Preaching Moderation Abroad, Financing Aggression And Extremism At Home - How Najib Plays With Fire
Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi ready to tell Oxford how to root out extremism….
Zahid Hamidi is sure of a warm welcome when he gets to Oxford to lecture British academics on how BN are “De-Rooting Radicalism and Extremism” through Najib’s self-styled Global Movement of Moderates this week.
After all, the Malaysian taxpayer forked out a RM12 million contribution for the auditorium at the newly constructed Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, we are told.
In addition, Malaysia also contributed 10 million pounds towards the completion of the OCIS building.
So, bring out the port and lay the best silver for a much appreciated guest.
One can only surmise why Najib Razak himself failed to take the golden opportunity to come on to Britain from China to stage this positive PR event, given the Speaker has declared attending Parliament to be a waste of time for the Prime Minister (who maintains he is under no suspicion for the multi-billion dollar thefts from 1MDB, currently under investigation by the US, UK, Switzerland, Singapore, Luxembourg and elsewhere).
OCIS – tastefully and expensively blended into Oxford’s dreaming spires…
However, if Zahid’s lofty academic hosts have been doing their studies properly, they cannot be other than aware that BN’s pious messages about curbing extremism and bigotry towards other communities conflict sorely with realities back home, where Najib has been recklessly stoking up these very same divisive forces for his own political purposes.
This has been particularly the case following the weakening of his position in the aftermath of the massive corruption charges associated with the billion dollar thefts from 1MDB.
Indeed, as Zahid boarded his plane this weekend, Najib’s paid-for Red Shirt thugs were posturing threateningly outside the Malaysiakini online news building and roughing up pro-democracy Bersih campaigners in the name of Malay supremacy and Islam, citing alleged ‘foreign and Zionist threats’.
Britain’s Home Office ought to be equally aware of BN’s dangerous and growing hypocrisy during sensitive times. As a study paper passed by George Soros recently warned Hilary Clinton, Malaysia is now regarded as a focal point for the export of violent Islamic extremism, which it says has been encouraged by heavy official funding of ‘Islamic activities’ and the promotion of a Wahhabi/Salafist from of Islam new to Malaysia.
In turn Najib’s paid up Red Shirts, have termed his pro-democracy foundation as a ‘Jewish plot’ – hence their aggression towards information outfits like Malaysiakini, which have accepted small grants.
Yet thousands of students are now sent by UMNO each year for ‘religious training’ in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, who then return to guaranteed jobs as teachers and clerics in Malaysia. It is generally acknowledged that their zealous views have created a base for radicalisation and operations in South East Asia and consequently Malaysia has been identified as responsible for a growing number of IS fighters in Syria and terror cells, who have been detonating bombs in Thailand and Indonesia.
The paper warns that US Democrats such as Obama ought not to swallow Najib’s highly funded PR efforts to promote Malaysia as ‘moderate’ with liberalism collapsing under corruption and extremism back home:
Malaysia could one day be a good ally of the United States in countering Islamic State extremism, but not before it has achieved the freedom and constitutional democracy that its people have been denied. Until then it is a state with fast failing institutions that is increasingly a center for the production rather than the elimination of the worldview behind Islamic State and its racialised regional variant. With a potent stew of corruption, disenchantment with secular government, an Islamic-racialist ideology, government funded Salafism and the worst TIP and human smuggling situation in Southeast Asia, Malaysia is the regional source for the export of extreme ideas and of militants feared by neighboring Singapore and Indonesia…
Najib’s posturing as an advocate of moderate Islam on the international stage belies the fact, notes a recent USAID report, that “he is aligned with a conservative, Salafi-influenced Islam at home.” He presides over a well-funded government Islamic agencies that promote sharia law as the supreme law of the land, thus undermining the secular Constitution on which Malaysia was founded. They write the government mandated weekly Friday sermons in which non-Muslim Malaysians are often referred to as ‘enemies of Islam.’ The USAID report recounts that “A recent sermon failed to explain the relationship between jihad as war and other types of jihad, and rejected Isis jihad only because Isis inflicted atrocities on Muslims and non-Muslims without distinction.”
Najib’s religious bureaucrats do more than “control and maintain the purity of faith and the teachings of Islam in the country”. They promote an ethnicized regional variant of the Islamic ideal of the caliphate, a Malay-Islamic state in which Sunni Islam’s supremacy is indivisible from the political and legal supremacy of the Malay race.
As in the Middle-East, the territorial extent of this idealized polity runs across present-day boundaries that they consider to have been imposed without legitimacy by colonial ‘crusaders;’ a term in still in use. It extends naturally into the ‘Nusantara’, or archipelagic Southeast Asia, a region re-imagined as the homeland of the 240 million Muslims of Southeast Asia.
Terrorist groups such as Jemaah Islamiya, Al-Qaeda in the Malay Archipelago, and Islamic State share this vision of the entire region under sharia law. …. Despite having fewer than a tenth the number of Muslims in Indonesia, there are almost as many Malaysian as Indonesian fighters for ISIS in Syria. The government estimates that there are 50,000 ISIS sympathizers in the country, including members of the military.
A recent Pew Survey showed that 12% of Malaysian Muslims had favorable attitudes towards IS compared to 4% in Indonesia. Thirty nine percent of Malaysian Muslims surveyed believed that violence can be justified against enemies of Islam. This is the message sent repeatedly in the dominant political discourse under Mr. Najib’s government…
Mr. Najib has become a poster boy for the 21st century kleptocracy targeted by Transparency International; armed with teams of “strategic communications consultants” and lobbyists in London and Washington, quick to drop buzzwords of reform and moderation while at home they run illiberal democracies. [Wikileaks]
Corruption In Disguise
The lure of Middle Eastern money has been mesmeric for Najib – or at least the appearance of it, whilst in reality he has raided the diminished coffers of his own country.
Thus, the Prime Minister continues to argue that the RM2.6 billion that popped into his own bank account before the last election (which the DOJ have now traced directly back to 1MDB) came as a ‘donation’ from a ‘Saudi Royal’ in support of his very ‘Global Movement of Moderates’.
“I have been following your work closely recently and I am impressed with the significant work that you have done to govern Malaysia using Islamic principles and how your are reintroducing Islam to the rest of the world in view of the current perception that many people have since 9/11. Your suggestion to launch the Global Movement of the Moderates shows a modern way of dealing with issues on international terrorism and extremist groups”,
wrote the allegedly admiring Saudi, a purported multi-billionaire named Prince Saud Abdulaziz Al-Saud, for the benefit of Najib’s bank manager.
Ooops – who mentioned the ‘C-word’?
Of course, as everyone in Malaysia knows, the writer of this somewhat childishly amusing missive was in fact the architect of the theft from 1MDB, Jho Low. Except Zahid Hamidi, that is, who once claimed to have met the Saudi Prince together with a son….
Perhaps, were questions to be allowed from the audience at the OCIS, a little more information could usefully be obtained from the Deputy Prime Minister about this generous and moderate fellow, who sees Islam’s future through Malaysia?
Oxford’s Middle East experts can meanwhile ponder the erstwhile unheard of billionaire as a possible future donor to their studies. They then might set about deducing how it is that money from a country run by an extreme religious sect responsible for destabilising much of the Middle East is now (apparently) being poured into ‘religious moderation’ and the pursuit of tolerance – the ‘De-Rooting of Radicalism” via Malaysia?
Politics Not Religion
Global Islamic Moderate? Nashrudin Mat Isa was chucked out of PAS for being a bit extreme…
While Zahid tours Oxford and London, another now prominent Malaysian is at the same time this November attempting to drum up similar high-level platforms across Europe and the UK promoting the same image-building ‘moderate’ agenda.
Doubtless again at the expense of the Malaysian tax-payer, Sarawak Report has learnt that Najib’s pet PR vehicle, The Global Movement of Moderates, has hired top a public relations firm in France to pull together suitable religious leaders to host a lecturing opportunity by the new Director General of the organisation, Nasharudin Mat Isa.
Amalvy Consultants together with an outfit called ‘Global Compass” have been assigned to find high-profile hosts fo Nasharudin to opine on the theme of “Educating for restraint: a challenge against fundamentalism / extremism”.
Nasharudin wants to do this on a particular specified day, November 17th in Europe, according to emails passed on to Sarawak Report. Most Malaysians know the significance of the date, which is on the eve of the anti-corruption Bersih march, promoting free and fair elections, due to be held in Malaysia.
Islamist/’Malay supremacist’ Red Shirts, who are paid to demonstrate ‘in defence’ of Najib, have pledged to violently disrupt the traditionally peaceful protest. Presumably, Nasharudin is angling for different headlines.
Date: October 26, 2016 5:15:03 p.m.
I am trying to “mount” a meeting with Dr. Nasharudin Mat Isa , Director General of the Foundation of the Global Movement of Moderates , which will be in Europe in mid-November, and particularly available in Paris on November 17. The foundation he heads is based in Malaysia, under the auspices of the Prime Minister. Its mission is to consolidate and disseminate information and educational material about moderation and against extremism.”
Wrote Director Richard Amalvy to one Jesuit training centre he was trying to rope in as host just a few days ago for a conference that would bring in all the big names in Catholic circles together to hear the words of wisdom and moderation from Nasharudin, as part of a wider tour:
His wish is to meet actors of inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue in France, as he will in the UK and Geneva… We could imagine, for example, a meeting or a round table on the topic of “Educating for moderation: a challenge against fundamentalism / extremism”, or another subject to discuss together” suggests Amalvy as he seeks to develop a platform for his client.
The problem with all this being that, quite apart from the blatant attempt to out-message Bersih, Nasharudin is famous for being anything but a moderate back home in Malaysia.
Before he was hired by Najib for his plum jet-setting role at the Global Movement of Moderates (and awarded with a Dato’ship by Najib’s home state of Pahang last month) Nasharudin Mat Isa was known for being on the more intolerant and extremist wing of PAS, which has been campaigning for the introduction of Hudud law in Malaysia.
PAS moderate force Nik Aziz died in February 2015
He in fact remains in PAS, say former colleagues, which has now, thanks to Najib’s own manoeuvring, thrown out all its moderates in a bid to split the opposition parties and bring the Muslim vote firmly under UMNO control through links forged with the new hard-line leadership of the party.
What happened, say shocked former moderates from within PAS, whom UMNO schemed to eject last year, was a deliberate coup. That coup was orchestrated and funded by Najib, who chose to use extremism to shatter the liberal opposition alliance that had overtaken BN in terms of votes at the last election.
Nasharudin had formerly been a Deputy Leader of PAS. However, he fell foul of the previous spiritual leader Nik Aziz, say colleagues, because he had forged close links and was having secret meetings with UMNO, which was trying to gain influence in the Islamic party following its alliance with Anwar’s PR opposition coalition against BN.
PR had swept away BN/UMNO’s traditional 2/3 majority in parliament in 2008 and when Najib took over in 2009 he faced the very real threat that the popular leader would gain the majority in 2013 after over 60 years of uninterrupted control by UMNO.
Liberal unifier of the opposition, Anwar Ibrahim, Jailed February 2015
Nik Aziz was adamant that there would be no alliance with UMNO, which he rightly said was utterly corrupted in terms of the principles of Islam and civil laws.
As a result, Nasharudin was voted out in 2011 and replaced by the moderate Mat Sabu. He was expelled from the ruling council in 2013 after travelling with Najib to Palestine and taking up the leading role in the UMNO funded Nasser Foundation.
He did not attempt to regain his parliamentary seat and instead took on his latest sinecure from Najib late last year as the Chairman of his Global Movement for Moderates. He is now extremely close to UMNO and to a number of UMNO businessmen, going abroad with such movers and shakers regularly, say former members of the party.
However, he remained attached to PAS as a blatant representative of Najib’s determination to infiltrate the party and bring this traditional opposition stronghold, along with its crucial seats, under BN.
“UMNO has always campaigned on Malay supremacy, race grounds. PAS was never about race, it was about faith, open to all. Now UMNO is trying to make PAS more about being Malay – combining Islamic nationalism.”
Says one former PAS member, who says that Najib has deliberately stirred up the aggressive trend to protect himself from exposures over corruption and 1MDB:
“Najib has started to wear the Juba quite frequently since he had the 1MDB problem”.
Burning Bibles At Home, Preaching Moderation Abroad
Nasharudin’s views speak for themselves when it comes to moderation. On all the key issues which have now been drummed up to excite and divide Malaysians, he has been placed firmly in the stir it up camp.
First came the campaign to ban the use of the word ‘Allah’ by Christians.
Former PAS moderates say that this was never a PAS issue, but rather stirred up by UMNO activists to cause division in the aftermath of their 2013 near defeat. At the forefront of this campaign was Nasharudin Mat Isa, they say, who thundered along with other trouble-makers that the ban should be introduced against the wide number of Christian populations particularly in the Borneo states, who have used the word for centuries, because it is the Bahasa translation for ‘God’.
Nowhere else in the Islamic world is there an issue over the use of this word by Christians on the part of Muslims. But, it has caused a mighty ruckus in Malaysia, where Muslim worshippers have recently been taught to feel anger and outrage that Christians are thereby ‘stealing their God’ – by none other than the Chairman of the Global Movement of Moderates, Nasharudin Mat Isa.
UMNO, weighed in heavy on this matter in 2014, showing itself supportive in every way of the newly angered Muslims.
Bibles in Bahasa that used the word Allah were controversially confiscated and banned. There were calls for the books to be burned. A judgement in the High Court that the action was not legal was appealed and overruled – by none other than Najib’s own pet judge on the Court of Appeal, amongst others, Apandi Ali, the man he later hastily promoted to be Attorney General in order to get off the hook on massive corruption charges the following year.
The Borneo States both announced they would not extend the ban to their own majority Christian populations – to which the ‘moderate’ Nashrudin publicly objected:
“Former PAS deputy president Nasharuddin Mat Isa said that the appellate court ruling clearly indicated that the word “Allah” is exclusive to Muslims, when asked if Bumiputera Christians in Sabah and Sarawak could continue using the word in their church services.
“So, everyone should stick to that decision,” Nasharuddin told reporters.
Perhaps the Catholic groups, whom Nasharudin plans to lecture on eradicating extremism on the day that Bersih is marching for human rights in Malaysia, might like to bring up some questions on this matter of his moderation and conciliation with fellow religions?
Meanwhile, on a second matter, known as ‘Shia-bashing’, Nasharudin is also right in there with the Red Shirts. Increasingly, Muslims in Malaysia are being taught in their government controlled weekly sermons to hate Shias in a visceral fashion – calling them ‘Kafirs’ or non-believers, whom many increasingly believe deserve death.
This is being carried over into politics, so that PAS moderates, who are now ejected from the party say they have now found themselves untruthfully labelled ‘Shias’ and threatened for their objections to, for example, the introduction of Hudud law.
Late last year Nasharudin gave his views on the importance of Sunni and Islamic ‘supremacy':
Non-mainstream Islamic teachings such as Shiah and Sufism needed to be “controlled” to help Malaysia develop Islam to its current dominant position, Nasharudin Mat Isa said today.
The newly-appointed chief for the Global Movement of Moderates (GMM) Foundation also refuted the possibility of a Sunni-Shiah schism amongs Malaysians, claiming Shiah followers in the country are largely made of foreigners.
“There is a need to control for the sake of the nation because if you look at countries which are too loose in managing these things, it will not be able to succeed in a way to put Islam to where it is now,” Nasharudin told English daily The Star in an interview published today.
The voice of tolerance and moderation?
On the third issue that is now causing division, anger and extremist aggression in Malaysia Nasharudin also stands firmly on the trouble-making side of things, which is the campaign for the introduction of Hudud law.
This more than anything has been a political ram rod in the hands of Najib, who has ruthlessly used the issue to smash up PAS, smash up the PR coalition and terrify his own more moderate wings of UMNO.
Hudud law has become an aspiration of PAS extremists who want to bring in Saudi Arabian style punishments for social and religious transgressions in place of the country’s long established civil codes. They want men and women flogged and arms chopped off for matters such as theft, drinking alcohol or eating something religious leaders have declared forbidden.
Nasharudin is a key proponent along with the newly empowered PAS leader Hadi. Not only does he support Hudud, but he has been willing to conduct attacks against those who disagree with his proposals to undermine civic law through such religious courts by labelling them as being against Islam itself, which (thanks to people like him) is not only an insult for fellow Muslims in Malaysia these days, but downright threatening and dangerous.
Back in 2012 the venerable MP and lawyer, Karpal Singh, was forced to issue libel proceedings against such tactics by the ‘moderate’ Nasharudin, who says the introduction of Hudud law, which Najib has dangled as a carrot to extremist elements of PAS to break their party and confuse the opposition should be viewed in a moderate and modern context:
“I believe that if the procedural part of hudud is also explained to the public, it can be accepted in a way. After all it is a law,” said Nasharudin.
“And Malaysia being a Muslim state, we can be a model of how that kind of law is implemented in a modern society. The substantive and procedural aspects are both important. Only if these two are brought together can hudud be presented as a just law.” he told reporters last year
How Najib Split PAS And PR By Extremist Dreams Of Hudud
UMNO had never sought to bring in such religious codes of justice, until Najib felt the squeeze. Only after the close shave of the 2013 election (won through now acknowledged bribery and blatant gerrymandering of seats) did Najib set about winning the PAS Muslim party votes away from Anwar’s liberal anti-corruption ticket against BN.
His chance came when the moderate and virulently anti-UMNO spiritual leader Nik Aziz died in February last year, say former moderates within PAS. The party leader Hadi, they say, the survivor of several heart attacks, was already under the influence of his pro-UMNO leaning son-in-law, who is a expert in Muslim finance and a campaigner for UMNO views on Malay solidarity.
Another key event in February was the incarceration by Najib of his key political challenger, Anwar Ibrahim, the architect of the coalition uniting PAS with DAP and PKR.
Hadi urged the appointment of a surprise new spiritual leader for the party, who had not been prominent till then, Haron Din. Haron Din was a healer, who counted many UMNO bigwigs in his clientele, say former PAS colleagues from the non-clerical wing of the party. They say there are family business ties to UMNO contract work: “He was always very close to UMNO”.
Hadi Awang – Its all about his ‘Hudud legacy’
It was during the party AGM in June last year that the newly empowered pro-UMNO axis of Hadi and Haron Din completely transformed the political direction of the party. At the Selangor meeting a double coup was mounted as a surprise motion was brought through by the Ulama wing to rupture with coalition partner DAP, passed without debate.
The sin of DAP had been to oppose the party’s wish to bring in Hudud law in Kelantan proponents said.
The following day all the moderate, non-clerical members of the party’s ruling committee were then voted out. The move had been coordinated by Hadi, the former members say, who had arranged for the careful selection of delegates through the party channels and then produced lists of acceptable candidates for those delegates to vote for.
“Nasharudin was very instrumental and acts as a go between UMNO and PAS in all these dealings” say the former insiders.
They say they have information that millions had been made available to the normally cash-strapped party to organise this key event and effective coup. “All the side events they organised were very expensive” one observed.
With the moderates out of PAS and Anwar Ibrahim jailed, it was a matter of time before the destruction of the PR coalitionwas complete. Just a few weeks earlier Najib Razak’s premiership had been rocked by the explosion of his core corruption scandal over 1MDB – and his greatest critics had come from within PAS. Now, PR was smashed, the opposition in chaos and PAS has been silent ever since on 1MDB.
Price to Pay?
Najib has admitted to his UMNO colleagues that he took the money from 1MDB so they could buy the 2013 election. It is an open secret also that his price for PAS has been the promise of Hudud law to Hadi.
Sure enough, as PAS has joined in all but name the BN coalition over the past year, Najib has gone ahead in allowing the discussion and then the presentation of Hudud in Parliament. Hadi’s threat to return to PR at the height of the 1MDB crisis in July 2015 tipped the balance say observers.
He wanted Hudud tabled in the Parliament or he threatened to returned to PR. Then he went quiet and sure enough, later it was tabled.
Hadi agreed to drop the bill last year, in return for it being again placed at the top of the private bills for the present session. It was a unique, unprecedented manipulation of parliamentary business in favour of an opposition private bill by Najib Razak and no one in Malaysia is under any illusion that Hadi has not cut a deal.
“In Our Pocket”
Meanwhile, the once abstemious, religious party has been experiencing the side-benefits of its informal alliance with UMNO, say disapproving former members. The cash has started to flow into party operations.
“Nasharudin drives so many expensive cars these days. He says friends lend them to him, which must be very nice” observes one former political colleague.
Another points out that a Terengganu PAS chief, who runs a private Madrasah, was last year publicly offered RM235,000 in a presented cheque by the Prime Minister’s office, something that would never have been previously accepted in the days of Nik Aziz.
“UMNO are dishing out money quite frequently now to PAS Madrasahs, whereas in the past they never gave any money, but would close them down, refuse licences and so forth. Now they are not just closing down but handing out money. People in the villages are confused” commented one former member. “Hadi used to call UMNO unbelievers “Kafirs” Now I go back to the villages and people ask me what is going on?”
Other observers speaking to Sarawak Report say that UMNO boast they are taking note of each and every act of this now accepted generosity to PAS:
“They say “whenever they ask for an allocation for their programmes we give them, but we keep a record of every single cent. So they can’t go against us now. PAS are in our pockets”
stated one former senior PAS member, now with Amanah. “Before it would have been unthinkable to accept UMNO’s money or government money as unclean, but now it has become acceptable.”
It seems that the now tamed leaders of PAS can join Oxford University and possibly French Catholic groups in accepting Malaysian Government money of dubious origin. But, the latter should be wary of their reputations in calling Malaysia’s BN leadership ‘moderate’. - Sarawak Report