Sunday, November 19, 2006

The wrap: Malaysia edition

Malaysia's had a quite a rough ride this year, even from my rather distanced perspective. The long, drawn-out war between Dr.M and Badawi, with the spectre of Anwar Ibrahim lingering in the background, and an upturn (perceived or otherwise) in Islamic fundamentalism and inflammatory racial rhetoric, along with the usual complaints about corruption and injustice must have wearied all Malaysians. We seem to be approaching a delicate moment in our history - where should we go from here?

While Malaysia fiddles, its opportunities are running dry - This piece by the Australian columnist Michael Backman touched a raw nerve somewhere. Despite Rafidah's summary dismissal of the article, the truth is, it eloquently articulated the concerns of many Malaysians.

For those interested in an overview of the Dr.M-Badawi faceoff, TIME ASIA has done a decent story. It probably won't be available free forever.

Kuala Lumpur assembly marked by power struggle - An concise AP report of the recent UMNO assembly. For one of the many examples of some of the things that were on the agenda, see here. I have sympathy for our Prime Minister, but this over-the-top NST editorial is just ridiculous. Finally, see this Al-Jazeera article to see how often news is spun differently in both the English-speaking and vernacular press.

Farish Noor is oft-lauded as Malaysia's most straight-talking, irreverent, public intellectual. Utilising postcolonial theory and a deconstructionist framework, he argues that the Malays have accepted the racial construct that British colonisers had imposed on them, namely that of the idle and barbaric race.. It is such a construct that is ironically used to perpetuate existing power relations. I'm not sure if I can fully accept the methodology that Dr. Noor employs (can everything be reduced to discourse analysis and ideology?); nevertheless there are insights to be gleaned from here. There is an an edited version available at this Pakistani newspaper.

[On a related note, here is an Intro to Postcolonial studies which might help if you're feeling a little lost after reading Noor. Dr. Ng Kam Weng's Exploring the role of Orientalism is quite interesting as well.]

The Agora has posted a press release from NECF Malaysia in response to UMNO President's Presidential address.
Also worth reflecting on (and praying through!) is their statement on the Lina Joy case.

Some important Scriptural principles regarding government.

Life as a secret Christian convert, from the BBC. I hope to catch the repeat on radio tomorrow.

Finally, some words from Scripture:

"I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone — for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness."
- 1 Tim 2:1-2

Blogger Tim said...

really enjoyed the Michael Backman article and the diverse responses highlighted on your blog, not just because its from my neck of the woods (actually i didnt even know he wrote a column in the Age, the local newspaper around here..), but also because its an issue that i've been keeping an increasingly close eye on this year in Malaysia...

it's something that's really worrying alot of overseas Malaysians especially .. especially the expat Malaysian community who are currently residing in Western countries. I know becuase my parents and I have had many discussions about racial and ethnic divisions - something that was previously taboo around the dinner table. i suspect alot more malaysians would be so much more vocal about this if they didnt fear the ISA so much (or whatever it is the Malaysian government is calling it nowadays..)

What are your own thoughts on the whole thing anyway?

5:03 pm  
Blogger BK said...


Sorry for the late reply. Am really busy chasing deadlines and I do sometimes find living in London rather tiring. Anyway, some brief things to say:

1. I don't really have that much substantive to offer by way of formulating solutions, especially since I don't know the ins and outs of the NEP really well. Nevertheless I am convinced that part of the reforms required include an overhaul of the current education system, which I believe perpetuates the current division. I kind of like the idea of Wawasan schools in theory. This is a very sensitive issue with both sides though. And I have no credibility - never ever having attended a vernacular school.

Do read others who have thought much longer and harder on this issue, including Lim Kit Siang, Rustam Sani, Farish Noor, even Sharir Samad - all of whom maintain blogs or websites. Reading Malaysiakini's letters sections can be quite informative too - it represents at least what some of the middle classes are thinking (I'm assuming most of those who write in are from that class).

2. Some of these issues are coming to the fore due to recent political developments - UMNO trying to "out-Islamise PAS" since circa 1999, and the fact that Abdullah Badawi is not the strongman Dr. M was, thus he isn't as able to control UMNO under his thumb. There is a worrying rise in religious extremism, which has been there since a couple of years ago but is beginning to become visible. (See also latest Newsweek international edition which has a report on the rise of extremist elements in Islam in Southeast Asia.)

3. Will Malaysians be more vocal, or apathetic, or cynical? I really don't know. But Christians should certainly be at least thinking about these issues. It does seem as if an us vs. them approach is counterproductive, and instead of endlessly complaining about favouritism, we should be seeking to try to redress imbalance and seek racial reconciliation where possible.

4. It is also worth remembering, I think, that the ultimate answer will not be economical, or political, but lies in the person of Jesus. This isn't me being simplistic, or trying to deny the presence of structural evil, or retreating into a spiritualised ghetto. I'm thinking of passages like Acts 10 however, where Peter talks about how he knows God doesn't show favouritism and tells the gospel to Cornelius, part of the ruling classes, or Ephesians 2, where Paul reminds us of the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles to each other because of their reconciliation to God through the cross of Christ.

The gospel should work itself out in every part of our lives, so that even in our actions in challenging these racial divisions and social injustice is rooted in the command to love our neighbour, and ultimately in pointing people to Jesus and the true freedom he brings. (1 Peter 2:12, Titus 2:10)

Hope I'm making sense. I really shouldn't be replying so late at night - I'm going to wake up tomorrow, see what I've written, and recoil in horror because I'll be thinking: "BK, you hypocrite! Are you sure you can stand up to those convictions?"

12:09 am  
Blogger The Hedonese said...

Perhaps, Fear best describes the mood on the ground. When the goings get tough, Christians get migrating again!

Lord, help us to have Faith in You and be faithful to Your calling.

10:18 am  

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