Experts urge Europe to look toward Asia-Pacific

By Zhang Haizhou and Hu Yinan (China Daily)

BEIJING / LONDON – As the world’s center of gravity shifts toward the Asia-Pacific region, concerns are growing in Europe that the former center of global geopolitics may be sidelined.

European politicians and analysts have urged Europe to shift its focus increasingly toward the Asia-Pacific, following Washington’s strategic adjustment toward the region.

The rationale for Europe today is about power, which, in one aspect, is about being “able to play in a world that will otherwise be dominated by America and China”, said former British prime minister Tony Blair.Tony BlairImage by Medienmagazin pro via Flickr

A “strong Europe” is needed to leverage the collective power of European states, all of which are relatively small in size, Blair said in Beijing last week.

“Unless you come together, your individual countries – and that includes the UK – are not going to be strong enough,” said Blair.

Commenting on what the US’ ongoing policy shift towards the Asia-Pacific means for Europe, Blair said Washington “has always had a strong presence in this part of the world and continues to do so”.

One of the things a strong Europe can do, he said, is to help the relationship work between the United States and China.

“I believe the relationship between America and China – a good and strong working relationship – is a vital part of making the world work today,” Blair said.

As Europe’s sovereign debt crisis intensifies, US President Barack Obama’s foreign policy shift toward Asia – later acknowledged by European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, who said the 21st century “is going to be a Pacific one” – has left many in Europe worried.

In a speech on Nov 9, Van Rompuy declared that Europe has a major role to play in the Asia-Pacific region, both as a trading partner and as “a potential major factor contributing to (Asia’s) stability”.

He emphasized that this “should also be reflected in higher political attention paid to and political activity shown in the region”.

The European Union was not invited to last month’s ASEAN and East Asia summits in Indonesia, which the US and Russia took part in for the first time.

The absence has left the 27-nation bloc sitting on the sidelines in arguably what is the most important region, while its major ally and trading partner, the US, asserts a stronger foreign policy role there.

This was not the only important conference the EU has been absent from in the region.

Catherine Ashton, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, has not attended any major multilateral meeting in Asia since taking up the post in 2009.

It is “essential” that Ashton attends the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) “each year”, Frans-Paul van der Putten, senior researcher at the Netherlands Institute of International Relations (Clingendael) in The Hague, pointed out.

“Ashton cannot afford to stay away from the ARF, given that the ARF is the only major trans-Pacific forum of which the EU is a member,” he said.

“While the EU cannot be a trans-Pacific power, it should strengthen its visibility in this strategically crucial region with a focused and active Asia policy.”

Suggesting the EU should also cooperate closely with the US to “strengthen its economic competitiveness”, Van der Putten, however, suggested the 27-nation bloc “adopt a neutral stance with regard to US security policy in Asia”.

Obama said during his recent visit to Australia that the US was “stepping up its commitment to the entire Asia-Pacific”.

Up to 2,500 US Marines will deploy in Australia in the coming years.

Hillary Clinton last week visited Myanmar, the first trip by a US secretary of state in more than 50 years.

Tom Kane, a senior lecturer in International Politics at Britain’s University of Hull, said he thinks the US “is likely to continue to balance its Asian interests against its European ones”.

During World War II, the US government formally agreed to give Europe priority over Asia and the Pacific, “but, in practice, fought actively in both areas of operations from the very beginning”, he said.

“Happily for all concerned, it will usually be able to cooperate productively with Europe and Asia, both at the same time,” Kane added.

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Insap forum on Hudud leaves public still grappling with fears

Chua: Be clear on hudud

WANI MUTHIAH, FLORENCE A . SAMY and JOSEPH KAOS Jr at the ‘Hudud and its Implications on Non-Muslims in Malaysia’ forum in Kuala Lumpur

MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek has challenged Pakatan Rakyat to include its stand on hudud and its implementation in its general election manifesto and common agenda.

Pakatan, especially PAS, he said, should be transparent in its stand.

“Right now, there are conflicting signals from Pakatan leaders. Hudud should be in their common agenda since they always never do anything without consulting their partners.

Making a point: Dr Chua delivering his keynote address during the forum at Wisma MCA Sunday.

“If the rakyat votes for PAS, DAP or PKR knowing full well that they will implement hudud law, then we should respect it as it is the voters’ choice,” he said at a forum entitled “Hudud and its Implications on Non-Muslims in Malaysia” yesterday.

Dr Chua lambasted DAP for its contradictory stand and for misleading the Chinese community, especially with its “agreeing to disagree” statement.

“On one hand, DAP says it opposes hudud. On the other hand, in the last general election and subsequent by-elections, DAP campaigned vigorously to ensure the PAS candidate won,” he said at the forum organised by MCA’s Institute of Strategic Analysis and Policy Research.

The forum was moderated by Bar Council president Lim Chee Wee.

Dr Chua reiterated MCA’s opposition to hudud and its implementation, adding that hudud law would adversely affect both Muslims and non-Muslims.

“It is a lie that it will not affect us. We have the right to talk about it as it does affect us.

“We do not accept hudud and its implementation in a multi-racial country,” he said.

Explaining the ramifications, Dr Chua said that the implementation of hudud law would affect the country’s foreign direct investment, revenue as well as rights of non-Muslims, including gambling and drinking activities.

He dismissed claims by Pakatan that hudud law could not be implemented even if it came into power but did not have two-thirds majority.

He said Muslim MPs from both sides of the divide would be forced to support the Bill although they might not agree with the implementation as hudud was part of Islam.

Dr Chua pointed out that hudud law could not be implemented without amending the Federal Constitution.

“How then can the rights and freedom of non-Muslims be safeguarded? Which court will have jurisdiction which involves both Muslims and non-Muslims as hudud law cannot exist without the existence of Islamic law?” he asked.

In his closing address, Dr Chua urged non-Muslims to reject the implementation of hudud law because it had great implications on them.

“We also heard the panellists say that the PAS version of hudud does not represent the true essence of Islam.

“Malaysians must make a choice of either choosing Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak‘s vision of a high-income nation by 2020 or a failed state run under hudud law,” he added.

On Saturday, Dr Chua had said in Malacca that he had no problem having a public debate on hudud with Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng provided the latter answered two questions first.

He said Lim must first explain to the people if he could ensure the implementation of hudud law would not affect the non-Muslims.

Second, he said Lim must explain if the implementation of hudud law would affect the norms and life- style in Malaysia, especially the economic, education and social system aspects.

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MCA hudud forum leaves public still grappling with fears

Pauline Wong

(l-r) Ustaz Fathul Bari Mat Jahaya, Ustaz Mohd Kamal Saidin, Lim Chee Wee, Edmund Bon and Prof Dr Chandra Muzaffar meeting MCA president Datuk Seri Chua Soi Lek during a hudud forum organised by Institute of Strategies Analysis and Policy Research (Insap) at Wisma MCA today.

KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 4, 2011) : Legal and Muslim religious experts tried to discuss the effects of the implementation of hudud law in Malaysia to a public forum comprising mainly MCA members today but stopped short of of answering the fears of the non Muslims.

The panel of speakers which comprised of International Movement of a Just World (Just) president Dr Chandra Muzaffar, special religious advisor to the Terengganu Mentri Besar Ustaz Haji Mohd Kamal Saidin, and Umno Young Ulama working committee chairman Ustaz Fathul Bari Mat Jahaya was moderated by the Bar Council president Lim Chee Wee.

It discussed the implementation of hudud in the country but stopped short of saying whether it should or should not be implemented.

Chandra stated that although some Muslims in the country are for the implementation of hudud as part of their identity, there are many Muslims who have yet to agree.

He said criminal punishments under the hudud law is not the vortex of what Islam is nor what it means to be a Muslim.

“There is an obsession, and a preoccupation with a literal interpretation of hudud and of Islam,” he said, adding that this kind of narrow interpretation does no justice to the religion itself.

He warned that should there be a hudud-obsessed state in Malaysia, we might end up as Saudi Arabia or Sudan.

“In many hudud-obsessed countries, their interpretation of hudud emphasises prohibition and punishment, when it should be educate and enlighten.

“To endorse this hudud-obsessed mentality will mean the destruction of the nation,” said Chandra.

The issue of hudud, which crops up occassionally, ever since PAS passed the Hudud Act in 1993 in Kelantan, has seen much debate among the ruling Barisan Nasional and opposition parties.

Hudud is the criminal law under Islamic laws and the main fears by non Muslims are on the various forms of punishment which include cutting off hands for stealing and stoning for adultery. PAS had stated that if it comes to power, it will implement hudud in the country for Muslims.

Fathul Bari, although from Umno which has openly opposed hudud, stated that “a misunderstanding is that in hudud, someone caught committing a crime, stealing for example, will have his arm cut off. But this is not true. Islam is a forgiving religion, and Allah s.w.t is a forgiving God.”

The he goes on to say “Crime must be punished but the punishment should be appropriate,” he said, dismissing the notion that the punishments should always be “an eye for an eye”.

“Hudud practised by PAS does not take into consideration the multi-racial society of the country. They want to implement it on everyone,” said Kamal, condemning PAS for not interpreting the hudud laws accurately.

From a legal perspective, however, implementing hudud is not possible, said Bar Council member Edmund Bon,

Bon, a human rights lawyer, said hudud law cannot be implemented because the Federal Constitution has not provided for the punishments listed within hudud, nor has the federal government approved hudud.

“Hudud cannot be implemented unless the federal government approves or allows for it, which is why the hudud Bill of Kelantan, which was created since 1983, is still not law.

“Questions of religions are extremely emotional. Because there are so many interpretations of hudud, a moratorium must be established for calm, careful debate on these issues,” he urged.

The forum drew more comments than questions from the 200 strong mostly-Chinese crowd, which urged the speakers to address the issue of whether hudud is fair, or if hudud will be implemented on non-Muslims, to which none of the speakers did.

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