Christian-Muslim Dialog in Malaysia: Terms of Engagement (Part 2)

Participants seeking dialog with Islam may well despair when confronted by what seems to be a religion that is fixed and unchangeable. How can dialog be possible if participants are not open to rational discussion? In this regard, it is encouraging to note the emergence of Muslim scholars calling for reformation of Islamic law as a necessity for successful engagement with Modernity. I find the proposal for reformation of Shariah law by Abdullahi An-Na’im, having the most potential for opening new possibilities for dialogue.

Christian-Muslim Dialog in Malaysia: Terms of Engagement (Part 2)

Challenges for Muslims

Participants seeking dialog with Islam may well despair when confronted by what seems to be a religion that is fixed and unchangeable. Conservative ulamas (scholars) insist that there can be no fundamental reforms to Shariah since the gate to itjihad (new knowledge and new reforms to Shariah) has already been closed in the 10th century.

Indeed, many Muslims take pride in the claim that all that is necessary for salvation and for the ordering of society has already been revealed. Likewise, Syed H. Nasr emphasizing that it should not be the case of divine law accommodating to changing society; rather, it should be a case of changing society to meet the requirements of God’s immutable law.

How can dialog be possible if participants are not open to rational discussion? Continue reading “Christian-Muslim Dialog in Malaysia: Terms of Engagement (Part 2)”

Christian-Muslim Dialog in Malaysia: Terms of Engagement (Part 1)

Some Christians avoid dialogue because of their own misconceptions. It is therefore appropriate for us to analyze how the meaning and goals of true dialogue could realistically be set in Malaysia. In the first place Christians should enter into the national debate about what common society we should work towards. The absence of a Christian voice results in a de facto surrendering of the public sphere to the dominant majority. Surely, this is an irresponsible act and an unconditional surrender to the hegemonic majority. Our failure to respond vigorously has resulted in a continual erosion of our Constitutional rights by many undebated legislations.

Christian-Muslim Dialog in Malaysia: Terms of Engagement (Part 1)

Challenges for Christians
Some Christians avoid dialogue because of their own misconceptions. It is therefore appropriate for us to analyze how the meaning and goals of true dialogue could realistically be set in Malaysia. In the first place Christians should enter into the national debate about what common society we should work towards. The absence of a Christian voice results in a de facto surrendering of the public sphere to the dominant majority. Surely, this is an irresponsible act and an unconditional surrender to the hegemonic majority. Our failure to respond vigorously has resulted in a continual erosion of our Constitutional rights by many undebated legislations. Continue reading “Christian-Muslim Dialog in Malaysia: Terms of Engagement (Part 1)”

Debunking Multiculturalism and Secularism – A Rejoinder

I have been honored to receive two replies to my article “Multiculturalism – How Can it be Wrong?�? published in the STAR (25/08/2006), which was in fact a response to an an earlier article “Debunking Multiculturalism” written by Md Asham Ahmad from IKIM (STAR 22/08/06).

Due to the constraint of time, I shall presently only give a brief response to a few issues raised by Md Asham Ahmad and Marzuki Mohamad in their responses to my article.

Debunking Multiculturalism and Secularism – A Rejoinder
By Ng Kam Weng

*This post is a continuation of my earlier response to Md Asham Ahmad from IKIM : Multi-Culturalism – How Can it be Wrong?

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I have been honored to receive two replies to my article “Multiculturalism – How Can it be Wrong?” published in the STAR (25/08/2006), which was in fact a response to an an earlier article “Debunking Multiculturalism” written by Md Asham Ahmad from IKIM (STAR 22/08/06).

Due to the constraint of time, I shall presently only give a brief response to a few issues raised by Md Asham Ahmad and Marzuki Mohamad in their responses to my article. However, in the long term I think it is more fruitful to offer in-depth reflections of the issues related to multiculturalism and politics of recognition. Hence, I shall in due time, post papers such as: Imagined communities and invention of politics in Malaysia; Islamic institutions in British Malaya; Modern social contract theories and consent in politics; Myths and realities of secularization and Christianity; multi-cultural citizenship; the social-legal contract of 1957 and 1963 with excerpts from original documents, etc.

Let me now address some of the issues raised by Mazuki Mohamad and Md Asham Ahmad respectively. Continue reading “Debunking Multiculturalism and Secularism – A Rejoinder”

Multi-Culturalism – How Can it be Wrong?

These must be worrying times for Malaysian citizens if an official from IKIM, a government think-tank dedicated to the task of disseminating Islam as a tolerant religion, can come out with an article entitled “Debunking Multiculturalism�? that appeared in the STAR (22/08/06).

This article is written in response to an article published in the STAR on Tuesday 22 August 2006. See “Debunking Multiculturalism” by Md Asham Ahmad from IKIM (Institute of Islamic Understanding). The article is also available in the official website of IKIM

HOW CAN MULTICULTURALISM BE WRONG?

These must be worrying times for Malaysian citizens if an official from IKIM, a government think-tank dedicated to the task of disseminating Islam as a tolerant religion, can come out with an article entitled “Debunking Multiculturalism” that appeared in the STAR (22/08/06).

Credit must be given to the writer, Md Asham Ahmad, for his forthrightness in arguing that Islam – rather than multiculturalism – be the framework for social policy in Malaysia. Nevertheless, it is evident that the writer’s forthrightness is not accompanied by accurate facts, given his skewed reading of Christian history. Continue reading “Multi-Culturalism – How Can it be Wrong?”

CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS AND CIVILIZATION DIALOGUE

“What bad News!�? What else could we say to the newsagent as we grabbed a copy of the newspapers the morning after the September 11 attacks on America? We expected him to share our feelings of revulsion and horror. We were thus stunned when the newsagent grinned, gave the ‘thumbs-up’ signal and cheerfully declared the attacks to be “ Good news.�? We were equally disgusted when a friend reported that the counter clerk she met in her bank argued that the Americans deserved what they got.

I wrote this article shortly after September 11, 2001. I decided to post this article now, not because of current ongoing interests as another anniversary of the September 11 tragedy draws near. I am alarmed that interfaith dailog has become a taboo subject today. I never imagined a day will come when 10000 people protested against calls for dialogue in our nation (Malaysia) and then another 50000 would have gathered to protest against dialogue on religion and human rights except for the fact that the organizers failed to get approval from the authorities. Continue reading “CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS AND CIVILIZATION DIALOGUE”

Exploring the Role of Orientalism

There is defensiveness among some of the Asian literati who wax eloquent on the need for cultural planning and censorship to defend national culture against Western influences. These literati often justify their anxieties by claiming that Western powers have historically exploited the intellectual discipline called Orientalism to undermine not only the dignity and self-identity of Orientals but also the will to resist their colonial masters.

Exploring the Role of Orientalism
Ng Kam Weng

Book Review: J.J. Clarke, Oriental Enlightenment

Hermann Goering, Hitler’s henchman, once quipped that whenever he hears the word “culture” he reaches for his pistol. The remark is most surprising. After all, culture is synonymous with the high achievements of refined societies. Enrichment, rather than violence, should be associated with culture.

There is defensiveness among some of the Asian literati who wax eloquent on the need for cultural planning and censorship to defend national culture against Western influences. These literati often justify their anxieties by claiming that Western powers have historically exploited the intellectual discipline called Orientalism to undermine not only the dignity and self-identity of Orientals but also the will to resist their colonial masters.

Scholars may be tempted to dismiss such anxieties as paranoia except for the forceful argument mounted by Edward Said in his landmark study, Orientalism. Said’s thesis relies on Michel Foucault’s social epistemology which rejects the possibility of pure knowledge. According to this view, knowledge is a tool to legitimatize power and control. Continue reading “Exploring the Role of Orientalism”