April 15, 2017
More about James Baldwin–My Favorite African-American Novelist
February 12, 2015
by Nadia Jalil@www.themalaymailonline.com
“Misogyny, in combination with a repressive and perverse attitude towards sexuality, has contributed to Malays having the highest rates of incest, rape, and unwed pregnancies.”–Nadia Jalil
“Malaysian Muslims should struggle against anything in Malaysian culture which does not protect dignity and equality of human being.” — Tariq Ramadan, Kuala Lumpur, January 2015
Looking at developments in the US, I think there are few Muslims who would be unmoved by the large-scale protests against the #MuslimBan there. I wonder, though, how many of us Malay Muslims who have felt touched and inspired by the sight of non-Muslims in a “non-Muslim country” defending Muslims against oppression, felt a twinge of guilt at the fact that we have been complicit in, if not active participants of, oppression in our own country.
Barack Obama’s Moderate Muslim Najib Razak and Islamic Extremist Hadi Awang with India’s disciple of Sayyid Qutb. They are exploiting ISLAM for their political survival.
Quite apart from the “special position” of Islam in Malaysia, which has been used to exert a kind of dominion over members of other faiths—from the major, such as the illegal expropriation of Orang Asli lands in Kelantan and elsewhere, to regular microaggressions like calls to boycott businesses owned by non-Muslims—it has now become very obvious that we have a very sick society.
Malay culture has become one of judgment over mercy. We have abandoned the precepts of hikmah in da’wah and adab when we indulge in amar ma’ruf nahi munkar (enjoining good and forbidding evil). Indeed, more often than not, we relish in public undertakings of nahi munkar and barely enjoin good at all. Social media may not be a perfect yardstick, but given that Malaysians are one of the most active users of social media in the world, it’s a pretty reliable measure of social attitudes. Observe, for instance, the public shaming that occurs when a Malay Muslim is judged to have strayed from accepted mores, particularly in cases where women do not follow conventions in terms of dress.
This behaviour is tied to a development that goes unnoticed in our communities: rampant misogyny. Universities host “cover your aurat” week in which women who do not don the hijab are shamed and harassed, sometimes physically. While a lot of the conversations surrounding the return of a deported serial rapist have centred on safety concerns, another, more worrying, trend is Malay men indulging in victim-shaming—informing women that if they wish to be safe, they should police their dressing and their behaviour. At the extreme end some have wished that the serial rapist would rape women who do not police themselves. We have movies that turn rapists into heroes, and cases where rape survivors have been forced to marry their rapists, a ‘solution’ that is condoned by the community.
This misogyny seems to be founded on a culture of patriarchy that has been given an Islamist sheen. In official and unofficial sermons, women are constantly told that we must be subservient to men, that the one and only way to heaven is by serving the men in our lives, whether they are our husbands, our fathers or our brothers. Exposure to this male chauvinism starts from a young age: in mixed-gender schools, boys are encouraged to be leaders, girls their followers. By contrast, we don’t teach our boys that men, too, have duties and responsibilities to their wives, mothers, and sisters.
Al-Tirmidhi Hadith 3252 Narrated by Aisha ; Abdullah ibn Abbas Allah’s Messenger (saws) said, “The best of you is he who is best to his family, and I am the best among you to my family.”
This attitude stands in stark contrast to the fact that Islam is a religion for which the last Messenger’s (pbuh) first wife was a successful businesswoman and his employer, while another is widely acknowledged as one of the major narrators of hadith, for whom it is said, “the implications of her actions for women’s participation in scholarship, political life, and the public sphere clashed with later conservative conceptions of the role of women”. Indeed, Islam revolutionised the role of women in 7th century Arabia: where once women were thought of as nothing more than chattel and female infanticide common, Islam proclaimed that they were equal to men in God’s eyes.
Misogyny, in combination with a repressive and perverse attitude towards sexuality, has contributed to Malays having the highest rates of incest, rape, and unwed pregnancies. There has been no recognition that this is the direct result of a patriarchal and misogynistic culture that objectifies women, in addition to a refusal to educate children on sexual health and reproductive rights. Rather, proposed solutions again tend to focus on victim shaming and increasingly punitive measures.
We have now become a people who emphasise religiosity over spirituality, good deeds and good conduct; obsessed over the trivial and ritualistic. We are constantly preoccupied by perceived incursions into our ‘rights’ by non-Muslims, and this siege mentality permeates our interactions with them: a clearly non-Halal pork burger restaurant gives one of its dishes a traditionally Malay name, and we are up in arms, claiming it an insult to our religion.
Where, then, are similarly vociferous outcries in matters of grave injustice? We police outward shows of religiosity—what we eat and what we wear, and demand that our rights supersede those of others, always. As citizens of a multicultural country we ignore the rights of others and public interest (maslahah) in order to chase “religious points”. We stand quietly by as an Islamist State government destroys Temiar lands and punishes members of the tribe who are protecting their homes and trying to stop the environmental devastation that occurs through excessive logging.
We don’t question massive embezzlement of public funds, even when we know that those funds are used to finance people going for Haj and Umrah—which seems to me a very perverse way of “spiritual money laundering”. We allow for the fact that many of our mosques are not sanctuaries but places where the most vulnerable amongst us are turned away.
Our preoccupation with religiosity is aided and abetted by an institutionalised religious infrastructure that infantilises Muslims by claiming that only it can “defend the honour of our faith” and “protect Muslims from becoming confused”. We are constantly told that only the official way is religiously acceptable, even if some rulings rely on a narrow and highly literal interpretation of Scripture. Any form of questioning, however slight, or criticism, however valid, is automatically labelled deviant, and an attack on Islam. In addition, we have a moral police that has been known to harass suspects to the point of causing death—how is this following the precepts of ‘adab?
The fact that Islam in Malaysia is now represented by moral policing, religious bigotry and misogyny has contributed to resentment among non-Muslims, giving rise to Islamophobia. Many non-Muslims lauded Trump for his anti-Muslim views because they have been presented and oppressed by this narrow, intolerant and sometimes, absolutely distorted version of Islam their whole lives.
There are other challenges, but the final one I would like to put forth is the rise in violent extremism. According to IMAN Research, as at August 2016, 236 Malaysians have been arrested by the authorities for joining ISIS, including a 14-year-old girl. This is not surprising, given the fetishising of violent jihad above all other types of jihad, not only in some Madrasahs, but in ‘mainstream’ environments as well. In addition to that, official efforts by the establishment to counter violent extremism contrasts jarringly with domestic bigotry that continuously otherises those in the minority.
I highly suspect that part of this behaviour is due to the heavily politicised nature of Islam in this country, where UMNO and PAS regularly try to “out-Islam” the other, and all other political parties have to play along with this narrative. Thus has our faith been hijacked by rank politics and conflated with the bigoted ideology of Malay supremacy.
Of course, it can be argued that these are generalisations, and “not all Muslims” subscribe to these behaviours and have these views. I emphasise again that these are norms, in the sense that we have become desensitised to them and, apart from the statements made by more temperate Muslim organisations and our own private protestations, they continue on, generally unremarked and tolerated, if not accepted.
I am not at all questioning the position of Islam as the official religion of this country. Instead, what I am calling for is the end of this distorted misrepresentation of our faith. As those who are privileged to be in the majority, we have a duty to end oppression committed in the name of Islam.
I fully realise that I am preaching to the choir in an amplified echo chamber. However, ours is a more dissonant than harmonised, whereas those promoting a narrow and intolerant Islam far removed from the vibrancy and openness of the Muslim civilisations which continue to be our inspirations—of the Abbasids, Umayyads and Cordoba—are concentrated and organised. We have let this go on for far too long. If you care for an Islam in Malaysia that is representative of our faith’s beauty, ideals of justice, and rahmah, I submit that we have to act now.
Islam is also not conformity and compulsion, but reason and compassion
Firstly, we need to arm ourselves with knowledge. Of Islam, of other faiths, of socio-political and economic developments. Knowledge is, as always, power. If you choose to be devout, as Tariq Ramadhan, the Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford University, has exhorted, “(i)f you want to be good Muslims, instead of preventing people from believing, you become better believers. Don’t be scared of people who are not Muslim. Be scared, be afraid, be worried about our own lack of consistency.”
Secondly, we need to strengthen our own communities, and get organised. We need to overcome petty disagreements surrounding minute differences in opinion and support those organisations that are already working to promote a tolerant Islam that fights oppression. We need to form alliances, and yes, we need to go beyond the echo chamber.
Finally, we need to act against oppressions conducted in our name. Loudly speak out and strongly act against bigotry, fight for the vulnerable and marginalised, insist that our mosques are opened as sanctuaries, promote Islam as it truly is.
We need to get to work.
*This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.
 “Look in the mirror, Muslim don tells Malaysians critical of Western discrimination”, The Malay Mail Online, 1 February 2015, http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/look-in-the-mirror-muslim-don-tells- malaysians-critical-of-western-discrimi#sthash.lwflqwTZ.dpuf
January 30, 2017
By Ian Buruma
Is there any reason for liberals to feel optimistic after a year of political disasters? Is there even a shred of silver lining to be found in the tatters of Brexit, Donald Trump’s election, and European disunity? Christians believe that despair is a mortal sin, so one might as well try to find a glimmer of hope.
In the United States, many liberals console themselves with the belief that the obvious dangers of being governed by an ignorant, narcissistic, authoritarian loudmouth backed by billionaires, ex-generals, peddlers of malicious fake news, and neophytes with extreme views will help to galvanize a strong political opposition. Trump, it is hoped, will concentrate the minds of all who still believe in liberal democracy, be they left or even right of center.
In this scenario, civil-rights groups, NGOs, students, human-rights activists, Democratic members of Congress, and even some Republicans, will do everything in their power to push back against Trump’s worst impulses. Long-dormant political activism will erupt into mass protest, with resurgent liberal idealism breaking the wave of right-wing populism. Well, perhaps.
Others seek comfort in the expectation that Trump’s wildly contradictory plans – lower taxes, while raising infrastructure spending; helping the neglected working class, while slashing welfare and repealing the Affordable Care Act – will suck his administration into a swamp of infighting, incoherence, and incompetence.
All these things might happen. But protest alone won’t be of much help. Anti-Trump demonstrations in big cities will no doubt annoy the self-loving new president, and the moral glow of joining the resistance will warm the protesters. But without real political organization, mere protest will go the way of Occupy Wall Street in 2011; it will peter out into ineffectual gestures.
One of the most dangerous ideas of contemporary populism is that political parties are obsolete, and should be replaced by movements led by charismatic leaders who act as the voice of “the people.” By implication, all dissenters are enemies of the people. That way lies dictatorship.
Liberal democracy can be saved only if mainstream parties can regain voters’ trust. The Democratic Party must get its act together. “Feeling the Bern” (the mantra of Bernie Sanders’ leftist campaign) will not suffice to stop Trump from inflicting great harm to institutions that were carefully constructed more than two centuries ago to protect American democracy from demagogues like him.
The same thing is true of international arrangements and institutions, whose survival depends on the willingness to defend them. Trump has expressed his indifference to NATO, and US security commitments in East Asia. His election will further erode Pax Americana, already battered by a succession of foolish wars. Without the US guarantee to protect its democratic allies, institutions built after World War II to provide that protection would not survive for very long.
Perhaps there is a tiny ray of hope in this gloomy prospect. Europe and Japan, not to mention South Korea, have become too dependent on US military protection. The Japanese have fairly large armed forces, but are hampered by a pacifist constitution written by Americans in 1946. Europeans are completely unprepared to defend themselves, owing to inertia, complacency, and lassitude.
It is just possible that Trump’s blustering “America first” rhetoric will galvanize Europeans and East Asians into changing the status quo and doing more for their own security. Ideally, European countries should build an integrated defense force that would be less dependent on the US. And the countries of Southeast and East Asia could construct a Japanese-led variant of NATO to balance the domineering might of China.
But even if these arrangements came to pass (a huge if), it would not happen soon. Europeans are unwilling to pay higher taxes for their own defense. Germany has neither the wherewithal, nor the will to lead a military alliance. And most Asians, including many Japanese, would not trust Japan to lead such a coalition in Asia. The current Japanese government, under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, would like to revise the pacifist constitution, as a necessary first step toward weaning the country off its total dependence on the US. But Abe’s revisionism is rooted in a nationalist ideology, which is prone to justifying historical atrocities instead of drawing lessons from them. This alone disqualifies Japan from leading others in a military pact.
So, while it might be time to rethink the world order built by the US on the ruins of WWII, the Trump presidency is unlikely to bring this about in a careful and orderly manner. His election is more like an earthquake, unleashing forces no one can control. Instead of encouraging the Japanese to think about collective security in a responsible way, Trump’s indifference is more likely to play to the worst instincts of panicky Japanese nationalists.
Europe is in no shape to rise to the challenge of Pax Americana’s erosion, either. Without a greater sense of pan-national European solidarity, European institutions will soon become hollow, and perhaps even cease to exist. But this sense is precisely what the demagogues are now undermining with such conspicuous success.
If there is reason for confidence, it is not in the liberal democratic world, but in the capitals of its most powerful adversaries: Moscow and Beijing. Trump, at least in the short term, seems to be good news for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. Without credible American leadership, or a strong alliance of democracies, there won’t be much left to restrain Russian or Chinese ambitions.
This might not lead to catastrophe in the next few years. Russia and China are more likely to test the limits of their power slowly, bit by bit: Ukraine today, perhaps the Baltics tomorrow; the South China Sea islands now, Taiwan later. They will push, and push, until they push too far. Then anything may happen. Great powers often blunder into great wars. This is no reason for despair, as we begin the New Year, but no reason to be optimistic, either.
December 13, 2016
An “unfair education system” is at the root of Britain’s “us and them society”, according to Alan Milburn, chairman of the UK government-sponsored Social Mobility Commission.
Part of his suggested solution is to make schools more accountable for where their pupils go next, while spreading university education to young people from under-represented groups and geographical areas that have become education black spots. In the north-east of England, for example, not one child from the poorest category of households went to Oxford or Cambridge universities in 2010, the commission has found.For decades, schemes designed to encourage more young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to apply to university have been devised, launched and then scrapped by the next set of incoming ministers.
But since undergraduate tuition fees were introduced in 2004, the Office for Fair Access, an independent regulator, has required each institution to provide a plan to widen access in exchange for the right to raise this revenue. Even after fees increased dramatically in 2010 to £9,000 a year, progress has been made.
According to the Universities and College Admissions Service (Ucas) one in five 18-year-olds from deprived backgrounds now goes to university — a 65 per cent improvement on 10 years ago. This year Oxford raised the proportion of state-educated students admitted to undergraduate courses to 60 per cent, up from 56 per cent in 2015.
But barriers remain — not least because more than two-fifths of state schoolteachers surveyed by the Sutton Trust, an education charity, said they would not encourage even their brightest pupils to apply to Oxbridge.
Charities and university outreach schemes try to address the endemic lack of aspiration by working with schools; the most effective begin with primary age children and embed themselves in local communities.
Spotlight: James Lambert – IntoUniversity Chair of Trustees
We have grown from helping a handful of individuals to a point where we are genuinely changing society for the better’
James was educated at Harrow School and read Law and History of Art at the University of Cambridge. He is a Director of Lisburne Holdings Ltd and is also a Director of Value Retail plc, which develops and operates factory outlet centres including Bicester Village in Oxfordshire.
The IntoUniversity programme began as a local project at the North Kensington centre. By 2006, the co-founders, Rachel Carr and Hugh Rayment-Pickard, knew from the burgeoning numbers and feedback from users that they had an extraordinary project on their hands. The question naturally arose: was this a one-off or could they replicate this success across several centres? They convened a symposium and invited politicians, educationalists and local community members to debate this question. I was – and am – part of the Bicester Village group that has expanded to multiple locations across Europe, so I had a sense of what it is to be part of a growing company and was in favour of expansion.
I went home and had a sleepless night thinking: ‘this is a terrific idea. The educational gap is neither fair nor good for society. My kids are helped to aspire to go to university and receive all the backing they need whereas, literally a few hundred yards away, in the local authority flats over the road, there will be a child of equal intelligence who doesn’t have this aspiration or opportunity and consequently has a very different life outcome. Any idea that can successfully address this horrible inequality is a fantastic thing. But what if, like many good ideas, it remains just that? There was no mention of funding for this mooted expansion – what will happen if it just doesn’t get traction?’
The next morning I got up and wrote a cheque. I then called two friends and asked whether they would consider doing the same and those two dear people said yes. So off I went to Sirdar Road and presented Rachel and Hugh with £30,000.
It seemed like a fateful moment. Rachel looked at Hugh, Hugh looked at Rachel. There was a long pause. Then Rachel said, laughing, ‘oh dear, now we really have to do it!’
And from that little acorn, seeing a handful of students, we have in less than ten years grown into this wonderful organisation with 21 centres. This year we will serve more than 21,500 young people.
What has driven and sustained this growth? Firstly and simply it remains a compelling idea. When you tell people that for society’s most disadvantaged cohort only 23% progress to Higher Education they are initially shocked, but when you add that when they have been through our programme that percentage rises to 80% they are then hugely supportive.
The power of the idea has enabled us to raise funding right across the spectrum, from single individuals to huge institutions, such as The Queen’s Trust and Impetus-PEF.
Moreover, we have been able to recruit an incredible team of intelligent and enthusiastic colleagues. Word seems to have got out that we are doing something worthwhile and we interview, on average, 18 graduate scheme applicants for each position. The full-time staff are supported by a corps of over 1,500 wonderful volunteers who give selflessly of their time.
Secondly, the need for what we do remains enormous. While we are now present in seven cities across England, our research shows many more areas with dire university progression rates that would be transformed by one of our centres. Over the next five years, we hope to extend our reach to more young people by opening additional centres and by expanding our programmes to best suit the needs of our students.
There is still much more to do. We have grown from helping a handful of individuals to a point where we are genuinely changing society for the better. Many consider us the most impressive charity driving social mobility in the country.
I went home and had a sleepless night thinking: ‘this is a terrific idea. The educational gap is neither fair nor good for society.’
As Trustees, we work closely with Senior Management to plan the pace of expansion. It is wonderful to be part of a growth story. An organisation that is not growing feels as if it is shrinking. Expansion is inspiring and as well as fundamentally helping more young people, it is attractive to funders who want to see an idea that is succeeding on a meaningful scale. It also creates a great atmosphere among our staff who see that if they succeed there is plenty of space for them to grow into very responsible roles at a young age. However, we Trustees are also very mindful that our expansion must be sustainable. Growth requires financial and management resources and so we try to find the right balance, carefully calibrating the number of centres we open each year so we are going as fast as we can without becoming overstretched.
Looking back, it is hard to believe how much we have grown and achieved in less than ten years. It is a remarkable narrative and we are truly indebted to our founders, our staff, our volunteers and our funders who make it possible for us to pursue this inspiring vision: closing the UK’s opportunity gap through education.
James’ article is taken from the latest edition of IntoUniversity’s termly newsletter aspire, published in May 2016. To read aspire in full, click here.
“We have to start early, it has to be relentless and for the long term,” says Hugh Rayment-Pickard, chief development officer at IntoUniversity, a social-mobility NGO that started in a deprived corner of west London in 2002 and has spread across seven British cities, helping 25,000 school pupils a year, many as young as seven. It has just opened its 22nd learning centre, in London’s Finsbury Park, an area with the third-highest level of child poverty in England.
The new centre is backed by Oxford University’s Wadham College, Cambridge University’s Corpus Christi College and four private schools: Eton, Westminster, St Paul’s Girls School and City of London School for boys. It is the first centre to involve collaboration of this sort between the ancient universities and the independent sector.The disadvantages faced by pupils in Finsbury Park, compared to those at any of the private schools, are, says Mr Rayment-Pickard, part of a “pretty stark” story of an educational divide passed down through generations.
Young people growing up in Finsbury Park are half as likely to go on to university as those in the more prosperous nearby areas of Crouch End, Muswell Hill and Highgate.
Evaluations found that the charity’s mix of after-school academic support, mentoring and intensive, subject-focused workshops ensures that 80 per cent of the school leavers on these programmes go on to higher education. For comparison, the overall figure for children in the most deprived groups in 2014, measured by entitlement to free school meals, was only 23 per cent.
Family support is important: “We try to normalise the idea of higher education,” says Mr Rayment-Pickard. “Not all our students will go on to university and not all should. But we get them to feel talking about it is not freakish. What are the advantages middle-class kids have? Partly, it is not waiting until the age of 14 to hear about university, and they understand the link to getting good grades.”
The push by educated parents to ensure their child’s place in the next cohort of success stories entrenches the divide. Last month’s report from the Social Mobility Commission observed that where both parents are highly educated, children received about 110 minutes a day of educational activity, compared to 71 minutes in other households. In the 1970s there was almost no difference between these groups.
With the target set by Tony Blair’s government to help 50 per cent of young people into university all but met, UK policy wonks now try to argue that as much energy should be spent devising high-quality alternative, skills-based routes into good jobs for the rest. A recent report by Professor Alison Wolf for the Education Policy Institute, a think-tank, found uptake of technical qualifications fell by a third in the academic year ending in 2015 compared with the year before.
At IntoUniversity, only 4 per cent of school leavers go on to an apprenticeship, where training standards vary.
“High-quality vocational options are vital,” says Mr Rayment-Pickard. “But we must not forget that a good university place remains a uniquely powerful asset for any young person looking to escape from poverty.”
Simple things makes me happy because they teach me to appreciate God’s Earth. They do not cost money yet they make us appreciate the richness of life, but only if we can put our egos (that sense of inferiority that makes us lie and cheat) aside.–Din Merican
August 27, 2016
We now admit that the climate is changing. But we must also be aware that the so-called natural disasters are happening more frequently, and are more violent. And these cataclysms are happening in more places than before.
We see floods in New York, tsunamis in Sumatera and Fukushima, non-active volcanoes erupting, repeated volcanic eruptions in the same location, prolonged winters, high temperatures for months in many countries, tornadoes which wreck whole countries, typhoons of unprecedented strength and huge forest fires which consume parts of towns.
Is it just climate change which we hope will come to an end. Can we expect to go back to the years when the weather behaves in predictable cycles, i.e in the regularity of the seasons, the levels of the seas, the rise and fall of the tides, and the habitability of this planet we call Earth.
We now accept that the Earth is much older than we use to think. We also know that it was not always like what it is now. We know that the human race appeared probably only a few hundred thousand years ago.
We know that there was a time when dinosaurs inhabited the earth. They disappeared but they left their skeletons so that we cannot deny that they existed even though they were strange creatures unlike the animals we see today. Perhaps the crocodile is the only surviving species from the age of the dinosaurs.
We know that there were at least two ice ages, when the whole world was covered with a thick layer of ice. Life as we know today could not have survived the cold. Nothing could grow on the ground covered with the thick layer of ice. Even dinosaurs could not have survived, as there was no vegetation for them to feed on.
The ice melted to form oceans. The oceans and the seas receded and land masses appeared. We know the land masses grow and sundered, drifting apart to form continents. We are told the Himalaya is still growing taller. The process is very slow, but it is growing if we compare heights over the years.
The land masses too change in shape so that the shorelines change even during our times. We have found sea-shells on land very far from the sea, on mountains even.
We know all these had happened in the past. It cannot be that all these changes and processes stopped because civilised man now occupy this earth.
The process of change on this earth must be continuous. It must be continuing.Men have always believed in the end of the world. Almost every religion talks of the Last Day of the earth. But we really do not know when it will happen. Could it be that we are progressing towards it even now.
It may take a hundred thousand years. But can we expect the changes to cease. Can we expect the volcanoes and the quakes, the violent storms, tsunamis and tornadoes, the floods and landslides etc to remain mild or benign as they used to be. I should think not.
Instead we must expect increasing frequency and violence of the natural cataclysms. The world may become so hot that living things cannot survive. The world may become so cold, the third Ice Age, that living things cannot thrive either.
For humanity it can mean the end of their world.So it is true, what the religions warn us about. For Muslims there has never been any doubt. There will be kiamat. Perhaps the scientists too will finally admit that for men the world has come to an end.But whether they do or not the end will come.