Aesop’s fables have been on my mind lately. In particular, the story of the lion and the mouse. Once, the lion saved the mouse by grace, having caught itself only a meager mouthful. The mouse never forgot the lion’s deed of kindness. Then, one day, when the lion was caught in a net, the mouse returned its kindness by gnawing through the net to release the lion. The relationship between the United States of America and Malaysia, my country of origin and erstwhile homeland, can be likened to that between the lion and the mouse.
Mr.Abdullah Badawi, the Prime Minister of Malaysia and chairman of the 57-member Organization of Islamic Nations comprising of 1.8 billion people, is an Islamic scholar facing some of the complexities of religious conscience that faced Mr. Abraham Lincoln’s government of the 1860s’. President George W. Bush is a born again evangelical Christian, also facing some rather daunting challenges on a national and international level: Bush tries to win over war-weary nation. I think both men ought to meet.
I must say, I am rather proud of Mr. Abdullah Badawi for acknowledging that Islamic nations are among the most corrupt. I agree with Mr. Badawi when he says that corruption in Muslim countries is due to poverty, poor governance, and limited education opportunities. Where I cannot nod acquiescence is when he asks Malaysian citizens to end debate on divisive issues: Malaysia PM urges end to debate on divisive issues. The divisive issue that the Malaysian PM is seeking an end to within Malaysia is Article 11 of the Malaysian constitution that pertains to religious freedom and Article 121 that states that civil courts cannot intervene with respect to matters under the jurisdiction of the Islamic sharia courts.
Mr. Badawi insists that the constitutional provisions cannot be discussed because these are matters sensitive to religion. He says that even in the United States there is sensitivity within the nation regarding religion and race. True. But as pointed out by John Stuart Mill, the English philosopher, in his essay, “The Contest in America,” we cannot blind ourselves “to the possibility of a long war to lower the arrogance and tame the aggressive ambitions of…..” in this instance Islamist extremists.
Americans did not balk at conflict to secure peace. And by peace I don’t mean the uneasy and might I add, unholy, fearful alliance between the races that exists in Malaysia. Even now, there is vigorous debate and conflict within the United States as the American government and its people contend with an enemy who has brought its struggle for civil liberties to U.S shores. The mouse and the lion metaphor applies in so far as Prime Minister, Mr. Badawi, and the President Mr. George W. Bush, are able through diplomatic discussions to address the lack of religious liberty within Islam and in Malaysia, and secure it for a future generation such that the struggle for supremacy would not take on the violent nature that it has.