Monday, December 12, 2005

49] Universiti Hadhari Kelantani, next?

Universiti Hadhari Kelantani next?
Azly Rahman
Dec 12, 05 11:38am

We seem to peddle education like nobody's corporatist-national business.

Soon Malaysia might see the first working draft of its next public university: Universiti Hadhari Kelantani. It will be a gift for those who voted for the Barisan Nasional (BN) government, as has been promised for decades.

The new institution will be an ‘ivory tower of power' of a by-election characteristic of Malaysia - phantom voters, irregularities, and sleek and sleazy campaigning, as the allegations go. Enabling technologies are making the corrupt voting culture more savvy.

The winner gets to build its university.

The question, as we have often asked is: what is a university and how might this Uni-Hadhari become a testament of the triumph of Islam Hadhari over Hadrat Islamiyat? Very complex question that require educationist to figure out the ‘shape of Malaysian universities to come. But there are also possible simple answers to it: the ‘cloning of universities’, and the ‘institutionalisation of ideologies’.

Essentially it will be about installation of ideologies and the institutionalisation of bio-power as post-modern analysts such as Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri might say. What we are seeing in Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) as a case study of institutionalisation of ideology can be used to understand the nature of colonisation of the psychological and the physical landscape of Malaysia. Let us look at how this ‘discourse on power and knowledge’ works.

"UUM model"

The testament of the triumph of the rule of BN enshrined in UUM, an installation promised by former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad to Kedahans. It is a Kedah-Malay university that embodies the Kedah-ness of the institution in which even the political football game inside of it have always had the fundamental character of Kedah politics. It was built on a ground that saw the battle between the communists and the nationalists during the Emergency. Many died in the battles in Sintok. A close fight. As parallel, Universiti Hadhari Kelantani will be built upon the political battle between the promoters of two ideologies: Islam Hadhari and Hadrat Islamiyat. A close fight. The winner is the forces of Islam Hadhari.

Empire-building in the university is Kedah-natured and the setting up of an Institut Pemikiran Tun Dr Mahathir is also a feature of Kedah patronage politics. The university set up an Institute Kedah Maju to maintain the BN’s hegemony. The latest embarkment is the attempt by the Institut Pemikiran Tun Dr Mahathir to teach ‘Mahathirism’ to Kedah schoolchildren. Hence, Kedah schoolchildren will learn about the meaning of authoritarian leadership and the need for totalitarianism. The child will learn the beauty of Machiavellian politics. Features such as unchallenged leadership, unmediated privatisation policies, unchecked corporatisation, unresolved issues of human rights violation, and undying commitment to looking East and West to make foreign nations richer - all these will become curriculum for the Kedah child in school.

While ‘Mahathirism’ can be an interesting ideology that can be explored and deconstructed, we need to also teach the work of profound thinkers of the Asian region and the world as well, so that the next generation will not be trapped in the same vicious cycle of digressive and retrogressive thinking masked under the name of ‘nationalism’. Most importantly, this ideological socialisation will the wrong message that Kedahans do not have enough thinkers worthy of serious study and that UUM cannot think of other profoundly-informed frontier-ing ideas to teach its students.

One can see the nature of the transculltural flow of ideology in this case: from an individual's promise to set up a university to the university's promise to disseminate the individual's ideology. This is one of the commitment to the intellectualism of this Kedah university. In order to ensure that the prevailing ideology of ‘no defiance’ and ‘no diverse opinions’ to become the norm, the university made sure that dissenting views must be crushed. It is now a reality that any Malaysian academician that defies authority and try to promote critical and creative thinking will be charged as engaging in ‘misconduct’ (berkelakuan buruk).

That was Universiti Utara Sintok. We will now see a new ideology being inscribed.

"What will Uni-Hadhari teach?"

My guess is that there will be a transplantation of the idea of Civilisational Islam as branded and marketed by the regime of premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Like the embracing of the ideology of the Multiumedia Super Corridor (MSC) transforming the Mahathirist university into MSC-status universities. The new breed of Uni-Hadhari type of Malaysian universities will be based on the foundations of this newly packaged ideology. The cloak of Islam will be used to hide the more sophisticated inner workings of a BN corporatist ideology that is based on the acquisition of wealth and power so that the nation will no longer have its true nationalistic feature founded upon the preservation of cultures of authenticities and the economies of grassroots participation.

Machiavelli, in The Prince, once advised rulers to act religious and look religious in public in order to maintain power.

The Uni-Hadhari culture will use the signs and symbolism and the signifiers and significations of an ideology that will continue the legacy of protecting the corrupt and abusers of power, silencing progressive voices of change, suppressing critical sensibilities, and promoting one-dimensionalisation of thinking - a culture familiar to Malaysian universities. In the Uni-Hadhari culture, academics will continue to be warned not to be critical and to teach according to the framework of the ideology transplanted by those who owns the means of shaping consciousness. The prevailing instruments of mental domination such as the Surat Akujanji and the University and University Colleges Act will be used to advance the cause of this fragile empire.

Empire-building in academia will continue to follow the current structure and style of sophisticated politicking that pits power-hungry academics against each other and each other's gang; leaving intellectualism outside the gates of the universities. The race is to get as fast as possible to the rank of professorship and state and federal honours through the carrying out of the agenda of the prevailing ideology.

"The ‘real’ university"

What is the real university then? American universities of civilisational pride and prestige inscribed onto buildings like libraries such names as Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Rousseau, Thoreau, Marx, Pierce, Dewey Russell, Whitehead, and Sartre to exemplify the continuation of the study of the thoughts of the great thinkers of the Western civilisation - so that the education will be the education of the arts of a free man. In the Uni-Hadhari type, the inscription is already templated.

Inscribed will be a two-year-old slogan of Islam Hadhari that is not quite understood even by the academics let alone by the students and the masses. Rather than let the culture of critical thinking and free inquiry grow naturally, the new breed of university will be a genetically-engineered one - out of a display of power to colonise and to shape inhabitants of the university into a UUM-styled Biro Tata Negara mental mould.

If in UUM, the Institut Pemikiran Tun Dr Mahathir reigns, we might have in Kelantan an institute that institutionalises the thoughts and contributions of the founder of Islam Hadhari itself - whoever that may be.

"What academics must know"

Must we academics wait and see the emergence of this Uni-Hadhari? Or must we engage in a Geertzian-like Balinese deep-play of our thought process in analysing the issue of power and ideology in the promise behind setting up such a brand-name university? I suggest it is all the more necessary for progressive academicians and committed Malaysian intellectuals to understand the fundamental character of hegemony, hegemonic formations and how long-term process of indoctrinations works.

Most importantly, public intellectuals need the skill to analyse how reforms replace indigenous ways of life and how large scale transformations can be an attempt to institutionalise social inequalities through the implementation of ideologies that benefit the privileged few on their way to political demise.

Without such knowledge, universities will sprout like replicas of a Soviet-style training camps that are made happier places often with entertainment provided by Mawi or Siti Nurhaliza - our own Malaysian circus of mental-pleasurable gymnastics. Already we have these replicas in the form of our National Service and Biro Tata Negara training camps, especially in UUM Sintok.

With the prospect of a Uni-Hadhari, will Malaysia ever give birth to a real university?

Build minds - not empires. Minds flourish. Empires crumble.

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