Khairulorama- Life and work notes

Pain is the predecessor of success.

1.2. Dr. M on BBC Part 2

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Lyse Doucet:
Campaign of hate?

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
Yes.

Lyse Doucet:
They say they’re trying to convince Malaysia of the true Islam.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
No. It is not true Islam at all because the first thing that you have to think of if you are Muslim is that all Muslims are brothers – that we should live in peace with each other. Their preaching has only resulted in several violent actions by their powers.

Lyse Doucet:
Let’s take another caller. We have on the line now from Japan. John Tytherleigh, joins us. John what would you like to say to the prime minister?

John Tytherleigh:
Dr Mahathir, personally I’m very against fundamentalism in any religion and I see Malaysia as a very successful, democratic, modern, Muslim nation which you’ve presided over for the last 22 years. I’d like to know how you’ve promoted and encouraged a more pragmatic approach versus the more extreme views that you just touched upon?

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
Well actually I’m a fundamentalist in the true sense. That is to say, I follow the fundamentals of religion and the fundamentals of the Muslim religion are actually very good; they advocate peace, they advocate friendship, brotherhood and tolerance of people. Those are the fundamentals. But for over 1,400 years people have been interpreting and re-interpreting the religion to suit their own purpose. If they are fighting against someone then they advocate not peace but war and if they feel that they need to get the support of people through hatred then they will preach hatred. These are not Islamic fundamentals any more than the Christians who burned people at the stake are fundamentalist. They are actually deviating from the teachings of the religion. We had the same phenomena in Malaysia and we countered this by explaining the true fundamentals of Islam to the people and by and large Malaysian Muslims they agree with our views. Of course there will always be a minority who tend to be extreme and who love to hate people unfortunately.

Lyse Doucet:
Thank you very much John. We had a lot of e-mails on this question. People ask a lot of questions – what does it mean to be a fundamentalist? Mark Smith, London asks: Malaysia’s constitution is secular so why do you insist on describing Malaysia as an Islamic state? Does it have the fundamentals of Islam?

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
Yes, but in the constitution it states that the official religion of Malaysia is Islam although other religions may be practised without hindrance. So it is the official religion of the country and we do not do anything that is against the teachings of Islam. Even our laws they may be laws which were formulated by the British before or by us now, they are only accepted or allowed to be used if they are not contrary to the teachings of Islam.

Lyse Doucet:
You’ve described Islam as the perfect religion and you’ve just described yourself as a fundamentalist. But of course, the PAS party would say that you’re not adhering to all of the fundamentals as they’ve talked about having an Islamic state at least in the two northern states that they control in Malaysia. So they would say that perhaps in their eyes you’re not a true Muslim? They want Sharia law.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
They are not an Islamic party, they are a political party which makes use of Islam and not even the right Islam.

Lyse Doucet:
But to advocate Sharia law – other Islamic states have done this as well.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
That is just a political gimmick. They know very well that we have the Sharia laws which applies to Muslim families. But we cannot apply Sharia laws throughout the country simply because 40% of our population are not Muslims. Supposing we were to sentence a person who steals to have his hands chopped off? If there are two persons, one is a Muslim and one is not and you chop off the Muslim’s hand – that is an injustice. An injustice is something that is not advocated by Islam. So if you then chop off both hands, then we are going to have trouble in this country and again Islam forbids people from creating unnecessary trouble. All this is in the Koran. So what we are doing is Islamic. What PAS is advocating is un-Islamic.

Lyse Doucet:
But it’s a difficult balancing act, isn’t it to try to reconcile, as you’ve always said, these different interpretations? Rob Lawrence, London, UK asks: What have been the difficulties in encouraging and developing an Islamic state without promoting fundamentalism?

Because some would say that in the way that you’ve promoted your Islamisation, it may have actually encouraged those in other Islamic parties who want a stricter form of Islam?

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
Well they have done this even before – a long time ago – we starting talking about holding to the fundamentals of Islam. They make use of Islam for political purposes. They know people are ignorant. They wear these garments and all that and they go to the villages and they start preaching hatred which they say is Islamic. It is not Islamic. Our duty is to explain the true teachings of Islam. We don’t counter them by saying, well Islam is outmoded, it cannot be applied to these modern times. It’s not true – Islam is for all times. We explained this – according to the Koran and the traditions of the Prophet – why we advocate this. We think and we are convinced that we are Islamic and they are not Islamic even if they call themselves an Islamic party.

Lyse Doucet:
Let’s take another caller. We have on the line from Singapore, Sean Worrall. Sean welcome to Talking Point, what would be your comment or question for Dr Mahathir?

Sean Worrall:
Good morning prime minister. Invariably you’re described in the world media as the outspoken prime minister of Malaysia and indeed over the years you have said some things that many people have found shocking and sometimes provocative. I’m referring to, for example, the things you said about a conspiracy of Jewish bankers in 1997 financial crisis; issues about western values spreading sodomy and corruption and generally gay rights and things like that. Now that we’re in a time where world leaders are preaching tolerance and mutual respect across racial and cultural divides, do you regret saying any of those things or do you think you’ve been grossly misrepresented by the media?

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
I speak what I think is the truth. The financial crisis was caused by a man called George Soros and he was a Jew and I complained about that. I didn’t blame all the Jewish people – I’ve got a lot of Jewish friends. But Soros did this to us and we feel very angry about him. So I say what I think is true and I say what I think is true also about sodomy and other things.

In our country we don’t tolerate homosexuality – other people can tolerate it but people must respect the norms of this country. If you do that then you will punished according to the laws of this country. People of course who are homosexuals they cannot understand why we are taking this stand against homosexuals. But that is the law of the country, that is the norm of this country and people cannot say that we cannot have our own moral values and only other people can have moral values which we must accept. I don’t mind if they don’t accept our values but you can’t force us to accept your values.

Lyse Doucet:
Sean?

Sean Worrall:
I think that sometimes if you choose a particular trait of some people in some communities, the danger is that you stereotype everybody. For example, if you talk about something on the website about gay politicians in the UK and maybe that makes people think are all politicians in the UK gay or is everybody corrupt or does everybody have these kind of values – when the truth is that we probably share more values – ordinary western people and ordinary people in South East Asia probably have much more in common than we have not and I think it should be the job of world leaders to emphasise that.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
I must say that in the UK people are more tolerant of gays – in our country we are not tolerant. So what we say is that you can be gay in your country but if you come to our country and do that, well local laws will apply – that is all. You should respect our laws as much as we respect British laws when we go to their country. So that is the way to respect people and respect their norms, their values and their laws.

Lyse Doucet:
Thank you Sean. You described though Islam as a religion of tolerance. Should it not be tolerant of other people’s customs and traditions?

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
Well it is tolerant in other countries, we wouldn’t mind. But in our country, that is the norm and people must respect our attitude towards any particular issue. We’re tolerant, for example, of the other religions practised by Malaysians – in this country they can pray in their own way and we pray in our own way – that is tolerance. We accept in this country that there are Chinese and Indians and they are different from us and we are different from them. They accept us as we are, we accept them as they are and that’s tolerance.

Lyse Doucet:
We have an e-mail from Daniel in Jerusalem, Israel: Mr. Mahathir, as an Israeli, reading your comments about the Jews I almost lose hope of any chance of understanding between our people. I cannot even visit Malaysia in order to try and show you and your people that we are also human beings, and that there is a way to bridge the gaps between us. How do you hope to make people “understand Islam” and lead your fellow Muslims to modernity when you are not prepared to see the other side?

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
We have allowed or we have arranged for Israeli children to come to Malaysia to meet Malaysian children, Muslim children, here. That was a programme we thought would help us understand the Israelis and the Israelis to understand us. But unfortunately after these terrible attacks by Sharon’s government, we cannot proceed with this kind of thing because people get very angry here – they are not ready to interact. At one time when there was talk of peace, we did that – we allowed an Israeli cricket team to come here. We have allowed an Israeli who is open-minded to come here and talk to the people and his name is Israel.

Lyse Doucet:
Let’s go back now to Malaysia. We have a caller from Malaysia itself. Noorul, joins us on the line. Noorul welcome.

Noorul:
I have a local question from Malaysia. I find that most of the Malays are not happy with the current situation here and that many of them are left behind. There are only a few chosen elite allowed to come up the corporate ladder and the Islamics say that charity begins at home. Do you think it would be better to improve the whole lot rather than a select few?

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
We have made during the time of our administration some 7 millions Malays have shares in the biggest companies in this country. We can give them a million dollars and ask them to do business but if they don’t know how to do business it will be a waste of time. There are some people who have done very well and that’s because they put in an effort and we mustn’t deny them some help simply because they are doing well. But if anybody makes an effort to do something, the government is ready to help them but they must begin from the beginning. Some of them expect to get a contract when they have no experience whatsoever in doing contract work. Some want a licence so that they can go back and sell the licence.

We have given millions of opportunities to Malaysians but I am sorry that only a few seem to have made the effort and have succeeded. Just because they succeed doesn’t mean that the policy is wrong. Would we like to see all the Malays fail? There is not a single Malay millionaire because we think that any Malayan must be crony of the government – if we have that kind of attitude then of course there will be no Malays, no indigenous people who can succeed at all. But our duty is to help. We help everybody and we can give you figures to show how much money we spend to help the Malays but a lot of them waste the money. We give them contracts, they sell the contracts, we give them the facility to import cars, and they sell this – they sell away everything. In fact, given half a chance, they’d sell all their lands to other people.

Lyse Doucet:
Noorul, are you satisfied with your prime minister’s answer.

Noorul:
Thank you. The other thing is that on the popular chat shows you are not very popular with the Malays, is there any reason for that?

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
Well I don’t care whether I am popular with the Malays or not – I’m on my out anyway. All I need to do is to make sure that the party wins. If I’m not popular and the party wins, then that is ok.

Lyse Doucet:
Thank you very much Noorul. But you’ve often expressed your frustrations haven’t you sir, with the performance of the Malays. You wanted them to be entrepreneurial. You started as an entrepreneur and then a doctor and you’ve expressed frustration that they haven’t shown that spirit that you had wanted to develop in them with all of the special subsidies and concessions given.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
All I can say is that if the same subsidies and concessions are given to the Chinese, the Chinese would be way ahead by now. But we give them to the Malays because they say they lack the opportunities, they lack the funds – we created funds for them, we have created everything to make sure that they succeed. But unfortunately only a few know how to make use of all these opportunities. The others fail and when they fail they blame the government.

Lyse Doucet:
Dr Mahathir, we’re going to take a caller now from Pakistan. Shah Jahan Bhatti, joins us. Welcome to Talking Point. Your question for Dr Mahathir.

Shah Jahan Bhatti:
Dr Mahathir, do you know that the digital divide is increasing day by day and the Muslim world is situated in the dangerous zone of the digital divide? And due to this digital divide some criminals and other Muslims are using Islam as a religion against the USA and Europe and they are using it as an agenda of anti-globalisation campaign. Are you aware of this situation? And couldn’t it have been avoided if the Muslim leadership could have come forward and given some sense to people like Saddam and Osama?

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
I know the digital divide is really a function of the wealth of the people. Poor countries will show a greater divide than rich countries. It’s simply because the hardware and the software costs a lot of money and we just cannot afford it. We try in Malaysia to have smart schools where we provide the necessary training so that people can understand the use of computers, the internet etc. But like all things, there will be people who will abuse facilities. You give a knife to a person – that man may use it in order to carve a beautiful flower but another person may take the knife and stab another person and kill him. So you cannot blame these things for what happens – it is just that if people are wicked and they want to do the wrong things, they will do it whether they have a computer or they don’t have a computer. It is just human nature rather than the problem of having instruments to do these things.

Lyse Doucet:
What about Afghanistan and Iraq? He said if Muslim leaders had done more to help peoples there perhaps the West needn’t have intervened.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
I cannot comment on other people.

Written by khairulorama

May 15, 2007 at 2:34 pm

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