Thursday, May 31, 2007

Freedom To Choose A Religion.

One thing for sure, Lina Joy won't be arrested for the choice she has made years ago to become a Christian. But she can't tell the good folks at the National Registration Department (NRD) to delete the word Islam off her Mykad so that she could go on with her life as a staunch Christian. Marry her Christian boyfriend, and in a couple of years, give birth to a couple of Christian children who will be running around the house singing Jingle Bell Jingle All The way. The children will probably grow up to become Santa Claus or a high priest, or a vicar, or even a pope. Lina Joy will probably die a Christian and be buried in a Christian cemetery. They are gonna put up a cross high as the Eiffel Tower on her grave as a mark of respect for her diligence and steadfastness to hold on to Christianity because it meant something to her. To Lina Joy all this is a fight against those who get in her way of becoming a Christian martyr. Maybe she will be made a saint. That would be something to her children, grandchildren and great great grandchildren to write about. And that would be something for the Malay community too. Whaddaya know, someone who used to be a Muslim and now look at her, a Christian saint. Boy, she's gone very far that girl, eh? And the community will go on with life completely undisturbed by the whole thing because if being a Christian is what she wants so be it.
Maybe I didn't get it. But from the blogs I've read written by big names, and the comments they generated from the readers, I got the impression that all this is about Lina Joy being denied the right to exercise her freedom to choose a religion. Now wait a minute, isn't Lina Joy free to choose hers? And she has made that choice on her own accord as a thinking adult, so she thinks. Isn't she free to go to any church she wants? I think she can even put on a t-shirt with 'Hey Look, I'm A Christian Now So Bug Off!' and I bet no one is gonna disturb her. Maybe she's gonna get some nasty remarks but that's what you get for wearing that kind of t-shirt if you are a Malay.
And I don't see the point of bringing in the Qur'an verse about '...there's no compulsion in Islam.' when it is obvious that Lina Joy is a living proof that she doesn't have to accept Islam if she doesn't want to. This is not about compulsion. This is about the NRD not being given the power to delete anything permanently from a Mykad. And this is a good thing because should the NRD have that power, imagine the damage it can do to your life should an officer decide to have a bit of fun with the spelling of your name, or your religion. Or your date of birth.
So what does Lina Joy gotta do to solve this problem? She has to make the trip to Jabatan Agama Islam, or the Syariah Court. She has to officially denounce herself a Muslim before a Mufti or the official representatives of the state. Maybe she has to bring along a Christian priest just in case the good folks at the Jabatan Agama Islam need a working statement from a living person to support her application to get rid of Islam off her back. If she can't get a priest I believe she may have to bring along a Santa Claus but she may have to wait until November or December. With this she would be able to obtain the official letter as proof that she is now officially a non-Muslim. With this letter she has to make one last trip to the NRD to submit the letter to the good folks there and they would be more than happy to delete whatever word she wants erased off her Mykad permanently.
This case has got to come to an end because the longer this goes on, a lot of people are going to get all boiled up inside and who knows what's gonna happen when people are boiled up inside. I don't think the Muslims will take kindly to non-Muslims coming in to air their views in this issue when the issue isn't about human rights but more of administrative and procedural process of a government department. As it is now, no thanks to Lina Joy, the non-Muslim are writing about Islam in a manner that could annoy the Muslims in a big way. You don't see Muslims writing about Christianity even though Lina Joy offers an interesting opportunity to write about Christianity that could get the Christian annoyed big time. It's a free country but it is not wise to exercise this freedom at the risk of starting a fight that could escalate into a sectarian violence. Unless of course, this is the hidden intention among those who see Lina Joy's case as a chance to sound intellectual, open-minded and well-read by writing about it as if Lina Joy is the only Malay Christian in the world who need to be defended at all costs just in case she decides to become Muslim again.
The blog entitled 'Do We Believe In Qur'an?' by Marina Mahathir got me thinking; why the need for the question mark? Is it an indication that Qur'an is a questionable source of reference? Or is it a direct question whether Qur'an is indeed capable of dealing with Lina Joy or many other Lina Joys to come now that it is trendy to ask a lot of questions hoping that the Qur'an won't provide the answer because it is trendy to read the translation not learn it the way it supposed to be learnt. All I know is, a person who reads Qur'an every day but is clueless or completely at sea with its meaning will not think twice to defend the Qur'an with his or her life when someone as much as say something like 'huh' to Qur'an. Is this fanaticism? To the westerners maybe, but to Muslims its Iman.
To Lina Joy if you happen to read this; please, ma'am. You gotta resolve this issue fast. As a good Christian, I'm sure you don't want to see things turning ugly on your account because I'm sure you know you are not worth the salt to be dying for or getting into a fight for. You may think Islam is trying to force you to accept things you find repulsive but the truth is Islam won't lose anything if you to decide to become the first female pope. Islam doesn't lose anything if everyone on earth decides to become Christian or whatever religion that may come along as time goes by. The truth is, this is your personal fight with the NRD so deal with it. Do the right thing because there are lot of people out there who think all this is about human rights, no compulsion in Islam, or Syariah Court is now above everything else. Well maybe it's about time the Syariah Court should be made the highest court in this boleh land. After all it's a boleh thing to do. It ain't that hard. And by the looks of it, maybe it will soon.
Next Entry: Now that Lina Joy has started this whole thing, the Muslimin and the Muslimah with a bit of Iman in their heart should stick together in a movement to make Malaysia a truly Islamic Republic which means, let's have Friday as the weekend since we gave in to the Christian long enough for the Sunday weekend. Isn't it about time the Christian give in to the Muslim for a Friday weekend, afterall the Muslims gave in to them since the Portuguese time and since this is the 50th Merdeka and all, it's about time we call this country The Islamic Republic of Malaysia. We gotta start this whole thing rolling. Maybe it has started already that I am now aware of since the voice can now be heard in most masjid and surau all over the country. Human rights? Remember our brothers in Guantanamo Bay, mates!
You picked the wrong time to fight your case, Lina Joy. And those behind you picked the wrong time to be kurang ajar.


Blogger Ibu said...

She barked at the wrong tree. And there are so many spin doctors around. Sigh....

1:31 AM  
Anonymous ogre said...

okay, this has nothing to do with your post, but I was wondering if you are the same bergen I knew from MSN's 'GC'?

11:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Bergen,
I agree with you 100%
Thanks for putting it .Am proud of you.

12:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well written, Bergen sir!

11:04 AM  
Anonymous Musafir Cinta Ilahi said...

Assalamualaikum Tuan Guru Bergen,

I haven't really followed the Lina Joy saga. I could only relate to the Natrah controversy of decades gone by in Singapore which triggered a 'united Islamic Uprising' amongst Muslims in the Malay Archipelago, so I was told by my late father and grand uncle.

But what I could relate to you now probably is my own experience of having an ex-wife who used to be a Roman Catholic. She volunteered to convert to Islam herself without any prodding from me more than 20 years ago but now I doubt if she even likes her chosen Muslim name.

Ah, well... I have only myself to blame for having misguided her during our 13 years of marriage. My only concern now is for my teenage son and 8 year old daughter who chose to live with her. May Allah guide them to the Righteous Path of Islam as a Way of Life... Amin Ya Rabbal Alamin!

6:09 PM  
Blogger Theta said...

Bergen Sir,
This witty, off-the-cuff entry surely puts things in perspective for me. Thank you for sharing your commendable thoughts.
And why does she choose this time - VMY2007 and 50th Anniversary of Independence - to highlight her so-called plight to the world? I know she's been on-and-off the news a few years back but for her court's appeal to be denied this year only played into the hands of naysayers and provocateurs.

7:21 PM  
Blogger eva's haven said...

my sentiments exactly. Ok...I aint gonna mess up with anyone's religion.
from what i've been reading, this Lina gal just wants islam to be obliterated in her ID and replaced with her new religion.
ANd she aint gettin nowhere near that becos yada yada yada.....
That is THE problem.
But you people out there are not making it any easier. You're gonna really piss a lot of Muslims, y'know.
Jeeezzz. She's already a Christian. Nobody si forcing her to go back to being a Muslim. I dont think any Muslim wants to force her back. And Islam is probably all the better for that.

7:32 PM  
Anonymous Insan Insaf said...

I can't help pitying that Lina Joy (to the World) character and I couldn't help sympathising more for her parents (be they dead or alive), particularly her father who has to answer to the Almighty in the Hereafter... NAUZUBILLAHI MINZALIK! Astaghfirullahulazhiim..

8:57 AM  
Blogger bergen said...

Ibu: She's just too blind to see that people are using her as a shield.

Ogre: No, Ogre. I am not.

Anonymous: Thank you.

Anonymous: Thank you.

Musafir Cinta Ilahi: I hope things turn out all right for you and your children, and your ex missus.

Theta: It's hard when you can't see the obvious. She's got the hijab blocking her vision.

Eva's Haven: Thank you, ma'am. You've got it right. And you wrote a nice piece too in your entry.

Insan Insaf: The father isn't responsible for her daughter's action. She an adult, responsible for her own action. I'm sure her father did what he is supposed to do i.e. raising her daughter to become pious Muslim. She chose her own path. We are not responsible for other's action.

To everyone who dropped by this way, thank you for coming. You be sure to have a nice day now, y'hear. And come again.

11:46 AM  
Blogger Sheih said...

It took me a quite a while to decide whether I should blog something on the matter. Off coz I don't think it's worth the space in my blog. Nothing to bark about. Still, quite itchy to blog bout it.

But then, with God's will, I was shoot to your blog and you have write everything that I believe should be written bout the saga.

Well done mate! Well Done!!

Thank you for the posting!

12:55 PM  
Anonymous adik said...

Dear Bergen

I am proud of you and am proud to be a Muslim.

Thanks for this splendid writeup.

9:47 AM  
Blogger bergen said...

Sheih: Good to have you coming over my place, mate. Thank you.

Adik: Thank you. You take care now, y'hear?

3:57 PM  
Anonymous michael Chick said...

It's been interesting to read such free-flowing comments on an all "Malaysian" free for all. While we are on the subject, how many of you have read the book entitled "Contesting Malayness"? Written by a Professor of National University of Singapore. Cost S$32 (about). It reflects the Anthropologists views that there is no such race as the "Malays" to begin with. If we follow the original migration of the Southern Chinese of 6,000yrs ago, they moved into Taiwan, (now the Alisan), then into the Phillipines (now the Aeta) and moved into Borneo (4,500yrs ago) (Dayak). They also split into Sulawesi and progressed into Jawa, and Sumatera. The final migration was to the Malayan Peninsular 3,000yrs ago. A sub-group from Borneo also moved to Champa in Vietnam at 4,500yrs ago.

Interestingly, the Champa deviant group moved back to present day Kelantan. There are also traces of the Dong Song and HoaBinh migration from Vietnam and Cambodia. To confuse the issue, there was also the Southern Thai migration, from what we know as Pattani today. (see also "Early Kingdoms of the Indonesian Archipelago and the Malay Peninsular")

Of course, we also have the Minangkabau's which come from the descendants of Alexander the Great and a West Indian Princess. (Sejarah Melayu page 1-3)

So the million Dollar Question... Is there really a race called the "Malays"? All anthropologists DO NOT SEEM TO THINK SO.

Neither do the "Malays" who live on the West Coast of Johor. They'd rather be called Javanese. What about the west coast Kedah inhabitants who prefer to be known as "Achenese"? or the Ibans who simply want to be known as IBANS. Try calling a Kelabit a "Malay" and see what response you get... you’ll be so glad that their Head-Hunting days are over.

In an article in the Star, dated: Dec 3rd 2006

available for on-line viewing at:

An excerp is reproduced here below:

"The Malays – taken as an aggregation of people of different ethnic backgrounds but who speak the same language or family of languages and share common cultural and traditional ties – are essentially a new race, compared to the Chinese, Indians and the Arabs with their long histories of quests and conquests.

The Malay nation, therefore, covers people of various ethnic stock, including Javanese, Bugis, Bawean, Achehnese, Thai, orang asli, the indigenous people of Sabah and Sarawak and descendants of Indian Muslims who had married local women.

Beneath these variations, however, there is a common steely core that is bent on changing the Malay persona from its perceived lethargic character to one that is brave, bold and ready to take on the world. "

The definition of “Malay” is therefore simply a collection of people's who speak a similar type language. With what is meant by a similar type language does not mean that the words are similar. Linguists call this the "Lego-type" language, where words are added on to the root word to make meaning and give tenses and such. Somehow, the Indonesians disagree with this classification and insist on being called "Indonesians" even though the majority of "Malays" have their roots in parts of Indonesia? They refuse to be called "Malay"…. Anyhow you may define it.

The writer failed to identify (probably didn't know), that the "Malay" definition also includes, the Champa, Dong Song, HoabinHian, The Taiwanese Alisan and the Philippino Aetas. He also did not identify that the "Orang Asli" are (for lack of a better term) ex-Africans. If you try to call any one of our East Malaysian brothers an "Orang Asli", they WILL BEAT YOU UP! I had to repeat this because almost all West Malaysians make the same mistake when we cross the South China Sea. Worse, somehow, they feel even more insulted when you call them “Malay”. Somehow, “kurang ajar” is uttered below their breath as if “Malay” was a really bad word for them. I’m still trying to figure this one out.

Watch “Malays in Africa”; a Museum Negara produced DVD. Also, the “Champa Malays” by the same.

With this classification, they MUST also include the Phillipinos, the Papua New Guineans, the Australian Aboroginies, as well as the Polynesian Aboroginies. These are of the Australo Melanesians who migrated out of Africa 60,000yrs ago.

Getting interesting? Read on...

"Malay" should also include the Taiwanese singer "Ah Mei" who is Alisan as her tribe are the anscestors of the "Malays". And finally, you will need to define the Southern Chinese (Southern Province) as Malay also, since they are from the same stock 6,000yrs ago.

Try calling the Bugis a "Malay". Interestingly, the Bugis, who predominantly live on Sulawesi are not even Indonesians. Neither do they fall into the same group as the migrating Southern Chinese of 6,000yrs ago nor the Australo Melanesian group from Africa.

Ready for this?

The Bugis are the cross-breed between the Chinese and the Arabs. (FYI, a runaway Ming Dynasty official whom Cheng Ho was sent to hunt down) Interestingly, the Bugis were career Pirates in the Johor-Riau Island areas. Now the nephew of Daeng Kemboja was appointed the First Sultan of Selangor. That makes the entire Selangor Sultanate part Arab, part Chinese! Try talking to the Bugis Museum curator near Kukup in Johor. Kukup is located near the most south-western tip of Johor. (Due south of Pontian Kechil)

Let's not even get into the Hang Tuah, Hang Jebat, Hang Kasturi, Hang Lekiu, and Hang Lekir, who shared the same family last name as the other super famous "Hang" family member... Hang Li Poh. And who was she? the princess of a Ming Dynasty Emperor who was sent to marry the Sultan of Malacca. Won't that make the entire Malacca Sultanate downline "Baba" ? Since the older son of the collapsed Malaccan Sultanate got killed in Johor, (the current Sultanate is the downline of the then, Bendahara) the only other son became the Sultan of Perak. Do we see any Chinese-ness in Raja Azlan? Is he the descendant of Hang Li Poh?

Next question. If the Baba’s are part Malay, why have they been marginalized by NOT BEING BUMIPUTERA? Which part of “Malay” are they not? Whatever the answer, why then are the Portugese of Malacca BUMIPUTERA? Did they not come 100yrs AFTER the arrival of the first Baba’s? Parameswara founded Malacca in 1411. The Portugese came in 1511, and the Dutch in the 1600’s. Strangely, the Baba’s were in fact once classified a Bumiputera, but a decided that they were strangely “declassified” in the 1960’s. WHY?

The Sultan of Kelantan had similar roots to the Pattani Kingdom making him of Thai origin. And what is this "coffee table book" by the Sultan of Perlis claiming to be the direct descendant of the prophet Muhammed? Somehow we see Prof Khoo Khay Khim’s signature name on the book. I’ll pay good money to own a copy of it myself. Anyone has a spare?

So, how many of you have met with orang Asli’s? the more northern you go, the more African they look. Why are they called Negrito’s? It is a Spanish word, from which directly transalates “mini Negros”. The more southern you go, the more “Indonesian” they look. And the ones who live at Cameron Highlands kinda look 50-50. You can see the Batek at Taman Negara, who really look like Eddie Murphy to a certain degree. Or the Negritos who live at the Thai border near Temenggor Lake (north Perak). The Mah Meri in Carrie Island look almost like the Jakuns in Endau Rompin. Half African, half Indonesian.

By definition, (this is super eye-opening) there was a Hindu Malay Empire in Kedah. Yes, I said right… The Malays were Hindu. It was, by the old name Langkasuka. Today known as Lembah Bujang. This Hindu Malay Empire was 2,000yrs old. Pre-dating Borrobudor AND Angkor Watt. Who came about around 500-600yrs later. Lembah Bujang was THE mighty trading empire, and its biggest influence was by the Indians who were here to help start it. By definition, this should make the Indians BUMIPUTERAS too since they were here 2,000yrs ago! Why are they marginalized?

Of the 3 books listed, "Contesting Malayness" (about S$32 for soft cover) is "banned” in Malaysia; you will need to "smuggle" it into Malaysia; for very obvious reasons.... :( or read it in Singapore if you don’t feel like breaking the law.

The other, "Kingdoms of the Indonesian Archipelago, and the Malay Peninsular" (about RM84) are openly sold at all leading bookshops; Kinokuniya, MPH, Borders, Popular, Times, etc. You should be able to find a fair bit of what I’ve been quoting in this book too, but mind you, it is very heavy reading material, and you will struggle through the initial 200+ pages. It is extremely technical in nature. Maybe that’s why it wasn’t banned (yet)…coz our authorities couldn’t make head or tail of it? (FYI, if I wasn’t doing research for my film, I wouldn’t have read it in its entirety)

While the "Sejarah Melayu" (about RM 35) is available at the University Malaya bookshop. I have both the English and Royal Malay version published by MBRAS.

Incidentally, the Professor (Author) was invited to speak on this very subject about 2 yrs ago, in KL, invited by the MBRAS. You can imagine the "chaos" this seminar created...... :(

There were actually many sources for these findings. Any older Philippino Museum Journal also carries these migration stories. This migration is also on display at the Philippines National Museum in Luzon. However, they end with the Aeta, and only briefly mention that the migration continued to Indonesia and Malaysia, but fully acknowledge that all Philippinos came from Taiwan. And before Taiwan, China. There is another book (part of a series) called the "Archipelago Series" endorsed by Tun Mahatir and Marina Mohammad, which states the very same thing right at the introduction on page one. “… that the Malays migrated out of Southern China some 6,000yrs ago…”. I believe it is called the “Pre-History of Malaysia” Hard Cover, about RM99 found in (mostly) MPH. They also carry “Pre-History of Indonesia” by the same authors for the same price.

It is most interesting to note that our Museum officials invented brand new unheard-of terms such as "Proto-Malay" and "Deutero-Malay", to replace the accepted Scientific Term, Australo-Melanesians (African descent) and Austronesians (Chinese Descent, or Mongoloid to be precise) in keeping in line with creating this new “Malay” term.. They also created the new term called the Melayu-Polynesian. (Which Melayu exists in the Polynesian Islands?) Maybe they were just trying to be “Patriotic” and “Nationalistic”… who knows…? After all, we also invented the term, “Malaysian Time”. While the rest of the world calls it “Tardy” and “Late”. It’s quite an embarrassment actually…. Singaporeans crossing the border are asked to set their watches back by about 100yrs, to adjust to “Malaysian Time”…

In a nutshell, the British Colonial Masters, who, for lack of a better description, needed a “blanket” category for ease of classification, used the term “Malay”.

The only other logical explanation, which I have heard, was that “Malaya” came as a derivative of “Himalaya”, where at Langkasuka, or Lembah Bujang today was where the Indians were describing the locals as “Malai” which means “Hill People” in Tamil. This made perfect sense as the focal point at that time was at Gunung Jerai, and the entire Peninsular had a “Mountain Range” “Banjaran Titiwangsa”, as we call it.

The Mandarin and Cantonese accurately maintain the accurate pronunciation of “Malai Ren” and “Malai Yun” respectively till this very day. Where “ren” and “yun” both mean “peoples”.

Interestingly, “Kadar” and “Kidara”, Hindi and Sanskrit words accurately describe “Kedah” of today. They both mean “fertile Land for Rice cultivation. Again, a name given by the Indians 2,000yrs ago during the “Golden Hindu Era” for a duration of 1,500yrs.

It was during the “Golden Hindu Era” that the new term which the Hindu Malay leaders also adopted the titles, “Sultan” and “Raja”. The Malay Royalty were Hindu at that time, as all of Southeast Asia was under strong Indian influence, including Borrobudor, and Angkor Watt. Bali today still practices devout Hindu Beliefs. The snake amulet worn by the Sultans of today, The Royal Dias, and even the “Pelamin” for weddings are tell-tale signs of these strong Indian influences. So, it was NOT Parameswara who was the first Sultan in Malaya. Sultanage existed approximately 1,500years before he set foot on the Peninsular during the "Golden Hindu Era" of Malaysia. And they were all Hindu.

“PreHistory of Malaysia” also talks about the “Lost Kingdom” of the “Chi-Tu” where the local Malay Kingdom were Buddhists. The rest of the “Malays” were Animistic Pagans.

But you may say, "Sejarah Melayu" calls it "Melayu"? Yes, it does. Read it again; is it trying to describe the 200-odd population hamlet near Palembang by the name "Melayu"?(Google Earth will show this village).

By that same definition, then, the Achehnese should be considered a “race”. So should the Bugis and the Bataks, to be fair. Orang Acheh, Orang Bugis, Orang Laut, Orang Melayu now mean the same… descriptions of ethnic tribes, at best. And since the “Malays” of today are not all descendants of the “Melayu” kampung in Jambi (if I remember correctly), the term Melayu has been wrongly termed. From day one. Maybe this is why the Johoreans still call themselves either Bugis, or Javanese until today. So do the Achehnese on the West coast of Kedah & Perlis and the Kelantanese insist that they came from Champa, Vietnam.

Morover, the fact that the first 3 pages claiming that "Melayu" comes from Alexander the Great and the West Indian Princess doesn't help. More importantly, it was written in 1623. By then, the Indians had been calling the locals “Malai” for 1,500 yrs already. So the name stuck….

And with the Sejarah Melayu (The Malay Annals in page 1-3) naming the grandson of Iskandar Zulkarnain, and the West Indian Princess forming the Minangkabau. Whenever a Malay is asked about it, he usually says it is "Karut" (bullshit), but all Malayan based historians insist on using Sejarah Melayu as THE main reference book for which "Malay" history is based upon. The only other books are “Misa Melayu”, "Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa", and “Hikayat Hang Tuah” which is of another long and sometimes “heated” discussion.

I find this strange.

I also find, that it is strange that the "Chitti's" (Indian+Malay) of Malacca are categorized as Bumiputera, while their Baba brothers are not. Why? Both existed during the Parameswara days. Which part of the “Malay” side of the Baba’s is not good enough for Bumiputera classification? Re-instate them. They used to be Bumiputera pre 1960’s anyway.

Instead of "Malay", I believe that "Maphilindo" (circa 1963) would have been the closest in accurately trying to describe the Malays. However, going by that definition, it should most accurately be "MaphilindoThaiChinDiaVietWanGreekCamfrica". And it is because of this; even our University Malaya Anthropology professors cannot look at you in the eye and truthfully say that the word "Malay" technically and accurately defines a race.

This is most unfortunate.

So, in a nutshell, the “Malays” (anthropologists will disagree with this “race” definition) are TRULY ASIA !!! For once the Tourism Ministry got it right….

We should stop calling this country “Tanah Melayu” instead call it, “Tanah Truly Asia”

You must understand now, why I was "tickled pink" when I found out that the Visit Malaysia slogan for 2007 was "Truly Asia". They are so correct... (even though they missed out Greece and Africa)

BTW, the name UMNO should be changed to UTANO the new official acronym for “United Truly Asia National Organization” . After all, they started out as a Bugis club in Johor anyway….

I told you all that I hate race classifications…. This is so depressing. Even more depressing is that the "malays" are not even a race; not since day one.

“Truly Asia Boleh”

2:25 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home