Academic freedom, critical thinking tools to fighting extremism, forum told

by Jennifer Gomez
The Malaysian Insider
17 June 2015

Universities have a role to play in preventing fanaticism and extremism from festering in society, academic Professor Dr Ibrahim Ahmad Bajunid said, warning that Malaysia was at a turning point.

Ibrahim, the deputy vice-chancellor of INTI-Laureate International University said extremism was taking hold and urged intellectuals to reclaim their fundamental rights.

He also said the Malays were “cultural prisoners” in Malaysia and that in many ways, the non-Malays were freer than the Malays in this country.

“When university people surrender and are not courageous and allow lesser thinkers take over because of their articulation and their loudness and their mechanism of power, they can actually oppress the masses.

“It is tragic when they oppress the intellectuals and the intellectuals accept the oppression,” he said.

Bajunid was speaking at a forum on “Higher Education Blueprint – education for development? The role of (world-class) universities” at Universiti Malaya yesterday. Putrajaya launched the blueprint in April to outline strategies for the education sector between 2015 and 2025.

Bajunid was responding to a question from the audience on ways for universities to fulfil their role as a place to foster critical thinking against dogmatism and fundamentalism in public life.

Earlier during the panel discussion, Ibrahim said Malaysia could become a failed state if it was not mindful about the contradictions in policies and implementation.

He added that while Malaysia’s education blueprint was a good guideline, institutions with good leaders could still do great things without it.

“Yes, the blueprint is a system-driven document and it talks about the big picture, but great institutions, great professors, great programmes and faculties have been doing all these without the overarching blueprint guidelines.

“We should focus not on the rhetoric or (getting on the) bandwagon but on the value of each academic and leadership at all levels.”

Global Movement of Moderates chief executive offer Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, another panel member, said to combat extremism, there needed to be ample space for a contestation of ideas.

“We need to widen the public sphere because one of the better ways to combat extremism is to allow the contestation to be out there, only then can we call their bluff.”

Serdang MP Dr Ong Kian Ming, however, said the latest installation of the education blueprint did not focus on creating an environment of openness for discussions and debates.

“A truly open setting is where we are free to talk about most things given that universities are supposed to be the place where ideas are challenged and discussed.

“One simple example would be to abolish the requirement for public university associations to get approval from the administrator to invite outside speakers, this is not practised anywhere in the developed world.”

In Malaysia, speakers who are opposition politicians have often been barred from addressing students in public universities.

Late last year, then opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was barred from addressing students at UM and also the International Islamic University Malaysia (UIAM).

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) barred UM associate professor Dr Azmi Sharom from its campus where he was to have spoken about the Sedition Act.

Security guards chased the law lecturer, who has been charged with sedition for expressing a legal opinion in a newspaper article which mentioned the Perak constitutional crisis.

UIAM also barred PKR lawmaker Rafizi Ramli from speaking at a students’ forum on the goods and services tax, cutting him short when he was eight minutes into his speech. – June 17, 2015.

  1. #1 by Bigjoe on Wednesday, 17 June 2015 - 11:06 am

    Academics are largely worthless in times of crises and we are in crises. The real danger is this – WHAT if Najib and Hadi make a deal – Hadi will drop Hudud bill temporarily for a merger with UMNO with the promise that after GE-14, they will then move to implement Hudud..

    THIS is what Chua Soi Lek means when it says UMNO-PAS can merge and still make sense for MCA..Najib still get the excuse that PAS is now under his control and Sarawak and Sabah need not worry while PAS can still go back to Kelantan and say Hudud will be implemented post GE-14..

    Its diabolical irresponsibility because no one is responsible for the final outcome – a typical Najib solution to the most important issues of the country. It looks good for now is all that is important..

    The opposition would be hard pressed to explain the complexity to the rakyat..Najib will both claim credit for taming PAS to the non-Malays while blaming DAP to the Malays for PAS implosion.. The opposition would be hard pressed to take over PAS franchise and not convince Sarawakians and Sabahan the danger of UMNO-PAS UG..

  2. #2 by cemerlang on Wednesday, 17 June 2015 - 8:16 pm

    I am critically thinking about critical thinking because many people by nature are not critical thinkers. Many people prefer an easy solution, the first answer that appears in the mind; rather than think, think and think. And people always say thinking is bad and can lead to mental problems. Why be so serious ?

  3. #3 by good coolie on Friday, 19 June 2015 - 11:40 pm

    I will give my political support to whomsoever can melt some gold and pour it down my parched throat. Money talks (has talked, and will forever talk).

    The rich see-eeh-oh of a multiinational company or Malaysian GLC, him shall I serve and adore. As for the fellows with their long beards, sitting in their ivory towers, half of them for, half of them against, anything and everything; for these emasculated beings, I have no regard!

    We deserve the leaders we elect to office. We deserve Mahatir (everyone knows that). We deserve Najib too. Let hot-coal descend on our heads. Let the ISIS take us!

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