Former ASEAN Secretary-General Dr. Surin Pitsuwan dies at 68


November 30, 2017

Former ASEAN Secretary-General Dr. Surin Pitsuwan dies at 68

Former Thai Foreign Minister and ASEAN  Secretary-General Dr.Surin Pitsuwan died of acute heart attack. He was 68.

Former Foreign Minister and ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan died of an acute heart attack on Thursday. He was 68.

Surin collapsed while preparing to speak at the Thailand Halal Assembly 2017 at Bitec in Bang Na.

He was rushed to Ramkhamhaeng Hospital and later pronounced dead at 3.07p.m.

Surin was born on October 28, 1949 in Muang District, Nakhon Si Thammarat. He graduated from Claremont College in California in Political Science in 1972 and earned a master’s degree from Harvard University.

He entered politics in 1986 as a Democrat Party candidate and won a seat in his hometown in Nakhon Si Thammarat in all contests from 1986 to 2005.

Surin was the Deputy Foreign Minister from 1992-95 and rose to become the Foreign Minister from 1997 to 2001 under the premiership of Chuan Leekpai. He was the first Thai to become the ASEAN Secretary-General during which he served in Jakarta in 2008 for a five-year term before rejoining the Democrat Party.

A former Bangkok Post columnist, Surin was a speaker at the Bangkok Post Forum on November 16 this year. He was expected to run for Bangkok Governor when elections are allowed.

People can pay their last respects at his house on Soi Pitsuwan, tambon Sai Ma, Muang district, Nonthaburi province, from Thursday to Friday at noon. The religious ceremony is held all night.

Kassim Ahmad: An Iconoclast


October 14, 2017

Kassim Ahmad: An Iconoclast

 

Image result for Kassim Ahmad

Muslim intellectual Kassim Ahmad was a courageous and brave thinker and his passing on October 10, 2017 is a loss for the nation, former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said. Dr Mahathir said he was very sad that his 84-year-old “friend” Kassim had passed away this morning in the Kulim hospital in Kedah. “We lost a brave figure who held on to the principle of his struggle no matter what happened to him,” he said in a statement posted on his blog.–Dr. Mahathir on the Passing of Dr. Kassim Ahmad

by Terence Netto@www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT | Much of the encomia for Kassim Ahmad, who died at the age of 84 in Kulim yesterday, spoke of his courage in the face of repression of his beliefs.

Kassim exemplified Ernest Hemingway’s definition of courage as grace under pressure. He was serene in facing the waves of hostile reaction to his beliefs – save in one instance.

This was when he blamed Anwar Ibrahim for forestalling the evolution of a debate he wanted with critics of his book, “Hadis: Satu Penilaian Semula” (Hadith: A Re-evaluation).

Kassim had wanted the book, which was banned shortly after its publication in 1986, to evoke a debate on the arguments he had adduced for making the Quran – and not the Hadith – as the principal source of Islamic faith and jurisprudence.

The conventional view was that the sources of Islamic jurisprudence were the Quran, Hadith and the general consensus of Islamic scholars. Kassim had argued that the Hadith contradicting the Quran could not be relied upon as a source of Islamic jurisprudence.

 

 

He fingered Anwar (photo), then a Cabinet Minister, as having played the main role behind the scenes to stop any debate on the book from taking place, specifically a debate with the Malaysian Muslim Youth Movement (ABIM). The debate didn’t go ahead. Kassim, ever willing to debate his disputants, blamed Anwar for this.

Anwar was then seen as the go-to Islamist in government, having been ABIM leader from the early 1970s, before mutating from government critic to collaborator in the drive that begun under then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad in 1982 to inject Islam into the administration and governance of the country.

From the perspective of the years gone by, this move is now seen as having paved the way for the weakening of the secular underpinnings of the 1957 Constitution inaugurating the country’s birth – thus opening the way to what many feared would be the eventual Islamisation of the country, which would have been a travesty of what the country’s founders envisaged.

Kassim would remain scurrilous and vituperative on Anwar’s alleged role in foreclosing debate on the banned book.

‘Amenable, amicable and kind’

The venomous streak that was much in evidence whenever Anwar’s name or fate came up in conversations between Kassim and friends who came a-visiting seemed uncharacteristic of the man who was otherwise amenable, amicable and kind.

From the time he graduated from the University of Malaya in Singapore in the late 1950s to the mid-1980s, when he called for a reevaluation of the hadith, Kassim distinguished himself as a thinker who was wont to go against the convention.

 

He had espoused the merits of Hang Jebat as the authentic Malay hero, in contradistinction to Hang Tuah as the archetype, in Malay intellectual discourse in the early 1960s.

He introduced “scientific socialism” to Parti Rakyat Malaysia in the mid-1960s when he took over its reins from founder Ahmad Boestamam, and changed the party’s name to Parti Sosialis Rakyat Malaysia, in conformity with the Marxist view that their ideology was irrefutable science.

Even when he began to abandon scientific socialism for an Islamic worldview while under ISA detention between 1976 and 1981, it was towards “Teori Sosial Moden Islam” (Modern Islamic Social Theory), the name of the treatise he would pen after being freed, and not towards anything nebulous.

Kassim’s was an intellect who craved certainty for its beliefs, where such certainty is elusive. That was probably why he took an oppositional view of the Hadith, with some of its origins in the mists of times long ago.

Whether it was jousting with national literary laureate Shahnon Ahmad on the role of art and literature in Islamic discourse, or with Islamists on the reliability of the Hadith, Kassim evinced the air of the scientific rationalist.

He had the iconoclast’s penchant for challenging orthodoxies, but this yen came with the ideologue’s weakness for certainties.

The French writer Honoré de Balzac knew the type when he observed that “It’s not sufficient to be a man; one must be a system.”

Read more at https://www.malaysiakini.com/columns/397983#Zu1Yr8RvHWv8cqG0.99

The Passing of My Friend, Islamic Scholar, and Public Intellectual Pak Kassim Ahmad


October 10, 2017

The Passing of My Friend, Islamic Scholar, and Public Intellectual Pak Kassim Ahmad

 

I am deeply distressed this morning to learn from Jaffar Ismail  of the passing of my friend public intellectual Pak Kassim Ahmad. The last time I heard from Pak Kassim  was about a month ago when he sent me via email his blog piece on the Holy Prophet Mohammad pbuh. We communicated often on matters of mutual concern to both of us. He educated me on Islam, for which I am eternally grateful.

Being of the same generation, only a few years my senior, my fellow Kedahan Pak Kassim was a man of integrity and courage who spoke the truth to power. He was persecuted by our religious authorities for his views on Islam. He was educated at the famous School of African and Oriental Studies, University of London and The University of Malaya in Singapore.

 

Image result for Kassim Ahmad  and Din Merican

 

He will be sorely missed by those whose lives he touched by his example, generosity and compassion. It is indeed tragic that a man of such prodigious talent, intellectual verve, and deep convictions  was  not appreciated by our religious establishment (JAKIM) and  UMNO politicians. They feared his ideas and views on Islam to the extent that they did not realise that Pak Kassim Ahmad was a lifelong member of UMNO. As far as I am concerned, Pak Kassim Ahmad led an examined life of learning and deep contemplation.

Image result for Din Merican and Kamsiah Haider

 

My wife, Dr. Kamsiah Haider and I wish to express our sincere and heartfelt condolences to his bereaved family. Semoga Allah mencucuri rahmat keatas roh Allahyarham Pak Kassim Ahmad. Al-Fatihah.–Din Merican

Hugh Hefner, Playboy, and the American Male


October 1, 2017

Hugh Hefner, Playboy, and the American Male

by Adam Gopnik

https://www.newyorker.com/

Image result for Hugh Hefner

The careers of certain cultural figures follow a predictable arc: first young and brazen, then oddly revered, then overly familiar, and then, at last, obsolete. Frank Harris had a career with a shape something like this: a cowboy and a lawyer before becoming the leading London newspaper editor of the eighteen-nineties, he then became known only as the author of a scandalous, multi-volume sexual memoir, ending up merely notorious. Hugh Hefner, the publisher of Playboy, who died on Wednesday, at the age of ninety-one, at the Playboy Mansion, in California, was another such figure. It is as hard now to recapture the period during the nineteen-sixties and seventies when Hefner actually seemed, if not exactly a cultural presence to be reckoned with, then at least a publishing magnate to be recognized, as it would be to return his magazine, Playboy, to the distinctive place, high up on the newsstand, that it once occupied. At one point, George Will could compare Hefner to Fitzgerald’s Jay Gatsby—not an entirely bad notion, given that the essential vulgarity of Gatsby’s taste, obvious to his creator, has been eclipsed by the retrospective glamour that has been placed on the book. But something like the opposite has taken place with Hefner. There was a time when his excursions into the Playboy philosophy, which was not quite as ridiculous a document as its title makes it sound, were, though never taken seriously, at least seen as significant. Now, they seem not merely quaint but predatory.

What Hefner did was, in one way, as old as sex itself: he took the heterosexual male gaze and commodified it. He took the universal straight-male appetite for pictures of semi-naked women and found a way to feed it that became acceptable enough to attract conventional advertisers. But his real touch of opportunistic American genius was the reverse spin that he pioneered: he took commodities and attached them to the male gaze. He took all the goodies of mid-century American life—the hi-fis and the stereo LPs and the nascent color TVs and the Flokati rugs—and made them part of a plausible seeming whole. The “Playboy man” of Hefner’s imagination was as much a creature of his living room as of his lusts. Desire became inseparable from decoration, carnality from consumerism. Only the bachelor with the right Breuer chair could hope to have an active bedroom. Hefner, as someone once said, made the indoors to the mid-twentieth century what the outdoors had been to the nineteenth—the place where you showed yourself worthy of the idea of a man.

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Playboy Magazine featured Marilyn Monroe that launched Hugh Hefner’s Publishing Career

The feminist critique of Playboy came early, sharp, and loud. It was certainly political, and it was also correct. However much Miss July might be asked to list her intellectual attributes alongside her measurements, it was as a measurement alone that she was being displayed. The pictorials came accompanied by a rhetoric of female empowerment, or at least sexual empowerment, but it was in every way a measured empowerment. Proposing Hefner’s ideal as the most desirable body type was not just repellant but in many ways noxious. The anxious adolescent coyness that the enterprise never escaped—in part because anxious adolescent coyness was Hefner’s true signature emotion, a silk dressing gown and a pipe being exactly an anxious adolescent’s idea of sophistication—was essentially anti-sex, replacing the real thing with a synthetic substitute.

Let it be said that Hefner hired and helped many women. Alice K. Turner was the magazine’s fiction editor for two decades. (Margaret Atwood, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Joyce Carol Oates all wrote for Playboy.) Hefner handed over the reins of the operation to his daughter, Christie, who for a while was one of the more prominent women C.E.O.s in the country and a major supporter of progressive causes. And, of course, many fine and important things were published in the magazine. The fiction tended to be second-rate work by first-rate names, but the interviews that Hefner published were often major events: Miles Davis, Malcolm X, Vladimir Nabokov, Ayn Rand, Martin Luther King, Jr., Fidel Castro, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, and the very last testament of John Lennon.

The case could even be made—Hefner himself certainly wanted to make it—that, by sponsoring a broadly libertarian view of culture, Hefner and Playboy played a pivotal role in bringing an end to imprisoning ideas of gentility. In one of those carom shots of which cultural history is full, by announcing feminine sexuality as a good thing for the girl next door—however comically self-interested the announcer’s motive—Hefner may indeed have played an unintentional role in the assertion of female sexuality and autonomy. After all, he reminded many women of what they didn’t like about the way they were portrayed, and that they might have something to say about it.

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The Sex Symbol of the 1950s and 1960–Marilyn Monroe (dec. 1962)

But, in the end, the American fable his life most resembled was not “Gatsby” but “Citizen Kane.” By the time Hefner died, seemingly as isolated in his mansion as Kane was in his Xanadu, his empire had been vastly reduced—by both time and fashion. Even before the Internet levelled the world of libidinal gazing, the titillation that Hefner’s imagery evoked had already mostly vanished. The ironic triumph was that the Internet, which achieved Hefner’s dream of instantly accessible and publicly acceptable erotica, undid the old man. Punching a few keys on a keyboard could provide the entire range of human desire and, as pornography took on a truly democratic character, it nearly bankrupted many of its tycoons in the bargain.

The relation of erotic libertinism and political liberty is one of the most vexed in all of modern history. But when social histories of the last half of the past American century are written, the pipe, the pajamas, and the self-invented playboy who held them will still demand their moment of attention, their acute and not entirely dismissive gaze.

Adam Gopnik, a staff writer, has been contributing to The New Yorker since 1986. He is the author of “The Table Comes First.”

A Tribute to Mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani– A Beautiful Mind and a Gentle Soul


July 19, 2017

A Tribute to Mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani– A Beautiful Mind and a Gentle Soul