Archive for March 19th, 2008

We Need An Intelligent Response to Islamophobia

By Farish A. Noor

The recent declaration made at the OIC summit that calls for Muslim nation-states to act in a concerted manner and to take legal action against any country, group or individual who deliberately attacks Islam is noteworthy for the seriousness of its intent; but falls short of providing us with a real solution to the problem of racism and prejudice disguised behind the banner of Islam-bashing.

For a start, one wonders if the arena of international law even allows states to take legal action against other actors and agents on such grounds; and one wonders what the modalities of such an action might be. But above all, we need to take a calm and rational distance from the problem itself and consider methods that will work and reject those that certainly won’t.

The problem, however, is this: How can Muslims react rationally and coolly to acts of provocation at a time when even the utterance of the mutest words of protest are deemed by some as the irrational outpourings of misguided pious grief instead? The worry that some of us share at the moment is how the Muslims of the world will react to the release of the film produced by Geert Wilders, the leader of the Dutch Freedom Party. Wilders is known in Holland as a maverick politician on the make, an ambitious demagogue whose tactics are as loud as they are crude. His decision to make a film on the life of the Prophet Muhammad was calculated to raise the political temperature in Europe at a time when Muslim-non-Muslim relations have hit an all time low. Unlike the murdered film director Theo van Gogh who was a left-leaning activist and long-time supporter of minority concerns (and who, incidentally, also defended the rights of Muslim migrants in Holland), Wilders is a far-right politician who is clearly appealing to the baser parochial and exclusive sentiments of white Dutch society.

It would be hypocritical, to say the least, that Wilders’ film which presents Islam as a religious system akin to Facism and which compares the Prophet Muhammad to Hitler was meant to bring the communities of Holland closer together.

But in reacting to the film the Muslim community worldwide would have to take into account some cautionary points: Read the rest of this entry »


Five tests – “Reform Cabinet” or pseudo Reform Cabinet

New Stratis Times hailed the second Abdullah Cabinet unveiled yesterday as “REFORM Cabinet”, describing it as “the Cabinet and government the Barisan Nasional should have had four years ago”.

I would have been the first to welcome a “Reform Cabinet” although it is four years and two months late. Although there are signs that the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi seems prepared to begin to “hear the truth from the people” although more than four years late on the pledges he first made when became Prime Minister in October 2003, like the surprise appointment of Zaid Ibrahim as Minister in charge of legal and judicial reforms, there are also signs to the contrary.

It is no exaggeration to say that the appointment of Umno Information chief Muhammad Muhammad Taib as Minister for Rural and Regional Development has stained the second Abdullah Cabinet right from the start and raised questions about Abdullah’s commitment and political will to the new politics of accountability, transparency, integrity and good governance. Read the rest of this entry »