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2 September 2014

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The Sedition Act is now clearly used as an instrument of gross injustice and a weapon of mass oppression. The recent spate of arbitrary arrests and selective prosecution of Pakatan Rakyat leadersrepresents a gross affront to the democratic process and signifies a breakdown in the rule of law.

The dragnet
To date, five Members of Parliament and two State Assemblymen as well as several other Pakatan leaders have been prosecuted. It is a long list whichis growing even longer with no one being spared except UMNO leaders and their right-wing racist cohorts.

They are PKR MP for Pandan Rafizi Ramli, PKR MP for Padang Serai N Surendran, PKR Youth chiefand Deputy Selangor State Assembly Speaker Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, DAP MP for Seputeh Teresa Kok, PKR MP for Batu Tian Chua, PAS MP for Shah Alam Khalid Samad, and DAP Seri Delima assemblyman R.S.N. Rayer and former Perak MP and Changkat Jering assemblyman Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin.

Today, this wave of repression has taken on the hue of an outrageous farce with the prosecution of law professor Azmi Sharom for expressing his academic opinion on the Selangor MB crisis. Incidentally, though it was not a view that was pro-UMNO, neither was it pro-PKR in any way. But as a firm believer in academic freedom, I maintain that Azmi has every right to express his views.

Hijacking democracy and the electoral process
If the prosecutions are successful, it is likely that at least six parliamentary by-elections and three state assembly by-elections will ensue, if we include myown impending Federal Court appeal which, going by the current state of the judiciary, holds not much promise that justice will prevail.

What we are seeing is thus a blatant and shameless attempt by Najib to hijack democracy by having duly elected law makers from Pakatan to be stripped of their democratic entitlements and disqualified from contesting in the subsequent by-elections. This will be a grave perversion of justice via the back door of the Attorney-General’s chambers.

Yesterday, the dragnet of repression was extended to haul in members of civil society with the police arresting 156 Penang Voluntary Patrol Unit (PPS) members – essentially citizens who have volunteered to perform their civic responsibilities to keep the peace. There is also the audacious threat by the Home Minister to take action against PAS’s Unit Amal which has been for years recognised by the people as effective in crowd control during opposition rallies apart from its other humanitarian and welfare work.

The statement from the Prime Minister’s Office that the Sedition Act will be repealed is not only hollow but a gross lie considering the spate of prosecutions being carried. How can such flagrant use of an archaic and repressive law convince anyone that the government is serious about legislative reform?

On the contrary, it nails the lie to the elaborate game of deception played by Najib when in July 2012, he proclaimed with much fanfare and PR blitz, his National Transformation Plan.

By holding out such a big promise to the people of making Malaysia the “best democracy in the world”, while in reality imposing a new reign of Executiveterror, Najib has therefore perpetrated a gross and reckless fraud on the people.

The volley ball blame game being played by the Home Ministry in tossing the blame on the Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail for this heightened pace of prosecutions is futile because at the end of the day,all are culpable in this despicable enterprise as they are part and parcel of the Executive.

Attack on justice and freedom
In a fully functioning democracy, such abuse of power by the Executive can and will be checked by the judiciary by summary dismissal of the chargesfor they are not just frivolous and an abuse of legal process but constitute a general affront to our basic sense of justice and freedom.

These are attacks on the very foundation of our constitution which guarantees freedom from arbitrary arrests and prosecution. They are direct assaults on the democratic process which renders elected representatives to be duty-bound to speak for the people against injustice and abuse of power.

The question is: Do we have a strong, independent and vibrant judiciary that believes that politicians and their appointees who hold high executive office must act according to the rule of law, and not the rule of political expediency?

Do we have the requisite number of judges who will judge without fear or favour according to the criterion of justice? Will they have the moral courage and conviction to send a clear message that they will not be party to the Executive’s attempt to pervert the course of justice and violate the liberties and rights of the people as enshrined in the Constitution?

A government must not only administer efficiently though in this regard the Najib government has failed miserably. But even more profound is the moral obligation to administer justly.

Racist speeches by UMNO ministers and MPs, given full media coverage by UMNO’s propaganda network machine, are on the uptake. Extreme right-wing groups and countless other racist organizations continue to spread and incite communal hatred.

But what does it say for justice and democracy whenthese racists and purveyors of religious extremism get off scot free while those who speak the truth for the sake of a better, more harmonious Malaysia are treated as criminals?

Conclusion
Merdeka Day has just come and gone and two days ago the Malaysian people were treated to a grand show to mark our day of independence. It is supposed to be a celebration from the yoke of colonialism for our new found freedoms and rights.

Indeed, what a tragic irony it is that we are in fact witnessing the unbridled use of the Sedition Act that is nothing but a relic of this era of colonialism. TrueMerdeka means that we must reject this law, not use it as what the Najib government is doing, with renewed vigour and determination as an instrument of injustice and a weapon of mass oppression.

Anwar Ibrahim
Opposition leader
2 September 2014

17 July 2014

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Shah Alam. 16/7/2014

17 July 2014

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Speech by Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim at the Economic Agenda Forum & Iftar on July 16, 2014 at the Mentri Besar Selangor’s Official Residence

Versi Bahasa Melayu

English Version

12 July 2014

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Further to our earlier denunciations of the atrocities; we reiterate our condemnation of the latest massacre of more than 100 Palestinians including women and children in the Gaza by the Israeli regime of Netanyahu and call on the international community to collectively put pressure to stop the atrocities.

It is clear that the Israeli regime is exploiting the killing of the three Israeli youths as a pretext to attack Gaza and start a chain of violence and bloodshed so as to destabilize the unity government between Hamas and Fatah.

In his desperate attempts at destroying the prospect of a united Palestinian state in the near future, Netanyahu is prepared to drag the Israeli people to the brink of outright war.

No doubt, he is committing these acts of violence with impunity, emboldened by the fact that neither the United States nor the European Union will condemn these crimes, let alone intervene to stop them.

In this regard, the Western powers have once again displayed hypocrisy in their muted response to the atrocities. This is a disgraceful abdication of moral responsibility and exposes their double standards to the cause of democracy, freedom and justice.

Even more tragic is the fact that Muslim countries, except possibly Turkey and Iran, appear to be powerless in the face of these unmitigated acts of violence and cruelty while so-called jihadists are keener on killing fellow Muslims and proclaiming a caliphate than helping their downtrodden Palestinian kin.

Meanwhile, the Western media continue to report the latest rounds of violence in its usual skewered manner by its constant reference to Hamas firing of missiles into Israel so as to justify Israel’s utterly disproportionate retaliation.

The media and Western leaders continue to downplay if not entirely ignore the fundamental issue of the illegal occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and Israel’s blatant disregard of UN Resolution 242 in their barefaced drive for territorial aggrandisement.

Indeed, the current round of murdering and wounding of hundreds of innocent Palestinians is but yet another episode of the continuing saga of brutality, ruthlessness, inhumanity, and injustice committed against them by the Israelis.

Anwar Ibrahim
Member of Parliament,
Parliamentary Opposition Leader
Malaysia

10 July 2014

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Keynote address by Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysian Opposition Leader and Selangor State Economic Advisor at the Royal Selangor Club, Kuala Lumpur on July 9th 2014

English Version

Versi Bahasa Malaysia

 

 

4 July 2014

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Malaysian Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has denied accusations by the Malaysian Government that he’s trying to smear the country’s reputation overseas, by calling on foreign governments to speak out against human rights abuses in his country.

Click here to watch the full interview on ABC Australia.

3 May 2014

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http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-05-01/one-missing-jet-one-sunken-ferry-two-responses

There are no ideologues in a financial crisis, former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke once said. Clearly the same doesn’t hold true for political crises, as a comparison of Malaysia and South Korea very quickly reveals.

Tragedy has struck both nations in recent weeks, their travails played out in horrifying detail on the world’s television screens. Fairly or unfairly, the hunt for a missing Malaysian airliner and the desperate attempt to rescue and now recover victims from the sunken Sewol ferry are being viewed as tests of the governments in Putrajaya and Seoul, if not of Malaysian and South Korean societies. The grades so far? I’d give Korea an A-, Malaysia a D.

In the two weeks since the Sewol tipped over and sank — almost certainly killing 302 passengers, most of them high school students — Korea has been gripped by a paroxysm of self-questioning, shame and official penitence. President Park Geun Hye issued a dramatic and heartfelt apology. Her No. 2, Prime Minister Chung Hong Won, resigned outright. Prosecutors hauled in the ship’s entire crew and raided the offices of its owners and shipping regulators. Citizens and the media are demanding speedy convictions and long-term reforms.

And Malaysia, 55 days after Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 vanished? Nothing. No officials have quit. Prime MinisterNajib Razak seems more defiant than contrite. The docile local news media has focused more on international criticism of Malaysia’s leaders rather than on any missteps by those leaders themselves.

Both countries are democracies — Malaysia’s even older than South Korea’s. The key difference, though, is the relative openness of their political systems. One party has dominated Malaysia since independence, while Korea, for all its growing pains and occasional tumultuousness, has seen several peaceful transfers of power over the past quarter-century. Unused to having to answer critics, Malaysia’s government hasresponded defensively. Korean officials, on the other hand, are reflecting, addressing the anger of citizens, and delving into what went wrong with the shipping industry’s regulatory checks and balances.

That’s why Korea is likely to come out of this crisis stronger than ever, unlike Malaysia. The two nations responded similarly after the 1997 Asian financial crisis, too. Malaysia’s then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad sought to prove Bernanke’s axiom wrong, bizarrely blaming some shadowy Jewish cabal headed by George Soros for the ringgit’s plunge. Malaysia didn’t internalize what had gone wrong or look in the mirror. It didn’t admit it had been using capital inflows unproductively and that coddling state champions — including Malaysia Airlines — was killing competitiveness. Never did the ruling United Malays National Organization consider it might be part of the problem.

Contrast that with Korea’s response to 1997. The government forced weak companies and banks to fail, accepting tens of thousands of job losses. Authorities clamped down on reckless investing and lending and addressed moral hazard head-on. Koreans felt such shame that millions lined up to donate gold, jewelry, art and other heirlooms to the national treasury.

South Korea’s response wasn’t perfect. I worry, for example, that the family-run conglomerates, or chaebol, that helped precipitate the crisis are still too dominant a decade and a half later. But the country’s economic performance since then speaks for itself.

Now as then, Korea’s open and accountable system is forcing its leaders to look beyond an immediate crisis. Ordinary Koreans are calling for a national catharsis that will reshape their society and its attitude toward safety. Park’s government has no choice but to respond.

Malaysia’s government, on the other hand, appears to be lost in its own propaganda. To the outside world, acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Husseinperformed dismally as a government spokesman: He was combative, defensive and so opaque that even China complained. Yet Hishammuddin is now seen as prime-minister material for standing up to pesky foreign journalists and their rude questions. The government seems intent on ensuring that nothing changes as a result of this tragedy.

As hard as it seems now, South Korea will move past this tragedy, rejuvenated. Malaysia? I’m not so sure.

18 March 2014

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I cannot express enough my disgust to those who are so ready, in the absence of any proof whatsoever, to pin the blame on Captain Zaharie. I would like to express my deepest sympathy to his wife and children and his family too and to tell them to remain strong in these most trying times. The same goes for all the passengers and crew of flight MH370.

Casting aspersions on his character and making unfounded insinuations about Captain Zaharie’s support for my political cause being a probable reason for the disappearance of flight MH370 is not only reckless and insensitive but in the absence of any proof, is highly defamatory. In relation to me, these insinuations and innuendoes are of course part of the routine character assassination campaign carried out against me by government and UMNO-controlled media.

Meantime, many questions have been raised regarding not just the competency of the authorities in the investigations but also the sheer lack of transparency. What is it that the authorities are hiding that is making them so paranoid about letting others help in the investigation? It should be noted too that the Opposition’s attempt to move a motion in Parliament to discuss MH370 was flatly rejected.

Anwar Ibrahim

26 January 2014

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SPECIAL ADDRESS TO MALAYSIANS
26 JANUARY 2014

Let’s work towards a national consensus

1. It has been just over four months since we last celebrated Merdeka Day and Malaysia Day. Just celebrating them as a festivity doesn’t mean much if we miss the bigger picture.

2. I cannot overemphasise the importance of this bigger picture.

3. That is why I am taking this opportunity to address not just all of you present here this afternoon but to all Malaysians at home and abroad today.

4. By all Malaysians I mean exactly that – regardless of race, religion, cultural group or mother tongue; regardless of whether you are from the Peninsula or from Sabah and Sarawak; and regardless of your political affiliation.

5. It does not matter whether you are with Pakatan Rakyat or with Barisan Nasional, or that you are with neither party, nor that you are independent or even totally apolitical, I want to reach out to all with this message.

6. It is a message conceived in love for the nation and not in hate against anyone. It is a message raised on the altar of hope, not on the ruins of despair. And it is a message for all of us including myself to take home and share with our family, our neighbours and our friends so that we may move forward.

7. At the outset, I mentioned celebrating Merdeka Day and Malaysia Day and what it entails for it to be truly meaningful. First and foremost, it is a celebration of the fundamental liberties enshrined in our Federal Constitution, a document of statehood agreed to by our founding fathers attendant upon our gaining independence.

8. This constitution is not just a piece of paper. It is a sovereign document brought into existence as a result of the social compact of our leaders representing the diverse communities in this blessed country of ours.

9. It guarantees our right to life and liberty, to freedom of speech, assembly and association. It prescribes equality of all citizens before the law and guarantees freedom of religion.

10. These provisions form the sub-stratum of our Malaysian identity, an identity made up of a multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-cultural society. These principles must be respected by all communities, whether they comprise the majority or they constitute minorities. They must be honoured by the politicians in word and deed whether they are in power or whether they are in the opposition. Similarly, all civil society groups, NGOs, and all the organs of state must abide by these constitutional safeguards.

11. The Malaysian identity as a nation of peoples can only be as good as the cohesiveness of this very plural society of ours. Take this unity and sense of togetherness away and we will take away our identity as Malaysians.

12. So, indeed, after 56 years of independence one would expect that this cohesiveness is not only in existence but should be growing stronger by the day. Unfortunately though, there has been particularly in the last few months, a series of circumstances and developments that collectively are fast eroding the cohesiveness that is so crucial to our identity.

13. In fact, these developments appear to be reaching a crescendo that threatens to tear the very fabric of our unity apart. Of course, we have not reached the tipping point yet but as they say, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.

14. And we cannot be vigilant enough here. That is because what we are seeing today are all kinds of attempts by certain quarters to take this nation to the brink.

15. In fact, we have not seen this building up of tension since the events leading up to our national tragedy of May 13th 1969. The voices of hate and animosity, the voices of prejudice and suspicion, and the voices of wreck and ruin are attempting to drown out the harmony, cooperation and understanding that we have managed to build on the ruins of this tragedy.

16. I call on you, my fellow Malaysians to rise up and let your voices be heard. Let your voice of mutual respect and goodwill, your voice of understanding and trust, and your voice of unity and integration prevail over these voices of hatred, rancour, hostility and destruction.

17. We must turn the corner from the path of increasing polarization to the path of greater integration. We must stop the race-baiting, put an end to this disease of incitement to religious intolerance and hatred and join our hands in unity and togetherness.

18. Leaders from both sides of the political divide must put aside all partisan concerns and show real leadership in easing the tension and work towards ameliorating the situation.

19. Indeed, the time has come for all of us to reach a national consensus on these crucial issues that impact the sub-stratum of our identity as a nation.

20. In line with the spirit of the constitution, all parties must cease questioning the paramount position of Islam as the religion of the Federation.

21. In reaffirming the position of Islam and recognizing that Muslims make up the majority of the population, we must reject the notion that Islam is under threat. We must reject the notion that there is some sinister conspiracy to replace Islam as the religion of the Federation with some other religion.

22. We must at the same time give due recognition to the same constitutional safeguards on all the other religions in the land. We are a nation of communities comprising a plurality of faiths. In this regard, Buddhists, Taoists, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and practitioners of ethnic religions must be accorded their constitutional freedom to practise their religion in the manner of their choosing.

23. In working towards this consensus, let us remain focussed on the other things that really matter to us as a nation going forward.

24. Let us work together to tackle the issues of governance, transparency and accountability. Whether it is at the Federal or state levels, let us resolve to stamp out the cancer of corruption which still plagues us.

25. The problem of rising prices recognises no partisan boundaries. So, let us channel our energies to enhancing the welfare of the rakyat and formulating practical solutions to lighten their burden.

26. Instead of fighting figments of our imagination, let us help our police fight crime and make our homes, our schools, our shopping complexes safer.

27. It is morally incumbent on us, particularly those of us who have been elected by the people to represent them, to go beyond partisan lines and come to a national consensus on how to move the nation forward.

28. Duty towards the nation, even greater than duty to party, impels us to take up the challenge. We must strengthen our resolve and summon all our moral courage to see this through.

Thank you.

ANWAR IBRAHIM

31 December 2013

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The results for the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) that were presented in early December showed that of the 10 countries that topped the performance, not one of them is a Muslim country. As a matter of fact, of the final results tabled, not one Muslim country was placed in the top 40.

Half a million pupils in 65 countries and local administrations were tested in the three core areas of mathematics, science and reading. Shanghai scored the best result with 613, followed by Singapore and Japan.

With the exception of Turkey which took the 43rd spot scoring the highest among the Muslim countries followed by UAE, of the rest of the Muslim countries that took part such as Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Qatar, Jordan, Tunisia and Indonesia, suffice to say that they were placed within the bottom 50 and 60 jostling with Columbia, Peru and Albania for the award of worst performer!

Before anyone jumps the gun by blaming this OECD study as essentially biased and Eurocentric, let us be reminded the top three performers are Asian. It is indeed noteworthy that the results for 2012, 2010, and the 2009 Assessment showed that Shanghai students scored the highest in all categories.

According to the OECD, this study considers Shanghai a pioneer of educational reform, having transformed their approach to education. Instead of focusing merely on the elite, it appears they have adopted a more inclusive system. In other words, the democratization of access to quality education is a key factor.

Below is the table for the 2012 results:

Programme for International Student Assessment (2012)
Maths Sciences Reading
1 Shanghai, China 613 1 Shanghai, China 580 1 Shanghai, China 570
2 Singapore 573 2 Hong Kong, China 555 2 Hong Kong, China 545
3 Hong Kong, China 561 3 Singapore 551 3 Singapore 542
4 Taiwan 560 4 Japan 547 4 Japan 538
5 South Korea 554 5 Finland 545 5 South Korea 536
6 Macau, China 538 6 Estonia 541 6 Finland 524
7 Japan 536 7 South Korea 538 7 Taiwan 523
8 Liechtenstein 535 8 Vietnam 528 8 Canada 523
9 Switzerland 531 9 Poland 526 9 Ireland 523
10 Netherlands 523 10 Liechtenstein 525 10 Poland 518
11 Estonia 521 11 Canada 525 11 Liechtenstein 516
12 Finland 519 12 Germany 524 12 Estonia 516
13 Canada 518 13 Taiwan 523 13 Australia 512
14 Poland 518 14 Netherlands 522 14 New Zealand 512
15 Belgium 515 15 Ireland 522 15 Netherlands 511
16 Germany 514 16 Macau, China 521 16 Macau, China 509
17 Vietnam 511 17 Australia 521 17 Switzerland 509
18 Austria 506 18 New Zealand 516 18 Belgium 509
19 Australia 504 19 Switzerland 515 19 Germany 508
20 Ireland 501 20 Slovenia 514 20 Vietnam 508
21 Slovenia 501 21 United Kingdom 514 21 France 505
22 Denmark 500 22 Czech Republic 508 22 Norway 504
23 New Zealand 500 23 Austria 506 23 United Kingdom 499
24 Czech Republic 499 24 Belgium 505 24 United States 498
25 France 495 25 Latvia 502 25 Denmark 496
26 United Kingdom 494 26 France 499 26 Czech Republic 493
27 Iceland 493 27 Denmark 498 27 Austria 490
28 Latvia 491 28 United States 497 28 Italy 490
29 Luxembourg 490 29 Spain 496 29 Latvia 489
30 Norway 489 30 Lithuania 496 30 Luxembourg 488
31 Portugal 487 31 Norway 495 31 Portugal 488
32 Italy 485 32 Italy 494 32 Spain 488
33 Spain 484 33 Hungary 494 33 Hungary 488
34 Russia 482 34 Luxembourg 491 34 Israel 486
35 Slovakia 482 35 Croatia 491 35 Croatia 485
36 United States 481 36 Portugal 489 36 Iceland 483
37 Lithuania 479 37 Russia 486 37 Sweden 483
38 Sweden 478 38 Sweden 485 38 Slovenia 481
39 Hungary 477 39 Iceland 478 39 Lithuania 477
40 Croatia 471 40 Slovakia 471 40 Greece 477
41 Israel 466 41 Israel 470 41 Russia 475
42 Greece 453 42 Greece 467 42 Turkey 475
43 Serbia 449 43 Turkey 463 43 Slovakia 463
44 Turkey 448 44 UAE 448 44 Cyprus 449
45 Romania 445 45 Bulgaria 446 45 Serbia 446
46 Cyprus 440 46 Serbia 445 46 UAE 442
47 Bulgaria 439 47 Chile 445 47 Thailand 441
48 UAE 434 48 Thailand 444 48 Chile 441
49 Kazakhstan 432 49 Romania 439 49 Costa Rica 441
50 Thailand 427 50 Cyprus 438 50 Romania 438
51 Chile 423 51 Costa Rica 429 51 Bulgaria 436
52 Malaysia 421 52 Kazakhstan 425 52 Mexico 424
53 Mexico 413 53 Malaysia 420 53 Montenegro 422
54 Montenegro 410 54 Uruguay 416 54 Uruguay 411
55 Uruguay 409 55 Mexico 415 55 Brazil 410
56 Costa Rica 407 56 Montenegro 410 56 Tunisia 404
57 Albania 394 57 Jordan 409 57 Colombia 403
58 Brazil 391 58 Argentina 406 58 Jordan 399
59 Argentina 388 59 Brazil 405 59 Malaysia 398
60 Tunisia 388 60 Colombia 399 60 Argentina 396
61 Jordan 386 61 Tunisia 398 61 Indonesia 396
62 Colombia 376 62 Albania 397 62 Albania 394
63 Qatar 376 63 Qatar 384 63 Kazakhstan 393
64 Indonesia 375 64 Indonesia 382 64 Qatar 388
65 Peru 368 65 Peru 373 65 Peru 384
                 

 

Take-home lessons

If we take ourselves off the intellectual pedestal, let us ask what lessons we can take home from this study, apart from other indicators in different studies.

Firstly, there is no basis for the conventional argument that because Muslim students have to attend extra classes for religious studies over and above the routine academic lessons in the schools, they have less time to study and prepare for exams and hence perform not as well as non-Muslim students. In Malaysia, for example, Chinese students who also attend extra classes for Chinese-based subjects over and above the national-type syllabus do just as well in both.

Pedagogy and quality of teaching

Finland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland were among the best of the European nations. Studies have shown that students from Finland produced very good results in various subjects when compared to students from the United States and other countries. This was attributed mainly to the fact that in Finland, the very best graduates were recruited to become teachers.

Also important is the question of content and curriculum, including pedagogy. The quality of teachers is a matter of concern. The teaching profession needs to be given greater priority by the state.  A proper incentive scheme must be introduced and to restore the profession to its earlier recognition. As it stands, apart from infrastructure constraints, Muslim countries suffer from a shortage of good teachers. But the issues should be more than that just a question of material resources.

Spending on education

The conventional belief that greater spending on education would yield better performance was also shown to be not always true. Thus, the analysis of the 2003 results showed that Australia, Belgium, Canada, Finland, Japan and South Korea, which had spent less on education than the United States actually did better. While this should not be taken as an excuse to spend less on education, allocation of such funds for Muslim countries must be beefed up with the rider that the resources are to be spent effectively.

Governance

The issue of governance remains a serious problem in Muslim countries. For example, cases of misappropriation of funds allocated for poorer students continue to be a source of embarrassment. Poor governance also breeds corruption which then leads to wastages and leakages. Where financial resources get mis-channelled or misused, schools suffer and students become victims.

Bad governance in the running of schools also impacts on the quality of teaching when for example school authorities haphazardly transfer teachers to other areas without considering the effect on both the teaching and the teachers themselves.

Confucian ethic

Yet another lesson is probably the obvious one considering that the top three performances are connected one way or the other to the Confucian model of learning. Surely, Muslim countries should be able to draw some lessons from this phenomenon. Muslim intellectuals worth their salt must get off their high horse and study the Confucian model, adapt it according to Muslim requirements, if need be, and start preaching a culture of diligence in the pursuit of knowledge. The defensive response about reminding people of Islam’s glorious history of learning and advancements in science serves no purpose if all it does is encourage us to rest on past laurels.

Conclusion

While it is known that Muslim countries are facing a crisis in higher education, this study is significant in showing that even in the formative mid-secondary school stage, we are seeing a crisis of alarming proportions. The fact of the matter is that Muslim countries are occupying the bottom rungs in higher education and advancement in science and technology. The PISA results are therefore a precursor to worse things to come.

Failure to take immediate remedial action may lead to a deeper crisis. In this regard, we call on the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to take the lead in addressing this problem.

ANWAR IBRAHIM

27th December, 2013

12 December 2013

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Keynote address by Anwar Ibrahim at the Symposium on “Reform of Higher Education in Muslim Societies,” organized by the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) on December 9-10, 2013 at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington, DC.

Introduction

The crisis in higher education in Muslim societies is manifested in myriad ways not the least of which are impacting socioeconomic development. Among the root causes of the crisis are those related to choice, content, quality and financial resources and issues of governance.

It is said that Islamic education has not progressed much from its traditional form with its emphasis on Qur’anic and Hadith studies and while other societies have transformed their systems, Muslim countries are still grappling with the challenges of integrating within modern education.

Another major concern is the accessibility of education to the people. The need to democratize access to education has been canvassed for some time but this has remained a long-standing problem in Muslim countries.

It is obvious that the traditional system, without more, is unable to meet the needs of contemporary Muslim societies what with the additional pressures of globalization and the increasing need for education to produce problem-solving capacities. I believe all these issues are being discoursed in our two-day symposium and as such I shall confine my address today to the conceptual issues pertaining to the ummah and the intellectual crisis.

The economics of education

To begin with, there is a general perception in the discourse among many Muslim scholars that Western education and philosophy is secular and bereft of an ethical and moral dimension. To my mind, this is unfounded.

In John Locke’s An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, it is clear that the driving concern is morality which for him, “is the one area apart from mathematics wherein human reasoning can attain a level of rational certitude.”[1]

In The Theory of Moral Sentiments, which debunks the notion of him being the free market fundamentalist, Adam Smith asserts:

How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortunes of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it, except the pleasure of seeing it.

Expounding his moral philosophy, Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen is of the view that Adam Smith has two fundamental propositions on the functioning of the economic system in general, and of the market in particular. The first principle, being epistemological, is that human beings are not guided only by self-gain or even prudence. The second is one of practical reason: That there are good ethical and practical grounds for encouraging motives other than self-interest.

According to Professor Sen, Smith argues that while “prudence” was “of all virtues that which is most helpful to the individual”, “humanity, justice, generosity, and public spirit, are the qualities most useful to others”.

The point is that these are principles about which “unfortunately, a big part of modern economics gets both of them wrong in interpreting Smith.” Making him out as an advocate of pure capitalism, with complete reliance on the market mechanism guided by pure profit motive, is altogether misconceived.[2]

So, it appears that the misperceptions are not only pervasive among Muslim scholars but even among Western scholars in this regard, Smith – the icon of ‘capitalism’ – has been seriously misread.

Coming back to our original concern, I believe these ‘moral sentiments’ are not at loggerheads with Islamic precepts. After all, the guiding principle in political economy as summed up by al-Marhum Ismail al-F?r?q? is that economic action is the expression of Islam’s spirituality: The economy of the ummah and its good health are of the essence of Islam just as Islam’s spirituality is inexistent without just economic action.[3]

According to al-F?r?q?, if charity is to serve as a tool of religion whose purpose is the well-being of mankind, then it must have for its object goods of economic value. Religion, therefore, seeks to subject Man’s economic behaviour to the norms of morality. Islam, the religion of world-affirmation par excellence, seeks to order human life so as to make it actualize the pattern intended for it by its Creator. Hence the Islamic dictum: Inna al din al mu’amalah (Religion is indeed man’s treatment of his fellows).[4]

In looking at the economics of education, while the profit motive may be a legitimate factor, it cannot be driven purely by self-gain. On the contrary in line with the Islamic dictum on charity as expounded by al-F?r?q?, where the purpose of religion is the well-being of mankind, the promotion of education must be conducted as a virtue at par with such other virtues as “humanity, justice, generosity, and public spirit.”

Going back to first principles

It is important to remind ourselves that Muslim societies will not be able to progress by merely resting on the laurels of its time honoured labels. It is doubtful indeed that anything productive can emerge from the exercise of finding fault with the Western systems. The crisis in higher education – and for that matter, crisis in education at all levels – is most acute in Muslim countries, not in the West.

In fact, in the West, much less is said about the need for moral rectitude and ethical behaviour in education, yet the universities are at the forefront in producing the most sought after graduates, and in research and development. In saying this, I am not suggesting that moral rectitude and ethical behaviour in education are irrelevant but that this has to be seen in deed and action, not in proclamation of intentions.

In analysing the causes of the decline of the ummah be it in the field of education or any other field of significance, we should do away with the defensive mind-set that seems to have exemplified Muslim writers. Though Islamophobia is indeed a real problem, it is nevertheless not a cause or a factor that may be legitimately linked to the decline.

In this regard, going back to first principles is a better recourse. The Qur’an reminds us:

“Similar situations [as yours] have passed on before you, so proceed throughout the earth and observe how was the end of those who denied.” (Ali Imran: 137)

It is clear that much can be learned from the lessons of history. Malik Bennabi’s central thesis is indeed relevant concerning the need for original ideas and that a vibrant progressive society may emerge only if it can break free from the tradition of intellectual retardation.[5]

Bennabi tells us that a society’s wealth is not measured by material possessions but by ideas and that it is only from creative ideas alone that great strides in civilization were made.[6]

In the area of scientific and technological advancement, it bears recalling that Bennabi was already advocating the importance of the inculcation of skills and competencies in all fields as well as vocational and technical training for the ummah. And this is absolutely essential for the ummah to move ahead with the times.[7]

Education, rationality and ijtihad

Education must proceed on the basis of rationality and with that ijtihad. I am using this term in the sense as explained by Al-F?r?q?, where he has said:

As a methodical principle, rationalism is constitutive of the essence of Islamic civilization. … Rationalism does not mean the priority of reason over revelation but the rejection of any ultimate contradiction between them.[8]

Al-F?r?q? presented Islam as the religion par excellence of reason, science, and progress with a strong emphasis on action and the work ethic. Any suggestion that the advocacy of rationality in the articulation of educational policies and principles is grounded in secular thinking is therefore without foundation.[9]

For the advancement of the ummah, Al-F?r?q? advocates the fundamental processes of tajdid and islah in order to renew and reform the educational system.

To move ahead with the changing times is not tantamount to abandoning first principles or a rejection of tradition. Professor Naquib al-Attas, always mindful of the need to reassert the primacy of Islam as an intellectual tradition, persuasively argues that real modern education cannot be separated from the categories of knowledge fundamental to the Islamic tradition whereas contemporary modern knowledge should be freed from its secular-bound interpretations.[10]

To al-Attas, the major cause of not just of the crisis of Muslim education but the general retrogression of the ummah is the failure to inculcate ta?dib, which is the cultivation of the inner dimensions of the self, centering on the spirit of knowledge and education.

To my mind, and in this regard, it might constitute a contrarian view, rather than viewing it as a clash of views, I see a convergence of approaches between al-F?r?q? and al-Attas. If I may use the analogy of the Baytu l-?ar?m, there are various entrances to the holiest of holy sites in Islam but by which ever entrance used, the ultimate destination remains the Ka’aba. In both their approaches, we can discern a unified concern for the revivification of Islamic knowledge and thought.

That concern was not entirely new. From the time of Muhammad ‘Abduh, the call for change was couched in the language of modernity. Even back then there was the suspicion of ‘Abduh attempting to introduce secularism through the back door of ijtih?d but we know that such allegations are misconceived. On the contrary, what ‘Abduh did was to subject the moral and epistemological premises of secular modernity to scrutiny and he came to the conclusion that Islam’s modernity was both non-Western and non-secular.[11]

Allama Iqbal reminded us of the inadequacy of fiqh for the requirements of his time and called for ijtih?d. In doing so, he rightly cautioned that in the area of legislation for the State, ijtih?d should be undertaken as a collective enterprise and not individuals going on their own ways.[12]

Nevertheless, it would be timely to reconsider the constraints on the adoption of the ijtihad, including those advocated by Iqbal, removing them and allowing the doctrine to apply beyond legal matters into the realm of everyday life.

In this regard, we are in complete agreement with Sheikh Taha’s call for the revival of knowledge based on divine revelation against blind imitation of supposedly modern curricula in all areas of education where the dissemination of knowledge appears to be deliberately divorced from Islam’s core values.[13]

One must not forget that taqlid can also refer to blind imitation of the West and falling prey, even subconsciously, to the influence of the biases latent in the language of discourse. Hence, the need to propound alternative views and articulate a greater degree of independent thinking.[14]

The caveat against blind adoption of liberal views was sounded by Fazlur Rahman: “Universal values are the crux of the being of a society: the debate about the relativity of moral values in a society is born of a liberalism that in the process of liberalisation has become so perverted as to destroy those very moral values that it set out to liberate from the constraints of dogma.”[15]

A tentative prescription in the tradition of IIIT

In formulating a new prescription for Muslims one can do no better than to echo the calls made in the tradition of the International Institute of Islamic Thought on the Islamization of knowledge as pioneered by al-Marhum Ismail al-F?r?q?. I use the word ‘echo’ deliberately with the rider that a fresh interpretation is called for in order to do justice to the purport of this approach. This fresh interpretation is in tandem with the commitment to the core values of Islam.

In my humble view, this is necessary because in failing to do justice to these fundamental principles, certain scholars and ulema have confounded the plain message of the Qur’an and the Sunnah. They call for the adoption of the Shari’ah without a deeper understanding of the maqasid, giving preference to scholastic views and speculative opinions, many of which rely on unauthentic hadith and a skewered understanding of hudud law.[16] Indeed, this is clearly contrary to the clear message of the Qur’an:

“This [Qur'an] is a clear statement to [all] the people and a guidance and instruction for those conscious of Allah.” (Ali Imran: 138)

Though we would expect it to be taken for granted, yet it is imperative to remind ourselves that the Qur??n is more than just a moral code. Indeed it is a universal guide for the community. If we take the definition of education as a social extension of culture and culture as a definitive or core ingredient of civilization, then this approach of the Islamization of knowledge will lead to a truly holistic adoption of Islam’s core values. This indeed will be the best answer to the question what is the Islamic weltanschauung:

“You are the best nation produced [as an example] for mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah.” (Ali Imran: 110)

Secondly, to my mind, there is some substance in the observation that in the current approach to the Islamization of knowledge endeavour, there is a preponderance of focus on the social sciences while the crisis of the ummah in practical terms can be traced to it being technologically and scientifically lagging behind the non-Muslim communities.[17]

The project should therefore be broadened to attract more scholars and participants from the physical sciences and in time this will add a more balanced critical mass to the intellectual force. After all, the Bayt al-Hikmah of the Golden Age of Islam gave birth to not just philosophers but eminent scientists. In fact, the bifurcation between the two was not the norm as the holistic pursuit of knowledge saw the genesis of “philosopher-scientists” competent in a wide spectrum of intellectual disciplines.[18] At the core of this focus, I believe, is the divine injunction on the use of the intellectual faculty.

Thus, the Qur’an enjoins the use of reason to ascertain the truth as provided by the senses, and truth grounded on revelation:

“And He has subjected to you whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth – all from Him. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.” (al-Jathiyah:13)

Finally, we must consider it a jihad to free ourselves from a new shroud of ignorance that has been cast upon the ummah. Shaykh Muhammad al-Ghazali reminds us that “ignorance combined with bigotry and caprice are a great misfortune.” The antidote to this is the pursuit of knowledge which will widen our horizons and strengthen our resolve and will-power for individuals as well as communities.[19]

Thank you.


[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy –  http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/locke-moral/ An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, in P.H. Nidditch (ed.), An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, based on the fourth edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975.

[2] http://www.newstatesman.com/ideas/2010/04/smith-market-essay-sentiments

[3] Ismail Raji al Faruqi, Al Tawhid: Its Implications for Thought and Life, 2nd ed., Herndon: IIIT, 1992, p. 157

[4] Ibid. at p.170

[5] Badrane Benlahcene, The Socio-Intellectual Foundations of Malek Bennabi’s Approach To Civilisation, IIIT, 2011

[6] Malik Bennabi, Mushkilat al Afkar fil Alam al Islami, trans. M Ali, Cairo: Maktabat Amar, 1971, 56

[7] Abdulaziz Berghout, The Concept of Culture and Cultural Transformation: Views of Malik Bennabi, Intellectual Discourse, 2001 Vol. 9, No 1, pp. 78-79

[8] Ismail R. al Faruqi and Lois Lamya al Faruqi, Cultural Atlas of Islam, Macmillan Publishing Company: New York, 1986, pp.78-79

[9] Islam and Knowledge: Al Faruqi’s Concept Of Religion In Islamic Thought, ed. Imtiyaz Yusuf, I.B. Tauris in association with IIIT and the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre for Muslim-Christian Understanding, Georgetown University, Washington 2012

[10] Prolegomena to the Metaphysics of Islam: An Exposition of the Fundamental Elements of the Worldview of Islam, Kuala Lumpur: International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization, 1995

[11] Tradition and Modernity – Christian and Muslim Perspectives, ed. David Marshall, Georgetown University Press, 2013, Chapter on “Muhammad ‘Abduh – A Sufi-inspired Modernist?” by Vincent J. Cornell p.108

[12] Muhammad Iqbal, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, Kitab Bhavan, 2000

[13] Taha J. al-Alwani, Islamic Thought: An Approach To Reform

[14] Epistemological Bias in the Physical & Social Sciences, Edited by A. M. Elmessiri, IIIT

[15] Liberal Islam – A Sourcebook, ed. Charles Kruzman, Oxford University Press, 1998, Ch. 31 on Fazlur Rahman’s Islam and Modernity p.317

[16] Mohammad Omar Farooq, Toward Our Reformation: From Legalism to Value-Oriented Islamic Law and Jurisprudence, IIIT, 2011

[17] Seyyed Vali Reza Nasr, “Islamization of Knowledge: A Critical Overview”, Islamic Studies Vol. 30, No. 3 (Autumn 1991), pp. 387-400

[18] Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. “The Teaching of Philosophy.” In Philosophy, Literature, and Fine Arts, edited by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, pp. 3–21. Islamic Education Series. Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, 1982

[19] Shaykh  Muhammad al-Ghazali, A Thematic Commentary on the Qur’an, trans. Ashur A. Shamis, rev. Zaynab Alawiye, IIIT, 2000, pp. 516-517

1 December 2013

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

Saya telah menerima pandangan semua pihak mengenai kenaikan gaji yang melibatkan wakil rakyat Selangor. Saya juga telah mendapat penjelasan dari YAB Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim mengenai rasional kenaikan gaji tersebut.

Pun begitu, KEADILAN sebagai parti yang membawa semangat reformasi perlu terus sensitif dengan kesempitan hidup yang dihadapi rakyat terbanyak.

Oleh itu, setelah berbincang dengan YAB Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, saya bersetuju bahawa satu Tabung Pendidikan KEADILAN Anak Selangor akan ditubuhkan bertujuan mengagihkan biasiswa pendidikan kecil dan mengendalikan program pendidikan terutamanya di peringkat sekolah menengah dan pra-universiti.

Setiap wakil rakyat KEADILAN akan menyumbang RM1,000 sebulan atau 20% dari jumlah kenaikan gaji bulanan yang diumumkan untuk membiayai pemberian biasiswa kecil dan program pendidikan di bawah Tabung Pendidikan KEADILAN Anak Selangor.

Jumlah sumbangan wakil-wakil rakyat KEADILAN dari Selangor kelak dijangka mencecah setengah juta setahun dari kenaikan gaji mereka yang dapat membantu keluarga berpendapatan rendah dalam bidang pendidikan.

Anwar Ibrahim
Ketua Umum KEADILAN

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