Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Do not underrate importance and freedom of thought.

 One of the most important distinguishing features between humans and animals is our ability to think and reason.  
Due to our thinking faculties, we are able to be the dominant species on the planet. We have heard words and ideas such as “intelligence”, “cleverness”, “creativity”, “innovativeness” and so on. All these ideas relate to the various ways in which the brain functions.  
The brain if you like, is in a sense like the computer — garbage in garbage out.  In other words, the usefulness of your brain to you and others will depend largely on what you put inside your brain and how actively you use its potential and capability.
Many people think that simply because they live or are able to survive, they are using their brains. I have no better answer than to quote the Quran:
“Many are the Jinns and men we have made for Hell: They have hearts with which they understand not, eyes with which they see not, and ears with which they hear not. They are like cattle, nay more misguided: for they are heedless (of warning)” (Quran 7:179)
In the above verse, Allah compares some human beings to cattle and says that these human beings are worse off than cattle. Allah says clearly that many human beings are lower than cattle. Why cattle?
Cattle is guarded, fed, and its direction and life is determined by the cowherd. Cows have a heart, eyes and ears and so do human beings. Cows cannot use them to better their lives. Cows do not think and see or hear like humans. Humans have been given the privilege by Allah to use their hearts, their eyes and their ears. Those who do not, Allah says, are worse than cows.
The educated, well-off and powerful among us who follow their “animalistic instincts” for their own desires need ''cattle'' around them to make their desires a reality. They spurn lies albeit sometimes couched in intellectual, religious, and even nationalistic terms. Sometimes they use sentiments. When this fails, they use power and fear and threats. They do all they can to wreck society and the basis of human nature as Allah created to satisfy their selfish ends.
But why must we fall in their trap?
Are we like the cattle being led by the nose by the cowherd? Merely for the miserable hay that is thrown in our way and the cow shack that we are allowed, we are willing to live a life lower than the cattle? 
Even though we know that the cowherd’s main purpose is to milk us and slaughter us? 
If so, why did Allah give us hearts, eyes and ears that are different from the cow if He intended that we should only be led by the selfish cowherd? Why do we insist on degrading ourselves when Allah has elevated us?
Allah has given a way out. He holds us personally accountable. He reminds us:
“And pursue not that of which you have no knowledge; for every act of hearing, or of seeing or of (feeling in) the heart will be enquired into (on the Day of Reckoning)”. (Quran 17.36)
It is now entirely our choice. We can choose to be the human beings that Allah created or we may continue to be lower than the cattle that Allah forbade us to be. 
I believe the weak remain weak and become weaker when they dispense with the powerful blessing given to us by the Creator — the ability to think and reason. An entire society becomes doomed when it collectively frowns upon thinking and diversity of thought. 
It is worse when a minority of powerful men dictate that the bigger majority of ordinary citizens should not be given freedom of thought. The entire society becomes like the cattle in the cowshed totally dependent on the minority cowherd. 
We have to learn to read books beyond our little kingdom that we sometimes wrongly tend to think is the universe.  The world of knowledge is far bigger than what we think or know. 
It may be difficult for some to believe but it is broader than the so called knowledge we think is possessed by the cleverest among us. In current times, it is already difficult to identify who are the truly intelligent ones or geniuses due to the nature of our formal education system and the patronage system that allows only individuals with mainstream-friendly ideas to prosper. 
Anything else is trampled upon and the true thinker may find himself ostracised to languish in solitude. In the land of fools, the thinker is usually treated like a mad man — dangerous to society. 
We fail to recognise the historical truth because we have deliberately been led to deny its significance. Why do great civilisations become great? A study of civilisations — the Roman Empire, Ancient Egypt, Greek Empire, British Empire, the Islamic Golden Age, Chola Dynasty — demonstrates that knowledge, the freedom of thought and discipline played a key role in bringing about their greatness. 
When little men rise to big positions through a flawed, oppressive and corrupt system, society as a whole suffers. Like all other civilisations that fade when the rot sets it, such a society too will fade into oblivion. 
Future generations will naturally become worse because the children now see the little men as icons and idols to be emulated. This vicious cycle will continue unless we understand and recognise oppression of thought and say no to it.
* Jahaberdeen Mohamed Yunoos is a senior lawyer and founder of Rapera, a movement that encourages thinking and compassionate citizens. He can be reached at
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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Fix the past, design the future

In politics, if you don’t do the right things for the people, unless you are a devious schizophrenic Machiavelli, events will come back to haunt and hurt you.
Even if you are a devious Machiavelli, events will still haunt you but the fact that you are a sick schizophrenic will shield you from the pain of knowing you are a failed leader. It is important for politicians to understand this and more important for the citizens because they will bear the brunt of failed policies.
Some of our politicians do not seem to show any signs of reducing the play of political games. It is clearly calculated to cause political instability so as to achieve a certain political objective. On the other hand, people-oriented issues such as education, freedom of faith, employment, corruption, cost of living and so on, are not, and have never been championed as passionately by the political leaders. It should open up the eyes of the citizen that nothing excites politicians more than pure political issues, especially ones that directly concern power.
Hence, it falls back on the current government and the national leadership to decide what it wants to do under such turbulent political times. To me, the principle approach is easy but it requires honesty, courage and willingness to follow through to fix the past and progress to the future. There needs to be not only leadership, but visible leadership with a clear direction.
It is impossible to progress if we keep maintaining some of the failed national mindset and systems that have clearly brought us to this national inefficient state of existence.
We have to be courageous and not vindictive to identify the policies and thinking of the past that are preventing us from leaping forward as a successful united nation.
The sliding of Malaysia’s reputation on the world stage began a long time ago when we were accused of practising cronyism, nepotism and indulging in patronising politics in the mid-1980s.
Criticisms were already levelled then at how we have been misusing our newfound oil money on mega projects at the exclusion of building human capital. Home-grown and cottage industries, which are always the fundamental shock absorbers of any nation, were never given the necessary and due attention. Small and medium-sized enterprises were ignored or given lukewarm political attention, never mind the fact that we have an SME Bank. Political handouts to those who were close to the political circle and not to the talented were an open secret.
The judiciary suffered total disrespect locally and abroad and only recovered its image somewhat partly thanks to Datuk Zaid Ibrahim’s initiative, when Tun Abdullah Badawi became the prime minister. Racial polarisation, religious egoism and extremism of the worst kind are allowed to rear their ugly head. Political leaders have been blind to the fact these divisive mindsets took decades to grow due to past policies or lack of visionary policies. Understandably, the people were excited when Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak introduced the “1Malaysia” vision only to be thwarted by Umno’s powerful old guards who do not want the “old status quo” disturbed. A chance for a powerful reform vehicle to unite the people forward as one nation was watered down by these old guards who still wanted to wield power.
I can go on with many of the past policies that had failed and are still hurting the nation. Abdullah had somewhat tried to implement a reformist government but due to internal Umno politics, his administration was short-lived. He had largely refused to follow the old “Umno way” of doing things. Again, powerful old guards in the party will not allow change and hence, despite everyone saying what a nice man Abdullah is, the disinformation machinery was unleashed to retire him early.
 The writer says people want leaders who can fix parts of the past and the future to be planned and identified. — Bernama picThe writer says people want leaders who can fix parts of the past and the future to be planned and identified. — Bernama picThe unfortunate fact of the matter is this: the health of the country is tied very much to the health of Umno. There are many trappings that have been put in place in Umno and there are many powerful old guards who will try to chain the president down. Therefore, even as a president, you either toe the line or risk forced retirement. Only a firm and strong willed president can survive with his way of doing things in Umno. 
There are many things from the past that still persist today that have to be fixed by the present leadership. I repeat, the current leadership has to be courageous to fix the past so that we can move ahead as one nation. For years, Malaysians, especially the Malays, have been programmed not to think about many things. Allow the citizens in general and the Malays in particular the space and liberty to think and debate without having it always turned into a sensitive, political or taboo issue.
The integrity of the institutions that have been undermined over the years have to be restored so the citizens can have a sense of stability, safety and respect. Humanistic and nationalistic narratives ought to be accompanied by humanistic and nationalistic policies and actions. 
Real and holistic economic solutions ought to be designed, implemented and communicated to the people so uncertainty does not result in misinformed rebellion. An efficient leader is one who completely understands uncertainty among the masses is dangerous for the country’s stability. No one likes anxiety resulting from thinking the country has no direction.
The people are resilient but they need to understand and believe they have a leader who can help them pull through difficult times. That’s how people are.
People generally are sick and tired of political games. They now better understand the hypocrisy of the games and they want leaders who can fix parts of the past and the future to be planned and identified.
Floating along without a direction is bad, especially for a nation.
*Jahaberdeen Mohamed Yunoos is a senior lawyer and founder of Rapera, a movement that encourages thinking and compassionate citizens. He can be reached at
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Thursday, February 18, 2016

What is the Quranic position on terrorism?

Terrorism experts have identified at least six different sorts of terrorism — nationalist, religious, state-sponsored, left-wing, right-wing, and anarchist.
An objective study of terrorism in its broadest sense in world history will show that even though religion may be used as a platform, terrorist activities have in fact nothing to do with the religious
teachings per se.
Religious terrorists seek to use violence to further what they see as divinely commanded purposes, often targeting broad categories of foes in an attempt to bring about sweeping changes. Religious terrorists come from many major faiths, as well as from small cults. Religious terrorists are quite different from terrorists who manipulate and use religion as a platform to achieve other purposes, for example, pure greed or power.
Examples of religious terrorists have included the Palestinian Sunni Muslim organisation Hamas, the Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah, the radical Jewish groups affiliated with the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, the Israeli extremists Baruch Goldstein (who machine-gunned Muslim worshipers in a Hebron mosque in 1994) and Yigal Amir (who assassinated then prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995), some American white-supremacist and Christian militias, and the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult in Japan.
A detailed study of violence and religion will show that it is not confined to Muslims alone. There are extremists and violent people everywhere and it is the reasonable majority that has to keep the peace and sanity.
The Quran is extremely clear that there is absolutely no compulsion whatsoever in faith and violent approaches to spreading faith is antithetical to the teachings of the Quran (Q10:99).  In matters of religion, the Quran clearly cautions against being excessive (Q5:77).
According to Imam Tamman Adi of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Eugene, Oregon the concept of war is mentioned six times in the Quran as follows:
(a) God and his messenger declare a “war” on those who make money by unproductive financial transactions (usury, currency trade, stock market speculation, derivatives).  He asks creditors to give debtors time, or better yet, to forgive the debt as charity (Quran 2:278-279). A modern example can be the “war against international currency speculators” undertaken before by Malaysia.
(b) In the Quran, Allah decreed that killing one soul is like killing all humanity and and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people (Q5:32). God also condemns mass murder by gangs, calling it a war against law and order. The only exceptions are killing in self-defence and court-ordered execution of a murderer when the victim’s family does not forgive.
(c) God condemns nations that regularly violate international treaties and start wars. He requires other nations to prepare forces of deterrence against such war starters, but commands us to make peace with them whenever they are open to it (Q8:56).
(d) The Quran tells us that warmongers will commit mass murder and falsely blame it on Muslims in an attempt to start a war against Muslims. Fortunately, the verses tell us that such plots are fragile, built on the crumbling edge of a mud hill, bound to collapse with the plotters into hell (Q:9:107).  As a Muslim, I am convinced that a large majority of Muslims recognise that the terrorist activities carried out by Islamic State do not have any basis in the Quran.
(e) God tells us that when war is over, the killing must stop and prisoners must be exchanged or set free (Q47:4).
It is therefore clear from the foregoing discussions that the Quran is clearly against terrorism and thus, the continued use of the term “Islamic terrorism” is very annoying to the Muslims and misleading.
Unmistakably, terrorist’s activities have been around for a very long time in human history and it did not begin with 9/11.
As the above discussions show, there are many types of terrorism and therefore, there are many causes of such terrorism. Some of the reasons are pure greed or pure violence while the other causes has nothing to do with greed or the objective of causing violence, though it may be used as a means to attract attention.
In such cases, it is important to clearly understand the root causes so that long term and effective measures can be implemented to counter such terrorism by eliminating the root causes, if possible.
Identification of terrorism with religion or race should cease as this is misleading and tends to fuel prejudice and oppression of innocent people.
* Jahaberdeen is a senior lawyer and founder of Rapera, a movement that encourages thinking and compassionate citizens. He can be reached at
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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Why some Muslims are easy prey to terrorists and extremists.

 I totally welcome our country’s fight against terrorism through the use of law, the police and the military. Safety of the citizens is always a high priority for any responsible government.
However, I am of the view that anti-terrorism measures cannot merely be confined to law, police and military, though necessary, if a long-term solution is the objective.
The re-evaluation and reformation of values, culture, thought and how Islam is taught is the root that ought to be addressed. For this to happen, we need to create a culture of knowledge, thinking, civilised debates and discourse and a high tolerance for dissenting views. In short, coercion and compulsion in matters of faith must give way to personal choice and spiritual growth. 
Islam related terrorism (IR terrorism) is not confined to acts of violence alone because it is based and propagated on ideology.  IR terrorism obviously infests on its own ideology of what Islam is.
The question that every Muslim should ask is this: how in the world did the religion of peace get associated with terrorist violence so easily and globally? How is the professed Muslim persuaded to blow himself up in the name of “jihad”?
I believe that policy makers who want to combat IR terrorism has to embark on an honest study and evaluation of history first to understand what could have been used as the basis of ideology to recruit potential terrorists. The policy maker has to study all versions of history and not just the version he is most comfortable with. A proper approach to fighting IR terrorism has to take into account various other equally significant factors.
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Sunday, December 6, 2015

Fight bigotry with all our might

NOV 30 -- Now, really, where is that courageous Malaysian leader who has the vision and fortitude to move this nation forward as one nation — not a nation fragmented into ethnic, religious or economic classes? Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak presented his 1Malaysia policy with a huge potential to truly unite this nation towards greatness but where is the impact and the “umpphh”?
It is dangerously comical that after 50-over years of independence achieved by the multi-racial front and celebrated by all the citizens of this blessed nation, we still hear the most bigoted and racist statements being made by supposedly educated people. I recently read that an NGO, which unfortunately is identified with Islam, allegedly made a statement: “The Chinese entered this country together with the British invaders as intruders. Who gave them citizenship and wealth until their intrusion is protected until today?”   
If this was indeed uttered, why would anyone who is a Muslim and a citizen of this country want to make a statement like this? 
I cannot see such statements helping to foster national unity nor present the compassionate and intelligent face of Islam. On the contrary, I find such a statement completely inconsistent with the principles taught by Allah in the Quran. Any Muslim who knows his Quran knows we are all descendants of Prophet Adam, the fact of diversity of ethnicity, culture and languages are signs of Allah and it is so willed by Allah as a blessing for us to learn from each other, not to hate and discriminate against each other. It is for this reason I have often said sometimes an ignorant and mala fide professed Muslim is more dangerous to the image of Islam then a professed non-Muslim. 
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