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Traditional values are, therefore, not out of date.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.

The Neo-Malays in Politics


January 5, 2016

The Neo-Malays in Politics

by Zaid Ibrahim

http://www.themalaysianinsider.com

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The Neo-Malays at Dataran Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur

The neo-Malays are the “new Malays”. They are younger than me and the members of G25, and some are seriously wealthy, although we don’t know how they earned their money or whether it was inherited. They also have a serious mission in mind, which is to change the world and to do it as Muslim warriors. But to do that, they first have to take power.

This past New Year’s Eve some 50,000 of them gathered at Dataran Merdeka. Led by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and other well-known personalities including Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, they held what I believe was a prayer session and sang praises to God Almighty and the Prophet Muhammad.

My liberal (and religious) Malay friend sent me a photograph of the event. The men were dressed in robes, serban and skull caps, and they were all doing a salute with their clenched fists, not unlike how the Nazis used to salute their Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler.

Now that was something else, and it worries me.  Is this a new brand of Malay power?  It certainly is different from Dato’ Seri Najib Razak’s brand.  Najib loves to celebrate New Year , just like you and me , except that he does it in his inimitable style ( he is after all seriously wealthy).

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Neo-Malay Leaders–Tengku Adnan Mansor and DPM Zahid Hamidi (center)

I guess the Dataran celebration by Zahid marks a new path for the country. It shows that when he comes to power, most probably our politics and our New Year celebrations will drastically change as well. The very idea of it should send a chill through all our spines.

Why were the neo-Malays celebrating a Gregorian New Year in the first place? Why did they gather at Dataran Merdeka for an event that had no Islamic element or historical significance? My guess is that these Malays wanted to celebrate the New Year like everyone else, but because of their image and their brand of politics, they had to be different.

They probably wanted to enjoy the New Year but were worried they would be accused of mimicking the West. Enjoying themselves, they thought, would make them unislamic. They had to be different because that is the new world they wanted to create. They wanted to send a new message.

As “good Muslims”, they believed they could not allow themselves to enjoy or celebrate the New Year; even if in their hearts they would have much rather preferred watching Siti Nurhaliza, Zainal Abidin or the Blues Gang perform and let loose some fireworks – but politics had to come first.

I hope the Chinese, American, Russian, Japanese, European and other Ambassadors living comfortably in the Ampang precinct take a more serious view of our politics. Stop being naive. Enough of the nice brand of diplomacy.

Just because our leaders wear Brioni suits does not mean they are the usual types found in the world’s capitals. If you care enough about freedom and democracy, you must take the time to understand their thinking. The Chinese (and by that I mean those from Beijing and not the DAP Chinese) are taking a strong hold of the economy by making huge investments in our country.

They must therefore be careful that our burgeoning fascist ideas—does not destabilise the other communities or the country’s stability. The Americans and the Europeans must also stop taking things at face value. Many of the neo-Malays here are different from those in Indonesia and Iran.

They are closer to the Taliban and Isis in their values and outlook. Make some effort to understand this new Muslim mindset. Countering these dangerous ideas now will be less costly and better for world peace and stability.

The True Meaning of Christmas: It’s Love and Compassion


December 23, 2015

The True Meaning of Christmas: It’s Love and Compassion

by Emmanuel Joseph

The Malaysian Insider

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The spindly pitiful two-foot Christmas tree that has become a cultural darling was Schulz’s way of focusing readers on the important things in life, in this case bringing joy to the seasonally depressed and perennial underdog Charlie Brown in the 1965 animated TV special, A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Ridiculed in the story for picking such a puny specimen for the annual Christmas play, instead of the “big shiny aluminum tree” he was dispatched to find, Charlie vowed to make his sad-sack tree beautiful, to pretty it up with decorations and imbue it with glory.

To Charlie, the droopy little tree with the falling needles was about hope, about Christmas being not what you have, or how grand it is, or how many gifts you get, but about believing in oneself, and the power of friendship…

That tree is a signal, with or without religious embodiment, that it’s time to both take stock and reflect, to be grateful for all that we have and to have hope for those who have none.

http://www.vancouversun.com/life/Shelley+Fralic+true+meaning+Christmas+tree/10674187/story.html

It’s Christmas season again! The most magical time of the year. Peace and goodwill and joy to the world. Well, most of the world, at least.

Joining the ranks of Somalia, Saudi Arabia and North Korea, our neighbour Brunei has become the latest country to ban public Christmas celebrations, becoming both the first ASEAN and  the first Commonwealth country to do so.

That the move comes from a shariah-governed nation should come as no surprise.It is, after all to reflect the modest, puritanical form of religious rule that comes with theocratic regime.

What’s ironic, however, perhaps, is this new-found rigid religiosity, juxtaposed against what is probably the most regal of Royal Households with the lifestyle to match. The fear is that Christmas would corrupt Muslims and lead to the corrosion of Islamic values. We see a much milder form of apprehension even in our own country.

This fear isn’t exclusive to Muslim countries either – in India, religious organisations that subscribe to Hindutva ideology and in Buddhist majority Bhutan, the same argument is applied, albeit for Hindus and Buddhists, respectively.

The first anti-Christmas celebration stance, however, came from Christians themselves- the second half of the 16th century saw Christmas becoming a controversial bone of contention between the traditional Catholics with the newer Protestant churches which viewed the celebrations as wasteful, excessive, indulgent and even un-Christian.

This opinion, to varying degrees, though mostly toned down, is still very much held today by many Christian groups.They contend that the over-commercialisation and secularisation of Christmas dilutes the true meaning of Christmas – the celebration of the coming of Jesus Christ.

The fear is that over-celebrating Christmas leads to corruption of Christianity and Christian values. And on the other end of the spectrum comes the non-religious argument against Christmas.

Giant stores in the West, particularly in America, have steadily, over the years, toned down the religious theme of Christmas, opting instead to make it an almost entirely secular celebration for commercial reasons.

In some state and county authorities, humanist and atheist organisations have aggressively challenged the use of public funds to erect nativity scenes and similar Christian themed paraphernalia, citing the separation of church and state and arguing that such displays were, in fact, a form of propagation of religion, and therefore a misuse of public funds.

It is funny how one celebration can solicit so many divergent public views.The truth is, much to the dissatisfaction of religious Christians, Christmas is as much secular as it is religious.

Much like New Year’s or Halloween, it has left its humble beginnings as a religious practice to spread out universally, in the process, being enriched by various local customs and traditions from many countries, fuelled by commercial supply and demand, interwoven with myths and legends, some exaggerated history, others from fantastical tales, yet others, completely artificial fantasy made up to sell toys and candy, yet every one of them entertaining and colourful. In other words, Christians no longer exclusively “own” Christmas, it has become a piece of global culture.

As such to merely look at it through a strictly religious lens may not do justice to it. Neither would labelling it a Western celebration (Jesus and St Nicholas were both Asian.)And then there is this hunt for the elusive “true” meaning of Christmas, a hunt that has gone on for as long there have been Christmas tales and movies.

Personally, I do not think there is really one “true” meaning to Christmas as there is one “true” meaning to Deepavali or Chinese New Year. There are, however, religious grounds of Christmas, that in a manger in Bethlehem, 2000 years ago, a great teacher, healer, prophet and saviour was born.

There are positive social values associated with Christmas – that it is a time for family, loved ones, a time for giving and receiving, of forgiving and being forgiven, of sharing and caring. There are, however, completely merry tidings that comes with Christmas, that it is gifts, and eating and drinking and singing and partying.

And there is nothing wrong with any of those meanings. Because at the heart of it all, is what creates, empowers and drives whichever or all meanings that a person chooses to embrace as what Christmas is. And that is love.

While we are still permitted to, wishing you and your loved ones, a love filled and blessed Christmas!

 

Let us get into the Christmas Mood and Mode


 

December 22, 2015

Let us get into the Christmas Mood and Mode

Xmas 2015

Two days to go before we, members of the Human Race, join our Christian brothers and sisters the world over to celebrate this special time of the year. For some it is going to be a White Xmas, to  those in the Southern Hemisphere it is Christmas in the Summer and at the Equator, it has always been Christmas in the sun or rain. Whatever the weather, Christmas is for all and may there Peace in the world and goodwill among all men and women of God. It is one day in the year we  can rejoice together irrespective of our religions, political ideologies, and cultures.

Of course, for some people, it is verboten for Muslims to join in the festivities, but in Phnom Penh and throughout the Kingdom, Cambodians of all religious denominations join hands in the celebrations, and in ushering the New Year. It used to be the way in Malaysia (Malaya in my time) when I was a teenager decades ago, but no longer because our self-righteous mullahs with the connivance of our political leaders have taken over.

Dr. Kamsiah and I wish you all a Great Christmas and a wonderful New Year.  We thank you,Kamsiah and Din Merican at Bar Council Dinner wherever you are, for your friendship and kindness. Indeed, we are grateful to you for supporting this blog and for the great comments, without which this blog would be boring and bland. We may have disagreed, but that is in the nature of mature discourse.  To us, your views and comments have been biting at times, but always educational and entertaining. Keep it up as we are looking forward for more in 2016.–Dr. Kamsiah and Din Merican

 

Happy Diwali, 2015


November 9, 2015

Happy Diwali, 2015

Dr Kamsiah and I wish all friends of the Hindu Faith a Happy Diwali. May the Day of Kam and Din latestLight bring a hope and happiness to all men and women of goodwill. Let us strive for a better Malaysia. Our is a great country and we must together build a country for all. Let no one split us asunder.–Dr. Kamsiah and Din Merican from Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Diwali 2015