Will Najib force the Malays to accept the MCA’s version of Islam and force the Malays to give away their majority seats

In a democracy the will of the people

In a democracy the will of the people –  the minority must accept  majority muslims

Avoid popularity if you would have peace. – Abrahim Lincoln

The approval rating of the prime minister has gone up and down. It went up with the lower income group and down with the middle class segment. Why is the premier popular with the poor and downtrodden? It is simply because the premier gives them goodies to lessen the pangs of poverty. These are ordinary folk who want food, shelter, decent wage to lead a simple life. Give them carrots and all is well with their health – and their votes.

People who have to struggle daily to make ends meet are easily influenced by the sweet talk of smooth politicians. In their eyes, political leaders become god-like figures if they come visiting, loaded with cash and other promises. The adoring crowd can see no fault in ministers with bottomless pockets. A prime minister who waves the magic wand that makes money appear in their pockets can do no wrong.

Politicians are crafty old devils when they want to capture power, and sinister characters when they want to keep power. When they campaign for public office, they put on their charm to woo, to plead, to cajole all classes of society. Once on the commanding heights, they lay out plans – to attack opponents and disillusioned citizens alike. As the years roll by, power corrupts them absolutely and they turn menacing in order to stay politically alive. At this phase of their waning political career, they seek out the vulnerable group to forge a partnership.

The prime minister of Malaysia is pursuing a similar course of action: he is building bridges with the lower income group who forms a sizeable portion of the electorate. Wherever he goes he throws out goodies to the settlers, the hard-pressed rural folk, the urban poor, the toiling workers. These are the people who little care or least understand the big issues rattling the country. Shady business deals, failed corporate ventures, environmental hazards, deep-seated corruption, abuse of power, dirty politics – all these unhealthy developments have little or no impact on the daily miserable life of the impoverished masses.

But some researchers have blamed the Umno-led counter-procession that began at the residence of then Selangor mentri besar Datuk Harun Idris for the violence.A conspiracy theory explains an event as being the result of an alleged plot by a covert group or organization or, more broadly, the idea that important political, social or economic events … Read more

Limping on crutches

The prime minister only have to dole out some relief to this teeming poor to win hero status and soaring popularity. His last carrot is the national budget, the biggest basket from where he can liberally distribute more largesse to his hero-worshipping fans. He will propose more benefits but the distribution will hinge on what comes out from the ballot boxes. More gifts for the less wealthy class means more votes for the elite class. It may be good strategy for the prime minister to exploit and manipulate the sentiments of the ignorant many but a bad tactical move to ignore the groundswell of dissent from the few.

It is the minority that can decide the destiny of the country because they can ferret out the truth from the lies emanating from the mouth of the government. It was the vocal few that dug out the dirt and brought to light government-linked business ventures that went off tangent, defence contracts that stink, stock listing that only enriches the few, tainted electoral rolls that will put more votes into the pouches of the ruling party. The prime minister did not like the insistent chant for reforms here and abroad because it was not music to his ears when the whole world now knows that democracy in Malaysia is limping on crutches.

If not for the courageous stand of the minority – be they ordinary citizens or political opponents – the country would never have known the dark side of their leaders. The minority, mostly from the middle class, is never popular with the establishment for standing up to what is right and just. It has always been classified as enemies of the state bent on destroying the institutions of the state. But this strident criticism does not hold water because it is these very cherished institutions that the minority is defending against the might of the majority. It is the majority that often imposes its brutal will on the lesser numbers.

A good prime minister is one who serves all people. He cannot be riding high with just the majority while the minority is being pummelled into submission. In a democracy the will of the people – the majority as well as the minority – is what matters the most. Trying to split society into two antagonistic camps will not guarantee permanent peace. Playing the bigger side against the smaller one is a sure recipe to eternal enmity. It serves little purpose to be a popular prime minister with the majority when the minority unceasingly uncovers more sins of the government. Eventually, the majority will find common cause with the minority to send the prime minister into political oblivion.

as well as the minority – is what matters the most the minority non muslim must accepth

 

Avoid popularity if you would have peace. – Abrahim Lincoln

The approval rating of the prime minister has gone up and down. It went up with the lower income group and down with the middle class segment. Why is the premier popular with the poor and downtrodden? It is simply because the premier gives them goodies to lessen the pangs of poverty. These are ordinary folk who want food, shelter, decent wage to lead a simple life. Give them carrots and all is well with their health – and their votes.

People who have to struggle daily to make ends meet are easily influenced by the sweet talk of smooth politicians. In their eyes, political leaders become god-like figures if they come visiting, loaded with cash and other promises. The adoring crowd can see no fault in ministers with bottomless pockets. A prime minister who waves the magic wand that makes money appear in their pockets can do no wrong.

Politicians are crafty old devils when they want to capture power, and sinister characters when they want to keep power. When they campaign for public office, they put on their charm to woo, to plead, to cajole all classes of society. Once on the commanding heights, they lay out plans – to attack opponents and disillusioned citizens alike. As the years roll by, power corrupts them absolutely and they turn menacing in order to stay politically alive. At this phase of their waning political career, they seek out the vulnerable group to forge a partnership.

The prime minister of Malaysia is pursuing a similar course of action: he is building bridges with the lower income group who forms a sizeable portion of the electorate. Wherever he goes he throws out goodies to the settlers, the hard-pressed rural folk, the urban poor, the toiling workers. These are the people who little care or least understand the big issues rattling the country. Shady business deals, failed corporate ventures, environmental hazards, deep-seated corruption, abuse of power, dirty politics – all these unhealthy developments have little or no impact on the daily miserable life of the impoverished masses.

Limping on crutches

The prime minister only have to dole out some relief to this teeming poor to win hero status and soaring popularity. His last carrot is the national budget, the biggest basket from where he can liberally distribute more largesse to his hero-worshipping fans. He will propose more benefits but the distribution will hinge on what comes out from the ballot boxes. More gifts for the less wealthy class means more votes for the elite class. It may be good strategy for the prime minister to exploit and manipulate the sentiments of the ignorant many but a bad tactical move to ignore the groundswell of dissent from the few.

It is the minority that can decide the destiny of the country because they can ferret out the truth from the lies emanating from the mouth of the government. It was the vocal few that dug out the dirt and brought to light government-linked business ventures that went off tangent, defence contracts that stink, stock listing that only enriches the few, tainted electoral rolls that will put more votes into the pouches of the ruling party. The prime minister did not like the insistent chant for reforms here and abroad because it was not music to his ears when the whole world now knows that democracy in Malaysia is limping on crutches.

If not for the courageous stand of the minority – be they ordinary citizens or political opponents – the country would never have known the dark side of their leaders. The minority, mostly from the middle class, is never popular with the establishment for standing up to what is right and just. It has always been classified as enemies of the state bent on destroying the institutions of the state. But this strident criticism does not hold water because it is these very cherished institutions that the minority is defending against the might of the majority. It is the majority that often imposes its brutal will on the lesser numbers.

A good prime minister is one who serves all people. He cannot be riding high with just the majority while the minority is being pummelled into submission. In a democracy the will of the people – the majority as well as the minority – is what matters the most. Trying to split society into two antagonistic camps will not guarantee permanent peace. Playing the bigger side against the smaller one is a sure recipe to eternal enmity. It serves little purpose to be a popular prime minister with the majority when the minority unceasingly uncovers more sins of the government. Eventually, the majority will find common cause with the minority to send the prime minister into political oblivion.

Farah Pandith, the US State Department special representative to Muslim communities, has argued that hip hop can convey a ‘different narrative’ to counter the foreign ‘violent ideology’ [GALLO/GETTY]
New York, NY – Three months ago, just as the French presidential campaign was heating up, the rapper Kery James uploaded a track titled “Letter to the Republic” (“Lettre à la République“) explaining what he and youth in the banlieues thought of the republic’s political class, or as he described them, “Pillagers of wealth, murderers of Africans, torturers of Algerians / The colonial past is yours, you chose to link your history to ours.”

The track promptly provoked public outrage; the far-right group, Le Bloc Identitaire, tried to cancel James’ concert tour, its spokesperson calling on the rapper – a Guadeloupe-born convert – to leave France and move to a “Muslim land”.

Meanwhile, in Germany, state officials are trying to indict former rapper Deso Dogg – another convert – for his lyrics which allegedly inspired a 21-year old Kosovar to fire at a busload of American servicemen in Frankfurt.

 Kerry James – Lettre à la République

In Britain, the BBC is still addressing protests regarding decisions made in 2011 by Radio 1 Xtra to tune out the words “Free Palestine” in a track by the rapper Mic Righteous, so as “to ensure that impartiality was maintained”.

Combating so-called ‘Muslim hate rap’

Surveying European hip hop today, one notices two things: first, as in America, some of the biggest stars are Muslim, the children of immigrants and/or converts; and second, a number of these artists are (or have been) embroiled in controversies about freedom of expression, national identity and extremism. European government officials are increasingly worried about the influence that Muslim rap artists wield over youth, and are scrutinising hip hop practices in the immigrant neighbourhoods, trying to decide which Muslim hip hop artists to promote and which to push aside.

Britain was the first country to deal with what state officials now call “Muslim hate rap”. In 2004, the song “Dirty Kuffar” was released online by rap group Sheikh Terra and the Soul Salah Crew. The video, splicing together images from Iraq, Palestine and Chechnya, praises Osama bin Laden and denounces Bush, Tony Blair, Ariel Sharon, Hosni Mubarak and Saudi Arabia’s King Abdallah as “dirty infidels”. The track drew the attention of the Home Office and Labour MPs, who saw the lyrics and imagery as advocating violence. In 2006, Aki Nawaz of the popular hip-hop-techno group Fun-Da-Mental released an album “All Is War”, with a cover depicting the Statue of Liberty hooded and wired like an Abu Ghraib prisoner, and a song (“Che Bin Pt 2”) comparing bin Laden to Che Guevara. Two MPs called for his arrest.

Other European governments are worrying about hip hop and extremism. In Berlin, the Tunisian-German rap star Bushido, who has won awards from MTV, angered many with the verse, “I am a Taliban… I have set your city on fire.” Because of these episodes – and seeing how rap can shape public discourse and identities, European governments are now enlisting hip hop in a broad ideological offensive to counter domestic extremism.

When in April 2007, the Home Office introduced PREVENT, an initiative to stop British Muslim youth from being lured into violent extremism, it made sure that hip hop figured prominently. Muslim organisations in Britain receive PREVENT funding to organise “Spittin’ Light” hip-hop shows, where rappers with “mainstream interpretations” of Islam parade their talents. The initiative is directed at younger Muslims, who may not be associated with mosques or other religious institutions. PREVENT’s advocates claim [PDF] that “art and culture can provide Muslims with an acceptable outlet for strong emotions”.

In the Netherlands, the government is also trying to use hip hop to moderate youth, but is at a loss over what kind of rap to promote. In 2007, there was a controversy surrounding the Dutch-Moroccan star Salah Edin and his video “Het Land Van” (“This Country Of”), in which he describes being Muslim in an increasingly conservative country and lists what he likes and does not like about the Netherlands. Among other things, he does not like racial profiling and the red-light district – “this land that sells women behind window panes”. The rapper first appears clean-shaven in a plaid shirt; as the video progresses, his facial hair grows longer until, by the end, he is wearing a scraggly beard and an orange Guantanamo jumpsuit. The uproar was not only about this content, but the fact that Salah Edin had received a grant from the Dutch Ministry of Culture for the video’s production. Voters complained that their tax money was underwriting radicalism, and government officials felt duped: They had given Salah Edin a grant thinking he was “moderate”, but he turned out to be “radical”.

 Salah Edin – Het Land Van

Debate and outreach

The debate over hip hop, Europe’s dominant youth culture, stands in for a much larger debate about race, immigration and national identity. With many of the biggest stars being Muslim, the disputes over which Muslim hip hop artists are “moderate” or “radical” are also disagreements over what kind of Islam to allow into the public space. As European state officials decide what “hip hop policy” to adopt, American embassies on the continent have slowly inserted themselves into this delicate dance between European governments and their hip hop counter-publics.

Hip hop is at the heart of US embassies’ outreach to Muslim communities. Farah Pandith, the State Department’s special representative to Muslim communities, has argued that hip hop can convey a “different narrative” to counter the foreign “violent ideology” that youth are exposed to. American rap artists are invited to perform at embassies in Europe. Local artists are invited to the embassy. The US ambassador to France has sponsored hip hop conferences, inviting French rappers to his residence, including the controversial K.ommando Toxik (who, at the US embassy, performed a tribute to two boys who were killed by the French police in November 2007, an incident that triggered a wave of riots).

This debate over hip hop is playing out most poignantly in France, the country with the largest Muslim community in Europe, the second largest hip hop market in the world and a place whose traditions of laïcité (secularism) aggressively restrict expressions of religion in the public sphere.

After the French riots of 2005, French MPs called on the government to prosecute seven rap groups whose lyrics hadallegedly incited youth to violence. The artists were acquitted, but the French government began investing more heavily in hip hop – at the local and national level, sponsoring concerts and funding local institutions in troubled neighbourhoods – in an effort to recognise marginalised cultures and identities, but also to foster a hip hop conducive to integration.

It’s not clear, however, what kind of hip hop best aids integration, and which rappers to invite to the Grand Palais. Successful hip hop artists rarely appreciate being held up by politicians as models of successful integration, often because government validation separates them from their base – and creates tension between rappers approved by the state and those who are not. Precisely this process is occurring in France, as seen in the interplay between Abd Al Malik and Médine.

Communitarianism

Probably the most celebrated French hip hop artist of the last decade is French-Congolese rapper Abd Al Malik. A former street hustler raised in a housing project outside of Strasbourg, he embraced Islam as a teenager, joining the Islamist Tablighi Jama’at. He achieved some notoriety with his rap group New African Poets, before embracing Sufism and shifting from gangsta rap to spoken word poetry (le slam). Malik’s poetry, accompanied by riffs of jazz and la chanson françaisespeaks of the value of hard work, education and the power of “spirituality”.

In his music and his autobiography, May Allah Bless France (Qu’Allah benisse la France), Malik extols the Republic’s values – liberté, egalité, fraternité – saying they should be reinvigorated. Malik has won all kinds of artistic and non-artistic plaudits; he is raved about by elites as a Muslim role model and a symbol of a new multicultural France. In January 2008, the Ministry of Culture awarded Malik the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres, one of France’s most prestigious cultural honours.

 Médine – Don’t Panik!

As hip hop gains public acceptance and rises to the level of high culture, French cultural and political elites are carefully monitoring the kind of Islam that is being diffused over the rap airwaves, and Malik’s music embodies the kind of Islamic piety that can be permitted into the French public square.

If Malik’s music makes no political demands, his would-be rival, Médine, a popular “undergound” hip hop artist, hits all the issues that the Sufi poet evades: the social exclusion of nonwhite French youth, conditions in the banlieues and Western depredations in the Third World. Sporting a bald dome and fierce beard, Médine raps in harsh, halting tones over hard-core instrumentals, about colonialism, Malcolm X, Afghanistan, the PATRIOT Act, police brutality and segregation. His videos show graphic images of war, street protests and water-boarding. His critiques of the French model of integration are blunt and forceful, the gist being that France’s urban crisis must be understood in light of the country’s colonial past and Western imperialism in general.

The more overtly pious Malik is celebrated, in part because he declares his love for the Republic, sees Islamic identity as compatible with the Republic’s values and, while he refers to the country’s colonial past, is not enraged at the French state. Médine, on the other hand, is not particularly vocal about his own religiosity, speaking more about rights for Muslims. Yet, ironically, the mainstream media has largely ignored him, and some radio stations boycott him, saying he promotes Muslim identity politics (communautarisme).

French director Keira Maameri’s recently released documentary “Don’t Panik” – screened a few weeks ago at the Al Jazeera International Documentary Film Festival in Doha – offers Médine and five other rappers (from Sweden to Senegal) an opportunity tell their side of the story, and to reflect on how they are viewed as Muslim hip hop artists. “My track ‘Don’t Panik’ aims to bring communities together,” says Médine, referring to what has now become his signature track where he announces his multiple identities (ghetto-dweller, proletarian, Muslim, African) while telling listeners to stay calm. “[The song] denounces discrimination against youth in housing projects, the working class, Africans – and Muslims. Yet what do people remember? Muslims – that’s the only thing they remember.”

The artists are interviewed – in between clips of performances on stage, or in their home countries – and seem keenly aware that what they say on-stage will reflect on the entire Muslim community, that a passing reference to Islam could get them labelled “proselytisers” or extremists. The Senegalese artist Duggy Tee thinks subtlety and understatement are the way to go, “If one listens to my lyrics carefully, one can see that I believe in God, but my faith in God is not something I want to put forward and promote through my lyrics.”

The artists also ponder their responsibilities as Muslim artists, how they can reinvigorate hip hop, or create a new politics. “There has to be an alternative,” says Manza, a Belgian artist, to the “bling bling” and the thongs, calling for “a rap that protests, takes a stand, opens up debate and brings something new”.

Given the anxieties surrounding the Islam-hip hop connection in Europe today, fans, activists and state officials should keep an eye out for this stimulating documentary.

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