World View

“Every reform was once a private opinion, and when it shall be a private opinion again it will solve the problem of the age.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson –
Brilliant, was my first impression when I read John G.Ikenberry and Anne-Marie Slaughter’s Newsweek International article, “World View: A World of Liberty and Law.” These potentially powerful ideas, from Princeton, no less, need to be examined.

Let me summarize their ideas.
1. Drop the idea of fighting global war/Islamofascism because it encourages the clash of civilizations and the definition of terrorists as warriors.
2. Adopt multipronged approach to build strong liberal democracies over a period of……
3. US must lead the way in rebuilding our global institutions…
4. US must renew its “grand bargain” with the rest of the world…..

1. I loved the idea of dropping the label ‘Islamofascism.’ I hate labels. BUT, some labels are necessary for us to get a handle on our thoughts. The twelve intellectuals/journalists/writers/thinkers/women who signed the “Manifesto of 12: Together Facing a New Totalitarianism,” a “call for resistance to religious totalitarianism” also used the label Islamofascism before the current US administration’s use of it in public speech to identify the threat accurately. The unpalatable truth is that Islamofascism exists and that political Islam, even in moderate countries like Malaysia, has undeniable ambitions for supremacy and world dominance. Having said that, I appreciate the Princeton Committee’s reasons for advocating that we drop the label. It does box us in and leads us to believe that this is the only national security problem facing the United States. It is not. Still, calling it something else is not going to make it smell any different is it?

It seems to be a common feeling among some Americans that somehow the US led ‘invasion‘ of Iraq increased support for political Islam and exaggerated the clash of civilizations. The truth is that political Islam was developing and gaining momentum among even western educated Muslims before I was born. Dr Azahari Hussain, a Malay Muslim Malaysian the chief bomb maker for the Bali bombing, had a Phd in Statistics from the University of Redding, U.K. Even now, I hear rhetoric from Muslim Malaysians who hold academic seats in American universities who are not confessing to or specifically addressing the ‘apartheid’ conditions within Malaysia but instead denouncing the current US administration.

Americans, too willing to lambast the current US administration for the war in Iraq (and other complaints pertaining to domestic American politics) and ignorant of the developments in political Islam in ‘moderate’ countries like Malaysia, unwittingly play into the oppressive/obsessive developments in political Islam by failing to examine the ideas of these academicians. Attached the garbled thoughts of Dr. Azly Rahman, in his article – Is The Pope Parroting The US President? – refering to the ‘humiliation’ of Muslims throughout the ages and proposing an extended policy of appeasement and apology. Although Dr. Azly Rahman quotes everyone from Noam Chomsky to Jesus, I simply cannot buy his ideas. In essence, this is precisely the kind of intellectual madness and scholarship that I am trying to escape. But as I have mentioned before, Muslim Malaysians, lead the lives of public victimhood and private privilege that makes political Islam in Malaysia, an anomaly.

Support for political Islam was present but was underreported by western media because it was not newsworthy to Americans or the West prior to 9/11 and the Iraq war. Islam/religion also did not pertain to the daily lives of Americans as it does to people like myself, born in an Islamic country. In a previous post, I noted that Rais Yatim, Muslim Malaysian Minister of Culture, Arts and Heritage recently proposed the levying of fines up to 1,000 Malaysian Ringgit for the inaccurate use of the National Language. In 1984, Rais Yatim was then Minister of Information in Malaysia and had the New York Philharmonic replace work by Bloch citing the Malaysian Government’s policy against the ”screening, portrayal or musical presentation of works of Jewish origin.” The work Malaysia objected to is Ernest Bloch’s ”Schelomo,” subtitled ”A Hebrew Rhapsody for Cello and Orchestra,” which was scheduled to be performed Sept. 3 in Kuala Lumpur. New York Times article, PHILHARMONIC REPLACES WORK BY BLOCH AT MALAYSIA REQUEST. The development of political Islam is curious in that non Muslims are inadverdently drawn into the prevailing enimity towards the Jewish state of Israel and as you can see, Jewish literary arts and traditions.

Malaysians like myself, ordinary, non Muslim, non violent and not overtly political, quite simply, adapt to the Islamic constraints, make the neccessary compromises, observe Malaysian law and ordinances and devote ourselves to ‘cari makan‘ or ‘seeking a livelihood.’ 9/11 was a personal awakening/ akin to the spiritual awakening that caused my conversion from the Hindu religion to Christianity. Suddenly, the complexities of religion and politics intensified.

I’d much rather just enjoy American privileges -that are extended to me even as a non-US citizen – and hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil, but as a Christian, my duties have begun to extend beyond myself. I am called to see, speak, hear and reflect on the truth. Hence my blog, and this view from At The Window. By using the label – Islamofacism – what the current US administration has done for the civilized world, in my opinion, is to name the problem in a fearless manner thus empowering individuals(namely women and minorities) in countries, like Malaysia, to ‘speak up!’ Personally, I am grateful for the right to be able to think.

To my frustration, Americans who are rightly fear-ridden, in the post 9/11 environment, tend to wish that things were not the way they are in the world and counter their fear by accusing the current US administration of having ‘messianic’ aspirations or being greedy for oil. This is counter productive to the US attempts to look and move forward. The attempts for peaceful and public reform by citizens of Islamic countries also does not then receive the support, forum or platform it urgently requires from the UN and the world community.

Individual Americans working towards bipartisan efforts need now to be listening and begin to do their own thinking. We, the people, cannot afford to hand over our thinking to institutions, even prestigious ones like Princeton.

2. I love this idea as well. The idea that Americans work with other democracies to bring other governments up to “PAR” – ie., “to the point where they are popular, accountable and rights-regarding”.

Sounds good. Next question, how? Was the Iraqi government then up to par during Saddam Hussein’s reign? In my opinion, Iraq is failing and flaying not because of the US/Western government intervention. The infiltration of Islamic insurgents into Iraq in the post war environment is telling.
If there were no Islamofascism, there would be no Organization of Islamic Countries. I don’t know of any other organization of countries on the basis of religious identity, do you? Is there an Organization of Buddhist nations, for example? Or an Organization of Christian nations? Political Islam was developing and garnering support independently among the believers before I was born. This brand of Islam is actually appalling, bewildering and distressing to its own adherents. Recent developments in Malaysia are centered around the internal, valid fear that Malaysia is heading towards an Islamic state. The insanity of living in an Islamic country is that the individual is always walking on eggshells. One cannot speak directly for fear of offending Islam and certainly no writer/poet may address in writing or speech the elephant in the living room. Some very brave Malaysians do. I did not for the longest time number among them.
3 & 4. See my next 2 posts for the humourous and irreverant view from At The Window. As I see it, the United States is leading the way on all fronts -sex, politics and religion.
In conclusion, I see the combination of military action and diplomatic honesty in the current administration. If you notice something, in his axis of evil speech, President George W. Bush only called a spade a spade. What is wrong with that? Is freedom of speech then not extended to the quintessential individual American, the US President? Is the President required to mind his P’s and Q’s more than other Americans? Frankly, I have noticed among my own fraternity of American friends an appalling use of profanity, at once inspiring and corrupting.

In any case, as a Malaysian in the US, my heart sings! As a Christian, I have hope. I don’t see President George W. Bush or the first Lady Laura Bush or U.S. Secretary of State Ms. Condoleezza Rice the way some Americans do. Again, Americans are at liberty to say or do whatever they please. I am like the adopted child. I am just now getting acquainted with my adopted homeland as it exists, finding my place in it, falling in love and enjoying finally ideas that I can live with. You are a great nation, proferring hope to the world by your actions. Not all your actions are great and noble, and not everyone’s intentions are incorruptible but I see Individual Americans like Mr. Bill Gates doing more for the world than the United Nations. Why? Just because you can, and more importantly because you want to. The often unpublicized and uncelebrated actions of American Christians is also another transforming army of individuals. You are already forging a world of liberty and law, winning friends, hearts and minds over. It is not like you got derailed at some point and ceased to be America or American. Is it?

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