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Jumaat, 16 Oktober 2009

Plenary address by Anwar Ibrahim at the “Common Word Between Us and You” Conference on Muslim Christian Relations in the 21st Century

at Georgetown University on October 7, 2009

In Love’s Labours Lost, the Bard tells us that:
… when Love speaks, the voice of all the gods
Makes heaven drowsy with the harmony
Act IV, Sc. III

There are few universities that have demonstrated as profound and enduring a commitment to interfaith work and civilizational dialogue as Georgetown. Where there is a clear lack of institutions focused on the nurturing of the ideas and values that would create such understanding between the Muslim world and the West, I commend John Esposito’s vision and commitment in heading the Prince Al Waleed Center for Muslim Christian Understanding. Just after the Center was established in 1993 I remember delivering a lecture here on the need for civilisational dialogue where we asserted that the way forward was the pursuit of a convivencia: a harmonious and enriching experience of living together among people of diverse religions and cultures.
I returned to Malaysia after that speech inspired by this spirit of engagement and keen to apply it to our Asian context where the prominence of a Muslim-Christian dialogue was of lesser importance to the other major civilizations which intermingled in my country. Within two years hosted the first ever conference on Islam and Confucianism that brought together such intellectual luminaries as Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Tu Weiming and over 1000 participants from across Asia and led to the establishment of a permanent center of Islam and Confucianism at the University of Malaya.
The encounter between East and West has for generations been caught within the vortex of competing essentialisms. Some in the East professed undying adherence to a way of life perceived as superior and more fulfilling thus rejecting categorically any foreign elements. Others overwhelmed by the dazzling splendour of Western civilization forswore their own culture and traditions and condemned their own people for backwardness. The folly of such extremes is apparent to us now. And yet while the civilizing mission of the West is over and forgotten, its legacy remains with us in the form of mistrust and apprehension between peoples and civilizations. A sinister strand of this age-old debate has recently surfaced that pits a violent and anti-modern Islamic world against the enlightened society of the West. One wonders whether after so many years and so many attempts to build bridges of understanding, are we really making any progress?
Fifteen years ago I spoke here at Georgetown University calling for the need for civilisational dialogue to overcome extreme positions and forge a new synthesis in the relation between East and West. The way forward was the pursuit of a convivencia: a harmonious and enriching experience of living together among people of diverse religions and cultures. If anything the 20th century showed us not only the marvels of technology but the fragility of the human condition so susceptible to ethnocentrism and fanaticism. A global village would come to fruition not only because of the advance of technology, but through the spread of ideas of justice and virtue and not merely tolerance of our collective differences. Huston Smith referred to this as shifting the centres of concern, from the self to family to community to nation and finally to humanity, thus overcoming the vices of selfishness, nepotism and parochial nationalism. Perhaps this is one interpretation of the Qur’anic injunction of li-ta’arafu.
Only a few years after that speech the tragedy of 9/11 struck. I was in solitary confinement at the time and only learned about the attacks through missives smuggled into prison by my lawyers and interspersed reports of the more friendly guards I sensed immediately the magnitude of the repercussions of this event. Certainly the work we had all done to broaden civilisational dialogue suffered a crippling blow and trust among our peoples would erode in the ensuing cycle of violence. But 9/11 and the subsequent attacks in Europe and Asia have highlighted the need for Muslim societies to address their internal social and political development. Economic development alone is not the only solution. A proper orientation must be developed for Muslim engagement with the world at large and within their own societies. Governments that monopolise the public discourse through draconian laws create breeding grounds for further discontent and marginalization.
The challenges before Muslims, like people of other traditions in Asia today, are indeed great. They must endeavour to alleviate ignorance, disease, and destitution. They have to battle corruption and arrest moral decay. They have to strengthen the institutions of civil society to ensure order and stability, as well as protect the individual from the unwarranted denial of his rights. Indeed, these are the imperatives of all the great religious traditions, and one could do no greater disservice than to invoke the name of tradition to justify excesses, injustices and authoritarianism in society. In this regard, the renewal of traditions must mean reliving their ideals — truth, justice and compassion — and not resurrecting past aberrations, of the depraved and the decadent.
Herein lies the new opportunity for engagement in this century. While there is still much effort to apply to the theme of understanding and dialogue on issues of theology and belief, there is certainly an opportunity in this historical moment to join forces around those universal values that unite humanity in the pursuit of freedom and justice.
The core problems of poverty, hunger and illiteracy afflicting the developing world still loom large on the global agenda. Joining these perennial challenges are the struggle for a clean environment, the attempt to abate the spread of nuclear weapons and upheaval of economies around the globe now subject to.
The Common Word Conference in this light is a remarkable achievement. The understandings forged thus far in a series of high level debases among global spiritual communities will leave an enduring legacy for future generations. But the work does not stop here in the ivory tower of this auspicious institution. On the contrary, our message of peace and of justice must reach deeper into the societies that we collectively represent. In our work to advance the higher ideals of humanity lies the point of convergence between East and West, where the twain shall meet.


15 OKTOBER 2009
Angkatan Muda Keadilan (AMK) mengutuk tindakan HEP Universiti Malaya (UM) yang melampau kerana mengadakan perbicaraan tatatertib yang tidak munasabah terhadap 8 orang mahasiswa UM. AMK berasa kecewa dengan tindakan HEP UM yang bukan sahaja melanggar hak kebebasan mahasiswa dalam wacana isu politik di Malaysia, malahan bercanggah dengan prinsip demokrasi serta hak kebebasan akademik mereka.
Pada 13 Oktober HEP telah menangguhkan perbicaraan tersebut. Namun demikian, pada keesokan hari HEP pula mengeluarkan surat untuk memanggil semula mahasiswa tersebut untuk tampil ke perbicaraan pada minggu depan. HEP tidak menghiraukan permintaan dari pelbagai pihak masyarakat malahan teruskan tindakan perbicaraan yang tidak munasabah. Ini merupakan satu seksaan minda kepada mahasiswa/mahasiswi yang terlibat.
AMK mengkritik HEP UM yang memanggil mahasiswa berulang kali untuk hadir ke perbicaraan. Lebih mengecewakan adalah tuduhan yang dikenakan juga bertukar-tukar. Ini membuktikan bahawa HEP tidak ada sebab yang munasabah untuk memanggil mahasiswa yang berkenaan untuk hadir ke perbicaraan. Tambahan pula, program tersebut telah mendapat kelulusan daripada pihak HEP. Mengapakah tiba-tiba HEP menyalahkan mahasiswa yang bersalah atas mengundang “orang luar” untuk menyertai program dalam universiti?
AMK berpendapat bahawa pihak HEP UM tidak harus mempersoalkan dan menghalang sebarang tetamu khas aktiviti mahasiswa kerana ini telah melanggar prinsip kebebasan akademik. Walaupun UM baru-baru ini telah berjaya masuk dalam senarai kedudukan 200 universiti terbaik di dunia, tetapi tindakan yang ditunjuk oleh HEP telah merosakkan prinsip demokrasi institusi universiti malah akan menjadi bahan gurauan masyarakat antarabangsa.
AMK tidak menafikan bahawa pihak HEP Universiti Malaya cuba wewujudkan suasana takut di kalangan mahasiswa untuk menyekat gerakan mahasiswa serta kebebasan akademik dalam kampus. Ini terbukti bahawa ada niat jahat dalam pentadbiran universiti.
Dengan ini AMK menegaskan kepada HEP UM untuk membatalkan perbicaraan tersebut dengan segera dan tanpa bersyarat.Segala bentuk hukuman termasuk amaran atau denda adalah tidak munasabah dan tidak akan diterima oleh AMK. Dengan ini barulah negara kita dapat mengembalikan kebebasan akademik di menara gading dan seterusnya mempertingkat daya saing mahasiswa kita.

Ketua Penerangan
Angkatan Muda Keadilan