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Western Intellectual Imperialism in Malaysian Legal Education

An over-reliance on Western knowledge paradigms and the exclusion of traditional knowledge and indigenous cultures characterises legal education in Malaysia. The same could be said of education in most Asian and African universities. This paper holds that such educational enslavement must end and that genuine globalisation demands that we be open to the best from East and West. It argues that our very survival could hinge on resisting today's Western intellectual imperialism and embarking on a voyage of discovery of our ancestors' intellectual wanderings.


Western Intellectual Imperialism in Malaysian Legal Education

Shad Saleem Faruqi

An over-reliance on Western knowledge paradigms and the exclusion of traditional knowledge and indigenous cultures characterises legal education in Malaysia. The same could be said of education in most Asian and African universities. This paper holds that such educational enslavement must end and that genuine globalisation demands that we be open to the best from East and West. It argues that our very survival could hinge on resisting today’s Western intellectual imperialism and embarking on a voyage of discovery of our ancestors’ intellectual wanderings.

Shad Saleem Faruqi ( is at the Universiti Teknologi MARA, Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia.

uring British1 colonial days and till 1972 (15 years after independence), a Malaysian aspiring to become a lawyer had no choice but to travel to the UK, Ireland, Australia or New Zealand to obtain a foreign law degree recognised by the Malaysian Legal Profession Act. In 1972, in the face of considerable opposition from many English-oriented local gentlemen, the University of Malaya commenced the nation’s first bachelor of laws (LLB) degree. Other institutions, among them Universiti K ebangsaan Malaysia, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Universiti I slam Antarabangsa Malaysia and Universiti Utara Malaysia, followed suit with their own honours courses in Malaysian laws.

Looking back over the last four decades, it is obvious that there have been some significant developments in legal education in Malaysia. With the launch of several Malaysian law degree courses, legal education has put down local roots. The ratio between foreign law graduates and Malaysian-trained lawyers has shifted in favour of the latter. Many local law graduates have made a name for themselves in the legal fraternity. A few of them have been elevated as judges of the high court. Whether the increase in locally trained lawyers and judges will usher in a new jurisprudence in the courts, however, remains to be seen.

In the 1980s, the qualifying board began a certificate in legal practice (CLP) course to provide a Malaysian-based “finishing” or “professional stage” to those with degrees from abroad (mostly the UK). With this new course, legal education was “repatriated”. It lost its elitist character and became available to the masses.

Specially tailored need-based programmes and short-term courses for targeted groups are now offered occasionally (though not frequently enough) by most law faculties. Legal literacy is being promoted though regular newspaper columns devoted to the law.2 In some fields like constitutional law, the bar council’s constitutional law committee produces pamphlets for public consumption.

Despite these wholesome developments, many debilitating drawbacks remain.

Though local law programmes have existed since 1972, the L egal Profession Act continues to recognise foreign (mostly UK) law degrees and qualifications. Within the legal fraternity, the mystique of the London Inns of Court remains strong. This is understandable. What is scandalous is that a person can be called to the Malaysian bar or be appointed a Malaysian judge, chief justice, president or chief judge without having studied Malaysian law for a single day, without undergoing a “bridging course” and without studying the nation’s highest law, the federal constitution. Later years are supposed to take care of jurists developing an understanding of the philosophical and political underpinnings of

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local legislation. Almost 90% of the superior court judges and most of the senior members of the bar have been trained abroad. Most of them are steeped in the “English tradition” of parliamentary supremacy and that of an unwritten constitution. They are blissfully unfamiliar with constitutional jurisprudence and adroitly avoid or evade constitutional issues. In many monumental cases involving issues of constitutional supremacy, fundamental liberties, unenumerated (non-textual) rights, federal-state relations, implied limits on parliament’s powers and the issue of judicial independence, constitutional arguments are brushed aside and the case is reduced to one of administrative law’s doctrine of ultra vires.

The Legal Profession Act permits foreign lawyers to be admitted on an ad hoc basis to argue special cases. A few years ago, Cherry Blair was invited by a Malaysian law firm as a human rights expert to argue a case that hundreds of local lawyers could have handled just as well, if not better. Fortunately, the judge was not an Uncle Tom and disallowed her application. Within the j udiciary, nearly 80% of the superior court judges are British trained. Most are wedded to Austinian positivism and are content with the security and simplicity of Diceyan parliamentary sovereignty. Because of judicial subservience to parliament, the federal constitution of 1957 has neither become the chart and compass nor the sail and anchor of the nation’s legal endeavours.

Instead of emulating wholesome precedents from other Asian countries with whom Malaysia shares a common destiny, a common history of colonial domination and a similar supreme constitutional charter, Malaysian judges proudly quote from the unwritten British constitution and reject precedents from countries such as India on constitutional law matters. In other areas of law too, the Civil Law Act 1956 enjoins judges, subject to some exceptions, to rely on British precedents. The umbilical cord that bound Malaya to the “mother country” in 1957 continues to nourish our legal appetite. The British adversarial system (though it is most unsuitable for a society in which up to 80% of cases in the lower courts are unrepresented) continues to remain with Malaysia. The common law doctrine of stare decisis continues to hold sway even though justice and fairness demand a “situation-sense”.

Though a large number of the academic staff in Malaysian law faculties has obtained its first degree from local institutions, a colonial mindset persists. The favoured destination for masters’ courses is generally the UK or Australia. Centres of learning in Asia and Africa are avoided. The syllabi for most subjects are based on British blueprints. The external examiners and visiting professors are mostly from the UK, the US or Australia. Asian scholars are generally not considered for such honours. Speakers for a number of prestigious lecture series are invariably British or Australian. Asian jurists are not regarded as up to the mark. The intellectual grovelling before foreign experts (mostly from the West) was no worse in the days of the raj than today. A few years ago, Tony Blair, who the world knows lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to justify a war, was invited by the University of Malaya to deliver the Sultan Azlan Shah Lecture (the most prestigious law lecture s eries). He was also paid by a private organisation to give a talk at a private function. Obviously, mass murderers from the US and the UK still deserve worship but Malaysian voices of concern are raised when an African or Asian miscreant like Robert Mugabe or Bashar al-Assad seeks to visit the country.

The following points are discussed in detail below.

  • In line with London’s LLB model of legal education, Malaysian law faculties are too profession-oriented and insufficiently p eople-oriented.3
  • Legal education in Malaysia is textbook-based rather than e xperience-based.
  • In its choice of subjects and aims, legal education in Malaysia is embarrassingly un-Asian and very West-centric. Fifty-four years after independence, a number of private universities continue to train Malaysians for British, Irish and Australian law degrees.
  • Profession-Oriented, Not People-Oriented

    In line with the legal tradition at the University of London and the Inns of Court, in Malaysia, law schools exist primarily to prepare students for practice in the courts. There is no rational basis for this narrow goal. Formal law constitutes only a portion of people’s legal experience. A large number of people live out their lives outside the courts and conduct their social affairs without the aid of lawyers. As for it being a career, a very large number of law graduates, perhaps 50%, find useful careers outside the law.

    Even if this were not so, a university (or multiversity), if it is worth its description, must have broader goals than just train recruits for employment at the bar, bench or in corporate life. A university is not a factory. Production of cogs for the industrial wheel is not its primary function. A university has many holistic goals. Producing good people with a social conscience and a s ocial perspective is one of them. Instilling the habit of thought, a receptivity to beauty and humane feeling is another. Seeking change and reform to the basic structures of society, including the legal paradigms in operation, is yet another.

    Regrettably, Malaysian law faculties’ excessive reliance on the University of London’s traditional law syllabus prevents exposure to many areas of legal knowledge of relevance to Asia. The immersion of Malaysian lawyers and judges in British legal positivism inclines the country towards studying the law as it is rather than as it ought to be. Despite the Asian context, legal education in Malaysia does not emphasise need-based programmes. It does not highlight the burning issues of the time – the plight of the marginalised and downtrodden and issues of corruption and abuse of powers. Students are not trained or encouraged to walk in the valleys where the rays of justice do not penetrate.

    Legal education must not only involve studying dry, lifeless rules and procedures but also rendering service to society in some of the following ways.

  • The curriculum must be redesigned to provide for mandatory i nvolvement of faculty members and students in legal aid and advice clinics. At least one day a week, each faculty member and a chosen group of students must be required to sit in a clinic after office hours and give free legal aid and advice to members of the community.
  • There must be a clinical legal education course involving fieldwork to examine the actual working of the law in society; preparing brochures on common areas of concern to the citizens; and visits to kampongs (villages) or squatter areas to impart legal literacy.
  • All university students, during at least one semester break, must be involved in voluntary work (unpaid) in adopted projects, adopted localities or communities.
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    • It should be part of the essential function of every law faculty to formulate and conduct special, tailor-made, short-term courses for targeted groups in society. These courses could be of two types. One, to provide continuing education to specialists so that their expertise is enhanced. Two, for the public to improve their legal literacy. The latter should not have any rigid entry requirement.

    Textbook Based, Not Experience Based

    “True knowledge comes from experience and not from textbooks. Yet we allow daily…the overwriting of experience by textbooks, whose so-called knowledge is based on experience from countries differently organised from ours” (Idris 2005). There is always a gap between the theory of the law and the reality on the ground. To bridge this gap, universities must build town-gown and community-university relationships; encourage student and staff participation in community life so that they experience the law in action.

    To encourage self-education, learning situations have to be created outside the classroom. Classroom time must be reduced and the emphasis shifted to how to learn from what to learn (Alvares 2005). Paulo Freire (2005) argues in favour of “problem-posing education” (in which students and teachers interact with each other and engage in a process of transformation) and calls for the abolition of “the banking model of education” (in which the students merely receive, memorise and repeat their teachers’ d eposits).

    Too West-Centric

    If independence is the state or quality of being autonomous or free from the influence, guidance or control of another nation, then Malaysians are hardly free. The fundamental assumptions of the country’s political, economic and educational systems are dictated by Western, especially US, hegemony in the area. Politically, the nation is free but the enslavement of the mind has hardly ceased. Yusef Progler (2005) points out that

    whatever the field of study or regional location, a course of graduate or even postgraduate study in most universities today across the world will follow a similar trajectory. It will first identify the great white European or American men of each discipline and then drill their theories and practices as if these were universal, while ignoring or undermining most other forms of knowledge.

    Whether it is biology, physics, algebra, philosophy, medicine, law, politics, economics, agriculture or healthcare, two tendencies are apparent. One, M alaysia blindly apes Western universities. Two, it is ignorant of the Asian and African roots of knowledge.4

    This West-centrism or Euro-centrism is not necessarily resorted to consciously. It is rooted in a slave mentality, a psychology of dependence on and reverence for everything Western. Syed Hussain Alatas called it “the captive mind”. Others have r eferred to it as the colonised mind. Ward Churchill (2002) refers to all modern intellectual discourse and all higher education as “White Studies”. Cheng (2010) describes the present state of affairs as “academic colonialism”. Perhaps it is difficult for Asian elites who are immersed in Western thought to envision “life b eyond the hegemonic grip of Western modernity, its knowledge traditions and its socio-economic systems” (Progler 2009). There is “widespread acceptance of the idea that the motive force c hannelling the continued progress of the human species was the

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    self-propelled, inherent dynamism of the West. The West was the model in (the) light of which everything else was to be eliminated or superseded” (Alvares 2010).

    Ignorance of Eastern Contributions

    Historical evidence proves that Chinese, Indian and Persian universities predated universities in Europe and provided paradigms for early Western education (Alvares 2005). Yet universities around the world, including those in Asia, ignore centuries of e nlightenment in China, India, Japan, Persia and west Asia. It is as if all things good and wholesome and all great ideas originated in the crucible of Western civilisation and the East was, and is, an intellectual desert. It is as if Western knowledge is the sum total of all human knowledge (Progler 2009).

    As a matter of fact, a cultural and scientific renaissance flourished in the East long before the European renaissance. Everyone knows about the Gutenberg printing press. Very few know that Pi Sheng developed one much earlier in 1040. In science, Galileo Galilei, Issac Newton and Albert Einstein illuminate the firmament but not much is known about Al-hazen and Nasir al-Din al-Tusi. Western chemistry had its predecessor in Eastern alchemy. Algebra had African roots. The philosophical musings of Plato, Aristotle, Immanuel Kant, Jean-Paul Sartre and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe can be matched by Ghazali, Ibn Rushd, Mulla Sadra, Yanagita Kunio, Shenhui, al-Mutanabbi and Kalidasa. Emile D urkheim’s and Max Weber’s sociology must compete with Ibn Khaldun and Jalal al-Din Rumi. Freudian psychology had its corrective in Buddhist wisdom. The Cartesian medical model has its Eastern counterpart in the ayurvedic, unani and herbal methods.

    Very few are aware that Arab Muslims were central to the making of medieval Europe. From the 8th to the 13th centuries, Arab and I slamic cultures were at their zenith and were renowned for their s cience and learning. Aspiring scholars from all over the world flocked to these citadels of education. Arabic was the lingua franca of science and technology. A large number of texts written in Arabic were translated into Latin. They contributed immensely to the transfer of knowledge from the Islamic world to Europe. Libraries flourished in the Muslim world, notably in Baghdad and in Cordoba. Many European scholars translated Arabic works in medicine, mathematics and astronomy without acknowledging their sources. To deny the debt to Islamic intellectuals, the names of hundreds of I slamic scholars and scientists were Latinised or changed to obscure their identity and o rigin. Thus Ibnu Sina became Avicenna; al-Ghazali was changed to Algazel; Ibn Rushd was altered to Averroes and al-Razi to Rhazes. Ibn Ishaq Al-Kindi became Alkindus, Al-Farabi was named Al-Pharabius and Al-Mawardi became Alboacen.5

    Legal Curricula

    Despite 38 years of experimentation in legal education, the structure and content of Malaysia’s courses, the choice of core subjects, the categories of thought, the fundamentals, the methods of analysis and research, the history of each subject, the books and the icons – all remain Western. Legal education today is as much a colonial construct as it was during the days of the British raj. Centuries of enlightenment in Japan, China, India, Persia and west Asia are totally ignored.



    In legal philosophy, for example, a book on American or English l egal thought is referred to as “jurisprudence”. In contrast, a book on Islamic, Chinese or Hindu legal thought is described with the prefix “Islamic”, “Chinese” or “Hindu”.6 The assumption is that Western ideas are universal whereas the Asian ones are merely parochial.

    A typical course in jurisprudence in a Malaysian university b egins with Plato, Aristotle, John Locke, John Austin, Jeremy Bentham, H L A Hart, Hans Kelsen, Roscoe Pound, Weber, Eugen Ehrlich, Durkheim, Karl Marx, Karl Olivecrona, and so on. The icons and the godfathers of knowledge are overwhelmingly Western. Titles written by scholars and thinkers from Asia, South America and Africa are nowhere to be found. The Mahabharata, Arthashastra, Book of Mencius, Analects of Confucius and the treatises of Ibn Khaldun, Ghazali, Ibn Rushd, Mulla Sadra, Jose Rizal, Benoy Kumar Sarkar, Yanagita Kunio and Naquib al-Attas do not appear in any syllabi.

    Concept of Law

    In Austinian fashion, the concept of law is tied to the commands of the political sovereign even though most Asians and Africans feel the pull of religion and custom and regard them as part of the majestic network and seamless web of the law.

    Categories of Law

    The rigid compartmentalisation of knowledge developed in E urope in the 19th century is preserved. As in the West, Malaysia separates law from morality, public law from private law and crime from tort even though such artificial dichotomies are alien to its traditions and are often impediments to justice. In most Asian and west Asia systems, the militant secularism of Europe and the US is rejected. Morality is legalised and legality is moralised. The law of crime is also the law of tort. Laws relating to rights and d uties a pply equally in the public and private spheres. Such a holistic a pproach has p ositive implication for human rights.

    The questionable divisions between criminal offences and civil wrongs, criminal procedure and civil procedure, public law and private law, and substantive law and procedure on which curricula are built do not approximate with real-life situations. A motor accident case, for example, may cut across a myriad of fields, including tort, crime, contract, road traffic law and insurance. An integrated a pproach to legal problems is, therefore, necessary to recognise the inter-connectedness of all fields of law.

    In the final year of law education, an integrated subject called “Litigation” should be introduced, combining elements of the law of evidence, criminal and civil procedure. Constitutional and a dministrative law could be combined in a subject called “Public Law”. Moots should be given greater emphasis. The scope of “Remedies” should include not only public and private law remedies but also non-judicial, parliamentary, administrative, non-legal, informal and traditional modes of providing redress to a complainant.

    Public Law

    Generations of students have been uncritically led to believe that the seeds of constitutional and administrative law were planted in Europe and North America by such historical documents as the Magna Carta (1215), Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen (1789) and the US Declaration of Independence (1776). What is ignored is that the ideas of limited government, judicial independence and constitutionalism were also found in the religious doctrines of the East (Weeramantry 2010).

    Taking Islam as an example, we can point out that the denial of state sovereignty in Islamic jurisprudence preceded Locke’s and Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s idea of the limits on state sovereignty by hundreds of years (Faruqi 2006). The idea of government as a trustee is mentioned in the Holy Qur’an (4:58). The citizen’s duty to obey the law is conditional to the duty of the ruler to obey the creator. Locke and Rousseau, Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King built on this idea to propound the theory of civil disobedience.

    In Islamic theory, political as well as socio-economic rights are given legitimacy. Prophet Muhammad’s sermon at Arafat is one of the world’s greatest human rights declarations. More than 1,400 years ago he spoke of liberty and property, racial equality, women’s rights and the ruler’s subjection to the law. If his words had been uttered by some Western luminary, they would have adorned the walls of law schools all over the world.

    In the Islamic criminal process there is a legal presumption of innocence. Evidence of agents provocateurs cannot be used. In the Holy Qur’an, religious tolerance is required and pluralism is permitted (2:256, 109:1-6, 10:99). Modern principles of administrative law like natural justice and proportionality have their basis in the Holy Qur’an. The concept of shura (3:159) or consultation paves the way for a whole regime of consultative processes.

    The ombudsman principle attributed to the genius of the Scandinavians was known to Islam through the system of Hisba, the office of the Muhtasib and the existence of Mazalim courts. Islam’s concept of the universal ummah is in line with the process of globalisation and the growing movement for international citizenship.

    Alternative Dispute Resolution

    The subject of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) parrots a discourse on arbitration, conciliation and mediation and ignores many indigenous or informal institutions and procedures (like the village penghulu in Malaya and the panchayati raj and lok adalats in India) that have existed for resolving discord. These institutions and procedures should be studied afresh.

    Law, Economics and Environmentalism

    The course on law and economics studies emerging international protocols but not the clear injunctions in Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism on environmental and consumer responsibility (Weeramantry 2007). Ibrahim Abdul-Matin informs us that there are deep and long-standing connections between Islamic teachings and environmentalism; that Islam has a profound d edication to h umankind’s collective role as stewards of the Earth. He points out that Prophet Muhammad declared “the e ntire Earth is a mosque” (2010).

    Growth of International Law

    The syllabi of public international law courses fail to mention that long before modern humanitarian law built protection for civilians, non-combatants and prisoners of war, many Eastern systems such as Islamic international law had already worked out a set of principles

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    for the conduct of war. Some of these principles exceed the standards of the venerated Geneva Conventions (Weeramantry 1988).

    Regrettably, Malaysian as well as Asian legal education fails to recognise that many of the law’s crowning glories actually originated in the East. Obviously, colonialism has left its indelible mark. The enslavement of captive minds leads to cooperation with the pervasive intellectual imperialism of the West. There is also a total failure to recognise and articulate how international law is used as a chambermaid for Western colonial interests. Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL), a network group, seeks to expose this shameful reality. It studies the encounter between international law and colonised peoples and the role of international law institutions in facilitating and legitimising the subjugation and oppression of “Third World” peoples.7 Contemporary TWAIL scholars include Georges Abi-Saab, F Garcia-Amador, R P Anand, M ohammed Bedjaoui, Taslim O Elias, C H Alexandrowicz, Richard Falk, Fred A Boyle, Nico Schrijver and Martti Koskenniemi.

    Building a Just World

    Despite the tradition of Austin, of legal positivism and empiricism that emphasise the is and not the ought, it should be a core function of Asian law faculties to study the concepts of law, justice and rights in all their dimensions – historical, economic, s ocial, religious and political.

    Concept of Human Rights

    In the context of Asia and Africa, the syllabi of human rights courses must move beyond traditional human rights concepts found in 20th century documents towards the following felt n ecessities in our part of the world.

  • Issues of sustainable development.
  • The impending environmental catastrophe, which is being hastened by the corporation-based society of the West.
  • “Rights of future generations”.
  • Third generation rights to development and poverty eradication.
  • The pervasive domination of Asian and African economies and social life by transnational corporations and Western hegemony.
  • The debt stranglehold of the North on the South.
  • Currency speculation and hedge funds that brought down the economies of several Asian societies in the late 1990s and impoverished millions.
  • Protection of indigenous resources against piracy by transnational corporations.
  • Cross-border violations of basic rights of developing nations by the more developed nations of the West.
  • The new wave of colonialism that has anointed itself with the name of globalisation.
  • The transfer of economic and political power from elected, n ational institutions to unelected, Western-controlled institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank.
  • The dominance over world institutions by the Western militaryindustrial complex that has made our quest for peace elusive, e ngendered wars and overthrown unfriendly Asian regimes, with the dubious doctrine of “humanitarian intervention” as a mask. West Asia today is on fire not because of the Western desire to promote democracy and human rights but because of its desire to
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    replace leaders who were either an obstruction to its hegemony or had become an inconvenience. It is notable that some of the most oppressive but West-friendly regimes in that part of the world face no threats from the US, UK, France, the United Nations Security Council or the North Atlantic Treaty O rganisation (NATO).

  • Western militarism and the nefarious West-dominated arms trade that impoverishes Asian economies, kills millions of innocent non-combatants and pollutes our soil.
  • The gross violations of humanitarian laws in the disguise of “the war against terrorism”.
  • Western control of and the lack of democracy and equality in most international institutions.
  • Threats to human dignity from private centres of tyranny.
  • It is time for Asia to stop being ashamed of articulating its own perspectives on human rights. It is also time for us to expose the racism inherent in condemnations of the “Asian values” argument. If there is an American or Western or Christian or universal concept of human rights, then surely there is no justification for mocking an Asian, African, Islamic, Hindu or Buddhist version of human rights that may share much in common with others at the core but may stand apart with others on penumbral issues.

    History of Human Rights and Wrongs

    The centrality of the human rights discourse today is a cause for celebration. However, besides a study of the concept and its emerging new dimensions, attention must also be turned towards the history of the quest for human rights, its great promoters and its worst violators. The Western record on human rights needs to be examined. We must remember our humiliations and sufferings. Past and continuing brutalisation of Asia, Africa and Latin America by Europe and North America needs to be known. The slavery, apartheid and genocide on our continents, the atrocities against people of other cultures and religions in Europe, and the continuing, horrendous violations of rights by Europe and North America in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya need to be documented. Any Asian must look with disdain on Western pontifications about human rights when all around is a story of Western brutalities against other cultures, religions and regions. It is as if T-Rex were giving the jungle folk a lecture on ahimsa.

    It is time that Asian law faculties sensitise citizens to the topsyturvy world we inhabit. It is time we turn people’s attention to the West-perpetuated genocides, wars, overthrows of elected regimes, economic blockades that cut off the basic necessities of life, pulverisation or exploitation of our economies and the slow strangulation of our cultures and ways of life. All these are sought to be justified by our Western overlords on the basis of some so-called benevolent goals set by them.


    All human beings are encapsulated by time and space. We are all susceptible to narrow religious, racial and communal perspectives. Our whole life is a process of expanding the horizons of thought and adding to islands of knowledge. Admittedly, Asian and African perspectives on life and law are not universal and comprehensive. Likewise, North American and European world views are also limited by their own social experience. However,


    due to their colonial ascendancy (which has not abated and has ask European and US universities to include the treasures of the simply taken on new forms) and military and economic might, East in their syllabi. Whether their world view should be enriched Western perspectives pass off as universal, transcendental and by the insights and reflections of the East can be left to them. absolute.8 Eastern ideas and institutions are viewed through Further, the discovery of our treasures should not be seen as an Western prisms and invariably regarded as primitive and in need exercise in flag-waving nationalism. Its aim is ameliorative. Diverof change. There should, therefore, be a concerted effort through-sity and pluralism of knowledge systems are vital for meeting many out the South to expose the sordid reality of Western intellectual of the moral, social and economic challenges of our times. For eximperialism and to re-educate colonised minds. ample, Asia could offer a critique of the ethnocentrism of Western

    We must revisit our syllabi and substitute or supplement imported scholarship by pointing out that a middle-class Western lifestyle, mental baggage with our own treasury of thoughts. This indigenisa-and what that entails in terms of nuclear families, a consumer socition of our syllabi is not meant to shut out the West or to restrict the ety, living in suburbia and extensive private space, may neither be knowledge of the powerful but to “restore the suppressed knowl-workable nor desirable for the majority of the world’s population. edge of the powerless” (Alvares 2005). We must give our students The contemporary Western notion of development that requires a bigger picture of knowledge and increase their choices. Over-the deliberate extermination of indigenous cultures and the giving reliance on Western knowledge paradigms and exclusion of tradi-up of modes of life that are psychologically and environmentally tional knowledge and indigenous cultures from our universities has rich and rewarding requires critical examination. Growth for the narrowed our knowledge base. Against the background of pervasive sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell and some brakes on Western intellectual domination, benign though it is in some areas, development policies and some reconsideration of what amounts to indigenisation would assist a genuine globalisation. the good life are in order. Humanity must recognise that it is living

    Academic boards of faculties, university senates and accredita-on the verge of a precipice, afraid both to climb and to fall. But the tion authorities may wish to go beyond form to the actual content of ground is slipping beneath us. It is time for a dialogue between our syllabi. They must insist that our garlands of knowledge be c ivilisations and a mutual process of learning. made of flowers from both Eastern and Western gardens. A helpful In sum, our goal should be that Asian universities shed their slavish website for some Third World titles is mentality of blindly aping Western paradigms. We should give up our There is no dearth of scholars from the South or with empathy for reluctance to check the historical veracity and moral legitimacy of the South who could be co-opted to advise Malaysian universities a ssumptions in the Western framework. We must then embark on a on how to tackle the problem of educational enslavement.9 The aim voyage of discovery of our ancestors’ intellectual wanderings. We must should not be to shut out the West or be insular. Let the wearing of seek to rediscover the intellectual wonders and heritage of China, blinds be the speciality of others. The aim should be to be truly I ndia, Persia, Mesopotamia and other Eastern and African civilisag lobal, to give students a bigger picture of knowledge and to tions and subject them to a comparative analysis. Only in this way can i ncrease their choices. It should not be part of our agenda to try to we build a garland of knowledge with flowers from many gardens.

    Notes (1994), Hindu Law and the Constitution, Eastern Alvares, Claude (2005): “Why Multiversity”, Third

    1 It is acknowledged at the very outset that the Law House, 2nd ed. World Resurgence, Nos 173-74, p 27. terms East and West, South and North, orient and 7 Personally I find the term “Third World” demean-– (2010): “Resisting the West’s Intellectual Discourse” occident are not culturally exclusivist terms or ing. There is nothing “third” about Asia and Africa in Dominance of the West over the Rest, Citizens

    binary opposites or water-tight compartments. International, Penang.

    and “first” about Europe and the US. It is better to Their waters mix. Further, neither region is free

    use terms such as Asia, Africa and South America

    Cheng, Feng Shih (2010): “Academic Colonialism of value pluralism or relativity. The waters of life

    or, collectively, “the South”.

    and the Struggle for Indigenous Knowledge

    mix everywhere. There are shared, core values. 8 It is conceded, however, that Western and Eastern juris-S ystems in Taiwan”, Social Alternatives, Vol 29,

    However, surrounding the core, there is a large prudence are not binary opposites. Each is more vari-No 1, p 44.

    penumbra in which culture, religion and region egated than the simple terms East and West allow.

    Churchill, Ward (2002): White Studies – The Intellectual

    are, and ought to be, recognised as relevant. For Each shares many common core features with the the purpose of this essay, a hermeneutic approach

    other and with many other rich streams of thought. Imperialism of Higher Education, REPS, Citizens International, Penang, p 3.

    is adopted: the idea of East and West is studied in 9 Among them are Anwar Fazal, Naquib al-Attas, the light of how it is understood by the bulk of S M Mohamed Idris, Mohideen Kader, Gurdial Faruqi, Shad Saleem (2006): Islam, Democracy and those who use it and who are affected by it. Singh Nijhar, Martin Khor Kok Peng, K Bala Subra-Development, UPENA, UiTM, Selangor, pp 7-10. 2 The author pens a column “Reflecting on the maniam, K R Panikkar, T Rajamoorthy, Chee Yoke Freire, Paulo (2005): Pedagogy of the Oppressed – Law” in The Star every other Wednesday. An Education for Humanization, REPS, Citizens

    Heong, Evelyne Hong, Lean Ka-Min (Malaysia), Claude Alvares, Vinay Lal, Ashis Nandy, C K Raju,

    3 Scintillating developments in community-based I nternational, Penang.

    A M Bhattacharjee, Vandana Shiva, Mira Shiva,

    learning in some English faculties are, regretta- Idris, Mohamed (2005): “The Dismal State of Social

    Devinder Sharma, Ashim Roy (India), Seyed Abdul

    bly, not given adequate scrutiny. Sciences in the Third World”, Third World Resur

    hassan Navvab, Hossein Doostdar, Sue San

    4 This criticism is not fully applicable to the four-gence, Nos 173-74, p 23.

    Ghahremani Ghajar (Iran), Roberto Bissio, Carlos

    year law course at the Ahmad Ibrahim Kulliyyah Abin (Uruguay), Charles Abugre (Ghana), Yusuf Progler, Yusef (2005): “White Studies and the Univerof Laws at UIAM. The degree course at UIAM Progler (Japan), Ziauddin Sardar, Daya Thussu, sity in Ruins”, Third World Resurgence, Nos 173-74, endeavours to provide a parallel education in

    Kalinga Seneviratne, Reynaldo Ileto, Syed Farid p 31.

    Islamic law and jurisprudence on the one hand Alatas (Singapore), Tony Weis (Canada), John C – (2009): Preface to Naquib al-Attas, The Deand all the traditional law subjects offered in Raines, Roby Rajan (US) and Gustavao Esteva Westernization of Knowledge, REPS, Citizens other universities on the other. However, the

    (Mexico). Other notable scholars and activists in-

    International, Penang.

    course content of the “traditional” law subjects clude Frederic Clairmont, Helena Norberg-Hodge, Weeramantry, C G (1988): Islamic Jurisprudence –

    continues to rely heavily on Western paradigms, John Cavanagh, M Iqbal Asaria and Walden Bello.

    An International Perspective, Macmillan, London,

    Western books and icons. p 13.

    5 For a more detailed list, see Shad Saleem Faruqi


    (2006), Islam, Democracy and Development, UPENA, – (2007): “Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and the UiTM, pp 15-17. Abdul-Matin, Ibrahim (2010): Green Deen – What E nvironment”, Asian Tribune, 7 July. 6 Refer, for example, to the pioneering work of I slam Teaches about Protecting the Planet, Berrett-– (2010): “Universal Principles for Judicial Ethics C G Weeramantry (1988) and A M Bhattacharjee Koehler Publishers, San Francisco. and Integrity”, The Sunday Times, 25 July.

    november 12, 2011 vol xlvi no 46

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