Sunday, August 01, 2010

What's up with Mahathir, Young Imam reality show, anti-ISA, religious-bigots, Anne Rice, and North Korea's relation with Myanmar?

Dr Mahathir remarked that the plunge of 81.1% in Foreign Direct Investment in Malaysia is due to foreigners' lack of funds without taking into account the incapability of the ruling government. Apparently he is still not awaken from his sleep since 1997 economic crisis despite Thomas L. Friedman's diligent attempt to wake him up in 'The Lexus and the Olive Tree'.

After 13 years, he still cannot accept that fact that he and his ruling regime has failed Malaysia. If foreigners really have no money to invest into the country, where then do the foreign funds invested into Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines come from?

Dr Mahathir is still denying the fact that the country he once ruled is functioning on the disintegrating structure and rotting image he has built into the country on the global map. His remark is an attempt to purge himself from being responsible for the severe problem the nation has inherited from his governance.

While Malaysia is failing to attract more foreign investment, the popular local Young Imam reality show has selected Muhammad Asyraf Mohamad Ridzuan as the winner. He is known as a "religious scholar" representing Islam. The criteria for winning are "recite verses from the Koran, wash corpses and slaughter sheep according to Islamic rules, and persuade youngsters away from sex and drugs."

Without any intention to offend Muslims, I think that setting up such criteria to select an Imam that embodies the ideals of local young generation of Muslims is promoting the wrong value among the people.

A religious leader, not to mention a religious scholar, should be someone who is intellectually and socially tested and qualified. The criteria used in Young Imam prioritize solely the virtue of following instructions at the risk of independent intellectual capability. Obedience without a critical mind is at best someone who does best to obey and follow; not to lead and inspire. Are we selecting the best potential leader or someone who is best being led?

Could this be the epitome of Malaysia's educational value under the ruling government? Popularizing 'docile' as the ultimate virtue among the masses in order to rule them with ease? If so, then the show is deviating the Islamic tradition of which its history is graced by intellectuals like Abū Ḥāmed Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad al-Ghazālī and Abū 'l-Walīd Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad ibn Rushd.

It couldn't be more obvious that the ruling government does not value independent critical thinking. Just yesterday, 33 people who attended anti-Internal-Security-Act virgil were arrested. Within this context, the reality show is a political act to subtly restructure the consciousness of the masses.

September 11 is nearing. Some American Christians want to hold a 'Burn a Quran' day to commemorate the day. “We only did it because we felt there needed to be an outcry against Islam, because Islam is presenting itself as a religion of peace,” said Dr. Terry Jones, senior pastor of Dove World Outreach Center.

One can easily sympathize with those like Terry Jones who feel defeated to be hopeful to see Islam as a peaceful religion with all the escalating violence being carried out by Muslims at certain quarters around the world. The picture of Islam being a peaceful religion at this moment in history is still to be seen. Yet organizing a commemoration by burning Quran is not what the world needs right now. Nothing is more urgent than to build trustworthy relationship between Muslims and Christians. And the proposed commemoration could just easily jeopardize any effort to do that. In turn, in irony, presenting Christianity as a religion of bigotry.

No wonder the fame novelist, Anne Rice, recently announced her dissociation from 'Christians'. "I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being 'Christian' or to being part of Christianity," she said.

Her sentiment appends my reason why I'm not a 'Christian'. I have stated that I'm not a Christian because I'm too cowardice to consider myself as one. It just amazes me that some people are so casual to identify themselves as 'Christian' without thinking through what does that identification entails. They thought believing the Apostle Creed is enough. Well, "even the demons believe that—and shudder." (James 2.19)

Nearer to our shore, though we don't know the full details of North Korean minister's visit to Myanmar, but we can be sure that he is not there for holidays.

Myanmar has just sealed its relationship with India despite disagreement in the 1990s. It has been on good terms with China. Now, by sealing relationship with North Korea despite difference since 1983, Myanmar has secured support from three powerful nations in the region. All three possess nuclear weapons.

The junta can now ignore Asean's pressure for it to be democratic. None of the Asean members possess nuclear technology. What's there to be afraid of when you have countries with big economic and military power as friends?

A democratic future for Myanmar is still far from sight. Asean's losing control of one of its members reveals how inadequate the working relationship among the members. They still have not figure out how should they relate to one another since 1967.

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