I refer to Tajuddin Rasdi’s article, “Time to close down our 20 public universities?” with much consternation.
I had expected constructive criticism on higher education in the country, but was instead dismayed that this latest writing was mere casuistry, singling out the International Islamic University (IIUM) for its “failures”.
He mentioned the tragic bombings in Sri Lanka, and the recent court decision to uphold a ban on books published by the Islamic Renaissance Front.
An institution’s reach cannot exceed its grasp, and IIUM obviously has no control or influence over state organs and agencies. Similarly, someone writing from the outside, as much as he is entitled to an opinion on IIUM, is likely to have no proper knowledge of what takes place in the university.
IIUM is on an offensive strategy that stems from the convergence of its original mission of IIICE (Integration, Islamisation, Internationalisation and Comprehensive Excellence), in line with the National Education Philosophy and sustainable development goals.
It will mobilise this convergence through numerous strategic initiatives and flagship projects over a duration of 12-18 months, collaborating with various stakeholders.
The flagship projects will cover themes of Islam, sustainability and policy concerns over topics as wide-ranging as indigenous and traditional knowledge, the River of Life and sustainable biosphere, integrated care for older people and schoolchildren, sustainable endowment income, Islamic social finance, and the development of a mosque study curriculum, to name a few.
IIUM is not narrow-minded or stuck in a Malay-Sunni-Shafi’i narrative. It works across disciplines with the indigenous, local and foreign, Muslim and non-Muslim, putting our best efforts into what is hopefully a new era of global and civilising Islam.
I am involved in the Peacebuilding and Civilizational Development Flagship Project at ISTAC-IIUM, working with an interdisciplinary research team from Universiti Sains Malaysia, Universiti Malaysia Sabah and Mercy Malaysia on capacity building in countering violent extremism.
We are also working with the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland, developing local instruments for profiling, policymakers’ simulation and spatial analysis.
We also work on interfaith community engagement in places like Mindanao, and plan to cooperate with the Malaysian government in fighting extremism.
All this so that Malaysians don’t just contemplate but act, as Tajuddin says, to create “a better society for a global existence, one that would not see the bombing of places of worship and hotels and marketplaces in the name of religion”.
I welcome the space for progressive ideas and critical thinking. But we must refrain from making sweeping, bitter and misguided remarks.
There are many other academics who are busy in the 20 public universities.
Danial Yusof is deputy dean (academic and research) of the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilisation at IIUM.
The views expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.