Friday, 28 November 2008

one fatwa too many?

from bob teoh, retired journalist, on the recent fatwas in the country. some muslims would argued that non-muslims should not comment on the fatwas as these do not affect them. true. i am not going to quarrel with that. only problem i have with that is eventually some of the implications would spill over onto non-muslims. e.g. the ban on yoga. how would non-muslims be affected too you have a blanklet ban on yoga? are yoga centres going to be closed down? or they need a permit to run? or they have to screen their participants first to ensure there will be no muslims attending? what if muslims practise at home in privacy? are they going to be arrested? with over-zealous little napoleons enforcing the law, would there be cases of 'wrong' enforcement? over 'true bumiputras as in mistaken identity? the concerns go on ...... (the other fatwa was about tomboyism. seriously, can proclaiming a fatwa on this behaviour seriously prevent or reduced lesbianism as what the authorities claim as the root problem? just because a lady choose to wear pants and have short hair, is she going to be hauled up for religious counselling or sent to rehabilitation centres for brainwashing for 2 years?)


One fatwa too many

Thursday, 27 November 2008 16:51 Malaysian Today Posted by admin Bob Teoh (Sin Chew Daily

Malaysia continues to be embroiled in controversies even as its embattled Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is preparing to step down from office soon. The current uproar is over the latest fatwa (Islamic edict) prohibiting Muslims from taking up yoga, which it considers 'haram' (unclean). If anything at all, this points to a fatwa fatigue. Especially coming so soon after another fatwa admonishing Muslim girls from behaving like tomboys.

Compounding this problem is that the issuance of the fatwa by religious authorities needs the consent of the Malay rulers who are constitutionally the guardians of the religion. In this case, their consent was not sought.

This matter concerns not only Muslims but non-Muslims as well simply because religion is not a private matter but acts itself out in the public square. This is more so as Islam is the official religion of Malaysia. Thus it affects everyone in a variety of ways and in varying magnitude.
Although it differs in form, the substance of the matter may be of equal concern among non-Muslims.

For instance, some Christians and churches in Malaysia, are equally wary of their followers taking up yoga on precisely the same ground as that taken by the National Fatwa Council; that it is rooted in Hinduism.

Undoubtedly yoga is of Hindu origin. So are many things else we find in the country since Hinduism predates Islam in Malaysia. If we want to split hairs, even the etymology of the word 'Putrajaya' (Malaysia's spanking new Federal administrative capital city), is Sanskrit, the language of Hinduism. So do we throw out the baby with the bath water?
Yoga has come a long way from it ancient roots but still the challenge is, how do we practise yoga without embracing Hinduism?

Some churches also warn their flocks to shun martial arts since they originated from temples in China. Tai chi, qi gong, and acupuncture are similarly frowned upon for the same reasons. However, it must be remembered temples in ancient China served as places of worship as well as centres of learning of the arts, science and medicine and much else.

Many Chinese Christians in Malaysia tread an ardous journey in their faith trying to keep what is cultural and what is not consonant with their belief system. Some are easy choices like ancestral worship. We do not worship our ancestors but we honour and respect them as mandated by one of the Ten Commandments. Similarly for Confucius, we can keep the philisophy but we reject his 'diety'. Others seemingly pose some problems like the ubiquitous Chinese dragon. How do Christians keep out the religious elements and retain the cultural form of this auspicious mythical animal that is deeply etched in the Chinese psyche since the Bible has made it plainly demomic?

We do not live in a black and white world and when the two begin to blur into grey, we are confronted with the challenge of contextualisation. Most times it's not easy to achieve a middle ground. Indeed, our spiritual baggage is that the sacred and the profane must not mix. Some feel incumbent upon themselves to ensure that the two worlds indeed do not merge, hence the need for fatwas or ecclesiastical edicts.

Even till this day, the Church of England, or the Anglican Church, subscribes to ecclesiastical insurance for its 17,000 churches nationwide. Fortunately, churches in Malaysia need not have to come under such encumbrances. This is because ecclesiastical insurance is not available in Malaysia. Churches may even take up takaful or Islamic insurance without having to worry that they might just be hedging on the wrong side of heaven.

In all this, what is important as the Bible points out in 1 Corinthians 7:19, "Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters."
Clean or unclean, haram or halal (kosher), form or substance, the moot point of ecclesiastical edicts is simply that only a 'circumcised heart' is required.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

violence by all means?

while we malaysians can sleep peacefully tonite, it is carnage and mayhem elsewhere in india:

MUMBAI, India – Teams of gunmen stormed luxury hotels, a popular restaurant, a crowded train station and a Jewish center, killing at least 101 people and holding Westerners hostage in coordinated attacks on India's commercial center that were blamed on Muslim militants. Dozens of people were still trapped or held captive Thursday.

Police and gunmen were exchanging occasional gunfire at two luxury hotels and dozens of people were believed held hostage or trapped inside the besieged buildings. Pradeep Indulkar, a senior official at the Maharashtra state Home Ministry said 101 people were killed and 314 injured.

Among the dead were at least one Australian, Japanese and British national he said. Officials said eight militants had also been killed in the coordinated attacks on at least 10 sites that began around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Gunmen also seized the Mumbai headquarters of the ultra-orthodox Jewish outreach group Chabad Lubavitch. Indian commandos surrounded the building Thursday morning and witnesses said gunfire was heard from the building....(read the rest in below link)


and in neighbouring thailand where a standoff between protesters and the government is leading towards more fighting and possible deaths:

BANGKOK, Thailand – Thailand's Cabinet, meeting outside the capital to evade anti-government demonstrators, was weighing whether to impose a state of emergency Thursday to try to end airport protests that have left thousands of travelers stranded for two straight days.

Meeting with the prime minister in Chiang Mai, 350 miles (570 kilometers) north of Bangkok, the Cabinet would consider both an emergency decree or the use of a tough internal security law, government spokesman Nattawut Sai-kua said.

"We have to consider these legal options to solve the crisis," he said before the afternoon meeting.

There also was speculation in the Thai media that the prime minister might remove the powerful army chief, Anupong Paochinda, who called Wednesday for the dissolution of Parliament and new elections to resolve the deepening political crisis.

Protesters, who are demanding the resignation of the prime minister, have occupied Bangkok's international airport since Tuesday night, forcing the cancellation of all flights. On Thursday, they also forced the domestic airport to close in a bid to prevent government ministers from getting to the cabinet meeting.... (read the rest in below link)


so, in a way, we are thankful that in malaysia we have not descended into such chaos, lawlessness and madness. it is a fine line that some people choose to cross by arguing that it is ok to take violence into their hands in order to achieve their means. can this be legitimate? No. it should be 'by all means to achieve the ends' but 'not achieving the ends with whatever costs'! violence is not the road we malaysians take to achieve our ends (remember may 13). peaceful demonstrations, yes, but not violence.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

anti-ISA candlelight vigil 23rd nov 2008

well, the reb is back after 5 days at the 33rd session of the trac annual conference in subang. it was the same usual business of elections of office bearers etc.

the highlight of the reb's trip was attending the pj sunday nite anti-ISA candlelight vigil on 23rd nov 2008 (seen here with sivin - photo caption was 'godsend reverends'). the reb's pics came up the next day on facebook (courtesy of some friends), on some bloggers' sites (like anil netto), youtube and even monday malay mail!

the reb was asked by richard to speak since he was there. you can watch it in the clip below in the second part:

a mention in anil's blog:

and in sanjuin's blog:

and in jarod's paradise storm:

and the whisperer"

join the facebook group on anti-ISA:


some updates: (30th Nov 2008)

in sivin kit's blog:

in splim's blog:

and a write-up by stevensim:

and in micah's mandate:

p.s. thanks for all the encouragement from all those who wrote.