My Saifuddin dilemma (2): Moderation – My view and the Foreigners’ view

Those who came to the meeting expressed their views in moderate fashion. They were unemotional; they didn’t use words like ‘hypocrisy.’ However, they left listeners in no doubt that hypocrisy is what Malaysian moderation tastes like. Here are some examples. 


In Part 1, I sketched the history of moderation in Malaysia, a nation which much of the world considers ‘Islamic.’
When the World Trade Centre was destroyed in September 2001, the world looked for “model” Islamic nations.
Many Western nations saw that Malaysia could serve as a ‘model Islamic nation’ – especially since Dr Mahathir, then Prime Minister, was eager to be a world figure.
Moderation in Malaysia had been engineered by Dr M to be Capitalism and Consumerism in Islamic garb. The name of the game was equitable distribution of the economic pie. Malays must get a fair share of the economic pie. Chinese control of the economy must be reduced (see Dr M’s once-banned book, The Malay Dilemma; click to read Barry Wain’s assessment of the book). Everything was about winning the game.
To keep Umno and Dr M in power, Parliament enacted laws which severely handicapped the spread of religions other than state-sponsored Islam. These were implemented at the state (not Federal) level by often apoplectic Islamic authorities and their Rulers.
To attract foreign investment, Malaysia had to counter fears that it would go the way of other ‘Islamic’ countries. So, Malaysia presented itself to the world as a beacon of ‘progressive Islam.’ The presentation was embroidered by well-funded “International Islamic” Federal institutions and scholars, and a woman Trade Minister (Rafidah Aziz).
To-date, moderation in Malaysia means Islamic moderation: we don’t amputate, lash or stone. We don’t put out fatwas against ‘naughty’ authors. We don’t condone suicide bombings. We have our own special version of human rights: Malay-Muslims are more equal than others.
Now, back to the GMMF (Global Movement of Moderates Foundation) roundtable which I introduced in Part 1.
American Blessing.
I think the best assessment of what moderation has meant to-date in Malaysia was given by one of the invited speakers, Datuk Nicholas Zefferys, a former president of the Malaysian American Chamber of Commerce.
This American who has settled in Malaysia seemed to espouse this view: any policy or act which has as its goal peace, jobs and prosperity, is an expression of moderation.
He amplified his point by urging other countries to emulate “two outstanding documents” which Malaysia created: (1) Vision 2020 and (2) the New Economic Model. Enough said.

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