Pasca Subashini: Apakah Ada Jalan Keluar?

Oleh Shamsul Iskandar Mohd Akin*

Perkara 11 Perlembagaan Persekutuan menjamin hak setiap individu untuk menganuti dan mengamalkan ajaran agama masing-masing secara aman dan harmoni. Jaminan perlembagaan terhadap hak kebebasan beragama merupakan asas utama keharmonian hubungan antara kaum dan agama di negara ini. Keharmonian dicapai apabila setiap individu bebas mengamalkan ajaran agama masing-masing tanpa gangguan atau paksaan.

Sebagai sebuah negara majoriti Islam, sistem undang-undang di negara ini dirangka untuk menjamin hak orang-orang Islam untuk diadili berdasarkan undang-undang diri Islam. Orang-orang Islam berhak mendapat pengadilan di mahkamah-mahkamah syariah yang diwujudkan khusus untuk mereka. Sementara itu, orang-orang bukan Islam pula dikecualikan daripada penguatkuasaan undang-undang Islam. Dalam kes perkahwinan dan perceraian umpamanya, orang-orang Islam adalah tertakluk kepada bidangkuasa mahkamah syariah, manakala orang-orang bukan Islam pula tertakluk kepada bidangkuasa mahkamah sivil. Kewujudan dwi-sistem ini secara prinsipnya memberi hak kepada masyarakat majmuk Malaysia untuk diadili oleh satu sistem perundangan yang meraikan kepelbagaian pegangan agama.

Namun demikian, konflik boleh muncul dalam keadaan-keadaan tertentu. Misalnya, kes-kes pemelukan agama Islam oleh salah seorang pasangan bukan Islam. Persoalan timbul tentang mahkamah manakah yang mempunyai bidangkuasa untuk menentukan status perkahwinan mereka. Mahkamah sivil atau mahkamah syariah? Jika pasangan ini mempunyai anak hasil daripada perkahwinan mereka, wujud persoalan tentang siapakah yang berhak menentukan agama anak dan mendapatkan hak penjagaan anak. Pasangan yang beragama Islam atau bukan Islam? Sekali lagi muncul persoalan tentang mahkamah manakah yang mempunyai bidangkuasa untuk mengadili kes-kes seperti ini. Mahkamah syariah atau mahkamah sivil?
Teruskan membaca “Pasca Subashini: Apakah Ada Jalan Keluar?”

OPINION: Anwar and cross-civilisation dialogue

I remember written an article on my journey back to Malaysia after visiting Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim at Munich. This article later on was published by The Nation, Thai Independent Newspaper. Luckily, i manage to find the soft copy so that i can share with all the young Malaysians.

Published on Oct 13, 2004

Though the future path of Anwar Ibrahim’s political career is still uncertain, the former deputy prime minister of Malaysia has been contemplating a possible role as an international mediator between Islam and the West.

Hours after he left for Munich, Germany, to seek medical treatment for a back ailment, Anwar pondered the urgency of dialogue between the two cultures and the possibility of working to build a bridge between the two worlds amidst a global war against terrorism.

In an interview with International Herald Tribune journalist Thomas Fueller, Anwar criticised Muslims for what he calls their lack of introspection in dealing with their own shortcomings. He slams Muslims who are quick to blame others for their problems, saying they are devoid of the real voice of conscience.

He also condemned the West for its failure to understand the root causes of terrorism. For Anwar, “The battle of terrorism is a battle of hearts and minds”, in which Muslims must be challenged “on whether a society devoid of such principles of democracy, civil society and tolerance is legitimately Islamic”.

Elsewhere, Anwar has spoken of the need for more openness and participatory democracy in Muslim countries as a means of checking the rise of Muslim extremists, who are more likely to resort to terrorism in pursuing their agenda. Democracy, which is essentially a Western doctrine, may pave the way for the resolution of the predicaments facing the Muslim world.

This unorthodox view of the West and Islam, or the East in general, is not uncharacteristic of Anwar. In the book “The Asian Renaissance”, which he wrote while he was in office, Anwar dwells on the symbiotic relationship between East and West and the importance of cross-civilisation dialogue. To make such dialogue fruitful, both East and West, Anwar maintains, must look at each other from new perspectives, untainted by bitter past experiences. Anwar writes: “The East must look beyond the Crusades and the era of colonialism, while the West must look at the East and the rest of the world in a new light, a perspective illuminated by humility and sincerity.”

In the 1990s, the need for Anwar’s cross-civilisation dialogue became apparent not only in the developed West’s cultural jingoism, but also in the post-colonial language of many Third World leaders, who viewed the West’s actions as nothing more than neo-colonialism. Democracy, freedom and human rights were regarded as tools the West used to overthrow governments in developing countries and plunder their wealth. The establishment groups in these countries thus preferred anti-pluralistic politics to pluralistic ones. These governments stifled dissent and instituted an array of political controls to limit the scope of political competition, while maintaining corrupt leaders in power. This took place in the name of maintaining political stability, a prerequisite for rapid state-led economic development. Asia’s booming years in the early 1990s served as a vindication of this distinctively “Asian values” politics.

Anwar, however, had a nuanced view of the Asian values. While he acknowledged that Asians come to democracy from a different perspective than their Western counterparts, he cautioned that Asians should be less arrogant in condemning the West and concentrate instead on remedying the shortcomings of their own societies, including poverty, corruption and moral decay. In an interview with The Australian Financial Review in June 1994, Anwar condemned some Asian leaders who “tend to be even on the verge of arrogance when they only look at the excesses of the West and assume that everything’s all right in the East”. Further, he called for “more dialogue and rapprochement between the West and the East because the future rests ultimately with the complementarity of both the strengths of the West and the East.”

Anwar’s inclusive approach to East-West relations struck a chord with many leaders in the West. While in office, he used this platform to forge closer ties with Western governments and influential international organisations. It therefore came as no surprise that his sacking, trial and imprisonment drew international criticism. Even six years after being removed from office, Anwar still inspires international concern. Among his visitors at Alpha Klinik in Munich, where he was recuperating from back surgery, were former Indonesian president BJ Habibie, former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans and renowned Islamic scholar and former director of the International Institute of Islamic Thought, Dr Jamal Barzinji.

Habibie promised Anwar whatever resources he had to help realise the latter’s vision of peaceful coexistence between Muslims and non-Muslims. Former United States vice president Al Gore also expressed his concern and willingness to work with Anwar in forging better understanding between Islam and the West. When I was in Munich visiting Anwar, on October 5, he received a visit from the US Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, one of the neo-conservatives behind the US invasion of Iraq. Wolfowitz and Anwar had a two-hour debate and discussed various issues involving Muslims, particularly terrorism, Iraq and Palestine.

Though Anwar’s image as the “darling of the West” gives him a much-needed advantage in his effort to resume his diplomatic role in bridging the East/Islam-West divide, amid the war against terrorism, he needs to be wary of efforts to accuse him of having sold out to the West. He has already suffered because of such sentiments.

Beyond this potential pitfall, because he is not part of the government, his effectiveness as a “diplomat” will depend heavily on the space allowed him by the government of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as well as the intricacies of diplomatic relations between nations.

Shamsul Iskandar Mohd Akin
*Shamsul Iskandar Mohd Akin is vice youth chief of the People’s Justice Party (Keadilan).

Which road will Anwar take?

Shamsul Iskandar Mohd Akin
Sep 21, 04 12:19pm

En-route to Munich on Sept 4, Anwar Ibrahim wrote: “I have often wondered whether there was a mystical reason for my being put out of circulation during one of the most turbulent periods of human history, at least in my lifetime. Given my contacts in both the Muslim and Western worlds, I would have been expected to play some diplomatic role in the so-called war against terrorism, and I would be loath to shirk it. I shudder at the thought of how complicated the job would have been and the agonies I would have had to go through in making some of the required decisions. I would definitely have convened the group of friends with whom I have been involved in the civilizational dialogue project”. (See Far Eastern Economic Review, Sept 16, 2004).

If Anwar’s lamentation of his role as a mediator between the Muslim nations and the West after the Sept 11 attack on America has anything to suggest, other than his conviction to civilizational dialogue as a means to bridge the East and West divide, that would be of his position as someone who was once at the corridor of power which still runs deep in his psyche. But given his position as an icon of opposition politics for the past long six years, one would wonder how would he get there again?

Few options are there for him to consider. He may choose to be with the opposition, strive to deal with their differences and then build a strong and cohesive front to unseat the Barisan Nasional. Soon after the Federal Court set him free, he pledged to do just that.

With his track record as a charismatic crowd-pulling Muslim youth leader and ex-deputy prime minister, Anwar is no doubt a ready-made asset for the opposition. His long six years struggle to free himself from wrongful incarceration would make him a powerful icon of justice in his own right. This would certainly be warmly greeted by the opposition leaders who have been at the forefront in the struggle for his release and in support for reformasi.

If Anwar chooses to stick to that, he would in one way return their favor. But politics is not about returning one’s favor. What matters the most is how to wield political power. Given the BN’s hegemony and its institutionalised political control, Anwar must be ready to take a long bumpy road to his final destination. He knows this very well.

National reconciliation

The second option is to work towards national reconciliation and a full closure to the divisive Malay cultural revolt which has plagued Malaysian politics for the past six years. He may remain as an icon of justice, of reform and of national unity without aligning himself to any side of opposing political parties. It is imperative for Anwar to work hand in hand with an array of civic groups, the opposition and the leaders of ruling party to realize this goal.

This option is not too remote in Anwar’s mind as he himself had mentioned shortly after his release that he was willing to engage wide range of people and groups, including Umno leaders, for the country’s sake Anwar may then, as a populist and statesman, galvanize popular support for political reform and national reconciliation

Given Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s current reform initiatives, a meeting point can be reached somewhere along the broad political spectrum. In this regard, Anwar is an asset to the nation. However, not only would this option be of chagrin to those who want Anwar to fight their war, his road to political power would be as long and bumpy as it would if he chooses to be with the opposition.

The third option would be to rejoin Umno, the party which once brought him so close to the helm of power. His return to Umno would invite mixed reactions though. As a taxi driver remarks, “if Tengku Razaleigh, the man responsible for the dissolution of Umno, could be readmitted to the party, why not Anwar?”. Anwar’s “sin”, he said “could not match that of Razaleigh”. Anyway, “given the fact that Anwar is a victim to political conspiracy, it is not unreasonable to reinstate his position”.

This could be the sentiment at the grassroots. But will Umno leaders, particularly those who have been working very hard to keep him out of politics, do nothing to stop him from resurrecting his political career? To do so would amount to digging their own graves. Even the warring factions within Umno will certainly close ranks and make sure that Anwar will not make his way into the party. They are too frightened to let him in. What more, prison seems to be a good incubator for world class leaders. They cannot imagine having to face another Mandela on their own turf. Suffice to say that Anwar could not be guaranteed of a smooth sailing in Umno too.

Having considered all the three options, what else is left for Anwar? In the light of the Federal Court’s decision to uphold his conviction for corrupt practice, Anwar will have to wait until April 14, 2008 before he can hold any political post. This would somewhat narrow down his options. But this too would leave much for political astrologers to predict. Which roads will he not take? Does this politician par excellence have something else in mind?

SHAMSUL ISKANDAR MOHD AKIN is the Vice-Youth Chief of Parti Keadilan Rakyat and currently works as a Legal Practitioner.
*This article was published by