Confronting Modernity

Criticisms against globalization take many hues. In times of economic crisis, we campaign against unfair trading between rich and poor nations. When western news agencies highlight any political fracas, we protest against the mischievousness of their journalists. When western rock concerts enraptured our youths we sound the clarion call to protect our culture against the corrupting influence of foreign values.

Confronting Modernity: The Cultural Challenge of Globalization

Ng Kam Weng

Criticisms against globalization take many hues. In times of economic crisis, we campaign against unfair trading between rich and poor nations. When western news agencies highlight any political fracas, we protest against the mischievousness of their journalists. When western rock concerts enraptured our youths we sound the clarion call to protect our culture against the corrupting influence of foreign values.

Evidently, critics of globalization attempt to seize the moral high ground, couching their rhetoric in moral terms. Our critics, however, need to go beyond assigning blame and move towards a constructive critique. We should first try to understand why we are lagging behind the more developed nations. This should be followed by cogent analyses of the forces that propel the overwhelming onslaught of globalization, the market mechanism and cultural dynamics that make globalization such an irresistible phenomenon today. We will then be able to formulate a comprehensive response to globalization. Continue reading “Confronting Modernity”

Declaration of Malaysia as Islamic Country

At the recent Parti Gerakan Conference, the Prime Minister made a declaration that Malaysia is now an Islamic country. In the wake of the declaration came confusion which easily erodes social consensus.

Declaration of Malaysia as Islamic Country

Ng Kam Weng

At the recent Parti Gerakan Conference, the Prime Minister made a declaration that Malaysia is now an Islamic country. In the wake of the declaration came confusion which easily erodes social consensus.

On the one hand, one may interpret the Prime Minister’s declaration in liberal terms, based on the Prime Minister’s statement that “non-Muslims have the right to consider Malaysia as a secular nation, but UMNO viewed Malaysia as having satisfied enough conditions to call itself an Islamic country” (STAR 1 Oct 2001). The Prime Minister, however, stressed that there was no need for the issue to be tabled in Parliament since there was no need for amendments to the Federal Constitution. The libertarian interpretation expressed by the Prime Minister was perhaps sufficient to persuade the other component parties in the government coalition to endorse the new concept from the Prime Minister. Continue reading “Declaration of Malaysia as Islamic Country”

Intellectuals in Politics

The modern state no longer needs to imprison or shoot intellectuals. It has become pragmatic and welcomes intellectuals albeit on terms set by the state itself. As one senior government commented, current leaders are only interested in the question of whether a policy works. “Don’t complicate it with the question of truth.�? This seems an easy requirement for intellectuals to accept and comply with in exchange for state patronage and job security. But the outcome is the disappearance of intellectuals in the traditional sense, i.e. as those who speak out of a non-partisan commitment to the wider truth even if it means confronting the state. Hence the prophetic fulfillment of Julian Benda’s classic essay on the “betrayal of the intellectuals�?.

INTELLECTUALS IN POLITICS

Publisher: RKP 1997

Editors: Jeremy Jennings and Anthony Kemp-Welch

The modern state no longer needs to imprison or shoot intellectuals. It has become pragmatic and welcomes intellectuals albeit on terms set by the state itself. As one senior government commented, current leaders are only interested in the question of whether a policy works. “Don’t complicate it with the question of truth.” This seems an easy requirement for intellectuals to accept and comply with in exchange for state patronage and job security. But the outcome is the disappearance of intellectuals in the traditional sense, i.e. as those who speak out of a non-partisan commitment to the wider truth even if it means confronting the state. Hence the prophetic fulfillment of Julian Benda’s classic essay on the “betrayal of the intellectuals”. Continue reading “Intellectuals in Politics”

Pluralist Democracy or Islamic State

Recently, DAP leaders criticized PAS for insisting on establishing an Islamic state while Syed Hussein Ali of the PRM called for a public debate on the issue. He suggested a compromise which seems to allow for some form of Islamic governance. Not surprisingly, leaders from BN were quick to exploit the situation by pointing out that the coalition between the opposition parties has no credibility if they could not agree on such a crucial issue.

Significantly, politicians who reject PAS’s Islamic state have not gone beyond a negative rejection and proposed a positive alternative while a forthright rejection of PAS’s proposal is appropriate, especially since PAS has characteristically dodged objections with the vague suggestion that the apprehension non-Muslims have about the Islamic state is simplydue to their inability to understand the true nature of the Islamic state.

PLURALIST DEMOCRACY OR ISLAMIC STATE?

Recently, DAP leaders criticized PAS for insisting on establishing an Islamic state while Syed Hussein Ali of the PRM called for a public debate on the issue. He suggested a compromise which seems to allow for some form of Islamic governance. Not surprisingly, leaders from BN were quick to exploit the situation by pointing out that the coalition between the opposition parties has no credibility if they could not agree on such a crucial issue.

Significantly, politicians who reject PAS’s Islamic state have not gone beyond a negative rejection and proposed a positive alternative while a forthright rejection of PAS’s proposal is appropriate, especially since PAS has characteristically dodged objections with the vague suggestion that the apprehension non-Muslims have about the Islamic state is simplydue to their inability to understand the true nature of the Islamic state. Continue reading “Pluralist Democracy or Islamic State”

Covenant and Democratic Consensus in Pluralistic Society

How can the covenant principle be extended to wider society that is pluralistic in nature? In this regard, a covenant way of life demands participation in building of democratic consensus in modern democratic societies. That is to say, the challenge of any covenant religious community is to nurture citizens who are able to transcend their religious and ethical framework and adopt what Hannah Arendt calls ‘enlarged mentality’ or ‘representative thinking’. Seyla Benhabib describes this as “the capacity to represent to oneself the multiplicity of viewpoints, the variety of perspectives, the layers of meaning which constitute a situation.�? In other words, good and acceptable moral judgments arise from an exercise of reversibility of perspective either by actually listening to all involved or by representing to ourselves imaginatively the many perspectives of those involved.

Covenant and Democratic Consensus in Pluralistic Society
Supplement to earlier paper Covenant Community in a Divided World
by Dr. Ng Kam Weng

How can the covenant principle be extended to wider society that is pluralistic in nature? In this regard, a covenant way of life demands participation in building of democratic consensus in modern democratic societies. That is to say, the challenge of any covenant religious community is to nurture citizens who are able to transcend their religious and ethical framework and adopt what Hannah Arendt calls ‘enlarged mentality’ or ‘representative thinking’. Seyla Benhabib describes this as “the capacity to represent to oneself the multiplicity of viewpoints, the variety of perspectives, the layers of meaning which constitute a situation.” In other words, good and acceptable moral judgments arise from an exercise of reversibility of perspective either by actually listening to all involved or by representing to ourselves imaginatively the many perspectives of those involved. Continue reading “Covenant and Democratic Consensus in Pluralistic Society”