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Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Best Piece That I've Read This Year

In response to the question below, my answer without hesitation, is YES.

By Aidila Razak

Standing up against tyranny of the majority

This isn’t a commentary about how the actions of a group of Malays in Taman Medan, Petaling Jaya on Sunday is un-Islamic.

This is not about another Muslim reeling in embarrassment or anger over the protesters’ antics because really, I don’t need to join the growing chorus of apologetic Muslims.

It is not that piece, not because I don’t think what happened on Sunday was acceptable. In fact, I think the protestors were off their heads and are deplorable.

You don’t need to be a Muslim to know that telling a church to take down their cross is un-Islamic. Indeed, you don’t have to be anything but a decent human being to know that telling people to hide symbols of their faiths is a pretty disgusting thing to do.

The reason I refuse to write this ‘Muslim condemning an un-Islamic act by other Muslims’ piece is that it is greater than that.

What happened on Sunday was not about a bunch of rabid Malays or Muslims, but about a bunch of tyrants and their sense of invincibility as the majority.

What happened last Sunday is the tyranny of the majority, and this is a cause I would rather raise my voice against.

Muslims not the only tyrants

While it is true that Malaysia is a majority Muslim country, and in this Taman Medan instance, the ones guilty of such tyranny are Muslims, Muslims are not alone in pushing their weight around on the basis of their numbers.

Across the South China Sea, Christian residents in Penampang, Sabah may ironically find a sense of camaraderie with the Taman Medan anti-cross protestors.

While protestors say “the cross sign should be removed” in 95 percent Muslim (or so protestors say) Taman Medan, residents of Penampang say the 12.3 percent Muslims who live there should not have a neighbourhood mosque.

They say the yet-to-be-constructed mosque - actually they cannot confirm if the construction within the compounds of local police headquarters will indeed be a mosque - is not a necessity.

Taking up the cause, local elected representative Terence Siambun in a statement said there is a mosque 10 minutes’ drive away so Muslims can just pray there.

"I cannot see how questioning the construction of a mosque in the middle of an area which is predominantly Christian tantamount to being racist or anti-Islam. This is purely a question of necessity,” the PKR rep for Moyog said.

Like Muslims in Penampang, Christians living in Taman Medan also have a church not too far away.

A man met by my colleague at Taman Medan the day after the protest said he now goes to a church about 15 to 20 minutes’ drive away. And to have one set up just three minutes from his doorstep is a delight.

Fear-mongering

I have had the pleasure of reporting from the lovely seaside city of Kota Kinabalu many times in the past few years.

Once, speaking to locals about the Royal Commission of Inquiry on Illegal Immigrants, one man recalled how his relative’s scholarship was frozen after the takeover of the PBS government.

He attributes it to PBS being a Kadazandusun/Murut-based party, and his relative not the same race or religion of the majority.

There is no way to truly verify if this is true, but several witnesses who testified at the RCI cited “oppression” by a “Christian government” as impetus for the mass issuance of ICs in the so-called Project IC.

Could it be just fear mongering by bigots unhappy that Christians are in the seat of power? Or could there actually be truth to discriminatory practices against minorities under a state government of and elected by the majority?

Peddling horror stories seems to have led to the Taman Medan protest, as well.

Going by self-style mediator (and protestor?) Abdullah Abu Bakar’s version of events, Taman Medan residents are fearful that the newly-established church just a stone’s throw away from their homes will start spreading the gospel to Muslim youths.

I am inclined to dismiss this fear of proselytisation. In fact, logically, if proselytisation is what is feared by the locals, they should welcome the massive cross sign. I imagine that covert conversions are more likely to happen in unmarked places, not one that screams it’s a church.

And truly, if someone really wanted to convince you to leave the faith you were raised in, it would take more than a cross sign.

Likewise, the residents of Penampang can sit tight knowing that their children will unlikely leave the church just because there might be a mosque in their neighbourhood. After all, like Siambun said, there is already one 10 minutes away.

Minority rights always, all the time

Minorities in Malaysia have often decried policies which unfairly favour the majority, and for good reason.

Like the relative of that Sabahan I spoke to, many have raged about bright students from minority races who were denied scholarships or spots in their chosen university courses seemingly due to the colour of their skin.

But unlike the Sabah case, it is likely much easier to prove such discriminatory policies and double standards in law enforcement against the minorities.

The fact that the Taman Medan protest is considered kosher (perhaps the better word would be halal), when a post by a pair of attention-seeking sex bloggers inviting someone to have bak kut teh for buka puasa is sedition, is evidence enough.

But that’s not the point, is it?

The point is, if we want to be angry about the Taman Medan protest, we have to be equally outraged over all manners in which the majority tries to push their weight around.

Growing up in a Malay community, I often hear people around me ask why we must “give face” to minorities. They are minorities after all, I am told, so should not demand too much.

But the strength of society is measured by how it treats its smallest and weakest.

We have to bend backwards to make sure the rights for minorities are upheld for the simplest reason that they are too small to do it on their own.

The Penampang mosque (if it is even indeed a construction for a mosque) is not yet there for residents to protest in front of.

But what if it is built and Christians there hold a noisy protest scaring congregants and demanding the crescent moon symbol be brought down, or for a halt to the azan?

Would you also stand up for that minority, too?

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Trams And Bicycle Lanes To Ease Congestion

In November 2008, I lamented that Malaysia was nowhere close to being progressive and environmentally friendly like the other countries I've visited or lived in.

I have been to over 40 major cities in my lifetime, so I've done a fair bit of comparing what Malaysia needs but doesn't have - and what the rest of the world has.

Bicycle lanes was top on my list. "Now when do you expect to see that in Malaysia?" I asked in despair.

It turns out the answer was: in 6 years' time.

According to the FMT, the government has already done a great deal in encouraging cycling as a means of transport.

The city recently opened the first dedicated bicycle lane, running for 5.5km from Mid Valley to Dataran Merdeka, at a cost of RM700,000.

More bicycle lanes were being planned, for Jalan Raja Laut, Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Bukit Bintang, Central Market, Jalan P. Ramlee and around KLCC.

A bicycle lane was being placed in Jalan Raja Laut, from City Hall to Jalan Ipoh, and later connecting to Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman and Jalan Rahmat, Malaysian Insider reported.

Eventually the new lanes will be connected from Mid Valley to areas in the city centre central areas, for shared use by cyclists and pedestrians.

And trams. For some reason, I keep relating trams to Europe, but the truth is, we used to have trams in Penang a long time ago.

There are the traditional-looking trams, which I have seen in Vienna:


There are also the modern ones, which I saw in Manchester city centre:


According to the mayor:

Between 1.5 million and 2 million vehicles enter the city every day, the report said, placing a tremendous strain on the roads.

“However, a good public transport system must be in place first,” the mayor said.

It's a rare moment when the Malaysian government actually makes sense and applies logic to its thought process. The fact that it thinks is also an anomaly.

But this is good for Kuala Lumpur.

It's far better that the money be spent on necessary amenities, than to fund Rosmah's shopping trips.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Justice For Batang Kali

It happened a long time ago, when Britain was struggling to maintain its dominance in the world.

There was a major war going on. The British wanted to maintain its hold on all its colonies, but in Malaya, the Communist insurgency was proving to be quite a challenge.

Britain eventually lost its power and status, but its sins have come back to haunt it.

It was a time when some lives were more important than others.

It was a time when some lives didn't matter at all.

The people of Batang Kali suffered because of this mentality.

A 14-man Scots Guards patrol was tasked with interrogating the villagers about communist guerrillas operating locally.

Given that no answers were forthcoming, it is very likely that said villagers had no information and probably were not cooperating with and/or helping the communists.

Yet 24 civilians were killed in cold blood.

The British, in the past, turned a blind eye to it, never properly having investigated the incident - for political reasons.

But this time, the Supreme Court is going to hear the case and have the witnesses tell their side of the story.

It's about time. It really is.

Related:
The Independent - Batang Kali killings: Britain in the dock over 1948 massacre in Malaysia
The Guardian - Malaya inquiry to hear from survivors of Batang Kali shootings by British troops

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Intensify Efforts To Find MH370 Or Just Stop?

It's been well over a year, and there is not a single trace of the MH370.

The world is curious, Malaysians are intrigued, and the families of the victims are still anxious to find closure and say a final goodbye to their loved ones.

The absence of a wreckage and remains sparks hope that maybe, just maybe, their loved ones could still be alive. This is not helpful.

The Malaysian government, in a rare moment of decency, has actually promised to double efforts and extend the search area if it wasn't found by the end of June.

However, an aviation professor from Australia opines that it is hard to justify expanded efforts, which have since exceeded $90 million.

“I’m not in the position of being one of the relatives, and I deeply sympathize with their situation,” he stressed. “However, once the areas of highest priority have been searched there are diminishing returns when increasing the area.

“This means there’s a huge amount of money being spent, and if you’re looking at saving lives through improving future safety outcomes, then the money is arguably much better spent in a whole variety of other areas rather than just ‘mowing the lawn’ in the ocean trying to find something.”

He also thinks that the cause of the crash was pilot suicide.

As there has been no established motive for suicide, no signs of depression or abnormality, no threats or notes, and seemingly, no quick plan to destroy the plane (they purportedly flew about for hours after straying from flight path), this conjecture doesn't seem likely at all.

For the sake of the families, I want this aircraft found too.

But like many other people, I somehow feel it wouldn't be found in the Indian Ocean, not because it is too difficult, but because we might all be looking in the wrong place.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Why Is Everything About Race?


I just had to post this piece by Scott Ng because what he said resonated so strongly with me.

When I lived in Malaysia, I always felt the pressure to think like my race, when most of the time, I had differing feelings and opinions about a particular matter.

Read about how Scott had his race, culture and heritage questioned over some of his unconventional views on Singapore.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Malaysia - Corrupted Or Not?

The co-founder of the corruption watchdog, Transparency International, very recently found himself the object of Malaysian ire.

Michael Hershman invoked the wrath of indignant Malaysians by saying that corruption is under control in Malaysia.

Now, if you're not Malaysian, and particularly if you have not had the pleasure of acquaintance with a Malaysian, you may be unaware that Malaysians are a very cynical bunch.

But we were not always like that.

Once upon a time, we were naive, gullible and would happily hold hands and sing kumbayah under a raintree.

And then, we woke up to the government that we had. One that blatantly and nonchalantly lied to us. We awoke to the discovery that some people got a bigger slice of the pie than others. And others did not even get any pie. Not even a crumb.

Malaysians generally believe that corruption is truly well and alive in Malaysia. Which, in my humble opinion, is true.

It is very annoying when 1MDB manages to lose millions of ringgit and the citizens are taxed with GST to recover that amount.

Heck, it's absolutely galling.

But when Hershman says corruption is "under control" he is comparing it to countries like the United States of America that appear that be clean and free of corruption, when it is ludicrously rife.

Ironically, the Malaysian style of corruption is most identical to the American style.

The Scorpene submarines which saw the Defence Ministry get massive kickbacks from the French DCNS group, is a prime example. The US equivalent is roughly the Iraq war, where a select bunch of arms dealers had squirreled some money into the pockets of Bush and cohorts.

However, what is worse, is that thousands of innocent civilians and military personnel were killed, both in America and Iraq, whereas the Scorpene submarine only resulted in the death of a Mongolian model.

For information on America's shenanigans for the past few years, read what the American academic Juan Cole says about the Top 10 Ways the US is the Most Corrupt Country in the World.

Bear in mind that the average Malaysian pays far less tax than the average American, who pays both federal and state taxes. Where there is no state income tax, they pay retail tax which is similar to the dratted GST that Malaysians are now forced to pay.

The cost of living is also much higher in America because retailers just charge so much more than what it would cost for exactly the same product.


The utility companies, like internet service providers (like Comcast, Frontier and Century Link) are in cahoots with each other, and so charge approximately the same exorbitant price.

So am I saying that Malaysians should lie back and just take it?

HELL, NO!!

The world is changing. It has been constantly changing for the past few million years, in case you hadn't noticed.

The once dominant leaders are no longer in power (except for Mahathir; we can't get rid of him); the once powerful countries are no longer dominant economically or socially.

For once, Malaysia has the opportunity to be one of the best places to live in.

But this is only if we rid ourselves of the apathy and fear that the government tries to instill by its sedition and public assembly laws.

It is important to make a home for one's family, but for the family to thrive, the nation needs to be secure and stable.

That can only happen by constantly monitoring our representatives and leaders. By making sure they do what we tell them to, instead of being their slaves and servants.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

I Will Speak Out!

First they came for the Politicians and the Activists and I did not speak out, because I was not a politician or an activist.

Then they came for the Lawyers, and I did not speak out, because I was not a lawyer.

Then they came for the Journalists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a journalist.

Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.

Reworded from Martin Niemöller's First They Came poem.