The Lady, Like The Queen, Is Not Amused
By: MGG Pillai - 30 Nov. 2002
DATIN SERI RAFIDAH AZIZ is furious Australian air port security did not recognise here, and horror of horrors, wanted police dogs to sniff her luggage to make sure she carried no contraband. The stupid fools! Did they not know who she is? She who but for the Grace of God would be prime minister after Dr Mahathir? She throws her weight around all the time, so what she did in Sydney is not new. She said she told airport officials, she, a Muslim, forbade dogs, but graciously allowed her luggage, unlocked, to be manually checked. She had arrived in Sydney on 14 November 2002 for the World Trade Organisation ministerial meeting when this needless flap occurred.
In the wake of the Bali bombings, security was tighter that normal, more so with a high profile international meeting. When the police insisted twice more -- once when she was about to get into her car, and another at the hotel where she stayed -- "I got furious and told them if they touched my luggage I will leave immediately" and boycott the WTO meeting. The lady threw a tantrum. And, would you know, they kept her incommunicado in her hotel, and prevented her to shop for gems and jewellery as she is wont to. She implies the Australians are terrible people: "when I was in New York recently, we were not subject to such harrassment."
Islam does not forbid Muslims from handling or touching dogs. It is, like alcohol, discouraged, not forbidden as pork is; Najis not Haram nor Dosa. In other words, the lowest level of prohibition. All a Muslim needs to do if he were to touch a dog to wash himself seven times and cleanse himself with sand. The Prophet had issued that injunction because in His time, people died of rabies, and He cautioned care in handling dogs. In Malaysia, Islam is reduced to iron-clad bureaucratic rules that allows Muslim cabinet ministers like Datin Seri Rafidah Aziz to throw her weight around in foreign countries. The authorities in Malaysia bend over backwards to punish minor doctrinal violations in Islam, and codify rules and regulations that imposes a licencing regime, for money in the till. Islam is not allowed to develop as it should. Curiously, PAS, which should be horrified if Datin Seri Rafidah is right in her Islamic assertions, that at Rantau Panjang, on the border with Thailand, a police dog unit is stationed permanently. Almost every one who used that crossing is a Muslim. PAS would have screamed bloody murder to disband the unit years ago. So would UMNO.
She told the Kuala Pilah gathering yesterday (29 November 2002) she "merely" rebutted media allegations that she threw her weight around. She was not responding to the Sydney Morning Herald, but to the Sangkancil report I wrote about the incident. She says she told Australian security she is a Muslim, but did she tell them why she did not want her luggage sniffed at by dogs. Knowing how she behaves at the best of times, haughtily, she would not have. She had to be rescured from her predicament by Australian foreign ministry officials. It was arrogance, not her religion, that landed her in this mess. But she says her Australian counterpart apologised. Does it take much, in the current state of ties between Kuala Lumpur and Canberra for a minister to apologise to keep the peace? After all, one Australian seriously considers banning Santa Claus because it could, a long shot this, offend Muslims. Why does it do this? For fear of offending religious minorities, in this case, one Muslim family! Datin Seri Rafidah says the matter is closed. Is it?
As a senior Malaysian cabinet minister, her action has profound implications for policy in Malaysia. So that other Muslims are not so harrassed, she implies the Malaysian police must disband its dog unit, half of whose handlers are Muslim, which are widely used in Malaysia to sniff out contraband from luggage at airports. Indeed, it is possible her luggage was checked by Malaysian sniffer dogs. She did not make a scene for if she had, it would have created a larger scene here than it did in Australia. She misunderstands what is permissible in Islam, and makes an issue of it in foreign countries. Why has she not called for the disbanding of the police dog unit in Malaysia? Does she imply the police dogs are for non-Muslim crowd control and for checking non-Muslim luggage only? During the reformasi demonstrations, the ferocious police dogs kept a largely Muslim crowd at bay at the Dataran Merdeka and elsewhere. She did not demand then the police dogs be withdrawn for it was poised against Muslims. Why? Does she imply police dogs in Malaysia should check Muslims but not police dogs in Australia?
While it is politically comforting to find terrorists in every bearded and turbaned mullah in a jibba, the real terrorists out to cause havoc are more prone to S-class Mercedes, BMWs and three-piece suits. It is they who can get through airport security and police checks, because they see in the visitor a wog, a westerninised oriental gentleman, one who tries to be like them but cannot. The lawbreakers and terrorists are more likely to be found amongst them. When the Prime Minister goes on a foreign jaunt, he is flanked by a retinue of sychophantic business men, all of whom bring back a godown of expensive goods for which they do not pay customs duty. He can be tetchy if he is kept waiting, so he and his retinue are sped out of the airport in double quick time.
The late Malaysian finance minister, Tun Tan Siew Sin, was so scrupulous about taxes that he would give customs officers a list of what he has and insist he paid the taxes. As he would of those who accompanied him. It was no fun, said a senior Treasury of the time, travelling with him. But Tan Sri Ting Pek Khiing, the Can Do No Dam man, travelling with the Prime Minister's party on an official visit to France, was stopped by French customs when and undeclared US$800 million in notes was found on him. He was let off. But the Prime Minister was not pleased. None of those the US governments accuses for the 11 September 2002 tragedy travelled about except in double-breasted or three-piece suits. The first rule of a terrorist to blend with the crowd.
The Arabs would come here in their traditional dress. They do that because the Malaysian Malay would treat him like a king. Is it any surprise that every suspect in the Bali Bombing, and the Caucasian arrested in Australia for attempting to blow up Sydney Bridge all had their rendezvous in Malaysia. Malaysia's actions, however much she may deny it, makes her a prime candidate as a terrorist state. We are now told one suspect in the Bali bombing taught weapons training to recruits in Ulu Tiram, in Johore. How is that possible, when death is the penalty if found with unlicenced weapons? Or did the nearby Jungle Warfare Training School or Pulada help out? A Malaysian minister visiting Australia or any country that could face Osama bin Laden's wrath, should expect severe checks, yes, even worse than New York's. And rightly so. In Malaysia, these checks are relaxed and rules bent when a high ranking official or an Arab turns up.
The Australian police do not take their orders from Mr John Howard, as the Malaysian Police from Dato' Seri Mahathir Mohamed. They function to a set of time-honed rules, unlike her where rules are forgotten, and remembered only when festivals come around and curtains need be replaced. Meanwhile, could Datin Seri Rafidah Aziz reveal how much customs duty she had paid for her haul of jewellery and gems and other high-expense she had bought from foreign countries? She has not explained how her son-in-law gets a RM1.5 million-a-month sinecure by selling automobile permits his mother-in-law bestows on him. The lady is not pleased. But she throws her weight around. Indeed, enjoys it.
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