22 September 2005

Wednesday September 21, 2005
Asking the right questions
I TRY to be fair to people as much as I can and the other day I had a major epiphany. I realised that I really had not been very fair to our religious officials by constantly criticising them for their obsession with topics that are either trivial or beyond their field of expertise. Then it occurred to me that the reason they feel compelled to comment on little topics like whether it is okay to kiss people’s hands or not or whether reality shows promote immorality is because that’s what the media keeps asking them.
I think the media should realise that they are really insulting our religious lot by asking them these questions. Nobody asks Really Important people these questions because, frankly, it is beneath them to answer them. But there they are, our self-sanctified guys, having to endure these silly questions all the time, and then getting flak for it. It’s really not their fault!
Therefore I have decided to provide a list of questions that the media should ask our religious leaders in order to show them the respect they deserve. Here are some of them:
What do you think should be done to reduce global poverty?
The world’s richest 500 individuals own a combined income that is greater than that of the poorest 416 million. What do you think should be done about reducing this massive gap between rich and poor in the world?
70% of the world’s people are uneducated, with only minimal schooling. Do you think this is a bad thing, and what would you do about it?
According to the latest UNDP Human Development Report, every hour 1,200 children die around the world, mostly because of poverty. What do you think would be the best way to help children such as these?
Income inequalities are not the only thing that disadvantages people. Gender inequalities also play a part. In India, the death rate for children aged 1-5 is 50% higher for girls than it is for boys. In Pakistan, two million more girls would be in school if there were gender parity. What do you think should be done to address these gender inequalities?
According to the report also, the development of any country is influenced by the status of women in that country. Hence, Malaysia ranks only 61st in the Human Development Index (HDI) because women make up only 13% in Parliament, 24% in managerial and administrative positions and only earn 47% of men’s income. Nothing much has changed for women for the past 30 years. But we are not the worst off. The countries with the least empowered women are all Muslim countries, including Pakistan and Yemen. What do you think of this?
Although terrorism in developed countries is most in the news, in fact the poorest countries in the world experience more conflict. These conflicts only fuel under-development. For instance, nine out of the 10 countries with the lowest HDI have experienced conflict at some point since 1990. Conflict also plays a part in five out of 10 countries with the lowest life expectancy, in nine out of 10 countries with the highest infant and under-five mortality rates and in eight out of 10 countries with the lowest primary school enrolment. What do you think should be done to resolve conflict so that these countries may prosper?
How much of a rise in fuel prices do you think people can take?
What do you think can be done to prevent cross-border environmental problems such as the haze?
What do you think should be done so that disabled people are not left behind in our country’s development?
Our country spends only 2% of GDP on health and 2.8% of GDP on military expenditures in 2003. Do you think this is right?
What do you think of the Millenium Development Goals? Malaysia failed one of the 6th MDG, which relates to health. What do you think we can do to redress this?
In 1975, 37.7% of our population lived in urban centres. Since then, our people have become more urbanised with 63.8% in 2003 and a projected 71% by 2015. Is this a good or bad thing, and should politicians recognise this fact and act accordingly?
While we are ranked 61 in the Human Development Index, many Muslim countries are ranked even lower, even so-called “rich” countries such as Saudi Arabia (77). There are also many Muslim countries ranked very low such as Iran (99), Egypt (119), Pakistan (135) and Yemen (151). The small oil-rich United Arab Emirates are the highest-ranking Muslim country at 41. What do you think of this?
I wait with bated breath.