Category Archives: writing

Isma, stop undoing progress


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Isma, stop undoing progress
By Zan Azlee

I work very hard in trying to teach my four-year-old daughter that she can do and be anything she wants to and that being a girl or a boy makes no difference at all. What is important is that she is a human being.

But it’s really difficult even in this day and age when one would actually assume that gender equality should be understood by all; but the truth is the opposite. It seems that patriarchal sexism is still as dominant as ever.

Certain friends and relatives always throw lavish praises of how pretty she looks or how a good girl should act so as to look pretty, but never pour positive reinforcements regarding self-esteem, confidence and intelligence.

What is worse is the fact that gender biasness happens even in the public domain. And most recently, even women are putting that extra effort to make sure their fellow women are held down in life.

Isma’s head of family and society bureau, Dr Nur Farrah Nadia Najib, was reported to have said that Malaysia can be a high-achieving nation with the men leading the workforce and the women staying home and raising children.

She went on to say that men should put in most of their efforts in shaping the nation while women should get a good education and stay at home to concentrate on raising healthy and successful boys and girls. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

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Threatening and scaring people into submission is unIslamic


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Threatening and scaring people into submission is unIslamic
By Zan Azlee

“You should always be good and obey God,” said the ustaz.

“Because if you don’t, you will be committing sins, and for that, you will burn in the unimaginable heat of Hell!”

I used to hear that all the time as a small child between the ages of eight right up to my teens, attending Islamic religious classes. And I definitely have a problem with that.

First of all, little children who are being taught Islam in school or by their parents need to be taught about the beauty of the religion and how wonderful and happy it is to have faith.

They should not be threatened with sin and hell fire punishment for every little insignificant mischievous and naughty little thing that they do. It does not make them better Muslims.

Instead, there should be positive reinforcement.

“You should always do good because then people will like you just like how you like people who are good to you,” is what I would say.

“Then we can all be happy instead of being angry with each other.”

‘Pujuk’ is a Malay word and is officially translated to English as ‘persuade, coaxing or flattery’. And it all actually brings positive connotations rather than negative.

And any sane person would know that if you wanted a child to do something, you don’t force him or her, you try to ‘pujuk’ them nicely by talking sweetly or even rewarding them.

So it doesn’t take much to understand, as adults, that if Muslims want the world to see how beautiful their religion is, shouldn’t they show it’s beauty? [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]

Thank God for our mahasiswa!


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Thank God for our mahasiswa!
By Zan Azlee

Last night after dinner and right before heading off to watch a midnight film with my wife (David Fincher’s “Gone Girl” is pretty good!), I decided to drive over to Universiti Malaya.

As most would know, there is a group of students who have decided to “Occupy UM” by setting up tents in the small field by the front entrance in protest of the actions taken against the UM8.

The UM8 are student leaders who were recently fined and suspended by the university for trying to go ahead with a talk they had organised with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

The talk was initially approved but the approval was withdrawn at the last minute. Anwar came anyway, and the students pushed their way into the university grounds.

I went for two reasons. The first: given the fact that I am a journalist, I wanted to go the ground and witness myself the happenings going on there.

The second reason is because I feel like I have a certain solidarity with students who are determined and confident enough to stand up for what they believe in.

It is not because I was a student activist back in university. Far from it. I was actually quite apathetic about politics, economy and social issues. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

The significance of ‘The Prominent 25’


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The significance of ‘The Prominent 25’
By Zan Azlee

Earlier in the week, news broke about a group of 25 top former senior civil servants who had penned and signed a document on the state of Malaysia’s race and religious discourse.

They are calling for better and stronger leadership in the government to counter the extremist Islamic views that are cropping out from amongst current leaders and politicians.

They are strongly against the statement made by minister in the Prime Minister’s office, Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom, regarding the transgender issue in Negeri Sembilan.

And, they are also calling for all moderate Malays and Muslims to speak out against the extreme and intolerant voices who do not speak for the whole of the Malay Muslim community.

This group of 25 wants to see proper, informed, rational and inclusive discourse happening when it comes to race and religious relations so that the harmony of Malaysian society isn’t destroyed.

They seem to believe that the insecurity of those in power have led to the rise in the voice of these extremists just so that they can grasped to power even tighter.

What is the significance of these 25 people and what they have expressed? [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]

Searching for that ‘mom and pop store’ experience


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Searching for that ‘mom and pop store’ experience
By Zan Azlee

When I walk around the Kuala Lumpur city centre, the experience I get is something that although can sometimes be exciting, yet leaves me empty somehow.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot and I think it has to do with the fact that every single store, restaurant, cafe and establishment is a generic and impersonal franchise or chain. I don’t have conversations with people and I don’t interact. Sure, we interact with the sales people over the cashier counter if we make any transactions, but that’s about it.

I remember the days when I was growing up in the small cowboy town of Johor Bahru. It seemed like my parents knew everyone at every single place they went to. The local barber knew my father by name and they would chat about things while our hair was cut (and no matter how I described it to him, my hair never turned out to be like MacGyver’s!). And if we went out for breakfast on Sunday mornings, we knew the guy who owned the roti prata (roti canai for the rest of Malaysia) stall as my father and him were like old friends.

It was the same with my mother. The family clinic we went to had an old doctor that had been her family doctor for decades even before I was born. The guy who sold fruits in a push cart near the main post office was apparently a family friend and was my uncle’s old classmate back in secondary school.

Now back to the big city of Kuala Lumpur. As I have mentioned, all the shops and eating places have become so impersonal as most are chains and franchises. Although on the surface, it looks like it does well for the economy and it creates jobs, in the long term, it might not bring such an advantage to the development of the society. [Click to read the full article at KopitiamEkonomi.Com]