Thursday, March 8, 2012

Malays Even More Bewildered

When Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak scrapped the proposed new salary scheme this morning ( March 8) he must already know the still-born salary scheme will remain an awesome reminder of how complex the dysfunction has become in the country’s Administration.

Najib, in wishing to steer Malaysia through a Transformation that will take her into high-tech industrialization and make her a high-income country by 2020 must have felt deterred time and again because of the state of administrative and the social plus economic dysfunctions the country is facing.

Prices of food and medicine are very high. Many government agencies have lost by the billions. Mas, the flag-carrier, is a big let-down and Proton is reported to have spent RM 3.4 billion of its reserves in three years for nearly nothing.

Perhaps because it rained heavily yesterday and it continued to patter right through the night, a certain chill is felt this morning as PM Najib announced a temporary pay scheme for civil servants some say is inadequate and uneven.

The going is tough for Najib. Many other matters also need immediate attention.

In a discussion with two police officers recently I was told the police force has been stunned by “private domains” for the past many years. When an OCPD, for instance, is transferred to another district he will take with him his team leaving the replacement cleanly out of the accumulated information, experiences and contacts.

‘Over and over again new OCPDs will have to start afresh, which is one reason why police performances have been slow to stamp crime. The district is the key,’ they said.

The complaint is about “private domains” forming in government and it is clearly a widespread disease exuberantly exhibited in Jakim of the PM’s Department when former Mufti of Perlis, Dr Asri Zainal Abidin, was condemned as a Wahabi and a terrorist simply because he applied to become director of the outfit to replace the outgoing Narkhaie Haji Ahmad.

That event hit the Administration and Islam in Malaysia hard in the groins, bringing to light that the Islamic division of the PM’s Department is possessed and needing exorcism.

Narkhaie and his friends kept hitting Dr Asri and even included in the barrage his successor, Dr Juanda, for months. It should have been stopped but nobody from the misty heights of power intervened in that exhibitionism of power dementia.

In the mix of widespread corruption and the abuses arising from the “private domains” in government, some 85 percent of projects that were drawn for the benefit of Malays and Bumiputras in the New Economic Policy (NEP) had been “leaked” and slipped into the hands of others, according to former PM, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

It tells us policy and project slipways can be constructed with the right payments to the right people in the Administration and the Executive. In fact, a distortion of 85 percent suggests these slipways are normal practice, i.e. integrity had been a bad word in the government and the Malays/Bumiputras had been taken for a ride by their own kinds.

The NEP was bastardized.

It would do us all a lot of good if we are reminded that the overwhelming materialism and the startling corruption in a corporatist state will bring syndications between the “private domains”. Collusion is the word and the compound often translates politically into warlords.

It makes for a certain modeling of neo-fascism wherein the bosses cannot and will not tolerate criticism but can withstand a slew of supported allegations of corrupt practices emerging from Civil Society or the Opposition since the integrity of the Judiciary would have also been compromised in the making of such a state.

This is the critical conflict in Malaysia. It is not about a choice between Transformation or Reformation. It is about what the Transformation is finally about.

In the rule by fear of the neo-fascist regime, every agent of government is potentially a rent-seeker and as a member of an aggregate of one kind or of another in the corridors and in the heights of power, these can finally decide who are heard and who are snuffed among the aspirants and critics.

Power is thus about the ability to force compliance, to eliminate and to loot, having nothing to do with delivering the highest public good.

Policy is made or unmade by a differentiated hierarchy and since many of us have heard about policies and projects being distorted by some small-fries at payments as low as RM50,000, government became a comedy of deliberate errors and money was all it took to derail the NEP.

Even water-catchment areas have been taken for cronies to build holiday bungalows. Who cares for the public good! That's hogwash!

In short, in a state of dysfunction as decadent as this, seeking to refurbish the nation with integrity cannot be enough. We need an ideology and the construction of a new bangsa (people), either a Malaysian people or something else that is accommodative, like the Jawi most Malays were before Independence in 1957.

In those days, to convert to Islam would be to "masuk Melayu" (become Malay). Circumcission, which is khatan, was to my generation, masuk Jawi. We, the Jawi, had had our own belief system, a close recall of the Abangan in Jawa.(here).

In its origin the Jawi is a mixed people upholding universal beliefs such as the Beringin Songsang (The Inverted Tree/here) and bearing the best of Singosari - Majapahit cultures.

It was Jayakertanegara of Singosari who built the Chandi Jawi in the 13th century.

Monsieur, I choose to be honest and honestly we face ideological hopelessness the way things are in this beautiful country. We will have to go back to Tun Abdul Razak for ideological coherence and political cohesion.

Umno, having openly traded votes for money in the purchases of positions from bottom right to the level of party president, cannot and will never again be accepted as representing Malay nationalism as it had been once before.

As for the MCA and MIC, they are corruption-ridden too. But since the Chinese and Indians, having motherlands that are mega stars today and can very well become the No. 1 and No. 2 economies in the world by 2025, it is the Malays who are being crapped into bewilderment with a bogus nationalist outfit on top of the heap and the alternative made of a strange emergence of Islamic fundamentalism in a mix-up with a Zionist-led global remark having Paul Wolforwitz of the Neo-Cons quite apparently calling the shots that echo in the brain-cavities of Brother Anwar Ibrahim.

The Malays are seriously bewildered.

Here it is unlike in Indonesia where, according to a Pew report, about 65 percent of the people have opted for Islamic fundamentalism, giving itself into the haunting religious fervor the readings of which laid bare burnings and killings in Ahmadiyyah villages in Jawa and clashes with Christians in Maluku and a bit in Poso, Sulawesi, where fortunately most Christians are in Menado.

The powder-keg had exploded in Egypt, in Iraq and in Nigeria. In Pakistan the evil is a terror-ride involving Muslims versus Muslims first and Muslims versus the two percent Christian minority second, killing a Governor and a Minister so far.

Even if it is true not more than 30 percent of the Malays can be drawn into the making of a Holocaust, it has to be remembered only five percent of the Malays in amok should be enough to run the country 30 years back in a few days and making recovery impossible in 15 years.

A neater equation may bring recolonization as a necessity for recovery should we blood-let again in Malaysia.

In Malaysia Islam enjoys power. That power somehow became extraordinarily incoherent in 1988 from when parliament began passing constitutional amendments which finally led the country into two separate criminal laws and two sets of judiciaries, one of which being Islamic.

But from 1988 until now the Shariah Law cannot replace Common Law so as to enable the country to opt for the Shariah as the sole legal and judicial system.

Malaysians will then be given to Muslims and Dhimmis (protected subjects).

The amendments caught us all in a bind. Did Mahathir, who presided over the whole development then, intended Malaysia to shift into an Islamic State? Had he desired to become Pasha Mahathir Mohamad?

Such a momentous shift of statecraft must have been carefully reasoned. From 1988 to 2003 Dr Mahathir Mohamad was at the helm. He must know why he did it with his late friend, Hamid Othman. Will Mahathir give us the chance to understand why the constitutional changes were made by explaining it in his blog or directly to the Press, I wonder.

Then, from out of the blue as it were, at the launching of Jati on February 21, which is possibly the flagship of royal assertions in Malaysian politics, the mufti of Perak, Tan Sri Harussani Zakaria, told the Malays in Malaysia God wants them to be loyal to the Sultans who, he said, are The Shadows of Allah on Earth (Zillu’l-Lah fi’l-ardhi), a script taken from a set of weak Prophetic Traditions (Hadith), the good Dr Asri quickly said were of no worth.

This Shadow of God stuff is about one of the weaknesses of Islam, i.e. the failure to provide for a social structure and statecraft that can contain power without concurrent and phenomenal abuses. It's absolute monarchy we're talking about.

The Abbassid sultans applied to themselves that lofty height, declaring themselves as The Shadows of God, theoretically meaning they provide for the victims of society, meaning the oppressed, a shade like that of an umbrella, promising to redress social and natural injustices.

In reality most of them reached for momentous opulence instead, securing in their harems from anywhere between 200 to 1000 women, ‘who have neither been touched by the light of the sun nor by that of the moon.’

The last sultan of the Abbassid spent six months straight in his harem when he was told by his vizier that the Mongol, Hulagu, had already amassed his forces on the eastern borders of the empire. The sultan asked his vizier to take care of the threat and continued to enjoy himself with his women.

The debauchery ended in 1258. Baghdad was lost to Hulagu. The Shadow of God had to leave the city taking with him (Him?) his 800 women only to be killed outside the city that had housed some of the greatest achievements of Muslims and of Islam.

Who wants to return to the medieval confusion in the new millennium? The Internet already has dozens of blogs denouncing Harussani’s engagement with the medieval confusion.

But Monsieur, the fact remains that Malay Royalty is stuck in that mindscape, each sultan having for himself a name of God attached.

Hence, I should think it is necessary for the PM’s Department to decide whether or not that is the Islam we want as a basis of the nation’s official religion. Which one of the sultans had refused to sign his state into the Malayan Union in 1946. Do you know? Was it HIM?

Thiz iz actually and cruelly humorezz, dat iz Malays in de new millennium seeking shelter in the umbra and penumbra of God here on dis earth. There are naina Malay rulers in the small peninsular one can drive from south to north in less than a day and find himself/herself facing only one King with one Garuda in Thailand. Aiwah! It iz the baziz of de Malay ideology in the new millenia, iz eeet?

When the Mamluks (former slaves) took power and established their empire, they decided to style the head of state as Na’ib Allah (Vice God). How about that for one-upmanship! Goldziher has this in his Islamic Studies.

The law resides in the person of The Shadow of God or The Vice-God. They can do anything without having to be answerable for their actions, of course. Perusing again the writings of ibn Batuta and especially on his visit to the court of the Tugleq Sultan (Tugleg Dynasty) in India will give the reader a little touch of the quaint concerning these Shadows of God.

In ibn Batuta’s account the sultan had a supplicant butchered before him and his guests while he continued dining. Ibn Batuta escaped to the convenience where he vomited.

This same sultan catapulted a beggar to his death and had another dragged a few hundred miles until both his legs sundered from their attachments.

The Sultan is the Shadow of God. The Law resides in him. He can do anything. Some Malays appear to be wanting that for themselves in the 21st century. Neat!

Can the majority of the Malays resolve their ideological froth? Or will the majority finally join the rising religious fundamentalism and engage the kafirs in war? Will they be led by The Shadow? It's laughable Monsieur is it not? Hehehe! It's a terrible state of bewilderment. It's acute!---a. ghani ismail, 8 March 2012.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Did Hang Tuah ever lived? Was there a historical Jesus?

The season inside the hollow of history remained. In another reversal of Malayan history Professor Tan Sri Khoo Kay Kim, an emeritus of the subject, reportedly want removed from the textbooks the spirit (semangat) of the Malay warrior (satria) the indomitable Hang Tuah, saying he is nothing but a myth. The folk hero, however, long grown into a geist though he was not mentioned in the Ming records, is appearing like he refuses to go.

Hang Li Po was a Chinese princess Sultan Mansur of Melaka (Malacca) was said to have taken as a fifth wife. Nothing else about her was significant and hence, fact or fiction could not and cannot matter more than a dime. Prof Kay Kim wanted her out too.

But Hang Tuah is a folk spirit, a zeitgeist of the Malay, him declaring ‘Never shall the Malay disappear from the face of the earth,’ making the Melayu an eternal substance, i.e. if they can find themselves apart from the Arabic religion that has damned, in their own society, most things Malay as khurafat (superstition).

It’s a lasting confusion Malays face. The Malay Muslim has an obvious religious problem about accepting the pentacle in the Hindu epic, the Pandavas, which Hang Tuah and his four compatriots, Hang Jebat, Hang Lekir, Hang Lekiu and Hang Kasturi obviously reflect.

The same five is to be found in Prophet Mohammad with the four Khalifah Rashidun (Rightly Guided Caliphs), Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali mentioned every Friday in the mosques of Malaysia.

“Rightly Guided Caliphs”? Where’s the line between the fact and the fiction?

To be Malay or to be essentially Muslim had been and still is an existential choice the Malays must make to find self and the “I AM”.

When they finally made it they insisted constitutionally the Malay must be a Muslim and compressing that into power they refused themselves the freedom of religion. It’s sad.

Sadder still, Hang Tuah and his friends enjoyed their drinks (hic!) and thus became inadmissable to the hardening sinews of Islam in Malaysia. Islam damns alcoholic drinks as haram (forbidden). How do we appreciate Hang Tuah and his comrades who have been described occassionally drunk?

Yesus Kristos!

Yes. Yesus Kristos would pose a larger problem to Khoo Kay Kim. The wondrous Son of Man has hardly any documentary evidence to support the belief that he was indeed a person that had walked the earth, preached, taught, healed, is The Way to more than a billion Christians in the world and miraculously turned water into wine on one occassion before the heart warming stuff was forbidden centuries later by Muhammad. But it is evidently not a historical fact, making for a twain between history and religious belief and so Jesus may stand a chance in a Shariah Court.

Here in Malaysia you can go to jail drinking miraculously made wine, beer or stout if you are a Muslim. Therefore, choose!

Hang Tuah

Hang Tuah was a myth when this writer was in school. Growing up he found the mix of facts and fiction a common grace in the Malay Hikayat. It’s folk history but devised for good purposes, like the Hikayat Muhammad Hanafiah, which was about Muhammad Hanafiah who was a son of Ali and as real as you or me.

But the said Hikayat was mostly fictitious, used as a means to keep up the struggle of the Prophet’s family for Islam following the demise of Ali and his sons, Hasan and Husayn from Fatimah Zahrah al-Batul.

It became a description of heroism, of glorious fights and fighters, a little bit on the art of war and the excellence of Jihad the Malays themselves had required for a time.

Later they devised their own in the romances of Hang Tuah and of Jebat the alternate Ego. But the Malays were never able to decorate their own group of five as well as the Javanese had done with the Pandavas in the Kakawin.

No Vote

The good professor’s view isn’t going to affect a single vote in the awaited general elections and is therefore free of political perversion. It is unlikely the Ministry of Defence will rewrite the names of our frigates either, from KD Hang Tuah, KD Jebat and so on to Michelle Ma Belle or something like that.

As for the Ministry of Education wanting to remove the name of Hang Tuah from our history text books, this writer suggests we take a deep breath, count to ten and stay as we are. Hang Tuah was and is real.

Hang Tuah was Laksamana Bentan, once the capital of Johor-Riau-Lingga. Megat Seri Rama who krissed Sultan Mahmud of Johor was also Laksamana Bentan, himself from the island of the Orang Laut, once before written as Sea Gypsies but who must be billed as a great people who had led the other Malays through the thousands of islands and intervened decisively in Malay history time after time.

One of them, having had enough of the extravagance and the debauchery of the court in Jambi, stormed the palace and raped the queen before the eyes of her consort, the king, a fitting justice indeed for a ruler who had no control of his wives spendings and himself kept raising taxes till the taxes surpassed 30 per cent of trade items on top of port charges he levied at will.

And you would have read about Lapu Lapu, of course.

How do we treat the stories we read about the exploits of these great seafarers and warriors? Is there no place for a little romance for them like those we have in volumes about Alexander The Great?

“History must be based on empirical records. Historians must only accept written records,” Khoo Kay Kim was reported to have said, adding that empirical records available here were at best “scanty”.“There is no evidence in the Malaysian records,” he said. “These are stories. Early Malaysian history is based on stories.”

The “stories” Professor Khoo meant must be the Hikayat, a genre that is well-known to any and all students of our history. But the “written record” thingy has a kink in it. Because we are a story-telling community, we have to consider using oral recordings to augment the need for tangible evidence in the study and writing of history.

The Malaysian National Archives in 1972, led by Datuk Alwi Jantan and Datuk Zakiah Hanum, deliberated over the question of “oral history” and decided to keep oral recordings to provide for the gaps in the written documents.

This writer then worked on the Aziz Ishak Archives and after reading through the documents and letters in the former Minister’s files, the National Archives decided to have the points in them clarified and augmented in recorded interviews, starting what Professor Zainal Abidin Wahid of University of Malaya had termed “essential oral documentations”.

Since “History must be based on empirical records [and] Historians must only accept written records,” we have now to ask whether the National Archives had done wrong to allow for oral recordings?

We need to question that again. Do oral recordings of witnesses to an event betray the purity of history?

I had gone to Beruas, Perak, to interview a few living witnesses of the 1944 Sino-Malay clashes and especially when Sheikh Osman and his men had gone there to free the son of Panglima Hitam who had been taken captive.

Then, as the story went, when I followed a thread on Datuk Bahaman after some people had thought Tok Guru Peramu was the great warrior of Pahang, I found Hang Tuah still alive in some spiritual exercises in Pahang, which led me to trace the same in some Malay [and Orang Asli] villages along the Pahang, Bera and Serting rivers, involving members of the Semelai and Temuan tribes.

In short, in Hang Tuah we may be dealing with a Malay archetype, like Arjuna of the Mahabharata who was and still is to some Malays in Jawa a warrior archetype.

To the Malays (including Asli of course) Hang Tuah was born in Kampong Sungai Duyung, Melaka, to Hang Mahmud and Dang Merduwati. There are still families in the kampong who believe they are descendants of Hang Tuah.

There he grew up with his four comrades. Their teacher was Adi Putra. Many among the Asli of Serting and Bera said he had studied some silat from them too.

He learned to meditate and had his meditation cleft on the seaside of Cape Rachardo (Tanjung Tuan). That samadhi has since been demolished by the religious authorities because it was deemed as khurafat (superstition).

He had had a girlfriend or fiance in Melor, daughter of his Asli teacher in Ledang and of course there is a Hang Tuah mausoleum in Tanjung Kling, Melaka.

Are these notifications of the legendary figure real or are they merely incurred by the story-tellers for special effects?

But Hang Tuah is about blind loyalty. Why oh why do we need such a myth or an archetype of such an extraordinary loyalty?

There has been a lively debate about who ought to be the hero, Hang Tuah or Hang Jebat, a question raised by the Bugis, Raja Ali Haji, in the 19th century.

That question, raised in Tuhfat al-Nafis, still resounds in our classrooms and even across tables in coffee shops.

Why would such a debate be deemed unhealthy? Because it is about a myth?

As for Hang Tuah's terrible sense of loyalty, it is understood in Malay tradition as undivided loyalty to the Palembang House that founded the kingdom of Melaka, a matter that was to test Perak in later times when the Sultanate was contested by Tun Saban who had been Bendahara of Melaka, with his sister, Tok Temong, and the Temusai Nakhoda Kassim from Johor on his side. Perak was hitherto ruled by the Haluan, Tok Masuka(here) and not by a king (Raja) or Sultan. A contest against the Palembang House occurred in Johor as well.

It is essential to understand the context of the Hang Tuah romances before an opinion is structured, certainly. But we know little of our history because the research had been scanty, not because of scarcity of sources.

But other than the Hikayat, Babad, Kakawin, Teromba etc. which contain reflections of native histories, the written sources would be Ming records, some Indian inscriptions, colonial writings or sourced from the palaces. Can we then avoid oral sources

As long as we know the Hikayat, Kakawin or Teromba are a mix of history, ideological reflections and romances, do we really have a reason to hollow out Hang Tuah from the history textbooks? ----a. ghani ismail, 21 January, 2012