Tag Archives: The Malaysian Insider

Did I really enjoy going to sekolah kebangsaan?



Did I really enjoy going to sekolah kebangsaan?
By Zan Azlee

I was twelve years old and attending a public junior high school in New York City. It was a social studies class and the teacher was one Mr Nelson.

My classmates and I entered the classroom and Mr Nelson had a copy of the day’s New York Times for each and everyone of us.

It was the year when President George Bush Sr and the United States declared the first Gulf War against Iraq after Saddam Hussein invaded neighbouring Kuwait.

Mr Nelson gave us twenty minutes to read the story about the war on the front page of the newspaper. He even taught us how to handle and fold a broadsheet!

Once we were done, we were told that we could ask any question we wanted about the story we had just read and about the war. Anything at all.

We started with basic questions like why the US had declared war with Iraq and why Saddam Hussein had sent his troops into Kuwait.

Then we went on to have a lengthy discussion on whether any of us were actually in agreement or disagreement with the decision of the US to declare war with Iraq. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

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Which mazhab is the best? Ours?



Which mazhab is the best? Ours?
By Zan Azlee

I went for Friday prayers at the main mosque in Bamiyan, a city and province in the mountains of northern Afghanistan. They are mainly from the Hanafi school of jurisprudence, as opposed to the Shafi’i here in Malaysia.

The way the prayers were conducted were slightly different in the arrangements of the sermon and optional prayers which I wasn’t used too. And neither did I understand the sermon.

But it was no big deal. The Hanafi school is one of the four main Sunni schools, or mazhabs, and it’s aqidah (creed) is the same. The only difference is the interpretation of fiqh (jurisprudence) and rituals.

So it is no problem for a Shafi’ifollower like me (being from Malaysia) to pray alongside those from the other mazhabs. Through my travels around the world, I have prayed alongside all of them.
Now back to northern Afghanistan on that Friday afternoon about three years ago. After Friday prayers concluded, I managed to catch up with the Afghan Imam who had led it. He was young and very handsome.

I told him where I came from and told him why I was in his country (I was shooting a documentary). We chatted for a while when he brought up the subject of the different mazhabs between our regions.

“Shafi’i mazhab has beautiful teachings. I admire the strong faith that the Malaysian Muslims have. They are known around the world to be very devout in their faith,” he smiled.

I mentioned to him that I noticed the differences in how they conducted Friday prayers the Hanafi way and I was unfamiliar, so I mainly just followed the crowd in the mosque.

“That’s okay. We are all Muslim and we share the same faith. Our structure may be different but our hearts and intentions are the same. We are brothers,” he said in response.

Being the humorist and comedian that I am (and usually in the most inappropriate times!), I mentioned to him that he is the most good-looking imam I had ever met! He laughed and we hugged goodbye. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]



Are we mature enough for societal censorship?



Are we mature enough for societal censorship?
By Zan Azlee

The Sedition Act is a law that can be used against people who happen to do or say something that can be a cause for disharmony in the country, or deemed seditious.

In many cases, through my personal observations, the investigating, questioning, detaining or charging of people under the Sedition Act has been quite questionable.

But, hey, I’m no lawyer or legal academic expert. I’m just an ordinary journalist who thinks he’s smarter than he really is. So don’t take me too seriously.

And as a journalist, I tend to be a little bit too idealistic and believe in freedom of speech. And I mean total freedom of speech (umm… except maybe defamation). Too idealistic and maybe even a bit naive.

I believe in societal censorship whereby its members will determine what is okay to be expressed or not. Someone can make hate speech and society will silence him by ignoring or condemning him through discourse.

So let this be a little social experiment here. Several people have said several things that may or may not be bothersome to society. Let me list them down here and see what happens in the comments section. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

Ben Affleck, the super hero



Ben Affleck, the super hero
By Zan Azlee

It seems the Muslim world has a new hero in the form of a tall, handsome, charismatic Hollywood actor and celebrity by the name of Ben Affleck.

Just pay a visit to his Facebook fan page and you will see the hundreds of postings and messages expressing adulation for him and how he defended Islam.

Affleck appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher where he, along with several other panelists including Sam Harris and Nicholas Kristof, talked about Islam and the Islamic State (Isis).

From the discussion, it seems that Maher and Harris were berating the Muslim world and basically calling the entire global community a pool of stupid ideas and beliefs.

They called Islam a religion that kills and murders people and said that the entire Muslim population believed that was the right thing to do. Hence, it was a dangerous religion consisting of dangerous people.

Then action hero Affleck raised his voice in defence of all innocent Muslims by saying that the broad statements by Maher and Harris were racist and ignorant.

He said that Maher and Harris’s statements regarding Islam and Muslims were very stereotypical and an insult to the millions who weren’t jihadists or extremists. Occasionally, Kristof would put in a word of support.

Here’s the thing: Muslims in Malaysia (and around the world) are going head over heels expressing how Affleck succeeded in putting forth his support for Muslims against the “enemy”.

What they don’t realise is that a debate like this can only happen because it is allowed to happen. Different views are allowed to be expressed, discussed and debated. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

I pray Malaysians won’t start self-censoring their thoughts



I pray Malaysians won’t start self-censoring their thoughts
By Zan Azlee

A few prominent people who have been either arrested, charged or investigated under the grand old Sedition Act 1948 in the country these past few months are a cause for concern.

Associate professor Azmi Sharom, professor Aziz Bari and lawyer Edmund Bon have been hauled up for speaking about subjects that they are considered experts in.

They spoke based on their vast knowledge, research, experience and observations, yet what they said has been considered by certain people to be seditious in manner.

Unfortunately, under the law, the authorities have all the right to investigate, probe, interrogate, detain, arrest and charge them because of the vagueness of the act.

But just because something is the law doesn’t mean it is just and fair. It all depends on context. The act, as we are all aware, was created decades ago at a time when it was necessary.

But what about now? Yes, as we all know without having to explain much, it is an archaic law which has the potential of being abused to stifle dissent, or anything else.

If they, who are considered experts in their fields, were probed for things they said which should be considered under their jurisdiction, then what about ordinary folk like me and you?

What would stop the powers that be from coming after us if we were to express an opinion or thought that they didn’t agree with?

It shouldn’t be a crime to have different opinions. It shouldn’t be a crime to be offensive. It shouldn’t even be a crime to be racist or deliver hate speech. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider.]