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]

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An open letter seeking help from JAKIM


An open letter seeking help from JAKIM
By Zan Azlee


First and foremost, I would like to wish you assalamualaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh and a blessed Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri. I would like to apologise for writing this letter during the festive season when most of you would be on leave with your families.

However, I strongly believe that the reason that I am writing is justified and commands your immediate attention. If nothing is done, I am fearful that the faith and aqidah of many Malay Muslims in Malaysia may be at risk.

On the second last day of Ramadhan, my family and I decided to head out and enjoy iftar (I loathe using the term ‘buka puasa’ it is so un-Islamic!) together at a very prominent hotel in Shah Alam, Selangor. The hotel is called Concorde.

We were very impressed with the buffet spread that was on display in the hotel’s coffee house and felt that the extremely expensive price was justified. So, in other words, we were happy to have good food and good company that evening.

However, as I was walking around the different food islands in the centre of the coffee house, I came to the dessert island. And what I saw horrified me to my wits end! I could not believe my eyes! There in open display was a plate full of tapai!

Now correct me if I’m wrong. JAKIM has issued a statement declaring that for any dish or drink to be considered halal, it needs to have less than 0.01% alcohol content. This practically means that there has to be zero alcohol content.

Tapai, as we all know, is a traditional Malay kuih that is prepared by fermenting pulut or ubi kayu. But, as we all also know, when you ferment food stuff, it turns into alcohol. Yes! I said alcohol! Haram jaddah! [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

I really don’t want to be ashamed to be a Muslim in Malaysia

Zan flirting in Tehran, Iran.

Being a Muslim in Malaysia
By Zan Azlee

MARCH 9 -  I’m sick and tired of people saying that the greeting ‘assalamualaikum’ and ‘waalaikumsalam’ are exclusively for Muslims and haram for anyone else. Apparently, if a non-Muslim greets you that way, you will be damned to hell if you were to reply. And god forbid, if you were to initiate the greeting! To those who aren’t familiar, ‘assalamualaikum’ means ‘peace be upon you’, and ‘waalaikumsalam’ means ‘and upon you be peace’.

I really wonder where is it said in Islam that the ‘salam’ is exclusively for Muslims? I would be really grateful if someone could point this out for me. Please save me from my ignorance because as far as my religious knowledge goes, I have only found evidence that proves that it isn’t a sin.

Over the years, I have traveled extensively throughout the Muslim world (especially the Middle-East) and people in all of these places greet each other, whether Muslim or not, with these greetings. And in all of these countries, this has never been an issue at all. And hence I find it very problematic that it is a big issue in my own country Malaysia. [Click to read the rest of the article at The Malaysian Insider]

Don’t read books or touch bananas and cucumbers!

I can’t eat pork or drink alcohol. Now I can’t read a book either? Oh yeah… no touching bananas or cucumbers too!

A haram book? What next?
By Zan Azlee

DEC 9 — Do not eat the book. Do not drink the book. Do not touch the book. Do not use any kitchen utensils that have been used with the book. Because it is haram.

The book that I am referring to is “Lee Kuan Yew: Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going”, which has been declared haram by our Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim).

I find the decision utterly ridiculous. Apparently, Lee mentions that Muslims in Singapore are “socially distinct and separate” and should “be less strict on Islamic observances” to aid integration and the city-state’s nation-building process.

In my opinion, I see the act by Jakim as an act that clearly defies the teachings of the Quran as it obstructs the quest for knowledge. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

Pick and choose journalism

Pick and choose journalism. That’s what I wrote about today in my column at The Malaysian Insider.

Pick and choose journalism
By Zan Azlee

MAY 20 — Last week, a Los Angeles-based radio show picked up a video news package I did for the Dutch news agency VJ Movement. The story was about being gay and Muslim in Malaysia and it was apt that This Way Out ran the story since they serve the gay community. I was obviously excited since it meant that I am now a celebrity in LA and can expect to be signing autographs in Hollywood soon. But the excitement fizzled when I actually listened to the show. My entire story was intact except for the interview with JAKIM director-general, Datuk Wan Mohamed.

I had interviewed different people with liberal and conservative view points and Datuk Wan Mohamed, of course, was of the latter. His voice may have been more conservative than the rest, but it was equally as important since I wanted to show both sides of the story for better context. This Way Out’s producers must have taken it out because it didn’t support their agenda and this brings me to my issue of the day – pick and choose journalism. (Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider)

Does constraints in journalism mean we have to editorialise?

Recently, a gay-oriented radio programme out of Los Angeles, California, called This Way Out, picked up on my video news package ‘Being Gay and Muslim in Malaysia‘, which I did for the news agency VJ Movement. Since it was a radio show, they only took the audio from my story. Of course I was delighted that I was now a celebrity in LA!

However, When I listened to the show (click here to listen to the radio show), I noticed that they had edited out the interview with JAKIM Director-General, Datuk Wan Mohamed. His voice may have been more conservative than the rest of my interviewees, but it was equally as important since I wanted to show both sides of the story and his interview definitely contextualised things better (Click here or on the image below to view my video in it’s entirety).

So I wrote an e-mail to the producers. I received a prompt reply from her, “… I actually did try recording the subtitles to mix into the piece. Unfortunately, especially since I was working alone with no male voice to use, I just couldn’t get it to sound right … it was just more confusing. I was also facing the problem that I needed to shrink the piece a bit to make it fit into our program. The time constraints made the parts with my sadly ineffective attempt to add the translation the most likely (although ultimately not the only) things to be cut — despite the fact that I realized that the government point of view provided important context. You’ve probably faced similar situations, when you have to reluctantly lose material that’s important to a story. I appreciate your understanding…”

It could have been due to constraints or it could have just been plain editorialising.

Click to view my original video in it's entirety.

Here’s my blog entry at Fatbidin.com about my article at The Malaysian Insider about my video on VJ Movement!!

Here’s my blog entry at Fatbidin.com about my article at The Malaysian Insider about my video on VJ Movement!! Cross-promotion!! Hahaha!!

How to be gay and Muslim at the same time
By Zan Azlee

APRIL 15 — Recently, I was commissioned to produce a video news package for VJ Movement, a Dutch-based news agency focusing on solo-journalism. It was about a matter that had intrigued me for some time now and this was the opportunity for me to explore it — homosexuality in Islam.

And so, I decided that I would interview a slew of people to get as many different opinions on the matter. I met a Malay Muslim gay man who was willing to speak to me about this issue. However, he requested anonymity, fearing backlash. [Click to read the rest of the article at The Malaysian Insider]

Being gay and Muslim in Malaysia

Recently, I did a video package for VJ Movement, a Dutch-based news agency of which I am a videojournalist for, about being gay and Muslim in Malaysia. I spoke to several people to get their opinions, namely, Datuk Haji Wan Mohamed (the Director General of JAKIM), Pang Khee Teik (sexual rights activist and Arts Programme Director of The Annexe Gallery), Nizam Bashir (syariah lawyer) and ‘Ahmad’.

Click on the image to view the video.

Go spread the word (or embed the video!). Thanks to everyone who voted for my pitch to be produced and also to Pang Khee Teik and the other individuals who were willing to speak to me for this story.


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