Saturday, February 11, 2012

"We cannot separate Islam from the government in Malaysia." (On Malaysia and the Myth of Moderate Islam)

This post contains a short list of links to articles that present the case for Malaysia as an example of moderate Islam. The last article linked to, based on a speech given by the Prime Minister of Malaysia while visiting Turkey in February of 2011, is also repeated here in full.

I am not linking to rabid right-wing denunciations of Islam. I am linking to things written by those who sincerely believe that there is a good Islam and a bad Islam, and that Malaysia represents a very positive example of good Islam.

The first article was written by Nazry Bahrawi, a Research Associate at the Middle East Institute, National University of Singapore, who, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, cautions against too much of a good thing when it comes to moderate Islam.

The second article is by Jiesheng Li, a doctoral candidate at the Department of Political Science and International Studies, University of Birmingham, who argues that in the wake of 9/11 "Malaysia’s actions were to change the international perception of Muslims worldwide and indirectly help to steer Muslims away from joining extremists or terrorist groups."

The third article is written by and Evangelical Christian who states with enthusiasm that " While Democracy and Islam do not usually go hand in hand, in Malaysia they co-exist with a surprising degree of harmony."

The final article is based, as already mentioned, on a speech given by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, from which the quote in the title of this post is taken.

The immediate inspiration for this post is the arrest in Malaysia this week of a young Saudi journalist, Hamza Kashgari, fleeing for his life, after he was officially declared, by the King of Saudi Arabia himself, to be an "infidel", for which only one penalty exists in Saudi Arabia: death. The "moderate" Malaysian police were waiting for Kashgari when he landed in Kuala Lumpur airport, where he had hoped to make a connecting flight to New Zealand. And the "moderate" Malaysian police immediately contacted the Saudi Arabian government and began making arrangements to turn Kashgari over to those who wish to put him to death for his blasphemies.

  1. Moderate Islam in Southeast Asia and Egypt, Oct. 28, 2011
  2. Moderate Islam as a base with pragmatism, Jan., 2008
  3. On Malaysia’s Moderate Muslims and why you should care The Evangelical Outpost, Oct. 14, 2010
  4. "Moderate Islam is what Malaysia offers the world." (Bangkok based news site) Feb., 2008 [The full test of this article is given directly below.]

ISTANBUL, Feb 25 [2011] (Bernama) - Prime Minister Najib Razak said Malaysia has proven that its system of governance, based on moderate Islam, has worked and can be a good model for other countries in the world to emulate, especially Islamic countries.

He said in view of what was taking place in the world today, it was important to ensure that the system of administration adopted was working.

The key consideration, he said, was that "if you have a system, would it work to produce good and effective governance?" Najib said this as a panellist at the Global Movement for Justice, Peace and Dignity Conference, here, Wednesday.

The session was recorded by BBC World News to be aired by the channel at a later date. It was moderated by BBC journalist Zeinab Badawi.

The other panellists included Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan, Paramadina University of Indonesia president Dr Anies Baswedan and Arab Business Council co-founder/vice-chairman Khalid Abdulla-Janahi.

Najib said a good and effective governance could deliver the goods and services to the people.

"A good system allows the people to participate in the system, it empowers the people to decide their own destiny.

"In case of Malaysia, it is very much like Turkey. Without having to blow our own trumpet, we have a modern system, much like Turkey.

"Therefore, we can offer the Malaysian model because it has worked. From a relatively poor nation whose economy was based on agriculture, we have moved to industrialising the economy.

"Now, we have planned initiatives for the next phase. We have a very detailed roadmap of transformation. The next wave of transformation is to become a high-income nation," said Najib.

He said the success of a system was not just about numbers but also about whether it could improve the quality of life, and about good values, ensuring fairness, rule of law, being inclusive, having social safety net and caring for the poor.

"These are the things that we have put in place in Malaysia. So, in this regard, I believe we have something to offer to the world." Nevertheless, he said, every nation would have to look at its needs based on its own peculiarities and had to make adjustments to the values, to empower the people to a more prosperous and better future.

When asked by Zeinab Badawi whether the Malaysian model was a better model for an Islamic country than the Turkish, Najib's response which drew laughter from the audience was, "I have to be careful on this as I am in Turkey." The Malaysian prime minister said it was an important thing for Malaysia to choose its own destiny.

"And the way we have developed our political structure is that Islam plays an integral part in the country's policies and administration.

"We cannot separate Islam from the government in Malaysia. But having said that, it is also Islam that is moderate that we apply in Malaysia. For example, Islam in Malaysia is not associated with violence, Islam in Malaysia is benign and that is being practised by and large," he added.

The conference was jointly organised by the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia and International Movement For A Just World (JUST) in conjunction with Najib's three-day official visit to Turkey from Feb 21-23. (Bernama)