Gong Xi Fa Cai to All around the World


February 5, 2016

Gong Xi Fa Cai 2016 to All

To Men and Women of Goodwill around the world, friends and associates in Malaysia, Cambodia, China (and Diaspora), ASEAN,and Australia.

Dr. Kamsiah and I wish you Gong Xi Fa Cai 2016. May you be safely united with family for your traditional dinner tonight. Drive and travel carefully.

Greetings from Us at The University of Cambodia, Phnom Penh

It is a great tradition, and may you continue this practice since the family is an important institution, particularly in today’s troubled world. It is home where we learn to respect our elders, acquire and reinforce our ethical values, engage in civilised discourse, and celebrate the dignity of difference. May we live in peace.

Traditional values are, therefore, not out of date. Why? Because peace and goodwill are what will be needed now as we face serious threats to our survival from global terrorism and our wanton disregard of our environment.

For this occasion, we have chosen to bring back music of 1950s. It was my teenage  years (Dr. Kamsiah was born 13 years later). Wow, that was decades ago.The songs you hear remind me of those years of innocence and bliss.

Growing up in Alor Setar, Kedah Darul Aman  in the ’50s together with Daim Zainuddin, Kassim Ahmad, Kamil Jaffar,  Col. Ismail, Razali Ismail, Yusof Bakar, Halim Rejab,  Mansor Ahmad, Martin Lim, S. Perumal, Veeriah, Muniandy, Rahman Rahim,  et.al, was wonderful because colour, race and religion did not matter to us. We were Malayans (and Malaysians) First.

We were 1People. We lived in peace and enjoyed all festivals–Ramadan, Christmas, Chinese New Year, Cambodian New Year, Wesak Day and others. But today, as Malaysians, we have become a divided people, conscious of our differences because our irresponsible political leaders and ulamas have chosen to use race and religion to separate us for power and influence.

There is no doubt that we made enormous economic progress. But that has led to an erosion of our rich cultural heritage and well grounded values. If that is progress, Dr. Kamsiah and I will have none of it.

So my friends,let  us work for peace and love our planet. Like it or not, we have no place else to go, at least until we can find  a livable alternative (s) in the galaxy. We wish you and family Cong xi Fai Cai and God Bless.–Dr. Kamsiah and Din Merican

Thaipusam–An Occasion to celebrate Our Diversity


January 28, 2018

Thaipusam–An Occasion to celebrate Our Diversity

by Emmanuel Joseph

http://www.themalaysianinsider.com

For as long as Thaipusam has been celebrated in Malaysia on a large scale, it has been as much a community celebration as a religious observation.

The million devotees thronging Batu Caves, paying their homage to Lord Muruga, along with tourists and visitors who visit the many enterprising trade booths and stalls that pop up on cue – selling food and drinks, clothes, prayer items, household goods, video tapes, and for good measure, TV channels and radio.

Thaipusam and Batu Caves is no stranger to politics either. With the eyes of 1.8 million Hindu population on it, politicians from both sides would be eager to be seen being a significant part of it.

During the height of the Hindraf movement, a call to boycott Batu Caves by the Hindraf leaders saw the number of visitors dip to well below half the usual crowd. Even till today, the temple committee chairman is said to be in a legal argument with one of the five Hindraf leaders.

As with any religious celebration or any large gathering for that matter, the people converging on Batu Caves would of course cause some traffic issues with the road closures, diversions, increase in volume of vehicles and naturally, parking of those vehicles.

This has hardly been an issue in the last hundred years or so, but in a present day Malaysia where everything is racialised, politicised and radicalised, in either or both directions, it was a matter of time before Thaipusam joined the bandwagon of non-issues-overnight-turned-into-important-national-issues.

After all, some quarters had already questioned the large statue of Lord Murugan that was built. Even the good God’s image, now synonymous with Batu Caves, on mineral water bottle packaging was not spared the wrath of mortals, too.

And now similar quarters’ beef with the Hindus celebrating Thaipusam is the traffic jams it causes. But such arguments aren’t really a fair reasoning. Every religion in Malaysia have feasts, religious celebrations and observations from time to time.

We all have our famous pastors, preachers, healers, gurus and saints who visit us and cause similar road closures and inconveniences. Even some atheists with no such gods, do contribute to traffic jams in the form of IKEA launches, free Furby giveaways at McDonald’s, Michael Buble performances or whenever Shell decides to do a Lego promotion or Big Bad Wolf decides to do a book fair.

If traffic jams are that much of a bother to some, perhaps we should reconsider celebrating National Day or New Year or any one of the dozen or so events that occasionally leave clueless motorists circling KL looking for an alternative road to get to the office on a random Monday morning, wondering why there are barricades closing off Dataran Merdeka.

Traffic jams like those are actually productive in a way. They indicate some economic activity is happening at that locality and that money is changing hands. Ornsome buzz is being created, which is quite welcome when job markets are shrinking, salary scales narrowing and donations and handouts are scarce to come by, at least for the ordinary public.

But like everything else in Malaysia, not all traffic jams are created equal.Some traffic jams appear to create nothing but delayed arrivals, elevated blood pressure and lowered petrol meter readings.

While some appear to be unable to tolerate once-a-year events, Malaysians in general are highly tolerant of this urban ritual that tests our faith and patience every morning at Damansara, Jalan Duta, Bangsar, Subang, and almost every step of the way to KL after the Batu Tiga toll on the Federal Highway.

While some traffic jams should be tolerated out of respect for religious beliefs and in the spirit of living together as Malaysians, in that same spirit, perhaps it’s time to put a stop to tolerating traffic jams we do not have to. Malaysians should stop having to pay for the sins of those who do poor city and road planning.

Let us celebrate our Diversity


January 16, 2016

Let us celebrate our Diversity

by Dr. Kamal Amzan

http://www.themalaymailonline.com

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Festival season makes me treasure the country more.This is probably driven by the feeling that we are losing the plot as a nation, and together with it our country and the Malaysian way of life.

The worry is that we will one day lose all the things we take for granted today– what more celebrate and appreciate our differences. I was brought up in a multiracial family and spent a lot of my childhood days with my maternal grandparents.

They (who are known as “pendatang” to some) were the ones who taught me Malay ― yes, that’s right ― while my Dad who goes by the name of Amzan made English, Hokkien ― and for a while Mandarin ― the official language at home. As a result,I was mostly, if not completely, oblivious to the different races in the country.

My debut into the 1Malaysia world began in Standard 1 when the class teacher asked me to write about my race, favourite food, and colours in a profile book. The things that you would ask a seven-year-old to do.

So I looked around for answers. The boy on my left wrote “Malay”, and the girl on my right wrote “Indian”. I looked at her and said, “Is that your favourite food? I think you need to write what sports you like. Like in a race?”

She looked at me as if I was an extra-terrestrial being. So I raised my hand and asked the teacher, “What ‘race’ do I put here? I like swimming, badminton. Does that count?”

It was then the teacher’s turn to give me the “look.” But the frown on her face, and the bewildered look she had made me feel like I was the most stupid person in class if not the country.

After what felt like an eternity, she finally blinked and asked me in Malay (which was my first encounter with sarcasm), “What language do you use at home, KAMAL?! That is your race. Write that down!” So, I wrote “English/Chinese” in the race column and my favourite food, “Wantan Mee.”

There was another time, during Agama when the Ustazah asked, “Can Muslims eat non-halal food?” In a classroom of around 30 Muslim students, I was the loudest one who asked, “What is ‘halal’?”

mullah-harussani-and-najib

Perak’s Harussani and Political Mullah Najib Razak

My parents were called to school numerous times to explain my “rebellious” behaviour. They would sit down and talk to me after every visit about the people who are so-called Malaysians.

I pitied my parents as a kid. And as a boy who knows very little about “races” and “what to eat”, I’m sure I was pitied by many of my teachers back then. But now, at the age of 34, I pity those who live in the country but do not experience the real Malaysia.

And as I grew older, travelled more, I realised that there is no better place to learn about cultures, religions, languages, food than a country of 30 million that is so ethnically, religiously, culturally different, and ever so sensitive of things that would make them be perceived as less Malay, Chinese, Indian etc.

The same diversity that I realised would either make or break us.For instance imagine if Malaysians are made to speak just three languages out of the 140 found in the country (which is not something impossible), how attractive would our graduates and workforce be to the world?

Imagine the number of companies that will vie for them. And imagine the number of FDIs we can attract to our shores if we equip them with the necessary knowledge, skills and keep them at home. You wont even need Talent Corp and worry about significant brain drain.

That is just one example and a peek at how our differences can be our strength.But what do we do?’We worry about losing our “identity.” We worry about not being able to speak (Malay) and sound “right.” So worried that many resist efforts to be associated with other races forgetting that ― commercial value aside ― the ability to integrate and respect one another is the thread that holds this multiracial nation ― read everyone ― together.

So worried that we refuse to let our children mix in schools. The education system is flawed, but why do we consciously partake in the systemic segregation of the next generation through schools, justifying our actions by the fact that one is better than the other instead of finding ways to make the one nation, one school system work?

Everything is racially and religiously driven to the extent that it applies even to where we shop for our IT gadgets in Kuala Lumpur.It would have been funny, if not for the fact that our world is getting smaller, opaque and porous, when the country is flooded with the influx of princes and princesses from Africa, religious bigots and extremists, and the millions of foreigners who come in to fill up jobs in our estates and construction sites.

I now have Chinese patients who never had Malay or Indian food, whose command of the Malay language is worse than a four-year-old Malay boy. I also have acquaintances who still feel that the non-Malays are here to rob the country and then leave, putting aside the logic behind the non-Malays investing years of hardship into building this country and their Malaysian families. How sad.

We have the potential to be a nation that truly respects, tolerate and embrace racial and cultural differences, whose citizens celebrate each other’s differences and not antagonise, suspect and oppress one another.The only question is, how bad do we want it?

I was driven to write this while listening to Chinese New Year songs in malls and thinking what festival comes next. May the celebration bring forth the kaleidoscope that allows us to view the colourful tapestry that makes this country unique, special and truly remarkable.

I know it’s early. But since the lanterns and songs are up and abound, allow me to wish all Malaysians a Happy Chinese New Year. Gong Xi Fa Cai.

The Sheer Hypocrisy of it All– What’s Special about being a Wahhabi Arab?


January 8, 2015

Malaysia: The Sheer Hypocrisy of it All– What’s Special about being a Wahhabi Arab?

by Lyana Khairuddin

http://www.themalaysianinsider.com

Lyana is a scientist who works with HIV and HPV, an educator with a local public university, and a lover of life. She switches from lab coats to running skirts effortlessly, and does most of her thinking while pounding pavements.

malamcintarasul-yusof_620_413_100

The Political Arabs led by DPM Zahid Hamidi (Center)

While I had hoped for my first article of the New Year to be filled with positivity and written with a light heart, I made the mistake of turning on the television on New Year’s Eve.

The scene televised from Dataran Merdeka made my heart skip a beat.There, instead of our usual cultural dance shows and performances by local artistes while we await the countdown to the New Year, were many people dressed in Arab gear chanting and swaying their bodies to recitations exulting the Prophet Muhammad and Allah.

I only realised that the televised scene was in Kuala Lumpur when I saw the iconic Sultan Abdul Samad building in the background.

I waited for a few minutes in disbelief, urging the television set to change the scene to one I was more familiar with. I was waiting for the usual jingle of “Malaysia, truly Asia”, for that crowd of dancers in exuberant costumes representing the stereotypical image of a culturally diverse Malaysia that I know to be over-exaggerated, but I have to admit, I now miss.That image never came.

I was secretly glad that I spent New Year’s Eve at a running event in Malacca. As I finished the run before midnight and away from the revelry of the celebrants, I could see families of Malaysians coming together at the field either for the run or to usher in the New Year amid fireworks.

My friends and I even shared a table with strangers at a famous chicken rice ball restaurant – a crowd that consisted of foreigners, locals and out-of-town Malaysians alike – enjoying what we Malaysians are most famous for: the food.

That is the Malaysia I know, people from different ethnic groups just sitting together at a street-side stall or dingy restaurant, placing our orders in simple Bahasa or Hokkien or Tamil, even. Nearly everyone would be eating similar fare. Perhaps this is a grittier, more realist image of the country I love than the usual annual fanfare we put on stage.

What I experienced on New Year’s Eve was not what was shown on television that night.I am sure that every Malaysian has the same wishes as those at Dataran Merdeka – a fresh new start to the year, leaving behind all the heartaches of the past year, hopes for a better Malaysia that we will continue to build together.

What really bothered me about the televised image was the assumption that Malaysia only belongs to those of a particular religion, and it goes without saying, of a particular race.

Yes, it was the image of a peace-loving Islam, led by none other than Indonesia-born preacher Habib Syech Abdul Qadir as-Seggaf, who professes to be a direct descendant of Prophet Muhammad himself.

Under our secular Federal Constitution, every Malaysian is allowed the freedom of religion and freedom of expression – thus, the crowd in Dataran Merdeka has every right to chant their love for the Prophet and raise their voices to the high heavens in hope of a better, less arduous year.

Believe me, I hope and pray for better, too.Yet, I saw an Arab country in that televised scene, not Malaysia. I did not see any of the VVIPs in baju Melayu, sampin and songkok –  most if not all of them were in flowy, white jubahs complete with kopiah, sitting on cushions that reminded me of nomads living in the desert rather than the usual sofas reserved for VVIPs at government-organised events.

I did not see women during the brief televised set, though from news reports I was informed that the crowd consisted of families. It would have been wonderful if the women were in kebayas and batik sarongs, with their hair in elegant sangguls, but I do not think this was the case.

I understand that the clothes worn there are meant for prayers, as the VVIPs led the crowd for Isya’ prayers beforehand – however, have we not seen our leaders led prayers in baju Melayu every Raya? Are we now so immersed in Arabic culture that we have completely forgotten our own?

Ridhuan Tee

A constitutionally Defined Malay Muslim who abandoned  his Chinese roots

We surely forgot that Malaysia consists of non-Muslims, too. Would it not have been more meaningful to hold an interfaith session, where every Malaysian can come together, pray for a better nation and a better year and at the same time learn the nuances of the different faiths, interact with each other side by side and essentially be Malaysians?

Surely that would have been the best way to organise such an event if it is the spiritual aspect we are aiming for.It is sad to think that I am reduced to feeling “Malaysian” only when I go for overseas conferences, at running events and at roadside stalls.

In this new year, I urge that we all reassess our own Malaysian identities before adopting another.

Farewell 2015, Welcome 2016 and Thanks


January 1, 2016

Farewell 2015. Welcome 2016 and Thanks for the Memories

Din2016

When I say that 2015 was a Year of major disappointments and frustrations, I am being generous. It was, in fact, a horrible year for our country. We have become a divided nation led by a corrupt leader who would not hesitate to use the awesome power of his office to cling desperately to his job.

Never before in my life have I witnessed a nation torn apart by race and religion. Suddenly we are being given the impression that the survival of the Malays as a race and a people are being threatened by pendatangs. Nothing can be further from the truth than that. In stead, we should count our blessings because our diversity is strength.

UMNO politicians have nothing better to do than to create a bogeyman to divert our attention from the fact that they have been solely responsible for running our nation to the ground. In stead to serving the people of Malaysia, they have served themselves.

Corruption has been rampant in 2015, and we face a crisis of confidence because our Prime Minister has been lying to us. And he is getting away with it because most of us do not care enough to make a stand. 2016 is going to be another terrible year as issues boil over. Restoring trust will be our challenge for 2016. How will our government respond, with more gaffes, or with vision and verve?

Be as it may, Dr. Kamsiah and I wish you all a Happy 2016 and thank you for your support . You, all our friends and associates around the world, provided invaluable comments on this blog that are both constructive and very educational. To our fellow Malaysians, we urge you to stay united as we believe bad times do not last, but resolute people do.– Dr. Kamsiah and Din Merican