Hannah’s book controversy

As expected, Selangor assemblywoman Hannah Yeoh’s book, “Becoming Hannah”, is flying off the bookshelves! The book is currently out of stock on MPHOnline.com (but can be ordered) and sold out at all MPH outlets — except two — in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, according to the sales attendant at an MPH outlet I visited yesterday to get the book!

Thanks to the publicity created by Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) lecturer Kamarul Zaman Yusoff, who is the director of UUM’s Malaysian Institute for Political Studies, people are now reading Hannah’s book.

Kamarul, after reading the book, had described her in a post on Facebook as an “example of DAP’s biggest hypocrisy”, and accused DAP of mixing politics with Christian teachings.

Hannah lodged a police report over his allegations, following which Kamarul also made a police report claiming that the stories in her book “can influence readers, including myself, to feel admiration for the greatness of Hannah Yeoh’s God.”

Whatever the controversy, people are reading Hannah’s book and will judge for themselves if the allegations are, indeed, true. That, really, is the right thing to do. Read the book and judge for yourself.

Not having read the book, I don’t know if Hannah clearly stated on the cover that her account is an expression of her faith. The product description on MPHOnline.com, however, carries an introduction by Dato Dr Alex Mathews which clearly states: “Hers (her book) is a story of unwavering faith in and allegiance to a loving God …” That should tell whoever who wants to read her book that this is a faith journey.

Turning the pages of the book, they will realise it is about her Christian faith. So, whoever wants to read the book has the choice not to read or buy it if they don’t want to know anything about the Christian faith. If, however, you do, you can’t claim she is proselytising and accuse her and her political party of a “christianizing’ agenda”.

This “christianization” argument is always thrown at Christians often for no apparent reason, except, I suspect, to gain political mileage or to ventilate through Christian-bashing. “Christianization” is an outdated cliche which holds no currency now, especially since every religion practices “…ization”. There’s Islamization, Hinduization, Buddhistization … .

So, it is extremely hypocritical to accuse the adherents of one religion of doing what every religion unapologetically does. In Malaysia, constitutionally, we can’t proselytize to Muslims. However, that does not mean that we can’t share our faith experiences.

Sharing our experiences does not mean proselytizing even when it influences others because it comes under freedom of expression. Every idea or thought, whether religious, political, social or economical, when expressed, influences. An “…ization” takes place.

Someone expresses himself or herself and another or others will be influenced by it. Just because some will be influenced does not mean that we can’t express ourselves. That is telling us not to talk, which is a deprivation of our right to freedom of expression!

How ridiculous can that be!

“To be influenced” as a result of sharing does not mean proselytizing because the intent is not to manipulate one to believe.

When people communicate and express themselves, it is open-ended. There’s a choice to accept or reject or dismiss the point expressed. Whatever choice we make, it is our decision and we should not put the blame on others.

Kamarul’s simplistic explanation of Hannah’s book is a baseless slip of logic from the premise that the book carries Bible verses and its stories can influence the reader, to the conclusion, it has a hidden agenda to christianize.

That is slippery slide logic and one which I don’t expect from a university lecturer.

 

 

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In general elections mode

In the wake of fake news and bad news, the best news I heard today is Umno’s expression of its readiness for the 14th General Elections at its 71st anniversary bash. It means that the 14thGE is imminent.

For me, the 14thGE will be a watershed in the history of this nation — if the people choose to vote wisely, for the good of the nation and not for parochial reasons.

This elections will show clearly what the bumiputras want, whether they support the incumbent leadership or they will abandon it altogether. The non-bumiputras have already given up on the ruling coalition. They are mostly with the opposition and it is likely it will remain there.

So, the people to watch are the bumiputras. They form the majority in Malaysia and only they can bring about a change. Already a large number is in the opposition. It’s the vote of the rest that will determine the new government.

Like many other Malaysians, I’m praying and hoping that in the coming elections, they will vote decisively and put a stop to all the nonsense we have had to put up with these past 8 years.

If they give the opposition, Pakatan Harapan, the chance to rule, it will be the best thing for Malaysia. The level of corruption that has become the norm, the fanatical fundamental religious extremism, the lack of well thought of properly executed policies and this drifting along on the strength of previously built fundamentals will come to an end and we can breathe again and hope for a better, inclusive nation for all her citizens.

I’m not saying PH will be great leaders but they will establish laws and policies which will prevent the excesses of the past, and, that, will, definitely be good for the nation.

So, folks, as citizens, let’s do our part. Let’s start talking with everyone to influence the vote to benefit the people most!

It’s we on the ground, both here in the Peninsula and East Malaysia, who are going to make the difference.

Viva, ordinary people!

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The silence of the majority breeds tyranny by the minority

Last week there was a flutter of messages circulating in cyberspace that the police were stopping citizens and asking for their hand phones. Enraged victims told others to resist giving their hand phones to the police.

According to senior lawyer and legal activist Philip Koh (who is also a good friend of mine), the police can ask to see our hand phones, especially if there’s an ongoing investigation.

If you are not aware of any investigation, and you are stopped at a roadblock, Koh advises: “A case of a police at a roadblock asking for a hand phone or laptop may be a case where the person may demand for a reason before cooperating.”

In other words, engage the cop for an explanation before complying. The cop will realise that he is dealing with someone in the know and, hopefully, be more reasonable and accommodating.

The point is that the cops can ask us to see our hand phones. That is legal.

In one of the messages I received someone said that he checked with a policemen he knew who said that cops were checking hand phones to look for political exchanges.

Why would the police do this unless someone at the top directed them to do so? Whoever directed their subordinate cops to do this is clearly engaging in politics. Is that the police’s job?

It is extremely dangerous when one or a few people at the top direct the use of government machinery to invade the privacy of citizens for political purposes.

Dress Seduction

Recently, a 12-year-old girl had to withdraw from the National Scholastic Chess Championship 2017 in Putrajaya because — according to the chief arbiter who spoke to her and her mother — her knee-length dress was considered “seductive” and a “temptation”.

According to news report, the chief arbiter said that the tournament director (who later denied he said it) had this view of the girl.

Seriously? A 12-year-old’s dress style? This man or men couldn’t control his feelings and so the girl had to go?

With what audacity did this chief arbiter get rid of this girl and deprived her of well-earned right to participate in the tournament?

One man powerless to control his own emotions deprives another of her right, and feels he has the right to do so. Is this fair?

How can we allow one or a few men to tell the rest how to behave just because they can’t handle their own feelings?

PAS Will

PAS Youth wasn’t happy that approval was given to US thrash metal band Megadeth to perform at Stadium Negara yesterday. They said “it is in violation of the guidelines on entertainment in the perspective of Islam published by Jakim (the Malaysian Islamic Development Department) and endorsed by the National Fatwa Committee …”.

PAS’ strategy is clear to all: It wants political power to impose an Islamic government on all irrespective of whether they are Muslim or not and whether the latter want it or not. Their activities are towards that end.

PAS is free to believe what it believes and to express themselves. But when that freedom curtails another’s right — like the right of whoever to hold and attend a rock concert like the Megadeth’s — that’s imposing their will on others. Or, when they introduce a bill to enhance syariah laws, that’s definitely imposing their will on others, including non-Muslims, who will also definitely be affected by it.

In any democracy, there will be a multiplicity of voices and expressions. When those voices dictate what the majority must do or behave by the force of religion or the power they wield, it is tyranny.

In the above three cases, that is the underlying trend: A few people are calling the shots as to who can say what can be said in politics, how a child should be dressed and imposing a form of religion on the rest.

And the only reason why they have the liberty to do so is because the majority is silent. True, many people have spoken up openly and powerfully against the injustices the above cases reveal, but they are still a minority. The majority are still silent.

A silent majority is conducive for an aggressive minority to wield its influence. And that is what we are now seeing in this country.

There are religious undertones in the three incidents described above. That may be the reason for the silence. Majority Muslims — even if they disagree with such minority influences — may feel that it isn’t right to speak against anything religious.

That is something that the Muslims in this country have to figure out for themselves.

Christians used to be the same centuries ago. But over the centuries our thinking has evolved and dissent is now part and parcel of Christian life. It is consistent with our belief to speak the truth in love (Eph 5: 15: “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”)

Sometimes, we don’t get the speaking the truth “in love” right and we have even gone to war over it, but we have learnt from our history and learnt to accommodate diversity in our faith.

It is something worth thinking about because tyranny of any colour, race, religion or power must be checked. And the only people who can stop it is the majority — if they rise up, speak up and make a stand against the unjust and unreasonable dictates of the minority.

 

 

 

 

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Asking for what we want, without manipulating

When you look at all the financial scams taking place now you know people are desperate for money. Some of these people don’t even mind being scammed if it will bring them some money! It, perhaps, is another sign that an increasing number of people are being left out of economic growth.

In this state of affairs, charitable organisations are most affected. The number of people with pictures of their welfare homes to show whoever will see and pledge a donation is a common sight outside banks. I don’t know if what they are doing is legal and whether they are genuinely seeking funds for their homes or simply scamming unsuspecting people. But, it shows that people need money and are resorting to all sorts of activities — manipulating — to get it.

Even churches are affected, especially Protestant churches because — unlike the Catholic church which is centrally funded — they are dependent on their respective congregations for funds.

They, too, are feeling the pinch. On several occasions I have heard the priest or pastor comment from the pulpit how only a few ringgit are dropping into the collection bag!

Their concern is understandable but, sometimes, some people go to unnecessary extremes. At one church I know, the offering time is highlighted as part of worship. Nothing wrong with that because, I guess, if you know God, every aspect of your life is an act of worship. But, when day in and day out you preach that when you bless the church (primarily by giving money) you yourself will be blessed and come out with a verse to show how you should give money to be blessed at every offering time, though well couched, it smacks of just a tinge of manipulation.

It’s a reflection of the strength of your relationship with the congregation. You don’t know them well enough to know if they will support you. You are not sure and you try to strengthen your justification with biblical verses to ask so that people will give because it implies that this is “in the name of God” and the people are obligated.

If your relationship with the congregation is healthy, you will not try to justify your actions in this way. You know your congregation and you trust and respect them enough to just explain the need and simply ask.

In a strong relationship, people will know they should give not out of compulsion but freely because they want to — not because they are made to feel obligated. What they give may not be enough for our needs, but, that is where faith comes in.

If we desperately need something and if we don’t have the faith, we’ll manipulate or find some even illicit way to get it, whether it’s money, love, job. friends, promotions etc, etc.

If we have faith, we’ll trust God and ask honestly and sincerely, giving the other person a “back-out” clause to say no or withdraw.  We’ll graciously accept the response and adjust accordingly.

When we have to posture and manoeuvre to ask, it is not by faith. When we ask by faith, we are open-ended and prepared even for a “no” answer. We deal with whatever is the response. And, we do it from a position of strength and confidence.

 

 

 

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It’s just politically-motivated

It is very magnanimous of PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang to forgive Nanyang Siang Pau for its caricature of him and Dewan Rakyat Speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia over his bill to amend syariah laws in Kelantan.

By apologising, he has presented a face of Islam rarely seen by the rest of the world. A Muslim leader when criticised, forgives. If it is Islamic to forgive, then it would mean that all the Muslim terrorists in the world and those who engage in religious vigilantism are not practising what their religion teaches. Maybe, Hadi should take to the world stage and urge Muslims everywhere to follow their religion and forgive. That, surely, would dampen this bloodlust that is rampaging across the world.

But, seriously, was there a need for Hadi to forgive? Did Nanyang Siang Pau do wrong in publishing a caricature in which Hadi and Amin were depicted as monkeys fooling around on a tree named Act 355, in reference to Hadi’s private member’s bill to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 (Act 355), to increase shariah punishments in  Kelantan?

The bill was the last item tabled on the last day of the Dewan Rakyat assembly on April 6, but the debate was deferred to the next session.

To me, the Chinese daily’s cartoon was creative fair comment. Two politicians using the bill for whatever their reasons. That’s an issue for public debate, in Parliament and in the public sphere. I don’t understand why PAS members reacted so angrily to a caricature of their leader as a monkey.

How come no one said anything when Hadi referred to Umno and Pakatan Harapan (PH) as lizards when he commented that associating with BN (Barisan Nasional) was like carrying a live monitor lizard on your back and joining PH was like carrying an even bigger monitor lizard?

It’s true that monkeys have a connotative meaning implying playfulness which monitor lizards don’t have. But, it is still a caricature using words while the Chinese daily used a cartoon. Why is one wrong and the other admissible?

Public figures are publicly accountable. Their actions will be reported and publicly debated. Reporters write. Cartoonists caricature. The Chinese daily merely did its job. There was no insult to anyone or to Islam.

It upsets no one’s sensibilities except PAS supporters’ sensibilities because the underlying reasoning behind PAS supporters’ reaction is that non-Muslims must not say anything negative about their leaders or their religion.

C’mon! Grow up! Equals talk. If you see yourself as an unequal and feel disenfranchised you will feel the need to assert yourself by telling everyone else not to do anything that you usually can’t handle.

In the course of discussion, if anyone does a wrong, it is the right of the wounded party to take the other person to court. Otherwise, wouldn’t it be better to talk and leave it at that? Isn’t that a healthier form of public discourse instead of getting angry over the slightest difference because you can’t handle it?

Nanyang Siang Pau was gracious. The moment they realised that they had offended some Muslims they apologised, even though, I feel they didn’t have to. Hadi responded by doing the same. End of story.

Having said that, I ask why doesn’t Hadi forgive the DAP? The two parties exchanged some harsh words over Act 355 resulting in PAS leaving PH. But why not forgive the DAP and get back into the PH?

Or, is it the case of selective forgiveness? The Chinese daily apologised so Hadi could be big-hearted and forgive. The DAP hasn’t, so, we shouldn’t expect Hadi to forgive the party.

So, it is political rather than religious? PAS mustn’t be seen as giving in to DAP.

All these shenanigans by our politicians have led me to the conclusion that when our politicians speak — no matter what they say — it is politically motivated. They may say whatever they say in the name of high democratic ideals, reforms, progress or development or even religion. The base reason, however, is simple, plain political expediency.

When incumbent leaders speak, you know it is for their political survival at whatever cost. When religious party leaders speak, it is for the same reason. They want to be seen as putting their religion first in order to maintain their support base and increase it, especially if they feel their support is shrinking or threatens to shrink.

When opposition politicians speak you know it is to bring about a change in government. But, we can trust opposition leaders more because they have the least to lose.

When Malaysian politicians speak, it might be better for the rest of us not to take them seriously. Listen to everyone, understand their political motives and vote for those who can best advance your interests.

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Disturbing disappearances

I’m simply disturbed by the news that there has been not one but, at least, two abductions of Malaysian citizens that can’t be accounted for. The first case was the kidnapping of Pastor Raymond Koh, and the second involves social activist Amri Che Mat.

In addition, there is the case of Pastor Joshua Hilmy and his wife, Ruth, who have been missing since last November. Recently, social activist and former Petaling Jaya councillor Peter Chong was reported missing.

The Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar, said that Chong was seen crossing into Thailand. No further details? Strange.

There is a single thread linking the above cases. They are or were involved in non-mainstream work. Koh is alleged to be involved in converting Muslims to Christianity. Amri is alleged to be a Shia Muslim spreading that brand of Islam. Joshua and Ruth are pastors, and that must be a crime! Whether religion is involved in Chong’s activities is unclear but he is a social activist associated with Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), which is an opposition party.

The point is if their actions went against the law, why weren’t they arrested and charged? Instead, something more sinister has emerged. Koh’s and Amri’s disappearances suggest that well-trained personnel with access to resources such as SUVs and other vehicles professionally executed the abductions.

Are they vigilantes or terrorists? Who are they? How can they carry out an abduction in broad daylight and out in the open and no one knows anything about it? That is according to the police.

What is most disturbing about these cases is that no government official — except for the IGP — has even made the slightest reference to these cases.

Why is the government silent about these disappearances? Their silence is even more worrying because it gives people more room to conjecture what might have happened and that does nothing to allay the disquiet among Christians.

Two days ago, finally, one minister came out and said these missing persons’ cases were causing “distress to the country’s Christian community”. Tan Sri Joseph Kurup, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department and Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah president, said that these cases appeared linked to Christianity and that the government was very concerned and paying close attention to these cases.

Yet, no one has any lead about these cases. It is extremely mystifying that police can’t find any information on these cases. They are quick to solve other cases and seems to know about everything else that goes on in this country but seem stumped with these missing persons’ cases.

Of course, the government silence is political. Muslim ministers would not want to be seen sympathetic to  Christian concerns for fear of losing votes. Hence, after a long while, they left it to a Christian minister like Kurup to make a statement to allay Christian fears because they are fully aware that Christians, especially in East Malaysia, may be so disturbed by this turn of events that it might translate to a loss of votes in the general elections.

If the “safe deposit” states of Sabah and Sarawak get wise to what’s happening in the peninsula, the ruling BN-government may lose the support on which they won the last general elections. East Malaysians need to know they are key in the coming general elections.

The government’s back-pedaling of Hadi’s bill to amend syariah laws in Kelantan was largely due to this factor. East Malaysians are spooked by Hadi’s bill. And the disappearance of fellow Christians into thin air without a trace hasn’t alleviated their anxiety.

The concerns expressed here are simply the questions on every decent, rational person’s mind. We need answers for a just closure.

If these cases are not solved soon enough, the Christian community in Malaysia, especially in East Malaysia, will not be convinced that we have the protection of this government. It will be a sad truth to acknowledge, a reality that Malaysian Christians must brace ourselves for and, perhaps, change for a safer future.

Today is Good Friday and on Sunday we celebrate Easter, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the weekend to contemplate again on the agony of the passion of Christ and His exhilarating triumph over death. As we meditate on the fundamental truths of our faith, may we realise that we have to follow in His footsteps and bless those who curse, persecute and kill us and love those who hate us.

May we also realise that because He rose from the dead and ascended to His rightful place in heaven, He is at hand to help us make the decisions we must to change our destiny, which will be for everyone’s good.

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The gift of personal grace

Today, I want to write about something uplifting. In the grip of dark, scheming politics — Hadi’s bill got tabled at the Dewan Rakyat but deferred to the next sitting for debate, creating an uproar in the house with everyone fully aware it is yet another round of sickening self-serving politics — I think some good news might be in order.

I’m going to write on personal change!

Last week, Dr George O Wood, the chairman of the World Assemblies of God Fellowship and general-superintendent of the General Council of the Assemblies of God, USA was the speaker at Calvary Church’s weekend services and he taught a very important truth about being Christian.

Titled “Your Identity in Christ”, he preached about what that means. He said that that identity is how God sees as, in biblical language, “saved and saints, not sinners”. In modern language, it simply means that Christians are being recreated to become people as Christ sees us, the old changed into new.

Wood gave a couple of illustrative examples. I’ll share one which clearly sends home his message. He shared about a little girl he saw many years back at a friend’s home. The girl, belonging to one of the guests at that visit, was called “Tiger” and she was tearing around the house, grabbing this and that with the hosts running after her to put the things back or stop from falling. Some time later, Wood visited that home again and “Tiger” was there, too, with her family.

This time, however, “Tiger” was sitting quietly, very well-behaved. But, she was no longer called “Tiger”; she was called “Lamb”. Many years later, when he was teaching a class, he recognized the girl’s last name on his attendance list and spoke to her after class.

“I don’t know whether this is you or your sister. But were you or your sister called ‘Tiger’ as a child?” he asked.

She said, no. But as she walked away, she turned around suddenly and said, “But, I remember, ‘Lamb’!”

That was the point. She naturally might have been a tiger with her lamb qualities non-existent or recessive. Her parents chose to give her a new identity and affirmed it and she grew up to become someone far from bring a tiger, a nature that now wasn’t even in her consciousness. She was no longer a tiger. She grew into someone different and better!

“That’s the gift of grace!” Wood says. As Christians, our identity with Christ puts us in a position where whatever our problems — drug addiction, drunkeness, character flaws, shame, guilt, etc, etc — can be changed because Christ is constantly affirming our new nature.

When we know that He see us as His new creative works, that is how He affirms us and we become free to explore who we are in Christ and to become this new person according to His values. The end product can only be better, never worse!

The Christian is not a finished product; we are works in progress. It’s a life-long journey of exploring, discovering, learning, struggling and growing through it all as we make decisions by faith according to His values.

In the process we see ourselves changing, into what we may not know yet but our inherent good nature and grace by faith merges and we truly become new creations, better people.

Even if you are not a Christian, the principle of affirmation can be applied to you. Just affirm what you know is good in you and others. The result can only be uplifting.

 

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