Archive for category Bakri Musa
M. Bakri Musa
16th August 2016
The One Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) corruption is business as usual in Malaysia. That is a great tragedy as well as a gross injustice. To Malaysia, 1MDB is “case closed.” That reflects the nation’s system of justice and quality of its institutions, as well as the caliber of those entrusted to run them.
Like ugliness, injustice is obvious to all and transcends boundaries. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) first shone the light at the hideous pox on 1MDB’s face with the filing of the asset forfeiture lawsuit on July 20, 2016. That was only the beginning. Shortly thereafter, Singapore froze the assets of Jho Low, one of the culprits. Together with Switzerland, it also closed the bank involved.
There is now a racketeering suit filed by Husam Musa and Matthias Chang, as private citizens, on August 11, 2016 in New York. That has yet to be certified as a class action suit. With the huge number of potential plaintiffs, it will have no difficulty meeting the numerosity criterion.
1MDB will be Malaysia’s Watergate and Enron combined. Read the rest of this entry »
by Bakri Musa
Imagine had Prime Minister Najib Razak responded differently to the US Department of Justice Asset Forfeiture lawsuit and said instead, “I have instructed my Foreign Minister to seek clarification to determine who this “Malaysian Official 1” so we could investigate him. I have also directed the Attorney General to review the evidence in the DOJ complaint.”
As for 1MDB, imagine if its spokesman had responded, “We view with deep concern allegations that assets meant for our company, a public trust, had been corruptly diverted. We seek clarification on who 1MDB Officials 1 and 2 are to make sure that they are no longer in our employ. We will review our policies to ensure that such pilferages as alleged by DOJ if they did occur will not recur. Additionally, we are engaging legal counsel to protect our interests in the American trial.”
Instead, what Malaysians and the world heard last Wednesday were irrelevant and meaningless statements to the effect that neither Najib nor 1MDB are the defendants in the suit. True and obvious, needing no response or clarification. The defendants are the owners of those seized assets which are alleged to have been acquired with funds corruptly siphoned from 1MDB, a GLC of which Najib is the Chairman.
The responses from Najib, his ministers, and 1MDB only brought shame to themselves, to Malays, and to Malaysia. Read the rest of this entry »
16th May 2016
A Review of Shahab Ahmed’s What Is Islam. The Importance of Being Islamic
Second of Two Parts
In the first part of my essay I recalled Shahab Ahmed’s elegant albeit oxymoronic phrase “coherent contradictions” to describe the dizzying diversity and puzzling perplexities that are the norms in Islam, then and now.
As for “reforming” Islam, the current fetish among Muslims and non-Muslims alike, Ahmed did not have much praise or hope for these reformers, ancient or modern. This was not out of any Islam-does-not-need-reforming sentiment, rather that those reformers limited themselves to reading only the Text (Koran) and then were consumed with their arcane legalistic and hermeneutical interpretations. They ignored the “Pre-Text” and “Con-Text,” or more crucially, how Islam is believed, practiced, and contributed to by Muslims past and present, scholars and ordinary believers alike.
Or in Shahab Ahmed’s words, “how Islam makes Muslims as Muslims make Islam.” Much can be learned about Islam, and about Muslims, from just that. Read the rest of this entry »
M. Bakri Musa
This burden of self-affirmation and stereotype threat can crop up well beyond our formative years and at the most unexpected venues.
At one Alif Ba Ta Conference a few years ago, organized by the UMNO Club of New York and New Jersey in which I discussed self-affirmation and stereotype threat, a group of students confided to me their experiences in the special matriculation class preparing them for American universities. Midway through that class they were given a test. Those who excelled were sent abroad earlier.
Even though the class was filled predominantly with Malays, for the group selected to leave earlier, non-Malays were over represented. How do I explain that, the students inquired? I immediately sensed their burden of stereotype threat – Malay ineptitude in academics.
So I asked them what they had done between their school examination in November the preceding year until they were enrolled in that special class the following July. To a person they all replied “Nothing!” Yes, nothing!
Then I also asked them whether they had discussed with their successful and predominantly non-Malay classmates how they managed to do so well, specifically what were they doing from January till July when they started their matriculation classes together. The Malay students could not answer me. Obviously they never thought to ask or were too embarrassed to discuss that sensitive topic with their non-Malay classmates, or their teachers. For their part, their matriculation teachers, unlike my Mr. Peter Norton at Malay College in the 1960s during my Sixth Form years there, merely accepted the fact as it was. Read the rest of this entry »
M. Bakri Musa
11th May 2016
Our mind’s narrative of the world includes the perception we have of ourselves, and what we believe others have of us. The first is self-affirmation; the second, stereotype. Each of us is a member of some groups or other (race, profession, culture); thus we cannot escape from being stereotyped.
As for self-perception, like all other of our mental patterns this one too grew out of our experiences. Should we encounter something that does not conform to that mental picture we have of ourselves, we react like the patient with Cabgras delusion; we alter or ‘edit’ that information to make it conform to our pre-set pattern.
Our “self” narrative includes the stereotype others have of us, as with the colonialists’ “lazy native.” Not surprisingly, we often perform to those expectations, further reinforcing the stereotype. This vicious cycle continues, each cycle reinforcing earlier ones.
You have to work doubly hard and perform beyond well just to dispel the stereotype. Then even if you do succeed, there is no guarantee of escaping the stereotyping. It is a heavy burden to bear. Read the rest of this entry »
11th May 2016
The corollary to my earlier discussion is that it is far better to have a mindset with the capacity to grow and adapt than one that is fixated on its existing worldview. Harping on “changing mindset,” as our leaders are wont to do, is misplaced.
The Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck describes the two mindsets: the growth versus the fixed. They differ not only in their hypothesis of the outside world but also how they view their inner being.
Those with a fixed mindset view their talent and ability as fixed and tied to their innate ability. They view themselves as being governed by whatever abilities that they have been endowed with by nature. They are trapped by their biologic pre-determinism, which can be just as crippling as the more familiar religious variety afflicting simple villagers – “My fate is written in the book of life!”
The “book of life” of those with fixed mindset and are science-literate is the sequence of amino acids encoded in their DNA strands. On the other hand, those with a growth mindset believe that their fate depends on their ability to adapt and learn from new challenges and experiences, not on whatever nature has bestowed upon them through their chromosomes. To these individuals, opportunities are the flipside of crises, as the ancient Chinese wisdom would have it. Success depends on their ability to convert the latter to the former. Read the rest of this entry »
M. Bakri Musa
10th May 2016
Review of Shahab Ahmed’s What Is Islam. The Importance of Being Islamic
First of Two Parts
While holidaying on an island in the Indonesian Riau Province I came upon a communal graveyard. I was surprised that while the graves had markers, there were no individual identifications, no names or even dates of death. On enquiring, the villagers told me that this was to discourage ancestor worship. In Islam we worship Allah, and only Him. Any deviation would be shirk, a blasphemy.
Yet only a few islands away on Pulau Penyengat, there is an elaborate mausoleum to honor the great poet Raja Ali Haji of Gurindam XII fame. On religious days and special occasions, villagers throng the site; at other times they come to pray for their children’s success at school.
The inhabitants on both islands are devout Muslims. While we could readily comprehend and accept variations in Islam (or any faith for that matter) in different geographic areas and with different cultures, the people on both islands are all Malays. What gives? Read the rest of this entry »
M. Bakri Musa
Related to the concept of a free mind is that of mindset, defined as one’s attitude to or philosophy of life. With all the established neural networks and stored memories in the brain, it forms a working hypothesis of what reality is. How the brain perceives new information is influenced by its existing working hypothesis, its pre-set narrative of reality.
If the brain were to receive new information that would not conform to or diametrically contradict the brain’s preexisting narrative, then it (the brain) would use various ingenuous interpretations to make the new data conform to that pre-set pattern.
A dramatic demonstration of this is the rare clinical condition called Cabgras delusion. Here the sufferer, through injury or stroke, has lost the capacity to recognize hitherto familiar faces including those of close family members. The patient would readily admit that the person facing him looks, speaks and even smells like his mother for example, but would adamantly refuse to admit that is who she is. Instead he is convinced that she is nothing more than a look-alike imposter, intent on swindling him for some nefarious ends, as with claiming insurance benefits. Imagine the mother’s heartbreak! Read the rest of this entry »
M. Bakri Musa
5th April 2016
A discussion on the “free mind” begins with clarifying three related terms: brain, mind, and mindset.
The brain is the jelly-like structure in our skull, part of our central nervous system. To use the language of computers, the brain is the central processing unit of our nervous system. It is, however, much more; the brain is the core of our consciousness.
Like any other organ, the brain has its own blood supply, support structures, and nutritional requirements. Like the heart, any developmental or other abnormalities of the brain will adversely affect its many functions. Unlike the heart however, which is fully developed and functional at birth (a baby’s heart functions in the same manner as an adult’s), the brain continues its development for many years after birth. Indeed, significant development of the brain occurs after birth, especially in the first few critical years of early childhood.
There is another major difference between the brain and other organs. While the internal parts of the heart for example, do communicate with each other, they do so only so they can function in a coordinated and rhythmic way to make the organ mechanically efficient. In the brain however, the communications of its various internal parts define the function of the whole brain. The significant point is that this development of communication pathways is as much dependent on what had been programmed in that individual through his genetic make-up as much as on the environment, internal and external, physical as well as non-physical. Read the rest of this entry »
29th March 2016
The meaning of a free mind can best be illustrated by this story of Mullah Nasaruddin, a fictitious alim known for his effective use of simple and often self-deprecating stories to drive home a point, illuminate a concept, or challenge conventional wisdom.
He had a neighbor who was fond of borrowing items from him and then conveniently forgetting to return them. One day this neighbor came to the mullah to borrow his donkey. Anticipating this, the mullah had locked his animal away in the barn and out of sight. Upon hearing the request, the mullah confidently replied that his donkey had been taken away earlier by his brother. Just as the disappointed neighbor turned away, the donkey brayed. He turned around and remarked, “You said your donkey was gone!”
To which the mullah replied, “Do you believe the braying of a donkey or the words of a mullah?”
If you can accept that at times a donkey can be the bearer of the truth, and a mullah the purveyor of untruth, then you have exhibited a free mind, minda merdeka. There are many reasons why we continue believing the mullah despite the donkey braying in our face, and I will explore some of these subsequently. Read the rest of this entry »
Last of Six Parts
Malaysia is today paralyzed – and polarized – by the scandal of One Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a government-linked company (GLC). Rest assured that this debacle will not be the last. The other certainty is that future ones will carry even far greater costs.
The only sure way to prevent this is to get rid of GLCs. Sell them, and use the proceeds to enhance the quality of our human capital. In the final analysis that is the only matrix that matters.
GLCs are now very much part of if not the problem, as exemplified by 1MDB. They are not the solution, not even part of it.
As massive as the price tag of the 1MDB fiasco is (and it’s still growing), far more consequential is the accompanying erosion of our institutions and degradation of our values. You cannot quantify those damages. Read the rest of this entry »
– M. Bakri Musa
The Malaysian Insider
9 March 2016
In my first three essays I pointed out that the Malay problem is real and not a mere myth. It is also solvable and not unique unto our community. Thus there is much that we can learn from others.
I posited that the four critical foundations of society – leadership, citizenry, culture, and geography – interact with one another in a feed-back loop mechanism. Where the interaction is positive, that society would advance fast; where negative, it would be in a quick downhill slide.
Of the four, only geography is immutable. Of the remaining three, leadership is the easiest to change; culture, most difficult. Read the rest of this entry »
– M. Bakri Musa
The Malaysian Insider
1 March 2016
In my earlier two essays, I highlighted the issues surrounding the “Malay problem”.
I suggested that it is not unique unto our community. As such, there is much that we could learn from others, from successful societies on what to do, and the unsuccessful ones on what not to do.
There are four critical factors that determine the fate of a society: leadership, people, culture (this includes institutions, governmental as well as non-governmental, religious as well as non-religious), and geography.
In an earlier book, Towards A Competitive Malaysia, I put forth the concept of the “Diamond of Development”, with each factor interacting with and influencing the other three.
For example, wise leaders would invest in their citizens, ensuring that they would receive good education so they could make better and more informed decisions, as well as be more productive.
Good leaders also foster good institutions, and protect the country’s natural resources and the environment. Educated and wise citizens would in turn elect prudent leaders, and the positive-loop feedback would rapidly lead to a quantum leap in the advancement of that society.
The reverse is also true. Meaning, a corrupt leader would bribe his way to power by literally buying citizens’ votes. Read the rest of this entry »
– M. Bakri Musa
The Malaysian Insider
23 February 2016
In the first part, I argued that the “Malay Problem” is real and not simply a myth. As such we could study, analyse and research it systematically so as to enable us to craft sensible solutions and develop pilot programs to overcome it.
In short, a problem is potentially solvable, in contrast to a mere myth where we would have to employ dukuns to exorcise our demons.
In this essay I argue that our problem is not unique unto our community. A just and compassionate Allah would not single out Malays to be thus burdened. Read the rest of this entry »
– Bakri Musa
The Malaysian Insider
10 February 2016
I was visiting my old village near Sri Menanti, Negri Sembilan, recently and was struck by an unexpected but common sight. That is, the absence of any fruit trees or vegetable plots around what few remaining houses there which were still occupied.
Such a scene would have been unthinkable during my youth. Then there were always nearly-ripe papayas or bananas ready to be picked for breakfast, and enough long beans in the garden or chickens scurrying around to fill a cooking pot should unexpected guests arrive for lunch.
On querying my few elderly relatives still there and loving the serene kampung lifestyle, they replied that the monyet and kera (monkeys) have descended from the jungle to destroy everything, including the chickens.
Those monkeys have become so brazen and aggressive that my relatives now fear for their safety.
That is one of the many consequences of our having destroyed the primates’ natural habitat through illegal logging and replacing it with the hostile monoculture plantations of rubber and palm oil. Read the rest of this entry »
M. Bakri Musa
I enjoy giving talks to Malaysian students. It is invigorating to be with the young; their passion, enthusiasm and idealism do rub off on me.
My hope is that when they become leaders they will hold as role models the likes of Hang Nadim and Hang Jebat, and emulate the giants in our history like Munshi Abdullah and Datuk Onn. I also hope that they will be as innovative as Ungku Aziz and Raja Petra, and like them, not be trapped by the conventional wisdom. Most of all I hope they will be as diligent and resourceful as Badri Muhammad.
In my advice to students, I remind them that their future is in their own hands. No one, not their parents, advisors on campus and the embassy, or sponsors back home, knows what is best for them. I tell these students that those other people may be sincere when offering their advice but they have not traveled the same path you have taken or experienced the challenges you have faced.
Most of all they will not be the ones to bear the consequences of your decision. By all means listen to their counsel, but in the end the decision is yours. About all the others could do after offering their advice would be to also offer you their prayers and best wishes. They should support, not veto your decision. Read the rest of this entry »
M. Bakri Musa
Last and for a very special reason, I will cite another example of a free mind, Dr. Badri bin Muhammad. Badri was special to many, most immediately his wife and fellow Professor of Chemistry Karen Crouse, and their children Susanna, Adam, Diana, Nadira, and grandson Mitchell.
Once on meeting a group of Malaysian graduate students here in America, a few happened to have attended University Putra Malaysia. To my query whether they knew of Badri, one bright student beamed widely, “Yes, he was my wonderful chemistry professor!” and the others quickly joined in the praise. Very effusive and very heartfelt, those students were among Badri’s many legacies.
Badri died recently after a brief illness. He was special to me as we had been dear friends for a long time and shared so many bonds. Our wives knew each other well and so did our children who were of comparable ages. Read the rest of this entry »
M. Bakri Musa
Malay society has no shortage of formal leaders. First we have the hereditary leaders, from the sultan down to his various lowly chieftains including the local datuk lembaga (lord admiral). This pattern of leadership has a long history in our society.
Then came the religious leaders, of more recent vantage, introduced in the 15th Century with the coming of Islam to the Malay world. More recently and fast gaining a pivotal role, are political leaders.
With modern political institutions, especially democratic ones, we should expect a more frequent emergence of fresh leaders. This is not necessarily so. China is far from being a democratic society yet its People Congress gets more infusion of fresh talents with each party’s election. Compare that to the United States Congress, the self-declared exemplar of representative government. You are more likely to get a new member of the old Soviet Politburo than you are to get a new member of US Congress.
UMNO, the premier Malay political organization, is on par with the old Soviet Politburo in nurturing new talent.
Despite modernity, both hereditary and religious leaders still have a strong hold on Malays. Read the rest of this entry »
M. Bakri Musa
16th December 2015
The leadership qualities needed in a society during times of great changes and uncertainties are very different from those required in one that is static. Malaysia today faces many great challenges but is blighted with a leadership more suited for a static feudal society.
Today’s Malaysia is a complex, plural society. The unwary could easily be misled by official figures and general consensus that may apply to or describe one segment of society but may well be the very opposite for the others.
There are at least two Malaysias. One is exclusively Malay, dominated by UMNO and PAS; the other, predominantly but not exclusively non-Malay. The differences between the two extend beyond cultural values, socioeconomic status, and general worldview. The former is feudal, xenophobic, and servile towards authority; the latter is modern, aligned with the global mainstream, and views government more as the problem than the solution.
Thus statements like deteriorating local schools apply only to government ones and attended by the first group. International schools are doing very well. As for Chinese schools, the increasing number of Malay parents enrolling their children there speaks of the quality. Both schools are the preferred choice for the second Malaysia. Read the rest of this entry »
M. Bakri Musa
7th December 2015
Notwithstanding their common aristocratic background, obvious brilliance, and genuine nationalism, plus their overlapping leadership in UMNO, Tun Razak had little in common with Datuk Onn Jaafar. To start with, there was their obvious age and thus generational difference, Onn being about 30 years older. The critical differentiating feature separating the two however was their personalities.
Like Onn, there is as yet no authoritative biography of Tun Razak. There is William Shaw’s, published in 1976, sympathetic bordering on the hagiographical. Razak had many contemporaries, some very erudite, but none had sought to pen an account of this great man. Likewise his sons (he had no daughters) who are all well educated, including one who is a Cambridge graduate, yet none has seen fit to write an account of their great father, apart from the anecdotal recollections in responses to interviews.
The contrasting personalities between Onn and Razak could not be more obvious then when they were campaigning or otherwise engaging the common people. To be sure, both were atypical politicians; neither exhibited the usual politician’s backslapping or feigned familiarity and affability. They both seemed aloof and uncomfortable with crowds. While Onn had the imperious look of an aristocrat who is forced to be with the peasants, Razak had that of a policy wonk embarrassed at being unable to articulate more simply his complex ideas. Both however, had great intellect and more importantly, were remarkably free-minded although expressed in very different ways. Read the rest of this entry »