31 December 2009

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com/ Please.
Wednesday December 23, 2009
The good, the bad and the new year

Despite the nasty and horrid things that the year witnessed, there is hope yet for us yet as the people become more aware of their rights and are willing to stand up for them.

SINCE this is my last column for the year, I thought I’d do my usual list exercise. It has been a very eventful year to say the least so I thought I would list out what I’ve been happy about and what I haven’t been happy about this year.

Let’s start off with Things I Wasn’t Happy About:

1. The way some people behave so badly with such impunity, as if they know they can do anything and get away with it. Top of the list are those “cow-head protestors” as well as their brethren who declared Malays “first-class citizens” and all others, “second-class citizens”. No throwing the book of sedition at them, not even a sharp rap on the knuckles?

2. The shrinking of public space for debate and discussion especially on matters of religion and race. If anyone tries to give alternative viewpoints, they are immediately shouted down or a police report is made charging them with everything from insulting God, religion, the Sultan and whoever has the thinnest skin. And we call ourselves a modern nation?

3. The refusal to get out from under the cloak of denial on all social problems. If there is a problem among our people, the answer is always more religion, particularly the form that refuses to entertain any discussion on the subject. Somehow we expect the matter to disappear just like that. Unfortunately, they fester and will ooze slime endlessly whether we like it or not. This would include issues like drug use, Mat Rempit and incest.

On hold: It is clear now that nobody really wants to whip Kartika. But unless someone comes out and clearly states that she’s been pardoned, her life will remain in suspension.

4. Related to that is the apparent wish that the Kartika problem will just go away. It is clear now that nobody really wants to whip her. But unless someone comes out and clearly states that she’s been pardoned, her life will remain in suspension. There is nothing just and fair about leaving her in abeyance like that. Some closure for her is needed.

5. In conjunction with that is the apparent belief that the only good Muslim is the one that wants to be punished while those who question injustice are painted as disbelievers. At the same time, those who are disobeying the courts, such as the men who are refusing to pay court-ordered maintenance for their children, are never painted as bad irresponsible Muslims. Are we naming and shaming the wrong people?

6. The complete lack of common sense on the part of some of our leaders is a cause for concern. If there are two groups at odds with one another, you don’t sit down with just one and then declare their grievances are justified. Nor do you express sympathy for someone who’s been responsible for many violent deaths and say that you could have rehabilitated them. Even sillier, you don’t try to equate the “pain” a chair might feel upon being whipped with what a human being might feel.

7. While some leaders talk about eliminating corruption, most remain blind to obvious questions, such as, how come a public official can afford a RM25mil mansion? No wonder cynicism reigns!

8. The increasing racist tone by which we refer to foreigners within our midst, especially those who are from countries less developed than ours. Racist monikers may not be okay for our own people but apparently okay for others. Also despicable are the sweeping generalisations about foreigners as criminals, conmen and prostitutes.

9. The constant politicisation of everything. Really, neither politics nor politicians are the most important things in the world.

Things I Have Been Happy About

1. The increase in the number of people who have become more aware of the issues surrounding them and are keen to express their opinion on it, mostly online.

2. The many young people who are not only increasingly aware of issues around them but will also take action to effect some change. The most impressive is the MyConstitution campaign to educate the public about our ‘Document of Destiny’ but also other smaller projects such as Fast for the Nation which does more for unity than any government project could.

3. The effectiveness of social media especially Facebook and Twitter in connecting like-minded people together so that they can share experiences, learn from one another and get organised. As always young people are way ahead of adults, especially those in government.

4. The fact that we can talk about human rights without the ground opening up and swallowing us.

5. The continued belief in this country, despite all the nastiness, and the willingness to stay and fight gives hope.

There’s probably more I could be happy about if I thought hard enough but the horrid things somehow come quicker to mind.

Whatever comes along, things must get better in 2010. Wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy Muslim and Gregorian New Year!

14 December 2009

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at
http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com/ Please.
Wednesday December 9, 2009
Oh, the shame of it all

Malaysians have brought much embarrassment to the country in what they say and do while abroad, but the reaction to Fatine’s predicament must surely top it all.

I PONDERED this week on the meaning of “shame”. A statement by an Immigration official, who said that Fatine, a transsexual facing deportation from Britain, had brought “shame” to Malaysia, prompted my mind to ponder on this word.

By definition, shame is “a painful emotion caused by a strong sense of guilt, embarrassment, unworthiness or disgrace”.

In this case, it seems an overwhelming emotion in response to what is basically someone else’s misfortune. After all, nobody knew this poor person until this happened. To then feel shame seems a bit of an overreaction.

This is even more puzzling when shame is never the response expressed over other misdeeds done by Malaysians whether at home or abroad.

Our citizens have been known to violate immigration laws overseas a great deal. In fact overstaying their visas is almost a Malaysian disease since it is estimated that there are some 30,000 Malaysian over-stayers in Britain.

When Britain threatened to stop visa-free entries for Malaysians going there recently because of these over-stayers, our authorities organised workshops to help those lawbreakers to come home, assuring them that they would not be arrested and put in prison. How very sweet!

How come we didn’t condemn all those people for bringing shame to the country then? Why single out poor Fatine?

Indeed, how come we have never expressed shame at our people who happily break laws in other countries by smuggling drugs and people, cheating, stealing, even murdering?

How come Immigration or any other officials don’t hang their heads in embarrassment that our people have the temerity to break laws in foreign lands?

How is it that we feel no sense of disgrace when people overseas think we’re barbaric for wanting to whip a mother of two for possibly doing herself, and nobody else, personal damage by having an alcoholic drink?

I must say that there have been moments when I have felt great shame at the antics of Malaysians abroad.

I feel it at conferences where our officials are obviously missing, only to show up later laden down with bags of shopping. Or when people have taken a lot of trouble to arrange a last minute visit to a project, and then they don’t show up because “traffic jam lah”.

I felt it when at the conclusion of a short course, which was very expensive, and paid for by sponsors, one semi-government participant got an award for “biggest contribution to tourism”, a caustic reference to his frequent absence from class.

I have this tendency to cringe when at conferences overseas, some of our delegates have nothing to say whatsoever, mostly because they don’t know the subject, but it was their “turn” to go.

I remember once that the NGO delegation basically wrote the Government statement by default, simply because we knew the subject well and were willing to sit down and work on it.

My face has turned red when I have had to sit through press conferences where Government officials have patently stated untrue things because they sounded good and expounded theories for which there have been no empirical basis.

There are few things more frustrating than having to squirm through those situations where you are unable to say anything without showing up the officials concerned and, yes, shaming them.

Yet it is people like those in NGOs who know their stuff who get told off for being disloyal, unpatriotic and supposedly out to embarrass the Government.

Heck, you may disagree with what we say but at least try and argue as articulately as we do. Then we can hold our heads up and say that our government officials may get things the wrong way round but, boy, they can make a convincing argument for it.

So what is this shame that this official felt? And in fact what has it to do with him at all? Is Immigration in charge of filing charges against our citizens for embarrassing us overseas?

Is there anywhere in their regulations that people who “shame” us overseas will not be allowed to have passports? In that case, there are probably more cases than they can handle.

Our smart official also probably did not think that his words have already travelled the world over and caused many blushes among Malaysians already.

What’s more, if he carries out his threat, and indeed if anything punitive were to be dished out to Fatine if she returns home, then we would be faced with queries from all over the world, with some awkward questions about how we treat the more marginalised sectors of our society.

At a time when we already have more to be ashamed, than to be proud, of, we really don’t need another fiasco, thank you.

30 November 2009

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com/ Please.
Wednesday November 25, 2009
Beware of ‘terrorists’ within

OVER dinner in the past week, the conversations have taken a worried turn. “Where are we heading?” was the predominant question.

Even if our habit is to continually complain, there was a more plaintive note this time. Optimism was not in abundance.

I’ve found a lot of despondency lately among the thinking citizens of this country about the state we’ve found ourselves in.

There is an economic crisis going on and that’s bad enough. But why does everything else seem to be going crazy as well?

People don’t feel safe and they don’t feel they can trust the police. Friends of mine who got robbed and received no help from the police complained publicly about it.

When I checked recently with them if anything had improved, they said no, and they were preparing to move to another area. So are many of their neighbours.

Feeling safe in one’s own home and neighbourhood is a basic expectation of any citizen. So is the expectation that some of society’s other ills are being eradicated.

Corruption is one but yet we have dropped significantly in Transparency International’s corruption index. Shouldn’t we be embarrassed?

Or is it abnormal to expect that we don’t have to grease anyone’s palm to get anything done or to be given the opportunity to do any work?

What I found was disquiet among the people about the growing conservatism in this country.

It seems that there are people who are insisting that this country must prove its Islamic credentials by being more repressive, more punitive, more unforgiving of human transgressions.

These people insist that to be truly Islamic is to be harsh. Any-thing progressive is deemed not Islamic enough, if not outright un-Islamic.

As Islam and racial identity are so intertwined, we now have a situation where it looks as if this conservatism, which on the surface looks as if it would affect only Muslims, will actually impact on non-Muslims as well.

It cannot be possible for non-Muslims to be unaffected if there are people who are spreading an “Islamic” ideology where you should not interact with people of other faiths, where they are to be viewed as lesser beings and where they constantly have to be made to respect Muslims without any commiserate respect in return.

This conservatism should properly be called extremism and all ignore it at their peril. The oft-used tactic is to insist that nobody with a different viewpoint be allowed to speak for fear that it will cause “confusion”.

Yet for many Muslims raised on a benign gentle Islam, this aggressive and harsh Islam is the one that is confusing.

Another tactic is to insist on “credentials”. Previously, there was an insistence on academic credentials. But of late, even these are not enough.

As we have seen with (former Perlis mufti) Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, anyone who has the slightest inclination towards a more progressive interpretation of Islam is targeted.

Given the Government’s seeming paralysis on these extremists, we can understand why there are worries.

Issues that could have been handled and solved quickly are allowed to fester, so much so that they attract international attention. Where are our leaders on these issues? Are they hoping these will just disappear?

Concerned citizens are wondering if our leaders are too busy politicking that they can’t see what is happening under their noses.

It will not matter eventually who gets into office because if these extremists get their way, there will be no politicians nor a democracy, only a theocracy.

Already a politician has suggested that the best person to lead a coalition is in fact a religious leader, one who can hardly be called progressive. I can think of no worse scenario for our country.

In our neighbouring countries, voters have summarily dismissed any extremist parties as well as politicians who are using religion to gain points.

Over here we seem to think that putting on a religious face is the way to go. That would be fine if it was a progressive religious face, one that puts justice, equality and inclusiveness at its core.

While not explicitly endorsing the most backward interpretations, our politicians’ lack of criticism can easily be interpreted as support. Silent complicity is all the extremists need.

Meanwhile, those who are warning against these dangers are being demonised and persecuted. These acts terrorise others into silence as well.

As a result, otherwise decent people who are worried say nothing out of fear of what would happen to them and their families. If that continues, one day we will wake up to find the Malaysia we love irrevocably changed.

16 November 2009

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at
http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com/ Please.
Wednesday November 11, 2009
Speak up and be counted

Sometimes it takes an extreme act to wake us up to our rights and guard against extremism.

THERE was a flurry of excitement last week when the Selangor Islamic Department (Jais) arrested Datuk Dr Mohd Asri Zainal Abidin, the popular former mufti of Perlis, for supposedly teaching Islam without a licence.

Surrounded by some 40 policemen and then almost handcuffed like a common criminal, Dr Mohd Asri was taken to the police station but not charged. Nor was he charged in court the next day.

The fiasco may or may not have been related to a memorandum put up by the Syariah Lawyers’ Association and supposedly handed over to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. The group then apologised, and in 24 hours withdrew it so the question of the arrest as well as other defamatory statements made by various individuals remain.

Presumably, none of the people out to get Dr Mohd Asri quite realised how popular the ex-mufti is.

To call a man who has written that Muslims should be nice to their non-Muslim friends, should ensure that women get justice in the courts and that we should treat animals kindly, an extremist defied all logic.

This must have been news to them: kind people are popular!

Indeed there were many statements condemning Jais’ actions. Politicians on both sides of the fence, as well as NGOs lent their support to Dr Mohd Asri.

One of the best statements came from the Muslim Professionals Forum (MPF). In their statement, they said Dr Mohd Asri’s arrest was an affront to “the spirit of intellectual freedom in the history of Islam.”

They also reiterated that “every person has the right, guaranteed by the Quran, to freely follow and express his convictions, irrespective of whether he is right or wrong.”

And what’s more, they decried the tendency of various groups to resort to “labelling and branding Muslim scholars on the basis of their opinions, with a view to disparage the person instead of countering their opinions with proofs and arguments based on the Quran and Sunnah.

“By invoking the age-old argument of protecting the Muslim community in Malaysia from confusion, these groups have exposed their inability to grasp the spirit of Islam and have only created a hole for them to hide in every time they are intellectually challenged.”

The right to “freely follow and express his convictions” is not just a right in Islam but also enshrined in Article 10 of our Federal Constitution, which guarantees the freedom of speech and which can only be limited by Parliament. Obviously some of these “Muslim” NGOs and agencies like JAIS have never read the Constitution.

Otherwise they would not be writing endless memorandums or lodging police reports against people for expressing their opinion. As the MPF have pointed out so succinctly, not only do these acts violate the Federal Constitution, they violate Islam itself.

It is ironic that the very people who want to establish an Islamic state are violating an Islamic tenet. What’s more, they will no doubt hide behind that same “secular” Article 10 if need be, although given that some of their statements are in fact defamatory, they may not have even that defence.

In many ways, this incident has been a real boon for the Malaysian public because it brings into focus the issue of freedom of speech as never before. We now know that our Federal Constitution and Islam are completely in synch on the issue.

Even more interestingly, Islam does not specifically apply the right to free speech only to Muslims either, thus making us all equal, as we are under the Constitution. Amazing what a little education does to how we think about ourselves.

This is why we should encourage everyone to educate themselves about their religions, including the majority Muslim population in our country.

After all, if we rely totally on agencies like Jais, what happens when they do strange things like arrest highly qualified ulama like Dr Mohd Asri?

We also should educate ourselves on our Federal Constitution so we know our rights as citizens of this country. In fact, it should be a school subject, just as it is in Britain.

But to help everyone along, the Bar Council is organising a My Constitution campaign to educate the public about our Federal Constitution.

To be launched on Nov 13 (this Friday) by the Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk V.K. Liew, the campaign aims to get the public to understand, via simple booklets, videos and forums, what exactly is in the Constitution, and perhaps clear up some misinformation about what is not.

An educated citizenry is not just a more empowered citizenry, but also a more responsible one. That surely is a goal that nobody can argue with.

Perhaps it does take an extreme act for us to wake up and understand our rights. The right to speak on anything, including religion, is a right for all, not just some.

31 October 2009

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com/ Please.
Wednesday October 28, 2009
Need for solidarity against injustice

All Malaysians should awaken to defend the rights of others to express themselves.

ONE of the features of democracy is the provision of space for all views to be expressed. This is to allow for healthy and open debate on any issue, with the hope that these interactions would lead to the wisest solution.

There are many of us here who hold firm to this belief, respect everyone’s right to have a view on any subject, and to express it publicly even when we do not agree with it. In return, we expect the same respect.

Apparently those are not the rules of the game here.

For some people, the rules are that only they be allowed to speak and anyone with a different opinion should just shut up. If the dissenters dare to say anything, then they should be hounded and intimidated until they acquiesce.

Today we have a women’s rights organisation that has had 50 police reports lodged against it by other organisations which do not agree with it. They claim these women must not only be not allowed to speak, but should be charged under the Sedition Act, have fatwas made against them and even be banned altogether.

There are even public forums being organised specifically to show that this women’s organisation is allegedly leading other women down the path to hell. You have to wonder what is so scary about this women’s organisation that it warrants all this hostile attention.

As far as most thinking people can tell, this women’s organisation has in the last 20 years been working to ensure that Malaysian women, specifically Muslim women, have access to the justice and equality that the Holy Quran says is their due.

What would be so scary about that? But if you believe its opponents, you would think that this organisation is plotting to turn this country into some Satanic state, where women rule and men are sidelined. God only knows where they got this idea.

What’s sad is that nobody has really stepped up to defend not just the right of this women’s organisation to express its views, but the right of anyone to do so in a supposedly democratic country.

Nobody seems to recognise that to file 50 police reports is nothing if not an act of intimidation geared to close the space for intelligent discussion and debate. What’s more, many of these police reports could really be considered defamatory.

It is a real mistake for anyone, whether it is the political leadership of this country or the ordinary person, to ignore this issue and think it is harmless. These police reports and forums are a concerted effort to ensure that only one viewpoint is given space.

More than that, it is a manifestation of an environment where those trying to ensure justice are intimidated and inhibited, and those trying to enhance all forms of discrimination, not just that against women, are given free rein – and even, due to the lack of comment on their behaviour, protected.

Tariq Ramadan, a prominent Islamic scholar, in his call for a moratorium on so-called Islamic punishment, quotes a hadith recorded by Al-Bukhari and Muslim, “Support your brother, whether he be unjust or victim of an injustice.”

One of the Companions asked: “Messenger of God, I understand how to support someone that is a victim of injustice, but how can I support him who is unjust?” The Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) responded: “Prevent him from being unjust, that is your support to him.”

While Ramadan mostly calls on his Muslim brethren to defend their co-religionists from being unjust, I believe that his call is also relevant for those of other faiths who live in the same society.

As he points out, “Societies will never reform themselves by repressive measures and punishment, but more so by the engagement of each to establish civil society and the respect of popular will as well as a just legislation guaranteeing the equality of women and men, poor and rich before the law.

“It is urgent to set in motion a democratisation movement that moves populations from the obsession of what the law is sanctioning to the claim of what it should protect: their conscience, their integrity, their liberty and their rights.”

Meanwhile, what do neglect and silence achieve? That old warning about staying silent while various groups are hauled away until the day comes when there is no one left to defend us when it’s our turn, is one to heed.

Just because an issue seemingly affects only one community does not mean that the basic unjust principle of it cannot be applied to others. The imperative is greater when the group under attack is one that has relentlessly defended others’ right to freedom of expression.

Where is the solidarity against injustice?

15 October 2009

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at
http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com/ Please.
Wednesday October 14, 2009
Missteps to a civil society

Some university students seeking to be the moral guardians of society want to stop others from having fun at concerts, but fail to take up the bigger causes.

I WAS reading an interesting article the other day about the Roman Polanski case. If anyone still doesn’t know, the movie director was found guilty of statutory rape of a 13-year old girl in California in the 70s, sentenced to 48 days’ jail but fled to Europe to escape it.

But recently he was re-arrested in Switzerland and is facing – and fighting – extradition back to the US.

The article was interesting because it showed how values and mores have changed over the past 30 years.

In the 70s, sex with minors was viewed among certain “sophisticated” showbiz circles as a normal thing.

The media reports at the time were sympathetic to Polanski and mentioned that the girl “looked older than her age and was sexually experienced”. Even the police report was largely sympathetic.

Thanks to advocacy by rape survivors’ groups in the US, mores have changed.

Today, men who have sex with young girls or boys are considered paedophiles and rarely escape prosecution.

Those who are released after jail often find they have nowhere to live as communities refuse to have them in their midst.

It is when values and norms change from the depraved to those that protect the powerless that you can consider a society has become more civilized, compassionate and humane.

No matter what you say about Western society, they are certainly far advanced than us when it comes to protecting the disabled, the victimized and the marginalized.

We are still a long way from that. Our values have not, for want of a better word, clarified themselves.

These days people who insult others and display hooligan antics are supported and made out to be heroes.

People who are found guilty of corruption can stand for election and win.

When adults behave like that, we must not be surprised when young people take their cues from them. Our university students are an example.

In other countries, university students demonstrate for things like free and fair elections, the release of people imprisoned for dissent and other injustices they see in their society.

Sometimes they suffer great hardship because of those demonstrations, including imprisonment and torture.

The luckier ones escape into exile.

But our students have to be different.

They reserve the right to demonstrate like others of course. But their causes are rather different.

They will protest against other people, for example, for having fun at concerts. In turn they suggest no fun alternatives. It makes one wonder what they do for leisure, and if their grades reflect such asceticism.

Recently our students have formed a Friends of Kartika Club. Its aim is to “support” her and to demonstrate to others that “Islamic” caning is not at all inhuman or painful.

I am assuming that in our universities today, logic is one of the lessons taught.

But I’m having trouble working out the logic of this.

These students want to support a woman who has been sentenced by the court for a wrongdoing.

It’s not because they think she is innocent but because they agree she is guilty.

The most exemplary thing about her, according to them, is that she has accepted her punishment, which is well and good.

However there are lots of guilty persons in our courts who have also accepted their punishment.

For instance, fathers guilty of raping their own daughters are often sentenced to jail and several strokes of the rotan.

Death by hanging is often the punishment for drug traffickers and murderers. Other types of criminals get jailed, sometimes for life.

All of them also accept their punishment, to a greater or lesser degree. But nobody sets up fan clubs for them.

If “Islamic” caning is more humane, I wonder why these students don’t take up a larger cause, that of advocating that all caning in this country be made more humane?

Never mind if these are meted out to purse snatchers, Mat Rempits, rapists and other violent criminals, surely their caning cannot be Islamic? Or is the excuse that since we are not an Islamic state yet, this is why we cannot implement more humane caning?

In Saudi Arabia, the “mother of all Islamic states”, a man was recently sentenced to a jail term as well as one thousand lashes of the cane. Or was that a whip?

His crime was to have been foolish enough to boast about his sex life on a foreign TV station. But I suppose one thousand gentle “Islamic” lashes would do to teach him a lesson.

So, as we continue our determined march towards greater so-called piety, and sentences like the cutting off of hands for theft loom, will our students then tour campuses and give demonstrations of the humane way hands can be chopped off?

01 October 2009

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com/ Please.
Wednesday September 30, 2009
Unity an ongoing Malaysian project

Having stayed together with only relatively minor spats over the past 52 years, we need to ask ourselves if we are really as divided as some politicians will have us believe.

I KNOW that every new administration feels the need to carve a new character for itself and so finds some slogan for this purpose. Our current government has chosen ‘1Malaysia’, which is rapidly becoming ubiquitous.

I understand the sentiment behind it. It seems that we have become so divided that there is a need for unity among all of us. And indeed there is much that can divide us – such as race, religion and social class – if we let them.

Yet for 52 years, we have survived with all these differences among us and, apart from some relatively small incidents, we have managed to stay together.

We have not gone the way of some countries where people who were once neighbours have turned on each other in very brutal ways, often egged on by politicians. What-ever differences we had were resolved in generally peaceful ways.

So we have to ask if we are really as disunited as we think. I suppose it depends on what we think of as united.

On the one hand, we have politicians who insist on stressing everything that is different about us.

When problems can be solved, they have often shown themselves to be too weak-willed to do so.

If only the principles of fairness and justice were applied to these problems, none of them would fester at all.

It is also true that in times of economic difficulties, people tend to focus on their differences rather than their similarities.

Whatever they feel deprived of is blamed on others having more, rather than the fact all are living in an environment of newly-amplified inequality.

If everyone felt they were suffering equally, just as in good times they benefited equally, then these problems would not arise.

But when the authorities hesitate to redress these inequalities for whatever reason, then tensions naturally arise.

It often seems that it is mostly politicians who sharpen these differences.

Despite some highly charged events recently, we can still walk around and not be afraid of insults being thrown at us, or be attacked for merely being of a certain race or colour.

Instead, in our vulnerability to crime, we are certainly not discriminated against.

At the people level, we are more intent on sharing than splitting. I have been more than amused by the craving for lemang and rendang brought on by the Raya season on the part of non-Muslim friends.

You feel that to have an open house with all these dishes is almost an act of charity.

One friend has been unwell and unable to attend any, and has been moaning endlessly about it.

I know of one young family who went out on a rendang hunt simply because they got into the Raya mood and felt it wasn’t complete without the right food. And they were not Muslims at all!

I have to say that around Chinese New Year, I start wondering who is going to invite me for a yee sang meal. And it’s been my bad luck to be always away for the past few Deepavallis, thus depriving myself of all the festive goodies.

We like to say that food unites us. But it’s not just a matter of gastronomy, I think.

Our festivals – and food is an integral part of them – are so much a part of the fabric of Malaysian life, that few people feel isolated from them.

The cultural symbols of our festivals are wired into all of us, regardless of our race and religion. And so when it’s those times of the year, our whole spirit starts to crave.

These are not things any slogan can instill. Neither is it anything new. It takes years to imbue people with this hardwiring.

We have always been this way and, bar any catastrophe, we will always be this way.

I would venture it’s because we are united already on one thing: the ongoing project that is our country.

Commonality of purpose is a very unifying factor. I used to run an organisation where everyone was united against a virus that could kill anyone, regardless of race or religion.

Our staff composition was truly a rainbow reflection of Malaysia; what mattered was your belief in the cause and your passion and commitment. Your race, sex, class or orientation did not count as long as you believed.

That singular Malaysia is an ongoing project that started in 1957, not this year.

To talk of it as something new is an insult to the decades of unity that has existed. Worse still, to depict it in shallow visual ways is meaningless tokenism. Nor should it be for tourism purposes.

It’s not about coming together for a show, and then retreating to our separate enclaves. It’s about having no enclaves.

24 September 2009

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at
http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com/ Please.
Wednesday September 16, 2009
It’s time for us to chill

WHEN I was little I remember there being a Malaysia Day. I don’t remember what the date was, but now I realise that it must have been Sept 16. But at the time I remember the word “Malaysia” was somewhat a novelty, but an exciting one nevertheless.

I don’t know how it came to be that Malaysia Day disappeared from our consciousness. To be more correct, it has disappeared from the consciousness of those of us Malaysians in the peninsula.

It has only been because of the insistent reminders from our fellow citizens in Sabah and Sarawak recently that we have become conscious of the fact that today is the anniversary of the formation of Malaysia.

As important as Aug 31 is as the day that Malaya became independent, surely the day that we became the modern nation of Malaysia is equally important. We are after all Malaysians, not just Malayans.

So it is fitting that some of us have decided to make this year’s Malaysia Day an extra special one.

After what has seemed like a very bad-tempered stretch of several months when everyone’s emotions have been strung out with one incident after another, a group of individuals decided that enough is enough and that something needed to be done.

But instead of doing something that would only heighten emotions, they decided to do something to underscore the need for reflection, restraint and calmness.

They decided to reject the hatred and injustices of recent months and reclaim our country for the peaceful place that it is.

That was how the idea for the Fast for the Nation, Peace for Malaysia initiative began. As with all good ideas, it is striking in its simplicity. What everyone joining the initiative is doing today is to fast from dawn to dusk.

This is not just to show solidarity with the Muslim citizens of the country but to do something simple together as a way of showing unity.

If there is one thing that brings Malaysians together, it is food. So early this morning, several Malaysians of all races got together to have their pre-dawn meal, the sahur.

In the spirit of inclusiveness, so that there is no barrier to anyone’s participation, the meal was vegetarian. People who would never normally get up so early to eat did so just to join their Muslim friends.

Then in the evening, they will get together again to break the fast. From the very onset of the idea, as is typical of Malaysians, friends have been discussing what they would eat to break their fast.

But they are determined to do it together, with their neighbours, workmates and friends, regardless of race or religion. The citizens who break fast together stay together.

In addition, this initiative calls for participants to do something kind to someone during the day. At heart is the idea that if you do something nice for someone, you will get the same in return at some point.

After months of an environment where retribution seemed to be the order of the day, it was time to reverse that by consciously doing something good.

It could be as simple as offering to babysit, shop for a house-bound neighbour or help someone at work or something more complicated, as long as it’s an act of kindness.

When the project was launched last week, the first 50 people to sign on all said the same thing: the hate and violence exhibited by some people recently are not typical of Malaysians.

We do not solve things through anger and recrimination. Nor do we allow anyone to exploit our differences and divide us.

While our strength is our diversity – and that diversity should always be respected – our national project ever since Sept 16, 1963, so to speak, is to unite.

So Fast for the Nation is exactly what we need.

It is a community-driven grassroots initiative, one not tainted by politics and with genuinely sincere objectives.

Basically it upholds the basic Ramadan thrust of restraint and calmness. In other words, we’re saying it’s time to chill.

Initiatives like this should not be confined to one day a year only.

We can easily think up many similar ideas. Already there have been groups of Muslims going to visit Hindu temples, or inviting non-Muslims to break the fast with them at suraus.

We need to reach out to each other more in natural ways, not at glitzy manufactured events.

Most of all, we need to show that hate is an emotion that is alien to the ordinary Malay-sian.

When we have seen people from all sides behave in the most debased manner, we have to rise above them. And show them what Malaysia is really about.

Happy Birthday Malaysia!

04 September 2009

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com/ Please.
Wednesday September 2, 2009
Merit comes from making right choices
Musings by Marina Mahathir

Living the faith is not just about avoiding what is prohibited, but more so about doing the right things where morals and ethics are concerned.

IN this month of Ramadan, one naturally focuses on questions of faith. And indeed, with several controversies in the papers, we can’t escape it at all. Every day our lives seem to be increasingly circumscribed until the question of choice in our lives becomes irrelevant.

There are some people in our midst who seem to think that the only way to fulfill our religious obligations is by removing any sort of temptation or challenge in our paths.

Since we are prohibited from drinking, the answer is therefore to remove any form of alcohol from our sight so that we may never have the opportunity to be tempted by it.

Or, to disallow young Muslims to attend events sponsored by alcoholic beverage companies.

The assumption is that by the mere presence of liquor, we would abandon all inhibitions and imbibe.

This suggests two things. One is that the religious education of the young must be so inadequate that they feel totally uninhibited when faced with what they should know is prohibited.

Secondly, our faith is essentially a weak one since it can never restrain us from breaking rules.

There are other faiths that have food prohibitions as well. Many Hindus and Buddhists don’t eat beef. There are people who take no meat at all.

Yet, living in a world of carnivores, where the beef burger is ubiquitous and most people are oblivious of others’ dietary restrictions, they stick to their diets throughout their lives. Do they have stronger faith than Muslims?

I’m trying to imagine a world where our faith is supposedly secured by having absolutely no temptations or challenges at all.

We can ban every form of alcohol (including medicinal ones), we can cull every single pig in the land, but does that mean we will be able to float about blissfully certain that we now have a place in heaven?

In countries where alcohol is completely prohibited, an underground system invariably springs up and people

drink much more, perhaps because it is illicit.

People who are used to ham made from turkey meat and bacon from beef tend to assume, when they travel to other countries, that all the bacon and ham there are also made from the same meats.

Children who have never seen pigs gush over the cuteness of those little pink animals with the funny snouts.

But faith is about more than just prohibited drinks and foods. It is also about morals and ethics. Every day we are faced with choices that challenge our sense of morality.

Do we pay a little extra to the officer in order to expedite our applications? Do we beat the red light, thus endangering other people, just because we are a little late? Do we keep quiet about a mistake we made and let others take the blame?

It is our faith that is going to provide us the answers to these questions. And sometimes these questions can be difficult to answer. Does that mean therefore that we should just get rid of them so that our faith need never be tested?

It would be nice to get rid of corruption completely so that we never have to deal with it. But do we hear of anyone calling for a ban on it? Or mobilising religious officials to catch anyone giving or receiving a bribe?

If our faith directs our way of life, then ethical and moral questions should dog us every day. How is it that those calling for people who drink to be whipped have nothing to say about people who neglect to repay loans? Or who leave their children in destitution?

How is it that the voices that bay for rock concerts to be banned are not just as outraged by the existence of the homeless and the hungry?

Faith, as someone said, needs to be exercised regularly. Otherwise it gets flabby. In what way can it be exercised if we think that living in a religious utopia is what we should aim for?

Is it better for our faith to be exercised by the trivial rather than the big moral questions of poverty, illiteracy and violence?

God said in the Quran, “if it had been His will, He could indeed have guided you all”. (6:149)

We could all be perfectly good if He

had so willed it. But we are given

choices because that is how we earn our merits. We have the opportunity to think about what we should do and then decide.

In that way we have the chance to think about what ethics we want to apply in our lives. Take away that choice and we never have to think about morals and ethics. What sort of human beings would we be then?

24 August 2009

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at
http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com/ Please.
Wednesday August 19, 2009
Following Jakarta in tackling AIDS

The openness and inclusiveness of the Indonesian local organising committee have been impressive.

IT was a subtle but significant moment for those of us who have worked in this field for a very long time. When Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of Indonesia, fifth most populous and largest Muslim country in the world, addressed his “brothers and sisters living with HIV”, all of us sitting in the audience couldn’t help our prickly eyes.

In the dramatic setting of the Garuda Wisnu Kencana park in Bali, President Yudhoyono was opening the 9th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP). No head of government has deigned to open the conference since the 5th in Kuala Lumpur in 1999. But the Bali conference was exceptional in so many ways.

Before the opening, the First Lady of Indonesia, Ibu Ani Bambang Yudhoyono, hosted a lunch for several AIDS Ambassadors from abroad in her capacity as National AIDS Ambassador. This means that she is committed to upholding the AIDS cause in the country, talking about it and ensuring that the best prevention, treatment, care and support programmes are employed in Indonesia.

At the official opening, she read out a declaration by all the AIDS Ambassadors and Champions present at 9th ICAAP, committing themselves to being advocates for AIDS, particularly in fighting stigma and discrimination against those most at risk of infection and those living with HIV.

The President’s speech itself set the tone for the entire conference where the fight to contain the spread of AIDS in Asia and the Pacific had to be based on human rights principles, protecting the rights and dignity of those most at risk of becoming infected .

As at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS in 2001 where many countries, including ours, fought to have a listing of the most vulnerable populations excluded from the resulting document, Indonesia has no problem talking about injecting drug users, sex workers, migrant workers or even men who have sex with men.

Indeed, in my two years working with the Indonesian Local Organising Committee, their sheer openness and inclusiveness impressed me. Indonesia, again unlike us, has a National AIDS Commission (NAC), an autonomous body that reports directly to the President, headed by a powerful and very HIV-savvy woman Nafsiah Mboi.

The NAC is a multi-sectoral body, comprising not only doctors and academics but also the private sector, NGOs and representatives of key affected groups including people with HIV. In fact, the NAC has even provided office space for the local networks of these community groups in the same building.

These communities, including youths, were present in all areas of the organising of the conference. They worked on many of the committees, in the secretariat office and as volunteers. And the entire conference was enriched by it.

Indonesia’s AIDS epidemic is younger than ours but has also expanded at a much faster rate. In Jakarta, HIV rates among injecting drug users is exceptionally high and in the far-flung province of Papua, sexual transmission has taken a great toll. Yet, with the help of donors, Indonesia has responded to the challenges with greater speed and much less angst than we have.

Every province now has an AIDS Commission replicating the National one and does their own programmes to deal with HIV issues that may be different from other areas. In this way, there is no one-size-fits-all programme handed down from a central authority. Needle exchange and methadone programmes in Bali for instance have greatly reduced the incidence of HIV among drug users there.

At the ICAAP, we talked about successful programmes, new challenges and were also reminded of the gaps. At the last plenary, just as Ibu Nafsiah of the NAC was speaking, we were interrupted by a demonstration calling for drugs for Hepatitis C, a common co-infection for many drug users with HIV. It was a peaceful and polite demonstration and Ibu Nafsiah immediately responded that she would look at the Hepatitis C issues in Indonesia and find ways to redress them.

Rarely do we ever see a government official take note and act so quickly as she did.

If Indonesia does well, we in Malaysia benefit too since our people have much interaction with one another. If we do well, Indonesia gains too.

Unfortunately while we are committed to fighting AIDS, we also fight shy of a very crucial part of that battle, the protection of the rights of those vulnerable to and living with HIV. Unlike Indonesia, we don’t have government policies specifically addressing human rights issues. Indeed the words rarely get mentioned in government circles.

Health is a human’s right. If we protect the right to health of the most marginalised and vulnerable groups of people in our society, we will advance the health of the entire nation. When will we understand that?

07 August 2009

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com/ Please.
Wednesday August 5, 2009
Before acting, take a deep breath

FORGIVE me if I’m repetitive but sometimes repetition is the only way to get some things into people’s heads.

Yoga may be banned in the view of some in this country but there’s one practice in yoga that can be helpful to everybody. And that is breathing.

There are many instances when before we do anything, it’s really helpful to take a few deep breaths because it helps to clear our minds and allows that moment of hesitation before we do something unwise in haste.

There are lots of people who could really have done with three deep breaths this past week. Breathing helps to engage the brain, and the brain is always needed when making decisions.

Thus it was that non-breathing on the part of those in power led to the ugly scenes of thousands of Malaysian citizens being water-cannoned, teargassed and arrested at the weekend.

There are those who complained about the inconvenience of such demos because mostly it prevented them from driving into town to go shopping. Perhaps the complaints are wrongly directed at the demonstrators.

Rather it should be directed at the police who put up road barriers and blocks a full day before the planned demos and caused traffic jams long before a single protestor put a foot down on a street.

Would it not have been better to simply issue warnings that since a demo is expected, people intending to go into the city should just take public transport?

Oh, but the demo is illegal! Being illegal doesn’t exactly stop it from happening, not when people don’t believe it should be illegal.

So if you know something is going to happen anyway, all you can do is ensure that it happens in an orderly manner with the least inconvenience as possible.

Which goes back to the breathing. If those in power had only taken the time to breathe deeply, their brains might have given them a smarter and unexpected plan.

And the plan would be to actually allow the demos to take place but within certain limits.

So one demo could have taken place at Dataran Merdeka, and only there, within specific and reasonable time limits.

The other rival one could have been allowed to take place in another venue also for a specific time limit.

No one from one group should be allowed anywhere near the other. (The Prime Minister later offered stadiums for these demos, a bit belatedly).

This has tremendous benefits because it allows people to vent what they want, and at the same time pulling the carpet from under them completely.

It also allows better crowd control and avoids unnecessary actions like water-cannoning and tear-gassing. And you don’t get stupidities like children being handcuffed and lawyers not being allowed to talk to those arrested.

There may be those who believe that we should stick strictly to the law. But as someone once said, the law can be an ass.

Just because a law is there doesn’t preclude using one’s brains to think of wiser ways to handle a situation. And sticking strictly to the rules isn’t necessarily the wisest thing to do.

Ultimately it is about showing wisdom, a virtue that, unfortunately, our leaders have consistently failed to show.

The law is also supposed to be neutral. Despite the neutral-sounding noises before the two planned demos, one demo did not materialise, which had two effects.

One, it made the actual demonstrators look bad because there is nothing to compare them with.

Two, it allowed for some overwhelming smugness on the part of the lone pro-ISA supporter, claiming to represent 100,000 others, who apparently could hand over his memo at leisure and unmolested. (It turned out his claim that he had delivered the memo was untrue.)

He did still feel the need to hide his T-shirt, which says plenty about his ideas about openness.

What did the tear gas achieve? It lost at least 20,000 votes for the government, even more if you count those not participating but concerned anyway. It lost the votes of those who inadvertently got caught in the mess.

But here’s the thing. While the middle of the city was all eye-stinging chaos, the rest of the city functioned as normal.

People went out lunching and shopping as they would any Saturday, all the while keeping tabs of what was happening on their mobiles.

The city did not shut down; nobody felt any fear of the consequences of such demos. At the same time, they were not oblivious to what the demo was all about.

Which is a sign of the maturity of our people. While the doomsayers are trying to paint demos as the end of all civilisation, the public proved they are indeed civilised, more so than politicians anytime.

10 July 2009

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at
http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com/ Please.
Wednesday July 8, 2009
Two sides of the same coin

When human rights is sacrificed supposedly on the altar of security, nobody feels safe anymore, not even the enforcers.

READING up on the subject of policing and human rights the other day, I came across some interesting documents.

The Commonwealth Human Rights Report on Police Accountability in 2005 describes a concept that is new to me, that of democratic policing.

This is defined as the idea that the police are protectors of the rights of the citizens and the rule of law, while ensuring the safety and security of all equally.

This definition is not new. In 1996, the UN International Police Task Force declared: “In a democratic society, the police serve to protect, rather than impede, freedoms.

“The very purpose of the police is to provide a safe orderly environment in which these freedoms can be exercised.

“A democratic police force is not concerned with people’s beliefs or associates, their movements or conformity to state ideology. It is not even primarily concerned with the enforcement of regulations of bureaucratic regimens.

“Instead, the police force of a democracy is concerned strictly with the preservation of safe communities and the application of criminal law equally to all people, without fear or favour.”

It follows therefore that if we are to call ourselves a democratic country, the functioning of the police is very central to our perception of ourselves.

We can no longer defend our democracy by simply saying that we have elections every five years, but must also look at how our public institutions behave.

To quote the Commonwealth report once again: “As the primary agency responsible for protecting human security, the police are particularly responsible for turning the promise of human rights into reality.

“The failure of the police to properly perform their duties has a significant effect on the ability of citizens to enjoy the full spectrum of all their human rights and can also impact negatively on the ability of governments to deliver on their mandates.”

In other words, in a democratic society, it is quite possible for the police to be the main human rights agency in the country.

People have a right to safety and security, so ensuring that they are able to go about their business safely is a human rights job.

Making sure that their complaints are seen to quickly is another, as well as seeing that investigations are done properly so that justice can be served.

But this only happens if law enforcers see citizens as essentially good people. However if the attitude is that citizens are just one seething mass of potential lawbreakers, then a problem arises.

How do you protect people when basically you think people are just waiting to be bad?

This seems to be the basic difference in perspective between law enforcers and citizens.

Law enforcers believe that people cannot be trusted to behave themselves and therefore must act before they break the law.

Citizens on the other hand believe in what is just and fair and cannot understand why they should face punitive action just for believing that.

Yet, I have seen citizens gather to discuss difficult and sensitive subjects with greater civility than I have seen law enforcers. That is perhaps the other insight.

Civilians learn that the right way to behave is always to be civil even when you heartily disagree with others. Uniformed personnel see things in more black and white; there is simply no room for disagreement.

This inevitably puts law enforcers and civilians on a collision course. Civilians don’t see why things cannot be in the open; law enforcers prefer things to be kept in the dark so that they will always have the upper hand.

Civilians think that they can be trusted to not create chaos and disorder; law enforcers don’t believe so.

This is why we see otherwise peaceful demonstrations become disorderly after the police have acted, not before.

Most people also have a sense of natural justice that forms the basis of their concept of human rights. Even children have a sense of what is fair and what is not.

Yet, there are some people who think that human rights are “ideals” that cannot be realised if we are also to think of security.

The funny thing is when human rights is sacrificed supposedly on the altar of “security”, nobody feels safe anymore, not even the enforcers.

As an example, Israel has never been able to feel safe since it took away the rights of the Palestinians to live in their own land. More tough measures to ensure Israeli security have done nothing to ease the situation. The same can be seen anywhere human rights is suppressed.

Perhaps it is time for major re-education of law enforcement on what human rights means. And that their disregard for it reflects badly on the political masters they serve.

29 June 2009

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com/ Please.
Wednesday June 24, 2009
Injustice through the tar brush

To stereotype through one’s shared identity does not do justice to every individual; we all live with multiple identities.

SOME months ago, I had an interesting session with some young people belonging to an evangelical youth movement. Our conversation was on stereotypes.

At the heart of racism, I said, are stereotypes about people because they belong to one race or religion. And the thing to remember about stereotypes is, every time you stereotype someone, someone else somewhere is stereotyping you.

I’ve been talking about racism all last week. Prof Aneez Esmail gave a talk on how Britain has handled race relations at a public forum and a closed roundtable session.

In both cases, we Malaysians proved that, aside from politicians, we are quite capable of discussing race with maturity and rationality.

Prof Aneez stressed that he was not here to tell us how to conduct race relations in Malay­sia. Rather, he was relating his own experience of racism as an immigrant to Britain, and how he went about challenging it.

His challenges led to recognition of much institutional racism in the medical profession and at universities. Empirical evidence about the racism was key to his success.

He proved that hospitals were 10 times more likely to offer jobs to applicants with white names than to those with non-white names.

A similar study in Australia published only recently showed the same thing among employers there.

The issue of racism is considered so sensitive in this country that the general prescription is that we should not talk about it. This has only led to mounting tensions when problems remain unresolved.

Ironically, politicians are not censored in the same way as others, even though they seem to be the ones least likely to be capable of rational discussion. As a result, they have led to a further heightening of tensions.

Having said that, I believe that many of us are sincere in wanting to grapple with the issue of racism all round. Everyone feels hard done by in one way or another, whether officially or unofficially.

Prof Aneez stressed that we all live with multiple identities. I am not just Malay or Muslim, I am also a woman, a wife, mother, daughter, activist and whatever else I do and am.

So to stereotype through one’s shared identity does not do justice to every individual. All Muslims in the world may share some common beliefs but not all common traits.

Not all men are chauvinists. Not all Chinese are hardworking. Not all Indians can sing like Shah Rukh Khan, and so on.

The point is when we group people under one single shared identity, we invariably label them with the worst traits of that identity. Worse still, we then refuse to recognise the good in the other identities that they carry.

Thus, when we have prejudices against one group of people, we ignore the individual good traits that they might have under their other identities.

We might dislike someone just because we have prejudices against his race, while ignoring what he may have done for charity, or his expertise in his job, for example.

The other point is that when we say we want to eradicate racism, we must mean that for everyone. We cannot accuse someone else of racism while not recognising it in ourselves.

What’s more, we cannot reject racism among our fellow citizens but allow it against foreigners. Why is it okay to hurl epithets at Indo­nesians, Africans and Bangladeshis when it is not at Malaysian Malays, Chinese or Indians?

Racism is racism, no matter whom it is directed at.

While we are reflecting on how we may solve our internal racial issues, we must also reflect on why it is that we stereotype all Indo­nesians as criminals, all Africans as thugs and all Bangladeshis as poor labourers.

And why it is that we are not ashamed of ourselves when we do this?

Perhaps we don’t realise that over in Indo­nesia, all Malaysians are stereotyped as cruel and inhumane.

Africans think we have something against black people.

And, in Bangladesh, as much as they admire Malaysia, they also wonder why we treat their people so badly.

Stereotypes don’t take into account that indi­viduals may think differently; they tar everyone with the same brush.

Prof Aneez pointed out that it is not

possible to totally eradicate racism but we can do a lot to make it socially disapproved of.

We can take pro-active measures to mitigate the impact of institutional racism with time-limited quotas and affirmative action.

For example, we could introduce affirmative action to bring in more non-Malays into the civil service and police force with special incentives as well as punitive measures for non-compliance by those institutions.

The lack of candidates cannot be an excuse but an unacceptable lack of effort.

All we need is political will. And therein lies the problem.

11 June 2009

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at
http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com/ Please.
Wednesday June 10, 2009
Veiled view of equal rights

US President Barack Obama showed that he was mindful of who he was talking to. If only people did the same back home in our neck of the woods.

THIS is one of those surreal moments. Over in Cairo, the first American President with Hussein for a middle name was reaching out to that large diverse community he collectively calls the Muslim world and saying pretty much all the right things.

President Barack Hussein Obama greeted everyone with Assalamualaikum and was met with applause. (Meanwhile, at home, people wondered if he would be arrested if he ever tried the same thing here.)

He quoted from the Quran (in English, without citing chapter and verse, so no complaints from the conservatives here) and acknowledged that women who choose to wear headscarves were not necessarily unequal to men.

Meanwhile, at home, a political party decided that women who do not wear headscarves are not only not equal to men – any man – but also unequal to women who do wear headscarves.

And that’s saying plenty since all women, covered heads or not, are irredeemably inferior to men. According to them, to be a woman is to be a bit disabled because it renders us unable to think for ourselves especially about religion.

And if interpretations of religion are making our lives miserable, then we should just shut up and bear it, because that’s what life is like for the disabled. Who are we to complain about that when, after all, it was God who made us disabled?

Isn’t that odd, when God gave us the strength to bear children and put up with infinite patience the foibles of men?

When men admit to weakness in order to justify supremacy – as in women should cover themselves so that men cannot be tempted – you have to wonder who are the disabled beings here.

Obama is a very smart guy. He knew exactly how to word his speech because he has a vast new audience he needs to win over, Muslims.

He neglected to use the word “terrorist” even once, causing much foaming at the mouth in Tel Aviv.

He admitted that America did some meddling they shouldn’t have in Iran, and he acknowledged that Hamas actually has “some” support.

Perhaps he could have gone further; for instance, by acknowledging that bombing women and children in Pakistan is helping

to recruit new Taliban members. But for a new beginning, his words were mostly the right ones.

Translating words into action is another matter of course.

But words matter and when spoken so publicly; people can always hold you to them. Choosing the right words showed that he was mindful of who he’s talking to.

If only people did the same back home in our neck of the woods.

Instead we get a party that is supposedly trying to be open to all Malaysians calling for the investigation of a women’s group to check whether or not they are really Islamic. If not, their group should be banned and the members rehabilitated.

Oh my! A group that has always fought for equality and justice for women has to be put on trial as unIslamic. The group that has made people aware of the difficulties of women in getting fair hearings in our religious courts is deemed wrong.

So what sort of rehabilitation is needed? Are we to be punished until we agree that women are inferior beings and do not deserve fair treatment? Do we have to be waterboarded until we plead to put on headscarves?

Obama cited Kuala Lumpur as one of the capitals where economic development is possible without compromising culture and traditions.

I’m not sure he knows what he’s talking about.

He obviously does not know that in our country we can use Internet technology to spread alternative news, and at the same time, to the theme of Star Wars, deride women as lesser beings.

Of course we agree with him that women should be educated, but never about religion, unless it’s the prescribed patriarchal version of it. Everything else would be just not kosher. Women who demand (shock, horror!) justice should just be lobotomised.

I’m still waiting for a good explanation as to why Muslim women should not be treated justly.

Especially when we believe in a God who is the epitome of justice and fairness. Al’Adl, the Utterly Just, is one of the 99 names of God.

The worst part of all this is that attitudes such as these are not limited to political parties who want to impose a mono-religious form of government.

These attitudes also exist among those who otherwise put themselves in opposition to such a party.

You hear the same things at their general assemblies as well.

The danger is that these entities want to engage one another.

To engage, one seeks to find common ground. Is discrimination against women one of them?

31 May 2009

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at
http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com/ Please.
Wednesday May 27, 2009
Sports and studies do mix

Our children need to be assured that three A’s and a good sports record are more than fine; they are just what the country needs.

THE Education Minister announced recently that there will be a limit to the number of subjects students can take for their SPM. Well, it’s about time!

I have never understood how students can take 16 subjects and more. In my day, you didn’t actually need more than five subjects because your overall grade would be based on the aggregate of your top five subject grades.

Typically, we would take about eight subjects at most in order to have some leeway in our potential total. There was no reason to take more than that.

If someone got seven A’s, they were pretty much regarded geniuses. Today, there are people who get more than double what the geniuses of my time did. But are they doubly smart?

I spoke to officials at some private tertiary institutions and they confirmed what I have always feared: that students entering university, particularly those doing very technical subjects, had to do a lot of remedial work in their first year before they could really be considered up to par.

Their 15 A’s were simply not “real” A’s.

In my time, the students who got seven A’s were immediately offered scholarships to do matriculation in Australia, after which they went on to university there, mostly in the sciences or medicine.

I don’t hear of those types of offers to current students with multiple A’s. Perhaps, it is because often their English is just not up to the mark.

Or, perhaps, their A’s are not quite of the same standard as the fewer ones of old.

I often wonder why our media don’t do follow-up stories on our multiple-A students a few years later.

Would it be because there is really nothing to follow up, that they all fizzled out when it came to real studies?

I’m not saying that they did not work hard to get their A’s.

But perhaps, when getting as many A’s as possible became their sole goal in life, they could not thrive in higher education which demands less rote work and more actual thought.

So limiting the number of subjects a student can take would be the first step.

The next step would be to raise the standards of our education all round so that to even get one A would mean something much more than the current five or six A’s.

The other thing to do would be to provide space for our children to shine in ways other than the academic.

I am glad that the Education Minister has also said that we should improve the standard of sports in our schools. The low standards that we have today are, of course, related to our obsession with examination results.

How do we force our kids to get at least seven or eight A’s without stopping them from doing anything but study?

We have now created a culture where if you shone at sports, you’re not considered as smart as if you were a pale child tied to your desk and books.

Yet it is possible to combine both; indeed one complements the other, Nicol David being the best example.

If one does sports, one is simply fresher and healthier, and therefore more alert in class. We have to go back to the days when sports were compulsory.

At the same time we should stop the nonsense where we are more concerned about what our children wear to play sports than actually ensuring that they play well.

When we make our girls dress in uncomfortable clothes for sports, they are unlikely to find playing games very attractive.

Nor should we keep presenting sports to our girls as something unladylike.

If we are serious about training world-class athletes and sportspersons, we should equip them with the best training and equipment. Otherwise, let us just forget it.

Sports, as has been pointed out by others, have other benefits besides health and fitness.

One of them is the fact that they are able to create team spirit and unity in ways no amount of Rakan Muda activities can.

We root for an athlete because they are Malaysian, not because they are of any ethnic or religious subgroup. We are all collectively proud when one of our sportspeople does well overseas.

Sports are, and have always been, “one Malaysia”. I would venture that one of the reasons we have so much disunity is precisely because getting many A’s in exams is a solitary sport, not a team one.

It’s not too late to reverse the damage.

Just put our money where our mouth is and change our children’s mindset by telling them that three A’s and a good sports record are more than fine; they are just what the country needs.

25 May 2009

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com/ Please.
Wednesday May 13, 2009
Hot heads don’t solve anything
Musings by Marina Mahathir

After the events in Perak last week, where everybody seemed to lose all sense of proportion, the appropriate thing to do now is to chill.

GERTRUDE Stein the writer once said: “Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.” Stein lived from 1874-1946, so this was way before what we now call the Information Age. So you can imagine how much common sense we lose these days.

Nothing seemed to exemplify this loss more than the events of last week.

Everybody seemed to lose all sense of proportion and was reacting in ways that were totally unwarranted.

The chief culprit would be the police.

Why was there a need to arrest someone who was asking people to wear black clothes? Since when has wearing black been classified as dangerous?

Then we should arrest all those women in top-to-toe black burqas walking around, both local and tourist.

So wearing black was meant to be a political statement, and that was deemed offensive.

But people wear political statements on their bodies every day, whether in the form of slogans on T-shirts or even the very clothes they wear, especially on the head.

Are we going to go around and arrest everyone?

And what was the need to arrest people who bring a cake?

So you don’t like the joke. But, by any measure, cakes are not dangerous weapons, except perhaps to those with high cholesterol.

If I were a policeman with common sense, I would have taken the cake, said thank you, sent the cake-deliverers on their way, and then dumped the cake in the rubbish bin. End of story.

Instead, the police gave the cake deliverers exactly the publicity they wanted.

Even worse was the reaction towards students protesting against the arrest of their lecturer.

Was there a need for armed policemen?

Private university students are generally a docile lot, bent on getting the degrees their parents paid so much towards.

But surely loyalty to, and support for, their lecturers is something to be encouraged?

Instead they were made out to be troublemakers.

What is likely to have happened now is that those 20 students, having now observed an injustice first hand, have become politicised.

No guesses on how they will vote in the next general election.

It only got worse. People holding vigils got arrested. People sitting in coffee shops got booked. Lawyers trying to provide legal advice got taken in. Does any of this make sense?

The minister concerned may praise the police for “keeping the peace” but the cost of it is deep anger at the police and the Government, none of which will be soon forgotten.

There may be outward peace but absolutely none deep inside the psyche of the people affected, nor among the observers.

Yet how much would it cost the minister to instruct the police to exercise restraint? Nothing at all, yet it reaps greater rewards.

In fact, if anyone needed arresting, it was probably every single person inside the Perak State Assembly, regardless of political affiliation. The crime? Bringing down the dignity of the entire institution of the State Assembly.

How can screaming, shouting, trying to strangle people and tearing up money serve as a good example to the public?

Increasingly, I think the common sense thing to do is to dissolve the entire assembly, have new elections and hope that none of these people get voted in again.

What is most interesting about this episode is how information is now gathered and passed around. I followed the proceedings in Perak on Twitter, the microblogging application.

Various people were twittering up what was happening, and these were relayed to a large audience.

All this information was not only first hand but being sent out much faster than any mainstream media could ever hope to do.

The news alerts from newspapers that I received on my mobile seemed already stale when I got them.

This is the new challenge to the Government.

You can get the mainstream media to report what you want, you can try and go after blogs and online news portals, but with the advent of Twitter and social networking sites like Facebook, and individuals posting up news as soon as it happens, it is almost impossible to counter any of it at the same speed.

Even photos and videos can be uploaded right after they have been taken and passed around.

The appropriate thing to do right now is really to chill.

Everyone needs to go to a yoga class to calm down.

Hot heads never solved anything so every politician should go for compulsory head clearing sessions.

Common sense should prevail. And perhaps it will tell us that asking Perakians who they actually want to govern them is the only sensible thing to do.

29 April 2009

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com/ Please.
Wednesday April 29, 2009
Justice for the deserving

Being religious means having honesty, integrity, sincerity and many other virtues that come with it. The Quran underscores that to be just is what being a faithful adherent is all about. And justice is not limited to only those of the same faith.

SYMBOLS , as we know, can be potent. One of those that many set great store by is the tudung, meant to signify religious identity and piety.

Presumably that identity comes also with religious quality, that is, you expect that anyone who wears it to display a certain level of behaviour and integrity.

The other day I had an experience that taught me never to expect too much from symbols. As I was about to pay for some coffee, I noticed the young female cashier had rung up a more expensive price than that quoted on the menu on the wall.

Fully expecting there to be a legitimate reason, I asked her why. To my shock, the look on her face spelt guilt and she hastily changed the price of my coffee.

It may well be that she was told by her management to add a little something to each bill because I don’t see how she could have personally benefited from it. But the point is that if one takes on religious symbols such as the tudung, one therefore needs to ensure that it means something.

Dishonesty is not one of them.

Which goes back to that old argument about form and substance in religion in this country.

It is perhaps unfortunate that Islam is the religion that most lends itself to public symbolism, mostly through dress. Even more unfortunate is the fact that the focus has entirely rested on women’s dress and not anything else.

So while we may take on the tudung as one step towards heaven, we don’t insist that it carries more weight than that, that is we expect honesty, integrity, sincerity and many other virtues to come with it.

The question will always be, does a dishonest person who wears a tudung or a kepiah have a better chance of going to heaven than one who doesn’t?

And if the answer is yes, then we have something seriously wrong with our value system that prizes the outward rather than the internal, the form over the substance.

One of the major themes of Islam is justice.

Over and over again, the Quran underscores that to be just is always what to be a faithful adherent is all about.

In Surah An-Nisa, Verse 35, God says: “O ye who believe! Be ye staunch in justice, witnesses for Allah, even though it be against yourselves or (your) parents or (your) kindred, whether (the case be of) a rich man or a poor man, for Allah is nearer unto both (than ye are). So follow not passion lest ye lapse (from truth) and if ye lapse or fall away, then lo! Allah is ever Informed of what ye do.”

It says nothing about whom one has to be just to, except that they be those who deserve it. Certainly justice is not limited to only those of the same faith.

Thus, I welcome the announcement that minor-aged children of people who convert will be brought up in the original religion that their parents were when they got married.

This is to stop the sort of vindictive men who try to inflict as much as misery as they can on women they no longer love by trying to take away their children in any way they can.

Unfortunately, the state has only helped to support this vindictiveness by mostly refusing to decide on what is just.

But as they say, the proof of good intentions will always be in the pudding. These announcements must translate into fact.

Already the negative noises are out, alleging doom if certain processes are supposedly not followed. Forgotten is the fact that those processes may not be necessarily just.

Almost all these voices are, interestingly enough, male.

These are the same people who insist that a woman’s primary role is to be a mother. Of course, if her husband converts to Islam and takes away her children, her mothering role becomes nullified.

He suddenly becomes the martyred single father, even though he created the situation in the first place and can easily find another woman to tend to his brood.

Meanwhile, the mother remains married to the father of the children she is forcibly separated from and cannot move on.

And this is what people call the Islamic thing to do?

I hope the Cabinet cracks the whip on these issues once and for all. No doubt this will require Parliamentary approval and that will take time.

But so much misery has been caused by these injustices and what suffers most is the image of Islam as a religion that upholds justice and equality. It is not possible to be unjust and call oneself a Muslim. Unless all we care about is the form and never the substance.

16 April 2009

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at
http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com/ Please.

Wednesday April 15, 2009
Cabinet needs more estrogen

Chile, and to a lesser extent, Bangladesh have led the way for more women to be given greater say in national affairs.

OPPORTUNITIES, as they say, don’t come very often. And when they do, one should always grab them with both hands.

Thus it was with our new Prime Minister and his Cabinet. It was an opportunity for a real makeover. But it was lost.

In 2006, for the first time in its history, Chile elected its first ever woman president, Michelle Bachelet.

That was the opportunity that the Chileans grabbed to do something different. It was indeed a landmark event because Chile is seen as the most conservative country in Latin America.

But as one news report put it, her election “reflected a profound socio-cultural change”. Indeed, on election night, hundreds of thousands of Chileans packed the streets of Santiago to celebrate her historic presidential victory.

Grandmothers could be seen throwing confetti from their balconies. Housewives with their entire families in tow could be heard screaming, “We’re going to clean up house.”

Ah… wouldn’t that have been nice here? Then Bachelet grabbed her own opportunity. She selected a 20-member Cabinet comprising 10 male Ministers and 10 female Ministers. It’s the first of its kind in the entire Western hemisphere.

“This Cabinet reflects the new style of government I’ve proposed,” Bachelet said, as she announced her choices. They included women in the key portfolios of economy and mining, as well as in her own two former ministries, health and defence.

Not that Chile is the only country to make such brave choices when it comes to selecting a Cabinet. Nearer home, Bangladesh has done pretty much the same, though not quite to the same extent.

Last December, Bangladesh held elections after almost two years of an interim government. The people voted in Sheikh Hasina Wazed as their prime minister, not for the first time in their history.

In turn, she appointed a 32-member Cabinet that included four women. Not many women, but still it is interesting what portfolios they were given: Foreign Affairs, Agricul- ture, Home Affairs and State Minister for Labour and Employment.

Sheikh Hasina herself will look after the Defence Ministry, Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, Establishment Ministry, Housing and Public Works Ministry, Religious Affairs Ministry and Women and Children Affairs Ministry.

So, without being wholly original, we could have been much more innovative. We could have improved on the last Cabinet’s three women Ministers by having more this time, not less.

Furthermore, although there are several women Deputy Ministers sprinkled among different Ministries, it would have been good and indeed courageous to have given women Ministers greater responsibilities in portfolios beyond the normal ones that women are given.

After all, if other developing countries can trust women with, say, Home Affairs and Defence, why can’t we? (And we could have done with a Gender Empowerment Ministry, to reflect better what needs to be done.)

Part of the problem is of course our women politicians themselves, who seem disinclined to demand greater participation, even saying they won’t lobby for any positions.

It seems odd when the Minister in charge of ensuring that Malaysia complies with its responsibilities under the Convention for the Eli- mination of Discrimination Against Women, which calls for a minimum of 30% female participation in decision-making, is herself coy about demanding enough and better positions for women.

That’s called not grabbing opportunities; definitely not a Michelle Bachelet in the making.

Overall, the new Cabinet is simply not interesting enough. When you have the facility to appoint people from outside by making them Senators, then actually the world is open for you to pick and choose from a much larger field.

There is as much abundance of talented women outside politics as there is a dearth of them within it, whether in the private sector, academia or NGOs.

But it depends on what the approach is for forming the Cabinet; to fulfil political requirements or to use the best talents. Whatever it is, there is no sizzle in it. (Having said that, Obama chose a Cabinet that has many old hands in it, too.)

Perhaps we should look at other advisory bodies for some spark. There is an Economic Advisory Com- mittee that is supposed to be formed. Perhaps there should be others on different issues where talent could be brought in.

There is the National Women’s Advisory Council that should be seriously revamped and made more independent.

There should be an Advisory Council on Young People, which should have nobody over the age of 30.

How about a total revamp in the way we approach the drug use issue, by taking it away from Home Affairs and putting it under Health, as Iran does?

Overall, this is a Cabinet that is over-testosteroned. We need more estrogen. I hear the Opposition is setting up a Shadow Cabinet. Let’s see if they trust women any better.