On the Revision of Religion…

I read with admiration and wonder at the boldness and innovation of these scholars from Turkey, as they sit themselves down to reinterpret the Islamic hadiths in Ankara University. After the Quran, the hadiths are the second most-sacred texts in Islam. It would be an eye-opening change, especially for the more conservationist thinkers of Islam, that the hadiths could be altered such.

Read about their effort on the BBC News here.

It is perhaps refreshing, especially for someone like myself, who isn’t too conventionally Islamic to begin with. Most would say my thoughts and views border on blasphemous, if not just downright offensive. But then, these views are judged against a very conservative and rigid norm in society, and I doubt we could conveniently be slotted into a pigeonhole of expectations. Perhaps it is time for a change, for the better, as religion itself should not be rigid and unbending, and insensitive to the needs and vagaries of time.

Change of mindset, however will be harder to come by. There will always be those fellas working for JAIS who think it is not at all out of bounds to smash into a room to check if you’re in close proximity or committing khalwat with someone not of kin. They have no qualms or considerations for such petty things as human rights and personal choice. After all, religion is forever, so eternal judgment will trump over personal choice any day. I pray and wait with bated breath, to see if the changes made in the reinterpretation of the hadith will make their impact here.

Without a doubt, there will be those who will loudly proclaim that to undertake such a task is blasphemous, and these words are sacred. Period. They should not, and will not be accepted. Period. End of discussion.

It is these people, whose knee-jerk reactions speak loudest, make the worst impact. Especially when these changes might be for the better – equal rights for women, lessening of restrictions to incorporate modern aspects of life, and most important of all, the call for tolerance in every aspect of life, especially when dealing with other faiths and alternative lifestyles.

Yes, I think it is time that we re-invent ourselves. In more ways than one. As a Muslim, as a Malaysian, and as human being, not necessarily in that order…

Election fever? What election fever? I will vote for a stronger Parliament, comes March 8, as Malaysia makes its choice – Jasmine.

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On the Emperor’s New Clothes…

For those who aren’t familiar with the title, the Emperor’s New Clothes is a fairy tale written by Hans Christian Anderson, and in it, the silly Emperor is duped into walking through town in his birthday suit, as the royal tailors had swindled him into believing that only a certain number of people who were deserving enough, could see his new clothes. A young boy finally broke the spell, and the Emperor was faced with the truth forced upon him by the most unexpected source.

Not so recently, we are regaled with the story of the opening of a concept boutique at the Pavillion, owned by none other than the current PM’s daughter and another VIP’s daughter. They aptly named it TENC, or The Emperor’s New Clothes.

Now, is this is reference to the aforementioned fairy tale? Or is it just a catchy name and gimmick? I wonder who the Emperor in question could be… And who the becomes the royal swindlers?

More disturbingly, do they now find themselves worthy of being Malaysia’s ‘royalty’? At who’s expense? Don’t forget that the Emperor is higher up in the food chain, more so that the Sultans and Agongs and Ministers…

Doesn’t look like they’re selling lots of clothes – Jasmine.

On the difference between myth and reality…

I spent this morning browsing the usual cornucopia of news sources, from the usual government-endorsed mainstream ones, to the independent sources which claim to report the sordid truth… And what a world of difference it was. Eye-opening, really… If one could call it that.

A gaping chasm opened when we begin the comparison between what is considered news. I felt as if I wasn’t reading news from the same country. Heck, a different continent would have been more appropriate. In the mainstream media, all was well and dandy. We hear of people living a good life, and that the standard of living is improving, the infrastructure is improving, crime rates on a downward trend, inflation is lower than ever, bla bla bla… The coming elections just happen to a bump in the road for the government, who is doing fantastically well, and will again win the people’s mandate of ruling ohh-so-justly and unselfishly.

In the independent sources, however, we read of tales of corruption and stories that would make your grandmother’s hair curl. And I tell you, my grandmother’s hair won’t curl so easily. Take your pick – we have the whole judicial crisis and Lingam thing going on, and then there’s the who circus about the elections.

As a person who claims to be ‘informed’ and ‘unbiased’, it is indeed mind-boggling to make sense of the horseshit both camps are hurling at each other. Some are true, of course, from both camps. Some bits of news, though, are so out of this world, they seem better placed as a plot line in a Spanish soap opera.

As an ordinary person on the road, I always tell myself that the powers-that-be, and their opposition will utilize the media as a means of influencing the rakyat. It is after all, a far-reaching and influential form of persuasion. All the more reason why all parties with a stake will make the effort to get their stories out. Some more effectively than others, some more believable, some just plain crazy it makes your tummy tickle at the insanity of it all.

That is why, ladies and gentlemen, always take what the media feeds you with a bucket of salt. Think it through, before you commit an opinion or heaven forbid, make a commitment based on them. Rather, rely on your own cow sense and observation, to validate these outlandish claims.

A perfect example would be the whole Nurin Jazlin / Sharlinie thing – if it were so, as said by the media recently, that crime rates are on a downward trend, would there be more high-profile kidnappings in a such a short timeframe, as it has been now? Or is the public being deceived, that in the past, there were MORE such kidnappings, but not as widely publicized? I’m more likely to draw the easier conclusion, that there are indeed more kidnappings now that there were before… Apply Occam’s Razor to the equation, where the simplest solution is always the most elegant and more likely answer…

What about the cost and standard of living? The mainstream media has been constantly bombarding us with ‘facts and figures’ about how it has been improving. Conveniently, they forgot to mention that inflation too, is rising in tandem, or more likely, to be rising even faster than our growth would allow. We are now earning more, but then spending ever more much money to keep at the same standard of living. Take for example, the price of roti canai, that has doubled in the span of two years, from RM0.50 to RM1.00 per piece. Has the salary of minimum wage earners, doubled in the same span of time? The answer is obvious, that we now pay more dearly for the very same things we did not ten years ago, but just two or three years ago, and wage has not increased. Instead, when the government recently announced a pay hike for civil servants, the price of goods and services went up and up and up!! I won’t even start on petrol and toll… That, ladies and gentlemen, deserve their very own rant…

This coming general election, choose wisely. For even the wise, may make the very best choices, and live to regret it later. Even the opposition may not have the cures for all our ails. We, ourselves, need to make it better…

Wishing for simpler times, when RM10 felt like a king’s ransom – Jasmine.

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On progress…

I was recently in Bandar Penawar, Johor for a couple of days. For those who have no idea where the heck Bandar Penawar is, it is actually very close to the coastal holiday area of Desaru, on the East Coast of Johor.

What charms Desaru and Bandar Penawar may hold for the holidaymakers who flock here, I may never know. The coast is rough, and where the surf pounds the beach with relentless force, the wind is blustery and going for a swim doesn’t seem a viable option for anyone who values human life. It feels more like sitting on the beach facing the North Sea than a pleasant tropical resort.

Bandar Penawar happens to be the home town of one of our more prominent Ministers. Their claim to fame is a brand new sports school, and loads and loads of sporting facilities, including a brand new sports complex than would make Ipoh proud. Looking back at the town, which houses only one small commercial square and scattered human habitation, I may hazard a guess that the town is home to not more than 20,000 people.

Browsing the local stores for some reading materials left me feeling strangely empty and disappointed. Not one store or shop carried any papers, other than Malay tabloids two days old. Not one magazine in sight! Let’s not even mention books…

Progress this place has seen. The streets are wide and well lit, there are facilities left right and center for everyone who cares to use them. But God forbid you ever want to read, because to get reading material, you’ll have to drive at least 120 kilometers in any direction.

I cannot understand for the love of God why this is so. Should we not make an effort to teach, and make learning accessible? Why just manufacture jocks when you can make a whole and balanced and healthy and wholesome human being? Is it enough that they can play football or run athletics or play hockey? Should they not know history and philosophy too?

Books cost a fraction of a sports complex and school… Children are like sponges, they absorb what we soak ‘em in… Enough said…

Finally found my answer as to why Bandar Penawar folk seem so unfazed that the Parliament has finally been dissolved – Jasmine.

On petty arguments…

Several fateful days ago, my dear sister finally had a row worthy of a Mexican soap opera with none other than our two lovely stepsisters. The drama unfolds, as only the three girls had been left in Kuala Lumpur, close to home as other family members happen to be out of town, all at the relatively same time.

It began with a harmless BBQ dinner party, hosted by the two evil lovely (as stated above) stepsisters who insists on drinking beer. Now, being a relatively unconservative person myself, I see no reason why this should be an issue if all relevant parties are comfortable with the arrangement. My sister however, was not.

She insisted that they take their drinking off the premises, as it was done without the consent of our parents. Mind you, these girls we’re talking about here, are already in their mid-thirties, with homes of their own. Why they choose to drink over at our parent’s house, is beyond comprehension.

Matters soon escalated, as the communication broke down between warring parties, and soon enough, the previously indisposed parents were called in to resolve the dispute.

Instead, it became an even bigger fiasco. Stepmum and Dad are now screaming and screeching at each other, with tearful children on the phone, still assigning blame left right and center.

Stepmum leaves for home, as soon as humanly possible. Now, this itself is miraculous, as she neither drives or has much acumen of any sort. That she made it back in one piece, relatively quickly was a feat. She then proceeded to skewer my sister, saying she was the party to blame to this whole mess, and much more.

Dad now says, “You better go get that house we were talking about. I think its time for your sister to move out.”

With this two little sentences, I realize I’m four steps away from my dream house. With the help of Dad, I may be able to purchase something a little bit bigger, with better location, than had I been able to do had the property purchase been entirely my own.

I feel gleeful and sad at the same time, that at the cost of others’ misfortunes and woes, I am achieving my dream of living in a place I can call my own. In between thoughts of the amount of crazy work I need to get done to make it habitable by June, not including the time I will spend househunting, I feel that I should give more thought to the person who made it all possible, and I wonder if he will be as homeless (won’t be homeless, all is fine and dandy now) as my sister when he gets back to KL in a week’s time. Stepmum has currently put their house on sale, presumably making her preparations for an exit out of our lives for good (can’t tell what she’s preparing for, after all I’m not part of her inner circle).

To Dad, thank you from the bottom of my heart, for finally and the first time ever, putting us, your children first, before the woman you call your wife, and her parasitic children (not putting us first, but as usual, last in the long line leading to you) helping us purchase our home.

To my sister, thank you for finally showing that you too, are human and have limits. We are always here for you… Blood, after all, is thicker than water…

To my significant other, and my dear brother, thank you, for supporting us even when it might not make sense, and for your help when we are faced with crazy deadlines and movers and cleaning and unexpected expenses, as we finally move one last time…

Now, where did you say that nice house was?

Looking forward to rent-free living – Jasmine.

ps – Edits made to reflect that I’m truly do not mean to hurt anyone, as this is my blog, where only my thoughts count, and no one else’s… It is after all, the only place and space where I am not contradicted, nor am I ever wrong, nor am I required to kowtow to anyone…

On being on the road, and out of touch…

Due to work commitments, I have been temporarily stationed in the Malaysian equivalent of Alaska. On second thought, Alaska probably has better connectivity than these places. The Malay call them ‘Jin Bertendang’, meaning places where even genies are kicked off to… No internet access, no phone lines, and no convenient wi-fi spots anywhere in sight, I have been deprived of my usual contact with the outside world via emails and blogging…

Just last night, I got back in touch with cyberworld, and the number of emails and things to do online was staggering. It felt unmanageable, having a torrent of sensory input come pouring into my already stretched brain, was simply overwhelming. With work still piled up sky high, and no end in sight, I just made short and simple replies to those emails that couldn’t wait anymore, as my addled senses refuse to cooperate and the ultimate writer’s block set in.

To further compound my self-imagined sense of helplessness, the world at large, the Malaysian one at least, is abuzz with talk of the coming general elections. Those clear acrylic ballot boxes have been tendered, made and paid for; the ‘pusat gerakans’ manned and cleaned and made ready for the usual circus, and the government-endorsed media is being particularly smarmy with the feel good stories in all possible categories. Nevermind the analysts are predicting an economic slowdown triggered by the US ‘slump’ and ever-escalating fuel prices. Nevermind that there is a shortage and price hike of cooking oil, flour and rice, all items that seem to be staple in most kitchens… Nevermind that chicken in some places will cost approximately RM9 a kilo! Nevermind that the country is being overrun by people who think they know what’s best for us, and will make it so, just because they might earn a few million easy bucks paving over a stretch of greenery, again…

As I sit here, in another endless and nameless hotel lobby, trying to get on top of the torrential downpour of work falling over my sleep deprived head, the lesson I have learnt today is, never put off what you can do today for tomorrow. At least with respect to emails… They won’t stop coming just because you’ve stopped checking… And the second painful lesson, is that we as the rakyat, have the power to choose, to make things right, and we should not lay down and die, and let those in power earn millions in the process.

The people are afraid of the government. That is not how a democratic government should work. The government should be serving in the interests of the rakyat, those who elected them into the echelons of power, and not just themselves…

The world will turn, and empires will rise and fall, and it is up to us, ordinary people, to make the most of it… After all, Marie Antoinette never did know her subjects were starving…

Wishing for blessed sleep, clean clothes and a good meal – Jasmine.

ps – So much for mobile connectivity, eh?? Most places didn’t even have good mobile lines… Let’s not even talk about the data services… 😛