Sunday, November 28, 2010

Turkey’s New Global Role

Q&A with Henri J. Barkey

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and his wife Emine Erdogan arrive for a reception at the G-20 summit in Seoul on 11 November 2010.

With economic success at home, Turkey’s government has been flexing its muscles on the world stage and Recep Tayyip Erdogan seems likely to win a third term as prime minister next year. In a Q&A, Henri Barkey analyzes how Turkish politics influence the country’s rise.

While the West is concerned that Turkey will continue its assertive foreign policy, it remains to be seen whether Erdogan’s domestic popularity may actually temper his populist rhetoric and policies.

Turkey moves toward national elections in 2011, analysts are questioning whether Erdogan’s demonstrated popularity will further embolden an increasingly assertive foreign policy or if a more democratic Turkey will find ways to reduce friction with the West.

In a Q&A, Henri Barkey analyzes how Turkish politics influence the country’s rise. Barkey says that the ruling party is now well positioned for the election and that a convincing victory could create the momentum necessary to redraft the constitution. Through sheer ambition, popularity, and political savvy, Erdogan has come to dominate Turkey in all its facets—domestic, foreign, and security. He has become the master tactician and Turkey’s single most determinant force. While the West is concerned that Turkey will continue its assertive foreign policy, it remains to be seen whether Erdogan’s domestic popularity may actually temper his populist rhetoric and policies.

What are the major issues in the national elections next year?

A major test for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and opposition parties was the referendum in September—the results constituted a significant defeat for the opposition. The main opposition party, the Republican People’s Party, elected a new leader just a few months before the referendum. While the party’s strategy was developed before he took the reins, he fared poorly in his first electoral test. And nearly half of the supporters of second largest opposition group, the nationalist National Movement Party, defected to the AKP.

The Kurdish party, the Peace and Democracy Party, on the other hand, also emerged a winner in the referendum. Despite doubts that the strategy would be effective, the party called for a boycott of the referendum to protest that none of the proposed changes would improve the Kurds’ situation. Again to the surprise of many, most of its voters heeded the party’s call. With the possibility that the constitution will be completely redrawn starting next year, Kurds may continue to rally around the party in the elections in hopes of presenting a united front on Kurdish demands.

The opposition’s decision to turn the referendum into a vote on the AKP—a major strategic error—leaves the AKP in great shape for the elections slated for next summer. And if the current projections hold, the government will be in a good position to deal with Turkey’s unresolved internal issues—including the Kurdish question—and rewrite the constitution.

Turkey’s strong economic performance has helped improve the AKP’s popularity as the ruling party is widely credited for its market-friendly policies. While there is unemployment in Turkey, the country managed the global crisis better than most and enjoys excellent economic prospects compared to the rest of the world. The opposition has yet to put forward a distinct and viable economic program with which it can dent the AKP’s commanding lead among voters reluctant to upset the current momentum. For the time being, the opposition is not giving the population reasons to support it. The Republican People’s Party, however, is in the midst of an attempted revival and cleansing of its most conservative elements. Whether the new leadership succeeds in injecting new blood and ideas will be critical to ending, in the medium term, the current one-party dominance of Turkish politics.

The one major issue that could alter the trajectory of the elections is the Kurdish question. While the AKP is not going to make any significant changes or offer proposals on the Kurdish issue before next year’s vote, it clearly wants to contain interethnic violence. There will undoubtedly be attempts to provoke fighting by all kinds of provocateurs intent on derailing the prospect of a peaceful solution. The government will need to show restraint and carefully manage the situation.

That Erdogan ultimately wants to be president is the open secret that everyone in Turkey is talking about. Currently, the president is selected by the parliament, but due to an amendment introduced some years ago, the next president will be selected by popular vote. Erdogan is thought to be interested in replacing the current Turkish parliamentary system—which concentrates all executive power in the hands of the parliament and its chosen cabinet—with a presidential system of sorts. To succeed, however, he must win the next election as convincingly as possible. A strong AKP victory will open the door for constitutional reform and Erdogan’s goal of becoming president with expanded powers.

A presidential system is not a foregone conclusion, however. There is likely to be a great deal of opposition from within the AKP to such a radical change in the constitution—particularly as it could diminish the importance of the party itself. Hence it is expected that Erdogan will try to carefully select future candidates for parliament with an eye on their willingness to ultimately support such revisions.

What was the significance of the September referendum?

The constitutional amendments voted on in September aim to further erode the military’s political influence and restructure the judiciary. The reforms include barring military courts from trying civilians, empowering civilian courts to try military figures for plotting to overthrow the government, and lifting immunity for the perpetrators of the 1980 military coup. In addition, there are provisions giving workers more labor union choices and allowing them to join more than one and adding new protections for women, children, the elderly, and the disabled.

Notably, changes were also made to the membership of the Constitutional Court and the High Judicial Council, which regulates judges and prosecutors. The changes are the direct result of the confrontation between the AKP and the judiciary, one of the bulwarks of the Kemalist regime in Turkey. Frustrated by its inability to dent the judiciary’s control—which derived primarily from the way judges and prosecutors were selected from a small coterie of ideological purist elements—the AKP pushed to widen the selection process and enlarge the main constitutional judicial bodies. One of the primary outcomes has been to give more say to the parliament in selecting membership. The number of seats on the constitutional court, for instance, was increased from 11 to 17. Ironically, the strongest bulwark to changing the constitution is the constitutional court itself which, in the past, has invoked its own interpretation of the immutable articles of the constitution, forbidding women wearing headscarves from attending university or simply manufacturing criteria to prevent a presidential candidate from getting elected.

All these provisions, however, are relatively minor and represent a tiny step toward serious reform. AKP’s timid constitutional gambit had more to do with its electoral ambitions and dominating the political discourse than changing the constitution. Turkey is in desperate need of a new constitution that brings the country more in line with Western models in Europe and the United States. The current constitution is a straightjacket that privileges the state over the individual. Turkey is a country of laws, but not the rule of law—laws are applied in an arbitrary fashion; it is not the infraction of the law that determines whether an individual is to be charged but that individual’s position in society. And laws have always been applied harshly to deal with opponents of the regime. Shortly after the results of the referendum were released, Erdogan committed to pushing for a complete overhaul of the current constitution—imposed by the military after the 1980 coup—after next year’s election.

While the referendum was specifically about all of these issues, in the end, the vote was more about the AKP. The 58-42 percent result surprised everyone as most observers had expected a tighter outcome. The opposition made a strategic calculation that discussing the individual reforms would be too difficult, so it erred on the side of the uncomplicated and decided to make the AKP the issue instead—and this backfired. Since the margin in favor of the amendments was even larger than predicted, the AKP emerged stronger ahead of next year’s elections and the opposition appears feeble.

Is there a divide between the secular establishment and religious-leaning government in Turkey?

The impression one gets about the division between secularists and Islamists in Turkey is misleading. Today, the fight is over Kemalism, the official ideology of the state, named after the founder and first president of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Dominating Turkey since the 1930s, the ideology is nationalistic, self-reliant, xenophobic, and adamantly secular. Its problems have been mostly associated with the narrow and forcible way in which it was introduced and implemented over the years. But shortcomings aside, it has also fast-tracked the emancipation of women and has, even if indirectly, wedded Turkey to the West. Adamant supporters of Kemalism include the military, judiciary, universities, media, and some of the upper-middle class.

The problem with Kemalism is not necessarily its ideological components, but how its supporters operationalize it on a day-to-day basis. The 1930s ideology was rendered amazingly rigid by its original supporters, who were often inflexible, undemocratic, and intolerant of others. In many ways, the military, which took the lead in interpreting Kemal’s legacy, viewed everything through a narrow prism of internal security where everyone was a potential suspect and traitor. The lack of trust in its population is exactly the opposite of all liberal, Western constitutions. Successive constitutions and the political system constructed around this legacy have stunted democratic development in Turkey.

The September referendum is the beginning of the dismantlement of the ideological infrastructure of the Turkish state. The next step is to change the constitution, and whether the AKP will be successful in doing this remains an open question. But if it does not, the AKP will likely fill the authoritarian vacuum left by the retreating Kemalists. At the moment, there is too much power vested in Erdogan—precisely because he is so popular. The inherent authoritarian tendencies in the current political system that privileges party leaders and turns them into demi-gods is not conducive to democratic institutionalization.

As they consider a new constitution, the AKP and Erdogan have much to decide on balancing the expansion of rights for those with whom they disagree. This ranges from expanding the rights of those who have been marginalized by the current system while protecting the rights of persons who find themselves at odds with the AKP’s priorities—such as the traditional secular elites who fear that their way of life is under assault—to guaranteeing freedom of the press, irrespective of how unlikeable their owners may be in the eyes of the government.

How is Ankara handling the domestic Kurdish issue?

To its credit, the AKP launched the Kurdish opening—an attempt to solve a 26-year insurgency through political, cultural, and economic means rather than just military force—last year. But in the face of a domestic backlash and upcoming referendum and elections, the government backtracked and closed the door, at least temporarily. The hope is that with a strong electoral mandate, the AKP will finally take the steps necessary to resolve the issue.

Turkey is deeply divided over its Kurdish minority—which totals approximately 20 percent of the population—and moving toward a crisis point. The violent struggle for greater rights has been led by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and enjoys a great deal of support among Kurds. The situation is also evolving as the Kurdish population is no longer concentrated in the southeast, but spread across the country. There are as many as 3 million to 5 million Kurds in Istanbul alone, making it the world’s largest Kurdish city. This means the frustration is not contained to a certain region and conflict could erupt anywhere. Youth, in particular, feel alienated and are prone to violence.

The state has been unable to contain the struggle through security and military efforts. Kurdish leaders want official recognition for the ethnic group, cultural freedom, language rights, and a greater devolution of administrative powers in Turkey. The only way to truly address the issue is through constitutional change. This will mean that certain articles in the constitution that explicitly define Turkey as an ethnic state will need to be altered, the decision-making authority of local leaders will need to be strengthened, and the right to teach, speak, and make use of the media in one’s mother tongue will need to be protected.

These changes cannot be seriously contemplated until after the elections—and this is assuming the AKP wins. Until then, there is a great deal of tension and the Kurds aren’t patiently waiting. In the absence of any response from the central government, they are quietly creating the institutions that are separate and autonomous, although they are not calling for independence.

How is Turkey’s rising regional influence shifting its foreign policy and international interests?

Turkey’s assertive foreign policy and increasing overtures to non-Western governments—most notably Iran, as seen most recently when Ankara sided with Tehran in the United Nations Security Council against the U.S. push for tougher sanctions—are driven by ambition and economic aspirations.

Turkey wants to be a regional power and a global player by using its geopolitical advantages, economic strength, and historical and cultural links with the Muslim world. Today it is the world’s sixteenth-largest economy and aims to be among the top ten economies by 2023. Turkey’s dynamism and its willingness to engage internationally have given it a great deal of clout. In part, the Erdogan government has an overinflated sense of its global relevance and this unhealthy dose of hubris pushes Ankara to go too far at times. Turkey punched well below its weight for a long time, but now it’s punching well above its weight.

Opening new markets, deepening existing ones, and making the most of all commercial opportunities are also driving Turkish foreign policy. Turkey’s economy is export-dependent and Turkish businesses look to the government to help them with new markets.

This can be seen even in the case of Iran. The last thing Turkey wants is another conflict along its borders—like in Iraq—because instability can disrupt trade relations. Moreover, Turkey has also parlayed its new clout to bolster its trade relations with everyone in the Middle East, including Iran. Despite international sanctions, Erdogan has sought to use its support for Iran at the UN Security Council to improve commercial relations, calling for a tripling of the mutual trade in the next five years.

How is Turkey’s relationship with Europe evolving?

It’s important to remember that it will take around 20 years or more for Turkey to be ready to join the European Union. The referendum in September was only one small step for Turkey on the road to membership but it by no means represents the major change Europe still expects. In addition to a new constitution and Turkey’s adherence to the Copenhagen criteria, Ankara also needs to solve its Kurdish question.

Sensitive and complex changes will not happen overnight and the tough road ahead should not be underestimated. This means that politics in Europe today are in many ways irrelevant to Turkey’s EU accession. French President Nicolas Sarkozy and, to a lesser extent, German Chancellor Angela Merkel may resist Turkey’s ambitions for European integration, but they won’t be in charge in 20 years.

Whatever the Europeans say today, if Turkey continues to reform, solves egregious problems, and changes its domestic politics to be more tolerant and to resist authoritarian tendencies that come naturally to government and party leaders—which in the past has led to, for instance, unacceptable pressure on the press, it will be extremely hard for Europe to say no in two decades—so long as the continent is not in the economic mess that it is now. So while Turks are prone to use European leaders’ lack of desire to justify inaction, the country should want to make the changes regardless and show the world it is serious about reform. Then when the time comes, if Turkey has successfully implemented the necessary reforms, Europe will have a hard time refusing Turkey’s accession.

If the AKP convincingly wins the next elections, as expected, it will have a real opportunity to start tackling the hard problems facing Turkey. This could be good news for democracy in Turkey and its move toward Europe.

What is the status of U.S.-Turkish relations?

There is a great deal of angst and reflection in the United States in terms of its relations with Turkey. Given Turkey’s more muscular role on global issues, there is a bit of a backlash in Washington. Policy makers are concerned that Turkey will drift toward the East and work against U.S. interests. In reality, Turkey is not going anywhere. Turkey’s current stature in the region would suffer greatly if it is perceived to have broken with Washington. Both countries need each other.

The problem is that they have difficulty communicating with and understanding each other. While the United States has to adjust to the reality of Turkey under the AKP, Ankara has to learn to deal with the United States, which, as a global power, has numerous interests in far-flung places and is not solely focused on Turkey’s region. The United States must accept Turkey’s domestic transformation and how that manifests itself in the bilateral relationship—the elites the United States were used to dealing with, like the Istanbul-based business sectors and the military, are no longer calling the shots. Instead a conservative, pious, and yet market-oriented elite from Anatolia has garnered the levers of power.

For their part, the Turks have always exhibited a primitive and conspiratorial approach to Washington, which has caused them to misunderstand and misinterpret American interests. The best example of this was during the recent crisis over Turkey and Brazil’s mediation efforts on Iran’s nuclear program, when Ankara completely misread the Obama administration’s concerns regarding counter-proliferation efforts, desire to reduce the number of nuclear weapons, and sign the START agreement with Russia.

There are concerns that with Erdogan and the AKP’s current domestic strength, Ankara will become even more aggressive internationally. But this could go both ways. An Erdogan who feels more secure will be more comfortable and relaxed going into the election, so the inclination to go for populist, nationalist, and flamboyant policies may diminish. Exacerbating relations with Washington will not help him—except with nationalist elements on the margins—because the time is quickly approaching when the Turkish electorate will look for a leadership that is less combative, more mature, and more constructive. That’s a good sign for U.S.-Turkey relations.

Still, there is no guarantee that the two sides will see eye to eye on all issues. Turkish-American relations were always difficult and acrimonious even in the best of times, and the State Department is used to relying on the Pentagon to wield its influence there. What is different now is that the issues over which Turkey and America differ are far more numerous and complicated than in the past.

This piece was originally published on 17 November 2010 by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Please visit www.carnegieendowment.org for more information. Copyright Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Kenapa Kerajaan berikan spektrum 700MHz kepada YTL?

Spektrum 700MHz adalah seperti lombong emas, begitu bernilai sekali.

Mengejutkan sekali apabila pihak kerajaan menganugerahkan satu-satunya lesen kepada YTL untuk khidmat TV spektrum dan juga jalur lebar.

Apakah kerajaan melalui MCMC sedar kesan jangka panjang dari pemberian unilateral ini?

YTL does not have the expertise nor does it have the RM8 billion. It will borrow from banks with its letter of recommendation from Min of Finance and roll that money elsewhere and then delay, ask for an extension, borrow more money and then launch the service...much like its 4G-Yes service.

Why can't we have fair open tenders so that companies from abroad with their expertise can jv with local companies and share knowledge can help in building this infrastructure? Most GLC like Khazanah, TM, Syabas, etc are already employing unqualified Malays thru' their abang/adik networks, so you can forget about hiring expertise or stopping the brain drain. No qualified experts will be willing to work under these so-called VPs and Senior VPs who can't even string a proper sentence in English much less provide the needed technical expertise.

The most YTL can do is to give out their contracts to a foreign company or hire Mat Sallehs at inflated salaries to keep the facade of a professional network provider..

28 November 2010 01:57

To put up the infra (towers, etc) to link up the whole semenanjung with a 700 MHz wireless internet service will cost abt RM 250 mil to RM 300 mil only. Speed not as fast as wimax. But can do some 1Mbps - so much faster than streamyx.

If YTL or Govt says it'll cost many RM billions to do the infra...it's bullshit.

The 700 to 800 MHz for just a state or two in the US was auctioned off for some USD 29 billion a few years ago. They're really beach-front properties.

700 to 800 MHz were previously meant for analogue TV channels and public safety channels - like police, ambulance, etc.

If YTL really got the spectrum for a song - then it would be the biggest scandal in the history of the nusantara. Suharto's misdeeds wd look like a mere spate of shopliftings in comparison.



PM to calm telcos upset with YTL’s new TV spectrum

November 26, 2010
Najib will need to reassure telecommunications players riled by the unilateral award. — file pic
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 26 — New network provider YTL Communication’s sole rights to a portion of digital television broadband spectrum has upset competitors who now want Datuk Seri Najib Razak to settle the issue in the fast-growing and lucrative industry.

Singapore’s The Straits Times said the prime minister will meet senior telco officials next Monday to defuse the widening controversy over the 700MHz spectrum said to be given to tycoon Tan Sri Francis Yeoh’s YTL to operate its hybrid television service slated for end 2011. It can also be used to widen its broadband service.

“I guess the fear is YTL gets the spectrum for ‘broadcast’ purposes and ‘later’ comes back to amend the use of it to broadband on the pretext that convergence of technologies is already happening. Hence their big mantra about quadruple play,” a government source told The Malaysian Insider when asked to comment on The Straits Times’ report.

The Straits Times report quoted the chief executive officer of a large financial institution which has made huge loans to the country’s mobile operators, describing the award of the licence to YTL “scandalous.”

“Without access to the (700MHz) spectrum, the big three won’t be able to expand.” With this stranglehold, YTL “can either shut out other telcos, or resell bandwidth to them.”

The industry fears YTL will repurpose its spectrum allocation by claiming convergence.
While details of the licence are not yet public knowledge, it is believed the award was made without consultation with the three main mobile telcos, including Celcom Axiata which is government-controlled.

Media reports over the past month said that the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) had issued 80MHz of the 700MHz spectrum to YTL, which had a disastrous launch of its long-delayed YES 4G WIMAX service.

The other WIMAX provider is P1 but the new spectrum could give YTL total control over the next wave of new technologies in the telco sector. Called Long Term Evolution (LTE), it powers the 4G market which both YTL and P1 claim to provide now. However, their current services do not meet the International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) criteria for 4G.

The other two big players are Maxis Broadband and Digi Telecommunications. There were previously nine telcos in Malaysia but the regional financial crisis in 1997 forced a consolidation in the sector.

The prime minister now has to step carefully as he works towards defusing the situation. A senior government official said in The Straits Times report, “The industry wants him to review the licence. But to backtrack could also put him in a bad light.”

Senior executives of Celcom Axiata initiated this meeting with the prime minister. Their argument is that they, “together with the other two main players in the mobile business, have invested billions of ringgit in infrastructure over the past decade to service its 26 million or so subscribers.”

They contend the “government can’t just give a relatively new player such a licence and turn its back on the established operators.”

Broadband spectrums are highly coveted in the industry, and in Europe, these are auctioned, a move which raises huge amounts of capital for the countries.

YTL signed an agreement with the US-based Sezmi last month to offer hybrid TV services in Malaysia at the end of 2011. However, YTL would require new spectrum/frequency to offer such services.

Sources said YTL will deploy the Sezmi service using DVB-T2 (Digital Video Broadcasting – Second Generation Terrestrial) technology, which is now used in the United Kingdom and Italy, and being trialled in Spain and Germany.

The 700MHz band is now being used for terrestrial television (TV) broadcast in Malaysia until sometime around 2015, but there are some unused spectrum in 700MHz range which YTL could use to offer basic hybrid TV services end next year, said industry website malaysianwireless.com.

The 700MHz spectrum has been prized all over the world including the United States where Yahoo, eBay and Google banded together in March 2007 to force the hand of the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to enable the parties to have a say in what is to be done with the spectrum.

The FCC has dubbed the 700MHz to a “beach front” property and YTL’s reported rights to it is seen as disadvantageous to its rivals.

“The thing that caused the irk in most is, it seems, they were the only ones who even got a conditional offer,” the government source added.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Perbetul persepsi salah terhadap Islam: Yusof

YUSOF memberi ceramah kepada  pelajar Universiti Islam Antarabangsa, semalam.

YUSOF memberi ceramah kepada pelajar Universiti Islam Antarabangsa, semalam.

Konsep keamanan, kedamaian perlu dilihat secara mendalam


KUALA LUMPUR: Aktivis kemanusiaan yang juga pendakwah antarabangsa, Dr Yusof Islam, berkata konsep keamanan dan kedamaian adalah perkara yang perlu dilihat secara mendalam dan menyeluruh kerana menjadi matlamat kesejahteraan kehidupan manusia.

Sambil merujuk dirinya, bekas penyanyi popular Britain pada 1970-an dan lebih dikenali sebagai Cat Stevens sebelum memeluk Islam, berkata demi mencari perdamaian, beliau memilih jalan dakwah kerana melaluinya persepsi yang salah terhadap Islam, khususnya yang dilemparkan Barat, dapat diperbetulkan.

“Pandangan serong itu perlu diperbetulkan. Ada lagi yang berpandangan Islam adalah musuh kepada agama lain kerana persepsi salah yang sengaja digembar-gemburkan.
“Justeru, bagi saya dakwah adalah senjata bagi menangkis tohmahan itu. Dakwah juga sebahagian daripada Islam kerana kita mengajak manusia ke arah kebaikan. Mesej Islam adalah benar dan ajarannya cukup harmoni.

“Tetapi apabila berdakwah kita perlu bercakap kepada masyarakat Islam terlebih dulu sebelum mengajak yang lain kerana itu menjadi keutamaan kerana ia akan menggalakkan perkongsian ilmu dan interaksi sesama Muslim,” katanya ketika menyampaikan tazkirah selepas menunaikan solat Jumaat di Masjid Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah, Universiti Islam Antarabangsa (UIA), dekat sini, semalam.

Yusof bersama isteri, Fauzia Mubarak Ali juga berkesempatan bertemu Seri Paduka Baginda Yang di-pertuan Agong, Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin dan Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Nur Zahirah, kelmarin, selain turut mengadakan pertemuan dengan Perdana Menteri, Datuk Seri Najib Razak dan isteri, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor di Putrajaya, semalam.

Terdahulu ketika ditemuramah pada program Malaysia Hari Ini yang disiarkan stesen TV3 pagi semalam, Yusof turut memberikan pandangan beliau mengenai konsep hiburan mengikut perspektif dalam medium dakwah.

Katanya, muzik itu adalah sesuatu yang cukup harmoni dan ia membentuk kedamaian dan keindahan hidup di dunia ini kalau digunakan dengan cara yang betul.

“Ketika ini masyarakat dunia sudah mulai bosan dengan peperangan dan bosan dengan isu politik dan untuk itu nilai muzik yang harmoni perlu ada,” katanya.

Preaching can change perception on Islam: Yusof

(From left) Wife of Yusof Islam, Fauzia Mubarak Ali, Dr Sheikh Yusof Islam, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor.
KUALA LUMPUR: A comprehensive study on the concept of peace and harmony was crucial as it served as the purpose of life, said humanitarian and preacher Dr Yusof Islam.

Yusof, who was known as Cat Stevens before converted to Islam said before he converted and in the midst of searching for a peaceful mind, he has chosen to preach because through this way the wrong perception on the religion especially in the western societies could be corrected.

“For me, preaching was part of Islam because it brings us towards the right path. The message from Islam was true and the teaching was on harmonious.

“However, when we preach we should have first talk to the Islam community because it encourage interaction and knowledge sharing,” he said at the tazkirah after solat at Masjid Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah today.

Earlier at Malaysia Hari Ini, a TV3 programme, the former song writer and singer said music was a harmony element which was able to show peace and the beauty of life if it was used properly.

“When the world was tired of the war and politic issues, there is when the harmonious music should play out,” he said.

He added that Malaysia was a unique place where Asian communities with different races and religions are living in peace and harmony, at the same time preserving the traditions and growing with the new technologies.


Yusof together with his wife, Fauzia Mubarak Ali were also meeting Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin, Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Nur Zahirah, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor today.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Apabila Yusuf Islam Bertemu PM Malaysia

Pada hari ini, Jumaat 26 November 2010, saya berasa amat bertuah kerana mengiringi Dr Sheikh Yusuf Islam untuk pertemuan dengan Perdana Menteri Malaysia di Sri Perdana.

Sheikh Yusuf diiringi oleh isteri beliau dan pertemuan itu turut disertai oleh isteri PM dalam suasana yang santai walau perbincangan agak serius dalam beberapa perkara.

Antara isi perbincangan ialah mengenai perancangan 'world tour' Sheikh Yusuf pada tahun hadapan yang mungkin melibatkan Malaysia. Termasuk teater 'Moonshadow.' Salah satu yang ditawarkan oleh PM, sebagai tuan rumah.

Sheikh Yusuf Islam juga mahu menggunakan sumber dan bakat profesional Malaysia dalam animasi dan ilustrasi untuk satu projek besar beliau.

Paling menarik ialah mengenai pendidikan dimana Sheikh Yusuf meneroka Silibus Islam Bersepadu yang digunakan di banyak sekolah berbahasa Inggeris di beberapa negara. Sheikh Yusuf juga mempunyai sekolahnya sendiri. Silibus ini mengintegrasikan tauhid ke dalam setiap subjek dan Perdana Menteri berminat untuk melebarkannya di Malaysia.

Juga dibincangkan kemungkinan Sheikh Yusuf Islam menjadikan Malaysia sebagai rumah kedua. Pada ketika ini, beliau dan isteri menetap di Dubai sejak awal tahun ini.

Selepas pertemuan itu, kami berbincang mengenai lokasi pilihan yang terbaik untuk Sheikh Yusuf yang teruja.

Alhamdulilah, banyak usaha yang dihaarapkan membawa Sheikh Yusuf ke arus perdana dalam menjadikan usaha dakwah yang lebih profesional dan pelbagai, seperti yang dilakukan Sheikh Yusuf dalam muzik sejagat.


Tazkirah Sheikh Yusuf di Masjid UIA









TAZKIRAH KHAS YUSUF ISLAM DI MASJID UIA HARI INI

Dr Sheikh Yusuf Islam, dijadualkan memberi tazkirah khas di masjid Universiti Islam Antarabangsa, Gombak, sebelum solat Jumaat hari ini.

Tazkirah ini terbuka untuk semua dan ambillah kesempatan untuk mendengar serta bertemu dengan ikon besar ini.

Jom ke masjid UIA!


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Yusuf Islam Bertemu DYMM Seri Paduka Baginda

Pertemuan hari ini, berlangsung sejam dan menggembirakan buat kedua pihak. Perbualan yang menyentuh pendidikan dan muzik, kehidupan Yusuf Islam menjadikan suasana begitu santai.

Menurut Yusuf, beliau amat berpuas hati dan menyanjung tinggi penghormatan yang diberikan untuk bertemu dengan DYMM. Baginda begitu peramah melayani seorang ikon yang telah banyak menyumbangkan usaha dakwah.

Saya berasa bersyukur kerana usaha membawa Yusuf ke arus perdana Malaysia mendapat sambutan baik. Tentunya ada beberapa projek yang bakal menyaksikan, Malaysia menjadi sebahagian dari persinggahan 'world tour' dan teater 'Moonshadow.'

Yusuf berkata, dia melihat banyak ruang dan peluang yang boleh memberi kerjasama.

https://mail.google.com/mail/?ui=2&ik=bd9fd97279&view=att&th=12c83abe17797e57&attid=0.1&disp=inline&zw

Reunion dengan Yusuf Islam - di Kuala Lumpur



24 November adalah hari ulang tahun kelahiran isteri saya, Dr. Azma Abdul Malek yang berada di Dubai bersama Muhaimin, dan juga hari ulang tahun perkahwinan kami yang ke 19.

Begitu masa berlalu dan alhamdulilah dengan rezeki yang dikurniakan. Saya dan dua orang lagi anak, Saifullah dan Faidhi berada di Kuala Lumpur.

Pagi Rabu 24 November 2010, saya bertemu kembali dengan Dr Sheikh Yusuf Islam, pernah atau lebih dikenali sebagai Cat Stevens di Kuala Lumpur, Menyambutya di KLIA, tiba dari Dubai.

Ironinya, kami sama-sama menghuni kota yang sama sejak lima tahun lalu, cuma tidak kesempatan bertemu oleh kesibukan. Beliau banyak menghabiskan masa di merata tempat, terutama Amerika Syarikat.

Sheikh Yusuf seperti biasa, ramah sekali, Kami berpelukan lama, bertanya kabar. Manakala isterinya, Puan Fauziah juga seperti biasa, bertanya kabar isteri dan anak-anak. Perasaan gembira dan terharu kerana kemesraan masih sahaja seperti masa lalu.

Memang sudah lama kami tidak bertemu. Seperti kata Sheikh Yusuf, masa berlalu dengan cepat dan hubungan kami dijarakkan oleh situasi berbeda. Sebagai pengurus beliau satu masa dahulu, boleh dikatakan, hubungan kami memang rapat kerana beliau memberikan begitu banyak amanah kepada saya.

Sepanjang hampir sejam perjalanan ke pangsapuri, kami berbual panjang, tentang apa sahaja termasuk nostalgia masa lalu. Sheikh Yusuf sesekali melontar jenaka. Terutama mengenai beberapa insiden panas dan kontroversi yang pernah melanda beliau.

Malaysia adalah salah satu negara yang menjadi destinasi kesukaan Sheikh Yusuf. Katanya banyak kenangan, seperti dia mengingatkan saya yang lagu 'A is for Allah' diilhamkan sewaktu bercuti di Kuala Trengganu.

Bersambung...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Press Release - Sheikh Yusuf Islam

PRESS RELEASE

VISIT OF YUSUF ISLAM TO MALAYSIA

25th to 26th NOVEMBER 2010

The world’s most famous Muslim convert today, Dr.Sheikh Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens and his wife, are on a sweeping visit to Malaysia.

Sheikh Yusuf has been to Malaysia on numerous occasions. However, this visit is significant and special as he is for the first time scheduled to have an audience with His Majesty Tuanku Mizan Sultan Zainal Abidin, The Yang Di Pertuan Agong of Malaysia, as well as calling on The Rt Honourable Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak, The Prime Minister of Malaysia.

Sheikh Yusuf, either as Cat Stevens or Yusuf Islam has an immense following in Malaysia, a multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-cultural nation. His stature and eminence given international recognition as a man giving his gifts from Allah on a mission of peace for Humanity, actively and generously contributing to humanitarian causes East and West is well documented. Although his beautiful melodies are historical anthems for earlier generations, who continue to remain followers and fans, his inspirational words and nasheeds are also naturally able to cross time and borders for many generations to come. He is truly an icon exemplary for contemporary generations, and for all that he stands for and does in the name of Islam and Peace,is indeed a man for all seasons and nations.

Uniquely, he has chosen to accept an invitation as an honourable guest in our country being an admirer of Malaysia for its beauty and peaceful aura. Besides a few official engagements, he has been kind enough to give time in his schedule for several events like the release of his latest nasheed single, ”Wind East and West”, as well as the launching of his initiative for world peace, the “Peace Train Community” for promoting a more peaceful world through networking and interaction, with the cooperation of the university students of Malaysia.

Sheikh Yusuf is now also well known for his pioneering work in Education. Together with major scholars from around the world, Sheikh Yusuf has worked energetically for over two decades towards the development of an International Syllabus, culminating in the formulation and implementation of a comprehensive and integrated syllabus in Islamic education from pre primary, primary to secondary schools now adopted in part or in whole in English speaking Muslim schools in UK, South Africa, Nigeria and USA. This is one aspect that could well be a part of our future relationship with Sheikh Yusuf in providing an alternative Islamic curriculum education for the young generations of Malaysians.

Sheikh Yusuf’s swift, stop over is planned to facilitate connections for future projects. Given his express driven schedule, we are nevertheless looking forward to the possibility that we may be able to welcome Sheikh Yusuf again next year for his world tour concert in which he has indicated that Malaysia may indeed be a distinct and desirable venue. That opens the possibility that we may be afforded with an opportunity to stage an honour tribute to Sheikh Yusuf as a Man Of Peace, one who has contributed a lot in many ways to Mankind.

His global standing as an artist and a humanitarian activist are testimony by themselves. It would nevertheless be a place of pride for Malaysia to have a role, to play any role in enhancing and realising the mission of Sheikh Yusuf in his life’s work in so far as those also tally with some of Malaysia’s mission : in the proper learning of Islam by Muslims, in the larger understanding by all of Islam as a religion of peace, in promoting social care and welfare for the needy in Humanity and in promoting peace and harmony amongst all of Allah’s creation.

Our lives are a gift from Allah. Sheikh Yusuf’s is a larger one Syukur Alhamdulillah. We wish him and his family all the Peace supreme that Allah may bestow here in this world and in the hereafter for all that he has done in the service of Allah.

Sheikh Yusuf’s visit to Malaysia with his wife is solely managed by The Peace Train Community, Malaysia Chapter Committee chaired by Ambassador Datuk Yeop Adlan Rose.

For further information and details, contact:

Mohamed Fudzail

Mobile : 0173671964

Email : fudzail@gmail.com

Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) in Malaysia!

"i've followed, the wind, east and west..."

Yusuf has been invited to visit the King and Prime Minister of Malaysia during his planned stop over there with his wife.

In the next two weeks Yusuf will be traveling via Malaysia to Australia to discuss possible co-production for the Musical, Moonshadow, which was previewed during his highly acclaimed tour of Australia and New Zealand this June.

As a special gift to the Malaysian people Yusuf will be giving them first listen to a new release of his song, 'Wind East and West', to mark his first visit to Malaysia for many years. The song will be available as a free download to all those registered in the Redroom of yusufislam.com in the coming week.

More news from the trip will be posted in the coming days, God Willing.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Speech by Ambassador Yeop Adlan Rose

Speech by Ambassador Yeop Adlan Rose on 2nd August 2010 after Big School Dinner with Principal and Staff of MCKK on the occasion of the Anniversary visit by MCOBA Class of ’60 (Patikan) commemorating their 50 years since leaving MCKK.

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Yang Berusaha Encik Anand bin Baharuddin,

Principal MCKK,

Yang DiSanjungi Members of the Staff at MCKK,

Yang Dikasehi Saudara2 dan Saudari2 saya Keluarga Patikan Class of ’60 yang hadhir.

Assalamu Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh.

Here we are then, those of us still around that is, from the Class of ‘60 gathered tonight making this special trip with our wives half a century after leaving MCKK. What a long time 50 years ago is. Many have left us since. In the recently concluded World Cup football terms, the rest of us remaining are what you might call, on second half extra time. That’s not so bad, it is better than being on time added on for injuries. That final whistle can come anytime of course, for all of us as we are only too aware. And of course, there will be no special trips like this for this class 50 years from now.

Thank you, therefore, for going out of your way to accommodate us into your time, and picking a time that is not an intrusive hindrance to the school, for receiving us warmly; and finally, for sparing your time for dinner, and to be present tonight to hear this talk by an old boy from the Class of ’60.

At the outset let me say that I speak under false pretences. I am not and never was a trained teacher or educationist to speak on education. And to speak on the subject before you, teachers, of all people. Nonetheless tonight I consider it a singular privilege, to share with you my personal recollections, thoughts and reflections of those formative years being educated at MCKK and what it did for me. In doing so I hope that,far from mere nostalgia,they may provide a useful backdrop in provoking your thoughts, as to what MCKK is, or can be today.Useful also I hope, as we grapple with at least one topical major national problem, and that is, the woeful state of formal education in our country today.

I enrolled in 1953 at 9 years old into King’s Pavilion together with 60 other boys, divided into 2 classes at standard 4.

Every Monday morning we stood up in class at attention to sing God Save The Queen. That’s The Queen of England of course. In the dining hall, we were taught table manners,taught to eat with fork and spoon, and munch with our mouths closed and not to speak as we munch. We were introduced to eating cheese, oat meals, sardine sandwiches, lamb cutlets and so on. In class, we were taught correct and strictly proper English.We were even taught phonetics, in order to be able to pronounce and speak correct and proper English. All the Bahasa we had was left behind during the preceding 4 years in Malay primary school. Our teacher was Mrs K.D. Luke, wife of the Scottish Headmaster who took half the intake, while the other half was with Mr Gawthorne, a Malaysian Indian qualified teacher.

They were very impressionable years. I remember for example, we were taught to sing songs in class that stayed with me and still resonate in me right up to this day. Here are some samples:

D’ye ken John Peel,

Bonnie banks of Loch Lomond,

Clementine,

Where has your highland laddie gone,

Yankee doodle,

They were songs about people in the UK riding horses hunting foxes, about love and death in war around Loch Lomond in Scotland, about a miner’s daughter lost in a mining accident, about British people going to war in France for King George etc. They were sung by little boys and girls in public schools in UK. Sung by little kampong boys gathered at Kuala Kangsar however was quite surreal you might say, but never mind.

The essential fact was that the school curriculum was one and the same as that being taught in public schools like Eaton and Harrow in England. In short, we were as good as being transported to England and put into classes there. We knew about life in England very well, complete with winter,summer,autumn and spring, but of course, we were there only in our dreams.

And so it was, more of the same throughout the years in the upper classes. In history we were taught extensively and in great detail the history of Britain. King Alfred the Great and his Doomsday Book, 1066 and all that, William the Conquerer, Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth I, War of the Roses, Sir Francis Drake(who was in truth a licensed pirate), Sir Walter Raleigh(he’s the fellow who started the world smoking tobacco).

A large component of the history of the world taught was the history of the British in Europe, and the history of peoples and places everywhere in the world the British went, conquered and/or meddled in; India, Malaya and Borneo, Australia, Canada, North America, Africa and so on.

Without realizing it, we were thus taught to look even at the history of our own country as if we were in England and looking at it from there. And so, we were to learn for example, that Francis Light founded Penang, and Stamford Raffles founded Singapore, as if these places here needed founding and that nobody lived there.

In poetry at 9 years old we had to memorise John Masefield’s ‘Sea Fever’.In later classes we read Wordsworth, Keats, Longfellow etc. and the works of Robert Louis Stevenson, Charles Dickens, Shakespeare and so on.

The long and the short of it all was that we were literally being taught heart and mind to be a Brit like any British boy going through the same school and the same school curriculum in Britain.And since we were not and can never be a full blooded Brit in person, we ended up being a true and proper Mat Salleh Celup!

As a consequence we hardly knew ourselves, since we were not taught to really know our own selves but taught to be somebody else.

Saudara Pengetua,

Saudara Saudari sekalian,

I have since learned as a Muslim, that Knowledge (Ilmu) is divided into two: (1)Ilmu Pengenalan and (2)Ilmu Pengetahuan.

Just very briefly,Ilmu Pengenalan is ilmu of knowing who you are as a human being created by The Almighty and put into this world to serve His purposes. For Muslims, this is ilmu from Al Quran and of the Religion of Islam. The second one, Ilmu Pengetahuan, is all the ilmu there is for you to put to use to live in this world; biology, mathematics, physics, law, engineering, architecture, astronomy, philosophy and what have you. We must have both to be a good human being. And the purpose of education is to produce good human beings.

At MCKK, I had almost nothing and if anything, a very paltry education in, and knowledge of the first, Ilmu Pengenalan throughout the ten years from standard 4 primary to Upper Sixth secondary. And indeed, also right through to university. We had a guru ugama at standard 4 primary who taught us rudimentary Islam. And had almost nothing afterwards except to attend Quran reading classes once a week up to about form three. And that too was just rote learning with no interpretative teaching of the meaning of the Quran.There were no qualified teachers to teach the higher classes.

Western thought and world view is secular, stemming from it’s cardinal ideology of separating religion from state.Although secular, Chritianity was still taught as a compulsory subject in public schools in UK.They have a Chapel and a Reverend Chaplain in school.So also does every college in Oxford and Cambridge.It must be remembered their schools and Universities were religion based when founded.The colonialists did not force Christianity and Bible studies at MCKK it must be said, but at the same time understandably,the serious study of Islam was the least of their bother and concern.

Western education invariably lay more stress on Ilmu Pengetahuan(worldly knowledge) which is useful to the state.Thus the purpose of western education is to produce good citizens equipped with Ilmu Pengetahuan useful to the state.Now, a good citizen is not guaranteed a good human being.A good human being on the other hand, is guaranteed a good citizen.Which is why it is focally important that the purpose of education is to produce good human beings,not just good citizens.

Anyhow, the net result of all this colonial education at MCKK was that, I had no knowledge of what it was to be a Muslim, and also of being Malay, instead I ended up being a pseudo British, who had plenty of Ilmu Pengetahuan. I could quote, by heart, pages of Shakespeare, but I did not know the Quran. This is not about rejecting Shakespeare. In the quest for knowledge by all means we should study Shakespeare, but first,or parallel, I must have knowledge of the Quran. And so, I ended up, one half being a Mat Salleh Celup, and the other half being a Muslim Celup. In other words, I became neither a full blooded Mat Salleh nor a true and proper Muslim! Just a bit better than ending up a cross between a horse and a donkey you might say, but ending up an animal nevertheless, useful to the state!

What should have happened to correct this imbalanced MCKK product was that, The Religion of Islam as a subject was taught right through from primary to advanced subject at secondary school, and indeed as a further advanced subject at university. Then, both ilmus go hand in hand to produce a human being properly balanced by having both.As it was, I was being prepared to walk through life lopsided,and viewing the world as if I was wearing tinted glasses day and night.

I cannot fault colonial education or anyone else for this huge void in my education. As a Muslim I know that ultimately one must find it oneself, because ours is an individual covenant with The Almighty. What I am saying is that, it would have helped to fill that void if I had had it incorporated as part of my curriculum at school, instead of having to find it elsewhere independently. And if I had not found it, as I did only late in life, what a terrible personal tragedy it would have been,a complete loss.

It is an interesting anecdote that years later,as it happened,after all I had gone through at MCKK, I found my younger daughter, actually enrolled in one of the top public girls school in UK,St. Paul’s Girls School, where she did her full secondary school from Form I to A Levels. Bible studies was compulsory.But they also studied Islam,Buddhism,Hinduism and Confusionism. Well,it was no surprise that out of the cream of English public school education she came out a real and proper lady Mat Salleh speaking clipped Queen’s English,but fortunately through it all, found and turned out a better Muslim today.

How do I look back at and view all that education and of my times at MCKK?

1. Let me say categorically, that I am grateful for the education that I had. I cannot undo history. In any case, where would or could I have gone to otherwise, to obtain my formal education? At the less than adequate pondok schools, where I might have had a little more of religious teaching perhaps,though I know their levels of knowledge and teaching were low, and they had little or nothing of Ilmu Pengetahuan?

2. I regret, but am now also amused by the Mat Salleh Celup or Brown Sahib I was made to become and I became one for a good 2/3rds of my life until I found for myself the path to Ilmu Pengenalan as a Muslim. I rid myself in mind and heart of secularism, the import from western education. But I can see it’s insidious effect on Muslims who cannot differentiate it and are therefore unable to isolate it from within themselves thereby remaining poisoned by it. They become mechanical Islam types, rooted in it’s rituals but not in understanding it and hence failing to live it fully as a way of life, with a world outlook skewered by western ideology of separating religion from state. Secularism is a scourge to Islam especially, and is it’s worst legacy from colonialism.

By the way,just in case you might think so, let me say that I have not become a convoluted, guilt ridden Mullah or anything near that at all.I am the same person,only my world outlook is now different. I see it as a Muslim should. I no longer see through secular glass prisms having now discarded those through knowledge.

3. I do not appreciate and was ill at ease with the elitist character being at MCKK was promoted to be. Elitism is in the content of ilmu one has acquired, looked up to and respected by others. Not in the self labeling of oneself as an elite by the simple fact of being at MCKK. After all, the quality of education was the same as that found and available in all other similar schools then. The only difference was that MCKK was a one and only boarding school, and exclusively for Malay boys. The fact that MCKK produced exclusively Malay Brown Sahibs, and of the best secular specimen at that, is a dubious record to be proud of.

MCKK celebrated it’s 100 years a few years ago with great fanfare and euphoria. Knowing that it was a colonial instrument and what product came out of it should have tempered our views a bit and muted the celebrations a lot more I think, at least among the old boys who were there in pre Merdeka years.

4. While the self promotion of elitism is distasteful,the regard accorded by others to these MCKK products may not be that misplaced however.Being a full primary to secondary boarding meant that collegians derived to it’s fullest extent the benefits of tutelage and supervision 24 hours a day.This meant that they acquired to the fullest all that could be accrued from what full boarding public school education gave.Thus collegians had full benefit from school extra curricular activities and sports inhouse,supervision on discipline, on conduct and character building 24 hours,lived the meaning of pride in uniform,wearing and carrying the badge of distinction,the meaning of loyalty,bonding and strong camaraderie,being independent and self reliant and so on.At the risk of being self complimentory,that these MCKK products were thus given as solid all round good characters was perhaps for good reason after all! By and large that is.Any group of people will have it’s fair share of scounderels!Anyway ask the wives here if that was why they married them!

5. I do appreciate the strong alma mater camaraderie and post school networking a la that grown out of public school education in England, including that out of Oxford and Cambridge, although I do lament that over here it is not put to good use widely in public life at national level as it is in the UK. Our ties are limited to annual gatherings exclusively for nostalgia only, it would appear.

Colonialists made no pretensions about colonial education they instituted.

I have already said that I cannot blame the colonialists for the ills in the education system that I went through. After all, it must be further said, that they never made any pretensions about the education system they instituted, that it was meant to promote anything other than to serve their colonial interests. It was not to educate the local natives any other way but the British way. They wanted them to be educated with the curriculum in British schools in UK so that they understood British ways, British laws etc..They wanted them to speak English properly in order that they may become good servants of the British colonialists especially in administration and government. In short they never had any qualms about making us Brown Sahibs. It was intended, and it was for the purpose of helping them administer and control the colonies in perpetuity..It should not be a matter of shock and surprise therefore that we ended up being those products.In this, it must also be said that the British did their job very well. And they did it through a very good education system.

Colonial education and education system was of good quality.

I must say that, the British colonial education system, for what it was meant to produce, was a very good system and gave good quality education, colonialist and secular as it was. There were very good quality schools throughout the country, Penang Free School, King Edward VII, Clifford School, Anderson School, Victoria Institution, Malacca High School, Johore High School, King George V, Sultan Ismail College, Sultan Abdul Hamid College. Those were some, not all. There were many more. They were filled with well trained expatriate teachers, local graduate teachers, and other locally trained teachers. Many locals were trained specially at Kirby and Brinsford Lodge. It was a system well driven and well run by the administrators, with teachers full of dedication to their profession and their role as teachers and they did their job very well. That is why to this day we remember those teachers fondly and hold them high in our esteem, always with a deep sense of gratitude. They were well trained, they were dedicated, they were well supervised and administered, and they were left to do their job without hindrance and undue interference. And all that was realized, and was done, through the colonial education system in place at the time.

At this point, I would like to touch on one aspect of education then that stood out in my mind. Looking back, the one aspect of education I recall was the accent and stress on character and character building. You were expected to excel in your studies in class. You were equally expected to excel in activities on the field, outside of class. Both activities, in class as well as outside of class, were given equal attention and time.

You were taught simple good human qualities from an early age, honesty, integrity, sincerity, respect and obedience, of being thrifty, of kindness and so on. Good human qualities are further developed and acquired by activities outside of class such as the boy scout movement (on your honour to do your duty, to be prepared, to be self reliant etc.), St John Ambulance Brigade (render first aid, to save lives, to have compassion etc.), Cadet Corps (military discipline, respect for order of rank and file, armaments discipline, combat discipline etc.).

Everyone participated in sports and learnt the pursuit and qualities of excellence, personal achievement, team spirit, leadership, sporting spirit, playing fair and by the rules etc..Other activities like debate nights, poetry nights, drama stage performances, musical stage performances, hobbies, were all done with the idea of deriving from them so many good character traits that might accrue to the students, including to help them realize their talents.

So much so, it was important that a good school leaving certificate attest to your all round good character by mentioning that e.g. you had been a school prefect or you played games for the school first XI, or by listing out your extra curricular activities. That was of equal if not of greater value than your examination results. Such was the accent and value attached to character and personality.

Today I don’t know whether that accent is still there. Therefore I don’t know whether those activities are still there, or whether it is understood why they were there to derive what educational values, or whether they have been replaced by something better. I do know the two sessions school has been an unmitigated disaster. Students do not return to school to participate in sports anymore. In some instances schools do not even have a playing field anymore. What it points to is that, educational values from sports and other extra curricular activities have been downgraded in value, or are simply lost. That being the case what is left is accent solely on examination results.

MCKK and education after Merdeka.

My time was a long time ago. I don’t know what has happened at MCKK since, or about education in the country in general. I do know what I hear. And what I hear is alarming, indeed frightening.

At any rate, from my perspective as an old boy who went through full primary and secondary education at MCKK some of it during colonial times, having acknowledged that despite it’s pitfalls, the colonial education system and the education then was of good quality, I would have thought that by and large, we should have kept that system and that education, except for some tweaking here and there particularly in the curriculum to suit our needs.

That meant we should have kept the system that was so well driven and well administered evenly throughout the country. We should have kept the policy of one school and one school curriculum for all Malaysians. We should have continued with the policy priority of producing highly qualified and well trained teachers who were afterwards left to do their job unhindered. We should have maintained the policy of giving more stress on education to derive overall good human qualities of character, rather than to classroom studies, not to the neglect of either. What we needed to do was to change some of the subjects while keeping the system and its focus intact. There is no need to rant and throw out anything and everything colonial. Keep what was good that we could put to our own good use.

Thus for example, recognising what was lacking which resulted in a very serious pitfall of colonial western education which was the legacy of the ideology of secularism, mortal to Islam, it would be imperative to put in Ilmu Pengenalan, i.e. studies on the Religion of Islam for all Muslim students right through from primary to secondary and indeed to university. It would need a corps of highly qualified teachers to teach the subject at all levels correctly and properly. Non Muslim students could do other subjects like vernacular languages for example during the time. Or they may sit through the classes, not with the idea of making them become Muslims, but at least just to know what is Islam. The subject also includes studies of human values and of the human character and or the human condition useful to all.

The history curriculum would have to include the 1,000 years of the history of Islamic civilization that impacted on all of human history before European colonization, not just the history of the British or of western civilization primarily. It should be corrected to include, indeed weigh more on the history of China, India, South East Asia, in other words on history closer to us and of peoples nearer to us. While studying the travels of Vasco da Gama, Marco Polo or Columbus for example, we should not neglect the travels of Ibn Battuta or of Admiral Cheng Ho.

Similarly, in literature, it should not just be British, European and Western literature that we read, but to also include Chinese, Indian, Arab, African, Latin American literature and so on.

There are other issues like languages for example which I shall not touch here. Suffice it to say that once you decide, you should not waver but should go headlong in pursuing it to it’s highest standards.Wavering and constant changing is ruinous to the system.

In any case, the thrust I am pointing to here is that, if the colonial education system was excellent in producing fine specimens, our education system and MCKK should have gone on to use that system with some curriculum adjustments, this time to produce very fine specimens of our own Muslim Malay students (minus the Brown Sahib element) with knowledge and with excellent qualities of leadership equipped with high moral values. The high quality education common and maintained in all similar schools applicable to all Malaysians should therefore produce fine specimens out of all Malaysians.

Saudara Pengetua,

Saudara Saudari sekalian,

High quality education, as we know, does not end at the schools. It must be continued at the university. As it stands, the fine products out of high quality education from the schools if that can be realized and assumed, are but wasted, if the best of our universities are ranked a lowly 42 among universities in Asia today. High quality formal education must stretch right up to University. And for our top university to be ranked that low is a terrible indictment on our education system.

There is another disease, even more fatal to overcome, and that is, a corruption of values. When men and women equipped with knowledge and high moral values of honesty, integrity and uprightness are not a valuable currency while preference of place is for the sycophants, the yes men, and the ampu bodek types of society, then it is all useless. Good human beings produced through quality education are corrupted to abandon their principles for monetary gains, for power, for positions etc. They become mercenaries or opportunists. Or those among them who refuse to be corrupted simply withdraw. Then, society is the loser, as it deteriorates and becomes sick in its own corruption.

Motivation

Against that background, tonight I was supposed to give a motivational talk, a talk to motivate you,teachers and staff. It worried me, that I do not consider myself qualified to do so, and I might end up out of place. I began the evening by admitting to you that I speak under false pretences. Tonight since I must, then let me say this to you:

It is often said, as a truth and a reminder, that teachers are the noblest of professions. How true and profound. MCKK would be lifeless and meaningless, devoid of it’s purpose, without you it’s teachers. That is why tonight this badge of old boys, and their wives, after 50 years, have come back on this special trip, to salute you, in full cognizance of your profession and your role in our lives, in society as a whole.

The purpose of education foremost is to produce good human beings. The education system of a society therefore is to produce those people and to produce the leaders amongst them. They are then needed for the smooth, efficient, just running of that society, now and into the future. They are the people you send to Parliament, into the civil service, the judiciary,the police,the armed forces, into the business sector and so on. And indeed, they are the people you seek to be teachers.

The state of health or sickness of the education system translates directly into the health or sickness of the society it is meant to serve. I cannot motivate you more than to make you realize,or to remind you of, that truth. I cannot motivate you more than to highlight your central and crucial role in it. Last, I cannot motivate you more than to tell you that ultimately, you have no choice. Such is our dependence on you.

Yes, you need to be very well trained, yes you need to be well equipped, yes you need to be well supervised, yes you need to be professional and dedicated. After that, yes, you need to be left to do your job unhindered, without undue interference. And yes, finally, you cannot afford to fail. If you fail, society will descend into it’s own muck of corruption, ignorance and error in knowledge and will continue to wallow in it perhaps in perpetuity, left being unable to get out of it’s own predicament of it’s own making. Then that society has no hope at all. I cannot motivate you any more than to tell you that.

Fiat Sapientia Virtus.

‘Fiat Sapientia Virtus’. That’s our motto in Latin. It means “Let Manliness Come Through Wisdom”.

Well, it has been a lifelong journey of education, knowledge and self discovery for me, as it is for all of us I suppose. Tonight, I don’t know if I have shown you I have wisdom enough to speak to you meaningfully.Also, as propriety demands, I cannot show you, and I don’t think you want me to show you my manliness either!

My classmates since King’s Pavilion days 60 years ago, now my regular golfing buddies over there, Saudara2 Hussain Shaari, Syed Elias and Datuk Umar Hj Abu are smiling to themselves just now I know. They have their version of the MCKK motto. Their version translates into “Let Manliness Come Through Viagra”! MCKK rascals to this day!

Fiat Sapientia Virtus aside,I would like to close with this core teaching and tenet of Islam that we are asked to remind ourselves of all the time, ‘Innalillahi Wa Illahi Rajiun’. It means ‘From Allah we come, to Allah we return’. It is profound and it means everything to Muslims. You have to answer for all your deeds in this world when you do return finally to the Almighty as we must all do. You must therefore do good, not evil; do right, not wrong. And to do good you must have the four virtues in Islam. The four virtues are:

Wisdom (knowledge),

Temperance,

Courage, and

Justice.

Equipped properly with those four virtues, you can never go wrong. You can never be corrupted. You shall never veer from Truth. I venture to suggest that the MCKK of today should adopt and incorporate those virtues as it’s guiding pillars in it’s vision of and in it’s pursuit of education and Truth.

Tonight, after 50 years, an old boy draws a little on his courage to bare his own personal long journey of education, of learning and self discovery, of what and where Truth is, to share his reflections and thoughts in the hope that they may be useful, by bringing them back here, where he started. Leaving Malay College Kuala Kangsar 50 years ago a Brown Sahib, he now returns in the knowledge that he is a servant to no one, no one except the One and only true Sahib there is, and that’s the One to Whom we shall all return.

Sekian,

Wabillahi Taufik Wal Hidayah Wassalamu Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh.

Thank you.

Yeop Adlan Rose,

(MCOBA ’60,Mohd Shah House).

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Mecca as it appeared 125 years ago


In the spirit of Eid al Adha, the photography gallery The Empty Quarter in Dubai is exhibiting historical photographs of Mecca originally published by the Dutch scholar Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje in 1889.

Snouck Hurgonje (1857-1936) is the founder of contemporary Islamic studies in the Netherlands, and believed that racial and religious diversity can go hand in hand with peaceful coexistence. His life was filled with still-relevant ideological controversies and revolutionary statements.

He had an intrinsic curiosity, distinct knowledge of Islam and fluency in Arabic that allowed him, even as a foreigner, to enter the city forbidden to non-Muslims. After Snouck Hurgronje successfully defended his dissertation, Het Mekkaansche Feest (The Meccan Celebration), in 1880 at Leiden University, he wanted to study Islam in its very centre; he arrived on the Arabian Peninsula on August 28, 1884.

He spent his first months in Jeddah, learning the local dialect and preparing to seek approval to enter Mecca. He gathered a circle of influential friends around him, not in the least because of his photographic equipment. At the time, photography was mysterious and new and most likely helped him break down social barriers.

About this time he symbolically took a Muslim name, Abd al Gaffar. There are some who doubt whether he truly converted to Islam, but he does describe a circumcision in remarkable detail, and he received a visit from the qadi of Jeddah, and his travel companion addressed him as "a brother in God".

When Snouck Hurgronje finally set foot in Mecca on the eve of February 22, 1885, he circled the Kaaba, kissed the Black Stone and drank the holy water of Zam Zam.

"I made acquaintance with modern Meccan society at first hand, heard with my own ears what that international population learns and teaches … I have studied the ideal and the reality … in mosque, divan, coffeehouse and living room," Snouck Hurgronje wrote.

He described the "neighbours of Allah" as a heterogeneous society focused on trade. He spoke highly of the freedom enjoyed by women. The book that gained him international recognition, Mecca in the Latter Part of the 19th Century, is an important historical source and deals with social and family life, funeral customs and marriage.

During his intense five months in Mecca, he struck a friendship with a doctor who coincidentally shared the same Arabic name, Abd al Gaffar, and his fascination for photography. Together they struggled with the heavy camera and hand-retouched negatives in a portable darkroom. Until 30 years ago, it was assumed the photographs in the album Photographs of Mecca were the sole work of Snouck Hurgronje, but scientific research has recognised Dr al Gaffar as the first Meccan photographer.

Snouck Hurgronje's "medieval dream" ended abruptly in August that year, after French media falsely accused him of wanting to steal a historical artefact. He left the city under armed escort, leaving his pregnant Ethiopian slave wife and photo equipment behind. He never returned.

Mecca: A Dangerous Adventure – Snouck Hurgronje's early photographs 1885: The Platinum Series runs until December 6 in The Empty Quarter, Gate Village Building 2, Dubai. For more information, see www.theemptyquarter.com