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.

01 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 1, 2009
Making an unworthy sacrifice
Musings by Marina Mahathir

Money politics is an open secret, in fact, not a secret at all. What’s worse, many are not interested in even hiding the fact of vote-buying. Sadly, the younger generation is into it as well.

I WAS out to dinner with a friend last week during the Umno general assembly and naturally was waiting to hear the election results. To my surprise, my friend’s colleague, who could never qualify to be an Umno member because of his race, asked me how it was going.

This proved to me that the elections last week were of interest to more than just Umno members. Who was elected to hold posts was important not just to Umno members but also to the rest of Malaysia.

If only Umno members realised that, perhaps they might have behaved better.

There can be no doubt that some of those who won posts smell bad.

Indeed nobody needs to be making allegations for the simple reason that the perpetrators of corruption, and those who sold themselves, were not interested in even hiding the fact.

Some were even found guilty of using financial inducements to get votes and yet they were still allowed to contest.

Others managed to get away with it, at least from those who would waggle a finger at them. But for those on the receiving end of the largesse, this was simply par for the course.

How else do you explain the delegates who had the temerity to say that the euphemism “money politics” should not be eradicated? After all, it was just payment for their “sacrifices”. Never mind that the compensation for their alleged “sacrifice” was more than they could hope to make in a year.

These are the very same people who can demand that their religion be defended at all costs but forget that hypocrisy is the worst betrayal of that same religion. These were people who cheer in agreement when their leaders exhort them to abandon such wanton corruption only to then smugly demand payment from those who need their votes.

To say that this behaviour is an open secret is to deny a fact: it is not a secret at all but has become the norm. People are quite willing to sell their very souls for money, not least because there are just as many people willing to buy from them.

Does anyone care that the rest of the country is watching all this? Not in the least, because they got the positions they wanted. Do they even consider how they have sold out not just themselves but that party they so depend on to survive? Probably not even for a nanosecond.

Those of us who criticise are in turn condemned for being too comfortable to understand what it means to be faced with these rich opportunities. Where else, they say, are we going to get this chance to make this sort of money?

Yet these are the very same people who believe themselves to be pious because they make their wives cover their heads and they intend to use some of their ill-gotten gains to perform their pilgrimage.

Halal and haram are only for food, apparently not for dubious ways of earning money.

To say that it is only the older ones who are doing this while the young remain untainted is incorrect.

It is the younger generation who has been the worst perpetrators, stroking their already paunchy bellies in glee at the rewards coming their way. The rewards of the afterlife are for others; let them enjoy their fancy new cars, watches and wives now.

I shudder to think of a future generation that thinks that such impunity is the norm. A generation that believes that the only way to get ahead is not through hard labour but through ensuring that they say what the person who pays them most wants them to say.

Happily they slapped each other on their backs at their own good fortune for having hooked onto the person most able to reward their greed.

Do we really need proof of all this? All we need to do is to look at who won and review their credentials.

Do they have any substance at all? Few do.

Have they shown any leadership skills? No.

Yet they got elected. What more can it mean than that their electability factor must have been very discreet?

Of course, there are some who seem to have leadership skills. Who can talk and even make a show of being humble, who is now cast as the underdog that won.

But then Hitler had leadership skills too.