That he is controversial can be seen from the words written on the upper part of his poorly attended to English blog. “You have absolute rights not to continue reading or to discontinue accessing this blog immediately if you are disagreeable with the personal views provided by Dr Mohd Ridhuan Tee”. It is clear that he is less inclined to engagement and even correction. You don’t agree with me: you leave, that’s what he says. How far from Calipha Omar (ra) who used to say: I love good advice.
Islam is the official religion of Malaysia and Muslims constitute the majority at 60%. Most of these Muslims are Malays, the dominant race in Malaysia which is also defined as Muslim constitutionally. In fact, the Malays apart from the Maldivians and the Somalis of the collapsed Republic of Somalia, no other Muslim society is constitutionally defined as Muslim.
Dr Ridhuan Tee’s own race; the Chinese who are about 25% of Malaysia are overwhelmingly Buddhist with relatively large Christian presence too. Indians account for 7-8% and most of them are Hindus. For those who know Islamic history, the role Muslim converts played in being a bridge between Islam and their people is quite well known and they have done it well.
Those who come from non-Muslim majority countries like me get shocked when we see a man who has converted to Islam, who hails from a people who have less interest in Islam or misunderstand it, and rather than engaging them, appealing to them, explaining Islam to them in a good way, having good manners to have an impact on his own people behave like a nasty tribal warlord from an enemy enclave. He has been politicized so much, or he wants it so much (for personal gain I guess) that he has forgotten his higher call.
May be it is because of Utusan Malaysia, the paper he writes for. My Malay is not good, therefore I rely on translations offered by some news blogs, personal blogs and Google translations. Utusan is so racialist and tribal that even for a foreigner, you will feel chocked. It lacks sense and integrity. It lacks vision and fairness. It lacks honesty and the truth. It lacks God’s fear and good judgment. It lacks morality and mannerism. And the man seems to lack what Utusan lacks. They have become of mutual bargain and that’s dangerous.
Malaysia has a relatively troubled history like any other nation and the May 13, 1969 racial riots that claimed hundreds of lives define this nation. The atmosphere is so charged that behind the veneer of tolerance and harmony, there is deep animosity, hatred and anger. No race is exempt from this. The Malays are it, the Chinese are at it and the Indians too are at it, but each one blames the other.
Dr Mohd Ridhuan Tee is immersed in this mess. I would have preferred if he was an scholar, a distant observer to this poisonous racial talk and engaged with his people on issues dear to them and became a bridge between them and the Malays who are Muslim and the government with whom which he has a good relations. But that’s not the case. He lambastes them weekly; he uses obscene words against them. He calls them names, ultra kiasu and other nasty labels. He humiliates them. He even threatens them!
Dr Tee fails to understand that he has an Islamic duty to take Islam to his people. And one way of taking Islam to them is to engage them, take their issues into consideration, sympathize with them, treat them well and handle them with care and compassion. Take their grouses to the ‘Islamic’ government he serves as a lecturer and a columnist. It is mandatory upon him to return to his people and preach to them with wisdom.
Siding with one group vs another while you have a higher role to play is wrong. He doesn't have to agree with everything the Chinese in Malaysia demand nor is he obliged to be their spokesman, but he has a duty to call them to Islam with beautiful preaching and better engagement. A concerned person shares with his people the beauty of the higher call like al Habib al-Najjar who did so even when he was killed by his own people.
As Allah (sw) tells him to enter Paradise after they brutally killed him, he says: “He said: O would that my people had known. "For that my Lord has granted me Forgiveness and has enrolled me among those held in honour!" (Holy Quran 36: 26-7) Ibn Abbas said this man advised his people both when he was alive and when he died. His concern for his people is clear that he even regrets that his people might not have known about Allah’s message when he has left the earth.
On the other hand, Dr Tee lashes at his own people. Rather than engaging them and becoming a bridge, he patronizingly preaches to them about tribal politics and Malaysia’s social contract. He even calls them names. He says they drink, gamble and fornicate. That’s not Islamic etiquette. And it is immoral. Muslims drink, gamble and fornicate and they have been expressly forbidden from engaging in all these vices yet they do. I’m not vouching for the Chinese doing this, but denouncing them as if that’s unique to them doesn't help.
I have met with many Chinese and I have asked a number of them why they have not considered Islam. The response I always got was simple: I don’t want to be a Malay. In Malaysia, there is this obnoxious thing called masuk Melayu (to enter Malayness) where Malaysian Muslim converts have to become Malays culturally. Now this is both un-Islamic and dangerous.
No religion has given due attention to a convert’s culture than Islam. This was part of Islam’s accommodation mechanism that has served this great faith very well. While Islam itself is a culture, the universal culture that unites all Muslims, you will find that respective cultures of Muslim communities have coloured Islam. This is because culture always colours religion than religion colouring culture.
It was Scottish Orientalist and one time Harvard professor H.A.R. Gibb who in appreciation of Islam’s unique cultural accommodation of diverse people and communities wrote: “But Islam has a still further service to render to the cause of humanity. It stands after all nearer to the real East than Europe does, and it possesses a magnificent tradition of inter-racial understanding and cooperation. No other society has such a record of success in uniting in an equality of status, of opportunity, and of endeavors so many and so various races of mankind... Islam has still the power to reconcile apparently irreconcilable elements of race and tradition. If ever the opposition of the great societies of East and West is to be replaced by cooperation, the mediation of Islam is an indispensable condition. In its hands lies very largely the solution of the problem with which Europe is faced in its relation with East. If they unite, the hope of a peaceful issue is immeasurably enhanced. But if Europe, by rejecting the cooperation of Islam, throws it into the arms of its rivals, the issue can only be disastrous for both."
I’m a Muslim, my people are 100% Muslim (at least that’s what we claim), I’m Sunni and belong to the Shaf’I School yet my culture is so different from that of Muslim Malays who are Muslim, Sunni and Shaf'I (syafie) like me, but we are still Muslims despite our different cultures. One doesn't become a better Muslim by embracing the culture of another community.
One is supposed to enter Islam and not a race, Islam repudiated race and it has no place in a supposedly believing society. Allah (sw) orders Muslims to enter Islam wholeheartedly. "O ye who believe; enter into Islam whole-heartedly; and follow not the footsteps of the Evil One.” (Holy Quran 2: 208)
With that express order to submit to Islam, due recognition to one’s race, colour, culture or region in relation to Islam is forbidden. Calling a non-Malay Muslim convert muallaf is wrong. I say this because it is something I have learnt here. A muallaf is someone who is yet to convert but has shown signs that he/she has interest in Islam, someone whose heart is being drawn to Islam. It is not a Muslim convert. That’s why a muallaf is due to Zaka as indicated in the Quran 9: 60. Once someone submits to Allah through Islam, he/she is a brother and an equal Muslim and no longer a muallaf. In fact, that new sinless Muslim is better than those of us who have been Muslims but carry many sins.
This muallaf or second status Muslim convert issue is something Western Muslims are avoiding to a large extent and I’m happy that they are doing it. This obnoxious culture of entitlement to God’s grace is something that’s prevalent in all Muslim societies including mine. In fact, we have legendary stories where our hypocrisy was exposed as to how we treated some new Muslims. While we ordered the news ones to observe Islam, we never did it, after all, we were Somalis, we were Muslims, we were destined to the Paradise, but Paradise is only for those who are righteous.
One story says an Italian convert saw many Somalis drinking, gambling and never praying but calling themselves Muslims. These same people will order him to observe Islam and shun what’s prohibited. Then one day, he stopped praying and started drinking. A Somali friend of his was shocked. The Italian explained himself, ‘Abdi doesn't pray and drinks and gambles and yet he is a Muslim.” The Somali friend retorted: ‘but Abdi is a Somali.’ In other words, his race makes him perfect; his race entitles him to Paradise. There is nothing of such in Islam. Being a Muslim in name doesn't count; it is the faith and the good deeds that count.
Dr Tee Abdullah is more of a Malay tribal small timer than a Muslim convert mandated to take Islam to his people. He desperately tries to appeal to the average tribal Malay whose understanding of Islam and the world is shaped by Utusan, a paper where intellectualism is an alien thing. And that is a failure my dear friend. There is nothing great in spewing village type tribal talk.
I’m for Dr Tee protecting Malay interests and fighting for Islam. But I ask: which part of his vomit inducing tribal talk serves Islam? Where is the wisdom? Where is the good preaching? Where is the benevolence? Where is the justice? Where is the honour of the people? When he sweepingly humiliates his own people and accuses them of adultery and fornication (the article on Teoh Beng Hock is an example) and even threatens them with dire consequences ala May 13, what is his intention? Where is the Islam that’s supposed to refine our souls and make us just and loving?
Friend, you are threatening and humiliating your own people rather than acting as a bridge and a messenger and Islam denies you that even while in war. At the height of war, when the Holy Prophet marched to free his birthplace: Mecca from the hands of the idolaters who violently chased him out of his birthplace, you remember how he demoted a Companion who belittled the Quraish?
What happened? Sa’d bin ‘Ubadah who was carrying the flag of the Helpers (Ansars) passed by a detained Abu Sufyan who was already given an amnesty by the Holy Prophet and even his house declared a sanctuary and taunted him saying: “Today will witness the humiliation of Quraish." Immediately, Abu Sufyan complained to the Holy Prophet and the Prophet (pbuh) stripped S’ad of the flag and appointed his son Qais in his place and he said: “"Nay, today Al-Ka‘bah will be sanctified, and Quraish honoured." Muslim scholars say the Holy Prophet was passionate about the honour of all people, Muslim and non-Muslim. Which parts of your incriminating, ultra-kiasu (to borrow your words) talk and articles is modeled along the Prophet’s teachings?
Now Gertak has invited you to pour scorn on the Chinese. I have no problem with Gertak getting concerned about the welfare of the Malays and Islam, but I have a problem with Gertak’s dishonesty and your failure. Neither Gertak nor you will help the Malays and neither of you is honest anyway. Like Malay intellectual Dr Bakri Musa wrote, I'm still to find the papers presented in the Kuala Terengganu Gertak talk. Empty rhetoric and small timers' politics.
What part of insulting the Chinese helps the Malays? Did you feel any pain when Musa Safri said they have descended from prostitutes? You are included by the way. In all honesty, do you believe the Holy Prophet (pbuh) would have allowed a Companion of his to call the mothers (like the Chinese women who came to Malaysia in the early 20th century) of another community prostitutes? But Utusan says that’s fine and that’s why Umno, the “Islamic party” (I love it) won’t even consider punishing him. I remember Ibrahim Ali praised Musa Safri calling him a man! This hubris will bring ruin.
Don’t depart from justice and God’s fear. Your hatred for anyone, for any race, for any tribe doesn't mean shunning justice. Allah (sw) orders Muslims: “O ye who believe! stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety: and fear Allah. For Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do.” (Holy Quran 5: 08)
As he tried to awaken Muslims in the 18th century, Muslim activist and nationalist Jamāl al-Dīn al-Afghānī wrote in his magazine: “Allah does not change a condition of a people to honor, authority, luxury, living, safety and comfort, until those people change what is in themselves—through illumination of the mind, soundness of thought, and depth of vision; from taking lessons from the actions of Allah with previous nations, and reflecting on the situation of those who joined forces against the path of Allah—for they were destroyed—and those who neglected the practice of justice, and left the path of insight, resolution and wisdom—for they were ruined.
Unite together in commitment to righteous work, truthfulness of speech, soundness of the heart, chastity in the face of desires, and protection of truth, standing for its victory, and cooperating in its protection!” How apt is that advice today!
You may believe that you are doing favour to Islam and the Malays by being tough against the Chinese (in fact, say opposition Chinese because Vincent Tan won’t disturb you), but I will tell you that’s counterproductive and even simply un-Islamic for the following reasons.
1. People including Muslims hate someone who deserts them and then attacks them from outside or from the trenches of the enemy. In fact, they hate more, the opportunist who trades in the anguish, ignorance or the naivety of the host. Today, it is Muslims who suffer a lot from this phenomenon. We have many purported Muslims, (they even created atheist Muslim) who are thorn in our flesh. They pose as critics but they are venomous enemies and subcontracted demonics.
2. You make the Chinese hate Islam. In Islam, they see an assimilating religion that appreciates no culture except its own and since in Malaysia Islam’s culture is seen as that of the Malays, they refuse to consider Islam or even become its friends and your rhetoric, actions and pronouncement don’t help.
3. You portray Islam as something racial to them. When you claim to be a Malay and talk like a Malay as you do, they simply see a tribal man talking and not a fellow Chinese with a message. It is important to be honest and impartial for your message to find reception. And by the way, you are not a Malay, you will never be one.
4. You are doing the Malays disfavour because you portray them in bad light. Nothing in your purported defence of them is fair, just, moral, Islamic and intellectual and thus you bring more disdain to them than you imagine. You sound like a conscripted hatchet and that doesn't help the Malays. In fact, you remind me of Ergun Caner, the Turkish-Swedish-American fraudster. Furthermore, Islam is about intellect and deep personal stories, nothing in your articles explains that and your salvation journey. You are always political and petty! There is need for spiritual stories that make people think and look inward so that they correct themselves.
5. You are always unjust, selective and partial and that impairs your ability to reach to others. I have many Malay brethren who always complain about you and say you are besmirching Islam and their people by kowtowing to Utusan than to Islam’s message of justice, honour and grace. Would the Malays lose anything however small it is by being fair and just? Neither justice nor charity diminishes a society. That’s the eternal truth.
6. Gertak or Perkasa or Utusan will invite you and then you will deliver a speech where you will harangue against the "ungrateful" Chinese and their ultra-kiasu culture. At the end of the day some questions need to be answered. What part of your speech helped Malays to rise to glory? To produce more? To be decent and dignified? To be just and moral? To be industrious and productive? To be thinking and critical? To be writers and intellectuals? None! You have simply insulted, slighted, humiliated or unfairly targeted another community and that doesn’t help the Malays. There is nothing motivational in blame politics and that's what you have perfected.
7. You make the Chinese hate Islam and Muslim societies. If you fail to make people Muslims, you try to befriend them so that they remain our friends. Muslims trying to make others Muslim is sharing God’s grace upon us and not out of a desire to see others vanquished or depleted. But you make them see Islam as unfair, cruel, violent, and less accommodating and simply an assimilating tribal culture. When you show less concern to their wellbeing and pain, they care less about ours.
Did you realize that it is the Chinese in this country who care the least about the Palestinians? I have observed this issue since my arrival and I came to know that their understating of this human issue has been shaped by what they consider as a bitter experience of their own and thus they laugh when they see Muslims in this country calling for fairness and justice in the Palestinian issue. For them it is simple, why should we care when they don’t care about us here.
Of course their understanding and judgment is wrong but that’s how a bitter person judges things. That’s why a certain blog that's so anti-Palestinian is also so anti-you. In fact, they side with the Zionists whom they believe are under attack. Just post a news article concerning Palestine and see how they respond to it. Well, it is wrong and they are wrong but they may do that simply to spite you and fellow Muslims whom they see as less just and considerate. Furthermore, you can't have them as friends to polish Muslim image outside.
8. By failing to live the message of the Companions of the Prophet (pbuh) where they have always asked for his advice to take Islam to their people and his predictable advice that they should honour their people and be fair to them makes many young Muslims fail to know the essence of Islam and that lays the foundation for decadence and failure. Justice is our shield.
9. By being selective, uncritical and out rightly unfair, you fail to make some arrogant and hateful Chinese to understand the predicament of the Malays. When you are cool and fair, people listen. When you foam at the mouth, throw stones and humiliate people, they don’t and that’s what you are doing. There are some malevolent Chinese who need to understand the history of this nation and its own realities today, but they can’t understand through your lenses. Leave that tribal talk, social contract thing and abusive language to the Malays of Utusan. Your duty is to warn both sides, bring them together and criticize both sides when they go wrong. That way you help both, you help Islam and you help yourself.
10. Talking selectively about Malay poverty as if they have monopoly on it (reminds me of Dr Tariq Ramadan's Muslim monopoly danger's talk) makes your message rejected. There are poor Chinese and Indians and when you call upon the government to help them, they will realize your honour and see a good man in you. A refined man shaped by Islam who is fair to all. And when you criticize them, they will accept because you have shown earlier that you care for them. I have personally seen poor Chinese and Indians. It is mandatory, and I repeat mandatory upon the Muslims of this country to help them.
One day, Calipha Omar saw an old man begging and he asked which People of the Book he belonged to. The man responded that he was a Jew. Omar then asked him why he was begging. The old man responded that since he was old, he couldn’t work so he was forced to beg to feed himself and also to pay jizyah as was the situation then.
Omar took the man by his hand and they went to his house. He gave him food and clothes and money. He then took him to the Muslim Treasurer (bayt-al-mal) and instructed the Treasurer to take care of the man and whoever was like him. Omar added that with this man we have not done justice to him as we took jizyah from him when he was young but we forsook him when he was old. Verily, the sadaqa is for the poor and destitute. And this one is a destitute from the People of the Book. So Omar exempted taking the jizyah from him. (Kitab-ul Kharaj)
There are old Chinese and Indians who need assistance, there are Chinese and Indian orphans who need assistance, there are Chinese and Indian widows, there are Chinese and Indians whose businesses failed and need help to restart, there are Chinese and Indians who can’t pay their fees, there are Chinese and Indians who feel excluded. Muslims are the followers of Omar and it is their duty to help them. It is the duty of the government to formulate policies that cater for their needs. Of course not all can be helped, but doing something however artificial it is helps.
Helping some of them would do. So when the government helps the Malays in big ways, they can’t complain. Yes, the Malays own this land, but it is Allah (sw) who owns it and to whom is the final return and we know that Allah (sw) has expressly ordered Muslims to be fair to all people. You can't deny someone assistance because of his race. That is not Islam. By being fair, you will prosper, you will be respected, exalted, honoured and helped. You will lose nothing however little it is by being considerate, helpful, just and fair. But you will lose all by being otherwise.
When I take a cab and the driver is an Indian or a Chinese, he curses the Malays. If he gets some help, he won't I guess and Malay honour is thus protected. I want to highlight the word Malay honour. It is very important to protect it. It is corruption that makes this nation fail. It is not the little things the non-Bumis demand. Billions are being lost, wasted and mismanaged. It should pain you more than an 18 year old Indian girl from Perak crying for a scholarship. It is corruption and mismanagement that poses existential danger to this nation. This crony capitalism that has turned Malaysia into Darul-Kroni is what poses danger to the Malays. This behind the scenes negotiations, inflated construction works, the same Malay groups winning contracts is what hampers Malay development and makes the others curse them. You better address that!
Be creative in your articles, be challenging, be fair, be productive and be an intellectual, be critical, be persuasive and be a Muslim and thus righteous. Be faithful, be patient, be concerned, be truthful, fulfilling, be honest and be God fearing. May Allah (sw) bless us and accept our deeds and show us His grace. Allahuma Amin!