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24 November 2014

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by Anwar Ibrahim, Leader of Opposition Malaysia and former Deputy Prime Minister

Stanford University on November 20, 2014 hosted by Center for Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) and Muslim Student Association

I begin by making some bold assertions. We, as in we all, regardless whether it is the Muslim world or the West or Asia, are facing great challenges. This is no time for equivocation.

So, let me first state firmly: Islam and democracy are fully compatible. The contention that they are diametrically opposed to each other is without foundation.

Secondly, Boko Haram, al-Shabab, ISIS and all other terrorist organizations that resort to killing innocent people, raping, kidnapping and forced conversions have no legitimacy whatsoever and the term Islam or Islamic state cannot be ascribed to them. Period.

Thirdly, the ulema, Muslim clerics, influential Muslim organizations and all eminent Muslim democrats must condemn not just these extreme and violent groups but also the dictatorships and autocratic regimes in the Muslim world that have persistently denied democratic rights to their citizens, and whose human rights record could put even North Korea to shame.

Fourthly, even as the tentacles of ISIS appear to be spreading across Syria and Iraq, Islamophobia is spreading at an even faster pace all around the world. In consequence, bona fide Muslim organizations and Muslim democrats become targets even as ordinary Muslims fall prey to ‘hate crimes’.

(more…)

20 November 2014

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[Not related with the video, below is the response from The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) regarding this issue earlier]

CAIR Responds to ‘Bizarre’ Move by UAE

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 11/16/14) — The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today responded to reports that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has added CAIR to its list of “terrorist” groups.

In a statement, CAIR said:

“We are seeking clarification from the government of the United Arab Emirates about this shocking and bizarre report. There is absolutely no factual basis for the inclusion CAIR and other American and European civil rights and advocacy groups on this list.

“Like the rest of the mainstream institutions representing the American Muslim community, CAIR’s advocacy model is the antithesis of the narrative of violent extremists.

“We call on the United Arab Emirates cabinet to review this list and remove organizations such as CAIR, the Muslim American Society and other civil society organizations that peacefully promote civil and democratic rights and that oppose terrorism whenever it occurs, wherever it occurs and whoever carries it out.”

Among its many anti-terror initiatives, CAIR recently joined a number of national and local Muslim scholars and leaders in Washington, D.C., to release a first-of-its-kind open letter in Arabic (with English translation) signed by more than 120 international scholars of Islam and Muslim leaders refuting the ideology of the terrorist group ISIS and urging its supporters to repent and “return to the religion of mercy.”

CAIR: U.S., World Muslim Leaders’ Open Letter Refutes ISIS’s Ideology, Urges Supporters to ‘Repent,’ ‘Return to the Religion of Mercy’

http://www.cair.com/press-center/press-releases/12663-muslim-leaders-open-letter-refutes-isis-ideology.html

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

20 November 2014

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Published on 19 Nov 2014

This talk was given at a local TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences. Malaysian Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim talks about his commitment to the ideals of empowerment, justice, and equity. His trials have included arrest and imprisonment for his unrelenting campaign against corruption and but he soldiers on as the strongest-ever challenge to the ruling coalition in Malaysia. In this talk, he explains his determination to continue the “Reformasi” campaign and the struggle for freedom and democracy despite a looming five-year prison sentence.

Malaysia’s Anwar Ibrahim, once a rising political star expected to succeed Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, is now the leader of the Malaysian Opposition. The creator of the “Reformasi” campaign of reforming the Malaysian political structure, he is an ardent supporter of democracy and is an authoritative voice in bridging the gap between East and West. He is viewed as one of the forefathers of the Asian Renaissance and a leading proponent of greater cooperation among civilizations.

About TEDx, x = independently organized event In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)

19 November 2014

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 The Evolution of a Muslim Democrat: The Life of Malaysia’s Anwar Ibrahim. By Charles Allers. New York: Peter Lang, 2013. 345 pp.

 

Any attempt at offering a biography of Malaysia’s enigmatic politician Anwar Ibrahim (b. 1947) will be intriguing for many reasons. Perhaps more than any other political igure in contemporary Malaysia, Anwar has led a life whose vicissitudes have seen him oscillating from high points — popular student irebrand, social activist–intellectual, rising star of the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), handpicked protégé of  Prime  Minister  Dr  Mahathir  Mohamad (b. 1925), minister and deputy prime minister, right down to the lowest points that one can imagine — twice an Internal Security Act (ISA) detainee, convict stripped of human dignity, constantly excoriated opposition leader and purported hypocrite accused of heinous sexual crimes unbecoming of a professed Muslim holding leadership aspirations in religiously conservative Malaysia. Harnessing information from variegated sources, including personal interviews and published analyses of Malaysian politics and of Anwar Ibrahim’s diverse roles in it, The Evolution of a Muslim Democrat should be commended for ably capturing the different and even contrasting nuances of Anwar’s political life.

Far from being a blatantly lattering portrayal of Anwar Ibrahim as a consummate political leader once touted to be Malaysia’s “Prime Minister in waiting”, Allers’ account does not refrain from detailing episodes of Anwar’s political career that have exposed him to allegations of inconsistency, opportunism and unprincipled politicking. One example is Anwar’s alleged compromise on money politics during his days of ascendancy in UMNO, culminating in the victory of his Wawasan (Vision) Team — of which present Prime Minister Najib Razak and Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin were members — in the fractious party elections of 1993. While employing analyses proffered by scholars critical of Anwar’s having indulged in patronage politics such as K.S. Jomo, Edmund Terence Gomez and Kikue Hamayotsu, Allers balances his account by citing

 

 

the analyses of Peter Riddell, Meredith Weiss and Khoo Boo Teik, among others, all of whom are inclined to offer mitigating factors in explaining Anwar’s antics in exculpatory terms.

Another instance of vacillation in Anwar Ibrahim’s political posture that Allers chronicles is his position on the draconian ISA, which had authorized detention without trial since its inauguration in 1960. Quoted in 1992 having defended the selective retention of the Act, Anwar remained mute for the large part of Prime Minister Mahathir’s recurrent instances of recourse to the oppressive legislation. These instances resulted in gross violations of human rights, as during the Operation Lallang round-up against civil rights campaigners in 1987 and the government’s clampdown on the Darul Arqam dakwah (missionary) movement in 1994. Only when out of power, and after undergoing the traumatic experience of both preventive and judicial incarceration from the time of his post-sacking arrest in 1998 until 2004, did Anwar unwaveringly oppose the ISA. For the record, Prime Minister Najib Razak eventually announced the repeal of the ISA in September 2011, but replaced it the following year with the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act of 2012.

Just prior to Operation Lallang, Anwar — in his capacity as minister of education and with the backing of the chauvinistic UMNO Youth then led by Najib Razak — also clashed with proponents of Chinese-medium education  who  resented  what  they  regarded as Anwar’s unwarranted intrusion into their affairs. Such dabbling in ethnocentric politics, which diehard Anwar supporters would rationalize as a means of winning over the grass-roots Malay-Muslim support necessary for political advancement in UMNO, remains a black spot in his career. That career has featured an otherwise inclusive appeal to harmonious ethno-religious relations in the manner of convivencia in medieval Spain. The question of Anwar’s mixed history of yielding to pragmatic politics aside, Allers gives prominence to pluralism as a major aspect of Anwar’s religio-political thought that has gained credence globally, especially since his heavy-handed treatment by Malaysia’s ruling establishment  after  1998. Amidst the trials and tribulations that have befallen Anwar as a political

 

 

practitioner, Allers argues that his numerous writings and speeches relect fundamental consistency, rooted in his irm belief in not only the compatibility of but also the convergence between Islamic and universal principles such as freedom, justice and democracy. Anwar has been critical of Muslim leaders who have denied their citizens the rights due to them as human beings. Such criticisms have not, however, stopped Anwar from being honoured by his co-religionists with frequent accolades and speaking invitations from the Muslim commonwealth, not least from Turkey and Indonesia — the two countries to which he has most often referred as model Muslim democracies.

On the whole, Allers’ book is a sympathetic rendering of Anwar’s professional life, but it falls short of being unduly laudatory. Notwithstanding contradictions pertaining to his political praxis and the continually scurrilous attacks upon Anwar’s reputation engineered by Malaysia’s state-controlled mainstream media, the fact that an American-based pastor could take the trouble to conduct both primary and secondary research in producing The Evolution of a Muslim Democrat speaks volumes about Anwar’s untainted image in the eyes of admirers worldwide. Upon reading Allers’ book, one may wonder if Anwar would not have fared better as a globe-trotting international statesman preaching the virtues of democracy in an increasingly plural world. He was, after all, once considered for the post of secretary-general of the United Nations — a itting position from which to articulate a vision that has resonated across borders on matters such as “transcending tolerance” and masyarakat madani (civil society).

Anwar Ibrahim has, however, been at the end of the day, a true Malaysian and Malay-Muslim at heart. Sacriicing the comforts of possible retirement amidst global adulation, he has remained irst and foremost  concerned  with  reform  in  Malaysia.  On  the  basis of his capricious record, sceptics might nonetheless see in him a power-hungry individual intent on avenging the injustices done unto him, his family and his loyalists. His detractors, meanwhile, will be perennially scheming to prevent his rise to the apex of national leadership. This is evident in the recent Court of Appeal ruling

 

 

dismissing his previous High Court acquittal on fresh allegations of sodomy. This unexpected verdict rendered meaningless a by-election dubbed the “Kajang Move” and designed to install Anwar as chief minister of Selangor, purportedly as a launching pad to the prime ministership.

Whatever the outcome of his judicial troubles, Anwar’s place in Malaysian history is assured. While Anwar’s practical contribution remains constricted, his post-Reformasi discourse and programmes offered to Malaysians a viable alternative to the condescending, hegemonic and racialist politics to which they have been subjected by the UMNO-led political establishment since independence. Putting aside technical weaknesses such as the frequent presence of too many quotations from authors of divergent viewpoints in single sentences, The Evolution of a Muslim Democrat manages to capture Anwar’s undying vision of a better deal for Malaysia, Malaysians and Malay-Muslims. Allers contextually locates the heritage of that vision in Malaysian Islam’s legacy of sui-centric religious tolerance and Anwar’s own socio-religious upbringing at home and school, particularly at the English-orientated secondary institution, the Malay College of Kuala Kangsar. Whether Anwar’s lofty ideals see the light of day during his lifetime is left for Malaysians to decide in forthcoming polls.

 

Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid

School of Distance Education, Universiti Sains Malaysia, 11800 Penang, Malaysia; email:

[email protected]

 

 

 

 

DOI:  10.1355/sj29-3n

Adat and Indigeneity in Indonesia: Culture and Entitlements between Heteronomy and Self-Ascription. Edited by Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin. Göttingen: Universitätsverlag Göttingen, 2013. 240 pp.

 

Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin has contributed to academic debates about indigenous Balinese traditions and rituals for the last two decades. Her latest edited volume targets a wider readership than fellow

This review was published on Sojourn Magazine.

11 August 2014

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Mewakili seluruh kepimpinan dan akar umbi KEADILAN, setinggi ucapan tahniah diucapkan kepada sahabat saya Recep Tayyip Erdogan di atas kemenangan beliau melalui Parti Keadilan & Pembangunan (AK Party) dalam pemilihan Presiden tanpa perlu melalui pusingan kedua.

Pemilihan Presiden ini yang julung kali diadakan dalam sejarah demokrasi Turki nyata sekali memberi impak positif buat Turki dalam mendepani arus perubahan. Meski berhadapan saingan sengit, keupayaan Erdogan meraih lebih 50 peratus undi membuktikan AKP di bawah kepimpinan Erdogan diyakini untuk terus mengemudi Turki.

Doa kami di Malaysia buat Erdogan dan AKP agar terus memainkan peranan aktif dan istiqamah demi memperjuangkan keadilan sejagat.

ANWAR IBRAHIM

17 July 2014

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Shah Alam. 16/7/2014

12 July 2014

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Further to our earlier denunciations of the atrocities; we reiterate our condemnation of the latest massacre of more than 100 Palestinians including women and children in the Gaza by the Israeli regime of Netanyahu and call on the international community to collectively put pressure to stop the atrocities.

It is clear that the Israeli regime is exploiting the killing of the three Israeli youths as a pretext to attack Gaza and start a chain of violence and bloodshed so as to destabilize the unity government between Hamas and Fatah.

In his desperate attempts at destroying the prospect of a united Palestinian state in the near future, Netanyahu is prepared to drag the Israeli people to the brink of outright war.

No doubt, he is committing these acts of violence with impunity, emboldened by the fact that neither the United States nor the European Union will condemn these crimes, let alone intervene to stop them.

In this regard, the Western powers have once again displayed hypocrisy in their muted response to the atrocities. This is a disgraceful abdication of moral responsibility and exposes their double standards to the cause of democracy, freedom and justice.

Even more tragic is the fact that Muslim countries, except possibly Turkey and Iran, appear to be powerless in the face of these unmitigated acts of violence and cruelty while so-called jihadists are keener on killing fellow Muslims and proclaiming a caliphate than helping their downtrodden Palestinian kin.

Meanwhile, the Western media continue to report the latest rounds of violence in its usual skewered manner by its constant reference to Hamas firing of missiles into Israel so as to justify Israel’s utterly disproportionate retaliation.

The media and Western leaders continue to downplay if not entirely ignore the fundamental issue of the illegal occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and Israel’s blatant disregard of UN Resolution 242 in their barefaced drive for territorial aggrandisement.

Indeed, the current round of murdering and wounding of hundreds of innocent Palestinians is but yet another episode of the continuing saga of brutality, ruthlessness, inhumanity, and injustice committed against them by the Israelis.

Anwar Ibrahim
Member of Parliament,
Parliamentary Opposition Leader
Malaysia

4 July 2014

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Malaysian Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has denied accusations by the Malaysian Government that he’s trying to smear the country’s reputation overseas, by calling on foreign governments to speak out against human rights abuses in his country.

Click here to watch the full interview on ABC Australia.

3 May 2014

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http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-05-01/one-missing-jet-one-sunken-ferry-two-responses

There are no ideologues in a financial crisis, former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke once said. Clearly the same doesn’t hold true for political crises, as a comparison of Malaysia and South Korea very quickly reveals.

Tragedy has struck both nations in recent weeks, their travails played out in horrifying detail on the world’s television screens. Fairly or unfairly, the hunt for a missing Malaysian airliner and the desperate attempt to rescue and now recover victims from the sunken Sewol ferry are being viewed as tests of the governments in Putrajaya and Seoul, if not of Malaysian and South Korean societies. The grades so far? I’d give Korea an A-, Malaysia a D.

In the two weeks since the Sewol tipped over and sank — almost certainly killing 302 passengers, most of them high school students — Korea has been gripped by a paroxysm of self-questioning, shame and official penitence. President Park Geun Hye issued a dramatic and heartfelt apology. Her No. 2, Prime Minister Chung Hong Won, resigned outright. Prosecutors hauled in the ship’s entire crew and raided the offices of its owners and shipping regulators. Citizens and the media are demanding speedy convictions and long-term reforms.

And Malaysia, 55 days after Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 vanished? Nothing. No officials have quit. Prime MinisterNajib Razak seems more defiant than contrite. The docile local news media has focused more on international criticism of Malaysia’s leaders rather than on any missteps by those leaders themselves.

Both countries are democracies — Malaysia’s even older than South Korea’s. The key difference, though, is the relative openness of their political systems. One party has dominated Malaysia since independence, while Korea, for all its growing pains and occasional tumultuousness, has seen several peaceful transfers of power over the past quarter-century. Unused to having to answer critics, Malaysia’s government hasresponded defensively. Korean officials, on the other hand, are reflecting, addressing the anger of citizens, and delving into what went wrong with the shipping industry’s regulatory checks and balances.

That’s why Korea is likely to come out of this crisis stronger than ever, unlike Malaysia. The two nations responded similarly after the 1997 Asian financial crisis, too. Malaysia’s then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad sought to prove Bernanke’s axiom wrong, bizarrely blaming some shadowy Jewish cabal headed by George Soros for the ringgit’s plunge. Malaysia didn’t internalize what had gone wrong or look in the mirror. It didn’t admit it had been using capital inflows unproductively and that coddling state champions — including Malaysia Airlines — was killing competitiveness. Never did the ruling United Malays National Organization consider it might be part of the problem.

Contrast that with Korea’s response to 1997. The government forced weak companies and banks to fail, accepting tens of thousands of job losses. Authorities clamped down on reckless investing and lending and addressed moral hazard head-on. Koreans felt such shame that millions lined up to donate gold, jewelry, art and other heirlooms to the national treasury.

South Korea’s response wasn’t perfect. I worry, for example, that the family-run conglomerates, or chaebol, that helped precipitate the crisis are still too dominant a decade and a half later. But the country’s economic performance since then speaks for itself.

Now as then, Korea’s open and accountable system is forcing its leaders to look beyond an immediate crisis. Ordinary Koreans are calling for a national catharsis that will reshape their society and its attitude toward safety. Park’s government has no choice but to respond.

Malaysia’s government, on the other hand, appears to be lost in its own propaganda. To the outside world, acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Husseinperformed dismally as a government spokesman: He was combative, defensive and so opaque that even China complained. Yet Hishammuddin is now seen as prime-minister material for standing up to pesky foreign journalists and their rude questions. The government seems intent on ensuring that nothing changes as a result of this tragedy.

As hard as it seems now, South Korea will move past this tragedy, rejuvenated. Malaysia? I’m not so sure.

25 April 2014

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By ANDREW KHOO

WSJ.com
When U.S. President Barack Obama visits Malaysia this weekend, he will be the first American president to do so since Lyndon Johnson in 1966. Kuala Lumpur will seek to take advantage of the much-anticipated trip to showcase Malaysia as a moderate Muslim-majority democracy, a model of interracial and interreligious diversity heading for developed-nation status by 2020. It will present itself as an ally in combating arms proliferation and transnational crime, and friend of the U.S. in Asia.

President Obama should not accept this fiction or defer to the Malaysian government because of regional security concerns. Instead, he would do well to note the sorry state of its human rights and call for greater respect for civil liberties.

Since the last general election in May 2013, when Prime Minister Najib Razak’s governing coalition was returned to power but lost the popular vote, racial and religious extremism has been on the rise. Pro-government extremist groups have responded to self-perceived slights and insults against the ethnic Malay majority and Islam by declaring that they are prepared to shed blood to defend their honor and sanctity.

These groups have made direct references to May 13, 1969, an infamous date in Malaysian history when race riots between Malays and Chinese led to killings in several cities and towns, and emergency rule. A 1996 fatwa forbidding the practice of Shia Islam has recently received renewed attention, leading to raids on and arrests of Shia adherents. Followers of the Ahmaddiya Islamic sect have also lately been targeted. Their prayer sessions and religious activities have been interrupted by Muslim religious authorities enforcing the state-sanctioned version of Islam.

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A Malaysian Court of Appeal held in October 2013 that a Roman Catholic Church newspaper could not use the Arabic word “Allah” to refer to God. According to the court, use of the word was exclusive to Islam and not intrinsic to the practice of Christianity in Malaysia. Language has become a flashpoint in Christian-Islamic tensions. One Muslim group even suggested that using the Malay language to advertise an Easter concert meant that Christians were attempting to convert Muslims, which is an offense. The group openly questioned the very celebration of Easter, calling it un-Islamic.

Freedom of speech is also under threat. In an attempt to improve Malaysia’s human rights, a coalition of civil society groups submitted recommendations to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights back in September 2013. In January 2014, the government called these “haram,” or sinful, and declared the coalition unlawful.

Additionally, the government has renewed its use of the Sedition Act, a colonial-era law that makes it unlawful to “cause disaffection” against the government or the hereditary rulers. It has been used on everyone from politicians to social media commentators.

Clearly the public wants genuine reform. There was tremendous clamor for clean, free and fair elections in 2012, when hundreds of thousands risked tear gas, water cannons and arrest to participate in the BERSIH 3.0 peaceful protest in Kuala Lumpur. Yet the government has hardly been receptive.

Recent changes in legislation introduced by Prime Minister Najib Razak are the opposite of needed reform. They include outlawing street demonstrations, requiring a 10-day prior notification period for public assemblies, and introducing two-year without-trial detention orders, renewable indefinitely, for those alleged by the government to be involved in serious criminal offenses.

Individuals facing trial for unlawful assembly from the 2012 rally and subsequent protest gatherings have been predominantly political opponents of the Malaysian government. The most notable dissident is former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, recently convicted for sodomy, which many saw as a trumped-up charge.

Prime Minister Najib Razak has promoted Malaysia internationally as a leader in a global movement of moderation. But these actions show the government is anything but moderate. Mainstream newspapers, many of which are owned by political parties within the government, brazenly promote such double-speak. Those who dare to criticize put themselves at risk of vituperative attacks from extremist groups, police investigation and politically motivated prosecution.

President Obama needs to deftly use his public appearances and statements to demonstrate concern about what is happening in Malaysia –and to say what many Malaysians fearfully cannot. The usual mantra of moderation can no longer conceal the escalation of extremism and repression.

Mr. Khoo is co-chair of the Malaysian Bar Council’s Human Rights Committee. He writes in his personal capacity.

10 March 2014

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I have been receiving calls from the Turkish Prime Minister, Mr Recep Tayyip Erdogan; the Governor of Bangkok, Mr Sukumbhan Paribatra; former President of Indonesia, Mr Jusuf Habibie and renowned Islamic Scholar, Dr Yusul al-Qaradawi since the Appeal Court judgment on the 7th of March. They have all expressed grave concerns over the manner on how the case was rushed and the subsequent ruling.

I was also visited by the American Ambassador to Malaysia, Mr Joseph Yun and his political officers at my residence on the 9th of March who have also express similar concerns. They have committed to convey these to President Obama soon.

Anwar Ibrahim

31 December 2013

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The results for the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) that were presented in early December showed that of the 10 countries that topped the performance, not one of them is a Muslim country. As a matter of fact, of the final results tabled, not one Muslim country was placed in the top 40.

Half a million pupils in 65 countries and local administrations were tested in the three core areas of mathematics, science and reading. Shanghai scored the best result with 613, followed by Singapore and Japan.

With the exception of Turkey which took the 43rd spot scoring the highest among the Muslim countries followed by UAE, of the rest of the Muslim countries that took part such as Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Qatar, Jordan, Tunisia and Indonesia, suffice to say that they were placed within the bottom 50 and 60 jostling with Columbia, Peru and Albania for the award of worst performer!

Before anyone jumps the gun by blaming this OECD study as essentially biased and Eurocentric, let us be reminded the top three performers are Asian. It is indeed noteworthy that the results for 2012, 2010, and the 2009 Assessment showed that Shanghai students scored the highest in all categories.

According to the OECD, this study considers Shanghai a pioneer of educational reform, having transformed their approach to education. Instead of focusing merely on the elite, it appears they have adopted a more inclusive system. In other words, the democratization of access to quality education is a key factor.

Below is the table for the 2012 results:

Programme for International Student Assessment (2012)
Maths Sciences Reading
1 Shanghai, China 613 1 Shanghai, China 580 1 Shanghai, China 570
2 Singapore 573 2 Hong Kong, China 555 2 Hong Kong, China 545
3 Hong Kong, China 561 3 Singapore 551 3 Singapore 542
4 Taiwan 560 4 Japan 547 4 Japan 538
5 South Korea 554 5 Finland 545 5 South Korea 536
6 Macau, China 538 6 Estonia 541 6 Finland 524
7 Japan 536 7 South Korea 538 7 Taiwan 523
8 Liechtenstein 535 8 Vietnam 528 8 Canada 523
9 Switzerland 531 9 Poland 526 9 Ireland 523
10 Netherlands 523 10 Liechtenstein 525 10 Poland 518
11 Estonia 521 11 Canada 525 11 Liechtenstein 516
12 Finland 519 12 Germany 524 12 Estonia 516
13 Canada 518 13 Taiwan 523 13 Australia 512
14 Poland 518 14 Netherlands 522 14 New Zealand 512
15 Belgium 515 15 Ireland 522 15 Netherlands 511
16 Germany 514 16 Macau, China 521 16 Macau, China 509
17 Vietnam 511 17 Australia 521 17 Switzerland 509
18 Austria 506 18 New Zealand 516 18 Belgium 509
19 Australia 504 19 Switzerland 515 19 Germany 508
20 Ireland 501 20 Slovenia 514 20 Vietnam 508
21 Slovenia 501 21 United Kingdom 514 21 France 505
22 Denmark 500 22 Czech Republic 508 22 Norway 504
23 New Zealand 500 23 Austria 506 23 United Kingdom 499
24 Czech Republic 499 24 Belgium 505 24 United States 498
25 France 495 25 Latvia 502 25 Denmark 496
26 United Kingdom 494 26 France 499 26 Czech Republic 493
27 Iceland 493 27 Denmark 498 27 Austria 490
28 Latvia 491 28 United States 497 28 Italy 490
29 Luxembourg 490 29 Spain 496 29 Latvia 489
30 Norway 489 30 Lithuania 496 30 Luxembourg 488
31 Portugal 487 31 Norway 495 31 Portugal 488
32 Italy 485 32 Italy 494 32 Spain 488
33 Spain 484 33 Hungary 494 33 Hungary 488
34 Russia 482 34 Luxembourg 491 34 Israel 486
35 Slovakia 482 35 Croatia 491 35 Croatia 485
36 United States 481 36 Portugal 489 36 Iceland 483
37 Lithuania 479 37 Russia 486 37 Sweden 483
38 Sweden 478 38 Sweden 485 38 Slovenia 481
39 Hungary 477 39 Iceland 478 39 Lithuania 477
40 Croatia 471 40 Slovakia 471 40 Greece 477
41 Israel 466 41 Israel 470 41 Russia 475
42 Greece 453 42 Greece 467 42 Turkey 475
43 Serbia 449 43 Turkey 463 43 Slovakia 463
44 Turkey 448 44 UAE 448 44 Cyprus 449
45 Romania 445 45 Bulgaria 446 45 Serbia 446
46 Cyprus 440 46 Serbia 445 46 UAE 442
47 Bulgaria 439 47 Chile 445 47 Thailand 441
48 UAE 434 48 Thailand 444 48 Chile 441
49 Kazakhstan 432 49 Romania 439 49 Costa Rica 441
50 Thailand 427 50 Cyprus 438 50 Romania 438
51 Chile 423 51 Costa Rica 429 51 Bulgaria 436
52 Malaysia 421 52 Kazakhstan 425 52 Mexico 424
53 Mexico 413 53 Malaysia 420 53 Montenegro 422
54 Montenegro 410 54 Uruguay 416 54 Uruguay 411
55 Uruguay 409 55 Mexico 415 55 Brazil 410
56 Costa Rica 407 56 Montenegro 410 56 Tunisia 404
57 Albania 394 57 Jordan 409 57 Colombia 403
58 Brazil 391 58 Argentina 406 58 Jordan 399
59 Argentina 388 59 Brazil 405 59 Malaysia 398
60 Tunisia 388 60 Colombia 399 60 Argentina 396
61 Jordan 386 61 Tunisia 398 61 Indonesia 396
62 Colombia 376 62 Albania 397 62 Albania 394
63 Qatar 376 63 Qatar 384 63 Kazakhstan 393
64 Indonesia 375 64 Indonesia 382 64 Qatar 388
65 Peru 368 65 Peru 373 65 Peru 384
                 

 

Take-home lessons

If we take ourselves off the intellectual pedestal, let us ask what lessons we can take home from this study, apart from other indicators in different studies.

Firstly, there is no basis for the conventional argument that because Muslim students have to attend extra classes for religious studies over and above the routine academic lessons in the schools, they have less time to study and prepare for exams and hence perform not as well as non-Muslim students. In Malaysia, for example, Chinese students who also attend extra classes for Chinese-based subjects over and above the national-type syllabus do just as well in both.

Pedagogy and quality of teaching

Finland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland were among the best of the European nations. Studies have shown that students from Finland produced very good results in various subjects when compared to students from the United States and other countries. This was attributed mainly to the fact that in Finland, the very best graduates were recruited to become teachers.

Also important is the question of content and curriculum, including pedagogy. The quality of teachers is a matter of concern. The teaching profession needs to be given greater priority by the state.  A proper incentive scheme must be introduced and to restore the profession to its earlier recognition. As it stands, apart from infrastructure constraints, Muslim countries suffer from a shortage of good teachers. But the issues should be more than that just a question of material resources.

Spending on education

The conventional belief that greater spending on education would yield better performance was also shown to be not always true. Thus, the analysis of the 2003 results showed that Australia, Belgium, Canada, Finland, Japan and South Korea, which had spent less on education than the United States actually did better. While this should not be taken as an excuse to spend less on education, allocation of such funds for Muslim countries must be beefed up with the rider that the resources are to be spent effectively.

Governance

The issue of governance remains a serious problem in Muslim countries. For example, cases of misappropriation of funds allocated for poorer students continue to be a source of embarrassment. Poor governance also breeds corruption which then leads to wastages and leakages. Where financial resources get mis-channelled or misused, schools suffer and students become victims.

Bad governance in the running of schools also impacts on the quality of teaching when for example school authorities haphazardly transfer teachers to other areas without considering the effect on both the teaching and the teachers themselves.

Confucian ethic

Yet another lesson is probably the obvious one considering that the top three performances are connected one way or the other to the Confucian model of learning. Surely, Muslim countries should be able to draw some lessons from this phenomenon. Muslim intellectuals worth their salt must get off their high horse and study the Confucian model, adapt it according to Muslim requirements, if need be, and start preaching a culture of diligence in the pursuit of knowledge. The defensive response about reminding people of Islam’s glorious history of learning and advancements in science serves no purpose if all it does is encourage us to rest on past laurels.

Conclusion

While it is known that Muslim countries are facing a crisis in higher education, this study is significant in showing that even in the formative mid-secondary school stage, we are seeing a crisis of alarming proportions. The fact of the matter is that Muslim countries are occupying the bottom rungs in higher education and advancement in science and technology. The PISA results are therefore a precursor to worse things to come.

Failure to take immediate remedial action may lead to a deeper crisis. In this regard, we call on the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to take the lead in addressing this problem.

ANWAR IBRAHIM

27th December, 2013

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