A Modest Proposal for the Champions of Ketuanan Melayu: Part III


A Modest Proposal for the Champions of Ketuanan Melayu

Last of Three Parts:  Leveraging Residential Schools

by Dr.M. Bakri Musa, Morgan-Hill, California

bakri-musaIn Parts One and Two I suggested that we should focus on enhancing Malay competitiveness and productivity instead of forever begrudging the success of non-Malays or bemoaning the presumed deficiencies of our race and culture. We should begin with our young, the best of them, those at our residential schools. Have high expectations of them, put them through a demanding program, and expose them to rigorous competition.]

The key to any high performing school is the teachers. Both Korean schools (Daewon and Minjuk mentioned earlier) actively sought graduates of top universities to be on their staff. Such highly qualified teachers inspire their students. And when it comes to writing letters of recommendations, those teachers carry much weight, especially when students apply to their teacher’s alma mater.

You do not need and it is impossible for all your teachers to have sterling credentials, only that there should be a critical number of them to set the tone and change the culture. Besides, there are many excellent teachers who are graduates of lesser universities.

mckkThe Malay College Kuala Kangsar, Perak

Look back at MCKK of yore, with Oxbridge and London University graduates on its staff. At KYUEM, a local college prep school with exemplary record of student achievements, most of its teachers are local but there are sufficient graduates of top universities, including the headmaster, to set the pace and establish a high academic ambience.

On another level, it would be difficult for a local graduate to understand the intricacies and nuances of applying to top foreign universities, or the challenges of attending one.

With the present pay scheme there is little hope to recruit such top graduates. This is where the private sector could help by sponsoring highly educated foreign teachers. Petronas sponsors Formula One and the KL Philharmonic. Why not economics teachers for MCKK? Such “endowed” appointments are very common at American schools and colleges. If MCKK were to charge wealthy parents it could also hire its own foreign teachers.

You do not have to pay as high a salary as in Singapore or South Korea as Malaysia has much cheaper living expenses. Thailand has no difficulty getting excellent expatriate teachers at US$30-40K per annum.

For every three students we send abroad, we could recruit two American teachers and benefit many more students at home. In terms of actual loss of foreign exchange, it is far cheaper to recruit one American teacher than to send a student abroad as that teacher’s salary would be spent locally with the attendant multiplier effect, while the entire student’s scholarship money is expended abroad.

Such highly-paid foreigners would not generate resentment from their local colleagues. Local teachers at KYUEM are paid less than their expatriate colleagues yet they do not resent the preferential treatment. Of course if you do get a Malaysian who is a graduate of a top university and is an excellent teacher, then he or she too should be paid as well as the foreigner. There should be differential pay based on the quality of the teacher, not citizenship.

Apart from recruiting from abroad, there are Malaysians who are graduates of top universities whom, given the augmented pay, SBPs could employ as teachers, or at least tap as mentors.

Policy Makers and Executors

Stable, competent, committed, and inspiring leadership; those are the essential ingredients to a successful organization, more so a school. The headship of SBP should be a terminal appointment. There should be nothing else after that except retirement and glowing in the reflected glory of your students’ success. The appointment should never be a stepping stone for someone on his way to be Undersecretary for Procurement at the Ministry.

The headmaster should also serve for a sufficient term. As Howell noted, “No headmaster can leave his mark on a school and have a lasting influence on its development in under five or six years.” He or she must also be a graduate of a respectable university, again to set the tone. He need not have an advanced degree. Given the choice, all things being equal, I prefer someone with a good bachelor’s degree over a candidate with a higher degree but from a less stellar institution.<

Like great individuals, little is known about nurturing great institutions. One thing is certain however. Like individuals, if institutions are held under tight control and not given the freedom to grow, they will quickly become sclerotic and unresponsive. The job of policymakers is to select capable individuals to helm these schools. Once that is done, they should be given the leeway to carry out their mission without micromanagement from the ministry.

This means SBPs must have full autonomy–academic, administrative, and financial. They hire and fire the teachers. The ministry’s lever should be at the macro level, as with selecting the board of governors and through funding.

SBP’s measure of success should only be this:  number of their students ending up at top universities. All other measures, except where they contribute to this singular goal, are irrelevant. At Speech Day the headmaster should be announcing which top universities his or her graduating students would be attending, just like the graduation exercises at top American prep schools.

The policy does not end with these students being accepted to top colleges. They must also be assured of a scholarship and then be given the freedom to choose whatever field of study. If they are smart enough to be admitted to those top institutions, then they are smart enough to plan their future wisely, certainly better than those folks at JPA, MARA, or Khazanah.

It pains me to see bright young Malays pursue a course of study for which they have minimal passion because that is the scholarship they were being awarded, based on supposed “national interest.”

Providing scholarships for matriculation (sixth form) is misplaced. I would wait after the students have been accepted to a top university. That would free them to choose whatever route (matrikulasi, twinning programs, Sixth Form, IB, or A level) that best suits them. Meanwhile use those funds to support IB and “A” level programs at SBPs to benefit many more students.

After they have graduated, do not tie their hands with rigid rules like having to return immediately or work for a specific entity. Grant them some freedom. If they are offered graduate work or a job abroad, let them. Do not stand in the way of their pursuing their aspirations.

The only stipulation is that they should serve the nation in whatever capacity they see fit for a specified period during the first decade after their graduation. Only when they fail to do so would they have to reimburse their sponsor.<

GLC and Private Sector Participation

Khazanah through its subsidiary already has a successful model–KYUEM. It prepares students for “A” level. That is more productive in developing quality human capital than the route Petronas and Tenaga chose in setting up their own universities, which are nothing more that puffed-up technical colleges. Khazanah is also involved in joint ventures with the government through the “smart school” programs.

There are other ways for private sector involvement. One is the current system of letting anyone set up a private college and charge whatever the market will bear. That would benefit only the few wealthy Malays.

An alternate route would be for Khazanah to pursue its own path a la Singapore’s Raffles Education Group. Freed from governmental strictures, Khazanah could lead the way with its string of prep schools modeled after KYUEM. Without the residential component, the cost would be considerably less. Then it could proceed to a university, modeled not after local ones but the likes of the American University in Beirut or the Aga Khan University in Pakistan.

Education is as valid a sector for private investment as tourism or health. It is doubly profitable, enhancing both human and financial capitals. It would certainly be more productive than pouring money into a floundering airline.

It is time for Malays to discard the old destructive narrative of the “lazy native” imposed upon us by the colonialists and slavishly perpetuated by our intellectually-indolent “nationalists.” When the colonialists concocted that narrative, they benefited from it. It was their rationale for bringing in hordes of foreign indentured labor. When our latter-day Hang Tuahs aped that, they only made a monkey out of themselves. What benefit do they derive by denigrating our culture and nature?

4th PM of MalaysiaWe need a modern relevant narrative, grounded in solid social science. Our problems stem from our being not competitive and productive. Fix that and we solve our problem. Bend our rebong now and a generation hence our bamboo groves would be more to our liking. By then we could not care less whether the likes of Perkasa’s Ibrahim Ali and Tun Mahathir would eat their words. They and their myths would have long been forgotten.

Stanford University, Palo AltoStanford University, Palo Alto, California

As for me, Insha’ Allah (God willing) I look forward to one day meeting many young Malays at San Francisco Airport on their way to Stanford and Berkeley. That woulbe the sublime and truest expression of Ketuanan Melayu.

Whither Malaysia, asks Balan Moses


September 19, 2014

Whither Malaysia, asks Balan Moses

http://news.abnxcess.com/2014/09/wither-malaysia/

Balan-Moses-ENG NEW-1The 51st Malaysia Day came and went, and life as we know it in Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak continued without much change. It has been pretty much the same for decades with little achieved by way of emotional attachment between the two parts of the country separated by nearly 1,000 miles of sea.

While a large number of East Malaysians work and study in the peninsular, the same may not be said about Orang Semenanjung working and studying in Sabah or Sarawak. I know of students from the peninsular studying at universities in Sabah and Sarawak but am not sure of their overall numbers. I also know of members of the uniformed forces from Sabah and Sarawak stationed here.

I made my first acquaintance with Sarawakians in the mid-70s at Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang where they proved to be a friendly but sometimes rambunctious lot, especially after a few drinks. They generally wore their emotions on their sleeves and what you saw was what you got.

Malaysia2After learning about them in geography at school and from stamps in the early and mid 60s, it was refreshing to meet some of them in person and know more about their culture and traditions.Malaysians in the Peninsular in general still don’t know much about their brethren in Sabah and Sarawak and vice versa with the same ignorance and prejudice that existed decades ago still prevalent on both sides.

The Semenanjung Malaysians still at large look at Sabahans and Sarawakians as distant cousins best kept at arm’s length, a sentiment probably stronger in the two states across the South China Sea with the traditional suspicion of “Orang Malaya” still very much alive and kicking.

The fear that Peninsular folk will change the East Malaysian way of life due to their numerical superiority, stronger finances and an arguably better knowledge of the twists and turns of life still persists. The safeguards for Sabah and Sarawak contained in the points of agreement between Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak is testimony to the 51 year old fact that that Sabahans and Sarawakians have always felt the need to be protected from us across the pond.

I would like to talk about the possible reasons for the formation of Malaysia in 1963 by leaders from Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore.I will not go into Singapore’s exit from Malaysia in 1965 as that is a topic to be elaborated upon in a future column.

First Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, probably foresaw the advantages that Malaya would accrueTunku Abdul Rahman from a merger of North Borneo, Sarawak, Brunei and Singapore with their relative strengths in terms of population and natural resources.

Sabah and Sarawak would have been on the radar of both Indonesia and Philippines prior to the formation of Malaysia as later events would prove true.Tunku, the great statesman and visionary that he was, would have seen the possibility of the larger neighbours eyeing the huge tracts of land in Borneo at some point and pre-empted them with his Malaysia proposal.

That it was taken up by the majority of Sabahans and Sarawakians was proof that their sympathies lay with Malaysia with their common British heritage and not with the Philippines with its Spanish legacy or Indonesia with its Dutch colonial background.

Why then is there limited assimilation among West and East Malaysians? Is this by accident or design? The very fact that Sabahans and Sarawakians asked for and received special privileges at the formation of Malaysia is probably proof that they wanted safeguards for the long term to preserve their way of life and practices.

Can we expect this to remain for the foreseeable future?Yes. This is a distinct possibility as East Malaysian politicians by and large agree that they want to rule their land through home-grown political parties although UMNO has anchored itself in Sabah. Sarawak is a different kettle of fish as the people of the Land of the Hornbill have always jealously guarded their relative independence by supporting indigenous political parties. The exception would be the DAP which has won several seats in the state largely through Chinese support.

So where does this leave Malaysia in its 51st year? Probably where it has been for some time now with the cracks in the political and cultural mosaic intact for years to come. The large number of East Malaysians in the peninsular, however, engenders greater assimilation with the Orang Malaya with more intermarriage bringing both parts of Malaysia closer.

I, for one, would like to speed up the process with greater interaction despite the daunting distance between us. How shall we take this off?

Malaysia is in Ostrich Mode over University Rankings


June 20 2014

Taipei, Taiwan

Malaysia in Ostrich mode over University Rankings

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

By KT Maran

The Times Higher Education Asia University Rankings 2014 has shown that for the second consecutive year, Malaysia’s public universities have failed to make it to the top    100.

image

Malaysia’s PM Najib and his Deputy take Education Lightly

However our Education Minister is making good progress on thinking up a perfect excuse for it. In his response to the failure of local public universities to make the list, Education Minister II Idris Jusoh said the decline did not reflect the local tertiary education levels in the country.

He said emphasis should be placed on the entire learning process rather than rankings alone. “Rankings don’t mean everything, although we can improve (our performance). We must be realistic when aiming for a position,” he said.

The nation’s continuous failure to feature in any university ranking despite a huge education budget every year has not gone down well with the public. The Education Ministry received RM38.7 billion in 2013 and has been allocated RM54 billion this year, the biggest allocation yet. However we keep making excuses for the deplorable academic performance of our Malaysian Universities. Our neighbour Singapore is ranked second.

First class infrastructure alone is not enough to pull us out of this rut. What about the mentality of our students? What has happened to striving hard and putting in the effort to achieve academic excellence?

It does seem we are good in giving excuses year in and year out for our dismal academic performance. The world is laughing at us and our ministers are doing us no favours with their rationale either.

The Muslim World’s Challenges–Part 1


May 28, 2014

The Muslim World’s Challenges

By Dr Farhan Ahmad Nizami

ISLAMIC PAST: Legacy was built on Muslims’ confidence in Islam, sustained by material prosperity, combined with political and legal stability

Dr Farhan Ahmad NizamiFOR about a thousand years, roughly from the 7th century onwards, the people under Islamic rule made striking advances in their material and intellectual culture.

The contribution of those advances to modern Western philosophy, sciences and technology has been extensively studied. But I want to speak about their distinctively Islamic qualities.

The area under Islamic influence stretched overland from the Atlantic in the west to the borders of China, and across the Indian Ocean to the islands of the Malay archipelago.

This vast area was commercially interconnected with much continuous and profitable exchange of goods. It was also culturally interconnected, with prodigious traffic in books and ideas, scholars and travellers.

Its people busied themselves in seeking knowledge and writing it down. So much so was this that, to this day, there remain huge quantities of manuscripts, from different ends of the Islamic world, yet to be catalogued and studied.

The regional diversity and assimilative embrace of Islam as a civilisation is manifest in the names by which great figures in Islamic scholarship are best known: al-Qurtubi, al-Fasi, al-Iskandari, al-Dimashaqi, al-Baghdadi, al-Isfahani, al-Bukhari, al-Dihlawi and al-Jawi.

The language of communication among scholars was mostly Arabic, with Persian and Turkish becoming important later in the east. This dominance of Arabic was not the result of any policy to diminish local languages. It was simply a gradual extension of the authority of the language of the Quran and its teachings.

Muslims believed that the way of life defined by the Quran summed up the best of the teachings of the past. They expected that non-Muslims, too, would have knowledge, skills and virtues. They expected to learn from them and to fit that learning with Islam.

Islamic civilisation thus self-consciously set out to co-exist with and absorb the cultures of others. It did so from a position of political strength.

The House of Wisdom (Bayt al-Hikma) in Baghdad, funded by the Caliph, is the best-known example of this attitude. Translations were commissioned of works in every branch of learning, from metaphysics to the science of making poisons. Once translated, these works were studied critically, then improved and extended.

The dominant streams in this flood of knowledge were Hellenic, Persian and Indian. The Chinese script proved too severe an obstacle to the absorption of Chinese philosophy and science. However, Chinese influences are found everywhere in the material culture of the Islamic world, in decorative motifs, and in the skills of making paper, ceramics, glass, metal-ware, textiles, dyes and drugs.

The Quran presented the teaching of all God’s messengers as a unified legacy. Muslims set out to harmonise older traditions of learning with that legacy. This effort was not universally admired.

In particular, the presentation of Islamic teachings in the style of Greek philosophy remained controversial for centuries. In the end, it had a more enduring influence on the medieval Christian world than on Islam.

Such controversies did not dampen Muslims’ self-confidence. In general, Islamic norms continued to encourage intellectual adventure and achievement. Muslims were aware of living in prosperous, stable societies, and comfortable with non-Muslim communities among them. They considered themselves forward-looking, inventive and multi-cultured.

Their best scholars made innovations of lasting importance in mathematics and experimental science, and applied them in technical instruments, manufacture, and engineering. And the wealthiest royal courts competed to own and display the results.

Al-Jazari’s famous water-clock illustrates this well. Its water-raising technology is Greek; the elephant, inside which the great vat of water is hidden, represents India, the rugs on its back are Persian; on top of the howdah sits an Egyptian phoenix; on its sides are conspicuously Chinese red dragons. This deliberately multicultural device was constructed shortly after the Crusades.

All that said, while Muslim societies were stable, their governments were often not: regime change was usually violent and disruptive. Politically, the Muslims became ever weaker and more divided.

Little now survives of their cultural self-confidence; even less remains of the personal and political skills they had developed to manage life alongside different communities and confessions.

Their ways of organising long-distance commerce and regulating free markets have vanished completely. The material remains of the rest — all the thinking in all the books, colleges, libraries and hospitals — interest only medievalists, museums, and tourists.

The past still has presence in the public spaces; you still hear the call to prayer, even in secularised city centres. There is still a feel of Islam in private homes and personal manners.

We can objectively map the movements of books, ideas and scholars from one end of the Islamic world to the other in every century until the modern period.

The recovery following the Crusades and Mongol conquests included the building of madrasa and colleges that taught a rich, varied curriculum.

There is little evidence of that during European colonial rule. The madrasa of that era were not well funded. They could afford to focus only on Islamic sciences narrowly defined.

For the rest of their education, Muslims had to leave the cultural space of Islam. A division became established between religious and secular education, between old and modern, with Islam on the side of the old. That division is at the heart of the present challenges facing Muslims in every part of the world.

When we memorialise the legacy of the Islamic past — when naming public institutions, or presenting past glories in books and museums — we should remember that this legacy was built on Muslims’ confidence in Islam.

This confidence was sustained by material prosperity, combined with a sufficient degree of political and legal stability. Without prosperity and stability, the constraints on political and economic decisions are too strong for people to make their own choices for their future.

We need only look at the difficulties in post-recession Europe to know that feeling powerless to shape the future is not special to Muslim societies. It is not related to their being Muslim but to the material conditions in which they are Muslim.

The end-goal is hardly a matter of dispute among the vast majority of Muslims. It is to re-establish connections between Islamic upbringing and education and modern secular, technical education.

The latter provides the means for individuals to make their way in the world, to have things to do in it and to enjoy doing them successfully. The former provides them with their religious orientation and identity.

Religious orientation is not itself the goal. The aim is not to have people identify as Muslims; the vast majority already do that. Rather, the aim is to enable them to prosper in the world in ways that express and test, inform and improve, their identity as Muslims.

As the Chinese saying puts it, the journey of a thousand miles begins from where your feet are. We in the Muslim world can only set out from where we stand in reality. That reality needs to be stated bluntly.

Today, Muslim identity is not sufficiently relevant to how things are done in the world, especially in the collective spheres of life.

Muslim identity is not the engine of prosperity, of either the production or the distribution of wealth. Muslim identity is not the engine of knowledge, of collecting it, or adding to it, or disseminating it. (This is true, rather unexpectedly, even of knowledge about the past legacy of Islam.)

Muslim identity is not the engine of political and legal order. Or rather, it is not so in a positive way. Instead, we see mainly negative expressions of it. We see it in a despairing withdrawal from the evils of power: in the attitude that the status quo, however bad, is still better than chaos.

We see it also in despairing violence intended to erase the status quo, without any labour of understanding and analysis about what will follow.

The end-goal is to make being Muslim relevant and effective in the quest for knowledge, in the quest for prosperity and in the quest for political order. Except in the sphere of personal courtesies and private concerns, being Muslim is no longer the currency of exchange neither among Muslims themselves, nor between them and non-Muslims.

To make it so again is a task of huge scale and complexity. Our first priority must be to establish institutions and forums so that the present challenges are properly identified, and then try to guide expectations towards realistic, achievable goals.

The hurdles in the way are real and substantial.First, there is the hurdle, as I said, of determining what is do-able and specifying it intelligently, in the light of local realities; in the way that sustains momentum towards the next objective; and without losing sight of the end-goal.

Second, there is the hurdle of co-ordinating effort with other societies and states. Priorities can vary sharply with local conditions. Therefore, there will be a need for trust among policymakers, with tolerance for variable levels of competence and energy.

Thirdly, there is the hurdle of rejection by those who oppose any attempt to bring religious concerns into the public sphere. The response will sometimes be concession, compromise and conciliation. At other times, it will take the form of steadfastly holding one’s ground. In either case, alert flexibility — the readiness to adjust to different circumstances — is essential.

Among general objectives, the most inclusive is to build up the commercial, financial, trade and cultural ties between Muslim societies.One measure of the need is the low values and volumes of bilateral trade between Muslim-majority countries, compared with their trade with non-Muslim countries.

Another measure is the low values and volumes of trade outside the dollar-dominated banking system.

Another is the low numbers of Muslims travelling for higher education from one Muslim country to another; the general preference, for those who can afford it, remains Europe or America.

Yet another measure is the massive inflow of cultural product from the non-Muslim into the Muslim world — the information and imagery people get from their televisions and computers; the advertising that influences the things they want to own; the time they give to sports and other entertainments.

All of this shapes people’s horizons, and their understanding of what is important and what is possible.

For the states that make up the Islamic world, the need to work together is clear. Modern technologies make it much easier to do that than it used to be. The sacrifices needed for cooperation to succeed are widely understood. But we should also highlight the benefits of a strengthened economic base in Muslim states, through increase in trade and long-term investments in human development.

The distribution of resources favours Muslim nations, but they lack the will and confidence to manage them to best advantage. If only because they are Muslim nations, their leaders have a special responsibility to nurture that will and confidence.

Their aspirations and policies should be consciously linked to the history, culture and faith that Muslims share. If enough far-sighted individuals have the courage of their Islamic convictions, what seems desirable but unrealistic can become a realistic and achievable goal.

Muslims are commanded to “bid to the good and forbid from the evil” (amr bi-l-ma`ruf wa-nahy `ani l-munkar). This entails commitment to the direction and quality of the whole social ethos. Not just traditional forms of family life and neighbourliness but also religiously valid ways of earning a living, co-operatively with others and with the natural environment.

As I mentioned, in the past, Muslims traded globally. The expansion of Islam’s influence followed the trade routes out of its Arabian heartland. For Muslims, economic effort is an integral part of responsible living.

We have a reliable record of how the Prophet and his companions went about discharging that responsibility. Muslims may not engage in practices that deliberately and systematically deprive others of their livelihood, and then, in response to a separate impulse, give charitably to relieve the distress their economic practice has generated.

Rather, the effort to do good works and the effort to create wealth must be sustained as a single endeavour. Both means and ends must be halal.

More Muslims need to join, with each other and with non-Muslims, in the urgent need to balance the creation and distribution of wealth so that a good life is available to all, including future generations.

Muslims’ efforts to develop techniques of financing and investment that are free of usury and uncertainty (speculation) are pertinent to the wider concerns about ethical investment, fair and genuinely free trade, and abolishing the export, through debt-slavery, of poverty, instability and pollution to the poorest and weakest on this earth.

We have seen over the last forty years massive growth in the stocks of Islamic financial capital. But these stocks are not being deployed to develop the economic capacity of Muslim countries. It seems that the wealthiest Muslims, individually or as sovereign powers, prefer the safe, quick returns from investment in the non-Muslim world.

In many Muslim states, economic infrastructure and activity remain linked to servicing the economies of former colonial powers. Those linkages are not sustained only by fear, but by individual and institutional inertia — by lack of will and imagination on the part of officials to take the necessary steps to put in place the needed skills and systems.

One reason that Muslims do not invest their wealth and talents in Muslim countries is that those countries are unstable, unsafe and unproductive to work in.

This vicious circle is not a function of those countries being Muslim: similar socio-economic conditions elsewhere have similar effects — an exodus of energy, talent and money.

Many Muslim states inherited their political boundaries from the colonial era. Those boundaries increased dependence on the colonial power to keep order. The anti-colonial struggle provided a shared history for communities separated by ethnic and religious differences. In the post-colonial era they have not been able to find common ground. Solidarity is not a precondition, but an outcome, of the effort to identify common purposes. It is something that has to be, and can be, constructed.

To make Muslim identity effective in the world, a major policy commitment must be to make justice and fairness the decisive value for all modes and levels of governance.

This means allowing independent centres of authority to emerge and recognising their concerns and aspirations. It means a redistribution of opportunities to acquire wealth and influence, so that decision-making is not concentrated in the same few hands.

This must be a process, not a gesture. It must be given the time it needs, according to local conditions, to happen gradually.

In this way all parties learn to trust and work with each other to mutual benefit. If government is seen to be in the service of the people as a whole, its security is guaranteed by them.

Tomorrow: Part II

Dr Farhan Ahmad Nizami presenting the Perdana Putrajaya Lecture at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre yesterday. Bernama pic

Penindasan Ilmu membantutkan Perkembangan Bangsa


May 21, 2014

Penindasan Ilmu membantutkan Perkembangan Bangsa

oleh  Zairil Khir Johari

Zairil Khir JohariIzinkan saya bermula dengan memetik sebuah anekdot masyhur yang dikisahkan di dalam Al-Quran. Kisah seorang insan yang mencari siapa Tuhannya. Beliau bermula dengan mempersoalkan amalan tradisional masyarakatnya yang menyembah berhala.

Pada malam hari, beliau melihat kepada bintang yang menyinari pekat malam, lalu bertanya: apakah bintang ini Tuhan? Namun, ternyata bintang itu terbenam di ufuk dunia menjelang subuh.

Lalu beliau melihat pula kepada bulan, bulat dan bercahaya, dan mengajukan soalan yang sama: apakah bulan ini Tuhan? Namun, bulan juga menghilang setelah terbit fajar dan diganti pula oleh matahari yang bersinar dengan lebih terang.

Apakah matahari ini sebenarnya Tuhan? Setelah matahari terbenam tatkala senja menyingsing, beliau menyedari bahawa Tuhan tidak mungkin menjadi objek dan simbol-simbol semata-mata tetapi adalah kekuasaan yang mengaturkan objek dan simbol-simbol ini. Maka, beliau akhirnya berkata:

“Wahai kaumku, sesungguhnya aku berlepas diri (bersih) dari apa yang kamu sekutukan dengan Allah. Sesungguhnya aku hadapkan mukaku kepada Allah yang menciptakan langit dan bumi, dengan cenderung kepada agama yang benar, dan aku bukan dari orang-orang yang menyekutukan Allah.”

Demikianlah pengembaraan spiritual Nabi Ibrahim mencari Tuhannya, sebagaimana yang dicatatkan dalam Surah Al-An‘am, ayat 74-79.

Walaupun saya bukan pakar agama, saya percaya bahawa kisah Nabi Ibrahim ini jelas menggambarkan bagaimana Islam adalah agama yang berasaskan sisi rasional yang mampu dihujahkan dengan logik.

Pada saya, perkara yang paling menarik dalam kisah tersebut, adalah pada waktu Nabi Ibrahim sedang menghadapi persoalan epistemelogi yang paling besar dalam sejarah ketamadunan manusia – persoalan kewujudan manusia – tiada campur tangan yang berlaku daripada Yang Maha Esa. Bukankah mudah andainya sekiranya malaikat (atau setidaknya Ustaz Azhar Idrus) diutuskan untuk memberikan jawapan kepada Nabi Ibrahim?

Sebaliknya, Allah dalam kebijaksanaanNya telah menyerahkan kepada Nabi Ibrahim untuk mencerap alam dan mencari kebenaran melalui kaedah kognitif dan empirikal. Malah, kaedah ini telah mengukuhkan lagi keyakinan Nabi Ibrahim.

Ini membuktikan bahawa Islam adalah lebih daripada dogma semata-mata. Sesungguhnya, Allah telah mengurniakan manusia dengan magnum opus ciptaannya, kurniaan yang hatta tidak pernah diberikan kepada makhluk lain termasuk para malaikat, iaitu akal fikiran yang melayakkan kaum manusia diangkat menjadi khalifah di dunia ini.

Agama Islam adalah agama ilmu pengetahuan.

Agama Islam adalah agama ilmu pengetahuan.

Malangnya, di Malaysia, nikmat akal ini tidak benar-benar dihargai, apatah lagi disyukuri, sehingga terdapat kecenderungan para penguasa untuk melakukan apa yang Allah sendiri tidak lakukan terhadap Nabi Ibrahim, iaitu untuk berfikir dan membuat keputusan bagi pihak orang lain, khususnya dalam soal keimanan yang sangat peribadi.

Penindasan ilmu

Justeru, di negara kita, pemerintah akan menentukan untuk rakyat apa yang boleh atau tidak boleh dibaca, ditonton, dibicara, malah dipercayai. Sebagai contoh, bukan Muslim dilarang daripada menggunakan beberapa kalimah “Islam” seperti “Allah,” manakala terjemahan Bible dalam bahasa Melayu pula menjadi mangsa undang-undang.

Penapisan ini tidak hanya terhad kepada bahan-bahan agama. Filem adiwira Daredevil (2003) juga telah diharamkan kerana kononnya merosakkan akidah umat. Baru-baru ini, nasib yang sama telah menimpa buku komik berjudul Ultraman: The Ultra Power.

Dan sekiranya itu tidak cukup menghairankan, kerajaan telah mengambil langkah pelik mengharamkan sesetengah buku hanya dalam bahasa Melayu, manakala tiada sebarang halangan dalam versi bahasa Inggeris.

Satu contoh adalah buku penting dalam ilmu biologi, The Origin of Species karya Charles Darwin. Masuk sahaja ke mana-mana kedai buku atau perpustakaan utama di negara kita dan buku tersebut boleh dijumpai. Walau bagaimanapun, terjemahannya dalam bahasa Melayu, iaitu Asal-usul Spesies, disenaraikan sebagai buku terlarang.

Ada juga buku lain yang mengalami nasib yang menyedihkan ini, seperti karya Karen Armstrong, Islam: A Short History. Terjemahannya, Sepintas Sejarah Islam, diharamkan manakala versi asalnya boleh dibeli dan dipinjam di serata negara.

Apabila diminta untuk mewajarkan pengharaman buku Darwin, maklumbalas yang diterima daripada Kementerian Dalam Negeri adalah bahawa buku tersebut “memudaratkan ketenteraman awam” sambil bercanggah dengan ajaran Ahli Sunnah Wal Jamaah (hal ini pula menimbulkan persoalan lain berkenaan penguasaan pemerintah ke atas “jenis” Islam yang boleh diamalkan).

Pun begitu, jawapan kerajaan langsung tidak masuk akal. Bagaimanakah mungkin sesuatu buku itu dianggap sebagai ancaman kepada ketenteraman awam dan menyalahi ajaran Islam dalam satu bahasa, tetapi boleh diterima pula dalam bahasa lain?

Ataupun, adakah ini sebenarnya cara kerajaan untuk meletakkan batasan ilmu ke atas mereka yang hanya celik Bahasa Kebangsaan, seolah-olah orang Melayu Islam tidak cukup rasional dan cerdik untuk membaca karya besar dunia berbanding mereka yang mampu berbahasa Inggeris?

Pembantutan perkembangan bangsa

Hakikatnya, tindakan mengharamkan buku atas apa-apa alasan tidak mungkin diwajarkan, kerana ia bukan sahaja menindas ilmu dan minda, malah membantutkan perkembangan negara bangsa.

Sejarah dunia membuktikan bahawa pembangunan tamadun berlaku atas usaha memperluaskan ilmu, manakala kegagalan tamadun berlaku apabila ilmu disekat dan dihadkan.

Dalam hal ini, usaha penterjemahan adalah sangat kritikal. Ini kerana ia bukan sahaja soal penyalinan kata dalam bahasa yang berbeza, tetapi pengolahan ilmu, maklumat dan pengalaman sesuatu budaya.

Ketika zaman kegemilangan Islam semasa pemerintahan Khalifah Harun al-Rashid, Baitul Hikmah di Baghdad telah menjadi pusat penterjemahan yang masyhur, di mana karya-karya tamadun Greek telah diterjemahkan bagi tatapan umum.

Ini bukan sahaja tidak memudaratkan ketenteraman umat, malah telah menyumbang kepada perkembangan tamadun Islam sehingga terhasil karya-karya dunia yang sangat berpengaruh sehingga ke hari ini.

Malangnya di Malaysia, usaha penterjemahan buku ilmiah adalah amat kurang sekali. Maka, persoalan muncul, apakah fungsi Institut Terjemahan Negara Malaysia atau sekarang dikenali sebagai Institut Terjemahan dan Buku Malaysia (ITBM)? Institut ini bukan sahaja tidak giat dalam usaha penterjemahan, ia nampaknya lebih cenderung kepada menerbitkan buku-buku pemimpin kerajaan seperti Perkhidmatan Awam: Meneraju Perubahan, Melangkau Jangkaan oleh Dato’ Sri Najib Razak dan Sudut Pandangan Muhyiddin Yassin oleh Timbalan Perdana Menteri.

Cuba bayangkan sekiranya Khalifah Harun al-Rashid menggunakan Baitul Hikmah untuk menerbitkan buku sendiri – adakah zaman baginda akan dikenali serata dunia sebagai zaman kegemilangan Islam?

Bahasa milik penguasa?

Kita semua kenal dengan cogan kata “Bahasa Jiwa Bangsa.” Menurut Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, slogan ini adalah satu gagasan besar yang bermaksud bahawa bahasa mampu memainkan peranan dalam pembentukan identiti kebangsaan.

Di negara ini, bahasa Melayu telah diangkat menjadi Bahasa Kebangsaan. Ini bererti ia bukan lagi menjadi bahasa milik kaum Melayu semata-mata, tetapi telah menjadi bahasa kepunyaan setiap insan yang bergelar rakyat Malaysia.

Namun, tindakan kerajaan untuk memperkecilkan kemampuan bahasa Melayu sebagai bahasa kebangsaan dan bahasa keilmuan dengan mengharamkan terjemahan Melayu sesetengah buku serta keengganannya untuk melabur secara besar-besaran dalam usaha penterjemahan telah menjadikan gagasan ini sebagai slogan kosong yang menghiasi dinding-dinding sekolah semata-mata.

Dalam erti kata lain, para penguasa di Malaysia bukan sahaja tidak menghormati Bahasa Kebangsaan malah menindas penggunaannya. Justeru, nasib bahasa Melayu hanya boleh diselamatkan sekiranya belenggu kerajaan dirungkaikan dan ia diberi ruang dan sokongan yang mencukupi agar menjadi bahasa wacana ilmu sekali lagi.

Elok juga sekiranya iktibar dapat diambil daripada kisah Nabi Ibrahim dan sejarah tamadun Islam, iaitu tidak ada kuasa yang boleh kekal, sama ada kuasa ideologi, agama atau politik, sekiranya ia tidak dapat diwajarkan secara logik dan rasional. Pada masa yang sama, mana-mana kerajaan atau tamadun yang tidak membenarkan ruang bagi perkembangan ilmu dalam kalangan masyarakatnya akan akhirnya menemui kegagalan. Bak kata pepatah orang putih: Sesiapa yang gagal mengambil iktibar daripada sejarah akan mengulangi kesilapannya.

ZAIRIL ialah Ahli Parlimen Bukit Bendera, yang juga Pengarah Eksekutif Penang Institute (PI). Ucapan ini disampaikan sebagai pembukaan Forum Nusantara anjuran PI di Shah Alam pada 17 Mei 2014 bertajuk ‘Bahasa Jiwa Bangsa atau Bahasa Jiwa Kuasa?’

Karpal’s Sedition Conviction is Bad News for Malaysia


February 22, 2014

Karpal’s Sedition Conviction is Bad News for Malaysia

by V Anbalagan, Assistant News Editor, The Malaysian Insider

http://www.themalaysianinsider.com

karpal-singhDAP lawmaker Karpal Singh’s (pic, above) conviction for sedition reaffirms the return of authoritarianism and political persecution, a lawyers’ group said.

 So now giving one's legal opinion is deemed seditious! mj


So now giving one’s legal opinion is deemed seditious! mj

Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) Executive Director Eric Paulsen said this was apparent following the dismissal earlier this week of P. Uthayakumar’s appeal, also for sedition.

He said the return of authoritarianism and political persecution followed a brief lull during which Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak made a series of democratic reforms which turned out to be a rebranding exercise and ultimately, false.

“Karpal’s conviction has once again reaffirmed Najib’s false reformist credentials,” he said in a statement today.

Paulsen said Najib  had not only broken the promise he made on July 11, 2012, when he announced that the Sedition Act would be abolished but his administration has increasingly abused sedition charges against opposition leaders and dissidents like Tian Chua, Tamrin Ghafar, Haris Ibrahim, Safwan Anang, Adam Adli, Hishamuddin Rais and Suhaimi Shafie.

Najib  had not only broken the promise he made on July 11, 2012, when he announced that the Sedition Act would be abolished but his administration has increasingly abused sedition charges against opposition leaders and dissidents like Tian Chua, Tamrin Ghafar, Haris Ibrahim, Safwan Anang, Adam Adli, Hishamuddin Rais and Suhaimi Shafie..

Najib had not only broken the promise he made on July 11, 2012, when he announced that the Sedition Act would be abolished but his administration has increasingly abused sedition charges against opposition leaders and dissidents like Tian Chua, Tamrin Ghafar, Haris Ibrahim, Safwan Anang, Adam Adli, Hishamuddin Rais and Suhaimi Shafie..

“Sedition is an antiquated and undemocratic offence and most modern states have repealed or put it into disuse. It certainly has no place in a modern and democratic Malaysia that we aspire to be.”

Paulsen said the investigations and prosecutions were a waste of public funds. Police and the Attorney General’s Chambers’ resources would also have been better used to address real crimes.

“LFL, therefore, calls on the police and AG’s Chambers to conduct themselves in a professional, fair and independent manner and not to selectively and in bad faith target Opposition leaders and dissidents when government leaders and others connected to them like Datuk Ibrahim Ali, Datuk Zulkilfi Noordin, Ridhuan Tee Abdullah and Datuk Mohd Noor Abdullah have made more serious and offensive speeches but led to no repercussion or action.”

He said LFL was shocked by the High Court conviction of Karpal. He now faces imprisonment up to five years and disqualification as member of parliament.

“Making political or critical comments is not a crime and especially so in this case. Karpal was merely giving his legal opinion on the 2008 constitutional crisis in Perak and under no circumstances can it be described as seditious.”

He said while it was true freedom of speech was not absolute and there were accepted limitations like incitement to violence and hate speech, the threshold for freedom of expression, however, must be high.

Lawyer Amer Hamzah Arshad said politicians and those critical of the establishment had to deal the archaic law as it was still in the statute book.

“It is unfortunate the senior lawyer has been found guilty for merely stating the law and the facts to the public as there was a belief by certain quarters that the rulers enjoyed immunity and no legal action could be taken against them.”

He said an ordinary person would now feel fearful to express in public his legitimate views about the affairs of the state and leaders.

“This in a way will close the door for the authorities to gauge the true sentiment of the public. Fear will be used by the government as a  tool to maintain their grip on power.”

High Court judge Datuk Paduka Azman Abdullah today found Karpal guilty of uttering seditious words against the Sultan of Perak at the height of the constitutional crisis in 2009.

 Same case, same judge, different judgments -- only in the land of endless possibilities! mj


Same case, same judge, different judgments — only in the land of endless possibilities! mj

Sentence has been deferred to March 7 for Karpal’s defence team to prepare mitigation to obtain a lighter sentence.

On Tuesday, a High Court also upheld the jail sentence of two years and six months imposed on lawyer P. Uthayakumar by the Sessions Court for writing a letter of a seditious nature to former British prime minister Gordon Brown seven years ago. – February 21, 2014.