Thaipusam–An Occasion to celebrate Our Diversity


January 28, 2018

Thaipusam–An Occasion to celebrate Our Diversity

by Emmanuel Joseph

http://www.themalaysianinsider.com

For as long as Thaipusam has been celebrated in Malaysia on a large scale, it has been as much a community celebration as a religious observation.

The million devotees thronging Batu Caves, paying their homage to Lord Muruga, along with tourists and visitors who visit the many enterprising trade booths and stalls that pop up on cue – selling food and drinks, clothes, prayer items, household goods, video tapes, and for good measure, TV channels and radio.

Thaipusam and Batu Caves is no stranger to politics either. With the eyes of 1.8 million Hindu population on it, politicians from both sides would be eager to be seen being a significant part of it.

During the height of the Hindraf movement, a call to boycott Batu Caves by the Hindraf leaders saw the number of visitors dip to well below half the usual crowd. Even till today, the temple committee chairman is said to be in a legal argument with one of the five Hindraf leaders.

As with any religious celebration or any large gathering for that matter, the people converging on Batu Caves would of course cause some traffic issues with the road closures, diversions, increase in volume of vehicles and naturally, parking of those vehicles.

This has hardly been an issue in the last hundred years or so, but in a present day Malaysia where everything is racialised, politicised and radicalised, in either or both directions, it was a matter of time before Thaipusam joined the bandwagon of non-issues-overnight-turned-into-important-national-issues.

After all, some quarters had already questioned the large statue of Lord Murugan that was built. Even the good God’s image, now synonymous with Batu Caves, on mineral water bottle packaging was not spared the wrath of mortals, too.

And now similar quarters’ beef with the Hindus celebrating Thaipusam is the traffic jams it causes. But such arguments aren’t really a fair reasoning. Every religion in Malaysia have feasts, religious celebrations and observations from time to time.

We all have our famous pastors, preachers, healers, gurus and saints who visit us and cause similar road closures and inconveniences. Even some atheists with no such gods, do contribute to traffic jams in the form of IKEA launches, free Furby giveaways at McDonald’s, Michael Buble performances or whenever Shell decides to do a Lego promotion or Big Bad Wolf decides to do a book fair.

If traffic jams are that much of a bother to some, perhaps we should reconsider celebrating National Day or New Year or any one of the dozen or so events that occasionally leave clueless motorists circling KL looking for an alternative road to get to the office on a random Monday morning, wondering why there are barricades closing off Dataran Merdeka.

Traffic jams like those are actually productive in a way. They indicate some economic activity is happening at that locality and that money is changing hands. Ornsome buzz is being created, which is quite welcome when job markets are shrinking, salary scales narrowing and donations and handouts are scarce to come by, at least for the ordinary public.

But like everything else in Malaysia, not all traffic jams are created equal.Some traffic jams appear to create nothing but delayed arrivals, elevated blood pressure and lowered petrol meter readings.

While some appear to be unable to tolerate once-a-year events, Malaysians in general are highly tolerant of this urban ritual that tests our faith and patience every morning at Damansara, Jalan Duta, Bangsar, Subang, and almost every step of the way to KL after the Batu Tiga toll on the Federal Highway.

While some traffic jams should be tolerated out of respect for religious beliefs and in the spirit of living together as Malaysians, in that same spirit, perhaps it’s time to put a stop to tolerating traffic jams we do not have to. Malaysians should stop having to pay for the sins of those who do poor city and road planning.

Stand By Those Re-Thinking Islam Part I : A Different Narrative and Discourse


January 25, 2016

Stand By Those Re-Thinking Islam Part I : A Different Narrative and Discourse

by William Leong Jee Keen

 

Realignment of the Political Landscape

As we enter 2016, the shifting loyalties of politics find two once bitter foes joining forces in a corroborative alliance. Despite contradictory statements by PAS leaders, Malaysians have no illusions the compact is a done deal. For PAS, the cooperation makes it’s Holy Grail of turning Malaysia into an Islamic state and implementation of sharia, potentially, just an election away. For UMNO, it gets to retain power despite the corruption scandals, fiscal mismanagements, failed economic policies, rising costs of living and falling value of the Ringgit.

Convergence of PAS Islamism and UMNO Islamism

With the PAS/UMNO cooperation we now have a convergence of PAS Islamism to establish an Islamic state ruled by shariah with UMNO Islamism on the Islamisation of the bureaucracy, laws and policies of the nation. Both favour a literal interpretation of the primary sources of Islam and harken back to earlier times to return to the fundamentals of the religion which is out of line with modern times (“the Traditionalist”)

The cooperation presents the daunting prospect of the ulama working with Federal and State religious authorities, state agencies and bureaucrats in establishing not just an Islamic theocratic state but a brand of Islamic state fused with intolerant ethno-nationalism where the supremacy of Islam and supremacy of a particular ethnic group are one and the same.[1]

Re-Thinking Islam

There is, however, an increasing number of Muslim scholars and political leaders who utilize rigorous, historical and texture analysis to re-examine, reconcile and re-think the role of Islam in a secular state and related issues so as to bring modern concepts of democracy, human rights, inclusivity, tolerance, pluralism and religious freedom to be comparable to Islam’s universal concepts. They assert good governance, economic development, inclusiveness, protecting basic rights and freedoms are Islamic objectives adopting a maqasid approach and ijtihad. In this article I call these Muslim scholars and political leaders “the Re-Thinkers”

Muslims First Malay Second

The electoral strategic interests of winning Malay votes have changed to winning Muslim votes due to the increasing number of Malays who identify themselves based on the religion rather than the race. With Malays forming 60% of the population and 114 parliament seats out of 165 in Peninsula Malaysia being Malay majority seats, the importance of Malay/Muslim votes is obvious. According to a 15 August 2015 Merdeka Centre report, 60% of Malays say they are Muslims first. This is up from 54% ten years ago. Those who see themselves as Malays first fell from 11% to 6%. If the Re-Thinkers wish to reform the thinking of the religion, the narrative and discourse must address the Muslim audience.

Non-Muslims’ Understanding of the New Narrative

This article seeks to obtain non-Muslims’ understanding on the need for a different narrative and discourse from the existing Islamic state- secular state debate and not to be alarmed by the Re-Thinkers’ use and reference to Islamic authoritative traditions and religious arguments.

A Different Discourse from the Constitutional Argument

The argument based on the interpretation of Article 3(1) that Islam is the official religion of the Federation; but other religions may be practised in peace and harmony, the guaranteed freedom of religion under Article 10 and the Supreme Court decision of Che Omar bin Che Soh v Public Prosecutor [1988] 2 MLJ 55 that the laws of Malaysia is secular, although sound is not the narrative and discourse that can be used for the intended Muslim audience. The road to Islamic re-thinking despite the twists and turns cannot reach its destination without passing through the gates of Islamic authoritative traditions.

Those Re-Thinking Islam have to frame the narrative and discourse to engage Muslims in accordance with the practices and authority of Islamic traditions. This is a critical problem that all religious scholars or leaders of whatever faith face. They need to demonstrate a relationship between their re-thinking and the authority of tradition. The Re-Thinkers must show some form of continuity between tradition and change. For Muslims, the interpretations and practices sanctioned by the ijma of the past, the classical Islamic traditions, consensus of religious scholars or ijma represents the source of religious authority. If the Re-Thinkers are unable to establish the necessary link or continuity between the authoritative ijma of the past and modern change their efforts will fail.

Non-Muslims need to understand that the success or failure of the re-thinking and approach to interpret the universal values of Islam to be comparable with modern society depends on the narrative and discourse being put in the language and in accordance with the Islamic belief system. It is only upon this being established can we go into heart of the matter. The core question to be answered is not whether Malaysia should be an Islamic or secular state, it is what Malaysian Muslims want. It is submitted that on reflection it is not different from what non-Muslim Malaysians want.

Effect of the Politicization of Islam in Malaysia

Malaysian Muslims want to practice their religion and live their lives in accordance with Islamic values. However, they do not wish to impose their beliefs on non-Muslims. This is the same as every other citizen practising their own religion. However, the politicization of Islam in the battle by PAS and UMNO for the hearts and minds of the Malay Muslims has been a contest of one trying to out-Islamise the other in accordance with the tenets of fundamental Islamism. As a consequence, Muslims have been pushed by the two political Islamist parties to the right of the Islamic political spectrum much to the despair and alarm of non-Muslims and the silent and silenced majority of moderate Muslims. In my opinion this have caused negative effects in at least three major areas.

Effects of Politicisation of Islam: Radical or Militant Islamism

Just as Malaysians are recovering from the shock of a 16-year old “lone cub” attack inspired by ISIS in the attempted kidnapping of a sales assistant in a shopping complex in Sungai Petani, we are reeling under the horrifying news of the ISIS terrorists attacks in Jakarta so close to home. It is estimated that approximately 200-250 Malaysians have joined ISIS as fighters. With a population of 31 million and only 60% of which are Muslims this is an exceedingly high rate compared to the 400 Indonesians who joined ISIS with a Muslim population of more than 300 million. Social media have gone viral with videos of Malaysians fighting and dying for ISIS. A growing number treat them as martyrs and heroes. Malaysian girls have also gone there to become comfort women to the ISIS fighters. “Jihad al-Nikah” refers to a controversial concept where women allegedly offer themselves to provide sexual comfort to fighters for the establishment of an Islamic state.

According to a recent PEW poll, 11% of Malaysian Muslims have a ‘favourable’ view of ISIS. Malaysian Muslims are more likely than Indonesian Muslims to consider suicide bombing justifiable (18% versus 7%). Transport Minister, Dato Sri Liow Tiong Lai told a conference in Kuala Lumpur on 12 December 2015 that based on police intelligence estimates there are approximately 50,000 ISIS supporters in Malaysia.

Although both PAS and UMNO have gone officially on record to condemn ISIS and other terrorist attacks, to a large extent, impressionable Malaysians being enamoured with the romanticised idea of jihad is due to the politicization of Islam by PAS and UMNO. While JAKIM (Malaysian Islamic Development Department), Biro Tata Negara (National Civics Bureau or “BTN”) and similar bodies do not officially support ISIS or its brutally cruel and murderous ideology, they have promoted a uniquely narrow Malay Islamic worldview which indirectly supports and complements the ISIS brand of intolerance. Many young Malays at the primary and secondary school steeped in the view of Malay Islam finds ISIS’s ideology easy to accept, having grown up with a state-sanctioned view of intolerance towards non-Malay Muslims.[2]

A different narrative and discourse is urgently needed so as to review the politicization of Islam in Malaysia, the Islamization agenda, policies and strategies of all parties to reduce these factors contributing to the rise of right wing ethno-nationalist sentiments and extremist religious activities.

Effect of Politicisation of Islam on non-Muslims

In the quest by PAS and UMNO to win Muslim votes, freedom of non-Muslims to practise their religion have been encroached upon and is diminishing over time.The ban on the use of “Allah”, the seizure of Bahasa Malaysia language Bibles and CDs intended for Christian use, the Islamization of the bureaucracy, the enactment and implementation of narrow Islamic policies by UMNO-run state and local governments have fundamental and far-reaching consequences in the politicisation of Islam in Malaysia. This includes the control of building non-Muslim religious buildings and curtailment of land plots for non-Muslim burial sites. Demolition and desecration of religious places of worship have become regular and repeated problems.

Amendments to Article 121 of the Federal Constitution and the insertion of Article 121(1A) which provides that the High Court shall have no jurisdiction in respect of any matter within the jurisdiction of the Sharia Courts have led the Civil Courts to abdicate their jurisdiction to determine sensitive religious cases such as conversion, child custody and child conversion cases. Cases such as Lina Joy, Shamala v Dr Jeyaganesh, R. Subashini and the recent Court of Appeal decision of Indira Gandhi have caused great grief and distress. The lack of judicial activism and deference to the shariah courts mean more suffering and injustice shall continue unless something is done.

Effect of Politicisation of Islam on Muslims

Muslims are in fact bearing the brunt of the Traditionalist approach to Islam in Malaysia. Over the years, Islamic authorities have gradually become more rigid in their interpretation and application of the Shariah code in Islam.

This Christmas the Sultan of Brunei decreed a maximum five year prison sentence for Muslims who celebrate Christmas or non-Muslims who celebrate too openly. Some quarters in Malaysia support this. Before this, the National Fatwa Council issued an edict banning Muslims from celebrating Halloween which is categorised as a Christian celebration of the dead.

Muslim gymnasts have recently been criticised for their “revealing” uniforms. The organiser of a dog-petting event received death threats. In Kelantan Muslim men are fined up to RM1,000.00 or jail up to a year or both, for failing to attend Friday prayers thrice in a row under s state by-law.[3]

Friday sermons prepared by religious authorities paint non-Muslims as enemies of Islam. Muslims who engaged in liberalism, pluralism and humanism are condemned as being anti-Islam. Malaysian religious authorities also frequently warn against liberalism, with the Federal government’s Islamic Development Department (JAKIM) reminding Muslims that this concept, along with pluralism, are threats to Malay-Muslim unity as they could weaken their faith. JAKIM also said the National Fatwa Council had in its 74th meeting in 2006 declared liberal thinking as heretical.

Islamic authorities prohibit dissent and discussions of the country’s predominant religion. Muslims are told they cannot use logic and rationale to understand and practise Islam. They must only refer to the Quran and hadith and nothing else.

KASSIM AHMAD_HIGH COURT_

Kassim Ahmad–The Persecuted Islamic Thinker

Thinking Muslims are being marginalised and persecuted. Octogenarian, Muslim intellectual, Dr Kassim Ahmad was charged by the Federal Territory Religious Department (JAWI) for insulting Islam and disobeying religious authorities for participating in a seminar entitled “The Thoughts of Kassim Ahmad” organised by the Perdana Foundation where he apparently accused some ulema of imitating the “priesthood class” and questioned the use of hadith to interpret the Quran. The former Malay studies lecturer at the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies lamented that people in Malaysia are losing their freedom to think and voice their views, and that the authorities are becoming more narrow-minded.

There is a climate of fear, suspicion and prejudice. Muslims who do not prescribe to the belief system of the religious authorities do not see themselves as being welcomed or even tolerated in their own country.

A Different Discourse: Islamic State or State of Islam (Higher Objectives of Islam)

It is hoped that through the different narrative and discourse there will be a better awareness of the concept of an Islamic state and its origins. The maqasid al-shariah approach and ijtihad would provide a different solution to the negative effects suffered by non-Muslims and Muslims in Malaysia.

Roots of Radicalism in Political Islam

It helps in the understanding of the issue of Islamic state to know that militant Islamism has the same root as political Islam. Both share the same dream of establishing an Islamic state and implementation of shariah, the difference is one is by the bullet while the other is by the ballot.

Muslims in the Arab Spring countries aghast with the cruelty and brutality of ISIS, Boko Haram and extremist violence is amongst the reasons for political Islam’s decline and on the defensive post-Arab Spring. It is hoped that by having this different discourse Muslims come to a realisation and appreciation that it is not a religious obligation to set up the Islamic state and that the Caliphate is not relevant in today’s world.

The discourse reminds Muslims that Prophet Mohamed and the successive early generations especially the four rightly-guided caliphs did not establish a state. Their focus was on organising the life of the ummah (community of believers) to be a moral community, with its hierarchy, social arrangements, economic system and defence capabilities. The idea of a state is a modern invention. It is therefore a fallacy to believe that setting up the Islamic state is a religious obligation.

Ali Mamouri, a researcher and writer who specializes in Religion wrote in Al-Monitor “The Roots of Radicalism in Political Islam” that political Islam is the umbrella term of fundamentalism. The goal of fundamentalism is to return to the “sacred text” carefully executing what it says without any interpretation and rejecting the official, and more conservative, historical interpretations of it. For the fundamentalists, a return to the original and primary reading and avoiding any latter interpretation, is the solution to all current problems.[4]

Creating an Islamic state ruled by the principles of sharia is the cornerstone which a growing Islamic ideology depends on. This general aim serves as an ideological façade concealing behind it a heterogeneous mixture of groups and organisations that differ in their strategies, priorities and interpretation of reality. The point worth noting is that these different approaches have very similar ideological structures as well joint historical roots. Understanding this fact can change one’s outlook towards conflicts in the Middle East.

Islamic fundamentalism, in its current form as a social movement and apart from its historical religious background, is a recent phenomenon of approximately only 100 years. The movement was a reaction to the frailty and weakness of Islamic countries compared with their glorious pasts. Therefore, the fundamentalists emerged not out of conservative circles but rather out of reformist movements which aimed for an “Islamic Awakening.”

The concept of an Islamic state is of recent origin arising from the independence movement from British colonial rule in the Indian subcontinent. It was first developed by Maulana Abul A’la Maududi and is a product of modernity. In response to the Muslim League’s call for a Muslim state of Pakistan, Hindu call for a secular India and communist call for a socialist state, Maududi called for the establishment of “hukumat-e-ilahiya (“Allah’s government) or an Islamic state[5]. He arrived in Pakistan from India with the ambition to turn what was to him a nationalistic abomination into becoming a “true Islamic state” based on shariah. Maududi formed his party in 1941 with a vanguard of learned and pious Muslims to bring an “Islamic revolution” and do away with the forces of jahiliya (socialism, communism, liberal democracy, secularism and a faith distorted by innovators).

Maududi’s concept of Islamic state was so without foundation that he struggled to find ideological roots for an Islamic state grounded in historical evidence, while portraying the concept as theologically Islamic. As such Maududi offered the term “hakimiyya”.

Azzam Al-Kassir, a Syrian scholar at the University of Exeter points out that the term “hakimiyya” which resides in the rhetoric of contemporary political Islamist movements, similar to the term “Islamic state”, is not mentioned in the Quran or the Hadith. Nor does it exist in Arabic lexicography. Maududi links the term “hakimiya” to its linguistic root “hukm” whose derivations are mentioned in the Quran more than 200 times. Yet not one of these verses points towards the assumption or practice of political power. Instead the term suggests the need for insight and distinguishing between right and wrong, or education and jurisprudence.[6]

Maududi’s concept of an Islamic state found support among other influential Islamic thinkers and leaders. Among them were Sayyid Qutb in Egypt and Ayatollah Khomeni. Sayyid Qutb adopted and fully exploited the term “hakimiyya” and used it to branch out into “jahiliyya” (ignorance), takfeer (excommunication) and jihad. His exposure to abuse of power undoubtedly contributed to the ideas of his famous prison-written Islamic manifesto “Ma’alim fi-l-tariq (Milestones) where he advocated a political system that is opposite of dictatorship. Qutb wrote Muslims should resist any system where men are in “servitude to other men”- as un-Islamic and a violation of God’s sovereignty (hakimiyya). The way to bring about this freedom is for a revolutionary vanguard to fight jahiliyya with a twofold approach: preaching and abolishing the organizations and authorities of the Jahili system by physical power and Jihad. The vanguard movement would grow with preaching and jihad until it formed a truly Islamic community, then spread throughout the Islamic homeland and finally throughout the entire world.

Qutb is considered one of the most influential Muslim thinkers and activists of the modern era, not only for his ideas but also for what many see as his martyr’s death. He was accused of plotting to overthrow the state and subjected to what many considered a show trial. He and six other members of the Muslim Brotherhood were sentenced to death by hanging for the conspiracy to assassinate the president and other Egyptian officials.

It is argued that Qutb’s approach towards violence does not necessarily stem from the spirit of Islam, so much as the prevalent social injustice coupled with an imbalanced infrastructure, expressed through high rates of unemployment and the lack of channels for political participation. All this paved the way for radical Islamist thought to sneak into the deprived countryside and the poverty belts surrounding the cities.

Maududi’s ideas were eventually adopted by General Ziaul Haq, who pulled off a successful military coup in July 1977 and then invited Maududi to help him make Pakistan into a true Islamic country. The course charted by Zia eventually mutated into becoming a destructive and highly polarising legacy that the state, politics and society of Pakistan has been battling with till this day.

The spread of the Islamic state concept was contributed in part by the translation of Maududi and Qutb’s works into Bahasa Malaysia, Indonesian and English where Muslim students in USA and Britain encountered such writings in their campuses. Maududi and Qutb’s books were required reading in such institutions as the International Islamic University Malaysia and there are clear influence of Maududi’s ideas in PAS’ concept of the Islamic state and God’s sovereignty.

Azzam argues that essential questions must be publicly discussed, for the dissection of religious mythologies is no longer sophistry. The stagnation of Islamist thought and its defensive position is at the crux of this issue. Heaven, hell, predestination, jihad are issues that have directed a generation of youth that is pessimistic, disenfranchised from their surroundings, a generation that has become fuel to the illusion of an “Islamic State.” He concludes, Islamist thought will recover and restore its vitality only when debate blows some depth into it. In this important debate the events post-Arab Spring suggests a maqasid approach is most relevant to providing appropriate guidance to political Islam.

Relevance of Maqasid to Political Islam Post Arab Spring

Dr Halim Rane, Deputy Director of the Griffith Islamic Research Unit and Senior Lecturer at the School of Humanities at Griffith University wrote that post-Arab Spring, the first generation of Islamic political parties which are generally anti-Western, ideology-oriented, focused on moralistic discourse and defined by their commitment to establishing an Islamic state based on shariah as a law code have lost much of their electoral support.[7]

He said those twentieth-century parties that did not evolve were superseded by a second generation of Islamic-oriented political parties that seek positive relations with Western nations, are policy-oriented and do not advocate the concept of an Islamic state based on the shariah. These parties developed in response to the needs and aspirations of their people for honest and sincere leadership. They seek to reduce corruption and unemployment, promote economic growth and raise living standards and protect basic rights and freedoms.

These parties developed comprehensive political programmes, appeal to broad and diverse constituencies and emphasize Islamic values, principles and objectives, the maqasid al-sharia approach and ijtihad are central to this process.

Dr Rane named among others, Mohammad Hashim Kamali and Tariq Ramadan (above) as the intellectuals and Anwar Ibrahim, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Tunisia’s Rachid Ghanouchi as the political leaders who have striven to demonstrate Islam’s compatibility with democracy, human rights, plurality and peaceful co-existence with non-Muslims.[8] He identified Keadilan, Turkey’s AKP, Indonesia’s Properous Justice Party (PKS) as the second generation Islamic-oriented parties.

The Late Nurcholish Majid

I include in the list of intellectuals, prominent Muslim scholars, Abdullahi Ahmed An-Naim, Abdulaziz Sachedina and the late Nurcholish Majid (above). In the list of political leaders, the progressives who left PAS to form the Parti Amanah Malaysia (“Amanah”), in Keadilan the leaders championing the struggle of Anwar Ibrahim.

The Moment of Truth

The issue of Islam and secularism represents one of the most contested debates in contemporary Islamic scholarship and policy circles. The Re-Thinkers bring a different narrative and discourse to the existing one by the Traditionalists. In Part II of this Article, I will touch on the ideas the Re-Thinkers bring to this debate. This debate will bring out the best in some people and the worst in others. The moment of truth will come and reveal what each of us, whether Muslims or non-Muslims, really are. There will be no place to run or hide and no fence to sit on. You either stand on the side of the Traditionalists or stand on the side of those Re-Thinking Islam.

William Leong Jee Keen Member of Parliament Selayang,Parti Keadilan Rakyat

[1] Malaysia’s Isis Conundrum by Joseph Chinyong Liow

[2] Malaysia: Clear and present danger from the Islamic State by James Chin December 16, 2015

[3] Growing Islamic fundamentalism seen pushing Malays to quit country Malay Mail Online by Boo Su Lyn

[4] “The Roots of Radicalism in Political Islam” by Ali Mamouri Al-Monitor

[5] The Relevance of a Maqasid Approach for Political Islam Post Arab Revolution by Halim Rane Journal of Law and Religion Vol xxviii page 500

[6] Understanding calls for reinstating the Islamic State OpenDemocracy Azzam Al-Kassir 14 October 2014

[7] The Relevance of a Maqasid Approach for Political Islam Post Arab Revolutions by Halim Rane

[8] The Impact of Maqasid Al-Shariah on Islamist Political Thought Implications for Islam-West Relations 2 Islam & Civilisational Renewal 337 (2011)

 

The New Logo for The Techo Sen School Of Government and International Relations


January 22, 2016

Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations at The University of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia

tss logo

Message from Dr Kao Kim Hourn, President, The University of Cambodia

Kao Kim Hourn

It is with great enthusiasm I present the University of Cambodia as a premier center of academic and research excellence in Cambodia and Southeast Asia.

Many wonderful friends and incredible resources, both human and technical, have supported this endeavor.  We have received a warm welcome from public, private, government, and partner institutions.  Yet, we recognize many great and exciting challenges before us as we build this complex university community.

The University of Cambodia is growing into a community of students, scholars, researchers, practitioners, staff, and faculty.  Academic excellence is the value we, as a community, hold most fundamental. Academic excellence drives all of our efforts.  By stressing excellence in our academic standards and pedagogy; by emphasizing the importance of teaching; by nurturing progressive research; and by encouraging a shared sense of responsibility, we hope to achieve our mission.

Our mission for building a superior academic center in Cambodia is interrelated to Cambodia’s participation in the global arena. Our perspectives and academic programs must reflect this global perspective.  We are also an integrated part of the information revolution.  The information revolution has expanded our mission by transforming the nature of the academic community, as well as how knowledge is generated and transmitted. A university is no longer limited by geography; its boundaries are national and global. We continue to seek innovative mechanisms to access and share information, and explore the possibilities inherent in new communications systems that will enhance our instructional and research objectives.

We have the greatest hopes for the future of higher learning and research in Cambodia.  We seek to take a lead in raising the bar of academic excellence.  Through the united efforts of the entire broader community, we know we can achieve our vision.

About The Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations

The Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations (TSS) provides international-standard, graduate-level, nonpartisan education, training and research to (and for) current and future leaders in the public and private sectors. TSS programs and research initiatives are targeted to those who are just beginning their careers are those who are already on their way along their chosen vocations.

Today’s and tomorrow’s leaders must be familiar with the rapidly changing demands and expectations of the 21st century – and must be able to navigate a course towards a more prosperous and sustainable future for all.  By having students examine and discuss relevant economic, political, technical, business, cultural, and ethical ideas and ideals, the Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations inspires students with rigorous, innovative, and creative approaches for developing the skills, attitudes, knowledge and values required to succeed personally – all the while making significant and long-lasting contributions to society.

As a learning-centered institution, The Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations provides an educational experience that crosses the boundaries of theory and practice – and which forges the frontiers of public, private, and civil society: in Cambodia, in ASEAN, and globally.

The School also fulfills an additional, and essential, role.  The Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations conducts nonpartisan research in (and on) Cambodia (and Cambodia’s place in the world) in order to not only enrich the current knowledge base through practical examples in a local context, but also to broadly inform and inspire society’s current and future leaders. The Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations produces impartial research useful to policy makers and to profit- and non-profit organizations.

Our Mission

The Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations prepares its students to be productive, creative, and responsible global citizens – by becoming lifelong learners.  The TSS provides a balance of both theoretical and practical tools and the professionalism needed to become agents of change for the community at large and to promote Cambodia’s standing at the local, regional and world stages.  Good governance is vital to progress everywhere and The Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations’ learning-centered educational experience raises the norms of governance and bureaucracy in Cambodia and, in turn, improves the lives of Cambodians – thus also contributing to the transformation of the region.  In short, the Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations makes the region, and the world, a better place.

The School offers Master’s and Doctoral degrees, short courses, and executive training programs.  These various avenues of education and training will allow TSS graduates to be an integral part of the process of uplifting Cambodian’s lives.  (In some cases, and depending on relevant work and life experience, students may not need a Bachelor’s degree in order to join a Master’s or Doctoral program.)

In addition, the School encourages and enables faculty and students to conduct interdisciplinary research.  Systematic and analytic thinking allows researchers to clarify issues and suggest creative solutions to complex problems.  This research benefits both the researchers themselves and will generate new knowledge and understanding of the issues affecting Cambodia’s current, rapid development.  Such knowledge and understanding is shared with key players in both the public and private sectors.

Welcome to Visit our wesbsite: http://www.uc.edu.kh

Best wishes and a Happy New Year.

 Din@UC

Din Merican. Ag. Dean, The Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations, and Professor of International Relations, The University of Cambodia

Islam’s Path to Modernity–The Antithesis of Malaysia’s JAKIM


January 22, 2016

Islam’s Path to Modernity–The Antithesis of Malaysia’s JAKIM

by Mohammad Fazlhashemi

http://www.project-syndicate.org

Many in the Muslim community have long taken issue with the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The declaration, these critics attest, was created by colonial powers with a long history of gross human-rights violations, and amounts to yet another attempt by a few Western players to impose their will upon Muslim countries. Islamic conservatives and fundamentalists go a step further, as they declare that no human invention can equal – much less supersede – sharia law, which amounts to the word of God.

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Malaysia’s  RM 1 Billion Morality Snoopers

This clash between the UN’s secular human-rights standards and Muslim religious doctrine mirrors the broader conflict between Islam and modernity – a conflict that has left some citizens of Muslim countries, including women and non-Muslims, highly vulnerable. Fortunately, an emerging school of Muslim thought addresses the question in a new way, emphasizing that the Quran, like any religious text, must be interpreted – and that those interpretations can change over time.

In fact, the Quran does defend principles like liberty, impartiality, and righteousness, which indicates a fundamental respect for justice and human dignity. The problem, as emphasized by the Iranian theologian Mohsen Kadivar, is that many parts of sharia law are linked to pre-modern social structures, which deny women or non-Muslims the same protections as Muslim men receive.

It does not help that, as George Mason University’s Abdulaziz Sachedina points out, men have been the ones to interpret Islam’s holy texts. This, rather than those texts’ true content, is the root cause of legal discrimination against women in Muslim countries.

The theologian Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Fazel Meybodi points out that Islamic law regarding punishment – which includes brutal practices like stoning and amputation – originates from the Old Testament. Islam did not invent these punishments; they were simply the prevailing practices of the time.

As societies progress and evolve, so must the rules and standards that govern them. As the Iranian theologian Mohammad Mojtahed Shabestari of the University of Tehran emphasizes, many of the ideas associated with justice and human rights, as we understand them today, were completely “un-thought” in the pre-modern era. But Muslims cannot simply disregard such ideas on the grounds that humans had not developed them at the time the Quran was written.

With the abandonment of outdated notions of tiered justice and the recognition of the liberty and dignity of all individuals, Shabestari believes that it will become possible to realize the Quran’s message that there should be no compulsion in religion. People’s religious decisions should be driven by their sense of faith, rather than their desire to retain their civil rights.

According to the philosopher Abdolkarim Soroush, this distinction between religious beliefs and civil rights should be obvious. But interpretations of Islamic law have traditionally been so focused on questions about mankind’s various duties that they have failed to recognize it. For Soroush, however, the denial of human rights based on “a person’s beliefs or absence of belief” is undeniably a “crime.”

KASSIM AHMAD_HIGH COURT_

Malaysia’s Persecuted Muslim Intellectual

The school of Muslim thought promoted by these scholars, who come from both Sunni and Shia backgrounds, offers a way forward for Islam. Its adherents know that key Islamic concepts, beliefs, norms, and values can be harmonized with modern social structures and understandings of justice and human rights. By recommending ways to do so, they are reaffirming the durability of the core Islamic tradition. To use the language of the German philosopher Jürgen Habermas, they are creating “saving translations,” whereby a language, conceptual apparatus, and social system is updated to reflect progress in human reason.

Such saving translations in Islam have been emerging for a considerable period of time. Indeed, the late Iranian writer and philosopher Ayatollah Hussein-Ali Montazeri fell out with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, after being designated his successor, over policies that he believed infringed on people’s fundamental rights and freedoms. In defending freedom of speech, Montazeri referred to a Quranic verse stating that God taught humans how to express themselves. “How can God, on the one hand, teach humans the ability of expression and, on the other hand, limit it?”, he asked. The obvious conclusion, he declared, was that “no one should be condemned for heresy, libel, or insult just for expressing his or her opinion.”

Montazeri, like today’s innovative Muslim thinkers, chose to remain open to alternate interpretations of the Quran, rather than becoming trapped by accepted tradition. The saving translations that these figures have offered demonstrate that modern global norms like the UDHR are not only compatible with Islam; they are deeply embedded within it. Reinterpreting – or even abandoning – antiquated rules rooted in outdated social structures does not amount to subverting the word of God. On the contrary, it proves the true depth of Islam’s sacred texts.

 

Malay-centric Education System– The Bane of Malaysia


January 14, 2016

Our Politicians don’t really care about Us-Michael Jackson

Malay-centric Education System– The Bane of Malaysia

by  Yiswaree Palansamy
rafidah-aziz

Tun Abdul Razak Hussein would have been gravely disappointed today if he knew how Malay-centric the country’s education system currently is, Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz (pic above) said today in her speech at a commemorative seminar for the country’s Second Prime Minister.

Rafidah, a former  MITI Minister known for her outspokenness, accused the present administration of misplacing the notion of nationalism by promoting an overly-Malay system, recalling that during Razak’s time, English was commonly used as a communication tool.

“I always say, Tun Razak will actually turn in his grave if he knew this is what is happening to this country at this point in time.He never thought that education should be so narrowly interpreted as to be only Malay and to hell with the rest of the languages of the world. No, he never spoke that way,” Rafidah said in her speech, receiving loud applause from the hall.

Rafidah noted that in the past, Malaysians, including the Malays, rarely spoke in the Malay language and conversed mainly in English.This, she said, did not mean they disregarded the importance of Bahasa Malaysia as the national language.

“We spoke in English and we rarely spoke in Malay, not that we didn’t put Malay on the pedestal but that was the best way to communicate. We should not misplace nationalism,” she said, adding that the administration should focus instead on having strong national consensus instead.

“The objective is to make Malaysia resilient in facing global competition. We should start thinking as Malaysians first…for heaven’s sake let’s stop this petty, petty factionalism,” the former Wanita UMNO chief said.

She also said that it was time for the administration to admit that “some parts of the system are broken”.“Let’s not deny it,” she said.

The medium of instruction in national schools has been Malay since the 1970s but in 2003, the Policy of Teaching Science and Mathematics in English (PPSMI) was introduced, only to be discontinued seven years later

Critics of the reversal contend that it was made to only appease Malay nationalists and conservative groups who viewed a weak grasp of Bahasa Melayu and a mastery of English to be indicative of disloyalty to the country.