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Month: October 2016

In Malaysia, halalness is more about control than faith

Published as “When it is more about control than faith” in Malay Mail Online

If by now you have not realised how Islamic laws impact the lives of non-Muslims as well, you are blissfully ignorant, purposely keeping blind, or part of the Islamist lobby trying to sell the myth to the former two categories.

One area that inadvertently impacts non-Muslims is the halal certification that food and beverages companies, and restaurants must go through if they wish to sell to Malay-Muslims.

Federal Islamic authority Jakim’s halal hub division was on everybody’s lips the last few weeks, after it was revealed by a local executive of US-based franchise Auntie Anne’s, that the halal certification for its central kitchen hit a snag.

The problem? Purportedly because one of the items on their menu was called “pretzel dog.”

For many of us, the name pretzel dog is obvious: “I have a pretzel, I have a hot dog… uh, pretzel dog!”

Not to literal Jakim.

How did Putrajaya plan to spend money in 2016?

Published in Malay Mail Online

By Ida Lim and Zurairi AR

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 19 — The past year has been a juggle for the government to manage the country’s wallet.

And so while you wait to see what’s in store for Budget 2017 this Friday, we thought you might like to look back at how Putrajaya planned Budget 2016 last year while sticking to its deficit targets.

When Budget 2016 was tabled last October, the federal government expected that it will spend RM267.2 billion this year, down by roughly RM7 billion from what was allocated in 2015.

Out of the total, RM215.2 billion was set aside for operating expenditure (opex), with the bulk of it going to social expenditure at RM81.8 billion (38 per cent).

But when global crude oil prices continued to drop and hurt Malaysia’s revenue, the government revised Budget 2016 in January, and the final figure is bound to be lower.

In our report below, Malay Mail Online lists the seven ministries that received the highest allocation in Budget 2016. For each of those ministries, we looked at their opex, and picked the top three subsections where they would be spending their allocation to know what costs the most to run annually.

How Hadi’s Bill went from hudud to ‘upgrading’ the Shariah courts

Published in Malay Mail Online

By Zurairi AR

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 17 — PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang’s motion for his private member’s Bill to enhance the Shariah courts’ powers is the fourth item in Parliament’s Order Paper for today.

It seeks to amend the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, also known as Act 355, to empower Islamic courts to enforce any punishment ― except for the death penalty ― provided in Shariah laws for Islamic offences listed under state jurisdiction in the Federal Constitution.

Shariah court punishments are currently limited to jail terms not exceeding three years, whipping of not more than six strokes, or fines of not more than RM5,000.

Hadi insisted in May that his private member’s Bill aims to expand the range of punishments the Shariah courts can impose, and was not meant to introduce hudud law in Kelantan.

But it has not always been that way.

The ‘ghost’ inside my house

Published in Malay Mail Online

I am not a particularly heavy sleeper, especially not since the baby.

My ears would usually be tuned to even the slightest squeak from the baby monitor. So, on that Sunday night, when the ceiling fan suddenly whirled at a nutty speed — so fast that I could hear the creaks as it clung for its dear life on its hook — I was stirred from my sleep.

Beneath the racket from the wildly spinning blades, there was a dizzying frantic hum. Buzzing, like the room had come alive all around me.

I slowly opened my eyes, and I wished I had not. In the dark of the night, I saw my ceiling LED lights slowly glowing a nasty yellow, one by one by one. And then flickering in unison, before dimming back to black.

Then things went back to normal. The fan wound down to its usual speed. The lights stayed off. For a while, it was like any other quiet night.

And then my air-conditioner beeped, switching itself off on its own. After a moment, it beeped again, back on. And again it beeped, now off. I checked, the remote was right beside me, there was nobody else toying with it.

Just as I was beginning to question my sanity, it happened all over again. The fan whirled like crazy. The lights glowed and flickered. The air-cond beeped every so often as it switched on and off.

I felt a chill gnawing at my spine.

Born out of wedlock to a Muslim father, woman refuses to be subject to Shariah laws

Published in Malay Mail Online

By Zurairi AR

PUTRAJAYA, Oct 11 — Despite her name, Rosliza Ibrahim is a Buddhist. She was born 35 years ago to a Buddhist mother, who raised her as a Buddhist, and continues to practise Buddhism today.

Yet, the state religious authorities in Selangor, where she currently resides, regard her as a Muslim and subject to Shariah law because she was born to a Muslim father, although out of wedlock.

“Her Constitutional right to religious freedom and disposition of property are all adversely affected. She cannot go to the Shariah court as, by law, she is not even a Muslim in the first place. Thus there is no question of leaving Islam.

“She won’t be able to get married to a person of her choice,” Rosliza’s lawyer, Aston Paiva, told Malay Mail Online yesterday.

Like her name, Rosliza inherited her religious status from her father. But according to her, her parents were never married, while her late mother never even converted to Islam.

Was Islam behind the ‘Budgie Nine’ outrage?

Published in Malay Mail Online

By now, most of — if not all — the nine Australian men who stripped down to their Malaysian flag-swimming briefs at the Sepang Grand Prix are back in Sydney. After a close call in local court.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has since told Adelaide-based 5AA radio channel that he thought Malaysian authorities were “very lenient.”

For most of the Western media, the background to Malaysia’s outrage is its image as a conservative Muslim-majority country, where public indecency is frowned upon. Which, interestingly, is how the international media chooses to see Malaysia despite the government’s attempt to paint the country as a moderate one.

Writing in an analysis for The West Australian, foreign editor Alan Kirk claimed that the nine — dubbed “Budgie Nine” by its media — were caught in the middle as Malaysia shifts into a “more fundamentalist and a lot less tolerant” Islamic country.

According to Kirk, the Australians were an “easy target” for a government that is imposing a strict Sunni doctrine and harnessing the rise of radical Islam, pointing to the global spread of the ultra-conservative Wahhabi teachings.

Kirk pointed to the existence of the federal Islamic authority under the Prime Minister’s Department that dictates Muslims’ daily lives, and produces sermons. Where Muslims are segregated by sex in Kelantan. And where schools teach an intolerant version of Islam.

“Against this background, demands for harsh punishment of the Aussies found a ready audience,” he said.

On their own, none of these accusations are particularly inaccurate. It is undeniable that Malaysia is undergoing an Islamisation process.

But pointing to Islam as the reason behind the outrage of the nine stripping into their Budgy Smuggler swimwear, is perhaps woefully out of context.