Monday, March 06, 2017

Rukunegara - no room for atheists?

About 2 weeks ago, MM Online published an article taken from Sin Chew Daily where the author Chong Lip Teck wrote Back to the national principles (extracts):

FEBRUARY 23 — Several renowned local scholars and social activists recently proposed to incorporate the Rukunegara as a preamble to the Federal Constitution.

A preamble is a preface outlining the fundamental purposes and guiding principles, aspirations and demands, values as well as ideals of a nation.

Take the United States for example, the constitutional preamble is only one short statement: “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

The constitutions of some 80 per cent of countries in this world are preceded by a preamble. Our Federal Constitution nevertheless does not have one, but that is not going to undermine its nobility in any way.

We are still able to understand the country's objectives and principles through the various articles defining the Constitution.

But then is it still necessary for us to include the Rukunegara as a preamble to our Constitution?

Over at Malaysia-Today RPK published a post in which a Malay lawyer asked WHAT HAPPENS TO ATHEISTS IF RUKUNEGARA INCLUDED IN FEDERAL CONSTITUTION? 

Now, I am sure you know that interests me, wakakaka, yes, that part about 'Belief in God'.

The President of the Muslim Lawyers Association (PPMM) Datuk Zainul Rijal Abu Bakar, who practices both civil and Shariah law, told a roundtable discussion organised by Perkasa (wakakaka) on the topic of including the Rukunegara in the proposed Preamble to the Malaysian Constitution, that while such a tenet is not a problem for Muslims, alas:

“We cannot force people who don’t believe in God to convert to Islam, we cannot force those who don’t believe in God to convert to Buddhism and so on.”

As an atheist, I appreciate his inclusiveness in his discussion but on just a point of correction on his kind considerate words, I need to inform that firstly, Buddhists do NOT believe in an omniscient God as per the Abrahamic religions, and that secondly, Buddhists seek enlightenment (nirvana) by their own effort without the need for the blessings nor help of any god.

While not exactly atheists, Buddhists are almost atheistic in their spiritual beliefs.

Meanwhile a bigot in another media worries the shit out of his mean head that inclusion of our Rukunegara as preamble to the Malaysian Constitution will deprive the UMNOutras of their privileges and Lowyat2.

A week earlier than above, Dr Kua Kia Siong wrote in MM Online Keep the Constitution secular and inclusive (extracts):

There is an attempt by some “eminent persons” to install the Rukunegara as the preamble to the Malaysian Constitution. If there is indeed a need for such a preamble, it ought to reaffirm the principles of secularism and inclusiveness in the Constitution.

In my humble opinion, any attempt to have a preamble to our Constitution needs first to be discussed by all the communities in the country including the Orang Asli, debated and passed through Parliament; secondly, it has to be inclusive.

This “national philosophy” of Rukunegara was proclaimed on Merdeka Day, 1970 as a response to the racial riots of 13 May 1969 when the country was still under a state of Emergency.

Like the National Culture Policy, it was drafted by selected “eminent persons” rather than involving representation from all Malaysian communities and it did not go through a democratic process of debate, nor was it passed by the Federal Parliament.

While most of its aspirations are noble and acceptable, namely, “achieving a more perfect unity...; preserving a democratic way of life; creating a just society...; guaranteeing a liberal approach towards her rich and varied cultural traditions; and building a progressive society...”; nevertheless, its principle of “Belief in God” is not inclusive of all Malaysian faiths.

Any Preamble should include all peoples and stress social justice and democracy.

wtf? what about us? 

I understand where Dr Kia is coming from in his erudite article, and I support his views, but on a more realistic note, I wonder whether the immediate period after May 13 was conducive for a community forum cum discussions on formulating a national philosophy-principle?

After the troubles, traumas and tragedy of May 13 (1969), on instructions from Tun Razak, Tun Ghazali Shafie, then the flamboyant whiz-kid of Malaysian politics, conceptualised, 'created' and formalised the national ideology of Rukunegara.

I believe strongly that Ghazalie might have borrowed the idea from our neighbour Indonesia but amended that to naturally include our monarchy in our version.

Additionally, as a Muslim himself, the Indonesian's Sila Pertama, KeTuhanan Yang Maha Esa must have appealed to him, hence we get in our 1st Rukun the principle of 'Kepercayaan kepada Tuhan'.

Indonesia has had the Pancasila since 1945 even way before it gained independence from the Dutch.

Soekarno visualised a national need to unite the different peoples of the Indonesian archipelago. He based his Pancasila on the concepts of socialism, nationalism and monotheism.

Initially he formulated the Pancasila as:

  1. Kebangsaan Indonesia (Indonesian Nationality), an emphasis on nationalism.
  2. Internasionalisme, an emphasis on justice and humanity.
  3. Musyawarah Mufakat (Deliberative Consensus), an emphasis on Representative democracy which holds no ethnic dominance but an equal vote for each member of the council.
  4. Kesejahteraan Sosial, influenced by the idea of the welfare state, an emphasis on populist Socilaism.
  5. KeTuhanan yang Maha Esa, an emphasis on monotheism and religiosity.

But after several quite fierce debates among Indonesian leaders, the 5th Sila (of belief in god) was promoted to No 1 position to appease those of the Abrahamic faiths, but much as the Muslims wanted the word Allah in it, the Pancasila avoided that, replacing instead Tuhan in that position which was more acceptable to Hindus and Christians, while the original 1st Sila (of nationalism) was move to No 3, and modified here and there to be what it is today, as follows:

  1. Ketuhanan Yang Maha Esa
  2. Kemanusiaan Yang Adil dan Beradab.
  3. Persatuan Indonesia.
  4. Kerakyatan Yang Dipimpin oleh Hikmat Kebijaksanaan, Dalam Permusyawaratan Perwakilan.
  5. Keadilan Sosial bagi seluruh Rakyat Indonesia.

Incidentally many Indonesians do NOT know that the title (but not content) of their national ideology, the term Pancasila was borrowed from the religion of Buddhism.

Pancasila in Buddhism means the 5 Precepts (but not Commandments as in the Abrahamic religions), a daily principles/ethics that Buddhists strive to practise and live by, namely, to strive not to kill, not to steal, not to have sexual misconduct, not to lie, and also to abstain from fermented drink that causes heedlessness (meaning 'showing a reckless lack of care or attention').

The last 'abstain from fermented drink that causes heedlessness' is far more flexible than 'must not drink' - in other words, people like kaytee take it to mean yamseng-ing is OK so long as one does NOT degenerated into or commit acts of heedlessness, wakakaka.

Oh BTW, Panca means 5, as in Panjab (or anglicised as Punjab, which means land of 5 Waters, a reference to the tributaries of the Indus River, namely Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Sutlej, and Beas), ...

pancawarna (5 colours meaning 'technicolour'), ...

pancaragam (orchestra), ...

pancaindera (5 senses), etc.

The 1st Sila of the Indonesia Paancasila 'KeTuhanan yang Maha Esa' is far more monotheistic than our 'Kepercayaan kepada Tuhan'. Even up to today, Indons are still debating their No 1 Sila as it goes against the principle of freedom of belief (particularly to polytheistic adherents like Hindus and those subscribing to folk beliefs and shamanism) and freedom of expression.

Article 29 of the Indon Constitution, on Religious Freedom, states two seemingly contradictory national religious doctrine, as follows:

(1) The State shall be based upon the belief in the One and Only God. 
(2) The State guarantees all persons the freedom of worship, each according to his/her own religion or belief.

Looks like the Indons want to have their monotheistic cake and also eat the rest, wakakaka.

I personally would advise to leave the Rukunegara or any variations of it outside the constitution as the Rukunegara (in its present form) will never please everyone, from ultra-ulamas (of the Abrahamic religionists) to the polytheistic believers to Buddhists/Jainists to agnostics to atheists, wakakaka.

if you are not greeks or italians you may be excused



  1. While Buddhism has no God as in an Almighty entity, there is no denying its utmost veneration of The Buddha , and in Mahayana Buddhism, Boddhisatvas.

    The preamble to the principle Veneration in Thervada Buddhism goes -

    Honour to the Blessed One, the Exalted One, the fully Enlightened One.

    The actual practice is not just a simple honour, it is a form of prayer. This is definitely no case of Atheism.

    I strongly disagree with giving Atheism official sanction in fundamental documents such as the Constitution or Rukunegara.

    I will support legal protection against structural discrimination such as for jobs , education for groups such as LGBT as well as atheists.

    Just don't demand to be officially recognised. You cannot have that.

    1. Buddhist veneration for Buddha and Bodhisattvas are those for 'teachers' not divinities as in your Abrahamic religions.

      Namo Tassa etc is the time-honoured eulogy to/for an enlightened teacher, not a prayer to a divinity as you in your Abrahamic faith naturally would think/imagine it to be.

      Your understanding of Buddhism is very shallow, in fact, worse, very superficial.

      Atheists and Buddhists don't need protection anywhere. Just don't shaft your religious beliefs down our throats

    2. My understanding from talking to Buddhist believers is when they make the Veneration to the Buddha, it is NOT as in an eulogy to a long-dead teacher, but one who is very much in existence , in the room, if you like.

      Hence the Buddha is everlasting, eternal...that is certainly no atheistic belief system...

    3. sheer nonsense from someone who does NOT know Buddhism. Buddha does not live in your room, wakakaka. However, Confucianists believe their ancestors do.

      You have also shown your typically most intolerable religious (Abrahamic) belief in refusing to accept atheistic belief is just as equal to religious beliefs, and that Buddhism as one of the Eastern religious beliefs does not parallel your Abrahamic belief - utter arrogance to expect that other beliefs must match or parallel yours.

  2. Most ethics and understanding of rights and wrongs in human society have their foundation in religion, depending on the definitive religious beliefs of that society.
    This is true even for nations and societies which are officially secular.

    To be frank, I am very doubtful concerning true Atheists' capacity to be truly ethical and truly uphold right and wrong.

    Bear in mind, here are situations where it is very difficult and even highly risky to a person's future well being to act ethically and stand up for what is right. In such a situation, I find the Atheists moral foundations highly suspect.

    1. "I find the Atheists moral foundations highly suspect".

      In the US atheism has frequently been used to deny child custody on the basis that a lack of faith displays a lack of morality require to raise a child.

    2. "... ethics and understanding of rights and wrongs in human society have their foundation in religion .."
      If Monsterball meant ethics and rights & wrongs (ERW) in society were first popularised by religion, I would agree with him. However, if he meant 'ERW' were founded by religion, then I beg to disagree. Concepts of 'ERW' were introduced into society because of the need for society itself to survive; without 'ERW', society would disintegrate. Wisemen (or the learned) knew this and introduced these concepts into society to bring in some sort of rudimental order. Religion has nothing to do with it, notwithstanding the learned tend to be amongst the high ranking in religious circles because of their literal standing.

      ".. I am very doubtful concerning true Atheists' capacity to be truly ethical .."
      I believe most readers can see Monsterball’s arrogance in this statement which does not deserve a comment.

    3. “Even atheist participants judged immoral acts as more representative of atheists than of other.”
      ~ Will Gervais - University of Kentucky Psychologist

  3. Atheists do NOT require recognition. Just don't ask us to 'Belief in YOUR God', wakakaka.

    Even a Muslim like Datuk Zainul Rijal Abu Bakar, the President of the Muslim Lawyers Association (PPMM), understands the need not to impose on atheists.

  4. The world's various religions are part of humanity's age-old search for answers to the most profound questions in life -
    Where do we come from ?
    Why are we here ?
    What is the meaning of life ?
    What happens after the end of life ?
    The meaning of death is probably the deepest of all.

    These profound questions remain, whether or not you believe in any religion.
    I would say 90% of all people have some form of spiritual belief, even if they do not attend any form of organised religion - probably higher in a relatively conservative society like Malaysia.

    Key question - what are your instructions to your loved ones , in case of your demise ?

    Sure, there are many who do not actively practice any religious belief, but I have never seen an actual Atheist funeral in Malaysia.
    My funeral parlour operator contact says he has done just a few. These guys have excellent networks. Even if the family has no interaction with any religious groups, they can assist with the necessary arrangements if requested. But in these cases , the instruction was emphatic "No" prayers.

    There have been very public ones overseas, the funerals of Communist leaders. Communism, among other things, elevates Atheism to the level of national government.
    The 2011 funeral of North Korea's Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Il was a huge spectacle - massive arrays of flowers, thousands of grieving subjects, gigantic display of military honours.
    It was all arid and shallow. Basically negated by its essential denial of the meaning of life, and the meaning of death.
    Maybe its just my prejudice against Atheism.

    1. North Korea is hardly a striking example of atheism. Why not luminaries such as Bertrand Russell, Salvador Allende, Sir Kingsley Amis, Isaac Asimov, Ayn Rand, George Santayana, Sigmund Freud etc

    2. You have to take Bertrand Russell, Isaac Asimov etc. TOGETHER with North Korea , the former USSR , Ceaușescu's Romania for the full package deal on Atheism....that's a full and fair picture.

      Just as you need to consider Augustine of Hippo, Francis of Assissi together with the Spanish Inquisition, the Conquistadors in South America etc. for a fair assessment of the history of Christianity.

    3. Tearing out all the 'superficial' layers, religioty, atheism included, IS a form of symbolism.

      This symbolism represents the bare animistic need to satisfy one's dilemma, be they physical &/or mental, in facing lifes everyday challenges.

      Thus, along the ways through humanistic evolution, it was/is been 'manipulated' to suit the 'desires' of a few later-day gifted thinkers/orators into closely-linked cults, to share the common fear/love of that symbolism!

      These cults work in many different ways - as been seen in today's proliferated schools of 'bleeding heart' setups. Each one claims to do good in their OWN interpretation!

      So, why this unending argument of WHO's better than WHO's?

      Just follow yr heart lah!

      & DO make sure that THAT heart IS a well-learnt one, devoids of any possible zombie-fication as 吃古不化 will only 害人害自!

    4. Rocketman, what we consider should only be those who CONSCIOUSLY become atheists, not mad people like the Kims of North Korea who probably did NOT even know what an atheist is

    5. Ktemoc cannot just pick the "cute" and acceptable face of Atheism to promote it as a good and progressive school of thought, and filter out the dross.

      He has to accept the ugly side and consequences of the line of thinking of Atheism, which in overall terms, I would characterise as a lack of belief in religion.

      To hold him to the same standard, he has frequently used the Hebrew Bible describing more unpleasant events in Jewish history to condemn the Jewish people and Jewish religion.