Analyst sees Malaysia as likely case study of Islamic world’s woes

(FMT) – Corruption and incompetence could be the country’s undoing, says CGP fellow Azeem Ibrahim.

A senior fellow at the Centre for Global Policy (CGP) has warned that Malaysia could end up becoming the perfect case study into the Islamic world’s problems.

Writing for Al Arabiya English, an online service of the Al Arabiya News Channel, Azeem Ibrahim said he had always argued that the greatest threat to the Muslim world was not the West, but the corruption and incompetence in administration in the Muslim countries themselves.

“To this argument there were a number of crucial pieces of evidence,” he said. “First of all, there is a clear inverse correlation between corruption and economic development not just in the Middle East, but globally. Secondly, Muslim countries are among the most corrupt countries in the world, and this maps well to the problems we know well from the region.

“In this sense, the abundance of natural resources has served to mask much of the problem, as per capita wealth in the region comes out as much higher than it would have been for a given level of corruption, and that distorts the perception of societal problems in these countries.”

He noted that Malaysia and Turkey were once notable examples of countries in the Islamic world which did not conform to the region’s reputation for corruption.

“In both the cases, the countries have inherited and sustained over the span of the 20th century an ethos of modernism and civic-mindedness which emulated that in the successful countries in the West. And they reaped the benefits of social and political stability and economic development, both having been the most economically developed Islamic countries in international rankings.”

However, he said, current developments pointed to the likelihood that this would change for both countries.

“I fear we are about to be witnesses to a very cruel experiment, which I believe will prove my argument. It is yet too early to make a definitive judgement on the direction Turkey is heading in after the failed coup, even if the omens do not look good.

“In the case of Malaysia, we are already seeing the breakdown in institutional functioning and credibility, which will likely see the country join the Middle Eastern countries in the infamous club of corrupt and barely functioning states.”

He said that neither “Western intervention” nor “historical colonial crimes” could be used as an excuse by either state, adding that both countries had come into the post World War 2 world as “confident, independent nations”.

“Both carved a way in the world for themselves through hard work and diligence, efforts which have yielded a good life for the majority of their citizens.

“Turkey currently finds itself in a complex political, economic and security crisis from which we cannot draw too many general conclusions. But Malaysia is suffering entirely from self-inflicted wounds. It is a secure and naturally wealthy country with a track record of success in development. But it has let its guard down, and has let corruption infest the highest levels of government.

“Malaysian civil society must now take firm and immediate action to put the country back on track. If not, I fear that the country will tragically end up as the perfect case study into how the problems of the Islamic world stem primarily from domestic corruption.”