Prime Minister Najib Razak said Malaysia has proven that its system of governance, based on moderate Islam, has worked and can be a good model for other countries in the world to emulate, especially Islamic countries.
He said in view of what was taking place in the world today, it was important to ensure that the system of administration adopted was working.
The key consideration, he said, was that “if you have a system, would it work to produce good and effective governance?”
No one should blame Najib for being overly excited to position Malaysia as a model Muslim nation amidst the socio-political chaos in some Muslim countries. Oddly, Malaysia has been using the Middle East as an example in managing its own Islamic affairs.
Moreover, the Muslim community has been going through the 'Arabisation' process for decades since the 1980's. The government had sent a few hundred thousands students to receive their higher/tertiary/Islamic education in several Middle Eastern countries such as Egypt, Jordan, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain etc. Thousands of them are still being send there to receive their education.
On the other hand, how many Middle Eastern students are studying in Malaysia? How influential is Malaysia among the Middle Eastern governments or regimes?
Najib should be cautioned not to use the word 'moderate' too loosely. How can Malaysia be a moderate Muslim nation if Shiite followers are banned in the country? Islam in Malaysia is heavily regulated and controlled by the government. Islam in Malaysia has become a state-led religion. Islam is not only politically intertwined but it has been racialised too. Muslim rights are synonymous to Malay supremacy. In fact, Najib has suggested that Islam cannot be seen as an equal to other religions.
How can Malaysia be a moderate Muslim country if the word 'Allah' can be used by others to describe god when the term has been widely used by Christians in Arab countries freely?
How can Malaysia become a model nation when the freedom of press is being curtailed, oppressive laws such as ISA are still being used to detain government critics or when separation of power is being compromised?
It is pertinent for the PM to ask himself the same question: does the Malaysian system produces good and effective governance?
The answer lies in the integrity, capacity and capability of the Malaysian public institutions or civil service. The main problem in this country is the inability of our public institutions/government linked companies/private companies to implement policies and to deliver effectively. Remember the PKFZ, Bakun Dam, 10 battle ships, Cyberjaya, Proton, Perwaja and the list goes on.
What about the capacity and integrity of our sacred institutions such as the police force, judiciary, anti-corruption agency, election commission, educational institutions and others?
By offering Malaysia as a model Muslim nation to be emulated the PM is giving others and the world an impression that we have already reached our peak and a huge success story.
The fact is Malaysia is actually trailing behind some of the very best in the region and is slowing losing our comparative advantage over the newly emerging economies too.
It is time for PM Najib to reach out to the best in the country, regardless of race or religion, to help his administration deliver good and efficient governance.
Otherwise, the political upheaval in several Muslim nations may actually produce more inertia and good things when the dust settles compared to Malaysia.
This is not the time to blow our own trumpet. We should accept the fact that Malaysia is still a work in progress.