The “Wisdom” of Zaid Ibrahim

November 22, 2014

It seems Zaid Ibrahim has a beef with Information minister Shabery Cheek for saying that the Penang Government is racist for neglecting low cost housing for the mainly Malay poor in the state. So he writes this angry article titled “Where are the facts?” berating Shabery for being “incapable of discussing urban housing needs based on reality and facts”.

Do please note the title of the article, because in it he goes on to drop this gem:

“I am not convinced DAP is a stupid organisation. Penang Malays currently comprise 40% of the vote and Malay men can marry four wives, which mean future demographics will favour the Malays in the medium and long term.” 

So Zaid, polygamy is the reason the Malay population is growing? No other explanation? And you have the cheek to call someone else out for talking nonsense?

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Condolence

April 17, 2014

YB Karpal Singh passed away in a car accident this morning. My condolences to his loved ones.

Fear Mongering

March 5, 2014

TMI reports that participants at a forum called “Time to Reform the Police Force” were told that Malaysians no longer feel safe. Apparently to back the claim that crime was rampant, R Sanjeevan, the chairman of so-called crime watchdog, MyWatch, produced figures that showed that “67 murders were reported in the first two months of the year while more than 6,000 motorcycle thefts and over 900 cases of criminal intimidation were also reported in the same period“.

To add to the shock value, he claimed these figures were “leaked” to him, which I suppose is meant to imply that this is something that the government doesn’t want people to know about.

The numbers do look big, don’t they? Of course,  1 murder is 1 too many, but do the numbers really show that crime in Malaysia is now out of control as the article suggests?  Let’s compare the figures with statistics from other countries and also with how Malaysia has done in the past. Since international statistics on motorcycle theft and criminal intimidation are rather hard to come by, let’s look at the number for murders.

If we extrapolate the figures for the first 2 months to the whole year, we would expect to end up with 67 murders * 365 days / 59 days = 414.5 murders for the whole year. Usually statistics for the murder rate are expressed in number of murders per 100,000 people per year. Malaysia’s population just turned 30 million, so 414.5 murders per year would give us a murder rate of:

(414.5 murders  * 100,000 people) / 30,000,000 people

=   1.38 murders per 100,000 people per year

So, how are we doing compared to other countries? This site has a nice convenient table that ranks countries by the rate of murder  (or “intentional homicide” as the UN calls it).

1.38 would put us at 151st place out of 190 countries (1 being the country with the highest murder rate and 190 having the lowest). Certainly not the best, but respectable nonetheless. We are quite a way off the likes of Japan (0.4) and Singapore (0.31) but still much better than the USA (4.75) and neighbours Indonesia (8.07), Thailand (4.76) and the Philippines (5.39).

What is more interesting, though, is that 1.38 would be significantly better  than our own 2006 figure of 2.27. In fact, the rate would be lower than every year for which the UN has data:

Country or Area Year Count Rate Source Source Type
Malaysia 2006 604 2.3 CTS CJ
Malaysia 2005 497 1.9 CTS CJ
Malaysia 2000 551 2.4 CTS CJ
Malaysia 1999 588 2.6 CTS CJ
Malaysia 1998 629 2.8 CTS CJ
Malaysia 1997 540 2.5 CTS CJ
Malaysia 1996 447 2.1 CTS CJ
Malaysia 1995 396 1.9 CTS CJ

As for more recent years, official figures show that there were 602 murders in 2012 and 478 for the first 9 months of 2013. Again, the projected 414.5 would be an improvement on these years as well.

The numbers, at least for murder, do not indicate that violent crime is getting much worse, if at all. So why do Malaysians feel less safe these days? Perhaps people like Mr Sanjeevan should look in the mirror to find the answer.

Quoting the Bible

March 4, 2014

Anwar Ibrahim has been defending his recent visit to the Holy Family Church in Kajang.  Below is an excerpt from the TMI report:

Anwar who had quoted from the Quran while talking at the Holy Family Church, tonight quoted from the bible to drive home his point on religious tolerance.

Anwar quoted from the bible saying: “‘You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.

“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me: every tongue will acknowledge God‘,” Anwar read.

He said with the message that he had just sent, the public should stop judging one another and work towards understanding each other

It is clear that in this case, Anwar was talking about relations between Christians and Muslims. Anwar was speaking to a group of Muslims, so the “brother or sister” in the above quote would refer to the Christians.  Now, I find Anwar’s choice of biblical verses to quote from quite interesting. The verses are Romans 14:10 and 14:11.

The Epistle to the Romans was written by the apostle Paul and this particular chapter dealt with the tensions that had arisen in Rome at the time between the Jewish Christian converts and the Gentiles. The Jewish converts insisted on observing Jewish dietary customs and holy days which the Gentiles and Paul himself felt were no longer required by  their new faith. For this, the Gentiles had viewed them with contempt, and on their part, the Jewish converts judged the Gentiles for not keeping to the old laws.  Although Paul did not agree with the Jewish converts, he did not view them as being wrong because they were sincere in their belief. Essentially, what Paul was saying is that differences in things like food or sacred days were not important but their shared conviction in Jesus as their Lord and saviour was.

So, why would Anwar think that these verses are relevant to Muslim-Christian relations in Malaysia?  Does he liken today’s Christians and Muslims to the Jewish converts and the Gentiles that Paul was referring to?  Does he mean to say that the differences between Muslims and Christians are similarly inconsequential, and that what matters is their shared belief in the same God? Sure sounds like it to me.

You know what else it sounds like? Take a look at the definition below:

Religious pluralism generally refers to the belief in two or more religious worldviews as being equally valid or acceptable. More than mere tolerance, religious pluralism accepts multiple paths to God or gods as a possibility and is usually used in contrast with “exclusivism,” the idea that there is only one true religion or way to know God.

Jangan tertipu lagi, Najib

February 23, 2014

PM Najib has advised the rakyat not to be taken in again by the sweet nothings whispered by the opposition. You can read about it here. Of course, it isn’t  just the rakyat who have been  tertipu lately:

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I think Najib would do well to heed his own advice.

Defund Jakim?

February 18, 2014

This is the call made by one Shaun Tan in an article published by the Malaysian Insider. It seems what got Mr Tan’s goat was the Friday sermon released by Jakim recently which said that Muslims shouldn’t be celebrating Valentine’s day.

In the article, Mr Tan called the sermon a “tirade of vitriol and intolerance”, which I find just a wee bit ironic when Mr Tan’s own article is chock full of barbs and invectives. Here are some of the terms that Mr Tan uses to describe Jakim and their actions in his article:
noxious, rabid, fatuous, consistently worked to undermine reason and goodwill, tirade of vitriol, intolerance, grossly incompetent, hateful and damaging, disgrace to Islam, stupidity, persecution, people being bullied and persecuted, petty, uttering foolishness and extremism, bigotry.

Now that’s a lot of insults to fit into a short 596 word article. A fine example of Christian love and compassion, eh Mr Tan?

Feeding the Mouth that Bites You

January 17, 2014

Below are a couple of screen caps from pro-opposition portal The Malaysian Insider. Since kangkung-gate erupted a few days ago, they’ve really gone to town gleefully playing up the issue. Of course, this is nothing new nor surprising. What I really wanted to highlight are the bits circled in yellow.

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God of gods

January 11, 2014

… is a phrase that appears in the English bible several times, but the Malay equivalent doesn’t appear even once in the BSM Malay translation. Why? Well, probably because it can’t do so without sounding ridiculous. Such is the bind Malaysian Christians find themselves in because of their insistence on using “Allah” for “God” in Malay.

Ask any Malay speaking person to translate “God of gods” into Malay, and they will say “Tuhan segala tuhan”. Simple, isn’t it? Except that for the Malay speaking Christian it isn’t so simple. They can’t say “Allah segala allah” because “allah” with the lower case ‘a’ doesn’t exist in the Malay language. Although the Indonesian bible does use “allah” for “god”as well as “gods”, the Malay bible published by the BSM doesn’t.

In the BSM bible, “Allah” always appears with a capital ‘A’ and never in the plural. This seems to be tacit acknowledgment that, unlike what some Christian apologists claim, “Allah” in Malay is not a generic term for “God” but a proper noun referring to the one God as used by the Muslims.

The BSM Malay bible was first published in 1996, which is after the “Allah” issue first arose. So, we can probably guess at their intention for moving away from the Indonesian way of translating God and Lord.

If you look at how various instances and permutations of lord and god in the bible are translated into Malay in the BSM bible, you find a somewhat consistent pattern:

God -> Allah
god -> tuhan
gods -> tuhan-tuhan
LORD -> TUHAN
lord  -> tuan (sometimes “raja” depending on the context)

Now, if we follow the above schema, then “God of gods” should be “Allah segala tuhan”. This sounds somewhat comical, doesn’t it? Which is probably why the BSM doesn’t use the phrase. But wait, it gets worse. Look up Deuteronomy 10:17 and you’ll find:

For the LORD your God [is] God of gods, and LORD of LORDs, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth  not persons, nor taketh reward.

There are Lords and Gods everywhere. How on Earth are they going to translate this? “Allah segala tuhan, dan TUHAN segala tuan” would sound patently absurd. Well, here’s the translation in the BSM bible:

TUHAN, Allah kamu itu berkuasa atas semua tuhan lain dan semua kekuasaan. Dia agung dan berkuasa, dan Dia harus ditaati. Dia tidak berat sebelah dan tidak menerima rasuah.

So, “God of gods” becomes “berkuasa atas semua tuhan lain” and “LORD of lords” has been relegated to “dan semua kekuasaan”.

One test that is frequently used to check the quality of a translation is to translate the translation back into the original language. In a good translation, even if the exact words could not be recreated, at least the original meaning should be retained. Apply this test to the above. Would you say that it is a good translation?

It would be harsh to say that the translators took the easy way out or were sloppy here. I’m sure they agonized long and hard over it. Having painted themselves into a corner because of the way they chose to translate God, this is probably the best they could have come up with.

Edit: 6.30  pm , 15 Jan, 2014

For comparison, below is how the phrase “God of gods and Lord of lords” appears in the bibles of some other languages:

Latin: Deus deorum et Dominus dominantium

Hebrew: Elohei  ha’elohim   v’adonei ha’adonim

Greek: theos tōn theōn kai kurios tōn kuriōn

German: Gott der Götter und der Herr der Herren

Dutch: een God der goden, en een Heere der heren

French: le Dieu des dieux et le Seigneur des seigneurs

I hope you can see the pattern in all of the above, a pattern that the BSM Malay bible does not follow.

Building Bridges

January 5, 2014

Muslims should work together with Hindus and Buddhists against a common threat: Christian Evangelism.

Although the Allah issue has been grabbing all the headlines, the fact is that it is the Hindus, Buddhists and other non-Christian minorities that have been most adversely affected by the activities of the Christian evangelists. Faced with an enemy that is sophisticated, well funded and not averse to modifying its message for maximum impact, their numbers are dwindling.

The Malaysia Hindu Sangam, for example, has been fighting for decades to stop Christian evangelists from aggressively targeting Hindus for conversion. Their repeated appeals to Christian organizations that are fellow MCCBCHST members have apparently fallen on deaf ears. Below are excerpts of a letter written by former MHS and MCCBCHST President A Vaithilingam just recently:

Let me take you all back to 1983 when we gathered at Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall. The Christians were then on an aggressive campaign of converting Hinduism with lies and ridicule of Hinduism. They included the Evangelists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Tamil Methodist Church and others. Film actors and recently converted paid fanatics were brought in to this country to spread lies and falsehood about our religion. But the effect of the Rally in 1983 was great: the Hindus arose and with the support of Government official these liars had to return home. House to House campaign was conducted by Hindus. More religious training programmes were held. Youths rose up, conversions were reduced and we all became more aware. We are NOW faced with the similar situation again.

Today the conversion band of Christians are out again. Now the situation is quite different. Evangelists are setting up churches in villages and streets. Nothing wrong in that, but, they have now local Pastors who talk about devil being in you when their God is not in you as though they have cured all their followers in the world! Why are their own kind dying everyday? Hindus must not be taken for a ride by such sentiments. Hospital visits are made by these Pastors especially looking out for ‘death bed’ patients. They attempt to touch the hearts of those in the non Christian family in this venture of death bed conversion!

We in the MCCBCHST have stood by together in all our difficulties. This is also happening to other non Christian members in the Majlis. I suggest that that the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) make a study of our complaints and that they themselves take the necessary action to prevent these excesses.

They talk of the devious and unethical methods used by the Christians to propagate their religion. They are rightfully proud of their diligence in defending Hinduism. Yet when Muslims act to protect their religion from the very same threat, they say no, this is wrong. Why is that?

The reason is that the Christians have successfully framed the argument as one of the Muslim majority persecuting the non-Muslim minority. The Muslim cause has undoubtedly not been helped by the boorish and insensitive actions of some who purport to act on behalf of Islam in the past. Incidents like the cow head demonstration, use of derogatory terms to refer to Hindus, body snatching and temple demolitions have only served to push Hindus and other religious minorities away. The irony of this is that the greatest threat to Hinduism in Malaysia today is not the Muslims, but the Christians. While highly emotive, the above incidences are fairly isolated and in reality affect only a small number of people. The impact of unbridled Christian proselytisation on other non-Muslim, non-Christian communities is far, far greater.

Muslim organizations must reach out to their counterparts of other faiths in pursuing a common cause. They must make it clear that the issue is only about protecting their faith from aggressive outsiders and that they have no interest in stopping others from practising their own faiths.

Contextualization in Action

January 3, 2014

Go to 3:30 of this clip. Listen to the Evangelist’s story about their work in Sumatra.


And they say using the word “Allah” has nothing to do with preaching to Muslims. My foot.