Saturday, December 20, 2014

Life after Al-Arqam sees Global Ikhwan expands on halal business

A worker arranges ketchup bottles for sale at the Global Ikhwan business centre in Rawang. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Najjua Zulkefli, December 21, 2014.A worker arranges ketchup bottles for sale at the Global Ikhwan business centre in Rawang. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Najjua Zulkefli, December 21, 2014.
Once closely linked to the banned Islamic sect Al-Arqam, Global Ikhwan Holdings Sdn Bhd (GIHSB) is now trying to rebrand itself as a producer of halal products to meet domestic and international demand.
GIHSB chief executive officer Lokman Hakim told The Malaysian Insider that demand was surging, given the various halal-related issues faced by Muslim consumers of late.
"We want to fill this vacuum, especially those related to food, such as noodles and frozen foods. Some of the available ones, despite being slapped with halal labels, are questionable.
During the time when it was linked to the Al-Arqam sect, it was known as the Al-Arqam Group of Companies. After the sect was banned in 1994, the business entity was known as Rufaqa, and later as Syarikat Global Ikhwan Sdn Bhd. GIHSB came into existence last May, according to company records.
Business activities have always been important to the sect, founded by Ashaari Mohammad, who was once held under the Internal Security Act.
He died in May 2010, and the business empire was continued by his wife, Hatijah Aam, more famously known as the woman who started the Obedient Wives Club.
Those days of controversy are over now, said Lokman, adding that he had fully repented of his past beliefs under Al-Arqam.
Lokman said he and a group of other ex-followers had attended "500 hours of courses" conducted by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) as part of their "rehabilitation".
But while the Al-Arqam stigma is gone, the business ethnic of the old movement, which centred on the "fardu kifayah" (community obligations), is still strong, allowing GIHSB to build a chain of business activities in the Rawang area, occupying several shop lots that included its own clinic, launderette, mini market, eateries and surau.
A worker prepares cookies for sale at the Global Ikhwan business centre in Rawang. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Najjua Zulkefli, December 21, 2014.A worker prepares cookies for sale at the Global Ikhwan business centre in Rawang. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Najjua Zulkefli, December 21, 2014.Once identifiable through their attire of robes and turbans, many are now embracing baju Melayu and "kopiah" or skull caps.
Apart from business activities, GIHSB is also involved in community services such as drug rehabilitation programmes, charity homes, medical and dental services.
"We have eight drug rehabilitation centres in collaboration with the National Anti-Drug Agency (AADK) and 30% of the inmates we monitor have recovered.
"Our programmes focus on instilling faith back into them. This is our way of helping both the government and the community," said Lokman.
At their medical and dental clinics, patients can decide how much they are willing to pay for the services.
"If they can afford only RM5, we accept it. These are not commercial entities anyway," Lokman said.
Lokman said GIHSB also has around 30 welfare homes across the nation. There used to be 80 homes but "unresolved issues" forced some to close, he added.
Future business plans include a new rice vermicelli processing factory in Pekan, Pahang, soon.
"We bought a processing machine from Thailand recently," he said.
While Ashaari was alive, his teachings were considered deviant by the religious authorities as they purportedly included the use of supernatural powers and unorthodox ideas about communicating with the Prophet.
In May last year, his widow Hatijah was detained together with nine other group members, at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport upon their return from Saudi Arabia.
They were accused of trying to revive the banned sect.
She was placed under a one-year good behaviour bond after pleading guilty to contravening the fatwa which banned the sect by continuing with its teachings.
Hatijah, better known as Ummu Jah, renounced all past beliefs in a public ceremony with about 300 other followers in October last year.
The renunciation ceremony also saw her publicly apologise to the Selangor Religious Department (Jais), the National Fatwa Council, and the Islamic Development Department Malaysia (Jakim), as well as to all Muslims in the country.
In a statement to The Malaysian Insider for this article, she said: "We concur with the government's serious efforts to restore our faith. Allah has moved us towards repentance and showed us the error of our ways.
"Repentance has become part of our culture. All GISBH staff have also been told to pray and ask forgiveness from Allah," she said.
Hatijah said GIHSB is also in the process of securing "halal" certification from Jakim.
"Plans for Global Ikhwan includes encouraging all Muslims to unite and defend Islam through economic activities according to the al-Quran and Hadith.
"Islam is a way of life. So Global Ikhwan needs to have a network of projects which covers all aspects of the life of a Muslim.
"It now has networks in Australia, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Europe, China and Russia," she said.

Protest still on despite Putrajaya’s cheaper fuel claim, says PKR Youth

Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Ahmad Maslan is confident the price of  RON95 fuel will drop below RM2 from January based on the average daily price of the fuel so far this month. – The Malaysian Insider pic, December 20, 2014.Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Ahmad Maslan is confident the price of RON95 fuel will drop below RM2 from January based on the average daily price of the fuel so far this month. – The Malaysian Insider pic, December 20, 2014.Be  wary of Putrajaya's announcement that the price of RON95 and diesel will dip below RM2 a litre come January 1, PKR Youth said today, and urged Malaysians to join a New Year's Eve rally to protest fuel prices.
The party wing's strategy director, Akmal Nasir, said that Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Ahmad Maslan only announced lower petrol prices after he was pressured by the gathering slated for the night of December 1 in Dataran Merdeka.
He added that if the government was sincere in lowering the price of fuel, it need not wait until December 31 to do so.
"Because of that, PKR Youth has taken up a variety of approaches to help the campaign to reduce petrol prices to RM1.90 by urging the rakyat to gather in Dataran Merdeka on December 31, 2014.
"Barisan Nasional's petrol subsidy removal transcends political interests because their actions will only trouble and burden the people."
However, he added that they had decided not to distribute leaflets at the Bukit Jalil stadium tonight during the AFF Suzuki final football match between Malaysia and Thailand, to prevent any untoward incidents.
Yesterday, Ahmad said the retail price of RON95 petrol and diesel may go below RM2 a litre next month if global oil prices continue the downtrend, national news agency Bernama reported.
Ahmad said this was possible, given that during the first 18 days of this month, the average price of RON95 and diesel fell below the RM2 a litre level.
“If the downtrend in global oil prices continues over the next ten days to come, I am confident, RON95 and diesel can be fixed at below RM2 a litre,” Ahmad had said after a briefing and dialogue on the Goods and Services Tax in Rembau, yesterday.

Johor property GLUT sparks blame game

Johor property GLUT sparks blame game
THE most talked about subject in Johor over the past year must surely be the "property market". This was the talking point at most coffee shops, around dinner tables or at the pantry counters at corporate offices in Johor Baru.
It is rather awkward for Johoreans to be drawn into this "property talk" because only not too long ago we used to mock our cousins across the Causeway for their near obsession with dwelling places and abodes.
Every time you meet a Singaporean, the conversation inevitably would switch to how the islanders are desperately yearning to "upgrade" from the republic's Housing Development Board (HDB) flats to condominium living.
Visiting our homes in Johor, they would turn green with envy as they scan the sheer space of our houses and the supposedly "incredibly cheap" prices we paid to own these landed properties.
Of course, with so much land at our disposal here, we never really fancied high-rise condominium living with all the so-called luxury amenities that come with it.
But the trend is somewhat changing now due in part to the irresistible influence from Singapore ... what with the daily bombardment of Singapore TV advertising of new condo launches.
Hence, it comes as no surprise that the quest for high-end apartment living in Johor Baru is now often the topic of conversation at private gatherings.
While condo developments are not new in Johor Baru, the appeal was never really evident before. This was best manifested by the many vacant and some abandoned condo projects strewn all across the state capital a few years ago.
Only now do we see a revival of sorts in the condo market.
The turning point must surely be the entry of big-time China developers early this year, who have suddenly made high-rise condo living so much more appealing with their spectacular developments.
The size and scope of their projects, accentuated by lavish design and landscaping, were simply too hard to resist ... not to mention their big-budget marketing and advertising campaigns and generous freebies to lure buyers.
The JB property sector, as we knew it before, has seen an unprecedented transformation within a relatively short time.
The style, grandeur, sophistication and speed of these foreign companies has literally shaken the local market ... to the extent that local developers are now in a daze and still not sure what had hit them.
Such has been the dramatic transformation of the property landscape in Johor Baru over these past 12 months ... truly spectacular and incredible!
But now comes the headache.
According to Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin, too many condos are now chasing too few buyers. Consequently, the state government has decided to put a freeze on new approvals.
It seems some 86,000 units of up-market apartments have been approved for construction, although Johor only needs about 26,000 units to satisfy demand.
This mismatch in supply and demand would not have come about if the state government, through its local authorities, had monitored the situation in the first place.
Local councils like the Johor Baru City Council (MBJB) and Johor Baru Central Municipal Council (MBJBT) are only too happy to grant approvals to developers because it means revenue for them.
Indeed, it is no secret that the MBJBT, in particular, is among the richest local authorities in the country with endless approvals for not only condo developments, but all manner of property projects.
This revenue, of course, goes direct into the state's coffers, which explains why the mentri besar, when tabling the 2015 State Budget, proudly boasted that Johor has now amassed reserves totalling RM2.764 billion since December 2013.
Even a cursory review of the state's accounts will show that a sizeable portion of the RM420.22 million revenue in 2014 alone, actually came from property development.
This is a sector heavily regulated by the state and federal governments, with a thousand-and-one fees, dues and charges levied on developers at every stage of the tedious and protracted project approval process.
But the bottom line is that the government makes good money from this industry, which is why the local authorities saw no reason to check, monitor, stagger or even regulate the number of condo units coming into the market.
Like a conveyor belt endlessly churning out goods in a factory, they kept giving their stamp of approval for serviced apartments and condos, with no fear of the consequences of a glut.
Only now have they come to their senses. But instead of taking responsibility for this sorry state of affairs, they are putting the blame on the so-called "greedy" developers. - Sundaily

Najib drops by for 'NASI DAGANG' at roadside stall

Najib drops by for 'NASI DAGANG' at roadside stall
PEKAN - Customers who were having breakfast at a 'nasi dagang' stall beside the Kuantan-Pekan road this morning were surprised to find that one of the customers was the country's number one leader.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak, who was on his way to attend a mass circumcision ceremony at the Pekan parliamentary level, had asked his convoy to stop by at the stall in Ubai, Pekan to enjoy the 'Nasi Dagang Ubai' which is famous among the residents in Kuantan and Pekan.
He spent almost 20 minutes to enjoy the food and talk to the other customers before visiting another stall nearby.
Najib's presence attracted the attention of members of the public who later took the opportunity to chat and have their photographs taken with the prime minister, who is also the Member of Parliament for Pekan.
In his speech at the Pekan parliamentary level mass circumcision ceremony at the Pekan Convention Hall later, he said the opportunity to have breakfast and mingle with the people was a personal satisfaction for himself.
"For politicians like me, it is not the success of a major policy that gives me satisfaction, but more than that, it is the small thing such as this that gives satisfaction right up to my heart.
"This way, I can get close to the rakyat in a more special way," he said.
Meanwhile, the owner of Warung Nasi Dagang Ubai, Rosli Omar, 52, said that he was proud and happy because the number one national leader was willing to stop by and visit his stall and to chat with him.
"All this while, I only watched the prime minister's convoy pass my stall whenever he had any event in Pekan. However, he had unexpectedly dropped by today and chatted with me," said Rosli who had opened the stall since 1998.
After the circumcision program, Najib also spent about half-an-hour to visit his old friend, Datuk Dr Abdul Manaf Abdullah, 72, who was a former State Assemblyman for Kuala Pahang, at Kampung Mengkasar, here.
According to one of Abdul Manaf's children, Azman Abdul Manaf, 41, although his father was sickly, he could still recognise Najib just by listening to his voice.
"Other than asking about my father, the Prime Minister also had time to recall their past experiences," he told Bernama , here.
Dr Abdul Manaf had served as the State Assemblyman for Kuala Pahang for two terms beginning in 1986.
Prior to this, Azman said, his father had also held the post of Umno Youth head for the Pekan division besides having served as secretary and treasurer for the Pekan Umno division. – Bernama

CLEARLY SEDITIOUS: Tearing down X'mas banner is un-Islamic - lawmakers from both sides of divide slam uncouth Perkasa

CLEARLY SEDITIOUS: Tearing down X'mas banner is un-Islamic - lawmakers from both sides of divide slam uncouth Perkasa
PETALING JAYA - Lawmakers condemned the action of Malay right-wing Perkasa members in tearing down a Christmas banner at the Perak DAP headquarters on Friday.
They said the group should not have taken the law into their own hands even if they disagreed with Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng's contention over the use of 'Allah' by non-Muslims.
"One should not act based on emotion when it involves religious matters. If they are not satisfied they should bring it to the court," Titiwangsa Umno MP Datuk Johari Abdul Ghani told The Star Online.
He added that the group should respect the beliefs of others in order to maintain peace and harmony in a multiracial society.
On Friday, the banner with Christmas and New Year messages that was hung outside the Perak DAP headquarters was torn down by the group.
Lim had reportedly said that there was no ban on non-Muslims in Penang using the word 'Allah', pointing out that fatwas and the Administration of Religion of Islam (Penang) Enactment 2004 do not apply to non-Muslims.
The Penang Perkasa chapter had also lodged 25 police reports against Lim.
Shah Alam PAS MP Khalid Samad said there was "nothing Islamic" in the action of the group as the religion never taught its followers to resort to violence.
"What Perkasa did had tarnished the image of Islam and this is what happens when one uses religion to fulfill their agenda," he said.
He said the group should expect the differing views of other parties particularly on religion.
"If they want others to respect their views, then they should show some respect to others," Khalid said, calling for action to be taken against the group. - Asiaone

Jakim invites 25 Prominent Malays for DIALOGUE

Jakim invites 25 Prominent Malays for DIALOGUE
PUTRAJAYA - The Islamic Development Department (JAKIM) has invited members of the 25 former high-ranking civil servants for a dialogue on the status and practices of Islamic laws in the country.
Following their open letter to Prime Minister Najib Razak and the government to engage in an open dialogue on the laws and moderation, the department said it had contacted a representative from the group on the matter.
"The issues raised (by the group) touched on contentions relating to Islamic law practices in the country that was aired on the media recently,
"The department has contacted the party to hold a discussion and dialogue on the matter at hand," it said in a statement to the media today.
The meeting was scheduled to be held on Tuesday Dec 24 at the department's headquarters in Presint 2.
However, the department said the representative contacted had informed them that the group had yet to plan any attendance at the meeting.
The "liberal group", comprising retired top civil servants, including former ministry secretary-generals among the ranks, has been hot on the heels against right-wing groups such as Perkasa and Isma, labelling the two as extremists.
The 25 Eminent Malays are a group comprising prominent personalities who recently called for rational dialogue on numerous issues, including the position of Islam in a constitutional monarchy. - NST

Dr M erred – It is Umno, not Malays who are ‘grovelling’

MP from DAP accuses Mahathir Mohamad of resorting to race-baiting and fear-mongering to drum up waning support of the Malays.
dr mahathir_new_300PETALING JAYA: Lashing out at former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad for saying Malays had become a “minority” in the country, Zairil Khir Johari said it was Umno and not Malays who were grovelling and bending over backwards to get some semblance of support after faring badly in the last general election.
The DAP leader said, “With only 47 per cent of the popular vote won, the Umno-led coalition is effectively a government without a popular mandate.
“Following their disappointing electoral performance, it is Umno that has been grovelling and bending over to right-wing nationalist lobby groups such as Perkasa and Isma.”
Zairil, who is the MP for Bukit Bendera also said Umno and Mahathir were simply resorting to desperate measures because the country’s economic situation was in tatters.
He said, “Unable to fend off right-wing pressure and without a clear economic agenda in the face of a weakening ringgit, depressed commodity prices and the prospect of inflation and suppressed domestic consumption following the implementation of the upcoming GST, it is no surprise that Umno and Dr Mahathir is resorting in desperation to race-baiting and fear-mongering in order to drum up waning support.”
Accusing Mahathir of sinking to new lows, Zairil said Mahathir’s latest statements were merely an “exercise in deception” because far from becoming a “minority” in their own country, Malays had never been more dominant.
“Contrary to Dr Mahathir’s proposition, Malay dominance in every sphere of Malaysian society is actually at its peak.
“Politically, every significant government post, from the prime minister of the Federation to 12 out of the 13 state chief ministers, is held by Malays.
He also pointed out “Malay dominance” in the police force, the civil service and the army, saying Malays also made up the majority on the population, “recording a fertility rate that is one and a half times more than the Chinese.”
Zairil, who is also DAP’s Assistant National Publicity Secretary, said that from an economical standpoint, the share of equity of the Malays had also grown by “leaps and bounds” under the New Economic Policy.
Zeroing in on the number of largely Malay-dominated GLCs in the country, Zairil said, “According to the Asian Development Bank, Government-linked-companies’ share of market capitalisation of the Bursa Malaysia and the benchmark Kuala Lumpur Composite Index stands at 36 per cent and 54 per cent respectively.”
He also said the special position Malays enjoyed was “constitutionally enshrined”, adding that any potential amendments required two-thirds majority approval in Parliament as well as the approval of Malay Rulers.
He added, “This fail-safe (strategy) effectively means that there is no conceivable threat to the Malays in this country.”