Saturday, January 06, 2007

This blog is closing down

this blog is closing down for good.

i will like to thank everyone for your input. heartful thanks to all your compliments. sincerest apologies to anyone whom i have hurt, for that never was and never will be my intention.

good luck, god bless.

Monday, January 01, 2007

The ettiquette of forgiveness or seeking recourse in justice

" At 7:22 AM, Anonymous said...
Thank you for "Maaf zahir dan batin." As a Christian, I appreciate it especially. You speak better on this topic than many Christians.Do you have a comment on the execution of Saddam Hussein, his call for forgiveness and the rejoicing of his enemies? Anything you might say would be interesting, whether pro or con. "

The post "Maaf Zahir dan Batin" has generated quite a bit of discussion that its definitely one topic I had to revisit more than once. I had earlier written a subsequent article and now i am writing another article on the topic. It is highly probable that this topic is generating so much discussion because we are living in world where we and those around us have a great incapacity to neither forgive truely nor seek recourse appropriately.

On the execution of Saddam Hussein

Undeniably Saddam Hussein is responsible for the killing of a lot of innocent people including women and children of kurdish ethnicity and shia denomination. I was surprised yesterday when a friend said these allegations might be just propaganda. The prevalence of inaccuracy and bullshit in conventional and mainstream media has indeed causing people to distrust truths. Till today the mainstream media has failed to fully document the attrocities of Saddam such that laymen have only been hearing about Saddam's attrocities but have not been able to really know about it.

I remember sitting in an arab cafe in Montreal and watching Al-Arabia(a non-mainstream media) channel documentary about Saddam in which they showed one of his speeches when he first came to power. He listed a string of names and vowed in a calm tone that he will eliminate them and he actually did with brute force. I almost choked on my kebab hearing that chilling speech of Saddam who made it sound so normal as if he is going to exterminate some cockroaches in his house. Again recently i saw another chilling video in BBC of how in his early days there was once during which he was giving a press conference and one individual in the audience was a dissident who stood up and shouted at Saddam, only to be dragged outside in front of the media and shot dead. Saddam justified it and I am sure Saddam would have justified all his other killings as not wrongful and instead were necessary to protect Iraq. His "method to protect Iraq", even if we are to accept it as truly to protect Iraq, is not justified when he, without any restraint, started to destroy the lives of people even remotely related to it.

This definitely calls for recourse in justice or forgiveness of Saddam and Iraqis are justified to pursue the former. However, they totally blew it by doing it in the most inappropriate, unjust and barbaric fashion reducing it to nothing less than revenge. They had every opportunity to have tried Saddam in a fair manner and perhaps even excute him in a less than barbaric manner than how they have done now. From the beginning it was clear that the current Iraqi government just wanted to avenge Saddam than justice. What is appalling is the West stood and watch and benignly supported this with their inaction. We are currently seeing how the West is so up at arms with Libya in the HIV infection trial invovling the doctor and European nurses. The West have condemned and are trying to disrupt it claiming the trial was not conducted in a fair manner. Saddam's trial was also not fairly conducted and you did not see the West worried at all about it. So what if Saddam is hated by all of us for what he did. He still needed a fair trial and proper execution. It defeats the whole purpose of trying him then if one justifies the treatment of him by the courts by the very degree to which he is dangerous. The courts can skip all the processes and just put a bullet through every dangerous criminal. It does matter how justice is rendered or else it will be injustice.

It is equally sick to see how a state execution was broadcasted live across the world where it was no different in barbarity from Al-Qaeda's beheadings. I simply could not comprehend how people can rejoice or watch with joy the taking away of a life, even if that life is corrupt and dangerous and cruel.

On Saddam's call for forgiveness

Did he really and truly forgive everyone? We wont know. Anyway why is he making that call for Iraqis to forgive one another now when his fellow Kurdish and Shia Iraqis are no more his number one enemies? Why did he not show forgiveness in his decades of rule? Its like Pharoah when at the time when he was going to be drowned during which it was all over, he called upon God to say he is willing to accept Him and instead reject God all throughout his life.

Nevertheless it is only logical a call because for Iraq to move on or save itself from total destruction, what is required amongst Iraqis is forgiveness.

On the rejoicing of the end of Saddam by his enemies

After having been under the oppression of Saddam and some having seen their loved ones been killed ruthlessly, its understandable to rejoice at the end of Saddam's era. However in the same breath i must say its sick to rejoice the barbaric manner Saddam was finished. As Dr.Mahathir just said, its public murder and to rejoice that is undeniably inhumane and beastly.

This whole episode has taught us two important lessons. Firstly, when we seek recourse in justice, unless we do it fairly and appropriately, it only reduces to cruelty, barbarity and injustice and perhaps even murder. Secondly as the Creator has clearly shown, where one has to choose between justice and mercy, the best option will be the latter.

Sunday, December 31, 2006


Wishing you that your new year ahead will be better than the one that has passed.


Monday, December 18, 2006

The Online Citizen

A pretty long time ago, I received an email from one Andrew Loh to be invited to write for a local Singaporean online magazine. The first instinctive reaction is suspicion. I wondered if this individual belonged to our army of ultra-paranoid intelligence agents? I prayed he simply come forward and just ask whatever he needs to know if he is one since I am naturally very transparent enough to tell him so. Somehow he did not come across as one and instead appeared sincere to get a diversity of opinions for his online magazine. I obliged and submitted my first article on globalization and its impact on Singapore family values.

Then when the online magazine was finally up, I was rather taken aback. It was called The Online Citizen. It did not keep away from discussing politics in Singapore which is a country that notoriously de-citizenizes the political space. I was a little perturbed because the online citizen was encroaching on the de-citizenized political space, potentially putting itself at risk with the authorities who have always shown that they will never respond gently or gentlemanly to such encroachment.

Then again when I sat back to ponder I realize what is happening is only natural. The establishment of The Online Citizen served as an opening to express one's view in alternative media even within an alternative medium and naturally it motivated the locked up citizens to rush in that direction of that opening. Hence I realized I need not be too shocked to see this phenomenon.

A similar example can be found in the arts scene in Singapore. When an opening started showing up with the government loosening up the arts scene since the 90s, some Singaporeans rushed there till today to air their politcial views. As a commentor rightfully pointed out in my earlier article, some Singaporeans take refuge in arts scene for their political expressions.

Within any system that does not work to normalize any energies and instead close and seal up the system to lock up the energies, when an opening, how small it can be, appears, then one can expect to find a gush of that pressured up energies. Liberals will therefore call for an open system, but then again it does not serve as a remedy as the same impact, only in a milder form, will still occur. A more prudent approach will be to normalize those energies.

Another disturbing thing that I noticed about The Online Citizen was that there was some ranting and griping which frankly speaking are fit for the coffee shop and not for public discourse. There again in which Singapore media do we not find such ranting and griping? Its rather a Singaporean thingy. However in the long run, any publication will turn sour and bitter if it has any such form of ranting and griping.

I also noticed that there were some sympathizers of workers party writing for The Online Citizen. There was also an article/quoted articled from a PAP MP. I was again perturbed. I, personally speaking, will not wish to see the presence of politicians in the discussion space of citizens which need to be apartisan in order to preserve the independence of opinions. Politicians everywhere have a tendency to work hard to sway, swing or win opinions, rather than to be light hearted by simply expressing it and leaving the reader with the freedom to do whatever with it according to his/her wishes or fancies. In a pure citizen space, one can confidently read the content without having to second guess what political affinity the author has. Singapore also has a long way to go in developing such a space for expression of independent thought.

We are nowhere near and instead way far behind Malaysia in this where you can find numerous independent thinkers, analysts and intellectuals. I picked up a Malaysian magazine yesterday and was amused to see the magnitude of independent voices some of whom are retired or current politicians who bravely resist partisan politics. It is critical to establish independent space because then only can the imperfections within a system be consistently and accurately understood in a timely fashion by both the government and the people.

When I was in Canada, on a few occasions I was invited to join a few political parties by friends who were already active strategists/planners/party cadres for those parties. Though I, on numerous occasions, were forced to meet up with some of the politicians there, I never on any occasion wished to enter politics. In partisan politics one has to support for the sake of supporting something even he/she is opposed to it and one has to oppose for the sake of opposing something even if he/she support it. That is one of the many shortcomings of democracy which I can never do. On the other hand, I also got to see many more independent individuals who without entering politics were able to contribute to development of society by acting as independent voices of society. They merely served in their capacity as intellectuals, analysts or thinkers within their faculty as academics, scholars, priests, artists etc.

In Singapore where the ruling party is not keen to open up the political space for a full multiparty democratic environment, the alternative is definitely is to create unrestricted space for independent thought. As I keep reiterating in the previous article and in this one, the need to fully identify imperfections of a system, in order to prevent the collapse or decay of the system, makes it a must to implement it.

The Online Citizen beyond these criticisms is indeed a decent publication and has much hope and potential. Since I don’t drive The Online Citizen and in fact I do not even know who are driving it, my wish for it is to give my above recommendations due consideration. Anyway in the old past, we in Singapore had a vibrant print and intellectual cutlure with numerous newspapers that included some apartisan indepedent papers. Today that culture does not exist and therefore any new alternative media has to face the teething struggles of gaining acceptance by everyone from government to public. It will face the challenges of trying to understand and define its sense of expression. So i guess The Online Citizen needs time before we can fully see what it is.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Political: Does criticism = opposition?

The Online Citizen -

Original Article URL:

Does criticism = opposition?

By Ney Reed

Sunday, 10 December, 2006

criticism (noun) - serious examination and judgment of something; disapproval expressed by pointing out faults or shortcomings.

critic(noun) - anyone who expresses a reasoned judgment of something; a person who offers a value judgement or an interpretation.

critique(noun) - a serious appraisal; a serious review.

opposition(noun) - resistance; the action of opposing something that you disapprove or disagree with;confrontation where the act of hostile groups opposing each other; a body of people united in opposing something; a contestant that you are matched against;

After writing two pieces of articles on my blog a year ago, i realized then that i am no longer living in north america but singapore where it is a common and prevalent phenomenon to see people equating criticism to opposition. Hence i wrote a blog piece subsequently to explain that i am merely criticising and not opposing and that there is a distinct world of a difference between the two which the average singaporean from the politician to the average joe tend to miss. After writing two articles for online citizen, again i had the same vibes and here i am writing again to evaluate if and when criticism amounts to opposition.

Professor Seyyed Naquib Al-Attas, a scholar based in Malaysia, reknowned in the West for his contribution to Islamic Philosophy, once profoundly summarized one of the greatest dilemmas of mankind during a seminar in singapore by saying that "one cannot build an understanding in something in which he has uncertainties... he has to remove those uncertainties and thereafter only will he be able to build an understanding". Indeed that understanding becomes the foundation upon which a value, thought, conclusion,system,organization,policy, intervention or initiative is constructed or implemented or pursued. Therefore when one has uncertainties in something, he/she will not be able to adequately/comprehensively understand it such that whatever he/she embark on using that inconsistent understanding, it is bound to produce less than optimal outcomes.

The definitions of criticism, critic and critique

Today in Singapore each one of us have built our own systems and universes where we have zero tolerance for criticism and instead equate it to opposition. Least do we sincerely ask ourselves whether criticism equates and amounts to opposition and if so, is it in exceptional cases or general cases.

The definitions of criticism, critic and critique above, which can be found in any of your english dictionaries, clearly indicate no resemblance in meaning to the definition of opposition. When one criticise or critique something or be a critic of something, he is in no way oppossing it. When one is opposing something, he/she can either criticise it or not but in most cases, it is the former. You may perhaps deduce criticism from opposition but never the other way round. It will be foolish, ignorant and naive to do that.

Let me illustrate with a few examples. The biggest, loudest and worst criticisms one can expect to hear about English league football clubs are not from their opponents but their own fans. The criticisms from these fans are not in any way criticisms but passionate disapprovals. The fans still splurge mindlessly on these clubs despite their criticisms and they never oppose them.

The worst critics of us in our lives are our parents, wives, husbands, teachers etc. In no way can we reasonably equate their criticisms to opposition. It is the very fact that they take our interests and well-being too seriously that they are charitable with their criticisms. What do we call a teenager who retaliates against his parents because they criticise him? Immature, spoilt, foolish. However that is precisely how we are living our lives here in Singapore happily equating every criticism to opposition.

In these two examples we see how criticisms can arise out of fondness, love, liking and that has no relation to an attitude of opposition or resistance.

Being human

One of the definition given above for criticism is that it is an act of disapproval. When do we disapprove? When we do not agree. Because each one of us have our individual mind, it is practically and realistically impossible to expect any two person to agree on everything or anything. They may or they may not. Hence criticisms in other cases can arise out of the very nature of us humans having born with an individual mind. We also disapprove because we may dislike it. There we see criticisms arising in some instances simply because of our very human nature of being born with emotions. Unless we remove the mind and emotions in us, we cannot stop criticisms. Furthermore disapproval does not equate to opposition. One can disapprove and yet not resist.

There are so many things in our daily lives that we disapprove and we do not resist them.Man, as we all know, is imperfect. But what we fail to realize is that because of this we need to understand that whatever man constructs or does is subject to imperfections. Therefore when one sees an imperfection or what seems to him/her as an imperfection, he/she will only naturally criticise. But doing that does not translate to opposing or resisting it which is something totally different. Furthermore it is only healthy for every man made construct to be subject to criticisms or else you can never reduce its imperfections. As long as its imperfections are not reduced, it will be unstable and likely to fail or self-destruct.

Criticisms are like feedback

Criticisms also do not lead necessarily to opposition. Criticisms are like feedback. When criticisms are accepted within a system, those criticisms will die out subsequently and only a fresh set of criticisms will arise.For instance should criticisms be as a result of assymetric information then information will be consistently exchanged and misunderstandings or inconsistent understandings will be clarrified. In other cases a compromise may be reached or there may be a reversal or a new solution implemented.

Opposition or resistance only arises from criticisms when criticisms are rejected and not tolerated or when criticisms are expected to be rejected and not tolerated. The human mind and emotions primarily propels the will within onself to oppose or resist. Hence the human mind and emotions cannot be held down forcibly by being intolerant to criticisms which really is a mere expression of the human mind and emotions.

As mentioned earlier no man made system can be stable or grow without a constant and continued effort to reduce the inherent and ever present imperfections. However this can only happen through tolerance for criticisms. What can perhaps can additionally be pursued is to educate how to express a criticism with a sense of discipline in the mind, soul and body because the receiving end of the criticism also has a mind and emotions such that his/her sensitivities must not be injured.

Every successful civilization thrived only through its continous strive to reduce its inherent imperfections and every successful society/civilization that fell was due to it being oblivious to its imperfections. The imporant avenue and mechanism to identify and rectify imperfections within a system is definitely through criticisms. The divine tests us with our weakness and never with our strengths and if we shut our eyes to weakness, that is when we really fall and break.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

How much bonus/raise does a civil servant need?

The Online Citizen -
Original Article URL:

How much bonus/raise does a civil servant need?

By Ney Reed

Wednesday, 6 December, 2006

In my latest pilgrimage to my foot reflexologist to nurse my back sore from sitting too long in my less than ergonomically designed civil servant seat, my foot reflexologist passed a sarcastic remark. "2.2 months bonus... lotsa money" he remarked. I am sure almost every private sector employee shares the same cynical sentiments.

I don’t think the question ought to be if 2.2 months of bonus is too high, enough or too low. Likewise there was a recent announcement that civil service pay will be raised. The question is again not if whether it should be raised or not. There are seriously strong grounds for 2.2 months payout and across the board civil service pay raise in near future. People who criticize it perhaps may have strong grounds too.

How much of a raise is sufficient?

The real and meaningful question is to ask is if raising civil service salaries, by whatever proportion, or paying out bonuses, by whatever amount, is sufficient. I was telling my foot reflexologist that even if I were to receive 4 months bonus it will not be sufficient. That is not because I am a spendthrift or have four mistresses but rather my cost of living is escalating at an alarming rate that I do not think I can be satisfied with any realistic amounts of bonus or pay rise. My utility will instead be maximized if only rate of growth of costs in Singapore can be controlled.

I was living in Montreal with my wife for a while during grad school with less than $1200 Canadian dollars a month and we had a very comfortable life, dwelling in a rented middleclass area apartment in prime downtown area, ate good food and shopped marginally. It takes me more effort to earn $1200 Singapore dollars but it takes way less effort to spend it and I cannot imagine my wife and myself living that standard of life in Montreal here in Singapore with S$1200 or the equivalent of CDN$1200.

Do statistics say anything?

Politicians may show me consumer price index or other equally arbitrarily estimated statistics, which can only be factual and hardly be truth or reality. Mahathir had an idiosyncratic but a practical solution to this. He had a campaign called "0% inflation". Technically speaking, you cannot have 0% inflation though politicians will refer to what we economists refer to really low levels of inflation as 0% inflation. Hence during his period, prices did rise so there was no real 0% inflation but pressure by Malaysian government was constantly applied to ensure prices did not rise fast.

There are interesting ways prices rise faster than they should. Some prices have greater impact on aggregate price level of a country. Such prices include that of tea, coffee, cigarettes etc. A mere 10cents increase sends shock waves across the working class population who then start demanding higher prices for their services or labour or goods. Transportation, electricity, gas, petrol costs, indirect taxes also have a similar effect. The responsiveness of other prices to the prices of these is very elastic. Mahathir’s "0% inflation" campaign effectively checked this.

Unfortunately in Singapore the trend is reverse. It is these very prices that are rising fast though as I mentioned statistics may or may not show otherwise. Unless we keep a tight check on these prices, the cost of living will indeed continue to rise fast. It always bewildered me when I learnt Singapore is a more expensive place to live than even New York.

Till the rate of increase in cost of living in Singapore is checked, the rate of increase in income through pay raises/bonuses will always be a never ending futile catch up game.

About the authorNey Reed, aged 29, a Singaporean, economist by training, considers himself a conceptual analyst, had been an active participant in public-interests & social-interests dialogue groups, anti-globalization movements and Palestinian human rights lobby in North America during his five years’ stay there.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Social: Globalization and its impact on Singapore family values

Original Article URL:
The Online Citizen -
Globalization and its impact on Singapore family values

By Ney Reed

Tuesday, 28 November, 2006

Organic - adj; Relating to natural way a system works; living nature of living things; not synthetic; constitutional in the structure/make up of something; of which source are alive; of which outcomes are alive; unadulterated; natural disposition.

Culture - noun; Comes from from the Latin word colo, -ere, with its root meaning "to cultivate". Relating to "the set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features of society or a social group, and that it encompasses, in addition to art and literature, lifestyles, ways of living together, value systems, traditions and beliefs"(UNESCO); "made up of the following four elements that are passed on from generation to generation by learning alone - values, norms, institutions and artifacts"

Globalization - noun; Relating to the process of growth of a phenomenon, within a native/peripheral unit/system of the universe, into a phenomenon that exists in many or most or every units and systems of the universe

Globalization is not a recent or purely ill phenomenon. In fact the process of Adam and Eve spreading out with their descendents across the globe after landing onto two different locations on earth, will probably constitute the first globalization phenomenon. Since then knowledge, language, religion etc have all globalized throughout time.

What is particularly distasteful and worrisome of the process of globalization today is that it has conservatively shrunk into a process that is predominantly dictated by corporatization, commercialization and commodification of the world with a clear objective to support and promote capitalism. The global outcomes of such have been a re-definition and re-imagination of the world to the extent that humanity's equilibrium and sustainability have been adversely affected.

The manner by which globalization has displaced Singapore's organic culture is by disrupting inter-generational learning process that facilitates the inter-generational transfer of values, norms, institutions and artifacts. Hence globalization has replaced the traditional forms of these in Singapore with its neo-American and/or neo-Western equivalent only to displace Singapore organic culture which provides each Singaporean with his/her indigenous identity. Hence today what haunts us is the reality that a Singaporean Indian, Chinese, Malay or Eurasian is no longer a Singaporean Indian, Chinese, Malay or Eurasian respectively.

Singapore’s organic culture

In other words Singapore's organic culture is the natural constitutional way Singaporeans live which is shaped by the ethnic groups and their own cultures either working independently or through integration. Singapore organic culture is one that allows us to shut down Singapore today and restart it at any time periods say 1450, 1950 or 2950 and only get different time periods Singapore but which are in essence no different from each other. Globalization unfortunately has broken down this organic culture whereby should our forefathers be brought back from their graves, they will misidentify Singapore to be "an island floating off North America". This is the nightmare that globalization has forced us to live in.

"The Marxist critic of postmodernism Fredric Jameson argues that American capitalism, in the form of huge multi-national corporations backed by the Western media, is (re)colonizing the world. This 'coca-colonisation' of the globe is seen to result in a cultural homogenisation as 'native' cultures are swallowed up by Western values."

One of the most basic and important set of values of Singapore organic culture is family values which have all along been passed inter-generationally through learning. These values be it Chinese, Indian, Malay or Eurasian governed, promoted and gave utmost priority to the processes of creation of family unit, the maintenance and growth of it. The same set of values also laid out strict regulations on the deconstruction of family.

Hence the strongest institution of the Singapore organic culture had always been its fundamental social unit - the family that comes together through another institution, marriage, and grows and multiplies through its traditional, ethnic, religious values and norms. These values included filial piety, pro-family attitudes, pro-creation attitudes etc. The basic assumption members of the organic Singapore family held will be that they are like fingers of a hand moving together and never apart nor alone.

Globalisation’s effect on Singaporean family values

Secularism radicalism, cynical liberalism and commercialization, which are pillars of globalization, have indeed displaced the organic Singapore family through redefining their family values only to induce the Singaporean to be cynical about family, marriage, children and old aged parents and placing more importance on him/herself selfishly than on the collective unit hereby the Singaporean today values marginal benefit more than family benefit. Hence as Karl Marx predicted, family relations have been replaced with money relations.

Today as a result of all this we can observe Singaporeans being relatively more averse than ever before to marry, give birth, live together with a spouse till death do them apart, to be filial to their spouse, live together or look after their parents etc. A generation or two ago these trends will have been unthinkable given the kind of values then.

Because of this we can today observe dysfunctional outcomes in families where literacy and income are high which only used to be specific in lower literacy, low income families ridden with other problems such as alcohol and drugs. National replacement rate having gone way below the natural rate of 2.1 has resulted in us having to depend on immigrants to balance population growth rate so as to preserve economic growth. Divorces rates are amongst the highest of all times and petty reasons for divorce are increasingly becoming common.

The loss of self-identity has given rise to an identity crisis amongst individuals and one of the forms include sexual identity crisis which results in growth of homosexuality or bisexuality. Sexuality that used to be commonly experimented and explored by individuals within the institution of marriage is increasingly being done outside marriage only to contribute to an unprecedented phenomenon of having to protect sexual activity from threatening diseases contagion.

We cannot clumsily discount these trends and observations as modernity since these upset the very equilibrium and sustainability of the family and hence community, society and country.

About the author:Ney Reed, aged 29, a Singaporean, economist by training, considers himself a conceptual analyst, had been an active participant in public-interests & social-interests dialogue groups, anti-globalization movements and Palestinian human rights lobby in North America during his five years.Ney maintains a blog here:

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Farish Noor: the confused other Malaysian

Dr. Farish Noor whose real name is Badrol Hisham Ahmad-Noor, is an interesting personality in Malaysia. A little bit on his background.... born on 15th May 1967 in Georgetown, Penang as Research Fellow at Zentrum Moderner Orient (Center for Modern Oriental Studies) since February 2003 and is working on the research project: Islamic instruction of Malaysian and Indonesian students in India and Pakistan and the application of their knowledge in their home country.

Farish is regarded as the biggest intellectual in Malaysia by many. Undeniably his research on Malay culture is fascinating. His book the Other Malaysia has generated much interest and he used to be a frequent writer on Malaysiakini where most of his following began. Today he has his own website The Other Malaysia. He remains isolated in his country though not purely due to his sometimes controversial views but the way he expresses it.

I find that he is extremely confused an individual in a country where I commonly find individuals to be more than often being sure of themselves. On some occassions in his interpretations, arguments and conclusions in his writings Farish come across as a sufi, on other occassions he will be branded as a wahabi or salafi, on other occassions he stings like a secularcrat/kemalist and in other occassions he talks like a tabliqh jamaat but Farish considers himself a liberal which also can be described of him on some occassions. So who is he? I dont think he himself knows. One thing for sure is that this confused state he is in contributed by his exposure to the various worlds of thought without him being able to finally be a stranger in all and a dweller in one. His continues to grope to find his equilibrium which can also be seen in his strong sense of anger within himself which he expresses through his methods for expression.

I was listening to his BBC radio documentary where he started the show pretty good and then i had to from time to time go back to see what is the title of the documentary cos he kept going out of focus. Having been a radio programmer for four years and having done radio documentaries, I can say its not easy making radio documentaries and but for Farish being so unstable, he definitely is not suitable for radio. In writing, its easier for someone like him to write consistently in one article and not in another and get away with it. But such a person is only likely to show such inconsistencies within a single radio documentary because a radio documentary is equivalent to writing a few articles and therefore will only mess it up.

I often tell my friends not to have too much hope nor discount nor dismiss Farish. He just needs time to find his equilibrium. I still enjoy his articles greatly as long as he does not put in his idoiosyncracies and anger into it and I pray for the day he matures out of this state.

Silverfish Books - for people who like to read

when i was going through primary school in singapore, i remember there was a private reading club called bookworm club that was promoting reading amongst singaporean kids. it was very effective in reaching out to all kids my age in school and was instrumental in inspiring us to pick up reading at our tender young age. unfortunately there was no such reading club that targeted Singaporeans after primary school that worked at a national level. in a country where reading is not a prefered activity, the absence of such clubs makes it even more difficult for reading to become a common past time.

even amongst readers in singapore there is no decent reading club within the country. hence it became a great relief when i found silverfish books based in kuala lumpur. it has done a great job in recent years to gather local stories and publish them, to promote reading and to promote writing short stories. singaporeans who strongly desire and engage themselves in their free time in mostly entertainment truely need the growth of reading clubs in order for growth of strong ideas and true creativity in a country barren of it.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Impact of losing adab

One of the best definitions of adab i have seen is that by prof seyyed naquib al-attas whereby he defines it generally as discipline of body, mind and soul.

This discipline has to be inculcated in a person from his/her birth all through years of growing up till he/she dies. Indeed the learning process is a lot more intensive in his/her earlier years of life. The classroom for learning adab is the world itself and beyond. The teachers start from parents, extend to siblings, relatives, kinsmen, neighbours and include various forms of institutions which come in a little later and the process never stops.

Now in today's world this classroom for adab has fallen apart. Naturally explaining the loss of adab in ourselves as a human race. The impact now becomes obvious. Without adab, the impact will be a loss of justice. Today due to lack or loss of adab, we cant engage anything from environment, to other humans, to other countries, to systems etc positively. Instead we end up exploiting, destroying, harming, abusing, corrupting and stealing. Naturally the response from the other end will not be pleasant having received nothing pleasant from us. But we remain oblivious and defiant in our ways blaming everyone and everything except ourselves. If mankind wants to resolve any one of its woes, it has to at least re-estalish whatever adab that it lost, instead of finding inspiration in alternative ideologies such as secularism, liberalism which only add on to the erosion of adab and exacerbating the woes.

We are our most ignorant guides, worst enemies and greatest harm

two thought provoking quotes from Junaid Baghdadi(R.A.) which clearly shows we are our most ignorant guides, worst enemies and greatest harm.

"know that you are veiled from yourself by yourself" Junaid Baghdadi(R.A.)

"i am the most harmful of things to myself" Junaid Baghdadi(R.A.)

from Early Islamic Mysticism: sufi, quran, mi'raj, poetic and theological writings:

Political: 3 Essential Qualities for a leader of a Muslim Community

Professor Syed Mohammad Naquib Al-Attas excellently lists the below mentioned as three essential qualities for any leader of any Muslim community in his book "the concept of education in islam- a framework for an Islamic philosophy of education"

- High Moral standards
- High Intellectual standards
- High Spiritual standards

In the traditional Muslim societies, there was more social mechanisms to ensure individuals who rise up to become leaders had such high standards. A chief mechanism was the social recognition of individuals who possessed such standards and giving them importance and due high regard and emphasis. In today's Muslim societies where selfishness is rife, everyone is downplayed in accordance to the rhetoric of "i am better than thee".

In traditional Muslim societies another chief mechanism that maintained those above high standards was the constant development of necessary educational institutional and physical infrastructure. Today Muslim communities never go beyond aiming for quran recitation classes and some additional classes and in some countries its commonly held in makeshift locations that double up as masjids. Unless Muslim communities put in place the necessary educational processes which involve masjids, madrasahs, curriculums, teachers etc, the current educational systems will never be able to produce such standards in individuals for leaders to rise from them with such standards.

In traditional Muslim societies, when there were individuals who somehow lacked these standards and yet became leaders, there was a consciousness and awareness that such leaders were lacking these standards. In contradiction, Muslim communities either close a blind eye if they are aware or they ignorantly subscribe to the propaganda and marketing campaigns of today's unscrupulous leaders to not even realize that their leaders lack these basic standards. Muslim communities are too distracted by the pressures and pleasures of dunia such that they either isolate themselves or dissolve themselves away from true integration. Hence this allows neither for an effective environment for individuals to be groomed to possess such qualities nor leaders to outgrow from masses with such qualities.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Hanging Saddam... What about the rest who aided him?

Saddam Hussein has been convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced to death by hanging. This is only for his crimes of killing 148 people in the Shia town of Dujail in 1982. He remains to be tried for his killings of so many other Iraqis. He also remains to be tried for his role in the Iran-Iraq war.

However one must remember Saddam was never alone. The current Iraqi government understands this only to the extent of the role played by Saddam's henchmen in his government and they are making efforts to go after them. The world especially the west namely North America and Europe supports this. However there is another group of people who aided Saddam in his crimes against humanity by supplying him weapons, ammunition, technology and everything else necessary that he require to even embark on his campaign in the 80s. This group is none other than western nations namely US who were actively and significantly aiding Saddam's war machine against Iran where there too he used chemical weapons and all other ruthless methods to kill Iranians.

The question is why is Europe and North America who claim that their society is built on the fundamentals of human rights and justice, hidding themselves in bringing forth the culprits amongst themselves who aided Saddam in the 1980s? Where are the American and European politicians who supported Saddam? Which American and European companies supplied Saddam with weapons, technology and ammunition and chemicals etc? The west will conveniently shelf these questions and pretend that barbarians are people like Saddam and none exists amongst themselves. Till the west stop their barbarians, the barbarians of the east will continue to find support and means for their wicked methods to destroy people. So the European politicians should not talk about civilizing the east when not every one of them is civilized enough... As Mahathir said recently about Bush " (he) is not civilized himself... he should not talk about civilizing others".

Friends vs Life Companion, Family, Kinsmen, Relatives

one of the things that has greatly changed in recent times in humans is the kind of relationships they establish as they grow.

today we can see the phenomenon of a person whereby his/her relationships are chiefly family and friends as he/she grows up and subsequently its purely only friends. amongst this group of friends, he/she establishes special relationship/s that substitute the traditional relationship of life companion as a matrimonial partner. this is typical to the west but also is fast becoming a reality in some westernized eastern countries.

the traditional way of establishing the below mentioned relationships as we grow holds much wisdom and guidance for us versus the contemporary western methods mentioned above.

1) life companion... in today's world marriage is either increasingly postponed. the concept of same sex marriages is increasingly institutionalized contrary to the tradition by which man and woman united. there is also a growing phenomenon of cohabitating for a limited period with one person though this is common in the west. though its rare in the east, its increasing in incidence. these alternatives that the modern man finds to replace the traditional institution of marriage unfortunately do not yeild the same level of benefit, utility and outcomes. Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) said marriage is half of one's religion.when imam mahdi a.s. comes the first thing that will happen will be to have everyone who is not married to go into marriage. a good life companion is also far better than any alternative that can be imagined. the significance of marriage is indeed greatly overlooked, underestimated with a sense of cynicism. interestingly many cousins or relatives or friends of mine who dismissed marriage a decade ago are increasingly going into it after they realize the importance of it.

2) kinship.... we need to establish or renew kinship with kinsmen who truely are more valuable than friends. this concept of kinship has blurred in singapore like in every country in the east. its only through kinship that one develops many faculties within him or herself. i know one family that is absolutely removed from its kins and its so dysfunctional despite its material wealth. in fact for every family, the greater the distance between it and its kins, the more dysfunctional it is. the connection between kins and a family can be symbolized using two rocks in a river bed. the more they brush and braze against each other, the smoother they get. if that one rock remains isolated it will remain crude and unrefined. so the role kinsmen play in our lives is to refine our character. in singapore the chinese for over hundred years till two decades ago gave kinship utmost importance by forming clan associations and being actively involved in it. it kept the clans very closely knit. they helped each other prosper and when in need. this same dynamism was seen amongst the various ethnic groups amongst indian singaporeans, muslims, etc. today its almost non-existent as everyone is too preoccupied with his/her work, kids, home, shopping, nightlife and bills.

3) relatives.... sometimes as immigrants and other reasons we may not have kinsmen around us. then we need to establish relations amongst acquaintances and strangers.... we need to connect with them as relatives not friends. this also has the same effect as (2)....

unfortunately today we see how far removed are we from the tradition of establishing and reviving and holding together bonds with our family, kinsmen and relatives. instead we are so occupied with making friends. yet again can friends give us the same benefit as these? the answer is no if we sincerely ponder. friends can give us more fun and joy, mirth and laughter. they greatly benefit and serve our capitalist culture. marrital spouse, family , kinsmen and relatives if we are to measure in capitalist terms are liabilities. as i mentioned in one of my earlier posts, money relations will replace all these relations. friends however are able to survive within our money relations.

when i was living in canada, i remember how there was a implicit and benign shift in recognition of this amongst white communities in rural regions. there were increasingly attempts to re-establish these traditions. the east today however is only going into the slumber that the west went into a century ago. perhaps the east will wake up a century later to discover the truth and reality of their shift today.

The role of SAP schools and Madrasahs in Singapore

Since i am still at the question of integration, one topic that has always bothered me is about SAP CHINESE schools and Madrasahs in Singapore. I went to an English speaking high school in Singapore and had absolutely no problem in interaction though i must say when i reflect I do recall having problems in primary school which was a neighbourhood school. Then when i graduated to predominantly Mandarin speaking Temasek J.C. it was a big culture shock to me as I mingled and mixed with many students from SAP schools which are actually Chinese schools. I did make friends with many though I must admit I never quite enjoyed making friends with them then. However a decade later after they went through university and national service, we still remain friends but better ones and we are able to interact and communicate better. It is the lack of exposure to the minorities in SAP schools who are almost non-existent in the SAP Chinese schools that contribute to this inability of its students to integrate with minorities when they reach junior college. Again it is the opportunities for them to meet and interact with minorities in j.c. , national service and university that makes them more capable of interaction with minorities a decade later. I am pretty sure this is the case for Madrasahs in Singapore too which sadly dont even cater to non-Malay speaking Muslims where they too will logically have difficulties integrating with other ethnicities till at a later age.

The remedy for this is not to shut down SAP chinese schools and Madrasahs or populate them with other ethnic students. Both will not resolve the problem of integration. What is required is to integrate SAP schools, Madrasahs and other schools in a such a way that they come together for academic and extra-curricula activities where they can afford to do so without compromising on the SAP and Madrasah school framework. For instance for english, mathematics and science subjects, the neighbouring SAP, madrasah and normal schools can twin to hold combined classes. SAP school students can remain within the schools for their mandarin and chinese literature classes while Madrasah students can remain within their campus for arabic, quranic classes etc. The above proposition will require some level of travelling, logistics but undeniably it is worth all the effort and trouble to provide opportunities for students to learn interaction and communication. I remember champions of current system love to generate statistics to show that SAP school students integrate well and Madrasah students may not. Its just naive to say that and more naive to expect us to believe. The question of integration is present in both systems.Without opportunties for a Singaporean student within a SAP school or madrasah or in different circumstances in a normal school to interact and communicate with other students of different ethnicities, religion, language on a daily basis, how can one convince me or anybody that that student can indeed be capable of interaction.

I gained so much through my interaction with graduates of SAP schools in my junior college and they gained so much through their interaction with me. Indeed if we both had opportunities to interact on a daily basis while during our high school days we both could have benefited from each other's experiences, backgrounds etc. This gain will be in academics and interpersonal skills and extra curricula activities and sports. As i mentioned in my earlier posts, diversity is a mercy of God and the curse of it is to divide it or uniformize it.

interesting posts

intersting posts by uberculturejohor
demolish causeway?
SJER... An assessment of its outcomes

Demolish Causeway?

An unexpected call from an unexpected person. The sultan of Johor took everyone by surprise when he remarked that the causeway linking Singapore and Malaysia built by the British be demolished as the building of the Causeway by the British was to deliberately prevent ships from passing local waters, resulting in the development of Keppel Port in Singapore instead. He urged for the causeway "to be removed to allow ships to pass”.

In Malaysia, where the sultan of each state remains as a constitutional monarch and also remain outside politics, they almost never comment on political issues. Naturally when the Sultan made this comment it dumbfounded everyone on both sides of the Straits.

Nobody can deny the Sultan of Johor, though he may not have expressed his views in the way politicians on both sides of straits like to hear, has merits in his claims. Indeed the causeway is obstructing free flow of ships and is also adding to environmental degradation of the straits. Also a bridge to replace the causeway will definitely make the massive traffic jams twice a day either history or less of a problem to users. Politicians on both sides continue to neglect the welfare of the users of the causeway who truely suffer from long waiting times, smoke and other pollutions. The only remedy to this is the construction of a bridge and demolition of the current causeway.

Singapore political party which maintains a kind of unstable relationship with the Malaysian side however has a very cordial relationship with the Sultan of Johor. Therefore it is impossible for Singapore to ignore the Sultan's remark. In Singapore where there has been a meticulous effort to dismantle the British colonial tradition as far as possible such as through dismantling the Priving council, doing away with a lot of British practices such as wearing wigs in court etc, the causeway has been one British remnant that Singapore refused to do away with.

The mission of this blog when i first started had been from the beginning articulated as "build bridges not walls". Though the causeway is physically a bridge it always right from the beginning of the time the British constructed it, has served only as a psychological wall and has remained to be so for almost a century. There was once a Canadian friend who told me,while discussing the Israeli wall, that all walls will come down and true enough when we analyzed we found every wall every society built did come down with time. I am pretty much confident the lessons of history will allow us to asset, that sometime in future, the causeway will indeed only go. I hope it will be in the time of the Sultan of Johor for him to see it.

SJER... An assessment of its outcomes

The announcement of the Malaysian federal government's investment into Johor to the tune of RM17billion to develop South Johor Economic Region(SJER) begs some assessment of its outcomes.

PM Abdullah's setting the quality of life as one of the focus of SJER is commendable. Indeed not every mega project improves the quality of life and should this be a conscientious focus of the development of SJER it will improve the quality of life of whatever population the project will involve.Therefore it is important at this juncture for the policy makers to define whose quality of life will be the focus. Will it be every Johorean? Or will it be only those who finally be residing within the SJER. It will be indeed ideal to tie the welfare of the poor in Johor to this project. One possible way is to set up modern kampongs and relocating squatters and those living in low income poor housing to these modern kampongs.

It is also commendable that the PM Abdullah has stated that "major housing developments would take place to cater to the expected growth in population and that amenities such as schools, hospitals, transportation links and recreational facilities would also be provided". However the policy makers need to show that these developments will be equitable in adding to the welfare of all income groups, gender and ethnic groups. Secondly physical infrastructure development has to go along with institutional infrastructure such as critical mass of experts, legislation to regulate externalities, regulators, good centres of training of experts, good collaboration centres, think tanks, etc. The former chiefly requires money only while the latter requires capable, ethical, intellectual and motivated champions within the bureacracy. As long as the institutional infrastructure is not developed to go along with the physical infrastructure, the developments will loose more than half its worth.

Three areas of development zones have been identified. Firstly the strengthening of Johor as a "logistical hub by leveraging the ports of Tanjung Pelepas, Johor Port and Senai Airport". This is a brilliant move and requires not much mention of the merits of this focus. However the marketing of these ports and airport needs to be improve dramatically.

Another two areas of development is the "development of new service-based industries such as cyber-centres, medical hub, an international finance centre, a creative industries park, a biofuel centre and a centre for halal manufacturing" and "Human capital development in the form of an Education City featuring universities and R&D institutions of world-class standing."

I am sorry to say but I am not confident Johor can make these areas of development possible. These statements to me, as an economist, only strike me sweeping statements of politicians. It is logically, realistically and virtually impossible for Johor to achieve these two areas of development since it has no critical mass of experts to materialize this. Bureacrats and politicians have absolutely no skill or ability in successfully implementing this. Their reliance on businessmen, marketting and business admin dudes and technocrats will only be relying on the boatmen to fly the plane. They need a generation of talent, skills and experts who really have the know-how for this. Malaysia as a whole has this critical mass but unfortunately their talents, skills and expertise are mismatched to the jobs they currently perform for bread and butter. This is typical for not just Malaysia but every ASEAN economy that sadly has only matured to cater to the few professions such as accountants, lawyers, IT dudes, marketing dudes etc. These technocrats unfortunately are not really the people who can champion such implementation. They can talk the talk but never walk the walk as they lack the skills. Bureacrats and politicians in Johor need to understand this and take an unprescedented step to have the development of SJER be implemented by real professionals by attracting them from all across Malaysia and themselves taking a back seat monitoring approach.

PM Abudullah correctly identified "security, infrastructure, drainage, river management and traffic improvement" as other key areas of development. These are indeed critical to support the development of the above. Security is a major area which frankly even though is not as lacking as regional media portrays, greatly requires a radical turnaround to stop the media rumour monggers.

In all the bureacrats and politicians also need to look at three macro issues to assess the outcomes of the development of SJER.

Firstly the economic welfare of Johoreans. Will there be an equitable distribution of the benefits of this development or will only some enjoy the fruits of the labour. At what cost will this development come? Will the culture, environment, landscape of Johor be preserved but improved? Will the development resolve key economic issues that Johoreans face such as in basic public infrastructure, social infrastructure etc?

Secondly the sustainability of the development. Can the development and growth of SJER be sustained over time? This totally relies on the development of critical mass of experts and institutions.

Thirdly how can the funding for the development of SJER be improved? Indeed for those areas of SJER where there are fast and clear monetary benefits, it will be worthwhile to fund them using 10 year bonds backed by the Federal funds, which have been already promised, as collateral. This will tremendously increase the productivity of the capital allocated for the development of SJER.

Indeed I am excited by this development of SJER and I only hope to see it succeed. Unlike many fellow kiasu Singaporeans who naively believe that the growth of neighbours will only be at the detriment of our own welfare and growth, I staunchly believe the contrary simply because empirically it has been proven otherwise for hundreds of years. (refer to my earlier post of the jealousy of trade by Humes)

Seeking forgiveness from others

i must say one of the posts that generated a lot of response has been the post maaf zahir dan batin. I didnt publish all the responses but everyone who responded interesting unanimously echoed the same sentiments... which is how its easy to expect others to seek forgiveness from us and how impossible it is for us to seek forgiveness from others... also in the western cultures, its common to see people say sorry to strangers but not to those they know. i really thank everyone who responded with these observations because indeed it has inspired me to write another post on this.

well lets ponder why its easy to expect others to seek forgiveness from us and how impossible it is for us to seek forgiveness from others. the act of seeking forgiveness requires us to naturally lower ourselves, swallow our pride and bruise our ego as i mentioned in my earlier post. this act is much painful and difficult than accepting the forgiveness from someone else. in my own community i have seen kinsmen not talking to their siblings or relatives for decades even though this is unIslamic in nature. frankly i dont know what do they really gain. many however i have seen to relent and grow soft and seek forgiveness when they grow old, where the reality of death hits them. but the reality of death is ever present. what is really the main obstacle that makes it impossible for one to seek forgiveness from the one he/she has wronged, is the conviction that he/she is correct. this inability to feel a wrong to be a wrong can only arise within a dark and dead heart. today unfortunately our hearts are as dark and disabled as they can be. how? the very forces that drives this world do little to illuminate our heart and capitalist culture strives to disable our heart since only a disabled heart can support consumerism and capitalism. when we also loose the sense of adab, the justice in us dies, and our wrong will never appear as a wrong. abundance of ibadah (ritualistic acts of worship) wont instill adab in us. we need to meticulous inculcate it within our hearts.

now as for the observation that in the west, it is easy to say sorry to strangers but not to family, relatives and those within our lives, well that is also fast becoming true in eastern cultures that are westernized and capitalist. strangers remain outside our boundaries and they dont have a large number of responsibilities towards us unlike family members or relatives. hence when one wrongs a stranger even as little as forgetting to hold the door, the apology comes fast. however when one wrongs a family member even gravely such as neglecting parents (which is common in west), its always about weighing the wrongs of the family members versus the wrongs of that person and biasedly magnifying the former and trivializing the latter. in the "me, myself, my dog, my car, my house, my lawn, my computer, my career" culture saying sorry to the stranger comes from political correctness. since the stranger has no responsibilities to the one, the person does not want to exceed the stranger in who wronged who more. however in the case of a person and his/her family, relatives, the debate about who wronged who is never ending and the person with only reason with his/her ego and never be forthcoming with forgiveness. this phenomenon which may be typical to the west today and fast becoming common in capitalist, consumerist cultures of the east will one day become typical everywhere with the globalization of capitalism.

now there is another thing about forgiveness. accepting forgiveness from someone who wronged us. when i was younger i too had great difficulty forgiving those who wronged me. today i can do that. however some of those who wronged me still never stop at it and venomously lurk for opportunities, even though this might sound bizarre. hence in order to avoid conflicts, confrontations or to protect myself, i avoid them and some misinterpret that as refusal to forgive them. i still greet them, wish them, shake their hands but stay away from any further interaction to protect myself. i dont know if this is right and i pray God to guide me. but what i know is totally wrong is refusing to forgive one who has wronged us and is willing to seek forgiveness either sincerely or otherwise. if we dont forgive others we must never expect God to forgive us. i have come across numerous people who refuse to forgive and truely this is a character of the devil. if we dont forgive those who wrong us when they seek forgiveness, then what else are we to do with them or what else do we want them to do for us to forgive them? us avenging them? them destroying themselves to earn our forgiveness? indeed that is what we are seeking when we refuse to forgive them. that is why we descend to the wretchedness of the wicked and vile devil when we refuse mercy on others who seek it from us.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Dealing with diversity…

Mankind like never before is grappling with its inability to deal with diversity.

Some deal with it through division. We can see today how the coalition with its initial vision to bring democracy to Iraq is quivering on the methods to do it within a country that has strong ethnic diversity. The coalition seems to find solutions in dividing the country along sectarian lines to deal with the diversity.

Half a century ago the world saw, when the great imperial British India was brought down to its feet by its peasants, that the peasants were grappling on how to deal with religious diversity and they found the solution in superficially dividing the country into two countries for each major religious group.

We have seen our in old South Africa, diversity in color was dealt with using apartheid rule. In United States of America too till a few decades ago had the diversity in color been dealt with through division of space, opportunities, endowments etc along lines of color.

We can name many more examples of 20th century and today where solutions to deal with diversity was found in divisions. The question is whether the outcomes were as desirable as predicted. Indeed the answer is a clear no and it is evident through our human experiences especially in the last hundred years that you can never divide and find harmony in a diverse environment.

In the same period of time, we have seen how some tried to deal with diversity by trying to remove diversity and to make things identical. We have seen how in some countries or regions, e.g. Thailand, Philippines etc where the ethnic minorities were forced by their state to be combined with their ethnic majorities hereby not allowing them to have their own self-determined system that is modeled by them and which is built on their indigenously ethnic considerations. In other regions or countries we have seen how the state have attempted aggressively to deal with diversity of religion within their public space and political space by opting to desacralize the space in the name of secularism.

Again we can name many more examples in 20th century and today where solutions are forced upon systems to deal with diversity through delineating diverse factors by makings things identical. The question again is have the outcomes turned out as predicted. Again the answer is a clear no. Unless we humans and our systems are truly identical, we cannot achieve identity across space, systems, processes or environments.

Then what can be the solution to address diversity? God clearly states that diversity is a blessing.

"Do you not see that Allah sends down from the clouds water, then brings forth with it fruits of different kinds (or colours). And in the mountains there are streaks, white and red, of different colours, and some intensely black. And of people and animals and cattle there are different colours likewise. Only those of His servants fear Allah who possess knowledge." (Holy Quran 35:27-28)

And from His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and your different languages and colors. Surely in that are signs to all the worlds[Quran 30:22:]

O people! surely We have created you of a male and a female, and made you tribes and families that you may know each other; surely the most honorable of you with Allah is the one among you most careful (of his duty); surely Allah is Knowing, Aware.[Quran 49:13]

In other words it implies diversity is not a curse or evil or bad thing. At the most it may be only a challenge. Therefore the question is how to deal with this challenge and not try to seek solutions in divisions or in making things uniform (undoing God’s predestined sense of diversity in His creations).

God also clearly states He despises disunity and divisions. Therefore the solutions to diversity clearly lies in seeking unity through integration without undoing the diversity. Therefore the calls by European leaders for immigrant populations to give up their native identity and adopt “European” identity is ludicrous. Instead the solutions lies in seeking a moderate and middle way to the diversity and where its virtually impossible to reconcile differences then effort must be made to allow the diverse factors to co-exist. There must be a will to see that the end is a reconciliation of diversity and differences and not dominance.

Likewise the solution for the problems in countries such as Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma , China, Israel, etc which arise due to diverse ethnic/religious/language differences, lies in reconciling the differences through finding ways to allow the different systems to coexist. That precisely has been the technique employed to achieve peace in Acheh, Indonesia which conflict dates back for more than two decades at the cost of economic backwardness and human lives.

The question of veils and headscarfs also begs the same solution. Indeed within every religious or ethnic group there is a diversity of attire donned by individuals. It is foolish to assert that the diversity of such attire, if permitted in schools and public space, will affect integration. When two individuals of diverse backgrounds, clothe themselves differently, they only are establishing their identity in a much stronger sense and there will be a clear and conscious understanding that each other will not behave, react the same as oneself and that the other will not require the same opportunities, definitions of space, treatment etc as oneself. Establishing a strong sense of identity allows the other to know who you are and hereby allows the other to treat you, respond to you, react to you and interact with you accordingly.

When there is no strong sense of identity of the diversity, then there is a false sense of uniformity. This is the dangerous phenomenon because then two diverse individuals will then develop a false sense of uniformity and expect each other to behave like the other and when differences arise due to their diversity, tensions and disappointments start to arise and one will try to impose on the other. I have gone through this experience first hand in a number of systems and countries in which I have lived in and made the conclusions after looking at how in traditional systems such as my grandparents, they were able to establish strong sense of identity and yet be able to reconcile their differences and live in harmony and peace that we desire today for our world and space.

This is a hate free zone

Students Respond to Islamophobia in Canadian Universities

September 27, 2006
Students Respond to Islamophobia in Canadian Universities

The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), of which TCSA is a local body, announced the launch of a taskforce on the needs of Muslim students on Monday last week. The taskforce is comprised of ten members who will serve as panelists traveling to various campuses in the province to receive statements from students, staff and faculty. These statements will be compiled into a report to be published on March 21, 2007, which is the International Day to End Racism.

The taskforce is in keeping with CFS’s “No Islamophobia, Antisemitism, Racism” campaign and is pertinently being launched the week before the beginning of Ramadan. Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic lunar calendar, where orthodox Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, sexual relations and any sin from dawn to dusk.

Haitham Al-Barwani, a Trent international student from Oman, is greatly encouraged by the formation of the taskforce. “I have had to deal with a number of racist and anti-Muslim sentiments, especially at the local clubs, so I am delighted that the CFS is taking this stance,” he says. Sakib Ahmed, a second-year student from Bangladesh, agrees, saying, “The panels should be open to the city as the issues span out of the university and into the community.”

Trent Muslim Student Association

The Trent Muslim Student Association (TMSA) has been very active on campus in the last few years, ensuring the provision of Halal food at OC Cafeteria as well as petitioning for prayer space on campus, an issue that is still yet to be resolved.

Michael Allcott, the Trent International Program Director, complimented TMSA’s efforts in creating awareness of Islamic issues at Trent and in the community, stating that “the TMSA leadership has played a remarkable role in educating and building understanding in our community. Their courage and reasoned engagement has been a great expression of Trent ideals.”

When informed by Arthur of the upcoming TCSA-led hearing, the Muslim Student Association’s Admin/Finance Officer, Mohamedabbas M. Fazal, refused to comment until the group’s next executive meeting.


Pope Benedict XVI came under criticism recently for his address at the University of Regensburg on Tuesday where he quoted 14th-century Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus saying ‘Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.’

Such comments are part of the narrative of anti-Islamic rhetoric that fuels the global ‘War on Terror’ as well as the various attacks on Muslims across the globe. Though the Vatican insists that the Pope’s comments were taken out of context – the address uses Emperor Manuel’s words to showcase the lack of reason or logos within the Islamic conceptualization of God – they are hardly the most politically sensitive of statements considering the latest rise in anti-Islamic rhetoric. President Bush’s recent comments on creating peace through war in the Middle East are yet another example of public remarks that are increasingly being perceived as Islamophobia within the Muslim world.

Muslim Response

Muslim students across the country have taken on a number of initiatives to combat Islamophobia. The TMSA’s annual Islam Awareness Week goes a long way toward creating understanding at Trent and Peterborough. The Muslim Student Association of Canada and USA also organizes over a dozen conferences annually.

A recent launch of T-shirts through the online social networking site Facebook has also gained popularity. The HijabMan line consists of T-shirts reading “Don’t hate me because I’m Muslim (and beautiful),” “Good things come in small Pakis,” “This is what a radical Muslim feminist looks like,” “Go ahead. PROFILE ME,” and the ever-popular, “My name causes national security alerts. What does yours do?” These T-shirts are becoming part of culture jamming as well as identifying various members of the Muslim community who want to engage in conversations on issues of culture clash.

The TCSA is working towards a hearing at Trent for the visiting taskforce later in the school year. For further information or if you would like to volunteer, please write to Stephen Lanni at:

SK Hussan