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Sakmongkol ak 47

Tuesday 8 December 2009

False premises, invalid conclusions. 2

Windmills and Dragons- Islam bad for Muslims, Ketuanan Melayu bad for Malays.

  1. Islam- bad for Muslims.

We don't have to go into the details of Max Weber's thinking. His seminal book on this issue, the impact of religion on economics- the Protestant Ethic is formidable enough. A whole industry has sprung around this single volume. It will not do justice if we were to give such an important study a broad brush.

How would a disciple of Weber's thinking go about insisting that Islam for example is inimical to economic progress? He will try to identify certain religious injunctions peculiar to Islam which he thinks are particularly opposed to good commerce.

I say 'good' commerce. Allow me to elaborate. In the context of what's happening to Dubai at the moment, 'bad' commerce was the main cause of the mess. If it's bad commerce minus the value judgment, that's all right. But when 'bad' commerce is associated with religion, the explanation takes on a different meaning altogether. In Dubai, this bad commerce which is reflected in total lack of discipline is said to originate from religious injunctions. More specifically the Islamic religion. The different meaning which we pointed out above leads us to judge Islam as being not conducive to good commerce and from there, on and on to Islam as being not conducive to economic progress.

Take one example. The favourite tool, is the Islamic ban on the charging of interest. The thinking is, without charging interest on financial transactions, would lead to completely unregulated lending or undisciplined lending. Absence of interests makes lending devoid of internal restraints. Easy lending imposes no discipline on borrowers. The cost of borrowing money is low and when something is obtained freely and easily, there are no inducements to make the 'borrowings' work.

Western commerce it is said incorporates internal restraints. These, it is said imposes discipline- essential for good commerce. Those who borrow will be induced to make borrowed capital work in order to service the loan and the cost to that loan. No such internal controls exist in Islamic banking. That's why the robed Dubai Arabs lend out money with wanton abandon and borrowers spend money recklessly.

That is a stupid way of doing business say western commentators. Interest is an essential element in western commerce. Because the Muslims are stupid to follow the religious injunction, they are prevented from acquiring good commercial practice.

The practice of not charging interest, it is said spawns the practice of easy credit. Without the self regulatory influence of interest charges, Muslim Bankers in Dubai lent to anybody that comes along. Borrowers with no credit standing are given loans without much vetting. Because of that, it is suggested, lending in Dubai becomes a free from all. Sub standard borrowers able to get large amounts of credit, are not good investors. They don't build capacities. They are just spenders- spending on frivolous hobbies and fancies. Everyone wants to have their own Burj Al Arab.

The problem with this thinking is how to reconcile to what happened in America? the American sub-prime debacle occurred because of sub-standard banking practices. Every important elements of 'good' commerce are there. Interest rates are charged. The cost of capital didn't seem to have a restraining effect on both lenders and borrowers in the American economy. They lend and borrow like nobody's business.

The point is, you can't explain away the underperformance of Muslim countries in such a slipshod manner. Obviously the use of banning the charging of interest as an explanatory tool to an economic phenomena fails. There are other reasons other than religious doctrines that explain the backwardness.

There are many other Islamic commercial practices that have been used to accuse Islam as being anti commerce and because of that, Islamic countries are generally poor and backward. In the particular case on the issue of banning of interest, we contradict ourselves. Hence the arguments about banning of interest have no universal application.

  1. Ketuanan Melayu- Bad for Malays


Just as reasons of dubious merits are often used to explain the backwardness of Muslim countries, the same body of reasons of equal dubious merits is used to explain 2 things in Malaysia. We are referring to the difficulty in securing national unity and the backwardness of Malays and Malaysia.

If Islam is often blamed for Muslim backwardness, here in Malaysia the punching bag is Ketuanan Melayu.

Now, focus our thoughts on the Malaysian problem. Not economics but the problem of achieving national unity because the stumbling block is Ketuanan Melayu. To some, and I am referring to both proponents and opponents – they are treating this Ketuanan Melayu as the cause célèbre. Perhaps, both sides have misdirected their energies.

Can we explain away the difficulties in achieving national unity because of ketuanan Melayu? Just as in the case of using the banning of interest does not make 'good' commerce, I do not think we can employ such a cavalier explanation.

Answer this question: is there such a thing as ketuanan Melayu in the first place? Yes I know, every person of repute or otherwise speaks about this concept. Ordinary Malays have no knowledge whatsoever of a body of doctrines which we can say, constitute elements of Ketuanan Melayu. We know we can't ask anything beyond what's provided for in the Constitution. We know we have rights protected there- religion, employment, language, scholarships, appointments to civil service etc. if these are protected by the constitution, why do we need people like Ibrahim Ali or Muhamad Abdul Aziz to guard them? They are not bigger than our constitution right?

There is no coherent body of doctrines constituting what is termed as Ketuanan Melayu. What we have, is the fact that some people throwing their weights around recklessly, exploiting the issue of Malay rights and bullying others.

Can we seriously think that the proponents of this Ketuanan Melayu can achieve beyond what is provided for by the constitution? They can't unless they commandeer 2/3rd votes in Parliament. I think there is sufficient number of sane people in Parliament who would not subscribe to extreme demands.

Malays can't ask beyond what's provided for in the constitution. As long as all Malaysians and not just Malays only promise to uphold the constitution and respect the rule of law, the rights of all citizens in Malaysia are protected.

If that concept of Ketuanaan Melayu does not exist, then what are the people like the MP from Ipoh Barat chasing after? We are asked to chase windmills which we think are fearsome dragons.

In reality, this concept of Ketuanan Melayu must continue to be stoked in order for both opponents and proponents to stay relevant. Imagine this: if the majority of Malays chose to ignore the artificially contrived concept of Ketuanan Melayu, where is the relevance of people like the MPs from Pasir Mas and Sri Gading? Just the same, if this fabrication is ignored, how can people like the MP from Ipoh Barat sustain his relevance?

The reason for Muslim backwardness lies not within Islam. The hindrance to national unity is not Ketuanan Melayu. Malays underperformed not because of religion nor are they held back by the imaginary dragon.


Anonymous,  8 December 2009 at 20:58  

Sak, it's best you initiate to DEFINE ketuanan melayu. If this term is defined, it'll certainly be abused, like it has been all these times.

Irresponsible MFs will tarnish the race and the religion it upholds. So it's best to commence to define it ASAP.

Also, once it's defined specifically, the definition would clear all doubts for EVERYONE. With that, we'll all have CHOICES. CHOICE to make it our country or not, for EVERY CURRENT MALAYSIAN.

Anonymous,  8 December 2009 at 21:13  

Dear Sir,
Let us see a bit on both issues you wrote in this post, they interest me that I like to give my humble opinion.

First the relevance of Islam and the backwardness of Islam in commerce as interest is prohibited or a forbidden animal. The second is about the ketuanan Melayu and it relevance to Islam and the group of Malay people.

Let us see the interest part of it. But before that let us see how mankind’s eagerness to create Pyramids all over the world since the birth of Pharaoh.

Man and God has been the main story of anything in this world. In order to be near to God and in the name of power among groups of people a monument that creates greatness and to show a true ruling power, economically, is building a monument, building or whatever which are high towards the sky, where God supposed to reside. Pharaoh did that and so Dubai’s government. We also did one in KL.

How to build them, whether you have used conventional finance or a modern funding, or in the time of Pharaoh forced labor, these don’t really have a bearing on human kind. But the truth about it is to show how powerful and intelligence is the people or groups of people to manipulate physical development which shows others how they can be powerful because they are very close to God.

When Islam came into being forced labor is banned and so usury. Method of financing to built similar structure is somehow has changed. But the big structure that looms to the sky remains the sign greatness and power both from the brain and the money in the treasury of any particular group of people of the world, Islam or Non Islam.

On the second point, when people say ketuanan Melayu is a bull…., I don’t know how to put it in a nice word. Moment Mahathir built twin towers; the greatness of the structure gives an impact on the truth about the capability of Malay’s or Malaysian’s intelligence and prowess over finance. We are immediately recognized as a great nation by many people of the world. That is only one fractions of greatness our people have shown to the other in the world, but then there are many more you can think of.

Mind you, if it is not Islam, the main religion of this country, our people has no local standee. What I mean is our history does not span from Pharaoh’s time, and we vividly know when we start, except that we know history of Hang Tuah and Kesultanan Melaka that spans about 400 years back in history. When we talk about Chinese, then their span in the history is much longer, so that is why they progress much faster than us. If only we know Islam the greatness of it, we would bring our people to a span of time even much longer than the Chinese, and so we should be better than them in many fields. This is the thing about ketuanan Melayu where people challenge our history of knowledge, greatness, prowess in economy and other fields. So, if we follow true Islam as a good knowledge, we are then the tuan in this country.

Fi-sha 9 December 2009 at 08:24  


Good morning Dato' Sak

First stop - most economic theories (should be called 'fallacies'instead) are obsolete by now.

Second stop - do check our Constitution. This will definitely help you to define 'Malay Special Rights', which for me is totally different from being monikored "Ketuanan Melayu".

Third stop - most MP are irrelevant, if not this Ibu Pertiwi isn't as weak as it is now.

Malays are underperformed because of they are..simply Malays. The only stmbling block they need to remove is their tweaked, shallow mindedness.

Cikgu Ngah,  9 December 2009 at 08:57  

Assalamualaikum Dato'.

Sekali lagi Dato' telah membuktikan bahawa Dato' bukan seorang 'windbag' dan saya berasa bangga bahawa seorang anak Pahang mempunyai ketinggian daya fikir yang begitu mengagumkan.

Memang benar Islam dan ajarannya bukanlah sebab kepada permasalahan yg dihadapi dunia hari ini. Islam itu agama yg syumul dan sempurna. Yang tak sempurna ialah para penganutnya yg mentafsirkan ajaran Islam sesuka hati dan mengikut citarasa sendiri. Contohnya Allah SWT mengurniakan kemewahan hasil daripada kekayaan minyak kepada raja-raja Islam seperti di Dubai dan Brunei. Tetapi adakah Allah dan Rasul-Nya menyuruh hamba2Nya yg kaya raya ini buat hotel mewah, pulau buatan manusia, istana terbesar di dunia dan sebagainya? Taj Mahal bangunan yg dianggap keajaiban dunia kerana maha cantik binaannya, yg dibina oleh seorang maharaja Islam, adalah sebenarnya sebuah makam atau dlm bahasa mudahnya kubur! Apakah agama Islam suruh kita bina kubur yg besar dan megah semacam ini? Adakah Allah dan Rasul-Nya mengajar kita supaya bawa kapal terbang dan hentam menara WTC dan bunuh mereka yg tidak berdosa? Ini semua saya percaya tak ada dalam ajaran agama suci Islam. Kita sebenarnya yg memburukkan agama kita sendiri di mata dunia.

Berkenaan dengan isu ketuanan Melayu. Kalau benarlah orang Melayu 'Tuan' di negara ini, adakah orang Cina dan India di negara ini dilayan seperti 'hamba'? Kalau dengan menjadi 'hamba' kita dapat menguasai senarai orang2 terkaya di Malaysia, mendapat monopoli membekal gula dan lesen judi, menjadi peguam dan ahli profesional, membuka sekolah aliran sendiri, membuka rumah2 ibadat sendiri, menerbitkan akhbar2 sendiri, menyambut perayaan agama sendiri seperti Thaipusam dan Hari Wesak dgn begitu meriah di jalan2 raya tanpa gangguan daripada para 'Tuan-Tuan Melayu', menghina lagu kebangsaan,azan dan agama 'Tuan-Tuan Melayu' tapi terlepas dari sebarang tindakan, dan dapat pula menjadi lawmakers di Parlimen dan Ketua Menteri di negeri2 tertentu, maka dengan itu saya seorang 'Tuan Melayu' di negeri ini pun rela jadi 'hamba'! Orang2 yg percaya cakap M. Kulasegaran tak belajar sejarah! Pergi belajar dulu sejarah apartheid di Afrika baru boleh cakap soal perkauman.

Satu perkara lagi, saya heran mengapa Menteri Di JPM, Dato' Sri Nazri Aziz nak bergaduh dengan Tun Mahathir semata-mata nak bela Lim Kit Siang, Anwar dan pakatan pembangkang. Siapa yg lebih rasis, Lim Kit Siang atau Dr Mahathir? Si Nazri ni tak boleh fikir atau sengaja tak mahu fikir? Pada DAP dan pembangkang, segala apa yg kerajaan BN dan UMNO buat - hospital, tentera, polis, sekolah, perkhidmatan awam, rumah ibadat dan sebagainya adalah bersifat perkauman. Hari ini pula ada pemimpin DAP persoal mengapa kerajaan belanja banyak sangat duit bina masjid dan bukannya rumah ibadat agama lain. Wah, seronok jadi 'hamba' di negara ini! Boleh bantai 'Tuan' dengan label perkauman dan dibela pula oleh Menteri yg jaga undang-undang di JPM!

Itu sahaja yg saya nak kata Dato'. Dato' nak siar atau tidak komen saya itu hak Dato'. Maaf kerana tulis banyak sangat. Terima Kasih.

Anonymous,  9 December 2009 at 09:25  

Some one told me this "Two thing in this nation that will make us backward-the leaders are not fit to be called leaders and the people are either stupid or coward"
May be there is truth to this and hopefully blogger like you will keep going.
Happy new year and merry xmas!!!

walla 9 December 2009 at 09:58  

A: 'What you think?'

B: 'Me no think no more; just feel.'

A: 'What you feel?'

B: 'Me feel about something deep.'

A: 'And what's that, dear Tun.'

B: 'Something hidden revealed to me. Me feels the way out for the Malays missed by too many is contained in Surah 47 Verses 35 and 36.'

A: 'Intriguing. Please elaborate.'

B: 'Look at the world. Pride before fall. Man proposes but it is He who disposes. Empires today, ashes tomorrow. Arbitrage and leverage and mortgage turn to dust. Deeds led by greed go down wrong paths.

Do no evil. Do not be covetous. Do good deeds and He will take care of things. So said those Verses.

But there is more. You see, A, the secret is not only what He gives. It is what He doesn't take away which is equally important. That's in those Verses again.'

A: 'But where then the propulsion to progress?'

B: 'He also said in those Verses that the world's a plaything. So play. But play in such a way that one constantly sees the bigger picture and not fall under undue worldly influences to such an extent that one misses His Messages.'

A: 'Ah, something there.'

B: 'Let me sum that up for you. It's about building a moral economy.'

A: 'Is that what the Malays need?'

B: 'What the world needs.'

A: 'Then what else do the Malays need over and above a moral economy, B?'

B: 'They need scientific nationalism, A.

Go ahead, dig to find out where this phrase has been used to describe a process of progress with respect to a country.

The Malays need moral economy and scientific nationalism. Note that both are enjoined. They need both.'

A: 'But what about ketuanan Melayu?'

B: 'Man proposes. He disposes. If man faces some problems, look for the Message behind. Maybe the method used is not correct. Maybe the feeling behind it is the wrong one.

Let me give you a scenario. Whether you accept or not accept is entirely up to you but do try to see things anew sitting at His Feet.

Are you ready?'

A: 'Yes?'

B: ' Here's one scenario:

A: '(faints)'

B: 'Let us assume, and i say assume only, that they are true. What does that mean, A?'

A: 'That we have been using a wrong method based on a wrong emotion to try to solve something that requires us to do things that are wrong deeds in order to try and protect things we value above those of others because we think they are different when actually we and them come from the same roots?'

B: '(cough). You make me dizzy, dear Sofea.'

walla 9 December 2009 at 09:58  


A: ' What else do they tell us?'

B: 'They tell us to use scientific nationalism rather than fear-borne parochialism etched in a compact proposed by men.

If the Malays want to progress free from fear, play accordingly using the right methods but without losing sight of His Messages.

Our country needs scientific nationalism and moral economy. Malays are innately kind and compassionate. To have to show some other face out of fear of being swarmed is so contrary to what they are. All the more silly if that scenario says the root is common.'

A: 'But for practical purpose, for play purpose?'

B: 'Have they worked so far? You cannot force others to bend to your will and demands and wishes. Because they play by a different set of parameters. The key objective of those parameters is spelled in one word: progress.

Now how does one measure progress? Again in one word. Standards.

Take cars. The cars on the roads today have so many new designs and features the old ones look and perform like dinosaurs.

So too computers. When they were first built, you needed a whole building just to contain one whose performance won't even come to half that which you can hold in your palm today.

Take movies. The olden classics may have some nice themes but their script and settings were thread-bare compared to those you can see today, aided by animation effects.

Take medicine. Progress has been good until today one can design drugs to cure specific diseases. It's all about progress based on primacy of standards.

Take, even, how one thinks. In the past, one thing at a time. Now all-seeing, multi-dimensional techni-colored and cross-disciplined, furthermore without doctrinaire hang-ups.

Therefore one should admire and champion those who try to play in the world according to the rules of progress and standards.

That's scientific nationalism.'

A: 'I now see why you said moral economy is also important. Scientific nationalism by itself is without a moral compass as that country you alluded had shown in its history. Without a moral compass, we all lose our connection to Him. Without that connection, we lose something already in us.'

B: 'You're not only young and beautiful but smart too, A.'

A: '(sigh). So how do the Malays come up now that you've identified moral economy and scientific nationalism as the keys?'

B: 'They must shift their focus from past to future and will themselves to make changes in present. Be more moderate. Embrace positive emotions. Do things more pragmatically. Adopt the right methods. Move away from bad reactions. Follow His Moral Standards and the world's practical standards. And if the latter crosses the Former, He will let us know in good time. But so long as we keep the Connection really cool.

If they play like this, a platform will naturally surface for more bonding and better symbiosis. Bonding is needed for real collaboration based on h2h and m2m.'

A: 'H2H, M2M?!'

B: 'Heart-to-heart and mind-to-mind. He keeps the Connection like these. That's why He can both take away and also let us keep. He wants to keep the Connection to us.'

A: 'Ah!'

B: 'Yes! May His Blessings come your way today.'

A: 'Thank you.'

Unknown 2 January 2010 at 19:45  

Malaysia is an Islamic country, and you would therefore expect it to be an economic underperformer. Don't just compare it those four countries that have over 50% of all Muslims -Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and (northern) India - known for their corruption, illiteracy and social unrest, just like Malaysia. Also compare it to any of the other Muslim countries, like iran or Saudi which, in spite of their oil wealth, are really economic basket cases in terms of unemployment and inflation. It's the same story. Malaysia is lucky because it has Chinese and Indian dhimmi, who provide a revenue base which subsidizes Muslim education, house purchases, building of Mosques. But ask anyone who needs any work done, intellectual or manual labour: never hire malays. They expect extravagant pay for poor quality work, and you'll just have to hire a Chinese to finish the job properly in the end anyway. Maybe one day Malays invent their own religion instead of subscribing to the Arab national religion, which they plagiarized from the old testament and modified to confirm their deep-seated inferiority and persecution complexes and (since we're talking about economics) their propensity to steal the wealth of others rather than earn it. Using the American sub-prime mortgage crisis as an example is a useless comparison; Malaysia's financial system will never be sophisticated enough to make that type of complex mistake. The upside is that Malaysia is so backwards that it suffers less from the temporary downswings of the more advanced economies.

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