Sunday, June 10, 2007

Merdeka Conversation 2005

Wawancara dulu yang diterbitkan semula dari blog (lama) MyShinshin.

Shin: The British have left the country for 48 years, but many of their policies including the notorious Internal Security Act (ISA), divide and rule, restrictions on mother tongue education are still largely intact. In the aspects of press freedom and local election, it’s much worse than it was 48 years ago. In your opinion, are we truly independent?

Fathi Aris Omar: I guess the issue is becoming cliché, almost every year we ask and argue the same question – for instance, “are we independent”? [laughing] We have to recognise a simple fact that a democracy (or, politics in any country) is a complex, dynamic process. So if you have already achieved a comparatively freer political setting, it does not necessarily last long.

If you study the history of post-colonial Burma and the Philippines, you can see such dynamics. If you look at Indonesia’s post-Soeharto democracy, it will appear to you that a democracy is relative.

I am not an apologetic to Malaysian current state of political affairs now, but we can say that freedom has to be fought for over and over. It is not static, ‘given’ once and for all! Democracy, even when it is practised democratically, can have paradoxes, problems and contradictions. See Frank Cunningham’s The Theories of Democracy: A Critical Introduction (2003).

Shin: Many including former teachers in Malay College Kuala Kangar (MCKK) hold the opinion that, the level of national unity and academic results were much better when the medium of instruction was English. Once it was switched to Bahasa, it’s downhill all the way. Does this mean the national language cannot unite the citizens efficiently?

Fathi Aris Omar: I don’t think the issue is language, bahasa Malaysia or English. I prefer to say the pivotal issue here is democratic freedom. Read George Orwell’s brief comment on this issue, ‘Politics and the English Language' (1946).

For the New Order’s Indonesian control of language and thoughts, we may refer to this latest book, Social Science and Power in Indonesia (2005).

If you can’t express many things, if you cannot explore your creative freedom freely (literature, for example), if you have some ideas but no effective medium of public expression and exchange (no free press or academic freedom), if our society kills debate and critical thinking, if intellectuals fails (or refused) to challenge the powers-that-be (that is, no serious debates on matters of public importance), what is happening to our language?

I tend not to agree with the former teachers in MCKK. I guess they perceive these issues wrongly or narrowly. I notice bahasa Malaysia can be a medium of excellence too.

But when our freedom and democracy is slowly eroded, a decade after another (see this important dates: post-May 13, 1969, the 22-year rule under Dr Mahathir Mohamad and post-1998 political crises), what has happened to our language use and our thoughts?

Even English-speaking Malays and Malaysians, urbanites and professionals, are ’stupid’ (or: shallow, conservative, less critical and ignorant)!

Do you read ‘letters section’ of Malaysiakini.com – and do you think these English-speaking letter writers are ‘good’? Have you noticed how people express and argue in The Star, The New Straits Times and even Kakiseni.com?

Even those who study overseas (Malays or non-Malays) are more or less inflicted with this Malaysian disease of mediocrity! Language use is not about words and vocabulary. It is about ideas and how you relate, analyse, what’s is happening around you (societal realities).

Language and excellence are not spontatenous. People, here, assume (repeat: assume) English is more superior to bahasa Malaysia because the former language is more developed intellectually and internationally recognised.

But when you try to transmit the intellectuality of English to a less democratic environment (when you are subjected to unfair, conservative, undemocractic constraints) – it may have different impact. It is the context of intellectuality (or intellectual development) in a particular political climate that provides the excellence of language use (and, thoughts).

But language can be a good (and very effective, too!) tool for thought-control, propaganda and misinformation. See Murray Edelman’s The Politics of Misinformation (2001, 2004) and Pierre Bourdieu’s Language and Symbolic Power (1991, 2001).

If you ask some Malay intellectuals, who can use equally well bahasa Malaysia and English, e.g. Rustam A Sani, Hishamuddin Rais or Khalid Jaafar — they will agree with me. That is, nothing is special in English-speaking Malays’ (or, non-Malays’) discourse and understanding.

What I try to conclude is simple indeed — it is democratic freedom, not the language use, which hinders excellence.

You said: “Once it was switched to Bahasa, it’s downhill all the way.” But can you also notice the downhill of our democratic space?

Shin: Yes, definitely…

Fathi Aris Omar: So, I believe there is strong correlation between political authoritarism (especially the 22-year rule of Dr Mahathir’s) plus religious fundamentalism and thought-control and language use.

I try to explain, though still simple and inadequate, in some of my pieces in my Malaysiakini.com column, e.g. ‘Akar Umbi Pembodohan Umno’ (23 August 2003), ‘Politik dan Kejahatan Berbahasa’ (8 August 2005) and the most recent one ‘Kebodohan Umum di Indonesia’ (22 August 2005).

If you read my book Patah Balek: Catatan Terpenting Reformasi (Feb 2005), you will notice that the issues are dealt with quite extensively.

I still believe, none the less, that my analyses are still superficial. I try to remind people that we have to deal with these issues (i.e. language, public discourse and thought control) because they are equally important in our democratic struggle; not cases of human rights violations only (for instance).

Shin: Many blame the racial politics and racist policies as main culprits for national disunity. However, even without these, the national schools do not necessarily become the premier choice. Does this mean national unity is difficult to achieve?

Fathi Aris Omar: I would like to say this way, after paraphrasing the above sentence
of yours a bit, “many blame the racial politics and racist policies as main culprits for less and less democratic space and the seeds of our national problems now, one of them is national disunity.”

Shin: Hey, so funny-lah you, we should bersyukur a bit so I thought it’s a good idea to save BN some face…

Fathi Aris Omar: Racial integration or racial unity? I don’t understand this issue and I think that arguing along these words “racial unity” is limited. We are trapped into thinking along “old” pair of glasses. “Old” here means “the dominant, the obsolete, the 1970s, the dying” language of analysing our national politics.

The real issue is — to my understanding — communal politics (or, communalism), where people voice their concern and rally public issues (or see themselves vis a vis the others) through race-based languages.

When you vote your wakil rakyats from your own ethnicity; when you prefer (without rational calculation) sale representatives, bureaucrates, editors or managers from your own race; when you prefer to form a race-based political parties and student groups (though, later you merge or form alliances); when you feel more secure and comfortable with your own race regardless of issues and contexts.

Race is the paradigm of politics. Just like when religion (in this case, Islam) becomes the political paradigm. They are like scientism or positivism, that is, the cognitive process of narrowing the realities (or, ‘truth’ or ‘objectivities’) via a single or mono-perspective.

The paradigm (race, religion or scientific school of thought) defines everything and shapes your priorities, taste (likes and dislikes), social values (the good, the bad, the ugly and the wicked) and other preferences. It breeds discrimination, exclusivity and stupidity (too!). The paradigm is the sole, the main or the most dominant criterion on your minds to see the world

The word “race” (and the derivatives, “racial”, “racism”, “racist” or “racialist”) has been made a politics of identity, a category of perception. But it is limited, constrained, distorted form of analysing national issues.

I am not saying it is not real; it is. But it is also hallucionary — something which is fluid, unstable and unfinished, yet has been made otherwise and unchallengeable.

The very ideas of the politics of control and propaganda are to change this relation (something fluid, unstable and unfinished so that it is seen [cognitively], concrete, stable and ‘finished’). See Roland Barthes’s Mythologies (1973).

Race, however you define it, is always hegemonic. It is always a form of control. Do you like to submit to and submerge under a Chinese community’s control? I don’t like a Malay (or an Islamic) community’s control over me. I am always suspicious of the majority.

I prefer Christopher Hitchens’s comment: “Well, no, I don’t think that the solidarity of belonging is much of a prize. I appreciate that it can bestow some pride, and that it can lead to mutual aid and even brother- and sisterhood, but it has too many suffocating qualities, and many if not most of the benefits can be acquired in other ways.” (see his book, Letters to a Young Contrarian, 2001).

Shin: Social contract which was created prior to independence has become the buzzword in town again. Unfortunately most of them wish to interpret it according to own preferences, for instance, Umno’s emphasis on the Special Malay Positions, while DAP emphasis on Malaysia being a secular state. In your opinion, is this Social Contract going to be relevant forever ? Would the thoughts of future generations be different? If yes, which way?

Fathi Aris Omar: Frankly speaking, my friend, I don’t like at all the way you say and put the issue as such: “Unfortunately most of them wish to interpret it according to [their] own preferences, …”

What do you expect them to do — to scream as loud as possible in one voice, one chorus, “Yessssss”? It is politics, people have different (or, diverse) interests, values, judgments, ideals and analyses.

We prefer democracy and freedom (over authoritarianism, dictatorship or undemocratic control) not because we want unity or to eliminate differences.

We want to exercise a more open, democratic, peaceful, equal and intelligent debates over our differences. We would like to appreciate the diversity and plurality of voices. We want to form consensus via the deliberative or discursive democracy.

It is an ongoing process, we don’t limit the discourse and criticism even after some agreement (or, consensus) is achieved. Previous generation agreement is not conclusive; it must subject to criticism on our current understanding and thinking.

We want democracy, independence (Merdeka) and freedom because we want to challenge the dominant (so that the dominant, the majority, can not and should not do whatever their whims and fancy are). We want our voices of concern heard, we want to say something without being seen as anti- the State, anti-Government or anti-majority.

The State, Government, majority, policy, tradition, culture, ulama, guidelines, social contract, knowledge or religion — so what? There is nothing holy in them, all is human creation to suit certain needs (especially the dominant ones, the winner’s, the majority’s) in certain spatial-temporal context.

Shin: In fact, by phrasing my question that way, all I wanted to emphasis is, they are telling us to stick to Social Contract, while they themselves have problem in accepting part of it. For example, Umnois shying away from upholding the agreement on secular state. However, by all means, I don’t mean they cannot have dispute.

Fathi Aris Omar: Social contract is totally relevant at any given time. The contract is another word or concept of setting fair ‘rules of the game.’ Let eveybody contest in the game with sense of justice and fairness. Life is competitive; politics is a competition. Social contract lets everybody live and play in this game with sense of justice and fairness.

The thoughts of future generations? Let us struggle to achieve and shape it. I don’t believe in miracle and prediction. We may discuss it, better, at another forum. Sometimes it seems optimistic, sometimes not. So, I repeat, let us struggle to achieve and shape generations to come. We have to prepare more fertile ground so that our seeds will be more democratic.

Shin: Liberals and fundamentalists have different interpretations on the role of Islam in the Constitution, in which its role was not clearly defined. Does Islam as the religion of the federation is only ceremonial and symbolic, or it should be the basis for all laws and policies? In some countries for example Pakistan, it is stipulated in the Constitution that any article in the Constitution will be automatically invalid if it clashes with Al-Quran or Sunnah. Do you think we need to include this in our Constitution too?

Between Constitution and Al-Quran, as well as human rights and Al-Quran, which is superior? Constitution and human rights safeguard freedom of religion. Instead of being just a way of thoughts and rituals, Islam is also a way of life (ad-deen) and has its own legal system. Is the National Front (BN) government, which continues to forbid the enforcement of Hudud, Qisas and Takzir while claiming that Malaysia is a “Negara Islam”, infringing its citizens’ constitutional rights and human rights by restricting them from practising their religion?

Fathi Aris Omar: The Federal Constitution or Perlembagaan Persekutuan is vague. Islam, according to our first Prime Minister, is ceremonial only but the practice of the religious hegemony (Islam over other religions) is so extensive and tight.

The constitution protects Islam and allows privilleges of Islam over other religions. I don’t think it is fair. If we value religion, we should treat all religion equally. We can’t - for example - obstruct the teachings of other religions to Malays and Muslims.

Without further ado, please refer to this book Malaysia: An Islamic State? Secularism and Theocracy: A Study of the Malaysian Constitution (edited by Abdul Razak Baginda and Peter Schier).

I basically believe, religious or not a state is, when corruption or abuse of power (like Pakistan) is rampant, when there is no sense of justice and fair play, let us topple such governments. Let us throw it over, not only the leaders, the ruling parties but also the religious ideologies.

Any religion can be manipulated, so can Islam. What is so special about Islamic ideology? Tell me, what? Do you think PAS in Kelantan and Terengganu (1999-2004) did not practice corruption, nepotism and cronyism (KKN)?

See my analyses here ‘KKN Kelantan T’ganu macam Umno' (22 August 2002) and ‘Media bebas sorok KKN PAS?‘ (15 November 2002).

Ideology, whatever it is, can be manipulated. Idealism is good on paper (in theoritical persuasion) but once it is politically practised, it will have some problems. Let us deal with ideology or political idealism that give freedom (that is democracy) and stop propagating ideas, ideology and idealism that will benefit some people only.

BN’s ‘Negara Islam’ - like ‘Islam Hadhari’ - is a window-dresser for the stupids. Why should we bother to think about that? Let us get to the crux of the matter, not the labelling. When there are no democracy, freedom and human rights, then the state is not fully “legitimate” (according to Jurgen Habermas’s Legitimation Crisis, 1975).

Shin: Can the Communists be considered as surrenderred, after the signing of Haadyai Peace Accord? It was stated that the Communist members would be allowed to return, but many victims of their violent and terror acts opposed to it. How should the government decide? Did the Communist play any role in gaining independence and national building? If yes, please state.

Fathi Aris Omar: It has been a sentimental and emotional issue – though I am not suggesting it is not valid one. The Government should allow the CPM veterans to return and there must be some of sort ‘national reconciliation’ process.

Some countries form ‘national truth and reconciliation commission’, for instance East Timor, South Africa and Indonesia. So we should practice this one. The English colonialist power, just like the Japanese, has to bear their mistakes too – they should not have run away.

The 1985 Memali incident (the brutal killings and the subsequent arrest of villagers) must be included too. The Government has to compensate the loss in the incident. I agree, and strongly support, what our National Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) is doing – inquiry over human rights abuses.

Human rights violations and cruelties of the past are our national tragedies and we must admit it openly and correct it. We can not ignore it. People say “time heals” but we should facilitate the process of national healing, don’t let the time alone decide.

Shin: Are the “20 Points” which was meant to protect Sabahans and Sarawakians interest still relevant? What are the effects to national integration, politics, economics and society, if it is maintained, reviewed or abolished?

Fathi Aris Omar: I am very sorry. It is a very good and relevant question you raise here but I don’t really study the issue. Without much preparation, I do not think it is fair to comment. But I strongly believe this issue has to be looked at seriously. Perhaps next time, I will answer it.

5 comments:

FARREL said...

Saudara Fathi Aris Omar,

Sejujurnya dengan rendah hati saya amat berterima kasih atas kesudian saudara merespon persoalan yang saya kemukakan kepada pak Khalid Jaafar melalui blog beliau.

Walaubagaimanapun saya agak sedikit kecewa kerana jawapan saudara telah menyimpang dari kehendak soalan yg saya harapkan dan dalam masa yg sama saudara memperlecehkan Aa Gym (KH Abdullah Gymnastiar) tanpa alasan atau ulasan yang kukuh dan berhikmah juga mengesankan. Bukan niat utk mencari siapa salah, siapa benar tetapi ingin mengetahui kedudukan dan keadaan sebenar utk kita sama-sama fikirkan.

Sekali lagi, jutaan terima kasih atas ulasan saudara. Saya terima dgn hati yg terbuka dan dlm masa yg sama mengharapkan jwpn yg jujur, bernas dan berhikmah!

Berbekalkan teguran ikhlas saudara saya telah memperbaiki hujah2 dan persoalan saya kepada Pak Khalid Jaafar, mohon saudara dapat membacanya semula sepertimana dibawah. Saya juga cuba menyusun semula hujah dan ayat2 saya sepertimana dibawah. Mohon saudara dpt menjawab sejujurnya. Termasuk penambahan isu antara KAF dan IKD.

NOTE:

Sekadar rujukan, utk maklumat berkenaan KH Abdullah Gymnastiar

http://www.tokohindonesia.com/ensiklopedi/a/abdullah-gymnastiar/index.shtml


NOTE :

Sekadar rujukan berikut adalah petikan pertanyaan saya yg dipetik dlm blog Pak Khalid Jaafar.

""[[FARREL said...

saya agak tertarik dgn idea pencerahan yang dipelopori oleh Pak Khalid, Saudara Hasmi dan teman2, saya juga tertarik dgn idea manajeman qolbu (MQ) yg dipelopori oleh KH Abdullah Gymnastiar atau dikenali sbgai Aagym (xperlu sy kupas lebih lanjut dan Pak Khalid lebih maklum).

Merujuk kpd penulisan Pak Khalid dlm "Seruan Keadilan" suatu ketika dulu yg menyatakan wujud persamaan antara al-Arqam dgn MQ dan dengan terbuka Pak Khalid mengkritik idea MQ melalui penulisan ketika menjadi Ketua Penerangan KEADILAN (tak silap saya-maaf kalau tersalah), dimana menurut Pak Khalid MQ menceduk konsep Al-Arqam dan menyimpang dari ajaran Islam. (seolah2 menyatakan MQ - mirip sesat). Agak keliru bila memikirkan kenyataan tersebut.

Kekeliruan sekali lagi berlaku dlm benak hati saya dgn kemunculan idea pencerahan yg dipelopori oleh Pak Khalid, kelihatan idea ini berkiblatkan tokoh2 falsafah barat sehingga menimbulkan pelbagai persoalan yg menyatakan IKD mengetuai Gagasan Islam Liberal atau dlm ertikata lain “mengKristianisasikan Islam”. (atau memBARATkan Islam bukan bermaksud memurtadkan Islam).

Sebagai penyokong hujah, IKD dgn jelas bekerjasama dan ditaja oleh Konrad Adenauer Foundation.

merujuk kepada wikipedia.org :

"The Konrad Adenauer Foundation (Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung) (KAS) is a German research foundation associated with that country's Christian Democratic Union. It was founded in 1956 as the "Society for Christian Democratic Education Work" and renamed after the former Chancellor Konrad Adenauer in 1964. The foundation has its seat in Wesseling near Bonn.
It is the largest of the politically affiliated research foundations in Germany, with an annual budget of around €100 million, most of which it receives from government. It funds policy research, in the mould of a think tank, but the larger part of its sponsorship is research in the social sciences not directly connected to framing policy."

Persoalannya. Bolehkah teori MQ disamatarafkan dgn teori2 pencerahan? (maksud saya kedua-dua ini "menyimpang" dari Islam) Mungkin bezanya MQ didasari oleh Al-Quran & Al-Hadith manakala idea atau gagasan pencerahan didasari oleh teori2 ahli falsafah barat. Sesungguhnya secara jujurnya kedua-dua teori ini amat menarik minat saya kerana kedua-duanya berpaksikan nilai-nilai rasional mengatasi emosional. Pada hemat saya kedua-dua idea ini amat ideal dan praktikal untuk menjadi dasar kepada sesebuah parti atau organisasi berbanding teori-teori atau idea-idea lain.

Dengan rendah hati dan penuh pengharapan. Saya mohon penjelasan, bukan utk menguji, tapi benar2 memerlukan jawapan. Mohon pak khalid jelaskan!

Farrel – mencari keadilan dalam hati

5:02 AM ]]]] ""

fathi aris omar said...

Hehehe Farrel, baca buku dan selidik lagi... Saya hanya ketawa.

Soal IKD dengan KAF (atau, KAS) itu bukan persoalannya. Jika ia menjadi soalan di fikiran Sdr, itu melayakkan kita ketawa lagi beramai-ramai hahaha!

Saya tidak tahulah Gagasan Pencerahan Hasmi atau Islam Tanwiri IKD. Elok dirujuk langsung kepada mereka berdua. Kurang manis saya bercakap bagi pihak mereka. Kerana pandangan saya mungkin tidak mewakili sepenuhnya cara mereka mengolah dan menjawab pertanyaan Sdr.

Tetapi jika kita suka membaca, elok rujuk www.google.com.my dan masukkan perkataan "Enlightenment", sekurang-kurangnya begitulah gejala Pencerahan dalam sejarah Eropah.

Di peringkat saya, buku Patah Balek: Catatan Terpenting Reformasi (Feb 2005), sebagai cebisan jawapan saya.

Satu artikel saya seperti di pautan berikut: http://usrah2007.blogspot.com/2007/05/usrah-semangat-zaman-pencerahan.html

Nanti kalau teman2 KSJT dan saya mengadakan diskusi buku "The Enlightenment" atau "Politics of Misinformation", datanglah ke Jalan Telawi. Boleh kita diskusikan hal ini lebih panjang.

Buat masa sekarang, kita sedang diskusi buku Joseph Strayer, "On the Medieval Origin of the Modern State".

Tentang Aa Gym itu, atau buku2 Ikhawanul Muslimin, lupakanlah ...

Elok juga jika Sdr membaca buku Robert W. Hefner "Civil Islam: Muslims and Democratization in Indonesia" untuk meluaskan pengalaman dan pandangan tentang Islam di negara jiran kita itu.

http://usrah2007.blogspot.com/2007/05/mereformasi-usrah-melayu.html

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