Posts Tagged ‘Beyond the wall’

THE 14th General Election has come and gone. It is a watershed in our country’s political history, and the people of Malaysia have decided. The Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition is forming the new government.

The leaders of the new government would now be getting down to the brass tacks of governing the country and serving the people.

Perhaps the mood can be summed up by an old Lat cartoon. Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was depicted using a loudspeaker calling out people who were celebrating – “O.K. EVERYBODY! … GET BACK TO WORK!”

There is so much to do, so much to catch up on the socio-economic development of the country, so much to investigate, so much to improve and fix on the delivery and efficiency of some public services. And so much to heal and reconcile.

Elected winners from across the political divide should not display any arrogance but humility and magnanimity, they should not provoke or instigate others but close ranks and work together for a better Malaysia. Let the court decide on the justice to be meted out to those who are guilty of any crime.

The old government had been judged on its performance, governance and policies, likewise, the new one shall be judged by the delivery of its promises and manifesto and governance. The first 100 days would be a real test on addressing the 10 promises and other stated commitments of the new government.

It was unfortunate that many destructive social issues such as drug abuse, organised crime, human trafficking, juvenile delinquency, domestic violence and loan sharking, were not brought up during the campaign period.

As a think-tank analyst who has witnessed many elections and studied elections and conflicts in many countries, I am concerned about the temptations of power, especially for the first timers in high positions such as ministers. As the saying goes “power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

I am aware that there are already some checks and balances in the system and more are to be put in place by the new government (such as on the role of the attorney-general), but it is never enough and the best form of checks and balances is educating people on the pitfalls of power and governance. This article should be seen in this light as contributing to such an awareness. It is not targeting any leaders in the new government or is it suggesting that any of them would be corrupt.

The key qualities of the leaders needed to govern our country, or any country for that matter, look simple enough – integrity, fairness, wisdom and humility.

First, a leader must have integrity. This is non-negotiable. Without it, the corruption of power and greed would consume a leader quickly.

A leader must be fair to all. Without justice, there would be conflicts and no lasting peace.

A leader must be wise. Having wisdom is more important than being smart and it can only come with age and the right kind of experience of learning from making honest mistakes and achievements. New leaders must also learn how to manage the civil service and its bureaucracy and how to formulate policies with them to ensure effective implementation and delivery.

Humility, another important quality, demonstrates the inner strength, honesty and maturity of a leader. An arrogant leader rarely learns anything and tends to be detached from the very people he or she claims to represent.

Here is a simple message from the late Nelson Mandela, a global icon of humanity, based on extracts from an interview by Oprah Winfrey in 2000, a year after he willingly stepped down as president of the new South Africa.

“The first thing is, to be honest with yourself, you can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself. And one of the most important weapons in changing yourself is to recognise that peace, I mean people everywhere in the world want peace.

“I was in the company of great men, indeed. Some of them are more qualified, more talented than I am. To sit down with them, to exchange views was one of the most revealing and enriching experiences I have. It fortified your morality. It gave you the courage to do better than your best.

“Anybody, who changes his principles depending on whom he is dealing with, that is not a man who can lead the nation. You have a limited time to stay on Earth. You must try and use that period for the purpose of transforming your country into what you desire it to be. Democratic, non-racial, non-sexist country.

“Humility is one of the most important qualities which you must have because if you are humble, if you make people realise that you are no threat to them, then people will embrace you, they will listen to you.”

The country is now sailing in unchartered waters with a reinforced “ship”, new “crew” and a new “engine”. While we should support and give the leaders of the new government an opportunity to deliver on their promises, they must be constantly reminded that they were elected to serve the people and public interest must always come first.

The basic rights of the people must be protected and enhanced. National unity based on diversity must be promoted. Social issues must be addressed. The main priority now is on bread and butter issues such as increasing income generation for all, reducing the cost of living, improving public services and looking after the welfare of the people of all races.

The writer is the CEO of a social enterprise Asian Heritage Museum (AHM), the tenant and custodian of the iconic heritage site Carcosa Seri Negara (CSN), where the “Road to Independence” exhibition is being held. AHM plans to set up a peace museum at Carcosa and art, cultural and nature centre at Seri Negara and make CSN a fascinating and iconic tourism destination. Comments:



Posted: May 17, 2018 in Uncategorized

THE coming general election is developing to be a hotly contested one and the results may be driven by one or more “black swan” incidents.

A “black swan” incident, which may include a speech or action from an influential personality or a group or a new policy or specific action by the federal or a state government or the opposition, is an unexpected and seemingly insignificant event but which may create a “spark” and turn the tide in favour or against the players concerned and may even determine the outcome of the election.

An example of a “black swan” incident was the abolition of the district status and withdrawal of government services by the then Sabah government led by Harris Salleh, meted out to the Tambunan constituency of Joseph Pairin Kitingan after he left the ruling Parti Berjaya and won the by-election as an independent in December 1984. This injustice created a public backlash and the newly formed PBS led by Pairin managed to win the April 1985 state election against the odds and formed the state government with the support of the federal government.

All politicians and key players for the election should be careful or cautious of what they say or do and not unwittingly create a “black swan” which may develop into an uncontrollable and lose-lose scenario for the coalition they represent. But it is often difficult to foresee a “black swan”, hence its name.

The new opposition alliance of Pakatan Harapan appears to be at its strongest compared to previous elections and it is now being led by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who headed the ruling party and ruled the country for 22 years.

The ruling Barisan Nasional, led by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak, is also strong. Most ruling parties can count on the power of incumbency and patronage, an important factor that tends to be underestimated.

BN, for now, appears to be more united and better organised than PH.

A “clash of the titans” appears on the horizon with both sides digging in and trying hard to consolidate their support with voters.

To the credit of both BN and PH, all past elections have been relatively peaceful, except for a brief period in 1969, reflecting a degree of maturity rare in many developing countries.

The targets of both BN and PH would be on the undecided voters or fence sitters, who may wait till the last minute before deciding who to vote for. It would be the decision of this segment that will determine the final outcome.

The number of eligible but unregistered voters, over 3 million, is a cause of concern and if you are one of them, it may not be too late to register at the post office. Apathy and the refusal to exercise the democratic right to vote is a grave moral sin and unregistered voters would have no one to blame except themselves if the duly elected government were to do things later that they do not like.

Both BN and PH are confident of victory and both have used various surveys and analyses in their favour to justify their optimism.

BN is counting on its incumbency in government, macro-economic performance and growth, strong currency, relative peace and liberal investment policies. BN is also exposing alleged abuses and scandals of PH state governments, especially in Penang, and the federal government during Mahathir’s premiership.

PH is counting on a formidable Mahathir to lead the charge, highlighting the alleged scandals of the federal government, the high cost of living and other issues.

The election issues can be broadly categorised as:
» Bread and butter issues, such as cost and ease of living, employment, financial incentives, health and transport;
» Emotional ones, both positive emotional issues such as patriotism and national unity and negative ones such as playing the race or religious card; and
» Alleged scandals on both sides

To avoid triggering a black swan and a backlash, it would be better if politicians were to play up the positive emotional issues and to explain clearly how their policies and programmes can benefit the people, especially the poor. Our voters, especially the youth, are better informed in the age of the internet and social media and it would be better to be honest and straightforward to win hearts and minds.

An important area often taken for granted by politicians is the history of the country, especially the struggle of our people for Merdeka (Independence). It is sad that many of our elected representatives do not seem interested to promote the multiracial struggle for Merdeka as a successful case of “unity in diversity” achieving a historical watershed and a continuing basis for our national unity. It is high time that they change such an attitude. A golden chance now exists for them to visit the Jalan Merdeka (Road to Independence) exhibition being held at Carcosa Seri Negara until March 31, from 9am to 6pm every day. Entrance is free.

The moment of truth would come soon as the next election must be called by June 24.

Some analysts have also written about the emergence of a new and ambitious “Third Force”, perhaps to even form the government in some states and be a king maker in the formation of the next federal government. Such an analysis can be misleading as it suggests that this Third Force is well organised, credible and large but such an entity does not seem to exist, at least for now.

A more likely scenario, especially if there is a hung Parliament, may be the emergence of an honest, wise and responsible “white knight”, acceptable to all stakeholders as a peacemaker and unifier to broker a workable deal for the sake of the country. The exact power formula is anyone’s guess and would also depend on the outcome of the general election.

The writer is a think-tank analyst and CEO of social enterprise Asian Heritage Museum, involved in organising a patriotic and pro-national unity Jalan Merdeka exhibition at the historical site of Carcosa Seri Negara.

IN three earlier articles about Donald Trump after he was elected president of the United States, I had predicted that he would be forced to resign or be impeached and would not last a full term, hopefully before he wrought more havoc to America and the world.

His latest outrageous move to officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in defiance of the global community, undermining all peace initiatives on the Palestinian issue, knowingly inflaming the Middle East and the Muslim world, demonstrating the naked biasness of the US government in favour of Israel, exposing its pretence of being a fair and honest broker and deliberately prolonging what is probably one of the longest conflicts in modern history.

Trump is the poster boy of warmongers and right-wing extremism in America and he seems to be proud of this status.

The mishandling of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the gross injustices suffered by the Palestinians, first by being thrown out of their own homeland and then those who remained have been treated as second-class citizens in an apartheid-like system, has been the cause celebre used by Muslim extremists from around the world to propagate their violent ideology, recruit disenchanted Muslim youths and justify terrorism and cruel acts on innocent people. It is also used to justify the “clash of civilisations” of Islam versus Christianity rather than Islam versus Judaism. Why?

The likes of IS have been largely defeated in the battlefields and the “caliphate” they used to control in Syria and Iraq. Many have gone underground or returned to their countries of origin to become lone wolves or sleeper cells, planning to inflict terror and harm on people as a sick way of revenge and taking out their anger on others.

If one looks at the issue objectively, the main beneficiary of Muslim extremism and its frequent clashes with the Christian world is Zionist Israel. Zionism is a racist and fascist ideology, no different at its core from Nazism and it undermines the image of Judaism just like Muslim extremism undermines the image of Islam. Many Jews around the world are actually opposed to Zionism. The extremist Jews (Zionists) are no different from the extremist Muslims and extremist Christians. The extremists of all religions, races and nationalities actually have a lot in common although they profess to hate each other. All extremists do not belong to the civilised world and they should be kicked out of this planet.

Some analysts wonder why Muslim terrorism rarely strikes in the heart of Zionism in Israel and instead is mostly targeted at the Christian world.
There have been many reports to suggest that the two major Muslim extremist organisations, Al Qaeda and IS, were actually funded, at least initially, by Israeli intelligence to cause havoc to the rest of the world and to undermine both Islam and Christianity.

In most crime scene investigations, suspicion for the hidden hand behind, say a murder, is likely to be the beneficiary of such a murder.
Therefore, if Israeli intelligence is behind and secretly promoting Muslim extremism, it can be concluded that Muslim extremists in reality, are doing a favour for Zionist Israel and undermining the image of Islam as a religion of peace.

Even before he was elected, Trump has shown his rabid anti-Muslim stance in every possible way. The Muslims are a discriminated minority in the US and are peace loving and patriotic citizens. Yet, Trump has been targeting them and making them scapegoats for the social ills in the US like what Hitler did to the Jews.
He seems to be deliberately provoking Muslims to retaliate or fight back violently and if they do that, he would then use it to justify his self-fulfilling prophecy that all Muslims are uncivilised or terrorists. It’s like the storyline in the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest where inhabitants of a mental institution were mistreated. When they retaliated, it was used to justify the self-fulfilling prophecy that they were violent and mentally sick and therefore needed rough treatment. The vicious cycle continues.

I had predicted in my earlier articles in this column that Trump, due to his super arrogance, denial of reality, inconsistencies and unstable state of mind, would keep shooting himself in his foot and undermining his own credibility, especially by his stupid and insensitive tweets. His own published words are likely to be used in the impeachment process against him for obstruction to justice.

A group of 27 psychiatrists and mental health experts in the US had just come out with a statement on Nov 30 to express their concern on the mental health and stability of their president, who as commander-in-chief, has his finger on the nuclear button and capable of starting a nuclear war to obliterate mankind.

The Russia Scandal, under investigation by the FBI, on Russia’s interference and the possible collusion of Trump’s inner circle with Russian intelligence on the last presidential election, has moved to a new level with National Security Adviser Michael Flynn pleading guilty to lying about his conversations with the Russian ambassador last December and the subsequent “request” by Trump to the then FBI director James Comey not to further investigate Flynn.

Many analysts are convinced that Trump has crossed the line of no return and there will be many unfavourable revelations to come, from Flynn and others. At the rate things are going, it looks like he will eventually be asked to resign or be impeached by Congress.

Trump has hardly served a year as president. The question many people are asking now is how much longer can he last before he is forced to go for the good of America, global peace and justice.

The writer is the CEO of a soon-to-be set up heritage and innovative museum in Kuala Lumpur to promote sustainable peace, moderation and cultural diversity and to oppose all forms of extremism. Comments:

Hollywood producer, director and screenwriter Oliver Stone.

ON Feb 9, 2017 at the Writers Guild Awards in Beverly Hills, California, highly acclaimed Hollywood producer, director and screenwriter Oliver Stone (pix) gave a moving acceptance speech for the Laurel Award for Screenwriting, about the costs of wars caused by the US. Here are the key parts of it:

“… in the 13 wars we’ve started over the last 30 years and the US$14 trillion (RM77 trillion) we have spent and the hundreds of thousands of lives that have perished from this Earth, remember that it wasn’t one leader but a system, both Republican and Democrat. Call it what you will … It’s a system that has been perpetuated under the guise that these are just wars justifiable in the name of our flag that flies so proudly over our lives.

“Our country has become more prosperous for many but in the name of that wealth, we cannot justify our system as a centre for the world’s values. But we continue to create such wars and chaos in the world … We know we’ve intervened in more than 100 countries with invasions, regime change, economic chaos. Or hired war, soft power. Whatever you want to call it. It’s war of some kind. In the end, it’s become a system leading to the death of this planet and the extinction of us all.”

Oliver Stone should know and can speak about the horrors of wars. From February 1967 to April 1968, he served in a US infantry division in the Vietnam War and was wounded twice in action. He subsequently graduated with a Fine Arts degree in film in 1971 from New York University.

Our small planet in modern history has witnessed two world wars, numerous regional wars and some near misses (such as the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis), which could have ended humanity.

Even common sense and the concept of mutually assured destruction among the superpowers may not assure us about the possibility of “accidentally firing”, actions by rogue soldiers or missile systems being hacked by extremists to launch a nuclear missile strike.

Or perhaps a mad man like Kim Jong-un launching a nuclear missile on South Korea or Japan or even further, to deliberately provoke the US to retaliate, which may trigger a regional conflict that may then escalate into a global war.

The current surge in violence in the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli strife, with Israel trying to unilaterally expand its control over the holy site in Jerusalem’s Old City, where all three Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) lay claims to parts of it, is a worrying sign and tension is spreading to the entire region.

I have written many articles in this column on the evils of wars and that there are no real winners, and often the victims are civilians and ordinary people who played no part in the conflicts. In my recent piece entitled “Superpowers gear up for World War III” I wrote about the new Cold War between Nato led by the US against Russia and its allies in Eastern Europe.

I gave as an example, about the Suwalki Gap (remember the name), a vulnerable 60-mile stretch of territory and a critical rail line separating Poland (member of Nato) from Lithuania (also a member of Nato) and linking Russian Kalingrad with its ally Belarus. A global analyst David Andelman, editor-emeritus of World Policy Journal, believes that World War III could start in this tense region as the Russian rail passes through Nato’s territories on both sides.

World War III may have already started in certain, sensitive regions of the world and many people are simply unaware of the danger ahead.

For those who say that wars fought far away have no impact on us only need to be reminded of the shooting down of our own MH17 on July 17, 2014 as a result of the Ukraine War.

Regardless of who did it, and of course the culprits must somehow be punished, the fact remains that our own civilian aircraft was a casualty of war fought far away from home.

In today’s globalised world, it would be stupid and dishonest for anyone to say that a war fought far away from our home would not affect us. It may even escalate into a global war and consume our country like the rest of Asean.

In our Asian region, there are two serious sources of conflict; one on the disputed territories in the South China Sea and the other is on the growth of militant Muslim extremism in parts of Asean such as southern Philippines. Our own Sabah (at Lahad Datu) was invaded in 2013 by armed elements claiming to represent the “Sultanate of Sulu”. The likes of IS are also gaining a foothold in Malaysia and the region in a coordinated effort, after their recent defeats and losses in Iraq and Syria.

It is important to understand that normal businessmen have the most to lose in a war as the main business beneficiaries are arms manufacturers and traders. Of course, the smugglers too, taking advantage of the chaos in enforcement.

Promoting peace should be accorded the highest priority or even be seen as the highest level of charity for business. In times of war the other normal charities, no matter how noble or well-intended, could be meaningless.

It is therefore strange that while most businesses around the world are prepared to support or engage in corporate social responsibility activities, such as on environment, community welfare and education (which are praiseworthy anyway), they tend to take a hands-off approach to promoting or preserving peace, citing it as “political” and “it is the government’s responsibility”. The exceptions to the rule are the media and some film makers and peace social enterprises.

Promoting peace does not have to be partisan or political, often peace seekers would have to promote constructive dialogues and diplomacy between warring parties rather than taking sides.

Sure, in general around the world, it is the government’s responsibility to preserve and promote peace but certain politicians are also the biggest culprits in causing wars.

So, it would be foolish for business people to rely solely on their respective governments and politicians and take a complacent attitude.

It is high time that businesses take a more proactive engagement in promoting peace by being more involved in educational and awareness projects that highlight the current threats to peace and the evils of wars.

The writer is a think tank analyst and management strategist who is also involved in the setting up of a heritage museum in Carcosa Seri Negara, Kuala Lumpur to promote peace, moderation and cultural diversity. Comments:

HERE we go again, another horror and heart-breaking story in the news. The latest terror attack in London should serve as a wake-up call to all “unbelievers” on the threat of extremism on humanity. Extremism is the twin brother of terrorism. There would be no terror acts without an extremist ideology.

On June 3 near London Bridge, a van with three men (who were later killed by police) ploughed through a crowd and the men then started knifing people in the vicinity. At least seven people were killed and another 48 injured.

This attack was only less than two weeks from another major terror attack at a concert in Manchester on May 22 where a suicide bomber killed 22 mostly young people and injured more than 100 people. If we trace the terror attacks across the world over the last one year, the list would be endless.

The extremists, inspired and led by the likes of IS, would really want to have a “Clash of Civilisations” as predicted by the late US political scientist Samuel Huntington. They would want to instigate a Third World War. If they cannot have it their way, they would rather destroy the world. And they are prepared to die to see to it.

Such is the fury, anger, desperation and insanity of these extremists, mostly disenchanted and brainwashed Muslim youths, who also fear the loss of the IS- controlled territories in Iraq and Syria, that they are committing more terror acts for strategic and psychological reasons. They still have many sympathisers and support in the Muslim world.

Only last month, Donald Trump made his maiden trip overseas as the new US president to Saudi Arabia where he gave his much awaited speech about extremism and terrorism to Muslim leaders.

Trump’s speech in Riyadh on May 21, interestingly one day before the Manchester bombing, was correct in condemning extremism and terrorism and the injustice of harming people. He was right in saying that the civilised world needs to unite and work harder to drive the terrorists out of this planet. But beyond that, he did not offer any comprehensive solution, neither did he address the root causes of extremism and terrorism.

Here are key points that Trump missed.

First, the US (perceived to be representing the Christian world) played a major role in creating much resentment and anger in the Muslim world with its unjust handling, meddling and mismanagement of the Palestinian crisis since the violent creation of the state of Israel in 1948, which was based solely on the selfish geo-political interests of the US. There was no recognition for the rights of the Palestinian people, whose land was annexed by the Zionists in what was probably the “biggest legalised daylight robbery” in modern history.

And today, the Trump administration has been even more extreme in siding with Israel and pandering to the Zionist lobby in the US. He does not seem to favour the two-state solution, which the Palestinians have already compromised so much for the sake of peace, as the only viable option forward, supported even by his previous administrations, the UN and the other major powers.

Second, Trump in his speech, did not address the neglect, oppression and repression of the poor Muslims which are providing an ideal breeding ground for extremist ideologies to thrive.

Third, there have been many reports to suggest that the creation of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan during the Soviet-Afghan War and the IS during the Iraq War were partly attributed to the US’s past involvement in those two spheres of influence.

Until and unless the UN can set up an independent inquiry to investigate and clear the role of the US on the origins of these two largest terrorist groups in the world, the US must accept some responsibility based on documented reports and eyewitness accounts, including an admission by former secretary of state Hillary Clinton in 2013 (when she was known to have said “Let’s remember here, the people we are fighting today we funded them 20 years ago …”) and also through her leaked emails which also implicated certain Arab governments.

Fourth, Trump is the most anti-Muslim US president ever with his anti-Muslim policies and pronouncements. He wanted to ban all Muslims from entering the US and then amended his policy to selected Muslim majority countries. Instead of making peace and seeking reconciliation with moderate Muslims, including the Palestinians, he has gone on a warpath to prove his racist and xenophobic credentials and to pander to his extreme rightwing supporters.

He had the gall to take the moral high ground in Riyadh and claimed that he was a friend of the Muslims.

Trump has announced the pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord of 2015 which was put together to save the world from global warming. He has turned his back on saving our planet, yet he wants to save humanity from terrorism.

How can Trump lead the global community to counter the tide of extremism and terrorism sweeping through the world?

Asean countries facing a greater terror threat than before must get their act together and focus on addressing the root causes of extremism and terrorism, using education, psychology and intelligence. It may not be good enough to promote moderation, the situation has become so critical that a stronger approach is needed to counter extremism to counter terrorism.

Perhaps the Asean Secretariat, with UN support and involvement, should urgently consider setting up a multimedia museum in either Jakarta or Kuala Lumpur using the latest technologies to make learning interesting to attract young people and educate them on the evils of extremism. If successful, similar museums can be set up in other Asean countries and even beyond.

Extremism, as a threat to humanity, must be made a compulsory subject in all schools.

Much needs to be done to speed up the learning process for our youths against extremism as the most effective and sustainable way to contain and ultimately defeat the surge in terror acts.

The writer is a think-tank analyst who has been warning for some years about the “clear and present danger” of extremism and terrorism engulfing the world. Comments:

Sept 11 can be considered a game changer in world history.

ISLAMOPHOBIA is the fear, prejudice and hatred against Islam and Muslims, especially in the West. It is based on stereotyping all Muslims as extremists, lunatics and/or terrorists and is probably the greatest threat confronting the Muslim world today.

On a global level, there may be some localised incidents based on fears or prejudices against other religions, but nothing comparable to the scale of Islamophobia. Why?

Islamophobia became more widespread after the co-ordinated attacks in the US 16 years ago, on Sept 11, 2001 by the terror group called Al-Qaeda, which had its origins in Afghanistan when it was under military occupation by the then Soviet Union (1978-1989). The CIA was responsible for creating Al-Qaeda at that time to serve US interests against the Soviets.

“Sept 11” can be considered a game changer in world history when the most powerful country in the world was seemingly brought to its knees by 19 self-professed “Muslim jihadists”, using four hijacked passenger planes. Nearly 3,000 people were killed and 6,000 people injured. The iconic World Trade Centre was destroyed and the Pentagon (Department of Defence) partly damaged.

Because the 19 terrorists openly proclaimed themselves to be “Muslim jihadists”, the public backlash against Muslims in general in the US and Europe was severe.

The US government retaliated aggressively, not necessarily correctly in all cases, against selective Muslim countries such as Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The rest of what happened and how Al-Qaeda was crippled militarily and the killing of its leader Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011 (about 10 years later) in Pakistan, is now history.

The actions via military attacks, drones or otherwise until today, by the Western powers against selective Muslim groups and countries, have been given a major boost by the new US president, Donald Trump, who is widely perceived to be the most anti-Muslim US president ever. These actions have subtly reinforced the psychology of Islamophobia in the subconscious minds of many non-Muslims.

The rise in Islamophobia is giving credence to the self-fulfilling prophecy of the late US political scientist Samuel Huntington’s theory of the “Clash of Civilisations”. It is as though the entire Muslim world is at war with the Christian world or it is Islam versus Christianity.

This may be precisely what the extremists from both sides (Muslims and Christians) want but why should the peace and justice loving people of all religions allow it? Both these global monotheist religions have far more similarities in content and origin than their perceived minor differences, which the extremists are playing up and exploiting to the hilt to cause strife.

Extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda, IS (in Syria and Iraq) and the Abu Sayyaf (in southern Philippines) may seem to be losing militarily, but their influence like the Taliban and other terror groups around the world have not waned and should never be underestimated.

I have written and alerted readers in this column as far back as 2014, even before IS became a global monster (not just in Syria and Iraq), on the need, not only to defeat this insidious terror movement militarily but also to educate the alienated and disenchanted Muslim youths who are attracted to IS ideology and to explain to them why it is so wrong to blame, vent their anger and inflict harm on innocent people for the suffering of the Muslims, especially the Palestinian people.

The Palestinian conflict appears to be the cause celebre used by Muslim extremists and terrorists to recruit disenchanted Muslim youths to join their movements.

For nearly 30 years since my student days in Britain, I have written about, campaigned and demonstrated in the campuses and streets for the rights of the oppressed Palestinian people against the Zionist aggressor, Israel. Even though I am a non-Muslim, I have supported and fought for the Palestinian cause on a matter of principle based on truth and justice, so yes, I do have the locus standi to defend the oppressed Muslim people and to write about the subject of Islamophobia.

Like most smear campaigns, the proponents of Islamophobia created and promoted negative perceptions of a targeted group that they do not like or have a hidden agenda against. And like other smear campaigns, there are some basis used by the opponents of Islam to justify the negative stereotyping of Muslims as extremists and/or terrorists.

The Muslim extremists and terrorists are largely responsible for Islamophobia. They are falling straight into the “trap” of the enemies of Islam who are whipping up anti-Muslim sentiments. Since most terror attacks are caused by people professing to be “Muslim jihadists”, it is easy for the right-wing white supremacists to use these incidents to promote the negative perceptions of Muslims and Islam.

The irony is that extremist Muslim supremacists in Muslim majority countries, including Malaysia, are using similar arguments or rationale against non-Muslim minorities as the ones used by the extremist white supremacists against Muslim minorities in the West, who, like the non-Muslim Asians and black people, also suffer from racism.

It is as though these extremist Muslims are working in cohorts with the pro-Zionist white extremists who are oppressing the Muslim minorities in the West and the Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories. The real enemies of Islam, besides the Zionists and the right-wing white supremacists, are the self-professed “Muslim jihadists” who resort to acts of terror to harm people, thereby undermining the image of Islam.

Every time there is an act of terror committed by Muslim extremists, we hear strong condemnations by the non-Muslim leaders but somehow, the reactions from the moderate and civil-minded Muslim community leaders in general seem to be rather mute or even silent. This gives the false impression that they sympathise with the terrorists or are condoning their acts.

Herein lies the biggest challenge needed to counter Islamophobia.

It is not enough to rely mostly on non-Muslim leaders to openly condemn acts of terrorism by self-professed “Muslim jihadists” such as the IS. In fact, such a scenario would only reinforce the negative perception of Muslims.

Moderate Muslim leaders, either in the Muslim minority or Muslim majority countries, must do much more to speak out loudly and clearly and in unison against acts of terror anywhere in the world.

They must also play a more pro active and pre-emptive role in educating Muslim youths about the evils of extremism and terrorism.

They must constantly remind Muslims that it is wrong, unjust and anti-Islamic (saying “un-Islamic” is not strong enough) to harm, kill or massacre innocent people who play no role in oppressing the Palestinians or other Muslims.

Islam is a religion of peace, justice and compassion and no Muslim extremists should be allowed to hijack and/or defame the good name of Islam.

The writer is a friend and supporter of all oppressed people, especially the Muslims in Israel, occupied territories and in many other countries where they are the minority. Comments:

Trying times for Trump. Will he be able to wriggle his way out of the 'Russian scandal'?

Trying times for Trump. Will he be able to wriggle his way out of the ‘Russian scandal’?

THERE is a saying that “pride comes before a fall” but in US President Donald Trump’s case it is more about his “super arrogance”. So if, or rather when, he falls it would be a very hard and heavy one.

In my two recent articles in February about the new US president just after his inauguration, all the signs about his arrogant outlook and politics were already there. Without hesitation, he took on three of the most influential US institutions – the intelligence community, media and the judiciary. This might be his biggest mistake.

Trump made scornful remarks against the intelligence community, before and after the 2016 election, when they came out to reveal that the Russian government directed the cyber-attacks and hacking to interfere with the US election process.

One of his first acts as president confirmed that he was one of the biggest promoters of Islamophobia with his travel ban on seven selected Muslim-majority countries, which was overturned by the judiciary. Even his revised second travel ban was also stopped by the judiciary on legal grounds. He made disparaging remarks against the judges involved and also against the media for portraying him in a bad light.

Then he committed another unfriendly, anti-Muslim and pro-Israeli act, when during the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House on Feb 15, he criticised the UN-sponsored Middle East peace conference in Paris in January, dismissed the two-state solution (which the Palestinians have already compromised much for the sake of peace) and only pleaded gently with the Israeli prime minister instead of condemning him on the illegal settlements (more like daylight robbery) by Israelis on Palestinian land in the West Bank. Only last month, a UN agency came out with a report accusing Israel for practising apartheid against the Palestinian people.

The ordinary, moderate and peace-loving Muslims and the rest of the civilised world would have no problem at all if Trump takes a more aggressive position to fight and eliminate the Islamic extremists and the likes of IS, which the US was partly responsible for creating in the first place. But for Trump to treat and target ordinary Muslims as extremists or potential terrorists and use them as scapegoats, like what Hitler did with the Jews, is grossly unjust and inexcusable.

Trump has already alienated Muslims and other minorities such as Afro-Americans and Hispanics, and he has also offended women with his sexist remarks even before he was elected.

He continues to attack the US news media every time they legitimately question or criticise him as a top public official, even accusing them of spreading “fake news”.

Last month, he also insinuated that the intelligence agencies wire-tapped his Trump Tower on orders from former president Barack Obama during the 2016 election. This has now been proven to be totally untrue and could have been a diversionary tactic.

Since the failure of his healthcare bill last month to replace Obamacare, his biggest legislative setback so far, he has blamed and even threatened members of his own Republican Party who did not support his bill.

He seems to be offending more groups unnecessarily. One wonders how far he would go to alienate more groups before “someone dares to tell the emperor that he has no clothes”. Perhaps his charming daughter Ivanka would do so.

However, the biggest challenge today to Trump is about the “Russia scandal” allegations, that his aides and election campaign managers, wittingly or unwittingly, had inappropriate ties with Russia, still the number one adversary of the US. There is evidence that Russia interfered in the 2016 election and may be involved in other ways (being investigated now), which may compromise US security.

The scandal started off with allegations that Russian intelligence was hacking into the Democratic Party email system to discredit Hilary Clinton and favour Trump in the election but the current investigation by the FBI is expanding into an integrated analysis on how the entire administration may have been compromised.

The chips started to fall when his own National Security adviser, Michael Flynn, was forced to resign on Feb 13 for misleading Vice-President Mike Pence and other White House officials about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the US, even before Trump took over as president.

More revelations are coming out on the communications between his campaign managers, White House officials, including his son-in-law and senior adviser (Jared Kushner) and Russian officials or agents. Senior past and present White House officials, including Flynn, are now prepared to testify before Congress in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

The “White House of Cards” may be crumbling under severe pressure from these extremely serious allegations about the likelihood of the president’s men “working with the enemy”, with or without his knowledge.

The FBI, which is investigating these allegations, will leave no stone unturned and report the findings to Congress. No sitting president would be allowed to interfere in such an investigation and the case is leaning more towards a major security and intelligence scandal, even if Donald Trump is not personally implicated.

Perhaps the powerful FBI director James Comey knew what was coming when, just about a week before the polling in the 2016 election, he revealed some additional vague information on the so-called “email scandal” involving Hilary Clinton when she was secretary of state, which appeared to be damaging to her, but he then decided not to further pursue it after (expectedly) getting a storm of protests from Clinton, her aides and supporters.

Comey, as a true US patriot, might have reasons to believe that Trump would win the election anyway and he might also have reasons to believe then that the new Trump administration might be compromised somehow. So Comey acted against Hilary Clinton in a seemingly damaging manner (but perhaps believing that his actions would not affect the election outcome anyway). Today, if he were to report and act against the president and/or his officials, he would not be accused of being biased or unfair.

Would Trump be able to wriggle his way out of the “Russia scandal”? If he can, many people, including his opponents, would certainly take the hat out for him.

However, it would be most discomforting for global stability and security if the FBI investigation concludes that the administration of the commander-in-chief of the most powerful country in the world has been significantly compromised by its main adversary.

I have predicted, with good reasons, in my two previous articles about Trump not being able to survive a full term of office and some readers had taken me to task for suggesting it. We shall see, hopefully soon, if my prognosis will hold water.

The writer, a political analyst based in Kuala Lumpur, believes that Trump’s arrogance and living in denial would lead to his downfall. Comments: