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Message-ID: <Pine.GSO.4.10.9906092336100.7696-100000@bunga>
Date: Wed, 9 Jun 1999 23:53:49 +0700
Reply-To: Southeast Asia Discussion List <SEASIA-L@LIST.MSU.EDU>
Sender: Southeast Asia Discussion List <SEASIA-L@LIST.MSU.EDU>
From: Imtiyaz YUSUF <izyusuf@BUNGA.PN.PSU.AC.TH>
Subject: Bangkok Post Jun 8, 1999 - Out of line (http://www.bangkokpost.net/today/080699 (fwd)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 8 Jun 1995 22:57:59 +0700
From: Imtiyaz Yusuf <izyusuf@bunga.pn.psu.ac.th>
Subject: Bangkok Post Jun 8, 1999 -

Islamic politics in region are tolerant

By Dr Imtiyaz Yusuf, College of Islamic Studies, Prince of Songkhla University
Bangkok Post, Letters to the Editor, 8 June 1999

Mainstream Islamic political trends in Southeast Asia represented by Abdul Rahman Wahid, Amein Rais and Anwar Ibrahim are a far cry from the Islamic fundamentalist/extremist political tendencies witnessed in the Middle Eastern Muslim countries. All the above three personalities have constantly upheld, advocated and worked for the principles of multi-culturalism, religious pluralism, tolerance and moderation, representing the Southeast Asian face of Islamic politics. With equal emphasis on political stability, educational advancement, economic progress, technological development and even political federalism (for Amein Rais) in their countries. This is largely due to the different character of the political history of Southeast Asian Muslim countries from those of the Middle East-a point largely missed by the media, which likes to depict the Muslim world as monolithic. (Political scholar surges in poll countdown Bangkok Post, June 4, 1999.)

In fact, it was the group of what we in Thai call dek ponoh or children of the peasantry that Islamic religious schools in Indonesia represented by Abdul Rahman Wahid with his Forum Demokrasi, Nurcholish Madjid of the Paramadina Educational Foundation and Amein Rais, who have been struggling for the institution of democracy in Indonesia for decades during the Suharto regime. And it was with them that Gen Suharto negotiated his political withdrawal at the end of his power.

The above-mentioned Muslim leaders are influenced by the still vital influence of Islamic Modernism which continues to survive in Southeast Asia after its death in the Muslim Middle East at the hands of the secular and socialist regimes.

Hence, while the Western-influenced media has decided upon Megawati Sukarno Putri to be the winner on Monday, it has a short memory of the recent history that brought the dramatic political change in Indonesia. Ms Megawati, with no clear economic agenda, is yet another format of a secular-socialist leader in a Muslim country. Why does the media deny the largest Muslim country in the world a role for Islam in determining its political future at this critical juncture? As regards Anuraj Manibhandu's enthusiasm (A nation's everywoman rises on a sea of red, Bangkok Post, June 4, 1999) for Ms Megawati as the sole champion of non-religious discrimination, this only defaces the hard work, struggle and the personal risks undergone by the earlier-mentioned Indonesian Muslim political leaders and their followers, who altogether represent a total of approximately 140 million citizens of Indonesia.

Finally, the statement that Muslims have problems in accepting a woman as a leader overlooks the political roles played by Fatimah Jinnah, Benazir Bhutto, Hasina Wajed and Wan Azizah-a worthy foursome in the Muslim world. Ms Anuraj also conveniently misinterprets a verse in the Koran without probing. The particular Koranic verse 4:34, has been interpreted variedly. The majority of doctors of Islam read it as referring to the family responsibilities between husband and wife, having no relation to politics. A serious journalist should not seek interpretation of religious scriptures of any religion from impassioned street crowds. It not only misinforms but creates bias. It is important that the media must report on Southeast Asian political news items without losing the sense of local history to enhance a better understanding of global political variety.