Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Please Help Fast Before We Have To Bury More



30 May 2006

Dennis Wong(New Straits Times)

SEPANG: Answering the call for help by victims of the Yogyakarta earthquake, TV3 yesterday set up the Tabung Gempa Bumi Yogya fund.

TV3 will collect funds through its Jom Heboh programme in Miri this weekend. The collection will run for the whole month.

Members of the public and corporate bodies wishing to help can send donations to TV3 at Corporate Communications Department, Level 2, Sri Pentas, 3, Persiaran Bandar Utama.

Cheques can be made out to Sistem Televisyen Malaysia Berhad with Tabung Gempa Bumi Yogyakarta written on the reverse side. The fund’s Maybank account number is MBB 5142 7142 0052. For more information, call 03-7726 6333.

Bernama reports that Umno Youth pledged RM100,000 while the Association of Wives of Ministers and Deputy Ministers (Bakti) also pledged an equal amount yesterday.

Other organisations helping in the relief effort include:

- Mercy Malaysia, which has so far sent 11 volunteers to Yogyakarta. Two paramedics are expected to leave for the disaster site today.

It wants to raise RM3 million for its relief efforts. Those wishing to donate can make out cheques to "MERCY Humanitarian Fund" while cash donations can be deposited into its Maybank account at 5621 7950 4126. For further information, contact Mercy Malaysia at 03-42569999.

- Yayasan Salam Malaysia (Salam), Malaysia Airlines and Hospital Universiti Sains Malaysia have deployed eight volunteers to provide emergency medical and relief aid in earthquake-affected areas in Bantul.

The team is expected to operate a mobile clinic for 10 days and to assist the local government carry out distribution of essentials in the area.

Those who wish to donate to Salam can address their cheques to "Yayasan Salam Malaysia" or deposit their donations into Public Bankaccount 3072879302. For further information, contact Md Ghani Ibrahim at 012-2165109.

- Global Peace Malaysia yesterday sent six medical volunteers to assist in the relief effort.

The mission took off from Subang airport at 2.08am. It took along RM300,000 worth of medical supplies sponsored by Kotra Pharma (M) Sdn Bhd and Kampung Baru Medical Centre.

Those who wish to donate to Global Peace Malaysia can address cheques to Tabung Keamanan Sejagat and deposit them into Bank Islam account 14-023-01-002922-4 or "Global Peace Mission" to its Maybank account 5642 2161 1602.

- Radio Televisyen Malaysia also launched a two-week donation campaign yesterday. The money collected will be channelled to the existing Foreign Ministry Disaster Fund.

Contributions can be made using the short messaging service (SMS) to the number 32770 either through Maxis, Digi or Celcom.

The donation amount can be relayed by typing in the codes "Derma1" which means a donation of RM1, "Derma2" (RM2), "Derma3" (RM3), "Derma5" (RM5) or "Derma10" (RM10).

Contributions can also be made via Telekom Malaysia fixed lines using premium numbers which will be announced later.

The public can also donate cash or hand in cheques at Information Department offices throughout the country. Cheques must be made out to the "Foreign Ministry Disaster Fund".

Monday, May 29, 2006

The Native Orientalists: The Muslims America Loves

By M. Shahid Alam

Being a Muslim today--in the middle of America's 'war against global terrorism'--carries some new hazards. But it is not without its bright side for a few Muslims who are eager to profit from this war.

Muslims need little tutoring in the hazards they now face. Many tens of thousands are already dead in wars imposed by the United States--on Iraq and Afghanistan. The death toll is expected to climb, perhaps steeply, as these wars are carried to Iran, Syria or Pakistan. Iranians also face the prospect--perhaps, imminent--of incineration in nuclear strikes.

Death or dislocation in wars are not the only hazards that confront Muslims. In principle, any Muslim can also become the object of 'extraordinary renditions.' No matter where they happen to be, they could be kidnapped by the CIA, hooded, and transported to secret offshore US prisons, or delivered into the hands of US-friendly regimes with expertise in the fine arts of interrogation. No one knows how many Muslims have suffered this cruel fate--or how many of them are still alive.

By comparison, Muslims who are captured or bought, and imprisoned in Guantanamo as 'enemy combatants,' are lucky. After facing down several legal challenges to these detentions, the US now brings these prisoners before military review boards. Although many of them have been cleared of any terrorist connections, it is quite touching that the US is now refusing to release them--it says--because they could be tortured by their own governments. The prisoners can now thank the US for offering sanctuary.

In fairness, America's 'war against global terrorism' has also created a few hard-to-resist opportunities. The chief beneficiaries of the new US posture are the Muslim rulers eager to get the US more firmly behind the wars they have been waging against their own people. They are happy to torture Muslims 'rendered' to them by the CIA, and, periodically, they capture their own 'terrorists' and put them on flights to Guantanamo.

The 'war against global terrorism' is also a war of ideas. In order to defeat the 'terrorists' the US must win the hearts and minds of Muslims. This is where Muslims can help. The US needs a few 'good' Muslims to persuade the 'bad' ones to reform their religion, to learn to appreciate the inestimable benefits of Pax America and Pax Israelica.

In the heyday of the old colonialism, the white man did not need any help from the natives in putting down their religion and culture. Indeed, he preferred to do it himself. Then, the opinion of the natives carried little weight with the whites anyway. So why bother to recruit them to denounce their own people. As a result, Orientalists wrote countless tomes denigrating the cultures of the lesser breeds.

Today the West needs help in putting down the uppity natives--especially the Muslims. One reason for this is that with the death of the old colonialism, some natives have begun to talk for themselves. A few are even talking back at the Orientalists raising all sorts of uncomfortable questions. This hasn't been good: and something had to be done about it. In the 1970s the West began to patronize 'natives' who were deft at putting down their own people. Was the West losing its confidence?

The demand for 'native' Orientalists was strong. The pay for such turncoats was good too. Soon a whole crop of native Orientalists arrived on the scene. Perhaps, the most distinguished members of this coterie include Nirad Chaudhuri, V. S. Naipaul, Fouad Ajami and Salman Rushdi. They are some of the best loved natives in the West.

Then there came the 'war against global terrorism' creating an instant boom in the market for Orientalists of Muslim vintage. The West now demanded Muslims who would diagnose their own problems as the West wanted to see them--as the unavoidable failings of their religion and culture. The West now demanded Muslims who would range themselves against their own people--who would denounce the just struggles of their own people as moral aberrations, as symptoms of a sick society.

So far these boom conditions have not evoked a copious supply of Muslim Orientalists. Irshad Manji has made herself the most visible na-tive Orientalist by cravenly playing to Western and Zionist demands for demonizing Muslims and Palestinians. I can think of a few others, but they have little to recommend themselves other than their mediocrity. This must be a bit disappointing for those who had pinned their hopes on using Muslim defectors to win the battle for Muslim hearts and minds.

There are some indications that this disappointment is turning to desperation. On March 11 the New York Times published a front page story on Dr. Wafa Sultan, "a largely unknown Syrian-American psychiatrist, nursing a deep anger and despair about her fellow Muslims." Deep anger and despair at fellow Muslims? Are these the new qualifications for Muslims to gain visibility in America's most prestigious newspaper?

If the only Muslims that the United States can recruit in its battle for ideas are at best mediocrities or worse--nobodies--what chance is there that it can win the battle for Muslim hearts and minds? The short answer is: very little. Muslims are not helpless children. You cannot molest them and then expect to mollify them with trifles and protestations of pure intentions. That may have worked for a while. It will not work for ever.

Muslims are too large and too dense a mass to be moved by wars. Military might could not break the spirit of Palestinians, Afghans, Bosnians, Chechens, Lebanese, Moros and Iraqis. What chance is there that wars will be more effective if applied against larger masses of Muslims?

The United States cannot expect to change Muslims unless it first thinks seriously about changing its policies towards Muslims. Americans must stop deluding themselves. Muslims do not hate their freedom: they only want that freedom for themselves. The United States and Israel seek to build their power over a mass of prostrate Muslim bodies. Stop doing that and then you will have a chance to win Muslim hearts and minds.

M. Shahid Alam is professor of economics at a university in Boston.


Misyar Marriage - Is It An Option?

By Kilamxx

Misyar marriage has been the subject of much debate in the Malaysian media these last few days that it has prompted the Director General of the Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia, Dr. Syed Ali Tawfik Al-Attas to ask, “What’s the point in debating this issue when there are more important issues which need to be addressed by the Islamic community?”

The debate on the issue was sparked off by a suggestion by Universiti Malaya lecturer Prof Datuk Dr Mahmud Zuhdi Abdul Majid to recognise such marriages in Malaysia in view of the increasing number of unmarried women in the country.

Dr Mahmud, of the university’s Islamic Studies Academy, said allowing such marriages could go a long way towards reducing incidents of vice in the country.

Misyar marriage or "travellers' marriage" (Arabic نكاح المسيار) is a marriage without the couple living together in the same house, the husband not being financially responsible for his wife. There is an implication that a divorce is intended in the future. It is therefore in some sense a temporary marriage.

The practice is not uncommon among the rich in some Arab countries, where wealthy women were not dependent on men to provide them with nafkah zahir (worldly provisions).

Kelantan Mentri Besar Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat, who supported the idea, said such a marriage was allowed in Islam on the condition that consent is obtained from the woman who is willing to enter into this matrimonial pact.

Among those who opposed the idea were state mufti Datuk Wira Rashid Redza Md Salleh (of Malacca), Datuk Ismail Yahya (Terengganu), Datuk Harussani Zakaria (Perak) and Puteri Umno chief Datuk Noraini Ahmad.

Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil at first shot down the proposal, saying it could bring about negative implications.

She said there was no need for misyar marriages because if you look at the ratio of women to men in the country, the difference is not that drastic. In fact, the issue of unmarried women is not a problem and these individuals should not be treated as welfare cases, they should be respected. Some of them are happier not being married.

Sharizat said the basic condition in a marriage is for the husband to provide for the material and spiritual needs of the wife. Yet, she said, according to a ministry survey done in 1994 on about 711,000 families showed females as being the major contributor to the family income.

She also stressed that although misyar marriages are practiced in certain Islamic countries it does not mean that it should be applied in this country because we have our own ways and culture, different from those Arab countries.

The minister later softened to say that the hot debate on the subject from the various quarters is a positive development and indicates a healthy atmosphere for discussion. She welcomes all views and it is up to the individual to decide whichever view to accept.

Maimunah Omar, the President of the Single Mothers Association of Malaysia strongly supports the idea of misyar marriage. She voiced her opinion based on her observations while mixing with women who don’t mind being married to men with low income.

“If this is one of the ways to overcome the problem of difficulty in finding partners, why should we prevent it?” she asked.

From the point of view of the Shariah, misyar marriages are legal in Saudi Arabia based on the fatwa issued by no lesser a scholar than the late Shaikh Abdulaziz bin Baz. In Egypt it was officially legalized in 1999 by the Egyptian Sunni Imam Sheikh Muhammad Sayid Tantawy who is known for his liberal views.

Although it is not haram, Muslim scholars do not advise people to be engaged in such a kind of marriage.

"The misyar and other unofficial types of marriage don't fulfill Islam's aims of marriage, which are forming a settled family surrounded by care and love," professor of jurisprudence at Al Azhar University, Soad Ibrahim, said.

Even if a few sheikhs accept it, Ibrahim thinks the misyar marriage is still disapproved of by the majority of scholars. It creates many social problems, especially for children who are not financially and emotionally supported by their misyar father.

For renowned conservative Egyptian Sheikh Youssef Al Badri, a member in the High Council of Islamic Affairs currently living in Pakistan, nothing is wrong with the misyar as long as it meets all Islamic requirements for a marriage which are the couple's agreement, the presence of the woman's agent (wakil) and two witnesses.

"Whether the man has the intention to leave his wife and move to another country, or not, it is still an Islamic marriage," said Sheikh Badri.

Whatever the arguments are surrounding the issue, the writer believes that misyar marriages should not be dismissed outright as being non-Islamic.

Allah in His Merciful way has provided us with a wide range of options for the man and woman to tie the bond of matrimony in the various situation and circumstances that we may find ourselves. We do not have to use it if we do not need it. It might be the last one to be chosen but the option is there if the need arises.

Think of it as being a way out or makhraj. Just for a minute imagine being the mistress or kept woman of a man. I am sure no woman in her right mind would choose to be one.

Yet many are, mainly due to circumstances beyond their control and various emotional forces acting on the individual. Now, if the option of a misyar marriage is offered to her, which do you think she would choose?

Further reading:-

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Crescent Moon And Star - Symbol Of Islam?

The crescent moon and star is an internationally-recognized symbol of the faith of Islam. The symbol is featured on the flags of several Muslim countries, and is even part of the official emblem for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The Christians have the cross, the Jews have the star of David, and the Muslims have the crescent moon, right?

What is the history behind the crescent moon symbol? What does it symbolize or mean? How and when did it become associated with the faith of Islam? Is it a valid symbol for the faith?

The crescent moon and star symbol actually pre-dates Islam by several thousand years. Information on the origins of the symbol are difficult to ascertain, but most sources agree that these ancient celestial symbols were in use by the peoples of Central Asia and Siberia in their worship of sun, moon, and sky gods. There are also reports that the crescent moon and star were used to represent the Carthaginian goddess Tanit or the Greek goddess Diana.

The city of Byzantium (later known as Constantinople and Istanbul) adopted the crescent moon symbol. According to some reports, they chose it in honor of the goddess Diana. Others indicate that it dates back to a battle in which the Romans defeated the Goths on the first day of a lunar month. In any event, the crescent moon was featured on the city's flag even before the birth of Christ.

The early Muslim community did not really have a symbol. During the time of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), Islamic armies and caravans flew simple solid-colored flags (generally black, green, or white) for identification purposes. In later generations, the Muslim leaders continued to use a simple black, white, or green flag with no markings, writing, or symbolism on it.

It wasn't until the Ottoman Empire that the crescent moon and star became affiliated with the Muslim world. When the Turks conquered Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1453, they adopted the city's existing flag and symbol. Legend holds that the founder of the Ottoman Empire, Osman, had a dream in which the crescent moon stretched from one end of the earth to the other. Taking this as a good omen, he chose to keep the crescent and make it the symbol of his dynasty. There is speculation that the five points on the star represent the five pillars of Islam, but this is pure conjecture. The five points were not standard on the Ottoman flags, and it is still not standard on flags used in the Muslim world today.

For hundreds of years, the Ottoman Empire ruled over the Muslim world. After centuries of battle with Christian Europe, it is understandable how the symbols of this empire became linked in people's minds with the faith of Islam as a whole.

Based on this history, many Muslims reject using the crescent moon as a symbol of Islam. The faith of Islam has historically had no symbol, and many refuse to accept what is essentially an ancient pagan icon. It is certainly not in uniform use among Muslims.


Sunday, May 21, 2006

Not Everything Is Bad In The US

The following is my translation of the article written by the former Lord Mayor of Kuala Lumpur published in Utusan Malaysia. A Muslim should be able to differentiate between the good and the bad and pick up desirable traits even from one's opponents.

By Datuk Mohmad Shaid Taufek

Having read an article on my experiences in the United States of America, an acquaintance asked if there are positive things that can be learned from there. I answered definitely there are. In terms of daily life and individual behaviour I feel there many good examples that we can emulate.

When they do something they do it wholeheartedly.

From the window of my study I noticed an individual who went jogging by everyday right at the same time, even when the season changes from summer to winter.

In the same way a middle aged lady took her dog for a walk along the same route besides stopping by at the same tree trunk for her dog to have a pee daily. It is the same with those who exercise by riding bicycles.

Each time the family and I went jogging along the same path I would come across them at the same place and the same time.

They are also not afraid or bashful to express an opinion, even if their opinion might later turn out to be weak or incorrect.

They take pride in expressing it because at least their opinion would have contributed towards the search for the ultimate idea or solution.

Sometimes a hot debate would flare up in the search for a solution to a problem or idea.

But ultimately the debate ended there, being just a means to find an idea or best solution. There were no hard feelings. After that they could sit and drink together cordially as if there hadn’t been any conflict.

They also like to do charity work. They do it not for gain or name but for the feeling of fulfillment in performing a good deed. This is not only towards humans but also towards animals, plants and the environment.

Most of them are honest. Newspapers can be bought just by inserting a coin into the proper slot and the newspaper container would open.

While saying all these it does not mean that all of them are the best and the most terrific. These are just some of the things that we can emulate. There is no one perfect society.

Yet if we want to develop, we must be ready to pick up the good points even though we might not like their attitude and general behaviour which hurt others.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Coming Up - Australia's Fair Dinkum(1) Imams

By Kilamxx

The Australian Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs, Andrew Robb must have had a brainstorm a couple of weeks back when he came up with a proposal for the establishment of what he calls a world-class Australian Institute of Islamic Studies, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Mr. Robb’s flash of brilliance was apparently inspired by the need to “promote a moderate version of Islam in Australia and help with the fight against global terrorism.”

According to Mr. Robb’s ‘down under’ reasoning, “Many young Australian Muslims only speak English. So, religious leaders will have to deliver much or all of their sermons in English. And it means training, therefore, homegrown imams in Australia.”

What a ripper!(2) I think the bloke’s got kangaroos in the top paddock(3). After appointing themselves to be George Bush’s deputy sheriff in this “lawless” region John Howard’s people now want to teach us how to be good Muslims. They’ve got tickets on themselves(4), haven’t they?

Meantime, here’s what Terry Lane from The Age has got to say about the idea:-

…Mr Robb is also said to be toying with the idea of establishing a world-class institute of Islamic studies to train moderate imams for export to the world to counter Islamism.

This is a terrible idea. Hitler had an officially approved church called, not surprisingly, the German Christians. Stalin and his east European stooges licensed churches and seminaries to train moderate clergy. The concept of the world-class institute of theological studies, licensed and supported by the state, has a dishonourable history.

We now look at the dissenting German Christians who formed the Confessing Church as the heroes. The Russian Christians who refused to apply for permission to worship are the martyrs. Imagine how well the state-trained imams from Australia will be regarded in Saudi Arabia and Iran.

When the newly arrived migrant turns up for the citizenship test, the very first item in the exam must be: Australia is a secular state with no established religion: true or false?

Just suppose for a minute that the scheme to establish a licensed Islamic seminary goes ahead, why stop there? Why not a centre of Christian studies to train moderate clergy for export to the US to counter millenarian fundamentalism there? After all, George the Smaller's army of wacky, anti-evolution supporters is more dangerous than a mosque full of radical Muslims any day.

Strine Language Guide

(1) Genuine

(2) Fantastic

(3) Mentally unstable, mad

(4) Have a high opinion of oneself

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Maryam - The Story Of A Mother

*To be as accurate as possible, most of the quotations from the prophets used in the story are taken directly from the original translated Quranic passages. It is hoped that the reader will read the stories in the Quran in their original form to gain a more complete understanding of them.

The Story of Maryam

By: Dr. Jamil Momand

Once there was a woman named Hannah who was married to a man named Imran. They were good people and faithful servants to Allah. One day Hannah found out she was going to have a baby. She made a special prayer to Allah and dedicated her unborn child to His service. When Hannah delivered her baby girl she named her Maryam. Allah answered Hannah's prayer and Maryam grew up to be beautiful and righteous.

Maryam's uncle, Zakariya, was a priest in the Jewish Temple. Since Maryam had dedicated her life to the service of Allah Zakariya took care of her. Sometimes Zakariya would go to Maryam's room to see her. One time he went in and found her eating some food. Zakariya was puzzled because he knew that no one had brought her food recently. He said, "O Maryam! How did you get this food?" "From Allah," Maryam answered, "For Allah provides sustenance without measure to whom He pleases."

One day when Maryam was grown up, she went away from her family to be alone for many days. She would sit and think about Allah. Once Allah sent to her an angel disguised as a man. She was frightened at first but the angel said, "I am here to give you news that you will give birth to a holy son. His name will be Isa. Isa will be an important prophet for Allah and will be honored in this world and in the Hereafter. Isa will be able to talk even as a baby."

Maryam was perplexed. She asked the angel how she could have a son without a husband. The angel replied, "Allah creates as He wills. When He makes a plan all Allah has to do is to say "Be" and the plan works." After saying this, the angel walked away.

Maryam went back home, packed up a few of her belongings and left her family and her city to have baby Isa. She knew that no one would understand her situation. To have a baby without a husband was a very serious offense.

A few months later, when the baby was ready to be born, Maryam began to feel labour pains. She saw a palm tree that cast a long cool shadow that was sure to be comforting in the heat of the day. She made her way to the tree and laid down to rest herself. It was very hard to have a baby alone in the desert. She became sad and lonely and wished she had never been born.

From out of the ground there came a voice! It said, "Don't be sad, for your Lord has provided you with a little stream to help you." When she looked down, she saw a little stream of water trickling beside her. The water was cold and pure. She could use it to clean herself and quench her thirst. Then the voice told her to shake the tree. When she did, fresh dates fell. With the water and the dates Maryam felt better and the pains of childbirth lessened for a time. The voice then told Maryam to make a promise to Allah not to talk to anyone. Maryam promised and the voice became silent.

Maryam gave birth to baby Isa all alone. When she had regained her strength, she gathered the baby in her arms and walked with him toward the city. The people saw her for the first time in many months and crowded around her. They thought that Maryam had committed a crime because she had conceived a baby without a husband. They started to became angry with her and said that her parents were righteous people and feared Allah. They said that she had dishonoured her parents and all the rest of her people.

Maryam wanted to tell the people that she was innocent and had committed no crime but, instead, she remembered her promise to Allah not to talk to anyone. She prayed silently to Allah to help her.

Meanwhile more and more people gathered around her shouting at her and asking how she got the baby. Finally, she laid baby Isa down in a cradle and pointed at him. The people laughed and said, "How can we talk to a baby in the cradle?" Prophet Isa looked out over the people. Then he opened his mouth and said, "I am indeed a servant of Allah. He has given me revelation and made me a prophet and He has blessed me wherever I may go and has instructed me to give prayer and charity as long as I live. Allah has made me kind to my mother and not overbearing or miserable. Therefore, there is peace on me the day I was born, the day I die, and the day I shall be raised to life again on the Day of Judgment."

After that there was complete silence. Everyone realized that a miracle had taken place and that Isa was a prophet from Allah. Isa was a prophet from the day he was born. He performed, many miracles with Allah's permission and tried to show the people the right path. But the people turned away from Isa just as they had turned away from other prophets.

This was the story of one of the most righteous women of all time, Maryam. Her life was devoted to serving Allah. Allah protected her from the people and helped her through many hardships. May peace and blessings be showered upon Maryam for all her righteous deeds.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Snippet From The Dewan Negara

Kuala Lumpur 9 May –‘Berkemban’ or the wearing of cloth or sarong tied above the bosom among ‘makyong’ dancers and artistes became the subject of heated debate in the Dewan Negara (Senate) today when several members, especially women questioned the appropriateness of the attire.

The issue was set off when Senator Siti Zailah Mohd Yusoff got up to defend the decision of the Kelantan government to outlaw the performance of makyong in the state on the grounds of un-Islamic elements and the factor of the dancers’ attire which run against the teachings of Islam.

Her statement was met by the differing viewpoint of Senator Datuk Dr. Norraesah Mohamad.

“When we watch a makyong performance, we should be looking at the choreography, finger movements and expressions of the dancers which impart certain meanings, not at their bosoms,” she said.

Senator Sharifah Azizah Syed Zain then suggested that in order to keep the performance of makyong alive, the dancers’ attire should be changed to a more modest one, in keeping with the concept of Islam Hadhari.

“Is the beauty of a makyong performance lost without exposure of the upper chest? Could’nt the attire be modified to be more in line with Islam Hadhari?” she asked.

The exchange took place when Senator Datuk Dr Jins Shamsuddin was debating the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Syed Putra Jamalullail’s officiating address at the opening of the Third Term of the Eleventh Parliamentary Session at the Dewan Negara.

Jins, who agreed with the view, also admitted the “exposed upper chest” style of dressing in some ways interferes with or obscures the artistic value of a makyong performance when many among the spectators tend to ally sexual elements to the performance.

“This is what happens when there are those who use their ‘dirty mind’ in evaluating the artistic merits of things like this,” he said.

The presence of Jins, who is regarded as the representive of performing artistes, was seized upon by Senator Wan Ubaidah Omar, who compared the “exposed upper chest” issue of makyong with the tendency of local artistes to dress in the “berkemban” or cloth tied above the bosom style which is regarded as not being in line with local culture.

“If too many among female artistes dress like this won’t male artistes be spending their time staring at their bosoms?” she said drawing laughter from the other senate members.


What it all comes down to is, should religious values be sacrificed for the sake of the preservation of an art form?

Monday, May 08, 2006


The DUN member for Pantai Jerjak, Wong Mun Hoe, last Wednesday mooted the idea that a casino and gambling centre should be developed on Pulau Jerjak to attract more tourists to the state of Penang (Utusan Malaysia 4th May 2006).

The idea was immediately shot down the next day when Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced that the Malaysian Government will not allow any new casino to be built anywhere in Malaysia in the near future. This announcement was greeted with broad relief by most Malaysians and immediately extinguished the expected heated debate on the matter.

However, the question remains, why was the idea of building another casino brought up by a state legislative council member in the first place? Was he not aware of the current need of the nation at this moment, of the urgent need to “develope positive cultural values among Malaysians and creating a Bangsa Malaysia” as emphasized in the recently presented Ninth Malaysian Plan? Does anyone hope to achieve this by building another gambling centre?

There is no religion in Malaysia which sanctifies gambling. As Albert Einstein famously said, “ God does not play dice with the universe.” So if God is not a gambler should his followers be? It might be a good idea to see what most religions that we have here in Malaysia say about gambling.


The New Testament doesn't include passages specific to gambling, but many Christians believe gambling to be immoral. In his “Christian Response to Gambling”, Ronald A. Reno explains that gambling is a sign of greed and covetousness. Gambling also does not encourage Christians to "love your neighbor," as Jesus commands in Mark 12:31, since gambling winnings are based on the losses of others. Many Christians also condemn gambling because of its adverse impact on families and its tendency to lead to addiction.


Digha Nikaya, a Buddhist text says:-

There are, young householder, these six evil consequences in indulging in gambling:
- the winner begets hate, - the loser grieves for lost wealth, - loss of wealth, - his word is not relied upon in a court of law, - he is despised by his friends and associates, - he is not sought after for matrimony; for people would say he is a gambler and is not fit to look after a wife.


Tirukkural, 94: 931-940 (Hindu text) says:-

Do not take to gambling, even if you can win,
for your wins will be like the baited hooks that fish swallow.
To win once, a gambler loses a hundred times.
What a way to procure happiness and prosperity!
Incessantly calling bets on rolling dice causes
a man's rich reserves and potential revenues to run elsewhere.

Gambling brings on many miseries and erodes one's good name.
Nothing else ends in such wretched poverty.
Desiring to win everything, those who love the dice,
the gambling hall and their lucky hand lose it all.
Gambling is Misfortune's other name. Fools ensnared by her
will suffer an empty stomach and distressing sorrows.

Spending time in the gambling hall squanders
ancestral wealth and wastes personal worth.
Gambling will consume a man's wealth and corrupt his honesty.
It will curtail his benevolence and increase his torment.
Those who take to gambling's fickle gain forfeit these five:
raiments, riches, rations, renown and erudition.
The gambler's passion increases with the losses incurred.
Even so does the soul's craving for life grow with the grief suffered.

Islam is clear cut in forbidding gambling as is written in the Quran, Surah Al-Maidah 5: 90-91:-

O you who believe! Intoxicants and gambling, (dedication of) stones, and (divination by) arrows, are an abomination, of Satan's handwork: eschew such (abomination), that you may prosper.

Satan's plan is (but) to excite enmity and hatred between you, with intoxicants and gambling, and hinder you from the remembrance of Allah, and from prayer: will you not then abstain?

It is with an understanding of the nature of gambling that Islam is firm in outlawing any form of gambling and practices which are detrimental to the human self and which obstruct the solidarity of humankind even though they might seem to have high commercial value and able to generate material profit.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Sarajevo - Ten Years After The Bosnian War

On November 21, 1995, in Dayton, Ohio, presidents of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Alija Izetbegović), Croatia (Franjo Tuđman), and Serbia (Slobodan Milošević) signed a peace agreement that brought a halt to the three years of war in the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (the final agreement was signed in Paris on 14 December 1995). The Dayton Agreement succeeded in ending the bloodshed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and it institutionalized the division between the Bosnian-Herzegovinian Muslim and Croat entity - Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (51% of the territory), and the Bosnian-Herzegovinian Serb entity - Republika Srpska (49%).

Ten years on Bosnia retains its distinct identity in being one of the few European societies where the Muslim population is indegenous as opposed to being immigrants.

The following extract written by Imran Garda, a freelance journalist from South Africa, gives us a snapshot of Muslim life in Sarajevo.

The bulk of our stay was in Sarajevo. The city is a sumptuous visual treat. When I first set my eyes on the it, I remember thinking, "No wonder the Serbs wanted this place so badly."

During the day, the city echoes with an industrious buzz, Sarajevans hard at work earning their daily bread. It was in the evenings that I usually got to walk the streets and catch a fascinating glimpse of a people for whom eclecticism formed the core of their identity.

The Sarajevans I encountered were friendly, hospitable, and always willing to talk about their experiences of the war. At least 70% of the city's population is Muslim, and many found it bizarre that I was a Muslim, like them, and that I hail from South Africa and yet am not black. Perhaps many were far more removed from the "global village" than I had presumed, but then again, I don't know how clued in I would be if I was besieged for four years, severely lacking water and electricity for two of those years.

I was in love with the "old city," that part of Sarajevo that still boasted stone roads, classical Ottoman mosques, gothic Eastern European churches, and side streets littered with tiny antique shops and small cafés.

We ate "burek" almost everyday, the spiral Bosnian pastry filled with meat, cheese, or spinach. One couldn't find much fish or chicken in Sarajevo, and when I asked a waiter if the restaurant served chicken, he replied candidly, "We don't have chicken here, we only have cow."

One of our waiters, Hairuddin, massively built and in his late twenties, ecstatically showed us his living remnant of the war, a 5-inch scar across his right calf. The scar was so distinct it seemed like he had a zipper built into his calf.

"Chetnicks!" he said. "I was shot by a Chetnik sniper."

Those who suffered through the war loathed the Serb army, particularly the snipers, who hovered on the hills and preyed on the civilian population. Anne Marie Du Preez Bezdrob, a UNPROFOR worker during the war, describes them in her memoirs of Bosnia:

"I detested the satanic sniping bastards: cowards, who hid behind high walls and murdered children and women in cold blood."

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"If the situation was reversed in Bosnia, and a fanatical Muslim regime in Belgrade was slaughtering thousands of innocent Christians in Sarajevo, then America would have reacted by now. We would not watch Christians get killed by Muslims in Europe. Period. But we can watch Muslims get killed by Christians. The problem for Bosnia was larger than the fact that George Bush was getting clobbered by Bill Clinton in the polls. Bosnia was Islam."

- George Kenney, former US Press Officer for Bosnia

It was the summer holidays for schools and universities, so from Thursday evening until Sunday, the city burst into life. Young boys and girls streamed through the streets of Sarajevo hand in hand. Teenage girls strutted in micro-mini skirts, leg-choking jeans and low-cut blouses. Make no mistake; these were young Europeans, and passing a busy street that housed a popular nightclub, you'd think that Sarajevo is as Muslim as Los Angeles is Christian. I found things were similar in Tuzla, the other city I spent time in.

The many mosques we visited provided a stark contrast, with the devout both young and old, male and female. There, women were clad in colorful hijab, and children pitter-pattered around the Ottoman courtyard. Bosnia is one of the few European societies where the Muslim population is indigenous, at least for over 500 years. The non-immigrant, modern Eastern European Muslim identity is a distinct one, but one that needs time and intellectual effort to uncover.

Over half a century of communist rule certainly didn't help the cause of any of the region's religions, particularly Islam. Then came independence in 1992, and the promise of a Bosnia more aligned with Islamic principles, according to then-President Alija Izetbegovic, who died recently. And then came the war.

Some Bosnians believed that the possibility of a modern democratic Muslim "heartland" in the middle of Europe (coupled with the Serbs' alliance with the likes of Russia, which made powerful nations fear intervention) was the deciding factor in the powerhouses' reluctance to help. Hence, a disarmed nation was left to face a powerful Serb army, aided by the Croats for a time as well.

Can we find a definitive answer to the causes of the war? I'm not sure we can. Perhaps it was a combination of elements, cooked together at just the right time to combust into an awful tragedy. Some Bosnians believe they were attacked solely because of Serb imperialism. Some were vehement that they were attacked, then sacrificed by the world, only because they were Muslim.

But what kind of Islam do you find in Bosnia? I'm not sure. A medley of things, perhaps, from a people who've been through a lot. The pious are pious in Bosnia. Some observe the requirements of the religion, some don't. Some have Muslim names, some don't. Some are completely secular and agnostic, many aren't. Observing Bosnia is a unique religious experience, where you can see the fingerprints of Turkey, the faded remnants of Arabia, but in a paradigm that is, ultimately, entirely European.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Sorry, Couldn't Resist It.....

Had to start the month with a bit of humour...

President George W. Bush was scheduled to visit the Methodist church outside Washington, DC as part of his campaign. Bush's campaign manager made a visit to the Bishop, and said to him, "We've been getting a lot of bad publicity among Methodists because of Bush's position on stem cell research and the like. We'd gladly make a contribution to the church of $100,000 if during your sermon you'd say the President is a saint."

The Bishop thinks it over for a few moments and finally says, "The Church is in desperate need of funds and I will agree to do it."

Bush pompously shows up looking especially smug today and as the sermon progresses the Bishop begins his homily: "George Bush is petty, a self-absorbed hypocrite and a nitwit. He is a liar, a cheat, a bully, and a low-intelligence weasel. He was a drunken cokehead for most of his adult life, and he had Rove scrub his cocaine arrest story by setting up and destroying the journalist who reported it, the late Jim Hatfield. He has lied about his military record and had the gall to dress up in a flight suit landing on a carrier posing before a banner stating 'Mission Accomplished.' Worst of all, he let his cabinet neocons and covert operators murder almost 3,000 Americans on 9/11 so he could invade two countries for oil and money—and he’s been lying about it ever since. He is the worst example of a Methodist I've ever personally known. But compared to Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Pearle, Doug Feith, Scooter Libby, and the other neocons, George Bush is a saint."

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Here's another...

Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld are flying on Air Force One. The President looks at the Vice President, chuckles and says, "You know, I could throw a $1,000.00 bill out the window right now and make somebody very happy."

The Vice President shrugs and says, "Well, I could throw ten $100.00 bills out the window and make 10 people very happy."

Not to be out done, the Secretary of Defense says, "Of course, I could throw one-hundred $10.00 bills out the window and make a hundred people very happy."

The pilot rolls his eyes and says to his co-pilot, "Hell, I could throw all three of those 9/11 criminals out the window and make six billion people happy"

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Jokes from The Official 9/11 Truth Joke Book