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M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

My Photo
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, September 16, 2018

Prize Our Padi, Uproot The Weeds!

Prize Our Padi, Uproot The Weeds!
M. Bakri Musa*

I applaud lawyer-activist Siti Kassim for her “Siti Thot” column and commend The Starfor publishing it. Writing briefs is second nature to seasoned lawyers, so penning those essays per seis not the challenge. The courage is with her sharing her views, and for The Starto provide her the platform.

Malaysians know Siti for her unpopular (at least to officialdom) and dangerous crusades, as with exposing the pathetic plight of our Orang Asli whose God-given human rights are being trampled upon by the government. For that she had been arrested, with pictures of her clad in orange. Siti is also one of the few brave Malays who dares challenge the Islamic bureaucracy. She and her family have endured many abuses, not just verbal and not just from the uninformed.

            Writing in Malaysia is a hazardous endeavor. Ask Syed Hussin Ali and Raja Petra. The late Kassim Ahmad paid literally with his life. It is easy for me in California, shielded from Malaysia’s intrusive rules, to write freely; not so for Malaysians. Hence my respect and admiration for our Siti Kassims and Kassim Ahmads.

Malay-owned media like The New Straits Timesand Utusan Melayuhave abrogated their responsibilities to keep citizens informed. That reflects a lot on and is emblematic of what ails Malay society today. Those entrusted with their duties are not up to the task. Worse, they have corrupted their mission. Leaders do not lead but are content with blaming their followers. Teachers do not teach but indoctrinate their students. Ulama are mesmerized with their oratorical prowess and exquisite tajweedinstead of addressing the pressing problems of the ummah.

Islam in Malaysia is a lucrative commodity. It is also less a religion, more massive bureaucracy, a government within a government. At least political leaders are answerable to citizens, as Najib and his co-bandits in UMNO found out much to their sorrow last May. Not so these Islamist bureaucrats. With their government-issued mansions, generous pensions, and gleaming sedans they are even more insulated from the ummah.

When questioned, their haughty response is that they are answerable to a much “higher authority,” which means, no one. They are the Vatican of yore. When those nuns and priests are forced by modernity to be answerable to us mortals, many horrible things are exposed. Malays today are repeating that horrible chapter of human history.

AIDS, drug abuse, and abandoned babies are rampant. Malays are overrepresented among the marginalized and dysfunctional but one would not know that from the utterances of these ulama.

To them, anything not invented by the ancient Bedouins are haram; hence their obsession with ribaawithout understanding what the term meant conceptually and operationally during the prophet’s time. As some earlier semi-English literate scholars had translated ribaa as interest, Muslims today are consumed in a futile crusade against modern banking. They remain blind to the tremendous contributions to economic growth made possible through credit.

The reverse is even more true. Put an ancient Arabic label and bingo, it becomes halal, as with the obscene fees levied by so-called Islamic financial institutions.

To the ulama, the minutiae of accounting of religious brownie points is more important than justice or the intrinsic virtues of a good deed. For example, this many pahala(merit points) more for praying at a certain time and particular place! Seventy-two (not sixty or a hundred) virgins for a particular jihad act. No mention of the comparable rewards that await a righteous female!

            As a lawyer, Siti is adept at cross-examining witnesses to expose their lies and inconsistencies. Her column exposes the hollowness and hypocrisy of our leaders, educators, and ulama. In her “The Real Malay Dilemma,” Siti had this to say of those ardent, self-righteous “defenders” of Islam:  “… Islam does not need protection ….”

I would have added, “least of all by these jokers in JAKIM!”

            An earlier one on education, “…. it’s time to talk about the fundamental elephant in the room … when it comes to education reform in Malaysia–the number of hours dedicated to religion … and the influence of religion in Malaysian schools.”

            That’s obvious to many and for so long, but not to these ulama. Nor do they realize that this heavy burden, and the tragic life-long consequences, is being borne by Malays. This cruel reality eludes even our PhD-decorated new Minister of Education.

            Heed our kampung wisdom–Sayangkan padi, cabutkan rumput. Prize your padi, uproot the weeds. As a society, Malays have not uprooted our weeds; thus our padi does not thrive. Then we wonder at our meager harvest.

            We have gone beyond. We have, as my late father put it, bajakan lalang(pour the fertilizer on). On its own, lalangis a tenacious weed, sucking the nutrients out of the soil such that even the lowly earthworms could not survive. Imagine if we bajakan!

            Siti Kassim is our rare, premium padibut our sawah(rice field) is lalang-infested. The Ibrahim Alis and Jamal Yunoses have taken over. Worse, we bajakanthem.

Siti personifies the Koranic injunction,Amr bil Ma’ruf wa Nahy an al Munkar(approximate translation:  command good and forbid evil). And they harass her!

            A just Allah endows each community with its fair share of the gifted and talented. What we do with that divine gift determines our future. It is not enough to pray that Allah bequeaths us with our share of Siti Kassims. More crucial that we value and nurture them. Most of all we must weed out our lalangs–the Ibrahim Alis and Najib Razaks–so our Sitis could thrive and blossom.

*The writer’s American and updated edition of Liberating The Malay Mindwill be released in October 2018.


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