Kassim Ahmad: An Iconoclast


October 14, 2017

Kassim Ahmad: An Iconoclast

 

Image result for Kassim Ahmad

Muslim intellectual Kassim Ahmad was a courageous and brave thinker and his passing on October 10, 2017 is a loss for the nation, former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said. Dr Mahathir said he was very sad that his 84-year-old “friend” Kassim had passed away this morning in the Kulim hospital in Kedah. “We lost a brave figure who held on to the principle of his struggle no matter what happened to him,” he said in a statement posted on his blog.–Dr. Mahathir on the Passing of Dr. Kassim Ahmad

by Terence Netto@www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT | Much of the encomia for Kassim Ahmad, who died at the age of 84 in Kulim yesterday, spoke of his courage in the face of repression of his beliefs.

Kassim exemplified Ernest Hemingway’s definition of courage as grace under pressure. He was serene in facing the waves of hostile reaction to his beliefs – save in one instance.

This was when he blamed Anwar Ibrahim for forestalling the evolution of a debate he wanted with critics of his book, “Hadis: Satu Penilaian Semula” (Hadith: A Re-evaluation).

Kassim had wanted the book, which was banned shortly after its publication in 1986, to evoke a debate on the arguments he had adduced for making the Quran – and not the Hadith – as the principal source of Islamic faith and jurisprudence.

The conventional view was that the sources of Islamic jurisprudence were the Quran, Hadith and the general consensus of Islamic scholars. Kassim had argued that the Hadith contradicting the Quran could not be relied upon as a source of Islamic jurisprudence.

 

 

He fingered Anwar (photo), then a Cabinet Minister, as having played the main role behind the scenes to stop any debate on the book from taking place, specifically a debate with the Malaysian Muslim Youth Movement (ABIM). The debate didn’t go ahead. Kassim, ever willing to debate his disputants, blamed Anwar for this.

Anwar was then seen as the go-to Islamist in government, having been ABIM leader from the early 1970s, before mutating from government critic to collaborator in the drive that begun under then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad in 1982 to inject Islam into the administration and governance of the country.

From the perspective of the years gone by, this move is now seen as having paved the way for the weakening of the secular underpinnings of the 1957 Constitution inaugurating the country’s birth – thus opening the way to what many feared would be the eventual Islamisation of the country, which would have been a travesty of what the country’s founders envisaged.

Kassim would remain scurrilous and vituperative on Anwar’s alleged role in foreclosing debate on the banned book.

‘Amenable, amicable and kind’

The venomous streak that was much in evidence whenever Anwar’s name or fate came up in conversations between Kassim and friends who came a-visiting seemed uncharacteristic of the man who was otherwise amenable, amicable and kind.

From the time he graduated from the University of Malaya in Singapore in the late 1950s to the mid-1980s, when he called for a reevaluation of the hadith, Kassim distinguished himself as a thinker who was wont to go against the convention.

 

He had espoused the merits of Hang Jebat as the authentic Malay hero, in contradistinction to Hang Tuah as the archetype, in Malay intellectual discourse in the early 1960s.

He introduced “scientific socialism” to Parti Rakyat Malaysia in the mid-1960s when he took over its reins from founder Ahmad Boestamam, and changed the party’s name to Parti Sosialis Rakyat Malaysia, in conformity with the Marxist view that their ideology was irrefutable science.

Even when he began to abandon scientific socialism for an Islamic worldview while under ISA detention between 1976 and 1981, it was towards “Teori Sosial Moden Islam” (Modern Islamic Social Theory), the name of the treatise he would pen after being freed, and not towards anything nebulous.

Kassim’s was an intellect who craved certainty for its beliefs, where such certainty is elusive. That was probably why he took an oppositional view of the Hadith, with some of its origins in the mists of times long ago.

Whether it was jousting with national literary laureate Shahnon Ahmad on the role of art and literature in Islamic discourse, or with Islamists on the reliability of the Hadith, Kassim evinced the air of the scientific rationalist.

He had the iconoclast’s penchant for challenging orthodoxies, but this yen came with the ideologue’s weakness for certainties.

The French writer Honoré de Balzac knew the type when he observed that “It’s not sufficient to be a man; one must be a system.”

Read more at https://www.malaysiakini.com/columns/397983#Zu1Yr8RvHWv8cqG0.99

Universiti Malaya: Nip Racism in the bud and clear your name


February 26, 2017

Universiti Malaya: Nip Racism in the bud and clear your name

by Mariam Mokhtar@www.freemalaysiatoday.com

In deciding to investigate an allegation of racism against one of its associate professors, Universiti Malaya gives itself an opportunity to prove to the Malaysian public that it upholds a high standard of decency.

We await the findings of the five-member investigation panel and the university’s follow-up action. However, one wonders whether Universiti Malaya would have bothered to look into the matter if it hadn’t received a directive from the Education Ministry. Indeed, it did not have to wait for the directive. It should have maintained an alertness to issues that might affect its reputation and it should act speedily.

Image result for Racism in University of Malaya

The allegation came in a Facebook posting by a student. The article, titled “Voice of an Indian student”, has gone viral.

The student said the lecturer, in reprimanding her and another student, dispensed with the courtesy of calling them by their names and instead called them “India”.

Here, in brief, is the story according to the Facebook posting:

The lecturer said, “India, I don’t like Indians sitting together.” After making a disparaging remark about a private university, she added: “When Indians sit together, they will plagiarise and copy one another’s assignments. I recognise Indian traits.”

The abuse continued. She pointed to the student and her friend and told them to sit separately, saying, “I will ensure that the two of you will not be in the same group for your assignment. I know what Indians are like.”

Image result for Racism in University of Malaya

This Ikan Bakar Man–Jamal Yunus– is a racist. Najib and UMNO support him and so Najib is a racist and UMNO is a racist political party. Q.E.D.

Then she insulted the other Indian students in the class. She made no excuses for her behaviour and said she did not mind if no one promoted Universiti Malaya because she preferred to teach smaller classes.

So, is this what you learn in a top Malaysian university – racism, intolerance, rudeness, insensitivity? When asked for his reaction, one postgraduate student said, “Academicians in Malaysian public universities should uphold a high standard of ethics. Making stereotypical racist comments against students is very unbecoming and reflects badly on the university and the degrees it confers.”

The student who wrote the complaint has demanded an apology from the lecturer.

Image result for Racism in University of Malaya

The Fun Loving but Insecure Malays

An apology to the direct victims of the insult is not enough, if the lecturer is indeed guilty. She should apologise to the public and the apology should be published in all the mainstream papers. And Universiti Malaya must sack her.

Academic Freedom and The University


December 21, 2016

Academic Freedom and The University

by Teoh King Men@www,freemalaysiatoday.com

“If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”–George Washington

178fe-gwtj

Historically, our academic freedom had its origins in the 1960s, cherished and upheld by the Universiti Malaya Student Union (UMSU) and the Persekutuan Bahasa Melayu Universiti Malaya (PBMUM). Led by Anwar Ibrahim, these movements were instrumental in getting then Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman to step down. It also implicated the police force, who invaded Universiti Malaya and subsequently disrupted the protests against the erstwhile PM.

Image result for Mahathir screwed academic freedom

We forget that it is this man as Prime Minister for 22 years+who was  the slayer of academic freedom when he was Minister of Education in the 1970s.–Din Merican

Likewise, in 1979, a large-scale demonstration by students in solidarity with poor farmers in Baling, Kedah, faced similar consequences. Hishamuddin Rais, a student activist, was forced to flee the country as the Malaysian government went out of its way to arrest the demonstrators.

As these two brief recollections of past events have shown, students of past decades were broadly active in raising awareness on issues of great concern to both public and private interests – issues both political and personal, national and local.

Turning to the present, it should then come as no surprise that in light of the country’s recent 1Malaysia Development Berhad and public finance scandals, the freedom to protest has once more been trampled upon. Universiti Malaya student Anis Syafiqah Md Yusof and two other student activists were recently suspended for a semester and slapped with a RM400 fine for their involvement in the “Tangkap MO1” (MO1) rally.

Image result for University of Malaya in 1960

It must be emphasised that students play an integral part in the exchange of ideas and truth in our society, and therefore, should be permitted a platform on which to speak up on pressing issues, such as on corruption, governmental irresponsibility and betrayal of public trust.

 After the Malaysian Federal Constitution came into force in August 1957, we were granted the right to freedom of speech, assembly and association, protected under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution – or rather, that is what the authorities would like us to believe. The rights of students, and indeed of everyone and anyone, to say what they think and to protest is pivotal to our democracy and the prevention of state tyranny.

Freedom of speech has no limits, and should always be respected. There is a clear distinction to be made between free speech and incitement to violence. The government, however, has been attempting to label any form of political dissent or criticism as incitement to violence. I quote George Washington: “If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”

Free speech was the predominant mechanism that granted the Malays their United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) – which was inaugurated on May 11, 1946 in Johor Bahru – and the emergence of Datuk Onn Jaafar as its first President. UMNO obtained support from all strata of Malay society in opposing the Malayan Union – the aristocrats, the radical Parti Kebangsaan Melayu Malaya (Malay Nationalist Party or MNP), Islamic groups, civil servants, rural leaders like the penghulu (village heads), and even the Police and ex-service personnel.

“Freedom of speech is the great bulwark of liberty; they prosper and die together: And it is the terror of traitors and oppressors, and a barrier against them. It produces excellent writers, and encourages men of fine genius.” – Benjamin Franklin

Image result for University of Malaya in 1960

It is thus a matter of utmost importance that we do not stifle debate among students in the academic community. The reason being, this country is abundant in financial capital but lacking in intellectual capital – the solution to corruption is not more corruption, nor the remedy to state tyranny being more tyranny, but it is the need for intellectual honesty and expression.

Above all, the University was once a highly held institution for the free expression of ideas. And protests and rallies are inevitably part of such milieu. Academic freedom should be respected in the University in order for the students to think critically and voice up against the issues that concern them. Let us never lose sight of this, and preserve our rights.

Teoh King Men is an FMT reader.

Looking Back in Time: Malaysia’s Lying Attorney-General cum Cover-Up Artiste


September 25, 2015

Looking Back in Time: Malaysia’s Lying Attorney-General cum Cover-Up Artiste

by John Berthelsen

http://www.asiasentinel.com

Opinion: The Lies of Malaysia’s Attorney General

The Crony Attorney-General Appandi Ali

When a Malaysian Deputy Prosecutor named Kevin Morais disappeared on September 4 last year after leaving his condominium in Kuala Lumpur on his way to work, the rumor spread that the 55-year-old Morais, who was gay, probably had tired of his job with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and had left with his lover, probably for London. And, newly-minted Attorney- General Mohamed Apandi Ali said, Morais had nothing to do with the controversial MACC probe into Prime Minister Najib Razak’s tangled financial affairs.

It is widely believed that that probe got former Attorney- General Abdul Gani Patail fired from his job in July, to be replaced by Apandi Ali, a UMNO stooge and loyalist who served in a variety of different capacities, including as the judge who ruled that Christians couldn’t use the word “Allah” to describe god.

That has been put to the lie as well. Morais’s brother in Atlanta, Ga. in the US turned up in Kuala Lumpur to issue a statement saying Morais was not only working on the Najib case, but he was either leading or co-leading the prosecution, and that he had sent him a USB drive containing information on the case. That has been corroborated by other sources in Kuala Lumpur.

Image result for clare rewcastle brown

Clare Rewcastle Brown–Relentless in Pursuit of 1MDB Scandal

It has since become clear that Morais in addition was one of the sources of deeply detailed information on Najib’s finances that was being fed to Clare Rewcastle Brown, the editor and writer of Sarawak Report. So rather than being killed for revenge by an angry army doctor, it appears that he was killed for being a whistleblower.

 

A lot on his muddled head–Too many lies

 

What nobody expected was that Morais would turn up. The rumor about his disappearance was put to the lie when a CCTV camera, by chance, caught Morais’ car being rammed on a Kuala Lumpur street and him being dragged from it. Morais was later found in an oil drum filled with cement in a river in Subang Jaya, a Kuala Lumpur suburb. His burned car was found in a palm oil plantation in Perak. The Police said it was an open and shut case. Morais had been killed by confederates of an army doctor in revenge for prosecuting a case against him.

So why was Apandi Ali, the country’s chief law enforcement officer, lying about Kevin Morais’s activities? Why was the lie spread that he had left town with a homosexual lover? Why did the Attorney-General’s office say Morais had nothing to do with the Najib case?

Apandi Ali has now denounced a story by Sarawak Report – and a similar Asia Sentinel story quoting Sarawak Report –that the MACC had forwarded 37 criminal charges against Najib for prosecution. He has said he sent the case back to the MACC for further work. Is Apandi also lying about that as well?  Given the clear lies about Morais, who does the reader want to believe? Mohamad Apandi Ali or Asia Sentinel and Sarawak Report

Apandi Ali says he has sent the report back to the MACC for revision. He retires officially in three weeks, meaning he wants to pass the hot potato to his successor, expected to be another UMNO lawyer, Mohamad Shafie Abdullah.(This never happened. Apparently, he is still useful to Prime Minister Najib Razak.)

The story has earned a ban for Asia Sentinel in Malaysia from the Communications Ministry, which has issued a notice saying “This website is not available in Malaysia because it violates the national laws.” The ban has holes in it, but, say sources in Kuala Lumpur, it is likely to tighten.

Image result for Hussain Najadi

Hussain Najadi–Founder AM Bank

Image result for Hussain Najadi

Pascal Najadi seeks Justice for his father

It seems more likely that it is the Malaysian government that violates the national laws, not only in the case involving Kevin Morais but in a long list of other cases. For a second one, try the murder of Hussain Najadi, the retired founder of AMBank Malaysia, who was gunned down in a parking lot in 2013. Although law enforcement officials said he was shot in a dispute over a Hindu temple property matter, Hussain’s son Pascal has charged that his father was assassinated because he said he wouldn’t play along with financial irregularities involving the United Malays National Organization prior to his death, refusing to orchestrate a multi-billion ringgit property deal connected to the Kuala Lumpur City Center. On one occasion, he told his son that Prime Minister Najib Razak was “lining his pockets with billions of ringgit with no consideration for the future of the country.”

A gunman was almost immediately arrested. The property dispute story was widely accepted by everybody but Pascal Najadi. The supposed mastermind, one Lim Yuen Soo, went on the run for two years. But Lim, a Melaka gangster and nightclub owner, appeared to be hiding in plain sight. In fact, he was part owner of the Active Force Security Services Sdn Bhd. with the former Malacca Police Chief Mohd Khasni Mohd Nor.

When Police caught up with Lim at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, arresting him on an Interpol warrant, they held him incognito for eight days before they turned him loose for “lack of evidence.” But that story raised more questions than it answered. If he could be turned loose for lack of evidence, why wasn’t the original case reopened to find out who had actually paid the gunman to kill Hussain?

Image result for clare rewcastle brown

As to the probe of Najib’s finances, it is clear from what has emerged in Sarawak Report that he may be a cheap crook as well as a thief of titanic proportions, given the huge amounts of money that apparently have been siphoned from 1Malaysia Development Bhd., the troubled state-backed investment fund.  The MACC, in its probe, found him to be using credit cards from SRC International, a Middle Eastern company supposedly involved in oil exploration that was funded by 1MDB. Najib ran up bills of RM449,000 on an SRC Visa card and another RM2.8 million on an SRC MasterCard in August 2014. That in effect was public money, spent on hotels, meals, jewelry, and other personal items in Italy and Monaco. 

He is already believed to have taken millions in kickbacks on defense contracts and purchases during his years as Defense Minister, particularly on the purchase of two French submarines as well as purchase of Sukhoi jet fighters at vastly inflated costs and other contracts. Yet, despite the tens of millions stolen, he still had to use credit cards from a publicly owned company to fund his wife’s vast needs for jewelry and handbags.
Image result for altantuya shaariibuu dan najib

It was Najib’s years as Defense Minister that ended up in the 2006 death of the Mongolian translator and party girl, Altantuya Shaariibuu, at the hands of two of Najib’s bodyguards. It has long been assumed that Altantuya was attempting to blackmail Najib’s close friend, Abdul Razak Baginda, over what she knew about the purchase of those submarines.

So in the long run, who do you believe about the deaths of Kevin Morais and Hussain Najadi and Altantuya Shaariibuu, and the subsequent statements by Mohamad Apandi Ali over the MACC probe?  The Malaysian government? Or Sarawak Report and Asia Sentinel, both of which are now banned in Malaysia? Neither publication is likely to stop investigating them.

 

Malaysia’s Budaya Tipu in Academia


June 20, 2015

New York City

Malaysia’s  Budaya Tipu–Academic Plagiarism and Intellectual Fraud

 by Rom Nain
COMMENT: Malaysian Higher Education, evidently, is once again in the limelight. Once again, for the wrong reasons.

Over the past couple of days, news has gone around that four researchers from a local public university had deliberately manipulated images in a co-authored article published in a prestigious international academic journal.

The four, from Universiti Malaya (UM) – our oldest and,  often enough claimed, our most prestigious, public university – were initially accused of duplicating and manipulating images of cells in their article.

An article which allegedly had three versions was published in three separate journals. Sadly for them – and certainly for UM – the allegations initially exploded over the scientific community’s social media and then spread to other platforms, finally catching the attention of the mainstream scientific media.

The main author, not surprisingly, initially brushed off the charges, providing ‘reasons’ that even non-scientists who had examined the article found rather incredulous.

Now, it has come to the attention of the Malaysian Higher Education Ministry and the authorities at UM. And UM has acted swiftly enough to investigate yet another potential scandal and possibly discipline any wrongdoers.

There will surely be more revealed over the next few days and, I’m sure, there will be demands that the heads of the four researchers, if found guilty, roll. But will they? And even if they do, will the wider problems be resolved?

Going by previous incidences of this nature, one doubts anything major will be resolved. In 1994 a professor at the same Universiti Malaya went to court to defend herself against allegations of plagiarising the work of her students. Despite the evidence, she remains a professor till this day.

A couple of years back, the infamous Ridhuan Tee, while an Associate Professor at the Armed Forces University, was accused of plagiarism as well. Again, despite the clear evidence, he was able to move to another university on the east coast, getting a promotion to full professor to boot. That is classic Malaysian academic culture.

Then there is the infamous University of Bath-UiTM debacle earlier this year, when graduates from the UK university discovered that their theses had somehow found their way into UiTM’s repository, with UiTM’s copyright and watermark on them.

UiTM, predictably, apologised, asserting that it was a technical error that had caused it all. It is still unclear today why the Bath papers were gifted to UiTM by a staff member, and whether she or he had the right to do so.

Fundamental issues of Integrity–The meaning of the word Integrity.

Needless to say, there are a number of things we can – and must – take away from these cases that strike at the core of fundamental issues of integrity. Namely, the integrity of individuals, the integrity of the Malaysian academic profession and, yes, the integrity of our institutions.

It is, after all, easy to apportion blame to individuals, such as the four UM researchers or the professors who blatantly plagiarised the works of others But, unfortunately, these cases – alleged by many in Malaysian academia as barely ‘scratching the surface’ – will continue if the core issues and problems are not located and sincerely addressed.

Of course, one could say that they indulge in these activities because they feel they can ‘get away with it’. But why do they do it in the first place? And why does it seem so prevalent these days?

To begin to answer these questions, we would have to at least go back to this relatively recent phenomenon of university academics needing to meet pre-determined Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

But, unfortunately, these cases – alleged by many in Malaysian academia as barely ‘scratching the surface’ – will continue if the core issues and problems are not located and sincerely addressed.Of course, one could say that they indulge in these activities because they feel they can ‘get away with it’. But why do they do it in the first place? And why does it seem so prevalent these days?

To begin to answer these questions, we would have to at least go back to this relatively recent phenomenon of university academics needing to meet pre-determined Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

Pre-determined, often enough, by university administrators more concerned about pleasing their political masters than they are about the welfare of their staff and, even less, about any commitment to a particular academic ethos.

Hence, meaningful university teaching and research be damned. Instead, a bureaucratic or mechanistic view of what higher education, particularly the role of universities and academics, is advanced. Indeed, in Malaysian academia, increasingly it has become a case of institutions and individuals having to meet certain, often quantifiable and quantitative, targets.

And achieving high international rankings yearly has become the name of the game. For some public universities, especially those designated as `research’ universities, publishing in top-tier Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) and Scopus journals now is the main, sometimes determining, criterion for promotion.

It is within this cauldron of quite rapid change and shifting of priorities – often directed by politicians and their ministries – that we find many of our public universities and their faculty members.

Things have gotten worse for Malaysia under Najib Razak

This, of course, hadn’t been the case for a long time. Indeed, it could be argued that the slide began the moment politics and notions of what has derogatorily been called kulitocracy (skin based meritocracy) took top priority from the 1980s onward.

Policies that led to the recruitment of faculty due to their skin tone and, more subtly, their political affiliation, rather than the grey matter in their head, led to a culture of conformity and mediocrity being developed. For some critics this gradually replaced the emphasis on dedicated teaching and learning, and doing good research that had been cultivated in the 1960s and 1970s.

‘Carma’ academics

This was facilitated by (administrative) structures that policies and strategies that (still) disproportionately reward what the national laureate, A Samad Said, has rightly called the ‘carma’ (cari makan) academics.

These often are the apple polishers, those who turn academia into an arena where rapid advancement means getting on with their bosses and courting top UMNO leaders and moving up the administrative ladder; from section to department head, to program chair, to head of school, to dean, deputy vice-chancellor and vice-chancellor. Stopping briefly on the way, of course,to obtain a datoship from corrupt political leaders.

And this group has grown significantly as the number of public universities has rapidly increased. Often quite clueless as to what constitutes good – let alone path-breaking and innovative – research, yet now needing to ‘publish or perish’, they look high and low for the ‘right’ ingredients, however “halal” or “haram”, to enable them to come up not only with publishable papers in referred journals, but also those that often have to meet international criteria and standards for scholarly research and peer recognition.

Unfortunately, when the environment all this while has not helped to nurture whatever research and writing skills they may have, and they now have to regularly produce ‘international’ publications, many find themselves in a ethical quandary.

And so the illicit options become more enticing.Indeed, more widespread, arguably, is this practice of putting one’s name as a co-researcher on the work done by one’s research assistant or graduate student. Even when all the work was done solely by another person.

Of course, dodgy publishing houses have cottoned on to this widespread desperation by academics. So, we have the case of academics (often aided by their institutions) paying substantial sums to purportedly international publishers to get their articles published in  journals and books of questionable quality.

Needless to say, it is within this wider context – of dodgy academic standards, a legacy of a mediocre research culture and environment and a rapidly changing academic milieu and, of course, a general lack of integrity from the top downwards – that we have to locate the alleged offences committed by the UM4 and others.

Virtually nothing happens in a vacuum. Yes, if found guilty, the wrongdoers must be truly punished – and not just transferred to some other university where they are promoted later.

But issues of integrity, dignity and ethics will not and cannot be simply resolved that way. More detailed and critical examination of the environment, the policies and the strategies that have led to this sorry state of affairs, will need to be conducted.

This would require political will–this is sadly lacking in Malaysia today– and a genuine commitment to removing the rot that has set in public – and increasingly private – universities. And I don’t believe that many of us are so sanguine as to believe that this will happen any time soon under this regime.

Read more: https://www.malaysiakini.com/columns/345887#ixzz4C6pT1S7W

Get It: Azmi Sharom is an Academic, not a Criminal


November 17, 2015

Get It: Azmi Sharom is an Academic, not a Criminal

by Dr Mohd Nazari Ismail

http://www.themalaysiainsider.com

Azmi Sharom 3

As an academician myself, I am greatly worried by the developments of the Azmi Sharom case.

In my area of International Business, many people have asked me whether the TPPA (Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement) was actually good for the country or not. I will then express my opinion on the matter, hoping to enlighten the public on the issue, regardless of whether my opinion is in line with the stance of the government. What is important is that I will inform the public truthfully and I am very sure the public will not accept anything less than that from me.

In light of the above, I am therefore feeling very sad and apprehensive over the current legal case involving my colleague at University of Malaya, Associate Professor Dr. Azmi Sharom. He has been charged under the Sedition Act for simply expressing his honest opinion on what happened during the 2009 Perak Constitutional Crisis.

His analysis of what happened was that it was not legal according to the constitution. I am not a lawyer and as such not in a position to judge whether his analysis was accurate or not. However, as an academician and a member of the public, I expect nothing less than Azmi’s honest opinion on the matter. If I want to know more about the issue, I will read the opinions of others who I consider experts in the field on the matter. Later, I will make my own judgment based on those opinions.

freedom2

Cry Freedom, make your Voices heard, or stay dumb Forever

However, if we academicians are being charged in court and threatened with a stiff jail sentence and a very hefty fine for carrying out our duties, then a very wrong message is being sent to all of us.

We are being told to only voice out opinions that will not land us in trouble. Some may even feel that the best option is to voice out opinions that are in line with the government’s stance on issues in order to stand a good chance of being promoted or to become deans or vice-chancellors of universities.

Students and the public will only be exposed to opinions that are favourable to the government rather than opinions that are closest to the truth of things. This not the way to develop the young minds of our society.

Madonna-Freedom-Quote

So Free Azmi Sharom

Our society can only prosper when we collectively are able to develop good policies, whether micro or macro, short-term or long-term. But in order to develop good policies, we need lots of critical minds. However, critical minds can never be developed if there is limited space for expressing opinions. Unnecessary curtailment of freedom of expression will stifle the minds of the members of our society.

Of course there are limits to everything. I am not personally advocating an unlimited freedom to express opinions. Such freedom will potentially create a scenario such as in France where even cartoons that insult the Prophet Muhammad are allowed.

In my opinion, those types of opinion are slanderous in nature, can cause genuine hurt and anger among many sections of the society, and thus deserve to be restricted. In my opinion, Azmi’s opinion is nowhere in that category.

As such he does not deserve to be subjected to the current pains and sufferings normally accorded to criminals who have committed harm to society. Azmi is not a criminal. He is an asset to our society and should be treated as such.

* Dr Mohd Nazari Ismail is with The University of Malaya.