Ex-DAP Chair Tunku Aziz in the News


May 24, 2016

Ex-DAP Chair Tunku  Aziz  lodges a Police Report against Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad

by Anne Muhammad

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Former Transparency International stalwart Tunku Abdul Aziz Tunku Ibrahim has lodged a Police report against ex-Premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad, with regard to his recent remark that the Agong is “likely under house arrest”.

Tunku Aziz said he made the report because he believed Mahathir’s remark may pose a threat to Malaysia’s national security. “Mahathir’s remark was an unsubstantiated allegation that could affect the state of our national security. That’s the reason why we are lodging a police report today. We hope the authorities will take action before this situation gets out of hand. It could be very dangerous,” he told reporters outside the Dang Wangi District Police Headquarters today.

Tunku Aziz was accompanied by a few representatives of Jaringan Melayu Malaysia (JMM). He also claimed that Mahathir had made various allegations against Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak with the sole purpose of removing him from power.

“The pressing issue here is he (Mahathir) is utilising our constitutional laws for his own political agenda. For the sake of national harmony, Mahathir’s antics should not be taken lightly and I urge the authorities to take immediate action,” he added.

Tunku Aziz, who is currently the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) advisory board chairman also stressed that he had lodged the report in his individual capacity.

Mahathir had made the remark in question when he revealed he was unable to secure an audience with the Agong to submit the more than one million signatures collected for the Citizens’ Declaration.

“We have got 1.4 million signatures, and we’ve been trying to show them to the Agong. But as of now I’ve not been able to meet the Agong because it’s likely that he’s under house arrest.The rulers may be confined to their palaces,” Mahathir had claimed.

Obama’s Vietnam “Legacy” Trip: A Reality


May 23, 2016

Obama’s Vietnam “Legacy” Trip: A Reality 

By Greg Rushford

Air Force One touched down yesterday evening in Hanoi. The White House and influential Washington think-tank scholars are spinning President Barack Obama’s three-day Vietnam visit as a “legacy” moment, validating the president’s “pivot” to Asia. Expect much warm talk of how America is forging ever-closer economic- and security ties with a modernizing Vietnam. Expect the usual heartwarming television images of happy people -including peasants toiling in lush rice fields, wearing their iconic conical hats.

Don’t expect any admissions from Vietnamese Communist leaders of the suffering they continue to inflict upon some of their country’s best citizens. As former prisoner of conscience Cu Huy Ha Vu rightly notes, today’s Vietnam is “a kleptocracy.” Intrepid pro-democracy advocates stand in the way.

Courageous men like Dang Xuan Dieu, Ho Duc Hoa, and Tran Vu Anh Binh, three of Vietnam’s 100-plus current political prisoners. They languish behind bars, while some Washington insiders have averted their eyes.

Some of those insiders are Southeast Asian analysts who work inside the gleaming $100 million headquarters of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, just a few minutes from the White House – and who have undisclosed sidelines as business consultants. They know that to speak forthrightly on Vietnam’s shameful human rights record would threaten their easy access to senior communist officials. Their corporate benefactors who depend upon that political access to win lucrative business contracts in Vietnam could lose the big bucks.

Ernest Z. Bower President & CEO, Bower  Asia Group,  is widely recognized as one of the strongest proponents for close ties between the United States and Asia. In recognition of his work, the King of Malaysia has awarded him the Darjah Panglima Jasa Negara (PJN), pronouncing him holder of the title Datuk in Malaysia.  The president of the Philippines also awarded him the rank of Lakan, or Commander, for his service to the Philippines.  Ernie is currently the United States Chair of the Advisory Council on Competitiveness for the Vietnamese Prime Minister and serves on the boards of the Special Olympics, American Australian Education & Leadership Foundation, the Institute for Religion & Public Policy, the United States-New Zealand Council and the Board of Advisors of the United States-Indonesia Society.

Moreover, Vietnam’s Ambassador to the United States has a team of $30,000-a-month Washington lobbyists on his payroll. Their assignment is basically not to let awkward questions about political prisoners interfere with enhanced U.S.-Vietnamese commercial- and security ties, especially the sale of lethal weapons to fend off Chinese maritime intimidation.

One wonders what Dieu, Hoa, and Binh, locked away in their cells, would have to say – if they were free to speak. Dieu, a devout Catholic citizen journalist, has been imprisoned since 2011. He committed the “crime” of exercising free speech. Dieu has been living “in hell” – beaten, humiliated, and treated like a “slave” for refusing to wear a uniform with the word “criminal” – his brother has told Radio Free Asia. Hoa, also a blogger whose crime was his free speech, has been incarcerated since 2011. Binh, a songwriter, lost his liberty in 2012. His crime was writing music that offended the Communist Party. While Binh’s term is scheduled to end next year, Dieu and Hoa could languish behind bars until 2024.

All three men are associated with the Viet Tan, a U.S.-based political party that is highly effective in using the social media to advocate democratic freedoms of speech and assembly. The Viet Tan reaches a wide audience, both inside Vietnam and in the Vietnamese diaspora. For its skilled high-tech advocacy, the Hanoi’s feared Ministry of Public Security brands Viet Tan as a “terrorist” organization.

Binh, Hoa and Dieu were amongst a group of 17 political prisoners who have been represented by Stanford law professor Allen Weiner, a former high-powered U.S. State Department official. Weiner won a United Nations panel determination that his clients – all either Viet Tan members, supporters or friends – had been unjustly imprisoned. While 14 of Weiner’s clients have been released, that’s unfortunately not quite a happy ending. “Some of those who have been released, however, continue to suffer severe harassment and intimidation at the hands of the Vietnamese security services,” Weiner reports. “They continue to pay a heavy price.”

That’s the sort of glaring injustice that no credible analyst of today’s Vietnam would want to downplay. Meet CSIS Asia analyst Murray Hiebert (pic  above)- a man who doesn’t deny that Vietnam has human rights issues, yet is careful never to use clear language that would anger senior Vietnamese officials.

Nine months ago, I brought Allen Weiner’s brave clients to Hiebert’s attention, asking if perhaps this would be an opportunity to highlight the injustice by holding a public forum. The CSIS analyst brushed off the inquiry – at the time I had not realized that CSIS has never held such an event. He also declined to say whether he agreed with Hanoi’s characterization of the Viet Tan as a “terrorist” organization.

(The White House and State Department are better informed than CSIS. Not only do they respect the Viet Tan for its peaceable advocacy, but Obama’s national security officials have maintained close ties with the Viet Tan leadership. Radio Free Asia reported that on May 17 representatives of the Viet Tan, along with other respected Vietnamese pro-democracy advocates including Boat People SOS and Vietnam for Progress, were briefed on Obama’s upcoming Vietnam trip in the White House on May 17.)

A few weeks ago, Hiebert once again did not respond to a request to be interviewed on the imprisoned Viet Tan supporters. I then tried to register for a May 17 press briefing that Hiebert and two other CSIS scholars held on the Obama visit. I had hoped to ask about Binh, Hoa and Dieu. But CSIS spokesman Andrew Schwartz – who also had not responded to a recent e-mail inquiry – denied me admission, asserting that the event was “oversubscribed.”

While the briefing room was indeed rather crowded, even full, according to people who were present, Schwartz found room for Vietnam Television. VTV is a Hanoi-controlled media tool that the Communist Party finds useful for spreading the party line. These days, VTV’s best “scoop” has been in warning Vietnamese independent journalists – and specifically the Viet Tan – to stay away from linking corrupt communist officials to a Taiwanese steel mill that somehow obtained environmental clearance to discharge toxic wastes into the sea, which has resulted in a massive fish kill.

(At the May 17 CSIS briefing, a Television Vietnam correspondent asked if the next American president would continue Obama’s “pivot” to Asia – which at least drew laughter. It is perhaps also worth noting that while “journalists” from Vietnam Television are welcome to peddle their propaganda in the United States, authorities in Hanoi continue to jam Radio Free Asia’s Vietnamese language service. And while the BBC is free to broadcast its English-language programs in Vietnam, the BBC’s celebrated Vietnamese Language Service frequently has run into problems.)

As it turns out, CSIS has a history of making life uncomfortable for guests at the think tank’s public events who might pose awkward questions. On May 24, 2015, former political prisoner Ha Vu angered the Vietnamese Ambassador to the U.S., Pham Quang Vinh, by asking how Vietnam justified persecuting its political prisoners. Vinh, visibly upset, retorted that Vietnam has no political prisoners – which was pretty rich, considering that at that moment, the ambassador was busy trying to avoid making eye contact with one of Vietnam’s most famous political prisoners.

Moreover, CSIS analyst Hiebert, who chaired the panel, did not challenge the ambassador’s absurd claim. (The CSIS event discussed a study on U.S.-Vietnamese relations that Hiebert had co-authored; that study had not disclosed that the Vietnamese government had secretly financed it, Hiebert subsequently admitted to me.)

And last July, Hiebert went to extraordinary lengths to accommodate Vietnamese security officials when Communist Party Secretary General Nguyen Phu Trong spoke at CSIS. Hiebert summoned a guard, escorting Dr. Binh Nguyen, a prominent Vietnamese-American physician, from the premises. Hiebert apologized to Binh, who had been invited, but said that the communist security officials insisted that she be ejected (for details see: How Hanoi Buys Influence in Washington, D.C., www.rushfordreport.com).

Turns out that there are other reasons to doubt Hiebert’s independence. While his official CSIS bio does not disclose it, Hiebert is also a senior advisor to a prominent business consultancy, the Bower Group Asia.

Conflicted interests

Hiebert’s boss at CSIS, Ernie Bower, runs the Bower Group Asia. “Our clients include the world’s best global enterprises,” the BGA website proclaims. “We understand the nexus between politics and economics.” Bower has more than 60 employees in his Washington, D.C. headquarters and in 21 Asian countries (including Vietnam). Another CSIS analyst, Chris Johnson, is a BGA managing director for China. Like Hiebert, Johnson does not disclose his business affiliations on his CSIS website.

Bower, who formerly chaired the CSIS Southeast Studies chair, responded angrily last year when I asked him which was his real day job: CSIS or his business consultancy. He said he was “saddened” that I had suggested he appeared to have conflicts of interest. But perhaps aware that others might also wonder, Bower now identifies himself on the CSIS website as a “non-resident” advisor. The chair remains vacant. CSIS spokesman Schwartz and John Hamre, the think tank’s CEO and one of Washington’s most acclaimed fundraisers, have not responded to persistent inquiries to explain the apparent conflicts.

Here’s how the conflict works:

At CSIS Hiebert has advocated the TPP trade deal. The Bower Group is actively seeking TPP business.

Hiebert has strongly contended that the U.S. lethal arms embargo on Vietnam has outlived its usefulness, and should be lifted. Lockheed, which wants to sell Hanoi its P-3 Orion and C-130 Hercules surveillance planes, has a seat on Hiebert’s CSIS board. So does Boeing, which has been peddling its P-8 Poseidon military surveillance aircraft in Hanoi. Imagine how the giant defense contractors would feel if the money they dole out to CSIS would be used to shine a spotlight on issues involving corruption and human-rights abuses in Vietnam.

Coca-Cola, a Bower Group client, got into Laos a few years ago, thanks to Ernie Bower’s understanding of “the nexus” between business and politics. Coke also has a seat on the CSIS Southeast Asia Board.

Chevron, another major CSIS benefactor, also has a representative on CSIS’s Southeast Asia board. Hiebert authored a November 2014 column for the Wall Street Journal defending Chevron in bitter litigation the oil giant had in Indonesia. In his column, Hiebert identified himself only as a CSIS analyst. Then Ernie Bower got busy on the Bower Group’s Facebook page, touting the Journal piece: “BGA’s Murray Hiebert provides much-needed analysis of the court case against Chevron in Indonesia” in the Wall Street Journal. [Full disclosure: I have been an occasional contributor to the Wall Street Journal’s Asian edition for more than two decades.]

In recent months, Hiebert has been quoted widely by major news outlets including CNN, Reuters, the Associated Press, Forbes, Politico, the Financial Times, the Washington Times, and the Voice of America – always only identified as a CSIS analyst. Readers would not know that Hiebert also works for a business consultancy. They would not know that corporations that fund Hiebert’s CSIS programs have serious financial interests at stake.

One wire-service report that quoted Hiebert about Vietnam’s new top leadership was picked up by the New York Times in April. This gave Ernie Bower another opportunity to twitter to his clients about how “BGA Senior Advisor Murray Hiebert” had made the pages of the Times.

And earlier today, CNN quoted Hiebert’s approving views of enhanced U.S. weapons sales to Vietnam, identifying him only as a CSIS scholar. Viewers were not aware that this “scholar” is funded at CSIS by major U.S. defense contractors, and has taken money from the Vietnamese government for co-authoring a study that called for the lifting of the U.S. weapons embargo to that country. Nor would viewers know that Hiebert also works for the Bower Group, which also touts its interest in facilitating arms deals.

A little digging illustrates how Bower mixes his CSIS affiliations with business. In 2014, for example, Bower opened some important doors in Washington to a Manila wheeler-dealer named Antonio “Tony Boy” Cojuangco. Tony Boy also sits on CSIS’s Southeast Asia board. Bower brought him to town as the head of an “eminent persons” group – such flattery can go a long way in certain Asian circles.

CSIS arranged appointments for the Filipino eminences in the White House, the Export-Import Bank, on Capitol Hill and of course at CSIS headquarters, where they had a scheduled appointment with the think tank’s president, John Hamre. That was during the day. That night, the Bower Group hosted a lavish dinner for Tony Boy and his associates at the posh Jefferson Hotel. Bower, Hiebert, Chris Johnson, and other CSIS/Bower Group operatives were present. To judge from photos I’ve seen, it was a good night all around, lubricated by bottles of Pomerol. (Hamre has not responded to repeated requests to comment. On the CSIS website, the CSIS head asserts that some unnamed journalists who have questioned CSIS ethical practices have ignored evidence to the contrary that he has provided.)

Agents of Influence

Speaking of influence peddling, if one looks closely, the Washington lobbyists on that $30,000-a-month retainer from Vietnamese Ambassador Vinh unwittingly illustrate how the official spin surrounding the Obama visit to Vietnam doesn’t tell the whole story.

The most recent foreign agent’s disclosure form that the Podesta Group has filed with the U.S. Department of Justice lists some of what the firm did to earn its $180,000 for the last six months of 2015. One is left wondering exactly what the lobbyists did to earn their keep.

The lobbyists disclosed only seven meetings, mostly with congressional aides. The only elected representative who met with Podesta representatives was Matt Salmon, an Arizona Republican who is retiring from Congress at the end of this year.

Rep. Salmon had already met with Vietnamese Ambassador Vinh earlier in the year and had been to Vietnam in May. The congressman already had supported an enhanced U.S.-Vietnam trade relationship.

Do the math: $180,000 for seven meetings. That’s about $25,000 a meeting, throwing in about 50 e-mails and five phone calls that the Podesta lobbying form mentions. David Adams, the Podesta lobbyist who has been working to facilitate the Obama visit to Vietnam this week, is a former close aide to Hillary Clinton when she was secretary of state. Asked what he had really done to each the money, Adams declined to comment.

This week, when the television screens show images of happy Vietnamese peasants with their conical hats, toiling in their rice paddies, think of David Adams. The average Vietnamese citizen would have to work 13 years to earn enough money to pay for just one $25,000 Podesta Group meeting with congressional aides.

From the days of French colonialism to the present Communist kleptocracy, the Vietnamese central government has always stolen from its poorest people.

Ambassador Vinh’s lobbyist Adams proudly styles himself as a part-time “gentleman farmer” in Virginia’s wine country. Wonder what those Vietnamese peasants would say, if they knew that their stooped labor is helping subsidize such a lifestyle?

Mayor Sadiq Khan: A Londoner First


May 23, 2016

Mayor Sadiq Khan:  A Londoner First

by Farouk A. Peru

http://www.malaymailonline. com

Last week, Malaysia sank to an even lower level of political discourse than usual with two Penang Barisan Nasional reps vying for the top prize of most unintelligent comment.

One is the Penang Opposition leader herself, Jahara Hamid, who got jittery when she realised there was a Taoist shrine in a park. According to her, this shrine will confuse the Muslims. They would probably see this shrine, then inexplicably fall prostrate before it.

Another candidate for most unintelligent comment is Bertam assemblyman Shariful Azhar Othman. He needs eateries to have either “halal” or “non-halal” signs. Signs like “pork free” would confuse him ostensibly because he thinks pork would be freely distributed, perhaps?

While Malaysia languishes at the bottom of the political pit, history has been made. London has just elected her first Muslim mayor, Sadiq Khan.

Not many Malaysians have heard of him before this but his is a success story. The son of humble Pakistani immigrants, one of eight children, his story is a climb to the heady heights of fame and fortune. He was already a financial success before involving himself in politics.

He was part of Gordon Brown’s exiting Labour Cabinet holding two ministerial posts before and now finds himself the mayor of London. You can read his entire life story all over the Internet.

Despite the worldwide positive reaction, Sadiq Khan’s victory is not so easily formulated. Muslims, especially among all other groups, were obviously quick to laud Khan’s victory as a new era for Islam. Personally I think they are being overly optimistic. It is not as simple as: “The world has now changed. Look, a Muslim is now the mayor of London.” This is what it looks like from the outside but the truth is far more complex.

For a start, let’s take note of the fact that Khan did not win by a landslide. He achieved 44 per cent of the vote while his nearest competitor, the Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith, achieved 35 per cent. This is a not big margin at all.

It shows that Goldsmith had more than a third of voter support. Considering Goldsmith’s previous performance, this is a record when compared to Khan’s and the only reason Goldsmith would even get that many votes is that Khan belongs to a minority group.

What is perhaps even worse is that Goldsmith achieved this by using underhanded tactics in his campaign. He was actually chided by senior Conservatives for his tactics. One of his more blatantly racist claims actually suggested that allowing Khan victory would be surrendering London to terrorists!

London has not come a long way at all. It has made progress but not by far.That brings us to another important point which Malaysian Islamo fascists realised a few days after Khan’s victory. Sadiq Khan is a Pakistani Muslim but he is far from the conservative version of an Islamist.

He did not win the elections in order to turn London into a Muslim city! Rather, he is very friendly to all faiths. There is even a picture of him dressed in Hindu garb which, to my amusement, was circulated with much regret around the Malay-Muslim social media.

What took the biscuit, however, was the revelation that Khan supported same sex marriages some years back. This information completely removed him from being any semblance of a Muslim media darling!

We should really ask ourselves, why were we so elated in the first place when a Muslim was elected as the mayor of London? Would it make any difference who gets elected as long as the person was capable of doing his job?

 

Beneath Malaysia’s façade, lies a dangerous, widespread, and fundamental rot (photo from malaysia-chronicle.com). Read: http://www.christopherteh.com/blog/2015/03/closing-of-the-malaysian-mind/

Malay-Muslims should also ask themselves, would they find it acceptable if a member of the rakyat who was not a Malay was appointed the mayor of KL? It would not even be a Chinese or Indian if we were to look for a Sadiq Khan equivalent. Rather it would be a specific type of a minority. Perhaps a Sikh. Would it be acceptable if a Sikh was appointed the mayor of KL? If not, then we have no business applauding Khan’s victory

We should also ask ourselves why there was little news last year when another Muslim mayor albeit of only a borough, Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman was sacked from office. Rahman was mayor for five years until it was found that he was guilty of election fraud in 2015. That did not make the headlines of Muslim news, I’m sure.

In order to make a better world, we need to beyond tribal kinship and focus on performance. Only then can the right people be chosen for the job and benefit us all.

Cmdr (rtd) Thayaparan on Anwar Ibrahim Letter from Prison


May 20, 2016

Cmdr (rtd) Thayaparan on Anwar Ibrahim Letter from Prison

http://www.malaysiakini.com

“This was my first real lesson in politics… If you are cast on a desert island with only a screwdriver, hatchet, and the chisel to make a boat with, why, go and make the best one you can. It would be better if you had a saw, but you haven’t, so with men.”

COMMENT by S. Thayaparan @www,malaysiakini.com–I have never had a problem defending political prisoner, Anwar Ibrahim.

Isn’t it always the case? You believe in the system until the system comes after you. Those of us, who were part of the system, find ourselves having to justify or defend our histories with the system. Anwar is the reason why there is a viable opposition after the long UMNO watch. Anwar is also the reason why the opposition sometimes finds itself in a quandary.

Tun Dr. Mahathir claims to be under House Arrest–Believe him?

Personality politics is treacherous. I have often described former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad as the de facto opposition leader of this country. Meanwhile imprisoned, vilified – sometimes even by opposition supporters as a has-been, chameleon or charlatan – Anwar has been forced to send scribbled missives through paper or brief exchanges in court, all the while attempting to maintain control of a fractured opposition, by proxy or goodwill. To my mind, he is still the de jure opposition leader of this country.

I cringe whenever I read some opposition supporter refer to the former Prime Minster as “evil”. What does it say about the masses who legitimately voted his party in all those years knowing he was at the helm? What does it say about the people who coalesce around him in the belief that it would damage a corrupt regime?

More importantly, what does it say about the evil that created concentration camps, perpetrated chemical attacks, perpetrated genocides or believe that collateral damage is an appropriate way to spread democracy?

In the same vein, painting Anwar as some sort of saviour who is the magic bullet to the UMNO cancer is self-defeating, indulgent propaganda of the worse kind. It promises everything but delivers nothing. A shrill clarion call to inaction of putting our collective destiny in another’s hand, while doing no hard work but voting. Change by proxy instead of being the change you want.

Which is why his letter to members of his cadre is timely and a little bit ironic. Timely because it puts the focus back on Anwar as a political leader when in recent times, the spotlight has shone on his nemesis, Mahathir, and ironic because of late, the Citizens’ Declaration has lost momentum buried beneath the Sarawak state elections and continuing scandals of current Prime Minster Najib Razak.

While there is merit in the claims that the letter is part of an ongoing power struggle between potentates within PKR, this does not detract from the reality that the letter is also a powerful reminder of the realpolitik that fuels oppositional politics.

While I have been sceptical of the Declaration, I have attempted with interviews with the personalities behind it, including Mahathir, to provide a platform for these diverse political personalities and let the rakyat decide if this is a good strategic move.

Anwar’s letter, therefore, addresses certain issues that has been allowed to simmer in the background, while the main agenda of removing Najib, comes to a boil.

Bridge needs to be built

Kudos to Malaysiakini for highlighting the main points of Anwar’s letter. As for Mahathir’s continued attacks on his former protégé, that is to be expected. Mahathir has never attempted to camouflage this Declaration as anything beyond removing the current President of UMNO. His continued attack on Anwar is merely a continuation of his war with a political rival.

While Anwar has been magnanimous is his overtures to form consensus with political adversaries for a greater good, the unrepentent former Prime Minster continues to demonstrate that he needs no consensus, only force his will and agenda to sustain the fight against his current nemesis. Whether this will prove his undoing remains to be seen.

Seed of PKR’s self destruction: “…the idealism which once fired PKR appears to have been doused by the lustre of power and funds”–Anwar Ibrahim

However, of greater concern is when Anwar says, “…the idealism which once fired PKR appears to have been doused by the lustre of power and funds”. Anyone who knows anything about the political funding of the opposition would know that the opposition has diverse streams of funding from the unlikeliest of sources.

Actually, it is incestuous. Rich men with money are always hedging their bets. The average opposition supporter would be shocked by who funds whom. Plutocrats who are routinely mocked on in the comment sections of Malaysiakini and the other “alternative” news (sic) sources, have always been amenable to funding potentially powerful power structures. Money politics isn’t just an UMNO thing.

However, the inclusion of Mahathir in the opposition mix has also granted the opposition with a new source of funding with the aim of toppling Najib. Now, not everyone avails themselves to this new funding source but there are many, who find that it is easier getting down to the work of removing Najib when they don’t have to worry about funding to sustain their position. Mind you, this is not solely a PKR problem.

Ambiga Sreenevasan made a well-reasoned argument that the Declaration was bridge which connected UMNO and Harapan supporters. Anwar’s letter is a reminder that the bridge needs to be built on a solid foundation.

Even if you do not buy that and believe that, the letter is part of a strategy to discredit certain factions within PKR using the polarising figure of Mahathir as a weapon of mass distraction, the words in the letter, the issues raised should be of concern to opposition supporters.

Here is what Mahathir said when questioned on his trust deficit amongst opposition supporters.

“It is not a question of trusting me. It is a question of getting together to do something that we hold common views. Both the opposition and myself think that Najib is a problem for Malaysia. If Najib is there, the opposition will suffer. If Najib is there, even UMNO will suffer, the whole country will suffer. I think the opposition is not supporting me, they are interested in removing Najib. I have the same interest. It is okay to work together – only on that issue, not on other issues.” (Dr. Mahathir)

Everyone should heed Anwar’s words but ultimately another Hamlet quote comes to mind:“Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.”

 

The Failure of Multiculturalism


May 20, 2016

The Failure of Multiculturalism

Community Versus Society in Europe

As a political tool, multiculturalism has functioned as not merely a response to diversity but also a means of constraining it. And that insight reveals a paradox. Multicultural policies accept as a given that societies are diverse, yet they implicitly assume that such diversity ends at the edges of minority communities. They seek to institutionalize diversity by putting people into ethnic and cultural boxes—into a singular, homogeneous Muslim community, for example—and defining their needs and rights accordingly. Such policies, in other words, have helped create the very divisions they were meant to manage.

by Kenan Malik

Thirty years ago, many Europeans saw multiculturalism—the embrace of an inclusive, diverse society—as an answer to Europe’s social problems. Today, a growing number consider it to be a cause of them. That perception has led some mainstream politicians, including British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, to publicly denounce multiculturalism and speak out against its dangers. It has fueled the success of far-right parties and populist politicians across Europe, from the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands to the National Front in France. And in the most extreme cases, it has inspired obscene acts of violence, such as Anders Behring Breivik’s homicidal rampage on the Norwegian island of Utoya in July 2011.

How did this transformation come about? According to multiculturalism’s critics, Europe has allowed excessive immigration without demanding enough integration—a mismatch that has eroded social cohesion, undermined national identities, and degraded public trust. Multiculturalism’s proponents, on the other hand, counter that the problem is not too much diversity but too much racism.

But the truth about multiculturalism is far more complex than either side will allow, and the debate about it has often devolved into sophistry. Multiculturalism has become a proxy for other social and political issues: immigration, identity, political disenchantment, working-class decline. Different countries, moreover, have followed distinct paths. The United Kingdom has sought to give various ethnic communities an equal stake in the political system. Germany has encouraged immigrants to pursue separate lives in lieu of granting them citizenship. And France has rejected multicultural policies in favor of assimilationist ones. The specific outcomes have also varied: in the United Kingdom, there has been communal violence; in Germany, Turkish communities have drifted further from mainstream society; and in France, the relationship between the authorities and North African communities has become highly charged. But everywhere, the overarching consequences have been the same: fragmented societies, alienated minorities, and resentful citizenry.

As a political tool, multiculturalism has functioned as not merely a response to diversity but also a means of constraining it. And that insight reveals a paradox. Multicultural policies accept as a given that societies are diverse, yet they implicitly assume that such diversity ends at the edges of minority communities. They seek to institutionalize diversity by putting people into ethnic and cultural boxes—into a singular, homogeneous Muslim community, for example—and defining their needs and rights accordingly. Such policies, in other words, have helped create the very divisions they were meant to manage.

The Diversity Myth

Untangling the many strands of the multiculturalism debate requires understanding the concept itself. The term “multicultural” has come to define both a society that is particularly diverse, usually as a result of immigration, and the policies necessary to manage such a society. It thus embodies both a description of society and a prescription for dealing with it. Conflating the two—perceived problem with supposed solution—has tightened the knot at the heart of the debate. Unpicking that knot requires a careful evaluation of each.

Both proponents and critics of multiculturalism broadly accept the premise that mass immigration has transformed European societies by making them more diverse. To a certain extent, this seems self-evidently true. Today, Germany is the world’s second most popular immigrant destination, after the United States. In 2013, more than ten million people, or just over 12 percent of the population, were born abroad. In Austria, that figure was 16 percent; in Sweden, 15 percent; and in France and the United Kingdom, around 12 percent. From a historical perspective, however, the claim that these countries are more plural than ever is not as straightforward as it may seem. Nineteenth-century European societies may look homogeneous from the vantage point of today, but that is not how those societies saw themselves then.

Consider France. In the years of the French Revolution, for instance, only half the population spoke French and only around 12 percent spoke it correctly. As the historian Eugen Weber showed, modernizing and unifying France in the revolution’s aftermath required a traumatic and lengthy process of cultural, educational, political, and economic self-colonization. That effort created the modern French state and gave birth to notions of French (and European) superiority over non-European cultures. But it also reinforced a sense of how socially and culturally disparate most of the population still was. In an address to the Medico-Psychological Society of Paris in 1857, the Christian socialist Philippe Buchez wondered how it could happen that “within a population such as ours, races may form—not merely one, but several races—so miserable, inferior and bastardised that they may be classed as below the most inferior savage races, for their inferiority is sometimes beyond cure.” The “races” that caused Buchez such anxiety were not immigrants from Africa or Asia but the rural poor in France.

In the Victorian era, many Britons, too, viewed the urban working class and the rural poor as the other. A vignette of working-class life in East London’s Bethnal Green, appearing in an 1864 edition of The Saturday Review, a well-read liberal magazine of the era, was typical of Victorian middle-class attitudes. “The Bethnal Green poor,” the story explained, were “a caste apart, a race of whom we know nothing, whose lives are of quite different complexion from ours, persons with whom we have no point of contact.” Much the same was true, the article suggested, of “the great mass of the agricultural poor.” Although the distinctions between slaves and masters were considered more “glaring” than those separating the moneyed and the poor, they offered “a very fair parallel”; indeed, the differences were so profound that they prevented “anything like association or companionship.”

Today, Bethnal Green represents the heart of the Bangladeshi community in East London. Many white Britons see its inhabitants as the new Bethnal Green poor, culturally and racially distinct from themselves. Yet only those on the political fringes would compare the differences between white Britons and their Bangladeshi neighbors with those of masters and slaves. The social and cultural differences between a Victorian gentleman or factory owner, on the one hand, and a farm hand or a machinist, on the other, were in reality much greater than those between a white resident and a resident of Bangladeshi origin are today. However much they may view each other as different, a 16-year-old of Bangladeshi origin living in Bethnal Green and a white 16-year-old probably wear the same clothes, listen to the same music, and follow the same soccer club. The shopping mall, the sports field, and the Internet bind them together, creating a set of experiences and cultural practices more common than any others in the past.

A similar historical amnesia plagues discussions surrounding immigration. Many critics of multiculturalism suggest that immigration to Europe today is unlike that seen in previous times. In his book Reflections on the Revolution in Europe, the journalist Christopher Caldwell suggests that prior to World War II, immigrants to European countries came almost exclusively from the continent and therefore assimilated easily. “Using the word immigration to describe intra-European movements,” Caldwell argues, “makes only slightly more sense than describing a New Yorker as an ‘immigrant’ to California.” According to Caldwell, prewar immigration between European nations differed from postwar immigration from outside Europe because “immigration from neighboring countries does not provoke the most worrisome immigration questions, such as ‘How well will they fit in?’ ‘Is assimilation what they want?’ and, most of all, ‘Where are their true loyalties?’”

Yet these very questions greeted European immigrants in the prewar years. As the scholar Max Silverman has written, the notion that France assimilated immigrants from elsewhere in Europe with ease before World War II is a “retrospective illusion.” And much the same is true of the United Kingdom. In 1903, witnesses to the Royal Commission on Alien Immigration expressed fears that newcomers to the United Kingdom would be inclined to live “according to their traditions, usages and customs.” There were also concerns, as the newspaper editor J. L. Silver put it, that “the debilitated sickly and vicious products of Europe” could be “grafted onto the English stock.” The country’s first immigration law, the 1905 Aliens Act, was designed principally to stem the flow of European Jews. Without such a law, then Prime Minister Arthur Balfour argued at the time, British “nationality would not be the same and would not be the nationality we should desire to be our heirs through the ages yet to come.” The echoes of contemporary anxieties are unmistakable.

Race to the Top

Whether contemporary Europe really is more plural than it was in the nineteenth century remains subject to debate, but the fact that Europeans perceive it to be more diverse is unquestionable. This owes in large part to changes in how people define social differences. A century and a half ago, class was a far more important frame for understanding social interactions. However difficult it is to conceive of now, many at the time saw racial distinctions in terms of differences not in skin color but in class or social standing. Most nineteenth-century thinkers were concerned not with the strangers who crossed their countries’ borders but with those who inhabited the dark spaces within them.

One of the most prevalent myths in European politics is that governments adopted multicultural policies because minorities wanted to assert their differences.

Over the past few decades, however, class has diminished in importance in Europe, both as a political category and as a marker of social identity. At the same time, culture has become an increasingly central medium through which people perceive social differences. The shift reflects broader trends. The ideological divides that characterized politics for much of the past 200 years have receded, and the old distinctions between left and right have become less meaningful. As the working classes have lost economic and political power, labor organizations and collectivistic ideologies have declined. The market, meanwhile, has expanded into almost every nook and cranny of social life. And institutions that traditionally brought disparate individuals together, from trade unions to the church, have faded from public life.

As a result, Europeans have begun to see themselves and their social affiliations in a different way. Increasingly, they define social solidarity not in political terms but rather in terms of ethnicity, culture, or faith. And they are concerned less with determining the kind of society they want to create than with defining the community to which they belong. These two matters are, of course, intimately related, and any sense of social identity must take both into account. But as the ideological spectrum has narrowed and as the mechanisms for change have eroded, the politics of ideology have given way to the politics of identity. It is against this background that Europeans have come to view their homelands as particularly, even impossibly, diverse—and have formulated ways of responding.

Under my umbrella

In describing contemporary European societies as exceptionally diverse, multiculturalism is clearly flawed. What, then, of multiculturalism’s prescription for managing that supposed diversity? Over the past three decades, many European nations have adopted multicultural policies, but they have done so in distinct ways. Comparing just two of these histories, that of the United Kingdom and that of Germany, and understanding what they have in common, reveals much about multiculturalism itself.

One of the most prevalent myths in European politics is that governments adopted multicultural policies because minorities wanted to assert their differences. Although questions about cultural assimilation have certainly engrossed political elites, they have not, until relatively recently, preoccupied immigrants themselves. When large numbers of immigrants from the Caribbean, India, and Pakistan arrived in the United Kingdom during the late 1940s and 1950s to fill labor shortages, British officials feared that they might undermine the country’s sense of identity. As a government report warned in 1953, “A large coloured community as a noticeable feature of our social life would weaken . . . the concept of England or Britain to which people of British stock throughout the Commonwealth are attached.”

The immigrants brought with them traditions and mores from their homelands, of which they were often very proud. But they were rarely preoccupied with preserving their cultural differences, nor did they generally consider culture to be a political issue. What troubled them was not a desire to be treated differently but the fact that they were treated differently. Racism and inequality, not religion and ethnicity, constituted their key concerns. In the following decades, a new generation of black and Asian activists, forming groups such as the Asian Youth Movements and the Race Today Collective, acted on those grievances, organizing strikes and protests challenging workplace discrimination, deportations, and police brutality. These efforts came to explosive climax in a series of riots that tore through the United Kingdom’s inner cities in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

At that point, British authorities recognized that unless minority communities were given a political stake in the system, tensions would continue to threaten urban stability. It was in this context that multicultural policies emerged. The state, at both the national and the local level, pioneered a new strategy of drawing black and Asian communities into the mainstream political process by designating specific organizations or community leaders to represent their interests. At its heart, the approach redefined the concepts of racism and equality. Racism now meant not simply the denial of equal rights but also the denial of the right to be different. And equality no longer entailed possessing rights that transcended race, ethnicity, culture, and faith; it meant asserting different rights because of them.

Consider the case of Birmingham, the United Kingdom’s second most populous city. In 1985, the city’s Handsworth area was engulfed by riots sparked by a simmering resentment of poverty, joblessness, and, in particular, police harassment. Two people died and dozens were injured in the violence. In the aftermath of the unrest, the city council attempted to engage minorities by creating nine so-called umbrella groups—organizations that were supposed to advocate for their members on matters of city policy. These committees decided on the needs of each community, how and to whom resources should be disbursed, and how political power should be distributed. They effectively became surrogate voices for ethnically defined fiefdoms.

The city council had hoped to draw minorities into the democratic process, but the groups struggled to define their individual and collective mandates. Some of them, such as the African and Caribbean People’s Movement, represented an ethnic group, whereas others, such as the Council of Black-Led Churches, were also religious. Diversity among the groups was matched by diversity within them; not all the people supposedly represented by the Bangladeshi Islamic Projects Consultative Committee, for example, were equally devout. Yet the city council’s plan effectively assigned every member of a minority to a discrete community, defined each group’s needs as a whole, and set the various organizations in competition with one another for city resources. And anyone who fell outside these defined communities was effectively excluded from the multicultural process altogether.

The problem with Birmingham’s policies, observed Joy Warmington, director of what was then the Birmingham Race Action Partnership (now BRAP), a charitable organization working to reduce inequality, in 2005, is that they “have tended to emphasize ethnicity as a key to entitlement. It’s become accepted as good practice to allocate resources on ethnic or faith lines. So rather than thinking of meeting people’s needs or about distributing resources equitably, organizations are forced to think about the distribution of ethnicity.” The consequences were catastrophic. In October 2005, two decades after the original Handsworth riots, violence broke out in the neighboring area of Lozells. In 1985, Asian, black, and white demonstrators had taken to the streets together to protest poverty, unemployment, and police harassment. In 2005, the fighting was between blacks and Asians. The spark had been a rumor, never substantiated, that a group of Asian men had raped a Jamaican girl. The fighting lasted a full weekend.

Why did two communities that had fought side by side in 1985 fight against each other in 2005? The answer lies largely in Birmingham’s multicultural policies. As one academic study of Birmingham’s policies observed, “The model of engagement through Umbrella Groups tended to result in competition between BME [black and minority ethnic] communities for resources. Rather than prioritizing needs and cross-community working, the different Umbrella Groups generally attempted to maximize their own interests.”

The council’s policies, in other words, not only bound people more closely to particular identities but also led them to fear and resent other groups as competitors for power and influence. An individual’s identity had to be affirmed as distinctive from the identities of those from other groups: being Bangladeshi in Birmingham also meant being not Irish, not Sikh, and not African Caribbean. The consequence was the creation of what the economist Amartya Sen has termed “plural monoculturalism”—a policy driven by the myth that society is made up of distinct, uniform cultures that dance around one another. The result in Birmingham was to entrench divisions between black and Asian communities to such an extent that those divisions broke out into communal violence.

Separate and unequal

Germany’s road to multiculturalism was different from the United Kingdom’s, although the starting point was the same. Like many countries in western Europe, Germany faced an immense labor shortage in the years following World War II and actively recruited foreign workers. Unlike in the United Kingdom, the new workers came not from former colonies but from the countries around the Mediterranean: first from Greece, Italy, and Spain, and then from Turkey. They also came not as immigrants, still less as potential citizens, but as so-called Gastarbeiter (guest workers), who were expected to return to their countries of origin when the German economy no longer required their services.

Instead of welcoming immigrants as equals, German politicians dealt with the so-called Turkish problem through a policy of multiculturalism.

Over time, however, these guests, the vast majority of them Turks, went from being a temporary necessity to a permanent presence. This was partly because Germany continued to rely on their labor and partly because the immigrants, and more so their children, came to see Germany as their home. But the German state continued to treat them as outsiders and refuse them citizenship.

German citizenship was, until recently, based on the principle of jus sanguinis, by which one can acquire citizenship only if one’s parents were citizens. The principle excluded from citizenship not just first-generation immigrants but also their German-born children. In 1999, a new nationality law made it easier for immigrants to acquire citizenship. Yet most Turks remain outsiders. Out of the three million people of Turkish origin in Germany today, only some 800,000 have managed to acquire citizenship.

Instead of welcoming immigrants as equals, German politicians dealt with the so-called Turkish problem through a policy of multiculturalism. Beginning in the 1980s, the government encouraged Turkish immigrants to preserve their own culture, language, and lifestyle. The policy did not represent a respect for diversity so much as a convenient means of avoiding the issue of how to create a common, inclusive culture. And its main consequence was the emergence of parallel communities.

First-generation immigrants were broadly secular, and those who were religious were rarely hard-line in their beliefs and practices. Today, almost one-third of adult Turks in Germany regularly attend mosque, a higher rate than among other Turkish communities in western Europe and even in many parts of Turkey. Similarly, first-generation Turkish women almost never wore headscarves; now many of their daughters do. Without any incentive to participate in the national community, many Turks don’t bother learning German.

At the same time that Germany’s multicultural policies have encouraged Turks to approach German society with indifference, they have led Germans to view Turkish culture with increasing antagonism. Popular notions of what it means to be German have come to be defined partly in opposition to the perceived values and beliefs of the excluded immigrant community. A 2011 survey conducted by the French polling firm Ifop showed that 40 percent of Germans considered the presence of Islamic communities “a threat” to their national identity. Another poll, conducted by Germany’s Bielefeld University in 2005, suggested that three out of four Germans believed that Muslim culture did not fit into the Western world. Anti-Muslim groups, such as Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West, or PEGIDA, are on the rise, and anti-immigration protests held in cities across the country this past January were some of the largest in recent memory. Many German politicians, including Merkel, have taken a strong stance against the anti-Muslim movement. But the damage has already been done.

Subcontracting Policy

In both the United Kingdom and Germany, governments failed to recognize the complexity, elasticity, and sheer contrariness of identity. Personal identities emerge out of relationships—not merely personal ties but social ones, too—and constantly mutate.

Group identities are not natural categories; they arise out of social interaction.

Take Muslim identity. Today there is much talk in European countries of a so-called Muslim community—of its views, its needs, its aspirations. But the concept is entirely new. Until the late 1980s, few Muslim immigrants to Europe thought of themselves as belonging to any such thing. That wasn’t because they were few in number. In France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, for example, there were already large and well-established South Asian, North African, and Turkish immigrant communities by the 1980s.

The first generation of North African immigrants to France was broadly secular, as was the first generation of Turkish immigrants to Germany. By contrast, the first wave of South Asian immigrants to arrive in the United Kingdom after World War II was more religious. Yet even they thought of themselves not as Muslims first but as Punjabis or Bengalis or Sylhetis. Although pious, they wore their faith lightly. Many men drank alcohol. Few women wore a hijab, let alone a burqa or a niqab (a full-faced veil). Most attended mosque only occasionally. Islam was not, in their eyes, an all-encompassing philosophy. Their faith defined their relationship with God, not a sacrosanct public identity.

Members of the second generation of Britons with Muslim backgrounds were even less likely to identify with their religion. The same went for those whose parents were Hindu or Sikh. Religious organizations were barely visible within minority communities. The organizations that bound immigrants together were primarily secular and often political; in the United Kingdom, for example, such groups included the Asian Youth Movements, which fought racism, and the Indian Workers’ Association, which focused on labor rights.

Only in the late 1980s did the question of cultural differences become important. A generation that, ironically, is far more integrated and westernized than the first turned out to be the more insistent on maintaining its alleged distinctiveness. The reasons for this shift are complex. Partly they lie in a tangled web of larger social, political, and economic changes over the past half century, such as the collapse of the left and the rise of identity politics. Partly they lie in international developments, such as the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and the Bosnian war of the early 1990s, both of which played an important role in fostering a more heightened sense of Muslim identity in Europe. And partly they lie in European multicultural policies.

Group identities are not natural categories; they arise out of social interaction. But as cultural categories received official sanction, certain identities came to seem fixed. In channeling financial resources and political power through ethnically based organizations, governments provided a form of authenticity to certain ethnic identities and denied it to others.

Multicultural policies seek to build a bridge between the state and minority communities by looking to particular community organizations and leaders to act as intermediaries. Rather than appeal to Muslims and other minorities as citizens, politicians tend to assume minorities’ true loyalty is to their faith or ethnic community. In effect, governments subcontract their political responsibilities out to minority leaders.

Such leaders are, however, rarely representative of their communities. That shouldn’t be a surprise: no single group or set of leaders could represent a single white community. Some white Europeans are conservative, many are liberal, and still others are communist or neofascist. And most whites would not see their interests as specifically “white.” A white Christian probably has more in common with a black Christian than with a white atheist; a white socialist would likely think more like a Bangladeshi socialist than like a white conservative; and so on. Muslims and Sikhs and African Caribbeans are no different; herein rests the fundamental flaw of multiculturalism.

Assimilate Now

France’s policy of assimilationism is generally regarded as the polar opposite of multiculturalism, which French politicians have proudly rejected. Unlike the rest of Europe, they insist, France treats every individual as a citizen rather than as a member of a particular racial, ethnic, or cultural group. In reality, however, France is as socially divided as Germany or the United Kingdom, and in a strikingly similar way.

Questions surrounding French social policy, and the country’s social divisions, came sharply into focus in Paris this past January, when Islamist gunmen shot 12 people dead at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and four Jews in a kosher supermarket. French politicians had long held multicultural policies responsible for nurturing homegrown jihadists in the United Kingdom. Now they had to answer for why such terrorists had been nurtured in assimilationist France, too.

It is often claimed that there are some five million Muslims in France—supposedly the largest Muslim community in western Europe. In fact, those of North African origin in France, who have been lumped into this group, have never constituted a single community, still less a religious one. Immigrants from North Africa have been broadly secular and indeed often hostile to religion. A 2006 report by the Pew Research Center showed that 42 percent of Muslims in France identified themselves as French citizens first—more than in Germany, Spain, or the United Kingdom. A growing number have, in recent years, become attracted to Islam. But even today, according to a 2011 study by Ifop, only 40 percent identify themselves as observant Muslims, and only 25 percent attend Friday prayers.

Those of North African origin in France are also often described as immigrants. In fact, the majority are second-generation French citizens, born in France and as French as any voter for the National Front. The use of the terms “Muslim” and “immigrant” as labels for French citizens of North African origin is not, however, accidental. It is part of the process whereby the state casts such citizens as the other—as not really part of the French nation.

As in the United Kingdom, in France, the first generation of post–World War II immigrants faced considerable racism, and the second generation was far less willing to accept social discrimination, unemployment, and police brutality. They organized, largely through secular organizations, and took to the streets, often in violent protest. The riots that swept through French cities in the fall of 2005 exposed the fractures in French society as clearly as had those that engulfed British cities two decades earlier.

During the 1970s and early 1980s, the French authorities took a relatively laid-back stance on multiculturalism, generally tolerating cultural and religious differences at a time when few within minority communities expressed their identities in cultural or religious terms. French President François Mitterrand even coined the slogan le droit à la différence (the right to difference). As tensions within North African communities became more open and as the National Front emerged as a political force, Paris abandoned that approach for a more hard-line position. The riots in 2005, and the disaffection they expressed, were presented less as a response to racism than as an expression of Islam’s growing threat to France. In principle, the French authorities rejected the multicultural approach of the United Kingdom. In practice, however, they treated North African immigrants and their descendents in a “multicultural” way—as a single community, primarily a Muslim one. Concerns about Islam came to reflect larger anxieties about the crisis of values and identity that now beset France.

A much-discussed 2013 poll conducted by the French research group Ipsos and the Centre de Recherches Politiques, or CEVIPOF, at the Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris (known as Sciences Po) found that 50 percent of the French population believed that the economic and cultural “decline” of their country was “inevitable.” Fewer than one-third thought that French democracy worked well, and 62 percent considered “most” politicians to be “corrupt.” The pollsters’ report described a fractured France, divided along tribal lines, alienated from mainstream politics, distrustful of national leaders, and resentful of Muslims. The main sentiment driving French society, the report concluded, was “fear.”

In the United Kingdom, multicultural policies were at once an acknowledgment of a more fractured society and the source of one. In France, assimilationist policies have, paradoxically, had the same result. Faced with a distrustful and disengaged public, politicians have attempted to reassert a common French identity. But unable to define clearly the ideas and values that characterize the country, they have done so primarily by sowing hostility toward symbols of alienness—by banning the burqa, for example, in 2010.

Instead of accepting North Africans as full citizens, French policy has tended to ignore the racism and discrimination they have faced. Many in France view its citizens of North African origin not as French but as Arab or Muslim. But second-generation North Africans are often as estranged from their parents’ culture and mores—and from mainstream Islam—as they are from wider French society. They are caught not between two cultures, as it is often claimed, but without one. As a consequence, some of them have turned to Islamism, and a few have expressed their inchoate rage through jihadist violence.

At the same time, French assimilationist policies have exacerbated the sense of disengagement felt by traditional working-class communities. The social geographer Christophe Guilluy has coined the phrase “the peripheral France” to describe those people “pushed out by the deindustrialization and gentrification of the urban centers,” who “live away from the economic and decision-making centers, in a state of social non-integration,” and have thus come to “feel excluded.” The peripheral France has emerged mainly as a result of economic and political developments. But like many parts of the country’s North African communities, it has come to see its marginalization through the lens of cultural and ethnic identity. According to the 2013 Ipsos-CEVIPOF poll, seven out of ten people thought there were “too many foreigners in France,” and 74 percent considered Islam to be incompatible with French society. Presenting Islam as a threat to French values has not only strengthened culture’s political role but also sharpened popular disenchantment with mainstream politics.

In the past, disaffection, whether within North African or white working-class communities, would have led to direct political action. Today, however, both groups are expressing their grievances through identity politics. In their own ways, racist populism and radical Islamism are each expressions of a similar kind of social disengagement in an era of identity politics.

Another Way

Multiculturalism and assimilationism are different policy responses to the same problem: the fracturing of society. And yet both have had the effect of making things worse. It’s time, then, to move beyond the increasingly sterile debate between the two approaches. And that requires making three kinds 
of distinctions.

First, Europe should separate diversity as a lived experience from multiculturalism as a political process. The experience of living in a society made diverse by mass immigration should be welcomed. Attempts to institutionalize such diversity through the formal recognition of cultural differences should be resisted.

Multiculturalism and assimilationism are different policy responses to the same problem: the fracturing of society. And yet both have had the effect of making things worse. It’s time, then, to move beyond the increasingly sterile debate between the two approaches. And that requires making three kinds 
of distinctions.

Second, Europe should distinguish colorblindness from blindness to racism. The assimilationist resolve to treat everyone equally as citizens, rather than as bearers of specific racial or cultural histories, is valuable. But that does not mean that the state should ignore discrimination against particular groups. Citizenship has no meaning if different classes of citizens are treated differently, whether because of multicultural policies or because of racism.

Finally, Europe should differentiate between peoples and values. Multiculturalists argue that societal diversity erodes the possibility of common values. Similarly, assimilationists suggest that such values are possible only within a more culturally—and, for some, ethnically—homogeneous society. Both regard minority communities as homogeneous wholes, attached to a particular set of cultural traits, faiths, beliefs, and values, rather than as constituent parts of a modern democracy.

The real debate should be not between multiculturalism and assimilationism but between two forms of the former and two forms of the latter. An ideal policy would marry multiculturalism’s embrace of actual diversity, rather than its tendency to institutionalize differences, and assimilationism’s resolve to treat everyone as citizens, rather than its tendency to construct a national identity by characterizing certain groups as alien to the nation. In practice, European countries have done the opposite. They have enacted either multicultural policies that place communities in constricting boxes or assimilationist ones that distance minorities from the mainstream.

Moving forward, Europe must rediscover a progressive sense of universal values, something that the continent’s liberals have largely abandoned, albeit in different ways. On the one hand, there is a section of the left that has combined relativism and multiculturalism, arguing that the very notion of universal values is in some sense racist. On the other, there are those, exemplified by such French assimilationists as the philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, who insist on upholding traditional Enlightenment values but who do so in a tribal fashion that presumes a clash of civilizations.

There has also been a guiding assumption throughout Europe that immigration and integration must be managed through state policies and institutions. Yet real integration, whether of immigrants or of indigenous groups, is rarely brought about by the actions of the state; it is shaped primarily by civil society, by the individual bonds that people form with one another, and by the organizations they establish to further their shared political and social interests. It is the erosion of such bonds and institutions that has proved so problematic—that links assimilationist policy failures to multicultural ones and that explains why social disengagement is a feature not simply of immigrant communities but of the wider society, too. To repair the damage that disengagement has done, and to revive a progressive universalism, Europe needs not so much new state policies as a renewal of civil society.

Citizens’ Coalition to Oust Najib –An Audacious Naiveté


May 19, 2016

Citizens’ Coalition to Oust Najib An Audacious Naiveté

by Dr Kua Kia Soong

I have already pointed out the sheer opportunism of the ‘Save Malaysia’ gambit by some of the Pakatan leaders in their Anti-Najib Coalition with Mahathir (March 7, 2016) and their vain attempt to justify this move as a “united front” (April 2, 2016). My description of this unholy alliance as “an audacious naivete” seems to ring a bell in Anwar’s recent letter from prison when he said: “I can’t help feeling flabbergasted by the simplistic assertions that with Najib’s removal we will be able to usher change towards democratic accountability.”

Anwar’s letter also raises another glaring mistake in this unholy alliance with Mahathir, namely, the gross inconsistency in the stand by these Pakatan leaders on Anwar’s conviction.

Despite the generous gestures shown toward Mahathir by his former detractors, including Anwar, Mahathir has not displayed any remorse for his past record and instead, repeated his scurrilous attacks on Anwar’s character.  Naturally, Anwar was hurt when this “humiliation, sadly did not elicit any response from my trusted colleagues.”

Let this also be a lesson to Anwar for initially falling for this opportunistic gambit: “It’s baffling to note that after working with Pakatan Harapan, civil society and my trusted colleagues, he continued to pour scorn and venom against me!”

Thus, if these Pakatan leaders could be forgiven for their “audacious naivete” in working with Mahathir, there was no excuse for their continued alliance with the latter AFTER he repeated his prejudiced comments against Anwar. As to who is calling the shots in the Anti-Najib Coalition, this terse admonition by the Pakatan de facto leader says it all:

“But I resent the insensitivity in pressuring the president and in particular Nurul Izzah to pay respects to Tun M or attend his functions. You may want to appease him, but to demand such a sacrifice from my family, particularly after the recent scorn is the unkindest cut of all!”

No excuse for being unprincipled

Citizens’ Coalition–“An Audacious Naiveté”

Din explains why he rejects the Citizens’ Declaration

 Defence of their de facto Pakatan leader is only part of the equation; even more serious is the abandonment of their principles regarding Anwar’s conviction by the state.

Throughout Anwar’s sodomy trials, the Pakatan leaders had maintained that he was a “victim of political conspiracy and fabricated evidence”. When he was sent to jail for the second time, senior opposition parliamentarian Lim Kit Siang said: “It’s a day of infamy. It’s a shocking decision.” The PKR Deputy President Azmin Ali labelled Anwar’s jail term “perverse”, an “injustice” and an “absolute disgrace”, while former Bar Council President Ambiga Sreenavasan likewise slammed the political conspiracy against Anwar. Amnesty International and other human rights groups have also condemned the charges against Anwar.

Hence by not condemning Mahathir for repeating his scurrilous attacks on Anwar’s character even AFTER the formation of the Anti-Najib Coalition, it exposes the Pakatan leaders’ inconsistent stand on Anwar’s innocence in his political trial.

What do we want and when do we want it?

First, the Pakatan leaders should demand an apology from the man who initiated the prosecution of Anwar in the first place when he was Prime Minister. Mahathir should be asked to forthwith withdraw his scurrilous attacks on Anwar. Failure to do so should result in him being booted out of the Anti-Najib Coalition.

Najib Razak is very much in command

The reform movement should then be redefined to target not just an individual but the political regime and political economic system that oppresses, divides and exploits the people.  The aim would not only be to call for Najib’s resignation but to change the racist and exploitative regime. Furthermore, reforms should target the neoliberal economic policies that were set in motion by none other than Mahathir in the early Eighties.

Najib has merely made more extreme the structures created by Mahathir to entrench the powers of the Executive, emasculate the democratic institutions and provide the means for private enrichment of the elite in this country. Racist and racial discriminatory policies were also entrenched by Mahathir in the early Eighties and further manipulated by Najib until today.

Thus, Anwar’s recent letter from prison should not be brushed aside as “an internal PKR matter”. It stirs up questions surrounding the Malaysian rakyat’s continuing struggle for truth, justice, dignity, consistency, democracy and human rights.

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