Monday, May 16, 2016

希望联盟失败根源

希望联盟失败根源

砂拉越州选,砂拉越子民选票回流国阵,砂州国阵大胜并成功维系政权,在野阵线无法为选民提供一个有说服力、可行的替代阵线是主因。解决危机的智慧、谦逊、耐心、妥协、合作与团队精神均无法在本次砂拉越州选中体现在希望联盟的身上。

希望联盟同床异梦?

由人民公正党、民主行动党与诚信党组成的希望联盟都强调自己是一个多元政党的同时,却拥有不同的政治理念与策略。要说服选民希望联盟是有能力取代国阵的政治联盟,三党必须达成共识,草拟一个共同执行的方案,说服选民希盟如何终结巫统国阵玩弄的种族政治。否则,希望联盟终将无法在第十四届大选中击败巫统国阵。
纵观大马历史,在野党所组成的联盟都无法经过时间的考验,最终都难逃解散的命运。希盟一旦无法针对种族政治课题达成课题,提出一套可说服选民的替代政纲与方案,恐怕最终也将步上民联、联盟等在野联盟的后尘。
要打破巫统国阵过去数十年来玩弄的种族政治,希盟首先必须认同各宗教、各族群的选民在国内的政治局势都扮演举足轻重的角色,必须凝聚所有族群的支持,希盟才有希望迈入布城。因此,希望联盟必须草拟一套可以吸引全民的政纲,冲淡巫统种族主义的色彩、融入马来西亚的多元化社会,并避免发表极端的种族与宗教言论,争取各族群的支持。此外,希盟各成员党也必须放下自我,避免任何成员党误以为单凭自己政党的实力就可以带来改朝换代,或误以为单一政党的领袖就足以在大马政坛带来改变。唯有以一个团队的姿态落实各项政纲,才有可能带来成功。

政治联盟还是选举联盟?
希望联盟在砂州选举的议席谈判中给人留下的印象:它是一个为了应对大选而组成的选举联盟,并非一个政治联盟。选举联盟是在野政党应对大选时,为了确保与执政党的直接对决、避开三角站而针对议席分配达成的协议,并没有共同的政策纲领。即使选举联盟在大选中胜出,也无法保证它将直接组成政府,因为它无法保证其中一方不会出卖联盟、与国阵招手,这也是伊斯兰党所谓的“第十四届大选第三势力”所扮演的角色。

政治联盟则理应在大选还未进行时就已经针对议席分配、执政纲领和行政措施达成共识,同时也优先决定首相、内阁、首席部长、甚至是行政议员及官僚公司委任的人选。这样,该联盟执政时,即使联盟内的其中一个政党无法胜出,政纲的内容与权利分享的协议依然还会继续执行,以确保联盟的团结及联盟内的各大小政党能够公平地落实资源共享、互相扶持。因此,希盟需在大选前从选举联盟转换成政治联盟,避免希盟因为利益分配、政纲不同等矛盾而瓦解。

一旦希望联盟持续以目前的选举联盟模式保持合作,最终将持续的出现分歧。依照马来西亚的政治潜规则,哪一个政党的代表在执政后担任首相、首席部长、州务大臣,它必须要是联盟里拥有最多议员的政党;而内阁部长与行政议员的委任、资源的分配也同样是依据各党的议席决定,最终导致希盟内的各政党为了争取更多的胜选议员,不断的在争夺在胜算高议席的出战权,以获得更多的议员,并在执政州获委更多的市议员、村长,导致希盟在最终无法维系良好的合作关系,并无法以一个团队的姿态出战大选。
              突破巫统国阵分而治之导致的社会矛盾
活在英殖民时代所留下来的分而治之政策背景,配合上巫统国阵玩弄的种族政治,加剧了大马各民族的矛盾,导致我国政治局势必须面对种族、宗教、语言等出现分歧的现实。本身是一个种族政党的巫统,正是在各民族的分裂之下玩弄种族政治,透过在大选时玩弄种族情绪,透过操纵非马来人的课题炒作种族课题,每次皆在获得乡区选民,尤其是马来选票的支持下继续执政。

巫统国阵擅于透过发表具煽动成分的言论分化各族群、攻击发表中庸言论、捍卫他族利益的政治人物,导致各种族之间的关系变得紧张。这些不健康的政治手段在族群情绪、历史回忆等因素的推波助澜下,让种族极端分子能够趁虚而入,继续放大族之间的矛盾。与此同时,巫统成功让就业机会、奖学金、升学机会、政府工程等资源的分配与种族政治挂上等号,导致许多选民会把选举与资源分配及种族政治画上等号。

巫统为了维持种族政治,必须将大部分的资源分配到最大族群的身上,最终导致社会和经济福利也随着族群利益做出分配,并非根据社会阶级或经济情况做出分配。结果是被忽视与边缘化的一群,恰恰就是本应受到重视及照顾的贫穷的群体。要打破巫统分而治之导致的族群矛盾, 希望联盟当务之急必须草拟一份能够保证各种族获得公平对待的政策同时,确保该政策可以对抗巫统国阵的族群政策、直接向种族政治宣战。
希盟应采用聚合模式(Centripetalism)摒弃协商民主

国阵联盟采纳的是协商民主模式,透过结合各族群代表(巫统代表马来人,马华代表华人,印度国大党代表印度人)达成妥协,并强调拥有个族群代表的“国阵模式”是唯一一个能够达致团结与和平、维持国家的安定的方案。

2008
年政治海啸,在野联盟打破了国阵在国会的三分二垄断,并在2013年大选成功获得了51%的大多数选票,许多民众误以为民联结盟的模式 (公正党及伊斯兰党取代巫统,行动党替代马华)足以取代国阵模式,成为来届的执政党。然而,这种想法不仅会持续的让国家笼罩在种族政治的阴影下,同时也将大马的政治局势过度简化,而该想法也已经被事实证明是错误的。

国阵协商民主模式的失败

国阵联盟/国阵政府依靠协商民主的模式在多元社会里管理各族间的分歧,各政党派出特定的精英,为各自代表的族群争取利益。然而,这种协商模式必须建立在一个前提之下 – 任何政党(少数民族)的代表有权否决政府的任何不公平决定。然而,事实证明国阵在协商民主模式之下,不仅无法治理好这个国家,反而导致巫统的一党独大,使其他成员党失去协商的空间和否决的权利,最终无法影响巫统的种族政治与政策。在过去的60年里,协商民主模式不仅不适合用于马来西亚的多元社会,同时也在其他的东南亚国家面对失败。

加剧族群矛盾的同时,一党独大导致巫统在协商民主模式中占有绝大的优势,并享有了绝对的决定权。“绝对的权力导致绝对的腐败”,巫统精英分子最终成为贪污腐败的一份子,侵蚀国家资源。此外,协商民主模式与民主制度本身存在着矛盾,因为它为了捍卫族群与种族利益而无法落实真正的民主。马来西亚、新加坡、柬埔寨(1993年修宪后,国会需要三分二多数票才能换政府)、印尼(50年代及1999的独裁政权风波)等国家都曾因为协商民主模式的失败而导致国家民主倒退、执政者最终被培养成霸权。

聚合模式是唯一的解决方案

人民公正党相信摒弃协商民主模式、采纳聚合模式是解决巫统国阵种族政治的唯一方案。在多元族群的社会里,成立种族政党、延续分而治之的政治模式、将种族问题政治化是无法解决问题的。正确的解决方案是培养政治人物对各族群的包容心、跨族群的了解,并接受各族间差异。政治人物的政纲与理念必须强调选民以政纲、国家议题、政策作为选票的考量,而非鼓励选民以族群考量手中的一票头给谁。

聚合模式能够拉拢各族群,并提倡各族趋向中庸之道之余,落实并接受必须妥协与让步的政策。真正多元的政党不仅代表特定族群的利益,同时也必须针对马来西亚各阶层、各族群人民的课题扮演角色、捍卫全民利益。唯有这样,各政党才会落实真正的跨族群,并为了吸引各族选民的支持,跨出种族框框为全民发声,以趋向中庸的议题与政策为中心,摒弃政治分歧、了解跨种族的重要性。

人民公正党作为一个多元政党,其领袖与议员们多元的理念、发表符合中庸之道的政治言论、落实跨族群的政策、部分族群地捍卫各阶级人民利益,以行动证明了聚合模式的可行性,也成功在大选中跨族群、获取各族选民的支持。2007年安华回归政坛的第一步就是引领当时的在野联盟(民联)走向聚合模式。2008年,安华打破马来西亚政治的传统刻板印象,将行动党秘书长林冠英带入甘榜与乡区,并在马来选民为主的选区告诉马来同胞:“林冠英是一位能够照顾所有族群的首席部长,将捍卫全民利益”。

希望联盟需落实聚合模式

要瓦解巫统国阵的种族政治,在马来西亚带来焕然一新的新政治模式,希望联盟需立即落实聚合模式。普遍上被认为是华基政党的行动党,在夺下大部分华裔为主的城市席位后,为了扩展其基本盘儿开始讲目标锁定在以华裔为主的混合区,一旦行动党从公正党或诚信党手中夺走该两党上阵的混合议席,将导致公正党、诚信党的多元性特质被侵蚀、被选民标签为单一族群政党。
一旦上述情况获得延续,行动党将垄断大部分城市非巫裔选区的支持,导致公正党和诚信党被逼背负“马来政党”的包袱,不仅违背了该两党的多元特质,最终也将希望联盟推向国阵惯用的协商民主模式,重复巫统国阵的失败模式。

希望联盟要落实聚合模式,三党必须将混合区、马来选区与华裔选区根据城乡选区的结构重新进行分配,确保希盟三党都获得同样比重的城市与郊区议席、混合议席、马来议席与华裔为主的议席。这样,行动党将摆脱“华基政党”的包袱,在马来区、郊区上阵,导致巫统无法再标签它为华人政党。同理,公正党与诚信党将在华裔选区上阵,导致它必须认真思考其政纲是否遭到华裔选民的支持,这也将逼使希望联盟三党在落实任何政策与退出任何政纲时,站在各族的角度去探讨政策,而三党基层也将在探讨各议题的过程中趋向中庸,争取全民支持、对抗种族政治。

谁该主导与带领希望联盟的斗争?
在选举制度不公的情况下,希盟必须面对对巫统国阵有利的选区划分模式。在现有的制度下,一个无可否认的事实是:希盟必须夺下114个(60%以马来穆斯林选民为主的议席,才能夺下布城。在这个既定现实下,要在上述的马来郊区议席胜利,希盟的斗争必须凸显以马来人或穆斯林为主的多元与中庸政党,才能带领希盟应对巫统国阵,对抗其玩弄马来人政治的种族政治。

创建游戏规则的巫统肯定最了解这个定律,因此从马来西亚独立至今,它不断的强调及提醒马来人必须要团结,才能确保自己的族群、宗教及语言受到保障。为了确保以种族政治为主流的游戏规则及架构不受破坏,无论是尝试成立多元政党的巫统首任主席翁惹化(Datuk Onn Jaafar),还是成功让行动党与回教党放下成见,成立民联的安华,亦或是其他的巫裔学生领袖、政治人物、学者,都会受到国阵的逼害、抹黑,甚至是监禁。任何尝试透过以多元政治对抗巫统的马来领袖都被迫付出更高的代价,他们也必须拥有比其他族群更大的勇气才能持续坚持多元的路线。安华放弃成立马来政党,选择成立多元的人民公正党,与巫统设立的传统政治架构碰撞,并付出了失去自由与健康的惨痛代价。

巫统在打压巫裔领袖迈向多元路线的同时,透过套上各种不符合事实、不合逻辑的理由予行动党,尝试将民主行动党与反马来人及反伊斯兰画上等号。令人感到遗憾的是,在面对巫统套上的莫须有罪名与标签时,一些行动党领袖的不恰当回应以及一些敏感课题的错误回应,成为巫统在马来社区里验证了其散播谎言的“真实”性。这也让控制主流媒体的巫统借题发挥、趁虚而入,污蔑行动党,在主流的马来媒体放大行动党的“敏感言论”,确保马来选民牢记行动党领袖的言论,成功让部分马来选民被洗脑,在马来人的心中建立白色恐慌 
尽管行动党在近期致力摆脱巫统的污蔑,并招揽了不少有素质的巫裔领袖,并在大选时派出不少的巫裔代表参选,要摆脱掌控主流媒体巫统在马来选民心目中对行动党打造的不确实形象,并非易事。一旦无法摆脱巫统营造的印象,民主行动党要打入甘榜马来区、获巫裔选民的支持最终不可能会成功。然而,在面对种种不利因素下,行动党必须小心翼翼,以免掉入巫统的圈套。

在民主行动党扩充其影响力,赢取更多议席的同时,巫统正尝试放大该党的壮大,并欺骗马来选民,让他们误会行动党主导希望联盟的斗争的同时,巫统成功在巫裔选区与乡区散播错误讯息,让大家认为公正党与诚信党是行动党的傀儡,更声称希望联盟一旦执政,会将民族(马来人)的利益出卖,希望联盟执政后巫裔将失去地位,损坏希望联盟巫裔领袖在马来选民心中的印象,最终对希望联盟造成伤害,行动党的壮大最终将导致希望联盟的败北。
第十三届大选的成绩就足以验证我的说法。505大选,当行动党获得历史性胜利(夺下38个国会议席)的同时,巫统也获得优越的成绩,赢得88个国会议席。行动党在城市华裔选区几乎完胜,巫统则成功夺下83.5% 马来人为主的乡区议席,相关议席的73.76% 正是来自乡区的巫裔选民。

当中的原因正如我刚才提及的,尽管在第十三届大选中,许多马来选民意识到国阵身陷财务丑闻、政绩败坏、国民面对极大的通膨压力,却因为担心自己的权力与利益受到剥削,而把选票投给了巫统。这正是巫统长期以来透过行动党的壮大,让马来选民相信在野阵线由行动党主导,而把选票投给与行动党共处同一个联盟的公正党及伊斯兰党,最终将导致马来人利益受到损坏,而在缺乏保障及安全感的情况下,许多乡区选民选择继续的投靠巫统,这也是巫统长期灌输“投民联一票 投行动党一票”的成果。
而正是因为看清了这一点,伊斯兰党选择为了保住自己的马来票基本盘,而退出民联,甚至选择与巫统合作,以获取更高的马来票支持。然而,公正党和诚信党即使受到巫统的污蔑,导致失去部分马来选民的信任,任然坚持着改革与多元这条艰苦道路。然而,我们必须面对马来西亚政治的现实,希望联盟必须打破巫统散播的行动党主导、出卖马来人利益印象,争取马来选民的亲赖,才能带来改革。而行动党一旦不谨慎处理这一个敏感的课题,又将再度掉入巫统的圈套,让巫统继续在乡区洗脑、骗取巫裔选民的支持。
结语

民主行动党能够在所有城市华裔选区获胜,但这并不足以促成改朝换代,让希望联盟迈向布城。一旦行动党持续从其盟友手中夺过所有的非马来人议席,最终只会让行动党持续壮大,以单一政党在非巫裔选区的胜利,换取希望联盟整体的失利。的确,我们都痛恨巫统玩弄种族政治、分而治之,然而我们必须从过去的经验中吸取教训,并妥善地应对巫统国阵玩弄的手段。失败并不可悲,可悲的是我们不能记取失败的教训、不能从失败中吸取经验。一旦希盟无法吸取教训,那最后将注定以失败告终。

梁自坚
士拉央国会议员

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此文章纯属个人意见,并非党的立场

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Seeds of Pakatan’s Defeat


Opposition Coalition Failure
We will never know why Sarawakians on 7 May 2016 returned Barisan Nasional as State government. This is because the opposition failed to offer a viable alternative government for voters to choose. Wisdom, humility, patience, willingness to compromise, cooperation and teamwork, essential requirements for a coalition government were clearly lacking from the opposition leadership and their rank and file.

Same Pillow Different Dreams
This episode reveals although DAP, PKR and Amanah professes to be a multiracial party, each party’s concept and strategy is different. As the Malay proverb says “tidur sebantal tetapi mimpi lain-lain.” If Pakatan Harapan is to become a viable alternative government the parties must reach consensus on the approach to end racial politics. Failure is not an option. If they cannot do this, it is better each go its separate way for the 14th General Election.

The opposition parties have tried and failed to form a coalition many times before. Pakatan Harapan is destined to join the list of failures unless the parties are able to agree upon, implement and assure voters it has a model, strategy and road map for ending racial politics. The opposition must put into place a convincing mechanism for our plural society with its diverse ethnic communities, cultures, religions and languages to live and work in harmony, at ease and at peace with each other. It must be a model that can integrate and accommodate the different ethnic groups and religions. It must allay their collective fears for change in the future brought upon by living through the history of the past. Pakatan Rakyat before this and Pakatan Harapan until now have failed to do this.   

To remove a regime sustained by racial politics exercising authoritarian power where elections are not held on a level playing field, the opposition must recognize the differing ethnic or religious support each brings as building blocks to the coalition are also the stumbling blocks to success. To succeed they will need to bring their policies towards the centre avoiding extreme positions that appeal to their supporters but offend others. Each party’s leadership and rank and file need to display wisdom to accept a model for bringing the voters of different ethnicity and religions to support the cause, moderate their policies and tamper their rhetoric. 

They need to have humility to accept their party may not play the role the dominant partner or its leader the supreme commander of the coalition or designated prime minister. They need patience to make the coalition work, its common policies accepted and confidence in the coalition instilled in the electorate. They need to cooperate and work as a team to achieve success, there is no room for prima donnas.

Political Coalition Negotiating as an Electoral Alliance.
Pakatan Harapan negotiates seat allocation like an electoral alliance not a political coalition. An electoral alliance is an agreement made before the election amongst opposition parties to ensure a straight fight between opposition candidates and the ruling party. There is no agreement on policies and government positions. If the electoral alliance wins they may or may not form a government amongst themselves. One or more of the opposition parties may instead even put their lot with the ruling party to form the government. This is what PAS said they will do in the 14GE. The party to rule the federation or the state will be the one with the most seats. This is the reason each opposition party is jockeying for winnable seats, seeking dominance to for appoint the prime minister or chief minister, federal or state ministerial posts including local councillors and village chiefs. This is the main cause for the lack of cooperation and teamwork amongst the Pakatan parties. As patience, tolerance and goodwill have human limits this negotiation system is a model for the self-destruction of Pakatan.

A political coalition on the other hand is an agreement by the political parties before election not only on the allocation of the seats but also the policies and administration of the government if it wins. There is a prior agreement on the post of the prime minister, the cabinet of the federation, the chief minister and executive members for each state, the division and allocation of government positions and including GLC directorship. If the coalition wins and one of the parties fail to win its allocation of seats or even one single seat, the power-sharing agreement is nevertheless put into effect. This ensures unity, mutual assistance and support for each party by the others in the coalition.

It is better for Pakatan to argue the seat allocation, ministerial positions and resolve the differences now than wait to negotiate when elections are called only for the coalition to collapse on nomination day.          

Model for Governing a Deeply Divided Society
Pakatan must adopt a suitable model for the government of a plural society. We are all fully aware Malaysia is a society deeply divided by ethnicity, race, religion and language. These ethnic divisions produce ethnic political parties and ethnic voting. With the first past the post system of election and majority rule, UMNO as an ethnic party supported by the majority ethnic group, it can dominate minority groups seemingly in perpetuity.

Ethnic activists and political entrepreneurs make blatant communal appeals and outbid moderate politicians, mobilizing members, polarizing society and magnifying inter-ethnic group dilemmas. Non-rational factors such as emotions, historical memories and myths exacerbate the inter-ethnic tensions. In Malaysia, access to resources lies in the heart of the inter-ethnic tensions. Property rights, jobs, scholarships, education admissions, language rights, government contracts and development allocations confer benefits to the majority ethnic group. Political power is therefore of critical importance. The ethnic group that controls political power gain access to these goods and resources thereby ensuring their social and economic welfare. Where policies and programmes to aid those living in poverty and the disadvantaged is classified by ethnic origins and not class, ethnic minorities are marginalised and discriminated. In a multi-ethnic society such as ours the struggle to control state policy produces the competing ethnic interest.

It is therefore imperative Pakatan Harapan is able to present its vision for interethnic political conciliation.    

Pakatan must apply Centripetalism and discard Consociationalism
Barisan Nasional boasts the best approach for achieving stability in our plural society is the BN way. It preaches that only by having race-based parties that are able to come to some degree of understanding and cooperation are we able to achieve a fragile unity and some measure of peace.

In the euphoria of winning five states, denying BN its two-third parliament majority in 2008 and 51% of the popular vote in 2013, some believe racial politics is ended by a Pakatan grand coalition replacing the BN grand coalition. PKR and PAS replace UMNO to represent the Malays and DAP replaces MCA, Gerakan, MIC and the others to represent the non-Malays. It is a simplistic idea and one that is wrong.

Consociationalism failed Malaysia
The BN grand coalition is held out as a form of consociationalist government. A consociationalist government is a model used in plural societies to manage ethnic conflict. It consists of a grand coalition government of elites from each political party representing exclusively his own ethnic group. It is based on the assumption that the elites recognise non-cooperation would lead to adverse consequences, that decisions are made by consensus and right of minority veto would allow the different groups to have a say on policy making and government decisions.

The BN grand coalition failed Malaysia. UMNO enjoys complete dominance and control of BN. The other parties have no influence over government decisions and policies. It has been shown in the past sixty years that consociationalism did not work for Malaysia and other South East Asian countries. It stratified ethnic identity and heightened ethnic differences. The temptation for the elites falling prey to corruption proved too much for many to resist. Interethnic accommodation deteriorated as the rule of law weakened due to the legal institutions’ inability to stand up to the strong political elites. Further, consociationalism proved to be incompatible with open, competitive democracy as a result of a perceived need to control political expression of ethnicity and management of communal relations. The consociational governments of Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia (where the 1993 constitution required a two-third vote of confidence for the investiture of a new government) and Indonesia (during the 1950’s and under the presidency of Abdulrrahman Wahid between 1999 and 2001) descended into semi-democracies or outright authoritarian regimes.            

Centripetalism is the correct tool
PKR believes to end racial politics, Pakatan must discard consociationlism. PKR sees centripetalism as the only model for managing our ethnic issues. The best way to mitigate the destructive patterns of a divided society is not to encourage the formation of ethnic political parties or to replicate existing ethnic divisions in the legislature and other government institutions, but rather to depoliticize ethnicity by requiring politicians and their supporters to accommodate each ethnic group, to seek support from across the ethnic divide and making voters based their choice on issues other than ethnicity.

Centripetalism is the approach to pull the different ethnic groups towards moderate, compromising policies. 

Politicians in a multi-ethnic party have to appeal to all segments instead of shopping for votes in his own community. Politicians from multi-ethnic parties make cross-ethnic appeals and demonstrate their capacity to represent groups besides their own. Under a centripetalist model politicians move to the centre of policy issues to attract voters from all ethnic groups. It emphasizes the importance of encouraging integration across ethno-political divides.

PKR leaders and representatives being members of a truly multiracial political party have proven their ability to reach out and attract votes from all ethnic groups besides their own, moderate their political rhetoric on potentially divisive issues and have learned to broaden their policy positions to make cross-ethnic appeals.

Anwar Ibrahim has called out from the depths of his prison cell for the party and Pakatan to persevere with the centripetalist model. He knows it works. In 2008, Anwar Ibrahim was able to take Lim Guan Eng into the kampongs and Malay majority constituencies to hold him out as a chief minister who can take care of Malay interest as well as Chinese, Indians, Kadazans, Dayak and all Malaysians.  

Putting Centripetalism into practice
To end racial politics Pakatan must adopt centripetalism. This means Pakatan must reject the grand coalition of ethnic parties. DAP is in substance a Chinese-based party expanding into mixed non-Malay seats. By taking away the non-Malay seats from PKR and Amanah, their essential nature of being multi-racial parties is eroded. DAP’s demand, in effect, is for these parties to cede their non-Malay seats, consequently their non-Malay leadership, elected representatives, members and support base to DAP. DAP is pushing PKR and Amanah into becoming Malay political parties. By doing so, DAP is pushing Pakatan into adopting the BN failed consociationlist model.      
Adoption and implementation of the centripetalist model is not by one party or the other in Pakatan demanding for winnable seats, it is by the distribution of all Malay-majority, Chinese-majority, mixed seats across the board to each of the three parties equally subject to the peculiar demographics of the states and constituencies. This means PKR and Amanah must be allocated Chinese-majority seats and DAP Malay-majority seats. Each of the parties have to be allocated both urban as well as rural seats. In this way each of the component parties in order to win their diverse ethnic seats has to move their policies from the extreme into the centre and their leadership and grass roots shift their rhetoric from intemperance to moderation.  

Leadership and Dominance
Without in any way being disrespectful to the leadership and capabilities of Lim Kit Siang, Lim Guan Eng and all DAP leaders and members, the sad but undeniable truth is the road to end racial politics, no matter how one tries to twist and turn, must pass through the gates of the 60% Malay-Muslim majority holding the key to 114 parliamentary seats in peninsula Malaysia. Gerrymandering and malapportionment will always be there. We have to take this in our stride in the fight against racial politics and an authoritarian regime. Only a Malay-Muslim majority political party which espouses moderation, equality and multi-ethnicity can take us there.

UMNO is well aware of this and have placed great emphasis to remind Malays on the need for Malay unity to protect their race, religion and culture. To maintain their hold on Malay support, Malay leaders who dare to join multi-ethnic political parties are cut-off from the community, turned into outcasts, persecuted, imprisoned and discredited. UMNO did this to Dato Onn Jaffar, have done this to Anwar Ibrahim and will do this to the young Malay leaders, activists, academicians and student leaders. The price extracted on Malays who choose multi-ethnicity and equity is a high one. Anwar Ibrahim has broken this psychological chain used to tie the Malays to UMNO by paying the heavy price of being persecuted, loss of personal liberty and physical well-being. This precious prize so dearly won must be fully capitalized upon by Pakatan.

It is another sad and tragic truth that UMNO has tarred and feathered DAP as the bogeyman for Malays. It is obviously illogical and absolutely untrue that DAP is anti-Malay and anti-Islam. Unfortunately, ill-advised or instinctive responses to UMNO provocation, the occasional slip of the tongue by DAP leaders and the insensitive statements by overzealous grass root leaders serve to validate UMNO’s claims in the eyes of the Malays. UMNO and its media pounced on such statements to ensure Malays will not forgive and never forget such transgressions. UMNO has dehumanized DAP leaders before the Malays resulting in fear and demonization of DAP. Although DAP seeks to address this stigma by appointing Malay leaders and having elected representatives, some of whom are excellent personalities and parliamentarians, it is an uphill task. There is no chance of winning Malay hearts and minds if one cannot even get pass the door.

Until this can be accomplished DAP needs to be sensitive that expansion by them, their ascendancy and assertiveness is seen as dominance in Pakatan Rakyat before and Pakatan Harapan now. It validates UMNO’s rhetoric that the Malay leaders in PKR and PAS then and Amanah now are DAP puppets who have sold their race to the Chinese. PKR and PAS leaders’ credibility before Malay eyes are severely and irreparably damaged. DAP’s victories sow the seeds of Pakatan’s defeat.

This is attested by the 13th General Elections. DAP’s record winning number of 38 parliament seats was matched by an equal impressive win of 88 seats by UMNO. DAP won all the Chinese-majority seats. UMNO won 83.5% of rural seats containing 73.76% of rural Malay votes. PKR and PAS bore the brunt of UMNO’s resurgence. Malays saw the ascendancy of DAP as a challenge to Malay supremacy. Malays fearful of DAP’s agenda as told by UMNO returned to UMNO’s fold. Voting for the other Malay based parties, PAS and PKR was not an option, because they are part of Pakatan and a vote for Pakatan is a vote for DAP. UMNO’s racial rhetoric struck the right chord with the Malays. Irrational as it may sound the fear of Chinese domination and the Malay race disappearing from the face of the earth saw Malays voting to maintain Ketuanan Melayu despite UMNO’s record of financial scandals, poor governance and corruption. Fear after all, is never rational.

For the 14GE, Hadi Awang recognising this, steered PAS out of Pakatan to work with UMNO. PKR and Amanah have kept the faith. They are however, painfully aware that unless fundamental changes are made in Pakatan to attract Malay votes, DAP’s ascendancy hangs like an albatross over their heads to win Malay support. 
       
Conclusion
DAP can win all the non-Malay majority seats but these are not enough to form the government. By taking all the non-Malay majority seats and achieving dominance in Pakatan Harapan, DAP is winning the battle but Pakatan will lose the war. The tragic truth of the racial tensions and ugly reality of our ethnic divide must be dealt with in a practical manner otherwise the cracks in Pakatan may lead to permanent fissure. Failure to learn from victories lead to defeat, failure to learn from defeat lead to destruction.
This article is the personal opinion of the writer. It does not reflect the party’s position and nothing is to be construed as such.

William Leong Jee Keen
Member of Parliament Selayang
14th May 2016   

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

William Leong: 'Those who lied to PAC can be jailed up to three years'

Those who lied to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) can be jailed up to three years, said Selayang MP William Leong.
The PKR lawmaker cited Section 20 of the Houses of Parliament (Powers and Privileges) Act which states that those who give false testimony to the House or any House committee can be charged under Section 193 of the Penal Code for giving false evidence.
This is in regard to the PAC report on 1MDB, and the unravelling of information that followed including International Petroleum Investment Co's (IPIC’s) statement that it had no links to Aabar British Virgin Islands.
"Those who have testified before the auditor-general and the PAC have not told the truth,” said Leong who is a PAC member.
"The IPIC's announcements have further exposed that those who testified before the auditor-general and the PAC have withheld vital information and have given false and misleading evidence," he said at a press conference outside the Parliament lobby today.
1MDB had paid US$3.5 billion to Aabar BVI after allegedly being assured by former IPIC and Aabar Investment executives that the BVI company was legitimate.
The executives, Khadem Al Qubaisi and Mohamed Badawy Al Husseiny, have both left IPIC and Aabar respectively, and are reportedly being probed by Abu Dhabi authorities.
Aabar BVI had been shut down last year.
Meanwhile, Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua has called for the PAC to reconvene following IPIC’s termination of its debt-asset swap deal with 1MDB.
"This is because 1MDB had given false impression that its rationalisation plan was going smoothly and that 1MDB would not need help from the government to pay off its debts that exceed RM50 billion," he said.
IPIC in an announcement to the London Stock Exchange yesterday said 1MDB and the Finance Ministry had defaulted on a RM1.1 billion owed to the Abu Dhabi fund.
As a result, IPIC said it and its subsidiary Aabar Investments PJS obligation in the binding term sheet has been terminated.
The Finance Ministry in response said it would honour all its outstanding commitments without going into specifics.

https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/338367

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Stand by Those Re-Thinking Islam Part II: Conversations


Reaching-out across the Air-Curtain
The air curtain keeps the cold air in and the hot air out. We have in Malaysia built air curtains between the Muslims and non-Muslims. You cannot see them but they are there. They are real.

We can never hope to have a peaceful, united nation if our people do not talk and interact with one another. We need to reach out across that Air Curtain to talk to our fellow Malaysian of different ethnicity and religion. I ask you to carry out an active commitment to freedom of expression and freedom of religion to care for our neighbours and share our ideals and dreams with them and theirs with you. Reach out to our Muslim and non-Muslim friends and have conversations. Have a dialogue with complete sincerity and deepest respect for each other’s ethnicity and religion.    

In Part I of this Article, I pointed out that the politicization of Islam and the Traditionalistslaid down the idea that the primary obligation of Muslims is to establish an Islamic state ruled by sharia. Liberal democracy, pluralism, inclusiveness and tolerance of other religions are labelled as un-Islamic and heretical. I set out in Part II a thumbnail sketch of a few of those Re-Thinking Islam who argue that these concepts, far from being un-Islamic are in fact,part of the universal values of Islam. I urge non-Muslims to know more about the ongoingdebate contested by the Traditionalist and Re-Thinkers. This is because due to the politicization of Islam and the PAS/UMNO cooperation the result of this debate affects us all,Muslims and non-Muslims alike.   

Islam: Tolerance, Democracy and Pluralism
Dr Nurcholish Majid (March 17, 1939-August 29, 2005) known affectionately “Cak Nur” was a prominent Indonesian Muslim intellectual. Throughout his career he argued that for Islam to be victorious in the global struggle of ideas, it needs to embrace the concepts of tolerance, democracy and pluralism. In the 1970s, he coined the slogan: “Islam, yes; Islamic parties, no” which became very popular. The slogan helped to combat the view that it was sinful for Muslims to vote against Islamic parties.

Nurcholish influenced by his growing up in a multi-religious society, advocated a secular democracy incorporating a strong policy of religious pluralism. He denounced those that oppose multicultural, multi-religious and multinational life, noting that the Quran states many times, “If God wanted, He could create you to be one nation, but He wanted you to be different nations, so you get to know each other…”

Nurcholish Majid played a critical role in Indonesia’s transition to democracy. His experience as an Islamic activist, student leader, opponent of both the Sukarno and Suharto regimes and also the infighting and inability of Islamic political parties to work together led him to conclude that the mixing of state and religion is counter-productive.

Nurcholish delivered a landmark speech on 2 January 1970 entitled “The Necessity of Renewal of Islamic Thought and the Problem of Integration of the Islamic Community.”According to Nurcholish, one measure of the intellectual lethargy afflicting Muslims was their inability to differentiate between values that were “transcendental from those that were temporal.” The core problem as he saw it was that “everything becomes transcendental and valued as “ukhrawi [pertaining to the hereafter] without exception thus excluding it from critical scrutiny due to the alleged sacredness. The results of this general Muslim attitude “are most injurious.” He observed that the “glasses through which Muslims see the scales of values have made them unable to respond properly to the development of thought in the world today. He observed, Muslims, in other words were intellectually unprepared for meeting the challenges of the modern world because they could not distinguish between issues which were sacred (and off limits to excessive critical scrutiny) and those that were not. The solution he offered was the “temporalizing” of values which are in fact worldly, and the freeing of the ummah (Muslim community) from the tendency to spiritualize them. He called for new creative thinking and the cultivation of a “mental readiness to always test and retest the truth of a value in the face of material, moral or historical facts (so this may be)characteristic of Muslims.

Nurcholish’s argument is based on the idea that only God is transcendental and divine and as a consequence everything in the earthly realm should be viewed as temporal and subject to criticism. To confuse the temporal with the transcendental, or worse yet, to assign divine attributes to the sphere of worldly activity is a theological contradiction. “For to sacralise anything other than God, is, in reality, shirk [polytheism]”  

Insisting that no Quranic basis exists for the creation of an Islamic state, Nurcholish warned that modern constructions of an Islamic state reduced Islam to a profane ideology, easily manipulated by those who imposed their own views in the name of religion. He equated it with the sin of polytheism (shirk) or idolatry. Thus he also rejects modern Islamists’ contention that imposing sharia as the rule of law is necessary to make Indonesian society more Islamic, insisting instead that true spirituality and religiosity comes from an inner transformation (individual and national). Rather than imposing Islamic law, what is needed is a spiritual path and cultural path that fosters ethics in society rather than an Islamic state. The primary means to this path are education, to transform individuals and society, and dialogue, an open exchange, to improve relations between Muslims and other religious communities as well as the Muslim world and the West.

Madjid was a prominent advocate of democracy believing that democracy has Quranic precedents in Quranic and traditional Islamic notions of deliberation and consultation (musyawarah and shura). He insisted that religious pluralism and tolerance were not simply a theological issue but a divine mandate, rooted in Quranic passages (2:62; 5:69) that teach all believers will be rewarded equally in the next life. All religions are on par with Islam and God gives salvation to anyone regardless of his religion. So too, since all religions are committed to ethical values and social justice, all religions - not just Islam – have a role to play in the implementation of religious values such as social justice and democratic governance in politics and society.   

Need for Secular State to be Muslim 
Abdullah Ahmed An-Na’im, a prominent Sudanese-American Muslim scholar and human rights activist, has been a major voice on issues of Islamic reform, human rights and the secular state. He is the Professor of Law and Senior Fellow of the Study of Law and Religion of Emory University. 

An-Naim is influenced by and draws heavily upon the ideas of Ali Abd al-Raziq as well as An-Na’ims own teacher, Mahmoud Mohamed Taha – both advocates of shariah reform and of a secular  state that does not seek to impose any one interpretation of religious law as the law of the nation. Each suffered for their ideas; al-Raziq lost his teaching position at Al Azhar University and Mahmoud Taha was hanged by the Gafaar Numeiri government for apostasy.
The role of Islam in the modern state depends largely on the interpretation of the authority of the past. Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im argues in his book published in 2009“Islam and the Secular State: Negotiating the Future of Shariah” that the coercive enforcement of shariah by the state betrays the Quran’s insistence on voluntary acceptance of Islam.
Just as the state should be secured from the misuse of religious authority, shariah should also be freed from the control of the state. State policies or legislation must be based on civic reasons accessible to citizens of all religions. He showed in his book that throughout the history of Islam, Islam and the State have normally been separate. 

An’Na’im maintains that the ideas of human rights and citizenship are more consistent with Islamic principles than with claims of a supposedly Islamic state to enforce shariah. In fact, he suggests, the very idea of an “Islamic state” is based on European ideas of state and law and not shariah or the Islamic tradition.

An-Na’im explained that in making a claim that the state should be secular he means the state is neutral regarding religious doctrine, that it does not take a position on religion. He says the state cannot be religious. No matter how hard those in control of the state try, they will never achieve a claim of making a state religious because the state is a political institution it is incapable of having a religion. 

He clarifies that whenever this claim is made what it means is that this is a political institution that is controlled by elites who are using the state institutions to enforce their view of religion. So the religious quality is of the ruling elite, not of the state as such. He says once this is recognised than it can be realised how dangerous it is to concede that the state is religious: “You don’t have authority unless I concede it to you. So if I do not concede to the ruling elite that they made a religious state by claiming it to be so, it is not religious.” 
An-Na’im says“As a Muslim I need the state to be secular so that I can be the Muslim I choose to be by conviction and choice”

He adds: There is no possibility of being a Muslim by coercion. You may be forced to conform to certain practices, certain lifestyles, dress style, but it never makes the religious quality of being a Muslim, unless it is by free and totally autonomous choice. So the pious intent to comply is integral to every religious act as a Muslim. The possibility of belief logically requires the possibility of disbelief. If I cannot disbelief, I cannot belief. Belief has to be a choice. It is totally incoherent to speak about a situation where I have no choice but to believe what I am made by others to believe.”

Na’im said his argument against an Islamic state or enforcement of shariah by the state is from an Islamic point of view but he is also aware that the idea, pushed by Islamic fundamentalists and other forces, of the Islamic state that enforces shariah, has been taken for granted. He says this idea is totally groundless and meaningless. He made this point in his book that the idea of an Islamic state is an extremely recent discourse. It has no precedent and it has no basis in pre-colonial Islamic history or intellectual tradition. He says:
“It is totally premised on a European ideal of the state and a European ideal of positive law. The notion that the state can enact and enforce shariah as a state law is a colonial idea, a postcolonial innovation”

The Islamic Roots of Democratic Pluralism      
Abdulaziz Sachedina is Professor and IIIT Chair in Islamic Studies at George Mason University. He has been a professor for more 33 years, He teaches Classical Islam, Islam in the Modern Age, Islam Democracy and Human Rights. In 1998, Grand Ayatollah Sistani issued a statement against Sachedina that advised Muslims not to listen to his talks or to ask him questions about religious matters.

In his 2007 book “The Islamic Roots of Democratic Plauralism” Sachedina argues that doors of religious interpretation must be reopened - to correct false interpretations, replace outdated laws and formulate new doctrines. His book critically analyses Muslim teachings on such issues as pluralism, civil society, war and peace and violence and self-sacrifice. 

Sachedina’s basic argument is that the Quran provides a solid basis for shaping a pluralist, just and inclusive society. He analysed three core Quranic concepts: that humanity is one community; people of different religious backgrounds should compete among themselves to do good; and the necessity for compassion and forgiveness. Sachedina affirms that each of the three principles concerns not only personal convictions or morality, but also the need to establish an ethical public order consistent with Islam’s role as a “faith in the public realm”

Sachedina takes on some of the most controversial issues in contemporary Islamic thought: the legal rights of non-Muslims (dhimmi) in a majority Muslim state, the rules regarding apostasy and retribution, and the practice of jihad and its relation to rebellion and martyrdom. Despite the fact that numerous examples of tolerance and legal flexibility exists in the Islamic community, nevertheless, he maintains, Muslim jurists formulated legal codes relating to the status of non-Muslims that allow for discriminatory practices. These laws are not in accordance with modern conceptions of pluralism and inclusiveness and therefore must be rejected: “Most of the past juridical decisions treating non-Muslims minorities have become irrelevant in the context of contemporary religious pluralism, a cornerstone of inter-human relations”
Sachedina relates apostasy and jihad to freedom of religion and forgiveness in Islam respectively. Both rests on the key concept of fitra,” a human being’s natural predisposition towards justice and knowledge of good and evil. (“Fitra” according to Islamic theology, human beings are born with an innate inclination of tawhid (Oneness) which is encapsulated in the fitra along with compassion, intelligence, ihsan and all other attributes that embody what is human) This inherent morality reinforces a belief “basic to Muslim identity” that the divinely mandated vocation to realize God’s will in history is communal as well as individual. Fitra not only forms the basis of a “God-centered public order,” it also provides the key to interreligious dialogue because it speaks to the nature of all humans regardless of creed. Sachedina envisions, therefore an Islamic theology of religions for the twenty-first century in which law based on God’s revelation acts as an instrument of justice and peace in society.

Sachedina does not accept the type of religious state proposed by the fundamentalists in which Islam has an exclusive claim over authority in the community. Rather Sachedina argues that the Prophet laid the groundwork for a “universal community” that was subsequently corrupted by the political imperative to subdue people of other faiths and by a reading of traditional sources that lost sight of their original plural intent. By reclaiming the belief that all human beings are “equal in creation” the Muslim community can serve as a model of a religious faith that also calls for justness in society through the creation of pluralistic, democratic institutions.

Radical Reform: Islamic Ethics and Liberation
Tariq Ramadan is a Swiss academic, philosopher and writer. He is the professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies in the Faculty of Oriental Studies at the University of Oxford and visiting professor to the University of Perlis, Malaysia. He was elected by Time magazine in 2004 as one of the 100 most influential people in the world and by Foreign Policy Magazine as one of the top 100 Global Thinkers.

In his book published in 2009 “Radical Reform Islamic Ethic and Liberation” he called for a radical reform and challenged those who argue defensively that reform is a dangerous and foreign deviation and a betrayal of the faith. 

Ramadan says the debate over the question of the renewal, revival and reform of Islamic sciences, and more specifically of “fiqh”, is a very old one among Muslim scholars. The awakening of Islamic thought necessarily involves reconciliation with its spiritual dimension on the one hand and on the other, renewed commitment to rational and critical thinking (ijtihad) of the scriptural sources in the field of law and jurisprudence (fiqh).
Authentic reform, he says, has always been grounded on Islam’s textual sources, spiritual objectives and intellectual traditions. Today’s Muslims, urgently need contemporary fiqh, distinguishing, what in the texts is immutable and what may be changed.

Similar to Nucholish’s argument, Tariq Ramadan says that literalists fail to distinguish between that which, in the Revelation, is immutable (thabit), absolute, and transhistorical, and that which is subject to change, linked to temporal evolution and environmental changes (mutaghayyir). Tariq Ramadan asserts that by failing to distinguish between the immutable and the changing, contemporary literalist bestir a series of confusions involving grave consequences.

Principles can be immutable, absolute and eternal, but their implementations in time or in history-historical models- are relative, changing, and in constant mutation. Thus the principles of justice, equality, rights and human brotherhood that guided the Prophet of Islam indeed remain the references beyond history, but the model of the city of Medina founded by Muhammad in the seventh century is a historical realization linked to the realities and requirements of his time. Muslims must, in the course of history, try to remain faithful to those principles and strive to implement them as best as they can according to the requirements of their time, but they cannot merely imitate, reproduce, or duplicate a historical model that was adapted for a particular time but no longer corresponds to the requirements of their own.

To confuse eternal principles and historical models is simplistic and, most of all, particularly serious, idealizing something in a moment in history (in this instance the city of Medina) leads to thoughtless and guilty denial of that history and reduces the universality of Islam’s principles to the dream of an impossible return to the past, to an irresponsible “nostalgia of origins.”

The same temptation can be found in some contemporary salafi trends that advocate an almost exclusively political commitment: they reduce faithfulness to the message of imitating, or returning to, a specific historical political structure, a particular type of “state” or the reference to a “caliphate,” which they set against any other possible political organization (dismissively arguing that these alternatives arise from the era of ignorance or opposition of Islam, al-jahiliyyah)
The distinction between principles and models appeals to Muslims’ conscience and requires them to display intelligence and creativity to achieve, at each moment in history and whatever their environment, a society modelled as faithfully as possible to the ethical principles they adhere to. Whereas for literalists that act of being faithful to the Prophet, his Companions and the salaf essentially consists in imitating their behaviour and simply trying to reproduce their historical dated achievements. Tariq Ramadan says essential faithfulness consists in recapturing their spiritual strength and intellectual energy to achieve the most coherent social model for our own time (as they did theirs.) The point is not to imitate the historical result achieved but to reproduce the ethical demand and human efforts through which it was achieved. It is not to repeat its form but to grasp its substance, spirit and objectives.

Amongst the ways is through ijtihad and maqasid al-shariah (the Higher Objectives of Islam.)It is necessary to think through and reconsider the list of principles and higher aims that can be deduced from the scriptures, the text and the Universe, to preserve what is good, beneficial and useful to the human race and to protect it from what is evil and harmful.

Liberal Democracy and Maqasid al-shariah and ijtihad

Anwar Ibrahim had from long ago spoken of the need for Ijtihad, maqasid al-shariah, tolerance and moderation. In his book “Asian Renaissance,” he said Islam came to Southeast Asia borne on the seas by Sufis and merchants rather than overland by soldiers brandishing swords, conversion was by choice, not coercion.

The peaceful and gradual Islamization has moulded the Southeast Asian Muslim psyche into one which is cosmopolitan, open-minded, tolerant and amenable to cultural diversity. Of course the outlook is also fashioned by the strong presence of people of other faiths who reciprocated Muslim tolerance. By being moderate and pragmatic, Southeast Asian Muslims are neither compromising the teachings and ideals of Islam nor pandering to the whims and fancies of the times. On the contrary, Anwar says such an approach is necessary to realize the societal ideals of Islam such as justice, equitable distribution of wealth, fundamental rights and liberties. This approach is sanctioned in a saying by the Prophet of Islam, to the effect that “the best way to conduct your affairs is to choose the middle path” (Hadith narrated by al-Baihaqi)
Anwar said (at that time 1996-97) the proponents of the imposition of Muslim laws or the establishment of an Islamic state are confined to the periphery, Southeast Asian Muslims prefer to concentrate on the task of ensuring economic growth and eradicating poverty, instead of amputating the limbs of thieves. They would rather strive to improve the welfare of the women and children in their midst, than spend their days elaborately defining the nature and institution ideal Islamic state. They do not believe it would make one less of a Muslim to promote economic growth, to master the information revolution, and to demand justice for women. Nor do they believe it would strengthen one’s commitment to religion by instilling anxiety among people of other faiths.

However, Anwar warned even then, against the process of intellectual decline and decay that was and continues to gradually set into Islam. With the deterioration in economic activities over the centuries of colonial subjugation, poverty and destitution began to surface in Muslim societies. Patronage of learning, arts, and sciences suffered. As the level of learning declined, superstitions grew. The general public could no longer be counted upon to participate intelligently in societal processes as responsible and enlightened citizens. 

Among the ulema, conservatism and rigidity began to take root in the face of external challenges and internal decadence. The doctrine of taqlid (uncritical imitation) was instituted. Innovation, change and inquiry became suspect. In such a climate, the ulema devoted themselves almost entirely to the issue of fiqh (jurisprudence) and limited study and commentary to the works of the great scholars of the classical era. 

Serious problems which cried for urgent attention, including poverty, illiteracy and other forms of social malaise, were ignored. Islamic scholarship was confined to textual studies of language, traditions and orthodox jurisprudence. It became absorbed, not in the urgent task of championing the broad vision and civilizational ideals of Islam in the face of the onslaught of modern secular ideologies, but in attempting to unearth past solutions to resolve sometimes petty issues.

The effort to revive the spirit of inquiry and reasoned discourse (tajdid) required no less than a thorough transformation of mental outlook. To regain their central position in society, the ulema need to manifest intellectual vigour and societal relevance. They have to compete among the multifarious contending forces for the hearts and minds of the people. If a disproportionate number of ulema were to devote themselves entirely to jurisprudence, the other sciences and arts would be bereft of moral leadership. The issue of penal sanction of the shariah, for example, is a preoccupation of the majority of the ulema, although the mass poverty is more pervasive than criminality, and the suffering of the destitute and the hungry in so many parts of the Muslim world demands greater attention and compassion.

Muslims need to address urgent social and economic issues such as the eradication of poverty and illiteracy, the provision of employment, decent housing and other social amenities. These are preconditions before certain shariah injunctions can be translated into legislation. Indeed, the construction of an outer edifice of Islamic governance without the true substance of physical and spiritual well-being of the ummah would be a travesty of the maqasid al-sharia, the ideals and objectives of religion itself. It is tantamount to insisting on a form of religion devoid of substance.

Anwar ended with a caution that the wave of Islamic revivalism that began with the anti-imperialist struggles of the previous century had gained further momentum among Muslims in Southeast Asia. He had the prescience in 1996 to warn that the energy potential must be properly directed so as not to deteriorate or be corrupted into blind fanaticism which could precipitate into violent clashes with other cultures. He said there were indeed signs, however, that these religious energies, aligned with forces of social conservatism, have served to marginalize the Muslims in the rapidly changing world. Thus there is a need to reassert the universalism of Islam, its values of justice, compassion and tolerance in a world that is yearning for a sense of direction and for genuine peace. If this could be achieved, Muslims can truly contribute to the shaping of a new world.

Unfortunately, as we all know Anwar was incarcerated not long after “Asian Renaissance” was published. On his release he has continued to push for the ijtihad and the adoption of the maqasid al-shariah approach to bring the modern concepts of democracy, pluralism, tolerance and human rights as comparable to the universal values of Islam in his many talks, forums,seminars, local and international and in his public rallies.

His position did not waver despite his imprisonment. In an essay “Universal Values and Muslim Democracy” as Distinguished Visiting Professor in the School of Foreign Services at Georgetown University which draws upon his speeches at the New York Democracy Forum in December 2005 and the Assembly of the World Movement for Democracy in Istanbul in April 2006, Anwar in referring to the increasingly growing alienation between East and West over issues of freedom and justice, said he was reminded of his upbringing in multicultural and multi-ethnic Malaysia. Malaysian psyche is infused with a plurality of identities. Malaysians study the Koran and the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad and at the same time devoured the works of Dante, Shakespeare and T.S. Eliot. There is never any doubt that our world and the West are compatible and the spirit of inclusiveness and pluralism will continue to be a source of inspiration in bridging the gaps between culture and civilizations.

Anwar called the “harrowing theories” concocted to claim an inherent contradiction between Islam and democratic values, are attempts to drive a wedge between two great civilizations. The argument that liberal democracy places sovereignty in the hands of the individual, in Islam sovereignty belongs solely to God, thereby reducing the individual to a mere agent with little concern for the exercise of creativity and personal freedom, is a misreading of the sources of religion and represents a capitulation to the extremist discourse. The proper view is that freedom is the fundamental objective of the divine.

Anwar wrote that the freedom defined by the West is the same in the maqasid al-sharia (the higher objectives of sharia):
As articulated by the great jurists al-Shatibi (d. 790 CE), the maqasid al-sharia (higher objectives of the shariah) sanctify the preservation of religion, life, intellect, family and wealth, objectives that bear striking resemblance to Lockean ideals that would be expounded centuries later. Many scholars have further explained that laws which contravene the maqasid must be revised or amended to bring them into line with the higher objectives and to ensure that they contribute to the safety and development of the individual and society. Notwithstanding the current malaise of authoritarianism plaguing the Muslim world, there can be no question that several crucial elements of constitutional democracy and civil society are also imperatives in Islam-freedom of conscience, freedom of expression, and the sanctity of life and property – as demonstrated very clearly by the Koran, as well as the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, perhaps most succinctly and eloquently in his farewell address.”

Anwar Ibrahim said the conclusion to be drawn is that human desire to be free and to lead a dignified life is universal. So is the abhorrence of despotism and oppression. These are passions that motivate not only Muslims but people from all religions and civilizations.

They have imprisoned Anwar again. However his spirit and his ideas remain free. His struggle for the inculcation of a culture of a plural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious society living in peace and harmony continues unabated.    

Conclusion
Anwar and those Re-thinking Islam faces continuous challenges including assaults to their credibility, reputation, physical security and loss of personal liberty. They have spoken up with courage and fortitude that Muslims should not be concerned about an Islamic state ruled by shariah but to be in a state of Islam.  For non-Muslims I urge you join this journey. It is not a journey to be taken by Muslims alone. We have to walk together in the search for greater cohesiveness, in fostering a better sense of community with shared values, in findingand articulating a common moral and ethical ground beyond mere tolerance. Then together we can confront corruption, authoritarianism, modern feudalism, bigotry, racism hatred and injustices. Only by moral fortitude can we have the courage of conviction to battle these iniquities as one.          


William Leong Jee Keen
Member of Parliament Selayang
Parti Keadilan Rakyat
23 January 2016 
   
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