To Asian Affairs
I wish that 2017 shall bring prosperity, peace and a message of human love and dignity to everyone living under the sky and all human beings on earth, irrespective of their colour, nationality, race, religion or age. I hope the New Year shall bring peace so that the world shall live without fear or under nuclear or physical threat – no arms, no guns, no bombs and every human being shall live in dignity, security and peace.
Prof. Bhim Singh
Sr. Executive Member,
Supreme Court Bar Association of India (SCBA)
Co-Founder of National Panthers Party
Our spiritual birthright
What an excellent piece by Justin Huggler on Asia’s imperilled heritage, along with some stunning pictures of what the human mind can create. As a keen back-packer, I have visited several of the places he writes about and found them truly mesmerising.
It is just so tragic that, despite the massive socio-economic benefits that can accrue to all of these beautiful countries – India, Nepal, Yemen and many others – from international and domestic tourism to their archaeological and heritage sites, the monuments and sites themselves face destruction if certain current trends are not reversed.
We are all at the mercy of natural disasters, and violent conflict is a complex problem that can take decades to resolve. However, unsustainable tourism, rampant commercialism and poor or insufficient management can be more readily addressed. Governments and overseas tourists alike must all do their bit to help preserve these ancient wonders of the world. They are, as Ahmed Sayyad suggests, far more than bricks and mortar; they are part of a spiritual legacy that ultimately belongs to us all.
A law unto themselves?
Indonesia is often under-reported on, so it was good to see the article in your January issue on the trial of Jakarta’s governor ‘Ahok’ for blasphemy (‘A country on trial’). Dr Cockett highlighted a crucial element of this intriguing nation, namely, its religious and political pluralism and tolerance, combined with an oddly old world attitude towards freedom of speech on religious matters.
Given Indonesia’s democratic reputation, it is unnerving that this trial is happening in the first place, and it would be a catastrophe if Ahok were to be jailed. If the massive popularity he has garnered with his plain-speaking, candid style and determination to clean up the shambles that is Jakarta cannot save him, what can?
The country’s tough blasphemy laws, dating back to 1965, are clearly outdated and are being shamelessly exploited to persecute minorities such as Ahok, who is ethnic-Chinese and Christian. Yet he is the very essence of what Indonesia needs, and is supposed to represent. Let us hope President Joko Widodo has the courage to stand up to the pressure he faces on this matter.
Tough questions, rational answers
Hasan Suroor makes some uncomfortable but necessary points in his article about Islam’s existential crisis. These are issues that both Muslims and non-Muslims should be considering, as the ‘hijacking’ of Islam by ‘extremist vigilantes’ has tarred the religion across Europe, giving rise to counter-movements such as Germany’s PEGIDA, which declares that ‘Islam does not belong in Germany’. If we are to address the question of not only if but how Islam can belong in the West, we need to have a shared vision of humanity that cannot be sacrificed in favour of any religious labels.
There should be space in all countries for all faiths (and the absence thereof). Anyone who argues otherwise has to be considered wrong. The line in the sand must drawn somewhere.