Category Archives: The Malaysian Insider

Did I really enjoy going to sekolah kebangsaan?


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Did I really enjoy going to sekolah kebangsaan?
By Zan Azlee

I was twelve years old and attending a public junior high school in New York City. It was a social studies class and the teacher was one Mr Nelson.

My classmates and I entered the classroom and Mr Nelson had a copy of the day’s New York Times for each and everyone of us.

It was the year when President George Bush Sr and the United States declared the first Gulf War against Iraq after Saddam Hussein invaded neighbouring Kuwait.

Mr Nelson gave us twenty minutes to read the story about the war on the front page of the newspaper. He even taught us how to handle and fold a broadsheet!

Once we were done, we were told that we could ask any question we wanted about the story we had just read and about the war. Anything at all.

We started with basic questions like why the US had declared war with Iraq and why Saddam Hussein had sent his troops into Kuwait.

Then we went on to have a lengthy discussion on whether any of us were actually in agreement or disagreement with the decision of the US to declare war with Iraq. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

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Sikit Punya Gila: A 1982 film relevant for the times


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Sikit Punya Gila: A 1982 film relevant for the times
By Zan Azlee

Last night, a couple of friends, my wife and I had a movie night at our place and we re-watched one of the best Malaysian films ever made – Sikit Punya Gila.

The comedy film, directed by Raja Ismail and starring Dharma Harun, Hamid Gurkha, Yusni Jaafar and Ibrahim Pendek, was experimental and rife with social commentary.

Produced in the early 1980s, it told the common story of the rural Malay folk migrating to the city in order to better their lives, just like it was during the production of the movie.

Dharma and Hamid try to make it big in Kuala Lumpur doing any kind of job they can, from selling corn to gambling on horse races (kuda longkang!) and buying 4D.

Of course, they had to have their romantic interests as well in the form of Norlia Ghani and Nora Shamsuddin (who eventually were snapped up by Yusof Haslam and Kuswadinata!).

True to the malaise of that time, they were a pair of lazy, care-free young men who wanted to get rich but didn’t have the commitment nor the discipline to do anything about it.

All they wanted to do was to hang out, chat up girls, have fun and not work. Then, they just hoped and dreamed really hard that they could make a fast buck.

More than 30 years on, I’m not sure if there are many people still like Dharma and Hamid. I’m sure many now realise that to succeed, hard work and a little bit of intelligence play a big role.

Or maybe there are, seeing that many still clamour for all kinds of hand-outs, subsidies and kick-backs in order to make that fast buck. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

Fatwas and reasoning


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Fatwas and reasoning
By Zan Azlee

If the issue of touching dogs is the epitome of Islamic discussion in Malaysia and how it will determine whether your or faithful or faithless towards god, then we are on a sad spiritual path.

The easy labelling and accusations of liberalism and pluralism towards others without a clear definition of what it really means is another sad turn.

And now with the case where the halal logo is being used next to an image of a Hindu deity becoming a national outcry, I think sad has taken a turn towards pathetic.

If we really want to be that petty, there are many issues we can actually raise:

Start paying our zakat in rice
Since we’re so fussy about following the Shafi’i mazhab to the letter, then we should pay our zakat in rice. According to the mazhab, we are not to pay our zakat in cash and should pay it in the main food source of a certain region. But other mazhabs like Hanafi allows for it to be paid in cash. Why then do we pay in cash?

Threaten all smokers and force them to apologise publicly for insulting Islam
If touching dogs is such a sin that it justifies making threats towards the organiser of the ‘I want to touch a dog’ campaign and accusing him of insulting the religion, then we should be fair and do the same thing to smokers.

In 1995, the Majlis Fatwa Kebangsaan had declared smoking haram. So that means that the millions of Malaysian Muslims who enjoy tobacco, nicotine and tar are being unIslamic.

If the fact that dogs are so dirty that it is a major health risk for human beings to come into contact with them, then I guess something that has been scientifically proven to kill human beings through diseases should be treated the same way. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

The liberal threat


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The liberal threat
By Zan Azlee

We hear the ‘liberal threat’ term being brandied around all the time these days. But what does it really mean?  If you want to touch a dog, you’re considered a liberal threat.

If you are fluent in speaking English, you’re considered a liberal threat. If you have studied overseas and come back to Malaysia with grand ideas, you’re considered a liberal threat.

If you like to rationalise and use logic, you’re considered a liberal threat. If you want to debate and talk about issues in Islam, you’re considered a liberal threat.

And who do these liberals threaten? Apparently, the ones feeling threatened by all this are all the other Malay Muslims in the country. The ones who aren’t liberal.

And how do we know they aren’t liberal? Well, I’m guessing its because they don’t want to touch dogs, don’t speak English fluently and never studied overseas.

But what it really boils down to is that they also don’t want to involve any thinking when it comes to faith. Because they feel that faith is something that you accept blindly.

To them, rationale or logic cannot be used ever to debate and discuss issues regarding Islam because that would mean you have no belief.

The Islam that is threatened by the liberals is a strict version of Islam that is not open to interpretation or discourse because what is officially sanctioned might just be changed.

Too many years have gone by where the authorities have had control over what the people believe and fear. If this power gets out of their hands, they wouldn’t be relevant anymore.

It’s funny how the religion has digressed into such a form because when it first started, consultation with the people was a key element in it’s jurisprudence. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

Which mazhab is the best? Ours?


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Which mazhab is the best? Ours?
By Zan Azlee

I went for Friday prayers at the main mosque in Bamiyan, a city and province in the mountains of northern Afghanistan. They are mainly from the Hanafi school of jurisprudence, as opposed to the Shafi’i here in Malaysia.

The way the prayers were conducted were slightly different in the arrangements of the sermon and optional prayers which I wasn’t used too. And neither did I understand the sermon.

But it was no big deal. The Hanafi school is one of the four main Sunni schools, or mazhabs, and it’s aqidah (creed) is the same. The only difference is the interpretation of fiqh (jurisprudence) and rituals.

So it is no problem for a Shafi’ifollower like me (being from Malaysia) to pray alongside those from the other mazhabs. Through my travels around the world, I have prayed alongside all of them.
Now back to northern Afghanistan on that Friday afternoon about three years ago. After Friday prayers concluded, I managed to catch up with the Afghan Imam who had led it. He was young and very handsome.

I told him where I came from and told him why I was in his country (I was shooting a documentary). We chatted for a while when he brought up the subject of the different mazhabs between our regions.

“Shafi’i mazhab has beautiful teachings. I admire the strong faith that the Malaysian Muslims have. They are known around the world to be very devout in their faith,” he smiled.

I mentioned to him that I noticed the differences in how they conducted Friday prayers the Hanafi way and I was unfamiliar, so I mainly just followed the crowd in the mosque.

“That’s okay. We are all Muslim and we share the same faith. Our structure may be different but our hearts and intentions are the same. We are brothers,” he said in response.

Being the humorist and comedian that I am (and usually in the most inappropriate times!), I mentioned to him that he is the most good-looking imam I had ever met! He laughed and we hugged goodbye. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]