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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.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Exchanges With Din Merican: Open Letter to Shahrizat

Exchanges with Din Merican: Open Letter to Datuk Shahrizat


Dear Din:

Thank you very much for sharing your letter to Dato’ Sharizat; I share your dismay and I applaud you for your courage in voicing it.

The whole episode, from the hastily-drawn amendments to their quick passage in Parliament, and the subsequent decision not to gazette the new laws, paints an amateurish air to the administration. This is a government that cannot get its act together, the “gang that could not shoot straight.” At least the movie version is hilarious and very entertaining.

I put the blame for this and other fiascos squarely on the captain of the ship, Abdullah Badawi. His ineptness and lack of discipline, long apparent to me, has finally been exposed, even emboldening some in his Cabinet to intimidate him.

You have perceptively noted the deafening silence of Anwar Ibrahim and Rafidah Aziz. The same could be said of our supposedly “brilliant,” “articulate,” and “daring” younger leaders like Khairy Jamaluddin.

I truly admire the patience and forbearance of Malaysians. I hope they have a deep reservoir of both, for this silly episode will not be the last. I can hardly wait for the next act, which I bet will be soon. This circus would be amusing except that it affects the lives of millions.

Unfortunately, I do not see the curtain falling down anytime soon on this folly of a show.

Sallam,

M. Bakri Musa

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Din Merican's Open Letter to Datuk Shahrizat:

January 18, 2006

YB. Dato Hajjah Shahrizat Binti Abdul Jalil
Minister of Women’s Affairs and Social Welfare, MP for Pantai
Kuala Lumpur


Dear YB Dato Hajjah Shahrizat,

The recent action by the Government to allow the passage in Parliament amendments to the Muslim Family Law is a matter of serious concern to Muslims of both sexes. Even non-Muslims are now worried about this high-handed action of the Barisan Nasional Government and its agencies.

The whole affair reflects poorly on the government, specifically Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi and his Cabinet team. Although I agree with Cabinet’s decision to delay gazetting the new law, this action creates a dangerous precedent.

At the most superficial level, this delay in gazetting merely confirms the widespread suspicion among citizens that the whole exercise was shoddily prepared and even more ineptly executed. Sadly, this pretty well mirrors the overall performance of this administration.

More ominous, the cabinet has now set a dangerous precedent in that future legislations passed by Parliament could be held hostage by the Cabinet. This would seriously breach our hallowed precept of the separation of powers in our system of governance. As a lawyer, you should enlighten us under what provision of the constitution was the cabinet’s action taken. The day may come when parliament would pass sensible laws only to have the cabinet thwart the will of the people as expressed by Parliament.

There are other serious and wide ranging implications. It reflects arrogance on the part of the Government. Prime Minister Badawi’s impressive mandate does not extend to introducing laws without properly consulting all stakeholders in our pluralistic society. It does not reassure or comfort me that the Government is interested in the welfare of its citizens.

I wonder what our Government will do next with its resounding electoral mandate. Already Selangor’s JAWI is defiantly forming a uniformed moral squad to police us, in effect an extra-constitutional vigilante group, despite the strong public abhorrence to such moral policing.

The actions of the government have already spawned and emboldened the ugly extremist elements amongst us. The burglary at the office of the Executive Director of Sisters-in-Islam and the theft of her personal computer, and more significantly, the noticeable lack of vigorous response from the authorities, is the harbinger of things to come. The brazenness of these culprits, and the seeming acquiescence of the authorities, is even more remarkable considering that Sisters-in-Islam counts among its active members the daughter of the Prime Minister.

Frankly, I am surprised with your quiet acceptance of the amendments. As a lawyer, an elected Member of Parliament, and as Deputy Head of Wanita UMNO, you have chosen not to strenuously object to the passage of these amendments. You gave the excuse that they can be re-examined at some future date. You know, as much as I do, how difficult, complex, and time consuming the process of law making is in our country.

Verbal assurances by you and the Prime Minister are not sufficient. You cannot play politics with our future. To me, your action as Minster in charge of Woman Affairs shows that you lack the courage of your conviction. You should have stood up against what is clearly an unjust law against Muslim women.

As Muslims we are ever mindful of the recurring refrain in the Quran, “Command good and forbid evil.” Our Holy Book goes further. A beautiful verse exhorts us that when we see evil or injustice being perpetrated, we must attempt to stop it with our hands. Failing that, then we must stop it with our tongue. If we could not even do that, then at least we must condemn it in our heart, realizing fully well that Allah is least pleased with this last course of action.

Had you and your senior female colleague in the Cabinet, Rafidah Aziz, raised your hands to object, this whole ugly and highly embarrassing episode would not have happened. With your talent and skill as a lawyer you could have used your tongue to voice your dissent to your cabinet colleagues and the Prime Minister. Alas, you did not. Now we have only your word that you disagree in your heart.

The surprising silence of your otherwise highly forceful and very vocal colleague, Rafidah Aziz, is eerie and perplexing. As Head of Wanita UMNO, she has a special obligation to have her views and concerns heard. I do not expect your junior sisters in Cabinet like Dr. Mashitah to be assertive. They are still too enamored with and busy basking in their newly-acquired ministerial status.

I can only surmise that, to be charitable, you and Rafidah Aziz are both trying hard “to change the system from within,” to quote your erstwhile colleague, Anwar Ibrahim. Surely after being in the cabinet for decades, Rafidah should have the courage to stick her neck out. That she chose not do makes me believe that she has developed the bodek culture to a fine art.

Anwar’s curious silence on the issue is expected. Ever the political opportunist, he is still sticking his proverbial wet finger to the wind. So much for political courage and leadership!

I hope you will examine your conscience and do what is right for our nation. I hope the Prime Minister and you take to heart the ten principles of Islam Hadhari (Civilizational Islam), and that they are not merely electioneering slogans.

The world community is also closely monitoring developments following the passage of these unjust amendments. We cannot ignore international public opinion and do what we please in this globalised world.

Women rights are also human rights. Muslim women demand equal and fair treatment and I, as a Muslim male, strongly support their position. Their rights cannot be abridged or brushed aside to accommodate conservative Islamists and power-seeking Ulamaks. As the Minister in charge, you are expected to champion the rights of women, and especially Muslim women. These are not amorphous beings or votes to be counted in elections. These women are you, your mother, sisters, daughters, friends and neighbors.

Sallam and yours sincerely,

Din Merican

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Assalamualaikum Mr Bakri,

Found you from a website. I was interested to know about the person who wrote The malay dilemma, revisited. ( I thought it was Mr Bakri, the father of the famous actress married the famous Malaysian folk singer).Searched for your name in the net and found your blog. I enjoyed reading it. Absolutely will come back for more reading!

7:47 AM  

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