Saturday, February 23, 2019

Muhyiddin has his priorities wrong

MM Online - Muhyiddin directs IGP to investigate idol at surau (extracts):

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 23 ― Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has instructed the Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun to investigate in detail the party responsible for placing an idol at the Sabilul Huda surau in Klang.

Condemning the deplorable, seditious and highly provocative act to insult Islam and undermine racial and religious harmony, Muhyiddin said a strict action based on the law should be taken against the perpetrators of the act.

“The Home Ministry will not compromise with any act of contempt for religion that can affect the harmony of the people.

“Those who commit the despicable act must be detained through the process of the law, prosecuted in court and sentenced if convicted,” he said in a statement posted on his Facebook page today

The 'Datuk Gong' belongs to a a 50-year-old man whose house is located 50 metres from the surau. He reported the stolen icon to the police, claiming that his 'Datuk Gong' statue had gone missing.

The icon, known by Chinese Malaysians as 'Datuk Gong', (or 'Kong', an honorific meaning 'Senior Elder' akin to Grandfather) is quite a common figure of worship by local Chinese Malaysians.

The newspapers have incorrectly described it as a Chinese deity. It is not, and only a divine figure to Chinese Malaysians (not Chinese). It doesn't enjoy any divine or holy status outside Malaysia and Singapore (and perhaps Thailand).

The worship of 'Datuk Gong' is quite prevalent in states like Penang, Kedah and northern Perak. Worship of such localised keramats (spirits or objects sacred with supernatural or magical powers) seems to be a Northen Chinese Malaysian practice, where the assimilation of Malay Keramats into Chinese Malaysian animist-worship is, though not many Chinese Malaysians today would agree, via a combination of superstition and harmonious religious integration-of-sorts. 

How would a Keramat merit such worship? A 'Datuk Gong' would historically be a local Malay guardian spirit (yes, a Malay hence the honorific of 'Datuk' while 'Gong' is just a Chinese title of respect for a deity or spirit, akin to 'Senior Elder' of at least Grandfather status).

As mentioned, 'Datuk Gongs' are usually worshipped by mainly Chinese and some Indians, though in some (unmentioned) cases, some Malays too - well, at least Malays from an earlier time as today they would be horse-whipped for such alleged apostasy.

Naturally Chinese who are Buddhists, Confucianists and Taoists would frown on worship of a roadside shrine housing a local guardian spirit.

To Taoists, a 'Datuk Gong' does (or did) not even belong to mainstream Chinese deities, and is thus outside the domain of Taoist beliefs and not to be followed or revered.

The main worshippers of 'Datuk Gong' are Chinese animists or followers of folk religions, but who are sometimes so confused with their religious affiliations, especially in Malaysia, that they describe themselves (incorrectly) as Buddhists, Confucianists or Taoists, especially the last.

Poor undeserving Taoism, wakakaka.

However, some of my far more clever-knowledgeable Chinese friends say there is a faint possibility that some Confucianists might have conflated their ancestor-reverence with the Keramat guardian spirits (viewed as a form of early ancestors or elderly senior citizens), thus embracing the local Malay spirits as part of their ancestor-reverence.

reverence for ancestors 

Sometimes at a Chinese temple (Taoist, Confucianist and even a few Buddist ones), a 'Datuk Gong' shrine lies outside the temple house, indicating it does not belong to the rank or pantheon of Chinese deities.

The 'Datuk Gong' icon are usually found at small hut-size (or even smaller) shrines beneath banyan trees, outside Chinese temples, and on top of hills, etc. Very rarely is such an icon worshipped at home, though in some cases, the house owners may have one in his garden.

Now, as alluded above, the majority of 'Datuk Gong' worshipped in Peninsula Malaysia would be Malays who were once holy men, famous warriors, renowned healers, etc.

There are reputedly a couple of Chinese 'Datuk Gong' but I have never personally seen any shrine dedicated to them, well, not in Penang or Alor Setar anyway.

In Penang, there was a Malay saint or spirit (Keramat) said to be worshipped by one of the Malay settlements on Penang (or 
Pulau Kasatu, as it was then called in pre British days) prior to British development of the Isle. At that time, the shrine was only accessible by a river which I believe was the Ayer Itam River.

But with decades of developments and accompanying environmental desecration, pollution of and channelling away of water from the Ayer Itam River for industrial use, especially in the last 40 years during the previous state government (1969 to 1988, and so far not yet ameliorated by the present Pakatan state government who is equally as unfriendly to the environment as the BN was), the river is now almost depleted of its once plentiful flowing water, and thus useless as a form of travel.

Ayer Itam River in the early 1960's

but where? even as a former Penangite, I'm not sure

Thank goodness for the presence of a road built near the shrine, namely, Jalan Dato Keramat, which was obviously named supposedly in honour of the same Keramat, we have accessed that shrine and subsequently the mosque. But I heard the Keramat shrine has been moved away after the mosque sold off its land along Jalan Dato Keramat (opposite York Road).

The photo below is the shrine of Datuk Panglima Hijau on Pangkor Island. It is one of several 'Datuk Gong' in Peninsula Malaysia. I wonder whether it was built by Chinese?

Apparently Datuk Panglima Hijau is reputed to be the 4th ranking spiritual 'Datuk Gong' in Malaysia. The title of 'Panglima' is martial and in fact used today by the military top leaders such as Chief of Armed Forces, Army, Navy and Airforce and 'General Officer Commanding' (GOC) as their official titles.

Shrine of Datuk Panglima Hijau on Pangkor Island

photo in Dec 2007 by
Gryffindor in Wikimedia common

There are probably dozens and dozens of 'Datuk Gong' worshipped by Chinese animists in Peninsula, but the 9 best known 'Datuk Gong', according to their seniority from the eldest to the youngest, are:

1. Datuk Panglima Ali (Ali)
2. Datuk Panglima Hitam (Black)
3. Datuk Panglima Harimau (Tiger)
4. Datuk Panglima Hijau (Green)
5. Datuk Panglima Kuning (Yellow)
6. Datuk Panglima Putih (White)
7. Datuk Panglima Bisu (Mute)
8. Datuk Panglima Merah (Red)
9. Datuk Panglima Bongsu (Youngest)

Datuk Panglima Ali  

Datuk Panglima Harimau  

Datuk Panglima Putih 

I'm not exactly sure at which ranking would our Datuk Keramat in Penang be positioned. Perhaps he would be unique and different.

All above 3 images as the one that was taken to the surau have been created by Chinese worshippers (wakakaka).

But in my kiddie days I personally have visited (with village 'aunties') the shrines of Datuk Panglima Harimau, Datuk Panglima Hijau and Datuk Panglima Bisu. Apparently the last, Datuk Panglima Bisu, was very popular with the village 'aunties', wakakaka.

Incidentally, in Penang they have been also known as 'Natuk Kong', which mispronunciation has more to do with the Chinese Penangite's propensity to have a nasal sound in most of their words, eg. tnee (sweet), chnia (real), ngiao (cat).

It could also be Chinese's inability to pronounce words with 'D' (as in 'dog', 'dad') hence in pinyin, 'T-words' without aspiration in their pronunciations is written as 'D' as in 'Da' for 'big' but promounced 'Ta'.

Even for Chinese worshippers, votive offerings in all worship of 'Datuk Gong' must be halal, though we needn't bother about JAKIM's halal certificate, wakakaka.

Chinese worshippers would never ever use haram foodstuff etc, in exactly the same honest way a Chinese who uses a joss bundle* (of joss sticks, paper money, oil, etc) at a Chinese temple would never ever forget to pay before he or she leaves the temple.

* at Chinese temples, joss bundles and bottles of oil may be taken for use without any permission or prior payment, but payment for those items are 100% guaranteed, for no worshipper would dare to cheat the Divine.

Indeed, what use is a prayer if one cheats the temple? It's like cheating a deity or spirit. Sadly, there have been already 11 cases of theft of donation money at the Kelang Sabilul Huda surau.

Back to Muhyiddin instructing the IGP to investigate in detail the party responsible for placing an idol at the Sabilul Huda surau in Klang so that strict action based on the law should be taken against the perpetrators of the act, hasn't he forgotten the theft to the Chinese owner-worshipper of the icon?

Shouldn't an actual theft merits precedence over assumed insult to Muslims?

the more common style of a 'Datuk Gong' shrine 


  1. It is more than likely that the theft of the figurine and its placement in the mosque compound were one contiguous plot.
    The police should investigate the case in its entirety.

    So there is no need to have a divisive argument that one case should take precedence over the other to be investigated..

    My concern is that Muhyiddin , the Home Ministry and the Police may lack the critical thinking faculties to consider all the possibilities in this case.

    The person/ persons behind this may or may not necessarily be anti-Islamic or disparaging of Islam.
    Agent provocateurs are a known technique to instigate strife for political or other gains.

    The Seafield temple incident, for example, was likely initiated to deliberately look like a group of Malays attacking a Hindu temple - a very dangerous and ugly situation.

    Ultimately , the instigators behind it may have been a rival group of Hindus, or even Chinapek, for whatever they saw as financial or political gain.

    1. it's the political utterance of a malaysian minister that is being criticised

  2. Isn't it true that Malays/Moslems believes in jin/evil spirits etc?

    So, what is so insulting in this case?

    Just pick it up and throw into the garbage bin.

    Problem solved for the evil intentions of provocateurs.

  3. Old time politicians = Old time politics. Time to move these Datuks along...including Datuk KeMALUan-Ku.

    Finding Indira Gandhi's daughter Prasana is more important.

  4. The halal food is not what takes the cake. This is:

    "When the Taoist Medium is in trance of Datok Gong, he will say prayers in Quaran Verses and speaks in Malay."