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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, August 09, 2009

Fraudulent Defenders of Our Faith

Fraudulent Defenders of Our Faith
M. Bakri Musa


With Ramadan soon upon us, Muslims everywhere are caught up in a heightened sense of spirituality. That is the good news.

Take last Thursday evening, for example. The San Jose, California, masjid was inundated with believers staying late into the night. It was the 15th of Shaaban, an especially blessed time in the Muslim calendar. Shaaban is the month before Ramadan, and serves as a ‘warm-up’ to it. As my Imam Ilyas noted wryly in his Friday khutba, what struck him was that many that evening had never before set foot on the premises. That is the bad news.

Malays too are struck by this wave of religious fervor with the impending arrival of Ramadan. Thus the recent local governmental agency raid on a 7-Eleven store in Selangor, stripping the store of its beer inventory. Never mind that the store had been selling that beverage for decades without any harassment from the authorities.

Then there was UMNO Youth leader Khairy Jamaluddin calling on his PAS counterpart to ‘unite’ against DAP (and thus Pakatan) for allegedly ‘insulting’ Islam. Not to be outdone, Khir Toyo, a fellow ‘fighter’ in UMNO Youth, chided PAS for not standing up to the Pakatan state government’s ‘insulting’ Islam by ordering the beer loot be returned to the store.

It turned out that the local agency had no authority to conduct such a raid. Alas, observing the niceties of the law has never been a strong point with these Malaysian jihadist wannabes.

Our Malaysian jihadists may consider themselves ‘modern’ and of a different breed. After all Khairy has been to Oxford while Khir is a trained dentist. Alas they are ‘modern’ only in their outward appearances, what with their fancy suits and palatial bungalows. In mindset and attitude however, they are no different from those madrasah-educated, disheveled bearded Talibans dwelling high in the caves of Afghanistan.

More to the point, I am not all assured that these overzealous ‘defenders’ of Islam are doing our faith any favor. On the contrary, these fraudulent defenders of our faith are smearing the image of Islam.

As my Imam Ilyas rightly pointed out on noting the large crowd at the masjid on the evening of 15th Shaaban, while he was pleased with the turnout he gently reminded us that it is far more important to do the many little “good” gestures required of us by our faith all the time than be focused on doing the spectacular ultra religious deeds during Ramadan.

For example, it is much more important to be generous throughout the year rather than making a highly publicized generous donation during Ramadan. On another level, there is no point for us to live a life of vice and corruption and then once a year undertake a Hajj or umrah in an attempt to ‘cleanse’ ourselves.

If the average citizen could see through the hollowness of such ‘pious’ gestures, rest assured that Almighty Allah would have minimal difficulty figuring out the hoax.

The late Zakaria Mat Deros, a former railway guard turned fabulously wealthy politician with the obscenely ostentatious bungalow squatting amidst the squalor of the Malay kampong in Port Kelang, was a prime example. He was accompanied on one of his frequent umrahs by no less than the head of Islam Hadhari, then Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi.

I wish that characters like Mat Deros were the exception; unfortunately they are the norm. Consider that self-admitted adulterer Razak Baginda. Not only did he try to cleanse himself religiously by visiting (yes, ‘visiting’ is the appropriate term) Mecca, he went on to ‘purify’ himself by going to Oxford. Presumably he thinks that a doctorate from that august institution would purify him in the eyes of the secular crowd.

I wonder how Razak Baginda felt when he undertook his umrah knowing that a young girl his daughter’s age was blown up to smithereens as a consequence of his philandering. Did he offer any prayers for the soul of his former lover and for her still grieving family? Charity and generosity after all are one of the pillars of our faith.

These Malays should heed the advice of my young but wise Imam. They should instead focus on being ‘good’ in their every day existence instead of trying to display their piety in dramatic ways during special occasions.

The central injunction of our Quran – Amal makruf, Nahi mungkar (Command good, forbid evil) – should be our daily creed. Frequent trips to Mecca, glamorous iftar parties during Ramadan, and having a surau as part of your palatial mansion will not make up for your ignoring this elemental and recurring Quranic refrain.

I wish that Khairy Jamaluddin and Khir Toyo, being young and the future leaders of UMNO, as well as others would address the gross injustices perpetrated on our citizens, the corruption that is infesting our society, and the poverty that blights far too many Malaysians, instead of being unnecessarily obsessed with 7-Eleven stores selling beer. In the same vein I do not see Khairy, Khir and others of their ilk being outraged at UMNO stalwarts serving on the boards of Carlsberg and the Genting casino company.

The pair’s selective outrage baffles me. Or stated differently, I, like others, readily see through their hoax.

There is nothing Islamic about a society infested with corruption, dehumanized by poverty, and riddled with injustices. It would be the height of hypocrisy, and mock our great faith to boot, for Khairy and Khir Toyo to claim the mantle of Islamic leadership if they are a part of the state apparatus that allows these evils to continue.

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