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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Malaysia’s bumiputera debate asks the wrong questions

http://i.imgur.com/27vG1rz.jpg 
Hwok-Aun Lee, East Asia Forum
Author: Hwok-Aun Lee, University of Malaya
Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak rolled out his Bumiputera Economic Empowerment Programme (BEEP) on 14 September 2013.
The agenda’s blatant political motives, ethnically exclusive giveaways and the absence of any acknowledgment of past shortcomings or lessons learned delighted his UMNO faithful and Malay nationalist audience.
He made it easy — perhaps too easy — to condemn the BEEP.
The most voluble criticism is that the policy does not benefit the vast majority of thebumiputera or the poor in general, and that the money should be allocated to broader social spending instead. This contention is understandable, but detracts attention from a more important question.
The time is ripe to ask whether Malaysia should in the first place promote bumiputeraindustry. In particular, should Malaysia endeavour to raise bumiputera participation in the ownership and management of dynamic enterprises, especially in industrial sectors, and should the country implement effective programs that directly try to achieve that national objective?
These questions are better tackled head-on because, for the most part, reactions to the BEEP have split into opposing flanks, neither of which offers constructive and feasible prospects for reform. There is the Perkasa–UMNO–Barisan Nasional stance of explicitly supporting the agenda and perpetuating corrupt policies. In contrast, there is a popular counterpoint of implicitly supporting bumiputera industrial development (opposition to the objective is very rare) but advocating needs-based, pro-poor policies as solutions. This argument is usually paired with the claim that race should not be a factor in qualifying for empowerment opportunities, especially government contracting and licensing.
Rhetoric and popular momentum behind needs-based policies and meritocracy are high, and much negative reaction to the BEEP springs from these principles. However, the discourse is disconnected and muddled.
This bumiputera agenda does follow a long line of failure, shortfalls and mishits. Nonetheless, these past experiences do not in any way make social spending a viable alternative for the purpose of bumiputera industrial development. Such needs-based policies are pursuing distinct objectives. They will help level the field in basic needs and attainments, but can scarcely be depended on to produce dynamic bumiputeraenterprises.
Practically, as well, programs and allocations cannot be lightly switched from one set of recipients to another. Many have focused on the approximately RM30 billion worth of spending that can be tallied from Najib’s BEEP launch speech, especially RM20 billion per year of Petronas contracts for upstream and downstream projects. This forthcoming largesse clearly placates Malay contractors who have complained of being neglected. However, it does not immediately follow that this comes at a cost to society at large.
The Malaysian government cannot carve up a Petronas contract to one firm and offer it instead to masses of people. Likewise, these funds are tied up in particular projects and cannot simply be appropriated for other purposes. Inflated prices and substandard quality do incur a social cost, but this raises questions about the amounts being spent and the selection process, not the entire procurement policy.
Again, the pertinent question is: should Malaysia intervene in bumiputera industrial development? It’s plainly untenable to answer ‘yes’ and then leave it to social spending to deliver the results. On the interrelated matter of meritocracy, undoubtedly there is a case to be made for abolishing racial representation in selection criteria for contracts and licences, and making the process transparent, stringent and competitive. Still, such policies have no direct role in facilitatingbumiputera participation in industry.
So, those opposing bumiputera industrial development policies must acknowledge the consequences: purposefully omitting bumiputera enterprise development as an objective and bumiputera representation as a target, and leaving these outcomes open-ended. Such a reform would hold out the possibility that bumiputeraparticipation might not increase or be sustained — and may well decline. The risk of the latter seems to have been ignored.
Interestingly, there is frequent talk of resetting politics and resetting policies, never of resetting expectations. Yet can Malaysia implement meaningful and difficult reforms, and continue to target ambitious growth and improvement? Odds are stacked against having it all. The current situation arguably calls for more restrained and effective bumiputera industrial development — and suitably modest expectations and targets. Select policies are needed to cultivate long-term bumiputera industrial development and avert major declines in participation in the short term.
Surely this is better than Malaysia’s recent experience, where the government announces ‘needs-based’ and ‘merit-based’ affirmative action; provokes the ire of Malay contractors and the Malay Chamber of Commerce (and their UMNO patrons), who claim to have been sidelined; then makes concessions and yields the opportunity. Political courage and cogent policies are needed to seize these opportunities and admit that there will be transition pains.
Of course, the prospects of real reform are slim. But the BEEP and reactions to it have not even engaged in policy discourse. Malaysia needs to return to the starting blocks and deliberate whether to have bumiputera industrial development policies at all. If the answer is ‘no’, the country must think of the possible consequences, especially the politically unpalatable ones. If the answer is ‘yes’, then Malaysia needs to think of effective measures, and leave aside social spending for other conversations.
Hwok-Aun Lee is Senior Lecturer in Development Studies at the University of Malaya.

When truth and myth collide

Hence one religion of two sects (Essene Jews and Nazarene Jews) eventually broke into two separate religions 400 years after Jesus and about 200 years before Islam. And then Islam, which also started as a sect of the religion of Abraham, soon divorced from the two Jewish sects to become a third religion after Muhammad turned his back on Jerusalem -- the original Kiblat -- and adopted Mekah as the new Kiblat.
NO HOLDS BARRED
Raja Petra Kamarudin
There are three comments (see below) responding to my articles over the last week or so regarding the story of the creation of humankind (that is reported in particular in Genesis) that I would like to talk about.
I find that Christians -- just like Muslims -- do not know their religion. What they know is what they have heard in church -- just like Muslims know their religion based on what they have heard in the mosques. But then all these are mere stories that lack documentary evidence. And then they argue that there is evidence, which are the holy books.
Fine, the evidence that all these events did happen may be found in the holy books, as they argue. But where is the evidence that these books are holy, meaning that they came from God and not from man?
We must remember that the Old Testament Bible was still being written up to 200 years before the birth of Christ (meaning they were writing the history of humankind thousands of years after the event). But then where was this source of reference? The only evidence that some of what they say happened actually did happen was not discovered until almost 2,000 years later between 1946 and 1956 in Qumran.
And the evidence to all these events, the Dead Sea Scrolls, that was discovered just 50-60 years ago, not only confirms some of these stories but also points to some flaws in what we had believed for 2,000 years.
Genesis reports that humankind started 4,000 years before the birth of Christ. However, between Genesis and Exodus there is a gap of 400 years in the story of humankind. Then there is a further gap of 400 years between the end of the Bible’s story on humankind and the birth of Christ. So there is a total gap of 800 years in the 4,000 years history of humankind (400 years between Genesis and Exodus and 400 years before the birth of Christ).
Today, when we talk about the three Abrahamic faiths, we talk about Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The Quran makes a reference to the followers of Moses and the followers of Jesus who follow the way of Abraham as being the true submitters. (In fact, the Quran talks about the followers of Moses and the followers of Jesus and not the followers of Muhammad). Furthermore, the Quran refers to Jews as ‘Yahudi’ and Christians as ‘Nasrani’.
In that sense the Quran got it right because, at the time of Herod Archelaus, the Ethnarch of Judea ('Judea' is Hebrew but will be ‘Yahudia’ if in Greek), and Jesus, the Jews were divided into two groups -- the Jews of Judea/Yahudia (the Essene Jews) and the Jews of Nazareth (the Nazarene Jews). Hence Yahudi (Judea/Yahudia) and Nasrani (Nazareth) is the correct way to refer to the two groups of Jews. And this is what the Quran calls them.
It was not until 200 years after the birth of Christ when the Nazarene Jews began to separate from the Essene Jews. And by 400 years after the birth of Christ, the Nazarene Jews took on their own identity and doctrine and divorced totally from the Essene Jews.
Hence one religion of two sects (Essene Jews and Nazarene Jews) eventually broke into two separate religions 400 years after Jesus and about 200 years before Islam. And then Islam, which also started as a sect of the religion of Abraham, soon divorced from the two Jewish sects to become a third religion after Muhammad turned his back on Jerusalem -- the original Kiblat -- and adopted Mekah as the new Kiblat.
Hence even Islam faced Jerusalem first before turning to Mekah and this resulted in a separation of Islam from Judaism and Christianity.
The Gospel of the Nazarenes more or less sealed the split between the Essene Jews and the Nazarene Jews. This first and ‘ground-breaking’ Nazarene gospel was written in Hebrew and was written about 100 years after Jesus. In the year 177, Irenaeus, the Bishop of Lyon, challenged the writings of the Nazarenes and even went so far as to say that Jesus had practiced the wrong religion (or had committed heresy) in his treatise, Adversus Haereses (Against Heresy).
One of the Qumran scrolls, Aramaic Apocalypse, actually confirms that Nazarene Judaism (now called Christianity) is a breakaway from Essene Judaism. Hence, in short, Jesus was considered a heretic who had deviated from true Judaism.
The bottom line is, around 200 years after Jesus, the two Jewish sects of Judea and Nazareth began divorce proceedings and, another 200 years later, the divorce became final and Nazarene Judaism became known as Christianity. Then, another 200 years later, along came a third group that took some of the Judaism beliefs and some of the Christianity beliefs and thereafter emerged a third group under the name of Islam.
My final note is that Christians say they follow the New Testament and not the Old Testament. But then all the stories from the time of the creation of humankind up to the time of the creation of the nation of Israel are in the Old Testament. Are you saying the Christians reject all these stories?
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When Jesus Christ asked his apostle to spread the news, it is not just about the old testament, it is about how the old testament points to him, the savior and redeemer.
- When Adam and Eve sinned, they covered themselves with fig leaves but God covers them with animal skin, signified that sin must be repaid by blood and only God (Jesus) can repay it.
- When God judge the world with flood, he asked Noah to build an ark so that all who believe and enter the ark would be save, again pointing the God's salvation plan in Christ.
- When Abraham near sacrifice Isaac on the altar, this point to the actual sacrifice that God made with His son for the sin of the world.
- When Joseph brothers betrayed him but later was saved and forgave by Joseph, this point to the betrayal of the world of Christ but His grace and mercy remained.
The old testament is the preparation for the coming savior, the new testament is the revelation of the savior.
Darren, October 30, 2013
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With all due respect, there is no version 1 or 2 or 3. This may be your opinion but for Christians this is our faith. It is an insult to us when Islam is seen as the next evolution of our faith since it is not. It seems like the new trend now. Previously Islam was seen as the true faith while Christianity was not but now it is being referred to as the perfection of the one religion. Maybe there will be a 3rd squeal - 10 or 20 years down the road.
The Bible may be fallible but it is also very powerful. Like it or hate, people will talk about it. I'm a logical thinking person and always use the scientific approach. So I'm very well aware of it. But that does not stop me from reading through scriptures and passages that has given me inspirations, hope, strength and at times comfort.
You can dictate and deduce all you want but every follower of Christ knows that He is the Son and there will be none after him until judgement day.
'for all who draw the sword will die by the sword, forgive lest ye not be forgiven, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself' - these are some of the virtues that we try our best to live with and not just words read from a book and used as quotation.
As always the problem has never been the written word but the person who interprets it and acts upon it.
mentora, October 30, 2013
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I think the writer is being too logical in his thinking re the route Moses took in leading the Israelites out of Egypt. Remember there was no GPS in those days. They relied on the stars to find their way in the desert. Also, I don't think any of the Jews that left Egypt got to the Promised Land. Even Moses was denied this privilege and till today none can find his grave. After the idolatry and bad behaviour of the Jews like honouring the golden calf they were deemed unfit to reach their final destination. I think Joshua led the people instead of Moses and by then after 40 years of wandering in the desert the next generation was the ones who entered the Promised Land. About whether Moses existed and the Exodus happened, I doubt 3 world religions can be wrong about this truth. It is only us and our feeble minds who think we know better, at times even more superior than God!
Angel, October 30, 2013

Infamous blogger couple says Umno behind Facebook flap

Vivian and Alvin at the High Court, this morning. - The Malaysian Insider pic by Nazir Sufari, October 31, 2013.Vivian and Alvin at the High Court, this morning. - The Malaysian Insider pic by Nazir Sufari, October 31, 2013.Alvin Tan and Vivian Lee, the sex-blogger pair who evoked anger with their Ramadan posting on Facebook in July, told the High Court today that the furore which followed the posting was because Muslims were sensitive and emotional.
They also said that the prosecutor's contention that the picture of them having Bak-Kut-Teh (herbal pork soup) – which accompanied their Ramadan greeting – would threaten public order, was not true.
"This is only a perception. Several Umno politicians had also contributed to the furore for their political gain," the couple said in their affidavit to strike out one of the three charges against them at the High Court.
Tan and Lee, both 24, have been charged under Section 298A of the Penal Code for causing disharmony, disunity, or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will on grounds of religion.
They face two other charges under the Sedition Act and the Film Censorship Act.
At the hearing today, the couple's lawyer Chong Joo Tian argued that the section under which the couple was charged should not be used against non-Muslims, adding that Section 298A was not about public order.
Chong also said that charging the two under this section was clearly an infringement of their rights and freedom of expression enshrined in the Federal Constitution.
"Section 298A had no application on non-Muslims. It is purely a provision to control the precepts practised in the religion of Islam in Federal Territories. It is not for the purpose of restricting non-Muslims right to freedom of expression," he noted.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin, however, argued there was nothing to say that Section 298A was limited to those practising Islam.
He added that the same section would also apply if a Muslim invited Hindus to consume beef during Deepavali.
"Section 298A does not say anything about the religion of Islam, it says religion fullstop, nothing more, nothing less. And it is my submission that the section is related to public order.
"A non-Muslim posts about Muslims and bak-kut-teh during Ramadan, if that is not related to public order, then I don't know what is," said Wan Shaharuddin.
He also argued against the duo's claims that Muslims were being emotional and sensitive over the issue and that the controversy was fueled by Umno.
"But 99% who lambasted their actions were from their own race, and I'm not being racist here," he pointed out.
Wan Shaharuddin said that the duo had admitted in their affidavit that they were the ones who uploaded the posting on Facebook.
In their affidavit in reply, the couple said their posting did not have anything to do with religion but was just a "Selamat Berbuka Puasa" greeting which was misintepreted as insulting Islam, adding that the allegation was baseless and illogical.
"The allegations only proved the attitude and prejudiced thinking towards other races in Malaysia, their lack of knowledge and lack of confidence in their own religion, as well as having the tendency to react emotionally without facts," the affidavit stated.
The couple said that bak-kut-teh did not neccessarily contain pork or even meat, as presumed by the respondents.
They added that since 2009, the government, through the Tourism Ministry, had introduced bak-kut-teh or "meat bone tea" as a promotional food item to be enjoyed by all Malaysians.
High Court judge Kamardin Hashim will deliver the decision on the couple's striking out appeal on Nov 14.

Desire, Allah & Trinity – Alwyn Lau


The name of God is like desire. If someone has a bad case of Horny, demanding that he becomes a purity angel will only make him grow horns. Try to tell people they’re not allowed to love in a certain manner and you may as well try to put out a fire by drowsing it with Ron 95. Police the erotic and you’ll end up eroticizing the policing.
Isn’t this why virtually all attempts to stamp out the gay "problem" tend to back-fire? If you judge my sex you’ll not only generate more heat than light, you’ll get me and my partner in heat faster than you can say LGBTQ.
On the Sunday right after the Court of Appeal’s unappealing decision on October 14, most non-Malay speaking churches in PJ/KL proudly defied the law and used the word ‘Allah’ for (probably) the first time in their worship services.
Previously – and would you believe Allah has been a BN-created problem since 1986? - had these same churches used God’s Arabic title, many worshippers would’ve been giggling. Today, the word is a rallying cry. On the whole it’s like trying to ban Americans from using the word “American”. Try that and it’ll be the 4th of July every day.
A law against invoking God’s name is a recipe for rousing God’s people. But that’s not the only irony of the Allah judgment.
Other than producing more only-in-Malaysia jokes, it also provided some theological laughs. Like when Jakim claims that Christian use of Allah nullifies the Trinity. Haha. This is like saying that my conference in Penang should not be called a Malaysian conference because it’s held in only one state. Haha.
Three centers of consciousness (the sexier term for “persons”) known and worshipped as one God is no more nullified by a single title (in reference to the Godhead they are and share) any more than Baskin Robbins’ thirty one flavors are nullified when people speak of the ice-cream served at BR in the singular.
The Trinity means 3-in-1. God is plural, but not alone. Likewise, Malaysia is 13-in-1 hence it’s quite un-Malaysian when some states (not least Sabah and Sarawak) are treated like unwanted children left alone. In fact, Trinitarian thinking is something our law-makers could consider because the concept entails that the Many draws value, strength and purpose from the One (and each other), and vice-versa.
In Malaysian-ese this means, e.g., that Terengganu and Selangor and Sabah are one and the same with all the other states, we are all Malaysian, we share with each other and mutually nurture each other up. It means that Malay, Chinese and Indian all encapsulate the “Malaysian” because we adhere to and grow with each other.
A Chinese already Malaysian but she is most Malaysian when she shows compassion to and solidarity with a Malay and Indian. Ditto, East and West Malaysia.
You know how most Singaporean churches today couldn’t give a rat’s behind about the plight of their Malaysian "family in Christ"? Well, isn’t that the same deal with Peninsular Malaysians vis-à-vis our Sabah-&-Sarawak churches? Even now, nobody’s exactly rushing to GIRO funds over to East Malaysian churches. Even now, there is a nagging suspicion that most Christians in the Klang Valley are more concerned that they - and NOT the folks living next to Mount Kinabalu and the hornbills flying around it – aren’t allowed to use Allah.
This is doubly weird, because East Malaysian Christians were never "in" to the word in the first place. It simply wasn’t on our minds, let alone on the agenda. Doesn’t this uncannily remind you of the consumption phenomenon? Our lives were perfectly fine without fancy cars, without smart-tablets and without the latest TV.
But lo and behold one of our Facebook friends (whom we spend less than two seconds a year thinking about) shows it off one time on his wall, and without ado we decide we MUST possess it! God forbid it wasn’t in our hands yesterday.
This is what Marx calls "commodity fetishism" i.e. our consumables develop an aura, a life of their own over and above practical utility or real worth. The point here is not to compare the ‘Allah’ issue with IKEA discounts. It’s to highlight how flimsy and flippant our emotions can be.
It’s also to caution that we don’t do with God’s name what we do with pop-tech stuff i.e. get excited for a while and ignore when something cooler comes along.
As with an iPad, not so with God’s name. The Allah issue shows Malaysian Christians how much we need each other despite the South China Sea separating us. The Allah issue shows how much the Malaysian faithful are connected despite the doctrines and dogmas separating our faiths.
We don’t know what we have and we don’t care about what others have until perfectly sensible and community-loving parties (how else to describe stalwart groups like Umno and Perkasa?) take it away.
In 1990 I heard a church leader say, provocatively, that perhaps Saddam Hussein was anointed by God in his invasion of Kuwait. Because when, later in response, Rambo’s colleagues started marching into the Middle East, so did many Christian missionaries, Red Cross workers and all manner of humanitarian aid folks many of whom would not have been given the chance to "invade" the country with their compassion and contributions.
Could something similar be happening now?
Thank God for allowing this incident to bring Malaysian churches (and religions?) together. The West needed the compassion; the East a shove.
* Alwyn Lau reads The Malaysian Insider.

On ritual slaughtering of animals in public – Moaz Nair


Are we Malaysians left behind in our religious practice when it comes to the ritual slaughtering of animals?
Some Muslim countries such as the UAE have already worked on plans not to allow animals being slaughtered in public or at any undesignated place, including outside the mosque, other than the many authorised abattoirs they have built.
In India, where there is a big Muslim population, Muslims would not slaughter sacrificial animals in public where there are children, women or people of other faiths. It’s also voluntarily done in proper and discreet manners.
In developed countries and Eastern Europe ritual slaughter of animals are confined to designated areas and it has to be done in government-approved abattoirs.
Take a cue from these Muslim countries
When would Malaysia take a cue from these Muslim countries and other Muslims living in developed countries who also perform the korban just like the Muslims in this country?
Muslims in many other Islamic nations are already working on plans to find appropriate and more hygienic ways to conduct the sacrificial rite.
In developed countries where Muslims are the minority the korban is not banned but they have to do it in proper abattoirs and Muslims there, in general, do not object to this ruling. Hygiene is always cited as one of the reasons for this by the authority.
When is the government of the day in this country going to edify the public on this matter?
Muslims should be open to the call by some concerned citizens who do not condone the slaughter of animals in school compounds or public places for the simple reason that it is not appropriate nor hygienic for such rituals to be carried out in those places.
These citizens are not against any ritual rites of the Muslims but they only mean to say that it would not be proper for the ritual to be done in the open where children and those “not ready” could see. The sight of blood and gore would give them a psychological jolt and an effect on their psyche. Most educated Muslims themselves are open to this view of not doing the ritual sacrifice in public.
The tone and intent of the request not to slaughter animals in the open should not be misunderstood by Muslims in general. What more, performing the slaughter in a school compound or public place would be viewed by the public at large as gross insensitivity to those animal lovers. To the innocent man in the street he may have the impression that some people are glorifying animal cruelty. It is in fact sending a wrong message to the people, especially children.
Petrified by the unpleasant scene
Sensibly looking at the issue, children and some others in the public – the young and women – could easily be petrified by the unpleasant scene of the sacrificial rite. Schools or public space are thus not the appropriate venue to slaughter sacrificial animals and skinning of the carcasses. This ritual manifestation indeed should be hidden from the eyes of those who are not prepared to see.
The trauma of witnessing the killing of animals is well recorded in psychological science. Children, women and those who are temperamental to blood and the sight of blade used to slaughter, after witnessing a slaughter would refuse to witness another korban or eat the meat offered to them.
It is natural for some people to be disturbed when witnessing any animal being slaughtered in their midst. When it involves seeing huge animal such as a cow, which is generally meek, struggling and whizzing with blood oozing from the body the emotional distress inflicted on an onlooker could be just awful.
This is just a normal human reaction and it is simply undesirable in most societies to expose this scene to the young. Psychological-traumatic evidence is that to see the slow killing of a living creature is an unpleasant and hideous sight, even for many adults. What more if children and women were to see it.
Prone to so many diseases
The sacrifice of animals as a sacrificial rite for Muslims has long been done in the open in this country as well as in many other undeveloped countries. This culture started long before abattoirs were built and medical sciences came up with evidence that hygiene is important when it comes to the slaughtering of animals for food.
Animals are prone to so many diseases known as zoonosis that could be carried to human beings. Not many people living in poor countries are aware of this. Of the 1415 pathogens known to affect humans, 61 percent are zoonosis in source. In other words, they are derived from animals. Not many carriers of diseases today are aware that they have acquired the many forms of ailment from meat they eat.
Goats and cattle could become infected with various viral and bacterial diseases such as mastitis, foot-and-mouth disease, caprine arthritis, pseudo rabies, encephalitis, caseous lymphadenitis and pinkeye. Animals could transmit a number of zoonotic diseases to people, such as Q-fever, tuberculosis, brucellosis and rabies.
Medically proven zoonosis was not known to people in the remote past. Presumably, human beings who were affected by these pathogens in the past and present are not even aware that they came from animals.
The government of the day should edify the people on the hygiene and the medical phase of open slaughtering instead of using national television stations to graphically highlight the gory scenario of the sacrificial rite.
Religious beliefs and traditions may overlap
In Europe, many governments (that initially disapproved of animal sacrifice) sought sincere advice from the Al-Azhar University for a fatwa regarding the traditional method of slaughter by their Muslim population.
The university had the wisdom to issue the fatwa that it was permissible to do so in an abattoir in the interests of hygiene and to acknowledge the sensitivities of animal rights groups. There are points at which religious beliefs and traditions may overlap, and it is at these points that the government should be heedful of sensitivities.
As for the Hindus and those professing religions with roots in the Indian continent they in reality do not worship cows but venerate the animal for the basic reason that it has been traditionally a source of sustenance in their life. Hindus by religious belief, culture and tradition, do not kill or eat the meat of cows. The cow has been venerated by the Hindus since time immemorial.
The fact is, the cow used to be, and still is, the provider for many families in India and the nearby regions. It is used to provide milk to the babies of malnourished mothers long before the dawn of commercially produced milk and in some homes everything from ghee, cheese to yoghurt is derived from cow’s milk. The bull was and is still used in the fields to plough and till the land long before tractors were used.
To the Hindus and most people of other religions in India, killing this animal is like killing a member of the family. It is a case of cultural overlap in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and even Afghanistan.
This veneration is indeed more cultural than religion to the people in the Indian Continent. The Muslims in India are aware of this aspect of life among their people and they respect them by not allowing the sacrificial rite to be done in the open where it could be sensitive to those who venerate the animal.
Protect public health and the environment
Murat Galiev, head of Tatar religious Muslim organization Vakf said this:
“We are departing from the practice of conducting sacrificial rituals near mosques and are planning to open designated facilities for slaughtering of sacrificial animals in other districts of Kazan."
He believes that such facilities would allow for meeting sanitary requirements and conducting a much hygienic and appropriate sacrificial rituals.
Abu Dhabi authorities have reminded the public against slaughtering sheep and other cattle in open areas and said its abattoirs are the only authorised places for slaughtering.
According to the authorities, random slaughtering of livestock in the streets would cause serious threats to public health, distort the image of the capital and cause infectious diseases.
Abu Dhabi is planning to introduce tougher punishment against people who slaughter cattle and other animals in the public as this would cause diseases.
Statement from the authorised body in Abu Dhabi:
“Slaughtering livestock and other animals in public outside the authorised abattoirs in the emirate will spread serious diseases to humans. We are planning to increase the fines against such practices and turning them into criminal cases that will be referred to court in order to put an end to these activities and protect public health and the environment.
“We call on the public not to slaughter animals at homes and in residential areas or in any place outside the municipality’s abattoirs to ensure public health, keep the city clean and prevent the spread of diseases.”
Adverse effects on health and the environment
Residents of UAE have been warned not to slaughter sheep in public or at their homes to keep streets clean and prevent the spread of diseases.
The Abu Dhabi Municipality has decreed that sheep, cattle and camels must be slaughtered at abattoirs. The municipality provides free vet services to all cattle owners seeking to slaughter their animals for their religious rite. This is to protect their society and environment from possible spread of diseases.
Civic bodies across the UAE have advised people against hiring private and illegal butchers to slaughter animals, as they may subject themselves to diseases as well as a fine. The officials would make arrangement for animals to be slaughtered at municipality abattoirs. Butchering without supervision, according to them, could have adverse effects on health and the environment.
The civic bodies would also monitor livestock markets to ensure a supply of disease-free animals for slaughter. The Municipality has enforced a strict control regime to prevent public slaughtering that might result in diseases being transmitted to humans and environmental pollution. They come up with awareness campaign asking residents not to slaughter animals outside slaughterhouses.
Educate the public on the risk of slaughtering infected or sick animals
The point here is, there is an earnest drive in this Muslim country to educate the public on the risk of slaughtering infected or sick animals. They are aware that the large-scale dumping of the residue of slaughtered animals could pose a serious threat to the environment and public health.
Certified butchers at abattoirs are trained in dealing with meat and keeping it clean. The civic administration has also developed a plan to overcome congestion at slaughterhouses. Apart from slaughtering, care is taken while storing meat and the disposing of the residue.
Moscow in 2006 banned public sacrifice of animals, as mass slaughter of animals directly in front of Muslim mosques annoyed the non-Muslim public - fearing that the sight of death would adversely affect the psyche of their children. This attitude towards slaughter was especially strong in traditionally non-Islamic regions.
Today, however, special facilities for the slaughtering of sacrificial animals are constructed to fulfil Islamic religious rites in Moscow and some other Muslim minority states in Eastern Europe. In Malaysia, since modern and advanced facilities like abattoirs are readily available, it would thus be more logical and appropriate to slaughter the animals “behind closed doors”.
Moderate Muslims
Muslims should not be made to think that the call by some concerned groups that “it is not a wise idea that animals be slaughtered in public places, especially in school compounds” - is against the korban rite of the Muslims. It is thus disingenuous for some Muslim groups to point finger at these concerned citizens calling them as “anti-Islam”.
Instead, Malaysia should take the cue from some Muslim counties to edify the general public that slaughtering of animals is best done “behind closed doors” or in some other restricted places.
There are many moderate Muslims out there – in this country and throughout the world - who do not share the views of the minority groups that make use of sensitive issues like the slaughtering animals in the open to glorify their position in the name of religion.
Most Malaysian Muslims, for that matter, are more mature than the members of the minority groups among them who cannot accept criticism from non-Muslims.
* Dr Moaz Nair reads The Malaysian Insider.

Let them make noise, we got our own funding, says Klang temple president

The Sri Sundararaja Perumal temple in Klang has come under attack from Muslim NGO Isma for refurbishment work. - The Malaysian Insider pic file, October 31, 2013.The Sri Sundararaja Perumal temple in Klang has come under attack from Muslim NGO Isma for refurbishment work. - The Malaysian Insider pic file, October 31, 2013."Let them make all the noise they want, it is getting quite common here in Malaysia." This was the response from the president of the 130-year-old Sri Sundararaja Perumal temple in Klang which has now come under attack from a Muslim non-governmental organisation protesting the refurbishment work.
Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) had said that the refurbishment of the temple in the centre of Klang town would create a negative impression among Muslim tourists who visit Malaysia.
The group was also concerned with a report that the temple was poised to become a landmark and tourist attraction in Klang.
But temple president S. Anandakrishnan was unperturbed by Isma's concerns, adding he was "not bothered with what certain groups had to say".
"Who are they to comment anyway? We got our own funding, we did not take any money from the government. Freedom of religion is enshrined in the Federal Constitution.
"And by the way, the structure was completed two weeks ago. All that is left is the statues and the dome which will be ready in 12 months," said Anandakrishnan, adding that the decorative granite stones from India had also been assembled two weeks ago.
According to him, the Sri Sundararaja Perumal temple was being refurbished with funding from prominent and wealthy Indians. Even judges worship at this temple, he said.
"We also received support from multi-national companies, so we are not bothered about what they (Isma) say," he said.
Anandakrishnan said the consecration of the temple is slated for June 2015, and that workers from India will be arriving in a week's time to work on the dome.
Isma president Abdullah Zaik Abdul Rahman had called on the government to take the necessary steps to ensure harmony and to protect Malaysia's image in the eyes of the international Muslim community.
Klang MP Charles Santiago labelled Isma as an extension of Perkasa, saying that the Muslim NGO wanted to act like it was the custodian of Islam.
Santiago said Isma should reserve their comments as the rebuilding of the temple was privately funded.
"Muslim religious bodies should make a stand against groups like Isma who do not appreciate the concept of freedom of religion," he said, adding that Malaysia stood to gain if the temple was promoted as a tourist attraction.
"What could possibly be wrong with that? Isma is just being ridiculous.
"They want to show they are the custodians of the religion. They are essentially an extension of Perkasa," Santiago said.
Abdullah also said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had pledged to uphold the teachings of Islam and, as such, plans to rebuild certain houses of worship for tourism purposes went against this pledge.
This was Isma's second outburst against Hindus in the past one week.
They also came on strongly on the issue of cows being slaughtered in schools when they warned Hindu parents to back off with their demands that schools not be used for such rituals.
"Why should we bow to pressure from them (Hindus)? It is as if we do not have our own identity. This is our country and it is an Islamic country," Isma's deputy president Aminuddin Yahaya was quoted as saying.
"We want to slaughter cows, who cares? What is the percentage of the Indian community in Malaysia? Only 1% or 2%. The Malays were over 60% of the population."
Aminuddin was referring to Hindu parents who were among others who were against school grounds being used to slaughter cows, considered sacred to Hindus, during the recent Hari Raya Haji celebrations.
Isma had also criticised the recent construction of the Calvary Church Convention Centre in Kuala Lumpur that is touted as the largest church building in Southeast Asia.
The Pentecostal church is 600,000sq ft in area and has a 5,000 seat auditorium, as well as a multi-purpose hall, a nursery, lecture halls, and classrooms. 

Zaid is a nobody, a “homeless drifter”, says Perkasa

Former minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim's recent attack against Perkasa was his way of seeking popularity again, said the Malay rights group secretary-general Syed Hassan Syed Ali (pic).
Describing Zaid as a "homeless drifter" without any party to lead, Syed Hassan said the former minister is feeling left out as no party or non-governmental organisation wanted him.
"He wants to remain relevant and that is why Perkasa was his target," said Syed Hassan.
"But who is he to attack us and our president (Datuk Ibrahim Ali)? He has no party and does not lead any major NGO. Even in the party he formed (Kita), the older members rejected him."
Syed Hassan also said that Zaid was not an authority when it came to Budget 2014, so he should reserve his comments on that issue.
The Perkasa leader's criticism followed Zaid's comment piece, "The New Budget and Perkasa", where he had urged Putrajaya not to recognise Perkasa and to steer clear from their "lunatic ideas".
Zaid,  a fomer Umno member before joining PKR and then setting up Parti Kesejahteraan Insan Tanah Air (Kita), had also commented that Perkasa "should not be allowed to go amok" and that "its very existence is an embarassment to the country, especially to the Malays".
Zaid even suggested that if Perkasa was not curbed, the NGO could start another world war. He was referring to the Malay rights group's constant attacks against the Christians and the Chinese.
“He is a lawyer who made it big through with help from Umno, his former party,” said Syed Hassan.
“Nobody takes Zaid seriously. That is why he talks nonsense.”
In an immediate response, Zaid tweeted: "Perkasa says I am desperate to be popular; yes that is true but I will not say stupid and dangerous stuff like you know who". 

GST collectors seek to dethrone cash


Malaysia’s new consumption tax is a boon to IT companies that stand to win infrastructure contracts and fees - provided they can convince people to switch to electronic payments in a country where 91 percent of transactions are in cash.

The 6 percent goods and services tax (GST) that Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak announced in his annual budget speech on Friday is aimed at narrowing a budget gap that is expected to hit 4 percent of gross domestic product this year.

Cash payments are harder for tax collectors to track, so the government is encouraging e-payments as a way to reduce costs and improve efficiency.

For companies such as Censof Holdings Bhd and GHL Systems Bhd that specialise in creating electronic payment and software systems, the initial benefit will likely come well before the tax is implemented in April 2015.

These companies, along with privately held Brilliance Information Sdn Bhd and Revenue Harvest Sdn Bhd, are seen as front-runners for government contracts to build the necessary infrastructure because Malaysia has a procurement policy that favours local companies. The government has not disclosed how much it will spend, but a similar project in Australia in 2000 cost A$4.5 billion (US$4.31 billion).

That potential has caught investors’ attention. Censof’s shares are up 64 percent in the year to date while GHL’s have jumped more than 160 percent, both handily outstripping the broader market’s 7.7 percent gain.

“To impose GST, you need to capture sales accurately and it needs to be done electronically. You need payment infrastructure in place,” said Raj Lorenz, group CEO at GHL, Malaysia’s largest e-payment firm by market share.

“The business is very bright but there are a lot of people using cash, so they (the government) have to make them all use e-payments. In the end, the only guys who can get away with it are those in the night markets,” he said in an interview with Reuters.

Ameer Shaik Mydin, executive director with Censof, concurs, adding that all of his company’s systems are GST-ready and waiting to be implemented on clients’ sites.

“We’ve done it in Singapore and Australia,” he told Reuters in an interview on Monday, referring to clients overseas. “It definitely has to be electronic. If not, I have to say it’ll not work.”

Malaysia’s central bank has offered incentives to encourage electronic payments, which it thinks can generate annual economic savings equivalent to 1 percent of GDP. In May, it reduced the cost of interbank fees on e-payments to about 3 US cents from 63 US cents and increased cheque processing charges. It wants cash transactions to make up 63 percent of the total by 2020, down from 91 percent now.
     
E for everything

Accounting for GST is especially tricky in a cash economy. Businesses might understate sales to lower the tax bill. But for cash-only companies, making the switch will be costly.

“Big boys can afford it but what about eateries, sundry shops? Do you expect them to pay for such machine and issue receipts (on GST)?” John Yong, a business consultant based in Kuala Lumpur, said.

“If they don’t buy and issue receipts then the 6 percent GST is not going to be remitted to the government. Some industry is just not ready for GST,” he added.

The Finance Ministry has recommended that only companies with annual sales above RM500,000 (US$158,200) be subjected to GST, according to local media. That means 78 percent of total businesses - or 433,558 small and medium enterprises - would be exempted.

E-payment companies such as GHL and Censof currently get a fraction of the 50 sen per electronic transaction fee. The central bank expects the number of e-transactions to surge 10-fold to 12 billion by 2020. That would work out to about RM6 billion a year in fees.

The e-payment industry is consolidating just as business appears to be picking up. GHL, which counts banks and small businesses as clients, announced earlier this month it is taking over Australian listed peer e-pay Asia Ltd. Censof bought a controlling stake in rival Time Engineering Bhd last month.

The next step for Malaysia is getting companies to file their taxes electronically. Yeo Eng Ping, who leads the Malaysia tax practice at accounting firm Ernst & Young, said the government was considering an e-filing system that would be compulsory for exporters and for businesses with annual turnover exceeding RM5 million.

“E-filing allows for a much more efficient process of reporting, recording and ultimately collecting tax, not just indirect tax. This is especially so when teamed with e-payment,”
Yeo said.

Reuters