Education and Schooling–What’s Our GPS?


July 27, 2018

Education and Schooling–What’s Our GPS?

By Dr. Azly Rahman@ Columbia, NYC

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COMMENT | Education, that gentle profession, that conveyer belt of social reproduction, that process called schooling, and that idea of “educare” (from the Latin) or to draw out human potential is again, a main topic of concern for us Malaysians these days. A very serious journey, often treacherous, requiring good stewardship.

Where is our global positioning system (GPS)? Where are we heading? What is our reading of the global sustainable development goals and how do we use that understanding to plan for mega-structural changes?

What areas must we focus on in order to see these five years as ones where we make drastic changes to renew prosperity in education – beyond this current political-economic malaise, the World Bank report, at times disheartening results of PISA or TIMSS surveys, fragmented and divisive schooling, pursuit of trivialities in maiden-steps of reform, and endless ethnic and religious politicisation further threatening the hope for national reconciliation (if not “unity”)?

What would be the nature of the systemic change and renewed philosophical orientation we need, in order to capture the nobility of multiculturalism/pluralism as the best way to include all Malaysian citizens in this gentle journey called ‘education’?

How do we bring back learning into the classroom and put the child back in the centre of attention so that we may again see human self-flowering and flourishing?

I have addressed these issues in the past through the seven volumes of writing published over the last five years. My passion for translatable concepts in education, critical consciousness, and “cultural action for freedom” (borrowing the Brazilian philosopher Paulo Freire’s words) has made me become worried if we are indeed seeing Malaysian educational leaders asking the right questions, let alone attempt to focus on systemic, structural changes that would bring the desired measurable sense of equity, equality, and equal opportunity to our children, regardless of race, religion, color, creed.

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I wrote an open letter to Malaysia’s future education minister the week the new government assumed power. I wasn’t sure if the opinions were what leaders and policy makers were interested in paying attention to, but that was not my concern. I wrote out of deep passion and concern of what we have gone through in trying to find meaning in education and national development, and the shape of what we will continue to chart.

Focusing questions

What are we to do with our educational mission, philosophy, ideology, paradigm, pedagogy, process, passion, and the possibilities of a truly progressive and reflective nation? We must reconstruct, rejuvenate, and reconfigure the entire gamut of learning and teaching, from each brain cell/neural connection to the collective building of a civilisation based on the principles of cosmopolitanism, from the womb to the grave – in order to affect radical changes.

These considerations are not new, but to translate into sustainable effort of seeing progress through and through will be a novel agenda.

Essentially these are the considerations that are missing in the Malaysian education system, albeit the grand and elegant language of systemic change and yes, the world ‘systemic’ needs to first be reconstructed, as in any work that needs to be done on the reconstruction of philosophy.

The big questions by way of a ‘backward design’ or with the end in mind, are, “what will be the shape of society we envision collectively as Malaysians”, and “what kind of cognitive, emotional, and spiritual evolution do we wish to see in each child”, and how must schooling respond to these twin demands of a vision.

In the late 80s when I started this gentle and passionate profession called “teaching”, I was fortunate to be involved in an effort to create a highly engaging environment and cultural context of learning, working with other dedicated educators day in, day out to prepare determined and dedicated youth to secure places, by their own achievements, in top-ranking institutions in the United Sates, the UK, and other countries.

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These are some the places they were accepted into: Princeton, Columbia, Harvard, Cambridge, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Wharton School of Business in U Penn, Stanford, University of Paris – Sorbonne, Carnegie Mellon, Monash, Australian National University, London School of Economics, Warwick, Royal Institute of Surgeons in Ireland, Australian National University, and many other places of academic repute – an effort worth replicating should one know the proper ingredients and recipes of educational success framed evolvingly and contributing to the idea of “human and social engineering”.

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Greedy Rosmah Mansor– Product of a Malaysian Failed Education System

In short, how do you design a system that will bring bright and eager-to-learn children from the rubber estates, the city slums, the kampungs, into the classrooms of the most prestigious universities in the world? This is not a simple task of parroting the rhetoric of “world-classism” alone that we must all work together in crafting.

Highest quality for all

There has to be a renaissance or a rebirth in the way we conceptualise the schools we wish to build for children of all Malaysians. Many are asking this question: Why must parents be made to worry about the future of their children by way of economic worry?

Why must good and safe schools that ensure learning happens be prohibitively expensive and reserved for children from parents whose major worry is when to get a new Bentley, Maserati, or the latest Jaguar or a private jet in the way they move around and about in this world?

Or even worse, to get a US$20 million diamond ring or a US$30 million apartment in New York in the way they consume themselves whilst the poor are not just neglected, but asked to think positive about price hikes and to be less lazy.

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Our brainstorming session on such hope in educational renewal must begin with these simple questions:

“What kind of schools does each Malaysian child deserve?” And, “how must we be true to ourselves in making sure that our children have the best teachers, technology, and tender loving care, as soon as they enter schools?”

“How do we turn them into the everyday geniuses and make them love the country, be productive enough to care for their fellow men and women?

These are philosophical, political, and psychological questions we must address if we are to build schools that will not turn out to be “successful failures”.

This should be our topic for the great national school debate for this new regime we have some hope for. Otherwise we will, again, be lost and be fighting endlessly for the directions to get out.


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AZLY RAHMAN is an educator, academic, international columnist, and author of seven books. He grew up in Johor Bahru, and holds a Columbia University doctorate in international education development and Master’s degrees in five areas: education, international affairs, peace studies communication, and creative writing.

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

 

Sleepwalking? What is progress supposed to look like?


May 23, 2018

On Turning 79–A Time for Personal Stock Taking 

COMMENT: I chose Firoz’s article to remind Malaysians of  Generation X and Y of what they failed to do in the last decade when they allowed Najib Razak and UMNO kleptocrats to govern our country carte blanche. We have been sleepwalking. Now look what Najib had done and imagine what more  he could have done if he were re-elected on May 9, 2018.

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Thanks to the present generation of voters, Najib is out of action; he is now being asked to account for the scandals he left behind including a trillion ringgit in national debt for the Mahathir 2.0 government to deal with. It takes my generation of 1950s, men like Tun Daim, Tan Sri Robert Kuok, former Attorney- General Abu Talib and others to come back to sort out the mess.

For me, money is not everything. It is important to have money. How much is enough? It is never enough. It was Mahatma Gandhi who said there’s enough for everyone’s  needs, but never enough for someone’s greed. Najib Razak and Rosmah Mansor succumbed to greed and now they must bear the consequences of their avarice.

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That is why I seek to lead a simple life and as I reach 80 in a matter of 365 days from today, I choose to lead a life of an academic, a life of learning and devoted service to my students at The University of Cambodia in Phnom Penh. These students challenge me everyday to give my best.

It was the late Mr. Lee Kuan Yew who urged us to lead a purposeful life. Greek Philosopher and teacher of Plato, Socrates said an unexamined life is not worth living. Descartes pronounced “I think , therefore I am” (Cogito Ergo Sum). Finally, I am just beginning to realize what they mean. It is a lonely life of deep contemplation. It does not make one popular; in fact, it may ruin relationships, but I will give it my best shot. And if I fail, it will not be for the lack of effort.

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Mr. Lee Kuan Yew led a life of public service

Today I turn 79. I choose to celebrate this day by posting Firoz’s article and to remind myself that I must continue to speak the truth to power. I will, therefore, hold our new government accountable for their policies and actions. I will remain critical. While I congratulate Pakatan Harapan on their electoral success, I will speak up when  our leaders in the  Mahathir 2.0 administration fail to honour their pledge to serve Malaysians.–Din Merican

Sleepwalking? What is progress supposed to look like?

by Firoz Abdul Hamid

http://investvine.com/highlights/tech-and-education/

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Robert Frost, a well known American poet wrote a poem on the 1919 inflation which reads:

The pain of seeing ten cents turned to five,

We clutch with both hands fiercely at the part,

We think we feel it in – the head, the heart,

Is someone cutting us in two alive?

Is someone cutting us in half?

These words cannot ring truer in a landscape where we are seemingly sleepwalking into losing homes and our life savings. A world where you could walk into work and be greeted by your pink slip, when only yesterday you were probably told you were a star in the galaxies of the workplace. The world of capitalism markets has created more people on Prozac (or similar tranquilisers) in search of their own personal worth and purpose. Even dogs are said to be on Prozac now – a testament of how we treat animals today

Is this what progress is suppose to look like? Does progress leave one billion people in hunger whilst another billion overindulging on food? How can the 21st century tolerate illness due to hunger and poverty and that due to overeating of “super scale” sized food at the same time and on the same planet? Why are people overeating anyway in the first place? Is the food produced for the “life on the rat race” lacking in nutrition that we have to keep eating? Even the basics like milk are no longer pure. We get pasteurised, skimmed, 1 per cent, 99 per cent with many other combinations. Coffee used to just be yes, coffee. Today we have all sizes and designs – it has become an industry unto itself to wake the stressed life we have all subscribed to.

And then we see the springing of organic food for the enlightened. But shouldn’t all food be organic in the first place. How did our food become unhealthy and inorganic that we need to search for health in food?

How did we get here as a civilisation?

When we have movements like the 1 per cent versus the 99 per cent on wealth, countries like the USA which makes just under 6 per cent of the world’s population is said to be one of the world’s largest consumers of global resources. Yet under these same skies we have the poorest of the poorest who are probably living on dhal (lentil) and bread, living a more prosperous life than those with multi-gated security having their three course meals, all cooked and served (flown to wherever they are for some).

Robert Frank wrote a book titled “Richistan” in 2007. In a commentary article on the book he wrote, “The wealthy weren’t just getting wealthier — they were forming their own virtual country. They were wealthier than most nations, with the top 1 per cent controlling $17 trillion in wealth” He further adds, “The real story behind all this wealth, however, isn’t in the numbers. It’s in the people, and how they’re changing the culture and character of wealth in America. Richistan is largely about a country in flux — one in which Old Money is being shoved aside by self-made entrepreneurs, philanthropy is changing from passive check-writing to ‘high-engagement philanthropy,’ and the progressive new rich are changing the politics of wealth. Most of all, Richistan is about the entertaining way that today’s rich are making, spending, donating and living with their wealth. (Like the guy in my book who has a house staff of 105 people.)

It is reported that since Frank wrote the book, some of the people in the book have faced repossession, but that isn’t the question at hand here. The argument really is about what is just, what is equitable, what is equity and what is mercy? What is humanity? What indeed is our purpose on and for this earth?

This is not a debate on class warfare. It is not about being against the rich and opting for the less privileged. It is about our motives and what should be the essence of our humanity and our civilisation. Yes, these are probably questions we are asked and taught in Sunday schools, in our Islamic classes, and other similar religious settings both in our schools and homes. Yet we tend to cast it aside when we reach a certain age in our adult life. We get so hamstrung into the hamster cycle of competition and the “dog eat dog” world that we forget the simple basics of doing unto others as you like it done unto yourself.

There is little to dispute about the state of our planet today, never mind our economies and markets globally. One thing that doesn’t require a debate – we are in trouble!

The models of yesterday haven’t worked – we only need to reflect on the staggering changes in our weather cycles from East to West and the breakdown of our economies and communities. Whether we are religious in our inclinations or otherwise, we have a moral purpose and responsibility for our time on this planet; if for nothing else for the people who will stay behind to pick up the pieces after we are long gone. Do we let them pick up pieces of destruction – or savour the pieces of our achievements and success? You know we are in trouble when you don’t know for sure what is in the food packs that you are buying (this relates to the recent horse meat saga in the UK). We are in trouble when the food that is served in Muslim schools is not what it seems (a recent incident in the UK).

Progress cannot possibly bring such episodes. Progress cannot justify loss of dignity for so many in an instance and from a decision made by a reckless someone in one part of the world. Progress cannot consent dire hunger and obesity sharing the same space in time. This surely cannot be progress. Are we sleepwalking into progressive destruction?

Even in fields like medicine, how far must you and can you go to seek cure for an illness? Where do the remits and limits of conscience and ethics stand when seeking solution – is it or must it be at all cost?

Across industries and sectors, there is a real crises of conscience on what we must do differently. Abdal Hakim Murad, the Dean of Islamic School at Cambridge, wrote in a 2009 article in The Guardian, “Ours is an age that has made idols of the great banks and finance houses, driven to frenzy by competition amongst billionaires who are kept awake at night by the thought that a rival might make a business deal more quickly than them. A banker who can asset strip companies and throw its employees out onto the street is someone who is in the grip of an obsession that has thrown him beyond of the normal frontiers of humanity.”

The purpose of this column is to scour industry and sector leaders on what the role of ethics in business should entail and how it can be implemented. Does it hold a place in markets, economies and businesses? What works and what should be done? Through interviews, this column will seek to understand their views on ethics in their areas of business.

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Aristotle spoke of justice in societies and equitable spreading of wealth. Imam Ghazali, one of the most leading scholars in the Islamic tradition, wrote books on trade justice. Today we have such organisations like Fairtrade International accrediting companies to safeguard injustices and abuse against farmers so that these farmers can have a more dignified life than if they were to sell their products in the traditional conveyor process of the capital markets. In return, consumers are probably getting a better deal. Whether you are inclined towards an organic or halal industry type setting or the mass market setting, the essence of humanity needs to get back into how we transact with our fellow human beings in business. The Orwellian world view can only truly destroy our souls and of what may be left of the future of this planet.

I hope you will enjoy these interviews – there are some real great people in store at http://www.investvine.com

Editorial note: This article is the prelude to a series of interviews on ethics in business with high-ranking executives globally.

 

 

 

Politics and Royalty in Malaysia– A Point of View


April 12, 2018

Politics and  Royalty in Malaysia– A Point of View

by Nathaniel Tan@www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT | Two truths – first, in a constitutional monarchy, a monarch’s role is to stay above politics. Second, hypocrisy is when someone’s words do not match their actions, regardless of who that person is. 

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Royalty too has Freedom of Speech

The invention of constitutional monarchy has helped keep monarchies around the world extant as the concept of allowing some family to arbitrarily maintain absolute rule and control over their subjects has certainly fallen out of favour around the world. 

A constitutional monarchy is a compromise that achieves a number of objectives. For one, it allows a sense of continuity and tradition for some extremely old institutions. 

More significantly, in many cases, constitutional monarchies have performed a practical, useful function by being a government institution that provides a check and balance by virtue of being above politics. 

There are many countries without monarchies that still have an office that performs a similar function, notably parliamentary republics which elect a largely ceremonial president alongside the prime minister which functions as the head of state. Germany, India and Singapore are among the examples that fall into this category. 

Such parliamentary republics also recognise the value of having an office and institution that is part of the government, but apart from the more partisan nature of electoral politics. 

In most constitutional monarchies, the rule of non-interference in politics is treated as something sacred. 

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The Oxford and Harvard educated Sultan of Perak is often invited to speak on issues related to governance and corporate affairs, foreign policy and public policy. His Royal Highness’ speeches are thoughtful and insightful and accepted by Malaysians. The Johor Crown Prince’s advice to his people may be biting and critical of Dr. Mahathir and the Opposition but he is entitled to his views. I may have a different perspective and may disagree with His Royal Highness but I will defend HRH’s right to free speech.Din Merican

 

One gets the sense that any member of most royal families around the world commenting in any way that could possibly be construed as partial is a taboo of the highest order. 

Has a line been crossed?

Not long after one Malaysian royal passed some strong comments regarding Dr Mahathir Mohamed, I wrote about how constitutional monarchies are supposed to work, and I quoted one particular scene from Netflix’s “The Crown” that articulated one interpretation of how British royals prioritise impartiality. 

Four months later, we are again faced with more comments emerging from royalty, immediately following the dissolution of Parliament, that seem to raise some eyebrows regarding whether or not this crosses the line of propriety in the context of a constitutional monarchy. 

The royal in question does not believe so, proclaiming in a follow up to his original post (I have been unable to access the original Facebook post in which this appears, so please rely on the translation by Malaysiakini):

“I gave my sincerest opinion for what I think is best for my state. It was my personal opinion and being in my position, I do not support any political party or individual. I did not say I support Mahathir Mohamad, Najib Abdul Razak or anyone else.”

These statements suggest that the royal in question is laudably well aware that his responsibilities as a constitutional monarch preclude him from exerting undue influence in the elections, as this would be wrong and inappropriate. 

Those same claims, however, need to be viewed in light of the original statements themselves, to ascertain whether or not they did, in fact, indicate support for any political party. 

A close examination

Let us examine a few quotes from the original statement in particular: 

“I do not (support) any political party, but in order to change a country’s fate and improve the system, it is not by bringing down a government. We need to change it from the inside.

“Our neighbouring countries and I believe that if a ship has been sailing fine for many years but has an issue due to its skipper, do not fix it with a new engine. We stay on the same ship and guide the skipper to where we want to go.

“This is the time to restore the orders and implement systems that have been damaged by individuals who are dreaming of becoming prime minister.

“Don’t change the boat if the engine is not broken, don’t even change the skipper but allow HM the Sultan of Johor and I guide the skipper for you.”

There is also an anecdote regarding the story of one Private Adam, in which Mahathir is explicitly mentioned by name, and which is followed by the quote below:

“This is how low the highest government’s leadership then is willing to go to have absolute power in this nation. I hope the people are not easily fooled by a forked tongue individual. At the moment he is not trying to save the country, he is more worried about what will happen to his children in the future. Even the wealthiest person on earth would not be able to give birth to three “billionaires”.”

Impartial?

A popular saying among people in power is “I leave it to the people to judge” while a popular attitude among people in power is to say one thing and do the complete opposite. 

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I suppose I will leave it to the people to judge whether the latter is what has occurred, and whether or not the speaker in question is being genuine with regards to the claims of not supporting any side. 

I think this is something we should be concerned with, regardless of our political preferences. It is perilous to cheer the monarchy only when their political commentary favours who we support. 

For the record, I, too, believe that back in the day, Mahathir curbed the powers of the monarchy for selfish reasons rather than for any genuine commitment to democracy. I can certainly understand how some people took it personally and maintained a long-standing grudge. 

Two wrongs, however, do not make a right. Excess and undemocratically curbed powers of the monarchy back then do not justify excessive and inappropriate comments by the royalty in the here and now. 

Two and Two

One other quote from the same individual that was quite jarring goes as follows: “Whatever happens to Malaysia is your problem […] whatever happens to the country, it involves other people, not me.”

The last time I checked, Johor was still part of Malaysia. If some would prefer to secede, it is their right to pursue that goal and the noble manner in which to do so openly. 

I personally believe that within the Malaysian family (and the family of all humanity, really), all of us have a right to be concerned about each other. 

Steven Gan recently quoted George Orwell’s bit about two and two being four. If anyone from anywhere in our nation is trying to make us believe it is three or five instead, then it is our responsibility to disagree, for no one is an “outsider” as far as the truth is concerned. 

In closing, I would like to take some time to remember Douglas Gomez, a brave Johorean hockey coach, who by unrelated coincidence happened to father a son who would go on to write the funniest (and probably best) Malaysian book I have ever read. 


NATHANIEL TAN believes that copies of Devil’s Place by Brian Gomez are probably still available for sale, perhaps at Merdekarya, which is a fun place you should visit. 

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

Greetings from Kuala Lumpur and Phnom Penh for Xmas and 2018


December 23, 2017

Greetings from Kuala Lumpur and Phnom Penh for Xmas and 2018

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Dr. Kamsiah Haider in Kuala Lumpur and Din Merican in Phnom Penh wish all our friends and associates around the world a Merry Christmas 2017 and prosperous New Year, 2018. We are indeed grateful for your warm friendship and support we enjoyed during 2017. We forward to working with you in the coming year and together we can make our world a better place.
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We have little time for politicians and ideologues as they are a crop of egoistic, misogynistic  and greedy people. All we have to do is to look at Syria, Yemen, Myanmar, Somalia, Libya, Afghanistan and other places to see for ourselves their handiwork. People are their victims, especially women, children and the elderly. They have lost the moral high ground and we must put our differences aside and work hard for peace.
On the occasion of Christmas and the New Year 2018, may we ask Michael Jackson to sing for us his famous song, Make The World a Better Place. –Dr. Kamsiah Haider and Din Merican.

The Hellish War in Yemen–Is Malaysia Complicit?


December 20, 2017

The Hellish War in Yemen–Is Malaysia Complicit?

By  Dennis Ignatius

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There’s a war – a murderous, savage, barbaric, hellish war – raging in Yemen. Images of the suffering and carnage there crop up in our newspapers and on television from time to time but it’s been going on for so long that we are becoming inured to it.

It began as a domestic power struggle and quickly spiralled into a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the latest sideshow in their ongoing struggle for power and influence in the Middle East. And, as usual, taking advantage of the instability and chaos, terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda have moved in, further complicating the situation.

To snuff out Iranian influence, the Saudi-led coalition has launched a relentless and merciless bombing campaign against Yemen, hitting not just military targets but infrastructure, hospitals, schools and residential areas. International observers believe war crimes are being committed. A Saudi naval blockade, in the meantime, has made it difficult for food, medical and other assistance to get through.

Carnage and catastrophe

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Already, some 10,000 people have been killed, more than 50,000 wounded. Seven million are on the brink of famine. One hundred and thirty children die every day in Yemen from extreme hunger and disease. Twenty million people (over 70% of the population) are in need of humanitarian assistance. The United Nations has warned that we might be witnessing “the largest famine the world has seen for many decades.”

If that is not bad enough, Yemen is also caught in the grip of one of the world’s worst cholera outbreaks with more than 900,000 suspected cases and over 2,190 deaths. Diphtheria and other diseases are stalking the land as well.

I suspect that all these statistics, terrible as they are, hardly capture the reality of life in Yemen today. Whichever way you look at it, Yemen, already one of the poorest, least developed countries in the world, is being slowly but surely annihilated before our very eyes.

And yet, there is so little outrage. 

International complicity

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While Saudi Arabia is the main architect of this savage war against Yemen, many others are complicit as well. The UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Senegal and Sudan are either active participants in the Saudi-led coalition or support the Saudis in other ways.

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US President Donald Trump and Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Minister of Defense Mohammed bin Salman enter the State Dining Room of the White House. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The United States, blinded by its implacable hatred of Iran and determined to contain Iranian influence at all costs, has supported the Saudi campaign in Yemen with weapons, logistical support and political cover. France, the United Kingdom, Australia and Germany (to name a few) support the Saudis with weapons sales and training.

Western democracies talk much about liberty and justice but side with despots waging a brutal war on an entire nation. Containing Iran apparently justifies mass starvation and crimes against humanity.

Cowardice & hypocrisy

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Islamic nations, for their part, are quick to work themselves into a frenzy when Muslims in distant lands are persecuted but keep silent when Muslims kill Muslims in their own backyard. They are very brave when it comes to confronting countries like Myanmar over the treatment of its Muslim minorities but cowardly when it comes to standing up to one of their own. They rush to Istanbul to protest President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel but quietly rely on American support to bomb Yemen’s ancient cities.

If others did to Yemen what the Saudis are doing to it, there would be fiery denunciations and angry demonstrations across the Muslim world instead of silence and indifference.

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OIC Leaders Meet in Istanbul, Turkey to what purpose?

Only Pakistan, to its credit, has refused to go along with this immoral war. Despite their dependence on Saudi aid, they found the courage to say no.

There are, of course, genuine concerns about Iran’s regional ambitions and Arab states have reason to worry about their security but it can never be at the expense of innocent men, women and children, never at the cost of condemning a whole nation to such death and destruction.

Is Malaysia complicit as well? 

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The National Patriot Association (NPA) has revived the issue of Malaysia’s link to the Saudi Arabian-led coalition that is bombing Yemen, questioning the rationale for Malaysia’s participation. In a statement, NPA President Brig Gen (Rtd) Mohamed Arshad Raji said based on a recent report by Qatar-based news broadcaster Al Jazeera, “Malaysia is understood to have sent our military personnel to join the coalition forces”. If the Al Jazeera news report is true, then NPA wants to register its strongest protest against the participation of the armed forces in the Saudi-led coalition forces and the involvement of our military personnel in this Middle-Eastern conflict,” Arshad said.–www.freemalaysiatoday.com

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Malaysia, too, is apparently complicit in this unfolding humanitarian catastrophe. Our defence ministry insists that some military officers have been deployed to the region but only to assist in the evacuation of Malaysian nationals from Yemen. Other reports, however, suggest that Malaysia is, in fact, part of the Saudi coalition and is working alongside personnel from the UAE, France, Britain and the US at Saudi joint headquarters in Riyadh to coordinate the air campaign against Yemen.

Whatever the level of involvement, Malaysia has no business being there; it is an iniquitous and unjust war that goes against everything we stand for in international affairs.

And even if we are not directly involved, our failure to speak out against war crimes being committed in Yemen makes us complicit. We had many opportunities to speak frankly with the Saudis but we are, it seems, too afraid to offend them.

A humanitarian response

It’s time for Malaysia to break with the Saudis, condemn the criminal campaign against Yemen and demand an immediate halt to the bombing. We should also lend our full support to the efforts of the UN Secretary-General to broker a negotiated settlement in Yemen. Most of all, we need to help initiate a major international effort to deliver urgent humanitarian assistance to the people of Yemen.

For a start, let’s take the lead to help save the children of Yemen. Let’s put our heads and hearts together as a nation – government and opposition, Muslim, Christian and others, private and public sector, civil society and NGOs – to structure a national humanitarian assistance mission to help these innocent victims of the war.

Perhaps, the Royal Malaysian Air Force could help medevac seriously injured children and bring them to Malaysia for treatment, with all our hospitals – private and public – chipping in to help. Perhaps groups like Mercy Malaysia and other NGOs can be supported to set up hospitals and provide food and other assistance wherever conditions in Yemen permit. Perhaps we could organize a national fund-raising campaign to help aid groups already in Yemen at great cost to themselves.

To be sure, our ability to influence events in the Middle East is limited but there are many little things that we can do that could make a big difference in Yemen if our hearts are in the right place.

This is a defining moment, our opportunity to make a difference in the world by reaching out to the suffering people of Yemen. Surely to feed the hungry, to shelter the homeless, to help the hurting is to touch the very heart of God. Can a nation which prides itself on its fealty to God do any less?

Dennis Ignatius | 17th December 2017

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Happy 2017 Diwali to All People of Faith, Peace and Goodwill


October 18, 2017

Happy 2017 Diwali

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With the Inauguration of a new President in the United States some 9 months ago, we have entered a period of global uncertainty.  Democracy promoted by  The United States since the end of the Second World War, as we taught to know it, is now dysfunctional. The America Dr. Kamsiah and I knew and admired has become  a selfish and self- centered fading power.

It is no longer the exceptional and indispensable nation. Under President Trump, America has shown worrying signs of having lost its moral high ground to preach and hector other nations on democracy, justice and human rights. At home,  it  is ideologically, religiously and racially divided. A House Divided cannot stand, nor can it lead.

New centers of global power have emerged–China, India and resurgent Russia–to  fill the gap created by  “America First”. My favorite Republican Senator from Arizona and a Vietnam War Hero, John McCain , said it most eloquently  just a couple days ago:

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Senator John McCain and Mrs Cindy McCain

“To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history. We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil. We are the custodians of those ideals at home, and their champion abroad.”

It is an uncertain world ahead as Trump’s America looks inwards purportedly to develop its badly neglected infrastructure and the economy. The vacuum in global leadership  is waiting to be filled. The rest of us must now adapt to new players and learn to deal with an enigmatic Donald Trump. It is, therefore, appropriate for us to reflect on the challenges for humanity since these times threaten our common future. What better occasion than Diwali 2017 –The Festival of Lights.

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Dr Kamsiah Haider in Kuala Lumpur and I in Phnom Penh take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy Diwali 2017 with lots  of Peace and Happiness.

We thank you all for your friendship, support and kind cooperation. We have enjoyed engaging with you on FaceBook and this blog. We may have not agreed with you most of the time, but we pleased  that you were able to share your views and ideas with us.–Dr. Kamsiah Haider and Din Merican