23 December 2010

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 22, 2010
Diversity is our great wealth

Malaysian Muslims need to travel more, even within the Muslim world just to see its diversity. Muslims all over the world have just as many different cultures and traditions as they do similarities.

I was really hoping to end the year on a happier note. But in a very fractious year, there is simply no let-up. The long list of intolerance and human rights abuse continues unabated.

We live in a country of a great diversity. Our people are of many different ethnicities and religions. That is our great wealth and strength and undoubtedly we have managed to live better with that diversity for more than 50 years.

Now, however, diversity is a fact that can’t even be acknowledged.

What does plurality mean? It just means that we are not homogenous, that we have many different streams among our people, whether it’s ethnic makeup, beliefs or opinions.

Being plural is just a statement of fact, not a judgement call on which of these streams are better than the other.

Yet, there are people warning us about the dangers of pluralism, because apparently pluralism makes equal what they believe is not. Where they got this is not stated.

All of us believe that our religion is the best one. But the fact that other religions exist is something we have to accept.

In parts of the world, our religion is not accepted and indeed discriminated against. If we complain about that, is it not hypocritical for us to do the same at home?

In the Quran, God talks about believers and defines them this way: “Believers are only they whose hearts tremble with awe whenever God is mentioned, and whose faith is strengthened whenever His messages are conveyed unto them, and who in their Sustainer place their trust.” (Surah Al-Anfal, Verse 2).

Can we seriously go around and decide who are believers and who are not? And even if we could, can we do anything about it? As God says, “Behold, God lets go. Astray him who will (to go astray), just as He guides unto Himself all who turn unto Him” (Surah Al-R’ad, Verse 27).

Nor does pluralism refer only to us and the other but also within our own communities. How is it we can be so intolerant even of those within our own fold, unless we don’t know our own religion?

“All believers are but brethren. Hence, (whenever they are at odds) make peace between your two brethren, and remain conscious of God, so that you might be graced with His mercy.” (Surah Al-Hujarat, Verse 10).

And yet, our leaders are calling us to hound people whose beliefs differ from ours, even when their roots go back to the same source as ours.

Sometimes, I think Malaysian Muslims need to travel more, even within the Muslim world, just to see its diversity.

Muslims all over the world have just as many different cultures and traditions as they do similarities.

Not everybody does things exactly the way we do it. Yet their core beliefs, what makes them Muslims, are all the same.

So who are we to decide whether they are wrong or not?

More practically speaking, if we insist that Shiites are deviants, then how do we explain the Islamic Republic of Iran and its membership in the OIC? Or is inconsistency simply part of politics?

Not only are we a plural society in terms of race, religion and within religion itself, we are also plural in other ways, including sexuality.

Here again we go against our own core beliefs in order to act out our own prejudices.

If we believe that God determines everything, then surely our sexuality is not a matter of choice either.

Therefore, if we did not choose to be heterosexual, it stands to reason that nobody chose to be homosexual either. In this way, we are equal before the Divine.

How then does this justify the type of savage discrimination that some of us insist must be inflicted against those of minority sexualities?

If we persecute every single gay man, woman and child in this country, would God guarantee that no disaster will ever befall us henceforth?

If I sound frustrated, it is because I am completely tired of the abhorrently arrogant way that those in authority have conducted themselves in the past year.

Somehow supremacist beliefs about just about everything is gaining ground, not just about race and religion but also about gender, sexuality, age, disability and everything else not considered the “norm”.

Those of us who complain about discrimination and abuse become the ones who are branded irreligious.

Did we forget this verse? “O men! Behold, We have created you all out of males and females, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another”. (Surah Al-Hujarat, Verse 13).

Could there be nothing clearer about a pluralistic world?

Try and have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, everyone!

For enlightenment, do read this http://www.ammanmessage.com/

08 December 2010

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 8, 2010
Marriage is not about legalising sex

Worldwide society is moving towards banning child marriages altogether. A child bride is utterly dependent on her husband, being less educated and unable to earn her own income.

WHEN a mainstream newspaper puts a front-page photo of a 14-year-old bride with no comment at all, then there is something seriously sick with our society.

Despite signing on to the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) we are still allowing child marriages to happen with the pretext that religion allows it.

What has child marriage got to do with discrimination against women? When child marriages occur, it is almost always girls who are the ones married off, rarely ever boys.

And in almost all cases, they are married to much older men, sometimes old enough to be their grandfathers. Child marriage is therefore never one of equality because how can a child ever be an equal partner to her adult husband?

One might argue about the presumption of equality in marriage; that wives should be, by default, inferior to their husbands. Even if this is a valid belief (and it is not), doesn’t a girl child have even more odds stacked against her than an adult wife?

A child bride is even more dependent on her husband than most adult wives, being less educated and unable to earn her own income. Her entire future is in his hands, to be decided as he wills.

I have to ask, what sort of parents match-make their underage daughter to an older man, albeit one who is a family friend? Do they have so little ambition for their child?

I know how parents, especially mothers, fall “in love” with young men they think would be ideal for their daughters, but is it so important to grab a man as a husband for such a young daughter instead of waiting for her to grow up and, who knows, find a better one herself later?

Or is the idea to control your child’s life to such a degree that you dictate her future before she can even acquire the means to decide on her own?

It is entirely sick that there are religious officials who view child marriage as the answer to “social problems”. What problems are they talking about? Is sex outside marriage the greatest evil there is? Is not child marriage with its virtual enslavement of girls, its proven physical damage to girls’ bodies and the utter lack of preparedness for a life of responsibility not a bigger social evil?

Every day in the papers we see endless horrifying results of irresponsibility in marriage; abandoned wives and children, domestic violence, child abuse. Aren’t those greater issues?

Has anyone even noticed that in cases of child abuse, the parent perpetrators are invariably young and saddled with several young children who they obviously view as a hindrance to their enjoyment of life?

Go visit an orphanage and see the many children there who are not orphans but have been either discarded by their parents or have been placed there by the courts because of abuse by their own parents.

Is marriage only about legalising sex? And therefore if anyone is in “danger” of having illegal sex they should be married off regardless of age?

Indeed, when we think of child marriages as a way of fending off “social evils”, who do we think is the would-be perpetrator of that evil? Is it not the groom? So, if he does legally what in all other cases would be called rape, he is all right?

In other countries, society is moving towards banning child marriages altogether. Even in super-conservative Saudi Arabia, a member of the Senior Council of Ulema said that the Prophet Mohammed’s marriage to a nine-year-old girl some 14 centuries ago cannot be used to justify child marriages today.

Sheikh Abdullah Al-Manie said that circumstances today are different from the days when the Prophet married Aisha. (Other scholars have also argued that Aisha was not nine but 19, which seems to indicate some defensiveness about this issue.)

In Indonesia, a Muslim cleric who married a 12-year-old girl was jailed four years for sexual abuse of a minor.

He said he was not going to sleep with her until she reached puberty, but few in the predominantly Muslim nation of 237 million were mollified, especially when he went on to say he also intended to marry two other girls, aged seven and nine.

Paedophilia is paedophilia no matter what the garb.

But of course we in Malaysia have to be different. Once upon a time we talked about how our grandmothers married very young but we also dismissed this as an old-fashioned practice.

In the 21st century when we’re trying to become a modern nation, why are we not ashamed that we find excuses to allow child marriages?

It is now time to just ban this outright and become civilised.

30 November 2010

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 24, 2010
Of orphans and orphanages

Children in orphanages, some of whom have parents, bring much emotional baggage to their new ‘homes’, baggage that is often not dealt with at all.

AMID our outcry about babies being dumped, there is one thing we forget. Those children who live need our attention, too.

Recently I went to visit what I thought was an orphanage. An orphanage, to me, is where orphans – children with no parents – live. As it turned out, I was to learn a lot about orphans and orphanages.

According to my host, orphans make up only a small percentage of the inhabitants of orphanages. The rest of the children who live there do have parents but are forced to live apart from them for various reasons.

Many have only one parent, usually the mother, who simply cannot afford to care for them. Some parents have moved on in their lives and just didn’t have space for their kids.

Still others actually have two parents but have been ordered by the court to live away from them because of abuse.

It’s hard to decide which are the saddest cases. One girl had lost both parents in a car accident, after which the courts gave custody of her and her siblings to their mother’s relatives.

Sadly, this did not make their lives better because their relatives apparently only wanted their inheritance. Once the inheritance was gone, they were shunted off to the orphanage.

Perhaps the relatives had never heard of the Quranic verse 4:2: “Hence, render unto the orphans their possessions, and do not substitute bad things [of your own] for the good things [that belong to them], and do not consume their possessions together with your own: this, verily, is a great crime.”

Another girl had been there for five years, even though in fact she had parents who were divorced. Each holiday she went “home” but because her father ignored her, it was always an unhappy visit.

By all accounts, this is a good orphanage because it is not over-crowded and the children are well fed, cared for and go to school. It is also open to motivational programmes, which was why I visited and talked to the girls.

Other orphanages are filled to the brim with kids from so many different backgrounds.

Some are true orphans, some are not; many have been abused.

What is certain is that they all bring much emotional baggage to their new “homes”, baggage which is often not dealt with at all.

We often see in the newspapers cute kids being taken on outings to the zoo, movies and other treats. But rarely do we enquire into the backgrounds of these kids to find out their stories.

It is probably that enquiry that they need most, for someone to ask them why they are there. If their stories are not dealt with, their emotional scars will not be revealed and they cannot heal.

Many years ago, a family friend from the United States adopted a little girl from an orphanage here.

When she returned to the States, she made it known that her new daughter had siblings who were also up for adoption.

A friend of hers adopted the brother and sister and everyone thought it would be a happy ending because all the siblings were living close to each other.

Sadly, both families went through years of difficulties with these children who for some reason did not feel secure enough to think of their new homes as permanent.

Who knows what caused them to think of running away from a safe comfortable home?

The last I heard, my friend’s daughter, now in her 20s, had finally stabilised and settled down, but I don’t know what happened to her siblings.

Having met the girls recently at the orphanage, I now realise that there is a wide range of child abuse. While the more visible forms of physical abuse are easy to spot, we don’t see the invisible forms, such as the emotional abuse that they may have undergone, sometimes by their own parents.

The question is, what do we do for these children? Are we really looking after all these children and helping them so that they may have an equal footing with kids who are luckier?

Children who have suffered violence and abuse, including sexual abuse, tend to go on to become violent and abusive adults. What do we do to prevent that?

What do we do to protect their rights? According to UN statistics, there are 410,000 orphans, presumably only those with no parents, in Malaysia. Curiously, we have no figures for how many are in school.

These days, with so many reports of fatal motor accidents, I wonder how many children they orphan and what really happens to them afterwards? How do we ensure justice for kids like these?

Nov 20 was Universal Children’s Day and the 21st anniversary of the Convention of the Rights of the Child.

Sign up at www.uniteagainstabuse.my if you think no child should be abused.

12 November 2010

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 10, 2010
Are we disaster’d out?

Most people feel overwhelmed by the numbers and scale of disasters and then feel paralysed. But every little bit helps, even if it is only RM10 or two T-shirts.

IN A short space of time there’s been a tsunami and an ongoing volcanic eruption in Indonesia as well as floods in Kedah and Perlis.

Further afield, there have also been floods in Pakistan and typhoons and hurricanes elsewhere, including the already suffering Haitians yet to recover from their earthquake early this year.

Despite this litany of natural disasters, so many of us have been barely able to lift a finger to do anything about them.

Blame it perhaps on the economic crisis that has made everyone’s wallet a lot leaner.

Or just that it’s been too much all at once. Whatever it is, people are not being as generous as they once were.

A couple of years ago when floods hit Johor, I organised a collection of clothes, food and other sundries to be sent to the victims there.

My office was quickly filled with donations and we even got help from a packing company and an airline to send the things down.

This time I’m hard put to know which disaster area to organise collections for.

There are some people whose natural reaction is to put our own citizens first.

Recently, my young friend Yeoh Ee Ping put up a video appeal for any volunteers to go up north with her and her brother to help with relief and clean-up work.

Nobody has responded, except to say they cannot go.

Perhaps it’s because few know Ee Ping. I do.

She is an enthusiastic young woman who is active at college in many activities while waiting to go for further studies abroad on a JPA scholarship.

Her family is a warm and supportive one, always encouraging her to do community service.

I met her online and then face-to-face and found her and her family genuine people.

So, when Ee Ping decided to go up north to help, she was serious about it.

She had organised contacts and accommodation for herself and her brother and left by bus on Monday for Kangar.

I am amazed her parents are allowing them both to go up on their own but then they know of her determination and trust her.

Such a story should inspire everyone.

But few people seem to be.

Perhaps other people have work and school to attend to.

But at the very least there should be donations being handed over for Ee Ping to take up.

Or maybe because of the long weekend, nobody had seen the appeal.

These days when we read of so many different disasters, it’s hard to know which to support.

Our fellow citizens need help and floods are indeed awful, but when you read of hot gas rushing down mountains burning entire villages in its wake, you also feel for the poor villagers around Mount Merapi.

You also feel for those in the remote regions of Pakistan displaced by floods, so much more numerous than ours and with so much less help reaching them, obstructed by geography, government inefficiency and politics.

How does one choose and what help is appropriate?

Most people feel overwhelmed by the numbers and scale of disasters and then feel paralysed.

But the trouble is, if everyone feels immobilised, then nobody will help.

What we need to understand is that every little bit helps, that even if we can only donate RM10 or two T-shirts, it’s still good.

Perhaps what relief agencies need to do is, instead of saying that they need large amounts of money or goods, to reduce the appeal to bite-sized contributions.

For example, to say what a certain amount of money would get one child.

I find people respond much better to this, when we can put a face to a disaster or make the relief needs human-sized.

A few years ago, I launched an online appeal to help a Timor Leste girl who needed a heart operation.

When I compared the small donation per person needed to one roti canai or pizza meal, people responded well and we raised the required money in no time.

A few years later, when I made a Christmas appeal for funds to help with the education of the same girl and 16 of her fellow orphans, the response was much more reluctant.

Perhaps the media should also broadcast more free appeals along with phone numbers of the relief agencies helping out.

This would raise awareness of the different disasters and what help was needed.

It’s not that people are not generous but that the sheer scale of the many disasters has paralysed them into inaction.

All they need is a little motivation.

Please contact your nearest Red Crescent or Mercy Malaysia office to see how you can help.

> Surf http://redcrescent.org.my/drupal/node/36 for contact details of Red Crescent state offices or call its national headquarters at 03-4257 8122, Disaster Management Centre at 03-4260 3242, or e-mail secgen@redcrescent.org.my.

The Red Crescent Society also has a Malaysia Relief Flood Fund. Donations, which are tax-exempted, can be banked into its Maybank Account No: 5144-2210-7228.

Mercy Malaysia can be contacted at 03-2273 3999 or e-mail info@mercy.org.my.

31 October 2010

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 27, 2010
Stereotypes still abound

Although women have made great strides in Asia, there are still many areas in which they lag far behind, most notably in political participation.

AS PART of my work, both as a columnist and as an activist, I have to read a lot.

I read to learn and to inform what I say and do.

It takes time, but it needs to be done because when you’re involved in the business of persuading people, you need a lot of information in order to stand your ground.

It so happens that this year has really been a year of gender reports.

There was the UNDP Asia Pacific Human Development Report with the theme Power, Voice and Rights: A Turning Point for Gender Equality in Asia and the Pacific, then the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap report 2010 and also the Global Media Monitoring Project 2010 report that focuses on the issue of gender in the media.

These reports provide a lot of information.

For instance, the UNDP report says that although women have made great strides in Asia, there are still many areas in which they lag far behind.

There are still many “missing” girls in the birth rates of East Asian countries leading to issues of sex discrimination; 106 boys are born for every 100 girls.

In many Asian countries, between 40% and 65% of female employment is in agriculture, yet women head only 7% of farms in Asia, compared with a global average of 20%.

On the whole, the majority of Asian women are mostly in “vulnerable” employment such as in the informal economy or in low-end self-employment, subject to economic vagaries.

Furthermore, women generally earn less than men in Asia-Pacific countries, between 54% and 90% of men’s income.

When it comes to political participation, despite having had several female heads of state, women are poorly represented.

The Asia-Pacific region contains the second-lowest percentages of women parliamentarians in the world – the Arab region has the lowest.

Only about one-third of Asia-Pacific countries have a gender quota in place for Parliament.

The World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap report says pretty much the same thing.

In its report on Malaysia, which ranks 98 out of 134 countries, the only areas in which women exceed men is in tertiary education enrolment and in life expectancy.

In all other areas, women still lag behind men, most notably in political participation where only 10 of our parliamentarians are female and only two women are in the Cabinet, ranking us only 110 in the world.

Also interesting is the Global Media Monitoring Project Report that looks at gender bias in news coverage all around the world and publishes its report every five years.

Generally speaking, although there have been small increases in women’s visibility in the global media over the last five years, overall, “the quantitative and qualitative evidence gathered has revealed that women are grossly underrepresented in news coverage in contrast to men … the studies have shown a paucity of women’s voices in news media content in contrast to men’s perspectives, resulting in news that presents a male-centric view of the world”.

Only 24% of the people heard or read about in the news are women.

Thus, although many countries including Malaysia, have a lot of women presenters and reporters, the reins of power in the media are often held by men who decide what news would be covered.

Women reporters are often relegated to soft stories and rarely assigned to the hard political and economic stories.

Furthermore, when experts and professionals are quoted, they are rarely women.

Instead women are often covered as victims or “ordinary” people, rarely people with special knowledge on any issue.

Given this very extreme gender imbalance in the news, it is hardly surprising that stereotypes of women abound and that gender issues are rarely covered.

As the media have a large influence on the way a society is informed and educated, the lack of coverage of women’s issues thus leads to a situation where there is a lack of awareness of those issues or, at best, only marginal interest.

Reading these reports gives you an idea of what momentous challenges still lie ahead for women everywhere, even with the achievements we have made.

While our leaders may insist that Malaysian women are in fact doing very well, when benchmarked against other countries, we realise that we really have nothing to shout about.

In the Global Gender Gap report, there are only 36 countries out of 134 who are worse off than us.

We are the lowest-ranked Asean country; the Philippines is the highest-ranked at number 9!

Gender gaps clearly have nothing to do with economic status.

Our work has to start from the evidence before us.

That is what informs and inspires us. Therefore I am puzzled as to why Puteri Umno should choose to tout the issue of sanitary pad commercials as the root of social ills.

Have they not read anything?

20 October 2010

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 13, 2010
An idea least likely to work

There is no point in trying to counter prejudice and hate. We need to unpack some of those beliefs about Muslims and show how untrue they are.

AS IDEAS go, this one ranks among those I would categorise as “least likely to work”. In a fit of helpfulness, our leader decided to offer the Leader of the Free World a slew of lecturers to counter Islamophobia in the United States.

In a follow-up fit of help-the-boss-itis, other leaders piped up about how great our lecturers are and how perfect they would be in countering manic hate against Islam in the US because, after all, they used to lecture there.

I do wish people would wake up from whatever drugged sleep they are under. There are just so many things wrong with this suggestion that I hardly know where to begin. But let me try.

First of all, the last people to counter prejudice of any sort are lecturers, for the simple reason that nobody likes being lectured to, least of all by foreigners espousing a religion they regard as uncivilised.

Are people like that pastor who wanted to burn Qurans seriously going to flock to listen to a lecture on Islam and then come out preaching peace and love towards Muslims? In all likelihood, our lecturers are going to preach literally to the converted.

Secondly, the assumption seems to be that if they should get an audience at all, our lecturers will be greeted with a passive one, just like our students.

But what are they going to do if they meet up with a hostile and vocal audience? What happens if all their lectures are met with demonstrators holding up the vilest placards on Islam? Call our embassy?

The truth is our people here have no idea what Islamophobia is and how it manifests itself. Islamophobes – just like Christianophobes, Hindu­phobes and Buddhistphobes – are not amenable to reason and facts but would rather delve into scurrilous beliefs.

I met someone once who asked me why Muslims liked to cut off people’s heads. That’s the sort of stuff Islamophobes like to say. No point in quoting the Quran there.

In fact, I’m not sure there is any point in trying to counter such prejudice and hate. But if we really want to, we need to unpack some of those beliefs about us and show them how untrue they are.

For instance, one of the many points held against Muslims is that we oppress our women. So the way to counter that is not to send male lecturers who will undoubtedly get defensive about this issue but to send bright young and articulate women who are doing things people don’t normally associate with Islam.

Send female fighter pilots, artists, mountain climbers, activists and the like and get them spots with the most popular talkshow hosts. There is no need to talk about religion at all; just talk about the amazing things they do. The point will be made.

Another charge often made against Muslim countries is that we are undemocratic. Here I don’t think we should even dream of trying to defend every single Muslim country in the world, least of all those which don’t have elections, jail dissidents and ban the Internet.

We should just concentrate on showing off our own record, although that record is very spotty indeed.

If we are going to send lecturers, we should at least make sure they know how to respond credibly to questions about our various laws seen as undemocratic, if that is at all possible. Perhaps training on how to talk to reporters from Fox TV might be useful.

And let us not underestimate the influence of the US media on Americans’ perceptions of Islam. While some media may try to be fair, there are many media commentators who are unashamedly Islamo­phobic, and popular because of it.

It would be ludicrous to try and counter talkhosts like Rush Lim­baugh or Glenn Beck, although it may be fun to watch one set of rabid demagogues go up against another.

The truth is: Who are we to speak for the entire Muslim world? We may say we are peaceful people but then some people from another Muslim country might blow up a few of their country folk, and our credibility along with them.

We may say we have regular elections and then someone would point at those countries ruled by ridiculously wealthy royal families. We may show off our educated women and someone would bring up the torched girls’ schools in Afgha­nistan.

So let’s forget this silly idea and instead deal with our own extremist problems at home. God knows we have enough of them and are doing precious little to counter their many phobias. Lecturers wouldn’t be any good here either.

I am curious however about one thing: When the offer was made, how did Obama respond?

01 October 2010

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 29, 2010
The serious side to cartoons

Cartoonist Lat has this gift of being able to sharply skewer people without seeming to do so. And this is where his lampooners can draw inspiration from.

IF THERE were anyone who is genuinely a Malaysian household name, it would be Lat. For several decades now, Lat has been the only cartoonist for most of us, making us laugh at ourselves even while he tells us some truths about ourselves.

Who can forget the way he pokes fun at our attitudes towards driving, queuing, eating and our relationships towards each other? Or the way we interpret government policies?

Lat’s characters are memorable because they are larger-than-life versions of people we are familiar with. There is the big fat teacher in her cheongsam and cat-eye glasses, the Chinese boy with the buck teeth and beansprout posture, the Sikh policeman and the ayu Malay girls with their winsome smiles and curly eyelashes.

Larger than life: Three animated vignettes of the cartoonist, entitled ‘Lat’s Window to the World’, premiered in Kuala Lumpur not too long ago, backed by live music by the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra.
He also draws cartoon versions of real-life characters, mostly politicians and public figures. I knew Lat from the days when I worked for a publishing house and he used to say that drawing people who are too handsome is difficult.

People need to have a defining facial feature – a prominent nose perhaps – for him to be able to do a recognisable caricature of them. Once we recognised them, we knew what he was trying to say about them. Indeed, having Lat draw you was the ultimate sign that you’d arrived.

Lat has this gift of being able to sharply skewer people without seeming to do so. He makes us see the funny side of people because we know there’s some truth in it, even when he’s saying something critical about them. For that we love him, and even those he caricatured held him in great affection.

Lat’s cartoons are in a mainstream newspaper and he’s published many books of his cartoons. So lots and lots of people read him and laughed (and sometimes cried) at his stories.

We all know what the funniest characteristics of our politicians are, as well as their quirks. We loved the Lat versions of them, even when we may not necessarily like the real-life people.

As far as I know, Lat has never gotten into trouble for his cartoons. It may be because we once had a better sense of humour, or our politicians were once more secure. But it was certainly unheard of to prosecute a cartoonist for anything.

Today we actually arrest cartoonists for sedition! Which is not only ridiculous in itself, but considering that the cartoonist in question publishes in an online subscription-only news portal, and is far from known to a lot of people, such action is a sign of paranoia gone to extremes.

Cartoonists, like columnists, are allowed to have opinions. And they do take sides. Just look at some of the mainstream political cartoonists. The assumption however is that there is only one side to take and it’s not the one contrary to the Government’s. So once a cartoonist takes a different view, then it’s all panic stations.

Yet, if you asked most people if they knew who this cartoonist was, they’d probably say they’d never heard of him. But with this fiasco, they do and are probably on the lookout for his cartoons even though his books have been banned.

What’s more, there are probably lots more aspiring cartoonists busily drawing even more cartoons for dissemination among fans right now. And none of them will be flattering.

There is a real problem with censoring writings or drawings on grounds they might be a “threat to public order”. Even worse, when the publications in question are really quite obscure, their very obscurity is proof that they have not caused any public disorder.

One of the more ridiculous recent cases was when an academic book was banned after two years in the bookstores for the same reason. It’s not a book that anyone would really read unless they were particularly interested in the subject.

If there is anything that needs censure, it’s the negative influences of mass-market publications and TV shows because they reach far bigger and more susceptible audiences.

Anyone so inclined can compile files and files of nasty articles from these publications geared to incite people to do bad things, especially to people different from them. Now if that’s not a threat to public order, I don’t know what is.

But nothing ever happens to them. That could be interpreted as the Government respecting media freedom, except that they aren’t as respectful of those who have contrary views.

And this is the silly thing. Those advocating greater tolerance and understanding, who have a clear-eyed view of the problems and present solutions, are the ones who get censured. Those who accuse and incite, don’t.

Is the world dangerously topsy-turvy or what?

27 September 2010

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 15, 2010
From small issues to firestorms
By Marina Mahathir

Please do note the irony that the same people protesting the burning of the Quran are the ones who would be quick to call for the death of some author they consider apostate.

HOW many ironies can you layer on this story? A belligerent ignoramus with a congregation of a measly 50 people in Florida threatens to burn Qurans and thousands of miles away, Afghans who may have never previously heard of Florida get killed protesting against him.

So, without burning a single Quran, the guy’s managed to get at least two people killed. How much power is that?

The thing is not only is he not worth dying for but nothing of the sort would have happened had not someone decided that the masses, already suffering from occupation, should occupy their time protesting this.

Was the Quran-burning directed at Afghanistan? Not particularly. Yet nobody else in the Muslim world, least of all in the more prosperous countries including ours, felt inclined to interrupt their Hari Raya celebrations to protest against this insult.

Which of course it was meant to be. And nothing gets you frontpage headlines like insulting an entire global community, never mind that the faith you so proudly declare yourself a proud defender of does not support any such behaviour. Already your own brethren are denouncing you, but how else would you have gotten the Secretary of Defence himself to call you personally to beg you to cease and desist?

When it comes to attention seeking, there is nothing quite like these little demagogues. Take some stupid idea and simply shout it out and it is bound to get you noticed. And the media obliges. Wouldn’t a bonfire of burning Qurans make a great photo? Might even win an award!

Conventional politicians have nothing on these guys. Issue a statement or a protest note to the nearest diplomat? How tame and lame! You need big statements, delivered with much fanfare and drama. Or better still, you should issue a counter-threat! If Rev Jones burns the Quran, Afghans will lock up more women at home. Or Malaysians will … let’s see, stop watching American Idol?

The biggest irony of all is that nobody stops to think about book-burning itself. It’s a medieval tradition, used against books deemed evil because they gave people the wrong ideas. It effectively stopped people from reading them because, in the days when books were a relatively rare commodity, burning a few would obliterate those particular books from the earth.

But these days, there are only so many Qurans one can burn. The approximately two billion Muslims in the world all have at least one, if not more. Then there are the non-Muslims who also own Qurans. All in all, the number of Qurans Terry Jones wants to burn is miniscule compared to what is available out there. That’s not even counting the Qurans you can read online.

A better way of protesting would be what some Christians have proposed, which is to have a Read the Quran Day on Sept 11. In London, British Muslims plan to distribute booklets with selected verses from the Quran all over the West End. Like all books, holy or not, they should be read before they are condemned so that one criticises from an informed stand. And like many have also pointed out, the Quran also talks about the same prophets who are in the Torah and Bible, including Jesus. Imagine burning them up!

But while we think of burning books as the extreme form of censorship (and insult to a religion), we forget about other forms much beloved by our own people. We love banning books for instance, making the possession of such a book illegal and liable to punishment. How much different is that really from burning books? And who is to stop some other attention-seeking demagogue from issuing fatwas calling for the death of some author just because they don’t like his or her book?

Please do note the irony that the same people in Afghanistan protesting the burning of the Quran are also the same who would be quick to call for the death of some author they consider apostate.

Terry Jones’ burning a few Qurans does not mean that Islam dies in flames. Indeed, it has lived through far worse. What is the need to get so worked up about it to the point of getting killed? Are people hoping to be considered martyrs and therefore get a free passage to heaven? I’m hoping that God keeps a special corner for foolish people although it’s likely to get very cramped soon.

Meanwhile, let’s look at our own attitudes towards differing opinions. What is the current trend for making police reports but yet another form of censorship? Aren’t we in fact asking for people to be burnt at the stake?

06 September 2010

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 1, 2010
Disturbed in heart and mind
By Marina Mahathir

The Shah Rukh Khan hit movie ‘My Name is Khan’ holds a pertinent message for us: there are only good and bad people in this world; there are no other differences.

IT’S very strange, but as we enter our 54th year of independence, what I least feel is independent. It so happened that I had to travel far recently, to a land where the air was a lot cleaner.

I felt that I breathed a lot easier but I don’t think it was just the air. Once you get away, the air just feels so much less toxic.

Indeed, in the month of Ramadan – the month of reflection and restraint – we find instead more toxicity than ever.

From school principals who spout racist nastiness to politicians and media who insist on poisoning what is already a poisoned well.

Instead of the serenity one hopes to feel at this time, in order to feel closer to God, all I can feel is the disturbance in the heart and mind that comes from living in an environment of hate.

It’s not that I’m lacking in loving friends, family or neighbours.

I live in a lovely street where we know one another and help each other out.

My friends are the kindest in the world. I feel blessed to know all of them.

But I open the newspaper or switch on the TV and there is nothing but anger and sadness.

How can we call ourselves independent when we are so caught up by hate, none of which seems to have any real foundation at all?

A few thousand kilometres away, the rhetoric of hate has become mainstream.

In the United States, Islamophobia is reaching fever pitch, fuelled as always by politics.

No American politician worth his salt, especially if he’s standing for election this November, will avoid talking about religion, affirming his own and besmirching others.

A rally by the most rabid right-wingers to supposedly “reclaim honour” drew 87,000 people.

The direct result of all this hate-mongering was the stabbing of a New York cabbie after he told his passenger he was Muslim and the burning of a mosque in Tennessee.

When we look in horror at these events on the other side of the world and feel indignant and self-righteous about them, do we think how we might ourselves contribute to the same treatment to others?

We see how badly minorities are treated in those countries and see no irony in treating our minorities the same way.

Is our empathy only meant for those of the same faith as us?

In Surah 21, verse 92 of the Quran, God speaks: “Verily, [O you who believe in Me,] this community of yours is one single community, since I am the Sustainer of you all: worship, then, Me [alone]!”

And again in Surah 33, verse 35: “Verily, for all men and women who have surrendered themselves unto God, and all believing men and believing women, and all truly devout men and truly devout women, and all men and women who are true to their word, and all men and women who are patient in adversity, and all men and women who humble themselves [before God], and all men and women who give in charity, and all self-denying men and self-denying women, and all men and women who are mindful of their chastity, and all men and women who remember God unceasingly: for [all of] them has God readied forgiveness of sins and a mighty reward.”

In both these verses, and in fact in the entire Quran, God does not speak of particular races but simply to all humankind. We are all equal before God.

How is it that we missed this simple message?

If we knew it, would we be spreading toxins instead of love and respect for one another?

Do we have the independence of mind to believe, rather than to follow those who claim to know what’s good for us but in fact are poisoning us bit by bit?

I just watched the Shah Rukh Khan hit movie My Name is Khan for the second time.

In Malaysia, someone saw fit to censor a lot of it, particularly whenever it showed a Muslim being bad.

Everyone, regardless of race or religion, has a chance to be good and bad in the movie.

Censoring it, in fact, was a great disservice to Muslims and missed its central message.

When the Shah Rukh Khan character was a child, his mother told him a truth that he held onto all his life: there are only good and bad people in this world.

There are no other differences between human beings.

Perhaps we should make all our politicians watch it.

They might learn something not very new. They might learn that most of us can tell who’s good and who’s bad.

25 August 2010

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 18, 2010
Let’s stop tip-toeing around

Pregnancy for a young girl is a lonely, frightening and confusing experience and help is hard to come by. We need comprehensive solutions to this problem, not criminalise it.

I ALWAYS get a little worried when people start talking about death penalties. It often spells a poverty of ideas, which of course, comes from not really understanding what the problem is all about.

The hysteria surrounding the issue of abandoned babies seems to have made people lose their minds. Instead of asking why people, especially young people, get pregnant and then abandon their babies, all sorts of ideas come floating by.

First was to marry them off regardless of their age. Never mind that we have just triumphantly announced the lifting of our reservation to the clause on the minimum age of marriage being 18 in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, now we were officially promoting sex among children by simply making it legal.

Who cares if under-aged sex and pregnancy have long-term consequences for the unfortunate girls? Has anyone noticed that the parents who abuse their kids are almost always very young and clearly unable to cope with the responsibilities of parenthood?

Long have we called for comprehensive sex education in our schools but to no avail, despite the rise in teen pregnancies and in sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.

What do we get instead? Abstinence education! But haven’t we had this all along? Again, the central message is abstain until you get married. Or, in other words, if you want to have sex, get married. Even if you’re 14.

Since most people don’t think young kids should be having sex (unless they are married) and therefore should not be given any advice on contraception, no wonder then that teen pregnancies abound.

Hormones don’t wait for marriage certificates. And since our society stigmatises out-of-wedlock pregnancies, what choice do young girls have but to get rid of their unwanted babies?

For this, we want them killed? What sort of stone age society are we? What if the girls got pregnant because they were raped, perhaps by their own fathers or brothers?

Marrying them off is no solution for any number of reasons.

Nobody seems to have noticed that, in most states, Muslim babies are not recognised as legitimate if they are born less than six months after their mother got married, even if they married the baby’s biological father.

Given that many young girls are not likely to realise that they are pregnant until they are well along, or may wait a long time before they inform anyone, the chances are that even if they are forced to get married they would be past the three-month mark. Therefore, their babies would be considered illegitimate anyway. Bit of a waste of nasi minyak, if you ask me.

If only our dear leaders would take a deep breath and go talk to the only people who matter, the young pregnant girls themselves, they might actually learn that these girls did not have sex just because they are little sex bombs nor did they purposely get pregnant.

Pregnancy for a young girl is a lonely, frightening and confusing experience, and help is hard to come by. What more when the papers are full of young unmarried mothers being whipped for having illicit sex.

To tackle this problem, we need comprehensive solutions. Let’s stop tip-toeing around the fact that our kids are woefully ignorant about sex and the reproductive system and the consequences of having unprotected sex.

So grit our teeth and immediately put in place sex education, with a gender perspective and emphasising boys learning to respect girls.

In the meantime, yes let’s have baby hatches and let’s publicise them so that pregnant girls know where to send their babies to. Better yet, let’s have homes for girls to have their babies safely, where they can keep up with schoolwork and where they can learn mothering skills should they want to keep the babies.

Otherwise, talk to them about adoption and set up safe procedures for the babies to be adopted. Then set up a system where the girls can continue school afterwards.

Finally, adults themselves must set good examples. Every day we see adults trivialising marriage as if its only purpose is to have legal sex.

What happened to responsibility, care and, gosh, love? What happened to planning for the future, for your kids’ education and all that? When we see lawmakers breaking laws just to get another wife, how does this set an example for our young?

If we want to encourage good parenting, let’s start with ourselves, shall we?

11 August 2010

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 4, 2010
Policies must be well thought out

While bullet points may pick out the salient benefits, to explain a new policy one needs to know the research and thinking that goes behind them.

WHEN I was in Sixth Form, I had a wonderful history teacher who taught us not only about history but how to think and write about it. Every week we had to submit an essay on one subject and a plan on another.

The plan was her magic formula. Essentially, she taught us how to organise our facts and thoughts, and logically come to our conclusions. Her students have been known to pass their exams just by writing out their plans because those so clearly laid out what they knew and how they meant to answer the question.

Her training has stood me in good stead until today. I still try to write a plan when I need to prepare a major paper because it helps me to take an argument logically from start to finish. I wish everybody had studied under my teacher. If they had, we may not be constantly subjected to the sort of fuzzy, half-formed and illogical thinking that we are assailed with today.

When I read pronouncements by our leaders today, more and more I start to wonder what the process of thinking is behind them. And, increasingly, I start to believe that our leaders practise what I call “bullet-point policymaking”.

My theory is this. A politician says to his or her staffers that he or she needs some exciting thing to announce. They go off to research what would be new and innovative to address any particular situation, for example, the deplorable state of our schools or teen pregnancies.

They might actually write a whole paper on the subject along with recommendations on what to do and present this to their boss.

But he or she doesn’t have time to read it and orders the staffers to give him or her talking points in bullet form. These will be what he or she then announces at a press conference.

Now, this may seem an efficient way of doing things; but it is also deficient in many ways. For a start, while bullet points may pick out the salient benefits of whatever new policy, they cannot give you all the research and thinking that goes behind them.

And if you don’t know exactly what led anyone to arrive at this particular policy recommendation, then not only can’t you explain it properly, you also cannot truly “own” it.

What is more, “bullet-point policymaking” is not going to also give you an idea of the points that people are likely to make against the policy, and how you are supposed to respond to these.

Hence, if there is any criticism of any new policy, the standard response is to accuse the other side of politicising the issue. Or, equally poorly, backpedal immediately.

When was the last time we heard an Education Minister talk about education with true passion? Or anyone defend the position of women in the face of much male-dominated derision? How many leaders do we have who can say, “This is what I really believe in because …” and stand their ground on principle?

Instead they rely on what their staffers tell them to say. Now if you have professional and dedicated staffers who are keen to do the best by their bosses, you might actually get good papers backing up your bullet points.

If you don’t, then the points you get may not be worth much anyway. But unless you read yourself, or at least insist on a full briefing on the subject, including pros and cons, how would you know if the policy you are about to announce is sound at all?

This is why we get announcements that exams should be scrapped because we have become too exam-oriented, without the accompanying well-thought-out alternative.

Then, when everyone has not wholeheartedly praised the idea, there’s the belated attempt at consulting people on what exactly the policy should be. Shouldn’t they have done all the consulting and surveying before announcing it?

Is it any wonder then that, increasingly, people are starting to feel that their leaders don’t know what they are doing? That announcements are made because there is some public relations quota to be filled? Do their KPI report forms have a column for how many policies are announced each year? Better none at all rather than too many silly ones.

What is obvious to any intelligent person in the street, and maybe not to our leaders, is that problems often have multiple causes, and solutions cannot come only from one source.

Thus, an issue like teen pregnancies would involve several ministries and not just one. Would it not be fantastic if a major joint policy an­­nouncement on this were to come from the relevant ministers at the same time?

But then, why share the limelight?

30 July 2010

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 21, 2010
Let women judges do their job

We do need to look at justice with a gender perspective. It is always women who suffer, both from injustice and society’s blindness towards it.

IT SEEMS to be the unchanging lot of women in Malaysia. First we are elevated, and then we are brought down to earth with a thud.

When the first women syariah judges were appointed this month, Muslim women were elated. At last, not only are women recognised for their ability to sit on the syariah bench but also perhaps now we can expect better justice for women in the syariah courts.

The first uneasy twinge came, for me, when one of the new judges said that she wanted to show that just because she was female it didn’t mean she would be biased towards women.

While, yes, justice is supposed to be blind, this statement made it sound that she is determined to prove her credentials by bending over backwards not to favour women at all. Given that women have hardly found justice in the courts all this time, this is disappointing.

Then came the whammy. It seemed that only after appointing them, a syariah court panel, consisting only of men, was being set up to decide what the women judges could rule on.

How about that? Give someone a job and then decide what she can do. Was this just incompetency or an attempt at ensuring that they are kept “in their place”?

It is a fact that women have been getting short shrift in the syariah courts, whether in getting due compensation in divorce cases for themselves or their children, in inheritance cases and many others.

Even when courts have ruled in their favour, for instance in ruling that men have to pay maintenance for their children from their ex-wives, rarely have these been implemented.

As a result, many women and their children are left in dire poverty. Is that justice?

We do need to look at justice with a gender perspective. Otherwise “justice” will always be seen from a male perspective because it is generally men who make the laws. Or in the case of religious rulings, it is men who interpret them.

It would be nice to expect men to simply be gentlemanly and ensure that the mother of their children and their progeny are well cared for after divorce. But this rarely happens. Thus someone needs to stand up for women. Invariably this should be a woman who truly has justice in mind.

Not that this always involves only divorced women. The recent study on the impact of polygamy on families by SIS Forum Malaysia shows that generally polygamy does not lead to happy families.

First wives and their children generally suffer most, both in terms of attention from their husband and father as well as in terms of standard of living — after their husbands had taken on another wife, 44% of first wives were forced to go out and work just to ensure the survival of their family.

Considering that men are only supposed to take on another wife if they can afford to support both, this evidence, culled from interviewing over 1,200 families, shows they are coming up short.

Not that second wives and families are faring better either. All families complained about the amount of time their shared husband and father had to spend with them.

Equal time and attention is simply not humanly possible. As a result, there was dissatisfaction all round when birthdays, anniversaries, school events are missed.

Men may think of polygamy as their “right” but it is a stressful one, if nothing else.

It is always women who suffer, both from injustice and society’s blindness towards it. Heaven knows what we need to do to make society take violence against women seriously enough.

We can rightly point to many countries to show how our women are so much better off than theirs. But the reality is, unless women are protected from violence and can seek justice in the courts, such “equality” that we enjoy can only be superficial.

So let those women judges get on with their jobs. After all, their counterparts in the civil courts have been doing so for a long time.

12 July 2010

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 7, 2010
Online threat to reading culture

Web language has changed not only the way we communicate but also rewired our brains to only respond to things that are short and fast.

LET me make this clear: I love the Internet. As all my friends know, I’m online virtually all the time whether on my laptop or my PDA. I e-mail, Facebook, tweet, blog and chat nearly constantly. Someone once described my instant response to emails as “quite frightening”.

But recently there have been some articles in overseas publications talking about the effect of these new ways of communication on us, or more specifically, our brains.

As all these online ways of connecting are short and fast, our brains are literally being rewired to only respond to things that are also short and fast. In other words, our attention span has shrunk to, oh say, 140 characters. It has become harder for us to focus on anything that takes longer than a few minutes.

I have to admit that I’m as much a victim of this as any other Internet addict. I begin my days by reading the news online, mostly on Twitter. This wonderful invention delivers to me all the news stories in the world in one convenient form.

But it is edited already, first by me, because I choose which news websites I want, and then by the websites themselves.

As anyone who has clicked a headline to go to the website knows, there are always lots of other interesting stories which they don’t put up on Twitter.

But I do read. What Twitter, and sometimes Facebook, do is draw my attention to a story, and if my interest is piqued I follow the link and read the story in full.

In this way, I not only learn about the news fast but also in depth. The other day I read a fascinating story about the Bosnian war and how artists responded to it, which came to me via Twitter.

The Internet worries me for other reasons. I have always been a reader, so the Internet has enhanced my reading, not lessened it. But in a country where reading habits are already so poor, I have to wonder what it is doing to the young.

Recently, I posted a long article about gender equality on my blog. It was full of interesting information and insights and I thought it would provoke some interesting discussion. But most commentators only mentioned that the article was too long.

Interestingly enough, most of those who complained about its length were men, thereby fuelling my suspicion that men not only read very different things from women but they also refuse to read anything that has both length and depth.

Perhaps it is no surprise that there is a whole genre of books called “chick lit” and nothing called “dude lit”. Is there some un-macho stigma attached to men reading books? If reading is where we gain an insight into the world, then I’m afraid this dislike for reading alone will ensure that men and women will inhabit different worlds.

Indeed one young man proudly claimed that he had only ever read 10 books in his life, and in fact hates reading. Yet his English was excellent, a result, he said, of playing games online. This may be an exception.

My son, whose schooling was entirely in Indonesia, picked up most of his English from playing games on the Net. But one holiday he picked up a Harry Porter book and loved it so much, he read the entire four books available then in two weeks.

The point I’m trying to make is not just about reading. It’s about the ability to maintain focus for a decent length of time, enough to complete a job or to learn something new.

If our young people are doing everything in quick bursts, whether it is on SMS or chat, then are they acquiring the focus needed to really learn anything or to concentrate long enough on something in order to become an expert at it?

Today we see written language, already poor, being shortened in such a way that it can become incomprehensible. We may need to be concise on many things but we still have to be understood.

SMS language is really only appropriate on mobile phones and not anywhere else.

Perhaps the real danger to a native language is not so much another language but the abbreviated mobile phone form of itself.

There must be a way of marrying the immediacy of the Internet with a more leisurely reading habit. Better-written books and articles would help. Making reading books cool would increase interest.

30 June 2010

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 23, 2010
Mere catchwords are just not enough

A slogan will remain just that if it is not translated into action.

WITH 1Malaysia the catchword these days, everyone is falling over themselves trying to insert the numeral “1” into their slogan or motto, as if they’d never seen it before. But we are after all a nation of small imaginations, so new catchy slogans are immediately catching.

(However, can someone shoot whoever invented that nonsensical greeting “Salam Satu Malaysia”? That, like the hand-on-the-heart bow of hotel doormen, should be relegated to the wastebin of artificial culture).

But we all know that for all the banners, ads and promos in the world, a slogan remains just that if it is not translated into action. I won’t repeat the many different ways in which the intention of 1Malaysia is undermined.

Suffice to say, that as long as there are people running things who at heart don’t believe in the concept, unity is not going to happen.

One of the most debated issues in our country is of course education. Much of our so-called disunity has been attributed to the fact that our kids now go to different schools.

Basically, the well-to-do go to private schools while everyone else goes to national schools. Kids are further separated into different schools by language, and into Islamic schools.

I agree that having our children in different schools may do plenty for a diverse educational landscape but does nothing for unity. Kids are growing up generally not meeting kids from either a different community or class.

National schools have become largely Malay, Chinese schools largely Chinese and Tamil schools for Indians. I say largely because there are small pockets of “nons” within these schools.

That is mainly the effect of standards. Most people have issues with the standard of education in national schools. So those who can afford it abandon them for the higher standards of expensive private schools. Some, including non-Chinese, go off to Chinese schools known for their discipline. At heart, parents want the best for their children and so will choose the best schools that they can afford. Parental choice must always be respected, though not all parents have the luxury of choice.

On the other hand, there are people who believe that kids must go to the same school and get the same education in order for there to be unity. On the face of it, there is some merit to that argument but it needs to go beyond the superficial.

Recently there was some talk about re-introducing Pupil’s Own Language to national schools. That’s great but why call it POL? Why not make all languages (including Arabic) available to any child who wants it?

If unity is postulated on having diverse communities in one school, we need to take a hard look at what is happening to the non-Malay kids who remain in national schools.

Parents often report that teachers separate kids according to race in many activities, even classes. This is not limited to religious and moral education classes.

In some schools, kids are segregated by race for every subject. One wonders where they get the teachers to teach two parallel programmes in one school.

More importantly, textbooks need to be reviewed for bias towards certain communities and gender.

Just like filmmaking rules laid down by the Censorship Board, school textbooks must always portray Malays as good while others can play all other roles. If we complain about Western media bias towards Muslims, forever portraying them as terrorists, then we can’t do the same for others in either our media or our schoolbooks.

In fact, such stereotypes in our schoolbooks are far more dangerous because children imbibe them at a young impressionable age.

Then there are teachers who will only provide extra classes for kids of a certain race, rather than all those who are floundering. Or segregate kids for sports according to their race. If only Malays can play football, Chinese play basketball and Indians hockey, what happens to the uniting power of sports?

If we are to institute a mantra in our schools, then it should be that diversity and respect are good things. Many people translate 1Malaysia at its most superficial; as long as three races (and nobody else) are represented, we are one. But the three can’t mix with one another. What is this but apartheid, the very antithesis of unity?

We need leadership that clearly says that there shall be no segregation by race or religion in our schools. School heads or teachers who do this must be reprimanded and punished.

But ultimately the best way to get everyone to go to the same school is to make the national schools the best, both academically and socially.

And maybe the slogan is better put as “We Are One” with the emphasis on “we”.

Funny that nobody mentions the mono-religious and mono-community Islamic schools in this context.

12 June 2010

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 9, 2010
Numbers can be so meaningless

Numbers give us information, but at the same time they can also mask issues. Seeing beyond the figures requires sharp analytical skills.

IN THESE days of KPIs, everyone has become “results-oriented”. But while “results” are being pulled in, we have to wonder what “results” we actually want and need.

Many of us who work in NGOs have found that the greatest frustration when we work with the Government is in the definition of “results”. For the Government, it is almost always about numbers. How many people underwent a programme, or attended a course or did this or that.

But often we find that numbers actually mean little. As an example, we are very proud of the fact that most of our people have access to schooling. We take that as proof that our citizens therefore have a high level of literacy.

But there are several problems with this simple conclusion. Firstly, is it true that every one of our citizens has access to schooling? And secondly, of the ones who do get to go to school (and manage to stay in school for 12 years), what sort of schooling are they getting? What exactly do we mean by literacy? Is it the ability to read a bus schedule or more than that?

In other words, while we may do well quantitatively, the real question is how are we doing qualitatively?

To be able to see how well anyone is doing in terms of quality requires analytical skills. This is often a capacity we find lacking among bureaucrats, and which causes not only frustration but also friction with NGOs working on many social issues.

We know that numbers are not everything, yet our counterparts in the Government are often reluctant to look beyond them.

For instance, it was no surprise to me that Zainah Anwar’s article (“Nothing divine in child marriage” – Sunday Star, June 6) picked up on a fact that bureaucrats don’t seem to have noticed, that there are a lot more child marriages, especially among girls, than we thought.

This came from a set of data meant only to register those who take HIV tests before marriage. But for those of us used to scrutinising data with a more sensitive eye, the ages of those getting married leapt out.

Similarly, when one reads newspaper reports about children being abused, what I have noticed most is how young the parents invariably are. This then begs the question: are these parents simply too young to cope with parenthood?

Which then leads to another question regarding why they married young. Was it because of an accidental pregnancy, due to lack of knowledge of the consequences of unprotected sex? Was it to legitimise sex? Once we embark on the trail of questions, we unearth a lot more information. And we need information to solve problems.

While numbers give us information, at the same time they can also mask issues. It takes a mind trained to be more curious to unearth these. And that is perhaps the problem; that among policy makers and decision makers, the training is lacking.

Training for analytical skills doesn’t have to be formal, although it helps. Sometimes it is just a matter of talking to people who have the skills. But that means accepting that there are people more knowledgeable than us, and being humble enough to ask them for it.

Recently, a very high-level civil servant bemoaned the fact that our diplomats are now too shy to socialise with people when they are on foreign posting. Thus they are unable to obtain information that would be beneficial to the country, rendering themselves useless.

I don’t think it is a problem that lies only with the Foreign Service but permeates many different ministries.

I have been on innumerable conferences abroad where I have found government delegations unwilling to use the opportunity to meet as many people as possible or sometimes to even attend sessions where they might gain new knowledge.

Occasionally, I have had to introduce high-ranking officials to their counterparts but rarely have I seen any productive interaction between them. Perhaps diplomatic niceties intrude but if one is always on the defensive, how does one have a meaningful conversation?

Indeed, two major problems beset many of our officials. One is the lack of capacity for analysing problems at any level of quality.

And second is the defensiveness manifested often by that great Malaysian particularism – “we are Malaysian, we are different”.

That shuts up all conversation. And, I might add, leaves a bad taste in the mouth of the other person.

It is not always the officers’ fault. When one is asked to always toe the line, or only promote ideologically driven policies, then why go the extra mile to find out more in case the facts negate the policies? Besides, that means more work.

But if we keep this up, be prepared to endlessly bemoan our social problems.

31 May 2010

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 26, 2010
Showing off is a no-no

The virtue of appropriate behaviour seems lost today when people think nothing of spending RM20,000 on drinks at a meal, or buying designer bags for a two-year-old.

WHEN I was growing up, one of the things drilled into me was the virtue of appropriate behaviour.

There were some behaviours that were deemed totally inappropriate mostly because they were either ill-mannered or unseemly.

For instance, one’s behaviour in someone else’s house was always strictly delineated because it reflected on how one was brought up. Thus, unlike today, where children are chummy with their friends’ parents,

I had to be extremely polite and even slightly scared of those of my friends.

I recall once being at a birthday party where one boy was so naughty that he earned a scolding from the host’s father. I don’t know what shocked me more, to have misbehaved in your friend’s house or to be scolded by someone else’s dad.

Inappropriate behaviour also covered showing off whatever you had that was expensive, especially to people who may not be able to afford it.

Modesty about one’s own station was taught as a singular virtue. You may be lucky enough to have nice things but you don’t need to tell anyone about them.

Thus I may be considered horribly old-fashioned when I gasp upon reading magazine articles where people happily show off their closets full of clothes, jewellery and fleet of cars.

It’s not that I begrudge them their good fortune, but I wonder why it does not embarrass them to have all these possessions photographed for total strangers to gawk at.

Similarly, I once read a letter in the papers by someone who complained bitterly that her luggage had been trifled with at the airport. Justifiable enough, until I read that the shopping that she lost included designer bags (and she named which designers they were) for her two-year-old daughter.

Rather than focus on her misfortune, what haunted me was the very idea that people would spend money on designer items for a toddler.

To be fair, the high-end designers do give people such inappropriate ideas by actually designing kiddy clothes and toys.

I doubt there would be a demand for them if they didn’t exist. Or would they?

Perhaps it is a sign of prosperity that these days people spend money in inappropriate ways without batting an eyelid.

For instance a restaurant-owner friend once regaled us with the crazy things some of his customers did, like spend RM20,000 just on drinks at one meal.

Then there was the little girl who was blithely waving the credit card her mother gave her in some high-end boutiques, only one of which was sensible enough to decline to accept it.

When 13-year-olds are way too comfortable spending money in such boutiques, you have to wonder what it’s going to take to keep them in comfort as they grow up.

But perhaps I should not complain about the inappropriate behaviour of individuals like these.

My worry however is that other people, including my children, might think that these behaviours are the norm, and then try to emulate them.

It would be a short ride downhill from there, morally speaking.

Sometimes, however, you find inappropriate behaviour at a higher level, where people who deem themselves worthy of our support take unconscionable actions.

For instance, breaking laws put there by the very law-making institution that they are part of.

Is the message “Do as I say, not as I do”? Or are these laws just for the rest of us and not for them?

No wonder they all want to get elected; apparently it gives them a licence to do what they want.

For me, my test of inappropriateness is whether my cheeks go hot and red upon learning about such behaviour.

It burned when a friend talked about a group of people who came into his restaurant every night, ran up a tab and then walked out without paying, telling them to bill their boss.

It didn’t look like their boss knew what they were up to at all, so the bills remained unpaid. I didn’t know these people, but somehow felt embarrassed at their brazenness.

And I must say I flush all the way down to my neck when I see people desperate to be seen as more important than what they are. I’ve been lucky enough to meet real heroes who do their work with no fanfare at all. So to see much lesser beings, important only because of position, being lauded for less substantial work makes me go – and see – red.

But life is short and one needs to make hay, as they say, while the sun shines.

17 May 2010

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 12, 2010
Simple, spontaneous and cool

Using social media to bring people together in solidarity, more than 500 Malaysians, mostly young, of all shapes, sizes and creeds, got together to simply … well, dance.

THERE is a word that young people these days often use to describe something that they disapprove of. If they say something is “fail”, it means it has earned their thumbs down.

It would not be inaccurate to say that in almost anything to do with adults in Malaysia today, young people under 30 would use the word “fail”.

Whether it is politics, law enforcement, government or religious authorities, the young would simply point their thumbs downwards. None of it appeals to them, none of it is cool. They are tired of constantly being told they are troublemakers and don’t know what’s good for them.

Yet, I have seen young Malaysians time and time again defy every stereotype that their elders put on them. Where our so-called leaders have looked as if they belonged to the 6th Century, young people are doing innovative and creative projects that show they are firmly in the 21st.

When politicians have shown that they only know how to divide people, young people have shown that they can stand solidly together.

Last year, when our leadership failed repeatedly to unite people regardless of race and religion, young people got together in a show of solidarity in the Tali Tenang project.

Using social media to bring people together in solidarity, they met in real life to show that they were for peace and unity, without the need for any political rhetoric. About 200 of them came together and, amazingly, there were no riots or any form of unruliness. Nose-thumb to their elders again!

Last weekend, they did it again. Connecting via Facebook and Twitter, more than 500 Malaysians, mostly young, of all shapes, sizes and creeds, got together to simply … dance.

Fans of a currently popular TV series, they got together on several evenings to rehearse; and on the appointed day showed up, followed instructions and did their thing in a joyous spontaneous atmosphere.

Just watching the participants rehearse already gave one goosebumps. Each night some 200 people, who mostly did not know one another, gathered together in one spot to do one thing together, dance.

They submitted themselves to great discipline and effort, enjoying the sweaty camaraderie. You looked around and can’t help but think: this is every politician’s dream; but there is no way they can do this, for the simple reason that they can never be cool enough.

The whole event was organised by young people themselves; they volunteered to teach the steps, take photos or videos or spread the word. While there was some sponsorship, it was not a hugely commercial event with no greater objective than to do something fun together.

I’m sure there will be detractors who will tut-tut about how this is not our culture and such. They can go ahead and organise a culturally-appropriate flashmob if they want. But it takes a certain generous frame of mind – one that essentially believes in the good in people – to truly organise such a community event.

The flashmob also underscores the power of social media, something so underestimated by our leaders. The entire organisation of this event was done online. All it needed was a good idea and some key people to promote it on their Facebook pages and on Twitter – and that was it.

Before long, more than 1,300 people had signed up. Although ultimately not as many people actually showed up for the event, it was still a success because it was likely the biggest flashmob ever held in the world.

The entire event held so many lessons that the powers-that-be could learn from. Firstly, to appeal to young people you need to tap into whatever is current and trendy, and not try and invent something new.

Secondly, young people can come up with better ideas than most adults, and know exactly how to organise it themselves.

Thirdly, young people are quite capable of enormous discipline and effort if they like, and want to do, something.

Fourthly, there is absolutely no need for any VIPs to officiate at these events. In fact, the absence of any ups the cool quotient of the event.

Fifthly, when young people get together like this, they do not automatically destroy. Rather they build friendships, community and peace, regardless of race, religion or creed.

Where else can you see girls in tudung boogieing next to girls in shorts, and boys, and then grinning at each other with joy at having successfully done a perfect routine?

There is no greater feeling than from having participated in something with a whole bunch of strangers that is creative, organic and fun. No need for special T-shirts, expensive equipment or long official speeches. Simplicity and spontaneity is in. Pity our leaders can’t understand that.

01 May 2010

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 28, 2010
Moral police need policing, too

Fearing public embarrassment, couples accused of infringing religious laws on morality often put themselves at risk of physical hurt, and even death.

WHEN a fatal accident happens, usually there will be an enquiry to find out the reasons behind it. Landslides may cause homes to be buried along with some occupants so an enquiry is needed to decide who is at fault and to be held responsible.

Or schoolchildren out on an excursion may wind up drowned and investigations must be done, not least to ensure such a tragedy never happens again.

Sometimes fatalities occur involving government departments or officials. A proper enquiry must therefore be done so that the public gets to know the truth and retains its trust in the government department or official.

Usually this happens because there is a public outcry over the death.

But one area where there is no public outcry is when there are fatalities as a result of khalwat (close proximity) raids.

Just recently a young man aged only 21 was found dead at the foot of his apartment building.

Apparently panicked by a raid by religious department officers, he had tried to escape through a window and fallen five floors.

Who is responsible for the death of such a young man?

When the police, in the course of their job, cause a fatal accident, they are brought to book. Their only defence would be that they were defending themselves.

But in the case of the 21-year-old, there was no aggression involved, unless one counts the fright that a group of moral police causes a young couple that we don’t know for certain were doing anything at all.

This is not the first time that young people have been put at risk because of these raids. Last New Year’s eve, religious department officers rounded up dozens of couples for allegedly committing khalwat.

In one case, a young girl, in attempting to escape, went onto a window ledge many floors high above the ground. Instead of persuading the girl to come in, the officers asked her boyfriend to coax her.

Had anything happened to her, who would have been blamed?

In other raids, people have fallen and suffered injuries. In none of these cases have any of the religious officers been held responsible or accountable for causing these injuries to happen.

Mostly that is because people are embarrassed to pursue any action against them.

But this reluctance means that these religious officers are free to act with impunity because they will never be called into account for the result of their actions.

They may say that their aim is only to prevent vice. But is there something in their job description that says that injuries and deaths of those they raid are acceptable by-products of their jobs?

Or is death considered an exemplary way to stop vice?

It is only when the victim or the victim’s family decides to take action that anyone is held accountable at all.

A few years ago a young woman sued the religious department for insulting her dignity and causing her shame in public, and won. But she is rare in her feistiness.

Most of the time, these cases pass by unnoticed. Worse still, judgments are made on their morals without them ever being able to defend themselves.

Indeed most people caught for khalwat are never asked to enter their defence. Usually they don’t have any legal representation in court, especially if they are young and poor.

Is this what moral policing means, for people to be found guilty unless proven innocent?

For people to have no recourse if they feel wrongly accused? For there to be no way to obtain compensation for injuries or even death?

People are charged in court regularly without legal representation. No auditing is ever done of the budgets of religious departments or whether they do what they are supposed to do, which apparently is to propagate religion.

But is religious propagation to be measured by how many people you catch for alleged vice?

Pretty soon there’ll be more people arrested than there are to be propagated to.

We need to get the moral police under control if we cannot ban them altogether. Never held up to account for neither their actions nor any transparency in whatever they do, they hide behind religion as justification for all sorts of misbehaviour.

Just as others are held responsible when accidents happen, religious officers must be, too. Otherwise we foster a society where it is not only impossible to have a private life but it becomes dangerous as well.