Thursday, August 29, 2013

Under Anesthesia

It as been exactly a week now since this slightly surreal scene in the living room of my house:
a partially disemboweled rabbit, still alive but in shock, 
surrounded by a bunch of people with little idea of what to do next.

The barely two-month-old bunny had just been attacked by a stray cat, leaving his intestines spilling out a gash on the side of his abdomen.
An injury which proved to be fatal.

The above scene, though, is not the most surreal one to have happened in the last few weeks. 
And as gory as it was, neither was it the most horrible.

At a field hospital near Al-Adawiyaa Mosque, just off Rabaa Square, the names of the dead are called out.
Listening are families of those lost.

"It was as quiet as a morgue", goes the saying.
But the morgue here is far from idle; it is the busiest place in the city.

What can be heard inside are people sobbing in between gasps for fresh air;
the atmosphere a stench of dead bodies left out for too long.
Mingling with the groans of the injured and the prayers that still go on.

The floor is a flood of fresh blood, ice blocks brought in to preserve bullet-ridden corpses left out for too long.

The army chief smiles on camera at a broadcasted national police academy graduation. 
Honored with a standing ovation, and praised by the Interior Minister as
"Egypt's devoted son".

All less than 24 hours after he ordered the bloody killings at Rabaa Square.

Pretty surreal scene...don't you think?

*                    *                    *

A consultant I've met at a hospital placement years ago told me that during surgery, an anesthetist holds a lot of power.

If the anesthetist senses that something is wrong, he/she can call off the surgery right there and then.

*                    *                    *

Exactly a week ago I was kneeling down beside the rabbit's prone body. 

I had carefully flipped him over to reveal his wound.; 
the hole was big enough to let his intestines out, not quite big enough to let them back in.

In retrospect I wonder if things would have ended up differently if I had anesthetics of some sort. 
Maybe I would have been able to calm him down. 
Push his insides back in, even.
Anything to let him live to the morning, when he would be able to get more professional care.

But all that is wishful thinking, I guess.

The death in my house, though, was a good reminder.
A reminder of how easy life is for me here.

Don't get me wrong: I am grateful for this calm, and I do not wish the bloody scenes of Egypt to happen in Malaysia.
Not in a place I call home.

But in my heart is a certain sense of unease...

I look around to see so many people still oblivious. Uncaring of brothers and sisters in Egypt.

Like the bunch of people standing cluelessly around a disemboweled rabbit, 
we stand cluelessly around a nation disemboweling itself.

The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) once said:

"The Muslim Ummah is like one body. 
If the eye is in pain then the whole body is in pain  
and if the head is in pain then the whole body is in pain

But as our brothers and sisters are 
massacred in Egypt, 
gassed in Syria, 
under siege in Palestine,
exiled from their own homes in Myanmar. 

The rest of us...barely bat an eyelid.

This ummah has become like a person who doesn't even realise that he is being stabbed all over his body.
That he is bleeding.
That he is dying.

He doesn't realise.
He is under anesthesia.

To those who read this I ask you to get the word out.
If you can speak, speak.
If you can write, write. 
If you can donate, donate. 

And pray. 
Pray for our ummah to wake up

We have to wake up.

Monday, August 5, 2013

An Open Letter: Ramadhan Greetings for the Bak Kut Teh Couple

Dear Alvin and Vivian,

I hope this letter finds you in the best of health. :)

I am a Muslim.
But I love eating bak kut teh myself, a dish which Mama used to cook up every once in a while for my family.

Provocative, eh? :D

But before an angry mob is whipped up by the above statement, with the purpose of lynching a bak kut teh-eating kid such as myself (and/or his Chinese mum) for "insulting Islam", let me first clarify:
It was more like chi kut teh than bah kut teh, since it had chicken in it instead of pork.

Duh. I am Muslim kot -.-

Maybe I should be careful, though, with the "B" word.
Since the "incident" which occurred in the past month involving the mild-mannered dish comprising of soy sauce, herbs, and coincidentally pork ribs, it seems a civil war can be started by just mentioning the name of "the-dish-which-must-not-be-named".

No surprise...we Malaysians are an infamously reactive people.
(This post itself is a reaction to the whole event. Lol -.-")

The real surprise, in my opinion, is that all this is happening in Ramadhan; a month of patience and forgiveness.
Or at least, that's what it's supposed to be.

*               *               *

Once upon a time, about 1400 years ago, a Bedouin man entered a mosque.
He found a corner and started urinating.
(Pretty provocative, I would say).

The companions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in the mosque were not very pleased, and quite understandably, not too far off from beating up the rogue tinkler.

But before chaos could ensue Muhammad told his companions to calm down and let the Bedouin finish his "business" in the corner.

*               *              *

Funny what qualifies as "insulting religion" nowadays.
An invite to buka puasa with "the-dish-which-must-not-be-named",
a video of a lady celebrating Raya with her dogs;
are so easily taken as insults to the faith.

Calls for the heads of errant bloggers come next.

*               *               *

After the Bedouin had fulfilled the call of nature at the corner of the mosque, he was called over by Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) and was told:

"In these Mosques it is not right to do anything like urinating or defecating; 
they are only for remembering Allah, praying and reading Quran," 

Then Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) commanded a man who was there to bring a bucket of water and throw it over the urine, and he did so.


Which is why we Muslims follow the sunnah; take Muhammad as a role model. 
Not as a blind cult following; but as a rational guide to life.

Eh...a rational guide to life?

Then why did so many Muslims act in such irrational ways to the bak kut teh issue?

*               *               *

And therein lies the real problem.

For me, the question:
"why in the world would these bloggers post such a stupid thing in Ramadhan??"
has an obvious answer:
"they do not know".

Just like the way the Bedouin did not know enough about Islam when he "confused" the mosque for a toilet,
Alvin and Vivian do not know enough about Islam.

Admittedly, they must have already known the fact that the consumption of pork is prohibited for Muslims, but my guess is that they did not know enough of why;
such as why we can't eat pork, and
why the prohibition means so much to us.
Or, more fundemantally:

Why be Muslim?

And therein lies the problem.

Whose job was it to let Alvin and Vivian know the answers to the above questions?
Our schools?
The Internet?

The task falls on the shoulders of every able-bodied Muslim.

We pride ourselves on following the sunnah, but the biggest sunnah of all is dakwah. Calling people to Islam.
That was Muhammad's lifelong undertaking.

But we don't do enough dakwah, do we?
And suddenly we jump at the chance to punish people for not knowing enough about our way of life.

If you ask me, that is the real insult to Islam.

*               *               *

Dear Alvin and Vivian,

I will do the unthinkable here, and apologise.

No, I'm not apologising for the fact you got punished.
That is out of my jurisdiction.

But I apologise because the situation you find yourself in,
and the actions you took to get yourselves in that position,
are both proof.
Proof of how little you know of my way of life, my Deen.
Of Islam.

For if you knew, you wouldn't have done what you did.
Of that I am sure.

After Ramadhan and Eid, I am planning to learn how to cook a few dishes from my Mama...
it goes without saying that bak kut teh is one of them ;p

I understand, Alvin and Vivian, that the circumstances are not in the favor of us meeting up. 
But I would really love if we could an enjoy a bowl of bak kut teh together one day.

Oh, but it'll be pork-free though. 
Maybe while we eat, we can have a chat as to why that is so :) 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Malaysian Blood

A sample of blood was recently obtained from a cohort of randomised Malaysian volunteers. The samples were centrifuged, and the results observed in all of them were remarkably similar:

This study decisively proves a fact that has long been suspected: 


Which is not much of a surprise, to be honest. 

The mamak stall industry, after all, has long known about and thrived on this very fact - providing a platform for Malaysians to discuss politics more effectively than the Parliament (seriously, have you seen those debates??)

Incidentally, the success of this industry also explains the presence of the other two components of Malaysian blood - oil and teh tarik.

This very fact, though, is exactly the reason why it is now such a scary time to be Malaysian.
And no, I am not talking about diabetes or high blood cholesterol (although those are also pretty scary).

It is a scary time because change has happened.

Admittedly, not a change in government - because as I write this post, it has already been confirmed that the coalition which has ruled for 56 years will rule for at least 4 more.

The change I am talking about is in the way we view how we should be governed. And that has been quite a decisive change.

Don't get me wrong: I welcome that change very much. In fact, I can safely say that much of the youth of this great nation share the same view.

We must face the facts, though: it is a dangerous situation we are in.

The build-up of emotions on either side of the political divide over the past few months does not paint the rosiest of pictures of Malaysia for the next few - the danger of those emotions manifesting themselves in physical violence is very real.

The politics that is so much a part of the Malaysian identity - detectable even in our blood, has been "activated" like so many antibodies in response to an infection. And people have gone crazy as the elections have neared. I am just worried that things will get even crazier.

While many may fear that the Government has retained power for too long, or that the Opposition is becoming too strong, many more Malaysians have the immediate fear of harm inflicted on friends and family. I guess I am in that latter category. 

I wonder, as I write this in a hall in the UK, how it is like to be in Malaysia right now...

*                         *                         *

Solace from all this, I have found in an unlikely place: Manchester.

As I sat among a bunch of fellow Malaysian university students today, watching the results of the elections unfold on a big screen in front of us, I couldn't help noticing how calm everything was. 

Of course there was the usual noise and banter accompanying any Malaysian event. But there was no divisive political insults thrown about, despite the fact that the students held wildly differing political views. 

No shouting and name-calling, just a bunch of Malaysians talking politics. Combined with the free teh tarik given out at the back of the room, it was almost like I was back home. The only thing missing was someone making roti canai at the corner of the room.

They represent an emerging breed, those students; a generation of youth very much Malaysian; with as much politics in their blood as their parents and grandparents. But this is a generation not tied too much by sentimental feelings to any political party out there.

It is, for now, a generation which is not afraid of change. A generation with the ability to think independently and rationally, which can stand its ground. But not too emotionally. 

I hope with all my heart that this generation stays this way. 

*                          *                          *

Mark my words.

The next few years and decades will see a change in our society, our political parties, and in our government. It is a change which will be brought about by the politics in our Malaysian blood. 

But the next few days, weeks and months may yet witness the spilling of that very Malaysian blood on our streets. 

The former is inevitable, the latter is not. 
Keep calm, Malaysians. Please.

The above picture was taken at a Malaysian event in Manchester. The room is full, but the front row is still empty. Memang Malaysian.

Disclaimer: The author apologises to any reader who has believed/being convinced of/trusted in the 'scientific facts' stated in the first 5 paragraphs and 1st picture in this post, as they are purely fictional (duhh -.-")

Th author does not, however, apologise for his (albeit sometimes lame) Malaysian sense of humor. It runs in his blood.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Muhammads Everywhere

Nobody told me, before I was to fly off to the UK, that I would be entering a land of Muhammads*. Which was, I guess , a pleasant(?) surprise for me.

For the last 20 years of my life, I’ve been addressed as Mikhail. Or Mike. Or Michael. Or Mickey. Or Mikey. Or Mike Callum. Or Kappa Mikey. Or even (for a brief period of time in Standard 1), as Mata Kail**.

But never as Muhammad.

So when my tutor read out the name on the attendance list:

I was obliged to reply:
“Which one?”

There were, after all, two Muhammads in my PBL group: Muhammad Ishack, from Mauritius; and myself, Muhammad Mikhail.

In my Anatomy group, it was even trickier: there were 6 Muhammads (in a group of about 13).

So it did strike me at first as impersonal to be called Muhammad. There was even a tinge of insult there: a small part of me felt that, as a Muslim, I was being subtly categorized as 'just another Muhammad'.

But then again, should I really be offended?

Humor me, for just a moment, and allow me to talk about Muhammad.

No, not the Muhammad writing this post but about the Muhammad born over 1400 years ago as the rahmatul lil alamin (blessing to all worlds).

By any standards, this guy was preettty cool.

And hey, don't just take my word for it. Take the words of Michael H. Hart (incidentally, a non-Muslim) who, in his 1978 book "The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History", ranked Muhammad as no. 1. 

Hart described the Prophet as "supremely successful" in both the religious and secular realms.

And the description makes sense; after all Muhammad was a man who was a successful businessman, a hugely influential social reformer, a fearless warrior, a visionary statesman, a spiritual guide.

But there is a danger here...the phenomenal successes of the man who somehow change the spiritual, political, economic and social landscape of the world may mask the actual man behind this whole event.

So allow me to talk about the man.

Muhammad was born into a noble bloodline, but he was not well-to-do. In fact he was born to a single mother (his father had died a few months prior to his birth). At his death, Muhammad (in terms of material wealth) died a poor man.

Muhammad did not partake in the immoral acts of his community before the Revelation was bestowed upon him at age 40. In fact, even before this he was known as "Al-Amin" - "The Trustworthy" (which you gotta admit is a way better nickname than "Mata Kail").

Muhammad did not (as some have the impression) spend all his time preaching from a stage set up in a mosque somewhere. In fact he lived very much a normal life, he was even known to walk through the markets of his town regularly.

The fact of the matter is, despite all his great successes, Muhammad the man was (consistently!) a caring father, a romantic lover, an awesome teacher, and a great neighbour.

And yet be so humble to continuously remind the people around him that he is not divine.
He is only a man, like you and I.
He eats, he drinks, he marries, and he dies.

For all this, Muhammad bin Abdullah has won my admiration, my respect, and InsyaAllah my sincere love.

Peace be upon you, the blessing to all worlds.

I am truly honored to have you as my namesake.

*in 2010 "Mohammed has become the most popular name for newborn boys in Britain." - Daily Mail.
**the Malay word for fishing hook.

Sunday, January 6, 2013


They were familiar, but somehow different;
People I love, but haven't met for a little too long.

Those four people, as they sat among an enormous pile of luggage at Terminal 1 of Manchester Airport, represented a life I kept mostly out of my mind for the past three months.

In that amount of time, everything has changed.

I have become the typical medical student; my schedule packed.
Food is on-the-go (and not-so-healthy).
I have become accustomed to the cold; 10 Celcius qualifying as quite warm.
New weather, new food and new things to learn.
New country, new friends and new commitments.

Goodbye to home cooked meals, hello to Arab-sized portions of foreign food.
Goodbye to flip flops, hello to winter boots.
Goodbye to my old life.

Hello to a new one.

It has been pretty easy to bury my head into this life so much so that it is only sometimes I look up and remember: "I'm in Manchester"

Until I called out to those four people in Terminal 1 of Manchester Airport, and suddenly my two lives are one again. Because those four people...they are my family.

Mama and Papa greeted me with the customary hug. It's been the longest time yet that I've been away from the only two people I've truly known my whole life.
Adik acted cool, but I knew she missed me as much as I missed her.
And Danny was the same ball of hyperactivity that he has always been.

Not too long after that we were heading to the centre of Manchester.

During the journey l inadvertently found myself in the position of tourguide.
It's, a foreigner in this country, suddenly showing my family around MY city.

My new home.

This is the parking lot I hurriedly pass through on blustery weekdays, late to class, with barely a glance around.
Mama exclaims at how beautiful it is, Adik takes pictures, and Danny runs around.

This is my room, the bastion of my new life. Neat as I can keep it, suddenly host to the (many) bags my family brought along with them.

This is the bus I take to the City Centre. A route I have travelled often enough. Today my hyperactive bro sits beside me.

This is the path I take on the way to the Curry Mile. Usually I go with an empty stomach, today I bring along 5: mine and my family's.

That was my life again for three weeks...

Three weeks of Papa's lame jokes, Mama's lovely cooking, Adik and Danny's voices.

In the past few weeks I lived in 3 separate hotels in 2 different cities, a lakeside cabin, and even a canal boat. I should be travel-sick by now. But somehow, I'm not.

Because here's the thing: I feel more at home than I've ever been in the past few months.

Here's the reason, then, why I buried my head into my "new life" in Manchester...
It was a self-defense mechanism. I wanted to keep myself from being homesick, from missing my old life too much.

But this is not my real life. I am my parent's son, my siblings' big bro. That's who I am. My family...they are my real home. My life.

I guess it took my family to travel halfway across the world to meet me here for the message to truly hit, well, home.

As I write this, I have already left my family at Terminal 1 of Manchester Airport. The time I welcomed them to my city just three weeks before seems like a lifetime away now.

Mama cries, just as she did at KLIA 3 months ago. But they have their lives to get back to.

And so do I.

But suddenly I can't imagine living that life again; hall to class, class to hall.
Nobody to greet me as I step as I return to a home which is not truly a home; life alone.

My family, my true home has left.

Goodbye guys...