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.


At 12:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Farish is regarded as the biggest intellectual in Malaysia by many. Undeniably his research on Malay culture is fascinating..."

Half the problem is that he thinks he's the greatest intellectual in Malaysia, just listen to the BBC piece that's linked, it was about him instead of the topic! As for him wearing different faces and being inconsistent, from being pro-Abu Bakar Bashir to being pro-liberalism, it's called playing to the gallery.

At 1:04 AM, Blogger ney_reed said...

hmm... i have friends in north america who know him personally... from what i gather from them, he is a sincere and nice chap and have only heard good things about him... therefore i must admit that if i dont know all that about him, i will naturally draw the very same conclusions that you have drawn... he really presents himself exactly as you say... farish undeniably is eloquent... but eloquence is only beautiful when wisdom and knowledge inspires it, both of which comes from God when the heart seeks Haqq(truth). Farish depends too much on his intellect (maybe explaining why he appears as if he thinks he is the greatest intelletual) and hence sometimes his eloquence gets bitter. God knows Best and I still think Farish needs time to evolve,mature and discover himself and we need to be tolerant with him. Having said that, i must say i can only predict that eventually he can either become a liberal radical like salman rushdie or an enlightened thinker:)

At 4:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

An excellent expose.

And yes, I've heard good things about him too from ppl who know him personally.

Very open minded and open to criticism.


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