The Malays are an extremely polite people. The fact that Malaysia is a highly successful multiracial society is largely because the majority Malays have an unmatched level of tolerance towards other races and religions.

This tolerance is an inherent strength, which must be envied. Despite economic success and affluence the Malays remain much the same way God made them - polite and cultured. And they did not learn this from the ulema or any other pseudo Arabs. Hence it is in Malay culture never to criticise or hurt anyone's feelings directly. It is better to be diplomatic and tactful.

Signs article on Malaysia titled "Malaysia's Fly in the Ointment" (issue no. 7) has served as a diplomatic catalyst for the Malay Press to express some pent up criticisms against the ulema in Malaysia. Signs is perhaps envied because it can speak freely. The article pointed out that amidst all the success and rapid advancement of the Malaysian people, the ulema remain a flat tyre.

True to their foolish temperament, the ulema have reacted hysterically to Signs. The usual cry of "Zionists", "Western conspirators" and "stooges" Have been frothing from their mouths. And of course they have asked for Signs to be banned. A truly predictable and spineless caste.

Signs was first mentioned at a public seminar organised by the Malaysian Institute of Islamic Understanding (IKIM). It is reported that the Director General of IKIM, Dr Ismail Ibrahim read Signs aloud to the floor However the Director stopped reading the articles when the sniggers and laughter became louder.

The mainstream Malay Press has not been too charitable towards the hysterical ulema. Instead the "Utusan Malaysia" - Malaysia's largest circulation Malay paper has picked up a polite but strong cudgel against the ulema. Under the pretext of reporting the news the "Utusan" has reproduced the Signs article almost entirely a number of times and also added its own thinly veiled list of sharp and thorny criticisms about the ulema.

After an initial criticism of Signs magazine, the paper published an even longer list of the ulema's wrongdoings, among which were the following:

It is too easy to become an ulema. They are being manufactured. They do not need to go to college and they need not have qualifications. (This is not correct as many ulema are college graduates).

Ignorant and narrow-minded ulema have contributed to the destruction of many Muslim countries because they spend too much time in witch-hunts. This will destroy Islam. The ulema do not write good books or make new discoveries. Malaysian ulema are not renowned for anything.

To rub salt in the wound, the paper said the Malaysian ulema have contributed some good things but in the past only - during the efforts for independence and also as far back as the l5th century during the heyday of the Malacca Sultans!

However the Malay Press has studiously avoided making any mention of the ulema witch doctor who has been highlighted by Signs. Again this is the polite culture - they do not want to hurt the feelings (or earn the anger) of anyone who may
be an admission of guilt.

On the following page, "Utusan" has reprinted an article from Malaysia's latest newsmagazine MASSA , which is an offshoot of the same newspaper. MASSA is highly critical of the Islamic Centre (Pusat Islam) Malaysia's failed version of Vatican City which has entrusted itself with the sacred duty of delivering Malaysian Muslims safely to the gates of heaven.

MASSA says the Islamic Centre has failed miserably in doing anything good for Islam. They quote Dr Mahmud Saedon of the International Islamic University in Malaysia who has said that the Islamic Centre would contribute more to the country if its ulema were to go into trade and industry.

In other words the ulema will do better to become deep-sea fishermen or steel mill operators. This will indeed be a challenge for the ease loving ulema. Since steel mills have lots of sparks flying around, they will have to redesign their robes and turbans, as well as trim their beards. Otherwise they might catch fire!

MASSA also talks about the Malaysian Institute of Islamic Understanding (IKIM) and the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilisation (IISTAC).
be patronising that particular ulema witch doctor. The silence could also
MASSA says IKIM was set up because the government realised that the Islamic Centre had failed to achieve anything .

The Press also quotes the Chairman of IKIM Tan Sri Ahmad Sarji , who is also the Chief Secretary to the Government of Malaysia as saying that, unlike the Islamic Centre , IKIM "does not react in haste" to criticism. IKIM is indeed a cut above the Islamic Centre ulema who always react to criticism by screaming and tearing their turbans.

IKIM was designed to give a modern and upmarket interpretation to the dilapidated thinking expounded by the Islamic Centre. This can even be seen in the type of ulema who populate these two places. IKIM ulema are usually Western educated, they wear suits with no headgear or beards. Islamic Centre ulema are educated anywhere but in the West. They usually wear headgear, beards and robes and from afar they tend to look like miniature Arabs.

But IKIM's aura of independent and progressive thought is marred by the fact that IKIM frequently hires a certain freelance ulema (complete with turban, robes and beard) to speak on its behalf. This particular turban is said to have predicted the end of the world sometime ago. However because no one can predict the future (Quran 27:65) this "ulema for hire" is now back to dressing like an Arab and unloading ulema compost on unsuspecting audiences ~ for a fee of course. It is so easy in Malaysia.

IISTAC on the other hand is headed by a high-octane sufi professor who is in the habit of turning off his hearing aid whenever he does not agree with what you are saying. IISTAC is much more exclusive than either IKIM or the Islamic Centre.

The Islamic Centre is like a caliph's palace. IKIM is also opulent with marble floors, gardens and arches.

However IISTAC takes the cake with its Cordoba type architecture, hidden away in an exclusive, wooded suburb of Kuala Lumpar. Very few robes or turbans are seen inside IISTAC.

IISTAC's mosque is also unique. The sufi professor has incorporated sufi concepts into the design of the mosque. It is not known if the call to prayer is heard from this mosque. Things are real quiet here. Entry is by invitation only.

Not surprisingly IISTAC is reported to be entrusted with "higher level thinking" on Islam. Perhaps at stratospheric levels where oxygen is in short supply.

MASSA says the Islamic Centre does not do anything new. Even the sermons during Friday prayers are the same old stuff repeated over and over again. MASSA concludes by lamenting that the Islamic Centre in Malaysia will not likely bring any progressive thinking at all to Islam. Compared to such scathing criticisms, what has been highlighted by Signs pales into insignificance.

The ulema in Malaysia, like ulema anywhere else in the world, have created a stagnant cesspool in which they laze. Once in a while they stop and scream at people outside their realm who refuse to join them in their backwater. Lately they have also started boasting that other Muslim nations in the world are chaotic and warring among themselves.

This statement does have truth in it because wherever the ulema are in power or are striving for power there is chaos, confusion, murder and
mayhem. We see this in Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, the Middle East and North Africa.

But the Malaysian ulema are no different. In Malaysia today there are ulema who refuse to lead prayers or solemnise weddings in mosques if the congregation are supporters of rival political parties.

In the state of Kelantan (where the ulema control the state government) non-Muslims have been denied permits to hold public functions to celebrate religious festivals. This is totally contradictory to the Prophet's teachings and also to Malay culture. The pro-government ulema want to set up special prisons in which they can lock up people who may have differences with them regarding religion. Such arrogance is stirring up resentment among the people. An ugly pseudo Arab veil is sneaking up on the beautiful Malaysian landscape.

Such behaviour is simply not part of polite Malay culture. Neither is it part of the Quran - the only true teachings of the Prophet. The pseudo Arab ulema, with their turbans and beards will always remain alien misfits in Malay society. This is because they are neither the true followers of the Prophet nor are they proud of their own Malay heritage. They remain spineless pseudo Arabs, intent on forcing a medieval Arab/ Persian culture on innocent people.

Signs Magazine is concerned only with the awakening of thinking among our community. They have suffered long enough under the ulema. May God guide them, support them and protect them from the ulema.