Saturday, May 8, 2010

‘Gambling is prohibited in Islam’, but…

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In the name of God, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful; blessing and peace be upon Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.

"Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong; they are the ones to attain felicity." (Qur'an 3: 104)
***

ONE evening, on the way to town, I stopped and parked my motorcycle not far away from a row of three shops selling lottery tickets, including a four digit (4D) outlet. I sat on the bike, put my helmet on to hide my face and then watched activities inside the shops.

I watched that all its patrons were male. Perhaps the fairer sex weren’t interested in gambling. Or perhaps women were more pious than men.

Many of the customers wore helmets. It was easier for them that way; they parked their motorcycles at the entrance of the shop; jotted something on pieces of paper, then went to the counters to buy their tickets and were seen happily putting their tickets into their pockets. It would be over in just a minute.
I sensed some of them were Malays even though they hide part of their face beneth their helmets. When they spoke to their friends in thick Malay accent, they must be Malays, I thought. In Malaysia, a Malay is a Muslim, so Muslims too ‘had a fair share’ in gambling.

After spending a few minutes on the bike, I pushed it near the entrance of one of the shops. Then after looking around and feeling ‘very safe’, I alighted from the vehicle and walked inside the shop. I was nervous of being caught (what more if some enforcement officers from the religious department were around) and the news to make headlines in the papers as - a ‘pak haji' in helment caught in a 4D outlet.

I had a quick look around the shop. It was very easy to buy the tickets. You were only required to write your chosen numbers on a piece of paper, show it the counter sales girls, make payment and then tuck the tickets into your pocket or wallet and then walk away.

I noticed the girls did not bother to raise their heads, what more to ask whether the customers were Muslims or not since not far from the counter there was a small notice board with wordings, “Judi adalah haram di sisi agama Islam” (gambling is prohibited in Islam).

After about 15 seconds in the shop, I walked to my bike and sped off to town. The gambling premises were actually not far away from my house. It was about three kilometres away and situated near a busy road intersection. I knew a few Malay individuals from my kampung and nearby villagers who frequented the shops.

Notices with words ‘Judi adalah haram di sisi agama Islam’ had no effect on the Malay gamblers. They were not afraid, and as far as I knew, no one from my kampung had been caught buying lottery tickets.

In my opinion by merely putting a small notice board saying that ‘judi adalah haram di sisi agama Islam’ would only made it a laughing stock to hardcore gamblers. In our beloved country, enforcement is questionable; gambling outlets are multiplying at a frightening scale. Imagine in my small kampung on the outskirts of the city, there are several gambling premises!

If the authorities could not controlled this gambling activities among the rakyat especially among Muslims including the licensing aspect, what could be said about their commitment in working for the implementation of the Islamic laws such as ‘hudud’ for those involved in gambling and drinking.

From my readings, I found out many sectors including the government had tried hard to prevent Muslims from being involved in these sinful activities but in my opinion it is not enough and they are old stories. Examples of such move were reported as below:

New Straits Times, Friday, December 31, 1999, Century Clips (Millennium Moments)

May 5, 1983 (Page 70)

The Pahang Islamic Religious Affairs and Malay Customs Council agrees to ban Muslims from entering the Genting Highlands casino. The ban, explains Menteri Besar Datuk Mohamed Najib Razak, will be based on the Administration of Islam and Malay Customs Enactment 1982. Under Section 169, offenders may be tried in the syariah court and, if found guilty, fined not more than $200 or jailed for not more than three months - or both. The Sultan of Pahang who is State religious head, declares the casino out of bounds to Malaysian Muslims effective June 8.

April 4, 1990 (Millennium Moments, Page 79)

The end of an institution is nigh when the Social and Welfare Services Lotteries Board is directed by the Government to wind up its activities by September. Social Welfare Lotteries tickets, which first went on sale in 1950, will no longer be available. A Ministry of Finance statement explains that this step is in line with the Government’s aim of controlling and reducing gambling, and with the country’s assimilation of Islamic values. Lotteries operated by private companies, though, will be unaffected. The Lottery’s first draw was conducted in 1951. Although millions in prize money have since, changed hands, not all claim their winnings: $55 million has been left unclaimed.

Yes, previous administrations including the Pahang State government headed by Datuk Najib Razak had tried to contain gambling among Muslims but this recent news about sports betting under review in Malaysia made many Malaysian especially Muslim leaders including from PAS, very furious. It was an irony as the Federal Government is now headed by Najib Razak (now Dato' Seri), the former Menteri Besar of Pahang who purportedly stoped Muslims from entering Genting casino.

AFP, Mar 24, 2010

“KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia plans to review proposals to legalise sports betting ahead of the World Cup finals in South Africa, a report said on Wednesday.

"There are proposals, but we will see first," Prime Minister Najib Razak was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times.

The newspaper said sports betting may legalised in time for the World Cup which is played from June 11 to July 11.

It said the Berjaya Group, a major Malaysian conglomerate with holdings ranging from lottery to casino operations, was seeking approval from the government to operate sports betting activities in the country.

Illegal betting on football is rife in Malaysia and the World Cup is expected to see a surge with millions of dollars changing hands.

The Berjaya Group made a similar proposal a few years ago, but then Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi shot down the request. Gambling is forbidden in Islam and Malaysia has a large Muslim population.

A senior Malaysian sports official said that the government could channel the revenue generated from legalising betting to promote sports.”

The big question is why the Umno-led Government headed by Najib is considering legalization of sports betting in Malaysia? If the move was to counter illegal betting that could lead huge income to the government, it is a sad episode for a model Muslim country like Malaysia as claimed by several Malaysian leaders.

The move would destroy many families especially among the Malays/Muslims; the menace of having legally gambling outlets such as 4D could not be controlled by society what more by legalising sports betting such as in the coming FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

To captains and tycoons of newspapers industries especially from the Malay press; please stop publishing advertisements and SMSes of 4D results. To editors who write and spoke brilliantly and vocally about decaying morals among youngster please do something to block gambling advertisements in your papers!

Malays are now top in almost negative traits such as dadah (drugs) offenders and with the introducing of legal spots betting, they are sure to secure the top spot in having the highest number of addicted gamblers, particularly football betting. Perhaps this is in line with the Malaysia boleh (can) slogan.

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