Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Bit of Poetry, Anyone?

There used to be a slot for the appreciation of poetry in the NST. But it has since disappeared, perhaps because of a lack of appreciation. I wonder whether kids are still taught how to appreciate poetry in school - be it in English or Bahasa. I know for a fact that music is not a part of the school syllabus and, therefore, most Malaysians are note-blind!

I think children must be exposed to poetry and music from school-age in order to cultivate their sensitivity to and appreciation of the Arts. Jingles and Nursery Rhymes contribute much to the development of their artistic talent. A child who has no education in music or poetry tends to become uncouth and crude ( even banal and impertinent as an adult) - devoid of the finesse and savoir faire which characterises a child or person of high breeding. We should not, therefore, be surprised if children become so nowadays being brought up on a diet of violent TV shows, news of war, brutal deaths and bloody massacres in the papaers, with social abberations and psychopathic behavior occurring all around him or her!

Berita Harian has published a special supplement to its daily to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the paper ( July 31 issue). It carries a poem by A. Samad Said, the nation's poet laurette, among various articles, which to me sums up the history of the paper in a very subtle and artistic way. See if your exposure to poetry and in Bahasa has enabled you to succour the little gem from the inspiration of the Muse. I'll reproduce it in full;

(Menyambut Berita Harian 50 Tahun)

Bahasa dan sejarahnya abjad pinjaman
lidah asing yang mula syahdu dihemahkan.
Dari bumi gelora lahirnya beradat
ke gerbang merdeka diperharum martabat.
Dan memang dari tapak kembara yang mula
dalam gugup suara dan gusar bahasa
dikisahkan watak sasa dan wira haloba;
dinyaringkan jerit duka dan ria bangsa.

Hoffman dan Samad di sisi Siew Yee dan Wahab
tangan-tangan pertama menghijayat kitab.
Mereka pelandas watak dan wajah "Berita",
disambut pewaris canggih kemudiannya.
Jalan yang jauh tak tercapai sesiapa;
denai pintasan tak selalunya selesa.
Sebaik taufan gugah menguji negara,
pewaris inilah penyelamat utama.

Umurnya mes-tik, bisik ilham bergilir,
derasnya komputer, 'antun mengejar shair.
Dari Balai Berita disaktikan ayat
turut dilimpah semangat lebih berdarjat.
Dalam lima dekad pohonya menyegar subur,
menjaga khazanah, meluruh daun takbur.
Naluri dan kalbu bangsa, degup asasnya,
terus memperindah abjad tulen batinnya.

Dalam gugup bahasa dan gusar budaya;
dari damai tasik ke resah samudera,
dirakam betapa hartawan atasi kata
dan betapa kuasawan cemari arah.
Taufan bakal kencang, azam marak menyala,
lidah dan minda bakal belajar berlaga.
Dan di jalan muka dikutip iktibar
dirakam wartawan yang sentiasa sabar.

Layar kehidupan tetap tersebar luas
khusus diwarnai pesan yang belas dan waras.
Di Jalan Riong sekuntum bakti meranum.
semua diasuh mesra menyemai senyum.
Lima dekad Berita Harian dewasa,
akhbar hemah yang tetap insani kalbunya.

A, Samad Said
Bangsar Utama,KL.

Even a professor of Malay Language and Culture was stumped by some of Samad's poetry. But, that's Malay poetry at its best
as of today. The 38 line poem, broken up into 5 verses and titled Hemah Sebuah Akhbar ( The Wisdom of a Daily) says more about the historical and spiritual development of the paper than the other write-ups and quotes from several dignitaries and luminaries.

To briefly comment on it, it began by remiding us about the fact that BH was a "borrowed" idea ( Bahasa dan sejarahnya abjad pinjaman), a part-translation from The Straits Times, born at a time of national strife after independence(bumi gelora) and nurtured to a pretigious Daily, incorporating news from a nervous stance (gugp suara) coaxed in an angry or aggressive language ( gusar bahasa), about heroic characters (watak sasa) and ambitious (or greedy) entrepreneurs ( wira haloba), highlighting the sufferings and the pride and joy of the nation (duka dan ria bangsa).

The second verse refers to Tan Sri Hoffman, Samad (Ismail), Siew Sin and Wahab (Zain) as pioneers in the development of the Paper, followed by enterprising successors or "heirs" (pewaris) who blazed the trail which was long, rough and never comfortable (denai pintasan tak selalu selesa). As the nation faced new challenges( taufan gugah menguji negara) these "heirs" helped to save the day (by popularising the paper).

The old typewiters changed to computers and the traditional style of writing/reporting ( symbolized by "pantun") kept abreast with modern journalism (symbolized by "syair") and from the Newsroom ( Balai Berita) poured vibrant and high quality/fidelity news for five decades of development, to enrich the sould of the nation and cleanse it from false pride (meluruh daun takbur), allowing the paper to establish its own authentic identity (abjad tulen batinnya).

Through the throbbings of a nervously maturing language and an adaptive culture (gugup bahasa dan gusar budaya), the paper moved from an island ( symbolized by "tasik") to the mainland (symb. by "samudeera") chronicling how the rich can have the final say of the day (hartawan atasi kata) and the powerful thwarting or deflecting the sense of direction (kuasawan cemari arah), causing clashes of ideals, minds and words (lidah dan minda belajar berlaga), picking up new experience/wisdom (muka dikutip iktibar) as the journalists record all with patience ( Verse no.4).

The sails of life (boat imagery) fluttered on full-sprung carrying a sympathetic but healthy reminder (diwarna pesan yang belas dan waras) and at Jalan Riong the paper flourished with all the employees being trained in a cordial and friendly atmosphere (diasuh mesra menyemai senyum) achieving maturity over five decades with wisdom and love for humanity as its driving force ( akhbar hemah yanbg tetap insani kalbunya).

Much of the linguistic beauty, wealth of imageries and pithy condensation of ideas and thoughts ( eg. gugup bahasa, gusar budaya, resah samudera, membaja khazanah, meluruh daun takbur etc.) is lost in the brief translation and commentary, and their meanings and connotations can encompass other levels of interpretation. But, what I've mentioned is enough to show what a young Malaysian ( or even a well-educated adult) not trained in poetry appreciation could miss.

I think much more needs to be done to bring back the teaching of the arts in schools. The focus now is so much on science and mathematics that the young men of tomorrow might not be able to enjoy the beauty of the arts and culture, too busy chasing the pot of gold to afford a comfortable life whilst the comfort and solace of aesthetic and spiritual attainement escapes them.

Monday, July 30, 2007


THE NUMBER OF PENSIONERS IN THIS COUNTRY MUST BE EQUAL TO OR MAY EVEN EXCEED THE TOTAL NUMBER OF CIVIL SERVANTS IN THE PUBLIC SERVICE. If we add to this number those who retired from active duty in the private sector or self-employment, pensioners and retirees would present a considerable pool of "intellectual resources" in the country.

Question is: Do we utilize these resources or are they considered as archaic and irrelevent? We do see prominent retired personnel sometimes picked up by government to serve on certain committees. But they are few and far between. The bulk of them seems to be sleeping away. Only reporters from the media sometimes tried to pick their brains on some issues facing the governemtn and people.

Among them, I believe, are some of the best brains in the country. Although their chronological age has prevented them from continuing to serve the country and people, they certainly have a lot of useful experience that can benefit the government if tapped. They, especially the Malays, will not go to the government to offer their views unless asked because they wouldn't want to be as the saying goes " Hidung tak mancung pipi tersorong-sorong!" The new leaders too, both in politics and the services, especailly among the Malays, would not readily go to their ex-bosses for advice or exchange of opinions, because it would lower their prestige - " habis modal dan minta nasihat pada orang lama!"

Of course some of the current leaders would say: " If they had been very good all their ideas would have been put to practice while they were still in the service." Wrong! They might not have had the chance nor was the condition quite suitable then. Imagine if the computer savvy among them had asked all govenment departments to go on-line some 10-15 years ago, or introduce the handphone and SMS to the public? Treasury and the Telocommunication Department would have blown their tops.

So, what can the pensioners and retirees do now? Are they happy to sit back and watch what's happening in the country without saying anything? If they do want to say something, give their own piece of mind ( old but not tired or retarded) on some issues which kept popping up again and again like delays in the goverment service, lackadaisical attitude among civil servants, maintenance of governemt buildings and facilities left to the dogs etc... to whom would they say it? What channel can they use and how free are they in using it, without circulars being issued to contain their enthusiasm? Some organizations and government agencies even have Pensioners' Club to give their members a voice. But we haven't heard much from such organizations.

May I suggest that the pensioners and retirees start their own websites aad become bloggers. Don't know how? It's time that they learn from their young ones - their children or grandchildren - on how to create their own blog on the internet. I think that the young people of today would be just too happy to show their dads and grandads what they can do on the computer.
My son, for example, takes much pleasure in barking at me for not being able to follow the instructions on the Menu. I take it with humility and bark back at him on some other issues. That puts us on equal ground such that we can yekety-yek for hours on end.

I'm sure the pensioners and the retirees, especially those who had been in the top executive circles, have much to say in terms of solving the current dilemmas facing the country and people. The experience they have had as mellowed and distilled by time and hindsight, would put them in a good position to show some way out of problems like the lack of discipline in schools, why teachers are going bonkers over problem kids, why corruptions continue to profligate and why the implementation of many government projects are still delayed in spite of effective monitoring by the I- See- You ( ICU) in the Prime Minister's Department.

So, pensioners and retirees, wake up. Ask your children or grandchildren to show you how to speak through the computer. Let's have some fun with the kids at their own games. You can then give those "leaders" in the government who could have been your very juniors before, an advice or two! And the young people on the Blog. Go and drag your dads or granddads to the website and show them what they can do "under your supervision". Let them speak their minds out without bothering everyone in the house. Isn't that a fair deal?

The Lighter Side..

I admire bloggers who use the website for entertainment and fun. I love reading their jokes and wisecracks. They make you laugh and laugh till your stomoch throbs with indigestion. But, at the end of it all, I settle on something serious to think about.

Why? Because the laughter and jokes do lighten up the soul but do not ENLIGHTEN it. They brighten up the day (or night) but do not throw light on present problems and future possibilities. As the saying goes: "When you laugh, everyone laughs with you; but when you cry, you cry alone!" When you start laughing and crying at odd times, that's a clear sign that some nuts are coming loose! So, watch it!

Nevertheless, jokes or funny anecdotes are the spice of life. I love those who always have a keen eye for things that are funny and see amusing things in what I see as normal and humdrum. They certainly have an extra sense of perception or an extrasensory faculty that screws up things in a hilarious way.When I see a cow, a humorous friend sees a pair of horns with a snout like a snub-nosed kettle with broken handles sprouting up at rightangle to the snout. When I see a bicycle, he sees two wheels chasing and trying to outrun each other with a pair of stumps whacking their sides....

Some people are so good at seeing the lighter side of life that they laugh at their own shadow. ( That to me is beteer than being frightened of your own shadow!) An Uncle of mine in cheering me up after I cut my finger said that the bad blood wanted to run off from my body. If it remained, I'd get sick and become cockeyed. I smiled and let the blood drip for a while before applying some ointment and a bandage.

When a young relative passed away that Uncle quipped: " He has gone home early because he didn't like the world. Perhaps he didn;t want to get married and make a girl pregnant, with a big tummy to carry about like a bloated penguin." When his own wife gave birth, he chuckled: " My wife has exploded and produces a shell very much like myself. But he has no teeth yet or otherwise he'll bite his mother's breasts and make them full of holes. Then, I wouldn't want to be near her anymore!"

What do these people have that makes them extraordinary, always in demand to tickle our ribs and see ordinary things from a jovial angle? I found the answer sometimes back when I was to get married. I'd asked my Uncle for some advice and he told me:

" To be married is to share your life with a woman - your bed, your house, your food...everything. When you speak, you speak not only for yourself but also for her or otherwise your words will hit you back like a poison arrow. When you workl, you also work for her...."
" Isn't there anything that I can do for myself alone after marriage?..." I interruptred, feeling terrified.
" Oh, yas," he smiled. " You've to pay for everything yourself if you break up the marriage. You've to pay for everything that she needs and does...all by yourself."
" Then, should I get married at all?"
" Of course. Otherwise you won't know who you are. You need a woman to tell you what you're like and how stupid you can be sometimes. She's the only person who can tell you that you're a moron. Yet, she loves and tolerates you...."

Now, at this age, I know that my Uncle was right all along. And he dismissed everything, no matter how serious, with a laughter. He enjoyed life up to a ripe a old age though he remained young at heart.....

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Interpenetration of Faith...

This is a heavy subject, but I intend to make it as light as a breeze. What's the significance? Many people say that human beings all over the world are always fighting because of differences in religion, in their beliefs and in their faiths. One writer, Sam Harris suggested that we should do away with faith and its rediculous, unproven, unscientific, and irrational sources in order to avoid
killing each other in this world ( The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason, W.W, Norton & Company, USA, 2006). A frightening book with a lot of distortions on Islam especially pertaining to the fanatics and suicide bombers.

Yes, there are many religions in this world based on different scriptures and teachings. Each inculcates its own set of beliefs and faiths, nurtured by customs, traditions and different cultural heritage as found in different parts of the world. The proponents and preachers of each religion or faith will maintain that theirs is the most "authentic" and the "truest" of the religions. The history of the world is full of clashes between major religious communities, with fanatics who are willing to kill each other in the name of their God and beliefs.

Years of promulgation, research, modification and adjustments with maybe millions of people dead due to the religious war or crusade and US's version of liberating the people including those in Islamic countries, have failed to bring a happy compromise
between the various religions and their subdivisions. Christian's Roman Catholics are always at odds with the Protestants. The Muslim Shiites are always at war with the Sunnis. The various dynasties in Cina, each with its own faith and beliefs, were also often at war. The Tamils and the Hindus are never too friendly, especially with the Muslims. " Never the twains (opposing sides) shall meet," says Mark Twain.

Can we, therefore, ever hope to have peace between the various religious communities, especiall among the belligerent ones?
Are they so different and divided that the world is doomed to everlasting conflicts, fighting and skirmishes? Is there no way at all to make them appreciate and respect each other beliefs and faith?

Yet, a brief study of many of the religions will show up some very striking simililarities, especially on the exultations for what is good, honest, sincere, trustworthy and piety towards their Lord(s) and Master(s). They all prohibit the spilling of human blood ( except when attacked by their enemies), stealing, cheating, adultery, blashphemy, causing cruelty to animals and men, and most of the behaviors that are punishable by the laws of the country.

These then are the the areas of interpenetration of faith and beliefs, of values and sanctions although they do not amount to formal acceptance of similarities. No religion would admit such a thing unless their religion is accepted as having influenced the others. What then prevents such interpenetration of faith and values from being recognized as a COMMON THRESHHOLD

Certainly it's human beliefs, values and pride as promulgated by the leaders of the cult, which stand in the way of such recognition and respect. The Sunnis and the Shiites in Islam can never see eye to eye nor can the Roman Catholics and the Protestants, the Christians and the Jews, the Serbs and the Bosnians, the Tamils and the Hindus, the Taoists and the Budhists,
But areas of interpenetration of beliefs and faith certainly exist, commonalities or similarities which can become the basis of a compromise.

The Commonalities can become the basis of a mutual agreement, an understanding and respect so that all other Differences
can be prevented from causing illwill, misunderstanding, hatred and a commitment to exterminate each other since such extermination also means destroying a part of one's own faith and belifs. A simple formula rto encapsulate the idea would be:
C - D = U
where C = commonalities, D= differences and U= the zone of Understanding.

The task of various religious communities would be to explore, elaborate and expand on C while D should be played down to the minimum without sacrificing any injunctions from the Lord and Master. This will lead to a continuous expansion of U, to enable the zone of understanding, mutual comfort and respect for each other to keep on expanding so as to improve interreligional relations, avoid conflict and spread universal love, compassion and goodwill.

One may immediately ask: How can the differences borne by the different Scriptures and spread by centuries of preaching, teaching and conditioning be played down or reduced? You cannot change change or reduce them, you cannot change the words of the Scriptures etc..etc.. But interpretations do change over the years and beliefs also change with time, mutual exposure to the same experience and the imposition of modern scietific knowledge. Blind faith is slowly receeding with the advance of logical and rational eveidence. All these can reduce and perhaps overshadow the D factor in the equation without
casting aside the words of the Scriptures and offending the All-Knowing and All-Powerfull.

Most important of all, the authenticity and purity of any religion at all should not be questioned or disputed! That would be a sacrilege which cannot be excused.

Multiracialism: the equation for peace & prosperity

Let's face the fact that Malaysia is a multiracial nation and cirtizens of every racial origin have contributed to its success and prosperity, so far. Change anything in the contributive equation and the outcome could also change.

What, therefore, is that contibutive equation (CE)? If, on the eve of the 50th anniversary of Independence, you don't know and can't appreciate it, you're not, then, a part of that equation and must review your stand.

The equation is TRUST, GOODWILL, UNDERSTANDING and LOVE for country and people. All our great leaders in the past were oozing with those traits. The Tunku, Tun San Siew Sin, Tun Sambanthan etc, etc. were a fountain of such virtue. Even the indomitable and unimitable Dr Tan Chee Koon , a hardcore critic of the Government, unreservedly loved the country and people, and was loved by them as we do all our present leaders.

So long as we maintain the contibutive equation in terms of building up the economy and the principle of "redistribution with growth" ( redistributing the newfound wealth and never "repossessing" what has been acquired), Malaysia would continue to prosper. Rock the equation by questioning the principle that had worked this far and the outcome could be disasterous.

So don't rock the boat, baby! We're all sailing happily in it. Let's row and row together, if the new jet engine of development falters or fails, which it has not so far. If we can all emulate the frontier spirit of our founding fathers - the trust, goodwill, understanding and love for country and people which they have bequethed to us - no storm and thunderclouds on the political battlefield, can shake the confidence we have in the old equation for peace and prosperity. But let's not forget it in
forging our way to the forfront of development and progress.

A piece of wisdom from Confucious: help to push someone up a hill and you go up with him. Try to push him down and you might be pulled along or you go and he remains at the top. The second line is obviously not from the Sage.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Moral Code For Bloggers!

The blog site seems to be under siege due to some irresponsible bloggers. May I tender this little poem as a prelude to an exercise in self-censorship.

Moral Code For Bloggers

Let cyberspace be your passport
to mental freedom, self-expression and social rapport
but forget you're a mortal
and must relate to your portal

The happiness and wellbeing you desire
need to be shared with one another
with love and compassion
as a prerequisite for genuine concern
for your country, fellow citizens, kith and kin
who will share your thoughts, both good and mean

Ruffle not the fathers and the hairs
of the guardian eagles, the albatross and the bears
with rumors, wild allegation and slanders
creating hatred, misunderstanding and fears
for as Malaysians, We're all in the same boat
rock it and we'll end up in the moat
of Wild fire and self-destruction
like many other countries in the third world nation.

Norzah d JB

An Update:

Since posting the above poem more has been said about controlling or "filtering" the blogs. Tan Sri Muhammad Taib lodged a police report against Malaysia Today to stop "those angry with the government ( in trying) to kill a mosquito...end up burning the mosquito net." He's all for a strict censorship. Datuk Siva Subramaniam ( Sukom Commisioner) and Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam (TIM Prsident) are against it. Section 3(3) of the Multimedia Act guarantees a no-censorship policy while Section 233 governs improper use of the network facilities.

TS Raymon said ," It would be retrogressive to try and control the Internet." I'm sure many will agree with him. The Govenment should not over-react. But what about the irresponsible bloggers who misuse the freedom given to them? What do we do with them?

To me the answer is self-discipline and being sensitive to touchy issues in our multiracial nation.You can joke and make fun of things but NOT AT SOMEONE'S EXPENSE, especially the sacred symbols of our nationhood and national unity. Don't rock the boat, baby, or it wil be anchored to the safe waters of the shallow lakes. Venture to the open sea and you'll break a law somehow. Don't ruffle the feathers of the eagle or albatross, or the hairs of the mighty bears!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Is Reading Just a Hobby?

I'm now an avid reader of the Blogs. Reason? Because I also write. Before, I did surf through some sites but not with 150% interest as I do now because I need to know what the other Bloggers are thinking and talking about.

Now that would tell us something about why Malaysians do not, in general, do much reading besides the usual glance at and read-snatches of newspapers, magazine, fliers and shopping catalogues. Not the heftier stuff like novels, book of general knowldge and in specific areas of studies like economics, politics, science, sociology, psychology, philosophy, religion etc, etc. Some survey on the reading habits of Malaysians reported some time ago showed that Malaysians on average read less than two books a year. Some, hardly one book! I see it in my own house, where there are many books left unread except for a few pages!( Not the one I bought, of course).

The reason is they don't have to read in order to write anything, or give a lecture or a talk to some people be they students, clients or bosses. You don't lecture to friends but just blabber and brag or 'lepak' with them. No facts or figures or precious state-of- the-art knowledge required. You can just bluff your way through with anecdotes, jokes and other juicier run-of-the-mill reports and RUMOURS. The wilder and juicier they are the better. Make them laugh their guts out, and they'll be very happy with you. Talk about anything serious, quoting books, learned magazines and journals, the Bibble, the al-Quran, the Mahabratha etc. etc., and they'll stare at you as if you're from the zoo or Tanjung Rambutan. They'll call you a wierdo, an ignoramus trying to appear like an Einstein, or just a perverted "squirt".

People don't read because they don't have to in order to give responsible advice, views or opinions, to people who matter and who are inrtelligent enough to discriminate between wisdom and wisecracks, between Excalibur and excrement...

Yes, you only read for examinations, interviews, and official talks or presentations in the pursuance of your career. You don't read for the love of information and knowledge, for your own education, edification, ego-satisfaction and for fun. Some consider it as just a hobby like swimming, cycling, mountain climbing, girls-watching etc.etc.A hobby is something that you do during your spare time, not something that you do in your primetime, to become a major part of your life and working hours, especially when you're alone. Oh, yes. People do read official reports, piles amd piles of them, in carrying out their work. I don't call that soul-enriching reads.... not all of them anyway.

Oh yes...some people don't even like to be alone for it makes them feel so lonely. No avid reader will say such a thing for "they're never less alone than when they're alone". ( I forgot the author of that quote!) They always carry a novel or some good reading stuff, even when they go for holidays. They'll need something to read by the poolside or on the beach, thereby making the frequent gorgling and leering at the "cheesecakes" or "beefcakes" passing by less obvious.

You can't force yourself to read especially heavy stuff like a two-inch novel or a hard-cover text. You have to like them as you'd a pretty face with deep mysterious smiles and inviting looks. That is why the Government campaign to encourage Malaysians to read doesn't seem to be very effective. The avid readers need no campaign while the non-readers have have many other hobbies to attend to and reading is not one of them, nor is it a must chore like eating, drinking, rushing to bed or the toilet and...you know!

Maybe we should encourage them to become bloggers. Let them pour out their minds and pent up feelings, frustrations and all, and in trying to understand and put them into words, the'll need to read and consult the dictionary sometimes. They'll need to understand themselves, their feelings and idiocyncrasies. Once they find that reading sharpens their focus, deepens their understanding of things and makes their minds puff and whistle with ideas, you don't have to ask them to read. They'll
have to read like they have to eat and drink or feel their heads going empty.....

The novels can give them life experience (2nd hand of course) which they can never dream of experiencing. You can't dream of anything you don't know about and even if you do you won;t know what you dreamt about, would you? Books on specific area of knowledge and interest will open your horizon beyond classsrooms and lecture theatres. The website can of course give you all the tasty morsels from the experiential wisdom of bloggers - including the funny, the weird and the profound.

Intelligence has to do with making sense of what you see, hear and experience, even when things contradict and negate each other. The more sense you can make out of the nonsense ( or what doesn't make sense at first and does not appear to be rubbish) the sharper is your intelligence. Reading helps you to do this and will certainly make you a better blogger with sharper insight and a wider purview. If the best way to learn is to teach, the best way to read is to write!

So bloggers, keep writing and reading. You out there who read sometimes but don't write, try some writing and you'll find that you have to read. Otherwise your nogggins will go dry or your blog will not "fly".

Monday, July 23, 2007

What Makes Malaysians Most Happy?

I've tried to examine what makes Malaysians laugh the most elsewhere on this site. Unexpected accidents, mishaps or tragedies not involving death, unexpected reaction, verbal replies and repartees, and sex related jokes or anecdotes seemed to win top prize. BUT, LAUGHTER CAN BE A MOMENTARY THING, A FLEETING MOMENT OF JUBILANCE OR JOY interspersing a long and extended period of gruelling, mundane and repititious working life with snatches of lighter moments here and there. A few bursts of laughter a day do not necessarily constitute HAPPINESS.

Sooo....what IS happiness? When is a Malaysian most happy? I don't mean just laughing away with friends over silly jokes and ticklish or hilarious situations, but feeling real happy, bubbling with joy or contentment and full of exuverance, falicitations and a zest for life!

Whoaaaa.. There could be too many candidates for that prize. A pay rise, a promotion, getting the first "yes" from your girl or
boyfriend for a visit to cloud 9, walking through the golden threshhold of matrimony, striking a lottery, getting the car, the house or the job that you've dreamt about.... All or any combination of those would make a guy bubble up with joy and happiness!

But ask a schoolboy or a schoolgirland what type of answer would you get? A HOLIDAY....... No school, no homework, no
getting up at 6 o'clock or earlier in the morning! What more if there's going to be shopping spree, a trip to some exotic
holiday resort with fishing, boating, skiing etc., or even a stay in some luxurious hotel where you can swim, frolic or just laze around by the poolside.

And you know what? Even adults, married or single, with children ( ie. mommies and daddies) or without, tend to agree that HOLIDAYING is one hell of a source of happiness in life. It gives you a break from the bane of working, the stress of keeping up with the work schedule, meeting deadlines, fulfilling expectations and competing with friends and foes, and worst of all,
keeping up with your own hopes and aspirations and dealing with the frustrations involved. I say "one hell of a source of happiness" because holidaying has its own price in terms of efforts and expanses. It involves a lot of NECESSARY and COLATERAL DAMAGE to the purse or bank account. And, unless it's always overflowing with bounties, it can take its toll on your peace of mind when the holiday is over!!!

So, HOLIDAYING and VACATIONING seems to take the first place in making us Malaysians ( and I'm sure others too if they are normal people like us) happy. I've some young people who said that getting married and settling down with the one he or she loved very much, is or would be the main source of happiness. But some married couples, especially older ones, seemed to be rather ambivalent or even nihilistic on that matter. Some said that once the honeymoon is over, the beez begin to buzz or boss around. I'd better stop there, before somebody clobber me on the head...

The holidaying and vacationing matter is not over yet. Expenses is one thing, What about the time required? How many of us had kept postponing the holiday or vacation we had planned for so long?

That takes us to the issue of HOW MANY DAYS DO WE WORK IN A YEAR AND HOW MANY DAYS OF REST ARE WE ALLOWED? Unless you're the master of your own working empire, the big boss of your own companies and conglomerate who can take off for a vacation in Los Vegas, the Pacific Islands or anywhere you want anytime you want to, the holidays are dictated by the office schedule.

For the normal office worker in the Government and the private sector, working days are five days a week ( it used to be 5-6 days) from 8am to 5pm or 8 hours a day excluding lunch and coffee breaks. Looking at the 2007 calender, we have 262 working days for the year, 104 rest days on weekends ( Saturday and Sunday) and 15 days of public holidays for WP and KL with 6 days falling on Saturday and Sunday.

According to my rough mental calculation that gives us a total of (262x8) 2096 working hours per year for 2007, leaving us with 102 days of rest ( subtracted from 364) or 896 hours calculated in terms of normal working hours ( 8 hrs /day). Hey..
that works to about less than one hour of rest for two hours of work or less than a days rest for two days of work. That's the time you have for working out a holiday schedule. But of course. In addition to the normal weekends and public holidays, all white collar workers are also eligible for at least 20 -30 days of leave. That's another 160 - 180 office hours equivalent. So we do have about a day's rest for two days of work. Am I right or I need a holiday to cl;ear my mind and straighten out my maths.

That's beside the point. What I have examined is one of the common sources of happiness - the holidays and vacation - and
our chances of taking it from the normal schedule of office work for the year. It doesn't look that bad at all provided that you can afford to go on a holiday every year or more than once every year. Those in business and measure their income in terms of the time devoted to work, will of course have to work out the opportunity cost involved before taking a vacation. But, look at the faces of your beloved ones. Do they need a holiday and a vacation to make them happy. If so, why not make them happy for you'll be happy too. What's money for anyway? We make money in order to spend it, right? Spending money never fails to make one happy.......

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Bahasa Oh Bahasa...

Nampaknya ada kekeliruan sedikit dalam perkara Bahasa Melayu dan Bahasa Malaysia. Bagi saya yang tak suka kepada kecelaruan kognitif (cognitive dissonance), Bahasa Malaysia ialah Bahasa rakyat atau orang-orang Malaysia tak kira keturunan, budaya atau ugama. Bahasa Melayu pula ialah bahasa rakyat keturunan Melayu, sama seperti Bahasa Cina, Bahasa India. Hindi dll. Namun Bahasa Melayu sudah diterima sebagai Bahasa Resmi negara mengikut Perlembagaan sedangkan Bahasa Malaysia sudah menjadi satu mata pelajaran wajib dalam sekolah-sekolah untuk peperiksaan SRP. SPM dan STP/STPM ( Kertas BM).

Lebih penting dari kecekcokan mengenai terminologi mana yang lebih sesuai digunakan dalam keadaan mana. ialah masalah penggunaan Bahasa itu dengan BETUL. TEPAT dan MANTAP. Betul dari segi nahunya (grammar), tepat dari segi penyampaian maksuk ( sinteksnya) dan mentap dari segi gaya-gunanya (usage). Jika tidak digunakan dengan betul, tepat dan mantap, cacatlah kejatiannya dan malulah penggunanya,apalagi jika ia berketurunan Melayu . Bagi pelajar-pelajar sekolah ia bererti dapat pangkat "C" saja sebaik-baiknya atau GAGAL TERUS dalam mata pelajaran BM!

Saya sungguh hairan kenapa ramai anak-anak Melayu sendiri ramai yang tak dapat menggunakan Bahasa Melayu ( alias BM) dengan baik dan tidak boleh mendapat pangkat "A" dalam peperiksaan sedangkan ramai pelajar-pelajar bukan Melayu yang sudah dapat berbuat begitu. Malah ada orang-orang dewasa Melayu sendiri yang tidak dapat menggunakan Bahasa dengan betul. Alasan "saya bukan pengarang atau penulis" tidak dapat diterima kerana kepandaian itu adalah perkara lain, bukan soal membuat ayat atau menyusun kata-kata dengan betul sahaja.

Apa rasanya bila mendengar orang Melayu sendiri berkata:
" Aku tak ada pendapatan mengenai perkara 'tu. Awak boleh tanya sama Samad. Dia akan cakap semuanya. Dia boleh percaya punya orang, very trustworthy . Aku percaya sama dia untuk cakap hal 'tu. Dia kawan baik aku sama sekolah sama mandi sungai.."

Mungkin ada yang akan berkata bahawa petikan di atas adalah bahasa perbualan. Boleh saja menggunakan ayat-ayat yang tidak lengkap, tak betul nahunya dan bercampur aduk dengan istilah Inggeris. Jika anak-anak muda sekarang pula, perbualannya akan penuh dengan bahasa bunyi ( "gedegung" berlanggar, dia datang "wooosh", sekali aku bagi "gedepak")
dengan gerak-geri yang lebih menyampaikan maksudnya dari kata-kata yang digunakan. Apabila ajuk bunyi itu( onomatapoeia) serta gerak-geri tangannya (gestures) disekat, mereka mungkin tidak akan dapat bercerita langsung!

Tetapi kita tak ambil peduli, tak mau menegur dan membetulkan dimana yang boleh pada waktu kesilapan itu didengar. Baik bila mendengar anak-anak kita berbual apalagi jika yang berbual itu adalah orang dewasa. Kita biarkan saja dan ada kalanya kita juga membuat kesalahan yang sama. Lain halnya bagi orang-orang Inggeris. Ibu bapa selalu saja menegur anak-anak mereka apabila melakukan kesilapan nahu (grammar) dalam perbualan. " Mind your language.....mind your grammar, John!"
pernah kita dengar dalam perbualan keluarga di TV.

Tak bolehkah kita sebagai ibubapa tolong membetulkan Bahasa Melayu anak-anak kita dalam perbualan sehari-hari di rumah? Pembetulan begitu tentu akan lebih berkesan dari tunjuk ajar di dalam kelas-kelas BM di sekolah. Jika Bahasa yang digunakan di rumah sehari-hari selalu simpang perenang seperti lalang ditiup angin, apalagi jika dibiarkan pula bercampur aduk dengan Bahasa Inggeris ( kadangkala memang digalakkan begitu!), janganlah terperanjat jika rakyat berketurunan bukan Melayu akan suatu hari berbicara dan menulis dengan lebih lancar dan fasih dari si Dolah dan Mamat.

Lebih penting, Ah Chong, David, Aramugam, Mei Li, Devi, Amjit Kaur dll. dapat pangkat "A1" dalam BM di dalam peperiksaan SMR, SPM atau STP/STPM, manakala Dolah dan Minah dapat "C" atau lebih teruk dari itu dan gagal terus.....

Hi, Pottermaniacs......!

God! How come a wishy-washy, magico-hallucinating story concocted while on a train ride, capture the minds of young and old and produce a literature of its own genre selling 325 million volumes in 64 languages, in almost every corner of the glob!! The release of the final volume was material for a Hollywood blockbuster-thriller by itself. The authoress, J.K. Rowling, is being worshipped like a Muse Godess.

Miracles do happen and they need not be initiated by Saints or Prophets. They occur when men ( & women of course) pray and hope feeverishly for something to happen, to save them from calamities, disasters, mental depression, frustration and despair.Their souls cry for something that can give them fresh hopes and nourishment.

The Harry Potter phenomenon seemed to answer their cry for the miracle, and it came in the form of a literary craftsmanship par excellent, freeing human beings from their earthly mental bondage, taking them into a world of ethereal beings with Godlike capabilities, where things can materialize or dematerialise at the utterance of a hocus-pocus..and where everything imaginable comes to live in extremities ( of dimension, colour and charachter). The phenomenon brought to life by the books and the celluloid screen, has shattered the logico-sanity prison of the human minds - especially the young.

Yes, I've read the Half Blood Prince from cover to cover and others snatchily, and seen two films including Harry Porter and the Order of the Phoenix. Boy, they all succeeded in raising my hair. blood-pressure and sense of bewilderment. The literary or novel-writing acumen of the authoress is magnificient while her imagination belongs perhaps to the sixth dimension of existence....

But, I stop to ponder! Why are the kids, the young people, and even some of the older ones including myself get so easily carried away by the magico-hallucinating adventure as presented by J.K. Rowlings. Is it because we're tired and fed up of reading about this mundane world of human intrigues and debauchery. revolving around money, women and power. I think Harry Porter gave us a new dimension of the same but in an ethereal world of make-belief. Maybe the kids should tell us why they like Harry Porter the Magician so much, as much as I love the magic shows before and even now.....

So, Pottermaniacs..... care to share your gut-level views? Old Uncle would like to know!

Friday, July 20, 2007

What's WRONG With Us Malaysians Today?

As an old man I've been following all aspects of development in our beloved country with love. The mass media present the everyday concern and psychological frame of the Malaysians in general. The printed media, especially books written by Malaysians,present our intellectual development. But the BLOGGERS indeed provide another ERSTWHILE HIDDEN DIMENSION of our culture, the articulation of our repressed feelings, emotions and psyche. Even some of our "dirty" thoughts which, when shared with others, become exhilarating and even edifying....I dare say even intellectually stimulating, sometimes.

It's a ponderous thing to read some of the writings by our Parliamentarians and scribes like Kadir Jasin. They bring the issues discussed in the papers to a more human and pedestrian level. But politicians, especially from the opposition parties, tend to heat up things that would otherwise become a laughing matter in the hands of master jokers like Rojak Daily and others . I think the rib-ticklers among us have something to tell to the serious social commentators and the politicians. Where is your sense of humour or don't you have any funny bone at all? Can't we laugh at some of the odd things that grace our Malaysian way of life?

Think of the issue raised on whether Malaysia is a secular state or an Islamic state! When I see Malaysians in coat and tie, and you find them all dressed up that way in the offices and at meetings, I know that we have a modern country and coat and tie is the official dress for work among the executives. The rest are in shirts and trousers or pants including some of the ladies. They look very secular to me. Then I see those in Baju Melayu, jubah and serban going to the mosque for their prayers. They are Muslims but they will change their attire and look secular again when there return for work, except for the religious officials. Even some of them put on the coat and tie. All parliamentarians (and judges too) wear a cap with their official garb when attending parliamentary sessions. Does that make them all Muslims?

I think it would be funny to see all the men in Malaysia wearing the Baju Melayu or the Jubah with songkok, ketayap or sarban as people in an Islamic state do, doning of course their tradisional attire. There's no compulsion in Malaysia to dress like a Muslim, even for the non-Muslim ladies. Food is a matter of choice and only those specifically mentioned as 'haram' are forbidden to the Muslims. As for your religion, the non-Muslims are free to pursue their own faith and beliefs. In the street and coffee-shops ( or restuarants and cafes and especially night clubs), Malaysians do not have to worry about being secular or Islam. We do practically the same thing in practically the same manner, with peculiarities and idiosyncrasies that are borne more of personal taste than religious requirements.

In brief, can't we have a secular state with Islam as the formal religion or an Islamic State with a secular orientation and philossphy. What's more important is we're free to pursue our style of life in style. And that's more than what people in a
"sectarian" state can do! Our Constitution has given us the life we have today and I don't think many people want to trade it for something else!

What Makes Malaysians Laugh?

I have been absorbed by the issue of determining what makes Malaysians laugh the most. What really is humourous to us and what is not? How come some local TV shows which are supposed to tickle our ribs ( or ketiaks?) failed to make us laugh and sometimes reduced to groaning! In fact some comic sketches or skids become pathetically superficial, humdrum, unnatural or outright insulting ethically, morally or intellectual.

My incomplete and superficial survey led me to these tentative conclusions. Everyone is free to refute the validity of my conclusions and if they raise a chuckle it would've served another unexpected purpose - a surrendipitious outcome!

Malaysians laughed (or guffawed) hardest when they see some fumbling "clowns" or "wierdos" meet with an unexpected tragedy:
like a fall from a high place, being knocked down by a passing truck, crushed by a crane -but of course being able to walk out with just a mere limp. Tom's suffering at the hands of Jerry in "Tom and Jerry Cartoon" is a case in point. We like to see people suffer but not fatally, of course.

The psychologists call this trait SCHADENFREUDE - A MALICIOUS ENJOYMENT OF ANOTHER'S MISFORTUNE. So, one can say that most Malaysians (of course there are many angels among us) are schadenfreudic. What a term! The simple Malay version would be "suka tengok orang susah"! Wow, lagi teruk. The opposite trait is GLADENFREUDE - HAPPY TO SEE OTHER'S ( especially your own friends) GOODLUCK OR FORTUNE. The Malay version is even simpler. Suka tengok orang suka. Hey, which one are you? There's no value judgement attached here, only a little nudge in the ribs.

The second source of laughter is, we rejoice at seeing stupid behavior or reaction unexpectedly stupid ( or witty of course depending on ypour pov), or naive. Things like: Q. How was the kiss? A. Wet ( From The Rain Man), Q. Who did Rafiah marry? A. A man, or Q. Kita nak ke mana? A. Ke depan! (This reminds me of Hafsyam's ad. Jalan mesti kedepan jangan kebelakang!)

What kind of trait or attitude can this habit of laughing at stupidities or naivettes be called? I haven't come across the most approprite term but NAIVETTEFORIA seems suitable, obtained by just combining "naivette" and "euphoria", a state of being happy. Of course we can try to coin other terms like IMBECILEOPHORIA a person who loves to laugh at those blunderers or
fumblers like Mr Bumstead, or IMBECILEOPHILE. a person who like to laugh at imbeciles, while those who hate blunderers can be said to suffer from IMBECILEOPHOBIA. Getting a headache? The Malay version would be much easier - sukabodoh!

Malaysians seem to just love to laugh at stupid people or action and reaction. But cool down. So do many others in the world and Walt Disney made a huge fortune plying to peoples' IMBECILEOFORIA. Why so? It's simple psychology, really. People feel good when they see others more stupid than they are. Imbeciles and stupidos can become an egobooster!

The third thing Malaysians seem to laugh at the most is something that has a sexual frame of reference, connotation, inuendos etc, or plain lewd and erotic. It can be the action of an oldtimer getting excited over an SYT, a "dirty" joke but a surefire rib-tickler, a "juicy" conversation, a crude sex-act episode, or anything that stirs up one' concupiscence ( you need a good dictionary for that one although you surely know what it means).

Some would say that "concupiscenic" anecdotes or wisecracks must surely top the list of rib-ticklers.Everyone ( including the ladies) love erotic jokes. It has been said that ladies (real ladies) would not not laugh at such jokes when told by a man but among themselves, they can break the richter scale. People just love such jokes, the cruder ( some say the harder) the better.
I'd leave the rating to the readers since my research is neither complete nor scientific, with an ample degree of freedom and hence a very low level of confidence ( that's for the researchers!). The population sample is actually the bloggers and readers' response.

But there we are, the three things Malaysians laugh at the most. All other sources of laughter seem to be variations of the same theme. I hope this has not been an exercise in FLOCCINAUCINIHILIPILIFICATION ( a thing of no value, trifle, nothing
(Source: 1000 Most Challenging Words, Norman W. Schur). I sometimes laugh at the English Language. It can be a lot of fun but unfortunately many Malaysians prefer Malenglish or Singenglish, using it as a source of laughter, perhaps as a fourth
kind. Well, it's a free country......Laugh at whatever you like for laughter does invigorate the soul. He.he.he.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Problems of the Muslim World

The International Conference on "The Role of the Islamic States in a Globilized World" has highlighted many problems confronting the Muslim World and Islam. They include the provision of "solid" education to the ummah, uniting the Muslims in facing the world power, failure of religious scholars and Islamic Institutions to adapt to the modern world, lack of qualification to comment on Islamic issues among journalists in most Islamic societies, the spread of "violent, heretical and extremist movements that have wreaked havoc across the world and turned Islamic states into outcast societies", threat of globalization etc.

At the grassroots level, one will hear the local Imams, Ulamas and Mullahs raving about the ignorance of the ummah on religious knowledge, failures to uphold the "amar makruf" and "nahi mungkar", lack of piety and enforcement of what is "wajib"
and staying away from what is "haram", loving material wealth and power too much, and not performing the daily prayers and other requirements of the ibadah as demanded by their faith.

We all know the problems. But what is the answer, the solution, the action needed to remedy the situation? In fact the 43 hadith of Rasulallah on Peristiwa-peristiwa Akhir Zaman ( Signs of Doomday), potray the ultimate disaster that will be faced by the Muslims and Islam when Doomsday approaches. The hadiths speak of signs that we see today, already happening around us.
They indicate the root cause of some of the problems plagueing the Muslim world which the Ulamas and World Leaders of Islam are talking about.These include:

* a phobia called "wahan" - too much love for the material world and fear of death among those afflicted;
* a slow disappearance of religious knowledge with the death (and no replacement) of the Ulamas;
* following the footsteps of earlier people destroyed by Allah for overindulgence in wordly pleasures,basking in their wealth, accumulating and acquiring wealth through stealths, and inciting jealousies amongst each other;
* rejection of the Hadiths (which explain and reenforce the al-Quran);
* widespread corruption;
* the disappearance of trust and sense of obligation;
* children will revolt against their parents,the climate will become hotter, evil people will exceed the good, will be better rewarded and will not respect the latter;
* people care less about the source of their wealth, be it halal or haram, and interest-taking is rampant;
* alcohol is consumed under other names;
* there will be more women than men, adultery is rampant, one man will "manage" 50 women;
* women will give birth to their own masters; the poor suddenly become rich;
* the pious will be ignorant while the ulamas will misuse their knowledge;
* trustworthy people will be distrusted and the frauds ( Ruwaibidhah) entrusted to run the government;
* wars wiil be rampant;
* time will appear shorter and shorter, hours like minutes, days like hours;
* mineral wealth will be widely exploited but not by the Muslims;
* the deserts of Arabia will become fertile valleys;
* the Euphrates river will dry up and expose a mountain of gold: 99% of those fighting for it will perish;
* there will be no imam to lead mass prayers and the ulamas will be ignored;
* religious knowledge will disappear and so wil the content of the al-Quran;
* 15 sins (or injustices) will become most pronounced: national wealth owned by a few, trust is sold for wealth, tithes become debt, husbands become handpeck, sons go against their mothers, distanced themselves from their fathers, become closer with friends, the dishonorables in society will become leaders, respect is borne out of fear, men will wear silk, artists wil be idolized, music will rule the day and later generation will curse earlier ones.
* other signs include: adultery will become rampant and explicit followed by the spread of venereal diseases, there will be widespread cheating on weights in business, tithes will not be paid and Allah will stop the rain causing draughts, the ability of enemies to rob the Muslims of their properties will increase, civil war among the Muslims will occur due to neglect of the al-Quran and the teachings of Islam;
* Islam will remain in name only, religion sold for wealth, mosques are built for pride and prestige, the haj and umrah is performed not in the name of Allah.

Leaders in Islamic countries, politicians in power, the ulamas and the ummah as a whole can certainly take steps to allay or curtail the forbodings mentioned in the hadiths. Doomsday will certainly come but let not Islam be doomed before that Day and let not the ummahs become mere "bubbles" or broth in the ocean, without significance of prestige. The politicians and the ulamas must indeed sit together to stop the wars and bickerings among Muslims and get on with more constructive enterprises.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Failure of Muslim Leaders

Finally, the PM has come out with a bold statement on why the Muslims have been left far behind in the race for progress and development. The Muslim Leaders have failed "to give their people a solid education, the knowledge to move ahead in life. We're lazy in seeking knowledge." (NST July 17).

Islam Hadhari has been offered as an approach to ensure that the ummah are given an education more in line with modern needs. "
" A real threat facing Muslims today is poverty and backwardness. If we want to return to our days of glory, education is the answer," he added.

Fine. But what sort of education are we talking about? More secular...economics, politics, IT, business, corporate strategies and war games..?
One thing we note today is that the Muslim extremists, fundamentalists, fanatics, terrorists, suicide bombers, jihad fighters or whatever we want to call them, are not uneducated or simpletons. Some are very highly educated, including western trained professionals. Even the majority of the ummah today are not illiterate or without any education, especially those who are actively involved in fighting for the rights of the Muslims.

The difference between them and the ordinary or "moderate" Muslims as noted by Sam Harris in "the End of Faith" is that, "..they are extreme in their faith...in their devotion to the the literal word of the Koran and the hadith...in the degree to which they believe that modernity and secular culture are incompatible with moral and spiritual health ( as held by the Muslims)."(p.29).

These people want to die as martyrs and go straight to heaven with 70 people they could pick to join them, including their parents, family members and relatives - hence the support given to them!

What kind of education are we talking about then to get the Muslims out of poverty, backwardness, their internecine bickerings and mutually destructive attitude and predisposition, their constant attempts to get at each other's throats? It seems sometimes that the Muslims are the worst enemies of the Muslims! Hence, some work hand-in-hand with the non-believers to destroy their so-called brothers and sisters!.

What kind of education do we need? The leaders and the ulamas must again get together to discuss this "grave" matter. For my part I feel that Islam Dharuri is the short term answer. All Muslims must realize the danger of religous confrontation and war, the crisis and dilema they are in now, and the need to act immediately. They must invoke all the provisions of "dharuri" as provided in the Quran and Hadith, and do what is necessary (harus) for survival in this world, rather than harp on the promises of the next.

The provions of Fiqh al-Awlawiyyat must be invoked and their priorities reset so that facing the world with one voice and one determination becomes the goal as is their obeissance to Allah and no other gods!The fighting between Muslims should stop at once and the strength of the ummah turned to rebuiding the brotherhood of Islam for "progress and development". Yes, I'm resorting to a cliche because there're so many things that need to be done with less talk and more work, less heat and more light.

More education is certainly needed especially in regard to the actual meaning and actualitzation of the "brotherhood" ideology. If the rich and wealthy Muslims can continue to wallow in the comfort their god-given wealth while those under duress and severe aggrevations fight, suffer and die, it's very difficult to think of them as praying to the same God as the ummah. Education must indeed include reeducation of the leaders.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Ulamas and Politicians

" Sudah tiba masanya kita gabungkan ahli politik dan ulama untuk mencari titik pertemuan dan menentukan pendekatan yang boleh diambil untuk penyelesaian (masalah persengketaan sesama umat Islam khususnya di Asia Barat yang telah berlarutan begitu lama dan mengorbankan banyak nyawa)," kata PM di Persidangan Akademi Fekah Islam Antarabangsa ke 18. ( BH Selasa 10 Julai).

( The time has come when we should put the ulamas and the politicians together to seek a solution to the problem of conflict between Muslims especially in West Asia which has been long drawn and has sacrificed many lives).

I think the PM has suggested something that seems unthinkable in the past. Putting the Ulamas and the Politicians together to solve conflicts that have rocked many Muslim countries - not excluding Malaysia to a certain degree! It would be wonderful if they can sit together and discuss the future of the Muslims and the Muslim countries based on the lines of good governance as laid down by the al-Quran and Hadith.

As it is the Ulamas are too soaked up in the dictate of the aqidah and fiqh as determined by different mazhabs, to be able to
ponder over urgent socio-economic problems facing their country and ummah. The Shiites and the Sunnis in Iraq for example are at each other's throats, even when US's guns are following their every move. Don't blame the US soldiers if Muslim's blood continued to be spilt. In the Palestines, Hamas and Fatahs are giving the Israelis a wonderful time to see them slaughter each other, and help out when they feel like doing so. No excuse needed really!

The politicians are of course too busy playing politics. Everything is a game and their job is to get the best out of the situation. You can really get the best out of the worst situation. If you loose out you're no politician. You play to the gallery and to the power that will ensure your own wellbeing. Even a friend can be an enemy if he threatens your position. Does your religious belief matter? It doesn't show on your face.....

Only if the Ulamas are willing to accept subjugation to Allah and conformance to the injunctions of the al-Quran and Hadith as the basic identification of being a Muslim and the basis for working together in the spirit that all Muslims are brothers, can the differences between them be resolved. I think the blood of the Shiites and Sunnis is of the same colour when spilt by their fellow men or even the enemy. So is the blood of the Hamas and the Fatahs. The differences in Mazhab and political leanings
cannot be as grave as the difference between locals and foreigners, defenders and aggressors.

A dead Muslim is a dead Muslim whatever his mazhab is. Let no Muslim kill or help to kill or help others to kill another Muslim. His blood is haram to another Muslim so long as he or she prays to no other than Allah and upholds the teachings of the al-Quran and Hadiths. If such an attitude is impossible to assume now, assume it as a "dharuri" measure, in the face of a siege by foreign enemies. Only such an attitude can bring the Muslims together in these times of political and economic crisis. It is the Ulamas who must forge this move. Aren't you all the same in the eyes of Allah SAW? Don't you read and abide by the same "kitab" - the al-Quran? Won't you be going to the same place after death - either Heaven or Hell? Don't you pray in the same manner with very minor variations and observe the same code of Islamic ethics - the Amar Makruf and Nahi Munkar?

The difference perhaps is more in your article of faith as dictated and shaped by local culture, way of life and religious traditions ( often based on Taqlid). The extremists, fanatics, and suicide bombers are consumed by the desire to become martyrs, since that's the easiest way to heaven, although suicide and throwing yourself in harm's way is prohibitted by Allah.
They are not ulamas, and ulamas can be killed by them! So, why don't you "get your act together" as spiritual leaders of the Muslims working more on the unity of purpose rather than the diversity of sectarian beliefs!

As for the politicians, especially those in the position of leadership, they have to ask themselves: Am I a Muslim first and a politician second, or vice versa. If being a Muslim is more important to you than being a poltician ( or a leader), then talk to the Ulamas. Otherwise, there can never be a meeting of minds for the Ulama is looking towards heaven while you're satisfied with being successful and powerful on earth. It's for this reason that in the west the State separated itself from the Church in the middle ages. Islam does not separate the affairs of the State and religion. But politics tend to keep religion at bay and politicians only seek refuge in the teachings of the al-Quran and Hadiths when they are in a fix and need to play up to the gallery. In this regard I make a distinction between Politicians, Leaders and Statesmen. I'll let the Political Scientists in the Universities deal with this matter.

So, what the PM suggests seems to be a very important step in trying to stop the internecine bickerings between the Muslims,especially in West Asia and the Middle East. But the Ulamas and the Politicians must do some soul-searching, before they can work together effectively. Such a move may yet bring back the glory of Islam......

Monday, July 9, 2007

Rape, theft, religion....

About 10 teenage rapes a month ( 52 Jan-May, 906 in 2006), 33 cars stolen a day (4907 Jan-May), kidnapping and child killing,incest, "murtad" ( Muslims leaving Islam which had reached 250,000 according to one source) - these are some of the major stories in the daily paper, aside from robberies, corruption and road accidents.

There will always be crimes in society, anywhere in the world. But the increase in in rape cases and "murtad" in Malaysia is most distrurbing.

These cases involve the Muslims. On the subject of Muslims who wnated to leave Islam,the Prime Minister said at the opening of the 18th Conference of the International Islamic Fiqh Academy, "I have always told our religious authorities that they should be ready to listen to (their) grouses and solve (their) problem," (NST July 10, p.2). I have a feeling that cases of rapes and incests among the Muslims are also related to the way our religious authorities are handling the religious issues. "We must walk away from senseless polemics in minor matters and instead focus on the priorities of the ummah," the PM added.

Yeah.....there's nothing wrong with Islam. There are now 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide.But the way Islam is interpreted by the authorities and enforced through the Syariah laws, especially in some muslim countries, may be rather disturbing.

Many people say Islam is too rigorous - pray 5 times a day, fasting, cover up the body, no mixing around between men and women etc. But then, the way Islam is enforced in Malaysia is nothing compared to how things are in Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and even Saudi Arabia. Of course we're not as liberal as Egypt or Turkey! But.... many things that would enrage a pious Miuslim, are tolerated.

I think that Islam must be given a new perspective - not just the "hadari" concept but more on the "dharuri" line. Afterall Islam is under severe criticisms and attack by the west, especially the superpowers that are not playing a fair game. It has reached a crisis situation in the Middle East with Muslims fightiing and killing each other.

Islam cannot be just preaching meticulous conduct, purity of the soul and a selfless approach to life anymore. The basic issue now is how to live a clean life in a dirty, messy, and unjust world. In a world where material wealth and brute power will determine who wins. The Ulamas sometime try to show the young Muslims the way to heaven, whereas they have not even known what real life is on earth as yet. Little wonder that they rebel.

Islam does allow a Muslim to 'break the rule' in times of emergency. I suppose if 'survival', ensuring your wellbeing and progress and not being shortchanged are the concern, the ''dharuri" rule can be applied. What is most important is that your
"iman" and "subjugation" to the will of Allah should never be compromised. The Ulamas who make life difficult for the Muslims must remmember that the Prophet (pbuh) chided his friends who made prayers unnecessarily difficult and that Islam
advocates what is easy and simple ( yusra wala 'usra).

Friday, July 6, 2007

Local Film and TV Drama

There certainly had been a big step-up in the production of local films and tv dramas in recent years. but I was amazed to read that India produces 900 films a year. Wtih a population of about 1.12 billion that gives us a film per cap of 1.24 mil. 11 million go to the movie everyday (See Johan Jafar,NST July 7, p23).

How many filems do we produce per year with a population of 24 million? And how many TV dramas or mftv films? Quantity is one thing but what about the quality, or - more importantly - that quality which makes a film quite immortal and people want to see it again and again. In many cases, you see it once & that's more than enough. Better go for a Hollywood blockbuster or even a Hindi biggie.

The producers have said many things why we can't produce even 10 films a year. Though box office collections have climbed to RM7 mil ( Cicakman), who goes to the cinema for a local fare? Kids and Teens. Why? Films made for kids cannot be enjoyed by the grown-up and more mature audience while serous filems ( such as those directed by Rahim Razali) cannot be appreciated by kids and teenagers. There's a failure to bridge the generation gap here. But Walt Disney's films are enjoyed by both! Can we say the same for Kluang Man, Cicakman, and other attempts at TV cartoons already aired on the local network?

The tv drama series we see now again beg the question of acceptibility by both the young and old. They are more "soaps" in the stye of Hollywood's rich and ugly, full of corporate intrigues and manouvres. Some of the rich and wealthy characters are not convincing at all and the intrigues very shallow. Can they really attract the mature Tv viewers or would they rather turn to HBO, Cinemax or Starmovie?

We certainly need more thinking on these matters if the public is not going to be forced to swallow cinematic thrash from our local producers and TV stations or otherwise turn to the Hollywood channels.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007


Experience with friends and family members tells me that those who cannot appreciate what they have can never be happy with what they get.

From that premise I deduce that those who cannot be happy with what they get cannot appreciate. Maybe a stupid deduction but to me it's a truism. Or is it just a tautology?

Working on my own fallible self and my kids as a test case, I used to have an old bicycle (with one brake and no speed gears) which was my most precious means of transporation. I cycled ten miles to school and even undertook a journey to Singapore with two other bicycle-lover friends. My uncle whom I visitted in Singapore scolded me for putting him to shame - not being able to afford the cost of a round trip by bus or railway to the island. He wanted to send us all home by train at his expense but we scooted away by night on our trusty leg-orerated machine.

When on becoming wealthy enough to afford a 3-speed bicycle I bought one way back in the 1970s, I treated the bike like a Ferrari or a Lambourgeni. But in the 1990s I bought my son a 16-speed racing bike. He was happy for a few weeks then threw it away for he wanted a mountain bike - a carbon fibre machine with 24 speed and costs >RM4000. God! My bike cost less then RM200 and I thought it was extrvagant and frivolous. Now, the machine lies in pieces in the storeroom, taken apart for repair but never put together again. My daughter on the other hand was given a Nokia 95 handphone. She cast it aside a few weeks later for a Dopod...I don't know what...

Talking about relatives,....no, I'd better not, lest it looks like a grouse. No, not even about friends. Only self-criticism is acceptable and decent. I was given a little Notebook computer by my wife. I could not appreciate it because it had a very limeted capacity or memory - just one megabyte. I was given another with a 2MB memory. Now I've been give one with a 2GB
capacity and....I think I'd appreciate one which is small, cute and very light, which can be a video camera, a music box, a communication equipment and ...hell if I know what I really want!

But I love an old camera which shot many brilliant photos of me as a handsome young man. No modern camera can produce that kind of shots anymore. You bet!


Who among you who drive haven't cursed or rant at other drivers on the street! Remember they have done the same towards you for misdemeanours you never intended. You think you're always right and the other driver is the fiend. Fact is both or you are RIGHT, if nothing happens. If you banged each other, then both are in the wrong.

Sometimes you like to be a very nice person on the road. You let people overtake you, let them pass through first at junctions,
smile and wave your hand at them to say, "Hello, I love you...." But before you could rejoice at your own sweet being, someone just cut across inches away from your front bumper or keep needling you for driving too slow. Why you may even get a sudden blow of the horn or a spotlight from your back, especially at night. An even kinder greeting would be " Get off the road, slowpoe!" or " Tak makan nasi ka?"

Certainly that would be enough to turn an angel into a road devil. You either give an upraised middle finger or curse the rascal
that turned your blood pressure on. You're then easily tempted to return the compliment to someone else for anything that they do on the road which doesn't please you. You become a steaming roastbeef or buffoon behind the wheel yourself.

So.......let's not loose our cool. Man. Let the other driver display his or her vile temper and peppery innards. Just say 'cheese' and drive away as if Paris Hilton is sitting in her bikinis by your side taking a lesson in good driving.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

A Happy Morning

Weekday mornings are often lost and unnoticed in the hurry to get to work. One seldom sees the morning on weekends since the bed often refuses to let one go (or maybe the wife for newlywed) and the idea of just lollong under the bedcover or comforter with one's eyes closed is just to tempting.

Have you, therefore, really seen the sun rises over the horizon and bursts into its full glory of colours and shards of brilliant hues? The artist's palate is a pale comparison to what can unfold before your eyes. It's mind shattering and soul sturring for those who can get fully awake at dawn, and not just get up and shut yourself in the bathroom emptying your bowel.

Yes, the sun may have to peek behind thick clouds or haze to get a glimpse of the world and you. But even that is interesting. Imagine the mighty sun having to shoo away the clouds and haze to let itself be seen and start its function to warm up the earth! And you're still slothering in bed or cursing around on a monday morning because you're late for office....

Heeey, how about a big smile at the window every morning to see the sun lights up the eastern sky and starts to bathe you in its fresh morning glory. Celebrate with the sun a new born day and a new package of surprises coming your way. Be it a package of joy. some unpleasant experiece or just another ordinary day, the sun is always there to share the day with you, even if it had to fight the rain and the thick black clouds.

He's your old and trusted friend from dawn to dusk, until the night takes you away with its own offerings.

So What's New?

How often do we end the day saying that nothing new happened - it's just a copy of yesterday. Nothing can be further away from the truth except that you have not really observed enough of what had transpired in the day.

Here're some questions to see if things were really the same:

Was there no change at all in some of your friend's and colleagues' faces, their smiles or sneers, their voice or laughter?

There could be a lot of small differences which you have not noticed. And behind them could be many wonderful stories. If you've not noticed them you miss the opportunity to hear and see what changes have taken place in their life.

Was there nothing different in what you feel about things happening around you?

How you feel about things happening around you is a clue as to what could have changed. Your feelings are very sensative to changes and they are reflected by your pulse rate, blood pressure, body temperature and of course the gut feeling in your tummy. The changes that took place may be small and quite unnoticeable, but they could be the cue to something big and significant, in the process of evolving. Aren't those things more wonderful to observe than the final transition from what was to what is? Observe and you'll be surprised at the changes that occur but little noticed by people.