Reevaluate the use of terms

Professor Tan Sri Dato' Dzulkifli Abdul Razak
Learning Curve: Perspective
New Sunday Times - 4-1-2015

A decade  ago, the US News & World Report (April 25, 2005) revealed an American strategy of "influencing what happens within Islam" and that "US officials are taking pages from the Cold War playbook of divide and conquer".

I learnt this at the recent Roundtable Discussion on Global Challenges and Muslim Unity organised by the Universal Justice Network at The International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilisation, a research and post graduate institution of the International Islamic University Malaysia.

Today, 10 years later, what we witness in many Muslims countries worldwide is the outcome of a policy of "divide and conquer".

From Iraq to Afghanistan, Egypt to Pakistan, Syria to Somalia and elsewhere in Africa, the divisiveness created is no longer unmistaken, leading to a bloody killing field of unimaginable proportion. Some of these countries are already "conquered" and others are waiting to be conquered once the killing is over.

In 2007, RAND Corporation published the report Building Moderation Muslim Network advocating key findings including an effort "to promote the flow of moderate ideas to the Middle East from Muslim communities in Europe, Turkey, Southeast Asia and other open societies" and that the US government "should make an explicit decision to help build moderate Muslim networks and link these efforts to overall US strategy and programmes (of divide and conquer)".

Interestingly, it recommended "targeting five groups as potential building blocks for networks: liberal and secular Muslim academics and intellectuals; young, moderate religious scholars; community activists; women's groups engaged in gender equality campaigns; and moderate journalists and writers.

Functioning again in a foundation-like role, the US should assist programmes that promote democratic education, particularly those that derive authoritative teachings supportive of democratic and pluralistic values from Islamic texts and traditions, moderate media, gender equality and advocacy for moderate agendas".

"It (the US government) evaluated projects to determine whether they promoted US objectives, provided funding for those that did, and then remained hands-off, allowing the organisations to fulfil their objectives without interference."

All these are again too similar to what is taking place today, read within the context to promote US objectives. And it is in this context too that terms such as "liberal", "secular", "moderate" and "radical" as applied to Muslims and Islam must be understood.

It is a construct that many have begun to accept without much scrutiny, making the situation worse. Similarly for the "Islamists" who are invariably "radical" and capable of intimidating and silencing "moderate and liberal" Muslims, despite being in the "minority".

They are deemed "radical" because they are compliant with the values and norms based on the syariah which means abiding by the moral code and religious ways of a prophetic religion, in this case, Islam.

In other words, the so-called "foundation" aligned with promoting "US objectives" is laced with terms and meanings that have the effects and tendencies to redefine Muslims and at once sow the seeds of sectarian confusion and infighting among them.

This causes the widening of differences in trivial and ancillary matters which, hitherto, have not created any misunderstanding but have been regarded as a "mercy" instead.

Hence, the ensuing violence that we see and experience today can not only make it easy for the "divide and conquer" policy to make inroads but also destabilise the situation until the ultimate end of the desired objectives is achieved.

And those who dare resist will be quickly marginalised and labelled "extremists", "terrorists", "Islamists" or "jihadists".

As we begin the new year, it is therefore appropriate for Muslims and non-Muslims alike to reassess the happenings of the last decade and place all the experiences in the perspective of the wanton "divide and conquer" policy.

It is equally important to reevaluate and reject the use of terms and meanings of words deliberately coined to create the tendency to cause divisions along sectarian lines.

Malaysia, which is suffering from the colonial policy of divide and rule, must not subject itself to yet another imperialistic power. Happy New Year!