Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Don't make Malaysia a Jihadistan

Will Malaysia become a Jihadistan?

By M.D. Nalapat December 23, 2007

Today, the Wahabbis are a pampered lot in Malaysia, and it is therefore small wonder that their ranks are growing. Becoming a fanatic may not make entry into heaven more easier after life passes on, but it certainly helps in creating a paradise on earth with the cash made available for such outlandish experiments.

Look around you, at the seat behind you on the Delhi-Hyderabad flight or the Kolkatta-Patna train. They are there with grim expressions, determined to avoid the pollution of physical or even verbal contact with those who are clearly not Wahabbi. Their deepest contempt is for those Muslims who are Sufi or Shia or males who refuse to wear a long beard and females without the hijab. “Do you consider yourself to be Muslim?”, they scornfully ask such individuals, who incidentally form the majority within the Malaysian Muslim community as well. Not that the government of the country that prides itself on being “Truly Asia” notices. Across the country, processed food producers—including the major international brands—are being forced to supply only “halal” items—never mind that as much as 70 per cent of Malaysia’s Muslims are non-Wahabbis who reject the dubious (and religiously unsound) interpretation of “halal” that the Wahabbi clerics give who have almost as much influence in Malaysia as they do in Saudi Arabia. Never mind that 30 per cent of the population (and over 60 per cent of the direct tax collections) comes from the ethnic Chinese, almost none of whom are Muslim, leave alone Wahabbist or Khomeinist, or that the remaining 10 per cent are almost entirely Hindus from India. From the time when Mahathir Mohammad began introducing “Wahabbi Lite” into his country in the 1980s, the rights of Shias, Sufis, women, moderate Muslims and non-Muslims have been taken away, as with the manner in which supermarkets are made to stock only items approved by the Wahabbi clerics.

Over the two decades, the proportion of Wahabbis to the total population has climbed from less than 5 per cent when Mahathir Mohammad took office in 1981 to nearly 20 per cent at present. Because of a proliferation of Wahabbi schools (and universities) that inculcate a feeling of separateness between Wahabbis and the others, Malaysia has become a factory for experiments such as a “Muslim cola” and even a “Muslim car”. Presumably the cola is so brewed as to turn into poison if consumed by a non-Wahabbi, while the automobile is so sensitive that it will refuse to start unless a certified Wahabbi turns on the ignition. In psychiatric textbooks there are descriptions for those who believe in such divisions between “Muslim” and non-Muslim cars and colas, but in Malaysia, those coming forward with such ideas are given access to bank funds and tax breaks that make each of them a very wealthy individual. Today, the Wahabbis are a pampered lot in Malaysia, and it is therefore small wonder that their ranks are growing. Becoming a fanatic may not make entry into heaven more easier after life passes on, but it certainly helps in creating a paradise on earth with the cash made available for such outlandish experiments. Although the Malaysian government claims to want to build up a knowledge society, the subjects being discussed in conferences given official blessings relate less to petraflops and gigabytes than to the proper way to wear a hijab or whether camel’s milk contains more spiritual value than that from cows.

Were Malaysia as separate from the rest of the region as the mindset of the Wahabbis that increasingly control policy in the country, it would be less of a security problem than it is now. The fact is that both the Malaysia-Indonesia border and the Thailand-Malaysia border have been penetrated by the Wahabbi International. The crossings created by this worldwide network of fanatics ensures that religious extremists can freely cross back and forth from Malaysia to Indonesia and Thailand. This writer has himself talked to six individuals who have crossed these borders without a visa, two of them without even a passport. It is almost as porous as the India-Bangladesh, India-Nepal and the India-Myanmar borders, where too the payment of a bribe can ensure passage for anyone with the money. In the case of the India-Nepal border, even a bribe is not necessary, as border controls are non-existent over much of the dividing line, which is the reason why Nepal has become an ISI safe haven almost as welcoming as Bangladesh for operations relating to India. It is a mystery why the Thai and Indonesian authorities are as blind to the danger posed by jihadi infiltration as the Sonia-led UPA is, unless the reason lies in the generous payments made by the Wahabbi International to those who assist in its activities. Because of the undocumented access that jihadis with bases in Malaysia have to Thailand and Indonesia, within both countries, Wahabbi networks are developing at an accelerated pace, and leading to acts of violence against both the local population and visitors. Thailand in particular has been ignoring this problem, even while the administration of Bambang Susilo Yudhyono in Indonesia is aware of the danger of their country going the way of Malaysia, and is seeking to curb the Wahabbists. However, in that country as well, the syncretic culture and tolerant tradition that has its roots in Java has been coming under sustained pressure from Wahabbis. Last year, it is estimated that as much as US$8 billion came to Indonesia to fund the activities of religious extremists and their support networks, a large chunk of it from the Gulf countries, in each of whom clusters of wealthy Wahabbis exist.

It is obvious that the Sonia-led UPA sees anything “Hindu” (even Sri Ram, who belongs to all) as something to be confronted and wherever possible eliminated. Over the past two years, according to those familiar with the workings of the present regime, a quiet and informal effort has been launched to identify “RSS sympathisers” within the national, state and local governments, and silently seek to ensure the marginalisation of such “undesirable” officers. It is a fact that during the time when the NDA was in power, those owing allegiance to Sonia Gandhi were a pampered lot, including very prominently on Doordarshan, while RSS elements were seen in a much less favourable light. This spirit of chivalry to the Opposition is now completely dead in India, where the UPA is going after political and personal rivals through the misuse of a variety of state instruments, including the Income-tax department, the Enforcement Directorate and the CBI. What is noteworthy is the manner in which individual officers are identified as having “RSS links”. The criteria include the going to temples while on tour, and the wearing of a tilak on the forehead by males. As almost all such officers have no connection whatsoever with the RSS (and indeed, some may regard the organisation the same way as the Sonia-led UPA does), it is a plausible hypothesis that the target is not so much a particular organisation as it is a faith. To be a practicing Hindu in Sonia-run India is becoming a danger to one’s career and in time, perhaps even to health. On the other hand, to take just one example, under direct instructions from the top, the Maharashtra government has backed off from intensive investigations into the hiding places of the suspected train and market bombers, as has the Andhra Pradesh government. As a result, the perpetrators of dastardly acts like bombing those at prayer in a mosque have thus far escaped. A government needs to launch an enquiry into the manner in which investigations into acts of terror have been aborted by the Wahabbi-friendly administration now in control of the central government in New Delhi.

There is a distinction between partial secularism and secularism. A partial secularist seeks to impose secular standards not on the entire population but only a specific segment. A secularist, in contrast, would like to see the same standards set across the board. For example, all religious establishments and places of worship should be freed from state control. All educational institutions irrespective of the faith of those that set them up ought to be given the same rights and obligations. The danger of partial secularism is that the segment that is discriminated against will lose confidence in secularism, and turn to religious extremism. As a citizen of India who has equal affection and respect for all creeds, this writer would regard such a development as a catastrophe. Only a moderate ethos and a tolerant polity can sustain the knowledge economy.

Under Sonia Gandhi, the response of the UPA to the brutal suppression of minority rights in Malaysia has been silence. This is both morally unpardonable and geopolitically unwise. While India has—correctly—a policy of non-interference in the internal matters of other countries, an exception has to be made for religious extremism. Wherever jihadis of any faith—be they Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist or whatever—seek to oppress those belonging to other faiths, and deny the minorities the same rights and status as the majority enjoys, New Delhi ought to be in the vanguard of the countries condemning such discrimination, whether this be the forced wearing of the veil in Iran or the ban on headscarves in France. Partial secularism is the surest path to the march of religious extremism, and needs to be countered, including in India. Of course, the case of Malaysia is different, in that there is not even the pretence of secularism in that country. It is the rule of the Wahabbis, as was the case in Afghanistan under the Taliban, that stares Malaysia in the face unless Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi accepts his syncretic and tolerant heritage and once again makes Malaysia “Truly Asia”. Only such a Malaysia can live up to the vision of its founder the great Asian sage Tengku Abdel Rehman.

December 23, 2007

UPA ignores Malaysia’s ethnic Indians

By Ravi Shanker Kapoor

The thundering silence of the Government of India over the issue of mistreatment of ethnic Indians in Malaysia is reprehensible and appalling but not surprising. You could not have expected any better from the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) dispensation which routinely dumps morality, fairness, and propriety to win Muslim votes.

How do a few million Hindus matter anyway in a foreign country? So, no less a person than External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee has made it clear that his Government would do little for the Malaysian Hindus. “A terrorist is a terrorist. He has no religion and his origin does not matter,” he said, reacting to a question on a reported comment by the Malaysian Government that the protesting Indian community in the country was sympathisers of the LTTE (The Times Of India, December 9).

This was in sharp contrast with the reaction of the US. On December 10, the US lambasted Kuala Lumpur for suppression of democracy and denial of the basic freedoms. “We have repeatedly raised with Malaysian authorities our belief that citizens of any country should be allowed to peacefully assemble and express their views,” Department spokeswoman Nancy Beck said. “We also stated in our annual human rights report our belief that the Malaysian Government places significant restrictions on the right to assemble peacefully.”

It may be recalled that the US considers Malaysia a moderate Muslim democracy but the instances of indiscriminate destruction of Hindu temples has shaken its faith in Kuala Lumpur’s commitment to pluralism and tolerance. Recently, a US Congress-appointed Commission expressed unease at the acts of temple demolitions. It also expressed concern at discrimination faced by religious and ethnic minorities in Malaysia.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom implored the George Bush Administration to take up the matter with Kuala Lumpur and “insist that immediate measures be taken to protect sacred sites and prevent further destruction.”

The Abdullah Ahmad Badawi Government, however, remains unrepentant and unrelenting in its suppression of the Hindus and repression of their peaceful movement. Its crackdown on the ethnic Indian rights group Hindraf has been vicious, and now the Government wants to prosecute three Hindraf leaders with sedition charges. Lawyers and their supporters are also being harassed by the Government.

Even as Washington has shown sympathy with the prosecuted and persecuted people, the powers that be in New Delhi refused to meet the leader of the protesting Hindu group Hindraf, Waytha Moorthy. The only person of consequence he could meet was Leader of the Opposition LK Advani. Notice the UPA Government’s gullibility. Malaysia’s police chief accuses Indian activists of having links with terrorist groups, an accusation that can led to their detention without trial under internal security laws; and our ‘secular’ regime unquestioningly accepts Kuala Lumpur’s version. It does not just accept the version but also acts on it. Without looking at the version of the other party, Hindraf; without studying facts.

The reality is that the multi-ethnic and multi-faith Malaysia is hurtling towards the goal of Islamisation. Interestingly, it is not a ‘hidden agenda’ of some fundamentalists in the system that is on the move; it is the officially stated policy of the Malaysian Government to discriminate against non-Malays and non-Muslims.

As Mohamed Nawab Bin Mohamed Osman, an associate research fellow with the Singapore-based Nanyang Technological University, wrote recently: “The introduction of Islam Hadhari as a guiding principle of the state has led government officials to utilise it to further Islamise Malaysian society and curb the rights of non-Muslims. This trend began with the case of a former commando, M Moorthy, whom a state religious authority had converted to Islam before he died in 2005. He was given a Muslim burial despite his wife’s objections. This was followed by several cases of Muslim women married to Hindu men being separated from their husbands against their will. There have also been cases of the authorities demolishing Hindu temples built illegally on government land. The lack of sensitivity that the Malaysian authorities have displayed in dealing with such issues has only fuelled the alienation.” But Pranab Mukherjee and his Cabinet colleagues ignore the existence of state-sponsored bigotry in Malaysia.

Apart from the fundamentalism, ethnic Indians are also victims of racism. As Mohamed Osman wrote: “Malaysia’s ‘bumiputra’ policy-aimed at rectifying the economic disparity between Malays and other communities, has led to the economic marginalisation of those of Indian origin. The recent Ninth Malaysian Plan report highlighted that Indians control only 1.2 per cent of corporate wealth-a decline from the earlier 1.5 per cent. More recently, lower income Indians have begun moving away from traditional jobs like rubber tapping to urban areas in search of jobs. This in part is because many rubber and oil palm plantations around the big cities are being used for commercial and residential purposes. The educational level of this community, coupled with bumiputra policies, has led many within it to indulge in illegal activities to earn a living. The phenomenon of the Indian urban poor is reflected in the fact that as many as 21.7 per cent of Indians in Selangor, a largely urban state, are squatters.”

The UPA Government, which claims to be solicitous of Indian Diaspora and even set up a ministry for this purpose, has adopted an ostrich-like attitude towards the plight of ethnic Indians in Malaysia. The racism and bigotry of Kuala Lumpur does not bother the UPA. Such are the consequences of Muslim appeasement.

(The author is with The Political and Business Daily.)

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