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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, September 19, 2009

In the Spirit of Eid ul Fitra

Selamat Hari Raya ‘Idilfiri! Maaf Zahir dan Batin!

May the blessings of Allah be upon us all in this joyous season! Special greetings to the five who were just released from detention under the ISA, and to their long-suffering families!

My prayers are also with those still detained, and their families. We must be vigilant and protest vigorously every time someone is deprived of their basic human rights, lest our silence be seen as approval.

Sallam, M. Bakri Musa

In The Spirit of Eid ul Fitra
M. Bakri Musa

I applaud Prime Minister Najib Razak for releasing five more prisoners held under the unjust and abominable Internal Security Act (ISA). That he did it in the last Ashra (ten days) of Ramadan, and within days of Hari Raya, captures best the true spirit of Ramadan and the generosity of Eid ul Fitra.

Najib’s generous gesture illustrates another important point. Leaders do not need to resort to catchy slogans or grandiose gestures in order to demonstrate the greatness of our faith. His releasing the prisoners (this latest group of five, plus the earlier 13 set free on his assuming office and the 16 a few weeks later) did more to enhance the image of Islam than all the pontifications of his predecessor and self-styled Imam of Islam Hadhari, Abdullah Badawi. Abdullah’s frequent recitations of the ideals of Islam notwithstanding, he did not release a single prisoner during his tenure.

The only sour note to this latest action was the idiotic (what else is new?) comment by Home Minister Hishammuddin. He threatened “to fill Kamunting to the brim” if that was what it would take to protect the nation’s security. Despite his long years in government he has learned nothing; he still has the same perverted priorities.

Hishammuddin and others of his persuasion must be reminded over and over, for they are prone to forget, that the greatest threat to our nation’s security, and indeed our well being, remains our corrupt and ineffective institutions, including and especially the police and the anticorruption commission. Both agencies are under Hishammuddin’s direct purview.

Two of the five just released had been detained for nearly eight years. That is a very long time to be deprived of one’s freedom, and to be away from one’s loved ones. It is well to remember that one of the purposes of Ramadan is to remind Muslims to feel for the pains of hunger of those less fortunate. In this regard, the wife of one of the men released, Mat Sah, had dutifully blogged (Merah Hitam: www.lailagmi.blogpsot.com) the sufferings she and her son Suhaib endured during the nearly eight years that the family was without a husband and a father.

I suggest that Hishammuddin and others who favor the ISA read her blog. If their conscience is not at all pricked by the running accounts of this young mother, then I suggest that they read Kassim Ahmad’s The Second University: Detention Under the ISA, and Syed Hussin Ali’s Two Faces: Detention without Trial.

If Hishammuddin is still not persuaded as to the evilness of the ISA, then I respectfully suggest that he is not entitled to be the beholder of the title “Yang Berhormat,” let alone be a minister in charge of such an important portfolio.

For every individual the government sends to Kamunting without affording him or her due process means a failure of our security apparatus and other institutions. Had our institutions, especially our intelligence gathering and law enforcement agencies been effective, we should have been able to secure enough evidence to charge and convict them.

We are told that there are nine more still detained under the ISA. Until they too are released, or charged in open court, their detention will remain a blemish on the nation’s record. Nor should we remain quiet as to their plight, for the authorities are only too eager to read our silence as tacit approval.

We should not rest or take comfort until Kamunting is emptied and the ISA repealed.

One of those still detained is a fugitive from Singapore, Mas Selamat. Hishammuddin should entertain an extradition application from that republic. If nothing else that would give us an opportunity to evaluate the conviction of Mas Selamat down there.

If Hishammuddin feels strongly that the current detainees are a threat to Malaysia’s security then he should share the evidence he has with us and be prepared to charge them in court. Like his many predecessors, Hishammuddin has not demonstrated any credibility for us to believe merely his utterances.

Those citizens were deprived of their basic dignity and human rights by the decision of one man: the Home Minister. There is no provision for a judicial or other review of his pronouncement. His word is supreme. In our faith, only Allah has that power.

That is an awesome responsibility to put on any human being. Only the reckless and conscienceless would shoulder that responsibility lightly and thus would make flippant comments as wanting “to fill Kamunting to the brim.”

In the words of the Sudanese reformist Mahmoud Mohamad Taha (1909-85), “No person is perfect enough to be entrusted with the liberty and dignity of others.” Hence we need an effective system of checks and balances to minimize the risk of miscarriage of justice.

Tradition has it that once while Prophet Muhammad, s.a.w., was leading a prayer, there was some confusion over the verse he had recited. After the prayer he turned to his companion Umar and inquired, “Where you present with us [during the prayer]?” When Umar replied in the affirmative, the prophet then asked him, “Why then did you not correct me?”

Muslims rightly regard Prophet Muhammad, s.a.w., as the embodiment of the perfect human being. Our leaders and ministers are far from that. Thus we must not be fearful of or even hesitate in correcting our leaders when we think they have gone astray. The sooner we do this the less likely they would lead us further down the wrong path.

It is also incumbent upon leaders to straighten those under them who have strayed or demonstrate a tendency to do so. In releasing this latest batch of ISA detainees, Najib Razak demonstrated best the spirit of generosity and forgiveness that is the essence of Ramadan and Eid ul Fitra. He should not hesitate to correct the waywardness of those under him, beginning with his cousin and Home Minister Hishammuddin.

M. Bakri Musa


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