YAHOO | The Malay Mail Online
On heels of 25 prominent Malays, Zaid launches ‘Amno’ to create alpha Malays
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 9 — Former Umno minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim has revealed plans to launch a new platform to create “alpha Malays”, a movement he said will provide an avenue for outspoken Malay youths to debate and deepen their understanding of issues like religion, politics and economics.
Called the “Alpha Malays National Organisation” or Amno, which is a clear play on the name for ruling party Umno, which stands for “United Malays National Organisation”, Zaid said the movement is a non-political one, and will first kick off with an application and a news portal.
“There’s no space here. By engaging in religious talk, you’re violating a fatwa of some sort,” Zaid, who was also the founder of the KITA political party, told Malay Mail Online yesterday.
“You criminalise discourse in this country. We have no space. The country cannot go on like that,” added the former de facto law minister who frequently writes critical pieces on Islamisation in Malaysia.
Zaid’s “Amno” comes on the heels of an open letter published Monday by a group of 25 prominent Malays, mostly retired high-ranking civil servants, who called for open debates on Islamic laws in Malaysia
In their letter, the 25 influential Malays said such discourse should not be seen as insulting Islam or the religious authorities.
For Amno, Zaid told Malay Mail Online that he plans to design an instant messaging application, or app for short, with a 40-second recording function, similar to WhatsApp, to promote discussion among Malay students especially on various issues.
He said the app would take two to three months to complete.
“Not everyone likes to read news portals. If we design our own app, people can be interactive,” he said.
The ex-politician said he was also planning to launch a news portal next month that will collate articles posted on Facebook, blogs or on other news websites, 70 per cent of which will be in Bahasa Malaysia.
“It’s not necessarily about politics. For example, if there’s a point of view that music is ‘haram’, then you can have a contrary article,” said Zaid, adding that articles written in English will be translated into Bahasa Malaysia on the news portal.
Zaid said Malays are generally reluctant to be seen as critical, but noted that their reticence could also be due to the lack of a platform for debate and discussion.
“If we allow these spaces, maybe we’ll see the real Melayu,” he said.
When pointed out that young people could use social media to express their views, Zaid said his movement was hoping to enhance interaction by providing feedback to opinions.
“For example, whether we need a Shariah Federal Court. Why? You’ll probably want the Shariah Court to have the same dignity as the civil court.
“So we’ll ask him or her how does having another layer enable parity of powers, when in the Constitution, it’s not. Perhaps by that process, you get people to understand a bit more,” said Zaid.
The Bar Council said last month that the Federal Constitution does not permit for a Shariah equivalent of the Federal Court, in response to the Malaysian Islamic Development Department saying that Putrajaya was planning to upgrade the current three-tier Shariah court system to a five-tier system, with the proposed highest court ― called the Shariah Appeal Council ― on par with the civil Federal Court.
Zaid said he hoped to recruit some Islamic scholars, possibly from neighbouring countries, adding that non-Malays are also free to contribute their opinions in the Amno movement.
On why the word “Alpha” was chosen for the name of the movement, Zaid said: “We just want to have a foreign word that depicts being independent, assertive, dominant”.
One of the 25 top former civil servants, who recently issued an open letter calling for Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to show leadership in the face of intolerant right wing groups, has launched a barrage of scathing criticism against Perkasa and Isma.