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Anwar Ibrahim

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Anwar Ibrahim


Surat M. Jusuf Kalla kepada Ketua Pengarang Berita Harian

Posted: 18 Jul 2013 08:59 AM PDT

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Bring Back Egypt’s Elected Government

Posted: 18 Jul 2013 08:48 AM PDT

Project Syndicate

Putting an end to Egypt's deepening polarization and rising bloodshed requires one urgent first step: the reinstatement of Mohamed Morsi as Egypt's duly elected president. His removal by military coup was unjustified. While it is true that millions of demonstrators opposed Morsi's rule, even massive street protests do not constitute a valid case for a military coup in the name of the "people" when election results repeatedly say otherwise.

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Illustration by Chris Van Es

There is no doubt that Egyptian society is deeply divided along sectarian, ideological, class, and regional lines. Yet the country has gone to the polls several times since the February 2011 overthrow of Mubarak's 30-year rule. The results have demonstrated strong popular support for Islamist parties and positions, though they also make clear the country's schisms.

In late 2011 and early 2012, Egypt held parliamentary elections. Morsi's Freedom and Justice Party, created by the Muslim Brotherhood, secured a plurality, and the two major Islamist blocs together received roughly two-thirds of the vote. In June 2012, Morsi defeated his rival Ahmed Shafik, Mubarak's final prime minister, by a margin of 52-48% to win the presidency. In a national referendum in December 2012, a 64% majority of those voting approved a draft constitution backed by the Muslim Brotherhood (though turnout was low).

The secular argument that Morsi's lust for power jeopardized Egypt's nascent democracy does not bear scrutiny. Secular, military, and Mubarak-era foes of the Muslim Brotherhood have used every lever at their disposal, democratic or not, to block the Islamist parties' democratic exercise of power. This is consistent with a decades-old pattern in Egyptian history, in which the Brothers – and Islamist political forces in general – were outlawed, and their members imprisoned, tortured, and exiled.

Claims that Morsi ruled undemocratically stem from his repeated attempts to extricate the popularly elected parliament and presidency from anti-democratic traps set by the military. After the Islamist parties' huge victory in the 2011-2012 parliamentary elections, the military leadership and the Supreme Court (filled with Mubarak-era judges) worked to derail the new parliament and prevent it from establishing an assembly to draft a new constitution.

The key action came in June 2012, when the Supreme Court, staffed entirely with Mubarak-era holdovers, nullified the results of the parliamentary elections on specious grounds. The military was set to reassert full legislative powers.

Morsi's subsequent victory in the presidential election therefore set up an epic battle over the future of the parliament and the constitution, as Morsi attempted to protect the democratically elected parliament while the military fought to dissolve it. In the end, Morsi insisted that the elected parliament create a constitutional assembly, which produced the draft approved in the December 2012 referendum.

As is typical of political revolutions, Egypt's economic situation has gone from bad to worse in the course of these power struggles. Revolutions tend to confront new governments with steeply rising social demands (for wage increases and higher welfare spending, for example) at a time of capital flight, financial turmoil, and deep disruptions of production. In Egypt's case, the crucial tourist sector contracted sharply after the revolution. Unemployment soared, the currency depreciated, and food prices rose dangerously.

None of this is surprising, and little of it can be managed by a new government that lacks experience, market confidence, and full control of the levers of power. Historically, outside parties have thus played a decisive role. Will foreign governments and the International Monetary Fund extend vital finances to the new government, or will they let it flounder and drown in a tsunami of currency depreciation and inflation?

Here, the feckless West – torn between its democratic rhetoric and its antipathy to the Islamists – showed its hand. The result was equivocation and delay, rather than commitment and assistance. The IMF has talked with the Egyptian government for two and a half years since Mubarak's overthrow without so much as lending a single cent, sealing the Egyptian economy's fate and contributing to public unrest and the recent coup.

It appears from press reports that the West finally gave the green light to the Egyptian military to overthrow Morsi, arrest the Muslim Brotherhood's leadership, and repress the Islamist rank and file. US President Barack Obama's unwillingness to stand up for Egypt's elected leaders, or even to label their overthrow a "coup" (thereby protecting the continued flow of US funds to the Egyptian military), shows that when push came to shove, the West sided with the anti-Islamists in subverting democracy. Of course, in classic Orwellian fashion, the West did so in democracy's name.

The coup and the West's complacency about it (if not complicity in it) could devastate Egypt. The Islamists are neither a marginal political group nor a terrorist force. They represent a large part of Egypt's population, perhaps half or more, and are certainly the country's best-organized political force. The attempt to repress the Muslim Brotherhood and to deny Morsi the presidency to which he was elected will most likely lead to massive violence and the strangulation of democracy, however the West and Egyptian anti-Islamists try to justify their actions.

At this point, the correct course for the West would be to call on Egypt's military to reinstate Morsi; to offer prompt financing to help stabilize the Egyptian economy; and to support true pluralism, not the kind that reverts to military coups when elections produce inconvenient results.

True pluralism means accepting the strength of Islamist political forces in the new Egypt and other countries in the region. Short of this, the West will most likely end up as an accomplice to Egypt's continuing downward spiral into violence and economic collapse.

Read more at http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/democracy-in-egypt-requires-reinstating-mohamed-morsi-by-jeffrey-d–sachs#hrJ27OEjLwtQgv8S.99

Malala’s message to Malaysia

Posted: 18 Jul 2013 04:06 AM PDT

Malaysiakini

Given the system of universal education it inherited from its former British colonial masters, Malaysia could and should be a model of learning and enlightenment for the Muslim-majority countries of the world.

God knows there's a crying need for such a model, considering how disgracefully most of them perform in global repression, corruption and social-justice rankings.

But thanks to 55 years of misrule by a regime that employs race and religion to perpetuate its power to plunder the nation's natural resources and other riches, Malaysia's formerly enviable educational system is far from a paragon of excellence, and appears to be getting progressively worse.

And no wonder. Teachers are routinely required to support and vote for the BN regime or else. Languages of instruction are confusingly changed at the will or whim of the powers that be. Public higher education places and scholarships are allocated according to ethnic quotas, not academic achievement. Universities are run by political appointees, and their students routinely penalised or outright expelled for supporting opposition parties.

And in its latest plot to appear sincere as the alleged 'protector' of Malaysia's majority race and religion, this robber-regime has elected to make the study of Islamic and Asian Civilisation studies (Titas), long compulsory in public universities, mandatory in private institutions as well.

Not that there's anything remotely wrong with the study of Islamic and Asian Civilisation per se. In fact I wish my own unfortunately Eurocentric, Christianity-biased education had been counterbalanced with much more Islamic and Asian content.

After all, Asian philosophers like Lao Tzu, Siddharta Gautama and Confucius have been as influential in human history as many of their ancient Greek contemporaries. And we have the then-tolerant and open-minded Muslim world to thank for preserving pre-Christian European thought from destruction at the hands of the Churchmen through the thousand or so years of Europe's 'Dark Ages'.

But nowadays Muslims are threatened with a dark age of their own by governments and fundamentalist groups dedicated to keeping theummah as poor, ignorant and powerless as possible and thus perverting the very religion they so hypocritically pretend to protect in their pursuit of power and plunder.

Demonising non-Muslims

And as "moderate" as it may be thus far compared with its counterparts in Taliban-infested Afghanistan, Pakistan and sundry other such Horrorstans, Malaysia's BN regime is similarly dedicated to demonising non-Muslims, through government-funded pressure groups like Perkasa, 'newspapers' like Utusan Malaysia and indoctrination posing as education as in this latest Islamic and Asian Civilisation studies initiative.

The fact of the matter is that the BN regime's influence on Malaysia and its every institution is not so much civilising as drivelising, as evidenced by the stupid, lying statements its spokespersons invariably make, the miserable state of its mendacious so-called "mainstream" media, and of course its lamentable efforts to "improve" the education system.

In any event, if this larcenous, low-brow regime had an even remotely sincere intention of making Malaysian higher education a more civilizing experience it would hardly be justified in limiting its efforts to imparting information about Islam and Asia.

As Malaysiakini quoted Catholic Bishop of Malacca-Johore Dr Paul Tan Chee Ing as commenting, this is an "unwarrantedly narrowed engagement with the best that has been said, thought and done in this world".

Granting that "Islamic and Asian civilisations have given much that is of value" to humankind, he said that additionally exposing students to Greek, Roman and Judeo-Christian thought would go a long way toward giving graduates some familiarity with "the good, the true and the beautiful".

Making the point that "universities ought to be citadels for the disinterested contemplation of truth," he added that "there's no freedom like that conferred by knowledge of the truth, and there's no bondage more enslaving than the truth's suppression in the interests of politics".

The good bishop knows what he's talking about here, as it was the church he represents that spent the interminable centuries of the aforementioned dark ages systematically suppressing every scientific and other truth that could possibly threaten its spiritual, political and economic stranglehold over the faithful.

And it was only relatively recently in historical terms that the sorely-needed Reformation and the philosophical and political Enlightenment finally forced the Catholic and other Christian religions to at least partially clean up their acts and devote themselves to the pursuit of truth somewhat more sincerely than hitherto.

The fact of the matter is that, unlike training or, God forbid, indoctrination, education should be about teaching us not what some religion or government wants us to think, but how to think for ourselves. Or as the great Immanuel Kant expressed the spirit of the enlightenment, to dare to think for ourselves.

Personification of such daring

And if there's one contemporary symbol and personification of such daring, it is Malala Yousafzai, the young Muslim girl who was shot by the Taliban last October for the "crime" of attending school.

In her recent address to the United Nations General Assembly on the occasion of her 16th birthday, Malala put the advocates and supporters of warring sectarian "truths" to shame by speaking of "the compassion I have learned from Muhammad, the prophet ofNONEmercy, Jesus Christ and Lord Buddha… the legacy of change I have inherited from Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela (right) and Mohammad Ali Jinnah… (and) the philosophy of non-violence that I have learned from Gandhi, Bacha Khan and Mother Theresa."

Later in her eloquent and intelligent address, she criticised those who misuse Islam, "a religion of peace, humanity and brotherhood", for their own personal benefit, before closing with the clarion call for the world to use education "to wage a glorious struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism."

And also, of course, against BN-style errorism, in which education is used as a weapon to divide rather than unite the people of Malaysia, and education departments are used as milk-cows for corruption on a massive scale, the latest of countless scandalous instances of which being the contract recently awarded to crony company YTL Corp for overpriced Chromebook laptop computers.

But unfortunately, as well all know only too well, the criminals who so cretinously misgovern and mislead Malaysia are extremely unlikely to hear, let alone heed, such enlightened and educational messages as Malela's. In fact, if their past practices are any indication, they're more likely to figuratively, if not yet like the Taliban literally, shoot the messenger.

 

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