Dr Farish A Noor on Malaysia’s Muslim Union?

Dear readers, I would urge you to read this excellent article by Dr Farish Noor. Sectarianism is divisive and certainly dangerous but our leaders still play this sort of politics for their own agenda.  They should ask their conscience that whether such politics will be good for the future of the country!

Malaysia’s Muslim Union?
Malaysia Does Not Need Another Sectarian Organisation!

By Farish A. Noor
Sectarianism, be it on the grounds of race, culture, language or religion,
can only be divisive in the long run. The sad litany of human history shows
that religion can and has been used as a dividing factor that has torn many
a society apart, and this is true of all religions and belief systems
worldwide. One only needs to look at the process of Balkanisation that took
place in Eastern Europe to see how Religion has been instrumentalised and
manipulated by sectarian politicians to amplify the centrifugal forces of a
plural society like Bosnia’s, and how that eventually led to all-out civil
conflict along religion and cultural lines.

Politicians of course are fully aware of the divisive potential of sectarian
politics, so why do they constantly fall back on such parochial and
primordial sentiments such as racial, cultural and religious loyalty to
serve their own limited ends? Weighing the costs of such moves may point us
to the simple conclusion that sectarian politicians seldom care about the
unity and well-being of the nation as a whole, particularly when that nation
happens to be a complex and plural one in the first place. More often than
not, the demagogues and chauvinists among us would be more inclined to keep
to their own narrow corners and seek solace and support from their own
respective communities.

These observations should hardly come as news to Malaysia-watchers in
particular, for we all know by now that Malaysia’s convoluted 50-year
history has been one dominated and almost entirely determined by the logic
of racial compartmentalism and communitarianism. Every single leader who has
climbed up the greasy pole of power in the country has done so by playing
the race – and now increasingly, religion – card close to his chest. It
should therefore come as even less of a surprise that there is now talk of
forming a Malaysian Muslim Workers’ Union (PPIM) in the country, as if
Malaysian society was not divided enough already.

Over the past two years the country has witnessed the emergence of around a
dozen now religion-based NGOs and civil society organisations, most of them
appealing to Malaysian Muslims in particular. While there used to be
universalist, inclusive organisations that brought together Malaysians of
various racial and professional background like factory workers, labourers,
lawyers, businesspeople, professionals etc. we now see the emergence of
organisations that cater to the interests of Muslims primarily and
exclusively. The PPIM is just the latest nail in the coffin of Malaysia’s
failed attempts towards pluralism and multiculturalism, and should it come
to pass then it would mean that yet another neutral public space in the
public domain has been lost. Why was there ever a need for the PPIM in the
first place, when surely the Malaysian Trade Unions organisation (MTUC) was
there to unite all the workers of Malaysia under a common universal basis of
shared collective class interests?

Two factors need to be taken into consideration here:

The first is the fact that since the late 1960s Malaysian society has
witnessed the instrumentalisation of religion – and in particular Islam – by
right-wing communitarian politicians and activists who sought to mobilise
Muslims as a bloc vote and political constituency. It began with sectarian
organisations like ABIM and other Muslim students groups on campus that
sought to introduce their brand of ‘Islamisation from below’, and whatever
radical impact they could have had – by rejecting Western
economic-political-military hegemony across the world, for instance – was
compromised by their own limited sectarian and exclusive worldview that was
equally hegemonic in its ambitions. In time the potential of such groups was
compromised as their leaders and members were co-opted by the ruling elite;
the co-optation of ABIM’s leader Anwar Ibrahim by the then Prime Minister
Mahathir Mohamad being a case in point.

Secondly it should be stated frankly that all this talk of ‘protecting’ the
seemingly unique interests of the Malay-Muslims in Malaysia is little more
than fluff and nonsense, for the real agenda all along has been the
furthering of the right-wing agenda of Malay-Muslim supremacy above all
else. Malaysia’s Islamisation process pushed by Mahathir and Anwar in the
1980s and 1990s led to the further entrenchment of Malay-Muslim political
and class interests; and benefited the ruling BN-led government and its
clients most of all, further adding to the dominance of Malay-Muslims in the
civil service, army and police; and further embedded Islam at the centre of
Malaysian politics. It was not the universal values of Islam that were
served here, but rather the agenda of Malay-Muslim supremacy otherwise known
as ‘Ketuanan Melayu’.

The net result of the current moves to create a parallel Muslim workers
movement in Malaysia can therefore only split Malaysian society even further
along religious communitarian lines and therefore help to ensure the
dominance of the communitarian parties and elites currently running the
country. How are the workers of Malaysia – who ought to be united along the
basis of class solidarity and common class action – to be served by the
creation of such a body that will split their numbers by half at least? Are
we to believe that the poverty and exploitation of Muslim workers in
Malaysia is qualitatively different to that of his or her non-Muslim
comrade? The mind boggles… What will be next? A Malaysian Muslim stamp
collectors’ organisation?

Consequently the Muslim workers of Malaysia must realise that these attempts
to create parallel movements that cater to their own limited exclusive
interests will do a disservice to them in the long run. For their own sake,
and for the sake of the workers struggle in Malaysia, they need to remember
that their loyalty and camaraderie has to lie with their fellow workers and
comrades in the workers movement of Malaysia as a whole, regardless of
racial, cultural or religious differences.


Dr. Farish A Noor is a political scientist and historian at the Zentrum
Moderner Orient and guest Professor at Sunan Kalijaga Islamic University,
Jogjakarta. He is also one of the founders of the research site

Dr Farish is also a frequent contributor to Malaysiakini . The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of this forum.


Animal farms and our basic needs

Part of a government ‘s duty is to look after the basic needs of the people. Basic needs include eating/food, clothings, housing and transportation. Of course there are other needs which are equally important such as education, health and so on.

Eating habits are very personal and very individualised. It is also influenced by religious requirements and culture.

For instance, I personally don’t take beef, because for many generations, my ancestors had not been eating beef as they needed the cows to plough the fields. It has become some sort of family law that our family don’t take beef, even though I never enforce it on my own children as I believe they should be allowed to make their own decision on what to eat, being a very open minded person myself.

However, even though I don’t take beef, I cannot ask my friends and all of you dear readers not to take beef, because eating is your basic rights. I cannot also ask all of you to accompany me not to eat beef. 

And if a lot of the people take beef, it is only logical that we allow people to rear cattles and cows – in short, to run cattle farms.

Cattles and cows are animals. Unlike human beings, when they need to discharge, they discharge – they don’t look for toilets. So , cattle farms like all animal farms, need human presence to keep it clean. Otherwise, it will pollute the surroundings.

It is therefore up to the authority to make laws to keep cattle farms clean – legislation that will compel whoever is running the farms, with the help of modern technology and facilities, to make sure that the farms is clean and the discharges do not pollute the surroundings.

Legislation must also be followed by enforcement . Legislation without enforcement will defeat the purpose and not make the farms clean.

The same argument can be  applied to other animal farms such as deer farms, chicken farms, sheep/goat farms and of course pig farms.

So, it is inconceivable and rather high handed action to employ a thousand plus police and auxiallary units to forcibly threaten to close certain pig farms, as reported a few weeks ago in Malaysiakini (see Malaysiakini report 4th September). . This is probably the work of certain overzealous and misinformed politicians and officials.

The government should look at this issue rationally and understand that this involves a basic right of a certain section of the population who are also citizens of this country.

If this issue can be looked at rationally, then the whole issue can be solved amicably.

Legislate and enforce that these pig farms stick to the health and environmental requirements. Consider giving compensation and relocating those farms that are too near housing estates. In the case of relocation, ample time and compensation should be given the farmers to move.

Might is not equal to rights. The use of force is actually not necessary for a matter that concerns the basic needs of a section of populations, and negotiation and amicable discussion will be a better way to solve this issue.

Give Deepthroat legal protection

The three man panel, which was formed as a result of public outcry since Malaysiakini first reported about the Lingam video a few days ago, recieved their appointment letters and terms of reference.

Apparently, the panel hae been tasked to check the authenticity of the video. I agreed with the chairperson of the BAr COuncil that we should give this panel a chance to work, although we should still push for a Royal Commission to review the whole Judicial system. I have also urged that the 1988 Judicial crisis be re-investigated.

One of the panel members were quoted to say that the panel hoped that the person who recorded the video would come forward .

I think it is indeed important for this person (lets call him Deepthroat) to come forward. However, before he can do so, there must be legal immunity accorded to him . If Deepthroat  comes forward,  it will be easy to determine when the conversation took place and a check with Telco records should tell us who was on the other side of the phone.

The authority must therefore  give immunity to this whistle-blowing Deepthroat. It is also important that his identity be protected if he so desires.

In my opinion, it is now time that we should enact a Whistle-blower Act to protect all these Deepthroats, if we want people to come forward to expose illegal dealings . I hope the government will seriously consider this.

Related posts:

Call for full investigation

Golden Opportunity to right any wrong

The one who ties the string must do the untying

Malaysian lawyers, I salute you

Malaysian lawyers, I salute you

I applaud and salute the Malaysian lawyers for taking the “March-to-Justice” walk yesterday. These are professionals, most of them have nice offices, comfortable homes, trendy cars and much better off than the average Malaysian. Yet, they have decided to abandon the comfort of the offices and take a walk under the sun rain. SOme walked for 3.5 Km and others who came by buses walked an additional 5 km as their buses were stopped halfway ( please read Malaysiakini report on this).  To quote the words of their chairperson ” when lawyers walk, there is something seriously wrong”.

long-walk-for-justice.jpgfrom the Star


I was very surprised at the big turnout. These are well educated, busy people. They are officers of the court as well as the guardians of our laws. When so many of them come out to demand that something be done, it would be wise for a people’s government to take heed and seriously investigate and review the whole judicial system. I have mentioned in an earlier post that this is indeed a golden opportunity for the present government  to act and right whatever wrong that was passed over from the previous government.

recommended readings:

A call for full investigation

The one who ties the string must do the untying

Climb the mountain, light the candle

SPP interview expose – the antics of a very condescending Bigshot

I am posting this post , at the request of my blogger friend Scott Thong,  about how a Datuk interviewer treated a poor  interviewee trying to apply for a post in the education service. If you disapprove of the action of this Datuk, who is obviously abusing his position, you are welcome to repost this article in your blog or send to your friends.

If , after reading this post, you would like to know more about this Datuk, I implore you to access Scott’s link .

Meanwhile, I would like to call upon the government to investigate this incident, and if found to be true, please send this type of interviewers/little napoleons for a refresher course on ethnic relationship and basic human courtesy. They have no business sitting in their positions, if this is the way they conduct themselves.

SPP Interview Expose – Interview With the Very Condescending Bigshot  Rich Datuk

(name of interviewee has been omitted to prevent retributive action)

I was at Jabatan Perdana Menteri yesterday, for an interview with the Suruhanjaya Perkhidmatan Pelajaran. It was an interview to confirm my placement into the government service as DG41.

The interview letters stated that we should wear “formal berlengan panjang.” I wore my grey slacks, dark blue long-sleeve shirt, and a silver tie.

Upon arrival at Bilik Temuduga 10, we were told by our room’s interviewer that we need to wear a coat.

Nobody brought any coats from our room. We went out to search for a coat. Around 5 other guys in the entire interview had coats. So we borrowed their coats and passed them around.

When my turn came, I put on the coat and went in.

Right after I said “Selamat pagi Dato,” he asked me where I got the coat from. I said I borrowed it. He said how come I don’t even own a coat. I said the letter did not state that I have to wear a coat, or else I would’ve found one before I came. He scolded me and said I did not know how to interpret the letter.

He asked what kind of pants I was wearing. I said my grey slacks. He said how can that be formal. I said only have 2 pairs of slacks. One black, one grey. The black one, I wore to school on Monday, and now it is being washed. So, today I’m wearing my grey slacks.

He chased me out of the room.

He called me in again after a very long time. It wasn’t an interview. It was a dressing-down, humiliation session. He didn’t really ask me anything much. Here’s the gist of what he said:

“Bapa kamu tahu tak, you seluar hanya ada dua? Kalau dia tahu, dia malu tak, anak dia macam ini?”

I said, hidup saya susah. I explained my family background. And why I have banyak tanggungan.

“You are wrong!! Saya pun tak pernah tanggung orang macam itu. You must change the way you live.”

He looked at my shoes, and he said:

“Kasut kamu tak gilap”

I said, I cycle to school everyday. How to gilap?


Well, if I don’t have a car, and my school is nearby, and I can’t afford to arrive in an Alfa Romeo, what’s wrong with cycling to school?
“You pakai baju apa itu. Cina tak boleh pakai gelap.”

I said I’m a Christian, I don’t abide by such superstitions. I said by the way, my shirt is blue. Not black.

“Kamu bukan Cina kah? You must be proud to be Chinese… Malaysian Chinese…”

What does he know about being a Malaysian Chinese? We don’t get Datukships and awards like him. We can’t afford to be wearing designer clothes like him. We are not supported by the government’s silver spoon in our mouth from the day we were born. We have to struggle to take care of our families. What does he know?

He said, “Dalam PIPP, ada dinyatakan kita harus memartabatkan profesion keguruan. Apa yang kamu faham tentang itu?”

That is the Teras Kelima in the PIPP. I explained that according to the PIPP blueprint, we are supposed to upgrade the intake system of teachers and improve the working environment of teachers. I wasn’t taking rubbish. That was the textbook answer.

He said, “Tak payah, tak payah. Kalau untuk kamu saja, macam mana?”

I said, “Kena memperbaiki imej, kalau menurut dato.”

He said “Gaji satu bulan berapa? Pergilah beli seluar…”

He even stood up to show me his slacks. He said must buy a pair that costs seratus lebih. That would be a good one.

I cycle to school everyday. My shoes aren’t shined. I can’t afford a pair of slacks that cost over a hundred bucks. I don’t have a coat. I guess I’m not fit to be a teacher.

Well, if they can pay me 4 grand a month, certainly the profession guru’s martabat will be dipertingkatkan, isn’t it?

If what I wear matters so much more than how I teach, my workplace is not in a musty classroom. I should be on the catwalk runway.

The one who ties the string must do the untying

Malaysiakini reported this morning that the government has agreed to set up a 3 member panel to investigate the video depicting  senior lawyer Lingam talking on his handphone about lobbying for judicial appointments.

This blog has asked the government to set up a Royal Commission to investigate the case. Although the government has not agreed to a Royal commission, I agreed with Bar Council Chiarperson that this swift response is an important first step.

I quote the Chairperson of Bar Council, S. Ambiga, as reported in the press:

The Malaysian Bar welcomes the swift response of the government in this initial step of setting up a panel of inquiry. The remit of the panel to investigate the authenticity of a video clip is necessary as an essential first step.

But this falls short of the Bar’s call for an investigation by a royal commission not only of the video recording but of larger issues affecting the state of the administration of justice in Malaysia

We will continue to call for a royal commission with wide terms of references to include looking into the present status of the judiciary and the need for a judicial commission for appointment and promotion of judges. The reason we would like royal commission of inquiry is because it has wider powers to compel evidence which this panel may not have.

Nonetheless, this first step in setting up a panel can be seen as a positive move that the government is responsive to public opinion and we are ready to co-operate in this move. Also, the Malaysian Bar will proceed with its plan to submit the memorandum to the prime minister at his office tomorrow.

Let us wait to see the terms of reference of this panel before we pass any judgement.

The swift response is a good sign and indicates that public opinion does count in Malaysia. I have mentioned many times, however imperfect our system is, we are still a workable democracy. The government  still listens when the public voice is loud enough; hence it is important for people to speak up and speak out. 

 This also supports my views (read my post yesterday : climb the mountain, light the candle)  that blogs do have some influence; a blog by itself is nothing, but when many blogs are talking about the same thing, the torrential outpouring do have an influence to shape public opinion. Credit of course must go to Malaysiakini, which has so boldly reported this incident.

In my view, what this panel should do, with its limited power,  is to investigate whether there is a basis to take this case further. If this panel can determine that the video is not doctored, it should recommend to the government for the setting up of a Royal Commission , to look into, in addition to this videogate incident,  the present state of Judiciary.

The whistle blower in this case must be given full protection and immunity from prosecution  in order to have a fruitful investigation.

I would also support the setting up of a Judicial Commission to promote and appoint judges to the bench. The setting up of an Independent Judicial commission will prevent or at least lessen favouritism and corrupt practices in the promotions and  appointment of judges. The Judicial Commission  should be appointed by the King and answerable to Parliament.

I would go a step further. This Royal Commission should also be tasked to look into the 1988 Judicial crisis; whether there is any basis to reopen proceedings for the vindication of the sacked judges .  No less a person than  PAC Chairman, Shahrir Samad has said that (quoting Malaysiakini )

 he believed that the repercussions of the 1988 judicial crisis are still being felttoday, even coming to the “ridiculous stage” where people can correctly predict the outcome of court cases.

The Chinese has a saying: “The one who ties the string must be the one to do the untying” . Since this videogate incident is  seen as a part of the repercussion of the 1988 incident, that incident must be reopened in order to fully exorcise the “ghosts’ of 1988 – that have been haunting the Judiciary for so long.

Climb the mountain, light the candle

Was having a chat with a friend last week. He was of the opinion that I may be wasting my effort in writing my opinon in my blogs and as well as sending letters to the media including NST and Malaysiakini .

I asked him: do you think everything is alright and well in the country? He answered in the negative. Then I asked him, if you have a problem in your family, what do you do? He answered without hesitation: try to solve or fix the problem.

I said the key word is TRY to.

I said the country is just like our family. We are part of the country and the country is just our big family. If there is a problem, we try to solve or correct it. But do not sabotage it because you do not sabotage your own family. We can and should voice out our concern, our feelings, and suggest ways to improve on whatever that  we deem to be not proper and not fair.

He replied that it would be futile to try to change the mindset of the people through writings and bloggings.

I answered that if we wish to see the beautiful scenery at the back  of a mountain, we would have no choice but to climb to the top of the mountain. We have to take the strenous steps, one at a time, to climb up. The journey will be tough and difficult, but if we don’t try , we will not reach the top and we will never get a chance to see the beautiiful scenery at the back of the mountain. If we don’t even TRY, how do we know whether we can succeed or not?

Similarly, I said, we should adopt the same attitude in whatever undertakings in our life. Climb every mountain and look for nice scenery.  We will discover that, by trying,   our life will be full of meaning in the end. Even if we don’t succeed in reaching the top of the mountain, we have started a path for our posterity to climb the same way, and it would be much easier for them because we would have  cleared some of the most difficult path for them.

I used another analogy to convince my friend. This analogy I have used in my Chinese blog. I said I am like a small candle. The flame may be weak and can hardly light up a small room. But if many candles can be lighted up, it can even be bright enough to light up a whole square.

The key is to do what you believe is right. The key is to take the first step to climb the mountain.

Young people, who is full of enthusiasm and idealism, should come forward to  voice their opinion. Through participation in politics maybe, or alternatively, through writings in their blogs, through joining NGOs. Each of these young men and women would be a candle, and together they are going to light up the whole world.

 I strongly believe that there is definitely light at the end of every tunnel.

I believe in a beautiful Malaysia, where everyone would be fairly treated, where everyone would have equal chance, where everyone would be friends to every other one, where freedom and rights of all people will be respected, where every cent collected will go back to the people and where all Malaysians  will live happily ever after.

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