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All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

Published by International Movement for a Just World (www.just-international.org) October 2015

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The Long Journey to human dignity and global justice

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For our six grandchildren, Haziq, Naufal and Qaim ;Raeesa, Iman and Asif, from Tok Abah and Tok Mama with a prayer in our hearts that they will continue the journey.

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Acknowledgement I should perhaps begin by expressing my profound gratitude to those who interviewed me over the years and whose interviews comprise the chapters of this book. In chronological order, they would be Ms. Fozia Bora, Dr. Farish Noor, Professor Joseph Camilleri, Mr. Kourosh Ziabari and Tengku Iskandar Tengku Adnan. My deepest appreciation also goes to my Personal Assistant, Ms. Nurul Haida Dzulkifli, for helping to put together the essay and interviews in this book. She has, as always, done an excellent job with her usual energy and enthusiasm. I am also very grateful to Al-Malik Abdullah, a Senior Executive with JUST for his assistance. It is Malik who is responsible for the dissemination and distribution of this ebook. He brings to this task a deep sense of commitment. This is my third e-book. It also happens to be my thirtieth book. Whatever its shortcomings, I take full responsibility for them.

Chandra Muzaffar Petaling Jaya, Malaysia 19 September 2015

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Preface This e-book consists of an essay and five interviews. The essay is my first and only autobiographical piece. Written in 2011, it provides some glimpses into my lifelong quest for justice both within the Malaysian context and in the global setting. The five interviews span a 20 year period, from 1995 to 2015. They cover a whole range of issues but the focus is on international politics. From human rights at the international level to global hegemony and major changes that may transform the status quo, I try to probe and to analyze contemporary challenges to the best of my ability. In a nutshell, The Long Journey to Human Dignity and Global Justice is about a human being and his thoughts on the forces that are shaping the world for better or for worse.

Chandra Muzaffar

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……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. The Long Journey to the Just: My Life; My Struggle


On Human Rights and Human Dignity


A Culture of Dignity


The Quest for a Just World


Muslim Societies, Israel And The West


From Unipolar To Multi-Polar


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The Long Journey to the Just: My Life; My Struggle It was when the South Korean public intellectual, Professor Hee-Yeon Cho, invited me to write about my life and my ideas that I was forced to reflect seriously on the various stages of my modest quest for a more united Malaysian nation and a less unjust world. I have divided my journey into eight phases. I begin with my early years and the influences that shaped my outlook on life. The period I was in school constitutes the second phase while my university years would be the third. Upon graduation, I joined a local university as an Assistant Lecturer, began to play a public role as a political commentator, and embraced Islam as my religion of choice. This fourth phase merges into the fifth phase with the formation of a reform group committed to the transformation of Malaysian society. After 14 years at the helm of this group, I felt the time had come to focus upon the changing international order, and together with some friends established an organization called Just World Trust which has now evolved into the International Movement for a Just World (JUST). While still in the sixth phase of my journey, I moved into party politics and became the Deputy President of an opposition political party. Because party politics was an altogether different experience from my NGO activism, I would regard this short phase as a phase in itself, the seventh phase. The eighth and final phase, which brings us to the present, sees me trying to combine my international activism with a renewed commitment to certain national concerns. From each of the eight phases I shall draw some larger conclusions about activism and politics in Malaysia and in the international arena, as the case maybe. The interplay between the individual actor and his social milieu will also be analyzed. The study, in other words, hopes to offer some insights into the trials and tribulations that a citizen in the Global South will have to encounter in the quest for a better society and a better world.

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Roots to Commitment to Multi-Ethnic Justice and Peace: Childhood Years Now that I am in the evening of my life, I begin to appreciate the profound impact that my childhood years have had upon my beliefs, my values and my struggle. My deep commitment to multi-ethnic justice and peace stems partly from my early exposure to people of different religious persuasions and cultural affiliations. My own family was Indian and Hindu but there was a Chinese amah in our household from the time I was born. A Malay driver was also part of the family. The community I grew up in was also multi-ethnic. It was basically a community made up of hospital staff and their families since my father, P.N. Pillai, was a hospital administrator. The hospital was located in the vicinity of a little town called Bedong, in the northwestern state of Kedah --- a state which has a multi-ethnic population with a clear Malay majority. The multi-ethnic environment of my childhood years was not the only influence from that period of my life that has remained to this day. As a little child of five or six, I caught a glimpse of service to the public and what it entailed. My late father was very involved in public service. He was the chairman of the Bedong Local Council for a number of years; established the first English primary school in our locality; founded a welfare home; was a trade unionist; and, for a brief while, was in politics, first, as the chairman of the Kedah branch of the Labour Party, and later, as one of the leaders of the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC). It was from my dear father, a dedicated social worker, that I learnt the noble value of public service. There was another virtuous trait that was shaped by an episode in my childhood. At the age of four--- in 1951--- I was struck by polio. It has left my left leg paralyzed, reduced my movements considerably, and, for the last 20 years, I have been forced to use a wheel-chair to move around.

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But my physical disability made me conscious of the sufferings of the weak and vulnerable in our midst. Justice for the weaker segment of society has been central to my struggle. It was partly because of my physical condition that reading became my passion. It began at a very young age, when I was three or four. Besides, we had a library at home; my father was a voracious reader. The pursuit of knowledge has been the credo of my life. Both polio and love for books led me obliquely to yet another quest: a yearning for the transcendent, a deep desire to fathom the mystery of life ---and death. It was perhaps the loneliness of my childhood--- I couldn’t participate in the boisterous games that other children played--- which brought to the fore the spiritual side of my personality. I have remained since then a pilgrim on a journey, reaching out constantly for the spiritual touch of the Divine.

Realizing the Role of Ethnic Politics in the Life of the Nation: In School The attitudes and attributes that I had imbibed, almost unwittingly, in my childhood years stood me in good stead as I entered school. I consider myself blessed that I had a multiethnic environment right through my 13 years in school --- six years in primary school; five years in secondary school; and two years in post-secondary school. My close friends at every stage of my schooling came from every community. The teachers who inspired and encouraged me most also reflected the multi-ethnic reality of Malaysian society. Given my personal experience, one can understand why I am so traumatized by the ethnic polarization that has overwhelmed our school system today. The vast majority of young Malaysians in the primary school category attend Malay, Chinese and Tamil language schools that are largely monoethnic. They are deprived of the experience of multi-ethnic learning and interacting that many in my generation benefited from.

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There was another dimension to my schooling that I am also proud of. For most of my primary and secondary school, I was in co-ed classes, meaning by which girls were my fellow classmates. Coming as I do from a family where my siblings are all female – I have an elder sister and two younger sisters—interaction with the opposite sex helped to reinforce my affection and respect for women. I also had the added advantage of being born to an independent- minded woman, Sri Devi, who was a person in her own right, and often made her own decisions. Today, Malaysian women excel in all walks of life. Women are at the helm of a number of institutions charged with managing the nation’s finances. In our public universities, there are more female than male students. This should not convey the impression that Malaysian women do not face hurdles associated with gender. School was also an opportunity to put into good effect the reading habit I had acquired. Because of my enthusiasm for reading, I wrote essays that impressed my teachers. In fact, when I was 10 years old, I won the third prize in a Kedah-wide essay competition for those below 21, on the theme of Merdeka (Independence). 1957 was the year Malaysia (then known as Malaya) became free of British colonial rule. Right through my school years, my writing prowess --- if I may be allowed a bit of immodesty---brought me various awards. In 1966, for instance, I won the first prize in a national poetry competition organized by the national radio station. Not surprisingly, I was often chosen to be the editor of the school magazine. The other skill I acquired in school was public speaking. In primary school I was the head of the school debating team. In secondary school, though I was only in my second level, a mere 14 year-old kid, I was asked to join the school’s debating team comprising students who were 17 or 18 years old. Winning inter-school debates against better known schools from other parts of the country was a great joy.

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School also taught me the importance of assuming roles of responsibility. My headmaster in primary school, Stanley Augustin, appointed me the school’s head prefect. It was a tremendous boost to my self-confidence, especially since such posts are normally given to the able bodied. At secondary school, I was elected to head societies like the Literary and Debating Society. By performing leadership roles, I realized the significance of accountability as a norm of conduct. Even before I participated in debates and the like, I developed an abiding interest in politics. I remember it was when I was eight, in standard two in primary school, that I followed the first Federal Legislative Council election in 1955. The other major political event that had an impact upon me was Singapore’s separation from the Malaysian Federation in 1965. Since I had read all the newspaper reports on the issues that led to separation, I became acutely aware in my teens of the role of ethnic politics in the life of the nation. As a scholar and activist in later years, I have never ever underestimated the influence of this factor. While remaining alert to the political environment, I kept alive my interest in religion. The works of Hindu reformers such as Vivekananda and philosophers such as Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan were part of my intellectual diet. It was also in secondary school that I began to read --- and admire--Mahatma Gandhi. Later in post-secondary school, through my interaction with some Baha’i friends, I was drawn to that Faith. For a few months I was a Baha’i but left the Faith, mainly because I felt that its beliefs were too intimately linked to its founding personalities rather than to God.

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Beyond Western Intellectual Dominance and Communal Identity: University Days If my schooling was all within my home state of Kedah, for my university education I had to travel down to the University of Singapore. This was in 1967. Since Singapore was an independent state I was in a sense going ‘overseas.’ I could not pursue my university studies in Malaysia because the disciplines I wanted to explore--- Political Science and Philosophy--- were not available at Malaysia’s only university at that time, the University of Malaya. For my first year, apart from the subjects mentioned, I also registered to study History. The History syllabus was very conventional. It focused upon various areas such as Southeast Asia, India, China, Europe, and so on. The Political Science program was structured within a Western intellectual paradigm and sought to understand so-called developing societies and their political systems through the lens of political development theories formulated by Western scholars with a strong bias towards liberal democracy as it expressed itself in the United States and Western Europe. With the exception of a course on Malaysian Politics which was grounded in Malaysian realities, and another course on International Relations that dealt with issues of might and right in the global arena, the rest of the program was somewhat alienated from the actual situation prevailing in much of the Global South. The Philosophy program was no better. It was explicit about its Western bias. Its syllabus was in many ways a replica of philosophy programs in many British universities. Even a course like Moral Philosophy concentrated upon the Western moral tradition. It was Plato and Aristotle all the way up to Hobbes and Locke and on to Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill. Asia with its profound moral philosophies embedded in the different religious traditions had no place in the program.

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Thoroughly disillusioned with the two programs, I was fortunate at that juncture to have met up with Professor Syed Hussein Alatas. A distinguished sociologist, he was head of the Malay Studies Department at the University of Singapore. Alatas was critical in a sophisticated way of Western intellectual dominance and the ensuing intellectual captivity of scholars in much of the Global South. In his writings he conceptualized the “captive mind” and how it manifested itself among non-Western scholars. Intellectual autonomy, he argued, was what scholarship in Asia and other parts of the Global South lacked. I was attracted to his analysis of this and other issues and spent a lot of time discussing contemporary challenges with him. Because he was also a Malaysian, there were other common concerns that helped to bond us. Indeed, Alatas was undoubtedly the one person who exercised the greatest intellectual influence upon my thinking during those undergraduate years. He was, to put it simply, my mentor. Apart from my studies, I was also active in the Students Union, having been elected a Councilor in my second year, in 1968. As a Councilor, there were two events that stood out. I headed a team of students from different disciplines that examined education at the University of Singapore and suggested certain reforms. No student group had undertaken such a task before. As expected, the university authorities did not give much attention to our endeavor. I was also embroiled in an issue that impinged upon integrity. Since I represented my hostel, Raffles Hall, in the Students’ Council, I was expected to endorse blindly the hostel’s budgetary requests. This had become a ‘tradition’, whereby ever year Rafflesians would make outrageous requests without considering the larger interests of the student population as a whole, and, using their numerical strength, would secure what they wanted with the help of their representatives in the Students’ Council. I tried to reason with my fellow Rafflesians that what they had been doing all along was not right and that our budgetary requests should be reasonable.

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For taking such a position, almost the entire student hostel leadership and a big chunk of the hostel community turned against me, and I was censured through a vote. But I stood my ground. It was my first major exposure to not only the failure of leaders to uphold simple moral principles but also the power of the mob, and how it could be harnessed to trample upon ethical values such as integrity in public life. There was another episode, not linked to my role as Councilor which also, in a sense, compelled me to take a moral position. At the end of 1967, the then Prime Minister of Singapore, the late Lee Kuan Yew, gave a talk at the university. During question time, a student asked him what he thought was the secret of Singapore’s ability to survive after separation from Malaysia in 1965. Using analogies, Lee gave an answer which implied that it was the genes of the majority Chinese community that explained Singapore’s survival. Like some of my friends at the talk, I was shocked --- and disgusted --- by his answer. I was at that time a member of the University’s Democratic Socialist Club (DSC) which was closely associated with Lee’s political party, the People’s Action Party (PAP), and I demanded that the DSC admonish Lee for his racist remark that was so obviously an affront to socialist ideals. Its leaders did not want to do so, and, in protest, I resigned from the Club. Since I had been selected by the DSC just before the Lee episode to represent it in a student program in Strasbourg, it meant that I also lost my chance of going to Europe for the first time in my life. But I was happy with the decision I had made since it was morally the right thing to do.

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As an aside, doing what is right, adhering to a moral principle, was something that I had learnt in primary school itself. I remember when I was in standard four I had to sit for an examination at home since I was down with measles. It was the Malay language paper and I had to provide the synonym for a certain word. It was the only question I could not answer, and my elder sister, Indra, who was also ill and at home on that day, saw that I was lost and supplied the synonym I was looking for. I thought to myself that it would be morally wrong to accept her help, and decided to leave my answer blank. Since I had been scoring full marks in most subjects, surrendering four points in the language paper was a setback. But it was an act of integrity that was spiritually gratifying. Going back to my university days, as a student leader who was also studying Political Science, I was alert to some of the momentous developments unfolding in the region and in the world at large in the late sixties. The United States was escalating its immoral intervention in Vietnam. Like many of my fellow students I was opposed to the US’s nefarious agenda. But we could not organize any demonstration against the imperial power since the Singapore government had sanctioned US intervention in Vietnam. However, the government allowed us to demonstrate against the Soviet Union for its invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. The other international event that captured our attention was the sixday Israel-Arab conflict in June 1967. Though the majority of politically conscious students were on the side of Israel, my sympathies lay with the Arabs who were indisputably the victims since it was their land that had been usurped by the Zionist occupiers. This was the beginning of my lifelong commitment to the Palestinian cause.

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However, international issues were overshadowed by my concern for the situation in my own country, especially after the ethnic riot of 13 May 1969, which occurred when I was in my final year as a Political Science major. I realized that both Malays and non-Malays had legitimate ethnic grievances. One had to transcend communal perspectives on the political, economic and cultural situation in Malaysia in order to provide viable solutions to the nation’s challenges. What was important was for the leadership to approach these challenges with a deep sense of justice and fairness to all. Here again, I benefited a great deal from the insights that Alatas had to offer. Alatas was, incidentally, the President of an opposition party, the Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia, when the riot occurred, and contributed ideas that helped to chart a new direction for the nation in the post-69 era

Becoming a Muslim On graduating from the University of Singapore in 1970, I returned home, wondering what I would do next. I was pleasantly surprised to receive a letter from the Head of the Department of Political Science at the University, Professor K.J. Ratnam, inviting me to join him in the soon to be established School of Social Sciences at the newly founded University of Penang, later renamed Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM). I accepted the invitation since an academic career was in any case my first preference. Thus began my long and checkered relationship with USM. As Assistant Lecturer, I co-taught and tutored a couple of courses. I enjoyed teaching. My students in the early years most of whom were a couple of years younger than me were full of enthusiasm. We interacted well. Most of my colleagues were serious academics and we got along fine.

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While teaching, I enrolled for a Master degree, under the supervision of K.J. Ratnam, a recognized authority on Malaysian politics. My thesis was on the Special Position of the Malays and how the government and the opposition viewed it. The Special Position is one of the most contentious issues in Malaysian politics. Aimed at uplifting the socio-economic status of the Malays and other indigenous communities, this constitutional provision and the policies emanating from it, notably the New Economic Policy (NEP), have been both a boon and a bane for the people. After obtaining my Masters, I registered for a PhD at the University of Singapore. I attempted to analyze dominant and dissenting ideas in Malay society from the past to the present. Alatas was my supervisor and I was conferred my doctorate in 1977. Even before my Masters and PhD, from 1971 onwards, I had begun giving talks to the public and engaging with youth groups and trade unions in Penang. The early seventies in Malaysia was a time when a number of critical issues vital to nation-building had come to the fore in the aftermath of the 1969 riot. For a political commentator like me, it was important to adopt a balanced perspective that created a shared platform for both the indigenous and non-indigenous communities. I realized that in a situation where ethnic positions were becoming polarized, it was not easy to walk the middle path. It was in the mid-seventies that I also got married to Mariam Mohd Hashim, a sociology graduate from USM, who was a student of mine in her first year at the university. Mariam was from a Malay family which meant that ours was an interethnic marriage. We have been blessed with two daughters, Samirah and Anisa, who are both now married and in their thirties, with children of their own.

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However, the most momentous decision I made during this period of my life was to embrace Islam. My interest in Islam--in some respects a manifestation of my continuing devotion to matters of faith and spirituality--- was ignited by my close interaction with Alatas during my undergraduate days. It was during that time that I read a great deal on the religion, its worldview, its moral teachings, its history, its strengths and weaknesses as a civilization. Alatas recommended books such as M.M. Sheriff’s A History of Muslim Philosophy, Kalam Azad’s Tarjuman Al-Quran, Muhammad Iqbal’s The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam and Muhammad Natsir’s Capita Selecta. I was also exposed to the writings of reformers like Syed Jamaluddin AlAfghani and Muhammad Abduh. On top of all that, I read Alatas’s own works on the religion such as The Democracy of Islam and Islam dan Masyarakat . But most of all it was the many hours of in-depth conversations that I continued to have with him in Penang and Singapore right through the early seventies that had the most profound impact upon my thinking on Islam. By this time, I had also studied and absorbed quite a bit of the Qur’an, through its English renditions by Muhammad Pickthall and Yusuf Ali. My intellectual journey towards Islam culminated in my embracing the faith at a simple ceremony in a mosque in Singapore on the 1st of May 1974. The imam (congregational leader) of the mosque was Alatas’s own uncle who welcomed me into the religion, as I uttered the article of faith, witnessed by Alatas himself.

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Becoming a Muslim was for me a profound commitment to a certain understanding of life, its meaning and its purpose, to a way of living, to a set of values and principles. At the heart of this understanding of life is of course God, and the human being’s engaged surrender to God. It is through this surrender that one finds answers to life’s perennial questions. Where am I from? I am from God, a product of God’s creative power. Who am I? I am a human being, a khalifah, a vicegerent on earth, who has surrendered consciously to the Divine Will. Why am I here? I am here to fulfill the amanah, the trust, that I have accepted as a human being to uphold what is right and to repel what is wrong. How do I fulfill that trust? By adhering to, and bringing to fruition, the eternal values and principles that God has revealed to humankind through the ages. Where do I go from here? At the end of this transient life, I return to God to be judged on the basis of my deeds and misdeeds on earth. It is partly because these fundamental questions of life and death are never asked nor answered in socialist thought that in spite of my attraction to specific socialist ideas, I could never regard myself as a follower of that ideology. Islam, as we have shown, links those fundamental questions to life on earth, and the trust that we bear as vicegerents. It endows that trust with a sacredness that defines our very existence as human beings. At the crux of that trust is our responsibility to ensure justice, which the Qur’an regards as the mission of all the Prophets. Justice in turn is intertwined with equality and freedom, with compassion and kindness, with integrity and honesty, which, according to Islam, are all anchored in God Consciousness.

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ALIRAN It is because consciousness of God is so central to my belief system that when I founded a social reform group calledAliranKesedaran Negara (National Consciousness Movement) on the 12th of August 1977, with the help of six other friends, I made belief in God its first principle. This principle was juxtaposed with the quest for more democratic space, economic and social justice, public integrity, harmonious ethnic relations, and so on. ALIRAN was an imperative need at that point in time since there was no group outside the arena of party politics that had a holistic vision of, and commitment to, social change and reform. Most of the early members of ALIRAN were academics, professionals and trade unionists. We issued media statements on current issues, and organized forums and seminars on democracy, corruption, national unity, and interreligious harmony, which were well patronized by the public. Then in October 1980, ALIRAN got into its first major collision with the government. The Ministry of Home Affairs, which has authority over all registered societies, issued ALIRAN with a ‘show cause’ letter, more specifically, asking ALIRAN to explain why it should not be de-registered. What sparked the de-registration letter was a media statement I had made a few days before, criticizing the small increase in salaries for workers in the lower echelons of the public services compared to the huge increase for those at the upper echelons. A couple of other societies were also issued with ‘show cause’ letters for other reasons. This led to a public outcry, especially in the case of ALIRAN.

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A few weeks later, the government aggravated the situation further by asking all societies that commented on social and political issues to re-classify themselves as “political societies”. Restrictions would be placed upon public servants, including academics, participating in such societies, apart from curbs on their funding. More than a hundred societies came together to protest against these amendments to the Societies Act which were blatantly undemocratic and even unconstitutional. It was the first time that such mass mobilization had taken place among citizen groups. The general public was in sympathy with these groups. The government had no choice but to drop or modify some of the proposed amendments. ALIRAN, which was in the forefront of this mass protest movement in early 1981, became much better known. A quarterly journal was started which was well received by a segment of the English speaking middle class. Issues pertaining to democracy and social justice were its focus. Buoyed by the success of the journal, my colleagues and I felt that we could now launch a monthly magazine. In order to produce the magazine, and provide its contents, on a regular basis, I knew I had to become a full-time ALIRAN worker, without any remuneration. I decided to quit my university lectureship. That was in August 1983. It meant giving up a good salary and a comfortable lifestyle. Our family income went down by two-thirds since we were all now largely dependent on my wife’s salary. My family’s flourished. alternative substantial community.

sacrifice was worthwhile. The ALIRAN Monthly The Monthly became the major source of analysis of Malaysian concerns, read by a segment of the nation’s English speaking

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As ALIRAN’s popularity rose, the State struck yet another blow. Because of tensions within UMNO, the mainstay of the ruling coalition, as a result of an intensely fought intra-party contest in April 1987, and because of tensions in the larger society brought about by ethnic and non-ethnic factors, the then Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, decided to clamp down on dissent. 118 of us were arrested under the infamous Internal Security Act (ISA) in October 1987. The ISA allows the government to detain people without trial, in the name preserving national security. I was kept in solitary confinement in a small prison cell at the Penang police station. After a week, the family was allowed to visit me on a regular basis. In all, I was detained for 52 days. I was released without conditions on the 18th of December 1987. (It is important to emphasize that the ISA was abolished in September 2011 by Malaysia’s sixth Prime Minister, Dato Sri Mohd Najib Razak.) In the first couple of weeks of detention, it was obvious from the interrogations carried out that the authorities regarded me as a sort of Marxist. Incidentally, when I was banned by the Singapore government from entering the Republic on the 28th of October 1987--- the day after I was detained in Malaysia--- the unofficial reason given was that I had interfered in Singapore’s internal affairs by asking for the release of individuals arrested in Singapore in May that year under Singapore’s ISA who were part of a “Marxist plot” to destabilize Singapore. Was there a link between my ISA arrest and the Singapore ban? Was this an example of cooperation between the Intelligence outfits in the two countries? It is true that I had called for the release of the ISA detainees but how can one construe that as interference in the internal affairs of Singapore? In any case, were the detainees Marxists or just social critics without any ideological leanings? For the record, the Singapore government lifted the ban on me at the end of October 2003.

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Of course, the Marxist tag made no sense at all, given my own ideological orientation and my interrogators soon dropped it. They then began to concentrate upon ALIRAN and dissent. I soon realized that it was dissent that the police interrogators were unhappy about. I tried very hard to convince them that dissent is legitimate in any democracy and that the appreciation and accommodation of dissent is sine qua non for the stability of any society. After my release, I campaigned for the release of the few who were still detained. They were all freed within 18 months. Very soon, I was drawn into another major issue concerning Malaysian democracy. In May 1988, a tribunal dismissed the head of the Malaysian Judiciary, on alleged judicial misconduct. Since the allegation was utterly preposterous--most people believed that Tun Salleh Abas’s dismissal had something to do with an UMNO case that was about to be heard by the Supreme Court--- a significant cross-section of the populace became very critical of the Mahathir Administration. Through the ALIRAN Monthly and via public meetings, my fellow human rights advocates and I made the public a little more aware of the danger of untrammeled executive power and the significance of an independent Judiciary to a civilized society. In 1990, I participated in yet another endeavor to strengthen Malaysian democracy. Together with a handful of other public personalities, we established an ‘Election Watch’ group to monitor the eighth General Election. The group, under a retired Chief Justice, Tun Muhammed Suffian Hashim, produced a fair and objective report which sought to improve the electoral system in the country. A year later, in 1991, I stepped down as ALIRAN President. I had been at the helm for 14 years, and felt the time had come to relinquish my position. I have always believed that no one should cling on to a position for eternity. Besides, I could see that the global scenario was changing and it required a response from people in the Global South.

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JUST When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 leaving the US as the world’s only superpower, some of us realized that the US elite would pursue with relentless determination its goal of establishing global hegemony. There was a need to raise public awareness of the perils of US global hegemony. It was critically important to persuade people that hegemony should be resisted and that humanity should intensify its struggle for global justice. It was with these aims in mind that some friends of mine and I created the JUST World Trust in Penang on the 1st of August 1992. The veteran NGO activist, Mr S.M. Mohd.Idris, was the Chairman and I was the Secretary and Director of JUST. At about the same time, I returned to USM as a Senior Research Fellow, at the Centre for Policy Research. It was my hope that I would be able to do some research and writing on the changing global scenario, apart from continuing my academic work on ethnic relations and religion. JUST was active publishing articles, and organizing conferences and workshops. In the wake of the atrocious human rights violations in Bosnia-Herzegovina, JUST organized a major international conference on the theme “Re-thinking Human Rights” in December 1994. It was an attempt to expose the hypocrisy and double standards in the human rights postures of mainstream Western society. The 1994 Conference was followed by another equally successful workshop in 1995 that analyzed the distortions and misrepresentations in the Western media vis-à-vis the Global South, especially the Muslim world. In both instances, books were produced. From the Conference, a book entitled Human Wrongs and from the Workshop, a book called Terrorizing the Truth.

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On the US led drive for global hegemony, on biased mainstream Western perspectives on human rights, on the jaundiced Western media, and on issues such as Bosnia, the crippling sanctions against Iraq, and the oppression of the Palestinians, JUST’s views paralleled the government’s. Consequently, my own relations with Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad improved considerably. Besides, the Deputy Prime Minister in the nineties was Anwar Ibrahim, an old friend of both Idris and myself. It was Anwar who encouraged private Malaysian corporations to donate to JUST. Since the donations were substantial, JUST trustees felt that we could not remain a private trust that was not accountable to the general public. Just World Trust was therefore transformed into a registered society under the Societies Act and given a new name, the International Movement for a Just World (JUST). The JUST Office was moved to Petaling Jaya, near the Federal capital, Kuala Lumpur, in 1997. The principal reason for the move was because I had been appointed Professor at, and Director of, the Centre for Civilizational Dialogue at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur. I also became President of the restructured JUST.

Party Politics In February 1999, two years after my appointment, I lost my university job. My contract was not renewed. Two months later, in April 1999, I became the Deputy President of a new opposition political party, Parti KeADILan Nasional or National Justice Party. Suddenly I had become a politician, while remaining JUST President. How did this happen?

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On 2nd September 1998, Prime Minister Mahathir had sacked his Deputy, Anwar Ibrahim. He deemed Anwar “morally unfit to rule.” It was alleged that he had indulged in homosexual activities and had extra-marital sexual trysts with a whole lot of women. It is quite possible that there were at least two other reasons for Anwar’s dismissal. In 1997-8, Malaysia, together with a number of other Asian countries, faced a serious financial crisis caused mainly by the massive exit of speculative capital from the region. Mahathir sought to overcome the crisis by imposing currency controls and stimulating the economy. Anwar who was also the Finance Minister preferred the removal of subsidies and the reduction of public expenditure. It was, in the words of Economics Laureate, Joseph Stiglitz, “an IMF program without the IMF.” Apart from fundamentally different approaches to the financial crisis, Mahathir knew that Anwar was trying to undermine his leadership. A couple of middle-level UMNO leaders aligned to Anwar accused Mahathir of corruption and cronyism. The then UMNO Youth leader, an Anwar ally, also launched an attack on Mahathir’s alleged lack of integrity. Mahathir hit back by not only exposing Anwar’s alleged cronyism and corruption but also by giving him the boot. I was supportive of Mahathir’s imposition of currency controls and some of his other economic measures. In fact, JUST was perhaps the only NGO to endorse his approach. At the same time however I was deeply dismayed by the way Anwar was treated--- the orchestrated shaming in the media; the cruel assault in prison perpetrated by none other than the Inspector General of Police himself; and the shabby, shoddy aspects of his trial.

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This is why I spoke out against Anwar’s maltreatment. I became the Deputy Chairman of a social movement to defend Anwar called ADIL, formed in late 1998, which was led by his wife, Dr. Wan Azizah Ismail. It was because of the stand I took that I lost my university job. I had no intention of joining a political party. I was told that at least 20 Members of Parliament from the ruling coalition would quit and come out in open support of Anwar. They would lead the party. It did not happen. So when the party was formed, on 4th April 1999, I was compelled to accept the position of Deputy President. Azizah, also a reluctant politician, became KeADILan President. KeAdILan was a party composed of disparate groups and individuals with divergent political orientations whose only common goal was Anwar and getting him out of jail. Right from the outset it was embroiled in unending political feuds and constant in-fighting. Anwar who sought to direct the party from behind prison walls wanted KeADILan to remain a party of personage which would be focused on him and nothing else. He allowed corruption and communal politics to thrive within the party as long as his power was intact. Worse, he himself played up to different ethnic galleries as and when it suited his politics. Anwar went out of his way to cultivate support from the centers of power in the West. He forged close ties with the likes of Paul Wolfowitz, the former US Deputy Secretary of Defense, a leading neo-con and principal advocate of US global hegemony. In the eyes of the champions of hegemony, Anwar was a ‘liberal’, a ‘democrat’ a ‘friend’ who could be relied upon to carry out their agenda. Anwar’s politics, and the parlous state of the party convinced me that I should quit --- which is what I did in December 2001. I withdrew from party politics altogether. The two and- ahalf years I was in KeADILan was an eye-opener on how Machiavellian politicians can be. They may espouse the loftiest of ideals but it is what they do that really matters.

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The Current Phase Party politics was an aberration in my life. I am now doing what I have done all these years: social activism through NGOs and intellectual endeavors through academia. JUST has continued to articulate its position on a wide spectrum of global concerns. The Iraq War of 2003--- a stark embodiment of the US led drive for global hegemony--- was one of those concerns that engaged JUST’s energies. Globalization, both its positive and its negative dimensions, was also on our radar screen. An international roundtable was organized on the theme in 2002. The global war of terror and its impact upon the Western and Muslim world, intercivilizational ties, alternatives to empire and the relevance of a universal spiritual-moral vision to the crises of our times, are some of the other themes that we have focused upon in the last few years. One other program that JUST embarked upon from 2002 to about 2006 was an international campaign to protect all places of worship. A Convention which spelt out how these places would be protected under national and international law was formulated. Endorsement for the Convention came from organizations and individuals representing all the world’s major religious communities. Three Nobel Peace laureates lent their names to the campaign. Unfortunately, we failed to muster sufficient governmental support to persuade the United Nations to adopt the Convention. Apart from global public campaigns, roundtables, seminars and forums, JUST has also published a great deal. At least half a dozen books have appeared in the last 6 or 7 years. Of course, our flagship remains the monthly bulletin on global concerns called the JUST Commentary which reaches more than 6,000 groups and individuals in about 120 countries. There is also the JUST website which carries analyses of current issues and reflections on global trends. Since 2007, the website www.just-international.org has received more than 2.5 million hits.

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I have also for many years now traveled to different parts of the world, giving lectures and speaking at seminars and conferences, all the while conveying the same message, which in essence is the JUST mission: the global justice that we seek will have to be anchored in a universal spiritual-moral vision at the core of which is a profound consciousness of God. Global hegemony, widening disparities between rich and poor, political authoritarianism, religious bigotry, cultural prejudices and all those negative human traits such as greed and selfishness, are inimical to this vision. Increasingly, I sense a rapport with this message, especially among certain groups in the US. While I have not ceased to challenge global power through JUST, I have also, in recent years, begun reminding the powers-that-be in Malaysia and the influential stratum in our society, of the importance of addressing certain critical issues in the country. Integrity is one of them. Hence my position as a Director of the Institute Integrity Malaysia, (IIM) which seeks to develop a culture of integrity within Malaysian society. Since the Chief Secretary to the government is the Chairman of the IIM, one hopes that some of our ideas will be accepted and implemented by the powers- that- be. I am also a Director of the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) which given its intellectual thrust offers the best hope in Malaysia of developing a universal, inclusive understanding of Islam that resonates both with the essence of the faith and the demands of the age. Since July 2009, I have also taken on the additional responsibility of chairing the Board of Trustees of a Foundation dedicated to the task of enhancing national unity. The 1Malaysia Foundation not only seeks to raise public awareness on the essential pre-requisites of unity but it also attempts to provide inputs to the State on matters pertaining to unity. Given the widening communal chasm in Peninsular Malaysia in particular, the urgency of this mission cannot be emphasized enough.

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If anything has reinforced and reinvigorated my NGO work, it is my return to academia. I am back at USM--- for the third time, due largely to the university’s dynamic Vice-Chancellor, Professor Dzulkifli Abdul Razak. Since April 2007 I have been Professor of Global Studies focusing upon the role of religion in a globalizing world. It is crucial to understand how globalization will shape our approach to religion just as we have to try to fathom how religion will influence globalization. Some of my writings under the USM rubric have sought to comprehend these complex issues. (After 5 years, in April 2012, I retired from USM. I had turned 65 a few weeks before that)

Reflections Looking back at my life and my struggle, what comes to the fore are the challenges I have had to overcome and the decisions of conscience I have had to make. Of course, these challenges are nothing compared to the formidable obstacles that so many others have had to face. My physical condition aside, my incarceration, the loss of job, the Singapore ban, and the attempt to deregister a society I once helmed, have, in varying degrees, steeled my resolve to continue the struggle for a better Malaysia and a better world. And if there is one thing that sustains me in this struggle, it is my faith in God. It is this faith in God that has always inspired me, consciously or unconsciously, to make decisions that are morally viable. As this essay has shown, at every stage of my life and in different roles --- primary school child, university undergraduate, academic, NGO activist, politician --- I have tried, in my own small way, to do what is right, even if it is sometimes against my immediate interest, or if it causes me a degree of hardship, or if it makes me unpopular. In the ultimate analysis, in any struggle for truth and justice, for equality and freedom, it is this fidelity to ‘what is right’, to moral principles, that counts. This is what loyalty to conscience means--- a loyalty that for many of us emanates from faith in God.

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References Alatas, Syed Hussein (1956) The Democracy of Islam, The Hague: W.vanHoeve. Alatas, Syed Hussein (1960) Islam danMasyarakat Kuala Lumpur: PustakaAntara Azad, Abu Kalam (1968) Tarjunan Al-Quran, Lahore: Sind Segar Academy Iqbal, Muhammad (1974) The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam. Delhi :Kitab Publishing House JUST World Trust (ed.) (1996) Human Wrongs, Penang: Just World Trust JUST World Trust (ed.) (1997) Terrorizing the Truth, Penang: Just World Trust Natsir, Muhammad (1954) Capita Selecta, Vol 1, Bandung: W.vanHoeve Natsir, Muhammad (1957) Capita Selecta, Vol 2, Bandung: W.vanHoeve Sharif, M.M (1963) A History of Muslim Philosophy, Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz Stiglitz, Joseph (2002) Globalization and its Discontents, London: Penguin Books

Reproduced with some updates from Inter-Asia Cultural Studies Vol 12 Number 1 March 2011 (Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group 2011)

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On Human Rights and Human Dignity In the emerging global system, hegemony over issues of human rights is being claimed by secular and largely western organizations such as Amnesty International and Article 19. Yet Muslims have much to contribute to the debate. Here, Dr Chandra Muzaffar, talks to Fozia Bora about how Muslims can act, with reference to the Islamic worldview, to complement and correct work underway in the area of human rights.

Could you please tell us a little about yourself, and the beginnings of your involvement with human rights (HR) issues? I am a Malaysian Muslim. I’m 48 years old and teach at a university in Malaysia. My discipline is political science. I obtained a PhD from the University of Singapore in 1977. 1977 is also the year when I became seriously involved with human rights issues. It was in that year that I founded a Malaysian social reform group called Aliran Kesedaran Negara (ALIRAN). (Roughly translated the name means ‘National Awareness Trend’ in the Malay language). ALIRAN focuses upon issues of public accountability, democratic governance and human rights – apart from other concerns. I was its President for 14 years (until 1991). During those years, I wrote and spoke a great deal about human rights and human dignity. It must be emphasized, I tried to examine and analyze human rights issues from a spiritual-moral perspective. I did not then, as I do not now, accept the superficial western ‘liberal’ notion of human rights.

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How do you think the Muslim conception of HR fits in with the received notions of what they are in the ‘western’ world? Viewed from a certain angle, there are of course similarities between the Islamic and ‘western’ notions of human rights. Both philosophies regard the right to life, to property, the freedom of expression, the right to practice one’s religion, to use one’s language, as important human rights. Indeed, most of the rights contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and the International Covenants of 1966 and other United Nations Conventions would be acceptable to Islam. Nonetheless, the Islamic view of human rights and human dignity differs from the liberal, secular concept of human rights in certain ways. One, Islam adopts a more holistic approach to human rights. It does not over-emphasize civil and political liberties and underplay economic and social rights. This is most obvious in the importance the Noble Quran accords to the rights of the poor. The poor, by virtue of their poverty, have an automatic, absolute right to the wealth of society. Two, since Islam sees humanity as single family, since it views all women and men as the children of Adam, its vision of human rights and human dignity extend to all human beings. This global perspective means that Islam would be very concerned about human rights violations within the international sphere. More specifically, Islam would not tolerate human rights violations caused by the UN Security Council or the IMF and World Bank or multinational corporations.

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The western liberal secular human rights tradition, by and large, ignores human rights violations at the global level. It concentrates upon violations within the nation-state for an obvious reason. Any scrutiny of human rights at the global level will expose the centers of power in the west for what they are – since it is their dominance which is responsible for some of the gravest human rights violations within the global arena. Three, in Islam, as in other religions, rights go hand in hand with responsibilities. Responsibilities take precedence over rights. For instance, the right to fresh air and clean water is possible only if human beings first fulfill their responsibility towards the environment. Four, apart from rights and responsibilities, in Islam there are also roles that one must perform and relationships that one must preserve. Roles such as that of mother and father or brother and sister or even uncle and aunt or grandmother and grandfather are vital for the maintenance of a harmonious social fabric. Likewise, relationships – between parent and child, husband and wife – are important for the larger good of society. The assertion of individual rights should not lead to the erosion of these roles and relationships. Five, rights, responsibilities, roles and relationships, or what I have often described as the 4Rs of Islamic philosophy as opposed to the 1R of the secular, liberal human rights tradition, should be based upon, and guided by, universal, eternal spiritual and moral values. In Islam, the freedom of choice takes place within a spiritual-moral value system. This is why freedom of choice in Islam excludes the right to enter into a homosexual relationship. It excludes the individual right to amass a colossal fortune at the expense of the community. If Islam imposes certain restraints upon individual rights, it is because it desires the well-being of everyone, including the individual concerned.

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Six, in fact it is because Islam values the human being, both in the individual and in the collective sense, that it regards the human being as Khalifah on earth (vicegerent on earth). Because of her status as vicegerent, the human being is called upon to fulfill certain responsibilities and to exercise certain rights. The essence of vicegerency is dignity – the dignity which is the birthright of each and every human being. What enhances human dignity is the degree of one’s commitment to “enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong”. The secular view of human rights has no such concept of the human being or of human dignity. Seven, if the secular view does not conceive of human dignity in these terms, it is because it has no notion of transcendence, of a divine being, of God. For Islam, on the other hand, God is the beginning and the end, the first and the last. God is everything. The human being, as vicegerent, serves God. To serve God is to develop one’s values and one’s character. It is to fulfill one’s responsibilities and exercise one’s rights inspired by God consciousness. Such a concept of human rights and human dignity, needless to say, would be at variance with the mainstream western secular tradition.

How well do you think the mainstream HR organizations address and redress violations of HR across the world? Human Rights organizations such as Amnesty International (AI) have done a good job championing the cause of political dissidents, of torture victims. But because it operates within a very narrow mandate, AI has not been able to come to the aid of the jobless, among other poor and powerless elements in society. This then is my first criticism of mainstream human rights organizations. They are concerned, by and large, with certain aspects of civil and political rights, not the entire gamut of human rights. (Of course, there are some notable exceptions). As I have already noted, most of these organizations also give very little attention to violations of human rights within the global arena by powerful global actors.

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At the same time, very few human rights groups, especially in the west, link human rights issues to power structures, especially global power structures. Nor do they evaluate the observance or non-observance of certain human rights in a particular society from the standpoint of its culture or religion or history. What is even more alarming is the tendency among western human rights groups to equate the human rights violations of the aggressor to those of the victim. Both aggressor and victim are often condemned in the same breath when the violence of the victim should be distinguished from the violence of the aggressor.

How do you think the responsibilities of Muslims vis-Ă -vis the HR of humanity as a whole, as well as particular communities, could best be carried out? Muslims must first cultivate a deep understanding of not just human rights but of human dignity as understood in the Quran and the Sunnah and as demonstrated in various periods of Muslim history. It is important that Muslims try to develop a truly universal concept of human dignity rooted in their own philosophy. An authentic concept of human dignity embodying the central principles of Islamic thought will have much more meaning for ordinary Muslims than the secular, liberal approach to human rights which has never really struck a responsive chord among the masses. This does not mean that one should reject everything in the secular human rights tradition. As I have already observed, there is a great deal from that tradition that we can absorb. But absorption, assimilation and synthesis of certain human rights ideas from the west will only succeed if our foundation is strong and our own framework is solid.

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However, more than developing a universal vision of human dignity, Muslims must ensure that their fellow Muslims and indeed fellow human beings can live with dignity and honor. It is sad that millions and millions of Muslims do not enjoy the most basic rights – whether political, civil, economic, social or cultural. This is due, in part, to the global system. But it is also due to Muslim elites themselves, some of whom oppress their people and suppress their rights in order to perpetuate their power, ad infinitum. This is why Muslims – young Muslims in particular – should acquire the character, the courage and the commitment to fight oppression and exploitation at local, national and global levels.

How optimistic are you about the way in which HR are coming to be interpreted in the emerging ‘world order’? Double standards and selective morality will continue to characterize human rights issues at the global level. This is because nations tend to protect and enhance their own interests in international relations and interpret human rights conflicts and controversies that confront them in such a way that their own positions are not jeopardized in any way. This gives rise inevitably to double standards and selective morality. More often than not, the double standards and selective morality of the centers of power in the west are more blatant than the rest of the community of nations for an obvious reason. The centers of power are determined to maintain their dominance and control over the global system. Human rights issues are among the issues which they have chosen to manipulate in order to perpetuate their global power. As they manipulate these issues, their double standards and selective morality, their lack of sincerity and their hypocrisy, become obvious to all.

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Today, compared to 5 years ago, there is more resistance to this hypocrisy over human rights. Countries in East Asia, from China to Malaysia, are critical of the West’s attempts to impose its own version of human rights upon the rest of humanity. There are also a number of Muslim countries which now realize that mainstream western interpretations of various human rights issues are antithetical to their worldview and values. Out of this resistance, it is not inconceivable that a more balanced concept of dignity will emerge.

From Q-News no. 192-193 (London: Q-News International, 114 December 1995)

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A Culture of Dignity In early 2001, Dr. Farish Noor, a leading scholar of Southeast Asian politics and society conducted an interview with Dr. Chandra Muzaffar on the role of Islam in the contemporary world and the struggle of Muslim groups for human dignity. Chandra elaborates on what a culture of dignity means to the Muslim.

Southeast Asia is one of the most diverse, complex and dynamic parts of the world today. Up till the financial collapse of the so-called ‘tiger economies’ of Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia in 1997, the region witnessed double-digit annual economic growth and socio-cultural transformation on a massive scale. Many foreign commentators have pointed to the obvious role played by foreign (i.e. Western) capital investment as a catalyst for growth in the region, but you have argued that this misses many other aspects of development in Asia. Would you care to comment further on that? Well, to begin with, we must remember that the societies of Asia in general and Southeast Asia in particular are by and large still very attached to religion. Religion plays an important role in the daily lives of the people on a number of levels—from the ritualistic to the abstract. We cannot discount the role that has been played by religion as a force of change in Southeast Asia and we cannot explain the phenomenal growth and development there without looking at the role played by religion and religious discourse in the entire process. While the rapid development in Asia during the 1980s and 1990s was massive and unprecedented, we must not forget that there were other countervailing and stabilizing factors at work.

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It was during this time that we witnessed the emergence of numerous NGOs and activist movements that were religiouslyinspired and which helped to check the forces of rampant capitalist development in the region. These NGOs that dealt with issues like the environment, workers’ rights and gender equality, helped to provide an alternative interpretation of progressive Asian values that were at variance with the school of ‘Asian values’ as developed by staunch defenders of capitalism like the late Lee Kuan Yew and Dr. Mahathir Mohamad.

But this, of course, does not mean that religion or religious discourse is homogenous. We all know that religion has also become a key point of contestation among the various political actors and agents themselves. I am not saying that religion is flat or static in any way. The Southeast Asian experience has shown how all religions—Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity—have evolved and been taken up as tools for political mobilization. Of course there have been instances when religion has been used by the ruling élite as a means to legitimize and perpetuate their own interests, but there is also the other side of the picture. Two good examples come to mind. The first would be the example of how Christian groups employed the discourse of Christianity and liberation theology in their struggle against the American-backed regime of President Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines. During the early and mid-1980s we saw how Filipino church leaders, unionists, students and activists attempted to gain control of the discourse of Christianity and turn it into a tool of critique against the regime in power. The pacifist principles and philosophy of Christianity were used to blunt the war-machine of the Filipino army and to discredit Marcos’s military campaign against his own people.

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The one image that remains with us is that of Filipino Catholic nuns who stood as human shields between the bayonets and guns of the Filipino soldiers and the students and human rights activists during the People’s Power uprising of 1986. This helped to turn the tide of public opinion against the manifestly corrupt and brutal regime of Marcos, and in the end, even the Filipino soldiers stopped obeying its orders when they felt that what they were asked to do was against their conscience and their religious beliefs. Another example that comes to mind is the use of Buddhist discourse as a critique of an oppressive military government by Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar/Burma. Here we saw how she had effectively managed to rob the ruling military élite of its credibility and legitimacy by leveling an essentially religious critique against them. By stressing the principles of nonviolence that lie at the heart of Buddhism, Suu Kyi has managed to represent the regime as what it really is: a military dictatorship that has usurped power and which has systematically tried to block the democratic process in the country. But Suu Kyi was sensitive to the fact that her people were—and remain—devoutly Buddhist in their religious beliefs and cultural outlook. She made it a point to frame and base her critique of the military establishment on terms that would be understandable and relevant to her people—and this happened to be Buddhism. Similar attempts to create a form of progressive Buddhist thought have been made in Thailand by the late Buddhist sage, Buddhadasa, and the lay Buddhist activist, Sulak Sivaraksa.

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In all these cases we see how the use of religion has actually led to positive results when it is in the hands of progressiveminded leaders. The same scenario was repeated in Indonesia when Islamic movements and parties began to use Islam as a means to discredit the government of Suharto and thereby bring about his downfall. It was Islam that provided these students and activists with a locally rooted discourse of rights and entitlements which helped to discredit the ruling establishment in their country.

But religion, as we all know, is a double-edged discourse. You speak of the positive consequences when religion is used and promoted by progressives and liberals. But in the contemporary Muslim world today there is ample evidence of Islam being used and abused by conservative reactionaries and corrupted élites as well. That I do not deny. Islam has been both used and abused by many parties and sectarian groupings all over the Muslim world. The history of Islam is rife with examples of sectarian conflict among Muslims themselves and the recent history of the Muslim world shows that many a corrupt government was and is willing to play the Islamic card to keep itself in power. We have seen so many Muslim leaders—Anwar Sadat of Egypt, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and General Zia-ul Haq of Pakistan, Colonel Ghaddafi of Libya, and General Suharto of Indonesia—try to use Islam for their own ends. In some of these cases, the use of religion was quite cynical and exploitative. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, for instance, introduced the so-called Islamization program of Pakistan only when it was clear that his government was losing its popular support and that the Islamic opposition was gaining ground in the country. After Zia took over during the coup of 1977, these Islamic laws were strengthened further, but only in order to divide the people of Pakistan by sowing the seeds of sectarian conflict among them.

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In no way did any of this help to create an Islamic society based on justice and equity. In other cases, Islam has been used to bolster the government’s efforts towards capitalist development. The use of Islam as part of a capitalist work ethic by the government of Dr. Mahathir in Malaysia is a case in point. Yet most of these attempts have failed because the governments themselves were proven to be inept, corrupt or oppressive.

What then are the conditions necessary for the creation of a progressive school of Islam? Is this even possible today? I certainly feel that it is possible for us to develop a modern, progressive and accommodative school of Islam. There is ample evidence from the past that shows that this was the case before. Just look at certain periods of the Abassid, Umayyad and Uthmaniyyah [Ottoman] Caliphates or the Andalusian Empire in Spain. For this effort to succeed today, we need to address the pressing realities of the immediate present and not dwell in homesick nostalgia for the past. But for that to happen what we need most of all in the Muslim world is a political culture that shows through deeds—not words—that it values human dignity. To nourish human dignity, a democratic environment is essential. Thus far the struggle for democracy in the Muslim world has not gotten very far. There is hardly a Muslim country that can call itself truly democratic, and some, like Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, have even openly stated that they are ideologically opposed to democracy on ostensibly Islamic grounds. The problem is that none of these regimes can ever hope to justify their suspension of the democratic process indefinitely. First of all, by opposing the democratic process all they have done is to lend weight to the Huntingtonian thesis that Islam is an oppressive and intolerant faith that is opposed to the popular will of the people. Secondly, what they fail to note is that Islam itself is fundamentally democratic in nature and that it opposes all forms of oppressive government.

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So some of these ostensibly Islamic governments may try to prevent the development of democracy in their own societies on Islamic grounds, but in the end it is Islam and the discourse of progressive Islam that will be used to dismantle their own repressive structures of power and dominance.

You claim that Islam has been used as a discourse of legitimization as well as de-legitimization in many Muslim countries over the centuries. But despite the plastic nature of this discourse and the way that it lends itself to a critique of power and authoritarianism, the Muslim world remains largely undemocratic. Why hasn’t democracy taken root in the Muslim world? What are the obstacles that stand in the way of creating a form of civil Islam? Why democracy has not taken root in most of the Muslim world is a complex issue. That many Muslim societies are mired in abject poverty is undoubtedly a factor. But then poverty has not stopped people from exercising their democratic rights. Witness the commitment of the Indian poor to democracy. The absence of an educated, socially conscious middle class in much of the Muslim world which can both articulate and defend democratic principles is also a bane. But the mere presence of a strong middle class or a highly literate population does not guarantee democracy either. Singapore proves the point, where we see a large and wellendowed middle class who are nonetheless prepared to put up with all kinds of repression and state control as long as they are allowed to get on with their business interests and commercial activities. Perhaps what is needed is an autonomous middle class, which is not a mere appendage of the state, a middle class whose professionals, its business people, its intellectuals can take positions on public policies without fear or favor. This does not exist in the Muslim world partly because of the overwhelming power and dominance of the ruling Êlite.

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The élite could be the military. In other instances it could be civilian rulers, or even a single individual who is in total control. Sometimes, élites try to justify their control by delegitimizing democracy. Democracy, they argue, is a Western import and has no place in Muslim societies. There are a number of cases where the ulama have provided ‘religious’ sanction to such erroneous views. This also constitutes an obstacle to the growth of democracy in the Muslim world. One should not be surprised that authoritarian rule is often rationalized in the name of Islam, for authoritarianism became integrated into Muslim state structures within 50 years of the Prophet’s death. Since then, the f i q h [jurisprudential] tradition has been used to justify the dominant, sometimes oppressive, power of Muslim rulers.

Surely the Muslim world is not the only one to be blamed here? Much of your NGO work has been dedicated to highlighting the imbalances and injustice that have become normalized and institutionalized in international relations. What about the international dimension then? We also have to look at the problems of the Muslim world from a broader, macro perspective. It is right to consider the ills of the Muslim world from a global viewpoint. If democracy and human rights have not been respected in the Muslim world today, we cannot put all of the blame on Muslim governments and élites only. They are of course partly to blame as they have never allowed democracy to fully develop for fear of compromising their own short-term interests. But the rest of the world has played a part in this complex process. For instance, one needs to remember the role played by foreign multi-nationals—ranging from the powerful Western oil companies to Western donor agencies—in helping so many Muslim governments and military regimes oppress and subjugate their own people.

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The record of human rights in so many Arab states is abysmal by any standards, but the West continues to deal with them as it is much easier to deal with an unpopular regime that will forever be beholden to its foreign benefactors. That is why Western governments and multinationals have never really tried to push the democratic agenda in the Muslim world and the Arab world in particular. For whenever there has been a democratic system in any Muslim country—from the time of Mossadeqh’s government in Iran to the rise of Islamic advocates in Algeria and Turkey—we have seen how the people began to condemn not only the corruption of their own élites, but also their craven collusion with the power centers of the West.

Judging by what you have said, it seems that the path towards democratic reform in the Muslim world is a hard and trying one indeed. If, as you said, the Muslim world is still under the heel of powerful domestic and foreign interests, how then can there ever be a new school of progressive Islamic thought in the world today? Has Islamic reform breathed its last and is there no alternative except for the radical fundamentalism of the likes of the Taliban? I certainly hope and pray that the struggle is not over. Indeed all the indicators seem to point to the fact that it isn’t. Globalization has both helped and hindered the process of reform and development in the Muslim world. What we call globalization today may well be in the service of vested interests in the more developed and prosperous North. This we cannot deny and everywhere we see evidence of this being the case—from ‘business English’ becoming the global lingua franca to the growing popularity of American consumerist culture, which has become a standard bearer of progress and development. But apart from that, globalization—which has broken down traditional patterns and structures of communications and movement—has also opened up new avenues for communication and cultural exchange.

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So thanks to developments in modern transport and communication technologies, groups like Muslim intellectuals, Muslim feminist activists, Muslim students and social workers, have also been able to forge new cross-border alliances via new media such as the internet. This makes our struggle more complex, but it does not necessarily restrict us in any major way. Today we see more and more progressive-minded Muslim writers, intellectuals and activists coming to the fore. In the new evolving milieu of contact and communication, new actors and agents for change have emerged. It is encouraging to note that there are so many Muslim women intellectuals, for instance, who are openly questioning the dogmatic interpretations of Islam as put forth by the ulama. But this does not mean that the struggle is over or that the game is won. There are strong reactionary elements that have come to the fore in the Muslim world—the Taliban being one of them—but their rise must be understood in the context of the intellectual and political bankruptcy of other regimes and political systems. Then there are the ostensibly Muslim states and governments that have tried to demonize the Islamic opposition in their midst, in an attempt to curry favor with the West by playing up their fears of a global Islamic resurgence. But in the end all this boils down to the fact that Islam is a living reality for more than one billion Muslims the world over, and that for many of them Islam is still a point of reference for everything in their daily lives. The challenge that awaits the progressives is to harness this Islamic discourse and to recreate the conditions in which an open, tolerant and pluralistic society might emerge. The Muslim world needs intelligent and coherent solutions to real-life problems that affect ordinary Muslims today—poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, economic dependency, the culture of violence and gangsterism in politics, neo-feudal values and religious extremism.

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These are contemporary problems that need modern solutions, and the answer lies in part in the creation of a modern and progressive school of Islamic thought that is firmly rooted in the politics of the here-and-now, and which works through the democratic process. What the Muslim world needs more than ever is a living, vibrant culture of dignity consonant with one of the most vital concepts in the Qur’an: the status of the human being as khalifah, vicegerent on earth, with the responsibility of fulfilling the amanah, the trust that he has accepted from God.

From Farish A. Noor (editor) New Voices of Islam (Leiden, The Netherlands, ISIM Publications, 2002)

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The Quest for a Just World In August 2002, Dr. Joseph Camilleri, professor of International relations at La Trobe University in Melbourne and one of Australia’s most distinguished thinkers conducted an interview with Dr. Chandra Muzaffar on a variety of subjects linked to the contemporary global situation and the eternal quest for a just world. The interview was first published in La Trobe Forum, the magazine of the La Trobe Politics Society and the La Trobe History Society, number 21, Summer 2002/3. It is reproduced below.

Chandra, you are widely regarded as one of Asia’s leading public intellectuals. As author, academic, public speaker and activist you have over many years written and spoken extensively on a wide range of cultural, religious, political and international issues. One of the common threads running through much of this has been a certain conception of and commitment to "justice". What do you understand by justice? How important is that notion in the contemporary Malaysian and international context? It is difficult to define justice. What I have often done in many of my writings and speeches is to pinpoint the injustices which afflict humankind. The abysmal, abject poverty of almost one-third of the human family is, to my mind, one of the greatest injustices confronting us today. The denial of basic needs -- education, health care -- to an equally huge portion of humankind is another injustice. Oppression of a people seeking to free themselves from the yoke of alien subjugation would be another example of an injustice. The denial of freedom of expression to any group or individual is also a grave injustice. Racial or religious or gender discrimination would be yet another form of injustice.

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If we attempted to establish a single underlying cause for all these injustices, they are related in one way or another to the hegemonic hold of a small group of human beings over others or over material and non-material resources. Hegemony, in other words, is the key to understanding injustice and justice. This is why I would view justice as the equalization of access to those spiritual and material, moral and intellectual, scientific and cultural resources, vital for protecting and enhancing human dignity. This is a tentative definition of justice which needs to be improved upon. Within the Malaysian context, most analysts would agree that the hegemony of the ruling elite has led to the weakening of the institutions of governance. This, in turn, has caused some grave injustices such as the sacking in 1988 of the Head of the Malaysian Judiciary. At the international level, it is obvious to many of us that the hegemony of a few is the direct or indirect cause of both the ever widening gap between the have-a-lot and the have-alittle and the marginalization of the vast majority of humankind in global politics.

What have been the main influences which have shaped your intellectual, spiritual and political journey? What have been for you the main landmarks along that journey? How much of your thinking has changed over time? How much has remained constant? Religion has been a major influence in shaping my intellectual and political outlook. My commitment to justice for the weak and powerless, my compassion for the victims of oppression and discrimination stem from my attachment to the worldview, the values and principles embodied in religion. I use the term religion in the broad sense, meaning by which, faith in God and the belief system and way of life associated with it.

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My love of reading ever since I was a little boy has also helped to shape not only my thinking but also my emotions. The encouragement and support that I received from my parents and teachers must have also influenced my intellectual development. And perhaps, in an oblique manner, my illness - I was struck down by polio at the age of 4 -- also conditioned my personality and my relationship with other human beings. My empathy for the underdog may have something to do with the ailment. As one would guess from this answer, the basic premises of my thinking have not changed very much over time. If one looks at the articles I wrote in my secondary school magazine -- on spiritual values, on social justice, on ethnic integration -- one would realize that there are certain constants in my thinking. However, on specific issues related to social justice and human dignity -- what should be the role of the state as against the role of the market for instance in promoting the public good -- I have become less definitive and more tentative over the years.

How would you characterize Islam’s role in the world today? Islam is, of course, a highly diverse and at times fragmented community of believers. How do you situate yourself within that community? Islam is at the forefront of the religious revivalism that is taking place in different parts of the world today. Muslims, as a whole, remain deeply attached to their religion. There are also individuals from non-Muslim backgrounds converting to Islam in fairly significant numbers in America and Europe. These three phenomena -- religious revivalism; the Muslims attachment to Islam; and conversions to the religion -- tell us quite a bit about Islam’s role in the world today. More than perhaps any other religion today, Islam anchors the individual and the community in faith -- faith in God, in a transcendent power -- in a world of tremendous uncertainty and confusion.

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However, how Muslims understand and express that faith can sometimes be a problem. There is a tendency to provide a literal interpretation of the Quran and the Hadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) without taking into account the socio-historical context and the underlying meaning of a particular injunction. For some, the strength of one’s faith is measured by the degree of exclusiveness one displays in one’s lifestyle – an exclusiveness which permits only minimal interaction with non-Muslims; an exclusiveness which gives inordinate emphasis to one’s distinctive attire and identity; an exclusiveness which denies even a modicum of truth to religious teachings other than one’s own. There are even Muslims -- fortunately an infinitesimal minority -- whose devotion to the faith is expressed through unthinking, uncritical espousal of violence in order to achieve one’s goal. I am one of those who believe that important aspects of how Muslims understand and express their faith should change. The strength of one’s faith does not depend upon the meticulous performance of a multitude of rituals. The real criterion of one’s devotion to God lies in one’s conduct as a human being - how one helps one’s neighbor; assists the less fortunate; defends the downtrodden. Or equally important, whether in one’s daily behavior, one is honest and sincere, kind and considerate, loving and caring. And, one’s acts of goodness, it has to be emphasized, should not be confined to Muslims or one’s own kind. This approach towards Islam -- what my friends and I would describe as a more universalistic, inclusive, accommodative notion of religion at the core of which is justice, compassion and humanity -- is still a subordinate trend within the Muslim community, or Ummah. But I’m confident it will grow stronger in the years to come.

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Much has been said in recent years about a possible clash between Islam and the West. What do you make of that proposition? Is there an approaching clash of civilizations? It is wrong to talk of a clash between Islam and the West. Both Islam and the West are not monolithic entities. Because of their complexity, different components in these two civilizations interact with one another in different ways. For instance, there are Muslim elites in the Gulf region who are totally dependent upon Washington for their survival. Likewise, there are Muslim leaders -- Osama bin Laden is perhaps an example -- who are totally antagonistic towards Washington and the West. There are Muslim financial interests which are interlocked in the American and Western banking system just as there are American and Western business interests which are integral to Muslims economies. Aspects of Western culture, including its food and sports, have penetrated deep into Muslim societies. By the same token, Muslim culture is part and parcel of the contemporary West, given the growing number of Muslims living in North America and Europe. If there is going to be any clash at all, it is not between Islam and the West but between the hegemonic power of Washington, on the one hand, and the militant fringe within the Ummah, on the other. Both sides will, of course, evoke religion and religious idioms and symbols to justify their targeting of the other. Both sides will camouflage their real intent with pious moral platitudes. But those of us who are committed to justice for all, who are dedicated to the genuine unity of humankind, should not succumb to the devious, diabolical politics of these two groups. We must oppose hegemony. That goes without saying. However, let us do it in such a way that we preserve life and enhance dignity.

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How do you see Islam’s relationship to Christianity on the one hand and Confucianism on the other? How do you see Islam’s role in the Asia-Pacific region? As a religion, Islam has a certain affinity to Christianity. The Quran recognizes Jesus as a prophet of God and bestows much affection upon him. It acknowledges the goodness and purity of Mary, the mother of Jesus. It lauds the spirituality of Christian monks and beseeches Muslims to protect the Church and, indeed, other places of worship. Though Islamic doctrine is respectful of Christianity, actual relations between Muslims and Christians have had their ups and downs. In Andalusia, in Uthmaniyyah and some of the other Muslim empires of antiquity, the two communities had co-existed in relative peace and harmony. Classical Islamic jurisprudence regarded Christians as Dhimmis (protected people). However, there are two huge stains upon Christian-Muslim ties. The first was caused by the crusades in the European middle ages when Christian princes driven by religious fervor, greed and factional feuds embarked upon a series of military expeditions to conquer Jerusalem from the Muslims. The crusades spawned a plethora of pejorative attitudes towards Islam and Muslims in Europe -- attitudes which persisted for centuries. European colonialism -- which caused the second stain -- made things worse. To rationalize the conquest and subjugation of Muslim lands, the colonialists reinforced the myths and stereotypes about the religion and its followers. The condescending attitude towards the colonized which accompanied colonial dominance has lingered on in the collective consciousness of the European, though Christianity as a social force has lost its influence in secularized Europe.

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Ever since the colonial period, Muslims have been reacting to Christianity and Christians. For some Muslims today, Christianity is a colonial religion which is out to subjugate and subvert their religion. This is why there is a certain degree of suspicion towards Christianity which Muslims do not display towards other religions in the Asia Pacific region. If anything, the perpetuation of the politics of hegemony in the post-colonial period, through the dominance of Washington, has made it difficult for Muslims to reach out to Christianity. There is another, new dimension to this hegemony which is bound to complicate Christian-Muslim relations further. It is the association of the Christian Right with Washington’s hegemony. The Christian Right is not only a champion of global capitalism but also a supporter of political Zionism and the conservative forces in Israel. Its leaders have in recent years made a number of belligerent remarks against Islam and Muslims. This is why it is so important for progressive, justice oriented Christians to re-assert their position at this point in time. It will help convince Muslims that there are Christians that they can work with. At the same time, Muslims themselves must learn to appreciate the fact that many Christian groups in Asia and Latin America have not only broken away from their colonial past but have been articulating a Christianity which is pro-people, pro-justice and pro-dialogue. It would not be right therefore for Muslims to make sweeping generalizations about Christians. The relationship between Islam and Confucianism is of a different order. Islam came to China towards the end of the seventh century, a few decades after the Prophet’s death. It is seldom mentioned in history books that Islamic thought and Muslims had some influence upon Chinese civilization. Certain emperors from the Ming dynasty for instance recognized the importance of Islamic ethics while Muslims were appointed, at various times in Chinese history, as governors, admirals and court chroniclers. What is even more significant is the intermingling of Confucian and Islamic ideas in Chinese literature, art and architecture.

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This interaction between the two civilizations declined during the Maoist period (1949 - 1976). It was a consequence of the marginalization of traditional cultures and religions during those years. However, the end of Maoism has not witnessed any major revival in ties between Confucianism and Islam. It is outside mainland China -- in Taiwan and Malaysia for instance --that there is some dialogue between the two. I have been actively involved in this dialogue in Malaysia. At the level of ethics -- the notion of reciprocity; the importance of kindness and courtesy; respect for teachers and elders -there are many similarities between Islam and Confucianism which should be emphasized. It is in the realm of ethical principles and moral values of this sort that Islam has a role to play in the Asia-Pacific region. Together with the followers of other religions and cultures, Muslims should develop a framework of values and principles which can guide the growth and development of the region. The dominant growth oriented, capital centered development paradigm in the Asia-Pacific region lacks a spiritual foundation and a moral frame of reference. This explains why there isn’t much concern in countries such as China or Vietnam or Indonesia for the victims of development – the urban squatters, the landless farmers, the dislocated youth. Religion also has a role in curbing greed and avarice among the nouveau riche, generated by the promise of unlimited wealth. A strong moral ethos may also help to check corruption which again is one of the major vices confronting the region.

In recent years, and especially since September 11, the focus in government thinking, particularly in the United States, has been on the threat posed by terrorism. How do you interpret the terrorist phenomenon and the US response to it? For the purpose of this question, let us agree that terrorism is the deliberate maiming or killing of civilians for certain political or non-political goals.

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In many of the analyses that have emerged on the causes of terrorism since the September 11 episode, poverty has often been suggested as one of the factors. This is totally off the mark. Individuals and groups sometimes resort to acts of terror in their attempt to thwart the hegemonic grip of some state or power which, in their opinion, has denied them justice or dignity. The people involved in these acts of terror may be quite wealthy, as Osama was, or well educated or even religious in the conventional sense. It is their perception of the denial of justice and dignity which is the critical factor. And what appears to figure prominently in their notion of justice and dignity is the question of identity and sovereignty. The struggle of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) the Basque movement in Spain, the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka, the Chechens in Russia, the Kashmiris in India, the Palestinians in West Asia all revolve around dignity, identity and sovereignty. Indeed, if there is any one issue that is central to the problem of terror it is the desire to affirm and assert one’s identity. The UN should examine this question in depth and detail. Apart from the few examples we have given here, there are many other instances of ethnic communities seeking to express their identity and regain their collective dignity. Washington has shown no inclination to address this issue. Indeed, in the last one year, Washington has not demonstrated that it is prepared to come to grips with the underlying causes of terrorism. One of the other underlying causes of terrorism is of course Washington’s global hegemony. That the suicide hijackers of September 11 chose to target the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon, and perhaps the White House indicated in graphic terms that they were opposed to Washington’s global economic power, its global military power and its global political power. To put it in a nutshell, global terrorism is a reaction to global hegemony.

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It is unfortunate that instead of addressing the root causes of terrorism, Washington has decided that it will respond with greater terror. This is what it did in the aftermath of September 11 -- the Afghan war being the case in point. In their desire to crush challenges to their power -- whether it is the power of a global hegemon or of a national hegemon -the US and other governments also deliberately kill civilians. Washington has done this in Nicaragua, in El Salvador, in Granada, in Lebanon, in Sudan, in Vietnam, in Laos, in Cambodia and in numerous other places for more than 50 years. It is because of this shameful record that some analysts like Noam Chomsky regard the US as the world’s leading terrorist state. Israel is another terrorist state since it also deliberately targets Palestinian civilians as a way of frightening the populace into submitting to Israeli occupation. After all, the state of Israel itself was created through a terror campaign that resulted in the forceful expulsion of thousands of Palestinians. Russia in its military expeditions against Chechnya has also proven to be terroristic, killing innocent civilians who resist its hegemony. The Sri Lankan government, until recently, was not averse to terrorizing Tamil civilians. A much more brutal example of terrorism from the past was the Indonesian army’s genocidal extermination of the East Timorese. On a lesser scale, the Indian army is also guilty of killing civilians in Kashmir. What all this shows is that state terrorism is as great a menace as the terrorism of non-state actors. The world must root out both types of terrorism. But Washington remains blind to the former. If Washington has scored some tangible successes in its fight against terrorism it is in gathering information about terrorist networks, in disrupting their communication lines and in crippling some of their funding sources. Even in these areas, it would be much better if some international agency under the UN was in charge. There would be less bias and the international community would be more supportive of these anti-terrorist measures. the long journey to human dignity and global justice 59

Indeed, the fight against terrorism should be brought under the UN. It is obvious to most analysts that Washington is using the war against terrorism to extend its hegemony over the world. I allude to this thinly veiled agenda of the superpower in my answer to the next question. To sum it up, terrorism, engineered by state or non-state actors, is a challenge. It has to be overcome. But it can only be overcome if we tackle the underlying causes.

What do you make of the US war in Afghanistan? There are people who would argue that the US military action in Afghanistan at least brought about the downfall of the Taliban regime. In that sense, it was a boon to the people of Afghanistan. As against this, one has to consider the loss of civilian lives. Some commentators have suggested that as many as 4000 people may have perished in the sustained US bombing operation. The killing of civilians has continued even after the ouster of the Taliban. There is also no guarantee that there will be political stability. The Hamid Karzai government exercises limited authority over parts of Kabul. Large chunks of Afghanistan are still under the control of feuding warlords. Lawlessness continues to plague much of Afghanistan. So one asks: how much have the people of Afghanistan gained from US military intervention? It may be a bit too early to tell but the debit side of the balance sheet seems to outweigh the credit side at this point in time. Of course, as far as Washington is concerned, the Afghan adventure was a tremendous boost to its geo-economics and geopolitical goals. It will now be able to build that huge pipeline from the Central Asian republics through Afghanistan to a port in Pakistan to transport Caspian Sea oil. The US will also have easy access to, and control over, the entire oil reserves in the Caspian Sea region through the power and influence it now exercises over all the Central Asian republics. the long journey to human dignity and global justice 60

As a result of its new suzerainty, Washington has curbed and curtailed the role of both Russia and China in the region. Perhaps this is what it wanted out of the war in Afghanistan?

The issues are presumably much larger than Al Qaeda or the Taliban. What of the implications for the IsraelPalestine conflict, and of a possible military assault on Iraq? Let us reiterate a point that I have made very often before: there was never any sympathy for the Taliban in the Muslim world. Remember only 3 out of the 57 Muslim majority states that constitute the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) recognized the Taliban regime when it was in power from 1996 to 2001. The Al-Qaeda network which is still a bit of a mystery to the world, is a phenomenon which troubles a lot of Muslims. Many Muslims understand and even empathize with some of the grievances which Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden articulate. But they are uneasy about the network’s clandestine operations, its terror tactics, its simplistic dichotomization of the universe, its underlying hatred and bitterness. This is why there is very little real support for Al-Qaeda among the Muslim masses. If it is smashed, the majority of Muslims will not mourn. What has stirred the emotions of the Muslims masses are other related events in recent months. The massacre of innocent lives in Afghanistan, as we have seen, was a traumatic experience. The brutal suppression of the Palestinian struggle for freedom by the Tel Aviv regime has caused even greater agony and anguish among the Muslim masses. If Washington attacks Iraq, Muslims everywhere will become even more antagonistic and hostile towards the US. It is because we know that the tide of hatred towards Washington and Tel Aviv is rising that we have often urged the former to press the latter to work towards genuine independence and sovereignty for the Palestinian people. For the same reason, we have pleaded over and over again with Washington to desist from launching a military assault against Iraq.

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In the face of all these disturbing possibilities, how should the international community respond? The international community should first recognize US hegemony and US unilateralism as a problem that should be addressed urgently. We can check US hegemony if more and more nations are prepared to question US actions. They should be prepared to differ from Washington, as the European Union has tried to do in recent months, on the question of a military strike against Iraq and on the Israeli Palestinian conflict. It is not just governments that need to stand up to the hegemon. The media should also become more critical. This is a time for alternative television, radio and newspapers to emerge. They should provide in-depth, sophisticated analysis of global events and trends which reveal how hegemonic power structures operate. Civil society groups should also be in the forefront of this struggle against hegemony. Many of them have already begun taking positions against globalization as a phenomenon which benefits the strong and the powerful at the expense of the weak and the powerless. On issues like Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan, civil society groups have generally adopted ncipled stances. They should intensify their campaigns to persuade international institutions such as the UN, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Trade Organization (WTO) to hear and heed the people’s clamor for justice. The strengthening of multilateral institutions and of the multilateral process is one way of checking Washington’s unilateralism. Even if we cannot stop Washington from pursuing its unilateralist goals, multilateralism will at least isolate it in the international arena. In the long run, this will accelerate global opposition to US hegemony.

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What are the prospects for regional cooperation and civilizational dialogue in Asia-Pacific? Economic cooperation within the Asia Pacific region has increased significantly in the last 10 years. There is much more intra- ASEAN trade and intra- ASEAN investment today than in the past. Given present trends, analysts feel that economic cooperation will increase in the future. In this regard, there is something to be said about the establishment of a East Asia Economic Grouping or Caucus. The proposed EAEG is supposed to cover ASEAN and the three Northeast Asian states of China, Japan and South Korea Together, the 13 states will constitute a formidable economic bloc. As a grouping, they will have some economic clout at the international level. Japan, in spite of its current economic woes, is still the world’s second most important economy. China, with the potential to outdistance any other national economy, will undoubtedly be the lynchpin of the grouping. South Korea is another emerging economic power which will wield a great deal of influence within the region and across the world. Then there are the 10 ASEAN states which may be at different levels of development but nonetheless command a huge reservoir of human and material resources that could provide the impetus for economic and social transformation of the entire region. An East Asia Economic Grouping will make sense for yet another reason. It will help to reduce unnecessary economic competition between China and the other states in the region. Through cooperation, each Asian state could carve out a niche for itself in the China market. China itself would benefit from the varied skills and expertise available in ASEAN. If the EAEG becomes a reality, it should establish close ties with the Pacific states, especially Australia and New Zealand. Even as it is, trade between Australia and New Zealand on the one hand, and Asia on the other hand, has been increasing by leaps and bounds. As Asia becomes more prosperous, it is quite conceivable that the scope for the Pacific to participate in its development will also expand.

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However, economic cooperation is meaningless if it is not accompanied by cultural and intellectual exchange and dialogue. It is a pity that neither governments in ASEAN nor governments in Northeast Asia have shown much interest in inter-civilizational, inter-faith dialogues between say, Muslims and Buddhists or Muslims and Christians. More often than not, the initiative for such dialogues has come from civil society actors. This is why we have always maintained that the transformation of Asia into a just, compassionate and humane civilization will depend to a great extent upon civil society actors who are imbued with those spiritual and moral values that lie at the heart of religion and are yet modern and progressive in outlook.

From Chandra Muzaffar, Muslims, Dialogue, Terror (Petaling Jaya, Malaysia: International Movement for a Just World (JUST), 2003)

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Muslim Societies, Israel And The West At the end of 2012, the well-known Iranian journalist, Kourosh Ziabari, conducted an email interview with Dr.Chandra Muzaffar that dealt with various issues, including the situation in Muslim societies and their relationship with Israel and the West. Global justice was also discussed.

The Western mainstream media portray a completely biased and prejudiced image of Islam and Muslims, while Muslims have always contributed to the social, economic, political and scientific advancement and progress of the societies in which they live in as minorities. What’s your viewpoint in this regard? How should a realistic image of Islam be presented to the Western public? If no Muslim resorts to terrorism, if no Muslim misinterprets Islamic teachings to justify the suppression of women or the marginalization of non-Muslim minorities, if no Muslim leader abuses power or violates the rights of his people, it is quite conceivable that the mainstream Western media will have less ammunition to target Muslims and their faith. But I suspect negative stereotyping of Muslims and pejorative representations of Islam will continue to find expression through the influential stratum of Western society. Why? It is simply because the prejudiced portrayal of Muslims and Islam in the media serves the interests of the centers of power in the West. When Palestinians resist Israeli occupation and aggression, it is in the interest of the occupier and its allies in Washington, London, Paris and Berlin to project the victim as the wrongdoer, ever ready to commit violence. Likewise, when the hegemon invaded Iraq for its oil, the mainstream media camouflaged the real motive for the invasion by highlighting that monstrous lie concocted by former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and former US President, George Bush, about Saddam Hussein’s Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).

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It is lies like this peddled by the media that sully the image of Muslims. Anyone who resists US led hegemony is demonized`: Muammar Gaddafi became a mass murderer of tens of thousands of his own citizens --- a gross exaggeration--because he stood in the way of the NATO-led operation to usurp Libya’s oil wealth. Today, Bashar al-Assad of Syria is projected in the media as a bloodthirsty monster --- another falsehood--- because he has chosen to defend the sovereignty and independence of his country in the face of a concerted attempt by Western powers and their West Asian allies to oust him through military force so that a pliant regime that dances to their tune can be installed in Damascus. This is why Western hegemony has to end before an honest image of Muslims can emerge. It is not just because of Israel and oil that Muslims and Islam are often tarred and tarnished in the media. It is also because Muslim countries are on the shores of most of the vital sea-routes in the world, the control of which is critical for the pursuit of global power and dominance. The good news is that Western hegemony is on the decline. The rise of new centers of power from Latin America to East Asia is an irreversible process. For some years now I have been suggesting that Muslim scholars, politicians and media practitioners should as a matter of priority reach out to groups with influence and impact in various parts of the nonWestern world to tell them what is really happening in the Arab-Israeli conflict and in West Asia as a whole and why there is so much negative imaging of Islam and Muslims. A bit of this is already being done but much more remains to be done. At the same time, more literature should be produced and circulated in the native languages of the new centers of power that seeks to correct distorted perspectives on jihad, terrorism, the position of women, relations with non-Muslims, the concept of justice and the meaning of compassion and mercy in Islam.

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In other words, one should not concentrate only on how Muslims and Islam are perceived in the West. Power is shifting to the East and it is the image of Islam and Muslims in the non-Muslim, non-Western world--- such as China--- that will really matter in the end.

As a Muslim-majority country, Malaysia has made remarkable progress, especially in terms of human development index, economic prosperity and attracting foreign investment. What do you think are the reasons for these achievements? How can the other Islamic states reach such a level? Malaysia it is true has done relatively well compared to most other Muslim and non-Muslim countries in the Global South. Since achieving Independence from British colonial rule in 1957, the level of absolute poverty within the populace has been reduced from 64% to 3.8% in 2011.Almost the entire population has access to primary health care facilities. 94% of the population is literate. Basic amenities such as piped water and electricity are available to most of the people. Less than 3% of the labor force is unemployed. Apart from continuous economic development over 55 years, the nation has also been politically stable. Compared to many other countries in the Global South and the Global North, there has been very little political violence. Political succession has been smooth. Malaysia is a functioning democracy in which the elected parliamentary opposition has invariably secured more than 35% of the popular vote. While the Federal government has been in the hands of the same coalition since Independence, opposition parties have exercised power in various states. What is really remarkable about Malaysia is that it has succeeded in maintaining a commendable degree of interethnic peace in one of the most challenging multi-religious and multi-cultural environments in the world. In the functional sense, there is also a modicum of inter-ethnic interaction.

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What explains the Malaysian success story? A fairly effective public service, a vigorous business sector, a range of commodities which command a global market and a live- andlet live attitude among the people, have all contributed to the nation’s well-being. But the single most important factor would be a national leadership since 1957 which has always had a balanced outlook, a sense of justice and fair play, and a grasp of the mechanics of good governance. Nonetheless, Malaysia is not without blemish. Like so many other countries where the ruling party or coalition has been in power for a long while, elite corruption is a bane. Again, like most other countries caught in the web of global capitalism, the gap between the have-a-lot and the have-a-little is getting wider with all its dire consequences. Forging national unity has become an even more complex challenge with growing religiosity expressing itself through the reinforcement of religious exclusiveness. Still, Malaysia, its challenges notwithstanding, serves as an example to many other countries.

In one of your interviews, you mentioned that Israel is one of the impediments on the way of the improvement of relationship between the United States and the Muslim states, because the Muslim nations believe that America is a superpower which unconditionally supports Israel at the cost of forfeiting the rights of Muslims and Arabs. Why doesn’t the U.S. abandon its sponsorship of Israel in order to maintain better ties with the Muslim nations? One of the main reasons why the US elite is not able to abandon its patronage and protection of Israel is because of Zionist influence and power in some of the key sectors of American public life. The US Congress, Senate and the White House are all beholden, in one way or another, to Zionist funds and Zionist lobbies. Zionists are dominant in the upper echelons of finance. Look at the ethnic background of almost all the major figures connected to the 2008 sub-prime crisis. Zionist power in the media, including the new media channels, is obvious.

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The top stratum of leading universities also reflects Zionist presence and influence. Hollywood and the entertainment industry as a whole is another example of subtle Zionist influence. But more than anything else, within US society --and in Europe--- there is a great deal of sympathy for the Jews for the terrible suffering they had undergone as a result of the holocaust. This is why in spite of what the Israeli state has done to the Palestinians, Israelis and Jews continue to be viewed as victims to this day. At the same time, we cannot ignore the fact that Israel serves US and European strategic interests in West Asia--- the region that is the world’s most important oil exporter and the only spot on earth where three continents meet. Some of the world’s most critical waterways are also in West Asia. Even if we examine the origins of the idea of a Zionist state in 19th century Europe, Zionist and some European leaders were already looking at the future state of Israel as a bulwark for the perpetuation of Western interests. In spite of strong support for Israel in the US, there are analysts who feel the situation is changing. The overwhelming support that existed for Israel in the first three decades after the 1967 Israel-Arab War has declined somewhat. This is partly because of the extreme positions often adopted by the Israeli ruling elite on the question of Israeli settlements in the West Bank that have disillusioned some so-called liberal Jews in the US. It is said that one of the reasons why Barack Obama won in the recent Presidential Election is because the Zionist lobbies in the US were split.

The Muslims have always had a distinctive and unique identity which is based on their values, their beliefs and their sanctities. But they usually fear that the Western culture and civilization may affect their youths and wipe out their traditional personality traits in a process of Westernization. What’s your take on that? How can the Muslim families preserve their traditional values and resist Westernization? One of the greatest threats to the Muslim family in contemporary world emanating from the West is of course idea of same-sex marriage and the legitimization homosexual behavior. There is no need to emphasize that the long journey to human dignity and global justice 69

the the of the

Quranic position on homosexuality is crystal clear. It is regarded as morally reprehensible. Muslim intellectuals should explain why this is so. It is not simply because the male-female relationship is fundamental to procreation and therefore the continuation of human life. Human life in Islam as in all religions is more than a mere biological fact. It is an affirmation of a profound spiritual truth. The male and female as a pair is integral to the affirmation of that truth which in turn is a testament to the creative power of God. The family which is a product of that relationship between the pair is also ipso facto more than a biological entity. Its integrity is rooted in its moral and spiritual foundation. This is why Islam rejects same sex marriage and homosexual relations. If Muslims want to preserve the family as presently constituted as the basic unit of society, it should pay close attention to those circumstances in the socialization of a person that may conduce towards homosexual behavior. There is also a biological dimension to homosexuality, aspects of which can be rectified through medical intervention. What is important is to adopt a rational, scientific approach within the framework of Quranic values and principles. This also means that it is wrong to ostracize and marginalize homosexuals in the private or public spheres. Outside their sexual role, they should be treated as human beings with dignity and compassion. Their right to education, to work, and to perform public roles should be respected. It is significant that Islamic jurisprudence recognizes that homosexuals have the same obligations as others to pray, to pay the wealth tax (zakat), to fast and to perform the hajj. I have elaborated on the question of homosexuality and its challenge to the family to show that in confronting those aspects of contemporary Western civilization that threaten Islamic norms, there is a need for sophistication. While we do not want to embrace in a blind fashion every freshly minted idea or practice from the West, we should not adhere unthinkingly to our own tradition because it has been sanctioned by some religious elites of antiquity. The bigoted condemnation of homosexuals and homosexuality within some Islamic circles which repudiate the fundamental humanity of the homosexual as a person is unacceptable. the long journey to human dignity and global justice 70

Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world, and The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has predicted that by 2030, the Muslims will be making up some 26.4% of the world’s population. Are the Western states, especially those in which the Zionist lobby is influential, afraid of the growth of Muslims and their population? Can we say they don’t have an inclination for the rise of religious diversity and multiculturalism in their countries? There is no doubt at all that some right-wing groups in Europe and North America are fearful of what they see as the Islamic “demographic” threat. True, the Muslim population in Europe and North America is increasing steadily but it is wrong to argue --- as some of the right-wing fear-mongers do --- that Muslims will take over the West in no time. If one studies the present demographic trend, for many, many decades to come, Muslims will still be a minority in both Europe and North America. Fear mongering among right-wing groups is motivated to a large extent by their antipathy towards religious and cultural diversity. It is part of a negative attitude towards ‘the other’. It stems from an irrational desire to preserve the purity of Western Christianity and Western culture --- whatever that means. For the Right, especially in Europe, Muslims are a problem because they insist on maintaining certain practices which do not accord with what the Right sees as the European way of life. Many Muslims in Europe observe the 5 times a day prayer requirement; they fast in the month of Ramadan; a number of Muslim women use the hijab ( the headscarf) to express their fidelity to modesty; some Muslim men refuse to consume alcohol at office parties. There is no reason why Muslims should forsake any of the forms and practices which they feel is central to their identity. These practices do not impinge upon the rights of the others. What Muslims should do is to explain in depth the rationale behind important Islamic practices to their nonMuslim fellow citizens. This is the sort of dialogue that they should initiate.

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In fact, their dialogue should go beyond explaining Islamic religious requirements and practices. There are vital principles and values in the Quran which should be brought to the attention of the West at this juncture in history. Based upon Quranic principles, Islamic jurisprudence discourages debt transaction --- which was one of the underlying causes of the sub-prime financial crisis in the US in 2008. The Quran is critical of living beyond one’s means which explains to some extent the sovereign debt crisis in parts of Europe. Like Judaism and Christianity, Islam rejects the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few and the growing gap between the have-a-lot and the have-a-little in society, which has become a feature of a number of countries in the West and the East. If Quranic values and principles which in any case are universal and inclusive are put across to non-Muslim majorities in Europe and North America, it is quite possible that over time some of them will become more open and accommodative towards the Muslim minorities in their midst.

What’s your viewpoint regarding the rise of Islamophobia in the West, as manifested in movies such as “Fitna” or “Innocence of Muslims” or the publication of sacrilegious materials in Danish and French newspapers which insulted Prophet Muhammad and other sanctities of the Muslims? What are the possible root causes of such attacks being unleashed on the Muslims? Islamophobia is not a new phenomenon. It is more than a thousand two hundred years old. When Muslim civilization first rose as a power from the eight century onwards with huge numbers of people embracing the faith around the Mediterranean, in North Africa and in the Iberian Peninsula -- which were all largely Christian--- the Church reacted by publishing a distorted translation of the Quran in Latin. The denigration of Islam and the vilification of the Prophet Muhammad continued through the centuries. The Crusades launched by European Rulers and blessed by the Church from the end of the eleventh century were not only directed at the conquest of Jerusalem but were also aimed at curbing Islamic power. the long journey to human dignity and global justice 72

Islamophobia, the fear of Islam,in the past, it is apparent, was related to power. Is Islamic power the root cause of Islamophobia today? Islamophobia today appears to be an attempt to create fear and uneasiness about a religion and a civilization, segments of which are determined to resist the West’s, specifically, the US’s hegemonic power. Contemporary Islamophobia in that sense is also linked to power. Today, cartoons are drawn, books are written, and films are produced to demean and defile the Prophet in particular, knowing full well that a segment of the Muslim Ummah (community) is bound to be provoked to burn flags, ransack embassies, and even kill themselves and others. Each time such a provocation occurs, the reaction is predictable. It serves to reinforce the stereotype image of Muslims as violence prone, terror inclined people. This image in turn helps the hegemon and its minions in their mission of discrediting legitimate resistance movements --- be they Palestinian or Lebanese or Iraqi or Somali ----that resort to violence in order to liberate their land from hegemony. This is why Muslims should not fall into the trap laid by Danish cartoons or US films. By all means condemn these provocations in a peaceful manner. But do not resort to any form of violence. Protest through other means. It would be so much better if we seized the moment to do a film or write a book or pamphlet that conveys the truth about the Prophet’s life. For instance, we could have turned around the recent provocation in the film Innocence of Muslims by emphasizing that the Prophet had remained monogamous right till the death of his first wife, Khatijah, and his subsequent marriages were all contracted to strengthen inter-tribal solidarity or forge inter-faith ties. Besides, we must keep in mind that when the Prophet himself was abused and even physically attacked during his Meccan years, he displayed tremendous restraint and did not retaliate with violence. It is his example that we should emulate.

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On the political level, what do you think about President Obama’s policy toward the Muslim world in his first term? Has he succeeded in realizing what he had promised to the Muslim nations, especially in his 2009 Cairo speech? What’s your evaluation of his second term? There were some promising elements in President Obama’s 2009 Cairo Speech especially his acknowledgement of the suffering of the Palestinian people. But he did very little to translate his rhetoric into action. He not only failed to move the Palestine-Israel Peace Process forward but he also allowed himself to be humiliated by one of the most bellicose Israeli leaders ever, Benjamin Netanyahu. Iraq, in spite of US troop withdrawal, remains a tragic tale of a nation mired in unending violence. Afghanistan is another sordid mess. The US drive for hegemony has not ceased under Obama as evidenced by US involvement in Libya and Syria. Iran is still in his crosshairs. He continues to prop up the Saudi and Qatari elite and elites in other feudal, autocratic kingdoms in the Gulf, while pretending that the US is a champion of democracy. Will Obama’s second term be different? I suspect that the US economy will absorb most of his energies in the second term. Nonetheless, he will have to pay attention to international issues too. Since he does not have to worry about a third term, will he be courageous enough to push aside all the powerful lobbies in the US, including the Zionist and Christian Right lobbies, and do what is right and true in West Asia and the rest of the world? There is nothing in Obama’s personality or his politics that appears to suggest that he will go all out to fight for justice regardless of the consequences. We must have the audacity to hope for this: that Obama will prove us all wrong.

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What do you think about the economic sanctions imposed against Iran by the United States and its European allies? Iran is under pressure over its nuclear program while there’s no shred of evidence confirming that it has been developing nuclear weapons. We also have Israel’s constant war threats against Iran which have been intensified recently. What should Iran and other Muslim nations do about such threats? Iran is another colossal tragedy. Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution it has been under tremendous pressure from the US and other Western powers. Economic sanctions, which are nothing but instruments of war, imposed by the US have been in force for the last 33 years. Iran’s ‘sin’ is that it wants to safeguard its independence as a sovereign nation. It wants to chart its own future; shape its own destiny. Because the Iranian Revolution overthrew a USIsraeli client, Reza Shah, both US and Israel and their European allies have not forgiven the revolutionaries. In spite of all the difficulties it has undergone, Iran has remained steadfast. It has not succumbed to the US and its allies. It has not yielded to the hegemon. Unfortunately, there are very few Muslim majority states that are prepared to stand up for Iran. If they are silent, it is because a number of them are close allies of the US and will not want to antagonize the US in any way. Others are afraid of the repercussions if they take Iran’s side. In fact, non-Muslim states such as Cuba and Venezuela have been far more vocal in their defense of Iran in the midst of all the reckless allegations about its nuclear weapons program. Their expression of solidarity proves yet again that in the struggle for truth and justice, it is not one’s religious affiliation that is the decisive factor.

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What can Iran do in this situation? Apart from continuing to cooperate with the IAEA which is important, Iran should speak more loudly than ever before on behalf of a nuclear weapons free West Asia and North Africa (WANA). I know Iran has expressed its support for this idea before. But it should do more. It should spearhead an international campaign for such a zone in WANA. It should get governments, NGOs and the media involved.

And finally, Iran has just assumed the 3-year presidency of the Non-Aligned Movement. What’s your viewpoint about the role this movement can play in the international level? How can it effectively contribute to world developments and help with the establishment of a new world order? Like other similar global and regional organizations, the effectiveness of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) is hampered to a great extent by its internal ideological diversity. We should therefore be realistic about our expectations of NAM. Nonetheless, as NAM Chairman, Iran can utilize its leadership position to at least initiate some meaningful changes. It should work hand in hand with Venezuela which will assume the chair after Iran’s three year term. This is a great opportunity for the two countries that share many common aspirations vis-a-vis the international system to set a new tone for NAM over a six year period.

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What are some of the goals that NAM can pursue? A) NAM can take a strong moral position against speculation in the international financial system and mobilize global public opinion against this vice. It should apply pressure against the centers of speculative capital such as London and New York. B) NAM should also call for the stabilization of global food prices. Here again it should target speculators whose immoral activity is responsible for perhaps 20 % of the rise in food prices in recent months. At the same time, NAM should encourage member states to adopt concrete measures to increase food production. C) NAM should also focus upon the global environmental crisis and explore ways and means of dovetailing development to the larger goal of ecological harmony. D) NAM should also lend support to efforts undertaken by various groups and individuals in different parts of the world, including Dr. Mahathir Mohammad, the former Prime Minister of Malaysia, to eliminate war as a means of resolving inter-state and intra-state conflicts. E) NAM should commence serious discussions within the movement on the underlying spiritual and moral values that are essential for the evolution of a just, compassionate civilization that is free of global hegemony, gross inequalities, glaring social injustices, and religious bigotry. It is only when the underlying values conduce towards justice and compassion that a new civilization will emerge capable of enhancing human dignity and protecting the integrity of creation.

From Chandra Muzaffar, A World in Crisis: Is There A Cure? (www.just-international.org 2013)

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From Unipolar To Multi-Polar In this interview with JUST Executive Committee member, Tengku Iskandar bin Tengku Adnan, conducted specifically for this book, Dr. Chandra Muzaffar reflects on some of the challenges and trends in contemporary global politics. He is concerned about attempts by the ‘rulers of the planet’ to perpetuate their grip upon the world and examines some of the changes that are occurring within the current international system.

TI: In your writings you have focused upon what you see as a shift that is occurring in international relations. A unipolar world helmed by the United States of America and its allies may be replaced by a multi-polar world. But this transition is fraught with grave dangers. You argue that the hegemonic power is determined to ensure that it continues to rule the world. What would be some of the evidence of its determination to maintain its global hegemony? CM: There are perhaps at least ten dimensions to this drive for perpetual hegemony. Underlying this drive is a belief, a fervent belief, held by the elites in the hegemonic centers of power that they have the right to rule the world. Regime change is one of their principal tools for perpetuating their hegemony. As soon as the Soviet Union disintegrated, for instance, in 1991, they installed Boris Yeltsin as the leader of Russia and he was extremely amenable to policies that facilitated American / Western dominance and control of the Russian economy and politics. By ousting the Taliban through an invasion, the US and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) succeeded in putting up a regime under Hamid Karzai that was prepared to do their bidding. The real goal of the Anglo-American invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 was the elimination of Saddam Hussein and the establishment of a regime that would serve their geo-economic and geopolitical agendas. Toppling and murdering Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and propping up a leadership subservient to Western powers was their regime the long journey to human dignity and global justice 78

change plan for Libya. For many years now, and especially since 2011, Bashar Assad of Syria has been the target of the US, Israel and their other Western and regional allies. They have been openly advocating regime change in Damascus. Don’t forget that regime change has a long history behind it. The violent overthrow of Sukarno of Indonesia in 1965 and Allende of Chile in 1973 were part of the politics of regime change. Western colonial rule in Asia and Africa is full of examples of regime change. In the case of Malaysia, regime change expressed itself through the replacement of a “recalcitrant� Sultan or Prince with a subservient Ruler who was eager to embrace British colonial designs. If colonial dominance was the motive for regime change in the colonial era, curbing communism and left ideologies in general was the reason behind regime change during the period of the Cold War. In the current phase in West Asia and North Africa (WANA) in particular, control over oil and gas, strategic routes and ensuring Israeli dominance over the region, are often the unstated motives for regime change.

TI: Surely, ensuring military dominance over the globe is yet another dimension of the attempt to perpetuate hegemony. CM: The US is determined to maintain its military hegemony. The thousand over military bases --- including unmanned drone bases --- that gird the globe are directed towards this goal. There are hundreds of thousands of US military personnel stationed in countries in every continent on earth. The military doctrine that the US elite promulgated in the nineties --- full-spectrum dominance --- which envisaged the exercise of control from the inner depths of the oceans to the outer reaches of space, is still in operation. If the US has modified its hegemonic military policy slightly in recent years, it is the emphasis it now accords to its allies sharing the costs of its military adventures. This is one of the reasons why it is pushing Japan to play a big role in military operations outside its own shores.

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The US’s formidable global military presence has certain objectives. It is to protect the economic and political interests of the US and its allies all around the world. It is power that can be deployed when and where necessary --- as it was in Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya in the post-cold war decades. There is also a psychological dimension to its military power. Its overwhelming military presence is both a subtle and stark warning to friend and friend: be careful!

TI: It is obvious that violence, or the threat of violence, is vital to US helmed hegemony. Is this related in any way to what you have discussed in some of your writings: terrorism as part of the US’s arsenal in perpetuating its hegemony? CM: There is no doubt at all that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the US Administration, in collusion with other formal and informal institutions, has been actively involved in aiding and abetting terrorist outfits. After a Shia led government came to power through the ballot-box in Iraq, the CIA lent support to Sunni terrorist groups --- such as the AlQaeda in Iraq --- as they sought to undermine the government. Later when Al-Qaeda moved to Syria to fight the secular Assad government, a breakaway group calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) received assistance by way of intelligence and training from the CIA and through other channels. It was more than assistance. A former head of the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Lt. General Michael Fllynn, revealed recently that the rise of ISIL or ISIS was the result of a “willful decision” by the Obama Administration. So-called ‘moderate’ militant groups in Syria which are as inclined to terrorism as the extremist ones are closely linked to US, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. In Libya, in the overthrow of Gaddafi, terrorist groups, colluding with the US and other Western powers, had a big hand. This relationship has continued in the midst of the anarchy that besets the country today.

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The examples we have given so far are all from WANA. However, the CIA has an even more sordid reputation for flirting with terrorists in Latin America. It not only sponsored terrorist attacks against Cuba’s tourist industry decades ago but also protected a terrorist who allegedly brought down a Cuban airliner in 1976, killing all its passengers and crew, including a large number of schoolchildren. If Western powers work with terrorist outfits in Libya or Syria or Iraq or Cuba, it is because they see such ties as critical for preserving or advancing their interests. This is why the US’s ‘War on Terror’ is more complex than what meets the eye. On the one hand, there is a genuine war against terrorism. On the other hand, terrorism is manipulated and exploited in order to further one’s nefarious agenda.

TI: The US’s global economic power is also one of the important pillars of its hegemony. How critical is this power in the midst of a major shift that is occurring in the global economy? After all, the US is still the world’s number one economy. CM: One of the ways in which the US seeks to maintain its economic hegemony is through the US dollar. It ensures that the dollar remains the world’s reserve currency. It is still the most widely used currency in international trade. Linked to this is the perpetuation of a global economy dominated by capital, essentially speculative capital. The US and its partners have created and reinforced a system where banks, hedge funds, and derivatives, driven by profit maximization and capital accumulation, rule the roost. International institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the World Trade Organization (WTO), in varying degrees, aid and abet the US and its allies as they continue to dominate and control the global economy. At the same time, the US is attempting to forge regional trade and investment regimes such as the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trans- Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) which will help it to remain dominant for decades to come.

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TI: Economic sanctions also play a role in perpetuating US hegemony. CM: You are absolutely right. The US elite has used sanctions against a number of states since the end of the Second World War with the principal aim of coercing them to submit to its will. Cuba is testimony to this hideous policy. Because the Cuban Revolution under Fidel Castro was determined to chart its own course, to protect the independence and sovereignty of the Cuban nation which for decades was a mere playground for rich and famous Americans, the US sought to punish its tiny neighbor by imposing economic sanctions two years after the Revolution, in 1961. The sanctions are still in place though there have been some modifications here and there. Using Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 as the excuse, the US and its allies forced crippling sanctions on Iraq which had a devastating impact upon the people. It has been estimated that in the nineties alone some 650,000 children died of causes linked directly or indirectly to the sanctions. After the Anglo-American invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003, the sanctions were lifted. Syria which for decades has resisted US, Western and Israeli control and dominance has been under US initiated sanctions for the good part of a decade. Iran is another country which has suffered tremendously from US sanctions since the eighties. These sanctions have been tightened in the last five years or so. Iran’s sin? It cherishes its independence. The pain and suffering brought about by sanctions and how they emasculate the economy and destroy the social fabric must convince most people that they are in the ultimate analysis a weapon of war. It is a weapon that serves the hegemon’s agenda.

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TI: If sanctions are employed from time to time, there is yet another weapon in the hegemon’s arsenal which is a constant source of strength, anchoring its position in the world. CM: You are of course referring to the US’s command over science and technology. As with most powerful nations and civilizations in history, the US’s lead over others in the basic sciences and in scientific research as a whole is one of the explanations for its ability to maintain its hegemonic position in the world. It was the nineteenth century Islamic reformer Syed Jamaluddin Al-Afghani (aka Syed Jamaluddin Asadabadi) who once observed that it is one’s mastery over science that holds the key to civilizational power. He had Islamic civilization in mind when it was at its zenith between the ninth and fourteen centuries. In the last seven decades or so, since the Second World War, it is the vast opportunities that the US offers in a whole range of scientific endeavors from quantum physics to nanotechnology that has attracted researchers from all over the world to that country. Its scientific edge in turn is also one of the reasons why the US is the global leader in technological innovation and creativity. This is why the US is still the world’s number one economy.

TI:While many people are not aware of the US’s scientific power, what they see is its dominance of the media. CM: The mainstream electronic and print media help to preserve and perpetuate the interests of the rulers of the world. Since the US elite is at the core of this coterie, the mainstream media faithfully ensures that its interests are always protected. This is why when it comes to any international crisis which impinges upon US interests, news agencies such as Reuters or Associated Press (AP) or television networks such as CNN or BBC or Al-Jazeera for that matter often report and analyze the crisis in a manner that is slanted towards the US position.

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This was obvious in Reuters’ news stories on Vietnam in the sixties as it is apparent in the BBC’s presentations on Venezuela today. It should be emphasized that media biases of this sort are also influenced by corporate and financial interests. Even in cyber media, especially in relation to global politics, it is the dominant US and Western position that often prevails. In other words, whether it is the old or the new media, the voice of the hegemon remains strong. By getting the rest of the human family to see issues of global significance through the lens of the mighty, the media --- more than perhaps any other institution --- has performed a great “service” for the hegemon.

TI: The media also projects the US as a champion of human rights. CM: In a sense, issues pertaining to human rights serve to perpetuate the US’s hegemonic role. Through its public postures on various political and civil rights’ concerns in other countries, the US elite gives the impression to the world that it is the greatest champion of human rights on earth. Since human rights are perceived universally as something “good” and “virtuous”, this championing of human rights also places the US on a moral high ground.

TI:Isn’t this part of something bigger? Isn’t this part of a larger attempt to show the rest of humankind that the US and the West in general represent the “best”, the “highest standards” in human conduct and governance? CM: Since the colonial epoch this has been the aim of the West: to present itself as the acme of human civilization. It is not just in relation to human rights. There are some in the US who view their nation as the world’s greatest democracy meaning by which the nation that accords the highest value to freedom.

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Other nations in the West are regarded as the standard bearers of social justice, of accountability, of integrity, of good governance. Some of it may be true in certain specific areas at least. What serves the hegemonic agenda however is the constant endeavor to impress upon the non-Western world that the West is the benchmark for all that is noble and worthwhile. The non-Western world should measure itself against the West which at this point in time is led by the US. They should aspire to be like the West.

TI: It is not just the US or the West that sets itself up as the “gold standard.” Isn’t it true that many of us look up to the West all the while? Aren’t our attitudes also responsible for the perpetuation of hegemony? CM: You have put your finger on the pulse of the problem. Hegemony persists partly because we are intellectually subservient. A section of the non-Western world remains enamored of the West. An Iranian writer in the sixties, Jalal Al-e-Ahmad,described this phenomenon as “Westoxification,” intoxication with the West. Perhaps it would be more accurate to talk of intellectual subservience to the West as a product of the “captive mind” which is a term that my mentor, the late Professor Syed Hussein Alatas, used in the seventies to analyze the tendency among the intelligentsia in the Global South to apply uncritically concepts on development and social change emanating from the West to their own societies without a rigorous evaluation of their relevance. It is because of this captive mind that we do not fathom the depth of the impact of hegemony upon our societies and its dire consequences. As a result, hegemony continues to manifest itself, with our collusion and connivance!

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TI: You have shown how the US and the West sustain their hegemony. But there are also changes that are happening that suggest that the hegemonic agenda is not working. What are some of these changes? CM: Let us look at each of the ten dimensions of hegemonic power and we will be convinced that the hegemonic agenda is not working.

Regime Change Regime change has been a failure. The US installed Yeltsin but today Russia is under Vladimir Putin, a nationalist who will not kowtow to Washington and is determined to protect and enhance his nation’s independence and sovereignty. The US got rid of the Taliban but its proxies have little control over Afghanistan which is still unstable and trapped in violence. Saddam Hussein is no more but the Iraqi people are suffering even more with security at its nadir, rampant dislocation and displacement, massive unemployment, and widespread poverty. Gaddafi was lynched to death but Libya today has no effective government, public services are not functioning and anarchy reigns in parts of the country. As a result of the attempt to oust Bashar Assad, Syria has descended into chaos. There is not a single country in West Asia and North Africa (WANA) where regime change engineered by external forces has brought even a minimal degree of order and stability, let alone peace and prosperity, to the people. Looking at what has happened in WANA, Venezuelans should be thankful that the CIA hatched plot to overthrow Hugo Chavez in 2002 failed miserably largely because of ‘people power.’ Cubans too have every reason to celebrate the failure of successive attempts by the CIA to overthrow Fidel Castro from the sixties to the nineties.

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Military Power American military power has been of little help in achieving its hegemonic goal. It failed in Vietnam and Indo-China in the sixties and early seventies. The US elite did not learn its lesson. It failed again in Iraq in 2003. It failed in Libya in 2011.It is failing in Afghanistan. In a nutshell, US military superiority has not been able to secure the imperial power’s goal of control and dominance.

Terrorism Has terrorism helped the US and its allies achieve their goal? The terrorist groups that they sponsor or support have come back to haunt them. It is because ISIL or Daesh, as it is called in Arabic, took control of Mosul in Iraq in 2014 and appeared to be a threat to Western oil companies operating in the region that the US decided to move against the group. In Syria, Daesh’s growing strength may mean that Daesh --- and not the terrorists linked to the US, Saudi Arabia and Turkey --will seize power if Bashar falls. In short, by backing terrorist groups, the US and its allies have made a complex situation in WANA, a lot messier. It is a situation that may undermine their own interests.

Economic Power What about the US’s economic power? Though it is the world’s number one economy, it bears fundamental flaws. The US is the world’s biggest debtor nation, with national debts standing at 18.3 trillion dollars as of 14 September 2015. This has a negative impact upon the dollar. Besides, there are more and more nations trading in currencies other than the dollar today, compared to even five years ago. There are also more and more calls today to replace the US dollar as a reserve currency with a basket of currencies. It would check volatility and provide greater stability to the international monetary system.

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The ever widening gap between rich and poor within the US itself --- the wealthiest 1% possess 40% of the nation’s wealth while the bottom 80% own only 7% --- also has implications for the role of the US dollar in the global economy. But more than the glaring weaknesses of the US economy, it is the rise of China and other economies that has diminished the US’s global role. Today, it is China with its manufacturing industries, its global investments and its international trade that plays a significant role in the global economy. China is also directly and actively involved in shaping the global economy in myriad ways. It has set up an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) with a country membership approaching 70--- including Western economies such as Germany, Britain, France and Italy --- which will play a major role in the economic transformation of the world. This transformation will be further enhanced through China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) Initiative that envisages infrastructure and development projects along land and maritime routes linked to the old Silk Road. China’s transformative role will be reinforced through BRICS, the economic alliance among Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa that is also supported by a bank, the New Development Bank launched in 2014. It is not just China or the other BRICS nations who are all focused on economic and social development outside the US orbit. This quest for independent development is even more apparent when we look at what is happening in Latin America. ALBA is a regional grouping that seeks through mutual cooperation to make a number of Latin American economies more equitable and self-reliant. CELAC, a larger grouping that also includes Caribbean states, has similar aims. It too hopes to transform the entire region, guided by social justice and human dignity, in the direction of economic independence, free of the influence and machinations of the Washington Consensus. It is only too obvious that in the economic scenario that is unfolding before our very eyes, the US will not have a dominant or defining role. In contrast, China and other economies will exercise considerable clout over the global economy.

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Economic Sanctions Given this scenario, the US will not be able to impose economic sanctions upon states that refuse to submit to its dictates in the future. Even as it is, economic sanctions have not achieved their objectives. Cuba, for instance, has remained steadfast in its commitment to an independent foreign policy in spite of more than five decades of US sanctions. Sanctions may have emasculated Iraq but they have failed to provide the US with a monopolistic grip over the country since Iran --- much to the US’s chagrin --- continues to command considerable influence within Iraq’s elite stratum. And, as for Iran, it is wrong of the US Administration to claim that it was solely because of US initiated sanctions that its leadership was willing to enter negotiations on its nuclear program in March 2013. The Iranian government under President Muhammad Khatami (1997-2005), it should be remembered, began talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) way back in 2003, before suffocating sanctions were imposed. The desire to resolve disputes through dialogue is part and parcel of Iranian political culture --- a fact that the former US President, George Bush, did not appreciate. This is why when that dimension in Iranian politics re-surfaced through the election of Hassan Rouhani as the new President in 2013, it paved the way for nuclear talks between Iran, on the one hand, and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany, on the other.

Science and Technology Though the US is the world’s leader in science and technology, its share of the global total in the production of scientific literature and patents is beginning to decline. Its Research and Development (R&D) expenditure has decreased by 10% since 2009 and is at its lowest level since 1956. This is partly because of the economic crisis which has forced the Federal Government to cut back on its R&D budget. At the same time, other nations are coming up rapidly. China aims to spend 2.5% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on R&D by 2020 and by that time would have become the world’s top scientific power overtaking the US. the long journey to human dignity and global justice 89

South Korea is already spending 4.36% of its GDP on R&D which is one of the main reasons for some of its spectacular innovations and discoveries in information technology. India, Iran, Turkey and Brazil have also made significant advances in science and technology. To this list of non-Western countries, one should add Japan which, unlike the others, entered the top league in scientific production more than a hundred years.

Media American and Western sway over the media is also not what it was a decade ago. The new media in particular has enabled opponents and critics of US helmed hegemony from numerous countries to express their views and to establish networks as never before. The way they mobilized and galvanized public opinion on a global scale in their protest against the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq in 2003 was a manifestation of the power of the new media on behalf of global justice. We witnessed this power again in 2013 when the British public through various new media outlets made it known to their lawmakers that they rejected the US initiated proposal to launch missile strikes against Syria and did not want their Government to participate in any such heinous misdeed. In July-August 2014, it was again the new media that revealed to the people of Europe and to a lesser extent the United States the magnitude of the barbaric aggression perpetrated by the Israeli regime against Palestinian civilians. The media helped to awaken a segment of the European population to the reality of Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and the need to deliver justice to the Palestinians. In general terms, the new media has played a positive role in strengthening the growing anti-war sentiment in Europe. And since war is a tool of hegemony, one should regard the growth of this sentiment as a significant factor in the emergence of a non-hegemonic world.

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Human Rights It was partly because of the invasion of Iraq that a lot of people all over the world became skeptical of the US claim to be a champion of human rights. Though there was skepticism even before 2003, it has become more widespread in the last 12 years for a number of reasons among them the US’s silence in the wake of wanton Israeli aggression against the Palestinians of Gaza since 2008. How can any nation that refuses to condemn the blatant violation of the human rights of an occupied people parade the world stage as a “principled advocate” of human rights? It is mainly the Palestinian situation that has persuaded human rights activists to examine critically the US’s abysmal human rights record vis-à-vis its victims in various parts of the world. Searching questions are now being asked about its domestic record also --- its treatment of its Afro-American population; the huge number of prisoners in US jails; continuing executions of individuals on death row in various American states. In this regard, the Chinese government has for a few years now documented serious violations of human rights in the US including the plight of the poor and the homeless. There is yet another reason why other governments have also become increasingly critical of US pontifications on human rights. This is the tendency of US leaders to lecture to leaders in African states such as Nigeria and Kenya about the importance of legalizing homosexual rights when these states have their own cultural norms that view sexual relations and the family from a different perspective. This condescending attitude towards ‘the cultural other’ has also evoked criticisms of the US’s stand on human rights as a whole from human rights advocates in the Global South.

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Benchmark It is this realization of the actual state of human rights in the US which has persuaded thinking individuals in the US and elsewhere to question the projection of the US as a model for others in democratic rule and governance. Any such glorification is often dismissed with utter contempt by those who have some knowledge of the performance of different societies in the contemporary world. Even other Western societies are viewed with a much more critical eye today compared to two or three decades ago. Disruptions in ethnic ties in France, the Netherlands and Britain in recent times reflected in the alarming rise of xenophobic attitudes within a segment of the majority community have begun to raise doubts about the level of tolerance and acceptance of ‘the other’ in these societies. In these and other European countries, Islamophobia in particular has disfigured the social fabric proving yet again that deep-seated prejudices against Islam are finding new modes of expression. Growing economic disparities between the ‘have-a-lot’ and the ‘have-a-little’ in the West as a whole would be yet another factor that diminishes their attractiveness. For all these reasons, more and more people are beginning to see that the West is not the benchmark that it pretends to be.

The Captive Mind What this means is that the captive mind is not as powerful or as potent as it once was. The situation in the US and the West and what the US has done to other countries in pursuit of its hegemonic agenda have over time liberated a segment of the populace in the Global South from intellectual captivity to the West. To put it differently, there are more individuals and groups in the Global South today who have become critical of the West because of the adverse impact of hegemony, apart from the West’s domestic flaws and foibles.

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If this change in thinking is taking place, it is also because of the crucial shifts occurring in the global economy and, as a consequence, in global politics, in the global security structure and in global culture. The rise of China in the global economy --- more than any other change --- has demonstrated to a lot of people all over the world that Western civilization is not as powerful or as significant as many perceive it to be. There is no need for people to remain enthralled with that civilization. Because of its economic clout, perceptions of China in the political, security and cultural spheres are also beginning to change. At the same time, other nations are also emerging as important players. Korean music and dance; Indian Information Technology; and Iranian films are impacting upon societies beyond their shores. As they make their presence felt, these societies are becoming more confident of their own inner strength which in turn is eroding the influence of the captive mind.

TI: You have shown that US helmed hegemony is declining and important changes are being wrought in the international arena. What you are saying in effect is that a unipolar world is coming to an end and a multi-polar world is emerging. Would you want to hazard a guess on how this situation will develop in the coming years? CM: It goes without saying that the hegemonic power will go all out to perpetuate a unipolar world. You can see how the US is trying to curb the re-assertion of Russia, on the one hand, and the ascendancy of China, on the other. To understand the former, look at what is happening in Eastern Ukraine and Syria. To understand the latter, look at the South China Sea. In certain cases, the US may even adjust to the emerging realities while still seeking to preserve its power. Establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba is a reflection of this approach. Because a number of Latin American states are determined to repudiate US dominance of the continent, the US is discovering that it is more and more isolated in its own neighborhood.

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Its hostile attitude towards Cuba is one of the reasons for its isolation. This is why the US has decided to reach out to Cuba. The other example of how the US has chosen to adjust to a changing scenario is the Iranian nuclear deal. The US cannot afford to ignore the growing influence of Iran in the region --in Iraq, in Lebanon, in Yemen, in Bahrain, and outside the Arab world, in Afghanistan. Besides, Iran appears to be the only state in WANA with the ability to take on the terrorist groups some of whom are now threatening US interests. The US hopes that some understanding with Iran at this stage will in the long run enable the US to retain its influence in WANA. On the other side of the divide, Russia and China have adopted certain strategies in dealing with the US. They will avoid any direct physical confrontation with the US. A war for instance will not be in their interest. Nonetheless, they will not submit to US power. Ukraine and Syria (in the case of Russia) and the South China Sea (in the case of China) illustrate this approach. By choosing to protect their core interests and yet not getting into a conflagration with the US, both Russia and China have decided that they would concentrate on their respective transformations which will be achieved partly through bilateral and regional relations. Thus, the two countries have forged a strong relationship through BRICS, the AIIB, OBOR and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), among others.

TI: How important is this relationship in the quest for a multi-polar world? CM: It is undoubtedly one of the most important prerequisites for the evolution of a multi-polar world. If they work together in harmony, they will be able to hasten the demise of the unipolar world. Their bond will be the nucleus that will bring other nations together. A multi-polar world could emerge in which power is diffused and dispersed. For instance, China is economically stronger than Russia but Russia is militarily stronger than China.

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A third nation could be strong in another sphere while a fourth country could be strong in yet another arena. There will be no one nation that will exercise overwhelming power in every sphere. For this multi-polar world to emerge, it is vital --- I reiterate --- for China and Russia to be totally united in mission and purpose. They should not allow anyone to break up their bond. They should not forget that it happened once before. The strong tie between China and the Soviet Union came to an end in what was known as the Sino-Soviet split of 1956. The Chinese and Russian leaderships should not repeat history.

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