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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]

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MH370: A tipping point for the media?

mh370_media

MH370: A tipping point for the media?
By Zan Azlee

The media is subservient to the happenings of the world, and there are major events that happen over the years that can be considered turning points in the way the media world spins. Between 1914 and 1918, World War 1 contributed a lot for newspapers as more and more people wanted to stay abreast with happenings in Europe and sales experienced an unprecedented spike.

World War 2, from 1939 to 1945, became the era of the radio as people tuned in live to listen to the famous broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow narrate the bombing of London. The Vietnam War, throughout the 1960s and 1970s, was really the boom of photojournalism as pictorial news magazines made their mark in the world.

The first Gulf War in Iraq occurring from 1990 to 1991 was the era of television news as we saw how 24 hour news channels fed live broadcasts of bombings into people’s living rooms. The next major incident that happened changing the face of media was the 9/11 terrorists’ attack on the World Trade Centre in New York City.

Traditional media like newspapers, television and radio were almost totally ignored as people turned online to the Internet to get immediate alerts of what was unfolding in New York. That was the tipping point for the online news, and twenty plus years on since that day, the Internet is now the main source of news for the world community.

In fact, traditional news outlets such as newspapers are suffering so much from the switch in audience’s habits that they are facing a major financial crisis and many have even closed shop. And now it looks like the media world is facing another tipping point that is going to change the way the world community consumes their news and information and of how news organisations will create their content.

This will be the time when established news media organisations will have their legitimacy challenged as they are pitted with conspiracy theories that are spread online by the public. [Click to read the full article at Enlish.AstroAwani.Com]



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]



The new breed of ‘Generation 5D’ journalists

Zan Azlee with Zebolon Simantov.

The new breed of ‘Generation 5D’ journalists
By Zan Azlee

I wish I could categorise myself as a “Generation 5D” journalist. Unfortunately, I can’t because according to Spencer Chumbley, the person who coined the term, I’m a little bit too old.

If you don’t know, “5D” really refers to the Canon EOS 5D digital SLR camera model which was one of the first of its kind to combine high quality still photo and video capturing capabilities in a single camera (this was around 2008).

Chumbley is in his late 20s and when he started out in his career, these cameras with multimedia capabilities were already the norm and he took to it like a fish in water (I, on the other hand, am fast approaching my late 30s!).

So these “Generation 5D” journalists can be considered natural multimedia journalists who have the skills to tell stories in a myriad of ways, combining text, still photos, audio and video.

And because this is a new way of telling news stories (and not to mention told by storytellers who were youthful and energetic), the stories themselves have a different approach and perspective.

It isn’t of the old style of journalism where objectivity is sacred and format is what determined if a news story was worthy or not. These “Generation 5D” journalists have a voice and an opinion.

Subjectivity, which was an evil curse word to the elders, is now almost mandatory in journalism. Of course, just because an opinion is included, it doesn’t mean that honesty is thrown out the window. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]



Frozen feminism

athena painting

Frozen feminism
By Zan Azlee

My friends and family all know how fiercely protective I am when it comes to my daughter Athena’s exposure to anything princess-ey. I pray that she never develops the dreaded princess syndrome where she kills all ambition and passion just to be rescued by a prince charming.

Just think about it. Snow White just lies down unconscious waiting for prince charming to rescue her from an eternal coma with a kiss. The Little Mermaid was willing to give up her beautifully talented voice just to be beside her prince charming. And so on and so forth.

So when the Disney film Frozen came out in the cinema, I was slightly apprehensive about bringing Athena to watch it. But I did and I was not disappointed. [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]



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]


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

geramm

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]



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]



Better resources for freelance journalists

palace

Better resources for freelance journalists
By Zan Azlee

It’s been a year and a half now since I’ve been fully employed at a local news organisation. This is after 10 years of being self-employed as a journalist. Many people didn’t think I would last this long. When I first came in, my new staff made bets that I would last no longer than six months in to the job.

My wife told me straight to my face that she would give me only two months before I would resign and go back to being self-employed. In fact, I didn’t think I would last this long. I came in to it as just wanting to gain a new experience, take it one step at a time and see how it goes.

In actuality, I’ve been enjoying my time being employed and have learned to adapt well to the new environment that I’ve put myself in. Of course, there are the pros and cons. I like the feeling of having a whole newsroom backing me up when I am pursuing a story. I also like the resources available for research and consulting.

But the ever so often must-cover-must-use stories and, worst of all, the management and administration duties, those are a pain in the butt. However, you work towards finding the correct balance for yourself and be happy with it. But of course, it doesn’t stop me from reminiscing about my freelancing days. [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]



The Malays have been circumcised wrongly

circumcised

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!

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]



Malaysia… standing in the eyes of the world!

foreignpresstag

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]



Waze and Umno… can’t trust the change!

wazeumno

Waze and Umno… can’t trust the change!
By Zan Azlee

My father recently started learning how to use Waze on his smart phone. He’s 62 years old, so you can imagine the comedy that ensued for my brothers and I! Of course, we already had our fun when he was trying to figure out how to use his smart phone when he first acquired it (“Okay daddy. You have to turn it on first!”).

But when it came to Waze, that wonderful Jewish app that helps you beat the ridiculous Kuala Lumpur traffic, it just took our amusement to whole different level! As many would know, Waze helps you navigate roads so that you can always beat any heavy traffic. And this is done through user generated data.

It’s kind of like a GPS system, but way better since you would know how heavy traffic is at a location before getting there, from people who are already there. Waze would then also recommend to you an alternative route that would get you to where you want to go faster, if you trust it enough.

My father would type in the address of his destination and off he would go to follow the directions of the sexy voice of Ms. Waze. [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]



‘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]




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