At a voter registration centre in Afghanistan today, a bomb went off; among those killed, children.
It is a symbolic situation - a democracy in its infancy struggling to mature in a climate of violence.
In Malaysia, Alhamdulillah, we have been spared such violence - but our democracy has also seemed to find it hard to mature.
I have been warned by those around me to be careful when talking about politics.
To not criticise those in power too openly.
After all, I am a government-sponsored student -
not the wisest thing to do, is it, to bite the hand which feeds you?
Largely this advice has come from well-meaning people, from family and friends.
But with all due respect, and with no intention to shame or embarrass, I humbly assert that it is this very mindset which has held democracy back in Malaysia.
An unwillingness to challenge authority in fear of the ‘bad things’ which can happen to ME, is the very thing that has led to ‘bad things’ happening to ALL OF US -
the kleptocratic mess we find our country in today.
This self-censorship kills the freedom of expression necessary to hold our representatives in government to account.
And yes - they are OUR representatives. They work for us, NOT the other way around.
The allowance I receive is from the PEOPLE of Malaysia, NOT the government’s.
Is it not, then, even more of a responsibility for me to speak out against a government oppressing my people?
Is it not selfish of me to sit down quietly and let the corruption of my government be?
Yes, I realise that in saying this I may come across as a naively idealistic young kid.
But perhaps it is because I am young that I have so much to lose with a corrupt government in power.
It is because I’m so idealistic that I can speak with a clear conscience, no strings attached.
So I shall speak.
And in my own small insignificant way, I shall hold to account those in power.
As Afghans die in a bomb blast seeking their democracy,
we in Malaysia cannot let our democracy die quietly.
Rise up and speak.
P.s. if you are afraid of speaking up because of the government, perhaps its time you get a new government.
Sunday, April 22, 2018
Monday, April 16, 2018
Two 10-year-old boys meekly approached me, wearing sheepish grins.
“We want to apologise about yesterday..”
Yesterday as the two boys entered the masjid, they saw me and whispered (audibly) to each other:
“Chang Ching Chong is here”
- alluding to my Oriental appearance.
Fighting the temptation to give them a piece of my mind there and then, I instead kept my cool and approached the man who brought the two boys to the masjid.
I asked him who they were - he said they were his son and nephew. Aged 10.
I told him what they called me, and reminded him that racism is wrong in Islam.
Visibly embarrassed, he told me he will handle it.
I asked him not to scold them - they are only young and didn’t know better. But they DO need to be told that what they did was wrong.
After salah, I approached the family of three as they were leaving the masjid.
“I just want to say that what you did today was very brave - apologising.
Not many grown-ups are able to do that.”
They grinned. A bit more proudly this time.
Saad and Ayyan, you are growing up in a world full of prejudice and hate. Already some of it has tainted you.
But as long as you retain the courage to admit your mistakes and apologise, there still is hope.
(And we adults can learn a thing or two on that too)
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Tuesday, September 5, 2017
I understand that its a complex issue, and that there are differences in opinion.
I understand that we must have a real discussion about letting Rohingya refugees into our country.
I understand the reluctance to accept people coming in en masse to our country when we are already struggling with our own economic problems.
But what I DON'T understand is the need for unnecessarily insulting comments against the Rohingya themselves during that discussion - "idiots", "parasites", who "create a heavy traffic jam" (and these are not even the worst of the comments).
As a Malaysian, I am ashamed.
What happened to our reputation as a friendly, caring people?
Is this what we have become - shallow-minded, xenophobic, forgetful, SELFISH brats - exhibiting the very same traits we complain about in our politicians.
What has made us feel so entitled to hurl abuse at refugees already prosecuted so badly?
Because they deserve the torture?
Because we Malaysians are more human than the Rohingya?
Hah! I find that more and more difficult to believe seeing how inhumanely we behave.
I am ashamed. I am ashamed. I am ashamed -
and not just of our leaders.
I'm ashamed of you and me.
Happy Merdeka Day
Sunday, September 3, 2017
the man called out over 1400 years ago at the plain of Arafah.
What followed was a series of words profound - announcing ideals timeless, yet way ahead of its time.
For in a world where societies were still organised by caste and women were treated as little more than chattel, Muhammad’s s.a.w. final sermon asserted a consistent thread throughout his lifetime struggle: equality among people and peoples.
“All mankind is from Adam and Eve,
an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor does a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab;
also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over a white except by taqwa (God-consciousness) and good action.”
As breathtaking as those words were was its audience - the gathering at Arafah listening to the speech were men and women from a myriad of tribal, national and socioeconomic backgrounds. In that crowd were people and peoples who were enemies of each other just a few years prior.
On that day they were all united in performing the Hajj - affirming their faith in the Oneness of their Creator, and the oneness of His creation.
It was only to such an extraordinary gathering would the message of the sermon have resonated so strongly - strong enough to echo through the ages and the continents, and spread to an audience even bigger and even more diverse than that at Arafah over 1400 years ago.
The man called out 60 years ago at Merdeka Stadium:
Tunku Abdul Rahman announced to the world the birth of a new sovereign nation; one independent of the political clutches of her former colonial master.
Decades on, Malaysia has climbed to heights unimaginable in 1957.
Today she has become an influential political and economic force in Asia.
Today she has placed herself firmly on the world stage by participating in major international political decisions, through success in international sporting events, and is a favourite holiday destination for visitors the world over.
But today, her independence is still far from complete; behind the facade of a peaceful, dynamic melting pot this nation has not yet banished the spectre of poor race relations.
For the people of this fair land, unity has proven to be the unattainable Malaysian Dream - a Dream played out in the form of romanticised advertisements come every festive period featuring the Malay, Chinese and Indian boys who are the best of friends.
Yes, there is a beauty to diversity - but diversity can sadly be a double-edged sword.
After all, it is part of human nature to be uncomfortable with the presence of the Other - other races, other religions, other cultures different and unfamiliar to Us - our race, our religion, our culture.
The tragedy is that this discomfort can easily turn to fear, and the worst of the human condition present in all of us can manifest in society in the form of discrimination, exploitation and apathy.
In Malaysia we grow up being taught the importance of “tolerance” towards the Other.
But 60 years after Merdeka is a good a time as any to ask ourselves:
Is mere tolerance good enough anymore?
Specifically, an acceptance that diversity is not something to be loathed or feared.
In fact, diversity is described in the Quran as a sign of God:
“And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your languages and your colors. Indeed in that are signs for those of knowledge.” - Al-Quran [30:22]
This genuine acceptance of diversity must occur in every racial, religious and socioeconomic group in Malaysian society. This must be an awakening which happens at the grassroot level, a realisation that the time for indifference and lazy waiting for government efforts to banish our national demons for us is over.
After all diversity is a cornerstone of our national identity, and unity is our Dream.
The Malaysian Dream will stay forever as that - a dream - if we continue to be satisfied with mere romanticisation of ‘the good old days’.
The definition of tolerance is to endure something unpleasant i.e. to tolerate a loud noise, or a bad stench.
Has this been how the diverse social groups in this country have been taught to coexist so far?
If so, no wonder that spectre of racial tension has never left us - we have given it license to stay by “tolerating” its presence..!
No - it is not tolerance we need, but rahmah: an Arabic word the meaning of which encompasses mercy, compassion, and love.
Let the Other not be feared, but be seen instead through the lens of rahmah.
This year, Muslims will celebrate Eidul Adha the day after Merdeka day.
It is a day which should not be overlooked as just another Malaysian holiday - because the celebration of Eidul Adha is a commemoration of Ibrahim’s a.s. willingness to sacrifice his beloved son on the command of his Lord, and in this is a lesson immensely relevant to Malaysians in 2017.
For a nation bound together by rahmah will be but a fantasy if we do not follow the example of Ibrahim a.s., and sacrifice. For us Malaysians, this sacrifice will have to be in the form of our time, effort, and above all our egos.
We have to do so by proactively and honestly connecting with those people - our neighbours, colleagues, strangers - who we now know merely as Abu, Ah Chong and Muthusamy.
In truly engaging with them we will come across inconvenient differences in perspectives, and issues which may challenge our worldview or make us uncomfortable.
But that is exactly the point: that perhaps, with dialogue, we will start to know them as more than just Abu, Ah Chong, and Muthusamy - and start seeing our common humanity.
In short our independence as a people will only be complete when we are united by a sense of rahmah; and that in turn will only come about with the sacrifice of our time, effort and egos.
This is a formula so very simple in theory - but exceedingly difficult in practice.
This year, the gathering at Arafah coincides with Merdeka day.
If anything, that gathering should be a source of hope that diversity does not have to mean disunity. And yes - a reminder that there is truly a beauty to diversity.
Those at that plain over 1400 years ago, listening to his sermon in person, were instructed by Muhammad s.a.w. to “take these words to those who could not be present here today”
Dutifully, they did. Perhaps we should lend an attentive ear.
Sunday, August 6, 2017
Over a month late, but:
I just want to mention special thanks to Jumero - Ryan, Michael, Jared.
I knew these guys as neighbourhood pals and naturally invited them as guests to my wedding. But being aware of their musical talent and reputation, I asked them to play a few songs during my event.
So they did - and with real class!
Despite their busy schedule, they prepared for and brilliantly pulled off a few original Jumero songs as well as a cover of Ed Sheeran's "Thinking Out Loud".
It wasn't only their raw talent which amazed me - their professionalism also won my admiration: turning up hours before the actual event to do a sound check, as well as singing while all other guests were busy eating.
(NB: Ryan, Mike and Jared did all this free of charge - being there, after all, as guests).
I owe my deepest gratitude to the neighbourhood pals who I have always known as top-quality friends, who I now know for sure still have the biggest hearts despite all these years of musical success.
In my book, you guys are the best indie band in Malaysia. Period.
Sunday, June 25, 2017
All praise be to Him who asks from us worship
in solemn solitude and
in joyous gatherings;
through silent contemplation and
through hearty laughter.
Ways to do ibadah today:
1. jaga solat
2. spend time with family
3. be happy!
Eid Mubarak, everyone!
Taqabbalallahu minna wa minkum ✌🏻😬