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.
After spending nearly 30 years in exile, Dr Tengku Hasan di Tiro, the charismatic, if now aged, leader of Aceh’s independence movement returned to the island to a hero's welcome. Hundreds of thousands of joyous supporters had gathered at the airport to welcome him on October 13.
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.
What could have been the best chance for a lasting ceasefire in the southern Philippines was dashed last month after hostilities flared up again between government forces and a faction of the fighters belonging to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), who have been fighting for a separate homeland for Bangsamoro Muslims.
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.
Suddenly in September this year, Burma found itself centre-stage in the western media, despite the fact that reports from the country are vague and not in accordance with generally-used definitions of news authenticity. Three months after reports about a “bloodbath” and “massive protests” in the capital, it now seems that the status quo in Burma is going to survive. The demonstrations reported around the world, most of which are being coordinated by western NGOs and human-rights activists, appear to have changed nothing at all.
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.
How to get 80,000 Muslims to fill up a soccer stadium? Unless there is a soccer match, a soccer stadium is hardly ever filled up. At the Gelora Bung Karno stadium, the largest stadium in Jakarta, on August 12, however, nobody was playing football when people filled up all the seats. Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT), no stranger to crowd-mobilisation, managed to gather a huge crowd: some cynics say that getting 80,000 people together in a country like Indonesia is no big deal; the realities of the land in which an event is held are more important aspects to be analysed by observers of Indonesian politics, particularly those in the Islamic movement.1