Prominent Historian Bernard Lewis dies at 101


May 20, 2018

Prominent Historian Bernard Lewis dies at 101

https://www.dailysabah.com/history/2018/05/20/prominent-historian-bernard-lewis-dies-at-101

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Note: Prominent British-American historian Bernard Lewis, a leading scholar on Oriental and Middle Eastern studies, died Sunday at the age of 101, twelve days before his 102nd birthday.

Born to a Jewish family in London in 1916, Lewis completed his studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London in 1936. Three years later, he earned his PhD on History of Islam. He served in different agencies of the British military, intelligence and foreign office during World War II, and returned to SOAS. He was appointed Near and Middle Eastern History department chair in 1949. Between 1974 and 1986, he taught at Princeton University in New Jersey, a period that included some of his most famous works. He continued teaching at the Cornell University until 1990.

Known as one of the leading names in Oriental studies in the Western hemisphere, Lewis is widely recognized as the first foreign academic to deeply study Ottoman archives.

His works on the Islamic world were important at a time when terrorism and extremism were at the rise in the Middle East, and cited as the first academic to use the term “clash of civilizations,” which was later made famous by his Harvard colleague Samuel Huntington in 1993.

However, Lewis also faced criticism for ignoring colonialism or external effects as the source of problems and conflicts in the region. At a time when the U.S. and other partners invaded Afghanistan and Iraq in early 2000’s, he was one of the top-sought names for policymakers, including neo-conservatives of the U.S., and media.

During his career, he wrote more than 30 books and hundreds of articles. He was also competent in at least a dozen languages, the Post wrote. Speaking Sunday at an event in Istanbul, Professor Ilber Ortaylı, considered the most popular and influential Turkish historian alive, said that Lewis was very fluent in a number of languages, including Turkish, Persian, Arabic and classical Latin.

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Lewis is also known in Turkey for his stance on the Armenian issue. He argued that the mass killings of Ottoman Armenians in 1915 and afterwards cannot be defined as genocide and should be linked to World War I and other atrocities surrounding it.

Bernard Lewis at 100: An Appreciation

National Review asked friends and admirers of Bernard Lewis to say some words about the man and his achievements to mark the occasion of his 100th birthday today.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Bernard Lewis once asked me, Is there anyone who as a leader has really impressed you? And I said, well, you do. He smiled and said he was flattered, but asked about a political leader. And I had to think about it. He said the fact that you have to think about it so long is a mark of our time.

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From left: U.S. News & World Report editor-in-chief Mort Zukerman, Prof. Bernard Lewis, former U.S Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and AFTAU National Chairman Jon Gurkoff

Bernard Lewis was born in 1916, into a world writhing with conflict from all corners. A world poised for a century of war, of revolt, of treaties, of fighting for and against modern values. He watched as, from the ashes of destruction, there rose a world transformed: a world embarking farther down the path for freedom, equality, and prosperity than was previously thought possible. Bernard Lewis watched the birth of the modern world.

Having lived through the good times and the hard times, Bernard has truly become a leader whom I admire greatly. An unparalleled mind, a prescient adviser to many, he stands out for his humility, his warmth, and his honesty. There are few who are as respected by their foes as they are by their friends. An ardent historian of the Middle East, Bernard published his book The Middle East and the West in 1964. It was translated into Arabic by the Muslim Brotherhood. The translator wrote in the preface: “I don’t know who this person is but one thing is clear. He is, from our point of view, either a candid friend or an honest enemy and in any case one who disdains to distort the truth.”

I want to thank Bernard for his dedication, for his courage, and for his vast legacy. For this is what truly makes a leader and his work timeless. There is so much to celebrate in the life of Bernard Lewis. Happy birthday to a dear friend.

— Ayaan Hirsi Ali is the Founder of the AHA Foundation, a Fellow with the Future of Diplomacy Project at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School, a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and the best selling author of Infidel (2007) and Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now (2015).  

Claire Berlinksi 

I met Bernard Lewis only once, in 2010. I had been living in Istanbul for nearly six years and so had special reason to be awed by his reputation as the Heimdall of Ottomanist Valhalla.

He had been the first Westerner to examine the Turkish government archives, in 1950. The Emergence of Modern Turkey, published in 1961, revolutionized the study of the late Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic. It consigned his successors to writing footnotes.

The Turkish proverb “Türk’ün Türk’ten başka dostu yoktur” — the Turk has no friend but the Turk — is true and self-fulfilling. Turkey inspires in Arab and European countries suspicion and rancor. The sentiment is reciprocated. Fears of foreign conspiracies endlessly poison Turkish political debate; Turks believe they are under siege, and sometimes they are even right. Lewis had paid Turkey the compliment of curiosity and deep, honest study. In doing so, he had loved the country as no other Westerner had. The proverb is sometimes amended in Turkey:“Türk’ün Türk’ten ve Bernard Lewis’ten başka dostu yoktur” — the Turk has no friend but the Turk and Bernard Lewis.

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I was introduced to him by one of his disciples, Harold Rhode. Our drive to his home in Princeton had the aspect of a pilgrimage. Rhode carried with him a digital recorder. He followed Lewis around with it, he told me, just in case. There was something a bit ghoulish about this.

I was expecting a terrifying figure. But to my surprise, he was loveable. He was sweet and avuncular with me, and inspired instant affection and the urge to settle in for a good gossip. “His students call him Uncle Bernie,” Rhodes whispered. Uncle Bernie’s manners were exquisite, and while he walked slowly, he was otherwise suffering no obvious infirmity, nor the characteristic self-absorption of the elderly.

We discussed Turkey, of course. For reasons I wish I better understood, it was at the time widely reported and believed in the West that Turkey, under then–Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was “liberalizing.” This was not true. The government had for years been arresting its opponents, staging show trials, and terrifying journalists into cowed compliance.

Lewis likened Erdogan to Adnan Menderes, who was hanged by the military after the 1960 coup. He recounted an anecdote that subsequently made a translated appearance in his Notes on a Century. He’d been sitting in the faculty lounge in Ankara, he told me, several years into the Menderes regime. To everyone’s bewilderment, a professor said suddenly that Menderes was the father of Turkish democracy. What on earth could you mean, asked another. Well, said the first, Demokrasinin anasini s**ti – “he screwed the mother of Turkish democracy.” I had heard exactly the same joke about Erdogan.

Over lunch he said that while his memory for the archives remained unerring, his ability to commit to mind recent events was less reliable. For my part, I’m not sure if my most vivid recollection of him is true (it’s possible I later superimposed it over my real memories). But this is what I seem to remember him saying to me, in a voice low enough to escape Harold Rhode’s recorder: that I was not wrong, that the situation was as bleak as it looked, that the West and the Islamic world would exhaust and destroy each other, leaving the world to China and India.

The remark weighs on my mind. It’s easy to dismiss my own assessment as so much pessimistic self-indulgence. After all, what do I know? But it is not so easy to say, “What does he know?”

— Claire Berlinski is the author of Menace in Europe: Why the Continent’s Crisis Is America’s, Too. She writes for Ricochet.com. 

Victor Davis Hanson 

Bernard Lewis reached a considerable popular audience after the attacks of September 11, 2001, when his earlier assessments of Muslim anger at the West (e.g., “The Roots of Muslim Rage”; What Went Wrong?) proved prescient. From the 1990s onward, Lewis, almost alone among scholars of Islam, had warned that the traditional diagnoses of contemporary Muslim and Arab furor at Europe and the United States, the dysfunction of the Middle East, and the either/or nihilism of Middle Eastern theocracy and autocracy were misguided and politicized. For Lewis, the implosion of the modern Middle East was not attributable to the usual academic bogeymen: imperialism, colonialism, Westernization, exploitation, or Zionism. Rather, he drew on a rich learning of Muslim history and literature, both to pay homage to earlier Islamic cultural achievements and to suggest that the recent spate of Islamic terrorism was largely aberrant and a reflection of late-19th- and 20th-century dysfunctions in Middle Eastern societies, which had mostly failed to adopt constitutional systems, transparency, human rights, free-market capitalism, religious tolerance, and equality of the sexes — at least in comparison with modern Western and Westernized nations that have found such protocols the keys to economic progress and social stability.

Millions in the late-20th-century Middle East, who had not found parity with the West and who lived in poverty and danger, were persuaded by both religious and autocratic authorities to redirect their rage at supposed Western oppressors — and especially at their own modernist detours from religious purity, which had left Islam weak and a shadow of its supposedly glorious past. In other words, if a man in Damascus or Cairo could not get a job, it was the fault of the West — and it was his own lack of religious purity that had permitted such injustice.

Because Lewis, a classical liberal, was not an activist and had enjoyed a half-century-long reputation as a sympathetic student of Islam, critics were at first dumbfounded and unable to deal with his bleak analyses. Detractors on the left charged that he was “blaming the victim”; even as some on the right, although more sympathetic to Lewis’s views, nevertheless objected that he was naïve in that the roots of Muslim rage were hardly new, but discernible throughout East–West tensions since the seventh century, that Islamic culture was fundamentally different from Christian culture (i.e., inherently more violent and intolerant), and that Lewis danced around issues such as the Armenian genocide.

Yet, because of his calm demeanor, engaging prose style, wit, and prolific and long record of scholarship, Lewis usually came out on top in these many disputes that arose in the second half of his career. Such was Lewis’s historical insight that almost alone he fashioned a framework for understanding the modern Middle East in ways that were both empirical and commonsensical — and more or less remain the standard Western understanding of why global terrorism is largely an Islamic phenomenon: Middle Eastern political, social, cultural, and economic failure — widely apparent to the Arab masses in the age of instant global communications — is blamed on the West rather than addressed through reform by the various countries’ autocratic rulers, who in turn buy off internal opposition from Islamic theocrats by subsidizing their extremism and terrorism as long as it is directed westward.

Until there is massive reform inside the Middle East and within Islam, we should expect the post–September 11 world to continue to be a place of instability and violence. In sum, the events of the new century seem to keep proving Lewis right about his diagnoses of the prior one.

— NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Savior Generals.

Andrew C. McCarthy

As a federal prosecutor in 1993, I was placed in charge of one of the most important and unusual criminal investigations in the United States.

Its focus was the terrorist cell that had just bombed the World Trade Center and was at that moment engaged in an even more ambitious plot to bomb several New York City landmarks. The case was important for obvious reasons. It was unusual because we did not know what we were dealing with.

That’s where Bernard Lewis comes in.

We were straining against the Nineties manifestations of what today is rampant political correctness. Our suspects were all Muslims and proclaimed Islam as their motivation for war against the United States. Yet the official position of our government — then as now — was that Islam had nothing to do with their atrocities.

Having had little intersection with the faith that boasted over a billion adherents worldwide, I badly wanted our official position to be true. But doubts gnawed. Khomeini’s 1979 revolution, a self-proclaimed jihadist upheaval, was still fairly fresh history. So was Hezbollah’s mass murder of our marines in Lebanon, the emergence of Hamas, and the mujahideen triumph in Afghanistan, which seemed a pivotal domino in the Soviet Union’s collapse. Plus, my top suspect, Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, was a blind man unfit to perform any acts useful to a terrorist organization, yet he was its unquestioned leader — a fact that obviously owed to his status as a renowned scholar of Islamic jurisprudence. Why, I wondered, would anyone figure that Bill Clinton and Janet Reno knew more about “true” Islam than the Blind Sheikh did?

Prosecutors can’t prove cases unless they can demonstrate what motivated the defendants to act. Political correctness is for the press room, not the courtroom. I needed to get a grip on what we were dealing with — fast.

So I made my best professional decision ever: I bought a copy of Islam and the West by Bernard Lewis.

What the West’s preeminent scholar of Islam taught this grateful student was that it was possible to acknowledge the richness of Muslim history yet still see Islam plain. One could appreciate the diversity and accomplishments in Islamic traditions and still see as sheer nonsense the notions that Islam was monolithically peaceful and tolerant, that its legal and political systems were seamlessly compatible with Western democracy, and that jihad was merely, as modern Western apologists insisted, an internal struggle for personal betterment. To the contrary, Lewis explained, “the overwhelming majority of early authorities . . . citing relevant passages in the Koran and in the tradition, discuss jihad in military terms.”

Professor Lewis made me realize that Islam was not one thing but several, many of them internally contradictory, often to the point of bloody conflict. Perhaps none of them have a monopoly on authenticity. The Blind Sheikh was an Islamic scholar and a dyed-in-the-wool terrorist. Emad Salem, my main informant witness who infiltrated the Blind Sheikh’s cell and almost single-handedly thwarted the New York City landmarks plot, was Egyptian-educated and patriotically drawn to America and the West. They are both devout Muslims.

Lewis is also an observer of incomparable insight. Over a half-century ago he foresaw the difficulty of democratizing Islamic societies, noting that attempts “to show that Islam and democracy are identical” were “usually based on a misunderstanding of Islam or democracy or both.” Islam, in fact, traditionally had a tyrannical streak, a culture of obedience to authority that was depressingly reminiscent of Communist societies, including in its antipathy to the West. Lewis ruefully wrote, “The humorist who summed up the Communist creed as ‘There is no God and Karl Marx is his Prophet’ was laying his finger on a real affinity.”

In 2004, Professor Lewis told Die Welt that “Europe will be Islamic by the end of the century.” A dozen years later, London has just elected its first Muslim mayor, an Islamist. I wouldn’t bet against Bernard Lewis.

— Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior policy fellow at the National Review Institute and a contributing editor of National Review

Douglas Murray 

After the very few occasions I have been invited to speak at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London my feeling has tended to be that the place should be knocked down and the earth salted over. The memory of a single person reminds me to refrain from such uncharitable thoughts. For though it may now be unpleasantly radical, this part of the University of London once helped produce the young Bernard Lewis. For this, almost any subsequent sin ought to be forgiven.

But the truth is that scholars and writers of Lewis’s stature do not appear anywhere very often, not even in the course of a lifespan as considerable as the one he has lived. There have been few enough experts in any discipline of such depth, range, and influence. I doubt that there is any scholar — professional or amateur — of the Middle East or Islam who does not have a shelf dedicated to the works of Bernard Lewis. From The Arabs in History to Notes on a Century, his output is striking for its depth and broad accessibility as well as its extraordinary span. His works have long been the indispensable resource of academics, journalists, and policy makers alike.

If few people have matched Lewis’s depth of research, even fewer have returned to tell the tale without falling through the looking glass. Lewis came back time and again to tell the world what he found, in works filled with respect not only for his subject but also for his readers.

In recent decades the world has come to have special need of that learning. Always appreciated by the best among his peers, Lewis has also become the possession of the widest — and most grateful — possible public. Our public discussions on Islam and the West are always in need of improvement, but if they are more informed than they once were (and, despite some evidence to the contrary among a certain subset of elites, I sense that they are), it is in no small part because a young British scholar immersed himself in his subject, went to America, and helped influence the course not only of scholarship but of ideas. His mother country, as well as his alma mater, should feel enormous pride at the centennial of this son’s birth.

–Douglas Murray is the author of a number of books, including Bloody Sunday and is working on an expanded version of his earlier work Islamophilia

Jay Nordlinger

I first heard about Bernard Lewis in the 1980s, when I was in college. I took some courses in Middle East studies. My professors (leftists) mentioned him, as a Big Bad Conservative. But they couldn’t help speaking of him with respect. I was intrigued.

Flash forward to National Review after 9/11. We prevailed on Lewis to write a piece for us on the general situation. I say “we”: It was really our senior editor David Pryce-Jones, an old friend of Bernard’s. When people at other magazines saw Lewis in our pages — they might have been a touch envious. One couldn’t blame them.

In later years, I asked Bernard, “Did you ever think your expertise would turn out to be so useful to the world, and craved by it?” No, he said, absolutely not.

He has been a frequent guest on NR cruises: a sparkling guest, as well as a learned one, of course. I can see him holding court in a lounge, wearing a tuxedo, delighting his listeners, especially the women. But the woman he cares most for is Buntzie.

I have prized every meal, every conversation, with Bernard Lewis. One always learns things, and expands one’s repertoire of stories. I expect to be drawing on what Lewis has taught me for a lifetime. His teaching includes not a few jokes (from assorted countries).

In 2011, I filmed an interview with him, for a series called “The Human Parade.” In his home, two chairs had been set up: a big, comfortable armchair and a quite modest, uncomfortable-looking one. Bernard insisted he would be more comfortable in the second chair — leaving me in the grand one, and feeling sheepish.

Have you read his memoirs, Notes on a Century? When you do, you will know Bernard, pretty well.

In 1966, he was a founding member of MESA, the Middle East Studies Association. Forty years later, he was a founding member of the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa (ASMEA). This had been created as an escape from MESA. The older organization had been taken over by radicals and ideologues, just as the Maoists had taken over Chinese studies.

That’s the way Bernard put it. He was genuinely hurt, I sensed, at what had happened to his field.

In his address inaugurating ASMEA, he quoted Dr. Johnson: “A generous and elevated mind is distinguished by nothing more certainly than by an eminent degree of curiosity. Nor is that curiosity ever more agreeably or usefully employed than in examining the laws and customs of foreign nations.” That is Bernard.

He is obviously one of the greatest historians of the Middle East we have ever had. He is a great historian, period, and a great scholar.

One year, a book of his was published in Hebrew translation — by the Israeli Defense Ministry. That same book was published in Arabic — by the Muslim Brotherhood. In his preface, the translator of the Arabic version said, “I don’t know who this author is, but one thing about him is clear: He is either a candid friend or an honorable enemy, and in either case is one who has disdained to falsify the truth.”

Some former students of Bernard’s refer to him as “the Imam.” I know just what they mean. Happy birthday, great one.

— Jay Nordlinger is a senior editor at National Review.

Daniel Pipes

Three quotes establish Bernard Lewis’s career. Martin Kramer, a former student of Lewis, sums up his teacher’s accomplishments:

Bernard Lewis emerged as the most influential postwar historian of Islam and the Middle East. His elegant syntheses made Islamic history accessible to a broad public in Europe and America. In his more specialized studies, he pioneered social and economic history and the use of the vast Ottoman archives. His work on the premodern Muslim world conveyed both its splendid richness and its smug self-satisfaction. His studies in modern history rendered intelligible the inner dialogues of Muslim peoples in their encounter with the values and power of the West.

The University of California’s R. Stephen Humphreys notes “the extraordinary range of his scholarship [and] his capacity to command the totality of Islamic and Middle Eastern history from Muhammad down to the present day.” And, as the late Fouad Ajami of Johns Hopkins University put it on Lewis’s 90th birthday, he is “the oracle of this new age of the Americans in the lands of the Arab and Islamic worlds.”

Lewis’s career spanned a monumental 75 years, from his first article (“The Islamic Guilds”) in 1937 to his autobiography in 2012. Midway, in 1969, he entered my life. In Israel the summer between my sophomore and junior years in college, with my aspirations to become a mathematician in doubt, I thought of switching to Middle East studies. To sample this new field, I visited Ludwig Mayer’s renowned bookstore in Jerusalem and purchased The Arabs in History, Lewis’s 1950 book.

It launched my career. Over the next 47 years, Lewis continued to exert a profound influence on my studies. Although never his formal student, I absorbed his views, reading nearly all his writings and favorably reviewing seven of his books, far more than those of any other author. His name appears on 508 pages of my website. Beyond numbers, he more than anyone else has influenced my understanding of the Middle East and Islam.

That said, Lewis and I argued strenuously during the George W. Bush years, narrowly on Iraq policy (I was more skeptical of U.S. efforts) and broadly on the matter of bringing freedom to the Middle East (ditto).

I first met Professor Lewis in 1973 in London, when he generously invited me to his house and offered advice on my Ph.D. studies. I saw him recently at his small apartment in the Philadelphia suburbs. He’s impressively fit in body and mind, spending time on the computer, ever the raconteur (“What’s a Jewish joke? One which non-Jews can’t understand and Jews have heard a better version of”), and conjuring up anecdotes from a time before the rest of us were born (such as his 1946 discussion with Abba Eban about the latter’s career choices). It’s wonderful to see him doing well even if it’s sadly understandable that he no longer engages in scholarship nor opines on current events.

Lewis was born a mere 15 days after the Sykes-Picot agreement that defined the modern Middle East, and their common May centennial finds Syria and Iraq in shreds. And yet Bernard Lewis more than ever is an inspiration to his many self-identified disciples, including this one.

–Daniel Pipes is president of the Middle East Forum. He tweets @DanielPipes.

David Pryce-Jones 

Bernard Lewis knows more than anyone else about the world of Islam. That world is beyond the experience of most of us. Specialists, or “Orientalists” in the academic jargon, have familiarized the unfamiliar. Nowadays, pretty well all such specialists are either narrow-minded partisans in one or another of the causes that have turned the Middle East into an extensive battlefield, or else immersed in trivia of interest only to professors. Bernard is different; he’s the last in the Orientalist tradition of interpretation based on careful scholarship. There’s no one like him, and probably never will be.

Already as a teenager, he showed himself to be a born linguist, and it’s impossible to be interested in languages without also being interested in the people who speak them. I once heard him wonder if his Italian were good enough to give a lecture in it in Siena. He’s published authoritative studies illuminating some aspect of Turkish, Persian, or Arab society and culture, studies on faith and ethnicity, or race and slavery and Jews, war and politics and modernity. Brilliantly original books like The Muslim Discovery of Europe and What Went Wrong? are based on a lifetime’s research, reaching the painful conclusion that Muslims have believed in their superiority so uncritically and for so long that they lost contact with reality. However bad things may be, though, he never quite rejects hope for a better life.

Objective analysis of the sort was too much for Edward Said, a Christian who became the foremost apologist for the Arabs of his day. In his view, there was no such thing as Western scholarship about the world of Islam: Each and every Orientalist was an aggressor, sometimes openly, sometimes secretly, and in any case disqualified from any comment about the Middle East, especially where Israel was concerned. In the polemic that ensued, Said attempted to fit Bernard into this fanciful conspiracy. Bernard got the better of it by insisting on the universality of knowledge and reason.

A day came when I received a letter from Bernard approving of a book I had written. Since then, it has been my privilege to discover that friendship is as much part of his personality as scholarship. I see the humor in his face when he told me that the United States ought to deal with Iran and Iraq in alphabetical order. I see it again when he described the first Gulf war as “Kuwaitus interruptus.”

Among his wonderful stories is one about training Cypriot waiters as possible intelligence agents in 1940. I can recall almost word for word his warning that a clash of civilizations was now upon us. Sometimes I am asked if I have met any great men — Bernard is certainly one. In the words of the Jewish blessing, may he live to be 120.

–David Pryce-Jones is a senior editor at National Review and the author of The Closed Circle: An Interpretation of the Arabs.

 

Fellow Malaysians–Lead a Life of Integrity


May 20, 2018

Fellow Malaysians–Lead a Life of Integrity

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I admire Rex Tillerson not because he was Secretary of State in the Trump Administration. He was never given the chance by the insecure and ego-centric  Donald Trump to prove his worth as America’s top diplomat. I believe, he could have done a great job in that role, given his education and experience in the private sector.

I respect him as Chairman, Exxon-Mobil, a Fortune 500 corporation, and for being a corporate executive with integrity. In his Commencement Address to his Alma Mater’s Class of 2018, he urges graduates of VMI to lead life of integrity (both personal and professional). The  Truth shall make us free, he said.

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Listen to Rex Tillerson so that we too shall be free. Let us make ourselves Malaysians with high standards of ethical leadership, and  build our country into great nation which is admired and respected by our neighbours in ASEAN and the world.  Yes, we can.–Din Merican

 

Of Frogs in Malaysian Politics


May 20, 201

Of Frogs in Malaysian Politics

by Mariam Mokhtar

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

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No-one should take the Malaysian people for granted.

 

We were patient for decades despite the injustices, the lack of opportunities for certain sections of society, and the discrimination, but we had faith in our fellow Malaysians.

There was no doubt about our desire for change. In the 14th general election, we gave it our all. The only doubt was on what former Prime Minister Najib Razak was prepared to do to secure a win. Remember the late night meeting at his house, the two-hour delay in the Election Commission’s announcement of results.

The Police handled their duties with the utmost professionalism, as did the Armed Forces. There were no major incidents, only a handful of youths caught with fireworks in Putrajaya because they wanted to celebrate the election results.

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For decades, Malaysians had been fed up with being treated like political football. We were appalled to see many prominent businessmen ingratiating themselves with the Najib administration. We observed with trepidation when government critics like cartoonist Zunar were harassed by the authorities.

By and large, Malaysians are peaceful and law-abiding. We are also a tolerant lot, and have remained so despite the various tricks designed to make us turn against one another.

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A few years ago, we might have had reservations about Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s willingness to team up with the opposition, doubting his intentions and fearing insincerity on his part. Eventually, however, he won the mandate to take charge of the opposition coalition.

Last Thursday, on May 10, we were rewarded for our persistence. The rest, as they say, is history. So why is the new government allowing so many UMNO-Barisan Nasional (BN) MPs and assemblymen to switch allegiance to Pakatan Harapan (PH)?

We won’t name individuals, but many who won their seats, allegedly through vote buying, are now trying to jump ship and join PH.

If PH allows them in, it would be a betrayal of trust. We voted for PH because PH translated our needs and aspirations into its policies.

The four component parties were prepared to forego their own logos for the greater good. They rallied together for the people.

So who are these desperate UMNO-BN frogs? They were prepared to support Najib. They were arguably aware of the corruption, the lies and the manipulation.\

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They cannot simply turn around and expect to be welcomed into PH with open arms. For years, they played a part in our suffering. They colluded with corrupt UMNO-BN leaders. They failed to realise the mood of the people.

Their desire now to desert the sinking UMNO-BN ship is damaging the fragile understanding and trust between the people and the PH leaders. These frogs are self-serving and do not have our interests at heart.

We do not believe that a person who, year in and year out, spewed venom at UMNO General assemblies, would suddenly fight corruption and get rid of discrimination.

We despair when UMNO frogs are not barred from joining PH. Look at the alarm caused in the Perak imbroglio over the choice of Menteri Besar. Nizar Jamaluddin, the candidate of choice for most people in Perak, had a proven track record in his short stint as Menteri Besar. However, his tenure came to an abrupt end thanks to an infestation of frogs in the state assembly.

Nizar is not a career politician, unlike many of those who are now jumping over to PH. On whose advice was the popular choice ignored? Who has their own personal agenda to keep?

These frogs could destroy PH’s reputation and allow the re-election of UMNO in the next general election. They will also hinder the rebuilding of Malaysia. People will think PH is no better than Umno-Baru.

We do not want PH to be contaminated and brought down like this, not in Perak and not anywhere else in the country.

Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist.

The views expressed by the writer are not necessarily those of FMT.

Malaysia: After Regime Change, What’s Next?


May 19, 2018

Malaysia 2018: After Regime Change, What’s Next?

by Eric Loo

https://www.malaysiakini.com/columns/424766

COMMENT | “The ability of the journalist to influence the course of events is out of all proportion to his individual right as a citizen of a democratic society. He is neither especially chosen for his moral superiority nor elected to his post. A free press is as prone to corruption as are the other institutions of democracy. Is this then to be the only institution of democracy to be completely unfettered?”

 

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Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim–Together Again but for how long?

 Those are the words of Dr Mahathir Mohamad, spoken in 1985 at the World Press Convention in Kuala Lumpur.

By Mahathir’s logic, journalists, if left unregulated, would by instinct overly report on conflicts and controversies at the expense of informing the people of the government’s achievements. The media watchdog must be leashed and used as a state apparatus to build the nation.

Contrast Mahathir’s tight rein on the media with this: “I reject the notion that a free press is alien to (Malaysian) society. All the great sages of the past were great because they were able to write and publish freely. All our great freedom fighters… were able to be great because they believed in freedom and they were able to use the media to articulate their positions.”

Those are the words of Anwar Ibrahim in an interview with Time Australia (June 10, 1996), when his book Asian Renaissance was published. Anwar, who was Deputy Prime Minister then, noted in his book that the cultural and intellectual reawakening of Asians (and Malaysians) will begin to evolve only when the mind and intellect are free of internal insecurity and independent of external constraints.

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By Anwar’s logic, the media should serve as a “vehicle for the contest of ideas and cultivate good taste” to root out corruption and abuses of power in its many forms.

Western media generally frame Anwar as a liberal Islamist thinker and charismatic reformist post-1998, during which he regularly spoke at inter-civilisational forums. On the other hand, Mahathir was seen as an autocratic moderniser who brooked no opposition to his rule and who held a tight rein on the media.

Since May 2008, Mahathir’s unfettered criticisms of his predecessor Abdullah Badawi’s “flip-flopping mismanagement of the country” and Najib Abdul Razak’s fraudulent rule have exposed another side of Mahathir’s persona in the eyes of those who follow his blog, Chedet.

How ironic from a former Prime Minister who is renowned for shutting down any dissent from journalists, opposition parties and public intellectuals!

What the voters expect

Even as we continue to celebrate Pakatan Harapan’s historic win, many who have worked in the media, and those who have marched the streets with Bersih, will expect the new regime to repeal the Universities and University Colleges Act, Anti-Fake News Act, Printing Presses and Publications Act, Official Secrets Act and numerous sedition and security laws that have for too long suppressed open public debates on policy implementation issues and practical matters that affect the daily lives of every Malaysian family.

With the collapse of UMNO and political demise of Najib Razak and the probable prosecution of those who had plundered the country’s coffers, voters now expect the new regime to establish a non-partisan Judiciary, an independent Anti-Corruption Agency, and the re-opening of old cases.

Will Harapan be able to fulfil these campaign vows within its first term in government, led by a 92-year-old statesman heavily tasked with micro-managing a fractious coalition of parties, each with its own interests to pursue, and neutralising the likelihood of ad hoc protests from UMNO loyalists?

Even as I am truly inspired by Mahathir’s deep conviction in ‘saving the country’ from the kleptocrats, I am also fully aware of the divisive racialised political and communal systems that had developed during his 22-year leadership.

Decades of partisan politics, erosion of civil rights in the name of economic development, severe measures taken on minority dissent by Mahathir’s past detractors – these fractures will certainly taint his attempt at reshaping his legacy – from that of an autocratic Prime Minister and an enemy of the press, marked by Operasi Lalang in 1987, to that of a redeemer of a country lost to the kleptocrats and the corrupt in 2018.

The final collapse of the UMNO hegemon and the long-awaited regime change does not necessarily imply a clean break from the past.

We will still see shades of ideological, organisational and institutional continuities in the form of political patronage arising from past loyalties and kinship ties, and the jostling for appointments to powerful portfolios. Such are the realities of communal politics and the tribal interests that drive the political agendas.

Mahathir had campaigned on a theme of self-redemption to save the country with the remaining years of his life. Permanent redemption and full restoration of the country, I believe, can only happen if Mahathir, as the oldest statesman to be re-elected as Prime Minister in the world, is able to bring about transformed hearts and changed mindsets in his new cabinet.

This needs an effective ‘leadership by example’, a slogan which framed the start of Mahathir’s premiership with his deputy Musa Hitam in 1981.

Mahathir hopes to change the way he wishes to be remembered in the history books. While implicitly seeking forgiveness for his actions past and reconciling with Anwar today with a full royal pardon warms our hearts and endears us to him as our eldest statesman, ultimately voters who elevated Harapan to power will want to see real improvements happen very soon in their living conditions.

I hope the new alliance, which is entering a political environment with a new generation of ‘enlightened’ voters who got them into power, will not be akin to shuffling a deck of new cards but dealing in the same old polarised politics of race and religious intolerance of the past decades.

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I hope Mahathir’s statement that “this election is not merely about seeking victory for a political party but to redeem the pride of the (Malay) race” does not return us to the type of society that he painted in his 1971 book The Malay Dilemma.


ERIC LOO is Senior Fellow (Journalism) at the School of the Arts, English & Media, Faculty of Law Humanities & Arts, University of Wollongong, Australia. He is also the founding editor of Asia Pacific Media Educator.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

AP Interview: Anwar wants Malaysia to scrap race policies


May 18, 2018

AP Interview: Anwar wants Malaysia to scrap race policies

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Pardoned Malaysian politician Anwar Ibrahim said Thursday that decades-old affirmative action policies for the country’s Malay majority must be discarded in favor of a new program to help the poor regardless of race.

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In an interview with The Associated Press, the prime minister-in-waiting also said he plans to run in a by-election this year to become a member of Parliament but that he isn’t in a rush to take over the top job.

Anwar, 70, was convicted of sodomy in 2015 in a case he said was politically motivated. His sentence expires June 8 but he was given a royal pardon on Wednesday and freed from custody after last week’s stunning electoral victory by his alliance led by former foe Mahathir Mohamad.

Anwar said poor Malays will benefit more from merit-based policies that are transparent. He said the New Economic Policy, instituted in 1971 following bloody riots fueled by Malay discontent with the relative affluence of ethnic minority Chinese, has been abused to enrich the elites.

The program, which gives preference to Malays in government contracts, business, jobs, education and housing, is credited with lifting millions of Malays out of poverty and creating an urban Malay middle class. It is also blamed for a racial divide between Malays, who account for two-thirds of Malaysia’s 31 million people, and minority Chinese and Indians who have long complained about government discrimination.

The policy is a sensitive issue, with many Malays fearing they will lose their privileges under a new government. Many ethnic minorities have left Malaysia in search of better opportunities elsewhere.

“I have said that the NEP should be dismantled but the affirmative action must be more effective. I believe that poor underprivileged Malays will benefit more through a transparent, effective affirmative action policy rather than the New Economic Policy which has been hijacked to enrich the few cronies,” said Anwar, a Malay.

Anwar, who changed Malaysia’s political landscape with his reform movement after he was sacked as deputy prime minister in 1998, said he had expected his alliance to win with a small margin but didn’t expect the victory to be so complete.

He said defeated Prime Minister Najib Razak had been “self-indulgent” and underestimated public anger over the corruption scandal involving the 1MDB state fund that is being investigated abroad.

“He was full of himself, thinking he could succeed and even toying with the idea that he will regain a two-third majority (in parliament) which is clearly outrageous to most people but he is convinced,” Anwar said. “He is just oblivious to the stark realities, he is in a cocoon.”

Anwar said Najib called him on the night of the May 9 polls after it was clear that Najib’s National Front coalition, which ruled Malaysia since independence from Britain in 1957, was losing. He said Najib appeared to be still in denial and that he advised Najib to concede defeat.

U.S. investigators say Najib’s associates stole and laundered $4.5 billion from the 1MDB fund. Najib denied any wrongdoing. The new government has barred Najib and his wife from leaving the country and police early Thursday raided Najib’s house in search of evidence.

Anwar was once a high-flyer in the National Front but was convicted of homosexual sodomy and corruption after a power struggle in 1998 with Mahathir, who was prime minister for 22 years until 2003. He was freed in 2004 and convicted again in 2015 of sodomy, which he said was concocted to destroy his political career.

Anwar worked from his prison cell to forge a new opposition alliance by ending his two-decade feud with Mahathir, a gamble that paid off when the alliance won the polls. Mahathir, 92, has taken office as the world’s oldest elected leader.

“It’s a long wait … the struggle is 20 years. There was continued humiliation, victimization but it’s OK, we survived. There’s no need to complain too much,” Anwar said. “I think we should focus our attention now on how to alleviate the poor, how to reduce this inequality, how to stop these excesses and endemic corruption which is part of the culture now.”

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Anwar said forgiving Mahathir and rebuilding their friendship in the country’s interest wasn’t as difficult as he thought and that they can “emerge as two great friends again.”

He played down concerns of possible tension with Mahathir, saying he would not hold any Cabinet post for now to give Mahathir “a free hand” in running the country. But Anwar said he plans to return as a lawmaker by running in a by-election this year as well as spend time with his family and travel abroad for speaking engagements.

He praised Mahathir as an “indefatigable fighter.” “He chose a good ending to this episode. I don’t want to deny that we had serious disagreement on policies and excesses but now he said, ‘Look, I owe it to this nation that I loved and I want to make amends and the corrective measures,'” Anwar said.

Anwar said the new government faces huge challenges in cleaning up the financial mess left by 1MDB and putting in effective policies, but he is confident Malaysia can emerge as a “beacon for democracy and justice in the region and more so in the Muslim world.”

 

DJT and The Nobel Peace Prize–The Idiocy of The Republican Party


May 18, 2018

DJT and The Nobel Peace Prize–The Idiocy of The Republican Party

by Michael Minehan

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A group of US Republican governors and senators have written a letter to the Nobel Committee requesting that President Trump be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.This is for what they describe as Trump’s “transformative efforts to bring peace to the Korean Peninsula”.

This call for a Nobel Prize for Trump is despite Trump’s vacillation between threats of ‘fire and fury’, and his personal insults to Kim Jong-un that have been interspersed with some other calls for peace.

But this enthusiasm for Trump to receive the Nobel Prize could be premature because North Korea is now threatening to withdraw from the proposed Singapore meeting if the US insists on ‘denuclearizing’ North Korea.

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The Walras–America’s National Security Adviser–John Bolton

And North Korea is seeing to further rock the boat by describing its ‘repugnance’ for Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton. Bolton has argued in the past for pre-emptive military strikes to stop the North’s nuclear program.

The Nobel Peace Prize is no stranger to controversy. Here’s a list of the 10 most controversial Peace Prize awards:

Ironies abound in the Nobel Prizes. It’s widely speculated that the Peace Prize was set up by Alfred Nobel out of guilt because he felt at least partially responsible for all the deaths caused by dynamite and its derivatives in war.

And nor is the Peace Prize necessarily about rewarding the actual accomplishment of peaceful initiatives. It’s also about trying to initiate them. “You don’t negotiate the peace process with your friends – you initiate them with your enemies,” said the chairwoman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Berit Reiss-Andersen.

Reiss-Andersen continued, “Part of the strength of the Nobel Peace Prize is that it’s controversial. If it was a global consensus prize, it wouldn’t have the relevance and the authority that it actually has today.”

Well, controversy is what Trump loves. And if Trump were to be actually awarded the Peace Prize, there would then be no need to pretend that he had won it. As he pretended with the fake Time Magazine that had a photo of him on the cover. Time asked Trump to remove this in June, 2017.

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Whatever happened to good old-fashioned integrity and actually earning the awards you claim to have?

Most other people would die of embarrassment if they were caught out displaying a fake Time magazine with their photo on the cover. But not Trump, because it’s probably not the actual award itself that’s important to him. It’s the TV audience ratings and the talk about him that seems to be most important.

Being talked about is what Trump values most. Who cares it it’s true or not? The Washington Post describes Trump’s seesawing diplomatic spectacles as ‘diplotainment’.

Accordingly, here;s my final question. If Trump were to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, could we ever take the Peace Prize seriously again?