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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.

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Islam In Label, But Not Content - Part I

 Islam In Label, But Not Content

M. Bakri Musa


First of Two Parts:  The Puerile Pursuit Of Islamization Of Knowledge


June 21, 2023


Tayyip Erdogan, recently elected to his third term as President of Turkey, was once asked why he did not add “Islamic” to the name of his Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) in view of its religious roots and aspirations. “Ak” means clean, white, or unblemished in Turkish. He replied that he omitted it so failures of his party would not be viewed as that of Islam. Malay leaders, politicians, and intellectuals would do well to ponder Erdogan’s wisdom.


            In Malaysia today the glaring failures of the unabashedly Islamic party in Kedah, Kelantan, and Terengganu are now seen, more so by non-Malays, as the failures of Islam. Instead it should be of corrupt incompetent Malay leaders and politicians riding the Islamic camel. The Islamist Chief Minister of Kedah is claiming Penang so he could levy RM150 million assessment annually. More productive if he were to learn how the island became developed and prosperous. The incompetence of Kelantan’s Islamic government is the kopi susu (café au lait) flowing out of the taps there. Meanwhile Terengganu’s PAS Chief Minister saw no problem in selling state land to an entity lead by his wife at a mere fraction of its market price. Elsewhere that is corruption, with the pair jailed. However as per PAS Islam, the couple’s bonanza is borkat (blessing) and rezki (bounty) from Allah. Such perversion of our great faith!


            Malay intellectuals too are not spared this obsession with religion, reflected in their puerile pursuit of the “Islamization Of Knowledge” (IOK). Belatedly, recognizing the futility of their efforts, they have now relabeled that as the “Integration Of Knowledge.” Same initials; same fraudulent content.


            Syed Naquib Alatas was instrumental for IOK with the publication of his 1982 book Islam And Secularism. He challenged the assumption of the universality of modern social sciences’ insights. Later, the University of British Columbia’s Joe Henrich too characterized much of social science findings as WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic), based on the skewed samples studied. IOK notwithstanding, it is difficult to accept that there is a uniquely “Islamic” chemistry or quantum physics. There are consequences to this IOK, as with making Malays averse to science as reflected in the declining numbers pursuing the subject.


            Naguib’s IOK occurred at about the same time as Edward Said’s critique of Western scholarship on the colonized world. While Said’s Orientalism furthered our understanding of the West’s reading of “others,” Naquib’s Islam and Secularism led to the intellectual parochialism of Muslim social scientists.


            The irony is that both Naquib and Said are products of the very Western institutions that they had criticized – the former Sandhurst, McGill, and London University; the latter, Princeton and Harvard. I cannot imagine Al Azhar producing such daring innovative thinkers.


            It would be more fruitful for Muslim intellectuals to emulate their ancient luminaires. The Al Kindis, Ibn Rushds, and Al Farabis did not bother to “Islamize” Greek philosophy. They studied and absorbed it, later making their own seminal contributions that led to, among others, the “Golden Age of Islam.” They were not perturbed learning from the atheistic and polytheistic Greeks. Knowledge is knowledge; it ultimately emanates and is a blessing from Allah. That He chose to dispense the wisdom on the concept of zero to a Hindu is not for us to question but to learn and benefit.


            China is poised to be the largest economy and strongest power, achieved within a generation or two. An unparalleled achievement! Deng Xiaoping and his fellow leaders enthusiastically absorbed Western capitalism and knowledge, like ancient Muslims, Greek philosophy. The Chinese did not bother with “Sinofication” of Western knowledge. Now that they are successful and powerful they can assert with great confidence that Western norms and values are not universal. Many are listening, and agreeing; the power of success!


            Dispense with IOK (or now, Integration of Knowledge) and the associated futile obsession with the minutiae of halalharam, or maqasid Syariah. Emulate the Turkish ak; bring justice and development to the ummahThat would be halal whatever your fiqh. Indulge in corruption and it would be haram, per Muslim as well as non-Muslim kitabs.


Next:  Second Of Two Parts:  Folly Of Islamic Economics And Finance


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