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Archive for December, 2007

Her final journey….

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Verily we are from Allah and to Him is our Return. 

Watch the first YouTube videoclip from the AlJazeera English Channel here that was aired in mid-October 2007 as Tim Friend tells of a Pakistan gearing up for the expected return of Benazir Bhutto. Compare this with Hashem Ahelbarra’s report, aired on 18 December 2007, on her funeral and burial at her family’s mausoleum in the southern province of Sindh. It also tells of violence spreading across the politically embroiled nation as Pakistanis wonder what the future holds and the world waits for the return of peace with bated breath.

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I saw the news ticker tape scrawl across the TV screen at about 10pm last night and jumped out of my chair. This can’t be true I blurted aloud! But it’s true, Benazir Bhutto was killed after gunfire and a suicide bomb attack targeted her at a campaign rally outside the Pakistani capital on Thursday. Twenty others were also believed killed in the attack here and here. Just as news of her death spread across the globe and her body is being flown to Rawalpindi for burial, Wikipedia has updated her death here.  

Watching the CNN Al Jazeera newsclips I am reminded of her “Daughter of Destiny: An Autobiography” that I read years ago. At the time she was a young, idealistic Oxford graduate fired up with fervour to bring Pakistan into the modern world with her, a woman, at the helm. In the book, she had written of her marriage with husband Asif Zardari that later turned out to be tumultous and scandal-ridden here and here. Since then I have felt only pity for her, woman to woman. In a land impoverished of peace and where violence among men reigns supreme, what chance does a woman have?

An SMS from a friend who has lived in Pakistan included this plea: ‘Hopefully things (political unrest) that happen in our country will end soon. Life is short but there are still people stupid enough not to live life to the fullest. Kak I hope you use your writing to bring awareness to the public.” What was she worried about? This report here about a Malaysian church suing the government for banning the import of Christian books containing the word “Allah,” alleging it was unconstitutional and against freedom of religion. The irony of it is that the Christian Herald has ceased publication in the United Kingdom as this website says here. Had this been Pakistan would this newspaper even exist?

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book-cover_awanggoneng.jpgBloggers are making big scary waves in the global mainstream media in Malaysia here, in Taipeh here, Saudi Arabia here, and United States here. On the bright side, South Korea hails the Citizen Reporter using Internet blogs as an influential tool of online journalism in 2007 here. Media Daum, South Korea’s largest Internet news service, named 14 users as the winners of the 2007 Blogger Reporting Awards, a rough equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize for online amateur journalism.

And then we have the “Blook” that Wikipedia says here is a printed book that contains or is based on content from a blog or vice versa. There is even a Lulu Blooker Prize here and here, the first ever literary prize for books based on blogs. My first introduction to a Blook was that of Awang Goneng’s “Growing Up in Terengganu” written by Kak Teh’s husband, Wan Hulaimi. Both London-based veteran journalists have their own blogs, ie. Kak Teh’s Choc-a-Blog Blog here and Kecek-Kecek here, that keep them in contact with fans, family and friends all over the world. I tried looking for this book at my neighbourhood MPH bookstore but it was out of stock, along with TELL magazine. Looks like publisher Monsoon Books will be going for a second print run soon so I will go book hunting again. Congratulations Wan Hulaimi and Kak Teh. Long live the Blook!

Veteran journalist pens bestseller

KUALA TERENGGANU: Veteran journalist Wan Ahmad Hulaimi has compiled his childhood experience in a placid fishing village with a book Growing Up In Terengganu. The former London-based Bernama journalist, better known by his byline Wan Hulaimi, has described the lifestyle in old Kuala Terengganu for the younger generation who would never have seen the good old days of the fishing state and how his grandparents lived. “I regard this town as my spiritual home. I bought my first books here and my father used to take me here to buy his kitabs (religious books) and newspapers. “It is very apt that now that I have written my own book, I have chosen to launch it here,” he said at the book’s launch at Alam Akademik bookshop here on Tuesday. 

Growing Up In Terengganu was written under the pseudonym Awang Goneng meaning a mischievous local boy. In the 336-page book, 60-year-old Wan Ahmad also wrote about the state’s history and geography. The book became much sought n Malaysia soon after its debut at the world famous Frankfurt Book Fair in October. It is now among MPH’s top 10 in the non-fiction list. Publisher Monsoon Books is making preparations for the book’s second print of 3,000 books. 

“The success of Growing Up In Terengganu has taken me by surprise. I started it as a blog on my childhood days in Kuala Terengganu to tell my children what is was like growing up in the past era.  They were born and brought up in London and have no idea what it’s like to grow up in Kuala Terengganu,” said Wan Ahmad, adding that the book was a nostalgic journey of a Terengganu boy.  

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Where were you on 26 December 2004, the day the Tsunami struck 12 Indian Ocean countries from East Africa to Indonesia and killed hundreds of thousands of people irregardless of race, nationality, religion, age and gender? I remember following news of this, mostly online, and the horror I felt at the rising death toll. Hope is all Madeleine McCann’s parents have to live on here, and what Tsunami survivors have been living on for the past three years here, here and here. Call it natural disaster or whatever but when the wrath of God/Allah strikes, it is non-denominational!

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I was thinking of Madeleine McCann on this gloomy Christmas Day in Malaysia and no, she is not home to celebrate it with her family as widely touted earlier here. And while the bells jingle merrily in sunny Malaysia, I wonder why being Muslim is so tough in the world today? I am born Muslim, brought up moderately religious, went soul searching in the pondoks of Kelantan after my father’s death and donned a head scarf of my own volition while a student in the United States in pre-historic 1980s. Talk about being minority, I basically covered all bases being non-white, Malay, Muslim and a woman wearing a headscarf. That piece of cloth turned me into a loner in a world of extremism of every kind.

Despite it’s deep personal significance to me, the headscarf seemed to pose a challenge to others who wanted me to take it off fearing I was suppressed, repressed and oppressed by the men in my religion. As a minority in a non-Muslim world I’ve been jeered at, told off, laughed at, snubbed and basically discriminated against by people who really didn’t care about the fact that I am a human being. But at the same time, I’ve met many more good people who looked beyond my headscarf, skin colour, nationality, religion and race. They treated me with honour, respected me for my abilities, applauded me for my achievements as a foreigner (what is a Bumi?) and accorded me the dignity of being a person in my own right. 

So forgive me if I don’t join any political groupings, don’t subscribe to narrow minded views, can’t stand hate rants and prefer to give those who disagree with me the benefit of the doubt. My dad taught me that we should always treat every person, irregardless of race or religion, with respect and to always have a sense of humour. So, I really do not understand why using the word Allah instead of God has to become an issue here, here, and here. So I view a Malaysian Chinese Muslim named Anis Ong’s response, to the article “Malaysia Takes God’s Name in Vain” posted on the Asia Sentinel , as both apt and well-worded. He writes: 

“The article was written with a lot of ignorance about the Islamic religion. We can’t have non Muslims using the word Allah to mean God, simply because in Islam, our God which is Allah isn’t the same as the Christian God. The Christian God is a Holy Trinity (Father, Son & Holy Spirit) whereas Islam is very, very firm that there isn’t such a thing as the Holy Trinity. So by interchanging the terms God and Allah, it will mislead non-Muslims to think that perhaps, God, Deus, Allah is all the same thing with the same description and attributes. There is another word in Malay that describes God and that is “Tuhan”. That should be the term used for a general idea of a God. The writer is trying to politicise the matter, unfortunately, by bringing in Umno. The article alludes that “Malaysian Malays are confused about the distinction between Islam and Christianity because they use the same word to describe the one God” … but to me, it is quite the opposite. Muslims in Malaysia are very clear about the distinction between the Christian God who sent his son Jesus to earth, and Allah, who “does not beget or is begotten “, ie has no parent or child. And we are very particular about it too. The writer also states that the “English Koran uses the words ‘In the name of God…'”. Does he know that in Islam, any translation of the Quran is just that … ie a translation? It is not, and never regarded as THE Quran itself, and it’s meaning will always be questionable as it is translated by humans and our limitations will always cause it to have some linguistic error. This is why true learners of Islam make it a point to learn Arabic in order to avoid any linguistic misinterpretation. Being Chinese, I don’t think it’s a racial issue as well (because the term Malay is used a lot in the article). It’s just about the fundamental differences between the two religions, that’s all … and so the terms of reference are different. It’s just a pity that the writer did not choose to find out more about Islam before commenting on it. Ignorance and finger-pointing aren’t a good combination.” 

I applaud you Anis for writing this comment. Whether people agree with you or not, you affirmed your faith in Allah in your own way. May Allah bless you for this bro! Again, I am reminded of the impact my headscarf used to have on others when in actual fact religious faith is deeply personal. Just as the comedy troupe “Axis of Evil” pokes fun at misperceptions of Islam, I believe Jeff Durham, an American ventriloquist and stand-up comedian here takes a few jabs at Muslim and Christian views of terrorism and religion. Watch this videoclip of him throwing his voice behind “Achmed the Dead Terrorist” in his Spark Of Insanity DVD. I’m telling you it forces us to take a reality check and maybe laugh at ourselves a bit. I wonder if Malaysia is ready for this kind of humour? It sure beats hate mongering I tell ya…..

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News Update:  It seems everyone, including Bernama, is asking the same question: Will there be a conclusion to Nurin’s Murder Case?  here. Last night it was clarified on TV3 that a suspect can be re-arrested upon the discovery of fresh evidence linking him/her/them to the case, so a situation of double jeopardy does not apply. Okay, what now?

Well, what can I say, Nurin Jazlin made TV3 news again last night. This time by virtue of a concerned politician, UMNO’s Youth’s Exco for Public Complaints and Consumer Affairs Dato’ Subahan Kamal no less. If any of you caught that coverage on Buletin Utama and the 1.30pm news on Sunday, you would have seen a very concerned political aspirant putting pressure on the police for the slow progress of investigations on the Nurin Jazlin Jazimin case. The 8o’clock evening news had a longer version with focus on crime statistics, unsolved crimes and concerns about lack of progress on many high profile cases. 

I found it interesting that the politician was telling the police to get on with their job and ticking them off for expecting the public to help out. When I first saw this on the 1.30pm news, I was wondering what the heck is this guy talking about. Like many people who post comments about wanting the case to be solved and the perpetrators arrested and punished, the politician seemed to be of a view that the police can wave a magic wand and solve the case pronto! It was only during the 8pm news when a comment by Kamal Affandi Hashim was aired that I was pulled from the brink of despairing about how shallow-minded our politicians and public can be. Kamal explained the need for police to act based on evidence that could be used by prosecutors to make the charge stick in court. He also mentioned about “double jeopardy” on repeated arrests of a suspect but I thought that this situation only applies to an individual being charged and tried in the court of law more than once for the same offence. I stand to be corrected on this.

All said and done, I believe at this late stage unless the perpetrator is suffering major pangs of guilt consceince and confesses all, the police can’t rely on witnesses to come forward. The high expectation of the public is unduly influenced by the miracles seen on TV lately ala CSI – Crime Scene Investigations. Wouldn’t it be great if all crimes could miraculously be solved within an hour and the forensic sciences make police investigation and police officers seem so sexy. But real life is not so cut and dried and there is more to crime solving that even Hollywood doesn’t tell you. It’s not easy to prove and worse, it won’t be easy to prosecute and put the perpetrator behind bars. The flogging, hanging, scalping, mascerating or whatever manner of torture the angry public has devised in their fury over this horrific crime will have to wait after he/she/they get caught, charged, tried and incarcerated as per due process of law.  

Forensic science is not foolproof either, as the UK police discovered in this BBC report here: “Dozens of people who had been cleared of charges, including murder and rape, might yet face prosecution. Re-analysis of 2,500 police investigations that relied on a controversial form of DNA evidence has raised the prospect of bringing these people to trial.” Prosecutors in the Omagh bombing case must be having nightmares here: “Though there was some circumstantial evidence against the brothers, the trial judge described the forensic evidence as “absolutely critical.” The brothers’ lawyer, Jimmy Watson, says: “Without the LCN DNA results David and Terry Reed would never in my view have even been charged with this offence, never mind convicted.” It has even affected the case against the McCanns here. Take home message? It is not going to be easy to catch these guys and worse, it won’t be easy to prosecute. But remember, Nurin Jazlin’s case was so high profile that they even had the FBI experts called in to help with the CCTV and all. 

I even felt a smidgen of pity when the TV3 anchorwoman explained that the media had nothing to inform the public because the police were not forthcoming with information while a newsclip was shown of a brusque IGP brushing off reporter’s questions on Nurin’s case. The question uppermost in my own mind is what the hell is going on here? What is the media trying to do? Media and politicians are putting the onus on the IGP again? Hhhmmm interesting! Aside from giving mileage to an aspiring politician, I would have preferred if TV3 had re-examined the issues again and re-broadcasted the videoclip of the CCTV to refresh the minds of people that the killer is still blatantly out there. Not eveyone has access to the internet. If the TV could re-broadcast that videoclip of the man with the bag again, the focus would be on finding who this man is. He would surely have pangs of conscience. Does he not have family, friends and even colleagues who could identify him? This videoclip holds the strongest clue and yet the police have cast it aside without using it to the utmost. Even if the IGP cannot give out information on details of the investigation, the police owe the public some kind of explanation. This is no ordinary case and the public interest is beyond any sweeping under the carpet. I believe the police have got to clean up their public relations skills as this is a matter of intense public interest. By keeping silent, they are giving way to all sorts of speculation and, of course, more opportunities for publicity seekers to use Nurin Jazlin Jazimin’s name in vain.

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I gotta admit that I have a thing about men who can cook. So after the hot Brits, I think a dose of sexy Bad boy chef cum food adventurer Anthony Bourdain here should be fair. A hunk of a man you can’t shove aside, Tony was born in New York and spent time in Paris, France. Couch potato that I am, I didn’t put in cable TV at home to avoid getting glued to the couch. So I can only see him in YouTube and on his website. When his show comes to terrestrial TV, I will possibly see his entire series but he is a bit of a radical so I am not sure when they will show it.

In the mean time, I think anyone who hasn’t seen his ‘Anthony Bourdain No Reservations “In the Jungle” Malaysia’ episode should take a look at these videoclips. After all the ethnic cleansing and politically-laced human rights activism raging at home and in cyberspace, Tony gives us how the Mat Sallehs view us. Maybe we need to take a good look at ourselves, a real honest look. We are so diverse a nation that it just won’t do to have people cross the line when it comes to issues of race and religion. It is this diversity that makes Malaysia so unique. Remember my earlier posts about penis snatchers in Ghana? Well, Tony reminded me that we really don’t need them here in Malaysia. Here, we eat that precious member of the male anatomy………..hhhhmmmm!!!!! 

Anthony Michael “Tony” Bourdain here is an American author and the “Chef-at-Large” of Brasserie Les Halles, based in New York City, and also host of the Travel Channel’s culinary and cultural adventure program, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations. He was on an oyster fisherman’s boat and tried his first oyster; ever since, he has traveled the world in search of food, good and bad, and has shared his results with the public. In these videoclips, Tony visits here: The Batu Caves, where the typical offering for a Hindu ceremony consists of traditional flower necklaces and milk. But first has 272 steps to climb. Wedged in between a row of auto-body repair shops and steel fabricators is a locals-only food joint aptly named “The Place Under the Big Tree.” Here Tony gets a traditional tatoo. The Iban longhouse villages of Sarawak, on the island of Borneo, where he dines on traditional Malay cuisine. (Source here)

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