Saturday, May 28, 2005

Good Question

Omar Hakim: Drummer extraordinaire

A few days ago my fifteen year old son Ethan and I went to a drum clinic featuring world renowned drummer Omar Hakim. The small room at the Regent was packed with 300 or more people all eager to catch a glimpse of Omar who’s played with legends such as Miles Davis, Weather Report, Sting, David Bowie, and Madonna. After a mind-blowing performance on the Pearl Reference Series drum kit (he played to tracks amplified straight from his iPod) it was time to take some questions from the floor. And here’s the point I want to make. We had questions like -

“How many hours do you practice in a day?”
“How many single strokes can you play in a minute?”
“So who are your influences?”

Ethan whispered that these were “inevitable” questions. Of course there were some interesting questions too, but they were just too few. Apart from the preoccupation with technique, speed, and hardware, is the fact that we weren’t asking good questions.

A friend of mine who’s with the media once told me that many Malaysians simply don’t have a feel for good questions. In the course of her job, she has had to sit through media interviews where visiting celebrities and performers field questions from our journos. Invariably they would ask questions like, “So how do you find Malaysia?” which is rather dumb considering the celebrity in question has just touched down. Or “How do you like Malaysian food?” when the said star has just been whisked from airport to hotel.

Neil Postman in his book Building a Bridge to the Eighteenth Century laments the lack of critical thinking skills which comes from question-asking.

“...all the knowledge we have is a result of our asking questions; indeed, that question-asking is the most significant intellectual tool human beings have. Is it not curious, then, that the most significant intellectual skill available to human beings is not taught in school?”

The reason no one is teaching our children the "art and science of asking questions" is because those in authority prefer students to be answer-givers, not question-askers, believers, and not sceptics, says Postman. “They want to measure the quantity of answers, not the quality of questions (which, in any case, is probably not measurable),” he adds.

What do you make of an observation like that?

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Road death

This is tragic. A 67-year old German cyclist on a round-the-world tour was struck by a car and killed outside the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, reported New Straits Times.

Klaus Wolfgang Martin from Berlin was riding his bicycle along Jalan Tun Razak around 11 a.m when he was knocked down by a car that then ran over him. Nothing was said about the car driver. Jalan Tun Razak is a very busy stretch, but what does it say about our roads when a man who survived several Asian countries such as Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand, and Indonesia, is killed on the streets of KL?

Here’s another snapshot of Malaysia’s infamous roadkills involving buses and trucks:

....[In Malaysia] accidents involving express buses reached an unprecedented average of 406 a month last year. Bus accident figures rose from 1,963 in 2003 to 4,874 last year. There were 53,470 accidents involving lorries [i.e. large trucks] last year.
According to Road Safety Department Director-General Suret Singh, 67 per cent of these accidents were due to driver error, 28 per cent to bad road conditions and the rest to the poor condition of the vehicles....
Source: NST April 2, 2005 Link: Drive & Stay Alive,Inc

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Church unity

Rev. Dr. John R.W.Stott

Out on the balcony, the morning calm is shattered by the sound of pile drivers pounding away nearby with maddening apathy. I'm reading Ephesians 4, reflecting on what it takes to maintain unity in the church. You don’t have to stretch your imagination much to see the gulf between the church invisible and the one that’s visible. While there is a place for healthy disagreements over peripheral issues and traditions, Paul’s injunction to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” remains vital.

One of my evangelical heroes John Stott , that self-effacing Anglican whose books (40 million sold worldwide) speak with quiet authority writes in his commentary on Ephesians, God’s New Society, that the verse in its original Greek carries an urgent tone, making this imperative a continuing and pressing concern for our day. We've got to keep at it, like construction pile drivers, but gently, I said to myself.

Stott locates four truths that God intends for the Church’s oneness:

1. It depends on charity of character and conduct
2. It arises from unity of our God
3. It is enriched by the diversity of our gifts
4. It demands maturity of our growth

Stott goes on to say that the basis of Christian unity is as much structural as it is moral. Expositing Paul’s letter, Stott believes however that it is never the structural but the moral foundation stones of lowliness, meekness, patience, mutual forbearance, and love, that must undergird and supercede any pursuit of unity.

Stott has had a deep influence on me, and when he writes about these things, you know they ring true because he is an exemplar of the very virtues he teaches.

Reading Stott's Commentary - I have owned this one since the mid-80s - I noticed a piece of paper between its pages. Like the book, the paper that I once used as a bookmark is yellowed on the edges. On it I found words I scribbled to myself so many years ago when I first studied Ephesians, hitting me now with a new force:

The more we know God,
the more we love our brothers.
The more we love our brothers,
the more we serve and build them up.
The more we serve and build them up,
the more we die to self-interest.
The more we die to self-interest,
the more we become like Christ.

Related stories:
New York Times David Brooks' article “Who is John Stott?” (if you haven’t already read it!)

David Limbaugh's comment on columnist Brooks' article

David Edwards spoke of John Stott as, apart from William Temple, “the most influential clergyman in the Church of England” during the twentieth century, and Alister McGrath has suggested that the growth of post-war English evangelicalism was attributable more to John Stott than any other person. John Stott Ministries

"Who is the Lord and whom are we going to obey?" Stott calls the Church to radical non-conformity

Friday, May 20, 2005

No to Church relocation

I am somewhat perturbed by the Kajang Municipal Council’s rejection of the Anglican Church’s relocation plan. While I appreciate that the sensitivity of neighbours must be taken into account, that this move was allegedly precipitated by a petition against it by 1000 Muslim residents sets an unfortunate precedent. Why should a church be built in a neighbourhood that’s predominantly Muslim, asked the petitioners? The following was reported in Malaysiakini.

“We rejected that application because the status of the land is residential and the area a residential one,” said an MPKj spokesperson. “The church was not included in the area’s layout regulations.”

The reply is disingenuous, as most plans (if not all) do not make provisions for other non-Muslim houses of worship anyway (eg Shah Alam, and the new administrative capital Putrajaya).

But what of the spokesperson’s next comment?

The official admitted, however, that the rejection of the application was also “due to the protests by local residents” who were represented by ‘eight parties’. These include a representative of a surau (place of prayer for Muslims) amongst other bodies, he said further.

This raises questions, and we need clarity here.

As it stands, Christians are in the minority and I do not see our numbers swell dramatically in the near future. If churches are only to be built in areas where there are more Christians than other religious adherents, no such places will be available. If Muslims object to the presence of a church in a neighbourhood, what would happen if other religious adherents (ie Buddhists, Hindus, etc) do the same on the same grounds?

While there is freedom of worship in Malaysia in general, it is not absolute as in many other countries around the world. The Government controls the building of non-Muslim houses of worship and to its credit, has eased some restrictions in recent years. But increasingly it is the local councils that often stand in the way. It’s a long-standing issue (also involves burial land for non-Muslims) which religious minorities in Malaysia have had to deal with and will continue to deal with in coming days.

Small-group house churches, anyone?

Related stories:
US State Dept report
Anglican Network of Interfaith Concerns
National Evangelical Christian Fellowship Malaysia report

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Sith Premieres in KL!

Revenge of the Sith
Kuala Lumpur Premiere
17 May, 8.30PM MegaMall

Yay! Thanks Michelle for the invites!
Well, it's everything they said it was: corny dialogue, wooden acting, overblown plot, great eye candy, flat at the most critical moment, devoid of any dramatic tension... but it was cool. Best of the first three.

We had to be subject to a body search, surrender mobile phones, cameras, PDAs, etc. At least we all got a movie poster each.
(And yes, I don't mind seeing it again)

Postscript:Jim Ridley ponders what Lucas' unrestricted power has led to in his review:-
And that's the problem. The actors don't have the gravitas or the presence to fill in these cardboard characters--and when you have Padmé explaining away Anakin's turn to the Dark Side by saying, "He's been under a lot of stress lately," you need something more than Portman's mallrat simper or Christensen's pouty, petulant torment to put it across. Instead, Anakin's downfall has all the cosmic grandeur of a guy going postal because he was passed over for a promotion. Lucas gets exactly the performances he wants--ones that mesh perfectly with their digitized, mechanized surroundings. But is that any excuse to turn actors into human coat racks? Poor Samuel L. Jackson: As the Jedi Mace Windu, he gives roughly the same monotonous performance that Robert Bresson would've beaten out of him after 50 punishing takes.

Lucas has many eccentric gifts as a director, but tragic depth is simply beyond him: This is, after all, a series of movies that opened with the casual vaporizing of a planet. The shallowness of the characters is doubly frustrating in Revenge because they've been assigned grand passions they don't begin to possess.
(Read Jim Ridley's full review in the Minneapolis City Pages here)

Monday, May 16, 2005

Exam nation

Perhaps it has something to do with my own uneasy upbringing that has made me wary of school achievements and social status as requisites of the good life – the endless comparisons with my brilliant high-achieving cousins, the self-conscious demeanor of my parents in the company of the wealthy.

But I do despair at well-meaning parents who drill into their children the need to excel, pass exams (and therefore have good jobs) because that’s the 'calling' of every school-going child. “It’s your station in life,” droned a Sunday School Teacher to the children in a Sunday School class. My sons complain that not a week pass without some mention of schools, studies, exams, so much so that the kids in the class constantly ask for prayer because of exam anxieties. Now I am not saying a child is not supposed to study hard or pass exams; I am merely concerned this preoccupation excludes other things which may be just as important, if not more important.

We are a nation obsessed with exams and it shows. Even Malaysian churches make a big fuss about exams by holding group prayer for kids facing school exams (PMR, STPM, etc). Church leaders intone the usual mantra that these students would be strengthened to do well, glorify Jesus, etc. Is it any surprise that so many of these children have no other interests outside school? No hobby they feel passionate about, a poor appreciation for reading (for pleasure) or the arts, scant regard for church or things spiritual, and total indifference about the state of the world.

When these same kids grow up, adults wonder why all these people care about is their careers. We fool ourselves that this is reality, that this is what life is all about, unaware that it is we who have made it so. It bothers me even more that those who make noise about “worldliness” do not count this myopic conformity as one. Novelist David Guterson (Snow Falling on Cedars) who’s a highschool treacher (and homeschool advocate) has very perceptive things to say about this in his book Family Matters:

"A counter argument I often hear is that the competitive life of schools is a necessary prerequisite to the competitive economic lives adults lead. But this is the argument of people who don’t distinguish between social health and financial success, between sound relationships and the necessities of financial success, between the welfare of society and the mechanics of capitalism. Those who assert that we are condemned to social struggle in order for our economic system to work assert by extension that we must lead unhealthy social lives. Schools should not be arranged so as to foment a perpetual and relentless social strife merely to prepare people to perpetuate the same arrangement when,one day, they go to work in the world. On the contrary, we should want our schools to aspire to something better.

Educators complain about unsupportive parents who blame everybody and everything but themselves for the fact that their children are poorly educated…Yet career-track parents are only doing what they’ve been taught to do by an educational system that prepared them for economic life while simultaneously excising them from their families; their absorption in self, work, and money are the inevitable products of our sociopathic schools, where they learned to compete for external rewards and to claw their way to the top."

Dr David Elkind, whose book The Hurried Child: Growing Up Too Fast Too Soon (Rev 2001) made an impression on me, wrote that parents are feeling more afraid and insecure than ever, and are projecting their fears by hurrying children to do more, and sooner.
“While parents have traditionally taken pride in their offspring’s achievements and have been concerned about their education, it is a characteristic of contemporary society that we burden preschoolers with the expectations and anxieties normally (if wrongly) visited upon high school seniors. Today, parents brag not only about the colleges and prep schools their children are enrolled in but also about which private kindergartens they attend.”
Elkind also said, "People give their kids a lot materially, but expect a lot in return. No one sees his kids as average, and those who don't perform are made to feel like failures." I mean, like all parents I too want my children to succeed; I want them happy and confident and secure. Onthe other hand, the tendency to measure these qualities materially is a big hint that our talk about laying treasures in heaven and seeking God’s Kingdom has not translated into deepseated life-changing worldviews.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Sin's Holocaust

Berlin's Holocaust Memorial

Berlin’s tribute to 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis 60 years ago takes the shape of a Holocaust Memorial designed by American architect Peter Eisenman. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder who presided at an official opening ceremony a few days ago said, "Today we open a memorial that recalls Nazi Germany's worst, most terrible crime, the attempt to exterminate an entire people." More.

Undulating grey slabs designed to give viewers a sense of
instability and a loss of orientation.

Constructed out of 2,711 dark gray rectangular slabs resembling an undulating sea of tombstones, the controversial memorial is not without detractors. 60 years after Auschwitz, Germany is welcoming Jews back to the country that gave the world the hideous expression, the Final Solution. More.

200,000 Jews mostly from the former Soviet Union have arrived, mostly non-German speaking, giving rise to social problems. There’s talk of quotas now. Said Claudia Roth, co-chairwoman of the Greens, "We are going to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and then we tell the Jews that want to come here: You are unwanted. That is shameful." More.

Steven Spielberg's 1993 Oscar-winning hit

All these made me pull out my Schindler’s List DVD for a midnight viewing. The movie is a thing of appalling beauty; its in-your-face brutality draws you in even as it makes you avert your eyes. The liquidation of the Krakow ghetto was especially painful to watch and I choked more than once. Of course the story is not just about death, but about one womanising German profiteer who chose not to turn his eyes away, and who by so doing found redemption through saving more than 1000 Polish Jews.

I have read Thomas Keneally’s best selling book, but the writer’s dreary narrative lacks the force of the movie with all its visual detail. What’s frightening is not merely humanity’s capacity for evil as evidenced by Hitler’s genocidal policies, but the fact that we have not learnt anything from it. Think Darfur. Iraq. Or WTC for that matter.

Today CNN reports that a father in Illinois has been charged with the killing of his 8-year old daughter and her 9-year old best friend. Both girls had been stabbed 31 times. In the book Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton said that original sin is the only thing in Christian theology that can really be proved because anyone can see it in the street. We’ve bought into a false dream of utopia, blinded by all our wealth, technology, education, and progress. Can salvation be near when sin is not called by its name?

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Pope Benedict XVI stays the course

Pope Benedict XVI Posted by Hello

The May 2 issue of Time had some interesting things to say about the new Pope. Writer David Van Biema called it The Turning Point, the story of Vatican II reformer Joseph Ratzinger turned arch-conservative and present Pope Benedict XVI . You can't read it online so I'll recap the part that caught my eye.

It was liberal Swiss theologian Hans Kung who recruited Ratzinger to the theology department at the University of Tubingen in 1966. "Back then we were on the same side," says Kung. But Ratzinger’s tenure at the university coincided with the ‘West German version of the 1968 student protests in other parts of the world but with less psychedelia and more Marx.’
The university became a hotbed of radical theology. Students distributed flyers calling the Cross a sadomasochistic artifact. They threw tomatoes and yanked away professors’ microphones to disrupt lectures and force “dialogue.” “Those were rough times,” remembers Kung. “And Ratzinger did not digest them well.”
The experience was particularly traumatic because Ratzinger had advocated - and was known for advocating - greater openness. According to Wolfgang Beinert, an assistant and friend of Ratzinger’s at the time, Tubingen “triggered a huge fright. Ratzinger believed that he was in some way responsible, guilty of the chaos, and that the university and society and church were collapsing.”

In another write-up in Newsday, headlined, Pope Journeyed from Reformer to Enforcer Jeffrey Fleishman quotes Kung:
"Ratzinger is a letter writer, not a man of confrontation, and he was deeply disturbed by these Marxist commandos. He was wounded internally. He felt betrayed. It was a decisive moment for him. He's timid and suspicious and he developed a complex against reforms."
The New York Times while echoing the same thought had more to say when it wrote that campus turbulence in the 60s hardened Ratzinger's views [subscription required]:
The experience of the student revolt seemed to confirm every suspicion that Father Ratzinger already nurtured about liberalizing tendencies and the hidden germ of totalitarianism lurking within revolutionary movements.
But the article also added that Max Seckler, then the dean of the Catholic Theological Faculty and now professor emeritus at Tübingen did not think the new Pope was shocked into becoming a conservative:
"He didn't become a conservative, but he understood that every reform brings out a bad spirit as well as a good spirit and that he needed to be more discriminating, that he had been naïve in his way of thinking."
However you see it, I have no quarrel in a Pope being conservative. Although there's much to disagree with the Catholic Church, there is something to be said about a church leader who still holds on to the authority of Scripture when loud voices demand he loosens up on traditional moral values because, duh, this is the 21st century. (But I happen to stand with Kung whose rejection of papal infallibility got him into trouble with the Church)

I like the phrase 'the hidden germ of totalitarianism' which I think not only lurks within revolutionary zeal, but also within the human spirit. When God's Word is no longer recognised as authority, no alternatives exist that give more than they take away.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Yangon blasts

A three-and-a-half year old boy was among four Malaysians injured during bomb explosions in Yangon last Saturday. "The four were at the scene when the bomb exploded. They are part of a 15-member Malaysian group from the Lutheran Church in Setapak who were visiting Myanmar," a Malaysian embassy official said in Yangon. More...

The explosions took place over a 10-minute period on Saturday afternoon, when two upmarket shopping malls were jammed with shoppers and the convention centre was filled with visitors to the final day of a Thai trade fair. Burma's military rulers blamed ethnic rebel groups for the series of bomb blasts in the capital, Rangoon, killing at least 11 people and injuring 162 others.

Doctors at Yangon General Hospital, admitted they had been ordered not to speak to journalists about the numbers of dead, as others who had witnessed the blasts said it was unlikely that all 162 declared wounded had survived the bombings at two shopping malls and a trade centre. "A news blackout has been imposed," one doctor at the hospital told AFP on Monday. More...
The number of Malaysian church and volunteer groups that have visited Myanmar in the last several years always knew their trips were never a fun vacation. Deadly blasts like these ones will undoubtedly remind people that missions carry risks that outweigh the cost of an air ticket. While I'm shocked and saddened at the number of dead and injured, thankfully Malaysians escaped relatively unscathed.

Friday, May 06, 2005


10 minutes without oxygen left fireman Donald Herbert in a near persistent vegetative state for 10 years, not seeing or speaking. Three months after his physician Dr Jamel Ahmed gave Herbert drugs normally used to treat Parkinson's disease, Herbert miraculuosly woke up and asked for his wife Linda. Read the amazing story here. It seems Herbert wasn't the only brain damaged patient to show sudden improvements, so says the news report.

Makes you think about Terry Schiavo who according to her attorney David Gibbs "...jabbered. She complained when she was in pain. She fussed at the staff. She laughed when her mother came in, and she cried when her mother left. She teased. Her father, Bob Schindler, would come in with his mustache and beard, and she would—in her own way—play with him about how they tickled her."

But they pulled the plug and let her starve to death.

The late Francis Schaeffer was prophetic when he wrote in The Great Evangelical Disaster (1984):
"And if one thinks of human life as basically no different from animal life, why not treat people the same way? It would only be religious nostalgia to do otherwise. And so it first becomes easy to kill children in the womb, and then if one does not like the way they turn out, to kill the children after they are born. And then it goes on to the euthanasia of anyone who becomes a burden or inconvenience. After all, according to the secular world view, human life is not intrinsically different from animal life - so why should it be treated differently."

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Love, sacrifice, and Anakin

Star Wars fanboy, Roberto Rivera y Carlo, has some interesting insights on love, sacrifice, and free will. In comparing the dilemma faced by Spider-Man’s Peter Parker and Anakin, Roberto says both individuals are compelled to deal with issues of love and attachment.Where Peter Parker feared his love for Mary Jane would endanger her life, Anakin’s attachment to his mother and Padme – attachments a Jedi must forsake or risk suffering and sliding over to the Dark Side - led to his downfall.
As Lewis’ The Four Loves reminds us, most of what we consider most noble and worthwhile about being human ― our capacity for love and sacrifice, the idea that we are free to choose good and reject evil ― come from what Christianity taught us about what it means to be human.

It’s a story about a love so strong that it will not give up on anyone, no matter how far gone they may seem. It’s a story about a love so persistent that it will follow the beloved into Hell itself to rescue him (or her) from death and eternal damnation. This story doesn't belong to the universe Lucas conceived of, but it's why Star Wars ultimately makes sense to us.
It's a thoughtful piece and you can read it here.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Spider-Man India

This is not a joke. Posted by Hello

His name is Pavitr Prabhakar and he is Mumbai's (Bombay) own swinging Spider-Man. He's got the familiar red spidey mask, but dig those pointy shoes and flapping dhoti around his waist.
"Gotham Studios, a joint venture with Deepak Chopra and film director Shekhar Kapur, will create original Indian properties based on mythology and folk tales, which it hopes will influence popular Western culture much in the same way that Japan's manga comics and anime animation style have."
You can read what they're saying about India's very own Spider-Man here. Visit Gotham Comics (the Indian licensee of Marvel Comics) and see more spidey artworks here.

The next thing you know there's going to be a new breed of Chinese X-Men with fancy shaolin and wuxi moves.

Newspapers go down

Newspaper circulation declines 1.9% by ZDNet's IT Facts -- The Newspaper Association of America said Audit Bureau of Circulations data showed average daily circulation of 47.4 mln at 814 daily newspapers, a decline of 1.9% from the same period a year ago. On Sunday, the average circulation was 51.1 mln at the 643 newspapers tracked, a decline of 2.5% from a year earlier.

Last year the World Press Trends survey presented to more than 1,300 publishers and editors from 88 countries at the 57th World Newspaper and 11th World Editors Forum in Istanbul, Turkey, showed that global newspaper advertising revenue rose 2 percent in 2003 from a year earlier and is forecast to continue a steady increase through 2006.But global newspaper circulation declined 0.12 percent in 2003 compared with a year earlier although it was up 4.75 percent over the five-year period from 1999 to 2003. More at the site.

On the other hand (the blog for World Editors Forum) is looking behind its shoulders, worried that bloggers are nipping at their heels : "Are blogs and newspapers even compatible, or will they exist to oppose one another. And the worst case scenario, will independent blogs become successful enough to rival newspaper revenues?"

It's tempting to imagine that blogs are changing the way people are reading their daily news...

Monday, May 02, 2005

Waiting for the Dark Side

Revenge of the Sith comes out May 19. Shock! Horrors! Anakin is Darth Vader! Is there anyone out there who is not looking out for the final chapter of George Lucas’ mythic Star Wars saga?

Of course I share most critics’ views that the spontaneity and fun of Episodes 4, 5, and 6 got lost in the ambitious but super-cool CGIs of The Phantom Menace and The Attack of the Clones. Never mind that the scripts sucked, dialogue was juvenile, child actor Jake Lloyd was more mannequin than Anakin, etc.

I like what Roy M. Anker said in his book Catching Light: Looking for God in the Movies about Lucas' epic. Obviously the director drew inspiration from world religions and mythologies to contruct a metanarrative with an unmistakable pathos for the new millennium. Here's what Anker said of Lucas:
"With studied restraint, he does not go so far as to specify which God he is depicting; but his prime purpose, he says, is to show his audiences what it is like to believe in God.....It is easy to see Lucas trying to construct his own sci-fi versions of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings or C.S. Lewis's protracted fantasy in The Chronicles of Narnia. Some conservative religious people have fretted extensively about supposed "New Age" influence. But it is best to take the series as Lucas intends it: an exploration of what it is like to live amid invisible realities that shape individual lives and that care, radically, for the fate of this whole world."
Peter T. Chattaway in an aside to science fiction author Robert Sawyer defends the relevance of sci-fi and concludes that, "The stories that last, after all, are the ones that transcend their origins." Which is why we should not dismiss the sci-fi genre as so much kiddy fare.

WIRED magazine has an excellent pre-Sith issue documenting the rise and rise of Lucas and wonders if he’s going to let go and explore more edgy, non-narrative stories. Lucas is already an empire to himself and his contribution to cinema – directly or indirectly – is mammoth. It quotes Lucas’ interview on the original Star Wars Trilogy DVD documentary Empire of Dreams (which to my mind is one of the most fascinating accounts of Star Wars lore, and a superb addition to the box set):
"I’m not happy that corporations have taken over the film industry, but now I find myself being the head of a corporation, so there’s a certain irony there. I have become the very thing I am trying to avoid. That is Darth Vader – he becomes the very thing he was trying to protect himself against."

View from the sidelines 2

Malay Bibles redux
National Chairman of Democratic Action Party (DAP) Lim Kit Siang puts on record his position on the Malay Bible controversy in a letter to Malaysiakini, clarifying what he said in Parliament:
Firstly, I asked whether logically, the Quran should be stamped with the words "For Muslims Only"?

• If the problem of the Malay Bible is that it could be read by Muslims, does this mean that one day, even the Bible in English could be banned on a similar grounds, especially as all Malaysians, including Malays, are being encouraged to master the English language?
• On the Internet, all Bibles, including those in Bahasa Malaysia, can be accessed. Do we have to ban the Internet?
Affirmative action analogy
A visit to tacitus brought me to the following comment by catsy of Slouching Donkey, Lying Elephant. Hmm, is there a familiar ring to this analogy?
I'd long had an attitude towards AA that varied between ambivalent at best and vehemently opposed at worst, but this was what tipped me in favor of it, but with racial considerations removed in favor of economic ones.

Roughly paraphrased, it was: if you're a baseball manager and you have the choice of drafting two players with the same averages, form, and speed, do you choose the rookie or the seasoned veteran? The answer is, of course, the rookie: the rookie is already as good as the veteran and has his whole career to learn and improve, while the veteran is much likelier to have already gotten as good as he's going to get.

This ties into your fourth paragraph: take two students, both with 3.6 averages. One is a rich son of a prestigious alumnus, the other comes from a impoverished inner-city family and school district. Wouldn't you give more weight in admission considerations to the latter, who has succeeded despite the strikes against him, than to the former, who achieves the same average despite the best education and resources money can buy?