Civilisation, from its definition, aims at developing more of the social, cultural and material aspects of human life, while religion aims at emphasising the importance of the spiritual dimension and the final destination of man in the hereafter.
AS long and complex as human history is, an interesting aspect is the dynamic relationship between religion and civilisation and how they impact each other.
No doubt historically, both religion and civilisation have contributed to a great extent in enhancing human life. Islam, in particular, is an example of a religion that has played a tremendous role in building a great civilisation as history can attest.
How do we look at similarities and differences between religion and civilisation?
Religion, as commonly known, emphasises the belief system – especially that which is connected with God and spiritual realities.
It projects the true world view of life which guides the value system and ethical conduct of human beings. In Islam, religion also provides detailed practical injunctions in every dimension of human life.
On the other hand, civilisation reflects the advanced and finest stage human beings have reached in their social, intellectual and cultural life in this world.
The Oxford Dictionary defines civilisation as “the stage of human social development and organisation which is considered most advanced”, while Merriam-Webster defines it as “the condition that exists when people have developed effective ways of organising a society and care about art, science, etc”.
Those more concerned about the difference between the two may find that both are incongruent and, at times, problematic. The reason is simply that they seem to have different emphases.
Civilisation, from its definition, aims at developing more of the social, cultural and material aspects of human life, while religion aims at emphasising the importance of the spiritual dimension and the final destination of man in the hereafter. Sometimes, religion is even viewed as an obstacle to civilisation.
Such a contentious opinion is maintained by several intellectuals and thinkers who had contributed to the development of modern civilisation.
Karl Marx, for example, alluded to this point through his oft-quoted “religion is the opium of the masses”.
Earlier, Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher, might have had the same inclination when he declared that “God is dead”.
Similarly, Michel Foucault, the French philosopher and historian, who echoed Nietzsche on the nature of religion, expressed rather unfavourably that “morality (religion) is the creation of the weak to deter and limit the strong”.
While the thinkers’ views may be valid, on the one hand, if they were referring to certain deviated practices among religious followers, on the other, it is obviously misleading to pass such judgments on religion as a whole, given the contributions religion has made to the well-being of human beings throughout time.
One obvious fallacy of such a view is its oversight of the fundamental similarity between the two.
A prominent characteristic that unites both religion and civilisation is that both share the same end, mainly in bringing the state of human life to the highest and finest level, with religion aiming at a broader and higher objective of encompassing the betterment of human life not only in this world, but also the world to come.
Having said that, it should be noted that for those who believe in the truth of religion, its understanding is not only confined to mere belief and rituals, but also geared towards building a civilisation.
For that to take place, the understanding of religion must fulfil the following criteria:
First, religion should neither be too rigid nor exclusive to embrace and practise. While religious principles are constant and unchanging, its details should be open to adaptations.
There must be flexibilities in the application of its principles in different contexts, particularly the ever-changing environment.
Oftentimes, people get confused between religious principles and details which consequently lead to conflicts over unnecessary matters.
However, not being exclusive does not mean compromising the truth of the religion. We can still uphold religious truth while appropriating its manifestation in line with the contexts surrounding its practices.
Secondly, religion has to provide ample room for reasoning necessary in scientific and intellectual pursuits, that, in the latter, is not contradictory to or non-parallel with the values and principles that religion espouses.
Otherwise, disharmony will set in, particularly between religious and scientific-intellectual truths. In the case of Islam, religious values remain instrumental in colouring the dimensions of life.
Thirdly, the understanding of religion should not be separated from the higher perspectives which relate to its raison d’etre. In Islam, the bigger picture, called maqasid syar’iyyah (higher objectives of syariah), is the ultimate reason why religion is revealed to human beings.
Based on Quranic descriptions, the reason behind all religious injunctions is to preserve the well being of human beings which can be summarised as the five basic human needs of religion, life, intelligence, progeny and property. A proper understanding of these aspects will enable consistency between belief and practices among religious followers.
Thus, with the given guidelines, we are probably able to appreciate more the meeting points between religion and civilisation.
> Dr Mohd Farid Mohd Shahran is Senior Fellow at Ikim’s Centre for Economics and Social Studies. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.
Monday, December 30, 2013
TURKEY TO GET ITS OWN NASDAQ
The government is preparing to take significant strides that will advance Turkey’s industry to an echelon of high technology. Amongst the moves to be made in the name of advanced technology will be the opening of a technology stock-exchange similar to Nasdaq in the U.S. as well as including training on robots and artificial intelligence which will begin from primary school onwards.
Saturday, December 28, 2013
The same report predicts Turkey will rank 17th among the world’s largest economies at the end of 2013 with a GDP of $822 billion. REUTERS photo
Turkey will climb to the 12th rank with a total gross domestic product (GDP) of $3.46 trillion in 2028, a Center for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) report on “World Economic League Table (WELT) for 2013,” has said.
The same report predicts Turkey will rank 17th among the world’s largest economies at the end of 2013 with a GDP of $822 billion, 15th alongside other emerging markets in 2018 with $1.28 trillion, and 15th again in 2023 with $2.13 billion.
“However, the Turkish outlook does depend on political stability and continued disturbances of the kind seen in 2013 could discourage investment and hence growth,” CEBR notes.
Assessing the latest CEBR report, Ekinci Economics Consulting Founder Sevin Ekinci told Anadolu Agency; “CEBR previously predicted that Turkey would take the 16th place by 2022. The revision might have come after seeing the slowdown in emerging markets, especially Indonesia, and the weak recovery in the European Union. They used to be much more positive about the Indonesian economy and did see it in 10th place.”
Strikingly, the study also predicts Britain’s output will outstrip France’s by 2018 before displacing Germany by around 2030.
“Germany is forecast to lose its position as the largest Western European economy to the UK around 2030 because of the UK’s faster population growth and lesser dependence on the other European economies,” the report said.
“If the euro were to break up, Germany’s outlook would be much better,” it added. “A Deutsche Mark-based Germany certainly would not be overtaken by the UK for many years if ever.”
The think tank’s chief executive claimed that Britain’s economy would grow even faster if it left the European Union.
SOURCE : HURRIYET DAILY NEWS http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-to-be-12th-largest-global-economy-by-2028-cebr-.aspx?pageID=238&nID=60248&NewsCatID=344
Thursday, December 26, 2013
ERDOĞAN RANKS SECOND IN TIME MAGAZINE’S ‘PERSON OF THE YEAR’ POLL 2013
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is currently ranked in second place for TIME magazine’s 2013 ‘Person of the Year’ poll with 15.9 percent of the votes thus far. Reader voting comes to a close on December 6 and the final winner will be announced on December 11.
Democracy and IslamBy Mohammad Hashim Kamali
RELIGIOUS VIEWPOINT: A democratic system of rule is on the whole acceptable to Islam
MUSLIM scholars have differed in their assessment of democracy and constitutionalism from the viewpoint of Islamic principles. The view has gained ground, however, that a democratic system of rule is on the whole acceptable to Islam.
This is because democracy is about fundamental rights and liberties, the rule of law, a representative and participatory government, separation of powers, and equality before the law.
Rights and liberties are a manifestation of human dignity which must be protected against the coercive power of the state. Constitution is also an instrument of limitation, organisation, and division of power among the various organs of state.
|Kuala Lumpur City is a Symbol of Democratic System of Rules in Muslim World.|
Broadly, Islam approves of most of these and takes affirmative positions on the protection and realisation of people's welfare and maslahah, a consultative government committed to accountability (muhasabah) and justice.
Islam advocates a limited government, which is committed to the advancement of the goals and purposes (maqasid) of syariah.
Islam and democracy both seek to realise people's welfare and basic rights of life, personal security, privacy and ownership.
The syariah recognises these as also the rights to education and employment, and the individual's entitlement to the essentials of life.
There is much evidence to suggest that Islam envisages a civilian system of rule, not a theocracy. This is because the head of state is elected by the people through consultation, nomination and pledge of allegiance (bay'ah), which translate into the modern day equivalent of a popularly elected government where the locus of authority rests with the people.
The head of state is accountable to the people, triable before the court of justice, and the people have the authority ultimately to depose him in the event of flagrant violation and miscarriage of duty.
The head of state has no papal authority to exonerate sin nor to interfere with the religion of a person.
The civilian character of his office is thus manifested in the legal maxim of fiqh that "The affairs of the head of state is judged by reference to public interest (amr al-imama manut bi'l-maslahah)". The essence of stewardship in Islam is proclaimed in the hadith that "the leader of the people is their
servant (sayyid al-qawmi khadimuhum)".
|The Rapid Economic Growth of Turkey resulted o from Democratic System of Rule.|
Yusuf al-Qaradawi approves of democracy and the electoral process, which he resembles to testimony (shahadah) in which the people testify to the suitability and trustworthiness of the candidates they vote for -- and giving shahadah is a collective obligation (fard kifa'i) of the Muslim community.
Party politics, according to al-Qaradawi, is a means of organised participation in government affairs. This too is resembled to the fiqh schools, or madhhabs, which the learned scholar has characterised as juridical parties, manifesting partisan positions in jurisprudence.
As for the question that democracy is a western rather than an Islamic doctrine and that it carries western values and viewpoints, al-Qaradawi responds that the Islamic tradition and scholarship have maintained a relatively open profile of receptivity from and contribution to other civilisations. It has taken from other traditions that which is of merit and acceptable to its own values.
Electoral democracy does not authorise the people or government to change the beliefs of Islam ('aqa'id) nor any of its devotional principles ('ibadat), the halal and haram, and the essentials of morality.
These are firmly grounded in the Quran and Sunnah and no one may in the name of democracy interfere with them.
As for the management of community affairs and realisation of people's welfare, democracy is more likely to facilitate rather than obstruct and undermine them.
Hence democracy is not contrary to Islam. The Islamic public law doctrine of syariah-oriented policy (siyasah shar'iyyah) also enables the ruling authorities to address urgent issues and problems that affect people's lives through syariah-compliant ordinances and initiatives, even at the expense of some unavoidable departure from the rulings of the existing schools and scholars.
On the subject of sovereignty, which belongs to the people, the constitution, or Parliament (France, the United States, and the United Kingdom respectively), it is not an Islamic doctrine but an aspect of political democracy over which Islamic scholars have expressed reservations.
Yet many have also drawn a distinction between what they term as absolute sovereignty (siyadat al-kukm), which can make or unmake any law, and executive sovereignty (al-sultan al-tanfidhi).
Only the latter obtains in an Islamic polity, simply because it is not vested with the authority to change the essentials of Islam and syariah.
Hence what remains is a kind of executive sovereignty in which political authority is vested in the people and government exercises it on their behalf.
3. The challenge facing Islamic scholars in Malaysia and elsewhere is perhaps to highlight aspects of harmony between Islam and democracy, and for the government authorities to set in place rules and procedures that ascertain unity and integration of values, of both Islam and democracy, into its legislative processes, with the purpose ultimately to eliminate or minimise the duality of laws in favour of substantive integration and unity.
Another aspect of this challenge is to enhance and integrate the human rights principles into the applied laws and procedures of both the civil law and syariah.
Democracy in this digital age presents new challenges for the people's right of privacy, which demands enhanced vigilance from the viewpoints of both the syariah and civil law.
There is also a need to specify with greater clarity what roles the media and education should play in the advancement of both democracy and Islam.
It must be added, however much in passing, that Malaysia is not new to most of these -- and some work is also underway on the harmonisation of syariah and civil laws into the legal system of Malaysia, which has taken a fresh momentum with the milestones of progress Malaysia has made in Islamic banking and finance.
Published in: New Straits Times, Tuesday 23 April 2013
Wednesday, December 25, 2013
VISA REGULATIONS WITH EU NATIONS TO BE LIFTED IN NEXT 3.5 YEARS
Foreign Minister Davutoğlu announced on Wednesday that Turks will be exempt from visa regulations to visit EU nations by 2017 at the latest and stated, “If Turkey tells the European Union ‘I am ready’ before the timeline established, than the process will have an even earlier head start.
Tuesday, December 24, 2013
Kyoto, a city known worldwide as a major center for Buddhism and as the home of some of the country’s most famous Shinto shrines, is stepping up efforts to better welcome one particular group of foreign visitors: Muslims.
With the number of Muslim tourists from Malaysia on the rise, thanks to visa restrictions that were eased last July and the growing number of international conferences in the ancient capital being attended by Muslims from Africa, the Middle East and South and Southeast Asia, the city decided earlier this year to formally research better ways meet their needs.
Of the nearly 845,000 foreign visitors to Kyoto in 2012 who spent at least one night at a hotel, only about 13,000 were from Malaysia and Indonesia. But that was up from the combined 8,000 or so who visited in 2011, and the figure is expected to grow.
In response, Kyoto established a study group to make the city more Muslim-friendly. It consists of hotel managers, convention bureau officials, restaurateurs and others interested in attracting more Muslims. The group receives advice from the Kyoto Muslim Association, which allows Muslims to visit and pray at the mosque inside and which provides information on halal and Muslim-friendly restaurants in Kyoto.
Some hotels, such as Hotel Granvia and Kyoto Century Hotel, already offer Muslim-friendly meals, while the Kyoto Rose Cafe not far from the association’s headquarters, offers halal meals. There are also Japanese- and English-language websites that list halal and Muslim-friendly establishments in Kyoto.
But one idea that the group, under the direction of the Kyoto Muslim Association, is looking at is a more detailed guide to restaurants that are classified as not only “Muslim-friendly” but also “halal,” “Muslim-welcome” and “pork-free.”
A restaurant is designated halal when all of its menu items are halal-certified and contain no pork or pork products, and when no alcohol, including cooking wine or mirin (a sweet cooking wine made from rice), is used during the cooking process. Muslim-friendly means the restaurant has both halal and non-halal menus. Muslim-welcome means no pork or alcohol was used in the cooking, but non-halal meats and alcohol are available. Pork-free means just that, but alcohol may have been used in the cooking and the menu is non-halal.
In addition to offering prayer rooms facing toward Mecca or taking care to ensure the food served meets the requirements of Muslim customers, there are other issues.
Rie Doi, director of tourism promotion at the Kyoto Convention Bureau, notes it is especially important that Kyoto businesses interested in selling their wares to Muslim tourists understand the cultural background of their customers.
“For example, some companies may wish to offer certain kinds of souvenirs in colors that are particularly popular in the Muslim world and different from (those) other foreign customers might want,” she said.
At the same time, Muslim tourists, no matter where they’re from, ask the same kinds of questions any tourist might ask. A recent report presented to the study group noted that Malaysian Muslims asked their travel agents why they were going to a particular Kyoto temple or shrine and what, exactly, they could do while there.
The report said addressing these questions was extremely important to Muslim visitors. But not a few tourists — most with limited time, little or no understanding of Japanese, and a minimal understanding of Kyoto’s history — are likely to want the answers as well.
©2013 the Japan Times (Tokyo)
Visit the Japan Times (Tokyo) at www.japantimes.co.jp/
Distributed by MCT Information Services
Posted by Anonymous at 12:22 PM
Monday, December 23, 2013
Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd [MAHB] to buy stakes in Turkish firms for RM1b [USD300 million]
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) has announced that it will exercise its right of first refusal to acquire a 40 per cent stake each in two Turkish companies worth more than RM1 billion.
The two companies are Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen Uluslararasi Havalimani Yatirim Yapim ve Isletme A.S (ISG) and LGM Havalimani Isletmeleri Ticaret ve Turizm A.S.
MAHB said it will acquire ISG from GMR Infrastructure Ltd and GMR Infrastructure Overseas Ltd (GMRO) for RM705.73 million.
It will also acquire LGM from GMRO and GMR Infrastructure (Global) Ltd for RM302.454 million.
ISG's core business is managing the operations of Sabiha Airport.
LGM's operations include establishing and operating hotels as well as establishing, operating, and leasing out food and beverage facilities and trading at the airport.
MAHB said the proposed acquisitions are part of the group's plans to enhance and diversify its assets and earnings base to improve long-term growth prospects.
"The proposed acquisition will allow MAHB to have majority stakes in ISG and LGM and further strengthen its foothold and influence as an airport operator in Turkey," MAHB told Bursa Malaysia yesterday.
It added the acquisition will be financed via proceeds from a proposed private placement and internally generated funds.
"The proposed private placement entails an issuance of new ordinary shares of RM1 each in MAHB, representing up to 10 per cent of the issued and paid-up share capital of MAHB to third-party investor(s) to be identified and at an issue price to be determined later," the company said.
The tone was set early on, in January, when Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, set out the emirate’s aim to become the hub of global Sharia-compliant business within five years.
It was an ambitious plan. Dubai is already a leading financial centre for the issue of sukuk (Sharia-compliant bonds) but Sheikh Mohammed’s vision went far wider than just the sukuk market.
Sami Al Qamzi, the director general of the Dubai Department of Economic Development and one of the lieutenants entrusted with implementing the Ruler’s strategy, said the aim of the initiative was to create a global capital of Islamic industry, economy and finance.
“The plans to create an Islamic economic centre will provide access to a global market for Islamic products valued at more than US$2 trillion.”
Halal food production, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, tourism and travel, and all other aspects of Islamic lifestyle were included in the plan, as well as the essential infrastructure of standardisation and certification of halal products.
Although nobody doubts the potential market provided by the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims, it is widely spread both geographically and sectorally. Dubai’s strategy was the first time one country had set out to be the world capital of the Islamic economy.
Dubai faces serious competition. Kuala Lumpar has been the driving force in Sharia-compliant financial business, having built up its resources in sukuk and other forms of Islamic finance over the past two decades.
London, too, was keen to augment its position as the leading financial market in the European time zone by becoming the global centre for sukuk listing and trading, a lucrative part of the Islamic financial market.
Other centres, like Dublin, Luxembourg, Indonesia and Bahrain also had plans to develop their Islamic economic capabilities. To make Dubai the centre of the Islamic business world would be a challenging task. The plan was immediately backed by leaders of the Dubai business and policymaking elite. In the Dubai International Financial Centre, the Nasdaq Dubai stock market announced it was considering a trading platform for sukuk, hoping to take away some of London’s lucrative trade.
Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, the chairman of Dubai World, applauded the move. “Dubai is pioneering; this is another example of how it does things before anyone else in the world,” he said.
The Dubai Multi Commodites Centre advanced plans to extend Sharia-compliant business in commodities and metals trading.
Banks beefed up their Islamic financial capabilities by hiring more experts on Sharia-compliant business, making it a growth market in the emirate’s financial scene and one of the forces behind Dubai’s recovery.
For most of the summer, the task force set up by Sheikh Mohammed was working hard behind the scenes to produce a practical strategy for the implementation of the grand plan.
By October, a master plan was in place. Seven separate strategic goals, each aiming to make Dubai a global leader in one aspect of the Islamic economy, had been identified: finance; the halal food industry; family-friendly tourism; the digital economy; fashion, arts and design; economic education; and standards and certification.
“The continued developments and changes in the global economy increase the need to constantly diversify the structure of our national economy,” said Sheikh Mohammed. “Our aim from all economic initiatives we launch is to improve the quality of life and provide opportunities that ensure a prosperous future for coming generations.”
And in a typical show of confidence that the emirate could achieve its ambition, he said that the time scale would be reduced. The aim was to make Dubai the capital of Islamic economy in three, not five years.
Early steps to be taken in 2014 include the establishment of an Islamic governance centre in Dubai, and an international laboratory for the certification and accreditation of halal products is also planned for early next year. Halal food and other products form an estimated US$3.5 billion global market.
Two other initiatives are also scheduled for the first part of next year: legislation to regulate the production of halal products locally and globally, and an international endowment authority to spread the culture of waqf, or Islamic charitable endowment.
At October’s World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) in London, held for the first time outside the Islamic world, the competitive pace was stepped up when Britain announced its plan to be the first non-Muslim country to issue a sovereign sukuk. But Dubai managed to steal London’s thunder when, after months of careful negotiations with the Malaysia-based WIEF, it was announced that the 2014 forum would be held in Dubai.
The final showpiece of the year was the Global Islamic Economy Summit held in Dubai in November, organised by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and the information group Thomson-Reuters. Some 3,000 leaders of global Islamic business gathered to hear Dubai’s plans, and to give their general endorsement of the strategy.
The prize for Dubai had got bigger. A new study put the overall potential value of Islamic business at $6.7 trillion by 2018, more than the value of any national economy in the world except the United States and China.
Read more: http://www.thenational.ae/business/industry-insights/finance/islamic-finance-has-taken-the-stage-in-2013#ixzz2oHG90VnC
Sunday, December 22, 2013
Khazanah Americas Incorporated is established in San Francisco
by Shahril Ibrahim
Director, Khazanah Americas Incorporated
Source: KHAZANAH NASIONAL : http://kperspectives.khazanah.com.my/Get_To_Know_Us-@-Khazanah_Americas_Incorporated.aspx
Last month, Khazanah Nasional Berhad opened its third regional office after Beijing and Mumbai with the aim of facilitating investments in the Americas which has great strategic significance to Khazanah, our investee companies and Malaysia overall. Located in San Francisco, Khazanah Americas Incorporated or KAI will greatly assist Khazanah to better evaluate investment opportunities particularly in the innovation and technology sectors. San Francisco is home to Silicon Valley where some of the largest technology companies, leading universities as well as thousands of exciting new start-up companies are located.
It is an established fact that San Francisco and its surrounding environs have established a vibrant ecosystem for supporting entrepreneurs and innovation. Khazanah is confident that KAI will be able to build a pipeline of talent and collaboration between Malaysia and the United States, which will help accelerate Malaysia’s own innovation and technology capabilities in the long-run. The move by Khazanah to venture into the US will benefit the country’s thrust into new value-generating economic sectors as outlined in the country’s New Economy Model (NEM) launched in 2010. KAI, as an extension of Khazanah, will also tap on opportunities to showcase the country as a premier investment hub in Asia as well as promote investment opportunities in Iskandar Malaysia as well as in our various investee companies.
Khazanah’s latest overseas venture is also wholly consistent with the mandate given to us by the government in 2004 to generate sustainable value and raise national competitiveness. One of our key deliverables was to expand into New Economy Investments (NEI) and new geographical areas, as explained in Pillar 3 of our mandate. What this means is that Khazanah will invest in new sectors and geographies which can help catalyse growth and have a transformative impact on Malaysia’s economy. Thus, cross-border linkages are necessary for the country’s long-term competitiveness. The primary investment focus of KAI will be in the areas of healthcare, life sciences, sustainable development, telecommunications and media.
The US is the largest economy in the world and continues to produce nimble and exciting new technological developments which continue to be brought to the world stage and consumers by entrepreneurs, visionaries and dreamers. This is a wonderful opportunity for Khazanah to deepen business linkages and strong relationships in the Americas in order to continue building true value. A physical presence via KAI is thus vital in order to build bridges between two business cultures and foster trust within the innovation and technology hubs in San Francisco and Silicon Valley. KAI will also serve as a base for Khazanah’s investee companies seeking to expand into the Americas as well as promote Malaysia as a base for American technology operations in Asia.
The office space, at 600m2 is located in downtown San Francisco and is designed to accommodate a small US-based team with sufficient space for teams from our investee companies. Khazanah already has investments in the US, and the office will also help monitor and manage its investment portfolio. The US office will ease geographical, cultural and time difference between Malaysia and the US and help provide a beach head for further opportunities.
KAI also allows Khazanah to build relationships with potential business partners not unlike what technology and investment firms do all around the world; the personal touch and physical presence cannot be underestimated. This is why global giants like Google and venture capital businesses have permanent offices in many parts of the world in order to cement relationships and ultimately grow value.
Khazanah’s expansion in the Americas is part of our larger strategy to become more global in scope. Since 2005, Khazanah, in line with our strategy, has grown our presence beyond Malaysian shores. As of 29 May 2013, Khazanah’s overseas investments represent approximately nine percent of its total investment portfolio of RM135.9 billion1. On a see-through basis2 however, the percentage is larger and represents approximately 35 percent of Khazanah’s investments portfolio1.
2. Note: See-through basis is an estimation of attributable value by exposure