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]

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Don’t mock us typical, average Malaysians


Don’t mock us typical, average Malaysians
By Zan Azlee

The way the government is trying to appease the public with regard to all the price hikes that have been implemented is quite farcical at the least. Firstly, Malaysians were told that if they did not like the increase in highway toll prices, they could always opt for using different roads that have no tolls.

Then they said if chicken was too expensive for consumption, then eat other sources of protein like fish, which ironically is even more expensive. Now we have the huge vegetable fiasco that has become an internet phenomenon and also a treasure chest of content for the media.

Right before I started writing this week’s column, I had breakfast with a friend of mine. And over our meal, we had a nice long, conversation about life. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

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!



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]

Students protest the rising cost of living on New Year’s Eve (TURUN)

Students protest the rising cost of living on New Year’s Eve
By Zan Azlee

As any other New Year’s Eve celebration in Kuala Lumpur, Dataran Merdeka was jam-packed with people who were there to usher in the New Year and to enjoy the live performances that have been organised there for years without fail.

But this year, the situation was a little bit different. A call by Gerakan Turun Kos Sara Hidup (TURUN), Solidariti Mahasiswa Malaysia (SMM), Jingga 13 and Solidariti Anak Muda Malaysia (SAMM) saw thousands gathering there as well, but for a different reason. [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]

The Heat has yet to cool down


The Heat has yet to cool down
By Zan Azlee

And here we go everyone. The clampdown has begun! Shut up your face! We don’t like what you’re saying! Do you think you can say what you want? It doesn’t matter if what you say is the truth or not, or if you have proof or not.

If we say you have to shut down, then you must shut down. There is no two ways about it. We have the power. No matter how technical or minute the issue is, we will go all drastic on you. Do you actually think we care?

We don’t even care if we look stupid by shutting you down. It doesn’t matter if everyone can see right through our intentions. Does it even matter if by shutting you down we would look like regressive neanderthal cavemen? No!

Do you think it even bothers us that we are showing everyone in the world that we are undemocratic? No! Do you actually think that we care if we are seen as uncivilised people who show no regards to human rights? No! [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

Singapore and Malaysia – two bigots in a pod?


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]

Malaysia… standing in the eyes of the world!


Malaysia… standing in the eyes of the world!
By Zan Azlee

In a previous life, I used to work with the foreign media. But then, a year and a half ago, I decided to go full on in the local media, hence I am now at Astro AWANI. Not much of a story behind the decision. It’s very clichéd actually. I wanted to feel more local stories and tell it to more local people. Basically, I wanted to serve Malaysia (chewah!).

In my opinion, for real impact, Malaysians need to be aware of the issues in their country and in their own context. Only then will they be moved to take action if it so requires. However, news about Malaysia in the foreign media is important because it puts some highlight on to the country and its issues.

Positive news that appear on a global media platform will bring pride and happiness to the people while negative news puts pressure on whoever is responsible. So I thought for this week, I would like to take a look at the different news stories on Malaysia that appeared in the foreign and international media. [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]

We’re not multiracial enough in schools

We’re not multiracial enough in schools
By Zan Azlee

Last week, my wife and I were called to our daughter, Athena’s, school by her teachers. They had something to report, they said. All kinds of thoughts went through my mind. Did she blow up the school toilet? Set the classroom on fire? Beat up another student?

My wife and I arrived at the school around noon for the appointment. We were ushered upstairs by two teachers to a small room. We sat down around a table and the two teachers looked at us. They took out a file. Great! My daughter is two years old and she already has a file.

“Athena is doing fine in school as far as her mid-year review is concern,” said the teacher.

“So she didn’t blow up the school toilet!” I sighed in relief. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

Sabahans could be Earth’s saviours!


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]

One positive statement regarding Umno please

One positive statement regarding Umno please
By Zan Azlee

My colleague, Dzulfitri Yusop, a fellow journalist, asked me yesterday if I could make one positive statement about Umno or name one positive member of Umno.

I laughed. Too many people like to assume that I am anti-establishment just for the sake of being anti-establishment all of the time without being rational.

So I thought really hard to come up with a positive statement to show that I was not one of those ABU (Asalkan Bukan Umno, or Anything But Umno) people. We have to always keep an open mind, right?

Quite some time passed by and I still could not think of anything positive to say about the party aside from it being formed in my home state of Johor.

All jokes aside, I do know that Umno was formed with the best intentions in mind to help the Malays have political and authoritative powers in Malaya (and later Malaysia).

It was a party that was meant to protect the rights of the Malays and be a voice for them so that they will not be oppressed. Quite noble, I agree.

But the very fact that it was to protect a particular race makes it, in my opinion, totally unsuitable to be a political party because no one country consists of only one race. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

Learn to swim if you don’t want to sink

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

Learn to swim if you don’t want to sink
By Zan Azlee

The Bumiputeras of Malaysia. The princes of the land. The race that has the ruling blood flowing through it’s veins. The rightful owner of Malaysia. Or so they say.

Before I continue, let me declare that although I know that the term Bumiputera also defines those of the indigenous ethnicities in Malaysia, I am specifically only refering to the Malays in this article.

Always behind and always needing help ever since the dawn of Malaysia, it cannot be denied the Malays are a very unique race indeed.

For the sake of harmony and equality, affirmative action was put in place in the state system so that the Malays could prosper along with the other races in Malaysia.

They were given all kinds of handouts such as land, property, university quotas, corporate quotas and even literally cash (as in the case of Bumiputera handouts).

The objective was to give an advantage to the lagging Malays so they could then compete on an equal level with the rest of Malaysia.

It’s like a handicap in the sport of golf. Someone who isn’t as good would have a higher handicap so he or she could compete on an equal footing with someone better and who have a lower handicap.

The objective of this affirmative action was to provide the Malays with the essential confidence and know-how to finally compete on equal footing.

Like in the sport of golf, the main objective of a player is to finally turn professional and not have a handicap at all. That is when you know you are at par with the best.

Now that the country is turning 50 years old, one would wonder how strange it is that this Bumiputera affirmative action plan is still in place. You mean after 50 years, the Malays still need a handicap?

I guess they have gotten accustomed to all the handouts that they are now spoilt and cannot survive without these handouts to help them along.

But what else is new in what I am saying? People have been harping on this matter for many years and still nothing is being done about it.

The Malays feel like they deserve the sky and the moon, while the other races in Malaysia feel neglected and bertrayed in their own country.

You would think that after 50 years have gone by, the Malays, or even Malaysia as a whole, would have progressed and moved on.

But no. The Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has just declared that to take the place of the old affirmative action bible, he will announce new policies that aims to further help Bumiputeras. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

What happened to Shabery Cheek?

What happened to Shabery Cheek?
By Zan Azlee

I’ve met Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek on countless occasions. Usually it’s to interview him, but there were times when we just had a drink or meal to chat.

I honestly think he’s a very nice person and many of the things he does in his capacity as a member of the cabinet and a politician have good intentions.

Okay, now that the disclaimer and the ‘cover all bases’ step has been taken, on to my criticism, or maybe a better word for it would be constructive suggestions.

Being the Minister of Communication and Multimedia (of which he has held the portfolio once before), I’m sure he is familiar with how the media and public perception works. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

Tanda Putera – a fictionalised review


Tanda Putera – a fictionalised review
By Zan Azlee

Tanda Putera is a film that is hot on the lips of so many Malaysians. And so, as someone who writes for the Malaysian public, I feel obliged to write a review of it.

A film is a film, whether it is a non-fiction documentary, docudrama or even narrative fiction. And each genre has it’s methods and style.

A documentary, being non-fiction, would have to keep to the spirit of truth and honesty. It has to strive to be an exact representation of what really happened.

For a fiction film, as the word fiction would describe it, is something that is created and made up. Hence, truth and reality does not have be a tenet in a fiction film.

For a film like Tanda Putera, the lines are blurry. It is supposed to be based on a true story. But as the director Shuhaimi Baba stated, there were parts that were dramatised and fictionalised.

Fair enough. A film director working on a fictionalised story based on something that really happened reserves the right of creative licensing.

It is, after all, a subjective interpretation by the film director. And when it is a subjective interpretation, then there is no wrong in the film being biased or opinionated.

This happens a lot and is accepted by most audiences. Take for example films like Adman Salleh’s Paloh, Aziz M. Osman’s Leftenan Adnan, Liew Seng Tat’s Flower or even Oliver Stone’s JFK.

So, what’s the big deal, right? Well, the big deal happens when a society is not mature enough to see how art (no matter how bad or good it is) is just art. [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]

Happy Merdeka! Even if it isn’t.


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]

Non-Muslims funded a mosque? Gasp! Happy Merdeka!


Non-Muslims funded a mosque? Gasp! Happy Merdeka!
By Zan Azlee

Malaysia has gone to the dogs. But that would be such a negative statement for a column that has the intentions of commerating this year’s Merdeka Day. So I’m going to try my best to end it in a positive note. First of all, we can agree that racial issues have become a trend in Malaysia. Every racial group has a problem with every other racial group.

Polarisation among the people seem to be at it’s highest peak. This is happening in schools, universities, the private working sector, and of course, the public sector. Religious conflict, although thankfully not violent, is also on the rise and taking centre stage in our media. So Malaysia is truly going to the dogs.

Now let me slightly digress to see if I can further make the point that I am trying to make. Every Malaysian is familiar with the National Mosque, or Masjid Negara, in Kuala Lumpur. Conceptualised a month before Merdeka, completed and opened in 1965, it is a symbol of how Malaysia was, and how Malaysia should be now and forever.

Designed and built by a Brit and two Malaysians (Howard Ashley, Hisham Albakri and Baharuddin Kassim), that in itself would already be unheard of now. What?!? They let a non-Muslim design a mosque?!? Astarghfirullah! [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]

A conspiracy to pull Malaysians apart


A conspiracy to pull Malaysians apart
By Zan Azlee

In just a matter of approximately a month, we Malaysians have been flooded with all kinds of propaganda that seems to be threatening our racial harmony. First, there was the stupid, moronic, idiotic and imbecilic couple Alvivi and their Bak Kut Teh spirited Ramadhan wish to all Malaysians.

Then there was the issue of a headmaster who made non-Muslims eat in a shower-changing room during Ramadhan (although it is wrong, I genuinely believe there was no malicious intent by the headmaster).

Now, we have this harmless video of a Muslim woman who made a video (three years ago, mind you) with herself and her dogs wishing people Selamat Hari Raya.

Now for this third one, it gets a little bit tricky. Many say its insulting to Islam. I, however, do not think so since there is nothing stated anyway in the religious books that say dogs are un-Islamic (but I’m a dog-lover, so sue me).

I could not care less about whether Islam is being insulted, if there is a big racist plot to bring down all the non-Malays in the country, or if the fork ran away with the spoon. What bothers me is the fact that on Facebook timeline (yes, the world has come down to this – when an entire societal situation can be extrapolated from FB!), things are not rosy.

My timeline has been divided into two distinct sides – those who are on one side, and those who are on the other. And it pains me to see this happening. With all these stories coming out in the media, there has never been a larger rift in Malaysia than I can ever remember in my entire 35 years of being alive.

I cannot help but wonder if all these are just part of an elaborate media strategy with an aim to create dischord and disharmony amongst Malaysian… for selfish reasons. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

Oh my D-O-G! It’s ‘samak’ time!

Athena playing with Aunty Leng's dog Angel.

Athena playing with Aunty Leng’s dog Angel.

Oh my D-O-G! It’s ‘samak’ time!
By Zan Azlee

About seven years ago, I was elevated to the position of ‘ustaz’ by members of the Malaysian public. All because of a short film I had made at that time called ‘Samak’ (which was invited to a few film festivals! Wahh!)

It was a simple documentary about dogs and how it is okay for Muslims to keep them as pets. But what made it so appealing to people, I think, was the explanation on ‘samak’.

So what is ‘samak’? It’s just the method of cleansing for a Muslim after he or she has touched a wet dog. And it’s only when the dog is wet. When it’s dry, it’s totally clean.

I literally got phone calls from people I didn’t know calling me ‘ustaz’ and asking me for advice on how to samak themselves, and even their homes (paranoia?).

I am a Muslim and a dog lover. And I have also had the pleasure of caring for two pet dogs in my lifetime so far – a Rottweiler named Martian and a Cavalier King Charles named Keropok.

Now, in response to all the hoo-haa about dogs and Hari Raya, I feel totally at ease and not the least bit insulted by the video of Chetz Togom and her dogs. [Click to read the full article and to view the short film at English.AstroAwani.Com]

In the Heat of Battle: The Story of Lembah Pantai – The TV mini-series starts tonight on 501 Awani!

Remember ‘In the Heat of Battle: The Story of Lembah Pantai‘ which I did during the campaign and election period last week on AstroAwani.Com? Well, the TV version is all done – it’s a 5-episode mini series starting tonight (Wednesday, 15th May 2013), every night until Sunday (19th May 2013), at 9:30pm, on 501 Astro AWANI!

The entire 2-week campaign and election period condensed into 4 episodes of TV time… it doesn’t get better than that! It’s like being there without being there yourself! Hahaha!

No more opinions, just hard facts before we vote


No more opinions, just hard facts before we vote
By Zan Azlee

Last Monday, I went into Lembah Pantai as usual for my journalistic duty and to find stories for my multimedia project ‘In The Heat Of Battle: The story of Lembah Pantai’. Being the first day of the second week of campaigning, I was pretty sure that I would find some interesting stories or issues that can be talked about.

Lo and behold, I did stumble on to some interesting events. The first was the launch of BN’s candidate, Datuk Raja Nong Chik’s, Lembah  Pantai report card. And the second, the people’s Malaysian Spring. [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]


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