Connect with us

Southeast Asia

Can Indonesia’s Humanitarian Islam inspire a Hindu nationalist equivalent?

Published

on

There’s a potential silver lining in Hindu nationalism’s endorsement of Indonesia’s Humanitarian Islam. That is if the approval produces a Hindu equivalent.

At first glance, Hindu nationalist Ram Madhav’s call on Indian Muslims to embrace one, if not the world’s most moderate expression of Islam, seems patronising and out of step.

Mr. Madhav is a member of the executive of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), an almost century-old militant right-wing Hindu nationalist paramilitary volunteer organisation; former national secretary-general of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP); and a close associate of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In an essay published by Open, an Indian current affairs weekly, Mr. Madhav, widely viewed as a moderate among Hindu nationalists, called on Indian Muslims to adopt a moderate form of Islam propagated and practiced by Nahdlatul Ulama, the world and Indonesia’s largest Muslim civil society movement.

Nahdlatul Ulama advocates reform of what it calls “obsolete” and “problematic” elements of Islamic law, including those that encourage segregation, discrimination, and/or violence towards anyone perceived to be a non-Muslim.

Humanitarian Islam further recognises equal rights for Muslims and non-Muslims, unrestricted acceptance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and inter-faith relations based on shared common values.

If adopted by Mr. Madhav’s RSS and BJP, it would be an approach that would contribute to the restoration of a semblance of societal harmony in India and help halt the backsliding of the country’s democracy.

Several Nahdlatul Ulama-associated bodies welcomed Mr. Madhav’s endorsement “as an opportunity to place humanitarianism at the heart of interaction between different faith groups — regardless of religion and across different sectors of society, ranging from mass organizations to governments — in order to promote peaceful coexistence and enshrine equal rights before the law.”

Mr. Madhav’s essay appeared against the backdrop of mounting Hindu-Muslim communal violence that critics believe is fuelled by the BJP and RSS’s anti-Muslim rhetoric and policies. Muslims account for 14 per cent of India’s 1.4 billion population.

Last week, the Delhi working-class neighbourhood of Jahangirpuri witnessed some of the latest incidents. Riots erupted when participants in a Hindu procession allegedly brandished weapons and chanted anti-Muslim slogans as they passed through predominantly Muslim areas. “There was chaos,” said Sudarshan Prasad, a 71-year-old Hindu. I’ve always lived here in peace. This has not happened in the last 40 years.”

Days later, authorities imposed a curfew and cut off Internet connections in an area of Jodhpur, the capital of northern India’s Rajasthan state, following altercations between the Hindu and Muslim communities. The crackdown occurred as Muslims celebrated Eid al Fitr, the holiday at the end of Ramadan, and Hindus commemorated the festival of Parshuram Jayanti.

At about the same time, tension was building in the state of Maharashtra, home to India’s financial capital Mumbai, after Hindu leaders demanded that Muslims remove loudspeakers from their mosques because the call to prayer constitutes noise pollution.

Bucking the trend, one Hindu village in the state gifted a loudspeaker to the mosque in a neighbouring Muslim hamlet as a gesture of harmony.

In his essay. Mr. Madhav insisted that the RSS had distanced itself from “violent language and talk of annihilation of an entire community” that he termed “un-Hindu.”

Even so, Mr. Madhav went on to say that “the Indian social leadership needs to stand up to the forces of hatred and violence by invoking peace, inclusive and a nation-first narrative. India’s narrative of the decade should be ‘it’s the economy, stupid.’ The onus lies on all of us.”

In an interview with the author, Mr. Madhav insisted that Hinduism was ‘”very inclusive and very open.” He asserted that no “ideological or philosophical movement that proclaims exclusivity” exists in Hinduism.

Mr. Madhav argued further that there was no difference between Hinduism and Hindutava, the Hindu nationalism of the BJP, and the RSS. However, he conceded that “when confronted with very hardline things like Wahhabi Islam, it created some kind of a reaction in some sections, possibly, but Hindutva is not about that. Hindutava is about core Hindu values.”

Mr. Madhav’s reference to Wahhabism was to a Saudi-inspired austere, ultra-conservative, and supremacist interpretation of Islam.

Mr. Madhav acknowledged that Hindu-Muslim tensions would undermine Indian efforts to ensure that the country witnesses the kind of transformative economic growth that China experienced in the 1980s.

Asserting that the leadership of Indian Muslims, the world’s third-largest Muslim community and its biggest Muslim minority, adhered to Wahhabism, Mr. Madam wrote that violent elements, whether “Muslim or Hindu, do not and should not represent our respective mainstream communities.”

Mr. Madhav suggested that the hijab, a head covering worn by a large number of non-Wahhabi Muslim women, signalled belief in Wahhabism’s purported purpose of pitting Muslims against non-Muslims. “A more inclusive and humanitarian Islam on the lines of the one promoted by organisations like Nahdlatul Ulama…must be the way forward for them,” Mr. Madhav wrote.

Many of Nahdlatul Ulama’s women activists and followers sport a hijab while embracing the concept of Humanitarian Islam.

In the interview, Mr. Madhav suggested that his reference to the hijab was related to a dispute over the headdress after the BJP-governed state of Karnataka banned it in schools because it violated the school uniform. A court later upheld the ban.

“In India, there is no restriction for the hijab. In marketplaces, private gatherings, public moments, everywhere, those who want to wear a hijab will wear it. Only when you insist that even in going to a school, I have to violate the school discipline because this is my religion’s mandate, I call that Wahhabi influence,” Mr. Madhav said.

In 2020, Mr. Madhav first met with senior Nahdlatul Ulama leaders on the sidelines of an executive committee meeting of the conservative Centrist Democratic International (CDI), the world’s largest alliance of political parties, hosted in the Javan city of Jogjakarta by the Indonesian movement’s political party, National Awakening Party (PKB). Mr. Madhav attended the CDI meeting as an observer.

Some European and American officials privately hope that increased engagement with India in response to the war in Ukraine and big power rivalry in the Indo-Pacific will strengthen the hand of the more moderate wing of the BJP and the RSS.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has invited Mr. Modi to attend a summit in June of the Group of 7 (G-7) in the Bavarian Alps. The G-7 groups Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain, and the United States.

Mr. Madhav’s embrace of Humanitarian Islam and Nahdlatul Ulama’s engagement hark back to notions of an Indianized civilizational sphere that encompassed South and Southeast Asia for nearly fifteen centuries before the arrival of China, Europe, and Islam in the region.

In a gesture at a time when religious and cultural sites have been at the centre of disputes and conflict in India and elsewhere, Indonesia agreed in February to open Prambanan Temple and Borobudur Temple in Java to worship by Hindus and Buddhists. The sites had been mainly closed for decades for worship.

In the interview, Mr. Madhav said he wished to avoid “loaded phrases” like an Indosphere stretching across Asia’s parts. However, “I would say that Eastern civilizations (and) Eastern religions all share the same civilizational value system.” Mr. Madhav referenced Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, and “an Islam with an Eastern value system like Indonesian Islam.”

Mr. Madhav suggested that “maybe we all can stand up and talk about these values…commit ourselves to those values including respect for pluralism, inclusivity, and commitment to the nation-state idea, (and) patriotism… If something can be worked out jointly, we would be definitely happy to do that.”

Dr. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog, a book with the same title, Comparative Political Transitions between Southeast Asia and the Middle East and North Africa, co-authored with Dr. Teresita Cruz-Del Rosario and three forthcoming books, Shifting Sands, Essays on Sports and Politics in the Middle East and North Africaas well as Creating Frankenstein: The Saudi Export of Ultra-conservatism and China and the Middle East: Venturing into the Maelstrom.

Continue Reading
Comments

Southeast Asia

Reclaiming our future

Published

on

The Asia-Pacific region is at a crossroads today – to further breakdown or breakthrough to a greener, better, safer future.

Since the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) was established in 1947, the region has made extraordinary progress, emerging as a pacesetter of global economic growth that has lifted millions out of poverty.

Yet, as ESCAP celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, we find ourselves facing our biggest shared test on the back of cascading and overlapping impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, raging conflicts and the climate crisis.  

Few have escaped the effects of the pandemic, with 85 million people pushed back into extreme poverty, millions more losing their jobs or livelihoods, and a generation of children and young people missing precious time for education and training.

As the pandemic surges and ebbs across countries, the world continues to face the grim implications of failing to keep the temperature increase below 1.5°C – and of continuing to degrade the natural environment. Throughout 2021 and 2022, countries across Asia and the Pacific were again battered by a relentless sequence of natural disasters, with climate change increasing their frequency and intensity.

More recently, the rapidly evolving crisis in Ukraine will have wide-ranging socioeconomic impacts, with higher prices for fuel and food increasing food insecurity and hunger across the region.

Rapid economic growth in Asia and the Pacific has come at a heavy price, and the convergence of these three crises have exposed the fault lines in a very short time. Unfortunately, those hardest hit are those with the fewest resources to endure the hardship. This disproportionate pressure on the poor and most vulnerable is deepening and widening inequalities in both income and opportunities.

The situation is critical. Many communities are close to tipping points beyond which it will be impossible to recover. But it is not too late.

The region is dynamic and adaptable.

In this richer yet riskier world, we need more crisis-prepared policies to protect our most vulnerable populations and shift the Asia-Pacific region back on course to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals as the target year of 2030 comes closer — our analysis shows that we are already 35 years behind and will only attain the Goals in 2065.

To do so, we must protect people and the planet, exploit digital opportunities, trade and invest together, raise financial resources and manage our debt.

The first task for governments must be to defend the most vulnerable groups – by strengthening health and universal social protection systems. At the same time, governments, civil society and the private sector should be acting to conserve our precious planet and mitigate and adapt to climate change while defending people from the devastation of natural disasters.

For many measures, governments can exploit technological innovations. Human activities are steadily becoming “digital by default.” To turn the digital divide into a digital dividend, governments should encourage more robust and extensive digital infrastructure and improve access along with the necessary education and training to enhance knowledge-intensive internet use.

Much of the investment for services will rely on sustainable economic growth, fueled by equitable international trade and foreign direct investment (FDI). The region is now the largest source and recipient of global FDI flows, which is especially important in a pandemic recovery environment of fiscal tightness.

While trade links have evolved into a complex noodle bowl of bilateral and regional agreements, there is ample scope to further lower trade and investment transaction costs through simplified procedures, digitalization and climate-smart strategies. Such changes are proving to be profitable business strategies. For example, full digital facilitation could cut average trade costs by more than 13 per cent.

Governments can create sufficient fiscal space to allow for greater investment in sustainable development. Additional financial resources can be raised through progressive tax reforms, innovative financing instruments and more effective debt management. Instruments such as green bonds or sustainability bonds, and arranging debt swaps for development, could have the highest impacts on inclusivity and sustainability.

Significant efforts need to be made to anticipate what lies ahead. In everything we do, we must listen to and work with both young and old, fostering intergenerational solidarity. And women must be at the centre of crisis-prepared policy action.

This week the Commission is expected to agree on a common agenda for sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific, pinning the aspirations of the region on moving forward together by learning from and working with each other.

In the past seven-and-a-half decades, ESCAP has been a vital source of know-how and support for the governments and peoples of Asia and the Pacific. We remain ready to serve in the implementation of this common agenda.

To quote United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, “the choices we make, or fail to make today, will shape our future. We will not have this chance again.”

Continue Reading

Southeast Asia

Return of the Marcos and Great-Power Competition

Published

on

PNA photo by Joey O. Razon

Ferdinand Marcos Jr., more commonly known as “Bongbong,” won an outright majority in the recent presidential election in the Philippines. Son and name-bearer of former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos paved the way for the country’s most notorious political dynasty’s shocking return to power. In the words of Filipino columnist Benjamin Pimentel, “It’s as if Kylo Ren emerged and the Empire is back in power.”

In announcing his desire to work for all people, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the world should judge him based on his presidency, not his family’s past.

“To those who voted for Bongbong, and those who did not, it is his promise to be a president for all Filipinos. To seek common ground across political divides, and to work together to unite the nation.” saidVictor Rodriguez, spokesperson for Marcos, in a statement.

However, the pragmatic words seem to have failed to sway the opposition as he faces countless accusations of election irregularities. Their opponents are horrified by Marcos’ brazen attempt to reinvent historical narratives from his family’s era in power. A protest against Marcos was staged by approximately 400 people outside the election commission on 10th May, primarily by students.

Human rights group Karapatan urged Filipinos to reject Marcos’ new presidency, which it sees as a product of lies and disinformation designed “to deodorise the Marcoses’ detestable image”.

HISTORY OF MARCOS: People Power” Uprising

Ferdinand Marcos Jr is not a new name in the Philippines’ political scenario. The “bloodless revolution” of 1986 in the Philippines that ousted the infamous dictator Ferdinand Marcos, was none other than Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s father.

The world leaders at the time praised the mass demonstration after hundreds of thousands marched along EDSA streets to protest a fraudulent election. Through the People Power” Uprising, Filipinos proved that a peaceful uprising can challenge a ruthless dictatorship and overthrow military rule.

Marcos Jr and his family escaped to Hawaii following the rebellion and after his return to the Philippines in 1991, Marcos Jr served in congress and the senate. With his return to the Malacañang Palace in 2022, the world anxiously watches whether history will repeat itself or democracy will prevail as Marcos Jr. relentlessly defends his father’s legacy, refusing to apologise or acknowledge the atrocities, plunder, cronyism, and extravagant living, which resulted in billions of dollars of state wealth disappearing during the dictatorship.

MARCOS JR’S FOREIGN POLICY: Continuity or Change?

Considering his political alignment with Rodrigo Duterte, the outgoing President, who has been exceedingly vocal about his anti-Washington, pro-China stance, it is no secret Marcos Jr. favours Beijing. According to Richard Heydarian, a South China Sea observer and professor of political science, “Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. is the only candidate who has signalled almost perfect continuity with the incumbent populist pro-China president in Malacañang.”

However, Marcos Jr seems to be a President that might play the game more strategically compared to his successor. Among Marcos’s many accolades for his father, one was maintaining a strong security alliance with Washington. Even though, he is politically aligned with Duterte who sought to pivot away from the United States and towards China, Marcos will seek a balancing act. Philippines under Marcos will continue engaging with China, in-line with Duterte’s Pro-China Policy but at the same time will engage, and even bolster a closer tie with the USA, to safeguard Philippines’ sovereignty amidst an aggressively rising China.

When asked if he would ask the American’s help in dealing with China, Marcos Jr said, “No. The problem is between China and us. If the Americans come in, it’s bound to fail because you are putting the two protagonists together.” This statement shows a sense of maturity and solid understanding of the ground realties of the region. Marcos Jr. seems to be the President that keeps his country’s national interest at the very core of all his decisions. He understands how easy it is for a small country to be stuck in the middle of a great-power competition, and that more often and not, it harms the small country’s interests. He envisions Manila as neither heavily dependent on Washington for its security needs nor become a pawn in China’s greater geopolitical ambitions. He wants to have an independent foreign policy, regardless of deepening U.S.-Chinese competition. One that predominantly benefits his country, Philippines.

In contrast to Duterte, Marcos Jr has a very warm and embracing approach towards the USA. Being treaty allies, Marcos Jr refers to their alliance as “a very important one.” He maintained that the alliance “has stood us in good stead for over a hundred years and that will never disappear from the Philippine psyche, the idea and the memory of what the United States did for us and fought with us in the last war.”

Marcos Jr seems to be a realist who understands that in International Politics, states must “engage whenever possible, and contain wherever necessary.” On asked about Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea, he argued that “Philippines will not cede any one square inch to any country, particularly China, but will continue to engage and work on our national interest.”

To summarise, Marcos will, in all probability, modify Duterte’s foreign policy in a way that maximizes the strategic benefits for the Philippines and avoids confrontation with the USA and China.

Continue Reading

Southeast Asia

President Ho Chi Minh’s reflections about international peace

Published

on

President Ho Chi Minh had a dissimilar way of approaching international peace, and he held a view that the way western nations look into revolution and resurgence, particularly in colonial era, was different from what the people aspired. He took note of developments in colonial societies particularly when Turkish women were protesting against the invasion of Western nations and imperialism, and referred to Indian women protests against British domination way back in 1912. In fact, writing way back in 1918, he stated that the defence of India act was the suppression of genuine domestic grievances because it provided the right to arrest and detain suspected Indians. He was always very supportive of the workers and peasants’ movement across the world.

While congratulating the first Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru on organising the Asian relations conference, he stated that China and India were the big brothers of Vietnam and the most ancient civilizations.  Writing way back in March 25th 1947, he opined that solidarity will make the three countries the mightiest defenders forwards peace and democracy. He argued that Vietnam was aspiring for unification and independence, and hoped that the Asian countries will come to their support. He stated that it is pertinent for the neighbours to have friendly relations, and alluding to the five principles (Panchsheela) of Nehru-Chau Enlai joint statement, he added that the five major principles which were enlisted in the joint statement between China and India, and Myanmar and China need to be replicated in the larger Asian context.

After the conclusion of the war with French in 1954, he clearly stated that the major challenges for Vietnam was proper implementation of the Geneva accords and sustaining the economy to upgrade the living standards of the people of Vietnam. Responding to a question asked by a journalist related to Geneva accords implementation in Vietnam, he stated that France being a major country and a colonial power, it is pertinent that the ceasefire agreement is implemented fully and this will ensure trust between the signatories. It is also important that scrupulousness in such kind of agreement so as to bring about peace and tranquillity.

He had time and again alluded to the five Panchsheela principles whenever he was giving any interview to the journalists and scholars. He clearly stated that there is need to respect sovereignty and territorial integrity, refrain from violation of each other’s territorial borders, non-interference in internal affairs, equal treatment for mutual benefits and peaceful coexistence. He opined that taking inspiration from India-China agreement, Vietnam would be willing to implement a similar kind of five principles with other countries, primarily Cambodia and Laos. Related to the illegal occupation of Goa by Portugal, he criticized the illegal occupation of Goa by Portuguese and the support that the US has provided to Portugal for continuing illegal occupation.

He talked about solidarity among Asian and African people and stated that for peace to exist the Geneva agreement should be implemented in full. After the first Indochina war, he stated that it is important that the peace as per the provisions of Panchsheela should be implemented at all levels. He has always alluded to Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi while talking about peace, clearly demarcating the role of culture and religion in maintaining peace. He was clearly against western imperialism and occupation of territories by force by any major power. He was also very clear and in one of the letters written on the eve of an interview given to New Delhi people in India, he clearly specified that the situation of world development particularly after the independence of many developing countries was beneficial for the peace movement. He stated that more than 1200 million Asian African people were in the line of peaceful forces and these people were liberated including those in erstwhile Soviet Union and other socialist countries. He lauded the role played by Asian African countries in peace protection and always supported fight against colonialism and Asian people’s solidarity. He was completely against military race, prohibition against nuclear weapons and hydrogen bomb, dismissing aggressive military forces and demolishment of military bases in foreign countries.

His views with regard to arms reduction and working together to reduce the scourge of nuclear bomb were very specific. While responding to the welcome address during the banquet dinner hosted by president of India Rajendra Prasad in 1958, he stated that “the pugnacious forces has been conspiring to push the mankind to the destruction of war. They are ceaselessly fighting to keep and consoled at peace, India made a big contribution. Peaceful forces are more powerful able to prevent the war but the pugnacious forces do not give up their conspiracy to wage their war.” He was really appreciative of any of the peace initiatives undertaken by any country and he has repeatedly thanked international committee which was chaired by India for supervising and controlling Geneva accord implementation in Vietnam.

President Ho Chi Minh was appreciative of the fact that the essence of Buddhism and culture would strengthen the spirit of love towards the country, national solidarity, and bring about cultural essence which will bring closer the eastern and western cultures. He stated that in terms of Buddhism the core philosophy is peace and the construction of the country.

President Ho Chi Minh was specifically influenced by Buddhism and he had stated that the people should practice the life of holy learning and Buddhist simplicity. Even though president Ho Chi Minh did not write and reflected about Buddhism but his life and career were intertwined with the core philosophy of Buddhism. He was very much interested in implementing the idea of peaceful humanity under Buddhism and ushering in Buddhist consciousness in every society. Ho Chi Minh had an idea that the human affection would help in self-improving human ethics and closer bonding with a larger population. Ho Chi Minh’s ideology included mercy, non-egoism, altruism, self-improvement, exercise of moral ethics, and solidarity spirit among masses. The acknowledgement of Buddhism as the core fundamental of life was slowly acknowledged by the Vietnamese people too and as per Ho Chi Minh, he had acquired the Buddhist ideas from family, national tradition, and the Buddhist way for liberating the country.

Taken into cognizance President Ho Chi Minh objective of peace, he was very much concerned with regard to ethics, solidarity, guaranteeing supreme benefits of the nation, bestowing rights and benefits to the people and ingrained self-consciousness which would bring about sincere affectionate, straightforward introspection. This will help in self-criticizing and unifying characters for the larger benefit of the society. He stated that the national solidarity should be in Sync with the international solidarity. In this context it is important to reflect on the Russia Ukraine crisis and he has been very instrumental in referring to Mahatma Gandhi for his approach towards peace and self-suffering. However, Ho Chi Minh was very attached to this concept of abhorrence of repression of the people and was very critical of any kind of imperialism which would subdue people from realising their ambitions and goals. Ukraine crisis also shows a new kind of geopolitics which will define the world order but he was also critical of the fact that international solidarity should be progressive and aspire for a long-lasting peace.

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

South Asia44 mins ago

Economic And Political Reform Is Needed In Sri Lanka, Not State Violence

Sri Lanka’s worst economic crisis since independence has highlighted years of political and economic mismanagement and a reliance on state-sanctioned...

Economy3 hours ago

The Waning Supremacy of the Petrodollar Economy

Since the 1970s, the US dollar has been the undisputed reserve currency around the globe. Agreements with Saudi Arabia (and...

Economy5 hours ago

Chinese Maritime Strategy: Further Expansion and Progress

The Belt and Road Initiative represents a shift in China’s global perspective as well as an update to its role...

Health & Wellness7 hours ago

World’s richest countries damaging child health worldwide

Over-consumption in the world’s richest countries is creating unhealthy, dangerous, and toxic conditions for children globally, according to a new...

New Social Compact9 hours ago

Open and Closed: From Russia to China to America, the Largest Societies Are Pushing Their Limits

Today we are seeing the largest nations in the world pushing their limits. Open societies are pushing the limits of...

World News13 hours ago

UNICEF urges leaders to keep schools safe following deadly Texas shooting

Governments must take greater action to ensure school remains a safe place for boys and girls, the head of the...

Americas15 hours ago

The Despair of American Youths under an Overly ‘Critical Society’

A recent tragic incident in the United States has stunned the world. This incident, is not merely “domestic terrorism”, but...

Trending