Cancer -Like Anti-Semitism has spread throughout the Islamic World


February 17, 2019

Cancer -Like Anti-Semitism has spread throughout the Islamic World

by Dr. Fareed Zakaria

https://fareedzakaria.com/columns/2019/2/14/anti-semitism-has-spread-through-the-islamic-world-like-a-cancer

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

Ilhan Omar (Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.)

In recent weeks, attention has focused on two freshman Democratic members of Congress, Ilhan Omar (Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), both of whom are Muslim and have made critical statements about Israel and its most ardent American supporters. Their tweets and comments have been portrayed by some as not simply criticisms of Israel but rather as evidence of a rising tide of anti-Semitism on the new left.

I don’t know what is in the hearts of the two representatives. But I believe that Muslims should be particularly thoughtful when speaking about these issues because anti-Semitism has spread through the Islamic world like a cancer. (Omar and Tlaib are not responsible for this in any way, of course, but they should be aware of this poisonous climate.) In 2014, the Anti-Defamation League did a survey in more than 100 countries of attitudes toward Jews and found that anti-Semitism was twice as common among Muslims than among Christians, and it’s far more prevalent in the Middle East than the Americas. It has sometimes tragically gone beyond feelings, morphing into terrorist attacks against Jews, even children, in countries such as France.

It might surprise people to know that it wasn’t always this way. In fact, through much of history, the Muslim Middle East was hospitable to Jews when Christian Europe was killing or expelling them. The great historian Bernard Lewis once said to me, “People often note that in the late 1940s and 1950s, hundreds of thousands of Jews fled Arab countries. They rarely ask why so many Jews were living in those lands in the first place.”

Image result for the jews of islam by bernard lewis

Bernard Lewis and Henry Kissinger

In his seminal book, “The Jews of Islam,” Lewis points out that in the Middle Ages, when polemics against Jews were commonplace in the Christian world, they were rare in the Islamic world. In the early centuries of Islamic rule, he writes, there was “a kind of symbiosis between Jews and their neighbors that has no parallel in the Western world between the Hellenistic and modern ages. Jews and Muslims had extensive and intimate contacts that involved social as well as intellectual association — cooperation, commingling, even personal friendship.” One shouldn’t exaggerate the status of Jews back then — they were second-class citizens — but they were tolerated and encouraged to a far greater degree in Muslim societies than in Christian ones.

Things changed in the Muslim world only in the late 19th century, when, according to Lewis, “as a direct result of European influence, movements appear among Muslims of which for the first time one can legitimately use the term anti-Semitic.” Muslims worried that the British, who came to rule much of the Middle East, were favoring the small non-Muslim communities, especially Jews. Muslims began importing European anti-Semitic tropes such as the notion of blood libel, and noxious anti-Semitic works started to be translated into Arabic, including the notorious “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

What supercharged all these attitudes was the founding of Israel in 1948 and the determination of Arab leaders to defeat it. In their zeal to delegitimize the Jewish state, men such as Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser promoted all kinds of anti-Semitic literature and rhetoric. Arab states became vast propaganda machines for anti-Semitism, brainwashing generations of their people with the most hateful ideas about Jews. Even the supposedly secular president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, declared in 2001 that Israelis were “trying to kill all the values of the divine religions, with the same mentality that brought about the betrayal and torturing of Christ and in the same way that they tried to betray the Prophet Muhammad.” Religious states such as Saudi Arabia were just as bad, if not worse.

Decades of state-sponsored propaganda have had an effect. Anti-Semitism is now routine discourse in Muslim populations in the Middle East and also far beyond. While some Arab governments have stepped back from the active promotion of hate, the damage has been done.

It should be possible to criticize Israel. As Peter Beinart has written, “establishing two legal systems in the same territory — one for Jews and one for Palestinians, as Israel does in the West Bank — is bigotry. . . . And it has lasted for more than a half-century.” It should be possible to talk about the enormous political influence of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC. I recall senators privately worrying that if they supported the Iran nuclear deal, AIPAC would target them. (Of course, this is true of other lobbies and is not the only reason senators voted against the deal.) These are legitimate issues to vigorously debate and discuss in the United States, just as in Israel.

Unfortunately, by phrasing the issue as the two new representatives sometimes have, they have squandered an opportunity to further that important debate.

 

Siti Kasim: An Inconvenient Woman


February 13, 2019

Siti Kasim: An Inconvenient Woman

Opinion  |  S. Thayaparan

  Our government does not seem to realise that we have a serious terrorist mentality bred with extreme prejudice inside our society, which needs to be eradicated. This is a serious problem today.—Siti Kasim.

“If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”

― Abigail Adams, The Letters of John and Abigail Adams

COMMENT | For those of us who view religious extremism, which is reaching critical levels as the existential threat facing this country, Siti Kasim is the raised middle finger to the religious bigots, fascist crypto-Islamists and race supremacists who have control and influence in this country.

Whether fighting for the rights of women, indigenous people, the LGBTQ community or opposing radical Islam, Siti Kasim has made herself a target for the religious bureaucracy and political operatives in the establishment.

While most Muslims who do not support the darker paths of Islam are content to hope for a moderate agenda from the political and religious elite, Siti openly advocates a progressive agenda for all Malaysians.

In this interview, Siti reminds us why people who read are dangerous to the established order of things, and continues in her efforts to save Malaysia from the political and religious class who view her as a real threat to their dominion.

Siti Kasim is an inconvenient reminder that the progressive forces in this country that could save Malaysia are being marginalised, and that speaking truth to power is problematic in these partisan times.

Do you think the persecution you face is based on the fact that you are a woman questioning religious dogma?

Yes, being an outspoken woman does not sit well with the patriarchy culture of radical Islamism. Also, a woman who does not conform to their view on how a Muslim woman should be.

How do you cope with the harassment you receive?

I try to ignore and focus on my causes. Of course, I can’t run away from reading the nasty messages sent to me, but I take it in my stride and believe that what I am doing is right for my country and my fellow Malaysians. The supportive messages I receive give me the strength to continue, and I know I am on the right path. I thank God for giving me a strong constitution to face all the negativity thrown at me.

What do you think is the Attorney-General’s Chambers’ (AGC) role in the current charges against you?

I am not sure what is the AGC’s role in the current charges against me. (Note: This interview was conducted before the AGC dropped the charges against Siti Kasim for showing her middle finger to hecklers in a forum.) From what’s stated by OCCI Fadzil, he received the endorsement to charge me from the previous AGC. I believe it’s selective persecution against me by certain quarters within the government.

How do you engage with Muslims who believe in the Islamist mode of thinking and believe that sanctions against you are justified?

You have no hope of engaging with them. These are people who are indoctrinated in radical Islamism. The teachings, the mentality of which is no different from that of Talibanism and ISIS terrorists. Only Taliban and ISIS terrorists will sanction others for being different from them. The only difference between them and the Taliban and ISIS is that they have no power or weapons to carry out their threats. When they have those, the country will be torn asunder.

Yet our government does not seem to realise that we have a serious terrorist mentality bred with extreme prejudice inside our society, which needs to be eradicated. This is a serious problem today.

Malay-Muslims are participating in and leading terrorist organisations all around the world. We have groups like Skuad Badar, which is nothing more than a terrorist organisation without weapons terrorising people. We have people like Amri Che Mat and Pastor Koh disappearing in plain daylight and never to be heard again. We should be terrified. Not talking about it is not going to make it go away. We need to tackle it head-on with extreme conviction.

Does being a “liberal” Muslim who appeals to a certain demographic bring with it more problems when engaging in the Islamic discourse?

It should not be. Remember our Rukun Negara has the word ‘liberal’ in it, and it was written by Malay leadership at a time when Malay society needed to progress. In fact, most of the liberal Muslims I know have more knowledge about the Quran than the majority of the Malay population because liberals read more on their own and don’t depend on the cleric class to tell them about their religion.

Do you think that Mujahid Yusof Rawa (photo) is doing enough to offer a counter-narrative in the Islamic discourse in this country?

No. They are still not facing the fact that our religious-bent Malaysian education system is delivering to us every year a more radicalised Islamist generation who are intolerant and increasingly militant in mindset. It is no surprise that PAS is increasing in strength, and UMNO has to be more radical Islamist than before in order to gain Malay votes.

We need to change this mindset by changing education to go back to our secular humanist roots. The roots that made the Malays progressive and more developed in the 80s.

What do you think is the most important issue facing the Orang Asal community in this country and what has the Harapan government done to address this issue?

First, I’d like to correct the usage of Orang Asal and Orang Asli. The ‘Orang Asal’ term is used for Sabah and Sarawak indigenous people, whilst Orang Asli is for those in the peninsula.

The Orang Asli are largely forest or agriculture based, although several individuals have achieved levels of educational and economic success comparable to those of the dominant population.

Nevertheless, it is no hidden secret that the Orang Asli rank among the most marginalised of Malaysians today, not just in terms of numbers, but in their ability to determine their own fate.

The once politically autonomous and independent people are but a pale likeness of their ancestors.

Much of this has to do with the fact that the Malaysian nation state does not recognise the Orang Asli as a separate people – that is, as distinct groups associated with particular territorial bases and requiring ‘government’ on a different basis from that of the other communities.

But, as can be discerned from their demands, the Orang Asli are not, at least not yet, seeking self-determination in the sense that they want to secede from the Malaysian nation-state. Rather, the desire is to exercise full autonomy in their traditional territories, both in the control and ownership of their lands, and in the determination of their way of life and in the way they deal with the dominant society.

The issue of Orang Asli land rights is but the most visible and deeply-felt manifestation of the principal problem facing the Orang Asli viz-a-viz the unwillingness of the state to recognise the Orang Asli as a distinct people.

Using the ‘land rights’ problem as a strategy for Orang Asli political mobilisation is rational because the issue is deeply felt among the communities, easily identifiable, and it is the source of much social stress for the Orang Asli.

With the recent suit which our federal government initiated against the Kelantan state government, it can be seen that the Pakatan Harapan government is attempting to correct the wrongs. We have also seen more Orang Asli senators being appointed when they came into power.

From our engagement with the current government, we can see there is a lot more improvement than before, at least with the current minister in charge of Orang Asli Affairs. We hope the Harapan government will continue with its determination in trying to solve our Orang Asli problems.

Do you believe that Harapan has a moderate Islamic agenda?

They have, but they do not know how to go about it. They do not have the leadership for it. The political will is missing. I will be talking in more detail on this subject in my column soon.

Do you think it is important for non-Muslims to speak up when they witness Islamic transgressions or does this make the situation worse?

Yes. We need them to stand up for fellow Malaysians, and Malays who are being persecuted by the conservative Islamist authorities, to ensure Malaysia will always be the home for their children and grandchildren to live in and prosper. When any public policy is based on any religious ideology, every citizen must have the right to speak up about it.

Is the press doing its part in highlighting Islamic provocations?

No. It has not done enough to highlight and criticise.

Why do think “moderate” Muslims are afraid to speak up?

Just look at the social media comments by their so-called fellow Muslims against anyone who does not conform to them. The amount of vile comments, threats of sanctions, harassment, persecution and even threat of physical harm by the Islamist elements in Malay society are enough to scare away and silence many Muslims.

Do you think the Malay community needs Islamic departments at state and federal levels?

Under ideal conditions, the answer would have been ‘no’, but in our environment we need a federal department that can monitor and revamp radical Islamic teaching that is going on today to abolish them. That should be their job. We don’t need them to do dakwah (proselytisation). No government should be using tax money to propagate any religion.


S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy. A retired barrister-at-law, he is one of the founding members of Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessar

In defense of the elites


February 5, 2019

In defense of the elites

 

by Dr. Fareed Zakaria

https://fareedzakaria.com/columns/2019/1/31/in-defense-of-the-elites

This year’s World Economic Forum, more than usual, prompted a spirited round of elite-bashing, which has now become the trendy political posture on both the right and left. On one side, President Trump and Fox News hosts slam the out-of-touch establishment that, according to them, has run things into the ground. On the other side, left-wingers decry the millionaires and billionaires who, in one author’s phrase, “broke the modern world.”

Underlying these twin critiques is a bleak view of modern life — seen as a dysfunctional global order, producing stagnant incomes, rising insecurity and environmental degradation. But is this depiction, in fact, true? Are we doing so very badly that we need to bring back the guillotines?

On the simplest and most important measure, income, the story is actually one of astonishing progress. Since 1990, more than 1 billion people have moved out of extreme poverty. The share of the global population living in these dire conditions has gone from 36 percent to 10 percent, the lowest in recorded history. This is, as the World Bank president, Jim Yong Kim, notes, “one of the greatest achievements of our time.” Inequality, from a global perspective, has declined dramatically.

And all this has happened chiefly because countries — from China to India to Ethiopia — have adopted more market-friendly policies, and Western countries have helped them with access to markets, humanitarian assistance and loan forgiveness. In other words, policies supported by these very elites.

Look at any measure from a global perspective and the numbers are staggering. The child mortality rate is down 58 percent since 1990. Undernourishment has fallen 41 percent, and maternal deaths (women dying because of childbirth) have dropped by 43 percent over roughly the same period.

I know the response that some will have to these statistics. The figures pertain to the world in general, not the United States. Things might have improved for the Chinese, but not for the denizens of rich countries. That sense of “unfairness” is what is surely fueling Trump’s “America First” agenda and much of the anger on the right at the international system. (More bewilderingly, the left, traditionally concerned about the poorest of the poor, has become critical of a process that has improved the lives of at least 1 billion of the world’s most impoverished people.)

When criticizing the current state of affairs, it’s easy to hark back to some nostalgic old order, the modern world before the current elites “broke” it. But when was that golden age? In the 1950s, when Jim Crow reigned in the United States and women could barely work as anything more than seamstresses and secretaries? The 1980s, when two-thirds of the globe stagnated under state socialism, repression and isolation? What group of elites — kings, commissars, mandarins — ran the world better than our current hodgepodge of politicians and business executives?

Even in the West, it is easy to take for granted the astounding progress. We live longer, the air and water are cleaner, crime has plunged, and information and communication are virtually free. Economically, there have been gains, though crucially, they have not been distributed equally.

But there have been monumental improvements in access and opportunity for large segments of the population that were locked out and pushed down. In the United States, the gap between black and white high school completion has almost disappeared. The poverty gap between blacks and whites has shrunk (but remains distressingly large). Hispanic college enrollment has soared. The gender gap between wages for men and women has narrowed. The number of female chief executives at Fortune 500 companies has gone from one to 24 over the past 20 years. Female membership in national legislatures of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development member countries has almost doubled in the same period. No countries allowed same-sex marriage two decades ago, but more than 20 countries do today. In all these areas, much remains to be done. But in each of them, there has been striking progress.

I understand that important segments of the Western working class are under great pressure, and that they often feel ignored and left behind by this progress. We must find ways to give them greater economic support and moral dignity. But extensive research shows that some of their discomfort comes from watching a society in which these other groups are rising, changing the nature of the world in which they’d enjoyed a comfortable status.

After 400 years of slavery, segregation and discrimination in the United States, blacks have been moving up. After thousands of years of being treated as structurally subordinate, women are now gaining genuine equality. Once considered criminals or deviants, gays can finally live and love freely in many countries. The fact that these changes might cause discomfort to some is not a reason to pause, nor to forget that it represents deep and lasting human progress that we should celebrate.

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

Malaysia is in no position to lecture Israel


January 28, 2019

 

Malaysia is in no position to lecture Israel

Opinion  |
by S Thayaparan@ www. malaysiakini.com

Published:  |  Modified:

 

“The anti-Semites who called themselves patriots introduced that new species of national feeling which consists primarily in a complete whitewash of one’s own people and a sweeping condemnation of all others.”
– Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism

 

COMMENT | Let me get this out of the way. When people say they are not anti-Semitic but rather anti-Zionist, most of the time this is complete horse manure. The people who most often say this apply the Zionist label to all Jews, thus making the distinction irrelevant.

This is like claiming there is a difference between ketuanan Melayu and the Malay ‘race’, but ignoring the distinction and claiming that all Malays are racial and religious supremacists. Are all Malays racist? Are all Malays religious bigots just because they support politicians who pander to the lowest common denominator? Or is the situation a little more complex than that?

However, this is not the article for that conversation. This is another article – my second, I think – on mainstream anti-Semitism in our politics.

PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang back in 2012 proclaimed that his party would cooperate with the Jews, especially in the realm of trade, but rejected Zionism. He said: “Nevertheless, PAS rejects Zionism because it is a fanatical ideology of the Jew race.”

See what Hadi did there? He made a distinction, but then negated it with his insistence that race and ideology were not mutually exclusive.

I will give you another example. The organisation Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) Malaysia chairperson Nazari Ismail speaks for had a huge victory – at least the Palestine Chronicle thinks it is a huge victory – last year because it got Giant to withdraw jeans that were supposedly a product of Israel, but which the hypermarket chain claimed was made in China.

Two points from the Palestine Chronicle article are worth mulling over.

The first: “BDS Malaysia stated that an officer from the Giant branch in question reported that they had returned all the stock nationwide to the supplier. Following which a manager from Giant called Nazari and stated that the supplier of the product was from China and asking BDS to end its campaign against Giant.

“The professor refused, unless Giant could prove that the original company was not of Israeli origin. Upon checking various Giant supermarkets, BDS Malaysia members found that the product was still stocked.”

And the second: “A statement was received by BDS Malaysia from a Ms Roseta, corporate affairs, GCH Retail Sdn Bhd stating that thought the product was made and imported from China, and the management was willing to remove the product from all its outlets due to its sensitive nature. She also said that she would seek further clarification from the supplier.”

Both these examples demonstrate how the Malay ruling elite and intelligentsia manipulate the discourse, claiming victimhood while propagating racist or bigoted agendas.

Boycotting products because companies are enabling or propagating certain ideas is acceptable, but boycotting all products from a country and linking all companies, products and services to a Zionist agenda is not.

Why do we even have to have this conversation? The Prime Minister of this country, on the campaign trail in Cameron Highlands, claimed that people from Israel were “crooks,” and mainstream religious dogma have claimed that the Jews are the “enemies of Islam.”

Never mind that political operatives from the Malay right have invested in companies and have had dealings with the Jewish people for decades.

Who are the crooks?

What is needed is for the average Malay – who have not even met a Jew – to feel a sense of hatred towards Jews for a conflict in the Middle East, which has been used for decades to justify all sorts of malfeasance from Islamic regimes and extremists all over the world.

Does anyone actually believe that the Malay political elite and their mouthpieces make a distinction between Zionism and Jews? I have attended many rallies by the Malay right – and let me tell you something, there is only the Malay right and far right – and none of these people has made this distinction. All of them talk about how “evil” the Jews are and how they are not to be trusted. Some have gone so far as to cite religious texts and authority.

The Malay right hates liberals, but they make an exception for Jewish liberals who criticise Israel. A couple of years ago, I was talking to a scholar who opposes the Occupation, but who also said that there were similarities (“frighteningly so, Thaya”) between the ketuanan Melayu ideology and Zionism.

Both she argued centralised race as the determining factor for political and social action. Both relied on indoctrination to marginalise the other and both perpetrated injustice through a bureaucracy riddled with dubious personalities who were content to wallow in their petty power. Of course, this is not the kind of Jewish liberal who is embraced by the Malay right.

The Pakatan Harapan grand poobah, while campaigning, served up a large spoonful from the bigoted Kool-Aid that is served up to the Malays on a daily basis. He claimed that the Najib Abdul Razak regime had allowed crooks into this country and his administration, which was the principle behind not allowing these crooks into this country.

Who were these crooks? It was David Roet (photo) who was leading the Israeli delegation for a UN event. What did the progressives fighting against the “evil” BN say at the time? They accused the Najib regime of having an “affair” with Israel.

They claimed that the Najib regime was following in the footsteps of the Saudi regime which had close ties with Israel. They mocked Najib when he said this in 2015: “This dictum, known universally in all religions as the Golden Rule, could herald the dawn of a much-needed revised relationship between Muslims and Jews.”

Of the visit and its anti-Semitic reception by the then opposition, I wrote this: “This would have been a perfect opportunity for so-called moderate Islamic parties to change the discourse even a little by highlighting the fact that Islam from the Middle East, or at least that which was perverted by petrodollars, is changing.

“They could have taken the opportunity to learn from the Israeli experience of holding their leadership accountable like how Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu is facing possible criminal charges for corruption, by highlighting the fact that a supposed enemy of Islam holds their leaders accountable to graft allegations submitted by (mostly) independent institutions.”

Instead, then, like now, what the Malay right is doing is merely reinforcing anti-Semitic narratives in an effort to maintain hegemony, while ignoring the very real consequences of such actions.

Remember, blaming the Jews for the problems of Muslims is exactly like blaming the Chinese for the social, economic and political problems of the Malay community.

Which brings us to the non-Malay component of Harapan’s anti-Semitic discourse. You will never see a non-Malay political operative speaking out against the anti-Semitism which is part of mainstream Malay politics. Why? Because to do so would expose the truth in the Hannah Arendt quote which opens this piece.

I know I am going to get into trouble for saying this, but Malaysia has not earned the right to condemn Israel. Maybe if Harapan actually delivered on its promises and slowly did away with this corrupt, bigoted system, we could be on the road to being a credible voice in the Palestinian discourse.


S. THAYAPARAN is a commander (rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy. A retired barrister-at-law, he is one of the founding members of Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan.

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

 

Time to create a culture of critical consciousness for citizens wishing to speak truth to power


January 19,2 019

Time to create a culture of critical consciousness for citizens wishing to speak truth to power

by Dr. Azly Rahman

https://www.malaysiakini.com/columns/460011

COMMENT | When the Multimedia Super Corridor was created in the mid-1990s, during Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s first tenure as Prime Minister, the rakyat was promised that the internet would not be censored. Thirty years later, it is still largely uncensored, nor is any grand governmental filter like China’s Green Dam firewall put in place.

Pakatan Harapan cannot always hide behind security laws in the age of greater and more massive free speech as practised by its citizens, especially those who voted for change – real, radical change – and not for some new regime that lies through its teeth.”– Azly Rahman

I was a keen observer of the impact of digital communications technologies on the degree of how nation-states are deconstructed by the power of the technologies that shrink time and space and put distance to death. I wrote a dissertation on this topic, with the birth of Cyberjaya as a case study of hegemony and utopianism in an emerging ‘cybernetic Malaysia’.

Today, the internet in Malaysia is king, the monarch of misinformation but also messenger of good things, delivered instantaneously. What kind of messiah the internet – the most personalising and democratising tool ever invented – will turn out to be we do not know.

How then is a new government – that promised clean, efficient and trustworthy governance – deal with the inherent contradiction of wanting to allow citizens to tell the truth on the one hand, but refusing to be voted out by the tsunami of critiques on anything, on the other?

In cyberspace, on a daily basis, criticisms are mounted as if a great war is brewing. As if a prelude to the yet another storming of our Bastille.

In other words, Pakatan Harapan cannot always hide behind security laws in the age of greater and more massive free speech as practised by its citizens, especially those who voted for change – real, radical change – and not for some new regime that lies through its teeth.

Critical mass

How do we then critique the monarchy, kleptocracy, theology, and ideology – at a time when the powers-that-be seem to be increasingly panicky with the speed by which things are going?

This is a Habermasian question of public space, of “defeudalisation”, and of the way we educate citizen internet vigilantes to exercise free speech in an increasingly authoritarian world.

Consider the scenario the last few weeks. Netizens are getting hauled to the police station for passing comment on the king who abdicated. Not very nice things were said to the monarch.

Pro-monarchy netizens are in an informational war with those angry and dissatisfied with the king who did not tell the country why he went on leave for a few weeks, only to find out later that he was allegedly attending to his own wedding. A racial-antagonistic dimension of this can be discerned.

The Seafield Temple riots in November were made known to the public almost instantaneously with devastating effect, not only on how it got worse, but how the government and the people were trying to deal with the aftermath.

Image result for dr. mahathir

 

Sadly, a firefighter died and this tragedy is, in fact, another example of how the internet is a tool of production of both the truth and fake news. In cyberspace, comments take on a troubling racial and religious dimension.

Most of the promises broken by the new regime were leaked at lightning speed, with widespread implications. From the government’s reluctance to recognise the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC), the news of the new car project being public-funded to some degree, members flocking into Bersatu like locusts from Umno and now the Special Affairs Department (Jasa) to the confusing and annoying statements coming from the Education Ministry, the political appointments to GLCs – all these and many more point to the idea that citizens are using the internet to exercise their rights as voters and citizens.

They are speaking up and able to again decide if a new government that can deliver promises better ought to be voted into power in the next election. The internet is king.

You can think of more examples of how this technology is a double-edged sword both for the ruler and the ruled. And now we see the Sedition Act 1948 about to be used to compel the rakyat to not speak up.

Those having their voice as internet vigilantes against power abusers continue to play their role. It will take a keen anthropologist to catalogue the thousands of comments that exemplify disgust towards the powers-that-be – produced, reproduced, and made viral – as compared to the few that caught the attention of the authorities.

How to critique

The internet is a virgin forest of information with a life of its own. From it emanates the phenomena of the evolution of truth, multiple truths, alternative truths, and post-truths.

It is a very exciting time for philosophers to study the postmodern thinking activities of the human species. And the internet is the location or space of the battlefields of truths fighting against each other, something those in the US military would call the dromological nature of things, or the speed by which politics moves and removes things, and makes or breaks or multiplies whole truths and half-baked truths.

Is the government looking into this phenomenon? Is it looking into how to educate the rakyat not to say nasty things out of anger and ‘cyber-amok’ conditions – even if what is said is the truth – but to teach them how to say the truth with sound reasoning, using the tools of the critique of power and ideology?

Can the Education Ministry or the Communications and Multimedia Ministry at least provide guidelines on how to critique the monarchy, kleptocracy, ideology, and theology, using sound cultural, philosophical, ideological and liberatory means? This will save netizens from writing things that are true, yet unsubstantiated, and end up in jail.

Image result for Cyber jaya

 

The government of any day owes the citizens the promise of education for critical consciousness, so that democracy can evolve nicely, and regimes can come and go if it fails to deliver.

 

It was the internet that helped the new government grab power. It was netizens that helped Harapan win.

Today, the new government must cultivate a new culture of critical consciousness, to teach citizens how to use the Excalibur of the new regime, new excitement, new society. Not for the new emperors to have a newer sword of Damocles hanging over citizens wishing to speak truth to power.

So educate. Teach us how to critique the power abusers be they politicians, theologians, or the monarchs, safely and scientifically.

Wasn’t that the grand promise of Harapan, to leave the idiocracy behind?


AZLY RAHMAN is an educator, academic, international columnist, and author of seven books available here. He grew up in Johor Bahru and holds a doctorate in international education development and Master’s degrees in six areas: education, international affairs, peace studies communication, fiction and non-fiction writing. He is a member of the Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in Education. Twitter @azlyrahman. More writings here.

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

Patronage is king in new Malaysia?


January 12, 2019

Patronage is king in new Malaysia?

by Dr.Terence Gomez

 

COMMENT | When Dr. Mahathir Mohamad led the opposition to a stunning election victory, he had an effective rallying cry that reflected why Umno’s form of governance was problematic: “Cash is king.”

If Mahathir is not careful, worrying recent trends indicate a similarly disconcerting problem about Pakatan Harapan’s government: “Patronage is king.”

When Harapan wanted to capture power, the coalition’s leaders told Malaysians to expect real change if UMNO was expelled from government. These reforms included ending ethnically-based policies, unfailingly applied since the 1970s to justify patronage favouring bumiputera, though extremely abused to enrich politicians in power.

The Prime Minister would also no longer concurrently serve as finance minister who had under his control a slew of GLCs like 1MDB and Tabung Haji, enterprises that had been persistently abused by UMNOo. Politicians would not be appointed as directors of GLCs.

These pledges contributed to Harapan’s considerable achievement of ending authoritarian rule in Malaysia. However, Harapan has been in power barely eight months and already alarming trends are appearing which suggest that this coalition is finding ways and means to renege on its pledges.

Equally troubling is a gradual and perceptible attempt to reinstitute the practice of selective patronage in the conduct of politics and in the implementation of policies, hallmarks of UMNO politics that led to its fall.

Soon after Harapan formed the government, it created the Economic Affairs Ministry, led by Mohamed Azmin Ali. Subsequently, numerous GLCs controlled by the Finance Ministry, under the jurisdiction of Lim Guan Eng, were transferred to the Economic Affairs Ministry.

Malaysia’s only sovereign wealth fund, Khazanah Nasional, was channelled from the Finance Ministry to the Prime Minister’s Department. The government did not publicly disclose why the shifting of these GLCs between ministries was necessary, but it is now clear that the Finance Ministry no longer holds enormous influence over the corporate sector.

With Khazanah under his ministry, Mahathir, though not also functioning as the Finance Minister, had secured control of Malaysia’s leading investment arm. When Mahathir argued that Khazanah had deviated from performing one of its original objectives, helping the bumiputera, this contention was disputed by numerous analysts.

Mahathir went on to appoint himself as chairperson of Khazanah, though this was, by convention, the practice. The convention also was that the finance minister should be a member of Khazanah’s board.

Instead, Azmin was given this appointment. Whether the prime minister and the economic affairs minister should have been appointed board members of Khazanah merited debate as Harapan had pledged that politicians would not be appointed as directors of government enterprises.

On Sept 1, 2018, a Congress on the Future of Bumiputeras and the Nation was convened by Azmin’s Ministry. Mahathir stressed at this convention the need to reinstitute the practice of selective patronage, targeting bumiputeras, though no longer would the government allow for the distribution of what he referred to as “easy contracts.”

Daim Zainuddin, the chair of the Committee of Eminent Persons (CEP), established to prepare a report reviewing the state of the economy, endorsed the need for such a bumiputera policy, though he acknowledged problems of the past when he said: “We want to get it right this time.” Daim also stressed that the government would strive to change the mindset of bumiputera.

The nation was not told how this policy will be altered to get it right, nor how mindsets will be changed. Meanwhile, the CEP report, though submitted to the government, was not publicly disclosed.

Instead, the bumiputera policy was stressed when the Economic Affairs Ministry released its Mid-Term Review of the 11th Malaysia Plan, while other ministers have actively affirmed that GLCs will be divested, an issue also in the 2019 budget. Given Malaysia’s long history of political patronage, worrying questions come to mind of these divestments.

For example, one important equity sale by Khazanah, an issue that barely secured any analysis in the press, was that of its interests in CIMB, the country’s second-largest bank. Khazanah reduced its equity holding in CIMB by 0.66 percent, a seemingly small divestment.

However, does this sale mark the beginning of the transfer of control of CIMB to well-connected business people, even proxies of politicians, a common practice by UMNO in the 1990s? Will Harapan, through such divestments, move to create a new breed of powerful well-connected business groups, even oligarchs, a trend seen in other countries transiting from authoritarian rule to democracy?

‘Dr M should know better’

Another worrying issue occurred recently. Rural and Regional Development Minister Rina Harun of Mahathir’s party, Bersatu, approved the appointment of politicians from her party to the boards of directors of GLCs under her control.

This is extremely worrying because, under UMNO, the Rural and Regional Development Ministry was persistently embroiled in allegations of corruption, with MARA being the prime example.

The practice of patronage through GLCs to draw electoral support was rampant under this ministry as it has a huge presence in states with a bumiputera-majority population.

So important is this ministry, in terms of mobilising electoral support, that it was always placed under the control of a senior UMNO leader. During Najib Abdul Razak’s administration, then UMNO Vice- President, Mohd Shafie Apdal, served as its minister before he was unceremoniously removed from office. Shafie was replaced by Ismail Sabri Yaakob, Najib’s close ally.

What Rina, once an UMNO member, has done by appointing politicians to GLCs under her authority is so reminiscent of patronage practices that had undermined the activities of these enterprises.

Azmin subsequently endorsed what Rina had done on the grounds that “there are some politicians who have professional background, such as accountants, engineers or architects, who can contribute to GLCs”.

Mahathir should know better than to allow this. After all, he had stressed that GLCs function to fulfil a “noble vision”, including the alleviation of poverty, equitable wealth distribution and spatial development, promotion of rural industries and the fostering of entrepreneurial companies in new sectors of the economy. Mahathir had also persistently referred to Malaysia’s complex ensemble of GLCs as a “monster.”

During Najib’s administration, this vast GLC network, created primarily to fulfil the bumiputera agenda, became tools easily exploited by UMNO, so visibly manifested in serious corruption associated with Felda and Tabung Haji.

However, Harapan has refused to establish an independent committee to review this extremely complex GLC network that operates at the federal and state levels. Is this reluctance because Harapan plans to similarly employ GLCs for the practice of patronage, as recent trends suggest?

What is clear, even becoming the norm, is Harapan’s consistent message to the nation: selectively targeted patronage will continue. The primary advocate of this message is Bersatu, an UMNO off-shoot.

 

At Bersatu’s first convention after securing power, held two weeks ago, its president, Muhyiddin Yassin, was quoted as saying: “As a party for the ‘pribumi’ or indigenous group, Bersatu should not be apologetic to champion the bumiputera agenda”.

Muhyiddin went on to say: “No one in our society will be left behind. Hence, this agenda is not a racial agenda, but a national agenda.” These statements are strikingly similar to what Umno had stressed when in power.

These trends suggest that for Harapan, and Bersatu in particular, consolidating power, by marshalling bumiputera support, is its primary concern, not instituting appropriate economic and social reforms.

If the government hopes to change mindsets, Harapan must focus on just universal-based policies that assist all Malaysians. In the process, disenfranchised bumiputera will also be supported. Patronage need not be king.


TERENCE GOMEZ is a professor of political economy at the Faculty of Economics and Administration, Universiti Malaya.

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