Hornbill Unleashed

April 5, 2017

What is modern extremism?

Filed under: Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 8:01 AM

I am tired of extremism in any form; whether it is the ‘bigotry’ of Donald Trump, or the language of Islamic State (IS), or those of some Malays in Malaysia. Maybe the more important question is what is the bottom line we use to define extremism; as rational and moderate middle Malaysians?

My view is that it cannot be race or religion but the deployment of all our basic human rights guaranteed by national citizenship. These are legally covered by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; after the two world wars.

Maybe that was the real reason why former US president Barack Obama refused to use the phrase ‘Muslim extremism’. It wrongly paints all Muslims with the same brush of potential extremism.

Nonetheless, in modern life today, whether in Britain, Germany, or France, or in India or China or Indonesia; these concerns have become important choice options in modernity while terror or fear is deployed as a proxy for force. Can force ever be justified in human life?

Both concepts; whether moderation of the middle ground, or extremism of the fringes; they need to be clearly defined for all rational peoples in how we choose to use and deploy those words.

Therefore, this column is my foundational lecture for any rational community of people, drawn from Mathematics 101 and Logic 101.

The normal distribution curve

Recently, I had the privilege to explain and elucidate what is the deeper or underlying meaning and definition of the two modern concepts; extremes and moderates.

Statistics 101 states that any group of data or datum found in any space of geography and time, can be collected, then studied, and be arrayed as a distribution on any set of criteria. One could create an array or distribution, and it can be distributed in different ways; or, by deploying one central value to create a bell curve of a normal distribution.

When the data tends to be around a central value with no bias left or right, and it gets close to what is called ‘Normal Distribution’, as below:

Most statistical affirmative explanations are sometimes called a hypothesis. Often these statements are made in terms of statistical significance; with a 99.5 percent certainty. What that really means is that based on their sample and research findings, they can explain 99.5 percent of the data under the array of their studies and which may only carry an error rate of 5 percent.

Allow me therefore to use this same bell curve to explain what we can mean by the labels we use. I propose a category called ‘modern extremists’, as those who are against the middle but moderate Malaysians; as our way of defining toleration in our society setting of the older Malaysia we know.

Language or glossary of modern democracy

Three words in modern lingua franca are used carelessly or abused more than used very well. These are words are: liberal, moderate, and conservative. One of the biggest culprits of these words today is President Donald Trump.

There are only absolute blacks and whites in his worldview; but, all of life is really all about greys; or, all of life is really only a stage for him within his world of entertainment; after all, his world is only a stage, as Shakespeare once said in literature.

Therefore, the goal of my column is to further educate all my Malaysian conservative friends, allies, and most opponents about these three words; whether they are in Umno or even their blind allies.

Can we all at least agree on these basic definitions for those three words? Then, we can begin any serious debates by becoming emotionalists about those of our concerns but with and full due regard for clear definitions located in science.

My first word is ‘liberal’. What does it refer to in any modern political or social discourse? My definition of a ‘liberal’ is any person who identifies themselves as a unique and different human person as compared to any group they are historically part of. They want their personal sense of space of dignity upheld, and due respect assigned to their views and positions taken on life issues.

Therefore in my mind and heart, there is really no such thing as a non-liberal Muslim or Christian, or Buddhist or Hindu. Every Muslim (or any true believer) holds a personal faith and conviction about his religion or his belief system. Simply for standing up for such convictions; true believers cannot be carelessly labelled liberal.

My second word is ‘moderate’. What do we mean by a moderate? Moderates are the statistically very significant 68 percent who are the middle majority in any normal distribution curve. This definition excludes the two groups on both fringes making 13.5 percent; those who sit on two sides of the median line. Moderate Malaysians, are always by definition, the middle majority.

My third word is ‘conservative’. Conservatives are political and social philosophers who promote retaining traditional social institutions within the context of a culture and its civilisation. Liberals and conservatives are not opposite ends of a normal distribution curve in terms of social or political philosophy. All modern conservatives usually uphold traditional religious values but may often disagree with an extremely liberal set of values in terms what is agreed as public space morality.

These concepts cannot be arbitrarily generalised into any modern society in simplistic or reductionist forms. The world order is no more in simplistic black and white forms; of good and bad, or right and wrong. The truth is that in today’s world most of the 68 percent would be considered grey areas and not simply either blacks or whites in terms of moralities of the past generations.

Interpreting personal faith positions

Recently someone sent me a WhatsApp caption which suggested that taking a ride in Grab and Uber can be considered ‘khalwat’ in Islamic terms, or, to be in ‘close proximity’ as defined within Islam.

To me, that question and framing of issue is simply careless and frivolous. Nothing changes in social space dynamics and public life by riding a taxi or Uber. Public and social spaces are not open to merely private interpretations or truths and reality, and even if they do to the beholder; one’s only choice is really only to abstain from such participation and engagement. This includes the president of the United States or Potus or the president of PAS.

If one holds the faith-position that taking a Grab-car or Uber ride is not permissible, then please do not take a taxi-ride or even get a free ride in someone else’s car. Same is true of medical practitioners; one cannot choose to become one and then state that one cannot treat patients of the opposite sex.

That is always really only ones’ personal choice. It is always a reasonable and legitimate right, guaranteed by the UN. Therefore, please stay at home if one chooses to serve only those one chooses to; and never any outsiders or non-relatives. All social and political space belongs to all human beings.

My honest fear about Act 355

I have written my clear view about Act 355 but maybe most did not read or did not understand my stand. I am against Act 355, and would argue that all moderate Malaysians who form the 68 percent should vote against it. I argued that those concerns are“too little too late”, in my Malaysiakini column.

I would therefore appeal to all MPs from Sabah and Sarawak; please fully understand why the MCA/MIC and Gerakan plus all other components of the BN government, now regret why they did not object to Article 121 (1A), when it was first tabled.

I think even Dr Mahathir Mohamad, if asked today in his wiser moments, would argue that he may have not fully understood the complete dimensions of that amendment in constitutional terms. After all he was only a medical doctor and politicians, but not a social or political philosopher.

As I have argued many times before, if God Almighty want all of us to breathe green air, he would have tainted all air green in colour. Therefore, my argument to all PAS and Umno supporters of Act 355 is that social and public spaces in Malaysia are called secular spaces. What that means is that we do not use any personal or explicit worldview of any one faith, in defining the public morality.

In the public spaces of life, as we have all agreed before, only the Rukunegara defines our life spaces and values.

I rest my case.


KJ JOHN, PhD, was in public service for 32 years having served as a researcher, trainer, and policy adviser to the International Trade and Industry Ministry and the National IT Council (NITC) of the government of Malaysia.
Source : @ Malaysiakini


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