March-29-2018 Malaysia news
1. Herald Malaysia (http://www.heraldmalaysia.com/news/what-malaysians-say-about-pope-francis/41621/1)
What Malaysians say about Pope Francis
28 March 2018
by John Tan, St Charles, Selangau
As Pope Francis celebrates the fifth year of his pontificate, below are some comments from our Catholics on his influence in the Church and the world.
He is in touch with the grassroots
“He is a Pope who is closely in touch with the grassroots, knowing the struggles and realities of the people. There is no simple solution to the troubles of the world. The world has pushed God so far away that we have become indifferent to the Church and her teachings.
“So, our Pope can only push his bishops and priests to go further in reaching out to the people, to go out into the market place to meet and care for the lost and lonely. Even then he has met with lots of resistance within. And as did Jesus, has created some controversies.” -- Angila Yong, Johor Bahru
One of the most riveting and remarkable world leader
“From the election of the relatively unknown Cardinal Bergoglio, of Argentina, to the Chair of St Peter — Pope Francis has gone on to become one of the most riveting, intriguing and remarkable world leaders of our time.
“Since his election, Pope Francis has not only rejuvenated the Catholic Church but has single handily refreshed the way the secular world traditionally sees the message of Christ.
“He has been speaking about mercy since the moment of his election and has called on all Catholics to remember God’s loving mercy and to carry that message out into the wider world. For example: He speaks of mercy on every trip, especially when meeting with the poor and the suffering. And he proclaimed the Jubilee Year of Mercy in the hope that it would be a moment of powerful reflection on God’s mercy for the entire Church. I wish him continued success in leading the Catholic Church to make a better world for all.” -- James Collin, Catholic Lawyer, Kuching
He has re-introduced us to the tenderness of God
“From his first public moment, when he stood on the balcony of St Peter’s in Rome and asked the half-million people crowded into the square below to pray for him, I already knew that he is not an ordinary leader. For me, the Church has been going through a really dark time with the economic downturn, war, unemployment, Church’s leaders scandal etc.
But now, with the presence of Pope Francis, many in the Chruch are proud to be Catholic again, and that’s a major shift. Pope Francis emphasis is really about encountering people, like Jesus. He has set out to place a priority on pastoral care, modelling humility and openness. It is Francis’ humanity, goodness, joy, kindness and mercy that introduce us to the tenderness of our God.
Everything the Holy Father is doing now is not just an imitation of his patron St Francis Assisi who loved the poor, embraced lepers, made peace and protected nature but his mission truly comes from his heart through the intimacy with Christ and the Church.” -- Bro Aldrin, Diocese of Keningau
Reaches out to peoples
“Pope Francis is a person who reaches out to all kinds of people. What I admire most about him when he addressed the Rohingyas, ‘the presence of God is also called Rohingya’.” --Msgr Henry Rajoo, parish priest St Anne’s Church Bukit ertajam
He is a simple and inspiring shepherd
“Pope Francis has shown himself to be a simple yet inspiring shepherd to all. As a young person myself, many of his words have really caused a positive impact. In particular the “make a mess” quote, His Holiness has always been motivating youths to spread the Good News and be courageous.
“As the Holy Father speaks of discernment this month, we, as the faithful, ought to think more deeply of what the Lord calls us to do in life's situations. And with that, we can never go wrong. I have faith that the Synod this year focusing on young people will be a defining moment in reaching out to guide the faith of youths, and draw them back closer to the “Mother” - that is the Church.” -- Aaron Lim, Church of the Assumption, Penang
A man who leads with love
“Pope Francis is one of the riveting, intriguing and remarkable world leaders of our time. Since his election, Pope Francis has not only rejuvenated the Catholic Church but has refreshed the way the modern people to see the message of Christ. As a health worker, I am inspired by His Holiness who embraced a man with facial tumours and hear stories of him hosting homeless men to a dinner on his own birthday and handing out phone cards so that refugees might call loved ones and family.
Francis, it seems, is a man who leads with love. It is what we should all want, together, filled with the love of Christ, extending our hands and our hearts to our suffering brothers and sisters and accompanying them.” -- By Nancy ak Mineh, Catholic Nurses’ Guild, Kuch
Shown a simpler and less formal approach
“Throughout his life, Pope Francis has been known for his humility, concern for the poor and his commitment to dialogue as a way to bring people together despite their beliefs, backgrounds and faiths.
Ever since he was elected Pope, Francis has shown a simpler and less formal approach to the office. He opposes consumerism, irresponsible development, and supports taking action on climate change, a focus of his papacy with the promulgation of Laudato Si.
In international diplomacy, he helped to restore full diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba. Even the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Egypt, referred him as “the man of peace, a man who follows the teaching of Christianity, which is a religion of love and peace!”
2. Free Malaysia Today (http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/)
An evening with the invisible Mrs Zakir Naik
by FMT Reporters
29 March 2018
While her husband attempts to rebuild his Islamic missionary empire, Farhat Naik speaks to women about salvation and the purpose of life.
PUTRAJAYA: “Pass on the word to those who can’t attend. Insha Allah, they can come and benefit from this,” says the bespectacled woman as ladies settle into the brown plastic seats arranged in rows before her.
But even though her English is fluent, betrayed only by her thick Indian accent, not everyone present understands her.
An interpreter says something in Arabic, as a lady whispers: “That’s Farhat, Dr Zakir Naik’s wife.”
The introduction was unwarranted, but necessary. Unlike her husband, Farhat Naik does not have an official page with any of the three social media giants. Neither is she shown in any of the lectures she gives, thanks to her constant reminder to audience members to delete all recordings and pictures before leaving her talks.
Today, some 30 people are huddled in the living room of this apartment, situated in a condominium overlooking the picturesque Putrajaya lake.
But inside the apartment, there is nothing that attracts the eye. There is a speaker stand at the front of the room. A whiteboard and a television hang on the wall. The concept of minimalism appears to have been maxed out here.
Just minutes earlier, the all-female guests were at the surau downstairs before they were told to take the lift to the 14th floor.
Judging by their hijab style and accent, most of them are foreigners: Arabs, Indians and Chinese.
“What is the purpose of my existence? Why am I here? What is my destination? Where do I need to go? What is the purpose of my life?”
Farhat releases a barrage of questions as she begins her discourse, a two-hour speech that will last until dusk.
Clearly, this is no Tupperware party, or a group of housewives coming together to hear the latest from Wisteria Lane.
“What is the purpose of our life?” asks the lady of the house again. This time, a few raise their hands to offer their response.
Every 15 minutes, the interpreter takes over. The session continues this way, ending just in time for the Maghrib (dusk) prayer.
The size of Farhat’s audience in the apartment is nothing compared to the crowds that turn up to hear her husband speak, in large conference halls which fit thousands.
Nonetheless, Farhat, the wife of controversial Indian preacher Zakir Naik, has been conducting her class for some weeks now at Tamara Residence in Putrajaya, where she and her husband have become part of a small community of locals and expatriates.
Farhat’s sessions take place every Saturday, just after the late afternoon Asr prayer.
Despite her small audiences now, she too has spoken to large crowds, in Africa, the Middle East, India and the US.
She did her Masters at India’s Poona University, now called Savitribai Phule Pune University after the social reformer who gained fame for her struggle for the emancipation of women through education.
But this evening, Farhat does not speak on matters such as women’s rights.
The mother of two fulfils her somewhat satellite role in her husband’s bid to relaunch his Islamic missionary empire, which is under scrutiny in India over allegations of money laundering and the spread of extremism.
At the surau
But every empire begins small. Neither Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) nor his missionary satellite channel PeaceTV was built in a day.
“When the Prophet started his mission, he had only preached to about six people,” said one ardent fan of Naik at the surau downstairs, just before the session moved to the 14th floor.
Surau As-Syifa, where residents gather for the five daily prayers, appears to be a good base for Naik to start his empire.
Or rather, re-start.
Naik’s IRF and PeaceTV have been closed down in India. But Indian authorities never had a chance to question him over the accusations of money laundering and the spread of extremism.
Naik had carefully evaded them, flying to and fro Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Indonesia, speaking to crowds on his favourite topic of Islam and Christianity, or Hinduism, topics which have not sat well with Hindu and Christian groups who accuse him of belittling their religion.
Here at Tamara Residence in Putrajaya, Naik has been slowly building his base, especially among the residents who comprise different nationalities.
Only recently, Naik led one of the daily prayers at the surau. When FMT last visited and spoke to some residents, many said they were eager for him to hold lectures at the surau.
Not that Naik’s lectures or prayers are much different from those of other imams.
However, a surau member could not help but notice one little difference as Naik ended his prayer.
“Did you notice he didn’t have the doa after the prayer?” he asked, referring to the act of raising both hands to invoke God, as Muslims in Malaysia traditionally do.
This omission on Naik’s part is a small giveaway of his Salafist leanings.
In India, Muslim scholars have accused him of spreading Salafist Islam, an “austere” version of Islam which is mainstream in Saudi Arabia, but frowned upon by most parts of the Muslim world.
Salafism, or its more derogatory term Wahhabism, has inspired rulings such as the ban on women driving, or travelling without a male relative as companion.
While many of its rituals are similar to mainstream Sunni Islam, others, like the doa after prayer, are a no-no.
Purpose of life
Upstairs, the ladies continue their evening together as Farhat delves deeper into the “purpose of life”.
She now speaks about salvation, and enjoining good and forbidding evil.
She reads a verse from the Quran and gives her explanation: “Allah is calling us, Muslims, the best of people.
“He is not calling the Jews, the Christians, the Hindus, the Chinese or those who follow Shintoism or Hinduism or Christianity or Judaism. Who is He calling? He is calling Muslims, the best of people evolved from mankind,” Farhat says in the silence of the room, broken only by the distant sound of mobile message tones.
“Why is He calling us the best of people? Because here are the three things you do, He said. You do these three things. What are the three things? Enjoining what is right, stopping what is wrong, and believing in Allah.”
By now, the whispering lady is checking her phone to see if she has missed any calls. Beside her, a woman gently tells her young daughter to keep her voice low.
Only minutes earlier, Farhat said neighbours had complained to her husband of the children’s noise during her lectures.
Now, she asks that each of those present take turns to babysit the children every week.
“All of us here have children. Can’t we contribute something to the Ummah?” Farhat says.
Her lecture continues, like a plane on a short domestic route, ready to descend as soon as it is airborne.
“Can’t we leave some legacy for this Ummah? We can do it, sisters. Allah is the Provider.”
As the lecture draws to a close, she too gives a flight analogy.
“What is the purpose of my life, what is the purpose of my life? You know?
“If there’s a pilot in the flight and a flight engineer… but both of them have a different sense of direction, and both of them have different destinations in their minds.
“The flight engineer thinks we are going to Delhi in India, and the pilot thinks we are going to Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia. What will happen in the flight? Confusion? Chaos? Disturbance?”
She then returns to a home setting, drawing a comparison.
“The husband wants to do something, the wife wants to do something else. There’s confusion and chaos in the family! And if both the husband and the wife, if they have the same vision and the same mission,” she says, repeating the Muslim expression “insha Allah”.
“It will be like a successful flight where the flight engineer as well as the pilot both want to go to Kuala Lumpur.”
As the women stand and bid each other farewell, Farhat gives her standard warning:
“If there is any photo taken or any audio recorded from this talk, please delete them. Take this as amanah (trust) for you to do so.”