Thursday, June 8, 2017

Where Does Hate Come From?

DISCLAIMER: This article is in no way researched and is wholly anectodal, relying exclusively on my personal experiences and what I have gathered over the years I spent growing up in Malaysia.

In light of the recent London attacks, I felt compelled to pen this short article.  I have said multiple times that the problem isn't with the religion, but with the people.  And that is true.  Up to a point.

Violence and hate isn't born out of thin air.  It is taught, it is indoctrinated.  And where does this indoctrination come from?  Sadly, the scholars, khatibs[1] and imams, the leaders of our religious institutions, the men who we trust to know the religion inside out.  Sadly, some of these men are the ones who will condemn terrorism and extremism, yet fail to realize their impassioned sermons convey the opposite message.

Back home in Malaysia, I never miss a Friday prayer.  There are so many mosques and the employers allow their Muslim staff to take some extra time off on Fridays.  For that, I am grateful.  They could easily have hired a non-Muslim and saved themselves the trouble.  But they did not.  Yet, there are times I have been reluctant to go to my neighborhood mosque.  At times, my blood boiled listening to the sermon.  Not because I felt the khatib's occasionally racist rants were true, no.  But because I was pissed off that the khatib had the gall to spew racist nonsense.  Right after reciting a verse from our holy book condemning such acts no less.  The hypocrisy, the indignation.  I hate saying I am offended, but I was genuinely offended.

The saddest part is, as a youth, and not an 'active' member of the congregation, if I try to say anything, the mosque's committee will close ranks and condemn me.  What saddened me was that I knew there were those in the congregation who are non-Malay Muslims.  New converts, people of mixed heritage, foreigners, or even simply those who are Muslim but not Malay.  The khatib uttered phrases such as "the Chinese are out to undermine the Malay Muslims and we must band together" "we must assert our dominance as Muslims to remind them who is in charge".  My blood boiled.  Ever since, I would simply sleep through the sermons.  That way at least I could go back home or to work with less stress.

I cannot speak for the other >1 billion Muslims, but in Malaysia, we also have this odd fascination with Arabs.  It is frequently implied that Arabs are the pinnacle of religious piety.  I vehemently hate this sentiment.  Arabs are people, just like everyone else.  Some will be a shining example of piety, whilst others will be an example of the absolute scum of the Earth, and everything in between.  Just like any other society in the world.

I have seen an imam berate a youth for wearing jeans to the mosque claiming it was 'unIslamic'.  Islam never mentions anything about dress code.  Even with the ever-contentious hijab.  The most that is mentioned in the Quran about the hijab is a verse about drawing a veil to protect one's modesty.  For me, there is no such dress code (there is also the concept of awra but that is a whole different can of worms).  That is simultaneously the beauty and the danger of Islam; it is very much open to interpretation.  A thobe is no more religious than a pair of jeans.  It's important to be respectful, yes, but I will never say an article of clothing is more religious or less religious than another.

[1] a person who delivers the sermon during Friday prayers and Eid prayers.

Friday, June 2, 2017

The Lack of Options

I was inspired to write this after reading an article by my friend, Qyira, who is currently working with Teach for Malaysia.  TFM is an organization dedicated to engaging the youth in teaching future generations, to bridge gaps due to circumstance and to give back to society through education.

At the end of the article, she talks about how one of the students she interacted with had concerns about her future.  She was concerned that the stream she was in had no future options.  Another was worried that her passion for sports had no viable future.  This to me, highlighted an issue I've noticed since I was in high school.  Even with my privileged upbringing, mastery of English, and overseas-educated parents, I was also lost and confused, but over why there seemed to be so few options.

Almost every university that came to give a talk, every school program to help students determine a future path was focused heavily on either law, medicine, engineering, business, or mass communication.  We had one school come to talk about computer science but the alumni they sent regretted taking the course and it was more demotivating than anything.  We did, however, have time for dozens upon dozens of 'motivational talks', and religious sermons from random Sheikhs and ustaz.

There was absolutely zero talk about pursuing programs like computer science, psychology, economics, international development, biochem, or any of the other thousands of courses on offer in Malaysia and overseas.

It's something definitely that can be improved at the schooling-level and a move that I can see being a big boost to the nation's economy as it'll both cut down on the chance of an oversaturated market while creating a diverse pool of talent.

Monday, October 17, 2016


Thank you for being an amazing companion.  Thank you for always being such a loving cat, and for being amazingly adorable and caring.  You always greeted us every time we returned home.  You always wanted to be brought to the food bowl and you loved spending time with us.

You were so charming and amazing my friends would always ask how you were doing.  Your intelligence, sweetness, and love captured the hearts of so many, even those who'd never met you personally.

I know that whenever I left for Canada, you would go to my room looking for me.  You would do the same whenever one of us wasn't around for longer than usual.  You could count and you remembered people.  Whenever someone was home alone, they could be sure that you would be nearby, napping away, and occasionally pestering for food.  You were never needy in the way other cats were.  You enjoyed quiet moments when everyone was lounging about.  You loved being the centre of attention but you never wanted too many pets.

You had so many protocols and routines that, while occasionally tiresome, none of us ever truly grew tired of.  To you, eating was a social interaction and you loved it whenever we would push your kibbles around as you ate.  Your favorite thing to hunt was birds.  Rats were easy and posed little challenge.  You loved hunting birds so much that birds stopped landing in our yard.

You were a fierce fighter; fighting sickness and numerous challengers.  Your mere presence struck fear into the hearts of the neighborhood cats.  And yet, you were surprisingly caring.  Whenever a litter of kittens was born in our yard, you always seemed to look after them.  You always put on a front of machismo but you always had a tender side.  I remember once you climbed into bed to snuggle with me, and as soon as you figured I was actually awake you hopped off pretending that you weren't being adorable.

Thank you Peach Cooper, for an amazing decade with us.  I will continue to cherish every wonderful moment we've shared.  I hope you have found peace wherever you went, and that you are playing in fields with lots of birds to chase.

Until we meet again.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Eating in public during Ramadan should not attract harassment

Yet it does.  As Ramadan comes to a close, I feel like I should pen this article.  It will most likely be a fairly short article.

This past Ramadan, I have heard unsettling stories of people being harassed for eating in public.  Not just Muslims, but non-Muslims too.  I feel this is wrong.  One's fast is purely between themselves, and God.  You do not know what ailments the person may be facing that is preventing them from fasting.  For example, chronic hypoglycemia can lead to seizures and if emergency medical aid is not given, can lead to death.  For the ladies, they may be on their period, something which prevents them from fasting.  C'mon guys, we've learned this in school.  My 4 year old cousins know this.  Your actions are inadvertently telling me that you know/care less about your faith than a 4 year old.  That's embarrassing, bro.

A common retort is that they are 'disrespecting' Muslims by eating in public.  Bullshit.  It is you who are weak-willed.  You see another person eating and mentally you've succumbed to the seduction of food.  You should see it as a test of your resolve and your faith from the Almighty.  I was often told that the Almighty does not give challenges one cannot handle.  If you believe in this, then you have failed in a test you should have weathered.

Furthermore, those of us fasting in Malaysia should be grateful we're only fasting an average of 13-14 hours a day AND that we are fasting in a country where many companies give a bit of leeway so Muslims may leave the office early.  Personally, if my co-worker wants to eat a 7-course steak dinner in front of me, I cannot say anything, but I am extremely grateful in their consideration.  In return for their consideration, I do my best to not make them feel uncomfortable whenever they need to have a drink or a quick snack, even if it is in front of me.

In many other countries, such leeways are not given.  You are expected to work the regular hours, and you may be the fasting for 16, 18, and even over 20 hours!

We were taught in school that Ramadan is not simply a time of starving and dehydrating oneself; but rather a time of introspection as we are to restrain from sexual relations, false speech (insulting, back biting, etc), and fighting.  It is also a time where we should be working to mend any strained relations with one another, REGARDLESS of faith.  And yet today we see some who have sadly not done so.

Remember; don't be a dick.  If you see a non-Muslim eating in public, leave them the fuck alone.  You don't see Hindus barging into Victoria Station saying you're disrespecting their religion by consuming beef, do you?  No.  So reciprocate that understanding and tolerance that has already been extended to us.

If you have read up to here, thank you for your time in reading and please feel free to share your opinions in the comments.  I will do my best to reply.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Toying with the idea of a new article format and a new blog

I've been thinking; since most of the articles I have been posting of late (despite the infrequency of my posts) are definitely of the... opinionated type, I will apply what I have learned in university.  By that I mean whenever I post an article, I will do my best to include sources.

Will it be a pain to format the references section in this medium?  You can bet your bottom dollar it will.  But I feel that if I do not do this, my arguments lack credibility.  How many people read my blog?  Probably only a few.  But again, this blog was never really created as a platform to reach the masses.  It has always been a place for me to articulate some of my opinions.  In the past, I encouraged discussions in the past but due to Blogspot's somewhat annoying comment/reply system, the fact that I do not have many readers, and compounded by my general distaste of people who get riled up and leave nasty comments without presenting any valid arguments, such discussions have been very far and few in between.  I still do welcome well thought comments (regardless of opinion) but I have not been stating that for a long time.

Well, now I am; IF YOU HAVE A VALID COUNTER-ARGUMENT TO MINE, PLEASE SHARE, I WOULD LOVE TO BE GRANTED INSIGHT INTO DIFFERING OPINIONS.  I think it is a great way we can learn and better understand one another.

Now, the burning question is whether I want to go all out with the citations i.e. APA style, etc., or Wikipedia style and put hyperlinked sub/superscripts  Or perhaps a combination?  I might use APA since I am most familiar with that, but my in-text citations shall be hyperlinked?  Hmm.  I'll think about that.

If you have been keeping up with my blog for the past god knows how many years through all my inconsistent posts, my sincere thanks and I hope to be able to post more articles on a more regular basis in the future.

In addition to posting more articles on this blog, I am toying with the idea of starting a new blog.  Perhaps one where I will post weekly articles?  Also in the same vein as the updated format for this blog (sources, etc) but with a much more refined focus.  Perhaps tech?  Perhaps applications of tech?  Sports?  I am an avid cyclist and triathlete and I love watching rugby...  Or maybe even photography?  I'm told I'm quite good at it.  All of the above?  That would certainly open up the range available articles I can write.  Well, if I do get it started, I will be sure to update the few readers I have on this blog to check it out.

Thank you for reading!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Are we really moving towards the banishment of racism or away from it?

In this era of hyperconnectivity and superfluous information feeds, there is literally more information pouring in to us than we could ever possibly process.  Thus, we pick what we feel is either a) important, or b) entertaining enough to give attention.

This has led to increased awareness of racial and gender inequalities, systemic injustices around the world, so on and so forth, which is a good thing.  It is very important that even those unaffected by some of these injustices are aware of them.

Naturally, one of the prevalent causes this generation has decided to rally around is racial discrimination.  It happens around the world.  Which is good as it teaches us that there exists races aside from which we grew up in.  Literally a whole world of different culture, languages, food, etc!

On an unrelated side note; It has always bugged me how some movies portraying interplanetary relationships (such as Star Trek) have generally shown worlds with a homogeneous culture and yet on our very own planet, there is no such thing as a single, homogeneous culture.  Sure, there are common levels of courtesy, our languages can be traced back more or less to one another, but it is still not the same level of homogeneity portrayed in some of these movies.  Perhaps that is what it will take for us to successfully achieve interplanetary and interstellar travel?  A world united as one?  Eh, OK, digression over.

Back to the point I wanted to make; the current generation is all for "not seeing color" and "treating everyone equally".  Then comes along articles like this, as well as what I perceive to be increased use of terms like "white people", "cultural appropriation", etc. used in social media.  It appears that, despite our apparent desire to not see differences in race, we are more keen than ever to categorize one another into boxes.  Then there's the boom in multiple sexual identities (pansexual, etc).

Yes, it is fine to identify as something (black, white, pansexual, heterosexual, whatever!), but I feel that this movement of openness and liberation from societal norms at one point actually becomes regressive.  And that point is the point at which we begin defining ourselves by these labels.

In the course of my short 23 years, I've had the privilege of having friends from literally all across the globe and not one single time did we ever look at one another and go "oh, you're black!" or, "oh you're asian!".

In my humble opinion, true acceptance of one another occurs when things like Black History Month or the Gay Pride Parade are abolished.  Why?  Because at that point we will have actual acceptance; one where such factors are so irrelevant that we don't even bother mentioning.  Exactly the same way you never meet someone and go "oh, you have two eyes,".  It is accepted.

Also, there is this 'small' ethical concept called Rawlsian Justice.  It is a ethical principle that is meant to apply to the basic structure of a well-ordered society, in which everyone decides on their principles of justice and ethics from behind a 'veil of ignorance'.

To quote John Rawls,
"...no one knows his place in society, his class position or social status, nor does anyone know his fortune in the distribution of natural assets and abilities, his intelligence, his strength, and the like.  I shall even assume that the parties do not know their conceptions of the good or their special psychological propensities.  The principles of justice are chosen from behind a veil of ignorance."

In other words, if you did not know where in society you would be placed, nor what kind of society you would be placed in, what sort of society would you like to be placed in?  The idea behind this is that one does not know where one might end up, one is far more likely to choose a society that is fair to all of it's members.  You then act upon in this manner.  I am greatly paraphrasing here and it is likely that I am missing a few key points, but this is what I understand of it.

My motivation for the 'banishment' of events like the Gay Pride Parade & Black History Month are more or less driven by this ethical principle; because to me, these choices are so private/irrelevant/out of your control that it doesn't need mentioning.  You're a dude who's into dudes?  Big deal.  Are you a productive member of society?  Now that I want to know.  To reiterate, things that often the source of discrimination (race, sexual orientation, religion, etc) are either none of my business or not something the person can control.

Furthermore, I've always felt like the more an issue was highlighted, the more it actually became an issue.  Forgive me as I may begin getting slightly controversial here.  Now, for example, Black History Month in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.  The idea behind it's inception was marvel and honorable; to ensure better representation of the history of the African diaspora in schools and communities.  Unfortunately, it did not evolve past that.  In my opinion, the next logical step would have been to fully integrate the lessons such that they became part of the everyday curricula, thereby eliminating the need to celebrate Black History Month.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Many of these events are still being held because members of these communities are still being oppressed and for that, I am not calling for the immediate halt of such events.  What I am saying is that the same communities who are facing injustices should always strive to push the evolution of these events.  Otherwise, like Black History Month, it will not flourish into as effective an education tool as it could have.

In a sense, the more a group keeps saying they are different, the more others will treat that group differently, defeating the purpose of movements to dismantle discrimination.

Another example that I feel supports my argument is the Black Lives Matter movement.  Again, the idea behind the movement is good and many of its members are working hard to ensure their voices are heard through the right channels.  It is important to call out racial injustices wherever they occur.  However, in this age, we have actually become so ingrained in our races that some members of the Black Lives Matter movement interrupted one of Bernie Sanders' speeches.  They looked at him as this elderly white man running for present, and they flat out judged him for that.  They judged him as another racist white politician.  Exactly the same kind of judgment they claim police officers are doing to African Americans.  They didn't bother listening to him, they didn't bother investigating his stands and motives further.  A quick Google search (we are almost literally carrying the entire world's collective knowledge in our pockets for crying out loud) would've told them that Mr. Sanders has been a stout supporter of equal rights for a long time; something the members of the Black Lives Matter movement advocate.

This article is a bit more ranty than I would have liked so it is more than likely that I did not address all issues equally, but I certainly hope that I was able to demonstrate that the ideas I presented can be used analogously into many of the issues regarding discrimination.

TL;DR
I question whether our movements towards the breaking down of racial barriers is actually reinforcing some of the walls that separate us.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Do Not Be So Quick To Judge

Many moons ago, I penned an article about how I felt many muslim Malays (one of the three main races in Malaysia) are very quick to judge and condemn all Jews as laknatullah (damned by god).  Just to reiterate what I said in my aforementioned article, I vehemently abhor this behaviour.  Also, this is most definitely not the view held by the majority of muslim Malays, but rather those of a troublingly large minority.  If you wish to read my entire article, you may find it here.

Back to what I wanted to say; this article will be a sort of extension of my aforementioned article.  It is just something I came across, and wanted to share.

As some of you may know, the geopolitical situation between Israel and Palestine has been littered with controversies, humane atrocities, harsh accusations, and at times, violence.  I just wish that more of my fellow muslim Malays weren't so quick to judge all Israelis and/or Israeli companies as 'evil'.  An excellent example is this company; SodaStream.  They had moved their plant OUT of Israeli-occupied land because they disagreed with Israel occupying Palestinian lands (a move they said was actually counterproductive as they were forced to release many Palestinian workers in the process).  Recently, they were forced to let go of their remaining Palestinian workers because the Israeli government is not renewing their work permits.  You can read the article on this here.

That's right, an Israeli, Jewish-owned company is fighting to help Palestinians.  As a muslim, I was always taught that we should live our life by the Quran.  Well, here are some verses that encourage peace among races and oppose racism;


وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ خَلْقُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَاخْتِلَافُ أَلْسِنَتِكُمْ وَأَلْوَانِكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّلْعَالِمِينَ
"Among his signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your languages and your colors.  Verily, in that are signs for people of knowledge." - Surat Ar-Rum 30:22



يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنثَىٰ وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِندَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ
"O people, We have created you male and female and made you nations and tribes that you may know one another.  Verily, the most noble of you to Allah is the most righteous of you.  Verily, Allah is knowing and aware." - Surat Al-Hujurat 49:13


The second verse in particular I find interesting.  Humans are curious creatures.  In our pursuit of knowledge, we have learned to touch the stars.  As such, God made us into various races such that we will be curious and learn about one another, thereby encouraging both friendship as well as the pursuit of knowledge.  At least, that's how I interpret it.

Do not mistake me as a pious or knowledgeable muslim, I merely despise seeing blind hatred of a race, and have a good internet connection through which I am able to do some googling, and look up these verses.  A lot of my opinions voiced here are mine and mine alone; they may not reflect those of whom are much more learned than I am.

If you've made it this far, thank you for reading.  I hope you have found this article at least slightly insightful.