A Summary Of The Pressures Exerted On The Muslim Student Movement In Malaysia
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Prepared by, The Outsiders.
30th March 2002
The world, after the September 11 2001 tradegy in New York and Washington DC and especially the ensuing reactions after that, entered a new phase or world order of where an explicit war of the Western world is waging on the Muslim world, despite the justification of the war against terrorism by the Western propagaters.
What seems to start in the United States itself, the ‘war against terror’ spread globally all the way to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, the Middle East and also into South East Asia especially in Singapore, Phillipines, Indonesia and Malaysia. As a result of this dwipolar conflict, the Muslims, especially and including ‘fundamental’ Muslim countries, societies, organisations or even individuals have been earmarked as the enemy of not only the Western world, but also as ‘The’ enemy of the ‘civillised’ world.
What is meant ‘fundamental’ in this context is that any sincere aspiration of Islam is considered to be extreme, dangerous, militant and terrorist despite many if not all of their approaches to be peaceful, democratic, transparent and abiding by local and international laws. This major confusion has dragged not only the majority of the Western population to percieve Islam in a negative manner but it has also caused certain but powerful elements within the Muslim world to join this ‘war’ on their fellow Muslims. In fact a unique feature of this civilisational and religious conflict between the West and Islam this time around is where Muslims themselves are being provoked, instigated, supported, used and manipulated by the Westerners to fight their fellow Muslim which had never or very seldomly happened before.
The resulting scenario for Islamic or Muslim movement in the world, be it a movement at the international level or at the student level, is one very discriminating to them and very hard on them by the rest of the world.
The wave of Islamic resurgunce in Malaysia has prompted mixed reactions by Muslims and Non-Muslims in the country. Much of the reactions are very much political rather than religious. The consequences are acceptance of Islam as a social, economic and political force by some Non-Muslim which are mostly made up of ethnic Chinese and Indian and the the rejection of Islam as a multidimensional force by some Muslim themselves which the majority are ethnic Malay.
This resurgence of Islam in Malaysia is mostly a result of the efforts made several Islamic movement in Malaysia be it a political movement such as Pan-Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS) or social movement such as Jemaah Islah Malaysia (JIM) and Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (ABIM) or very much both and including educational, intelectual and economic movement. The government also played a role in it, both sincerely and also as a measure to neutralise the increasing influence these movements may have on the general Muslim population in the country.
However, as the momentum of Islamic resurgence seems to gather more steam and strength, the government, especially, saw this as a threat due to very much to political reasons. Islamic movement are then pressured and harassed, their freedoms limited and some of their leaders and supporters are held under various acts such as the Internal Security Acts and charged for crimes they never thought of committing.
The injustice and unconstitutional acts by the government on the Islamic movement is a reflection of their panicking attitude owing to the government leaders various corruptions and mismanagements which was exposed and brought forward partly by the Islamic movement in the country to the masses.
These Islamic movements are constantly being curbed their rights to propagate the right and true message of Islam which its central teaching calls for peace and tolerance, in fact they are being highlighted as extreme and dangerous by some quarters within the government though with limited success.
Student Movement Scenario
University student movement in the country seems to undergo a time like the active era of the 1970s in the past few years. Starting from the anti-Israel demonstration in 1997 followed by the sacking of former Deputy Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim where university students took part in the various gatherings and demonstrations throughout the country to denounce the sacking and demanding justice to be brought forward. Subsequently, it was followed by various demands and urging of the student movements such as the memorandum to free the National Higher Education Providance Fund (PTPTN) from the 4% interests and the Anti-ISA Student Movement (GMMI) and including the many memorandums towards several foreign embassies in Kuala Lumpur notably to the United States Embassy regarding many international issues.
These university student movement such as the Federation of Islamic Student of Malaysia (GAMIS), National Student Action Front (BBMN) and the GMMI also won the heart and mind of the society as a very responsive, intelectual and brave student and societal movement defending the rights of the society especially the poor, under-privillege, disriminated people and contributing to national development.
However these movement were put to a temporary check when the government launch a massive crackdown and manhunt on the student movements and their leaders which heighted with the arrest of two student activist and leader under the Internal Security Acts (ISA) in mid-2001. Students were indiscreetly expelled from their universities and colleges, vocal and influential student societies were either closed down or frozen their activities and are labelled as militants and extremists.
All this were done heavy-handedly, either by using current repressive laws such as the University and University College Acts (AUKU) on the students or without much cosideration to the law at all. At the same time, these students were denied their rights to even defend themselves especially in the university courtrooms. To make things worse, the government controlled and regulated media was used to paint a negative picture on these students so as to cast a fear on their fellow students and the society at large on these student movements.
GAMIS were potrayed as a dangerous underground and illegal movement, the Islamic Student Society of University of Science of Malaysia (USM) were frozen, the Islamic Student Society of University of Technology of Malaysia (UTM) and University of Technology of MARA (UiTM) were closed down and several other student societies received warnings and threats form their respective universities. On top of that, several university Vice Cancelor/Rector/President which were reluctant to act on their students were criticised in the media and Parliaments.
Campus elections throughout the country in late 2001 were also marred with biased and misconduct of the university officials suppoting certain student group which is seen as positive towards the government while the rest, especially Islamic student group were unjustly treated.
It is evidence here that some quarters especially certain quarters in the government and university are unhappy with the resurgence of the Islamic student movement in the country. It is sad that these people are Muslims themselves who claim to be the saviour of Islam. The real reason is that these Islamic student movements alongside other political and societal movement in the country is exposing their corruption and mismanagement of the country.