Religiosity–False and Ridiculous–in Malaysia


June 9, 2017

Religiosity–False and Ridiculous–in Malaysia

by Dr. K. John@www.malaysiakini.com

I am genuinely angry and tired of much “false religiosity” which is found in many cultures and belief systems in Malaysia. I call all such unexamined cultural beliefs, worldviews; whether one is consciously aware of the existence of such implicit beliefs, or assumptions, or lack thereof.

Recently two examples of false religiosity were made evident in the Malaysian public square. I have addressed one of them through a previous column. Find it here.

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Zahid Hamidi and other Disciples of Zakir Zaik (Dr Asri Zainal Abidin–5th Left)

It related to misinformation and misguided statements made by Dr Asri Zainal Abidin, the current Mufti of Perlis. If I am not wrong, the post of any mufti is a public service appointment on behalf of the state government and they usually act as formal advisors to their rulers.

In this column I will address the second example of the same kind and quality of false religiosity.  But, before that, let me state a more positive note.  One of my connections (a Muslim friend) sent me a good and correct teaching (by WhatsApp) about what is truth in Islam, as an Abrahamic religion. I am glad such clear teaching is available, and many thanks to modern technology. He was responding to that earlier column.

In January 2017, the media reported that Khalid Samad, MP for Shah Alam was found guilty of a charge by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department, or JAIS, in the syariah court case for “illegal preaching”. And, as a consequence of such a punishment, it was also reported by the media that he may also be disqualified from being an MP, according to Professor Emeritus of Constitutional Law, Shad Saleem Faruqi.

More recently, in a similar vein and mode, this past week, JAIS again made a statement criticizing a local mosque which invited another elected member of Parliament to address them publicly inside their local mosque. JAIS used the name of the Sultan of Selangor, saying that he was “angry” about the matter. JAIS also issued a statement publicising the matter and then decrying the so-called wrong-doing and highlighting the anger of the Sultan of Selangor. My question: is not anger also sin, especially in the month of Ramadan?

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What Offence Did MP S. Sivarasa commit doing his duty as Subang Member of Parliament? Matters can become ridiculous in Malaysian politics under Najib Razak

I have serious problems with such false or mislabelled religious jurisprudence which denies any human being the full rights of citizenship, and especially that of  Members of Parliament. Khalid Samad is a Muslim representative but the latest charge is against R Sivarasa who is MP for Subang, and the mosque is well within his constituency. Sivarasa was performing a formal function as a people’s representative disbursing public funds.

Khalid Samad was sharing his faith and virtues in terms of Islamic thought, philosophy, and his personal life experiences with Palestinians as a result of his recent visit to Gaza. I therefore ask, so what is wrong with what he or Sivarasa did in the mosque?

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Can someone explain to me, in serious theological or logical terms, what is wrong with such sharing of truths from his heart about his first-hand experiences learned in Gaza? Or, why could Sivarasa not be present as a people’s representative within a mosque?

Do mosques belong to JAKIM or JAIS?

Do these mosques actually “belong to JAIS”? Are all mosques then under their direct administrative jurisdiction? I was under the impression that there is no Islamic equivalent of ecclesiology. Where in our Rule of Law system is such a hierarchy of jurisprudence provided for?

If such mosques are in fact directly under the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (JAKIM) which is a federal government department with a minister in cabinet, what is the legal basis of such provisions? Why and how then was the one green lung behind my house converted by JAIS into a mosque after the fact? (For more information on this issue, please refer to this article and a reply by the state legislative assemblyperson for Kampung Tunku.)

What can be there be any legal or religious basis of such thinking?  Are all mosques in Malaysia funded and therefore built by JAKIM with zero funds from federal income tax revenues? Or, is it totally and fully funded by zakat or other such funds?

How then would such a financial administration and authority system be established within the nine Malay states? What about Malacca, Penang, Sabah and Sarawak? Is there a specific state enactment which establishes all these mosques under the full control and determination of some form of state Islamic administration? I ask because I am now a Selangor resident; who is seriously upset about the state administration of both land and religion.

JAIS’s simplistic thinking too may be simply partisan and political. To them, Khalid Samad had no certification to preach at this mosque. Did he really preach or teach the wrong Islamic doctrine? Really, and is not every Muslim allowed to stand up and speak about his experience of faith after a standard prayer at any mosque?

My understanding of the history of Islamic thought is that such sharing in the mosque was always encouraged, while it was dependent on the listeners to ponder the accuracy of such preaching or teaching. Is not this human attempt to control and manipulate religious thought reaching serious and partisan levels? Is that true Islam?

G25 and a moderation movement

G25 is a community of ex-public servants of Muslim faith who publicly made a statement committed to pursuing a just, democratic, peaceful, tolerant, harmonious, moderate and progressive multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-religious society in Malaysia. They extolled two simple and clear Islamic principles or virtues:  ‘wassatiyah’ (or moderation) and ‘maqasid syariah’ (the higher intentions of a comprehensive well-being of the people) which affirms justice, compassion, mercy, and equity.

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The Gutsy, Outspoken and Moderate Muslim  Tawfik Tun Dr. Ismail (TTDI)

It was one Old Putera G25 member, Tawfik Tun Ismail who framed his personal views about JAKIM and then went to declare them publicly. TTDI, as he is fondly known among Old Putera, first questioned the role and full legal authority of JAKIM in its current capacity as a created and established federal department. JAKIM is a federal department set up under the Prime Minister’s Department of the government of Malaysia.

The then-media publisher The Malaysian Insider which published that story and raised the issue too has since been closed down. All these records of truths of interest can still be found on the internet though. I fully agree with TTDI and want to support G25 as a true movement for moderation.


KJ JOHN, PhD, was in public service for 32 years having served as a researcher, trainer, and policy adviser to the International Trade and Industry Ministry and the National IT Council (NITC) of the government of Malaysia. The views expressed here are his personal views and not those of any institution he is involved with. Write to him at kjjohn@ohmsi.net with any feedback or views.

Trump’s radical departure from postwar foreign policy


June 5, 2017

Trump’s radical departure from postwar foreign policy

by Dr. Fareed Zakaria

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-could-spur-the-rise-of-a-new-not-so-liberal-world-order/2017/06/01/1e9aeff2-4707-11e7-98cd-af64b4fe2dfc_story.html?utm_term=.78926a85cfb1

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The Doctrine is…screw everybody if you can while we compete when we can

We now have a Trump Doctrine, and it is, at least in its conception and initial execution, the most radical departure from a bipartisan U.S. foreign policy since 1945. In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn and national security adviser H.R. McMaster say that President Trump has “a clear-eyed outlook that the world is not a ‘global community’ but an arena where nations, nongovernmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage.” The senior officials add: “Rather than deny this elemental nature of international affairs, we embrace it.” That embrace has now led the United States to withdraw from the Paris accord on climate change, signed by 194 other parties.

The “elemental” aspect of international relations has existed for millennia. The history of the human race is one of competition and conflict. U.S. foreign policy has amply reflected this feature. The United States has the world’s largest military and intelligence apparatus, troops and bases in dozens of countries around the world, and ongoing military interventions on several continents. This is not the picture of a nation unaware of political and military competition.

But in 1945, the world did change. In the wake of two of the deadliest wars in human history, with tens of millions killed and much of Europe and Asia physically devastated, the United States tried to build a new international system. It created institutions, rules and norms that would encourage countries to solve their differences peaceably — through negotiations rather than war. It forged a system in which trade and commerce would expand the world economy so that a rising tide could lift all boats. It set up mechanisms to manage global problems that no one country could solve. And it emphasized basic human rights so that there were stronger moral and legal prohibitions against dehumanizing policies such as those that led to the Holocaust.

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It didn’t work perfectly. The Soviet Union and its allies rejected many of these ideas from the start. Many developing nations adopted only some parts of the system. But Western Europe, Canada and the United States did, in fact, become an amazing zone of peace and economic, political and military cooperation. Certainly there was competition among nations, but it was managed peacefully and always with the aim of greater growth, more freedom and improved human rights.

The “West” that emerged is, in historical terms, a miracle. Europe, which had torn itself apart for hundreds of years because of the “elemental nature” of international competition, was now competing only to create better jobs and more growth, not to annex countries and subjugate populations.

This zone of peace grew over the years, first encompassing Japan and South Korea, and later a few countries in Latin America. It was always in competition and conflict with the Soviet bloc, in traditional geopolitical ways. Then in 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed and large parts of the world gravitated toward this open international order.

At the heart of the system was the United States, which had tried to create such an enterprise after World War I but failed. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, learning from those mistakes, advanced a new set of ideas as World War II was drawing to a close. This time, it worked.

Since then, every president of either party has recognized that the United States has created something unique that is a break from centuries of “elemental” international conflict. In the past two-and-a-half decades, it has tried to help incorporate hundreds of millions of people, from Mexico to Ukraine, who want to be part of this liberal — meaning free — international order.

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From the start of his political career, Trump has seemed unaware of this history and ignorant of these accomplishments. He has consistently been dismissive of the United States’ closest political, economic and moral allies. He speaks admiringly of strongmen such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin, China’s Xi Jinping, Egypt’s Abdel Fatah al-Sissi and the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte but critically of almost every democratic leader of Europe.

The consequences of Trump’s stance and his actions are difficult to foresee. They might result in the slow erosion of the liberal international order. They might mean the rise of a new, not-so-liberal order, championed by China and India, both of them mercantilist and nationalist countries.

But they could also result, in the long run, in the strengthening of this order, perhaps by the reemergence of Europe. Trump has brought the continent’s countries together in a way that even Putin could not. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Europe must look out for itself and, as if to underscore that fact, the same week welcomed the prime minister of India and the premier of China. French President Emmanuel Macron upheld Western interests and values face to face with Putin, in just the way an American president would have done in the past.

Trump might not cause the end of the Western world, but he could end the United States’ role at its center.

Thaqif: Case of Intellectual and Mental Abuse


April 29, 2017

Thaqif: Case of Intellectual and Mental Abuse

by Dean Johns@www.malaysiakini.com

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The recent tragic death of 11-year-old Mohamad Thaqif Amin Mohd Gaddafi following beatings he allegedly suffered at a private Islamic boarding school has apparently outraged a good many Malaysians.

And I see that the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has urged the government to abolish corporal punishment in schools on the grounds that it violates children’s rights by harming them not only physically, but also emotionally and mentally.

Morally too, I would add, in light of the fact that so many survivors of the same system of ‘religious’ schooling that proved fatal to Mohamad Thaqif are clearly left hopelessly confused between right and wrong.

Or perhaps not so much confused as seemingly highly selective and hypocritical in their moral judgments, as, for example, the purportedly ultra-pious members and supporters of PAS clearly are in their strident support for the corporal punishment of ordinary Muslims of all ages for a whole range of offences against shariah law, but shamefully silent in the face of alleged crimes against the Malaysian people, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, by the ruling UMNO-BN regime.

And as for the ever-ruling regime itself, whatever ‘religious’ so-called ‘education’ that its members have received has apparently rendered them so hopelessly morally and ethically confused as to be capable of engaging in unholy degrees of corruption, criminality, secrecy and deceit, while simultaneously and hyper-hypocritically pretending to be engaged in a ceaseless ‘struggle’ to ‘defend’ Islam.

This pathologically paradoxical situation is by no means confined to UMNO-BN, or Islam, or Malaysia, of course, but prevails to a greater or lesser extent wherever in the world that the terms ‘religion’ and ‘education’ are employed in combination, be it unthinkingly or with deliberate intent to deceive the innocent, the ignorant and the incurably gullible.

An observation that leads me to my point here, which is that ‘religious education’ is a contradiction in terms, or in other words an oxymoron. Though I have to confess that I feel like a total Aussie moron to have taken so much of my life to arrive at this realisation.

By way of self-explanation if not justification, however, I was born so bereft of knowledge and power that I quickly came to perceive my parents as omniscient and omnipotent, and thus saw nothing amiss in their taking me to church every Sunday.

Same deal when they sent me off to school, where, since the nuns were called ‘sister’ or ‘mother’, and the male teachers ‘brother’ or ‘father’, and I heard lots about somebody called ‘baby Jesus’, I got the distinct impression that, along with my co-religionist classmates, I was part of some special extended family.

Later I felt somewhat let down to learn that this ‘family’ perceived itself as a more sheep-like ‘flock’ of which the formerly infant Jesus was considered the ‘good shepherd’, and whose authority was sometimes symbolised by a ‘crook’.

Long before I came to see the sinister ambiguity of this ‘crook’ concept, however, or started getting cross about this and pretty well every aspect of my own and other religions, I’d started my so-called ‘education’.

A process that, unlike the late, lamented young Mohamad Thaqif, I survived with all my limbs and my life, thanks to the relative mildness of the corporal punishment my teachers meted out.

And I never suffered any of the sexual abuse that has subsequently been alleged that a small but significant minority of Catholic clergymen committed back then and since on children entrusted to their charge.

Intellectual and mental abuse?

Nor, at least at the time it was happening, did I feel much if any pain as a result of what I later came to see as the intellectual and mental abuse arising from being fed a load of religious fantasies to accept as if they were facts.

Imparting the so-called ‘truths’ of religion to innocent, unsuspecting children, even to the point of forcing them to rote-learn and parrot allegedly ‘divinely-inspired’ texts, and requiring them to have ‘faith’ in such stuff on pain of ‘sin’ against some imaginary ‘almighty’ is an outrage.

As is thus indoctrinating them into any religion without also informing them about at least a selection of the countless atrocities that have been committed in the names of religions since time immemorial, and so appallingly continue to be committed today.

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UMNO religious Eggheads

And, despite such enlightened views as those brilliantly expressed by Azly Rahman in his recent Malaysiakini column in which he deplores the “heartless, mindless and soul-less system of schooling and learning”, even more of the same is threatened as recently by the allegedly ‘educated’ likes of Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dr. Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

In a recent public speech, Zahid, who claims to have a PhD, but which to judge by the way he talks could well signify not a ‘doctorate of philosophy’ but a ‘phoney degree’, declared that “if our social contract is broken, there will not only be social disorder but worse than that, our streets will be littered with blood and dead bodies.”

“Those mad and irrational people out there who are propagating social disorder and tearing the fabric of our social structure must be challenged and overcome by our citizens who understand the reason for our being,” he ranted on, in support of his highly-debatable further proposition that “the emergence of social media has deeply affected belief systems, intellectual thinking and moral principles, with mankind slowly being made to lose its dignity.”

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This, I contend, is precisely the kind of maimed and misleading mindset that comes from the confusion, deliberate or otherwise, of mindless religious indoctrination or poisonous propaganda with true, enlightened education.

A concept that, as I recall from my school Latin lessons, is based on the word ‘educare’, meaning to ‘draw out’ as in liberate the young, indeed people of all ages, from ignorance, prejudice, irrationality and falsehood rather than to induce or further sustain such crippling mental blocks.

Though it’s possibly small consolation to Mohamad Thaqif Amin Mohd Gaddafi’s bereaved family and friends, at least he is free forever of such pernicious ‘religious’ and other similarly destructive so-called ‘educational’ influences, and we can hope that the memory of his sad fate will serve as a lesson that will help many other young Malaysian minds to survive.

APSIA Conference 2017 Keynote Address by Singapore’s DPM


March 5, 2017

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APSIA Conference 2017 Keynote Address by Singapore’s DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam at LKY School of Public Policy

COMMENT:

Geo-Politics, Disruptive Social Developments and Technological Change: Has the Game Changed? Yes, that is easy part of the answer.  How we wish that life is simple and outcomes are predictable. But it is not. I  have been grappling a few questions. I asked myself questions like What has changed? How it has changed?  What is driving the change?What this change means to us in Asia.

China, North Korea, Islamic and Christian evangelism, terrorism and so on are making the headlines.I  also see increasing polarisation and the need for understanding and rebuilding trust. I expect our politicians to reconnect with people they are mandated to serve and  want leaders to lead with integrity, honesty and hope. Listen to DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam for some insights.–Din Merican

 

 

NY Times Book Review: Jesus Christ in Islam


March 4, 2017

NY Times Book Review

Recommended Read:  Jesus Christ in Islam

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Jesus in Islam

Mehdi Hasan

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2009/dec/23/religion-islam

Muslims don’t worship Jesus, but they do revere him and believe about him much that Christians do.

So you’re telling me you believe in Jesus, as well as Muhammad?” I remember the perplexed look on my Christian friend’s face a few years ago. I had dropped a theological bombshell on him in revealing that Jesus was considered by Muslims to be a prophet of God.

“Not only do we believe in Jesus,” I replied, pausing for maximum dramatic effect, “we also believe in the Virgin Birth.” My friend’s eyes widened with surprise, his mouth agape.

Christians, perhaps because they call themselves Christians and believe in Christianity, like to claim ownership of Christ. It thus comes as a huge surprise to many of them – my friend included – to discover that the world’s second-largest faith, Islam, also stakes a claim to him.

Jesus, or Isa, as he is known in Arabic, is deemed by Islam to be a Muslim prophet rather than the Son of God, or God incarnate. He is referred to by name in as many as 25 different verses of the Quran and described as the “Word” and the “Spirit” of God. No other prophet in the Quran, not even Muhammad, is given this particular honour.

In fact, Islam reveres both Jesus and his mother, Mary (Joseph appears nowhere in the Islamic narrative of Christ’s birth). “Unlike the canonical Gospels, the Quran tilts backward to his miraculous birth rather than forward to his Passion,” writes Professor Tarif Khalidi, in his fascinating book The Muslim Jesus. “This is why he is often referred to as ‘the son of Mary’ and why he and his mother frequently appear together.” In fact, Mary, or Maryam, as she is known in the Quran, is considered by Muslims to hold the most exalted spiritual position among women. She is the only woman mentioned by name in Islam’s holy book and a chapter of the Quran is named after her.

But the real significance of Mary is that Islam also considers her a virgin and endorses the Christian concept of the Virgin Birth. “She was the chosen woman, chosen to give birth to Jesus, without a husband,” says Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, an imam in Leicester and assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain.

For Muslims, however, the Virgin Birth is not evidence of Jesus’s divinity, only of his unique importance as a prophet and a messiah. The Trinity is rejected by Islam, as is Jesus’s Crucifixion and Resurrection. The Quran castigates Christianity for the widespread practice among its sects of deifying Jesus (and Mary), and casts the criticism in the form of an interrogation of Jesus by God:

And when Allah saith: O Jesus, son of Mary! Didst thou say unto mankind: Take me and my mother for two gods beside Allah? he saith: Be glorified! It was not mine to utter that to which I had no right. If I used to say it, then Thou knewest it

Muslims cherish and venerate Jesus the prophet – but, I often wonder, are we paying only lip-service to his life and legacy? Where, for example, is the Islamic equivalent of Christmas? Why do Muslims celebrate the birth of the Prophet Muhammad but not that of the Prophet Jesus? “We, too, in our own way should celebrate the birth of Jesus … [because] he is so special to us,” says Mogra.

In recent years, the right-wing press in Britain has railed against alleged attempts by “politically correct” local authorities to downplay or even suppress Christmas. Birmingham’s attempt to name its seasonal celebrations “Winterval” and Luton’s Harry Potter-themed lights, or “Luminos”, are notorious examples. There is often a sense that such decisions are driven by the fear that outward displays of Christian faith might offend British Muslim sensibilities, but, given the importance of Jesus in Islam, such fears are misplaced and counter-productive. Mogra, who leads the MCB’s interfaith relations committee, concurs: “It’s a ridiculous suggestion to change the name of Christmas.” He adds: “Britain is great when it comes to celebrating diverse religious festivals of our various faith communities. They should remain named as they are, and we should celebrate them all.”

Amid tensions between the Christian west and the Islamic east, I believe a common focus on Jesus could help close the growing divide between the world’s two largest faiths. Others agree. “We don’t have to fight over Jesus. He is special for Christians and Muslims,” says Mogra. “He is bigger than life. We can share him.”

Nationalism in Malaysia in Extremis


November 17, 2016

The Edge logo

Nationalism in Malaysia in Extremis

by Dr. Ooi Kee Beng

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Malay Nationalism or Tribalism ala Ku Kluk Klan

One thing that shocked me when I first went to Sweden for my studies 35 years ago was how dirty a word “Nationalism” was in Western Europe. This reaction, I realized, was very much a reflection of how the concept was positively implanted in my mind while a schoolboy in Malaysia; but it also demonstrated how greatly human experiences can differ in different parts of the world.

More importantly, it revealed to me how strongly we are intellectually captured by the language use of our times and our location.

But the Swedes are very proud of their country, so how come nationalism is frowned upon so badly? The same thing applied throughout Europe, at least until recently. Excessive immigration over the last two decades, coupled with declining economic fortunes and waning self-confidence has buoyed the ascendance of ultra-rightists groups in all countries throughout the continent.

So why was Nationalism so despised? Europe is after all the home continent of the Nation State.

For starters, Europe was always a place of endless wars often fought ostensibly for religious reasons between feudal powers. The arrival of the Nation state ideology helped to lower the frequencies of these tragedies, but only to replace it soon after with non-religious types of rationale for conflict. The American Revolution and French Republicanism added the new phenomenon of “government by the people”. The French case also brought into the equation the Left-Right Dimension that would define politics and political thinking for the next two centuries.

This conceptual division between Popular Mandate and Elite Rule expressed sharply the rights of common people on the one hand, and the role of the state on the other. Once this gap was articulated, conflating the two poles anew became a necessary task.

The three major articulations in Europe of this mammoth mission to bridge the divide and achieve a functional modern system were Liberal Democracy, Communism and Fascism. While the Anglo-Saxon world championed the first, Stalin’s Soviet Union perfected the second and Adolf Hitler developed the third to its insane conclusion. In Europe, it was basically these three actors who fought the Second World War.

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Malay Tribalism in Action

In Asia, Japan’s brand of state fascism ran riot throughout the region, rhetorically championing nationalism in the lands it took from the European colonialists.

While the National Socialism of the Third Reich died with Hitler, Fascism lived on in Franco’s Spain until 1975 and Nationalist Communism of Stalin continued in Eastern Europe until the early 1990s.

Nationalism in the rest of Europe after 1945 came to be understood with disdain as the longing of the Nation State for purity and autonomy taken to pathological lengths. It is after all always a defensive posture, as is evidenced today in its return in the form of right-wing anti-immigrant groups.

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Maruah Melayu dijual ka-Cina untuk membela masa depan politik Najib Razak–Jualan Aset 1MDB

In Malaysia, nationalism was—and for many, still is—the most highly rated attitude for a citizen to adopt.There are obvious reasons for this, given the historical and socio-political context in which Malaysia came into being. Constructing a new country out of nine sultanates, the three parts of the Straits Settlements, with Sabah and Sarawak on top of that, was a more daunting task than we can imagine today. Furthermore, the contest was also against other powerful “-isms”, especially Communism and Pan-Indonesianism. These threatened to posit what are Malaysia’s states today in a larger framework, and would have diminished these territories’ importance and uniqueness.

Putting a new regime in place of the retreating British required a rallying idea; and what better than the very fashionable image of a new nation to whom all should swear allegiance. Malayan nationalism was thus born.

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For Inclusive, Liberal and Progressive Malaysia–Escaping the Nationalism Trap

It is no coincidence that the path to independence became much easier after Malaysia’s major political party, UMNO, decided under Tunku Abdul Rahman to change its slogan from the provincial “Hidup Melayu” [Long Live the Malays] to the inclusive “Merdeka” [Independence].

But already in that transition, one can see the problem that Malaysia still lives with today. Is Malaysia the political expression of the prescriptive majority called “Melayu” [later stretched to become “Bumiputera”], or is it the arena in which the multi-ethnic nation of “Malaysians” is to evolve?

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Nationalism in essence, and most evidently so in its narrow ethno-centric sense, is defensive and fearful, and understood simplistically and applied arrogantly very quickly show strong fascist tendencies. The issue is therefore a philosophical one.

What Malaysia needs today, is to accept the regional and global context that sustains it, and work out as best it can a suitable balance between Popular Mandate and Elite Rule which is clearly less belaboured and less painful than the cul-de-sac alleyway it has backed itself into.

OOI KEE BENG is the Deputy Director of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute) and the Editor of the Penang Monthly (Penang Institute). He is the author of the prizewinning The Reluctant Politician: Tun Dr Ismail and His Time (ISEAS 2006).