Friday, July 26, 2013

Remembering a different time

This is a beautiful piece of an article written by my favourite blogger, Art Harun, and I can't help but to agree with him because I was there once, a time perhaps never to be experienced again.

Once we were beautiful

I am blessed. So are many of my friends who are of or around my age. So are many who are older than me.

As a child of the 60s, I went through my formative years in an English-stream school. It was a big school in town. And there were hundreds of us Malays, Chinese and Indian boys (it wasn’t co-ed
). Our first headmaster was a Chinese gentleman who was as fierce as they came those days. When he left, he was replaced by an Indian gentleman, who also was as fierce.

My first class teacher was Ms Leong, all long haired and short skirted. And yes, armed with a wooden ruler, she would knock my knuckles for failing to properly write the number 8. My first English sentence, learnt on the first day at school was to be uttered after raising my right hand, “Please teacher may I go out?” That was to be said if any of us had to go to the toilet to do the normal stuffs we all do in the toilet (and not to eat).

Then there were Mr Linggam, Cikgu Aziz and wife, Sharom, Mr Lee the karate guy, Mr Khor, Cikgu Mutalib and various others.

We were a happy bunch. We played together, ate together, learned together and of course, at times, punished together. And we were equal.

In standard 5, I began fasting. The school canteen stayed open for the whole month. No renovation. No closure. Muslim and non-Muslim kids, who did not fast, ate as usual. If they bought a proper meal, such like nasi lemak or mee goreng, they would eat at the canteen. If it was some kind of snack, they would just eat while walking around, in the class or where ever.

No fuss. No issue. No problem.

My impressionable years were spent in a boarding school. It was the same scenario. All of us, regardless of race or religion studied together, ate together, played together and at times, getting one or two rotan together.

Visiting a non-Malay house was not a problem. Eating there was not a problem too. Sharing food with non-Muslims was not an issue.

Things have however, sadly, changed. And change for the worse.

Nowadays, non-Muslims don’t send their kids to national school anymore. They prefer to send the kids to the vernacular schools. The ones who could afford would send their kids to private schools. National schools are almost invariably filled with Muslim/Malay students.
National schools would recite prayers before classes begin in the morning. Quranic verses and hadith would adorn walls in the canteen, school office and even classes. Ustaz and ustazah would even ask school kids to raise their hands if their parents do not pray 5 times a day. In secondary schools, the tudung is not compulsory for girls – according to the Ministry of Education’s circular, if I am not mistaken – but girls without tudung would be viewed askance by schoolmates and teachers alike.

Due to the small number of non-Muslim/Malay kids in national schools, the Malay kids do not have the opportunity to mix around and integrate with non-Malays in their formative and impressionable years. The small number of non-Malay kids also gives a sense of false superiority complex to the Malay kids as well as teachers.

Thus, my race and my religion are more important than you, your religion and everything else. Hence the closure of the school canteen during Ramadhan. This is prevailing in many national schools. Apparently, this is done to “respect” the Muslim students who are fasting. Forget the fact that non-Muslims do not fast and they, like any other human beings or animals, have to eat and drink. Forget the fact that there are Muslim kids who do not fast. Anybody who just about mentions the word “food” would have been taken as insulting Islam.

On Facebook last week, there were two guys admonishing a hotel which advertised its breakfast package on its page. They viewed it as disrespectful. But to be fair, the two were widely condemned by other Muslim facebookers.

The eating-in-the-changing-room debacle yesterday is just the surface of a far unhealthier trend in Malaysia. Beneath that surface is a society which is fractious, intolerant, selfish and uncompromising.

The obvious question is how did we, as a nation, become like this?

As a nation we started so well. The Federal Constitution was agreed upon by consensus between three major races anchored to a give-and-take and win-win camaraderie. There was a blemish in 1969 but that was quickly nipped in the bud and we soldiered on.

In football, we were in the Olympic final in 1972 and 1980. By the law of progression, we should be in the World Cup by now. By contrast, Japan and Korea, whom we used to beat, were already in the quarter-finals of the World Cup. We now struggle to beat the likes of Vietnam and even Singapore.

Like our football team, the state of our racial integration and inter-faith relationship has moved in reverse gear. Years of political posturing utilizing religion and race have now begun to show its ugly consequences. The so-called Islamisation that we embark upon, which is shorn of any meaningful spiritual understanding of the religion, but rather born out of political necessities, convenience and mired in political one-upmanship has now produced a nation which is unsure of itself and a people who are fractious, angry, suspicious and at odd with each other.

We need to take a real good look at ourselves and examine our ways. And we need to reboot our operating system if we want to avoid a total crash.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

It is really heart warming to read such articles

The following article is written by PROF DR MOHAMAD TAJUDDIN MOHAMAD RASDI, a 23-year veteran academic and teaches architecture at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia. He specialises in mosque and Islamic architecture particularly that which relates to Malaysia using a hadith-based and socio-cultural approach in order to create the total idea of built environment suited for a whole social structure.

The two incidents that have been the talk of the day in the Internet media that have raised concerns on the questionable tolerance and magnanimity of Islam and Muslims are the Alvivi sex blogger couple's alleged disrespecting of Islam and the demands of right-wing groups Perkasa and Jati for the Vatican envoy to leave Malaysia over his remarks on the Allah row.

From the events that had unfolded, it does seem to be that Muslims in general - and Islam in particular - are a people and a religion that are most intolerant and do not know the meaning of forgiveness or magnanimity.

In this short essay, I will present stories and examples of Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam, teacher of all Muslims in the world and for all times, on how he exemplified the true spirit of magnanimity, forgiveness and tolerance.

In other words, I do not know who these people are who have painted Islam in such light - the Attorney-General’s Chambers officers and the judiciary who denied bail to the sex blogger couple and the three Malay-Muslim politicians (Hasan Ali, Ibrahim Ali and Zulkifli Noordin) who boisterously demand that the Vatican envoy leave this country for supporting the use of the word ‘Allah’ in the Malay Bible.

I would like to explain to my Malaysian brothers and sisters who are Muslims and non-Muslims about the true Islam as exhibited by the Prophet himself. What these Malays have shown did not definitely come from the tradition of Muhammad (peace be upon him).

I can cite many events and incidents to show that Prophet Muhammad was perhaps the epitome of tolerance, forgiveness and magnanimity, but I will just point out a few. Do not trust me on these accounts but let history be the judge.

kaabah mekah islam holycity 080307 largeOne incident that I am about to relate is one of the most momentous events in the history of early Islam - the opening or freeing of Mecca from the polytheists Quraish, the Prophet's own blood clan.

During the 13 years of persecution in Mecca when the Prophet was not only hurled abusive words, denied economic trade to the point of famine and almost being murdered, he returned home after 10 years as the leader of the largest army the Arabs had ever seen and march into his birthplace to destroy the idols in the Kaaba.

This was a man, from noble lineage, once respected by the polytheist Quraish as Al-Amin (the trustworthy) and who at one time, when he was prostrating to pray, was placed on his back the stomach and entrails of a dead camel. His daughter, Fatimah, had to clean his father whilst crying softly at the vile indignity of the occasion.

In another incident, the Prophet had to restrain his anger at seeing the body of his uncle Hamzah being desecrated by a hired assassin, Wahsyi, who was in the paid service of Hindun, the wife of the Meccan leader Abu Sufyan.

After all these sad and painful events of personal persecution, Allah The Most High granted Muslims the upper hand and the Prophet marched into Mecca without resistance.

Did the Prophet exact retribution?

And what did he do with the sweet taste of victory at the tip of his tongue? With a simple gesture of his staff and hand or a nod from him, heads would have rolled, limbs could be hacked and necks could be broken from a rope on high. Did the Prophet do any of these?

Did he exact retribution? Did he beat Hindun who gorged on the bloodied heart of Hamzah? Did he burn the families who put camel entrails on his back and did he string up Abu Sufyan who caused much pain to his beloved wife, Khadija, and uncle, Abu Talib, by ordering the boycott of his family?

History recorded that there was no massacre. The Prophet forgave all that had done him and his loved one harm if they asked for forgiveness. The Prophet met all the Meccan leaders who had persecuted him and his family with respect and made peace with them.

But there was only one person that the Prophet found extremely difficult to meet. That was Wahsyi, the assassin who killed and tore the heart out of Hamzah, the Prophet's beloved uncle and protector. When Wahsyi finally came to ask forgiveness from the Prophet, the Prophet of Islam turned his face from him but gave no order of retribution.

Wahsyi went back to his own house, his life spared but his heart was in turmoil. He had not realised the deep pain that he had caused the Prophet. On that day, Wahsyi vowed to be a good Muslim and to perform a great deed to atone for his murder of Hamzah. History later recorded that it was Wahsyi who personally killed the False Prophet, Musaillamah, in a great battle.

Now the question was why had the Prophet not exacted retribution on the Meccans? Why not put them all in the bathroom? Why not tell them to get out of Mecca and never come back? Or why not throw them all in prison without bail? He was clearly following the order given by none other than the Supreme Being Himself, Allah The Most High. Allah Himself inspired the following Verses:

When comes the Help of God, and Victory,
And thou dost see the People enter God's Religion in crowds,
Celebrate the Praises of thy Lord, and pray for His Forgiveness,
for He is Oft-Returning (In Grace and Mercy)

(from ‘Surah Nasr’, translation by Abdullah Yusof Ali)

From the tafsir and interpretation by Sayyid Qutb, the Prophet was ordered to praise Allah and ask for forgiveness on the day of his total victory in the war against the Quraish in Mecca.

There are many messages on human behaviour and spiritual heights in this very short Surah. Firstly, anyone who always patted himself or herself on the back over the successful completion of a task will grow arrogant and ultimately will fall into despair when they fail in old age or sickness or economic difficulties.

By attributing success to God's hand, man would humble himself and be at peace whether he is successful or not in any endeavour. Another message is that the ego would inflate so much after success that it would inspire evil intentions like vengeance and retribution. The Prophet was ordered to ask forgiveness from God if he had felt egoistic and harboured evil intentions of vengeance.

The golden rule of most great religions is simple - learn to forgive your fellow man and Allah will see fit to forgive you in turn. The sociological and political ramification from this simple act of forgiveness is incredibly unimaginable. If the Prophet had exacted retribution and wiped out the Meccans with a single wave of his staff, Islam might have never ventured out of the valley of Mecca and into our homes in Malaysia.

But with a single act of magnanimity, forgiveness and tolerance, the word spread out like wildfire that the Prophet was an unusual man of high moral standards, one who represented the flowering of a new humankind.

Two recent events

Fast forward to the present, what would a true Muslim with the spirit of the Prophet Muhammad at the victory of Mecca do concerning the two events that is the talk of the day in Malaysia?

NONEFirstly, regarding the Allah issue by the Vatican envoy, it is indeed very simple to address. Now, there are two camps amongst the Muslims concerning this issue. One group of Muslims feel that it is the Christian's right by virtue of historical precedence to use ‘Allah’ as denoting their version of God but another group of Muslims feel that the word ‘Allah’ is copyrighted only to Muslims.

Now, if I were of the second group (and I am not), I would simply practice tolerance and register my protest in a letter and publish it in the media without calling for the envoy to leave Malaysia. Did the envoy kill anyone? Did he shout abusive words against the Prophet? Did he call Malays stupid, arrogant and 'muka tembok' or ‘tak tau malu’?

Though I myself might entertain the thoughts of calling some Malays those expressive words, I do not recall that the envoy doing any of these. All he did was assert an academic argument based on historical precedence and he did them in a civil manner. We can also reciprocate by being civil and kindly tell him that such effort creates deep distress among Malays in Malaysia. That should have been enough.

NONENow the second case: the sex bloggers, who seemingly offended Muslims in their Facebook by eating bak kut teh and wishing a happy Ramadan. My first reaction to this incident was to find out who these two young people were. When I saw the sexually explicit images, I made my opinion about the kind of people these two were.

They were exhibitionists; those who were trying to capture people's attention and relish the fame that comes with it. My next action was to call my 'anak angkat', a 35-year-old Chinese man and asked him what bak kut teh was. Does the dish always come with servings of pork meat or could it also come in serving of beef or chicken sometimes?

If it can be established that bak kut teh could be from beef, chicken or pork, I therefore cannot conclude that these two naughty bloggers were being disrespectful of Islam. But according to my ‘anak angkat’, bak kut teh is popularly understood as a pork dish. So now I ventured to think of what motive that these two had in doing the deed.

Were they, (a) having harmless fun so as to become famous or (b) making a strong political statement against some Malay political group that has been verbally attacking Chinese after the GE13?

If it were (a), I would simply ask or leave the matter with responsible Chinese leaders of this country to reprimand the deed and assure the Muslims that the Chinese culture has no place for such action. Done. I would have left it at that. The duo have apologised and that is more than enough for me.

Now, of course, some ultra Malays will accuse me of 'bagi muka', I will simply refer them to the Prophet's story. Please tell the Prophet that he had 'bagi muka' to the Meccans, I dare you! Now, what has happened? The sex bloggers are being quietly hailed as heroes because they have been denied bail, equating what they did to murder and rape seemingly.

Next, what if the bloggers were making a political statement? Now that would open up more than a can of worms where we would have to look at the destruction of our social fabric by certain Malays who threw salvos after salvos, accusing the Chinese of no end of faults just to hide their own private agendas and weaknesses. That would be another essay altogether.

Spirit of Ramadan

Finally, I wish to say that the month of Ramadan is a Great Sale of good deeds. Only in this month that Allah says he will multiply any good deed several hundred times. So, if you donate RM1, it would be recorded as you took out several rolls of hundred ringgit bills. So if you forgive a small deed, you will be rewarded like you have forgiven a great wrongdoing to your person.

NONEBut it is strange that many Malays who fast gain more weight in Ramadan by gorging themselves during breaking fast, many more fall sick by over-indulging themselves and many become more ill-mannered and intolerant.

Fasting, in Islam, is not only about controlling the urge to eat. More importantly, it is to control the ego and selfish thinking and replace it with the divine attribute of forgiveness, tolerance and magnanimity.

Our country can go far in harmonious living if Malays were to simply look and take heed of the Prophet's example and not care about such selfish statements by some political personalities.

Just another point of view, from a Singapore Muslim

Dear The Real Singapore,
I wish to remain anonymous as my view may not be the same as most of the older conservative Muslims.
When I first saw the “Halal Bak Kut Teh” picture on TRS facebook page, I was irritated but I didn’t think much of it. I believed the guy was an idiot and that’s it. But I was surprised that the backlash has gotten so big over just a few hours. I was disappointed to see so much hate comments being posted by fellow Muslims over this one photo and some even go far as a to post threats of violence and death threats. And now, the couple is facing up to 15 years in jail and heavy fine over this one photo which really saddens me as thieves and people with assault charges usually gets much less.
Why I am not offended? I actually have a different perspective on the issue. I subscribed to a few foreign news channels like Al Jazeera and The Young Turks and I have seen the faces of REAL HATE. I have seen people like Pastor Terry Jones which called for the burning of the Quran. I have seen a group of Islamophobic Americans gathered to throw hateful slurs at a mosque event in California. I have seen the absolute disrespect of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula and his blasphemous film which he called “The innocence of muslims”. I have seen the bigotry and also the sympathy of the people of Texas in ABC news experiment “What would you do?” when Muslims are discriminated. I have seen a Hispanic woman pushing a Muslim man onto an oncoming train, killing him, just because he was Muslim. And the worst of late, I have seen the genocide of the Muslim Rohingya people by the so called “Buddhist” Burmese.
The face of hate comes in many sickening form. But when I see Alvin’s face, I don’t see a hateful person; I just see the face of a troll.
Understanding hate and dark humor.
Maybe it is because of my age and my exposure to the internet, I understand dark humor and some can be really funny. I am a fan of South Park with their highly intelligent yet crude but funny jokes and satires. But in the end, dark humor is essentially a joke that can either be funny or fall flat and just be stupid. I would say that Alvin’s Halal Bak Kut Teh photo is just a really bad dark humor that is not funny. There is no real malice in this photo. He did not insult our prophet, he did not call for the Quran to be defaced and he did not go out to injure a fellow Muslim. At most I could say that he is insensitive for suggesting that a dish most commonly made with pork is halal. We are getting into an uproar over FOOD? Let’s change the situation a bit and say Alvin did the same photo BUT with frog legs (which is also haram). How much of an uproar will that make?
Being respected. As Muslims, we always asked that our religion be respected. But it would be hard to respect someone if he acts like an overly sensitive baby who would throw a tantrum over such a small issue. We need to be mature. If you find the photo insensitive, feel free to make a video or make an article to address how insensitive the post is or simply bring this matter to facebook admin let them handle it. To issue threats of violence, instigate suicide and even death threats over a food related matter is simply unacceptable.
Justice. Quoting from the Holy Quran 2:190
“Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed. Allah does not like transgressors.” The concept is simple, if you are called to defend our faith, do so without transgression. If you are threatened with words, you are to fight back with words ONLY. If you are threatened with fists, you are to fight back with fists at most. If you are threatened with a sword, you may fight back with a sword. What Alvin did does not warrant jail time for up to 15 years or even such a heavy fine. Prison is a place where we keep thieves, robbers, rapists and murderers, people who have committed crimes against property and person. To treat Alvin, whose crime is a bad humor, like a harden criminal is indeed transgressing the limit. At most he deserves is a small fine and mandatory community work (maybe at a mosque so he could learn a thing or two about being with Muslims).
In all, we must keep things in perspective in issuing justice so that our emotions doesn't cloud our reason. We should not turn an issue about food into something that could divide a nation and we must act more maturely if we want to be respected.
Thank you for your time. 
Anonymous TRS reader

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

How could they do this to our kids just because they are non-Muslims?

I know this news have already gone viral on the internet, but all the same, I am posting the photo here to demonstrate my disgust at how UMNO Baru is treating our kids.  The canteen was closed as the Muslim pupils were on fast, but does that mean, that the toilet would be the best alternate place for the kids to have their meals?  Our educationalists may not be smart, but by doing what they did, doesn't that expose their idiocy?

How could the school authorities say that it was a shower room when it is clearly seen in the picture above that it is a toilet.  Read more here.

The Book Burners

This is Terry Jones, the Christian pastor who wanted to burn the Holy Quran in 2010, as he believed that certain text written in the Quran was responsible for the September 11 2001 tragedy and, therefore, it was justifiable for him to carry out his threat.  This started an international outburst with the then Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton and other senior officials in the White House, denouncing this act of lunacy.  A global petition, in which I was one of the signatories, received responses from thousands of people, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims, protesting against such a wanton act.  Without saying, our Muslim leaders in the government too sounded their utmost displeasure.

This is Ibrahim Ali, the man who initiated the "Burn The Bible" pesta.  According to him, the Bible has no right to contain the word 'Allah' and therefore needed to be burnt. Responses from the international community, the prime minister and the Christian leaders in the government ............ SILENCE.
To add insult to the injury, one UMNO Baru leader even had the audacity to say that the Bible was incorrectly printed and Ibrahim Ali's move to burn the Bible should be supported.

Let's take a lesson from History.  On May 10 1933, the Nazi party in Hitler's Germany ordered all books written by Jewish authors to be burnt.  According to them, such books would have a bad influence on the German society as the new order wished to promote a new way of life. They asserted the need to "purify" German language and literature.  They considered such books as 'entartet' (degenerate) and should not be read by decent Germans

Among those books burnt were those written by Heinrich Heine who said, “Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen" ["Where they burn books, they will in the end, also burn people."]

Book burning in Nazi Germany - May 10 1933

Monday, July 22, 2013

Monday Humour

A guy is browsing in a pet shop, and sees a parrot sitting on a little perch.
It doesn't have any feet or legs.
The guy says aloud, 'Jeesh, I wonder what happened to this parrot.?'
The parrot says, 'I was born this way.
I'm a defective parrot.'
'Holy crap,' the guy replies. 

'You actually understood and answered me. !'
'I got every word,' says the parrot.

'I happen to be a highly intelligent, and a thoroughly educated bird'
'Oh yeah?' the guy asks.
'Then answer this, how do you hang onto your perch, without any feet.?'
'Well,' the parrot says, 'this is very embarrassing, but since you asked, I wrap my weenie around this wooden bar, like a little hook.
You can't see it, because of my feathers.'
'Wow,' says the guy.
'You really can understand, and can speak English, can't you.?'
'Actually, I speak both Spanish and English, and I can converse with reasonable competence on almost any topic, politics, religion, sports, physics, philosophy.
I'm especially good at ornithology.
You really ought to buy me, I'd be a great companion.'
The guy looks at the $200.00 price tag.
'Sorry, but I just can't afford that.'
'Pssssssst,' says the parrot, 'I'm defective, so the truth is, nobody wants me, cause I don't have any feet.
You can probably get me for $20, just make the guy an offer.!'
The guy offers $20, and walks out with the parrot.

Weeks go by.
The parrot is sensational.
He has a great sense of humor, he's interesting, he's a great pal, he understands everything, he sympathizes, and he's insightful.
The guy is delighted.
One day the guy comes home from work, and the parrot goes, 'Psssssssssssst,' and motions him over with one wing.
'I don't know if I should tell you this or not, but it's about your wife, and the Austpost man.'
'What are you talking about,?' asks the guy.
'When he delivered a package today, your wife greeted him at the door, in a sheer black nightie.'
 'WHAT???' the guy asks incredulously.
'THEN what happened?'
'Well, he came into the house, and lifted up her nightie, and began petting her all over,' reported the parrot.
'NO!' he exclaims, 'and she let him.?'
Then he continued taking off the nightie, got down on his knees, and began to kiss her all over.'
Then the frantic guy demands, 'THEN WHAT HAPPENED.?'

DUNNO?!? I got an erection, and fell off my perch.!'  
If this doesn't make you laugh, you're having a really bad day.

John was in a bar looking very dejected.
His friend, Steve, walked over and asked,
"What's wrong?"
"It's my mother-in-law, " John replied,
While shaking his head sadly. "I have
A real problem with her."
"Cheer up," Steve said. "Everyone has
Problems with their mother-in-law. "
"Yeah," John answered. "But I got mine pregnant."
A woman and her ten-year-old son were riding in a taxi in the city. It was raining and all the prostitutes were standing under the awnings.
"Mom," said the boy, "what are all those women doing?"
"They're waiting for their husbands to get off work," she replied.
The taxi driver turns around and says, "Geez lady, why don't you tell him the truth? They're hookers, boy! They have sex with men for money.."
The little boy's eyes get wide and he says, "Is that true, Mom?"
His mother, glaring hard at the driver, answers in affirmative. After a few minutes, the kid asks, "Mom, what happens to the babies those women have?"
"Most of them become taxi drivers," she said.
To all Grandpas and Grandmas, make sure that you understand the question first....
We are all reaching that stage where we need to keep the wax out
of our ears and keep the hearing aids tuned up.

What Is Couple Sex?
An 8-year-old girl went to her grandfather, who was working in the
yard and asked him, "Grandpa, what is a couple sex?

The grandfather was surprised that she would ask such a question,
but decided that if she's old enough to know to ask the question then
she's old enough to get a straight answer.

Steeling himself to leave nothing out, he proceeded to tell her
all about human reproduction and the joys and responsibilities that go along
with it.

When he finished explaining, the little girl was looking at him
with her mouth hanging open, eyes wide in amazement. Seeing the look on her
face, the grandfather asked her, "Why did you ask this question, honey?

The little girl replied, "Well, Grandma says to tell you that
dinner will be ready in just a couple secs.