Friday, December 26, 2008


Newfound Riches Come With Spiritual Costs for Turkey’s Religious Merchants

Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

Ferhan Kadiroglu played with her 3-year-old daughter, Ayse, in their Istanbul home. Their family is part of Turkey’s powerful new class of wealthy Muslims.

Published: December 25, 2008

ISTANBUL — Turkey’s religious businessmen spent years building empires on curtains, candy bars and couches. But as observant Muslims in one of the world’s most self-consciously secular states, they were never accepted by elite society.

Now that group has become its own elite, and Turkey, a more openly religious country. It has lifted an Islamic-inspired political party to power and helped make Turkey the seventh largest economy in Europe.

And while other Muslim societies are wrestling with radicals, Turkey’s religious merchant class is struggling instead with riches.

“Muslims here used to be tested by poverty,” said Sehminur Aydin, an observant Muslim businesswoman and the daughter of a manufacturing magnate. “Now they’re being tested by wealth.”

Some say religious Turks are failing that test, and they see the recent economic crisis as a lesson for those who indulged in the worst excesses of consumption, summed up in the work of one Turkish interior designer: a bathroom with faucets encrusted with Swarovski crystal, a swimming pool in the bedroom, a couch rigged to rise up to the ceiling by remote control during prayer. “I know people who broke their credit cards,” Ms. Aydin said.

But beyond the downturn, no matter how severe, is the reality: the religious wealthy class is powerful now in Turkey, a new phenomenon that poses fresh challenges not only to the old secular elite but to what good Muslims think about themselves.

Money is at the heart of the changes that have transformed Turkey. In 1950, it was a largely agrarian society, with 80 percent of its population living in rural areas. Its economy was closed and foreign currency was illegal. But a forward-looking prime minister, Turgut Ozal, opened the economy. Now Turkey exports billions of dollars in goods to other European countries, and about 70 percent of its population lives in cities.

Religious Turks helped power that rise, yet for years they were shunned by elite society. That helps explain why many are engaged in such a frantic effort to prove themselves, said Safak Cak, a Turkish interior designer with many wealthy, religious clients. “It’s because of how we labeled them,” he said. “We looked at them as black people.”

Mr. Cak was referring to Turkey’s deep class divide. An urban upper class, often referred to as White Turks, wielded the political and economic power in the country for decades. They saw themselves as the transmitters of the secular ideals of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Turkey’s founder. They have felt threatened by the rise of the rural, religious, merchant class, particularly of its political representative, Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“The old class was not ready to share economic and political power,” said Can Paker, chairman of the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation, a liberal research organization in Istanbul. “The new class is sharing their habits, like driving Mercedes, but they are also wearing head scarves. The old class can’t bear this.”

“ ‘They were the peasants,’ ” the thinking goes, Mr. Paker said. “ ‘Why are they among us?’ ”

Ms. Aydin, 40, who wears a head scarf, encountered that attitude not long ago in one of Istanbul’s fanciest districts. A woman called her a “dirty fundamentalist” when Ms. Aydin tried to put trash the woman had thrown out her car window back inside.

“If you’re driving a good car, they stare at you and point,” Ms. Aydin said. “You want to say, ‘I graduated from French school just like you,’ but after a while, you don’t feel like proving yourself.”

She does not have to.

Her father started by selling curtains. Now he owns one of the largest home-appliance businesses in Europe. Ms. Aydin grew up wealthy, with tastes no different from those of the older class. She lives in a sleek, modern house with a pool in a gated community. Her son attends a prestigious private school. A business school graduate, she manages about 100 people at a private hospital founded by her father. Her head scarf bars her from employment in a state hospital.

Her husband, Yasar Aydin, shrugged. “Rich people everywhere dislike newcomers,” he said. In another decade, those prejudices will be gone, he said.

The businessmen describe themselves as Muslims with a Protestant work ethic, and say hard work deepens faith.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Kontrak Sosial Pandangan India #3

The 'social contract' - a defining call to academia

Dr Collin Abraham | Oct 30, 08 4:23pm

Academic and professional intervention to clear the ‘muddy waters’ in the scenario of the ‘social contract’ is not only timely, but crucially long overdue.

Indeed, it can be argued that this avoidance of engagement on the part of the intellectual community, can be said to be nothing more than a reflection of the neglect to engage, because of their lack or limited professional competence and capability.

As a consequence, the documentation on an overview of the theoretical and pragmatic defining of social issues and concerns such as the ‘social contract’ have necessarily been a-theoretical and a-historical and the wider community is left to search blindly in attempts at further research for relevant dimensions in arriving at an acceptable consensus.

Against this background, it is refreshing to note that a useful attempt has been made in this direction by the writer of the letter ‘Social Contract’ already integrated into Constitution.

Indeed, this letter has successfully presented a realistic analysis that strikes at the very heart of the main issues so that it only requires supportive documentary academic, intellectual and professional evidence for an acceptable consensus for all concerned.

My take on the writer’s presentation is that it basically involves the fundamental and pivotal question, that if the ‘social contract’ was that crucially important in defining the constitutional status and politico- economic relationships between the Malays and non-Malays for political independence, then surely it should have been entrenched as the ‘social contract’ within the constitution itself.

In my opinion, the writer correctly argues that in the face of increasing pressure by the British that independence will only be on condition that the citizenship question among non-Malays is resolved, Umno agreed merely to incorporate the special provisions for the Malays into the constitution as the ‘social contract’.

It would however be ‘simplistic’ to limit this outcome analysis to a one-factor causation. There are apparently equally important questions such as the composition of the Umno ‘mandate’ to negotiate the ‘social contract’ with the British after the majority Malay nationalist and Islamic parties withdrew from Umno, so that in fact the latter did not have the mandate to negotiate with the British for the Malay community as a whole.

In other words it was the ‘elitist’ Malay political parties among the ruling class that negotiated the Malay special rights as the so-called ‘social contract’.

These are serious assertions that have wide political implications across the board and must therefore be handled sensitively if they are to have the desired effect.

This can be achieved if the intervention call on the academic and intellectual community to deliver could be taken up now by a leading local university such as the USM especially since it has now received the distinction of being the apex university.

What is urgently needed therefore is for USM to set up a small group of say five members to review the entire question and to come up with a report and recommendations within one month.


Saturday, October 25, 2008

MB Selangor, Abdul Khalid Tidak Begitu Yakin

Malaysiakini memetik temuduga YB Abdul Khalid Ibrahim dan MalaysiaIndru di mana beliau kelihatan tidak begitu yakin dalam bermain politik.

"Selangor Menteri Besar Abdul Khalid Ibrahim said the opposition Pakatan Rakyat is treading very carefully towards forming the federal government, lest certain quarters be provoked to completely suspend the country’s system of democracy.

He said the suspension of Parliament and the state of emergency called - and since then still technically in place - after the wins by the opposition in the May 1969 general election offer sombre lessons for those seeking drastic change.  

khalid ibrahim selangor state budget pc 120808 02Khalid said that while Anwar Ibrahim, who is parliamentary opposition leader and PKR de facto head, harbours strong ambitions of leading the change of government, he is also painfully aware that such moves could lead to a change in the very system of governance itself.  

“We are (still) working towards it. Anwar is very careful - we have to be very careful. Because any rushed action may end up in curtailing the democratic process. We do know Malaysia had that experience in 1969,” he told MalaysiaIndru editor Ji Wi Kathaiah in a recent interview.

“It is not in our interests that by seeking to acquire government, people are deprived of democracy,” he added. 

“He has got an idealism such that if you can get to rule the federal government, it would be better,” Khalid added in reference to the five Pakatan-led states. 

“But I am of the opinion that we have to be careful, that by taking over government, you do not trade in democracy,” he stressed.  Lihat Malaysiakini hari ini.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


The Keeper of the Rulers' Seal, Engku Tan Sri Ibrahim Engku Ngah gave  a press statement of the Conference of Malay Rulers that ends today.

"Press Statement issued by the Keeper of the Rulers' Seal on the role of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the Malay Rulers regarding the special privileges, position, eminence or greatness of the Malay Rulers, Islam, Malay as the national language, the special position of the Malays, and genuine interests of the other communities in accordance with the Federal Constitution.

"The Malay Rulers who attended the meeting of the Conference of Rulers conferred on the issuing of this special joint press statement Thursday.

"The Malay Rulers hold the constitutional role to safeguard the special privileges, position, eminence and greatness of the Malay Rulers, safeguard Islam, Malay as the National Language, and the genuine interests of the other communities in Malaysia.

"The actions of certain quarters in disputing and questioning these matters, which formed the primary basis for the formation of Malaysia and are enshrined in the Federal Constitution, had caused provocation and uneasiness among the people.

In retaliation, several quarters particularly Malay leaders whether in the government or non-governmental organisations as well as individuals had expressed their dissatisfaction and anger against those who had made the statements and reports and organised the forums.

"Among the reasons identified for these to have occurred is the cursory knowledge of those concerned regarding the historical background as to why these provisions were enshrined in the Federal Constitution and the influence of their attempts to implicate the principles of impartiality and justice without regard for the historical background and social condition of this country. Narrow political interests are also a cause.

"Unless this phenomenon is arrested immediately, it can lead to disunity and racial strife that can undermine the peace and harmony which has all this while brought progress, development and success to the nation.

"As such, it is necessary for the Conference of Rulers to emphasise and remind all quarters of these constitutional provisions besides giving emphasis to the assurance of safeguarding the genuine rights of other communities.

It has to be emphasised that each provision in the Federal Constitution has undergone the process of discussion, consideration, consultancy, sacrifice and compromise of the highest degree for what has been championed, discussed, considered, benefited from as well as agreed to by all quarters concerned, until the realisation of the provisions in the Federal Constitution which are known as the Social Contract.

It is not proper to dispute and question this Social Contract and more so to subject it to a review or change because it is the primary basis of the formation of Malaysia.

Therefore, it is appropriate for the Malay Rulers to remind that there should never be any attempt ever to test and challenge issues related to the Social Contract.

"Truly, the leaders of the pre-independence era were insightful -- far-sighted. They brought along with them the Malay Rulers for the negotiations to claim independence. The Institution of the Rulers was retained and legally enshrined in the constitution of an independent Malaysia.

The Institution of the Rulers was accorded eminence, was positioned at the apex of Government, as the head of the country and the states, as a protective umbrella, ensuring impartiality among the citizens.

The Institution of Rulers takes on the role of being a check-and-balance factor to untangle complications, if any.

"The Conference of Rulers also calls on the Malays to be united to safeguard the privileges, position, eminence and greatness of the Malay Rulers, safeguard Islam, Malay as the national language, and the genuine interests of the other communities in Malaysia as enshrined in the Federal Constitution. It has to be emphasised that this agenda is more important and foremost than political or factional interests.

"Non-Malays should not harbour any apprehension or worry over their genuine rights because these rights are guaranteed under the Federal Constitution and provisions of the state constitutions of Malaysia contained in Article 153 of the Federal Constitution.

"It is hoped that with this emphasis, all confusion among the people regarding these matters can be contained and an atmosphere of peace, harmony and mutual respect can continue to exist among the people for the maintenance of order in the country."

Thursday, October 9, 2008


Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi membuat kejutan pada sidang media selepas mesyuarat BN  petang semalam apabila mengumumkan bahawa beliau tidak akan mempertahankan jawatan Presiden UMNO dalam pemilihan bulan Mac 2009.  InsyaAllah, Datuk Seri Najib akan mengantikan beliau sebagai Presiden and Perdana Menteri.

Seperti sejarah mengulang kembali peristiwa 13 Mei 1969.  Kerana BN kehilangan banyak kerusi pada PU 12 pada bulan Mac 2008 keadaan yang kelamkabut menjadi genting dengan kontroversi Cina masyarakat immigran yang menumpang.  Selepas itu diikuti oleh tangkapan ISA.  Jadi seperti Tunku Abdul Rahman ketika itu, Abdullah adalah pegawai di situ, terdesak menurukan kuasa kepada Tun Abdul Razak, Timbalan Perdana Menteri, ayah Najib.

Jika kita belajar dari sejarah maka keputusan Pak Lah, insyaAllah, adalah keputusan yang bersesuaian seperti Tunku lakukan .  Ekoran daripada itu UMNO dan Melayu telah bangkit dan dasar kerajaan digubal untuk memajukan orang Melayu dan bumiputera lain yang kesan dan manfaatnya kita kecapi sejak beberapa dekad yang lalu.  Harapan kita semoga Najib memimpin lebih baik daripada ayahnya.

Pak Lah, seorang pemimpin yang baik tetapi mungkin beliau tiba pada masa dan tempat yang salah dengan gaya kepimpinan yang tidak berkesan lagi.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

YAB Dato Seri Abdullah Badawi Mahu Teruskan

Seorang blogger yang sangat popular, Dato Ruhanie Ahmad, mantan wartawan dan ahli politik UMNO, telah menulis awal pagi ini menyatakan bahawa YAB Dato Seri Abdullah Badawi akan meneruskan kedudukan dalam UMNO sebagai Presiden dan  dalam kerajaan sebagai Perdana Menteri.

Keputusan ini dicapai selepas Abdullah berbincang dengan penyokongnya yang berlarutan sehingga jam 3 pagi.  Ini merupakan keputusan yang tidak diduga kerana seluruh negara menunggu keputusan mesyuarat Majlis Tertinggi UMNO pada petang ini.

Jika berita ini benar maka ini suatu peristiwa yang akan menghidupkan semula keadaan kurang tenang di negara ini.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Mendoakan Kebangkitan Indonesia dgn 200 Juta Umatnya

14 tokoh terkemuka Malaysia-Indonesia bermesyuarat Rabu

06/10/2008 4:20pm

KUALA LUMPUR 6 Okt. — Sebanyak 14 tokoh terkemuka dan dihormati dari Malaysia dan Indonesia akan berhimpun di sini pada Rabu bagi mesyuarat kedua Kumpulan Tokoh-tokoh Terkemuka Malaysia-Indonesia(EPG).

Menteri Luar, Datuk Seri Dr. Rais Yatim berkata mesyuarat itu akan menyambung perbincangan mengenai pelbagai program dan aktiviti dua hala dan menentukan hala tuju dalam usaha memperkukuhkan lagi hubungan dua hala yang sedia terjalin antara Malaysia dan Indonesia.

“Mesyuarat dua hari itu susulan kepada yang pertama yang diadakan di Jakarta pada Ogos tahun ini,” katanya dalam kenyataan di sini hari ini.

Katanya mesyuarat EPG Malaysia-Indonesia telah diberikan mandat oleh pemimpin kedua-dua negara untuk meningkatkan lagi kerjasama dua hala antara Malaysia dan Indonesia.

Rais berkata mekanisme EPG juga menjadi bukti komitmen kedua-dua negara dalam memastikan hubungan yang harmoni di masa depan.

“Pada masa yang sama mesyuarat ini juga dijangka akan memperkukuhkan lagi hubungan dua hala strategik yang sedia terjalin,” katanya.

Katanya Pengerusi EPG-Malaysia Tun Musa Hitam akan mengendalikan mesyuarat itu manakala Pengerusi EPG-Indonesia Gen (B) Tan Sri Try Sutrisno akan mengetuai delegasi negara itu.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Malaykininews: Where All Malay News Are

Last night, the 27th night of Ramadan that was also the holy Friday night, an inspiration descended on me with a title for a blog or a website, Malaykininews. The objective is to gather news on anything Malays, especially current affairs.  Focus will be news from Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Southern Thailand, Southern Philippines and other Malay diaspora.

This blog is on Malay news by Malay bloggers or journalists around the world.  People out there spare a moment to join me.  Together we will reinvented our Malay Archipelago into another glorious world of splendour and prosperity for all.  This is remaking of the golden khersonese of the Malays.