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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Let’s expand our network of influence

We are all activists in some way. Someone will send some info and we pass it on from one whats app group to another or through Facebook. And, we engage in lively debate when we meet. But, I think, we need to do more.

In the last week, I had long conversations with two friends and I realised that although they have their own respective jobs, they go the extra mile to make people aware of the current state of affairs in the country.

One has set up a group to reach out to their communities on issues confronting them and the other has many contacts in key places and he is eager to know more people on the ground to communicate his concerns so that they will be better-informed voters.

For the moment, I will keep their identities hidden because it does not matter who they are. They could be any of us, influencing the people around us.

Most of us, however, tend to be happy just passing on info we get on FB and whats app to our group or groups or exchange ideas when we meet and then, go back to our normal routines.

I think we need to go beyond. We can’t just be sharing info with people who already know. We have to reach those who don’t know.

That was why I spoke to the above-mentioned two people. I am very concerned that correct information on the state of the country is not reaching the people who can make the difference in the coming general elections because the incumbent leadership controls the media the ground reads or listens to or watches mostly — through tv.

This leadership also has access to government resources for use to reach the remote interiors to advance their points of view. In past general elections, it’s a known fact that BN leaders flew in chartered helicopters to campaign among the rural folk in Sarawak and Sabah.

The opposition has no such resources to reach these communities and so are unable to give an alternative point of view.

I was thinking about these things when I heard about these two people. I made contact and discovered they thought the same and were already ahead of me doing their bit for the sake of the community.

There are many people out there who are doing similar work in their individual capacities. They help in voter registration, voter verification and in door-to-door surveys. They distribute food and clothings.

The challenge is for those of you who are reading this post to do the same. We may not belong to any political party or NGO but we can extend our reach in our own personal way.

We need to reach those who are in the dark. We can do that in a number of small ways. We can include in our whats app and FB groups people who know people who know people on the ground.

We can speak to our maids, the gardeners, the drivers, the local council cleaners, the shop owners.

We can take short visits to the rural communities, eat their foods, buy their produce and chat, tactfully steering the conversation to political and economic awareness over local coffee or tea.

It would be fun and count towards nation-building!

We need to do more. I hope this post will motivate more and more people to extend their network of reach, so that by the time the general elections are announced, there is a groundswell of more aware people who will vote for the right reasons and who will not be swayed by promises and a couple of RM.

 

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Glowing statistics, but what’s the true picture?

Of late, we have been bombarded with statistics of all sorts. Very impressive, and commendable.

Saudi Arabia’s state oil company Saudi Aramco’s US $ 7 billion (RM31 billion) investment in an oil refinery and petrochemical project in Johor. Alibaba founder Jack Ma’s involvement in a digital free trade zone touted to generate trade worth US$65 billion (RM286 billion).

And, of course, there are all those billions from China.

We may see the effects of these billions of ringgit of investments in the years to come, no doubt.

But, for the moment, let’s just look at the statistics for up to the present.

Under the  National Transformation Programme (NTP), 1.8 million jobs — half of which were high income jobs — were created from 2010 to 2016, Prime Minister Najib Razak said recently.

He also said that through the NTP, the Gross National Income (GNI) increased by nearly 50%.

The Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) later pointed out that according to the latest figures by the Economic Planning Unit, the average income per person had fallen by 15% from US$10,345 in 2013 to US$8,821 in 2016.

If the figures were converted to Ringgit Malaysia, however, it would show an increase from RM32,596 in 2013 to RM37,930 in 2016 because of the depreciation of the ringgit, and that may have accounted for the said “increase” in nearly 50% of GNI.

A day later, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Abdul Rahman Dahlan said that the fastest growth in income was recorded by the bottom 40% household income group known as the B40 who earn an average monthly income of RM3,900 and below.

All this is great and I am glad to know that the economy is going somewhere although our average income has fallen!

Some analysts say this is due to the cyclical downturn of the economy. Well, I can accept that.

I just have one concern. If the B40 has registered the fastest growth in income, shouldn’t the percentage have reduced? Shouldn’t the group become B39% 0r 38% or less? I’m no economist, so, am I missing something here?

That is the piece of statistics that I want to know. This is the telling statistic that will show if the government’s policies have benefitted the B40 group.

If the B40 population has decreased, the policies of the government must be lauded. If it hasn’t or, perhaps, have actually increased, then the government must rethink its policies.

Quite apparently, the billions poured into the economy has not filtered down to the people who most need it because the reality doesn’t seem to show it, unless, of course, I and the rest of us are expected not to believe what we see.

Companies are closing down, staff retrenched, and people are desperately searching for alternatives as prices shoot up.

So, where has all that money gone? To those who already have it? If that is the case, then, the income disparity between the B40 and the top 60% has apparently widened.

I’m just conjecturing here because I can’t find that B40 piece of statistics. I checked the Department of Statistics Malaysia portal but couldn’t find that piece of information.

Perhaps, there is an economist among my readers who can enlighten the rest of us on this issue on the correct interpretation of the statistics that are thrown at us.

Only a fair, reliable and independent analysis will give us a true picture of the state of our economy to help the business community make the right decisions and voters to vote based on correct information.

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