Category Archives: The Malaysian Insider

I’m Malay – can I succeed outside of Malaysia?



I’m Malay – can I succeed outside of Malaysia?
By Zan Azlee

I’m a fiercely independent person. I like to be my own man and if I do anything, I like to believe that I did it on my own, because of my own capabilities and skills.

And that is the reason why I don’t play golf as a recreational sport. It’s because golf has a handicap system where people who are bad will be able to compete with even the best of them.

I believe that you have to work hard from wherever you are to be among the best and if you don’t, then you are not deserving to be among the best.

For example, when I first started working after graduating from university, my parents wanted to buy me a car. At first, I said okay and I got a car from them.

But then, I started feeling embarrassed driving it because, here I am, a grown up adult with a job, driving around in a car that my mummy and daddy gave me.

So I decided that I had to pay for it myself. I immediately took over the car loan that was under my mother’s name and serviced the instalments myself. I am my own man.

That’s why Dina Zaman’s latest article titled ‘Unappreciated in my own country’ where she talks about Malay professionals who moved away from Malaysia to ply their trade resonates with me.

They wanted to do well outside and be recognised for their capabilities and skills rather than because they were born of a certain race or the connections that they had.

Thinking back, the issue that Dina discusses in her column was one of the influencing factors why I decided to pursue my postgraduate degree overseas.

I wanted to see if I could hack it outside after graduating from a local public university in Malaysia. And I did it with flying colours.

I know my complaint might seem a tad ‘first-world’. But hear me out. I want to prove that I can do things on my own and not because I am of a particular race living in Malaysia.

When I wanted to pay for my own car, it was because it hurt my pride to think that people might be saying, “Oh, his parents bought it for him. No wonder!”.

And when I graduated from local university with my first degree, it also hurt my pride to think that people might be saying that, “Oh, he graduated from a public university. No wonder!”.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a big believer and advocate of inclusivity from the socio-economic point of view. We need to have social and economic fairness.

Those who are financially and economically less privileged need to be assisted so they can be on equal footing with the rest and so that social mobility is possible.

But it should be based on on the right criterias, and definitely not on race. Affirmative action should be in place for the less privileged all around and not just for the Malays.

Sometimes, I too do feel like moving overseas and seeing if I could actually thrive in my profession outside of Malaysia and not have this affirmative action issue over my head.

But thoughts like this make me nervous. What if it is true that I am in whatever position I am in now because of affirmative action?

What if my thoughts of people saying, “Of course Zan can do all this in Malaysia. No wonder!”, are true? What if these people are right and if I ply my profession outside, I might not make it?

Well, this is the exact mentality that we need to kill – I need to kill – so that my children will not be affected by it like how I am being affected by it.

Enough time has passed that Malays don’t need the crutches that have been helping them stand up all this while. It’s time to let them stand on their own.

Just like the game of golf, once you move out of the amateur zone and become a professional, all handicaps are done away with and it solely depends on how good you are.

And if I do play golf, I would much rather be playing it professionally.

[This article appeared originally at The Malaysian Insider]""

Don’t be cowed by paranoia on social media



Don’t be cowed by paranoia on social media
By Zan Azlee

I like posting pictures of me and my family on social media. My Facebook and Instagram pages are constantly flooded with pictures of me, my wife and my daughter going through our life adventures.

I’m proud of my family and it’s so much fun sharing our joy with family and friends. Both my wife and I are active on social media and the interaction we get with our followers is also a source of happiness.

Anyway, posting photos like this is so much a part of our modern lives now and it would feel weirder not to be on social media. It has become the norm in our culture that we cannot disassociate ourselves with it.

Then an incident that brings all this into question happens. Local comedian and actor Harith Iskandar discovers that pictures of him and his son were taken from his social media pages and posted on a porn website.

Of course, he made a report to the authorities and within two days, the pictures were no longer on the said porn website. Action was taken quite swiftly to solve the problem and all turned out well in the end.

We are all constantly reminded how we put ourselves and our families at risk whenever we post pictures online because of all the data that can be obtained, not just through the images, but also from the detailed metadata.

I, personally, do my best to limit the metadata, or information, that is documented. I shut down location recognition, geotagging, and whatever data that is recorded along with the photos that are taken by the camera.

But the one thing I refuse to do is to be paranoid and cease all existence on social media. Why should I, or we, be forced to not enjoy what is so much a part of life these days just because of those who like to take advantage of it?

We should work harder to expose and catch the perpetrators so to stop crimes like these from happening. The everyday person should not be bullied into submission and feeling too scared that they hide themselves and their children.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be prudent and careful. Of course, we have to be. Take all the precautions necessary just don’t be cowed. There will always be criminals and sick people out there and we can’t do much about it.

It’s like how we make sure that we always lock the doors to our homes and have security. But we don’t want to live in fear of robberies and other crimes because that would mean we would be denying ourselves the right to a normal and happy life.

Luckily, I have never found any of my families pictures used for purposes like pornography. But I have had to report and demand that a picture of my daughter which was taken without permission from Facebook and used in an advertisement be removed.

So I agree with how Harith Iskandar handled the situation. I’m sure it must have been a very distressing experience. But he turned into something positive by highlighting the situation, making the necessary reports and refused to be bullied into paranoia.

[This article originally appeared at The Malaysian Insider]


Life goes on in Afghanistan and no one seems to know anything about 9/11!

Children on the way to school in Kabul
Children on the way to school in Kabul, Afghanistan (Photo by Zan Azlee, 2011).

When I first went to Afghanistan, I wanted to see how life there is like in times of violence and conflict. And surprisingly (or not!), it went on as usual.

I was in the country during the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in the World Trade Centre in New York City. And one of the things that I was interested in finding out was what Afghans think of the attacks seeing that it was masterminded by Osama Bin Laden, who was living under protection by the Taliban in Afghanistan at that time.

But many of them did not even know about it. Or more accurately, they chose to ignore it. To them, Osama Bin Laden isn’t even an Afghan. He was just some foreigner who caused too much problems for the country. See my chats with several Afghans in Kabul about 9/11 in the video below.


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All I see is a champion athlete, what do you see?

Screen Shot 2015-06-19 at 10.07.04 AM


All I see is a champion athlete, what do you see?
By Zan Azlee

I tried very hard not to get sucked into writing about the debacle of the overzealous religious extremists in Malaysia and the national gymnast’s clothes.

Well, actually the gymnast never even got involved in the debacle. She merely shrugged off the comments by the overzealous religious extremists and continued on.

Self-assured and confident, all Farah Ann Abdul Hadi did was to post one tweet on her Twitter account – “Empty cans make the most noise.”

Enough said. She knows what she’s done (she won several medals at the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore) and there isn’t a need to prove anything.

The overzealous religious extremists, on the other hand, got the support of an overzealous religious master in the form of Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom, the minister in charge of Islamic affairs.

While Farah Ann had just did her best in doing Malaysia proud, the overzealous religious extremists obviously had other things on their mind when they saw her in her leotard.

They said that her clothing was too revealing and that she needs to cover her “aurat”. They even demanded that she repent before having to face the consequences.

Yes, they are ridiculous and Farah Ann knows that. And we all know that. It is because of the ridiculousness of the issue that I initially did not want to write about it.

But as ridiculous as they are, they are still loud and people can still hear them. Hence, I have to succumb to writing about it because something like this needs to be written and discussed about.

Although Farah Ann seems confident and mature enough to shrug it off, I think it is important that we still show our support and hopefully this will strengthen her courage.

It is also important to write about because we need to encourage others to also possess and display the kind of strength that Farah Ann has.

And, of course, it is important that we write and discuss about it so that the noise from the empty can will be drowned out and never heard from again.

The minister and those who like him need to assert their authority because it is the only way they know how to instil fear in people, hence become “needed” by them.

It seems so easy to convince Muslims that something is wrong because Islam says so. If you don’t do this, it is against Islam. If you do that, it is against Islam.

And for a Muslim, if you are being accused of doing something against Islam, there is nothing else you can say to explain it because of the way Islam is ingrained in our minds.

We are constantly taught to fear God, to fear the religion and to fear sin. We are scared into submission so much that love and compassion gets thrown out of the picture altogether.

Islam is not a simpleton religion. It is not as simple as merely an issue of covering your “aurat” or exposing it to differentiate between a good Muslim and a bad one.

And neither is it as simple for you to be considered a good Muslim just by judging and questioning someone’s faith publicly as if you are defending the honour of the religion.

Many Malaysians saw Farah Ann as a national athlete who did the country proud by giving her best and becoming the best in what she does.

As for those empty cans who were making so much noise, one piece of advice: look at yourselves first before criticising other people.

If you look hard enough, then maybe you will all discover why you saw Farah Ann as something different than what the rest of us saw.

[This article appeared originally at The Malaysian Insider]

Are women just sex toys and baby-making machines?



Are women just sex toys and baby-making machines?
By Zan Azlee

Women seem to be getting a hard time recently in Malaysia with different comments being made by different Cabinet ministers that seem to be very hard to digest in this day and age.

The thing that made it worse is the fact that these comments that are deprecating of women were actually made by ministers who themselves are women.

And you would think that the increase in representation of women in the government would actually mean that their interest and welfare would be better served.

Several weeks ago, we had the Women, Family and Community Development Minister, Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim, saying that women should have more babies.

That is all well and good to encourage people to build families. But she also said that couples should have more babies and not be too concerned about leading a good quality life.

Stop and think about it. Rohani is the Minister for Women, Family and Community Development. And she wants Malaysians to not focus on quality of life.

I think my mother, Sophia Yusof, would do better justice holding that Cabinet portfolio. She used to tell me the reason why she decided not to have too many children.

“I would rather have a few children who I can give as much as attention to as possible than so many who who would be neglected,” she said.

She and my father made sure that my brothers and I had the best opportunity for education, ate nutritious food, had the most enjoyable childhood, and fed our souls with regular holidays.

They knew that having only three kids (sure, many would consider this a large number today!) would be ideal with what best they could afford to make sure we had the highest quality of life.

This would be opposed to having, say, five or six children and just feeding them rice and soy sauce everyday and not enriching their lives more because it would be out of their reach to do so.

With the cost of living now increasing at a tremendous rate in a negative correlation with the average household income, I think I would rather follow my mother’s advice.

Then, we also have another women minister, Nancy Shukri, from the Prime Minister’s Department, who says that the government has no plans to criminalise marital rape.

Apparently, once you enter a marriage, your husband can have sex with you anytime he wants whether you like it or not and it wouldn’t be a crime to do so.

She does stress that, under Section 375A of the Penal Code, it is still an offence for a husband to hurt his wife for the purpose of having intercourse and this should suffice to protect women.

This is such a loose definition of marital rape that there might as well not even be a Section 375A of the Penal Code (to think of it, there really is no definition of marital rape!).

So whose interests and well-being are these women ministers serving? This is a big disappointment in the fight for gender equality.

And so I would like to say to the these women ministers, it’s time to buck up or ship out!

[This article originally appeared at The Malaysian Insider]