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Important News, Belangrijke nieuws, Nouvelles importantes, Wichtige News, Fontos hírek, Importanti novitŕ, Pomembne novice, Importante Notícias, Viktiga nyheter

Ing. Salih CAVKIC
orbus editor in chief
Belang van Limburg
De Morgen
De Standard
Het Laatste Nieuws
La Libre Belgique


Deutsche Welle
West-D. Zeitung

The man of the year

Guy Verhofstadt
Mr. Guy Verhofstadt

The man of the year
L'homme de l'an
De man van het jaar

A proven Democrat, protector and fighter for justice and human rights in the World.

Een bewezen Democraat, beschermer en strijder voor rechtvaardigheid en mensenrechten in de Wereld.

Un prouvé démocrate, protecteur et combattant pour la justice et des droits de l'homme dans le Mond.

Eine bewährte Demokrat, Beschützer und Kämpfer für Gerechtigkeit und Menschenrechte in der Welt.

Dokazani demokrat,
 zaštitnik i borac za pravdu i ljudska prava u Svijetu.

The man of the year

Peace in the World

Mr. Barak Hossein Obama

The man of the year
L'homme de l'an
De man van het jaar

peace in the world

vrede in de wereld

la paix dans le monde

Garantie des Friedens in der Welt

mieru vo svete

mira u svijetu

Murray Hunter
University Malaysia Perlis

Perpetual Self conflict: Self awareness as a key to our ethical drive, personal mastery, and perception of entrepreneurial opportunities.
Murray Hunter

The Continuum of Psychotic Organisational Typologies
Murray Hunter

There is no such person as an entrepreneur, just a person who acts entrepreneurially
Murray Hunter

Groupthink may still be a hazard to your organization - Murray Hunter

Generational Attitudes and Behaviour - Murray Hunter

The environment as a multi-dimensional system: Taking off your rose coloured glasses - Murray Hunter

Imagination may be more important than knowledge: The eight types of imagination we use - Murray Hunter

Do we have a creative intelligence? - Murray Hunter

Not all opportunities are the same: A look at the four types of entrepreneurial opportunity - Murray Hunter

   The Evolution of Business Strategy - Murray Hunter

How motivation really works - Murray Hunter

Evaluating Entrepreneurial Opportunities: What’s wrong with SWOT? - Murray Hunter

 The five types of thinking we use - Murray Hunter

Where do entrepreneurial opportunities come from? - Murray Hunter

  How we create new ideas - Murray Hunter

How emotions influence, how we see the world? - Murray Hunter

People tend to start businesses for the wrong reasons - Murray Hunter

One Man, Multiple Inventions: The lessons and legacies of Thomas Edison - Murray Hunte

Does Intrapreneurship exist in Asia? - Murray Hunter

 What’s with all the hype – a look at aspirational marketing - Murray Hunter

   Integrating the philosophy of Tawhid – an Islamic approach to organization - Murray Hunter

Samsara and the Organization - Murray Hunter

Do Confucian Principled Businesses Exist in Asia? - Murray Hunter

 Knowledge, Understanding and the God Paradigm - Murray Hunter

On Some of the Misconceptions about Entrepreneurship - Murray Hunter

How feudalism hinders community transformation and economic evolution: Isn’t equal opportunity a basic human right? - Murray Hunter

The Dominance of “Western” Management Theories in South-East Asian Business Schools: The occidental colonization of the mind. - Murray Hunter

Ethics, Sustainability and the New Realities - Murray Hunter

The Arrival of Petroleum, Rockefeller, and the Lessons He taught Us - Murray Hunter - University Malaysia Perlis

 Elite educators idolize the “ high flying entrepreneurs” while deluded about the realities of entrepreneurship for the masses: - Murray Hunter

Lessons from the Invention of the airplane and the Beginning of the Aviation Era - Murray Hunter

Missed Opportunities for ASEAN if the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) fails to start up in 2015 - Murray Hunter

From Europe, to the US, Japan, and onto China: The evolution of the automobile - Murray Hunter

ASEAN Nations need indigenous innovation to transform their economies but are doing little about it. - Murray Hunter

Do Asian Management Paradigms Exist? A look at four theoretical frames - Murray Hunter

Surprise, surprise: An Islam economy can be innovative - Murray Hunter

Australia in the "Asian Century" or is it Lost in Asia? - Murray Hunter

Australia "Do as I say, not as I do" - The ongoing RBA bribery scandal - Murray Hunter

Entrepreneurship and economic growth? South-East Asian governments are developing policy on the misconception that entrepreneurship creates economic growth. - Murray Hunter

Hillary to Julia "You take India and I'll take Pakistan", while an ex-Aussie PM says "Enough is enough with the US" - Murray Hunter


The return of Kevin Rudd as Australian PM: For how long?

Murray Hunter

The Australian Prime Ministership underwent a rapid change in Canberra on Wednesday night.

The now former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard started her day with rough questioning from the Opposition leader Tony Abbott on the floor of the parliament, while the government benches were ablaze with talk and movement concerning a challenge by Kevin Rudd for her position. As the day went along there was rumor of a petition being circulated calling for a spill motion for the leadership position of the labor party, which would also entitle the leader to be prime minister if he had the confidence of the house. With this siege going on against Gillard, the petition actually never materialized, the prime minister herself called for a vote in the party room at 7pm that night, on the condition that whoever lost would also leave politics completely, such the bitterness of this challenge.

Just about an hour before the historic meeting Labor Minister and powerbroker Bill Shorten called a snap press conference to announce his abandonment of PM Julia Gillard and support of Kevin Rudd. The switch of loyalty of two strong supporters of Gillard, Senators Penny Wong and Bob Carr brought an expectation of change to the parliamentary corridors, leading to a 57-45 vote in favor of Rudd, with the popular Anthony Albanese elected as deputy leader and becoming deputy prime minister, replacing Wayne Swan.

Rudd had been undermining Julia Gillard as Prime Minister ever since she deposed him for being unpopular with the Australian electorate in 2010. Rudd, elected by the people in 2007 had always believed he was the legitimate leader of the Labor Party and should be the prime minister of Australia.

Last night was Rudd's third challenge against Gillard. In the second challenge Rudd failed to even put himself forward as he didn't have the numbers. This forced ministers like Kim Carr and Chris Bowen to resign indicating the deep division within the party due to the bitterness between Rudd and Gillard. This third attempt last night probably succeeded because most members of the labor caucus knew that Labor under Gillard would probably lose up to 30 seats in the coming polls against Abbott's Liberal National Party Coalition.  They saw Rudd as the only chance for Labor to reconnect with the people.

However within an hour of the ballot, Labor looked like falling part with six ministers Wayne Swan, Greg Combet, Craig Emerson, Peter Garrett, Stephen Conroy, and Joe Ludwig all resigning from the ministry. What made it even worse was that most of them also said they would retire from parliament as well. On Thursday Defense Minister Stephen Smith he would retire in this coming election.

The Rudd challenge has saved Gillard from a disastrous defeat at the polls where Labor would have only maintained a small handful of seats which would make it difficult for any future leader to rebuild the party from. A large section of the Australian electorate had still not forgiven her for the way she disposed of Kevin Rudd in 2010.

Although Gillard had of achievements during her stewardship of the government, this did not generate electoral popularity for her, which in the view of many people in the party was bringing the labor vote down. During the last two weeks where Gillard was defending herself against Rudd's attacks, she tried to mobilize public support with the gender issue, which only seemed to polarize her supporter base even more.

Rudd had always been popular with the Australian people. Rudd knows how to play the media and campaigning is his strength. His campaigning abilities inflicted so much damage on the Howard Government during the 2007 election, even former prime minister John Howard lost his seat in parliament. For many parliamentarians he is their only hope of remaining in parliament after the election. Rudd has for months been operating like a de facto opposition leader walking around shopping malls in marginal electorates of Western Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, helping out these members.
Rudd is opposition leader Tony Abbott's worst nightmare. Up until 6.30pm last night it was almost a foregone conclusion that he would become the next Prime Minister of Australia.

To try and counter the electoral threat from Rudd, the Liberals have posted an advertisement on YouTube with insulting comments about Rudd, with comments made by Julia Gillard, Wayne Swan, Craig Emerson, Peter Garrett, Stephen Smith, Stephen Conroy, Kate Ellis, and former politicians Graeme Richardson and Mark Latham. If the Rudd-Abbott exchange in Parliament on Thursday is any indication of what the election campaign will be like, it going to be a very highly competitive one, where now both Abbott and Rudd will be fighting for their political lives.

A Morgan Opinion poll taken on Wednesday night of 2000 people in marginal seats around Australia indicated 49.5% support for labor and 50.5% support for the Liberal National Party, a rise of more than 7 percentage points for labor almost instantaneously. A Newspoll released on Thursday showed a 50/50 dead heat between the two major parties.

So when will the election be held? Prime Minister Rudd in the parliament on Thursday morning indicated that it might be later than sooner, giving him an opportunity to reestablish his authority in the position of prime minister. He may travel to Jakarta next week for an annual bilateral meeting next week, takeover chairmanship of the G20, and take Australia's seat in the UN Security Council, all events that will show him as the statesman he sees himself as. Rudd's public manner since his election last night indicates that he means business and is determined to win the coming election. It would be hard seeing him miss these events for anything.

So the Australian election that must be held within the next four months looks like being strongly fought by two adversaries who don't take kindly to defeat. It's going to be competitive again, where the Australian electorate will likely polarize this time and vote for the major parties, squeezing out the independents from the lower house. The events of yesterday will be quickly forgotten, where the business of the day will become the main focus of the electorate.

Rudd is well aware that there are a number of Australians suffering financially in the outer suburbs, where real unemployment rates may actually be higher due to statistical definitions used by the Australian Department of Statistics. He declared the China resources boom over and wants to revive manufacturing where the lower Australian dollar will assist. He also knows that the youth of Australia are indifferent to politics and winning them over will greatly assist in securing victory. He also needs to get business on side, after abandoned tax cuts, issues over union rights to visit workplaces, and 457 visa issues. It is also unlikely Rudd will strengthen the mining tax, as he wants to woe the mining magnates who Abbott has been courting of late.

Australia will be presented two visions in the coming election, where Rudd may escape the baggage of the former Gillard Government, where the campaign will be like two opposition leaders fighting for the No. 1 job, with no prize for second place.

One can also see over the last couple of weeks adjustments to Abbott's rhetoric and narrative. Expect Abbott to put up more vision of what Australia would be like under an Abbot Government during this campaign, as this is the weakness that Rudd will exploit to the hilt. Conversely, Abbott will exploit the near collapse of Labor, which is almost as catastrophic as the Labor split in 1955 which cost Government for almost two decades.

Some Liberal members tonight are even contemplating whether they were right to ditch Malcolm Turnbull as opposition leader in 2010.  
The smile Rudd has been holding back in front of camera is tell-tale of his own deep satisfaction in extracting revenge on Gillard and resting back the premiership which he had long felt was taken from him cunningly.

However for Rudd to pull off a victory will still be a tall order. The labor party is in tatters, he still has to pull together a ministry, there are still a lot of voters fed up with labor's infighting and want a change, and Abbott is still a formidable opponent.
Expect the next four months to be very eventful in Australian politics, while two 'opposition leaders' show the Australian people all their tricks.

June 28, 2013

Reinvigorating Rural Malaysia - New Paradigms Needed

Murray Hunter


As urban Malaysia has grown and prospered, the rural hinterlands have generally declined. Back in the 1980s approximately 70% of Malaysia's land was considered rural, where today 72% of Malaysia is urbanized with a growth rate of 2.4%. With this, the rural-urban divide within Malaysia has been growing, where substantially very little is being done to directly alleviate the problem.

Rural sector development has not been debated very much over the last few decades, even though the primary sector still represents almost 12% of GDP and employs more than 11% of the population. There are many rural issues that affect the future of Malaysia in much greater magnitude than the rural contribution to GDP and employment. The sustainability of Malaysia as an eco(n)-system, the country's cultural basis, and even political destiny is tied up with rural evolution. But the current "health" of rural Malaysia leaves a lot to be desired.

Forest cover in Malaysia is decreasing on a daily basis. Conservation has lost out to greed and development. Palm oil, rubber plantations, and urban expansion are eating into the forests, with very poor land enforcement on the ground. Well connected businesses are able to get concessions that are extremely financially lucrative, at great environmental cost. Roads and new townships have divided rural habitats, playing havoc with biodiversity.  These man-made barriers hold flood waters inland during the monsoons, preventing dispersion of water to the sea, causing flooding. Many animal species are in danger of extinction through poaching in the quest to supply the lucrative Chinese medicinal market.

Increasing population and new townships are putting pressure on rivers and waterways through increased domestic sewage, the dumping of garbage, and processing waste from livestock and other agro-based industries. Quarrying has silted many rivers. Soil erosion is depleting soil fertility quicker than it can be regenerated. Burning off around the region is producing thick unhealthy smog, which is affecting the whole country.

Yet with all this development there are still distinct infrastructure deficits in Malaysia. Most of the rural areas within Sabah and Sarawak are remote, where transport is costly. Some regions in Terengganu and Kelantan are still relatively isolated with very few perceived economic opportunities, as is with Perlis and parts of Kedah. The cost of goods in these areas are more expensive than the major cities. Sabah and Sarawak are legally deprived of the ability to ship goods by sea directly to other countries, as they must be trans-shipped through the Peninsula, thus handicapping the development of new export industries.

Even with rising urban populations within Malaysia, food production is not keeping pace with this growth. Malaysia is a net importer of food and animal feed, and the relatively high prices industrial crops like oil palm verses food crops deters food crop expansion. As Jared Diamond professed in his seminal book Collapse, a country which fails to provide for self sufficiency in food production and animal feed is destined to doom just like the Mayan civilization of a long gone era.

There is a general lack of research and development in new crops and the effects of climate change on existing crops. Crop research is undertaken on a national rather than regional level, where there is little support for developing new industries in specific areas. Currently most agricultural research is undertaken centrally by the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI), which follows a national research agenda formulated by policy rather than market considerations.

High urban wages have created a labor shortage in rural areas, and the rising cost of petroleum inputs is increasing the cost of production making food production uncompetitive.

Rural development has been undertaken with little appreciation of ecosystems within the concept of sustainability. The current method of identifying development projects at a district or state level within the bureaucracy and then Federally funding it is skewed towards meeting personal interests of vested parties. Real community consultation is not sort, where new projects generally lack any sense of community ownership and pride, often becoming 'white elephants' and abandoned. Many of the drivers of economic growth have been public sector orientated and consequently unsustainable projects, in most cases at the expense of the environment.

Rural Malaysians have been introduced to debt through loans and credit cards as a means to acquire goods and services to increase their standard of living, creating a debt trap. This burden is partly to blame for the lack of micro-SME development, due to the inability to pursue opportunities because of the lack of capital. 

Sabah's jobless grads to get land to farmThis is the biggest crisis, the crisis of opportunity. The incidence of entrepreneurial opportunity  in rural areas is low, particularly for the youth, who are migrating to the cities.

Consumer desire has replaced cultural continuity, where much of rural society's traditions and knowledge are being lost. Locally grown food is being replaced with processed food, fruits and vegetables are full of pesticides, family built houses are being replaced with mortgages, fast food has replaced ulam (native herbs), where bank loans have replaced self reliance. 

The development of rich local farming and craft skills are not being renewed and developed through the existing  education system so these can be utilized and exploited for creating a sustainable living in the community.  This is dispossessing communities of their cultural wealth.

To remedy this requires a complete paradigm shift in development philosophy, moving the focus away from infrastructure towards enhancing the elements of local economies at a micro-level. This is potentially very difficult as Malaysian technocrats in Putrajaya are governed by the narrative of technology 'thrusts' and setting tangible 'KPIs' in development planning.

As a commentator it is easy to criticize, especially when a writer provides no meaningful solutions. So the rest of this article will focus on providing one paradigm as a solution (no doubt other paradigms exist) to Malaysia's rural development quandary.

The precise needs of rural societies is best obtained from inside those communities. A 'bottom up' problem identification process will ensure development objectives and implementation scenarios will remain relevant to those targeted communities. Community shura (consultation) committees can be set up at village level to identify and discuss needs, problems, and desired solutions, and advise village heads.  Such a democratic approach to community will provide policy makers with the guidance they need in setting objectives and programs, and assist in minimizing funding leakages during implementation.  This measure alone would signal a very strong redistribution of policy decision making to the communities themselves, thus empowering communities to have more say in deciding their own future destinies. The shura system should develop new leaders and 'champions' who are willing to lead and help shape a new community sense of wisdom. Policies will never succeed without people to drive them.

Self sufficiency and a vibrant local trade economy is the key to future rural communities. However, rural SMEs  should be facilitated to enter national and international markets. There are now many compliance procedures such as Good Agricultural Practice (GAP), necessary for agricultural produce to enter international supply chains. These practices need to be introduced within rural communities so products produced are accepted in international markets. These compliance processes can be locally enhanced to include Halal certification, thus widening the compliance process to one inclusive certification, which for want of a better name could be called HalalGAP. A HalalGAP certification could greatly enhance the desirability of Malaysian produce, especially within the exponentially growing Halal markets worldwide.

Whole sectors like rice paddy production need to be reconfigured from the 'bottom up' so they can become competitive. The paddy production process in Malaysia requires the hands of a number of contractors during the field preparation, planting, cultivation, harvesting, and processing stages. Paddy production is an uncompetitive sector. Proposed solutions from the Northern Corridor Economic Region Authority (NCER) to develop mini-rice paddy estates with land leased from smallholders and employing these same smallholders as laborers is culturally unsound and almost certain to fail.

New methods like System of Rice Intensification (SRI) could be adopted, and more popular aromatic varieties of rice cultivated to increase industry viability. The rice monopoly held by BERNAS could be ended to allow new approaches to rice products and marketing by entrepreneurial individuals. Such an approach could drastically decrease production costs and add value to rice products in the marketplace, redistributing this added value back to farmers.

University and institutional research should change focus towards communities rather than using scare research funds to chase medals at exhibitions that have no research or commercial significance in places like Geneva and Seoul. The technology developed by Malaysian institutions should be simple, applicable to community enterprise, and appropriate to the size of the enterprises operating in rural areas. This appropriate technology, if effective and viable is itself a source of competitive advantage that will enable rural enterprises to compete in the marketplace.

This is a major challenge to Malaysian researchers to come out from their academic institutions and into the community with solutions that can enrich society. If state awards with titles were recommended for those who developed technology benefitting the community, one would be sure there would be great focus and resources allocated towards solving rural problems by academic researchers. 

Locally relevant new crops research programs should be undertaken to identify locally viable new crops, which are developed as close as possible to the communities it is intended to benefit, with the community's input and cooperation through Participatory Action Research (PAR), rather than centralizing research under a national agenda. New crops research should adopt an 'farm to folk' research and development approach, including the development of knowhow for processing new downstream products.

This requires support through developing new supply/value chains that will carry new micro-enterprises to new markets, with new products. The Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority (FAMA) has a superb distribution infrastructure that can be utilized to do this. Primary and processed food products can be supplemented with handicrafts, traditional Malay wedding items, batik, leather goods, pewter, and Malay fashion products to develop a national range of indigenous products that can be marketed through franchised retail outlets. These products could be the result of a host of new rural activities that are developed at micro-SME level.  If Fairtrade shops in Europe and OTOP shops in Thailand are any indication of the viability of this proposition, these shops will be extremely profitable.

The nature of entrepreneurship education also needs reconsideration. Currently universities are playing a primary role in training entrepreneurs, but current courses tend to be academically full of theory, teaching more about entrepreneurship, rather than how people can become entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is more about creativity, than intelligence. Yet universities focus on measuring intelligence  through assignment and exam, rather than project formats. Entrepreneurship education should be technically based and taught with a 'hands on' approach, rather than the stiff classroom theory approach.  Entrepreneurship education needs to be refocused towards vocational and community education mediums to reach those in rural communities who need assistance through this form of education. 

An entrepreneurial community requires finance which the established banks are hesitant to provide, even with the Government sponsored credit guarantee program under the Credit Guarantee Corporation (CGC). Rural community savings cooperatives can be developed as savings and micro-lending institutions, owned by the community, run for the community, by the community itself. These savings cooperatives can operate according to Islamic finance procedures where venture risk is shared by both the entrepreneur and institution, and as supplementary activities, run special education, Haj and Umrah funds for community members.

These measures would create a new community enrichment rather than a 'KPI' orientated development paradigm. All of these measures individually exist and operate successfully in other member ASEAN states today. 

New crop research is very much needed to ensure communities are able to successfully adapt to a changing environment  due to climate change. Over the next few years, some crops may provide better yields, while others will drastically decline in their productive capabilities. In addition food production for increasing urban populations and restoring water quality will become very critical issues. There must be a renewed interest in sustainability on the part of both policy makers and communities, as Malaysia's sustainability is tied up with rural evolution. New forms of community education are needed outside of the traditional education system to deliver community needed skills. The failure to achieve this will result in continued population depletion as the youth abandon rural areas for the cities.

For over five years there has been talk about the need of change. This has usually been expressed in political terms at the cost of looking at the cultural, economic, and spiritual development. Current development paradigms have eroded traditional Malaysian society values to the point where it is just a national memory and a long gone narrative. This old narratives once housed Malaysia's sense of unity in being collectively proud as a nation, where the rituals of 'balik kampong' (returning home) during festivals, smelling the scent of durian during season, rendang during festivals, fishing in the longkang (irrigation drains), and flying kites over paddy fields. These activities once signified what was most valued by communities.

Here lies the opportunity to enrich rural society along the vibrant cultural traditions that the country once thrived upon; building self sufficient and sustaining communities. These communities will be much better immune to economic downturns. Communities based upon indigenous knowledge and skills will develop much greater cultural pride which has become exhausted through Malaysia's occidental industrial growth paradigm.

This is the fundamental issue at stake for Malaysians to decide whether the same country will spiritually exist in the future, or be gone and replaced with something else. The rural communities are the last custodians of Malaysia's culture and this is where efforts must be made to preserve the spirit of Malaysia, if it is to survive.

The role of government linked corporations (GLCs) in Malaysia's corridor development projects has not necessarily taken into account the best interests of the communities they have sort to 'develop'. The 'collateral damage' of this 'development' may be too much to bare. If rural development serves vested interests, it will surely be piece meal, unbalanced and ultimately destructive. Future development must enrich rather than destroy culture with blind materialism produced through current paradigms. This requires a rethink on rural development in Malaysia before what once mattered to Malaysians is destroyed forever.   Reinvigorating Rural Malaysia - New Paradigms Needed - Murray Hunter

June 23, 2013

Can there be a National Unity Government in Malaysia?

Murray Hunter


Najib Bin RazakWith the perceived weakening of Najib Bin Razak's position of tenure as Malaysian Prime Minister, there is deep speculation within the country about moves afoot to form a national unity government.

Since the Barisan National's re-election on May 5, there has been a distinct shift in stance towards 'Ketuanan Melayu' or Malay privilege, at the cost of 1Malaysia inclusive philosophy. There is now little talk about the Government Transformation Program, and after a relaxed stance towards rallies by the opposition, authorities are now taking stern action towards Anwar's 505 movement with mass arrests of demonstrators over the weekend. Even Najib's calls to make UMNO more inclusive has aggravated many within his party.

According to political pundits, Najib Bin Razak is still prime minister, only because there is currently no other creditable and popular figure who could take the mantle of leadership away from him.

If we go back to pre-May 5 feeling in the community, there was great anticipation that an era of change was about to sweep the country. There was excitement on the streets with an almost carnival atmosphere. But the result on election night disappointed so many people, where denial and claims of massive cheating showed that many refused to accept the result. This has left the country just as divided as it was before the election. Nothing was settled and politicking rather than governance is dominating the national narrative. Anwar Ibrahim is pushing the Government into a corner with his national 505 tour disputing the election result which seems to be directly challenging Najib to take action against him.


Author: Murray Hunter

Murray Hunter

Murray Hunter has been involved in Asia-Pacific business for the last 30 years as an entrepreneur, consultant, academic, and researcher. As an entrepreneur he was involved in numerous start-ups, developing a lot of patented technology, where one of his enterprises was listed in 1992 as the 5th fastest going company on the BRW/Price Waterhouse Fast100 list in Australia.

Murray is now an associate professor at the University Malaysia Perlis, spending a lot of time consulting to Asian governments on community development and village biotechnology, both at the strategic level and “on the ground”. He is also a visiting professor at a number of universities and regular speaker at conferences and workshops in the region.

Murray is the author of a number of books, numerous research and conceptual papers in referred journals, and commentator on the issues of entrepreneurship, development, and politics in a number of magazines and online news sites around the world. Murray takes a trans-disciplinary view of issues and events, trying to relate this to the enrichment and empowerment of people in the region.

Today's political situation is of concern to many of Malaysia's top echelon of businesspeople, politicians, civil servants, and even members of the Royal Families. There is a strong feeling amongst the country's elite that Malaysia needs good governance rather than politicking. Many are very sympathetic to the concept of a national unity government, as a solution to this impasse, as it appears any election will not bring a harmonious result the nation requires. The idea of a national unity government is not without any precedent, as PAS was once a member of the BN back in the early 1970s.

Some feel that although the BN won through the first-past-the-post electoral system, the Pakatan Rakyat's higher popular vote justifies the opposition having some say in government. For these people, a unity government would restore moderate policies and narrative, and keep 'ultra-ism' in check. Some within UMNO, see the possibility of a national unity government as a means to maintain UMNO's long term survival, as the party to many Malays is an icon of political history and development. UMNO's participation in a national unity government would act as pressure for internal reform, something many members want.

From Anwar Ibrahim's PKR party, there are many, particularly those ex-UMNO members that see the party's participation in a national unity government would give it the legitimacy it needs to survive in the long term past the persona of Anwar Ibrahim. They want PKR to stand on its own two feet without the 'Anwar personality cult'.

PAS has been reluctantly romanced by UMNO many times over the years, but the party may favorably consider the concept of a national unity government under certain conditions. Many just feel that it's time to stop talking about race and religion, and address the real needs of the country.

If one looked through the blogs and even the mainstream media over the weekend, so many different scenarios and numbers have been canvassed. Two speculative scenarios exist. One involving Premier Najib himself and the other with a move by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah or Ku Li as he is known.

The first option would involve Premier Najib Bin Razak making a move to bring in parties from the Pakatan Rakyat into the government, as has been spasmodically mooted over the last few years. Such a move would probably ensure UMNO with a much brighter future electorally. This would stall the Muhyiddin Yassin and Mahathir forces, and if completed smoothly, would sure up Najib's position as President of UMNO in the coming October elections. Such a move would also allow Najib to change the narrative from the 'ultraist' direction it is going, to a more moderate and inclusive one.  Such an achievement could elevate Najib in status, which might create a very positive legacy for him.

However this move would also seal the fate of the MCA, Gerakan, and maybe even the MIC, as they are tossed aside for the DAP, PAS, and PKR.

The probability of any national unity government would hold many outstanding issues which must be solved before it could happen. This would include policies and corruption, where it is rumored the new minister in the PM's office Paul Low is shocked by the extent of waste and corruption within government. Determining  a way for all parties to work through these issues could be big stumbling blocks to any potential agreement.

The biggest problem with any potential formation of a national unity government would be that any initiative by Najib may lack the persuasion and statesmanship needed to pull of such a big coup. His track record has been a very passive one during his tenure as prime minister, especially since the May 5 election.  The formation of a national unity government would take a massive amount of negotiation and convincing to all parties, including the UMNO party membership. To date Najib hasn't shown that he has got what it takes in this area.

The Tengku Razaleigh option has been gathering much speculation over the last few days, and there is a difference in the stories circulating as to whether Ku Li may make a bid for the UMNO party presidency, or seek to move a no confidence motion in the Prime Minister during the first day of Parliament sitting. His discussions with members of parliament from both sides fuels speculation about the latter. Ku Li is reported to be meeting political leaders in Sabah and Sarawak who are disillusioned with Najib for not appointing them to the Federal cabinet. Moreover they feel let down with the solid performance that they achieved in support of the BN with little reward to Sabah and Sarawak. Finally they have concerns about how a weakened BN will be able to govern effectively. Although there is much wishful thinking about this scenario, such a dramatic seizure of power doesn't seem to be Ku Li's modus operandi.  

So what are the realistic chances that a national unity government could occur sometime in the near future?

Anwar IbrahimA meeting between Najib Bin Razak and Anwar Ibrahim, although denied by Anwar, was reported to have taken place at the Istana Presiden Indonesia in Jakarta last Saturday. It can only be speculated upon what was discussed, but with pressure put on Najib by Mahathir, Najib's options are limited. Najib's bid to stop the two top posts within UMNO being contested by election was met with great animosity by pro-Mahathir bloggers. Likewise the authorities clamping down on the 505 rallies might put some pressure on Anwar to consider a national unity government, if that was indeed on the agenda of their discussions, if at all they occurred.

Any attempt to seize the initiative in trying to form a national unity government by Najib would no doubt meet with the full Roth of Tun Dr. Mahathir, who would go into overdrive to replace him as PM. This fact alone casts doubt about any moves by Najib to discuss the possibilities of forming any type of national unity government. It would be a brave man who crossed Tun, yet Najib is also desperate for self survival.

The logistics of organizing any form of national unity government which could survive the whole parliamentary term would be horrendous. Allocating ministries among DAP, PAS, and PKR, developing policies, and creating a working cabinet among previous adversaries is a tall order. However if this could be achieved a certain amount of political stability would be achieved and the centre of political gravity would return to the peninsula, something many want.

A national unity government might give the people of Malaysia the feeling that some of their aspirations have been met.

Ku Li first postulated a national unity government back after the 2008 election. In the post GE-13 scenario he would need PR's 89 members, plus 35 other supporters to enable him to win a vote of no confidence on the floor of the Dewan Rakyat or lower house. Ku Li is probably seen as the only figure left in the parliament who could not only unite UMNO, but a government, and even the country as a whole.

The political leaders in Sabah are known for their fickleness, which was blamed for Anwar's blotched September 16 defection back in 2008. From the UMNO side, one of the biggest unknowns is the new voting system within UMNO for the direct election of party resident this year. Nobody really knows what the majority of UMNO members really want. However there are many people inside of UMNO who might welcome Ku Li as a chance to break away from the current mold and allow the party to progress.

Things start to get much more complex from the Pakatan Rakyat side. The spiritual leader of PAS Nik Aziz has been against negotiations with UMNO, but now after standing down as the Chief Minister of Kelantan, his continued influence within the party is unknown.  There are those within PAS who see negotiations with UMNO as a good thing for Malay and Muslim unity.

The DAP have gone so far without compromise and stalwarts within the party would likely oppose any such moves. But then many also said that the DAP would not last long within PR. The DAP has surprisingly lasted, even with the unfriendly rhetoric that arises from time to time from its coalition partners.

Ironically, it may be two archrivals Anwar Ibrahim and Dr. Mahathir who might be the big spoilers of any such moves towards any form of national unity government. Many close to Anwar Ibrahim often comment about his strong personal drive and determination to become PM, and a national unity government may exclude him of that chance. Consequently he may not allow PKR to become involved in any discussion or participate in any government. However those within PKR who believe that the party is more than a vehicle for Anwar to achieve his own political ambitions may be more conducive to the possibility of negotiations, especially given the fact that many PKR members are in actual fact ex-UMNO members. The serious mooting of a national unity government could develop a crisis within PKR between those who are opposed and those who want to explore the possibility.

From Tun Mahathir's perspective, he is rebuilding influence within the party and any national unity government would threaten this. Any national unity government would take Malaysian politics to a new era where he may become excluded.

Malaysia's political future must have UMNO within its calculations. UMNO has strong enough support by those who belief in its heritage, the party cannot be ignored. For those who see politics as the art of the pragmatic and possible, power sharing may be the avenue to change that so many Malaysians desire.

However, besides the spoilers, self interest is likely to get in the way of any real breakthrough with people fearful of losing positions and influence. Developing a new model of government without the embedded corruption that has gone on, may be too difficult a task, as those involved will need to cover up their deeds. It is difficult to see how this issue could ever be resolved without giving immunity of prosecution, something people may not be willing to agree on.

Although a national unity government has so much to give Malaysia, and so many people view this as a real hope for the future, there are too many forces against this reality. Had a hung parliament resulted from the may 5th election, a national unity government led by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah may have been a real possibility, but the reality today may be that any potential national unity government is only a fairytale, albeit one shared by many.   Can there be a National Unity Government in Malaysia? - Murray Hunter

June 16, 2013

Will Australian Labor Remain Principled and fall on its own Sword?

Murray Hunter


Julia Gillard's Federal Labor GovernmentJulia Gillard's Federal Labor Government looks like being totally desecrated in the coming election, potentially leaving Labor with only a small hand-full of seats in the new parliament with an Abbot Liberal National Party Government. Such a situation could leave Labor in the political wilderness for many years without much hope of regaining power for a generation just like Labor was in opposition for 23 years until Gough Whitlam gained power back in 1972 under a platform of change over a tired Liberal National Party Government. Many Labor members of Parliament have closely examined the latest polling and realize they have almost no chance of retaining their seats under Prime Minister Gillard leading the election campaign. Many pollsters believe that Ms. Gillard's personal unpopularity maybe generally holding down the potential Labor vote.

Meanwhile Kevin Rudd is wandering around outer suburban shopping malls in marginal seats, being mobbed like a pop star and looking a winner on television. This is in contrast to Ms. Gillard's appearances which make her look cornered and on the defensive. Rudd has always been able to use the media exceptionally well in contrast to Gillard who prefers the parliament as a forum to her advantage.

At the same time Labor factions are in disarray and contemplating what the political future would be like on the opposition benches under a conservative Abbott Government, capable of becoming a Howard style Government of union bashing. If Abbott down the track of any future government he leads introduces workplace reforms, they might have the potential to destroy the Australian Union Movement as Australians have known it. This scenario has from the Labor perspective brought about much thinking and discussion about how to remedy this oncoming disaster.

Labor senator Trish Crossin who was tipped off from her No. 1 position on the senate ticket by Prime Minister Gillard's personal intervention, has come out publicly stating that Rudd would be the better person to lead Labor into the election. However as of today, Kevin Rudd has indicated that he will not mount a challenge against Julia Gillard.

At a door-side press conference on Tuesday morning in Canberra Ms. Gillard reiterated before any journalist had a chance to ask any questions that she will lead Labor into the next election.

Trying to change the focus towards school reform, Ms. Gillard went on to say that "a breath spent on that speculation or rumor mongering, is a breath that is not spent on putting the case for improving our schools for our kids".

The Australian media does not usually invent leadership stories, so obliviously someone within the government is feeding the parliamentary reporters  with information as a leverage to try and persuade Ms. Gillard to stand down as prime minister. The "Rudd" forces hope that this move would terminally weaken Ms. Gillard's position and leave her with little choice but to have a leadership spill once again. This is putting enormous pressure on her with two weeks of parliament to go. This leadership tension is exposing her poor creditability with the Australian people, many who believe she wasn't ethical when taking the leadership from Mr. Rudd in 2010.

Australian media reports confirm that a number of senior cabinet ministers are now viewing Ms. Gillard's position as not sustainable and considering a return to Mr. Rudd, who may provide the only chance for labor to perform well in the coming election.

Bill Shorten, Minister for Employment and Workplace RelationsAt this point of time, the unions still support Ms. Gillard. However Bill Shorten, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations position vis a vis Ms. Gillard and Mr. Rudd will be crucial. As a former Australian Workers Union leader, he is the powerbroker behind Ms. Gillard's leadership and was instrumental in installing her as leader in 2010. Should Mr. Shorten change camps, Ms. Gillard's union support is likely to evaporate, along with at least 1-15 votes in the party caucus room. This would almost be enough to put Mr. Rudd back as prime minister.

The problem won't go away and Mr. Shorten's support may be questionable. So the labor Party leadership is now again subject to a standoff for the third time in as many years.

On the surface, this choice looks an easy one with the Government facing almost certain defeat at the coming election. Although popular among many women, Ms. Gillard has a major credibility gap which she has not been able to restore, even with the economy running reasonably well. Her achievement of holding together a minority government for a full parliamentary term holds no respect by  anybody within the Australian political scene.

But Mr. Rudd is an enigma, who has been chipping away at Ms. Gillard's position for the three years since he was disposed as Prime Minister. Former Labor Leader of the Opposition and now media commentator Mark Latham on Monday night of the popular Q&A program accused Kevin Rudd of carrying out a "jihad of revenge against Gillard, going beyond normal revenge but into the realm of evil".

Many former cabinet colleagues still harbor strong memories of Mr. Rudd's domineering style of management, his anger, tantrums, some say were bordering on Narcissism. Many stories of his cabinet room antics still roam the parliamentary corridors, and should Mr. Rudd once again get the top job, there will be no doubt some that would refuse to serve him as ministers.

However this time the issue has come down to a matter of principle, or survival. Should Mr. Rudd be rewarded for his continued undermining of the Gillard premiership, or should Labor be pragmatic and try and win this election with the only potential winner they have?

Mr. Rudd as a campaigner would potentially change the whole dynamics of the election. He could distance himself from areas where labor's performance will be criticized and campaign in a similar manner as to how he did in 2007. It would be hoped from the Labor side, that the Australian people after seeing a wrong righted, may return to Labor, particularly the traditional voters. This is Labor's only chance of holding onto power according to the polls.

Mr. Abbot knows how formidable Mr. Rudd would be as an adversary and may forgo the short term victory of seeing Ms. Gillard fall on her sword, to prevent his worst nightmare, a "face-off" with Mr. Rudd on the husting. With Rudd, Australians would take more interest in the campaign, increasing the uncertainty of an Abbot victory.

The omens for Ms. Gillard don't look too good, and her traditional supporters from outside the parliament like former Labor Prime Minister Paul Keating are so far silent. The Australian media is prepped up for a good story and frankly speaking an Abbot-Rudd election campaign will be more interesting.

The next week is not about whether Ms. Gillard or Mr. Rudd lead the labor party into the election. It's about whether Labor survives electorally as a party. The Labor party need to undergo massive reform and rebuilding if it's going to be relevant in 21st century Australia. The structure of the party is over 130 years old and is dominated by an ever shrinking union movement. Labor's overall philosophy also requires a review to make it stand out as electorally viable. As opposition frontbencher Malcolm Turnbull said on the same program as Mark Latham on Monday night, these reforms are best made whilst in opposition. 

This could be a very significant week for Labor. A week that will definitely go down in the annals of Labor movement  history, no matter what the outcome.
  Will Australian Labor Remain Principled and fall on its own Sword? - Murray Hunter

June 11, 2013

Finding a long term solution in the 'Deep South' of Thailand

Murray Hunter


With the apparent stall in negotiations between the Thai Government and Barisan Revolusi Patani (BRN) over the violence of the 'Deep South', one must start considering how long before a solution to this lingering insurgency problem can be found

With roughly 5,300 people being killed since 2004, with 45 killed and 75 injured since the negotiations between the Thai Government and BRN began negotiations with Malaysia mediating, there are calls by opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva to suspend negotiations with the BRN until the level of violence is lowered. There are also risks that the military may go on the offensive again and conduct pre-emptive raids on suspected 'terrorist' hideouts.

These apparently stalled negotiations could be interpreted to mean that the BRN are not the sole voice for the various insurgent groups in the 'Deep South' and some of these groups feel angry that the BRN is grandstanding in public claiming to represent those in the south with grievances. In fact if one drives from Hat Yai in Songkhla Province through Petani, Yala, and Narathiwat, what is most striking is the diversity and fragmentation of 'Malay' Muslims within the 'Deep South'. There are those who live by the coast, those that live in the mountains around Yala, those who live in rubber estates within Narathiwat, and the urban Malay Muslims. All have different interests, livelihoods, and leaders, where by far, the majority are peace loving people.

However what one will also see when making this trip around the south is the stark difference in the culture of the region with the rest of Thailand. And if one has some knowledge of Malay culture, the difference between the Muslims of the 'Deep South' and the rest of Thailand can be seen. The "Petani Malays" appear to live their lives the way they have for generations, and resist the imposition of both Thai culture and 'globalization' upon their communities.

This is an extremely important perspective that must be understood. Different 'Malay' groups within the 'deep south' react differently to the perceived threat upon their culture. Urban Malays have become vibrant micro-entrepreneurs, while rural 'Malays' still prefer to undertake their traditional livelihoods, which are being threatened by development in some cases.

Thai Army Chief Prayuth Chan-ocha'sThai Army Chief Prayuth Chan-ocha's call to build a Border fence between Malaysia and Thailand to prevent insurgents freely moving across the border indicates that those perforating the violence are actually not from the 'Deep South' itself. There are many rumors that most bombings and other acts of terrorism are actually undertaken by those who don't live in the 'Deep South' and that's why intelligence on the ground most often has difficulty in predicting attacks. They occur anonymously and without anybody claiming responsibility, where in fact some are actually acts of gangsters and retribution by other parties.

The recent film clips posted on Youtube on April 26th by Ustaz Hassan Taib and a second video on May 24th by Abdulkarim Khalib of the BRN, making demands, highlights that this is a "Malay" issue and not a "Muslim" issue. Their statements highlighted the Malay history of Petani and their need to fight for the rights of "Bangsa Melayu Petani" or the Malay race of Petani. This is only the second time any demands have ever been made publicly, the first by the Petani United Liberation Organization (PULO) from Europe back in 1968. However these announcements might be more about the BRN trying to assert their authority in discussions with the government over the vast number of groups than anything else.

This shows the complexity of the problem. Violence originating from outside of the 'Deep South' Region by unknown people, and a plea for the restoration of "Petani Malay Nationalism' within the Thai State are paradoxes that must be reconciled and acted upon by the authorities. Clamping down on the citizens of the 'Deep South' by Thai security forces risks creating more resentment by locals, and being ineffective anyway, as these people are not the perpetrators of the violence.

Not understanding the unique 'Malay' identities of the 'Deep South' is missing the whole reason why there are feelings of insecurity by Malay-Muslims of the 'Deep South".

The problem of the South must be seen as an ethnic identity problem and not a religious problem. This point has fundamentally be lost. To the Muslim-Malays it's about protecting traditions, language, culture, and religion.

So what is the solution to the violence of the deep south?

Unfortunately external engagement will only raise suspicions in the South as to the motives of the outsiders. The solution to the problems will only come from within the south itself. It won't come from dialogues, negotiations, forums and lectures about how Muslims in the South must be responsible, etc. It will come from a changing consciousness at the community level.

However the problem here is most Malay-Muslims in the 'Deep South' wish to live their lives where they are, and not engage the development that the rest of the country is going through. They see their traditional life as their aspirations. Most university graduates return to their villages rather than seek work in Bangkok or one of the other provinces. So this indicates that Malay-Muslims could be assisted in developing economic activities within the region of where they live to assist in raising standards of living.

The Thai authorities have been very successful in assisting rural communities through community vocational programs like the One Tambon One Product (OTOP) program, and this needs to be extended in the south with much more vigor than what it is now. The Malay-Muslims of the mountain regions around Yala and Narathiwat must be assisted in developing their own concepts of self-sustainability. Poverty is still much a major issue here. Community building projects run by the Malay-Muslims, for the Malay-Muslims may be very important here.

But the real change as mentioned will only come from within. There is also a generational context to this situation where the older generation feel resentment and alienation, while the younger generation have a wide diversity of feelings that may not have hardened into the anger of their elders. This brings hopes that a change of consciousness on the part of the younger generation within the 'Deep South' may occur over time. This change may be promoted as more of the younger generation become engaged in social media where they may find new visions for their lives and region. There are plenty of precedents for this in other parts of ASEAN and within the MENA. However this is going to take some time, but this will enable a generational change if the Malay-Muslims of the 'Deep South' are going to integrate with the rest of Thai society, as other Muslims in Thailand have.

It looks like negotiations will lead nowhere. Regional autonomy may not be the solution as many academics are suggesting and Prime Minister Yingluck shinawatra said she would consider during her 2011 election campaign. Autonomy may not satisfy all of the fragmented groups in the South and fighting may just continue.

The Thai strategy towards the 'Deep South' must change. Reports indicate that more than USD 7 Billion has been spent on trying to quell this insurgency since its reemergence in 2004. Attacks made by insurgents must be separated from those made by criminals and particularly by those from outside the region. Insurgents have changed their tactics using new equipment that they have been able to acquire and carrying out targeted assassinations on government officials. The numerous police and army checkpoints and roadblocks do very little to put any check on the violence and in some cases make it easier for the insurgents to assassinate any official in a motor vehicle slowing down for the checkpoint. Most of the time the victims of random urban attacks are the Malay-Muslims themselves.

The 'struggle is about living a traditional lifestyle as a 'Malay-Muslim' in Petani, Yala, and Narathiwat. This should not be forgotten. There are many illusions here in the 'Deep South' which require re-evaluation to understand what's is really going on. This may require a major realignment of strategy, focusing on intelligence by the military, rather than any show of force, which may pay off very well. One can never defeat the spirit of the Petani-Malay. This will never happen.  It's about enabling integration without the loss of cultural identity, something which Thailand should be able to entertain. 
Finding a long term solution in the 'Deep South' of Thailand - Murray Hunter


Islamic Freedom in ASEAN

Murray Hunter


Almost half of the 629 million people living within the ASEAN region are Muslims. Within the ten countries of ASEAN, three countries Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, and Malaysia have Muslim majorities, and the remaining seven countries host Muslim minorities, ranging from 0.1% in Vietnam to nearly 16% in Singapore. Due to the lack of any recent census data in many ASEAN countries, obtaining accurate figures of the Muslim population is extremely difficult, where estimates vary widely.

In the Muslim majority states of ASEAN, Islam provides a source of political legitimacy for government and its leaders. Within the Muslim minority states, there are increasing aspirations for an Islamic society which today is expressed through the demand for Shariah (Islamic law), Madrasas (Islamic schools), Halal practices (what is permitted under Islam), and most importantly religious and cultural recognition.

Centuries ago Islam promoted both an enlightened intellectual and socially progressive culture which brought many societies to the forefront of art, medicine, scientific discovery, philosophy, and creative civilization. However today we see a large proportion of the Ummah (Muslim community) living in poverty and isolated from the rest of the world community. Islam once the basis of a progressive society is now seen by many as backward and irrelevant. Most Islamic societies of today are struggling to keep pace with the rest of the world, creating a dangerously wide gap between Muslims and non-Muslims.

If we subscribe to Richard Florida's concepts of socially determined creativity, then religious freedom would have great influence upon the level of a society's innovation, and ability to solve the problems it faces as a community in a socially and spiritually wise manner. Within the Islamic world this would hinge upon;

1. The freedom to practice Islam,     2. The freedom to express Islam, and        3. The freedom to produce new social intellectual output that will enable the evolution of a progressive Islamic society.

Thus Islamic freedom is an important determinant of how a society will fare intellectually, socially, and creatively in the future to enable that society to take a rightful place within the global community.

We must also assume here that the very nature of Islam itself encourages the Ummah to engage other societies as has been practiced through Islamic history by the prophets, including the Prophet Muhammad himself. Without engagement, Islam would have never come to the ASEAN region.

However, the idea of "social creativity" and the invention of new ideas for social imagination vis-a-vis Islam is a problematic area as the political-theological and strict fundamentalist interpretation of Islam is adverse to "innovations" and consider too much creativity as dangerous and even to be rendered forbidden. We saw that resistance in Malaysia with the Sisters of Islam, advocacy of gay rights, reinterpretation of Islam from feminist writers.

There is also much debate about the compatibility of Islam to concepts of democracy, usually defined in 'western ideological' terms. Islam is basically considered as a concept opposed to the principles of democracy when Islam is viewed from through the lens of 9/11 'Islamophobia'. Insurgency in Southern Thailand and Mindanao has added to the beliefs of many non-Muslims that Islam is an anti-democratic force.

However these 'radical extremist' stereotypes held by many non-Muslims ignore the true motivations behind the reassertion of Islamic identity within the ASEAN region, where there is an exploration to merge Islamic philosophy with modern economic development, with the accompanying tensions and stresses this process produces for any developing society. Non-Muslims also ignore other non-religious factors such as history, ethnicity, poverty, and repression when stereotyping Muslims as a homogeneous group.

Figure 1. The Approximate Muslim Population within ASEAN



Population (%)


Brunei Darussalam 415,717 67% 278,530
Cambodia 15,205, 539 4% (est.) 608,622
Indonesia 251,160,124 88% 221,020,909
Laos 6,981,166 1% 69,811
Malaysia 29,628,392 60% 17,777,035
Myanmar 55,167,330 15% (Est.) 8,275,099
Philippines 105,720,644 10%  (Est.) 10,572,064
Singapore 5,460,302 16% 873,648
Thailand 67,448,120 10% 6,744,812
Vietnam 92,477,857 0.1% (Est.) 92,478
Total 629,665,191 42% 266,313,008

(Data primarily from CIA Factbook &

The rest of this article will look at the current situation of Islamic practice and expression in the various ASEAN states, before looking at some of the issues concerned with social output via potential new interpretations of Islam.


Author: Murray Hunter

Murray Hunter

Murray Hunter has been involved in Asia-Pacific business for the last 30 years as an entrepreneur, consultant, academic, and researcher. As an entrepreneur he was involved in numerous start-ups, developing a lot of patented technology, where one of his enterprises was listed in 1992 as the 5th fastest going company on the BRW/Price Waterhouse Fast100 list in Australia.

Murray is now an associate professor at the University Malaysia Perlis, spending a lot of time consulting to Asian governments on community development and village biotechnology, both at the strategic level and “on the ground”. He is also a visiting professor at a number of universities and regular speaker at conferences and workshops in the region.

Murray is the author of a number of books, numerous research and conceptual papers in referred journals, and commentator on the issues of entrepreneurship, development, and politics in a number of magazines and online news sites around the world. Murray takes a trans-disciplinary view of issues and events, trying to relate this to the enrichment and empowerment of people in the region.

There are over 200 million Muslins in Indonesia, representing almost 90% of the total population. The Indonesian constitution guarantees a secular society under the principles of Pancasila, the philosophical foundation of Indonesian nationalismUntil very recently the practice of Islam incorporated many local cultural habits influenced by Hinduism and Animism. Up until around the fall of Suharto in 1998, religious conversion, proselytism, apostates, and inter-religious marriages were totally unrestricted within the atmosphere of a secular society. A large number of Islamic movements operated almost totally unheeded within the archipelago. 

However Islamic practice of rites and rituals began to change as more orthodox interpretations of Islam were propagated. Through covert and clandestine means, some groups within government opposed to the secularization of society like the Indonesian Ulama Council (MUI) and Religious Affairs Ministry have been reshaping discourses about what constitutes acceptable Islamic practice over the last decade.

A number of fatwas against secularism and liberalism were issued by the MUI in 2005 which began shaping specific and rigid Islamic practices across the country. This was accompanied by a growing intolerance towards alternative views of Islam. In 2008, the Religious Affairs Ministry, Home Ministry, and Attorney General signed a joint decree known as the Surat Keputusan Bersama, limiting the freedom of the Ahmadiyyah Movement practicing in an open manner. Further evidence of this intolerance was seen in the savage attacks upon members of the Ahmadiyyah Movement in Pandeglang, in Banten Province back in February 2011, where the security forces were accused of having prior knowledge of the impending attacks and did nothing to prevent them occurring. The failure of the government to take legal action and restrain vigilante groups that violated laws and attacked other groups represents further evidence of this growing intolerance.

One explanation is that the growing rigidity of Islamic practice could have been allowed to happen because of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's reliance on orthodox Muslim support in his cabinet.

Islamic coercion has also increased in a number of provinces where Sharia law has been implemented, particularly in Aceh after the 2004 agreement. This has given local mayors immense powers to enact local regulations based upon their 'moral authority' in regards to Islamic matters like dress and modesty codes, and has often occurred arbitrarily without any shura or consultation, contrary to national laws made by an elected legislature.

There are a number of forces that look like restricting Islamic freedoms in Indonesia in the years to come. Conservative Islamic groups operating without any legal constraint are spreading the ideology of dividing the country into Darul al-Islam and Darul al-Harb, where Muslims are expected to strictly follow Islamic law. Many MUI rulings are contrary to the constitution, and consequently not legally valid. However some provincial authorities are following these rulings stringently without any constraint. This is aiding the spread of an intolerant form of Islamic practice, evermore moving Indonesia away from being a secular state.


In Malaysia approximately 60% of the population are Muslim, who are predominately Malay with small numbers of Indian and Arab Muslims who migrated to the Malay Peninsula many generations ago. Article 11 of the Malaysian constitution guarantees freedom of religion, where Islam is the state religion.

Traditionally Islamic practice in the Malay Peninsula has been very liberal with many Muslim practices mixed with Malay customs dating back to the Srivijaya period, where superstition still plays some role in beliefs across some parts of the country, such as the symbolic circumcision of women. Many religious practices like the breaking of fast and Eid have turned into massive celebrations, taking on social rather than religious significance.

Islamic affairs are a state concern in Malaysia and strictly controlled. Women's dress codes are followed almost without exception, through both regulation and peer pressure that has developed. State Islamic religious enforcement officers have the authority to accompany the police on raids to private residences and public establishments to enforce Sharia law, with particular focus upon violations in dress code, alcohol consumption, and khalwat, or close proximity between an unmarried man and woman.  

Free discussion about Islam is heavily suppressed. Mosques are regulated by the state and have minimal community participation within their organization. Imams are appointed by the state and Friday sermons are written by the state religious department. Consequently mosques are often used to convey government messages. There are restrictions on religious teaching, the use of mosques for community activities, and religious publishing. Islamic schools whether public or private must follow state curriculum.

These restrictions on Islam have evolved over the years partly due to the rise of a number of 'deviant' Islamic sects, like Al-Arqam that was banned in the mid 1990s. The government has banned many deviations of Islam, often claiming them as a 'threat to national security', where only Sunni based practices are acceptable. People deviating from these teachings are given mandatory rehabilitation to maintain the 'true path of Islam' in the country. Shiite and Ahmadiyyah followers are forbidden to worship publically.

As Islam 'is a way of life', much discussion about society and morals can be deemed to fall within the gambit of Islam, where discussion is therefore forbidden under the various state Shariah acts. In effect, state fatwas cannot be challenged, although they may be contradictory from state to state, and sometimes in contradiction to the federal constitution. A National Fatwa Council exists within the Prime Minister's Department comprised of state Muftis and other Islamic scholars. These fatwas are legally binding in Federal Territories.

In Malaysia Islam is mixed with politics which has brought out many skewed debates about Islam, such as the introduction of Hudud laws and who has the right to use the word Allah. This has inhibited informed national debate about important Islamic issues, and often projecting Islam in a narrow and intolerant light. The politicalization of Islam has also been divisive within the community where many mosque congregations have become politically polarized. The government controlled media is often used to attack any opinions contrary to the official view of Islam, as was seen with opposition politician Nurul Izzah Anwar's comments on freedom of religion in 2012.

This all hints at an authoritarian view of Islam, where today there are visible trends towards further intolerance about discussion relating to the freedom to practice the Islamic faith within Malaysia. Issues relating to ethics, social justice, equity, corruption, the alleviation of poverty, and racial tolerance from any Islamic perspective tend to be glossed over in favor of more trivial issues that are holding the Malaysian narrative captive today.

Although a flourishing Islamic banking sector exists in Malaysia, the rest of the economy has developed along occidental development paradigms. There is actually very little Islamic influence upon policy and decision making which is centralized in Malaysia. This occurs where shura (consultation), and adab (meritocracy) are ignored, with little transparency and massive corruption. Within this framework, there is little real debate concerning social, spiritual, and economic evolution about what Malaysia should be like in the future.


The Muslim community is rapidly increasing in Thailand, now representing around 10% of the total population. The Thai constitution provides for freedom of religion, where the government generally respects the various religious within the nation. Muslims are clearly visible all over the country today.

Many diverse groups comprise the Muslim community including the ethnic Malays along the border provinces with Malaysia, descendents of immigrants from Myanmar, Cambodia, South Asia, the Hui from Yunnan, China in Northern Thailand, and a growing number of converts from those who have worked overseas. Thai Muslims appear to be more assimilated with the general Thai community while Muslim-Malay population tend to be more resistant to assimilation as they have a distinct Malay culture and language. This diversity can be seen in the individuality of Women's Muslim dress around the country. Most Muslims in Thailand are Sunni following the Shaffie school, although there are a small number of Hanafi, and Shiites around the Thornburi area. Small deviating groups like Al-Arqam banned in Malaysia, flourish in Thailand.

Military rule tended to repress the South for some years, where Thais liked to scapegoat and blame all Muslims for the troubles in the south. However Royal patronage of Islam due to the insurgency has given Islam much more exposure. The image of a Muslim as a dark skinned Southern 'khaeg' has radically changed in Thailand. Consequently there is now much less employment discrimination against Muslims today and a number of Muslims have held high offices in government, police, and the military.

Today there are 38 provincial Islamic committees nationwide, which govern many local Islamic issues within their respective communities. Many committees operate Islamic schools which teach both the national and Islamic curriculum. There are a number of Ulama who tend to come from a select number of well known families within the various Muslim communities around Thailand.  These families often operate private Madrasas (Islamic schools), some teaching both curriculum and some teaching only the Islamic curriculum. Some families operate Pondoks, numbering over 1,000, which just teach Islam. The traditional Ulama in Thailand have great influence over how Islam is interpreted within their respective communities, where this tends to be a force for fragmentation rather than Ummah cohesion.

Generally there is greater religious freedom in Thailand for Muslims than in the countries of ASEAN where Muslims are a majority. However most Ulama in Thailand have only undertaken Islamic studies at college or university and tend to take a conservative Islamic perspective about social issues. This is even more so in the 'Deep South' where issues of Malay language, conflicts between civil and military policy, and 'outsiders' have led to the perception that the Central Government in Bangkok is intent on having a 'war' with Muslims, through 'Siamization'.

Thus through the Ulama system and issues of the 'Deep South' a very conservative approach to Islam is accepted, with suspicion about anybody bringing 'outside teachings'. Muslims in Central Thailand on the other hand, especially around Bangkok, appear to be much more progressive and open to exploring integrative ideas that lead to community evolvement and assimilation with the rest of the Thai community.


Muslims constitute approximately 10% of the total Philippines population. They are made up of various ethnic groups concentrated around Mindanao and surrounding islands of the Southern Region of the Philippines. Most are Sunni Muslims, but Shiites inhabit Lanao del Sur and Zamboanga del Sur provinces. Over the last decade there has been a rapid migration to the major cities of the Philippines, supplemented with Muslim converts returning from overseas. Muslims now generally have a much wider presence in the country today, where more than two million Muslims live outside Mindanao with communities having mosques.

Freedom of religion is guaranteed in the Philippines constitution which does not specific any state religion, and there is a clear separation of church and state. The National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) is responsible for the implementation of cultural, economic, educational, and the Haj. The government permits Islamic education in schools providing it is at no cost to the government.

Muslims in the Philippines are divided by distance and language and thus not a very cohesive community. The only thing that many of these groups share is Islam. It is due to this reason that many Muslims feel marginalized, particularly in the electoral process. The organization of Islamic society is feudal in the rural areas where traditional Datu and Sultans still carry much influence.

Islam in the Philippines has absorbed many indigenous customs, where there is still some pre-Islamic birth, wedding, and death rites that vary across the archipelago. However more informed Islamic education over the last 30 years is slowly bringing a closer adherence to more orthodox Islamic practices. However there is a generational difference where young Muslims in Mindanao tend to see little relevance of the traditional social organization and customs in modern Islamic society.

A recent agreement between the Philippines Government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) aimed at ending many years of insurgency will create a large autonomous region called Bangsamoro replacing the existing Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Within this region Sharia law exists for civil matters, where some Sharia courts exist, although understaffed.

Although the government is very tolerant towards Muslims, there is still some cultural discrimination by private employers and landlords who stereotype Muslims. Consequently some wear western clothing and take on western names to get jobs.

Islamic freedom is probably most curtailed through the very high incidence of poverty in the Southern Philippines, where according to a 2009 US State Department report on religious freedom, many Muslims complain of economic discrimination. In addition, the Muslim separatist conflict has caused great hardship on Mindanao's 15 million inhabitants with over 120,000 deaths since 1972. This may not end as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, a breakaway group from the MILF have vowed to keep fighting. Poverty and conflict has forced hundreds of thousands of Muslims to leave their homeland and establish new communities.


Due to the lack of any census and the exclusion of the Rohingya people as citizens of Myanmar, it is extremely difficult to estimate the Muslim population within the country. The Rohingya numbering almost one million people are concentrated in Northern Rakhine State. Yunannese Chinese Muslims live in the Shan State, the Pashu, or Malay Muslims in Southern Myanmar, and various groups of Indian Muslims are living in the cities. Although various ethnic groups make up the Muslim population, they tend to be seen as a homogenous group from the Myanmar Buddhist perspective.

The concept of freedom of religion has been upheld under three successive constitutions.  Although Buddhism is recognized as the as the religion practiced by the majority under Section 311, under section 153, sub-section b, citizens of Myanmar are allowed to practice their culture, traditions and profess the religion of their choice, where Islam is specifically recognized under Section 361.

However in practice successive Governments in Myanmar have attempted to "Burmanize" minority ethnic groups which has affected Muslims greatly. Evidence indicates that equal rights have not been given to Muslims. For example, the national media refers to Muslims as Kalars (dark colour), a derogatory remark in Myanmar. Over the years since colonial times 'Indophobia' about Indian immigrants has become a deep 'Islamophobia'. Muslims have been criticized for not integrating themselves into general Burmese society and thus generally blamed by the Buddhist majority for causing civil unrest. Many Muslims exist within Myanmar within a legal limbo of no citizenship. Muslims have basically been marginalized.

Muslim-Buddhist relations have become very tense over the last few years leading to riots breaking out in Rakhine in May, June, and October 2012. This was triggered by the rape of a Buddhist girl by three Muslim men which led to escalating retaliation on both sides, where the Myanmar authorities were criticized for standing by and not controlling the violence. However beneath this trigger, the underlying causes of the violence are deep running issues. The rhetoric by nationalist groups and politicians, the role of the Rohingya leaders, poverty, illiteracy, and general intolerance by the security forces, have over a long period of time created tensions between the government and minority groups.

An All-Myanmar Muslim Association has recently been formed by five groups to try to unite the voice of the fragmented Muslim populations within Myanmar. With Myanmar's quest for democratization, the future treatment of Myanmar's minorities will be crucial. To date Aung San Suu Kyi has not articulated any clear stand on the issues of Muslims in Myanmar, except to criticize the proposed two child limit for Muslim families, while military operations against minorities seems to be widening. Myanmar's Muslims continue to be marginalized and pushed to the fringes of Myanmar society.


There are perhaps just over 600,000 Muslims, mainly of Cham dissent within the Kompong Cham region, and ethnic Malay in towns and rural fishing areas in Cambodia today. During the Pol Pot years (1975-79) the Muslim population decreased to under 200,000 from 700,000, where all mosques were used for cattle and pig rearing, while Islamic materials were destroyed. Many Muslims were forced to marry those of other religions, forbidden to practice their faith, and even forced to work tendering pigs, etc. Most imams and religious teachers were killed during this time, and since this period, the Muslim community had to re-educate members of the community in matters of Islam through the help of both Cambodian Government and international assistance.

There are reports by researchers of good harmony between Cambodian Muslims and the majority Buddhist population. It has been suggested that mutual suffering of both communities under the Pol Pot regime had assisted in developing great community tolerance for one another. The Cham were called Khmer-Muslim by the late HM King Norodum Sihanouk, symbolizing all Cambodians' equality under the law and state.

A Council for Islamic Affairs and Multi of Cambodia was re-established in 2000 with the job to manage Islamic issues from a top to local level perspective. Each Muslim village has a leader or hakim recognized by the Multi of Cambodia and Minister of Cult and Religion. There are today many Muslims in the Cambodian Government with an advisor to the Prime Minister, 2 senators, 5 parliamentarians, 5 deputy ministers, 9 under secretaries, 1 vice governor, some army generals, and a number of provincial, district, and community officers.  

Muslims are able to freely express their culture, where the Cham or Khmer Muslims tend to dress slightly different to Buddhists. They speak their own language and write Jawi, with a number of different Muslim sects like Salafi, Shiites, Kalafi, and Tabligh able to practice freely. However many Muslims in Cambodia today are unable to read Arabic and have limited Islamic knowledge. Scholarships are given both by the Cambodian Government and overseas NGOs for Cambodian Muslims to study in Thailand, Malaysia, and the Middle East.


About 15% of Singapore's population are Muslims. Freedom of religion is guaranteed under the constitution in Singapore, however religious rhetoric and practice must not breach public order. Article 152 of the Singapore Constitution recognizes Malays, who are predominately Muslim as the indigenous people of Singapore. Under Article 153 of the Constitution, the Singapore Government maintains a semi-official relationship with the Muslim community through the Islamic Council of Singapore (MUIS), which advises the government on the needs of Muslims, drafts approved Friday sermons, oversees mosque building paid for out of Muslim salary deductions, and operates the shariah court.

In Singapore the Religious Harmony Act prevents the mixing of religion and politics in public comment. The discussion of Islamic issues are banned in public debate with Muslims being asked many times to practice self censorship in what they say.

The Singapore Government allows Muslim at attend Madrasas in lieu of public education but quotas are strict. Most Muslims are Sunni, following the Shaffie school of thought, but there is no restriction on Shiite and Ahmadiyyah practices.

However the government policy of promoting Singaporean nationalism has affected Malay-Muslim culture greatly in Singapore. The government strictly enforces ethnic ratios in public housing estates which has broken up Malay Kampongs and lifestyle, so to some degree weakening Muslim cohesion. The banning of the Muslim headscarf in 2002 and the development of co-religious worship centres housing Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, and Hinduism are further measures that that are aimed at promoting community integration, at the cost of ethnic identification. Singaporean Muslims would argue that harmony has been promoted through suppression of religious rights.

Critics of the People's Action Party Government have pointed to the Islamophobic and Chinese chauvinistic rhetoric of its leaders over the years, where Chinese culture and language has been promoted over Malay-Muslim culture. This has left Malay-Muslim as an underclass in Singapore, where due to the structure of the electoral system, no Malay candidates without establishment support can ever win due to no more than 25% Muslim concentration in any single electorate. In addition there have been complaints within the Muslim community that university places for Muslims are restricted to only 10% when the Muslim population is around 15%. In addition sensitive positions in the military are not held by Malay-Muslims in Singapore.

Conclusion - This is an ASEAN Problem

How free is Muslim society to evolve through new ideas based upon Islamic foundations?

Different ASEAN states have responded differently to the Muslims in line with the nature of their respective cultural, political, and economic situations. Poverty, literacy, education, displacement, feudalism, unemployment, suppression, and control is dispossessing Muslims within ASEAN. Government and Ulama are trying to develop theocracies based little social and economic research and knowledge, and promote ritualized conformity instead. Islamic interpretations are patterned into rigid thinking and ideas where new interpretations are frowned upon. This seems to be symptomatic of Islam being utilized as a power structure to reinforce a certain social status quo to maintain an hereditary or political grouping, rather than a means of advancing society's interests. Islam is a source of power in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand, while it is feared and repressed in Myanmar and Singapore.

The 'culture of Islam' is preventing the young think of modern contextualizations of Islam and engaging society with new solutions to existing problems. Young educated intellectuals are repressed by systems that place narrowly educated Ulama in authority, who feel a threat from new ideas to their power over the community.

Islam is heading into a reformation, rather than an enlightened renaissance that could potentially inspire the ASEAN community. Islam promotes the accumulation of knowledge, enterprise, and innovation, however the current direction of Islamic doctrine within ASEAN appears to be the opposite. Social innovation is being stifled, which is needed for community evolution.

Much teaching of Islam focuses upon obedience to the rights of Allah (Huquq Allah) through the rites and rituals of the pillars of Islam, profession of faith, prayer, fasting, giving alms (zakat), and performing the pilgrimage. The rights of humans (huquq al-nas), and the common rights of Allah and humans are most often ignored in Islamic teachings (huquq al-ibadah). The handling of social matters and organization has been left to rigid interpretations of Islamic law (Fiqh), most often in a narrow and literal sense. The rights of Allah have been taken over by leaders and rulers who have interpreted Shariah as the right to punish those who don't follow; putting the rulers in the place of God, who cannot be questioned.  Often practices that are culturally different are prohibited even though they are not forbidden in Islam, as it is assumed that non-mention infers practice is haram.

As we know, there is no single interpretation of Islam. Different interpretations of Islam have lead to war and hate among the Ummah itself. Within ASEAN, Islam has been evolving under different influences, over different time periods. We have seen the animist-syncretist Islam of Indonesian and Malaysian pre-Independence, influenced by the Hindu-Buddhist tradition, still practiced widely. Next the beginning of the meeting of secularism with Islam in British and Dutch colonialism, and next the advent of the influence of the Iranian Revolution and the Ikhwanul-Muslimim of Anwar Sadat period.  The 1980s saw the "Islamization of the Mahathir era" as a response and neutralizing agenda of the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. Now in Malaysia we see the promotion of Malay-Muslim ideology to uphold pro-"Bumiputeraism". Culture and ideology has shaped the spiritual ideology and way Islam has been practiced to govern lives within the ASEAN region.

Thus the argument that there is only one interpretation of the Shariah doesn't hold. Islam has always been changing according to internal power aspirations and perceived external threats.

This has been at the cost of Islamic freedom as provided in huquq al-nas, which is hindering the development and evolution of Islamic societies, skewing concepts of democracy as being contradictory to Islam. Islam within ASEAN society has clung to the contextual principles of Shariah important to the economic realities of past societies, and failed to look at the whole intended message of Islam to humanity within the context of today's issues and challenges. This requires a new coherent and systematic methodology of interpretation of the totality of the Qur'an and Sunna, rather than the arbitrary and selective interpretations that are made today.

Muslims today exist in multi-religious nations which are engaged with the global environment of interdependence. Mutual influence cannot be escaped and new ways to engage this situation are required if the Ummah is to be relevant in this global environment. Traditions can change as long as these new traditions and cultures don't infringe upon the doctrines of Islam. And this is where freedom is most needed, for scholars and community to develop their respective societies within the concept of clearly defined objective of Al-Falah (economic, social and spiritual prosperity).

Shariah without al-ilm (the gathering of knowledge), shura and adab (meritocracy) is not a complete world of Islam. Thus a complete Islamic view of society still requires intellectual development. There are no contradictions with democracy, only that democracy in Islam must go down to the family, the village, then only to the community, and society. Democracy in Islam is indeed a much more 'grassroots' or 'bottom up', and consequently much more comprehensive than 'westernized' views of democracy. According to Islamic doctrine of shura, this model is mandatory to develop, but one feels this would be too threatening to the status quo of ruling elites around the world. Islam is the only faith that enshrines democracy into society, supported by adab, which is suppressed by ruling elites in the region.

This repression of Islamic freedom is indicated by the steady fall of Malaysian universities in the various world rankings over the last decade, where the majority of academic positions are reserved for Bumiputera-Muslims who serve their masters rather than produce innovative ideas. Today in the Malay-Muslim states and regions of ASEAN strong cultural power-distance relationships are repressing Islamic development and the opportunities for the younger generation to be creative.  

The stifled evolution of Islamic society will continue to increase the economic and social divide. In many cases young Islamic intellectuals are not critically evaluating the doctrines of Islam, but rather applying them as codified law, regardless of context.

The emphasis of those who control Islam has been to produce conformity of individuals at the cost of focusing on how society could be structured and organized to better obtain a defined vision of Al-falah. But new ideas within this context become viewed as liberal Islam, often shun by traditionalist Ulamas who have tended to focus upon the ritualistic fardhu ain (individual's responsibility to perform religious duties), while basically ignoring the importance of fardhu kifayah (a collective responsibility for both social and spiritual development).

Education is the key here. Islam is about God, community, and individual, making commentary about the dynamics of how these relationships should interrelate. Therefore Islam must be rebalanced to reflect the whole meaning of the Qur'an and Sunna.

Consequently Shariah should be framed in the positive rather than the negative. It must be based upon the reasoning that the Qur'an says humanity is gifted with, and reasoning needs debate and the exchange of different views in order to determine what is best for society. This is the power that the Qur'an has given to the Ummah. For this to occur, the Shariah must be looked at openly, rather than any one interpretation imposed on society in the name of Islam.

Shariah interpretation must be undertaken without feudal tribalism and the power-distance accorded political elites with a monopoly of interpretation and power. The concept of Al-falah needs clear definition as to what society's objectives within the gambit of development should really be. This requires changing the development paradigm if it is to be integrated with the concept of Al-falah and defined as national, regional, and community development objectives. Then only can a really effective social economy reflecting the values of Islam can be built. This requires recognition that the element of greed cannot be allowed to dominate the market mechanisms, and that there are more important objectives of equity, community, harmony, equal opportunity, and compassion which must be reflected within the economic system.

However a counterforce to Islamic tyranny exists through the means of the new media technologies which will play an important role in shaping Islamic consciousness within the 21st century. This will bring the issues of poverty, alienation, marginalization, elitism, and feudalism to the fore where they must be addressed if governments are to survive. This arising global Islamic consciousness may expedite change in the old structures that currently exist in the name of Islam.

Islam contains many exciting socio-economic concepts which could potentially hold solutions to some of the world's structural economic problems. But conformity to a narrow rather than holistic view of Islam as a social mechanism is holding back social innovation from the Ummah within ASEAN.

The Islamic elites within ASEAN have intentionally and unintentionally stifled social development. The ability of the region's academics and policy makers to come up with really creative solutions to community problems is suppressed, while societies major problems have just been swept aside and dealt with through denial and punishment.

Compassion and love as the basis of society has been glossed over for hate and prejudice which is insulating society from being able to evolve and contribute to the world community. The concept of sustainable society is embedded within the Al-Qur'an. These meanings are not being allowed to come out and be canvassed as potential solutions to the world's crippled economic and financial system, climate, change, and global warming.

There are no reasons why Islamic social and economic solutions cannot be put forward as solutions to societies where Muslim populations is a minority. Social segregation, confidence and the framing of these proposals seem to be the barrier. And if the Qur'an is a universal text, then it is the obligation of Muslim intellectuals to bring the wisdom of the Qur'an to the rest of the ASEAN community. Muslims have a responsibility to contribute to society as a whole, not just the Ummah, as many Ulama seem to believe.

This reinterpretation of ethics, society, economy, and sustainability would not only benefit Muslims but may also have a lot to offer secular societies, if the wholeness of the Al-Qur'an's social message can be put on the table for discussion. 

If the context of Islamic interpretation is not flexible to serve the needs and aspirations of the Ummah, only to serve those in power; then there is great risk that Muslim society in ASEAN will not be able to solve their social problems in any permanent manner to achieve their economic, social and spiritual needs. The 21st century requires a different style of Islamic evolution as opposed to the 80s revival of Islam which incorporated Reaganomics and Thacherist ideologies, or the interpretation of Islam last decade to respond to the Bush/Wolfowitz doctrines coming out of 9/11.

There are risks that these societies will lack the necessary skills conducive for creativity and wisdom at a community level. In such a scenario, ASEAN Muslim society may find it difficult to engage the rest of the world socially and economically. It is still the secular state that determines how 'free' Islam will be, and how ijtihad or the power of reason will be shaped as a central approach to creativity within the social realm. Due to the large proportion of Muslims within ASEAN, this is not a Muslim problem, but an ASEAN problem.  
Islamic Freedom in ASEAN - Murray Hunter



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      Can there be a National Unity Government in Malaysia? - Murray Hunter

      Will Australian Labor Remain Principled and fall on its own Sword? - Murray Hunter

      Finding a long term solution in the 'Deep South' of Thailand - Murray Hunter

      Islamic Freedom in ASEAN - Murray Hunter
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      Malaysia: It was Never About the Election It was always about what would happen afterwards - Murray Hunter

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      The Dominance of “Western” Management Theories in South-East Asian Business Schools: The occidental colonization of the mind. - Murray Hunter

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     The Continuum of Psychotic Organisational Typologies - Murray Hunter

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prof. dr. Anis Bajrektarevic
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