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In Malaysia, Islamic spiritual healing seeks scientific recognition

Published in Malay Mail Online

By Zurairi AR

KUALA LUMPUR, April 21 — In 2006, the Health Ministry started offering traditional and complementary medicine (T&CM) in public hospitals, ranging from traditional Malay massage, acupuncture, herbal therapy for cancer, to Ayurveda therapy.

While recognised in the National T&CM Policy, Islamic spiritual healing that mostly consists of reciting Islamic scriptures and supplications to heal illnesses, has yet to find mainstream acceptance.

Packaging the treatment as “Islamic psychospiritual therapy”, several psychiatrists and religious experts are now lobbying for its inclusion along modern medicine. But a big barrier remains ahead of them: empirical scientific evidence.

“Islamic psychospiritual therapy must prove itself capable to help in rehabilitating emotional disturbance, anxiety and depression,” said Datuk Prof Dr Azizan Baruddin, the director-general of the Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (Ikim) yesterday.

“It must also prove itself capable in helping solve psychosis disorder, personality disorder, and problems involving the LGBT,” she added, referring to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

Public hospitals don’t stock every kind of medicine — here’s why

Published in Malay Mail Online

By Zurairi AR and Kamles Kumar

KUALA LUMPUR, March 4 — The unexpected termination of an online dispensary system earlier this week caused alarm among hundreds of thousands of federal government pensioners who had been using it since 2012 to collect their free medicines and medical supplies from private hospitals.

The government responded quickly to assuage their fears that they can now get their prescriptions filled out at medical facilities managed by the Ministry of Health (MOH). But one question arose: why couldn’t they have got them all from public hospitals in the first place?

The answer is not as simple as one would expect, as we found out after speaking to several doctors familiar with the issue.

What is Sinar Project and why we should care if it lives or dies

Published in Malay Mail Online

By Zurairi AR

SUBANG JAYA, Feb 20 ― Located on the sixth floor of a building, the only thing distinguishing Sinar Project’s front door from the other nondescript grey doors on this long corridor are the myriad feisty stickers ― in support of net neutrality, privacy, free press and speech ― on it.

Inside, you are immediately greeted by shelves of computer programming textbooks ― from Java to Rails. On the desks its members share are scattered Nanoblock toys and a giant 3D puzzle of Moscow’s St Basil Cathedral.

“Swee Meng always has to tinker with something,” Sinar Project’s co-ordinator Khairil Yusof said apologetically, referring to the group’s chief technologist and his long-time friend.

But they are not all toys. One particular miniature gizmo is actually a circuit to measure the office’s air quality, which the group hopes can be a prototype for a network of data-gathering monitors placed across the country.

The 400-square feet studio-turned-office is home to the country’s sole specialists in open data, government transparency and digital rights, but Sinar Project might not even survive the end of this year due to dwindling funds for its niche non-profit work.

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.

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.