Sunday, July 26, 2009

We've lost Yasmin

YASMIN AHMAD (1958 - 2009)

I do not say it lightly when I write that Yasmin was a true Malaysian. Her works envisioned a society so guileless in ways we imagine Malaysia could never be – multicultural, multiracial, multilingual, many selves going about lives in the most unself-conscious way.

People were normal and the eccentricities of race or religion were not sharp edges to be avoided. Instead, in the world that Yasmin pictured and in the films she made, they were embraced - eyes unblinking - without irony or fear. People were people under their skin, immersed in the polyglot of everyday conversations that looked and sounded like Malaysia.

In Yasmin’s version of Malaysia, people were the same at the core of their being - however messed up their lives, whatever desires possess them, whichever direction they face when they prayed. No one was less noble than the other, none excluded, everyone's fates interwoven. They were our mirrors, and they reminded us that in her world as it is in our own, we are all poorer without each other.

The stories that Yasmin told imagined a society that could be. Sadly, they seemed also to be tales of a far, far away land, of a once-upon-a-time people, bathed in light and music resembling ephemera now lost and never to be retrieved.

We'll miss you Yasmin.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Wasted Salt and Dim Lights

What does it take to rouse people into action? Where is the Church when injustice and corruption stalk the land? A friend of mine wrote a letter to her fellowship group challenging them to do more than talk.

Last Friday in our cell meeting we talked about being salt and light, and how to impact our communities. There were only a few of us but we had a lively discussion. Jesus used the metaphor salt to indicate that Christians should be the preservative factor to prevent moral decay in the world. We talked about helping others, praying, listening, finances, etc... which are all good and commendable.

However, I cannot help but wonder how we Christians should respond to the reality of the terrible injustices that have plagued our land for so many years. If you subscribe to God being sovereign, then there is no dispute He has placed you and I in Malaysia at this time and age. I refer to the recent Teoh Boon Hock's case.

I had asked: Why do Christians call themselves salt and light when they seem unperturbed by what's happening to their neighbours and country? Are we numbed by all this blatant abuse of power... (as just another Malaysia Boleh thing?) Or are there other things Christians should prioritise, ie, evangelism programmes & building funds, etc?

But would we have kept quiet if Teoh was our son or brother? What happened to the greatest commandments to love God and our neighbour? Are Christians to be known for what they don't do (drink, gamble, protest, etc) rather than being praised for what their good deeds are?

I've gotten these responses:

"Oh, please don't bring politics into the church. What if it gets closed down?"

"We must use wisdom."

"Jesus never involved himself in politics."

"All we can do is pray..."

On the other hand, personalities like William Wilberforce, Martin Luther King Jr are hailed from our pulpits as outstanding examples of Christian character. Pardon, if my memory serves me well, they were not people who backed down nor kept quiet in the face of gross injustice and tyranny. And they gave their lives for it - Wilberforce died poor in his cousin's house. King was assassinated.

I am not saying everyone should be an activist, go out with placards shouting slogans. I am suggesting that Christians should start thinking differently, if we say we serve a God of justice for the oppressed, downtrodden and poor.

"All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men & women to do nothing".

(Note: Letter reproduced with kind permission of the writer)

Friday, July 17, 2009

1Malaysia plunges to new low

MACC deputy commissioner Datuk Abu Kassim Mohammad said with the five scrutinising bodies (the Special Committee on Corruption, Operations Review Panel, Corruption Prevention and Consultative Panel, and a Complaints Committee), the MACC hopes that it would not be accused of being the lapdog of the government. “They are experts with high integrity and respected by the community at large, comprising corporate figures, members of non-governmental organisations, legal professionals and academicians.”

Enough barking: Show us you are no mere lapdogs. Please.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Mohd Nazri: "Don't just accuse MACC of being responsible for this. If they (Pakatan) keep accusing them and their statements are made public, the people would form their opinions even before the investigation (on the death) is completed."

We're not accusing anyone of guilt; we're asking that the parties involved take responsibility. Tragically, few people in Malaysia are certain if our honourable ministers know the meaning of the word RESPONSIBILITY. In case you want to know, here's the dictionary definition:

1. The obligation to carry forward an assigned task to a successful conclusion. With responsibility goes authority to direct and take the necessary action to ensure success.
2. The obligation for the proper custody, care, and safekeeping of property or funds entrusted to the possession or supervision of an individual.

See also accountability.

Accountability is concerned primarily with records, while responsibility is concerned primarily with custody, care, and safekeeping. See responsibility.

"I know the police force will conduct a thorough and transparent investigation as we would not want anybody to cover up the truth," says DPM Muhyiddin Yassin

We all know what the police farce are capable of. Unfortunately, a thorough and transparent investigation is not one of them. We have all seen the very transparent outcomes of their investigations: there are too many corpses to miss.

“What’s going on?”
“How can this be happening?”

People ask what is going on; they want to know why it is happening. Have people no idea what is happening to the country? Are they being serious, or is that a rhetorical question?

God have mercy on us all.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Another vote against the Great Language Reversal

David Matthew of MySinChew gets to the bottom of the language backpedal:

SOME WEEKS AGO I wrote about a letter I received from a person who shall not be named which began with the words “With referencing to the above, please see my bottom”. Having read my article, many people begged me to reveal the identity of the person guilty of such appalling English.

My response was that it did not matter. Terrible English is everywhere in this country and there was no need to single this person out.

I was browsing through some shops a few months back when I came across a sign that said “Please do not touch yourself. We will help you.” Needless to say, I fled the scene as fast as my legs could carry me.

More recently I had dinner at a popular restaurant near a popular roundabout in Petaling Jaya. The quality of the English on the menu was dreadful. For vegetables, we had a choice between the “Lecture” which I believe should have been spelt lettuce and the irresistible bacteria sounding “Coli Flower” which was no doubt the cauliflower.

We were laughing so much while ordering but the waitress was oblivious to the joke. She herself could barely string a sentence of English together.

The Government’s decision to reverse the policy on the teaching of Science and Maths in English is both wrong and selfish. Coming at the heels of Datuk Seri Najib’s hundredth day as Prime Minister, the reversal is a reflection of a Government that clearly lacks the political will to make the right decision.

Let us not be concerned about the future of our children because we have to worry about the political repercussions if the policy is not reversed. In a nutshell, that seems to have been the basis of the decision.

The fact that the majority of ordinary Malaysians want English to remain as the medium of instruction for these two subjects has been nonchalantly ignored. The independent poll by the Merdeka Centre shows this quite clearly and the ongoing poll on Tun Dr. Mahathir’s blog is a foregone conclusion the way it is going thus far.

When Tun Dr. Mahathir re-introduced English for teaching Science and Maths, he justified the policy by arguing that much of the contemporary scientific literature was written in English and that it would be near impossible to translate all of it into Bahasa. This was because to translate requires three qualifications – fluency in English, fluency in Bahasa and expertise in the subject. Tun Dr. Mahathir opined that there are just not many people who can do this.

The former Prime Minister was dead right. Further, translations also take time. Scientific papers or textbooks released today become outdated extremely quickly. By the time it is translated into Bahasa, students in other countries are already reading more current material.

Proponents of the reversal take the rather misguided view that since this is Malaysia, we should just be speaking Malay and that is the most important thing. They also point to France as an example and say look at the French and how they insist in using French for everything.

With respect, Bahasa is not French. It will never have the reach of French globally and students in other countries are not going to flood into language classes just to learn Bahasa.

In any event, M. Xavier Bertrand, the former French Minister of Health was apparently once quoted as having said “I didn’t consider that as Health Service Minister, I would need English. I was wrong.” (Read the rest here)

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Flip-flops 'R' Us

Here we go (again).
Another view on the politics of education here.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

MJ and Mohan

There's a huge sending off party for Michael Jackson in downtown Los Angeles. I hear the megawatt ceremony will include A-listers from Hollywood and the music industry. Hence the tight security and all that.

Here in Malaysia, people are asking if MJ really became a Muslim. That would matter if MJ was Malaysian or resident in Malaysia. Hmm.

Right now the tussle over the late Mohan Singh's status - was he Muslim or wasn't he - has once again highlighted the continuing bizzare 'body-snatching' practices of our own religious authorities.

Anyway, the Shah Alam High Court has finally decided against Mohan's family and ruled that the deceased was indeed a Muslim when he died (albeit a 'secret' convert, seeing the family knew nothing about it) and should therefore be buried according to Muslim rites. The dead man obviously had no say, and neither did the grieving family. But armed with the court ruling the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (MAIS) went ahead with the funeral. Mohan's sending off was 'huge' too, but of a decidedly different sort. Hence the tight security and, know.

It's a terrible shame that these 'body-snatching' episodes continue. It's something you don't wish on anyone. No one truly gains from it - neither the grieving family, nor the religious authorities.

But what I fail to understand is, why aren't the Islamic authorities attempting to explain what's the rationale behind the need for a Muslim to have a Muslim burial? We know it is customary for Muslim burials to take place before sunset, but few know anything more beyond this.

How is it so important that the whole force of legislation (Syariah and civil) and physical might are exerted on one poor grieving family? Some other questions come to mind:
-Does it compromise the deceased's destiny in the afterlife?
-How does a burial ritual add merit to the deceased (or the Muslim community)?
-Does it compromise the Muslim community's integrity or sensitivity in this life?
-Is it a matter of religious pride or divine obligation, or merely a convention of Malaysian Muslims?
-What is the practice like in other Muslim communities or Islamic countries, or is there anything to be learnt from their traditions?
-How does Islam address the pain of the grieving non-Muslim family, or do we infidels count for nothing?
-Does it bring divine judgment on the Muslim community if one Muslim escapes proper funeral rites?
Enlighten us. Please. Tell us why the Muslim burial ritual is of such great importance (in contrast to other non-Islamic religious practices perhaps). I ask this sincerely. I really think there are many people out there who want to understand this issue to better empathise with all parties concerned.