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


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


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]

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]

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]

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]

Yuna – brilliant talent or just plain exoticsm?

Yuna – brilliant talent or just plain exoticism?
By Zan Azlee

Congratulations to Yuna for making it to number 19 onHuffingtonpost.com’s top 20 artists to listen to in 2014. It’s quite an achievement for her and for Malaysia. Even the paragraph that introduces her in the article seems to acknowledge this achievement by stating:

‘There’s a good chance you don’t have any Malaysian musical artists in your current music library, so let Yuna be the first.’

Before I go on, let me state that I’m not much of a Yuna fan. Although I don’t think her music is awful, I also don’t think it’s extraordinary. But that’s beside the point. What I really want to highlight here is to wonder what could be the real reason of Yuna’s success in America.

After the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre in New York City, followed by wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States has had a terrible relationship with Muslims. They have had to go through very damaging racist accusations due to their racial profiling activities in the name of national security.

The negative implications and treatment towards Muslims, especially those living in the United States, were huge and quite shocking actually. And now, the former superpower of the world is on a big crusade to try and fix this problem internally by attempting to improve Muslim and non-Muslim relationship. [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]

Tighten your belt before ours, Najib


Tighten your belt before ours, Najib
By Zan Azlee

Ahh… the eleven steps taken by the government to cut their spending. This was announced earlier in the week by Prime Minister Najib Razak. Let’s see. There is a cut of between 5 to 10% in the allowances for ministers and deputy ministers as well as senior government officials.

Then there are the cuts in utilities costs in all government offices and reduction of road transport tolls for senior government officials as much as 30%. There will also be reductions in the ordering of buntings, of food for meetings, seminars and workshops as well as more efficient office space architecture.

Let’s see. Cutting down the allowances of ministers, deputies and senior government officials is a good move. However, it doesn’t reduce costs by that much. What would be a much better move would be to remove certain ‘retired’ ministers from the government payroll altogether. There are several of these individuals who have been given special posts and are probably getting paid as much as ministers are, including allowances and benefits.

And then there is the reduction of bunting orders. How significant of an amount is that? Unless, of course, the government prints a gazillion buntings a year! As for the excessive ordering of food for meetings, workshops and seminars, well I can’t argue with that one as it is quite true. [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]

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]

Flooding and Umno rhetoric… the same every year


Flooding and Umno rhetoric… the same every year
By Zan Azlee

If this week of mine were to be made into a short film, it would probably be broken up into two main juxtaposing scenes that can be put together.

And it also got me thinking. These two scenes seem to be a constant in Malaysia every single year for almost as long as I can remember.

Scene 1

Interior – air-conditioned trade centre building
Kuala Lumpur

The first half of the week involved me being in the Putra World Trade Centre attending the Umno general assembly (as a member of the press and not Umno!). Of course, all the VIPs would be arriving in their luxury cars with their entourages. And when they have their meals, these will be first-class banquet all the way.

Scene 2

Exterior – rubber estate
Kampung Batu 5 Buluh Kasap, Segamat, Johor

The second half of the week sees me travelling to a kampung in Segamat, Johor, which happens to be one of the last kampung to evacuate because of this year’s incredible floods. After holding out for as long as they could, the villagers gave in to the tremendous power of the flood and were forced to move to an evacuation centre.

[Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

Johoreans and their blind pride

johorborn copy

Johoreans and their blind pride
By Zan Azlee

I have always been waiting for the chance to give my hometown, Johor Bahru, a nice, big burn! And it looks like the chance is now. It’s not that I don’t like my hometown, I do. I’m as proud to be a Johorean as any other Johorean out there, even if my family and I moved away way back in 1989.

I was so proud that the Johor football team was the first team in Malaysia to ever win the ‘double’ in 1991– the Malaysia Cup and the Premiere League in the same year. But what really annoys me is the blind pride that Johoreans are known to have. So blind that nothing outside of Johor is ever good enough.

Yes, I know! It’s a generalisation on my part. But that’s not the point I’m trying to make here. Just read on and you will see (hopefully!). Take my wife and her family for instance. Like me, they’re all from Johor Bahru too, and the things they complain about living in the Klang Valley can be so ridiculous.

“Sorry if the sambal doesn’t taste good. KL chili is plastic chili. Not like in JB.”

(I guess all chili bought outside of JB is fake chili?)

“The spaghetti they use to make Laksa Johor in KL is not as good as in JB.”

(Why a local Johor dish needs to have an ingredient originating from Italy beats me!)

“Wow! This noodle soup is really good! I’m sure the restaurant owner is from JB.”


“What kind of party is this? So boring! They’re not Johoreans, that’s why!”

(Now all you readers are getting the picture, right?)

[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]

The Malays have been circumcised wrongly


The Malays have been circumcised wrongly
By Zan Azlee

What are the Malays best known for globally? Aside from being the inspiration for the English word ‘malaise’, I really can’t think of anything much. Well, I think I might have the answer as to why this is so. And it is closely related to a certain tribe in Kenya known as the Kalenjin.

I was listening to one of my favourite radio programmes called Radio Lab and it’s latest episode talked about why the Kalenjin are so good at long distance running. They have dominated the sport like no other superhuman group of people has ever done before, coming in the top three in almost every major marathon in the world.

For example, this year’s Berlin marathon saw Kenyans winning first place right through to fifth. And in the Chicago marathon, they placed first till fourth.

According to David Epstein, “There are 17 American men in history who have run under 2:10 in the marathon. There were 32 Kalenjins who did it in October 2011”. Epstein is a sports journalist and writer who wrote the book ‘The Sports Gene’, and was interviewed on the Radio Lab episode.

Now many unproven reasons, or should I say urban myths, have been thrown about as to why the Kalenjins are such good long distance runners. One of the most popular reasons for this is that in the past, the tribe did not have any other mode of transportation other than their legs. So they ran everywhere.

But the actual truth may be due to the Kalenjins having to go through cultural circumcision when they reach puberty. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

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


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 racist Budget 2014


A racist Budget 2014
By Zan Azlee

So it’s been exactly one week since Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak tabled the National Budget 2014 in Parliament. There I was, sitting in the newsroom listening to him speaking and enjoying the attention he was getting.

So, among the highlights would have to be the implementation of the goods and services tax (GST) in May 2014. And at 6%, it is definitely higher than the 4% to 5% that everyone was expecting to be announced.

There is also the cut in subsidy for sugar. It’s going to cost substantially more now so we won’t be a diabetic nation. But it is guaranteed that every other food product in the market will increase in price too.

There is also the increase in the income tax bracket and also the abolishment people having to file their tax returns. So it really looks like Budget 2014 is trying very hard to address the country’s fiscal deficit.

That’s what everyone is focusing on and it’s all good and well. But I think I’ll choose to highlight something else. If you notice, the Prime Minister announced all kinds of incentives for the Bumiputeras and the Indian community.

And guess what? Hardly any incentives were announced for the Chinese community. Actually, there was nothing. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]


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