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Saturday, January 19, 2019

The cross and the deep-Salafi state

The cross and the deep-Salafi state

Opinion  |  Azly Rahman
Published:  |  Modified:


COMMENT | Once again, Malaysians are deeply bothered by a ‘cross on a building’. The most recent issue of cross-shaped lights on a condominium facade in Penang is reminiscence of the “Allah controversy”  and the “Christianophobia seminar in UITM” I wrote about a few years ago.
I believe that as long as our educational and cultural institutions do not address the issue of the “deep Salafi state” in our social midst, we will continue to see the waves of radical Islamism hitting our multiculturalist shores, ending perhaps one fine day in a generation or so, a tsunami of race-religious inevitability. 
The “evil cross” as semiotics of hate?
Given the mass-paranoia following the sight of the cross-lit building in Penang, imagine what the next agenda of the paranoids would be.
I had a series of humorous speculations I posted on social media, concerning the shape of the cross. I thought that soon, those fearful folks would warn their children about the blasphemy and danger of looking at anything that resembles a cross - KLIA seen from above. Window panes. A child’s bicycle seen from 10th, floor of the building. Hot-cross buns.
Or, even the small letter “t” of our alphabet. Imagine these extremist-Islamist parents one day banning kids from reading or writing the letter “t”? I thought of how I’d survive in a city where all the ’t’s are gone. Replaced with, say, the letter “l” because it no longer looks like a cross.
Imagine the mega-change: Tanjung (old name for Penang) becomes “Lanjung”. Butterworth becomes “Bullerworth”. Tun Mahathir becomes “Lun Mahalhir”. No more Tamil people but Lamils as a new race. The Malay boy “Atan” becomes “Alan” an American. Tok Kong becomes “Lok Kong”.
Fatty Crab Ketam becomes “Fally Crab Kelam”. Lontong becomes “Lonlong”. Kuey Teow to Kuey Leow. Batu Ferringgi becomes Balu Ferriggi, The Widow of Feringgi. What about going to the “merkit” (market) in Bagan or Tanjung. To buy fish. Talapia = Lalapia. Terubuk = Lerubuk. Temekong =Lemekong. Tamban= Lamban. Tongkol becomes “Longkol”.
What about opening speeches? “Luan Luan dan Puan Puan. Lelima kasih. Lolong duduk. Jangan lari!”. Imagine Malay proverbs. “Seperti kalak bawah lempurung”. There will be no Ketuanan Melayu but “Keluanan Melayu”, whatever that means. No more controversy, at least, we hope.
It is ridiculous, seriously. But we must, as Voltaire the great French social critic once said, in our prayers ask God to make our enemy look ridiculous.
Because it is a ridiculous situation with a deeply serious underlying principle - the continuous growth of the “deep-Wahabi-Salafi-Islamic-State” school of thought that has been permeating this multicultural, liberal and religiously tolerant nation, since the Islamisation Agenda of the Mahathir-Anwar Era, which was inspired by the political-ideological repercussions of the rise of the Egyptian Brotherhood, the Ikwanul Muslim and of course the birth of the first Islamic Republic, after the Iranian Revolution of 1979.

This is the butterfly effects of things, exacerbated by the Internet, and fuelled by the drive to make the world and every living thing be under one “Islamic State” ruled by this one “Khalifah”.
Though this seems reductionistic an analysis, one ought to study deeply the role of the “deep state” in Malaysia – of Malay-Muslim fundamentalist-separatist movement – to understand issues such as paranoia over the cross.
It is pervasive, especially at a time when the old regime of Barisan Nasional, dominated by the Malays who too destroyed the Malays economically and cognitively, is desperate to regain power by using the strategy it knows best: creating a fear of other religion and other races, claiming that it is the sole protector and racial-warrior of the Malay Muslims.
This is their strategy that necessitates the manufacturing of crises, through the unleashing of this and that, NGO championing for this and that. But, it is incomprehensible and even appalling to enlightened Malays, who refused to be represented by the band of ridiculous self-proclaimed patriots and all that nonsense.
The Wahabi-Salafi-deep state
We need to start developing a defence system of national resilience, albeit a spiritual one, against the threats of radical interpretation, implementation and institutionalisation of Islam, in the case of contemporary Malaysia.
Arabism has destroyed the old culture within society and become a tool of control by dominating not just the national narratives but also daily life practices.

We need a spiritual remedy to it, by way of seeing Islam in a new way, befitting its pragmatic existence and functioning in a multicultural society. Muslims need to promote Tawhidic (oneness) Islam as an inclusive, all-accepting-all-embracing worldview of Islam pragmatic in its utility in a multicultural society. Something in the magnitude of a (Thomas) ‘Jeffersonian’ Islam as conceived in a secular-humanistic country such as the United States.
First things first. One must begin to study the interlocking ideological directorates and the Wahabbi-Theological Complex, politics, and the political-economy of knowledge-production in Malaysia.
One must study the rise of the Wahabbi-inspired “Deep-Salafi State”, understand the “hows” of it to understand the “what and what-next” of the spread of fundamental-violence-inspired Islamism and take note on the meaning of “violence and jihadism”.
Structural violence runs deep into mind, society, consciousness. For example, a teacher in school promoting rules against the concept of “schools are free from ideological and theological assessment” - forced wearing of the hijab, banning of musical performances, excessive deployment of religious instructions viz-a-viz teaching and learning time allotted by the curriculum as well as shaping and institutionalising of the “Islamic-only” culture in public spheres and institutions.
These are the mechanisms and machination of a massive meanderings of the millinearistic movements of the “Islamic-ummahtic-deep state” in hypermodern and multicultural Malaysia.

In Indonesia, that deep theological state is a threat to the Pancasila. In Malaysia, to the Rukunegara. How do we dismantle this system and work towards peaceful co-existence?
Crusade long over
I do not think the Christians and Catholics in Malaysia appreciate being bullied endlessly nor do they want to be branded as “evil people trying to spread false and dangerous message threatening Islam”.
I do not think they need to be associated with the Crusade War a thousand over years ago, or even linked to the brutality of the Christian-imperialist army who were chanting “guns, guts, god, and glory” before annexing cultures and massacring the natives of Latin America, Africa, Asian, and even Northern America – so that the Crusaders carrying the order of the European monarchs can build churches while sucking the blood, sweat, and tears of the natives they enslave.
I don’t think the Christians and Catholics in Malaysia want to be known as inheritors and carriers of those sins. They just want to live, work, and worship in peace and be assured of their safety in a majority Malay-Muslim country.
If Muslims in predominantly Christian nations such as the United States, Canada, and Australia, can help protect the safety of Muslims from Christian extremists-wannabe-terrorists, why can’t Malaysia do similarly by not allowing conferences, talks, preaching that promote hate to be fed to the public?

Why not encourage education for peace and conflict resolution? Why not teach empathy through ongoing good dialogue amongst Malaysians of different faiths? Why warn them of the “dangers of Christianisation” and not expect some lunatic fundamentalist groups to take the warning one step further and translate it into violent action, sanctioned and legitimised by the authorities?
Look at what is happening to a state as small as Perlis: the struggle between the Salafi, Sunni, and Shia Muslims. A rural state that could not resist from falling in love with a Deeply Salafi Mumbai preacher, well-protected even by the current regime.
Our challenge
Today’s Islam in Malaysia is about the struggle for ideological control, anathema to the spirit of the Rukunegara, and the noble concept of being Malaysian. Let alone to the true meaning of Islam.

It is about the Arabisation of Education, the contradictions in political evolution, the use and abuse of Islamic influence by political groups, mass indoctrination through the Quran-memorisation schools and of the pervasive control of the “Deep Wahabbi-Salafi State” in the area of appointments and political positioning of people to the locations and microbial nodes of power.
These are the stories we are not being told - of hegemony and utopianism in a deep-Salafi state.
If there is an image of a 10- or 20-year challenge in Malaysia, it is the rapidly changing nature of how the Sanskritised-Malay culture is being colonised and expunged by the Arabised-Malay ideological structure, in a country wherein more than 60 percent of the population are Malay-Muslims. And some of them will want to pull down any symbol deemed “threatening to Islam.”
What then must we do, to get out of the matrix – of the new deep state? Can we even trust the new regime to protect us – when many of its members too are sympathisers, or even silent strategists, of the deep state?

Friday, January 18, 2019

#30: Create Christianophobia, we must not (written in 2015)

Create Christianophobia, we must not

OPINION  |  AZLY RAHMAN
Published:   |  Modified: 
Malaysians are angry and deeply bothered by the recent issue of Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) organising what was reported as an “anti-Christianisation” conference.
There is nothing new about the need for such institutions to train students to fear themselves and non-Muslims and non-Malays especially. It is a natural programme to instill fear as part of a culture to defend the existence of race-based ideology. It is part of an apartheid strategy of Malaysian education I have written about in many articles.
What is new is the question: how do we dismantle this system and work towards peaceful co-existence?
I do not think the Christians and Catholics in Malaysia appreciate being bullied endlessly. I do not think they want to be branded as “evil people trying to spread false and dangerous message threatening Islam”.
I do not think they need to be associated with the Crusade War a thousand over years ago, or even linked to the brutality of the Christian-imperialist army who were chanting “guns, guts, god, and glory” before annexing cultures and massacring the natives of Latin America, Africa, Asian, and even Northern America - so that the Crusaders carrying the order of the European monarchs can built churches while sucking the blood, sweat, and tears of the natives they enslave.
I don’t think the Christians and Catholics in Malaysia want to be known as inheritors and carriers of the sins of their fathers. I think they just want to live, work, and worship in peace and be ensured that their safety in an majority Malay Muslim country be guaranteed.
Why do institutions such as UiTM need to instill such a fear and to unnecessarily turn young and hopefully not-yet-Daesh/IS radicalised students into hating the Christians and Catholics? If Muslims in predominantly Christian nations such as the United States, Canada, and Australia can help protect the safety of Muslims from Christian extremists-wannabe-terrorists, why can’t Malaysia do similarly by not allowing conferences that promote hate to be fed to students?
Why not encourage education for peace and conflict resolution? Why not teach empathy through ongoing good dialogue amongst Malaysians of different faiths? Why warn them of the “dangers of Christianisation” and not expect some lunatic fundamentalist groups to take the warning one step further and translate it into violent action, sanctioned and legitimised by the authorities?
What education should look like
Haven’t we heard the word ‘Islamophobia’? Why create ‘Chistianophobia’ at a time when the world is bipolar, violent, and plagued with all kinds of phobias?
Let us come back to our senses. Here is my thought on what education should look like if we are to prevent racial and religious riots in future:
The education of today's bumiputeras via the special privileges given to them in all aspects, from preschool to postgraduate - especially the education of Malay Muslims through the racially-based institutions linked to the ruling party - has one objective.
It is to produce more and more members of the Malay-Muslim-bumiputera privileged class who will ensure that the non-bumiputera-non-Muslims be kept outside the gate of equality, equal opportunity and meritocracy, even though they are the rightful citizens of this country whose parents and grandparents have laboured for this country so that the most privileged class of Malays and non-Malays can continue to be created to enslave the labour class of all races.
No need to have a complex understanding on Malaysia's philosophy of education, national development, frameworks of class evolution, politics of curricular studies, interplay between race, religion, and ideology, or any other complex theories of neo-feudalism to understand this simple fact of education and social reproduction in Malaysia.
We need to turn the system upside down and renew prosperity of this country, based not on the advancement of this or that race, but the simple human logic that each and every one of us is a human being with dignity and an important part of Humanity.
UiTM was different back in the days, especially in the 70s and early 80s.
There is a vast difference in the way Malays were educated in the institution. It was a place to harness the creative energy and problem-solving gung-ho cognitive capabilities of students who had so much energy than just reading books only, so that they may further their studies and contribute to the development of the nation's post-independence.
This is because the leadership knew what education and human liberation meant. Because the first prime minster was a firm, fair, and wise man. A good man. The best we have had.
However, beginning in the mid-80s till today it is looking like a place to engineer the development of totalitarianism and fascistic mono-ethnic thinking of a diploma mill used for political means by political masters only concerned with their own survival and vainglory, in all the excesses of political authority and one-dimensionality instilling fear of others instead of promoting diversity and the love for ethnic differences and cultural beauty.
The difference between our premiers
All these - and not much about the plain honesty of creating a generation of Malays able to see the true nature of their own potentials and be ready for an ever-changing world of globalising predatory.
Because today’s prime minster is a very weak and unwise man. Not a good man at all. The worst we have ever had, many are saying.
That's the difference, if we agree. How then must the rakyat reclaim those once admirable institutions?
Wake up, speak up, alumni and all. Education is the art and science of creating the free man and woman.
“A multicultural, multi-vocalic, multidimensional understanding of Malaysia's complex society.” This is what we need. This is a major theme on global education and international and intercultural understanding that Malaysian institutions such as UiTM need. This is it, rather than ones that continue to stupefy the students with themes that divide and insult the human intelligence as they relate to race and religion.
These institutions are not fit to be called universities and educational institutions if they continue to nurture cognitive-pathological thinking in an institution that is already mono-cultural. This is not necessary for an institution that denies the opportunities for the students to work together with students of other races, befitting of what Malaysia is and ought to be about.
I hope this misguided paradigm of educational progress and intellectual attainment can be changed with a gradual change in leadership; one that understands what education in the broadest sense of the word means.
Whilst universities the world over are taking pride in being globalised and oftentimes scrambling and racing to make their campuses truly diverse and multicultural, UiTM and Mara elite secondary schools i.e. Maktab Rendah Sains Mara (MRSM) are still taking pride in defending the rights to be exclusively one-race, one religion, one-myopic vision at the expense of the development of the students' minds yearning to be multi-intelligent and able to develop multiple talents.
This has to change. Malaysians need to push for this change - because education is matter of national interest.
Enough of Islamophobia. Enough of Christian and Muslims massacring each other the world over. Let us not create another version of Chistianophobia or Islamophobia right here in Malaysia!

Saturday, January 12, 2019

#29: When critique is criminalised

When critique is criminalised

Opinion  |  Azly Rahman
Published:  |  Modified:
COMMENT | When the Multimedia Super Corridor was created in the mid-1990s, during Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s first tenure as prime minister, the rakyat was promised that the internet would not be censored. Thirty years later, it is still largely uncensored, nor is any grand governmental filter like China’s Green Dam firewall put in place.
I was a keen observer of the impact of digital communications technologies on the degree of how nation-states are deconstructed by the power of the technologies that shrink time and space and put distance to death. I wrote a dissertation on this topic, with the birth of Cyberjaya as a case study of hegemony and utopianism in an emerging ‘cybernetic Malaysia’.
Today, the internet in Malaysia is king, the monarch of misinformation but also messenger of good things, delivered instantaneously. What kind of messiah the internet – the most personalising and democratising tool ever invented – will turn out to be we do not know.
How then is a new government – that promised clean, efficient and trustworthy governance – deal with the inherent contradiction of wanting to allow citizens to tell the truth on the one hand, but refusing to be voted out by the tsunami of critiques on anything, on the other?
In cyberspace, on a daily basis, criticisms are mounted as if a great war is brewing. As if a prelude to the yet another storming of our Bastille. In other words, Pakatan Harapan cannot always hide behind security laws in the age of greater and more massive free speech as practised by its citizens, especially those who voted for change – real, radical change – and not for some new regime that lies through its teeth.
Critical mass
How do we then critique the monarchy, kleptocracy, theology, and ideology – at a time when the powers-that-be seem to be increasingly panicky with the speed by which things are going?
This is a Habermasian question of public space, of “defeudalisation”, and of the way we educate citizen internet vigilantes to exercise free speech in an increasingly authoritarian world.
Consider the scenario the last few weeks. Netizens are getting hauled to the police station for passing comment on the king who abdicated. Not very nice things were said to the monarch.
Pro-monarchy netizens are in an informational war with those angry and dissatisfied with the king who did not tell the country why he went on leave for a few weeks, only to find out later that he was allegedly attending to his own wedding. A racial-antagonistic dimension of this can be discerned.
The Seafield Temple riots in November were made known to the public almost instantaneously with devastating effect, not only on how it got worse, but how the government and the people were trying to deal with the aftermath.
Sadly, a firefighter died and this tragedy is in fact another example of how the internet is a tool of production of both the truth and fake news. In cyberspace, comments take on a troubling racial and religious dimension.
Most of the promises broken by the new regime were leaked at lightning speed, with widespread implications. From the government’s reluctance to recognise the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC), the news of the new car project being public-funded to some degree, members flocking into Bersatu like locusts from Umno and now the Special Affairs Department (Jasa) to the confusing and annoying statements coming from the Education Ministry, the political appointments to GLCs – all these and many more point to the idea that citizens are using the internet to exercise their rights as voters and citizens.
They are speaking up and able to again decide if a new government that can deliver promises better ought to be voted into power in the next election. The internet is king. You can think of more examples of how this technology is a double-edged sword both for the ruler and the ruled. And now we see the Sedition Act 1948 about to be used to compel the rakyat to not speak up.
Those having their voice as internet vigilantes against power abusers continue to play their role. It will take a keen anthropologist to catalogue the thousands of comments that exemplify disgust towards the powers-that-be – produced, reproduced, and made viral – as compared to the few that caught the attention of the authorities.
How to critique
The internet is a virgin forest of information with a life of its own. From it emanates the phenomena of the evolution of truth, multiple truths, alternative truths, and post-truths.
It is a very exciting time for philosophers to study the post-modern thinking activities of the human species. And the internet is the location or space of the battlefields of truths fighting against each other, something those in the US military would call the dromological nature of things, or the speed by which politics moves and removes things, and makes or breaks or multiplies whole truths and half-baked truths.
Is the government looking into this phenomenon? Is it looking into how to educate the rakyat not to say nasty things out of anger and ‘cyber-amok’ conditions – even if what is said is the truth – but to teach them how to say the truth with sound reasoning, using the tools of the critique of power and ideology?
Can the Education Ministry or the Communications and Multimedia Ministry at least provide guidelines on how to critique the monarchy, kleptocracy, ideology, and theology, using sound cultural, philosophical, ideological and liberatory means? This will save netizens from writing things that are true, yet unsubstantiated, and end up in jail.
The government of any day owes the citizens the promise of education for critical consciousness, so that democracy can evolve nicely, and regimes can come and go if it fails to deliver.
It was the internet that helped the new government grab power. It was netizens that helped Harapan win.
Today, the new government must cultivate a new culture of critical consciousness, to teach citizens how to use the Excalibur of the new regime, new excitement, new society. Not for the new emperors to have a newer sword of Damocles hanging over citizens wishing to speak truth to power.
So educate. Teach us how to critique the power abusers be they politicians, theologians, or the monarchs, safely and scientifically.
Wasn’t that the grand promise of Harapan, to leave the idiocracy behind?

The cross and the deep-Salafi state

The cross and the deep-Salafi state Opinion  |  Azly Rahman Published: Today 7:15 pm  |  Modified: Today 7:15 pm ...