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M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

My Photo
Location: Morgan Hill, California, United States

Malaysian-born Bakri Musa writes frequently on issues affecting his native land. His essays have appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek, International Herald Tribune, Education Quarterly, SIngapore's Straits Times, and The New Straits Times. His commentary has aired on National Public Radio's Marketplace. His regular column Seeing It My Way appears in Malaysiakini. Bakri is also a regular contributor to th eSun (Malaysia). He has previously written "The Malay Dilemma Revisited: Race Dynamics in Modern Malaysia" as well as "Malaysia in the Era of Globalization," "An Education System Worthy of Malaysia," "Seeing Malaysia My Way," and "With Love, From Malaysia." Bakri's day job (and frequently night time too!) is as a surgeon in private practice in Silicon Valley, California. He and his wife Karen live on a ranch in Morgan Hill. This website is updated twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays at 5 PM California time.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Towards A Competitive Malaysia #127

[Please note that the next posting will be on November 18, 2009. MBM]

Chapter 19: Islam: The Solution, Not The Problem

Model Plural Society

Islam entered the Malay world through trade and not by the sword. This explains in part why Malays have always espoused the more tolerant version of the faith. The increasing fundamentalism of the faith in Malaysia that is prevalent today is a recent phenomenon. The ancient Malay empire at Malacca, located in the pathway of the maritime trade between east and west, was host to many foreign visitors and cultures. The Malays there, like inhabitants of trading centers elsewhere, were remarkably cosmopolitan.

Throughout its history, Malaysia has been open to other cultures, from the early Arab and Indian traders to the European colonialists. Walk along any Malaysian street today and you would likely find a mosque, a church, Chinese temple, and Hindu shrine.

Colonialism disturbed this equilibrium through the massive influx of immigrants and the consequent deliberate “divide and conquer” policy of segregating the various communities. This segregation is now returning, this time voluntarily, and with it, the lessening of tolerance.

Malaysians also have minimal tolerance to alternative lifestyles, in particular the gay lifestyle. Former Prime Minister Mahathir openly condemned homosexuals and homosexuality. Former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim was sacked for his alleged homosexuality. I would rather that he had been fired for being incompetent or corrupt.

For Malays, there is yet another manifestation of intolerance, against those whose views of Islam are at variance to that of their own. The government never hesitates in using the ISA to incarcerate those whose views on Islam differ from the official version. Even supposedly enlightened Muslim scholars are infected with this intolerance. At the International Islamic University you would need a special dispensation, and would be watched very closely, should you ask to read books on Shiism (which are kept under lock and key). So much for open inquiry, the hallmark of a university!

Those shortcomings notwithstanding, Malaysia remains an exemplary model of racial and cultural tolerance. If only other Muslim (or non-Muslim) countries would emulate Malaysia and treat their minorities in like fashion, they would gain not only greater peace and stability, but also reap the benefits of the talent of their minority citizens. Unfortunately, many Muslim countries have difficulty tolerating even their fellow Muslims who do not subscribe to the majority school of Islam. Pakistan continually harasses its Shiite and Ismaili citizens. In Iraq, the Shiites are battling the Sunnis, and both are clashing with the Kurds. All are Muslims, of course!

Similarly, if non-Muslim countries like Thailand and the Philippines were to treat their Muslim minorities as well as Malaysia does, the separatist movements in Southern Thailand and Mindanao would dissipate. Muslims constitute a sizable minority in both countries, but you would not know that by looking at their elite class.

America and Malaysia have learned not only to tolerate but more importantly value diversity, rightly recognizing it as a valuable asset. Others have yet to learn this elementary lesson; consequently, their diversity has by default become a dangerous liability.

Next: Revamping Islam


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Assalamualaikum w.b.h. Dr. M. Bakri Musa,

The last time I surfed the internet was to write a comment on http://www.studentworldassembly.org/Discussions/forumdisplay.php?f=23 and apply for membership in peace-seeking environmental groups; Greenpeace and the Green Belt Movement. Prior to that, the last time was to write comments on Yusmadi Yussof's and Teresa Kok's blogs.

Looking at your recent post, I suggest Muslims in multi-racial and multi-religious nations read Prof. Hashim Mehat's brilliant work: Islamic Criminal Law and Criminal Behaviour (Kuala Lumpur : Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia, 1993). A book that I've been reading for the past 15 years.

I am neither gay nor bisexual nor do I espouse any criminal activity but I sincerely believe that the defence and promotion of the respect and right of life and liberty will further enhance the need for a dual legal system in Malaysia with one based on positive laws and the other on syariah principles without compromising Article 8(1) of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia. Dato' Seri Anwar Ibrahim (DSAI) and Dato' Nik Aziz Nik Mat seem to be supporting this school of thought.

Proclamation of Teheran, Final Act of the International Conference on Human Rights, Teheran, 22 April to 13 May 1968, U.N. Doc. A/CONF. 32/41 at 3 (1968):-
Solemnly proclaims that:
. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states a common understanding of the peoples of the world concerning the inalienable and inviolable rights of all members of the human family and constitutes an obligation for the members of the international community;

Peaceful settlement of disputes from my point of view can only be achieved if there's respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief. Using the oft-spoken words of leaders of the Pakatan Rakyat such as Dato' Seri Nizar Jamaluddin (Nizar Silver) and DSAI:- Only then can we truly be in the process of understanding one another (li ta'arafu).

The above should further enhance one's support for a keener awareness.

The above reasons are inter alia further reasons why I submitted my application to join Gabungan Pakatan Rakyat through Parti Keadilan Rakyat 2 weeks ago, amongst which I had voiced to a legal practitioner friend of mine, T. Kumar of Kuala Lumpur.

The abovestated opinion are my improvised version of Prof. Hashim Mehat's thoughts.

Hakimi bin Abdul Jabar
Batu Pahat, Johor.

1:14 AM  

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