are the reason why so many Malaysians live in poverty and a state of deprivation.

You have read Najib well in articulating your fears that he only intends to use Hindraf to further his own ends in the impending general election.

Victory is with the rakyat if we can stay united and resist the many efforts, such as this latest, by Najib, UMNO and BN to divide us.

If Najib is sincere in meeting Hindraf, you ask?

This man is incapable of any sincerity.

He loudly announced he would abolish the ISA, and gave us the Security Offences Act in its place.

Section 27 of the Police Act, 1967 repealed and the Peaceful Assembly Act thrust in our faces.

Have you forgotten Altantuya, bro?

Waytha, if, for and on behalf of Hindraf, you feel obliged to respond to the PM’s eleventh hour wooing of the movement that you now lead, why not borrow the following words of Oliver Cromwell and say little else?

“You have sat too long for any good you may have done. Depart, we say, and let us be done with you. In the name of God, go!”

Hiring Discrimination in Peninsular Malaysia Study: A Half Finished Product

By Koon Yew Yin

Last week I received a copy of an email invitation to a joint seminar by two academics, one from University of Malaya and the other from Unversiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. The title of their talk was “Does race matter in getting an interview? A field experiment of hiring discrimination in Peninsular Malaysia.”.

As I have been an employer with over 40 years experience, the seminar topic intrigued me. Unfortunately I was not able to attend. Subsequently, I have been following the internet discussion generated by the seminar. This includes the recent letter from the two researchers requesting an apology from an online news site which reported on the seminar findings.

Is Racial Bigotry an Issue in Hiring?

According to the letter, the online website had through its headline “Malaysian employers practise racial bigotry, study shows” grossly misrepresented the study. Although the two academics conceded that the article “fairly accurately conveys our main findings and conclusions”, they were upset by the politically incorrect term “racial bigotry” used in the headline.

In my view, the two academics, Lee Hwok Aun and Muhammed Abdul Khalid, would serve the policy public better if they put their energies into answering the question that they posed in their work – does race matter in getting an interview? If it does matter, then they need to explain why instead of making a mountain of a mole-hill over the use of the term “racial bigotry”.

According to their abstract the researchers conducted a field experiment by sending fictitious résumés of Malay and Chinese fresh graduates to real job advertisements. They then analyzed differentials in callback for interview attributable to racial identity. According to them there were statistically significant differences in callback rates, “indicating racial discrimination” since “Chinese are substantially more likely than Malays to be called for interview, and the difference is more acute in engineering jobs compared to accounting/finance.”

The Bigger Question: Why Are Malays Less Likely to be Interviewed?

It is not rocket science to know that private sector employers – not only in Malaysia but all over the world – are not totally racially blind in whom they chose to interview or hire. Although their findings confirm this, they also found that “in engineering jobs, estimated discrimination against Malay applicants is highest among foreign-controlled companies, followed by Malay-controlled companies, then Chinese-controlled companies”.

Why are Malays less likely to be called for interviews despite apparently similar credentials? That is the important question to ask and answer. To this question all we have is the suggestion that employers are less disposed toward Malays due to “compatibility factors and unobservable qualities”.

In less academic jargon or plain terms, what the two academics are saying is that they do not know why Malays are less likely to be interviewed although but they see this as indicating racial discrimination. What the two researchers have done is to allege the factor of racial discrimination without even interviewing the employers in their sample and examining deeper the reasons! Now what kind of research is this?

Of course race is a consideration in the employment market place and economy. Whether one is selling products or hiring staff, this factor is part of the calculus of business. In some cases it emerges as a major factor, in others less so, and in some cases not at all.
What are the reasons to explain this partiality or bias in interviewing for hiring? Is it because of ignorance? Is this reflective of attitudes and beliefs amounting to racial stereotyping? Is this a result of past experiences with incompetent staff from a particular race which have resulted in these so-called racially discriminatory practices? Does language competency play a role in this?

What explains the finding that foreign controlled firms are the most prejudiced when in fact it is often assumed that they are the most race blind or least discriminatory. And why do Malay controlled companies discriminate against applicants from their own race even more than Chinese firms?

All of these questions as well as other larger factors are completely ignored by the research. In my experience as an employer I have found that the Barisan Nasional’s pro-Malay bias in education and employment has resulted in sharply lowered standards. This has brought about a glut of Malay graduates, many of who are virtually unemployable as they lack English and Chinese language and social marketing skills.

Suggestions for Follow Up Work

The two academics claim that they have conducted the research to bring about a more informed and level-headed understanding of a contentious and difficult subject. To arrive at their objectives, I suggest that they take into account the feedback provided by members of the public to their work as well as conduct detailed fieldwork with the sampled employers.

Also, for their study to have policy significance, they should place their findings in the larger national context. This will require the employee breakdown of private (and public) sector employers in the country according to racial grouping as well as the racial composition of their employees.

This national picture will provide a better picture of who are being employed in the country and by whom, and will help to minimize any ugly finger pointing arising from the work.

Finally, I propose that they complement this study with one examining hiring and employment patterns in the Government, Petronas and GLCs where tax payers’ money is being used to hire staff and where racial discriminatory practices should be much less tolerated.

Najib is a copycat of Dr M

By Martin Jalleh

Suhakam: Police unprepared to face Bersih crowd

The Sun Daily (Used by permission)
by Pauline Wong

KUALA LUMPUR (Nov 8, 2012): The police squad assigned to keep the peace at Masjid Jamek and Jalan Tun Perak during the April 28 Bersih 3.0 rally was ill-prepared to face the crowd of almost 30,000 protesters.

ASP Mohd Akmal Abdullah told the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) yesterday that his team of some 300 officers was stationed at the Masjid Jamek/Jalan Tun Perak area from 8am but was pulled out at 1.30pm.

"We entered the area at 8am, where I gave a short briefing to all the officers to maintain peace without using any force, at all times. We were not equipped with any riot control equipment or were we supported by a light strike force unit," he told Suhakam commissioner Datuk Dr Khaw Lake Tee.

Mohd Akmal said that around 1.30pm, the order came from Dang Wangi OCPD Mohamad Zulkarnain Abd Rahman to pull out from the area and return to the Dang Wangi police station.

Mohd Akmal said his team was pulled out because it was "under-strength" and would not be able to face the large number of protesters on that stretch of the street.

Khaw heads the independent panel investigating allegations of human rights abuses during the rally.

She asked Mohd Akmal if he was aware that there had been reports of confrontation between police and protesters in the area where he was on duty.

"Yes, but in my opinion, if there was any action taken in my area, logically it would be taken by officers in charge of the Dataran Merdeka area," he said. "As far as I understand, the confrontation began there."

The rally, which saw almost 80,000 people taking to the streets for clean and fair elections, started out peacefully but turned ugly when the barriers in front of Dataran Merdeka were breached by protesters around 3pm.

Riot police fired tear gas and chemical-laced water to disperse protesters who tried to enter the square.

Musical Programme 'Kalapaddam' Moves To RTM2 From January - Maglin

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 10 (Bernama) -- The musical programme 'Kalapaddam' which was previously aired through the radio programme, MINNALfm, will be aired over RTM2 beginning January, to ensure that the programme could be widened to the whole country.

Information, Communications and Culture Deputy Minister Datuk Maglin Dennis D'Cruz said with the change, it was hoped that the programme could become a platform for the government to convey information on the country's development to the Indian community in a more effective manner.

Through the programme, the Indian community could get various information on the government including the 1Malaysia People's Aid (BR1M) and the 'Tabung Ekonomi Kumpulan Usaha Niaga' (Tekun), he told reporters before attending the recording of the Kalapaddam programme for the Deepavali edition at Wisma Radio, Angkasapuri, here Friday.

The 30-minute Deepavali edition of Kalapaddam would be aired on Deepavali day and would be made into a weekly programme on TV 2 beginning January next year.

OIC Calls On Obama To Continue Engagement With The Muslim World

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 9 (Bernama) - The Secretary-General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, congratulated President Barack Obama on his re-election and called on him to continue his engagement with the Muslim world, which he initiated at the beginning of his first term.

In a congratulatory letter to Obama on his re-election for a second term, Ihsanoglu appreciated the President's bold initiative during his first term of engaging with the outside world, in particular, with the Muslim world.

In June 2009, Obama delivered a speech at the Cairo University which aroused great hopes and expectations of an evenhanded policy in addressing issues in the Middle East and in combating the forces of intolerance and prejudice that seek to create divisions.

In a statement issued by the OIC on Thursday, Ihsanoglu expressed hope that the enthusiasm generated from the speech would find greater resonance in Obama's second term.

The Secretary-General also said that he was happy that the OIC was able to build a relationship with the US based on trust, confidence and cooperation, and looked forward to strengthening the relationship.

He assured Obama of the OIC's commitment in working closely with the President and his government to bring peace, progress and harmony to the people.

Obama won a second term in the White House on Tuesday, defeating the Republican challenger Mitt Romney. He secured more than the 270 electoral votes required to win the elections.

Anti-AES protest outside Kong Cho Ha’s Lumut office

Hundreds of people staged a protest this afternoon against the Automated Enforcement System outside the Lumut parliamentary office of MP Kong Cho Ha, who is also Transport Minister.
Organisers estimated the crowd at 500. The protesters marched after Friday prayers from the An-Nasyirah Mosque in Sitiawan to Kong’s office in Sitiawan. They wanted to deliver a memo to Kong but were disappointed when only a clerk at the office came out to accept the memo.
Among the politicians in the crowd were Perak PKR rep Chang Lih Kang, Perak Pas Youth rep Raja Ahmad Iskandar and Central PKR rep Siti Aisyah Sheik Ismail as well as NGO reps. The memo was read out by the Bantah AES coordinator.
It appears that the AES uproar could turn out to be a major issue in the coming general election as it is typical of the way lucrative concession agreements are entered into with obscure but politically well connected firms.