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M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

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Location: Morgan Hill, California, United States

Malaysian-born Bakri Musa writes frequently on issues affecting his native land. His essays have appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek, International Herald Tribune, Education Quarterly, SIngapore's Straits Times, and The New Straits Times. His commentary has aired on National Public Radio's Marketplace. His regular column Seeing It My Way appears in Malaysiakini. Bakri is also a regular contributor to th eSun (Malaysia). He has previously written "The Malay Dilemma Revisited: Race Dynamics in Modern Malaysia" as well as "Malaysia in the Era of Globalization," "An Education System Worthy of Malaysia," "Seeing Malaysia My Way," and "With Love, From Malaysia." Bakri's day job (and frequently night time too!) is as a surgeon in private practice in Silicon Valley, California. He and his wife Karen live on a ranch in Morgan Hill. This website is updated twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays at 5 PM California time.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Kassim Ahmad's Hang Jebat: Readers' Responses

Nurture our Hang Jebats: Readers' responses

Dear Dr. Bakri Musa, Assalamu alaikum
It is a pity that most thinking Malaysian Muslims who write, reside abroad! I enjoy reading your essays. I see that you are using the Internet to spread your word.
When I read your Hang Jebat piece, it looked like a necrology and I became anxious lest Pak Kassim had passed away. Only when I read the last paragraph, in which you state that Kassim is still writing, was I relieved! It took some time for me to gather enough courage to phone him. I would rather visit him in Penang, but I am unable to leave Klang Valley for the time being. Over the phone, his daughter Soraya assured me that he is still kicking, although not quite in shape.
You do not give your year of birth, but I gather that you may be a product of the Co-prosperity Sphere and the Second World War and that you eventually chose to settle down in the Love/Hate country of USA.
It was only in 1994 that I came in contact with Pak Kassim. That was when he founded the Jemaah al-Quran Malaysia, which the authorities denied registration as a society. That was also the year when Othman Ali published his Bacaan (Readings), which the Muslim Mafia succeeded in banning. Some years later, Pak Kassim managed to register his Forum Iqra’ as a company. I like Pak Kassim very much, because he talks clearly and articulates well, contrary to most other Malays. His logic is something like this: A stone cannot fly; Granny cannot fly; ergo Granny is a stone!
His main point is for Muslims to go back to the Quran or Balik ke pangkal jalan (Return to the sourcce). I have always opposed to the latter. How can you go back to a place where you have never been? To the former I say, fine, but in practice, it means that you go back to some interpretations that may not be correct. I ended up provoking him: There is no need to go back instead we should go ahead towards Allah! That by definition is not scientific, as science is based on the non-existence of God.
Nonetheless, we got on very well. It is a pity that we both are close to leave this world for the hereafter.
Let us hope that Pak Kassim will continue to write.
Wassalam,
Noh
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Dear Bakri:
Are those who are already successful sincere enough to mentor, nurture and empower the emerging talent? We need an institution for the gifted, talented and exceptional students, a braintrust comprising of experts, researchers, scientists, engineers and surgeons (?) from all over the world. They need not necessarily have to relocate to Malaysia. Those who want to live in sunny California may continue to do so, but they can still serve Malaysia. We must create our own high quality diaspora that can propel and sustain us.
Warm regards,
Rizal Ishak
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Dr. Bakri Musa,

Your article must have stirred the hornet's nest! Bees and wasps are likely to be buzzing and stinging those who support one or the other. Your reasoning means that those who idolize Hang Tuah may have to reverse gear and turn to Hang Jebat as the real hero.
Those who curry favor to the powers-that-be and those who wield power will win goodies in the short-term, while those who dare raise their voices in the name of justice and fairplay may be consigned to the dungeons. History shows that truth will always prevail in the end. It requires sustained power to endure the jeers and boos of the present generation of sycophants, just as the gladiators who were thrown to the lions had to fend for themselves, while the kings, queens and nobles of yore treated the spectacle as sports for their entertainment. Samson had to suffer humiliations after being betrayed by Delilah. Truth will always prevail!
In this regard, we must take off our hats to the present Prime Minister for revealing the names of the Approve Permit holders. If there is nothing to hide, then reveal the list completely. There should not be any fear if the revelation causes some to blush.
Best regards,
S. H. Huang
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Dear Bakri:
Thank you very much for your update on Kassim Ahmad. I am a fan of his writings and have menggeledah (prowled) many bookshops to find his books but there are none available. Thanks for his blog address. I will now get a chance to read his writings once again. Has he any publications in English?
It is vey true that Malay intellectuals do not get the acknowledgement and rewards due to them.

Hj.Mohamed Iqbal
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Rizal Ishak writes:

One cannot help but to adore Noam Chomsky. The New Straits Times and the other local papers should summarise his writings for their readers. This would be a great way to educate the average reader about world affairs. He gives incisive, insightful and compelling arguments. No doubt Kassim Ahmad is isolated while Chomsky actually gets grants from the US government including the Departmetn of Defence ce. The US is far more mature at handling such dissent, and this is good.
We just have to stomach this crude and primitive knee jerk behaviour every so often as illustrated by the recent Approved Permit scandal. Will the average Negri boy get a piece of this? Does it help being the “son of the soil?”
Warm regards,
Rizal Ishak
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From Malaysia-Today.net
Jacque A. H. writes:
l have not heard about Kassim Ahmad but l have of the 1960’s “Pop Yeh Yeh” singer Kassim Selamat. Was it not him who sang that song “La Obe” and “Ngalompak,” and “A Go Go?” My brothers and sisters would go banana when they heard these songs.
I will read with interest about Kassim Ahmad. I also think that Hang Jebat should be the hero, not Hang Tuah. So in that respect, both Kassim and I have something in common.

Gerakilat writes:
For those who do not know who Kassim Ahmad is, here are some details:
He was a former lecturer in Malay Studies at the University of Malaya, Chairman of Parti Sosialis Rakyat Malaysia, and also a one-time ISA detainee at Kamunting (together with Abdullah Ahmad (Dollah Kok Lans)Syed Husin and others) in the late 70s. Kassim contested several times under PSRM ticket in the general elections but lost to UMNO candidates. He came very close to defeating UMNO’s Shamsuri in Balik Pulau in 1978 (?) general election.
Kassim a hardcore socialist, once wrote a controversial book on the Hadith. He joined UMNO in the 1980s after Mahathir became Prime Minister. The reason he gave was that despite being a socialist, he admired Mahathir’s the “Bersih, Cekap, Amanah” (Clean, Efficient and Trustworthy) commitment. Kassim however was not fully accepted in UMNO because of his socialist leanings. He has kept a low profile since then.

Baju writes:
Kassim Ahmad is not the intellect this author makes him to be. In fact Kassim’s grasp of hadith as espoused in his book “Hadis: Satu Penilian Semula” is minimal, rustic and rudimentary. (Oh yes, I have read it in Malay before it was supposed to have been banned! Was it actually banned? I wonder!
His arguments are not original. They were the views of the orientalists. Since most Malays are not well read, he thought that by bringing forth those arguments they may confound the readers. The issues he raised have all been addressed by other Muslim writers in the past. I am surpised that M Bakri Musa is so taken with Kassim’s arguments on the hadith. This shows how shallow Bakris’ understanding of the subject.
This is not the place to go throught what Kasiim wrote. I have previously argued publicly (during a wedding reception) with Kassim. He was not even able to answer my questions! Kassim is an ex-communist (socialist, what is the difference?) and I wonder if he had ever discarded this.
It is suprising that Kassim Ahmad actually believe in the existence of Tuah and Jebat (I believe that Hikayat Hang Tuah is nothing more than dongeneg kisah kisah lama [old fiction]).
I have also read Bakri’s book, The Malay Dilemma Revisited. I find it very interesting except where he writes about Islam. This is where I believe the author “Tersungkur Di Pintu Syurga” (stuck at Heaven’s Gate). In his book, Bakri speaks well of Kassim Ahmad, Sisters in Islam. Bakri aslo commented that most ulama currently lack modern knowledge and thus should not be taken seriously. This is also the typical view of Marina Mahathir and her cohorts’ arguments.
If only these people were to learn Arabic( it takes full 1-2 years to get to know it ) and start reading the books of Ibn Taymiyah, Ibn Qayyim , Ibn Kathir, Al Quthubi, Ibn Hajar Al Asqalani, Sheih Albani, Sheikn Ibn Uthaimin etc….would they realize that there is such a vast knowledge there untapped and these people would have then be completely refreshed with the pristine knowledge of Islam.
Alas these would rather take knowledge from people who are hostile to Islam. The scholars I have mentioned above are so good in their wrting that one would have easily answered any major controversies raised by these orientalist by reading their books. BTW many of their books are yet to betranslated in English although the Indonesians have started to translate many of Ibn Qayiim’s books in Indonesia.
Kassim Ahmad may be a Malay dongeng lama specialist but he certainly is no intellect when it comes to islam and his writing of it is not worth the “daki” (dirt) that is stuck in between the toes of the those writers that I have mentioned above.
Kassim should have just remained a “panglipulara kontemporar” (contemporary strotyteller) by indulging in Hang Tuah, Jebat, Puteri Gunug Ledang etc. rather than wasting other people’s time to analyse of his worthless writing about Islam which certainly is dangkal and bucolic.
Bakri should have been more careful in his assessing of people such as Kassim Ahmad.
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Jacque A.H. said:

Honestly, not many people know anything about Kassim Ahmad. As l said, personally l have never heard of him.
It is quite interesting to find out about his thinking but it does not mean that we all have to follow his ideology. We have to follow the norm.
Communism and socialism (correct me if l am wrong; there is a difference between the two – Communism is a hardcore socialism). Many people say the Labour Party (in UK and elsewhere ) is a right wing socialist party and most Brits now support it. It fights for social justice and equality. Communism in some part of the world would not even allow freedom of religion. One example is in Azerbadjan. Many citizens there who were once Muslims now have no faith. They may have Muslim names but they are not practicing Islam at all. How sad!
Communism is more of a control freak if you know what l mean.
As for Islam, there is only one Islam, the one taught by our Nabi Muhammad s.a.w. We are his followers and we should follow his teachings together with the Al-Quran, hadeeths and sunnah.
In the Holly Book Al Quran, Allah states, “This day l have perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.” (Al-Maa’idah : versus 5:3)
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Peter said:
Bakri Musa:
Thanks for introducing the work of Kassim Ahmad to us. I did not know him then but I know him now.

Baju writes:
Great to know that we have someone like you who have a complete opposite point of view, someone who disagrees with Kassim. I respect your constructive writing, as a rebuttal Bakri’s endorsement of Kassim. There is one thing about your writing that shows your shallowness when you said that there is no difference between socialism and communism. To explain to you here will take too long, instead I will demonstarte to you the difference, then the rest you can read up yourself since you are quite a reader.
Many people think that Ernesto Che Guevara was a Communist. The truth is, he was never a communist,instead he was always a socialist.
To Bakri, can you please tell us how do we get hold on Kassim's Perwatakan Hikayat Hang Tuah on the internet? Or where we can buy one? I would like to read it.
Even when I was kid watching P Ramlee potraying Hang Tuah and all the sejarah books I read, I always thought that Jebat was a hero, not Tuah. I did not know why I thought then that Jebat was a hero, but now I know and will know better maybe after I read Kassim’s Pewatakan.
And Baju, Hikayat Tuah and Jebat were not DONGENG (fiction). These people existed in the past. It was dongeng because people made it to be.

Geekpuk2 said:
Even as a primary school kid I realized that Hang Tuah is a douchebag and a simpleton. Jebat is my hero. He gets to kick the Sultan’s arse off his own palace and fuck around with the Sultan’s numerous gundiks.
His actions sure had the Malay world upside down. This from a time when Sultans were considered keramat or had daulat powers or white-blooded because they are so pure.
Hidup Jebat!!

Dissent said:
To nurture the Hang Jebat types is real easy Mr. Musa Al Bakri, we need
the “Bill of Rights” ala United States. The question is how to get it.
Lee Kuan Yew, Dr. Mahathir and other Asian leaders opposed. To them, it is community first. Does community oppose the right to speak freely, freedom of speech, and due process? Is ISA is a proper tool? How about an independant judiciary?
These rights are citizens rights. Freedom to speech, thinking and expression is like breathing fresh air, a neccessity. It is to protect citizens from the government. Being a dissenter does not mean that a person is a traitor or bad person rather as someone offering an alternative view.
By having those rights we will create rennaissance. Dissent is an important part of being a man.
One of these days before I die, I wish to see Malaysia Bastille Day. Get rid of these self serving bigshot bastards (too many of them) in the government. Hang em High. Some justify their snobbish and ridiculous statements in the name of protecting and promoting the Malay agenda. I feel like they are joining the devil when they are in a position of power which they use to make money.
Helping people is the last thingon their agenda. Rule number 1: Give people crumbs, not piece of meat. Else they gonna demand more. If they need more, join the aristocracy class, meaning BN or the royals.

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