Arafat: From Defender to Dictator by Said K. Aburish. Pub: Bloomsbury Paperbacks, London, UK, 1999. Pp: 360. Pbk: £7.99
What started as a media manufactured rift in Malaysia’s Islamic Party (PAS) soon became real after its top leader openly condemned a section of the leadership who has been in talks with the ruling UMNO.
The twentieth anniversary of Imam Khomeini’s death seems, therefore, an appropriate time to publish a compilation of articles on Imam Khomeini, his work and thought, and their impact on contemporary history, in the hope that some Muslims at least may be reminded of his unique contribution to the history of Islam. While there is a plethora of writings on Imam Khomeini and his thoughts, we have confined our selections largely to articles published in the news magazine Crescent International. This Toronto-based news magazine has provided unparalleled coverage of the Islamic Revolution in Iran and the Islamic movement since 1980, based on the contributions of seasoned observers and expert analysts of contemporary Islamic affairs. The publication of this book, it is hoped, will lay the foundation for any one interested in current affairs or modern Islamic political thought to study events based on sound understanding of historical facts and evolution of events.1
In the ongoing political drama that has played out over the last decade, more so since the opposition’s impressive gains in last year’s general elections, the government imposed a three-month ban on one of the country’s most widely circulated newspaper, Harakah, the bilingual voice of the Islamic Party (PAS), which now controls two of the five states the opposition alliance captured last year.
When it comes to treating human beings like cattle, or worse, the Thai military does it best. Last December, thousands of Rohingya Muslims from Bangladesh and Myanmar, desperate to flee their squalid and miserable conditions, decided to jump into boats and migrate to neighboring lands. The Indian navy eventually found them near the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
By-elections in Malaysia are fought with the same vigor, if not more, as the general election. Why this is so remains a mystery, especially when the ruling party still has a comfortable majority in parliament despite the drubbing it got in the general elections last March.
An inaugural memorial lecture on the translator of the Qur’an in English, the late Abdullah Yusuf Ali, was held in Kuala Lumpur on December 14. Organized by the Malaysian-based Islamic Book Trust (IBT), the lecture was delivered by M.A. Sherif, author of Searching for Solace, the first detailed account of the life of Yusuf Ali published by IBT in 1994.
The creases from his predecessor’s seat had hardly settled when Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced on October 9 that he would step down as prime minister and president of the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) in March 2009.
If the trend of powerful political parties expiring after fifty years’ rule is anything to go by, then Malaysia’s ruling United Malays National Organisation(UMNO), in power since the country’s independence from Britain in 1957, had better be prepared.
Four years ago Anwar was almost a spent force in Malaysian politics. When he was released after a court’s acquittal in September 2004, amid the jubilation that he would provide the leadership needed for an opposition in disarray, there was still no guarantee that another attack against him would not resurface, despite the failed campaign of prime minister Mahathir Mohamad to taint his character.
It has become a political tradition for the performance of a government to be evaluated once it has been in power for a period of some three months or a hundred days. This is usually taken as the time required for the new administration to bed itself in; problems encountered before this time has elapsed can often be conveniently attributed to the previous regime.
As the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) growls like a wounded tiger about its setbacks since the general elections in March, former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim is almost like a vulture, waiting his chance to pound at the best opportunity he has had in more than a decade.
That there are now two ruling coalitions in Malaysia – UMNO’s and another led by Anwar Ibrahim (pic, left) – aptly describes Malaysia’s post-election reality. For the first time, the opposition’s credibility is being put to test at the governing level.
As Crescent goes to press, intense campaigning is under way in Malaysia for the general election on March 8. The election was called by prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi after almost a year of speculation that turned out to be correct: that it would be held before April this year.
Perhaps the only confusion that emerged in the aftermath of Suharto’s death on January 27 was the conflicting reports about how many names he had: whether he had one name, like most Javanese, or two, prefixed by ‘Muhammad’. The rest of the details about his life are clear.
The adage ‘no news is good news’ is not always true for Muslims in southern Thailand. Reports from the south seldom make it to the mainstream news agenda, conveying the impression that the conflict is dying down. Yet in less than four years about 3,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed, and tens of thousands wounded.
As Crescent went to press, Malaysians were still awaiting announcement of the date of the country’s general elections, which had been widely expected to take place before the end of the year. They have been delayed because of a number of man-made and natural events that have shaken the confidence of the government of prime minister Abdullah Badawi.
Just when prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was basking in glory after the usual praises poured on him at the end of the ruling UMNO's general assembly, he was jolted by a mammoth opposition-backed rally in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, on November 10. That tens of thousands of protesters heeded the silent invitation to join the rally calling for major reforms in the way elections are conducted, after countless threats and warnings from the prime minister and police chiefs, sends a signal that the people's resentment of the UMNO is even more than it was thought to be.
Nine years after he was dismissed, arrested, beaten and brought to the trial that displayed the utter corruption of Malaysia’s judiciary, former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim, now a leader of the opposition, seems to have got something on a silver plate on September 19.
Few countries pay as much attention to their deputy prime ministers as Malaysians do. The number two spot in the government is often fought for with a fervour stronger than for the PM’s post. When not being contested, the person occupying it had better get every part of his act clean, at least in public. The slightest involvement in any controversy will be the road to resignation, or, in the case of Anwar Ibrahim, unceremonious dismissal and arrest.
Barely a month after he announced his intention of returning to the political stage, Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia’s former deputy prime minister, is back in limelight. Since being released from jail in late 2004, he had been travelling around the world delivering speeches to academic institutions and thinktanks. Now he has promised to give the Malaysian opposition a shot in the arm.
As the conflict in Aceh recedes into the past, another part of Muslim southeast Asia has emerged as a conflict zone, as if to replace the ‘vacuum' created by the successful peace accord between GAM and Jakarta. The Muslim-majority provinces in southern Thailand, which border with Malaysia, have been the scene of unprecedented casualties in recent months, pushing the death toll to 2,000, all killed in circumstances that have yet to be explained in a plausible manner.
After months of optimism, Malaysia finally admitted last month that its negotiations over the free trade agreement (FTA) with the US are going nowhere. The Malaysian government has been shunning an infant movement which is slowly gaining momentum to oppose any FTA with Washington. With other ‘developing' countries, the Americans have listed Malaysia as their next target for an FTA, salivating at the prospect of laying hands on this economically booming southeast-Asian region.
Malaysia’s United Malay National Organisation (UMNO) held its general assembly last month. It was the first such gathering for the ruling party since Abdullah Ahmad Badawi took over the helm in October 2003. But as usual there were no elections for the president’s and deputy president’s posts
The international arms trade is one of the largest and most profitable in the world, with developing countries spending vast amounts on Western arms. ABDAR RAHMAN KOYA discusses how the West abuses its power in this unequal and exploitative relationship.
From a rag-tag band of guerrillas in the 1980's, the Hizbullah have become a near-professional army capable of resisting the Israelis on several fronts for prolonged periods. But they are far more than simply a military force. They are also a popular political movement in Lebanon, capable of transcending the country's fractured communal politics, and the main providers of education and welfare services to Lebanon's poorest people. It is not only for their military strength that they are massively popular with Arab and Muslim peoples everywhere? and regarded with fear by Israel, the West and Arab governments alike. This volume brings together essays and features on what is perhaps the most successful non-governmental social, political and military movement in the world today.1
Malaysia is a Muslim country with substantial non-Muslim minorities. Although it cannot be considered an Islamic state, Islam plays a large part in its public life. ABDAR RAHMAN KOYA discusses Christian and Hindu attempts to “de-Islamise” it.
Time was obviously not on the side of Australia and the US, right from the day respected alim Abu Bakar Basyir was sentenced to jail two years ago for a crime he was too frail to plan or carry out. On 14 June, it was like a discordant alarm-clock that went off too early for Canberra, the self-appointed deputy sheriff of Bush's international police force.
In the last issue, we reported on the protests by expatriate workers in Dubai against their treatment there. Now ABD RAHMAN KOYA in Kuala Lumpur reports on the plight of Indonesia domestic workers in Malaysia, and the shortcomings of a new agreement between the countries.
Our Decline: Its Causes and Remedies by Amir Shakib Arslan (new, revised edition). Pub: Islamic Book Trust, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 2004 (www.ibtbooks.com). Pp: 175. US$10.00.
For the third time since Jakarta and the fighters of Aceh signed their first ‘treaty' in May 2000, both sides have again reached a deal, hoping to pave the way to a lasting solution of the conflict in North Sumatra. This time the negotiations were conducted in the wake of the region's worst catastrophe: the tsunami of December 26 last year.
Since the early eighties, Crescent International has been covering political developments in Malaysia. Recently the country's largest opposition party, the Islamic Party (PAS), got extensive media attention after its party elections. The election of its new leaders, particularly that of the deputy president, whom the media have heralded as ‘moderate' and ‘reformist', is seen as a turning-point for PAS and described as a sign of sweeping changes to come. Where does PAS go from here? ABDAR RAHMAN KOYA talks to Dr Nasharuddin Mat Isa, the new deputy president of PAS, about a number of issues affecting Muslims in Malaysia and the Islamic movement.
The rise and fall of the Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) seem to be tied to its arch-rival United Malay National Organisation (UMNO). Now that UMNO’s worst crisis is over with the end of the Anwar Ibrahim saga, all indications are that PAS is declining, with even party leaders becoming defensive when trying to answer accusations that the party has lost its direction.
Since his release last year after spending six-years in a Malaysian prison, Anwar Ibrahim has become a darling of the West for his promotion of an understanding of Islam that is regarded as ‘moderate’ and West-friendly. ABDAR RAHMAN KOYA in Kuala Lumpur reports.
As if the recent divine fury of the tsunami that struck South-East Asia last December were not enough, the prospect of a war between that region's only two predominantly Muslim countries, Indonesia and Malaysia, came into the limelight after the deployment of warships by both countries in a disputed area of sea.
No sooner had the tsunami struck more than ten countries in southern Asia than the numbers games began. First it was the giant news media who rushed to report the latest death toll – the bigger the death toll reported, the fresher the news was. Another numbers game is the aid promised by governments to help the victims.
After weeks of promises and reversals, the Malaysian government, which practises an official policy of zero-tolerance towards refugees and foreigners without valid documents, has formally announced its decision to recognise the thousands of Rohingya Muslims in the country as political refugees.
Since his return on October 31 after undergoing spinal surgery in Germany, former Malaysian deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim has been wooing large crowds wherever he goes...
Malaysia often claims to be a well-developed Muslim country, with its skycrapers and well-organised city gracing postcards and tourist brochures. Some of this is not propaganda...
One feature of Malaysia is its ability to make everything a make-believe. Its racially-divided society is seemingly in harmony, its economy is seemingly in the hands of the majority Malay Muslims, its rich-poor gap is seemingly small, and its judiciary is seemingly fair...
Since the fall of Suharto Indonesia's journey to ‘democracy' has been marked by court trials involving its past rulers. Curiously, any trial in Indonesia attracts western attention to their disputed ‘credibility'...
A useful characteristic of George W. Bush and his cronies is their openness in dealing with America’s enemies, thus making known the US’s probable next course of action...
The results of the general elections held on March 21 in Malaysia were as expected (see Crescent, March 2004): a return to the pre-Anwar-Ibrahim saga situation...
A hundred days is generally accepted to be a reasonable time after which to gauge the progress or performance of a new government or political leader...
Our Decline: Its Causes and Remedies by Amir Shakib Arslan (new, revised edition). Pub: Islamic Book Trust, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 2004 (www.ibtbooks.com). Pp: 175. US$8.00.
Riding high after his speech at the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) summit in October, Malaysia’s Dr Mahathir Mohamad finally kept his promise by stepping down after 22 years in power. He seems to have followed the advice from his mother...
Muslim regimes have developed ingenious ways to convince the Bush administration of their commitment to the ‘war on terrorism’ . The latest is the ‘numbers game’ of arrested Muslim activists – the more people hauled in, the more unlikely it is that one will suffer the Saddam fate (or so they hope).
Russian president Vladimir Putin got more than he bargained for during his first-ever trip to Malaysia on August 5, as part of his effort to increase the sales of Russian arms in this part of the world.
Indonesian authorities in charge of the recently declared martial law in Aceh have announced that martial law has achieved "100 per cent" control of the territory. However, army chief general Endriartono Sutarto was quick to add that "of course we cannot say security is 100 percent guaranteed", according to the Jakarta Post (July 2).
It could have been yet another festival of tears for the United Malay National Organisation (UMNO), Malaysia’s ruling party, when it held its annual congress last month. That party-president-cum-prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad would weep as he has in previous years was taken for granted.
Taking a cue from her American mentors, Indonesian president Megawati Sukarnoputri has discovered the art of talking tough towards the end of a term of office. Megawati has mostly maintained silence as the cornerstone of her presidency...
Barely four months after the second ceasefire was signed between the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), the deal has crumbled yet again, though no one is surprised.
As American and British forces ‘mop up’ the pockets of resistance while ‘cruising’ through Baghdad, the protest and anger generated before and during the war are taking on a new dimension that may not be so easy to deal with as Saddam’s regime...
What’s in a NAM? This was answered even before the so-called non-aligned countries, which constitute the Non-Aligned Movement, began their summit in Kuala Lumpur on February 24. For many heads of state who attended, it was a short holiday in the tropics.
There are signs that cracks are appearing in the alliance of strange bedfellows in South East Asia. Governments are beginning to realise that they have been negligent of domestic politics; as general elections loom in countries like Malaysia and Indonesia...
Despite desperate attempts by the police to convince a sceptical public by broadcasting suspects’ confessions on television, most Indonesians still disbelieve allegations of local Muslim groups’ involvement in the Bali carnage of October 12...
When at a loss to explain anti-Western opinions and activities, American agencies routinely blame Usama bin Ladin. Since the Bali bombing on October 12, Indonesia has identified its own equivalent: the well-known alim Abu Bakar Basyir...
It seems that the US’s hopes of making Indonesia its prime ally in Southeast Asia may be dashed. President Megawati Sukarnoputri is being forced to decide which to heed, Washington’s bully-tactics or her own cabinet’s opposition to their country becoming a US stooge.
Recent revelations about Malaysia’s mistreatment of foreign workers (“illegal immigrants” in local media parlance) reveal the extent of the Malaysian regime’s brutalities against people. Kuala Lumpur has for years been suppressing documented evidence of torture and deaths at various ‘deportation’ camps set up as holding centres for refugees.
In yet another example of Bush’s cowboy-style government, Washington has announced that it will block a lawsuit against US multinational ExxonMobil by victims of the notorious Indonesian military’s atrocities in Aceh.
Both Malaysia’s ruling coalition, led by the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), and the opposition Islamic Party (PAS) got shocks in by-elections in two constituencies left vacant by the death of Fadzil Noor...
Fadzil Mohammad Noor, president of the Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS) and parliamentary opposition leader, died on June 23, two weeks after undergoing heart-bypass surgery.
Wahhabism: A Critical Essay, by Hamid Algar. Pub: Islamic Publications International, Oneonta, New York (www.islampub.com), 2002. Pp: 98. Pbk: $12.95.
There are no permanent enemies or allies in politics. Malaysia’s opposition front, dominated by the Islamic Party (PAS), which has joined hands with former UMNO members disenchanted with prime minister Mahathir Mohamad over his injustices to Anwar Ibrahim, are already feeling the winds of betrayal blowing.
Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of Burma’s National League for Democracy, which won the elections annulled by the military junta in 1990, was released unconditionally after years of periods of shortlived and uncertain freedom...
The Malaysian regime has engaged in a fresh round of arrests: another 14 people were abducted on April 18 under the Internal Security Act, accusing them of links with ‘Islamic militants’...
South East Asia has enjoyed relative peace since the end of US involvement in Vietnam two decades ago. Border disputes have been largely controlled, with governments maintaining a neutral zone through the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), which has been hailed as a model regional pact.
US allies in South-East Asia have been quick to seize the opportunity offered by the West’s anti-terrorism campaign to act against Islamic activism among the region’s ocean of Muslims. Few now bother to deny that the US is working towards a direct military role in the region.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), long regarded as a powerful regional pact that served as an independent voice for the region, ceased to be so on November 5 when its leaders caved in to western pressure.
George W. Bush insists that nations who do not support the “war against terrorism” are themselves terrorists: Muslim leaders in Southeast Asia have their own reasons to take the ‘ultimatum’ seriously.
‘President’ Yasser Arafat found his host cooler towards him when he flew to Kuala Lumpur late in August. In a change from the past, he was given a less-than-friendly welcome by the Malaysian regime, which was caught in the middle of a virtual war against Islamic militants, and had to downplay its reception to the Palestinian delegation.
The beleaguered Mahathir regime in Malaysia appears to have a knack for finding strategies that have unintended effects. In its latest campaign to silence the opposition, ten more people, including Nik Adli Nik Abdul Aziz, the son of PAS chief Nik Abdul Aziz, were abducted in the first week of August under the notorious Internal Security Act (ISA)...
After rounding up scores of people last April under the notorious Internal Security Act (ISA), the Mahathir regime in Malaysia is now targeting the country’s campuses in its attempts to halt the escalating opposition of young people to his government.
Mention of the Tablighi Jama’at often conjures up images of ascetic Muslims with long beards and loose dresses. Such steoreotyping is not always inaccurate.
Carrying out his promise earlier last month that he would “defy international norms” to ensure the nation’s “security”, Malaysia’s besieged prime minister Mahathir Mohamed continued his crackdown on political dissent with the arrest of individuals under the feared Internal Security Act (ISA).
In what is seen as a sign of desperation by the Mahathir regime, Ezam Nor, a leading Malaysian political activist, was arrested on March 5 for his role in a series of well-attended street demonstrations in Kuala Lumpur over the last few months.
HADITH AND SUNNAH – IDEALS AND REALITIES edited by P.K. Koya, 2nd. edition, 2000; Islamic Book Trust, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Email email@example.com). Pp: 360. Price: RM36.
Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, who has been abandoned by his erstwhile Malay Muslim supporters since the dismissal and arrest of former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim, suffered yet another blow on November 29.