June 30, 2006

One Month

Posted in Personal at 11:58 pm by egalitaria

Productivity in the country must have dropped for the entire month dating 9th June to 9th July. I certainly see more sleepy eyed droopy faced expressions all around. Or am I referring to the reflection in the mirror.

A final 6 and a half matches to go…

June 23, 2006

Defining Race

Posted in Malaysia, Reflections, Religion at 12:33 am by egalitaria

What is a race?

I asked myself that tonight and found myself scratching my head. Because you have nation-states like Japan, where there is no question of race and nationality. Think also of China and England where race and nationality are synonymous with the other. Japanese are Japanese by race AND nationality. The English in England are English by race AND nationality.

Things become a bit blurry when migration takes place. So you have an Australian by nationality but English by descent. Extend this to Malaysia. You have Malaysians by nationality but Malay, Chinese and Indian by descent… in other words, a society segregated by race.

In the case of the latter two, the Chinese and the Indians come from a specific place from which race and nationality were never separate – China and India. So fine, being Chinese and being Indian means accepting one's racial descent.

But I've always wondered where the Malays came from. Originally from Malaya (if we presume Malays have to be from a similar country-sounding-place: Malaya) ?

I read interestingly on Wikipedia (which is an amazing mine of knowledge nuggets, by the way) the following:

According to the History of Jambi, the word Melayu or Malayu originated from a river with name Sungai Melayu near to Sungai Batang Hari of today's Muara Jambi, Jambi province of Sumatra, Indonesia.

Generically, the name "Malay" is used to describe all the numerous related groups inhabiting the Malay Archipelago, and which are not of older aboriginal stock. These include the Aceh, Minangkabaus, Bataks and Mandailings who live in Sumatra ; Java and Sunda in Java ; Banjars, Ibans, Kadazans and Melanaus in Borneo ; Bugis and Torajas in Sulawesi ; the various dominant ethnic groups in the Philippines such as the Tagalogs, Ilocanos and Ifugao of Luzon island, the Bisaya of the central Philippines, the Maguindanao, Tausug and Bajau of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago ; and the people of East Timor (again, excluding those of older Papuan stock).

In other words, the term Malay should anthropologically be used to refer to the different peoples of the Malay Archipelago within the region… Not exclusively belonging to any one country… It is a people group that is spread into different countries.. hmmmm… read more below:

In a broader sense, the term Malay also includes most ethnic groups in the Philippines and Indonesia west of Papua. It is best understood as a cultural, not racial grouping. For example, people of the Maluku and Nusa Tenggara islands up to Timor have darker skin but are more readily described as Malays than the Dayaks of inner Borneo.

Okay, so this makes things a little clearer. It is best understood as a cultural, not racial grouping… So it is not a race then? To complicate things further,

Most Malays had converted from Hinduism, Buddhism and animism to Islam in the early 15th century; influenced by Arab, Chinese and Indian Muslim seafarers during the Islamic Golden Age.

Really? I hadn't known that, to be honest…

Their conversion to Islam from Hinduism and Theravada Buddhism began in the 1400s, largely influenced by the decision of the royal court of Malacca. Most Malays in Thailand, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Surinam — being descendants of those who had already been Islamised in Malaysia, Indonesia, etc — are also Muslims.

Never knew this either.

So the more significant question is… what does it mean to be a Malay living in Malaysia? I'll leave it at that.

Go Ghana!

Posted in Personal at 12:14 am by egalitaria

In a previous post, I wrote about how I would support the team that has a lower GDP relative to whoever they were facing. Tonight, Ghana faced US (read: Lowest vs the Highest GDP countries that still remained in the World Cup). 

And my reason in supporting them now goes beyond theoretics. They play with such spirit and passion. And they owe their allegiance to their God/Allah. When they play, you know they are driven by a powerful force. And so I was overjoyed, together with all their countrymates at home dancing and partying to African beats and drums, because I could feel their passion. Of course, they face Brazil in the knock-out round, next stage. No guesses for who is the favourite there…

But that they have gotten this far is a tremendous feat in itself. This is the first time they've even entered the World Cup tournament. And they are the last remaining African country. I blow them a flying kiss and hope they'll continue to play with unreserved spirit and passion!

Go Ghana! 

June 22, 2006

Sejarah Malaysia!

Posted in Malaysia at 12:37 pm by egalitaria

Prehistoric Malaysia (40,000-2,000 BCE)
Gangga Negara (2nd-11th century CE)
Langkasuka (2nd-14th century)
Pan Pan (3rd-5th century)
Srivijaya (3rd century -1400)
Majapahit (1293-1500)
Sultanate of Malacca (1402 – 1511)
Sultanate of Johor (1528-current)
Jementah Civil War (1879)
White Rajahs (1841-1946)
British Malaya (1874-1946)
Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824
Burney Treaty (1826)
Straits Settlements (1826-1946)
Klang War (1867-1874)
Pangkor Treaty of 1874
Federated Malay States (1895-1946)
Unfederated Malay States (19th century-1946)
Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909
Battle of Penang (1914)
North Borneo (1882-1963)
Mat Salleh Rebellion (1896-1900)
World War II (1941-1945)
Battle of Malaya (1941-42)
Parit Sulong Massacre (1942)
Battle of Singapore (1942)
Syburi (1942-1945)
Sandakan Death Marches (1945)
Malayan Union (1946-1948)
Federation of Malaya (1948-1963)
Malayan Emergency (1948-1960)
Bukit Kepong Incident (1950)
Independence Day (1957)
Federation of Malaysia (1963-present)
Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation (1962-1966)
Brunei Revolt (1962-1966)
Expulsion of Singapore (1965)
May 13 Incident (1969)
New Economic Policy (1971-1990)
Operation Lalang (1987)
1988 Malaysian constitutional crisis (1987-88)
Asian financial crisis (1997-98)

History of Malaysia – interesting to see the timeline!  Taken from Wikipedia.

The Rudest of them all

Posted in Malaysia at 12:12 pm by egalitaria

So we are the rudest of them all. Okay, maybe that's pushing it…

We are the third rudest city in the world, according to an article posted in Malaysiakini, and based on a survey done by Reader's Digest:

Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur berada di tangga ketiga sebagai bandaraya paling biadap di dunia, demikian menurut satu kajiselidik yang dijalankan oleh sebuah majalah antarabangsa.
Kajiselidik itu dijalankan oleh majalah Reader's Digest di 35 bandar raya dunia itu dan disiarkan berulangkali oleh rangkaian berita CNN. 

Now how's that for Malaysia Boleh? Malaysia Boleh Biadap…

June 20, 2006

Unleashing the Underdogs

Posted in Reflections at 1:08 am by egalitaria

::the ball is round::

Everyone has asked me who I support for the World Cup, which I try to watch faithfully every night (the interesting matches)… My answer is the underdogs, and let me qualify that. The underdogs equals those who are economically less stable than the other team. I rationalise this by saying that the country that is wealthy does not require a win to ensure national solidarity. A poorer country will greatly benefit from a win in the World Cup, creating a sense of national spirit and patriotism, an outlet away from woes.

See the following table:

  • Rank 1: US: GDP 12,485,725
  • Rank 2: Japan: 4,571314
  • Rank 3: Germany: 2,797,343
  • Rank 5: UK: 2,201,473
  • Rank 6: France: 2,105,864
  • Rank 7: Italy: 1,766,160
  • Rank 9: Spain: 1,126,565
  • Rank 10: South Korea: 793,070
  • Rank 11: Brazil: 792,683
  • Rank 15: Australia: 707,992
  • Rank 16: Netherlands: 625,271
  • Rank 18: Switzerland: 367,513
  • Rank 22: Saudi Arabia: 307,770
  • Rank 33: Portugal: 183,436
  • Rank 34: Argentina: 181,662
  • Rank 40: Czech Republic: 123, 603
  • Rank 53: Ukraine: 81,664
  • Rank 63: Croatia: 37,553
  • Rank 68: Tunisia: 30,185
  • Rank 89: Trinidad & Tobago: 15,870
  • Rank 100: Ghana: 10,694

Just to give an idea of where we stand, Malaysia is ranked 39th with GDP of 130,796. Data is in millions of US dollars. This is taken from the IMF, World Economic Outlook Database April 2006. So, by logical conclusion, I will support all those countries from the bottom up – up till and until they are kicked out from the tournament.

I might not be a loyalist to any one team, but heck, these countries ain't even my own. I might as well support them for a valid reason and principle! 🙂 Go Go Ghana!

Temple Bashing

Posted in Malaysia, Religion, The Cause at 12:52 am by egalitaria

Unlicensed temples have been abolished to dust all around Klang Valley recently. Take a look at the following:

Picture from malaysiakini.com and also the following excerpt: 

Over the years, local authorities have been regularly demolishing temples saying the structures were built illegally. Most were small wayside shrines.

However, in recent years, several large 100-year-old temples, built during the British colonial era, were demolished not just because they stood in the way of development but simply because they were classified as "illegal structures”.

There have been protests and demonstrations at the time of temple-bulldozing, but to little avail. In the last three temples, nine temples have been brought down. Demolishing these temples have not helped sentiments of the Hindus in feeling welcome, nor part of this country… (doesn't take a genius to figure this one out)… 

If the temples are a sacred place of worship, and if the constitution guarantees freedom of worship, then bulldozing a place of worship of a group means acting against the Constitution. Sure, the argument given is that they are illegal and without permit. Authorities could practise a little grace and allow "grace periods" for the temple owners to apply for permits. (How quickly the permit is granted is another story lah) The temples are mostly for those in the lower income group, who are unable to take legal action.

And the picture cries out to me, because for many, these have been their central point of life, their comfort zone, their oasis in the desert of poverty. 

I do not know the detailed historical background of this story, and do not claim to, but it is no comedy any longer. If this is called embracing a multireligious society, I can but smile wryly or shed a quiet tear for this increasingly marginalised group.  

Anti Gender Equality

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:31 am by egalitaria

A friend mailed this to me and I just had to post it in its entirety. Think tongue in cheek. Note of caution:: this is not true, not the views of the author of this post, not written by the owner of this blog (me), and not meant to harm anyone's feelings, as I would do the same ridiculing in good humour my own religion (read: Monty Python). 

First Anti Gender Equality World Conference

12 June 2006

Mak Bedah

Suratkhabar Masakini

Fed-up with the increasing freedom and advancement of rights that have been plaguing the Muslim women lately, a coalition of 42 Muslim NGOs organized the 'Kami Anti Kesetaraan Gender' (We Are Against Gender Equality) women conference. Several international speakers from the Taliban (Afghanistan), Deobandi(India), Lasykar Jihad (Indonesia), Ikhwanul Muslimin (Egypt) and Hamas (Palestine) were invited to share their experience and expertise.

As is the case with most Malaysian ceramahs, devout supporters showed their enthusiastic support. Women chanted slogans of 'Men Power!!' and "Down with Gender Equality!!" and held banners and placards bearing poignant messages such as "Bring Back Discrimination!", “Don’t Confuse Our Minds!". Two women holding hands were also seen with a banner "I love my co-wife" with love signs all over the banner.

Part of the programme was the Debat Perdana between PAS women leader Hajjah Azizah Khatib Mat and Harlina Siraj from JIM. The debate entitled “Bahaya Perkahwinan Misyar” (The Danger of Misyar Marriage) was later changed to ‘Wacana Perkahwinan Misyar” (The Discourse on Misyar Marriage) in response to JIM’s allegation that the title was biased. Some of PAS male members were seen joining Harlina’s supporters in their slogan “Gunakan lah Misyar Tanpa Was-was”.

A man in a “We Want Full Democracy!!” T-Shirt expressed his regret over Azizah’s recalcitrance in going against the Mursyidul Am’s view that allowed misyar marriage. He reminded all PAS supporters that “It is against our tradition to challenge any positions taken by the supreme leader”.

A youth leader of one of the Muslim NGOs based in Kuala Lumpur felt that the conference was timely in view that “the moral decay amongst our elder women is quite alarming. It is shocking for me to see some of the old women in Terengganu (where the conference was held) are scantily dressed in kemban while doing their chores outside their houses. I noticed some of them also engage in ‘budaya lepak’, sitting aimlessly at some benches near the ‘titi’ or at some abandoned ‘pelantar wakaf’. Some of them even smoke!! This clearly shows the negative impacts of Western influence in our country.”

Also spotted were representatives from Muslim Men Against Gender Equality (MEAGE), Muslim Women Against Gender Equality Too (MWAGET) and Muslims Against Terrorism and Gubra (MATG).

June 18, 2006

Qur’an & non-Muslims

Posted in Religion, Theology at 10:19 pm by egalitaria

I read with interest an article in today's Star that reported various views on Matthias Chang's recent case. The former political advisor to Dr. M apparently brought out a chunk of religious holy texts and swore on each of them that he was not party to any dirty business money making. I'll leave the reasons for swearing aside and look at the more interesting comment. 

Apparently, it was an insult to Islam because non-Muslims are not allowed to even touch the Qur'an. Let's take a look at this.

A verse in the Qur'an 56: 77-79 says that:

YUSUFALI: That this is indeed a qur'an Most Honourable,
PICKTHAL: That (this) is indeed a noble Qur'an
SHAKIR: Most surely it is an honored Quran,

YUSUFALI: In Book well-guarded,
PICKTHAL: In a Book kept hidden
SHAKIR: In a book that is protected

YUSUFALI: Which none shall touch but those who are clean:
PICKTHAL: Which none toucheth save the purified,
SHAKIR: None shall touch it save the purified ones.

Clearly saying that non-Muslims are impure and are therefore not allowed to touch the Holy Qur'an. I have to admit this is something I have not known. This poses a problem to the many non-Muslims who are sincere in wanting to seek more of the religion. What if I am a non-Muslim who is genuinely interested in the religion, and yes, perhaps even considering embracing it but am not yet entirely sure until I read the original text for myself? What then? I have to place it on my table and inspect it with sterile gloves? Ensuring that my impure breath does not mar its very pages? 

And how about the paperback Qur'ans that are sold in public bookstores? Anyone can buy them off the shelf. How about the salespersons handling it as they shift them around on trolleys and onto the shelves?

Lastly, scholars and religious academics who want to make cross comparisons with other religious texts. It would make it fairly difficult for them to do that.

Also, how about the Qur'an texts online? If you go about it symbolically, reading it online would be the same as touching and reading its physical book. If one is not allowed to read the physical book (because reading it is to hold and touch it), then one should logically not be allowed to read it online as well. 

But I just quoted three verses of the online Qur'an. Does that mean I have committed a crime?

I don't know. I'm rather confused. Can someone shed light on this?  

Social Justice!

Posted in Religion, The Cause at 4:39 pm by egalitaria

I find it interesting how religion affects the way people live. Of course, this shouldn't come as a surprise, but hear me out.

Religions that propagate an eternal life in heaven or paradise usually assure followers that their rewards will be gained in abundance in the future. That all existence on earth points towards a single end after life also speaks a message that life on earth is temporal and passing. Further, that the weight of activity on earth holds little worth, as it is not the 'here and now' that take primary importance, but the 'there and later'.

This is also the reason that most activity generated by such religions centres around evangelism, or teaching of doctrinal beliefs. Since the focus is on heaven/paradise/eternal bliss, it makes sense for preaching to take place. This ensures security for the future, which is the most essential, as opposed to the present. Spread the faith is the number one call.

While this is right, based on the premises of the various faiths, this does not mean that the 'here and now' should be disregarded. For example, the focus of other religions is purely on doing good to alleviate suffering. Because there is little emphasis on a heavenly afterlife, all energies are spent on social work on earth. To live life to the maximum in the here and now, because this is all that exists and matters.

So, taking my argument to the extreme, you have the Christians/Muslims/Jews whose primary objective is to spread their respective gospel truths. On the other end of the spectrum, you have the Buddhists/Hindus whose primary objective is to do good on earth and help mankind. Both these objectives make sense from each religion's doctrine.

Now I come to my real argument, as a Christian, to fellow Christians. Despite the fact that we look towards heaven as an end to life's journey, this does not mean social work is negligible. In many books of the Bible, God calls for social justice. Basic verses speak volumes of helping the needy, standing up for the righteous, ensuring that justice is given out in the courts. The book of Amos even calls for the corrupt to be ridden of in the court.

My message is simply that, although Christians believe that the earth is temporal, it is still our responsibility to ensure suffering is eased. What is the difference then? The difference is this: Suffering exists, but God is the balm. Everything that we do should point towards God ultimately. Social justice needs to be called for at all levels because the ultimate judge is Him. Helping the poor and mistreated, the marginalised in society and the prisoners, those who are ostracised and weak – because all are created equal under His eyes.

While we look to the future and cast our eyes on what is unseen at this point in time, we are in the 'here and now', and are responsible for our fellow beings. Let us take heed.

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