Norshahril Saat

Abstract

This article examines the position of the Malay religious elite towards the idea of women as leaders. Based on an analysis of the writings and sermons of a sample of the religious elite, the article concludes that they continue to be of the view that gender roles in modern society are ‘fixed’, ‘divine’, and ‘unquestionable’. By exploring Mohammed Arkoun’s concept of the ‘unthinkable’, I argue that the notion that women are unfit for top political leadership positions, by virtue of their gender, results from a parochial attitude towards traditions relating to women’s role in society and from a general failure to re-evaluate traditions in the light of the modern-day context. By traditions here, I refer not only to the hadiths (recorded sayings of the Prophet Mohammad), but also compilations of Qurʾanic exegesis (tafsīr) and juristic opinions (fatāwā, s. fatwa) passed down from one generation to another in the last 1,400 years of Islamic history. The article also explores how the religious elite’s views of gender equality might be reformed—it suggests that they need to be challenged with alternative discourses in order to transform their attitude towards religious sources from one that is unquestioning to one that is more questioning.

Joel Blecher

Abstract

Amidst the politics of the Mamluk-era spice route, why did the standard-bearers of Islamic law routinely oppose the sultanate’s imposition of an alms-tax on merchandise (zakāt al-tijāra), despite the abundance of support for such a tax within the classical tradition of Islamic law? Rather than contending – as some modern scholars have – that prominent jurists developed loopholes that circumvented the original intent of the law to protect the wealthy and the ruling class, I argue that it was precisely the jurists’ careful defense of exemptions and exclusions that allowed them to define the essence of zakāt against forms of taxation they considered unlawful. By narrowing the scope of zakāt, jurists attempted to achieve a moral aim that went beyond the ritual purification of wealth: a limit on the sultanate’s otherwise arbitrary power to tax Muslims as it wished. In doing so, they alleviated some of the tax burden for spice merchants and camel herders alike.

Tukumbi Lumumba-Kasongo

Abstract

My article is a critical reflection on China-Kenya Relations with the focus on the Chinese MSRI link with Kenya. Since Kenya gained its nominal political independence in 1963 from Great Britain, it has been involved in complex foreign relations with China. Currently, they enjoy solid bilateral relations, despite some domestic priority shifts and ideological differences among their leaders. From Jomo Kenyatta to Daniel Arap Moi, Mwai Kibaki and Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya-China relations have been growing.

The Forum on China Africa Cooperation. Within FOCAC, a collective, pragmatic consultancy and dialogue scheme was established. There have been more than 80 Chinese development projects in Kenya, ranging from the provision of grants to the building of infrastructures and concessional loans.

This essay reflects, using the geopolitics critique of neo-realism supported by historical structuralism and multipolarity paradigms, potential gains of the MSRI within Kenya vision of 2030 (Ruwaza ya Kenya). What and how would Kenya gain from this initiative, beyond the existing relations? What kind of partnership will develop out of MSRI, which can support African regional needs, exigencies of practices of democracy and those of sustainable development, and environmental parameters? I propose a multipolar perspective as a new theoretical ground to address the above questions.

Muhammad Azam

Abstract

The broad objective of this study is to evaluate the effects of inequality and other explanatory variables, including inflation, foreign direct investment, human capital, and migrant workers’ remittances, on economic growth using a panel of 13 Asia and the Pacific countries between 1996 and 2008. According to the results of the Hausman test, the random-effects model was preferred over the fixed-effects model in most of the equations. Empirical results reveal the significantly negative effect of inequality on economic growth. The empirical findings also suggest that the mitigation of inequality is indispensable for achieving inclusive development in the true sense. For this purpose, however, the implementation of fiscal policy option is a necessity, whereas persistent food security through agribusiness also should not be overlooked to achieve lower levels of inequality and enhance inclusive growth and development in the region.