Saturday, September 13, 2008

Some of MM's thoughts on Pendatang, Race, Religion

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Voices of Reason

I've been looking for a voice of reason somewhere in these awful turbulent times when people seem to spout off whatever they want off the top of their heads, and then defend it no matter how stupid.

Then a friend alerted me to this from a fellow blogger, Syed Imran. Another fellow blogger Walski wrote something similar here. So who says bloggers are unthinking people only up to no good?

And this lovely and wistful article makes you long for a different time when people were civilised.

I'd like to ask everyone, especially those categorised as 'Malays', to list their family histories. And see how many of us can really go back further than three generations born in this land. I know I can't.

And can we, the people, think of positive and effective things we can do to counter divisiveness such as we see coming out of politicians these days? Let's not play the blame game. Let's think of ways, practical and effective, to counter conflict and restore harmony.

Other people have done it in even more difficult situations. One example is Seeds of Peace. Why can't we do the same?

Marina Mahathir (daughter of Malaysia's ex-PM) on the Da Vinci Code etc



A FRIEND was relating how after her daughter had read the Da Vinci Code, she had wanted to read the Bible. Which is not in itself a bad thing except that she was concerned that an impressionable young mind would not be able to differentiate fact from fiction. Also it seemed that perhaps what was needed is a Da Vinci Code-type book for Muslims to spark off the same level of interest in young people in their own religion.

Except that if anyone tried to write a similar thriller based around Islam, they'd be hounded and pilloried and threatened with death, thousands would riot in protest and people who would never have been able to read the book either because they are illiterate or can't afford it would have died.

Such is the difference between our religions. While there are many Christians who are upset about the book and movie, they are countering it with seminars and other educational events to balance what is being said in the book, even if the book is only fiction. There have not been Da Vinci Code-related riots or deaths thus far. Which speaks volumes for the adherents of the faith.

It would be nice if everyone could brush off similar challenges and say "we are strong enough to withstand any attack". Even if a book or a movie becomes a runaway hit, compared to the total number of any faith's followers, the numbers sold can never match it. Books are by nature, in a world where illiteracy is still common, a luxury item. As are American movies, no matter what arguments people make about cultural imperialism.

I remember when there were riots over Salman Rushdie's book The Satanic Verses, President Benazir Bhutto commented wryly that the people who were dying over the book were those who would never have read it, or possibly even heard of it if someone hadn't whipped them into a frenzy. A similar situation arose with the cartoons. As insensitive as they were, they were still not worth dying over.

The point is that people's impressions of a religion are often related to the behaviour of its adherents. Some religions are thought of as simply kooky because its followers behave strangely. Some are viewed as benign and peaceful because its followers resolutely will not harm a fly.

But when people, supposedly in the name of religion, riot, burn and kill, it can't help but give the impression of a religion that advocates this, no matter how much we point out that nowhere in religious texts itself does it say you should do this. And unfortunately we get the whole spectrum, from men who publicly insult women on a daily basis without censure to the real crazies.

Recently in New York I had to suffer the embarrassment of having to listen to a Muslim man say to a non-Muslim woman at a forum, "Don't mess with Muslims, we have nuclear weapons!" There I was trying to dispel stereotypes about violence-prone Muslims and in one fell swoop, this nutcase confirmed every stereotype there was.

I think the only people who can dispel stereotypes about Muslims are women. While there are certainly some conservative women, even when these speak out they will naturally change perceptions because in a world where Muslim women are perceived to be perpetually hidden behind curtains, their sheer presence and articulateness will be noticed. What more if they are able to argue rationally in a calm manner.

Thus far there have been very few Muslim men in the international media who give a good impression. We might argue that the Western media selects who they interview in order to perpetuate stereotypes, which is true and that is a problem for all of us. A man or woman who looks like the archetypal wild-eyed conservative is far more telegenic than someone who looks like everyone else. Channel surfers are far more likely to stop at the sight of someone they think of as alien to their culture than if they see someone too similar to them. To stop this means having to make a concerted effort to come together as one community and decide on a sophisticated media strategy. But sadly coming together as one united community is a challenge in itself.

If we do manage as a global community to change other people's perceptions of us, the benefits would be many. Our own people might think more kindly of each other so peace would reign within. And because within ourselves, we respect diversity, we can do the same with others. Then peace would truly have a chance.

March 10, 2006

Malaysia: Mahathir's Daughter Condemns Muslim Nation's Treatment Of Its Women

The daughter of former prime minister of Mahathir Mohamad, Marina Mahathir (pictured) is no stranger to controversy. She has spoken about issues such as women's rights and also on AIDS. A Muslim herself, she is a prominent social activist.

According to the Telegraph, an article she has written in Friday's edition of Malaysia's Star newspaper has condemned the current role of women under Malaysia's current climate. She says that they are facing so much discrimination that they are undergoing a "growing form of apartheid".

"Non-Muslim Malaysian women have benefited from more progressive laws over the years while the opposite has happened for Muslim women," she writes.

She highlights that polygamy is allowed for Muslim men, but not for non-Muslims, and how under Islamic law, the father is the main guardian of the offspring of a marriage. For non-Muslims, who are under the jurisdiction of secular law, the guardianship of children from a marriage is shared between the husband and wife.

"Only in Malaysia are Muslim women regressing. In every other Muslim country in the world, women have been gaining rights, not losing them," she writes.

The Telegraph notes that the article was regarded as a hot potato, and its printing was delayed for two days. The paper stated at one point that the relevant editor was "too busy" to deal with it.

We have reported earlier on the controversial constitution of Malaysia, where Islamic Law always trumps secular law, and how no living Muslim has ever been allowed to change faith, or apostasise. The only person ever allowed to abandon Islam was a woman who had already died.

Article 121 (1A) of Malaysia's constitution rules that the Islamic courts are not to be affected by decisions in a civil court. This clause states that civil courts have no jurisdiction on "any matter" which already falls within the scope of the Syariah or Islamic courts. This ruling openly discriminates against non-Muslims.

But for women, the recent Islamic Family Law (Federal Territories) bill which was passed on December 22, 2005, discriminated further against them, giving them less rights in issues of polygamy and divorce. It allows husbands to freeze the assets of his wives and their children in divorce cases.

Though as a federal law, it was temporarily put on hold on January 12 versions of this law are already being enacted by the Sharia courts in most of Malaysia's states. And where sharia law is applied, no high court ruling is allowed to interfere.

Current Musing of Marina Mahathir
by Chief Alchemist a.k.a Wiley Chin - June 2, 2005 Posted: 7:15:55 PM EDT

More things not to do

Some people may recall a column of mine which gained some infamy because I talked about how while Malaysians are misinterpreting what Malaysia Boleh means, they are also not paying attention to what they tak boleh. I gave examples of Malaysians running around trying to make the biggest this or the longest that, none of which enhances anybody’s life, while at the same time ignoring the very many things we cannot do, mostly think and speak.

Well, guess what? In the time since then (not that long ago), not only have people stopped trying to paint the biggest batik sarong or sew the longest selendang, which is a blessed relief, but the list of things that we cannot do has expanded. Now we possibly cannot go to the movies with male relatives or friends unless we put up with them sitting separately from us; we have to freeze every time the call to prayer is heard; we can barely watch any live entertainment at all; there are more and more states where some of us cannot get married unless we submit to a test that we don’t understand and will bring us any amount of grief. The list, as I said, is only getting longer.

What happened? Did we take our eyes off the ball for a second and someone swatted it away? Or did we purposely choose to ignore what was happening, or just chose not to say anything? We’ll pay dearly for it some day.

We have to be aware that the country which we love is changing, and not in a good way. There are more and more un-elected people making policies in this country, few of which are any good to most of us, and we are letting them do it. Why then do we have elections every five years?

I recall that in the last elections, most of us chose a government that promised us more tolerance, more openness and more freedom. We gave a clear mandate to them to do all that they promised because we wanted to be able to express ourselves more, have more opportunities in life, which necessitates more openness and choices.

But we are not getting it. Or at least some of us are getting choked even more while the rest of us are simply ignored. The lovely multiethnic, multicultural Malaysia that is our pride and joy is simply crumbling because, and I have heard some people openly say it, there are people who would like to make it mono-ethnic, monocultural and mono-religious. That’s not the Malaysia I grew up in, not the Malaysia I want my children to live in. Not the Malaysia I love.

What is next? Is there absolutely nothing that cannot be thought of entirely in terms of religion, morals and sex? (As I’ve said before, people who are so obsessed with sex can’t be getting much of it, or have too much of the wrong kind. We should ask for public audits of politicians’ sex lives. That might explain some of the idiocies). Next, we have to have separate compartments in public transport facilities. Airlines will be obliged to have curtained off separate seating for male and female passengers. Or there has to be male-only and female-only buses and train carriages. (I can see them nodding in agreement). Or how about Muslim-only and non-Muslim-only transport?

Since everyone likes to fuss about entertainment, what about sports? What about football? With large crowds of people getting highly emotional about men in shorts, surely this is cause for concern. How about making footballers wear trackpants? How about banning women from going to watch football? But that would mean all-male crowds that may also lead to bad things. How about banning football altogether?

People may say I’m getting hysterical about this. But what’s the difference between these examples and all those people who said that those who don’t believe the state should interfere in our private lives are asking for people to parade in bikinis in Parliament? (If you ask me, the mostly male MPs would love it.) Why is it that only some people are allowed to make giant logistical leaps? At least my leaps in logic are a lot more feasible.

Wake up everybody! If we don’t watch out, this country that we have given so much to, and which has given us so much, will be gone. We have a democracy and we have to hold on to it. Let’s stop allowing people we did not elect make the rules that govern our lives.

Taken from The Star Online ~ 2nd June 2005

Friday, January 19, 2007

Bloggers Fight Back!

UPDATE: Rocky goes to court tomorrow Thurs Jan 25 at 10am. Those of you who can support, do turn up. Those who can only be there in spirit (like me, unfortunately), spare a thought. Whatever the outcome, life will become very interesting!

Ok, let's put this conversation up front and centre, shall we? Our blogbros Jeff and Rocky are being sued, as you all know. We may not all agree with everything they say but that is not the point. The point is, this sort of heavyhanded intimidation is an impediment to democracy because it impedes freedom of speech and limits our people's access to alternative views about current events. It insults all of us because it assumes that we cannot come up with the 'right' opinion if we are allowed to see all the different perspectives on a particular subject. It is a blatant form of censorship.

So, this is what we need to do:

First, stay united on this issue, which is the right of bloggers to express their opinions in cyberspace. Responsible bloggers do not write mere gossip or lies, so must be free to write what they want.

Secondly, support all efforts to support Rocky and Jeff. The first is the proposal to set up a fund to defend them, as well as other bloggers which may face the same problems in the future. This is in the works, and I have been asked to be a Trustee. Am just waiting for proper terms of reference to be drafted because if we are handling people's money, we need to have safeguards to ensure transparency and accountability.

Thirdly, I think we should start a guerrilla campaign on this. I think we should turn Kickdefella's great logo into a whole series of merchandise - t-shirts, stickers, posters, whatever - to be sold to raise funds for the defence fund. If we have the logo EVERYWHERE, what are they going to do? They can't rip off the stickers from cars, or t-shirts off people's backs. The guys who do those great stencil graffitis should be asked to also help.

Fourthly, boycott the NST and related publications. Yes, stop subs. Nothing will create greater fear among those guys than if their income drops.

Any other creative suggestions to show support will be greatly welcomed.

Bloggers, and anyone else who believes in freedom of speech, unite!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

More nonsense...

Children made into 'devils' at Merdeka do

SOME children as young as two were made into 'junior devils' by their parents and guardians at the Merdeka celebrations in Shah Alam on Sunday, claimed a Malay daily.

Harian Metro said the parents bought the children 'hair clips' in the shape of the Devil's horns, which cost some RM8 apiece.

The daily said many parents seemed happy watching their children wearing these 'hair clips', which came with light ornaments.

Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) director Datuk Khusrin Munawai urged Muslims to stop buying the hair clips or better yet, to destroy them.

"These hair clips are haram (illegal)," he said.


How do our JAIS people know what devils look like in the first place? Where does it say that hair clips ( I would call them hair bands) with horns are haram?

And they say in Islam, all that is haram are very big things, not tiny little boobytraps that are constantly being invented to turn us all into little devils. And yes, yes, I know Harian Metro needs to sell itself and it has the highest circulation of all our newspapers. Which just shows the thirst for nonsense that exists in this country of ours.

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