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 A model for the muslim world

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MUHAMMAD SAIFULLAH



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Registration date : 18.11.06

PostSubyek: A model for the muslim world   Tue Dec 11, 2007 10:41 pm

A model for the muslim world
Spotlight was once on Malaysia, Indonesia but now the focus is on Oman

Nazry Bahrawi
nazry@mediacorp.com.sg

The standing of the Muslim world has taken a recent pummelling.
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First, a gang-rape victim in Saudi Arabia was jailed and ordered to be lashed 200 times. Then, a British teacher was jailed by Sudan for naming a teddy bear 'Muhammad', an act deemed insulting to Islam's revered prophet.
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Such inhumane treatment, which has caught the imagination of the world at large and prompted outrage in several quarters, does no good for the image of the majority of Muslims, who are moderate.
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Such incidents add fuel to the theories of Western academicians that many of the conflicts in the world arise from a clash of civilisations between Christians and Muslims.
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Of course, there are problems between the followers of both faiths.
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The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, earlier this week at a global interfaith seminar held in Singapore, said the problem of "stereotypes" is hampering Christian-Muslim relations.
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Amid this climate of "stereotypes", the search for an exemplary Muslim state has never been more pressing.
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Three Asian countries could have acquired such status.
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There is Pakistan, which is highly regarded by United States President George W Bush as a key ally in the war against terror.
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In South-east Asia, two countries are described as moderate Muslim states Indonesia, also seen by Mr Bush as a "crucial ally, and Malaysia, which holds the chair of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC).
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But all three nations are now facing daunting problems.
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Pakistan is experiencing political turmoil as its President Pervez Musharraf strives to remain in power amid growing dissent from opposition leaders.
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In Malaysia, diminishing votes for the ruling coalition and the outbreak of riots suggest widespread disenfranchisement of its Chinese and Indian minorities.
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Indonesia, meanwhile, saw a gathering of about 90,000 followers of the Islamist party Hizb ut-Tahrir calling for the appointment of an Islamic caliphate in August.
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Can one ever hope to see the emergence of an exemplary Muslim state?
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Let us re-consider the Middle East not all Muslim-majority states there are "regressive".
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The United Arab Emirates, for example, and Dubai, in particular, is hugely successful in its efforts to be an economic powerhouse.
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But beyond economic prowess, one particular state in the Gulf Cooperation Council, a grouping of six Arab states, is displaying promising signs of societal change the Sultanate of Oman.
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The country gained international attention when it held its second parliamentary elections in October, a significant milestone with more women candidates contesting and an encouraging sign in a male-dominated region.
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But while no women were elected, leaders believe this has more to do with merit rather than gender.
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In fact, Dr Amal Said Ahmed Al Shanfari, director of women affairs at Oman's Ministry of Social Development, told Today she believed women would do better in the country's next election in 2011.
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Oman's policymakers who spoke to Today also reveal a forward-thinking attitude.
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A senior official at its Ministry of Information Affairs, Mr Said Khalfan Al Harthy, echoed the call by Singapore's Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew that newspapers need to be the first to come out with analyses as they strive to maintain readership in face of competition posed by blog sites.
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This is commendable as Oman exercises censorship of its media just as Singapore has strict press laws.
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But despite this, Singapore is rated an exemplary First World nation on many fronts. Oman, it could be argued, is worthy of such status too, if not now, soon.
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Policymakers there want to open up their country to the wider world.
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In an interview with Today, Mr Khalil Abdullah Al Khonji, chairman of the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry, urged foreign universities, including the National University of Singapore (NUS), to set up base there.
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Another official, Tourism Ministry Undersecretary Mohammed Hamoud Al Toobi, said his ministry wants to attract more tourists.
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But Oman is selective in its measures.
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For example, Mr Khalil would prefer that the NUS set up technical departments such as information technology and engineering rather than humanities or social sciences.
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For Mr Mohammed, tourists that come to Oman must be "quality" so that Omanis are not tainted by the vicissitudes of "foreign culture".
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Are they being wise in erring on the side of caution?
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Perhaps. Muslim nations just like Western nations too are not entirely perfect. More importantly, its elites have displayed progressive thinking on many fronts.


http://www.todayonline.com/articles/226599.asp
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