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A sacking, racial debate and smoking fatwa

THE sacking of Datuk Zaid Ibrahim from Umno; continuing debate on racial integration; and disputes over a new fatwa were among the issues raised by the Malay-language press from 30 Nov to 4 Dec 2008.

Umno vice president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin foreshadowed Zaid’s eventual sacking in a statement captured on Sinar Harian‘s front page headline on 1 Dec: Zaid perlu jelaskan. Muhyiddin said that Zaid’s presence at Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR)’s congress over the 29 — 30 Nov weekend “did not make sense”. “His presence could be seen as giving moral support to the opposition,” said Muhyiddin.

Utusan Malaysia‘s 3 Dec front page Umno pecat Zaid Ibrahim then reported the sacking of Zaid from Umno, along with the three-year suspension of Petaling Jaya Selatan Umno chief, Datuk Zahar Hashim.

On 4 Dec, the paper reported responses from different leaders across the political divide regarding the sacking of Zaid.

In Pengajaran kepada ahli Umno, party supreme council member Datuk Seri Rais Yatim said: “If the supreme council did not take any action then it would make it seem like a body without any authority.” The lead for the story on Rais’s response said that Zaid’s sacking was meant to be “a lesson to party members who attempt things that embarrass the party”.

On the other hand, PAS spiritual advisor Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat said that his party would welcome and have a place for Zaid, on condition that Zaid repents and is sincere in fighting for a party that upholds Islamic politics.

“I prefer it this way for any Umno leaders who have fought [in Umno] and attacked PAS and Islam. If possible, they should now praise Islam, rage against the secularism they once upheld, and then only fill up the form to join PAS,” he said in a report titled PAS terima Zaid jika dia insaf.

PKR advisor Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, in a report titled Anwar pun tawar sertai PKR, also admitted that he had courted Zaid privately several times, and openly welcomed the former de facto law minister into PKR.

In his Bisik-Bisik column, Awang Selamat accused Zaid of knowingly doing things that would cause his expulsion from Umno after resigning from cabinet. Calling Zaid a liability to Umno, Awang said that no one would be surprised or sad if Zaid crossed over to the opposition. He closed his commentary with, “Awang — Rejecting liberal Malays.”

Racial division and integration

FiQNewly-elected MCA deputy president, Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek recently suggested replacing the concept of ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacy) with that of kepimpinan Melayu (Malay leadership).

The 30 Nov front page of Mingguan Malaysia titled Jangan persoal published a series of responses from four vice-presidential candidates for Umno’s upcoming party elections regarding Chua’s suggestion.

Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein said: “It is better for Barisan Nasional (BN) component party leaders to join the opposition if they keep wanting to drag up the nation’s history and facts.”

Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar warned other races to stop criticising the ketuanan Melayu concept because it is not a joke to be taken lightly. Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin claimed that the ketuanan Melayu concept had no connection with the relationship between slave and master. Rather it refers to the country’s origins and original inhabitants, the Malays.

Even before the furore over Chua’s comments had died down, Utusan Malaysia headlined Umno Youth chief hopeful Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir’s suggestion to abolish vernacular schools and replace them with a single education system. On its 2 Dec front page, Sekolah satu sistem, the paper published favourable responses by leading educationists.

Historian Prof Tan Sri Dr Khoo Kay Khim was quoted as saying that Mukhriz’s suggestion was very good and identical to the proposal in the Razak Report 1956 and the Barnes Committee 1951. Educationist Tan Sri Dr Abdul Rahmad Arshad said the suggestion could only be realised if there was political will, while Kolej Yayasan Melaka Rector Prof Datuk Dr Ramlah Adam said that the suggestion was nothing new but could encourage racial integration.

The paper’s 3 Dec editorial Tiada pilihan selain wujudkan satu sistem pendidikan, also weighed in on the issue. It said that the current system was divisive towards the younger generation. Chinese Malaysians send their children to Chinese schools, Indian Malaysians to Tamil schools, and Malay Malaysians to national and religious schools.

The editorial was juxtaposed against a guest piece by Anuar Ahmad of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, analysing the meaning of ketuanan Melayu. The main thrust of Anuar’s argument was that Malay Malaysians are no longer “tuans” or masters in their own land, because crime rates and poverty levels are highest among Malay Malaysians. He said that Malay Malaysian leaders can restore public confidence in ketuanan Melayu by restoring their integrity and credibility via a meritocratic system, not cronyism.

Confusion over fatwa

After the very swift and very public banning of tomboys and yoga by the National Fatwa Council, the issue of another controversial fatwa came up. Apparently, the National Fatwa Council had already banned smoking in 1997, but the fatwa has yet to be gazetted in all the states. The debate this time has been more nuanced.

The issue was initially brought up by PAS’s Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa in Parliament, asking why the fatwa had yet to be gazetted. On 2 Dec, Berita Harian in Bincang warta fatwa haram rokok reported Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai as saying that his ministry would have more discussions with Islamic specialists to get a clearer picture on why this was so.

On 3 Dec, Utusan Malaysia reported in Warta fatwa haram rokok terpulang kerajaan negeri that the National Fatwa Council was powerless to force state governments to gazette fatwas. Director-General of the Islamic Development Department of Malaysia (Jakim), Datuk Wan Mohamad Sheikh Abdul Aziz, said that the matter was under the jurisdiction of each state’s mufti. The same report quoted the Mufti of Perak, Datuk Seri Harussani Zakaria, as saying that it was not important to gazette this fatwa.

While on the subject of fatwas and muftis, 30 Nov marked the final instalment of outgoing Mufti of Perlis Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin’s column with Mingguan Malaysia, Pena Mufti. In his farewell piece, he announced that he was going to Britain on sabbatical leave. He is going to do research comparing fundamentalist and orientalist interpretations of the hadith (recorded traditions of Prophet Muhammad).

He confessed to facing several problems with the National Fatwa Council while he was mufti. For example, after Asri appeared on RTM in a live interview with Datuk Johan Jaafar, the council then convened a special hearing specifically to dispute the points Asri brought up. He said that there were quarters casting doubt on his PhD thesis when he came up with slightly more accommodating views regarding the fatwa banning yoga. Also, he revealed that Selangor allows all state muftis to give public talks except the Mufti of Perlis, while Jakim has never appointed him to any fatwa panels in which other state muftis are appointed. Nevertheless, he said that he accepted all these challenges with a smile and was not offended. TNG

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