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.