Zulfikar Shariff: Discussion Of The Singapore System Will Open Minds, Helps Uncover Better Solutions For Malay-Muslim Community

A common response made against activists who operate on social media is to tell them to stop discussing on these platforms and instead to do something.

There are several misconceptions exhibited in such suggestions.

First, it assumes that social media discussions, especially those that involves substantive exploration and interrogation of ideas is not doing something.

Our understanding of the world, of systems that are created and sustained in our political system, policy choices and preferences, are all based on ideas.

The government does not craft policies independent of their values, preferences, beliefs or interests. All these ingredients of policy formulation are based on ideas.

So is the system we live in. The rules that define what we can or cannot do, who represent us, the platforms we are allowed to use, the actions we can take, are all based on ideas.

To challenge, clarify and develop ideas is to do something that will have a much greater impact than simply acting without clarity.

We should acknowledge, embrace and celebrate the role of ideas and its formulation in our community.

Second, before we act, we need to know why we act, know how to act, what the scope and limits of our action.

Too often, we act without knowing the why, how and what. We assume to know what we do but do not understand what defines our behaviour.

I have seen so many Muslim leaders discuss engagement with the government to modify policies.

And yet, they do not understand the context of the policy. They do not know the values, preference and interests that not only allow but create the conditions for the policy to exist.

So they engage, in expectation of a change, while being constrained by the very system they exist in.

The policies, (whether hijab, imposition of leadership, domestic and international preferences) are based on a system that defines what can be done and the preferences of the elites.

To assume that all we need to do is engage on policy is to ask for a meal while trapped in a well.

Understand the system. Understand what creates the preferences.

And then we can understand what we can do.

And these understandings can only be gained when we discuss ideas.

Whether it is done in a classroom or social media, these discussions have to take place.

Social media provides amazing access to activists. We can reach out to hundreds or thousands of followers and friends.

Unlike using the mainstream media, our voice and opinions do not need to be filtered. There are no gatekeepers to decide what we can say or how we can say it.

We can develop and share ideas.

We can explore, provide clarity, impart knowledge and mobilise.

Every discussion is an opportunity shift a position.

An effective discussion will create new understanding or solidify old ones. Or create perceptual drifts.

Social media discussions, even if limited, can change society.

And that is more substantive than what many realise.


Source: Zulfikar Shariff

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