October 9th, 2015

Kelantan’s iconic leaders and ulama

BEFORE Britain’s phenomenal defeat at the hands of the Japanese in 1941, poverty and political repression in Kelantan led to the formation of a commoner Persatuan Persetiaan Melayu Kelantan (PPMK), which rivalled the earlier Persatuan Melayu Kelantan (PMK), formed by the Kelantan royalty and “orang besar” (dignitaries).

PPMK was formed following the inception of Kesatuan Melayu Muda (KMM), the radical Malay organisation, led by Ibrahim Yaacob, author of a politically–induced Melihat Tanah Air, which depicted the influx of immigrants and the British colonial government’s overt intent to inundate Malaya with the former.

In 1944, PPMK opposed the appointment of a menteri besar endorsed by PMK to replace Datuk Perdana Menteri Nik Mahmood Ismail, who helmed the state for 23 years (1921-1944), with his son, Tan Sri Nik Ahmad Kamil, deputising for six years (1938-1944).

While the controversy surrounding the state menteri besar’s appointment was not about PPMK’s “revolt of the masses”, it smacked of a peasant discontent led by the Malay educated elite, on account of the commoner organisation’s effort in marshalling forces to voice their vehement protest against the appointment.

Never mind if their candidate for the position was a member of the Kelantan royalty, the affable Tengku Mohammad Hamzah Tengku Zainal Abidin. They carried placards and lined the streets in Kota Baru in defiance of the bureaucracy and the royalty’s support of Nik Ahmad Kamil’s candidacy as the menteri besar in place of his father.

The Kelantan prince, Tengku Mohammad Hamzah, (Tengku Razaleigh’s father), was the state secretary at the time of the imbroglio. He was originally part of a trio, a three-some, dubbed “the gang” by the British colonial authorities in Kelantan before the Japanese invasion.

During their smashing eligible bachelors’ heyday, the “bunch” was a closely-knit comradeship who dominated young men in the state’s capital.

Two others in the group were Tengku Mahmood Mahyidden (nicknamed Harimau Malaya) and Nik Ahmad Kamil. Tengku Mahmood was appointed Kelantan education officer by the British and Nik Ahmad Kamil eventually ascended to become menteri besar after the slot was vacated by his father, Nik Mahmood in 1944.

Nik Ahmad Kamil, who was educated in England, was put through his education by Majlis Agama dan Adat Istiadat Melayu Kelantan (Kelantan state Religious and Malay Customs Council) — inaugurated in 1916 — which was dedicated to Malay students’ education.

The architect of the Majlis school was none other than Nik Mahmood, the menteri besar, who was also among the originators of the iconic Majlis (Religious Council), one of the oldest religious bureaucracies in colonial Malaya.

The PPMK was formed in the late 1930s after the banning of KMM along with its extension, the Parti Kebangsaan Melayu Malaya or Malay National Party (MNP) in 1948.

However, Ibrahim (who led KMM) escaped several British dragnets to Indonesia in 1945, for his part in re-grouping Malays to work for the Japanese intelligence during the war and before the interregnum. In the 1940s, the Kelantan Malays had witnessed enough of British administrative shortcomings and injustices in the state.

Although roads and railway tracks were laid connecting Kelantan with the west coast states, these were not enough to pacify the Malays’ wrath as the infrastructure was not meant for the “sons of the soil’s” convenience; it was instead aimed to facilitate the mobility and convenience of the Chinese labour force and economic progress which benefited the state’s Malay population tangentially and superficially.

In 1939, a well–known Malay National Party’s (MNP’s) nationalist, Abdul Kadir Adabi, wrote a book entitled Jasmine of Kota Baru (Melor Kota Baru), which epitomised, inter alia, the Chinese preponderance in Kelantan and his vitriolic criticism of the state princes’ habit of working hand-in-glove with the Chinese labour force syndicate.

Twenty-four years before the book, a revolt broke out in Pasir Puteh district. In this fateful incident, Tok Janggut Mat Hassan organised an uprising against the British for introducing a tax system which the agrarian community in the state had never been subjected to and experienced.

The British response was swift and brutal. After Tok Janggut’s annihilation, the British dragged down his body in a bullock cart in an apparent show of arrogance and firmness around Pasir Puteh town and Kota Baru before it was hanged head down at Padang Bank (now Padang Merdeka) in Kota Baru. He was laid to rest in Pasir Pekan, across the Sungai Kelantan.

The relative peaceful political scenario immediately after the war gave rise to the preponderant Umno under Datuk Onn Jaafar, which saw Malay leaders in Kelantan taking up the cause in pursuit of Malay unity.

This included those in KMM and PKMM, who re-grouped under Umno’s banner and battlecry in response to Onn’s call for the cohesion of the Malay race in anticipation of independence. Meanwhile, Chinese political forces, too, marshalled their efforts under “Bintang Tiga” (the Chinese guerillas of the Communist Party of Malaya) that launched their “revolution” late in 1945 following the Japanese abdication.

In the 1950s, after its inception, Kelantan Pas ulama activists were branded and loathed as heretics by Umno as the former filled the “pondok” (religious schools) in the periphery to recruit teachers and young and feeble-minded religious cadres in the rural areas to their cause. When the party, which won two states — Kelantan and Terengganu — in the 1959 general election, its fomentation of clericalism gathered steam under Dr Burhanuddin Al-Helmy’s national leadership. After his death, the ascendancy of the likes of Tan Sri Mohd Asri Muda, Datuk Lofti Umar, Yusoff Rawa, Datuk Fadzil Noor, Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat and Abdul Hadi Awang began in earnest.

Asri, Ishak Lotfi and Nik Aziz rose in Kelantan to become Pas menteri besar. Asri was also Pas national president after Burhanuddin but in 1982 he “abandoned ship” to form Hamim and subsequently ended up as a Umno member. In the 20-year period of Pas’ rise (1960s-1980s), there were still insufficient Pas ulama to raise the flag of Islamic resurgence to rally members of the party to their cause. Kota Baru, the capital, has always embodied twin political and religious impulses.

From time immemorial, it has been a fertile ground to Kelantan’s most powerful ulama, commanding hundreds, perhaps thousands of followers, who hailed not only from inside the state but from without as well, notably the Muslim-dominated provinces in southern Thailand. They preached Islamic tenets laced with politics.

More often than not, these Pas politically-inclined ulama conducted their Islamic classes in religious schools or “pondok” provided and facilitated by the propagators of Islam.

Many, too, from the ranks of the state’s religious propagation movement, however, provided instructions in their respective residences. Wan Mohamad Salleh Wan Musa, was one such ulama but he was a maverick who did not attach himself to any political party. His father, Wan Musa, was a great scholar and former Kelantan mufti, also a notable maverick who left his religious bureaucratic position in a crisis which pitted him against the state’s bureaucracy.

He protested the bureaucracy’s decision to use the proceeds of the state’s zakat (tithes) collection for the building of a prime mosque, Masjid Muhammadi, in the heart of the state’s capital.

He argued that the tithes’ collection was to be used only for the poor who had no means of solace and salvation for economic livelihood.

This episode reminds Muslims of a similar religious outburst which took place in Kota Baru involving a religious edict (fatwa) that hinged upon a dog’s saliva. In this 1938 debate between ulama from Kelantan and Singapore the stage was set for secular-religious political controversy between Umno and Pas in 1950s and 1960s.

One of the notable protagonists in the debate was Dr Burhanuddin, who later rose to helm Pas. It is to be noted that Kelantan has thrived on Islamic institutions for centuries. Kota Baru and its surroundings used to be littered with numerous “pondok”, later to be the mainstay of Pas ulama.

The centre of activity was Masjid Muhammadi, built in the year of Tok Janggut’s rebellion. It was engineered by Nik Mahmood, who together with Tok Kenali, another famous and iconic ulama as well as propagator of Islam of the state, were instrumental in the setting up of Majlis Agama Islam dan Adat Istiadat Melayu Kelantan.

Nik Mahmood was a scion of Atas Banggol, a famous locality in Kota Baru, where most state leaders and members of the nobility hailed from before the war.

He was the state menteri besar before and during the war years. Kelantan has no dearth of good political protagonists as seen from the long line of their existence beginning with Tengku Indera Putera (son of Sultan Ibrahim and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah’s mentor), Nik Ahmad Kamil, Tengku Hamzah, Tengku Razaleigh, Tengku Noraisiah, Tengku Ahmad, Tengku Zaid, Tengku Ahmad Rezauddin, Tan Sri Mohd Asri Muda and Tan Sri Mohamad Yacob.

The list is endless. The state is also inundated with lawyers and bureaucrats, businessmen and ulama of material.

Dr Alias Mohamed NST Home News Opinion 9 OCTOBER 2015 @ 11:00 AM

Khir’s case shows graft punishment doesn’t scare people

I REFER to Dr Tan Eng Bee’s letter, “Let ex-MB’s case be a lesson to those in power” (NST, Oct 2). While I agree with the writer that the one-year sentence imposed on former Selangor menteri besar Dr Mohamad Khir Toyo for corruption could be a lesson to those in power, such a light sentence will not deter anyone from committing corruption.

When Datuk Harun Idris, a former Selangor menteri besar, was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment for corruption in 1976, everyone thought that it would deter those in power from committing such acts.

Yet, in 1998, another former Selangor menteri besar, Muhammad Muhammad Taib, was found guilty by an Australian court of trying to bring in RM2.4 million into Australia.

He had to resign as menteri besar. Neither of these incidents seems to have deterred Dr Khir. As former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said: “Melayu mudah lupa.”

I feel that even caning or the death penalty will not deter anyone who doesn’t believe in “crime does not pay”. People will continue to commit murder, kidnapping, robbery, rape, drug smuggling and corruption.

This is evident from the increased number of these cases. People talk about deterrents most often when discussing vicious crimes. The idea is to scare would-be criminals from committing such crimes.

Thus, caning, life sentence and the death penalty are supposed to be deterrents. But, are they really? No. Like Dr Tan said, it could only serve as a lesson, a reminder or even a threat to put crime under control.

Like prostitution, corruption has existed since time immemorial, and in spite of the Revelation of the Holy Quran 1,437 years ago forbidding Muslims from committing, besides others, corruption, there are Malay Muslims, especially in government service and politics who are doing it today with impunity.

Why? People are entitled to their own answer or opinion, but, I feel that these people are weak in their “iman” (faith) and “taqwa” (respect for God’s laws), so much so that they become greedy and materialistic.

As a result, they succumb to greed and excessive desires. Since it would be impossible to eradicate corruption, the government should set up preventive measures to combat corruption.

In 2008, it approved the formation of an independent Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission. Its role is to investigate, arrest and convict the corrupt. Like many other countries, the Public Accounts Committee was formed to assume the role of enhancing public sector accountability.

Next, the Integrity Management Committee was set up to prevent bribery and corruption, and to boost integrity among civil servants and politicians.

Besides a deterrent sentence, another way to combat corruption is education. Children must be taught from young the evils of corruption, that Islam abhors corruption as deadly, undesirable, wicked and, above all, haram.

Corruption can result in inefficiencies in the operation of emerging economies that will scare off investors. It is observed that more often, takers of bribes are arrested, charged and sentenced, but, seldom are the givers.

There is a saying, “It takes two hands to clap”, and I think it is timely that the givers should also be arrested, charged, and sent to prison for complicity. Nor Shahid Mohd Nor, Petaling Jaya, Selangor NST Home News Opinion 9 October 2015

Reclaiming varsities’ nobler mission

A UNIVERSITY and its scholars search for absolute truth and the principles and laws related to their disciplines, they look for solutions to problems of matter and energy, society and individuals, they are engaged in the advancement of human mind and character and contribute to the cumulative body of human knowledge.

In sum, they contribute to the betterment of human civilisation in local realities and global dimensions. Their knowledge generation is about fundamental knowledge and applied knowledge, theories, practical ideas and solutions. They ensure that the next generation will continue to the next level of contributions.

Universities are, perhaps, the most important institutions in any society encompassing the best of what religious, scientific, health, economic and social institutions do.

Universities set the highest standards and must be the models of excellence in mission and operations in every nook and corner of the campus and in every niche and recesses of the mind and in every action for betterment.

Universities cannot be ivory towers but be engaged with the immediate communities and humanity, in face-to-face and virtual modes.

Typically, to achieve the various goals of its existence, university scholars from all mature and newly-emerging disciplines of knowledge conduct teaching, research, publication (and knowledge management and dissemination), consultancy and service to community.

The new academia is not just about rating, national, and global rankings. It is also not just about factory-like production of leaders with soft skills and entrepreneurship under the drive of marketability and employability.

A university is much much more, and challenging, and generates knowledge and insights into reality that even religious institutions do not do.

It creates conducive environments for scholars and students to raise dangerous questions and search for answers regarding whether the world is flat or not, whether there are parallel universes, whether the heroes of history were actually the villains and whether slavery in different forms stills exist in modern society.

Its scholars seek the root cause and consequences of human trafficking, greed and corruption and seek understanding of the mind and soul of man. It dares to seek answers to the question of where in the sweep of the history of creation the dinosaurs were when Adam and Eve were created and clarify the timelines of prehistory and recorded history in the minds of men, especially of confused leaders.

It searches for deeper understanding and be master of matter and energy, time and space, the finite and infinite, varieties of experiences and matters of life and death. It seeks to generate laws and principles, which are challenged all the time, such as the law, “matter can neither be created and destroyed”.

It searches for understanding of sacred religious beliefs of God’s eternal power of commandment: “KunfayaKun”— “Be” and “things exist”. Just as there is expectation that the religious classes, those who teach religion, proselytisers, those who acquire religious degrees and those who invoke religious decrees in their actions to influence others must be the best of mankind and reflect virtues, likewise there are similar expectations of scholars and academicians.

Like sacred religious institutions, universities are institutions related to the guardianship of human knowledge and the character of human virtues. Universities are not hubs for racism, religious extremism, narrow politics, myth making, idolatry and distortions of received wisdom or knowledge in creation.

Ideally, universities are institutions for the growth of the best of mankind, and, the gradual and radical elimination of the follies of humankind when there are validated discoveries and clarity of new knowledge.

Academicians are expected to champion these ideals just as soldiers and patriots die for their ideals and missions. Academicians must die the symbolic death in search of truth, justice, goodness, freedom, beauty, equality and other core fundamental and eternal virtues.

Ideally, academicians are true leaders, scholars and intellectuals with their own virtues and sacred pursuits. Whether their disciplines are in the natural, or social science or humanities they are not pawns or proxies of others who have lesser and narrow missions in temporal life for the pursuit of power, wealth and status in their own society or beyond.

They must resolve to rebuild a sacred culture of knowledge generation and knowledge management and be the guardians of truth and goodness and knowledge-based virtue.

Academicians are among the highest educated people in society and they must not surrender mind, body and soul to the base ambitions of rabble-rousing lesser people, but, must continuously be vigilant of their sacred roles and reclaim higher and nobler grounds of humanity’s existence and mission. Datuk Dr Ibrahim Ahmad Bajuni NST Home News Opinion 9 OCTOBER 2015 @ 11:00 AM

Nailing bigotry starts at home

THINGS are not pretty nowadays. Bad enough, we have to endure the choking smog; it gets worse when we are bombarded with incidents that touch on racial sensitivity.

I will not go into the details because everybody is aware of what is happening. Enough is enough. Stop associating everything with racial sentiments.

Stop trying to win a kissing contest by playing up which race has been victimised the most. And, parents, stop drumming up negative perceptions about other races in the presence of your children.

Being young, they pick up fast and soon your prejudiced view about other races will be made public by your own children. This was exactly what had happened few days ago.

A mother, while having lunch with her two children, aged 4 and 6, here in the federal administrative capital, had to keep her head down because of what one of her children had said.

The child told the other sibling that the outlet was only for their race. The child’s remark had obviously upset the other patrons. And, the mother was seen busy shushing her children from making further rude remarks that would make the situation more uncomfortable for everyone.

They hurriedly finished their meal and she did not make any eye contact with anyone as she led her children out. The incident left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.

In my case, I am in a quandary. The Malay blood in me will take offence when some quarters ridicule the Malays and the Chinese blood in me will be upset when some parties try to take a jab at the Chinese.

When I recall what one of my good friends had said in the past, they started to make sense. She had said that if she ridiculed her own race, it would not be seen as a racist statement.

But if others ridiculed her race, they would immediately be branded as bigots. No race is perfect and each has its own strengths and flaws. By combining our strengths, we will become stronger Malaysians.

Leaders from both sides of the political divide have to be extremely careful with their words and actions. My husband and I had discussed the racial sensitivities that some leaders seemed to have failed to see.

We were throwing ideas on how to choose the right leaders, when a eureka moment happened. The answer was in the SimCity game.

For those who have played the game, you will understand how your decisions and actions will affect the big scheme of things. It may seem a far-fetched idea to begin with, but it has its merits.

Get leaders to play the game. If they fail, drop them from the list, and, if they win put them on a shortlist. Malaysia needs people and leaders who have a healthy dose of empathy towards others.

Without that, we will have too many narcissists, sociopaths and self-absorbed people to deal with. Roger Joseph Ebert, a Pulitzer Prize-winning American film critic and screenwriter, said: “I believe empathy is the most essential quality of civilisation.” I could not have agreed with him more.

Unfortunately, I am seeing less and less of such values here. We had better be worried. I am already pushing the panic button and doing my small part by instilling empathy and other noble values in my son. Azura Abas NST Home News Opinion 9 October 2015

Peperiksaan untuk uji pengetahuan atau seksa murid?

ISU soalan peperiksaan mata pelajaran Bahasa Cina (Pemahaman) UPSR 2015 yang sukar dijawab oleh murid baru-baru ini menyebabkan saya berfikir sama ada peperiksaan diadakan untuk menguji penguasaan pengetahuan atau menyusahkan pelajar.

Ramai ibu bapa dan guru meluahkan rasa tidak puas hati berikutan sebahagian soalan kertas Bahasa Cina itu begitu sukar untuk dijawab. Menteri di Jabatan Perdana Menteri Datuk Wee Ka Siong, yang juga bekas Timbalan Menteri Pelajaran, menyifatkan soalan berkenaan belum tentu mampu dijawab malahan oleh profesor.
Beberapa pensyarah, pakar bahasa Tionghua dan guru sekolah menengah yang mengajar subjek Bahasa Cina, tampil membuat 'eksperimen' untuk menjawab bahagian yang didakwa agak 'sukar' dijawab dalam kertas peperiksaan itu.
Jawapan yang diberikan oleh mereka yang menyertai 'eksperimen' itu berlainan dan ada dalam kalangan mereka tidak mampu untuk memilih jawapan terbaik meskipun ia dalam bentuk aneka pilihan.
Ketua Jabatan Pengajian Tionghua Kolej Han Chiang Pulau Pinang, Dr Ooi Bee Peng turut mengakui akan kesukaran murid Tahun 6 menjawab kefahaman berdasarkan kepada artikel klasik dari China selain jawapan bagi soalan objektif mengelirukan.
Seharusnya penggubal soalan peperiksaan mengambil kira tahap pemahaman murid sekolah rendah kerana mereka tidak mempunyai penguasaan yang tinggi, seperti mana yang ada oleh pelajar sekolah menengah.


Penulis pasti para penggubal soalan peperiksaan awam, sama ada dari peringkat UPSR hingga ke Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia (STPM) adalah tenaga pendidik yang pernah mengendalikan sesi pembelajaran bersama murid dan pelajar mereka.
Sudah tentu mereka memahami tahap pemikiran dan proses pembelajaran anak murid mereka berdasarkan subjek yang diajar di sekolah.
Peperiksaan bukan bertujuan untuk 'menyusahkan' murid dengan soalan-soalan yang 'catchy' sebaliknya memilih soalan yang mampu dijawab ataupun berdasarkan kepada hasil pembelajaran mereka.
Sekiranya pemilihan soalan yang sukar terus digunakan dalam peperiksaan sesuatu mata pelajaran, murid bukan sahaja hilang minat terhadap mata pelajaran itu malah berasa fobia untuk terus mempelajarinya lagi.
Contohnya, isu soalan peperiksaan mata pelajaran Bahasa Cina UPSR ini mungkin boleh menyebabkan murid tidak berminat untuk mempelajari mata pelajaran itu lagi ketika melangkah ke peringkat sekolah menengah.
Ia juga boleh menyebabkan bilangan calon yang mengambil mata pelajaran Bahasa Cina sama ada dalam peringkat PT3, Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia dan Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia berkurangan.
Pembelajaran bahasa ibunda dalam kalangan murid berbangsa Cina akan berkurangan kerana perasaan 'fobia' terhadap mata pelajaran itu.

Di sekolah, pelajar dianggap hanya mempelajari apa yang diajar oleh guru dan mengulang kaji apa yang dikehendaki dalam peperiksaan sahaja.
Malah, ada kalanya pelajar sendiri dibebani dengan timbunan kerja rumah dan kelas tambahan oleh pihak sekolah semata-mata untuk mendapat keputusan cemerlang dalam peperiksaan dan menaikkan ranking sekolah.
Apabila sistem pendidikan berorientasikan peperiksaan sudah sebati dengan kehidupan murid, tidak hairanlah mereka serta ibu bapa terlalu mengejar pencapaian akademik sehingga mengabaikan perkembangan emosi anak.
Akibatnya, ramai dalam kalangan murid berasa sedih sehinggakan ada yang membunuh diri kerana tidak dapat mencapai gred yang dihasratkan, ataupun sedih kerana tidak dapat menjawab dengan baik dalam peperiksaan.
Apa yang paling membimbangkan, apabila wujudnya golongan ibu bapa yang suka membandingkan anak mereka dengan anak yang lain menyebabkan pelajar atau murid tertekan dalam pembelajaran.
Walaupun sistem pendidikan sudah dianggap berorientasikan peperiksaan oleh masyarakat, namun hal ini tidak bermakna persepsi ibu bapa, guru, dan pelajar tidak boleh diubah.
Contohnya, ibu bapa harus memberi motivasi kepada anak supaya tidak belajar semata-mata kerana peperiksaan, sebaliknya untuk menuntut ilmu pengetahuan.


Guru juga harus memainkan peranan untuk menjadikan sesuatu mata pelajaran yang dianggap sukar oleh murid seronok untuk dipelajari di sekolah.
Misalnya, melakukan aktiviti dalam kelas secara interaktif seperti tayangan video dan kuiz yang pada masa sama dapat menguji penguasaan mata pelajaran itu dalam kalangan murid.
Peperiksaan perlu dianggap sebagai satu platform menguji tahap pemahaman ilmu pengetahuan dalam kalangan murid dan pelajar, dan bukannya sebagai satu cara untuk menyukarkan murid dengan soalan-soalan bertahap tinggi.
Persepsi terlalu mengejar 'A' dalam peperiksaan harus diubah dan sikap menuntut ilmu dalam kalangan pelajar harus diterapkan supaya mereka seronok mempelajari benda baharu di sekolah dan bukan hanya untuk mengambil peperiksaan. - Bernama