Jerusalem – what now, moderates?

Professor Tan Sri Dato' Dzulkifli Abdul Razak
My View - The Sun Daily
December 20, 2017

WE have come to the crunch. Time to test this thing called "moderate". The Jerusalem takeover is just the "test" given the "outrage" (extreme?) expressed globally. With so much inflamed emotions, how to respond in a "moderate" way.

Even the call for the US president to resign because of the decision that he "boldly" took can be a shade too extreme. After all, he was democratically elected and merely fulfilled his election promise. Arguably it is justifiable especially when the whole world acknowledged his election and did not bother to protest.

To do so now may seem hypocritical particularly for Muslim countries or their leadership taking into consideration that in several Muslim countries the leaders are not even "elected" democratically yet no one has been called to resign when a blunder/scandal of global proportion was committed. Why the double standards? In contrast, such leaders are well defended from insult and criticism. Should not Trump deserve likewise?

In May, Trump was given the "red carpet" treatment by the same group of Muslim leaders at the inception of the "Gulf crisis". Trump said that his Middle East trip had "already paid off" and that his speech inspired the host (Saudi Arabia) and audience to hurriedly manufacture the dubious crisis collectively. "So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the king and 50 countries already paid off," he eagerly tweeted then. Instantly, some governments regarded him as a good friend and trusted ally of the so-called "moderates". Once again it raised the question: what is a "moderate" vis-a-vis the potentially explosive Jerusalem issue, thanks to their close confidant Trump?

To fathom this, it is time for another "test"; the test of "friendship". This is for those who have declared that Trump is a good and dear friend, and the claims by Trump that some Muslim leaders are his favourites. They should step forward and verify the truth of such claims.

Or are the declarations and claims just to placate one another and their citizens. The moment to ascertain this has come ushered by the urgent need to decide within a "moderate" frame of mind.

One practical way is to invite Trump to another "red carpet" event and let him reaffirm his stance. Short of such a foray, let it be understood that the entire episode was a well-staged charade for Trump to emerge as the ultimate "winner".

To quote White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders: "The president I would say is pretty solid in his thinking at this point." This has something to do with the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act that has been in place for a long time confirming that the city "should be recognised as the capital of the state of Israel". Although under the pretext of supposed "national security" it did not see the light of day, Trump single-handedly changed all that at the chagrin of his "moderate friends".

Hence, whatever warnings (some "extreme" in nature) alluded to by almost all parties worldwide, including Pope Francis ("I cannot silence my deep concern over the situation that has emerged in recent days") were summarily dismissed, the recent OIC "threat" included.

For Malaysia, this is its utmost challenge since it created history at the United Nations last week when the world body adopted Malaysia's resolution of "moderation" at its 72nd session of the General Assembly. Interestingly enough, the US and Israel voted against the resolution (an "extreme" act?) defying the 135 votes in favour with no abstention.

What is more, it also proclaimed an ambitious International Year of Moderation come 2019 seemingly to amplify the voices of moderation. By then the momentum to shift the US embassy to Jerusalem would have been amplified too as Trump moves into his third year in office with a possible second term ambition staring in his face, riding on the Jerusalem popularity.

How respected will Malaysia be in navigating a way out will depend on how it chooses to define "moderate" in breaking the silence on issues of common concerns. Not to be forgotten is the banning of a book, Breaking the Silence: Voices of Moderation, published in June by a group of self-styled "moderates". It was one of 18 in the prohibition order issued said to contain material that may be "detrimental to security and public order, jeopardising morality and public interest, and corrupting the minds of the public". More specifically, the book was alleged to advocate "elements promoting liberalism and pluralism which are contrary to Islam's Ahli Sunnah Wal Jamaah (Sunni) teachings".

Not surprising that many regarded this act as "extreme" (if confused) in relation to Malaysia's aspiration to project itself as a model of a "moderate" state on the international front. Perhaps it is because of such "extreme" decisions that the US administration rejected the UN resolution.

To quote Dr Chandra Muzaffar, president of the International Movement for a Just World, and chair of Yayasan 1Malaysia: "It's a collection of essays which is intended to show that extremists and bigoted thinking on matters pertaining to the practice of Islam in the country should be combated in an intellectual manner." Rather than rebutting it intellectually, the powers that be took an easy option of applying the Printing Presses and Publications (Control of Undesirable Publications) (No. 12) Order 2017, signed by the home minister on June 14.

In all probability, such a situation will never make it in the US giving the Trump administration an obvious edge over Malaysia's politically correct versions of being "moderate". More ironic is that the book has the approval of the Islamically learned former prime minister, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who authored the foreword.

In the final analysis, we are inclined to reiterate what has been puzzling, namely, if a book on moderation, written by "moderate" experts, academics, and scholars; and endorsed by a learned former prime minister, is deemed as "extreme" to warrant a ban, then what is "moderate"?
Until this is distinctively resolved with consistency and clarity, Malaysia risks being made the laughing stock once again in the eyes of the world at large, and surely the "friendly" US in pursuing its "America First" agenda.

Meanwhile, Jerusalem will continue to slip away as the "extreme-moderate" divide clouds the issue to the detriment of its own existence. And America will be great again!