To the Editor:
Congratulations to Asian Affairs on some of the astute articles published in the last issue (December 2015). In ‘Getting to the root of the radicals’, David Watts hits the nail on the head with his comments about making efforts to ‘overcome the deficit in cultural, political and economic matters between the Muslims and others’. And Trevor Grundy’s item on 2016’s planned Interfaith Empowerment project also underscores the importance of generating greater understanding between religious groups.
Maybe this is easier said than done, when the chasm between one ideology and another (not to mention lifestyles) is so vast. But, as recent attacks in France and elsewhere have proved, we cannot afford to keep answering violence with violence. It is clearly not working.
At the risk of sounding naive, I really believe it is time to focus on our common humanity, not our differences (though they are part of that humanity). We should also show terrorist groups such as ISIL that tolerant, democratic countries are a moral force, instead of giving them more excuses to condemn and kill us.
Christine Hislop (student)
No room for hubris in Myanmar’s new age
Sound analysis in December’s Asian Affairs of Aung San Suu Kyi’s victory in the recent general election in Myanmar. The NLD’s win was even greater than anybody expected, and Justin Wintle is quite right to point out the irony of this, as Suu Kyi will not now be so bound by a need for compromise.
Like many, I admire ‘The Lady’ but hints at her growing dictatorial manner are worrying on various levels. The job ahead of her is so daunting and the people of Myanmar badly need a leader who will bring some kind of cohesion to a society riven with ethnic tensions. Its history of hatred for cultural diversity really does not bode well.
The Rohingya Muslims, already so put-upon, can’t be happy that not a single Muslim MP was elected to parliament. Aung San Suu Kyi must have the courage to speak out for this persecuted minority, whatever the majority view. Otherwise, she will be no better than her autocratic predecessors.
I grew up in Burma near what was then Rangoon and, although I have never been back, I still have an affection for the place. I hope Aung San Suu Kyi will live up to her longtime promise and bring a ‘new dawn’, rather than drinking from the ‘poisoned chalice’.
Don’t misjudge Modi
The UK visit by Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi was a big hit, especially among British Indians, of which I am proudly one.
He has been criticised a lot, and John Elliott (‘Three hits and a reversal of imperial roles’, December 2015) seems sceptical about Shri Modi’s power to deliver on his economic promises. That, as Mr Elliott says, remains to be seen.
However, I find it offensive when people keep focusing on Shri Modi’s faults – all world leaders have them. Mistakes and misjudgements are part of the job. What about his positive qualities: his focus on growth and business in India, his real attempts to modernise the country in every way, his patriotism and diligence, his connection with young Indians via social media, etc? He is a breath of fresh air.
I disagree that India has become less tolerant under Narendra Modi. I am not saying it is perfect, but intolerance has existed under previous governments, and it exists in other countries across the world, east to west – look at the Salafis in Pakistan, or the Front National in France. Also, we should not forget that David Cameron has welcomed leaders from far less tolerant countries in the name of political and economic expediency!