Posts Tagged ‘discrimination’

Restrictions for Christians to visit Holy Land removed

December 19th, 2012
|  Subscribe in a reader | Subscribe to poobalan.com by Email


I didn’t know that Malaysian Christians were subject to such stringent requirements in order to visit their holy land until the issue was highlighted early this year or so. Sounds like unfair or even religious discrimination to me.

Previously the rules were quite tight such as government imposed a quota of 700 pilgrims per year, with any one church only allowed to send one group of 40. Visits were also limited to 10 days and pilgrims were only allowed one visit every three years.

But this changed last month as government had cancelled most of the requirements (visit limit extended to 21 days from 10).

Maybe its part of the “transformasi”. Maybe its due to election nearing. Maybe to show government is sensitive. Maybe due to security concerns. Maybe due to boycott of Israel. Maybe “whatever you want to think of it”.

 

The Najib administration has rescinded its quotas, age floor and other travel limits imposed last year on Christian Malaysians wishing to make their pilgrimage to Jerusalem, say church leaders and a tour agent.

The Barisan Nasional (BN) government’s move, ahead of Christmas and national polls, is seen as a bid to win back dwindling support from the minority community that barely make up 10 per cent of the country’s 28 million-strong population but is regarded as a swing vote group in urban areas and crucial to the battle to reclaim the middle ground.

“Yes! Granted us all the concessions we asked for,” Rev Hermen Shastri told The Malaysian Insider in a text message yesterday.

Shastri, the secretary-general Council of Churches Malaysia (CCM), had previously criticised Putrajaya for “always shifting the goal posts” during meetings between government officials and Christian leaders, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported in July this year.

Christian Malaysians had voiced their unhappiness with Putrajaya after churches were allowed to send only up to 20 pilgrims to Jerusalem a year besides limiting their stay there to a week, among several constraints, acts they saw as further erosion of their religious freedom guaranteed by the Federal Constitution.

In recent years, the Christian and Muslim religious communities have been engaged in a tug-of-war over the word “Allah”, with the latter group arguing that its use should be exclusive to them on the grounds that Islam is monotheistic and the word “Allah” denotes the Muslim god.

While Malaysia bans travel to Israel, the government had previously shut an eye to Christian pilgrims journeying to the historic city regarded as holy to three of the world’s main religions — Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

An official with the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) confirmed the umbrella body — which represents 90 per cent of the country’s nearly 2.8 million Christians — had last month received a letter from the Prime Minister’s Office informing that the government had relaxed the rules to allow Christian Malaysians to enter Israel.

“Taking into account the needs of Christian Malaysians, the Home Ministry has amended the religious pilgrimage rules to Israel as follows,” wrote Wong Nai Chee, political secretary to the prime minister in the letter dated November 28 sighted by The Malaysian Insider.

In its list, the government removed the quota on the number of Christian pilgrims per year; the number of pilgrims per church group; where Christian pilgrims can go in Israel; and the frequency of their pilgrimages; as well as extended the stay in Israel to 21 days from seven previously; and cancelled the 18-year-old minimum age requirement.

The new guidelines were effective from October 30, Wong stated in the letter.

According to the CFM official who declined to be named, it was the first time the government had issued any travel guidelines to Christian Malaysian pilgrims, a point backed by a local tour agent who has been organising travel arrangements to Jerusalem on behalf of churches for the last 15 years.

“Previously, the only black-and-white we received were when they rejected our applications,” said Inbam Solomon of World Discovery Travel.

She told The Malaysian Insider that prior to 2010, Christians in this Muslim-majority country have been freely performing pilgrimages to the holy city despite Malaysia having no diplomatic ties with Israel.

Then in January 2010, the government banned pilgrimages to the region, ostensibly due to heightened security risks posed by the long-running Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

When Putrajaya finally lifted the ban in April 2011, it tightened travel rules for Christian Malaysian pilgrims, Solomon related.

Her agency, which had helped organise pilgrimage tours for an average 2,000 Christian Malaysians before the 2010 clamp, saw the numbers severely cut by nearly 90 per cent.

Churches were also required to deal directly with the Home Ministry for permission to travel to Jerusalem, a role that had been performed previously by travel agencies, she said.

Christians were also subjected to additional scrutiny from the Home Ministry, including the police, and were required to submit their baptism certificates or endorsement letters from their respective churches to prove they were genuine followers of the faith, Solomon added.

Word of the government’s new travel guidelines have already spread among Christians, who told The Malaysian Insider they were heartened by the government’s decision.

“We are grateful we can once again go to worship in the Holy Land,” Catholic priest Father Lawrence Andrew said when contacted.

Andrew, who edits the country’s sole Catholic paper, had run a short news report on the new guidelines in last Sunday’s edition of Herald.

source: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/putrajaya-lifts-curbs-on-christian-pilgrims-to-israel/

Christmas Deco vs Deepavali Deco

December 14th, 2012
|  Subscribe in a reader | Subscribe to poobalan.com by Email


 Its wonderful to see grand Christmas decorations at our various shopping malls. It attracts people from all walks of life to take photos and enjoy the decorations. What more with school holidays and year end sales to attract more crowd. One can easily spend a whole day in shopping malls without noticing the time flying.

Unfortunately, the same doesn’t happen during Deepavali. If the management of these malls have the similar thinking as for Christmas, then surely they can do similar wonders that attract crowds from various background. Usually, some measily “kolam” is done, and that’s about it. Come on, a very famous and important religious festival only represented by “kolam”?

Not forgetting, we also have plenty of tourists from India (about 700k in 2011), not including Indian diaspora countries. You can put some effort to attract them to your mall as well.

Yeah, these are business entities and they have their own business objectives, i.e. bottom lines to worry about.  But if there’s not Christmas deco, you think November/December sales will drop? No tourists will visit malls? So, what’s the logic for such elaborate decoration, and comparatively zilch for Deepavali?

Read the article below on Christmas decorations. Do you think only Christians appreciate them or that only Christians will shop during this time? No right?  Probably if you allocate about quarter of the budget from Christmas deco for Deepavali deco, can do quite a lot. You can even initiate collaboration with various IPTs for their students to help with decorations and displaying some creative stuff.

Or are you waiting for government to provide some incentives? Maybe there should some enforced ruling to ensure shopping malls also participate in nation building?

It all boils down to mentality. Yeah, you can say “its just some deco stuff, we have other more critical things to focus on la for the community”. Well, marginalisation starts in such small matters, is my opinion.

 

<b>Taking flight:</b> Santa’s sleigh is placed in front of Suria KLCC Lake Symphony fountain.

Taking flight: Santa’s sleigh is placed in front of Suria KLCC Lake Symphony fountain.

THE time of the year has arrived for shopping centres to go all out to usher Christmas and New Year.

Quick trips to the malls will surely get you get in the mood for Santa Claus, shiny baubles, reindeers and gifts.

Aside from giant Christmas trees decorated with colourful trinkets , most malls go the extra mile by creating eye-popping themed surroundings.

Step into “Santa’s North Park” at Berjaya Times Square where shoppers are greeted with large toy soldiers, which lined up the gantry to a 40ft Christmas tree.

The main tree is flanked by clusters of smaller trees decorated with ornaments, pine cones, berries and figs.

Shoppers can also explore the Lower Ground concourse area, done up to reflect Santa’s lush sanctuary and its magical creatures.

Meanwhile, shoppers can “watch” Santa and his elves at work in Suria KLCC.

Its decor shows Santa checking a long list of wishes with a help of a machine with exposed cogs and mechanical works.

<b>Super trumpeteers:</b> Large angels set to usher Christmas at Starhill Gallery.
Super trumpeteers: Large angels set to usher Christmas at Starhill Gallery.

There is also an impressive sleigh with reindeers in front of the KLCC Lake Symphony fountain while Frosty the Snowman stand guard at the Ampang Entrance and Rudolph the Reindeer is at the Park Entrance.

Mid Valley Megamall’s “All I Want for Christmas” theme saw its Centre Court transformed into a country-like atmosphere where a log cabin furnished with wreaths, a fire pit and surrounded by Christmas trees.

Patrons can also take pictures by a wooden barn complete with a watermill, hand-carved bird houses and a 40ft Christmas tree.

Over at Bangsar Village, shoppers have a glimpse into the past as mock Victorian shopfronts are constructed at the concourse area to commemorate Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday.

Meanwhile, Bangsar Village II has an unusual Christmas tree, which is made of a combination of life-sized Victorian streetlamps and 7,000 pieces of used newspaper rolled into cones to form five gigantic wreaths with giant baubles suspended from its roof.

<b>Sparkly:</b> The Gardens Mall puts up a white Christmas decoration with themed "Crystal Paradise".
Sparkly: The Gardens Mall puts up a white Christmas decoration with themed “Crystal Paradise”.

Inspired by medieval castles, Sungei Wang Plaza’s “The Big Band Christmas” is set to thrill shoppers with a castle where toy soldiers stand guard on balconies.

At the bottom of the stage is a fountain decorated with red poinsettia flowers while gold ribbons and Christmas trees embellished with ornaments and lights are also placed at the stage with a blizzard spray on each door to create a Christmas dream castle for shoppers.

At The Gardens Mall, shoppers can expect a white Christmas where trees made of glass are placed along the Ground Floor with sparkly chandeliers and ornaments hanging above them.

Lastly, angels take centrestage at Starhill Gallery where 29 three-metre tall angels are displayed inside the mall and at its entrance.

The decor is complemented by 1,000 decorative stars and 5,000 box fairy lights, which will be up until Jan 3, 2013.

It is indeed a season of love and joy as shoppers will find themselves immerse in the delightful mood of Christmas at the malls.

source: http://thestar.com.my/metro/story.asp?file=/2012/12/14/central/12442227&sec=central

more non-malays have applied or have joined civil service?

September 4th, 2012
|  Subscribe in a reader | Subscribe to poobalan.com by Email


I read few media sources and ended up confused.  Nearly all reports said the number of applications increased (nearly tripled) to 5.6% out of 1.2 million applications between the period of June and August (3 months)  as compared to just 2% as of May. refer (Bernama, Malaysian Insider, Malaysiakini). The excerpt below is from TMI:

The government’s efforts to get more non-Malays to join the civil service seem to be bearing fruit.

Job applications from non-Malays rose to 5.6 per cent between June and August this year compared to only two per cent as of May out of the 1.2 million applications received through the Public Service Commission (PSC), said PSC chairman Tan Sri Mahmood Adam (picture).

He attributed the increase to the large-scale campaigns carried out in the Chinese and Tamil print media as well as the dialogues held throughout the country.

 

But according to the Star, its not application but “joining” the civil service:

There has been an increase in the number of non-Malays joining the country’s civil service workforce in the last three months.

“There has been a marked increased from 2% to 5.6% of the total number of non-Malays joining the civil service throughout the country since June,” disclosed Public Service Commission (PSC) chairman Tan Sri Mahmood Adam during the press conference after launching Pusat Temu Duga SPA Malaysia office here Tuesday.

Mahmood said this marked increase in the numbers of non-Malays joining the civil service workforce were an indication that PSC’s strategy on perception and direct public engagement are showing positive results.

Looks like The Star made an error here.

Regardless of the number of applicants, to have a more balanced population we have to look at the number of people hired and also the vacancies available. According to PSC chairman, for next two years, the vacancies will be low since retirement age has been extended till 60.  Estimated 7000 vacancies will be available for each of the coming two years.  Now, even if all the 14,000 posts are given to non-Malays, it will barely increase the percentage by 1%! Now, how (and when) are we going to increase the non-Malay percentage to, say about 35%?  Sure, you can take in temporary or contract staff as stop-gap measure, but its not a long term solution (like increasing front counter staff from 1000 to 3000). Create new posts? Not feasible as it means more civil servants => more salary and pension payments. So how?

It will be interesting to hear the reply to MP Hulu Selangor P.Kamalanathan’s oral question number 9 (refer here).

Its not easy to undo few decades of discrimination.

DBKL disallow decoration at MHS event

September 3rd, 2012
|  Subscribe in a reader | Subscribe to poobalan.com by Email


This is quite surprising. I remember reading interview with new mayor where he talked about karma and all (sounded like a well-read and understanding guy), and then this news appears on FMT. Decoration like kolam is quite common even in shopping centers!  Banana trees are usually put at the entrance – can see it at Hindu weddings especially at temples. Wonder what’s the reason for DBKL’s actions. Is it because of cleanliness factors or there are considered religious symbols?  Or perhaps MHS wasn’t aware of such rules?

Senator S Ramakrishnan of the DAP today demanded an explanation from Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak over Kuala Lumpur City Hall’s (DBKL) decision to disallow cultural decorations to be put up in their hall for an event by Malaysia Hindu Sangam.

“Najib must investigate why an event officiated by his representative was marred by DBKL’s stupid act which hurts the feeling of delegates,” said Ramakrishnan in a press statement today.

“It is totally unbecoming of DBKL since they are under the Federal Territories and Urban Well Being Ministry that has a Hindu deputy minister,” said Ramakrishnan.

He was commenting on DBKL’s decision to disallow MHS from decorating the venue – a DBKL hall – with kolam, a colourful rice based decoration, and banana trees in conjunction with a conference which was held yesterday.

MHS had organised a conference to launch temple worship guidelines yesterday at the DBKL training institute hall in Cheras.

The conference was attended by about 800 delegates from all over the country with PM’s representative honouring the event.

The hall was rented for RM4,600 and an additional RM300 paid for DBKL staff manning the hall for the event.

The conference was supposed to be officiated by Najib but was subsequently delegated to Human Resources Minister Dr S Subramaniam.

Ramakrishnan also lashed out at DBKL for their lack of sensitivity.

“Why is DBKL afraid to allow such simple cultural decorations?

“DBKL is a public body that serves all Malaysians, so why did it abstain MHS from putting up biodegradable and easily disposal cultural decorations?

“If it is a rule not to allow any decorations by any user of the hall then that should have been made known at the time of hall booking and not one day before the event?

“This act of DBKL shows how they look down on cultural practices of Indian Malaysians,” said Ramakrishnan.

source: http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2012/09/02/dbkl-lacking-cultural-sensitivities/

Madam Nagamah, her children and their religion status

August 24th, 2012
|  Subscribe in a reader | Subscribe to poobalan.com by Email


Some facts gleaned from newspapers (the facts may change as more details are revealed):

  • Madam M Nagamah passed away on 14 August 2012 at Sg Bakap Hospital. She was 64 years at the time of passing. She was from Byram Estate, Nibong Tebal.
  • Eldest son of the deceased is M Kamasantheran, aged 46 [ meaning he was born when she was 18 years old].
  • Her body was taken back to home by the family for funeral preparation.
  • JAIPP officers came for the body, saying she was a convert. No documents were provided.
  • Family refused to give in. And the officers left [how ridiculous does this sound? You’d think that a such a serious matter would involve some documentation or proof]
  • Family proceeded with funeral (cremation) at Batu Berapit Crematorium.
  • JAIPP officers went to crematorium and took the ashes of the deceased. Family got to know about it from the crematorium staff.
  • According to Penang state Islamic Religious Affairs Committee chairman Datuk Abdul Malik Abul Kassim, the deceased had converted to Islam in November 2006 [Meaning she was aged about 58 at that time].  He said that  initial investigations as reported to him by JAIPP and the state Mufti Department showed that the 64-year-old had converted at the South Seberang Perai (SPS) Islamic Religious Department with registration number 11/06. The conversion was overseen by Ustaz Anuar Ismail.
  • Her name was registered as Nagamah @ Mariah Abdullah when she converted after marrying one Ibrahim Noyan and had nine children who were registered as Muslims by the National Registration Department.
  • Since both family and JAIPP had made police report, the EXCO said will leave it to police investigation.
  •  The family insists that the deceased has been a practising Hindu all this while and there’s not mention about her converting.
  • Family wants ashes back to conduct funeral rites on 14th day.

sources:

http://www.thesundaily.my/news/469470

http://www.thesundaily.my/news/470546

http://www.freemalaysiakini2.com/?p=43085

http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/206890

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/opinion/2012/08/20/no-dignity-in-life-or-in-death/

http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/206819

http://www.mmail.com.my/story/nagamah-muslim-says-department-27661

If one does a search, can find documents back in 2007 related to the husband Ibrahim Noyan. Below are the facts from 2007:

  • 10 siblings (5 men and 5 women) were seeking to change their religion from Islam to Hindu. These 10 people were born to Ibrahim Noyan and M.Nagamah.  The 10 of them grew up as Hindus and even got married to Hindus.
  • On Feb 16 2007, the 10, all of them with Muslim names and listed as Muslims on their MyKad, submitted individual sworn declarations at the magistrate’s court in Jawi, South Seberang Prai, claiming that they had been practising Hinduism since birth and prayed at Hindu temples.
  • In their declaration, they said that they wanted to change the status of their religion from Islam to Hindu.
  • They also said they were married to Hindus – although none of them had their marriages registered – and took part in Hindu celebrations, including Thaipusam. Their children were also given Hindu names.
  • Their plight was highlighted at Bukit Mertajam MP Chong Eng’s service centre on that day.[ So she should be aware of this case by now as back then she “hoped that the authorities can settle this issue“].
  • Their father, Ibrahim Noyah, 67, said he first married a Muslim woman known only as Sabariah but she died in 1958. He then married M. Nagamah but did not require her to convert. “Nagamah was my neighbour and I fell in love with her when she took care of me after my wife passed away,” he said.
  • Ibrahim Noyan is visually impaired since 3 years old and Nagamah took care of him after his first wife died.
  • Ibrahim and Nagamah, 60, have 10 children and 30 grandchildren. Three of the grandchildren do not have birth certificates, while some have only one parent’s name in their birth certificates.
  • V. Rathiga, 27, an athlete married to Ibrahim’s son, Kamis, 27, said she left out Kamis’ name in the birth certificates of their daughters – three-year-old Prami and one-year-old Sakti – as Kamis wanted them to be recognised as Hindus. [that’s one solution! if the law hinders, then find a workaround.]
  • While the 10 children wanted to be Hindus, the parents didn’t (meaning Ibrahim and Nagamah). According to Ibrahim he was still a Muslim and that his wife M. Nagamah had converted to Islam in 2005 and assumed the name Mariah Abdullah.
  • “I know my children and my grandchildren are facing problems with their identity cards and I don’t mind if they want to change their names from what it is now in their birth certificates,” said Mariah.
  • Ibrahim had said he started following Hindu culture and customs after his marriage to Nagamah although all their children were given Malay names while being raised as Hindus and had never stepped into a mosque.
  • The Penang Islamic Religious Council has recognised the elderly couple as Muslims.
  • However, the council also accepted the fact that the couple’s children are Hindus. “As far as we are concerned, the matter is resolved as the man had returned to the Islamic faith and his wife has embraced Islam,” said religious council chairman Shabudin Yahaya. “The council has built a house for them in Kebun Baru and are living separately from their children.”
  • Shabudin said the couple were considered Muslim as they had married according to Islamic rites.
  • He said Ibrahim Noyah, 67, had returned to the Islamic faith and his wife, M. Nagamah, 60, embraced Islam in August 2004 and her Muslim name was Mariah Abdullah.
  • Their Muslim marriage was solemnised at the religious department on Aug 11, 2004 and had been issued with the relevant documents.
  • The couple’s eldest son, Jamal Ibrahim, 42, said he hoped the authorities would help resolve their problem.

sources:

http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2007/2/24/nation/16965034&sec=nation

http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2007/2/27/nation/16983857&sec=nation

NST article: Islamic department urged to check family background (25/2/2007)

NST article: Council: Children are Hindus (25/2/2007)

NST article: In a spot over religious status (25/2/2007)

 

So far I can’t find any article reporting the outcome of their application to change religious status.

Interestingly, the conversion date ranges from 2005 to 2006.  Anyway the religious department says the marriage according to Muslim rites were done in 2004,  meaning she converted after marriage.

Back then, these kind of marriages existed and registering them legally wasn’t a big focus, I guess.

Ok back to the issue at hand. The religious department had shown no respect for law and order. No empathy, no sympathy. No sense of respect. No sensitivity. If conversion happened, then should bring the documents and do it properly. They simply came and took the ashes away.

So, did the deceased marry another person? If not, then M Kamasantheran (or is he Johan Ibrahim?), the eldest son should also be a Muslim and his father should be Ibrahim Noyan. Its quite impractical that they don’t know the existence of the other 9 siblings nor of their father/step-father. It feels like the deceased lead a double life with the children not knowing what happened to her.

Maybe she converted but didn’t inform her children about it and continued to live as an Hindu.

There’s no mention about the husband.  Maybe he had passed away and she returned to her Hindu family?

In the above case, if the whole family is following Hindu religion (including the deceased), then might as well leave it to the family to perform the last rites accordingly.

If the families provides proof of the deceased being a practising Hindu (especially after 2006), does it make the conversion void?

I think to safeguard ourselves, a MyDaftar-like campaign should be conducted by government to provide opportunity for non-Muslims to reaffirm their religious status via a official document or statutory declaration.  We don’t want to be victims after passing away and cause misery for the family.

And what happened to the suggestion that future converts-t0-be must inform their families/next-of-kin? All quiet?

The silence from MHS is also deafening.

On a political note, since this happened in Penang, can expect brickbats for the PR government. But I wonder what can be done legislation wise to avoid this issue in the first place. Can the enactment be amended? Would need approval from MAIPP or King?