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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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]

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]

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]

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]

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]

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]

Better resources for freelance journalists


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]

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]

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]

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]

Waze is the key to civic-mindedness

photo 1

Waze is the key to civic-mindedness
By Zan Azlee

Malaysia is a country with people that have no manners or civic-mindedness when it comes to being on the road and driving. Behind the wheel, even the most docile grandmother will turn into a vicious, uncouth and vile language-speaking spawn of Lucifer.

It’s like people turn into power-crazy Hitlers when they have an accelerator pedal at the bottom of their foot and feel like they rule the world. I’ve experienced my share of road bullies, with some even on the verge of being violent, when I’ve mistakenly cut in front of their car or forget to give a signal.

I have to admit, I get pretty edgy when I’m driving too. Even the slightest unintentional wrongdoing by another driver gets me screaming and throwing certain fingers around. But I think everything is about to change. And this is all because of a wonderful app available on the smartphone called Waze. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet


A rose by any other name would smell as sweet
By Zan Azlee

Call me murtad (apostate), I don’t care. Call me syirik (polytheist), I don’t care. Heavy accusations in Islam, these two. I hope the accusers have the necessary proof, evidence and criteria to do so. I, an official Muslim, hereby publicly declare that I have no problems with other religions aside from Islam using the word Allah to refer to God.

Most of the times when I write my column, it is to address a readership that is as wide and as general as possible without targeting too specific a group. But this week, I am writing to Muslims in particular (err, but if you are an infidel, you can still continue reading!), and especially Malay Muslims.

As Muslims, we are obligated to believe in the existence of the prophets and this includes the prophet Jesus, who brought to the world Christianity, and even Moses who brought Judaism. As a Muslim, we are also obligated to believe in the existence of the holy books and this includes the Bible which taught Christianity and the Torah which taught Judaism.

And, when we believe in all this, we also have to believe that all Abrahamic religions come from one God, and in Arabic (the main language of Islam’s Quran) the word is Allah. So, when an argument is made that Christianity and Islam are two different religions, no one can deny it. It’s true. These are two different religions.

But when it comes to God, both these different religions refer to the same God. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet (oh crap, did I just objectify God as a rose?). [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

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]


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