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Would God place an infidel in heaven?

Would God place an infidel in heaven?
By Zan Azlee

I’m a Muslim and I have been to several non-Muslim funerals and most of them have been of dear family members. I mourn and pay my respect during these times, and yes, I do pray for the soul of the dead.

So it really angers me when Muslims use religious difference to disrespect the death of others and I definitely take personal offence to it. It does not matter what religion the deceased is, respect should always be given.

We are all aware, especially since yesterday, how Malaysia’s main Islamic religious authority, Jakim, warned Muslims not to pray for the souls of non-Muslims as they are infidels and are confirmed condemned to hell.

We are also well aware of how many people have countered this with the story of the Prophet Muhammad standing up in respect of a Jew who had died. A friend had asked him why he stood up and he said that a Jew is still a human being.

This reminds me of a discussion that I have regularly with my friends regarding non-Muslims, or infidels, who died but had lived a life that was righteous and noble without ever committing any major sin aside from being an infidel.

Maybe he or she had fought against injustice, helped the oppressed and underprivileged, sacrificed for others, committed his life to the betterment of humanity, but was a Sikh, Christian, Jew, Taoist or atheist?

How would God, the all merciful and compassionate, treat these individuals? Would he decide to overlook all the good this person had done and dump him or her in hell just because he or she prays differently than Muslims? [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

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No place for racial and religious supremacy

race

No place for racial and religious supremacy
By Zan Azlee

I believe everyone is created equal. And Indian is created equal as a Chinese who is also created equal as a Malay. And so are the Ibans, Dayaks, and all the ‘dan lain-lain’. I believe so much that everyone is created equal that I actually even believe that a Christian is created equal as a Hindu who is also created equal as a Muslim, a Taoist, and even a Scientologist. Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure not many people share this belief with me. In fact, I’m sure that many people reading this article might not even believe that everyone is created equal.

I recently read an article by popular American essayist Michael Muhammad Knight, a Muslim, who wrote that many white Muslim converts seem to take the religion and think that they alone own it. Knight, a controversial figure not only in America but also in the Muslim world, explained that many well-known white Muslim converts in America have done this.

He mentioned how Alexander Russell Webb (1846 – 1916), one of the first American converts who significantly promoted Islam publicly, actually did his dakwah. Webb apparently thought that they were so intellectually superior that everyone else who are practicing Islam in other parts of the world were just not practicing it right.

He had framed his thoughts from the point of view of a white supremacist and that everyone else were just too inferior that their tradition and culture adulterated their practice of the faith. But that’s not the point of contention in this article. What I do want to discuss is how any certain groups of people who feel that their way of thinking and belief is the only right way is practicing the same elitism as Webb.

This has been happening in Malaysia and I am inclined to mention an article yesterday in a local news website of an interview with retired Court of Appeals judge Datuk Mohd Noor Abdullah. [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]



I agree with Ridhuan Tee

tee_blog

I agree with Ridhuan Tee
By Zan Azlee

I never thought in my entire life that I would one day state publicly that I am in support of my self-declared arch nemesis Ridhuan Tee Abdullah. But here it is, on this good Friday, that I am writing my column (which is usually utilised to condemn Mr. Tee) to show my support of his recent columns on Prophet Muhammad.

He wrote in his past two columns in Sinar Harian that although it is condoned for Muslims to praise the Prophet, we should not go to the extent of being too obsessed with him. The action and reciting of the selawat to the Prophet is encouraged in Islam because it shows love for the messenger and also the unity of Muslims. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]



Raja Bomoh needs to be brought down

Raja Bomoh needs to be brought down
By Zan Azlee

Malaysian Christians who are practising an Abrahamic faith, as is Islam, are forbidden to use the Arab word “Allah”, which means “God”, because it might confuse Malay Muslims. The reasoning for this is because the word “Allah” has been used so much by the Malay community that in Malaysia, the word is almost considered a Malay word.

This will confuse Malay Muslims because they might think that the God that the Christians are referring to is the same God as the ones they refer to. All the ultra-Malay political groups and NGOs aggressively protested against non-Muslims in Malaysia using the word “Allah”, even bordering on violence. Those non-Muslims who don’t comply are dragged for investigations and even to court for only practising their freedom of religion.

I totally disagree with this because I think a word is just a word, no matter what language it is. For example, the English word “yellow” is the same as the Malay word “kuning”. Also, of course there is the jarring fact that the God that the Christians refer to is in fact the same God that the Muslims are referring to (and the Jews, too).

If the Malay Muslims in Malaysia don’t realise this, then they obviously don’t understand their religion well enough as they should. What religion did Islam evolve from if not Christianity? And what religion did Christianity evolve from if not Judaism? And all these religions teach its followers that it comes from the one God.

So, what happens when a group of Malay Muslims come out in public using the word “Allah”, but obviously practising something that is so detached from the actual teachings of Islam? Yeah, that Raja Bomoh guy (Ibrahim Mat Zin) who says he can see where the missing MH370 plane is at currently by using a method he claims is Islamic. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]



I’ve been to church and surprisingly, I’m still a Muslim!

zan smayang

I’ve been to church and surprisingly, I’m still a Muslim!
By Zan Azlee

When I was in primary school, I went to a school called SRK St. Joseph in Johor Bahru. Yes folks! It was a Christian missionary school complete with a church attached! I used to wander the church grounds with all my friends and sometimes, actually often times, we even had the opportunity to enter the hall itself.

I still went to my Pendidikan Islam class with my other fellow Muslim classmates and I knew, even at that young age, that I am a Muslim.

Going to church never confused me. I am a mixed breed child and come from a mixed breed family. So I have many relatives who come from many different race and also religious beliefs. I have been to many a church weddings, like the one between my Uncle Tuck Meng and his wife Aunty Renuka, which was held at that big church in Kelana Jaya by the LDP highway.

I still continue to believe that I am a Muslim and still attend mosque to do my prayers and even read the Quran to understand it better. Going to church never confused me. [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]



Being objective in the case of Azizul and Shalwati

azizul family

Being objective in the case of Azizul and Shalwati
By Zan Azlee

This week, Malaysians who have been following the case of Azizul Raheem Awaluddin and Shalwati Norshal, detained in Sweden for abusing their children, got the shock of their lives.

After two months of being held under remand, the prosecutor has finally charged them in court, and the list of what they have been accused of is a long one.

Both of them are accused of a total of eight counts of gross violation of integrity of their children, and all includes beatings, inclusive of the use of rotan, belt and even a carpet beater.

The shock is because everyone in Malaysia were of the thought that it was an obvious case of a clash of cultures.

In Malaysia, moderate corporal punishment is mainly accepted. Initial reports in the media (including here at Astro AWANI) stated or implied that the abuse was merely a smack due to one of their sons not performing his prayers. [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]



Get that RM1,200, Teresa Kok!

Get that RM1,200, Teresa Kok!
By Zan Azlee

Time and time again I have said it. Malaysians have no appreciation for satire, sarcasm and humour. And that is just so laughable that it just is not funny. Everyone is now familiar with the parodic Chinese New Year video produced by Teresa Kok, the DAP MP for Seputeh, and her team. I was very amused by the video and found it hilarious, and quite true too (my Cantonese is atrociously mediocre, but I think I got a bit of the nuances!).

Okay, fine. I can accept the fact that not everyone would understand the video and that many might even be offended by it. That is okay. These people have all the right and freedom to oppose and object to the video. They can write articles, make statements, or even hold peaceful protests. Heck! I think the best way would be to actually produce another video to mock or even oppose the video by Teresa Kok and her team.

But then a group of so-called Muslim NGOs came out to prove my thought that Malaysians do not seem to have the intellectual capability to comprehend satire. By offering a cash reward to commit violence (RM1,200 for anyone who slaps Teresa Kok and provide photographic evidence) cannot be very Islamic. One of the most common phrases in Islam is “Bismillahirahmanirahim”, which means “In the name of God, the most compassionate and most merciful”.

That in itself proves that the basis of Islam is about compassion and mercy. And wait a minute! What does “Islam” mean? I think it actually means “peace”! I am sure that this group, which goes by the name The Council of Islamic NGOs, must be very proud that they are encouraging violence in the name of religion.

But I think I have a suggestion for Teresa Kok to turn the tables around and play another joke. This time at the expense of this so-called Islamic council. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]



Culture is never wrong… except for Swedish culture?

My attempt at cheering the kids up.

My attempt at cheering the kids up.

Culture is never wrong… except for Swedish culture?
By Zan Azlee

One of the subjects I used to teach undergraduates many years ago was Human Communication. It was one of my favourite subjects to teach. I loved it because it was the study of how people communicate with each other, taking into consideration the context of different cultures, languages and beliefs.

A core principal of good human communication is to understand that there are many different people in the world. And being different doesn’t mean being wrong. In fact, it is important that we never judge people based on their culture because culture is never wrong.

Vietnamese and Koreans enjoy eating dog meat and it is considered a traditional dish. But most Americans would find it wrong to eat an animal that is normally a pet. Who is right or wrong? It is a norm in Chinese culture (and many Asian cultures) to have the extended family all living in one house together. But in Europe, this is not accepted as children are suppose to leave the nest when they grow up. Right? Wrong?

And now that the world is getting smaller, people are more exposed to different cultures and clashes start happening. It’s not wrong to have these clashes. People just need to be understanding and open-minded. But of course there are cultural practices, after being compared with others, come out as totally wrong.

And through education, these are slowly expected to disappear. For example, many indigenous tribes in Borneo practiced head-hunting a long time ago. Now that everyone is more educated and ‘civilised’, the practice has been totally wiped out. Which is a good thing. Genital mutilation may be the norm in some African cultures but with more knowledge, campaigns are now being conducted to educate the people so they know that it is not a good thing to do.

But one thing that cannot be done is to blame these people for their tradition and culture. It is what they’ve been doing for generations without thinking it is wrong. It’s the way they are wired to think. But of course, the key word is education.

With more clashes of culture happening, the more our minds are exposed and opened up. We get to see things from many perspectives. And that will eventually cause the entire human race to progress and evolve.

Now what am I actually getting at? It’s quite obvious I’m going to relate all of this to the Malaysian couple, Azizul Raheem Awaluddin and Shalwati Nurshal, detained in Sweden for allegedly abusing their children. [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]



Wayang kulit, pigs and Islam

Wayang kulit, pigs and Islam
By Zan Azlee

I remember many years ago, I directed a documentary film about Dollah Baju Merah, the last classically trained wayang kulit dalang in Malaysia from Kelantan. He has since passed on and I was the last person to officially interview him and to document his last wayang kulit performance on camera.

What I remember most about the interview was how he tried to explain to me his relationship with his art using a pig analogy. During an election year, he thought he was being religious by voting for a religious party (guess what party?), but it ended with him being ostracised for practicing his art.

“Those whom I voted for declared that wayang kulit is haram because it has non-Islamic roots. And whoever practices it is committing a sin,” he said.

“But let me explain to you about pigs. A pig is an animal created by God. The pig itself isn’t haram. It’s just an animal like any other animal in the world. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]



Does Sweden own your children?

sweden

Does Sweden own your children?
By Zan Azlee

I don’t believe in corporal punishment when it comes to disciplining children and neither do my parents. So I have never laid a finger on my daughter.

I would much prefer to have a heated and honest argument which eventually ends in a better understanding for both parties than a quick smack on the buttocks. But when it comes to Azizul Raheem Awaluddin and Shalwati Nurshal, the Malaysian couple detained in Sweden for ‘abusing’ their son for not praying, I think I would sway in their defence.

Its quite easy why my rational logic tells me that corporal punishment isn’t the way to go with children, because it is just the Islamic way. Islam’s main principles are compassion, mercy and sincerity. And that is how I base almost all of my dealings in life with.

What is one of the most common phrase in Islam? Of course it is, bismillahirahmanirahim, which means, in the name of Allah, the most compassionate and most merciful. And there is ikhlas,or sincerity, which is the foundation of any and every single deed in Islam if it were to have any meaning at all.

The prophet Muhammad himself had never hit a woman, child or even animal. So that must say something about the negativities of corporal punishment. But now back to the issue with the Malaysian couple who has been detained while their four children have been separated from them and are in the Swedish foster care system. [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]



In bleak times, faith in Allah should prevail

In bleak times, faith in Allah should prevail
By Zan Azlee

Three years ago, I remember shooting a television reportabout the “Allah” issue in Malaysia for a Dutch news agency. I had interviewed Herald editor Father Lawrence Andrew, PAS parliamentarian Khalid Samad, the then home minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein and several Malaysians.

The situation was tense then. The court case against the Catholic weekly Herald was taking place and a church in Klang was set on fire. It was a sad, depressing and humiliating time for Malaysia and its people when racial and religious tension was at an all-time low.

I have always used my column here at The Malaysian Insider as a platform to try and encourage discourse and understanding towards multiracialism and pluralism. It’s been so many years and I continue to use this platform, including every other media platform I have access to, for that purpose.

Now, we are in 2014. And what is the situation we are facing with regards to racial and religious tension? Has there been an improvement? The case against the Herald still exists. The issue of the word “Allah” being used by non-Muslims is being brandied around. And protests are happening.

It seems like Malaysia and its people haven’t gotten very far ahead since that television news story I did five years ago for that Dutch news agency. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]



We must debate the Quran!

bd2c4-jakim

astro_awani_logo

We must debate the Quran!
By Zan Azlee

I’m a Muslim, or so I claim. I believe in the religion, its God and its prophet. I also sin like the rest of us. I’m like any normal Muslim, I guess. I’m not a religious scholar, imam, qadi, bilal, ustaz, mudim, or whatever. But I do a little bit of reading, studying, travelling, interviewing and asking around.

And on that basis, I feel that is my responsibility and obligation to sometimes stand up for my religion, from those who aren’t of the faith and, most of all, those of the faith. It seems that the number one gripe of Muslims in Malaysia is the fact that there can be no debate when it comes to religious issues.

We put so much emphasis on the form of how we practice Islam that we forget the substance, which is way more important. I doubt God would be raging mad at you if you forgot to raise one finger during prayers, or maybe you missed a spot on the inside of your ear during your wuduk or ablution.
 
And I don’t think he would curse a land with floods and disease just because everyone wants to use the word ‘Allah’, or some Muslim said the word ‘Christmas’. What happened to studying Islam and it’s different schools of thought, interpretations, ideas, intellectual discourse and so on and so forth?
 
Anyway, it’s as if Islam came down all those centuries ago and is expected to be the guide for humankind for eternity, without any amendments. Boy, did they get it so wrong! Have they even actually tried to sit down and understand the Quran and the prophet’s hadith properly? [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]


Holy Water vs. Air Yasin

Holy Water vs. Air Yasin
By Zan Azlee

Recently, while I was casually browsing through the JAKIM (Department of Islamic Development Malaysia) website, I stumbled upon something interesting. (Please don’t ask me why I was casually browsing though the website. Just don’t!)

There is this one particular page on the site that caught my eye titled ‘Guidelines for Muslims celebrating religious festivals of non-Muslims’. As a multiculturalist Malaysian who celebrates a slew of festivals, from the Muslim to the non-Muslim kind, I obviously had to read it to ensure my Islamic faith is still intact.

It being the Christmas season, I will look specifically at the points that refer to Christmas, just to keep to a timely theme. Or else, this article would be just too long. The page states that if a Muslim is to attend an event, he or she needs to make sure that the event does not consist of ‘ceremonies that are against the Islamic faith’. [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]



Does Ridhuan Tee consider himself educated?

Dear Assoc. Prof. Dr Mohd Ridhuan Tee Abdullah. What the hell are you talking about?

Does Ridhuan Tee consider himself educated?
By Zan Azlee

I’ve been secretly smiling to myself almost everyday the past week. It is because I’ve been very happy with certain stories I’ve been reading in the media lately. The stories I’ve been reading has given me joy because they are about how Ridhuan Tee Abdullah has been accused of lecturing about ethnic cleansing to his students.

And even before that, a few months ago, he was accused of plagiarism in his academic writings and research papers. Happy happy joy joy! It’s no secret (especially to my regular readers) that I’ve made it one of my life’s missions to counter and destroy his every single racist and bigoted thought.

And when issue of his credibility and professionalism comes into question, I will obviously jump on the opportunity to highlight it. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]



Singapore and Malaysia – two bigots in a pod?

singapore

Singapore and Malaysia – two bigots in a pod?
By Zan Azlee

What’s the difference between Malaysia and Singapore? That’s the age old question ever since the island state decided to opt out from being a part of Malaysia. Actually, it isn’t hard to see that there are many obvious differences between the two countries and among the main ones is food.

I have to admit that the food in Malaysia, especially the street hawker kind, is just far superior from what you can find in Cheen Chia Poh. We make better lontong, better mee goreng, better nasi beriyani, better murtabak, better sup tulang, better prawn mee, better bak kut teh and even better Singapore fried meehoon.

Then there is the law that we have to abide to in Singapore, which are almost borderline mental asylum-style rules and regulations. No eating chewing gum! No crossing the street! No watching TV! No talking! No breathing! No winking! No no no no no no!!

But one thing that they are encouraging is sex! Everyone should have sex and procreate whether you are a man, woman, married or single. Play your role in saving the population! Then, of course, there is the issue about media control. If we Malaysians think that we have it bad with our media censorship and licensing, then we haven’t seen anything yet.

However, these are all differences that we can see on the surface. Look a little bit deeper and we might discover that we all aren’t that different anyway. Recently, the issue regarding Singapore’s banning of the tudung (hijab) by women working in certain governmental organisations and in school came in to the limelight.

Many Singaporeans are against this saying this it is racist and discriminatory. There is even a Facebook movement started called ‘Singapore Hijab Movement’. However, the island’s government says that since Singapore is a multiracial society, the ban is required to maintain the country’s overall social harmony. [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]



I challenge Ridhuan Tee to a ‘telur’ size-off!

ridhuanteetelur

A ‘telur’ size-off!
By Zan Azlee

I know Ridhuan Tee wasn’t aiming his latest column in Sinar Harian entitled ‘Mana telur kita?’ specifically at me. But my column today is aimed right at him.

Sometimes I feel quite stupid arguing with what this Chinese man says since what he says is always quite stupid. But I can’t help it. It’s just incredibly fun! In Tee’s latest column, he highlights the fact that no political leaders seem to have the balls to stand up against the infidels and their demands.

First up, he says that how dare the Hindus question the right of Muslims to want to slaughter cows in a public school. Hey pang yau (in case Tee has forgotten his mother tongue, ‘pang yau’ mean ‘friend’)! It’s okay for them to question it.

And it’s also okay for Muslims to concede and do the slaughtering somewhere else. It’s call respecting other religions. Islam says that’s the way mah! [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]



A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

criticiseislam

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet
By Zan Azlee

Call me murtad (apostate), I don’t care. Call me syirik (polytheist), I don’t care. Heavy accusations in Islam, these two. I hope the accusers have the necessary proof, evidence and criteria to do so. I, an official Muslim, hereby publicly declare that I have no problems with other religions aside from Islam using the word Allah to refer to God.

Most of the times when I write my column, it is to address a readership that is as wide and as general as possible without targeting too specific a group. But this week, I am writing to Muslims in particular (err, but if you are an infidel, you can still continue reading!), and especially Malay Muslims.

As Muslims, we are obligated to believe in the existence of the prophets and this includes the prophet Jesus, who brought to the world Christianity, and even Moses who brought Judaism. As a Muslim, we are also obligated to believe in the existence of the holy books and this includes the Bible which taught Christianity and the Torah which taught Judaism.

And, when we believe in all this, we also have to believe that all Abrahamic religions come from one God, and in Arabic (the main language of Islam’s Quran) the word is Allah. So, when an argument is made that Christianity and Islam are two different religions, no one can deny it. It’s true. These are two different religions.

But when it comes to God, both these different religions refer to the same God. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet (oh crap, did I just objectify God as a rose?). [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]



‘Allah’ – the Malay word that isn’t

‘Allah’ – the Malay word that isn’t
By Zan Azlee

Malaysia is a multicultural, multiracial and multireligious country, according to the government of Malaysia. And, Malaysia is also supposed to be harmonious, peaceful and tolerant, according to the government of Malaysia.

There are a lot of initiatives and efforts done to ensure that Malaysia continues to be a multicultural, multiracial, multireligious and harmonious country. And having a common national language is just such contributor to encouraging and promoting harmony and a self of belonging.

In Malaysia, the obvious language that is used to pull people together is Bahasa Malaysia. It is taught in schools and is also the official government medium of communication. Basically, almost every single Malaysian can speak the Malay language in one form or another and this is the common denominator for us all.

I like that we have something that is inclusive and makes all Malaysians similar. By having a common language, we all have something to call our own. A language that has been spoken since the 7th century (most likely even before that) and was the business language of the Southeas Asian region has deep history.

Anyone from around the world had to master the Malay language if they wanted to be able to trade and do business successfully. And it was a welcome to have Arab merchants, Chinese diplomats, European explorers and African traders learning the language when they came to our land.

The 17th century Dutch scholar, Francois Valentijn, even wrote that the Malay language was the lingua franca of the eastern region, much like French and Latin is in Europe. He added that it was a language that was even spoken and understood in the lands as far as Persia to the west and the Philippines to the east.

People around the world actually embraced the language. How cool is that? So it should be no problem for Bahasa Malaysia to be embraced within Malaysia itself. [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]



Sabahans could be Earth’s saviours!

beff

Sabahans could be Earth’s saviours
By Zan Azlee

The movement and collection of heat and carbon dioxide caused by pollution and global warming shows a worrying trend for countries near the equator. Satellite images show that it is heading towards the equator where most of the world’s forests are, and that includes Malaysia, and more specifically Sabah and Sarawak.

The reason why the forest areas are the places heat and carbon dioxide gathers is because only the forests have the natural ability to actually treat the problem. And what is more interesting, studies have shown that the areas where most of the world’s forests are, are also places that have the most numbers of languages spoken.

This study was made known to me yesterday, at the start of the 2013 Borneo Eco Film Festival in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, by speaker and festival organizer, Agnes Agama. I’m convinced the study, conducted by Terralingua.Org, is true seeing that the Amazon has so many different tribes and ethnicities and different languages.

And I am even more convinced when I see Sarawak and, more specifically, Sabah where there are also many different ethnicities and languages. It also seems totally logical without an ounce of coincidence that the responsibility of saving the earth falls on areas that have such wide biocultural diversity.

If you have ever been to Sabah, then you would know that the relationship amongst people of different races and religions is different than in Malaya. [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]



Happy Merdeka! Even if it isn’t.

shh

Happy Merdeka! Even if it isn’t.
By Zan Azlee

It’s that time of the year again when all of the media gears their content towards that one national theme – Merdeka Day. How cliched, but somehow necessary. And so I find myself obligated to write somethhing alng the lines of the Merdeka theme as well. But I’ll try to keep things as current and as relevant as possible.

What does merdeka really mean, anyway? It’s suppose to mean independence or freedom. And an independence country means a country that is sovereign. An independent country is also one that is not controlled by anyone and is free to do as it pleases depending on what is right or wrong. It is the freedom to make a choice.

So what does it mean when in an independent country where there is suppose to be freedom of choice, big brother makes that choice for the people? It means that there really is no independence.

Recently, the Penang state government decided that they would disallow the screening of the controversial film about the May 13th 1969 riots, Tanda Putera, in the state. Okay, fine! Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng clarifies by saying that they are just issuing a cautionary advisory against watching the film. Whatever lah. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]




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