- Address by Anwar Ibrahim at the Inaugural Session – International Ulama Conference, Istanbul 20th August 2014
- What James Foley’s murder says about Islamic State
- Mahathir’s case against Najib detailed
- Why the ties Sukarno forged with Nahdlatul Ulama remain relevant for Indonesia
Posted: 21 Aug 2014 03:27 AM PDT
Ulema and their impact on the Umma
Congratulates RT Erdogan
For the first time ever in the history of democratic Turkey such an election has been held and it is truly indicative of a huge positive impact in political and democratic reform. I am confident that Turkey has now taken another major step forward in proving beyond any doubt that democracy, freedom and justice are not only compatible with Islam but are essential for the progress and well-being of the umma.
Commends role of Al-Qaradhawi – examplary alim
In the face of constant oppression, mistreatment and injustice from the powers that be in his homeland and some other Arab countries as well as being subjected to a systematic campaign of character assassination by the West, Shaykh al-Qhardawi has remained steadfast in his convictions that if we are truly sincere in our struggles for peace and justice in the name of Islam, then we need only fear Allah s.w.t.
Ulama and justice
In the history of Islamic civilization, the ulema have occupied a central place in shaping the course of events that have a direct impact on the umma. In the process, they have contributed significantly to political and socio-economic changes in Muslim societies, some for better and some for worse.
One prominent feature of the role of the ulema has been and continues to be their relationship and interaction with the powers that be. In fact, it has been said that the extent of their influence on the people is very much dependent on the extent of their proximity with those powers.
Historically, their rise or fall was in the hands of the ruling government. We know that under Mustafa Kemal the influence of the ulema in Turkey virtually disappeared.
In contrast, in Turkey today, the ulema are regaining their pride of place and are actively contributing to the national discourse on moving the umma to the next level.
The true ulema command our greatest respect because they have dedicated their lives to the cause of Islam and justice. They fear none except Allah. I say true ulema because there are those who are called 'ulema' or hold themselves out as'ulema' but when tested, it appears that they fear Man more than they fear God.
“Allah bears witness that there is no god but Him, so do the angels and those with knowledge upholding justice. There is no god but Him, the Almighty, All-Wise.” (Qur’an 'ali Imran 3:18)
These are the true ulema for they are not just 'ulul 'ilmi' but 'qaa-imambilqisti'.
He refused Sultan al-Zahir Baibars' request for a fatwa to legitimize further taxation on the people in order to finance his wars against the Mongols. While other so-called ulema obeyed, Imam an-Nawawi refused and told the ruler:
Just for the record, this was no mediocre ruler of the Islamic world. He was the first Sultan of the Bahri Mamluk dynasty of 13th century. He had defeated the crusaders in at least three major campaigns, and had led the Muslim army to victory against the Mongols in the famous Battle of Ain Jalut.
In terms of governance, he was exemplary in building the necessary infrastructure for the progress of the umma, and paid particular attention to nurturing development in the Islamic sciences.
But Baibars was human and not infallible. So, when the test came for Imam an-Nawawi, his choice was clear.
In the present day, the January 25 Revolution gave the Egyptian people a golden opportunity to taste true freedom and democracy. Unfortunately, after being democratically elected as President, Morsi was never really given a chance to take Egypt to the next level as the traitors of the revolution and enemies of freedom and justice were busy plotting to take Egypt back to its pre-democracy days.
Unfortunately, the grand imam of al-Azhar whose fatwa condemning it would have the greatest impact, did exactly the opposite. Was this fatwa issued in the name of freedom and justice? Or was it in the name of supporting oppression and injustice?
As we know, the coup was followed by a reign of terror. Thousands of civilians, women and children were slaughtered while the United States, the European Union and most shamefully, many of the Arab states, stood by.
The Brotherhood was declared a terrorist organisation and those fighting for freedom and democracy punished with death or life imprisonment. Three journalists from al-Jazeera were held for months without trial and later tried by kangaroo court given severe sentences.
On the pretext of responding to rockets from Hamas, the IDF has unleashed a new phase of genocide that has caused unimaginable suffering. This mass murder of Palestinian civilians was committed with utter impunity in the face of world-wide condemnation.
The state of Israel, supported by their immense propaganda machine with the connivance of the western media, has been trying to justify its war crimes by representing Hamas as a terrorist organisation and that the relentless bombardment of civilian populations is an act of self-defence.
Firstly, Hamas is an organisation democratically elected by the Palestinian people. Secondly, just last April, they joined hands with the Palestinian faction particularly Fatah to work towards peace. They had pledged to adopt the three basic principles of nonviolence, recognition of Israel, and adherence to past agreements.
This cannot be the acts of a terrorist organisation. As former U.S. President Carter has declared, these are the acts of a legitimate political actor, representing a substantial portion of the Palestinian people, who are committed to peace.
The fact of the matter is that it is Israel that has rejected this golden opportunity for peace. No amount of spin doctoring can ever justify the way the Israeli Defense Forces have unleashed their bombs and missiles on Gaza, destroying thousands of homes and displacing more than a quarter million Palestinians. They even bombed mosques, schools and UN shelters.
It is therefore clear who the real terrorists are. It is clear who are the ones committing ethnic cleansing. And it is clear who is trying to wipe who off the map of the world.
Fanaticism must be condemned
Supported by external forces, the take-over by ISIS and the declaration of an Islamic caliphate in northern Iraq and south eastern Syria and the atrocities committed in the name of Islam is a classic example of religious fanaticism gone wild.
Whatever may be the causes, at the end of the day, the victims this orgy of violence, killing and bloodshed are the helpless civilians, women and children.
Similarly, other extreme groups like Boko Haram and al-Shabab continue to spread violence and terror across the world. The ulema must also condemn these and other similar organisations and make it clear they are the enemies of Islam.
These extremist groups trumpeting the labels of Shari'a rule and Islamic state are hijacking Islam to justify their perverse and barbaric ways. There is nothing holy about slaughtering people for not converting to Islam. There is no jihad for raping women or kidnapping girls from their schools and homes and using them as bargaining chips.
And there is no Islamic caliphate or Islamic state that is built on the altar of bloodshed, violence and hatred. These are the very characteristics shunned by Islam.
The ulema must embark on a new and true jihad to reclaim the ground that is being usurped by these criminals and mass murderers.
"Allah will raise in ranks those of you who believe and those who have been given knowledge. Allah is aware of what you do." (Qur’an surah al-mujaadila 58:11)
Posted: 20 Aug 2014 10:42 PM PDT
The beheading of U.S. freelance photographer James Foley, now confirmed by U.S. officials, recalls the similarly gruesome murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002. It should act as a reminder, too, that Islamic State began as al-Qaeda in Iraq and differs from Pearl’s killers only in tactics.
Both proclaimed killings of American journalists were acts of propaganda designed to shock. The leaders of Islamic State aren’t naïve enough to believe that Foley’s death will persuade the U.S. to end its airstrikes against the group. No more did al-Qaeda’s self-described Sept. 11 architect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed expect the U.S. would meet the demand, made on the video recording in which he beheaded Pearl, to release all prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
It’s especially chilling that Foley’s executioner had a British accent — Pearl’s kidnapper Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh was also a U.K. national, radicalized while in Bosnia. At some point these people return home, unless killed or arrested. They will return brainwashed and brutalized.
Both al-Qaeda and Islamic State are best understood as nihilist organizations that target anyone who doesn’t share their inchoate ideology, rooted in a warped interpretation of fundamentalist Sunni Islam: Their enemies range from moderate Sunnis, to Shiites, Christians, Kurds, minority religious groups such as the Yazidi — and, of course, the West.
As ever, success is the best recruiter. Because, until recently, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Islamic State left each other alone, focusing instead on taking territory from more moderate Sunni rebels in Syria, Islamic State thrived there. Now it has seized about a third of Iraq and, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, recruited 6,300 new fighters, about 1,300 of them foreign, in July alone. That raises their total to about 50,000 from 15,000 a year ago, the observatory said.
That’s a higher estimate than those of most Western analysts, but the trend is clear. Also important is that this membership boost occurred before the U.S. launched airstrikes, so it was not in response to Western involvement.
Islamic State differs from al-Qaeda in the priority it gives to building a caliphate at the heart of the Middle East, rather than attacking the West. Yet this is a matter of priorities only: The ideology and methods are shared, and when Islamic State fighters go home, it defies experience and logic to believe they won’t continue the fight there — one returnee already attacked a synagogue in Belgium.
The question for President Barack Obama and other Western leaders isn’t whether to fight Islamic State, but when. Should it be now, when the group is not yet entrenched in Iraq, and when Assad — finally — has begun to move against it in Syria? Or will it be once its fighters have established themselves in Iraq and Syria and move on to Jordan, as they moved on the Kurds? If they were to succeed in Jordan, why not the Gulf states, where they already recruit and solicit donations? In Iraq and beyond, the nightmare prospect is of an al-Qaeda that controls petrostates and enjoys the funds, space and leisure to train jihadis from around the world.
The tragic death of James Foley should not be seen as a signal to step back in the belief that this will only be our fight if we make it so. Foley’s killing just confirms what Islamic State is and what it intends.
Posted: 20 Aug 2014 10:36 PM PDT
Former premier lists specific reasons for his withdrawal of support for serving PM
As long as two to three months before former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad publicly attacked his successor, Najib Tun Razak, through his blog, the former premier sent Najib a letter bristling with a list of demands to change his ways.
Mahathir's irritation has sputtered behind the scenes since before the disastrous May 2013 general election, in which the ruling Barisan Nasional lost the popular vote for the first time in 44 years although it retained its majority in parliament via gerrymandering. Since that time, bloggers deployed by Mahathir have made general attacks on the sitting prime minister, who took office in 2009 with Mahathir's approval.
But for the first time he personally criticized Najib in his blog, Che Det, saying on Aug. 16 that he had withdrawn support. The campaign against Najib has been mounted now in advance of the November United Malays National Organization general assembly, where it appears Najib has an unassailable position as party president.
Mahathir was scheduled to leave tonight for London, where Najib and his wife Rosmah Mansor have been for the past several days after a holiday that began three weeks ago after Najib's speech to families of the doomed MH17 airliner, which was brought down by a rocket over disputed territory in Ukraine on July 17.
In the letter to Najib, quoted to Asia Sentinel by a businessman with links to UMNO, Mahathir reportedly listed seven demands. Najib is said to have dispatched Tengku Adnan Tenku Mansor, the secretary-general of the United Malays National Organization, to see Mahathir, asking him to withdraw the letter. Mahathir refused, however, sources say. In the intervening weeks, nothing has happened.
Since Mahathir's attack, the story has been playing out behind the scenes of the mainstream media, which are controlled by the political parties that make up the national ruling coalition. They have gone black, carrying only praise for Najib without mentioning Mahathir's assault. Instead, the papers have merely included statements of support for Najib from leaders such as Foreign Minister Hishamuddin Hussein and others without mentioning the reason the support is needed.
Meanwhile the story has lit up the Internet, with independent news portals having a field day while Mahathir's blogger allies including Rocky's Bru, Outsyed the Box and others have defended him.
The demands listed in the letter included one that Najib reform the controversial 1MDB sovereign fund, which is deeply in debt after having funded a long string of controversial projects. It is said to be a major scandal sizzling out of sight and involving controversial Chinese playboy Taek Jho Low and Najib's wife, Rosmah Mansor.
The octogenarian former premier also complained that not enough contracts let by Petronas, the national energy company, were going to build up Bumiputeras, mostly ethnic Malays, but instead were being let to more neutral parties. At one point in October of 2013, Mahathir actually resigned from Petronas, saying his doctors had advised him to slow down. But the real reason is said to have been his anger with Najib's performance.
He also accused Najib of being too friendly with foreign governments including the United States over the bid to join President Barack Obama's TransPacific Partnership Agreement free trade pact, and Singapore for bending to Singapore's wishes and cancelling a controversial crooked bridge between the two countries over the Singapore Strait. He was also said to be miffed that Mahathir's immediate successor, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, attended a dinner with Obama during the latter's Malaysia visit but that he wasn't invited.
He also objected to the so-called one-off BRIM cash handouts that the government announced to households making less than RM3,000 (US$847) per month in 2012 as an election sweetener to alleviate the burden of a rising cost of living for low-income earners, saying it was breaking the budget. It ended up costing the treasury as much as RM4 billion.
He demanded that Malaysia Airlines, which is 70 percent owned by the Khazanah Nasional sovereign fund, be turned over to the private sector to attempt to right it after two disastrous crashes that took the lives of more than 500 people and which is almost moribund, losing billions of dollars. The private sector is said to be Syed Mokhtar al-Bukhairy, a longtime Mahathir crony who became the country's richest Bumi tycoon, largely through government contracts.
Finally, Mahathir criticized Najib over the breakdown in racial and religious relations in the country, which have grown progressively more poisonous by the year. That seems to be a striking obtuseness on Mahathir's part, since he has backed the Malay-supremacy NGO Perkasa, headed by firebrand Ibrahim Ali, and has made incendiary statements about racial superiority on his own. Prior to the 2013 general election, he sought to lead a major rally on May 13, the anniversary of 1969 communal riots that took the lives of hundreds. Najib forced the cancellation of the rally.
Allies say Mahathir's aim is not to bring down Najib, but to apply enough pressure to force him into making deep changes in the way the government is being run. However, at the age of 89, having been out of power since 2003, and with few remaining allies in UMNO, it is questionable at this point how much clout he still has.
However, he has a formidable record, having forced the ouster of Tunku Abdul Raman and Hussein Onn as prime ministers before his own 22 year period in office, beat back challenges by UMNO stalwarts Tengku Razaleigh, the Finance Minister, and both Musa Hitam and Anwar Ibrahim as his deputy prime ministers, all of whom attempted to unseat him, and then forced the departure of the successor he picked, Abdullah Badawi. He is expected to mount a daunting campaign against Najib when the two return from overseas.
Posted: 20 Aug 2014 10:35 PM PDT
This year's presidential election was marked by many remarkable events, ranging from an impressive show of people power to the darkest of political black campaigns. But while the election process has caused divisions within some strata of society, it has also generated a sense of solidarity that was rarely seen in past elections. A fascinating development, in some areas, was the revitalization of the strong ties created by Sukarno, the country's first president, and Hasyim Asy'ari, the founder of the Islamic organization Nahdlatul Ulama.
Both men have had a lasting impact. Sukarno is widely seen as a model of Indonesian nationalism and was a pioneer of the patriotic movement while Hasyim was the founding father of NU, now the largest Muslim organization in the world, which preaches a moderate Islam that rejects the idea of an absolute Islamic state in Indonesia.
NU emphasizes that our independence can only be safeguarded by national unity, peace and religious pluralism, and the mixture of Sukarno's and Hasyim's similar ideologies and objectives has played an important role in Indonesia's history. The joint fight against the imperialistic Dutch is one example, and both also had a hand in formulating Pancasila, the official philosophical foundation of the Indonesian state.
Cooperation in Pekalongan
This year's presidential election saw a spiritual and ideological rekindling between Indonesian nationalism and NU, particularly evident during campaigning in the Central Java town of Pekalongan, the country's most famous producer of the traditional batik textile.
Kuntho Witjaksana, a 45-year-old resident of Jakarta temporarily relocated to Pekalongan two months prior to election day to focus on a volunteer initiative. He had left his business and family because he wanted to start a more organized volunteer group for Joko Widodo and Jusuf Kalla. Why did he choose Pekalongan?
Kuntho's father was the head of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) branch in the town and had been a congressman in the late 1980s. The initial step Kuntho took was to approach his father's old political allies who still had a loyal following despite being politically inactive for years. Through this, he established his Relawan Persatuan group: volunteering for the cause of unity. The group attracted more than 5,000 people who became active members in a relatively short time. The association included supporters of the PDI-P, the Golkar Party and the National Democrats (Nasdem).
On the other side of town, Muhamad Jawad, 28, a young member of the Pekalongan branch of NU, also promoted its ideologies to local residents. He, and other affiliates of the organization, went door to door to remind the town of the plight and history of NU and to choose the candidate who they felt best represented the Nahdliyin, or followers of NU's teachings. At a townhall meeting, Kuntho and Jawad met and discussed their ideas and realized how similar their beliefs were. It was a microcosm of the relationship established by Sukarno and Hasyim.
For the past few years, there has been a separation of sorts between the Nahdliyin and the nationalistic movement at the grassroots level. There is a growing sentiment that nationalism is synonymous to secularism and that NU is strictly a religious group with concerns only to the spiritual and religious ritualistic aspects of life while ignoring the more essential topics of nation-building. This divide could drive the two groups further apart and consequently lose sight of their common goal.
It needs to be reminded that Sukarno once proclaimed in one of his speeches that he "loved" NU and that NU was widely regarded as a "watermelon organization": green, for Islam, on the outside but flush red, for Indonesian nationalism, on the inside. The late Abdurrahman Wahid, Indonesia's fourth president who was also known affectionately as Gus Dur, once said that to vote for either PDI-P or his own National Awakening Party (PKB) (with a heavy NU influence) would not make much difference, due to their many shared viewpoints. This philosophical fusion was one of the fertile seeds planted by Sukarno and the Nahdliyin that flourished and helped obtain Indonesia's independency. A significant event that many forget was that Sukarno and NU were instrumental in the process of re-annexing West Irian (now called Papua) back to the republic from Dutch colonial rule in 1962.
The historic presidential election this year was an example of how these two associations can achieve a goal collectively, as shown by Kunto and Jawad. Their organizations campaigned together, held meetings to discuss village safety, and coordinated activities of members of their groups in unison to distribute campaign material across the town. Both the volunteer group and NU even sat down and performed a traditional prayer to wish for a smooth, democratic election process and to pray for the forefathers of both organizations.
A former member of the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) in Pekalongan affirmed that these types of joint prayers between PDI and NU were a routine occasion in the old days and that he had longed for such a moment. In essence, Kunto's and Jawad's groups renewed the bond that had been thinning between them over time. During their newfound relationship, they were able to successfully assist the city of Pekalongan and its surrounding districts to vote for their presidential candidate at an impressive 70-percent rate. This is an example of the cooperation that Sukarno and Hasyim had in mind when they forged their partnership.
Sukarno and NU were shoulder to shoulder in building Indonesia to become Baldatun thayyibatun wa robbun ghafur — a place where all could live in tranquility and amicability. Re-implementation of this chapter in our history in present times is crucial now that Indonesia is threatened by radical religious groups that are trying to gain a foothold here. It is significant what the present government is doing in censoring and blocking their propaganda, but to prevent future problems, the work paved by Indonesia's past leaders should never be forgotten.
Sukarno once asserted that a great nation is a nation that appreciates the sacrifices and deeds of its past heroes. Their contributions are an asset not only for the past and present but, more importantly, also for the future of Indonesia.
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