My country MALAYSIA: Its PROBLEMS and SOLUTIONS


February 3, 2016

My country MALAYSIA: Its PROBLEMS and SOLUTIONS

By: Kassim Ahmad

I am a patriot, a plain Kassim Ahmad, who a long time ago politely refused an UMNO offer for a datoship.Being from a poor oppressed classed, I began early as a rebel (with causes, of course!) and soon became the leader of the Malayan People’s Socialist Party (1968-1984). In 1984, seeing the collapse of international socialism in the world I left the party and made a strong patriotic statement by joining UMNO in 1986. My aim of reform could not take off. I am still an UMNO member, albeit very critical of UMNO.

On the same day when my UMNO memberhip application was approved, my widely discussed book Hadis – Satu Penilaian Semula was released. After two months of extensive discussions, including an ABIM-organized public dialogue, it was banned by the religious establishment in the country.

Several state muftis penned books to rebut my book, repeating their old and tired arguments, which I have already refuted in the first place. However, I wrote another book entitled, Hadis – Jawapan kepada Pengkritik (1992), briefly dismissing the muftis’ several books, but at the same time giving more details about the Quran.

This started the movement for the review of Hadith as well as for going back to the Quran, not only in Malaysia, but internationally. Hadis – Satu Penilaian Semula has since been translated into English and Arabic. I am glad to say that today the Turkish Government is undertaking a major project of Hadith re-evaluation.

I admit that I was a rebel, and still is. At the core of Malaysia’s problems is  corrupt UMNO, the backbone of its ruling BN Government. In 1946 when UMNO was first formed it was a poor idealistic Malay party embraced en mass by the Malays in their enthusiasm and quest for Merdeka.

To cut the story short, via the bloody May 13, via great Razak’s Mageran (the Council for the  Regeneration of the Country) and his extraordinary vision, Malaysia is what it is today, one of the most progressive countries among the developing world.

At the same time, as it is wont in human affairs, deterioration sets in, as complacancy grows among the ruling elite. UMNO became corrupt, and has perhaps reached the point of no return today. In this atmosphere of gloom when financial scandles abound, pessimism is in the air. Oh Lord! Do we need a second Mageran, ask the thinking part of Malaysia?

The people ask, “What are we to do? Can anything be done? Such voices rise from the depth of the soul of the people, voiced by their intellectuals, the likes of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Dr. M Bakri Musa, HRH Sultan of Johor, HRH Sultan of Perak Dr. Nazrin Shah and HRH the Crown Prince of Johor Tunku Ismail.

Yes, indeed. What is to be done? Can corrupt UMNO be reformed? Can weak Pakatan Rakyat take over? Where is our Saviour? Where is our Imam Mahdi? When is the Second-Coming (of Jesus Christ)?

Unfortunately, all these wailings are of no avail. Man has been created as God’s vicegerent on earth, to rule the earth and change it to His liking. Oh Man! Rise up to your calling! “I created you free,” God said. So wait no more! Act!

Enumerate the things you must do in order of importance. First, you must reform UMNO. Once the difficult task of reforming of UMNO is over, all other problems will be resolved: wastage in manpower in Government, increasing productivity by optimum use of assets, trimming the Government, the need for good governance, increasing salaries of lower-rung Government servants, overcoming periodic floods in some states, eliminating traffic jams by decreasing private cars and increasing and improving public transport, and doing away with tolls, and such like actions to make life more comfortable for all Malaysians.

KASSIM AHMAD is a Malaysian author. His website is www.kassimahmad.blogspot.com

Malaysia :Moderates and extremists and anyone in between


January 15, 2016

 Malaysia :Moderates and extremists and anyone in between

by Dr. Kua Kia Soong
http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Our society is fast becoming an Orwellian dystopia in which “moderates”, “extremists”, “national security”, “national harmony” and other fluffy terms have become relative (Doublespeak) and imprecise, depending on how they are defined by the state and the judiciary.–Kua Kia Soong

The rise of the far right and the religious bigots in Malaysia has in turn given rise to a movement of “moderates”. As human beings, we have an instinctive grasp of the ancient wisdom of moderation as the way (the Tao) to a healthy body and way of life. In the body politic, however, espousing “moderation” becomes imprecise since it is an example of fluffy language that is also used by the powers-that-be to deal with those who uphold truth, justice and human rights.

Kua-Kia-Soong

Let me illustrate what I mean. When I was detained without trial by then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad under Operation Lalang from 1987 to 1989, the Special Branch in their relentless interrogations insisted on categorizing me as an “extremist”.

Among ‘allegations of fact’ under the Internal Security Act, I was alleged to have written a book ‘Polarisation in Malaysia: The Root Causes’. This is an excellent example of the relativism of “moderation” and “extremism” in Malaysia.

In the first place, this book was sponsored and signed by all the 24 major Chinese associations in Malaysia in 1987. It was not banned by the government. But I was considered an “extremist” for having written it and (in their eyes) deserved to be detained without trial because I was alleged to have threatened the internal security of the country.

On the other hand, Mahathir himself had in fact written a book, The Malay Dilemma, in 1969 and the government at the time under the Tunku had considered it “extremist” and banned the book. Nonetheless, while his book was considered “extremist” and not fit for public consumption, Mahathir was not considered extremist enough to be detained without trial and he has, in fact, never been detained under the ISA.

If we are to ensure the principles of democracy are upheld, we have to question the validity of the issues involved in such loosely used terms as “moderation” or “extremism”, and take a stand so as not to fall for these fluffy concepts. Recently, we had religious bigots and racists calling for Bibles containing the word “Allah” to be burned. The authorities considered them to be “moderates” because they were “merely trying to defend Islam”. Such an interpretation of “moderation” seems to go on ad nauseam in contemporary Malaysian society.

Extremism-Featured

Our society is fast becoming an Orwellian dystopia in which labels such as “moderates”, “extremists”, “national security”, “national harmony” and other fluffy terms have become relative (Doublespeak) and imprecise, depending on how they are defined by the state and the judiciary. This requires civic vigilance to demand precision about who “the perpetrators of a crime” are; we need to know “who specifically said what” and “what specifically they said or did”. “

Calling an Equality Act an Equality Act

It is very clear that we are trying to deal with a problem widely recognised by the world community, at least since the Second World War – namely, racism, racial discrimination, related prejudice and intolerance. Let us examine how other countries deal with this problem.

Britain has the Equality Act 2010, the purpose of which is to align the Race Relations Act with European human rights legislation and to extend protection to other groups not previously covered namely, age, disability, gender, religion, belief and sexual orientation.

Thus, in my critique of the “Harmony Act” that has been proposed to replace the Sedition Act, I have stressed that we should call an Equality Act an Equality Act and not by any other fluffy name. If equality is still taboo in Malaysia in the 21st century, we are indeed living in Never-never Land (or Takboleh Land)!

Religious bigotry and Islamic populism

The increasing cases of religious bigotry and injustice toward non-Muslims in the country are actually instances of the misapplication of the federal constitution which provided for freedom of religion as at independence. Subsequent amendments to the Federal Constitution and state enactments have led to the Judiciary deferring its powers to the inferior syariah courts in disputes between a Muslim and a non-Muslim regarding conversion from Islam and other areas.

To reinstate the status quo ante as it was in 1957 (our “social contract”?), there needs to be in place a Law Commission that would be empowered to ensure freedom of religion in this country and restate the jurisdiction of the civil courts and the syariah courts. In upholding the principle of freedom of religion in the federal constitution, the post-1957 state enactments that clearly violate this freedom – as in the case of the Bible-seizing episodes – have to be rescinded. Such a reform is essential in order to recognize the 1957 “social contract” as supreme and thus prevent any further Bible-seizing adventures. This and not the magnanimity of the Menteri Besar or the monarch is crucial in establishing our right to freedom of religion under the federal constitution.

Routinization of racial discrimination

These are examples of the routinization of racial discrimination in Malaysia that has become part of the “normality” accepted by many so-called “moderates”. Again, this only exposes the relativity and vagueness of the concept of “moderation” that currently abounds in the media and begs the question: moderate in relation to what?

Concerned Malaysians should call for the institution of structural reforms for healthy ethnic relations and the equality to which we as citizens are entitled. These include calling upon the government to immediately initiate moves to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

We need to address the main issues of racism, racial discrimination and related intolerance in our society and to propose appropriate bills and institutions to resolve these problems. Failure to do so results in fluffily clad initiatives and bills which can be used by despots as double-edged swords to deal only with human rights defenders rather than the perpetrators of hate and division.

Dr. Kua Kia Soong is the adviser of SUARAM (Suara Rakyat Malaysia).

 

Rampant academic dishonesty in Malaysia


December 22, 2015

Rampant academic dishonesty in Malaysia

by Murray Hunter

http://malaysiaflipflop.blogspot.my/2015/11/there-are-more-bogus-scientists-in.html

plagiarism-640x449

ONE of the more destructive traits of Malaysian society today is academic dishonesty. It runs throughout many facets of society. Academic dishonesty is not just an education issue, it’s also prevalent within the civil service, business, and even political walks of life.

A few high-profile cases of academic dishonesty have arisen over the last few years. Two Federal Deputy Ministers, Richard Riot (Human Resources) and Dr Ewon Ebin (Science) were found to have fake degrees a couple of years ago. An Executive Director of a private college of higher education affiliated with a UK university, and pop star Fazley Yaakob were found to hold two fake degrees, and two public company directors were also found to have  bogus degrees.

Many prominent figures in Malaysian society have bought ‘bogus degrees’ from unaccredited universities to enhance their qualifications and CVs. There are also cases of Malaysians trying to use fake degrees to get work overseas in countries like in New Zealand. However, this lack of academic integrity is not limited to acquiring fake degrees.

A prominent academic has developed a collection of awards that could be considered dubious. Awards such as the Socrates Award in Education, Best Manager Award, and ‘The Name in Science’, awarded by “a designer award mill” called the Europe Business Assembly (EBA), purportedly located in Oxford, UK, appear to grant awards on application and payment, rather than being scrutinized by any international panel. Other such dubious awards include the “Merit of Commandeur” conferred by an organization called the Belgian Chamber of Inventors (BCI), of which any trace cannot be found through internet searches. This is not the first time such awards have been controversial in Malaysiaand the region.

Ridhuan Tee

There have been numerous issues in regards to plagiarism. Back in 2013, an Utusan Malaysia writer Ridhuan Tee (above) was accused of plagiarism by a Universiti Teknologi Malaysia lecturer Dr Aril Yasreen Mohd. Yassin. Although the matter was never resolved, Ridhuan Tee was appointed an Associate Professor at Universiti Pertahanan Nasional Malaysia (National Defence University).

Plagiarism in the copying of internet, book, and article material for publications is widespread within Malaysia, although very few reports ever rise to the public domain. Adeline Lee Zhia Ern, a Malaysian writer, was caught plagiarizing Jack Canfield’s Chicken Soup for the Soul IV in her first book Lethal Lesson and Other Stories, and her book was withdrawn from the market and destroyed. An editor working for the New Straits Times, Brendan Pereira, was dismissed for plagiarizing the work of U.S. journalist Mitch Albom.

Last year, the Malaysian national news agency Bernama suspended a journalist for plagiarizing an article from the Jakarta Post. Plagiarism is not just confined to books. Australian Masterchef finalist Alvin Quah was accused of plagiarism by Rasa Malaysia’s Bee Yin Low from the Asian food blog Rasa Malaysia.

With the level of academic dishonesty in general society, it’s not surprising that there  is a lack of academic integrity within Malaysian institutions of higher education.

With the level of academic dishonesty in general society, it’s not surprising that there is a lack of academic integrity within Malaysian institutions of higher education. However, what is surprising is the extent of it, particularly among students, according to a recent survey.

These practices are not just restricted to students. A startling but not well publicized piece of  research on student academic dishonesty in Malaysia showed academic dishonesty was rampant. It was revealed that students understand the university policies are towards plagiarism and cheating, yet due to peer pressure and the feeling of security in the collective culture, large percentages of students partake in cheating in one form or another.
The study went on to state that 95.7% of students had partaken in some form of plagiarism.
The study went on to state that 95.7% of students had partaken in some form of plagiarism, 96% had shared an assignment with other students, 93% had cheated during tests, 92% had falsified data, 86% had cheated in examinations, and 90% had copied a friends assignment.

Due to the sheer number of students at Malaysian universities today, it is almost impossible to use tools like ‘turnitin’ to check all students’ work for plagiarism.In addition, universities are worried about their reputations if pass rates are poor, and often put extreme pressure on lecturers to pass students. Failing a student in some faculties within a Malaysian university would just lead to a long series of meetings and extra work to reassess and pass them, many lecturers have told the writer.

Unfortunately, some staff at Malaysian universities are not good role models to students. In of the few cases that came to public attention two Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) lecturers who were caught plagiarizing materials from the internet to produce an effective writing handbook. The action taken against the authors was only a reprimand. A similar case involving a Deputy Vice chancellor of another university was ‘pushed under the rug’. However the IEEE banned any papers from the academic in any of their journals for 10 years.

Some lecturers use undergraduate student assignments as the basis of papers they publish in academic journals. This accounts for the large number of papers some lecturers are able to produce each year. Student names are rarely added as authors to the lecturer’s submissions to journals.

A number of deans and high office bearers within Malaysian universities specifically hire staff from countries like Bangladesh to ghost write for them. These staff members have no other duties other than to produce papers and even books for their employers. This is in addition to lecturers also putting their superiors name on their papers to carry favour. Some staff members have also been known to employ a ghost writer to research and write their PhD thesis

Plagiarism is extremely high among lecturers and professors within Malaysian universities, and only occasionally will any academic come out and publically talk about what is going on.

With the push over the last few years for Malaysian universities to rise in the world rankings, publishing has become a very important issue for academics. Universities have put a lot of funds into improving their volume of articles published in academic journals.

Many methods are being used to get articles published and gain citations for their work. Many Malaysian academics are using the ‘checkbook’ to just pay for publication. A number of academic journals are now springing up using a ‘pay to publish’ approach, rather than the ‘double blind referee’ approach traditional to academic publishing in the past. Lecturers also give papers at conferences where proceedings are published in journals after the conference.

If one goes to Google Scholar and checks the publication citations of some of the new universities, it will become very evident that many academics are gaining large numbers of citations for their work within very short periods of time. This has been particularly the case over the last three to four years. High numbers of citations are being generated through the sheer volume of papers where lecturers cite their own work, and make agreements with other lecturers to cross-cite each other’s work.

Many other dishonest activities going on within Malaysian universities include:

    • The falsifying of student appraisal surveys to eliminate criticism of teaching;
    • The ‘cut and paste’ of curriculum from other universities when developing new courses;
    • Some foreign students who fail just to purchase a locally produced fake degree before returning home. Some even go to the convocation and take photos with their friends on graduation day;
    • There are still faculty members with dubious degrees and qualifications within Malaysian universities today. As of today, there are still no laws against this practice, and unfortunately some international universities are cashing in on the Malaysian Ministry of Education’s quest to improve qualifications among public university lecturers. Many Malaysian lecturers are sent to overseas universities which guarantee a pass to gain their PhD.

Fraudulent academic practices and dishonesty is almost an acceptable behaviour in Malaysia today, as the national and institutional leaders have done very little to highlight the seriousness of these offences.

There is currently a very low state of academic integrity within Malaysian universities. However universities are only a microcosm of the general society around them. Fraudulent academic practices and dishonesty is almost an acceptable behaviour in Malaysia today, as the national and institutional leaders have done very little to highlight the seriousness of these offences.

Academically dishonest people are leniently dealt with in Malaysia, which has given today’s younger generation ‘skewed ideas’ about morality and ethics and so academic dishonesty has become a destructive modus operandi.

The prevalence of academic dishonesty shows that moral and ethical standards are slipping in Malaysia and a whole new generation is being told that it’s OK to steal the creative work and ideas of others. There is a very high tolerance in Malaysian society for fraud, cheating and mediocrity.

Malaysia is now a country where some ministers don’t know their own portfolios, students don’t know their career disciplines, and university professors who just don’t know their fields. This is costing Malaysian society greatly. Mediocrity rather than meritocracy is favoured which will affect Malaysia’s human capital competitiveness in the coming years. This is a problem that is coming from the top of Malaysia’s institutions, where reform is desperately needed.

Do you know that more than half of our so-called Scientist cannot speak English, so how the hell did they qualify in the first place? Like Datukship, Tan Sri and Tunship, PhD is another big joke in Malaysia with no value to the world.

The need for a new education


December 18, 2015

The need for a new education

by Jesús  Sanchez Granados*

Edited for Brevity–Din Merican

outcomes_4

In the beginning, education and the ideals it embodied aspired to create a “perfect” citizenry. Later,the objective shifted to ensuring that citizens were well-trained, and more recently it shifted once again to the awakening of the critical spirit. Today, the ideal is creativity: the capacity to learn and a lifelong willingness to face new things and modify learned expectations accordingly; there can be no learning without re-learning, without the revision that must be undertaken when we realise the weakness of what we thought we knew. In a knowledge society, education is the capacity to be creative in an environment of particular uncertainty, the capacity to properly manage the cognitive dissonance that gives rise to our failure to comprehend reality (Innerarity, 2010).

Therefore, in the world of liquid modernity, we must move away from sporadic education and towards lifelong learning.This entails overcoming security-driven resistance: the pillars to which we cling because they lend us a sense of security a mistake in a world filled with insecurities and ephemeral validities.

Conventionally, education has been understood as preparation for life, as personal realisation, and as an essential element in progress and social change, in accordance with changing needs (Chitty, 2002). Orr (2004) declares that if certain precautions are not taken, education may equip people to become “more effective vandals of the earth”. He describes education of the sort we have seen thus far as a possible problem, and argues for a new type of education:

More of the same kind of education will only compound our problems. This is not an argument for ignorance but rather a statement that the worth of education must now be measured against the standards of decency and human survival. It is not education but education of a certain kind that will save us.
(Orr, 2008:8)
Education, in other words, can be a dangerous thing (…). It is time, I believe, for an educational ‘perestroika’, by which I mean a general rethinking of the process and substance of education at all levels, beginning with the admission that much of what has gone wrong with the world is the result of education that alienates us from life in the name of human domination, fragments instead of unifies,overemphasizes success and careers, separates feeling from intellect and the practical from the theoretical, and unleashes on the world minds ignorant of their own ignorance.” 
(Orr, 2004: 17) 

Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) has emerged as a paradigm for revising and reorienting today’s education. ESD consists of new forms of knowing and learning how to be human in a different way. This education aims to contribute to the sustainability of personal integrity or, in the words of Sterling (2001), to the integrity of the spirit, heart, head and hands.

As argued by Dewey and the educational reconstructionists, it is often not enough to do things according to custom or habit that is,to reproduce the existing social system. Instead, new answers must be sought. If we are to imagine new ways of living and acting, then we must be capable of assessing and bringing about social change, because successfully achieving sustainable development requires the following principles: being aware of the challenge, taking action voluntarily, assuming collective responsibility and forming a constructive partnership, and believing in the dignity of all human beings without exception.

These principles for lasting human development, formulated at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, imply lessons that largely coincide with the four pillars of education set out in the Delors Report: learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together and learning to be.In the context of ESD, UNESCO (2008) suggested the inclusion of a fifth pillar: learning to transform oneself and society. In a sense, education must lead to empowerment: through education, individuals should acquire the capacity to make decisions and act effectively in accordance with those decisions, and this in turn entails the ability to influence the rules of play through any of the available options. Thus, education consists in developing not only personal but also social qualities; it is the development of social conscience: awareness of how society works, knowledge of how it is structured, and a sense of the personal agency and how all together allow and determine intervention and a sense of the extent to which personal agency allows intervention (Goldberg, 2009). Essentially, it opens a dialogue between the personal and the collective, between common and individual interests, between rights and obligations. 

Reformulation of higher education

Einstein once said that no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.Current needs suggest that we must learn to view the world and, therefore, education in a new way.Higher education has in the past demonstrated its crucial role in introducing change and progress in society and is today considered a key agent in educating new generations to build the future, but this does not exempt it from becoming the object of an internal reformulation. 

According to the World Declaration on Higher Education for the 21st Century  (1998), higher education is facing a number of important challenges at the international, national and institutional levels. At the international level, there are two main challenges. The first is the role of supranational organisations such as UNESCO in advancing the prospection of trends and improvements, as well as in promoting networking and twinning programmes among institutions. The European Union (EC-JRC,2010), for example, has stressed that higher education must change and adapt to economic and social needs, that institutional change is essential to educational innovation, and that information and communication technologies must form part of the teaching and learning process. The second international challenge is to encourage international cooperation between institutions in order to share knowledge across borders and facilitate collaboration, which, furthermore, represents an essential element for the construction of a planetary (Morin, 2009) and post-cosmopolitan citizenship (Dobson and Bell, 2006): the assumption of interdependence, “deterritorialisation”, participation,co-responsibility, and solidarity among all inhabitants of the planet. 

States must provide the necessary financing so that universities can carry out their public-service function. States may also enact laws to ensure equality of access and strengthen the role of women in higher education and in society.

The following are the challenges faced by universities and other institutions of higher education:

  • Changes in universities as institutions and at the level of internal organisation. These changes should aim to improve the management of resources (human, economic, etc.) and be restructured to improve internal democracy.Universities must continue their mission to educate, train and carry out research through an approach characterised by ethics, autonomy,responsibility and anticipation.
  • Changes in knowledge creation. Interdisciplinary and trans disciplinary approaches should betaken and non-scientific forms of knowledge should be explored,
  • .Changes in the educational model. New teaching/learning approaches that enable the development of critical and creative thinking should be integrated. The competencies common to all higher-education graduates should be determined and the corresponding expectations should be defined. In a knowledge society, higher education should transform us from disoriented projectiles into guided missiles: rockets capable of changing direction in flight,adapting to variable circumstances, and constantly course-correcting. The idea is to teach people to learn quickly as they go along, with the capacity to change their mind and even renounce previous decisions if necessary, without over thinking or having regrets. Teaching and learning must be more active, connected to real life, and designed with students and their peculiarities in mind.
  • Changes aimed at tapping the potential of information and communication technologies in the creation and dissemination of knowledge. The goal of such changes is to create what Prensky (2009) calls digital wisdom.
  • Changes for social responsibility and knowledge transfer. The work of higher education institutions must be relevant. What they do, and what is expected of them must be seen as service to society; their research must anticipate social needs; and the products of their research must be shared effectively.
 *Jesús Granados holds a PhD in Education from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) with a thesis on Education for sustainability and Teaching Geography. Graduated in Geography (UAB), he holds a Master in Social Sciences Education (UAB) and a Master in Environmental Education and Communication (ISEMA). He worked at Universidad de la Rioja and in 2004 moved to the UAB to teach and research at the Faculty of Education, where he implemented, amongst others, the subject of Education for sustainability that was an optional campus subject available for all the degrees at the UAB.  At present,since May 2011 Jesús is working at GUNI as studies, research and contents coordinator. For further information about this article, contact the author at the following e-mail address:  jesusgranadossanchez@gmail.com

Mimta–A Unique “Think Tank” for Indian Muslims


November 29, 2015

COMMENT: Indian Muslims in Malaysia are well known for doing unusual things, including setting up institutions or NGOs like KIMMA and Mimta,  which link themselves to UMNO, in most cases in support of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, although they know that the Prime Minister is increasingly unpopular with Malaysians.

Maybe that is a noble thing to do. But basically, Mimta (sounds like Minta ,if you substitute the letter “M”for “N” in its acronym) is after our Cash is King Champion’s funding  support.

FA Abdul, I do not think  you can blame Mimta for calling itself a think tank. Your criticism should be addressed to our Registrar of Societies who approved the formation of Mimta.  Mimta looks like a cha cha marba NGO, or a tea tarik group to me with no focus. Circumcision, now what has that got to do with serious policy research?

About-Us

These bureaucrats need to be briefed on the proper functions of think tanks to prevent Mimta-like bodies from emerging out of the wood works and soil the reputation of genuine Malaysian tanks which are doing good policy research  like ISIS Malaysia,  Sunway Group’s ASLI and CPSS, IDEAS, and Lim Teck  Ghee’s Center for Policy Initiatives   and  advocacy NGOs like Penang Institute, and Sisters in Islam, Transparency International-Malaysian Chapter, Aliran, and Dr. Chandra Muzafar’s Trust, which are promoting democratic governance, gender and human rights and other social issues. –Din Merican

Mimta–A Unique “Think Tank” for Indian Muslims

by FA Abdul

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

How does organising circumcisions, tuition classes and handicraft courses qualify one as a think tank.

Do you know what a ‘think tank’ is? A think tank is an organisation made up of intelligent, experienced, and educated people who come together to research, brainstorm and offer advice and ideas on specific issues such as social policy, political strategy, economic approaches and so on.

There are many think tanks not only in Malaysia but all over the world, taking up issues such as poverty, world hunger, war, global warming and other environmental problems, including the occurrence of pandemics.

think_tank_leak_601985

The Good News, Sir–Mimta!

However there is one think tank in Malaysia so ‘unique’ it would make you fall off your chair once you discover what they busy themselves with.

The think tank I am referring to is Mimta or the Malaysian Indian Muslim Think Tank Association.

According to Mimta’s official Facebook Group which is administered by its President, the association’s main function is to develop the Indian Muslim community in Malaysia in education, religious teachings, economy, involvement of women and the strengthening of unity.

While their objectives are commendable, Mimta’s choices of activities in pursuit of these objectives leave me baffled.

‘Majlis Berkhatan Perdana’.

‘Kem Solat’.

Tuition Centre.

Weekly Islamic Dressing Day.

Handicraft, Tailoring, Cooking Courses

Gotong-Royong.

Seriously, does Mimta’s committee members have any clue whatsoever about the function of a think tank? With so many issues suffocating the Indian Muslim community in Malaysia today, why isn’t Mimta creating policies to help overcome these issues?

Why aren’t there any initiatives to tackle the issues of poverty, housing, drug addiction, high divorce rates, English proficiency, job training and opportunities, preserving the country’s heritage, teen marriages and extremism among the Indian Muslim community?

Seriously, can someone tell me how chopping the foreskins off a bunch of ten-year-olds is going to develop the community?I bet if Mimta stopped promoting Punjabi dresses, headscarves, make-up sets, herbal products, and cupcakes on their official Facebook group page and instead took their role as a think tank more seriously, many amazing things could be accomplished within the Indian Muslim community.

But then again, if Mimta is only capable of organising tuition classes, sewing courses and cooking sessions, perhaps they should stop describing themselves as a think tank and start a club instead.

Academia’s rejection of ideological diversity has consequences


November 1, 2015

The Volokh Conspiracy

Academia’s rejection of ideological diversity has consequences

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2015/10/31/academias-rejection-of-ideological-diversity-has-consequences/

Jonathan H. AdlerNearly every institution of higher education champions diversity. There are good reasons for this.  Diversity of viewpoints, perspectives and experiences can enrich educational environments and facilitate critical examination of complex issues. Yet some forms of diversity are clearly more important to academic institutions than others.

Arthur C. Brooks writes in the New York Times:

Scholarly studies have piled up showing that race and gender diversity in the workplace can increase creative thinking and improve performance. Meanwhile, excessive homogeneity can lead to stagnation and poor problem-solving.

Unfortunately, new research also shows that academia has itself stopped short in both the understanding and practice of true diversity — the diversity of ideas — and that the problem is taking a toll on the quality and accuracy of scholarly work.

The ideological imbalance that pervades academia fosters groupthink and undermines critical thinking. The dominance of left-leaning perspectives in academic institutions compromises their commitment to open inquiry and effective education.

Among other things, liberals and conservatives alike can fall prey to motivated reasoning and confirmation bias. One benefit of ideological and viewpoint diversity is that it can provide a check on such tendencies. Writes Brooks:

But even honest researchers are affected by the unconscious bias that creeps in when everyone thinks the same way. Certain results — especially when they reinforce commonly held ideas — tend to receive a lower standard of scrutiny. This might help explain why, when the Open Science Collaboration’s Reproducibility Project recently sought to retest 100 social science studies, the group was unable to confirm the original findings more than half the time. . .

Brooks cites a recent paper from the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences documenting the causes and effects of the lack of ideological diversity in social psychology. While a large number of factors contribute to ideological imbalance, the authors cite evidence that conscious bias is among them.

The lack of ideological diversity is a particular problem for law schools as it leaves many law students unexposed to perspectives and arguments with which they will have to contend in the practice of law. Most legal academics are well to the left of those whom law students will represent, as well as to the majority of judges before which they will practice. One need not agree with one’s client or a judge to be an effective advocate, but it is important to understand the perspective of the position one has to represent — as well as the perspective of the other side. The best legal advocates fully comprehend the strongest arguments for the other side and are able to present arguments that can appeal to decision-makers who may approach difficult legal questions from a perspective quite different from their own. On many issues, however, the perspectives of legal academics are relatively monolithic and reflect little understanding of (let alone sympathy for) common right-of-center viewpoints.

Brooks concludes:

Improving ideological diversity is not a fundamentally political undertaking. Rather, it is a question of humility. Proper scholarship is based on the simple virtues of tolerance, openness and modesty. Having people around who think differently thus improves not only science, but also character.

This is true, but there is relatively little evidence that most institutions of higher education much care, and even less that they are doing anything about it.

*Jonathan H. Adler teaches courses in constitutional, administrative, and environmental law at the Case Western University School of Law, where he is the inaugural Johan Verheij Memorial Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Business Law and Regulation.