Monday 29 August 2011

Selamat Hari Raya

Hari Raya is mostly for the children,  for reinforcing family ties and especially to be thankful to Allah for all we've been blessed with.

 Just this afternoon we were lucky to escape what could have been a nasty accident with another car loaded with children and their goods.  They were presumably on their way to 'balik kampung' and in their hurry they disregarded the Highway Code.  The occupants of both cars are lucky to still be around to celebrate Hari Raya!

Right now at Setiawangsa the children (and the adults??) are shattering this Hari Raya eve with poundings of loud crackers - leaving us with no peace and serenity.  Malaysians  (well, most) will be tucking in tomorrow to loads of  food and joy.  I sound like a wet blanket, but on days like these I keep on thinking of the children in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and now Libya - and the adults who must be heartbroken because their children and grandchildren are denied the happiness of Eid that they knew when they were children.

Nearer to home, our street cleaners Osman and Aisha will not get their wages for August until after Hari Raya.  Their employers are fellow Malays!!

Among my many blessings I still have my siblings (albeit bereft of the youngest one)  Maznah and Mustapha  ......

........  and my soulmate.



Wednesday 24 August 2011

"Humanitarian Imperialism" - The White Curse

With alacrity, David Cameron gave up on his holiday in Cornwall to return to Downing Street to trumpet the triumph of his country over Qaddafi's Libya.  While he is doing this, I hope many will be sniffing the rising stench of his country's political, social and moral degradation.  Cameron may rejoice in Britain's success in getting rid of Libya's despot.  That 'victory' is an easy task.  Cleaning out the Augean stable that is Britain will take a bigger man than Hercules, Cameron, Clegg and Milliband put together.

-  His is a country on the edge of financial bankruptcy.  His regime is ripping up the National Health Service (NHS), the Welfare system, the schools, the universities and even the Police to make ends meet.  Jobs have been slashed in the public sector (i.e. government jobs) and in the final quarter of 2010, employment in this sector fell by 45,000.  Unemployment is running at nearly 8% and this is dire for a country where in 2008/2009, 13 million people (22% of the population) are living on 'low-income', a sanitized word for 'poverty'.

More significantly, unemployment of 16-24 year old Britons rose from 0.8% (1992) to 20.6% (2011)

More and more British pensioners  (the over 60s) have to keep on working to keep body and soul together, as well as to support their poverty stricken and unemployed children.  The over 65s who are in work increased from 56,000 (1992) to 900,000 in 2011.  (Re. my posting 'The Curtain Twitcher'  13 April 2011) Read

-  His is a country that is morally bankrupt - where the Ministers, politicians, media men (and women), and the members of the police and legal systems are complicit in opening up their legs to accomodate the rapacious fundamentalist right-wing Murdoch and his cohorts.

Just over a year ago, MPs and Ministers, the sentinels of democracy, freedom and human rights blah , blah, blah were caught with their hands in the People's till.  (Re. posting  'Was: Is: & Will Be'  11 May 2009)

-  His is a country that harbours and nurtures rabid anti-Islam and anti-Muslim right-wingers in their Internet  ghettos, in the gutters and streets of English fascism, and in the political, literary, academic and media circuses - providing fodder for the blonde, blue-eyed Christian fundamentalist Brevik to massacre his fellow Norwegians.  Names like Melanie Philips, Nick Cohen, Christopher Caldwell, Christopher Hitchens, Professors Stephen Hutchings  ( Re. posting 'Reality Bites' 26 Jan 2011  Read and Bernard Lewis, Euro MP Denis Macshane (or Denis Matyjaszek) and salon writers like Naipaul, Rushdie and Amis are but some of the brahmin Eurabia mongers.

Here's an extract about a classic English hypocrite : the great novelist Martin Amis:

- His is the country that rioted and demonstrated the most amazing "smash and grab" in this millenium. It was born out of the frustration, greed and sheer boredom of young Brits with life in cool Britannia. It was shaped by the breakdown of the British family and a debt-fuelled model of growth that collapsed.

Then , here comes along the feel-good-factor that this  country desperately needs - their success in getting rid of that despot Qaddafi.

According to today's Telegraph :

1. MI6 officers based in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi had honed battle plans drawn up by Libya's Transitional National Council (TNC) which were agreed 10 weeks ago.

2. We are revelled with stories of the arsenal that UK unleashed on Libya like RAF Tornado GR4, precision-guided Paveway bombs, RAF Brimstone ground attack missiles that can pound civilian areas without causing civilian casualties????   The Tornados' advanced electronics enabled 'dynamic targetting'. (What is non-dynamic targetting?)  And oh yes, the TNC fighters were given " a range of 'non-lethal' kit including advanced telecommunications equipment and 1,000 sets of body armour".  Oh I must not forget the gifts of 'night vision goggles'.  Is that all??  It doesn't take much to please the TNC!

All these sound like a good shopping list for wannabe ambitious countries.  I can see British, American, French and Israeli and other European arms dealers setting up their advertisement and sales stalls. The theme could be " How to conquer without boots on the ground."

But the TNC will rue the day they slept with the Devil.  He who pays the piper, plays the tune.  This may close a chapter on Libya's history but it will not open a refreshing new Libya.  Already Obama, another world leader with his boots mired in his own Augean stable said the Libya conflict is 'not over'.

This conquest of Libya by proxy will ensure the Pentagon and NATO a key outpost in the Mediterranean,  a triumph for AFRICOM (US Africa Command) and an extension of the American Empire with the aid of their lap dogs, Cameron and Sarkozy especially.

After the Mediterranean there will be other seas to dominate like the Indian Ocean, the Straits of Malacca, the South China Sea etc....

Finally, the most poignant weapon used by the rebels was when  "Mr Jalil  (the TNC chairman) told the citizens of Tripoli  'you have to rise to the event,' and as dusk fell at around 8pm local time, a group of rebels seized their chance and took control of the Ben Nabi Mosque ..... using loudspeakers which normally call people to prayers, they began their anti-Gaddafi chants....."

This is the holy month of Ramadan.  In less than a week it will be Eid.

I hope the population of all NATO countries will be spared  'grief' like this when they celebrate Christmas 2011.

At least, they did not have to shed a drop of their boys' blood in this conquest of Libya.  Hallelujah.

Thursday 18 August 2011


Checking into Hotel Singapore can be a nerve wrecking experience.  In the old days, circa 1970/1980s they would look up your name  in a big black folder - look you over sternly and you wait in apprehension for the stamping of your passport which affirmed that you are kosher enough to enter Fortress Singapore.

Much has changed for our hero since he left Singapore in the late 6os.  He had transformed from this ......
....... to this, with a bit more fur on the face.
Shah, my brother's son was dragged into the picture.
Also "The Skye Boat Song" had become his trademark serenade since a holiday on the island of Raasay, just off the island of Skye.  As for "critics and half-baked intellectuals", they are not welcome anywhere.

As soon as he left Paya Lebar Airport our hero got busy on his fieldwork - he was after all on sabbatical leave from his university.

He extended our 1930s-1970s collection of Malay records - to complement my own treasure hoard of Malay EPs, 10 inch LPs, 12 inch LPs and 45 rpm singles of Singapore's 1960s pop groups like the Crescendos,  Naomi and the Boys, Henry Suriya, Heather and The Strollers.

He also made additions to our  cache of Chinese bowls and plates, the everyday domestic crockery that was in use from the 40s/50s - not Ming and Sung vases though.
The 1944 plate in the middle was a fascinating discovery.  There was the V sign over the flags (from left to right) of Russia, USA, Britain and China  (Kuomintang China?) .  The girl who sold him the plates was given a good ticking-off by her mother - she (the mother) did not want to part with them at the price charged - when she saw what the customer was. 

My mum was on hand to see that his energy level was  topped up with sambal petai ikan bilis, rendang, sambal goreng tahu/tempeh and of course sambal blacan.  For pudding there was always naga sari.  My mother made the best naga sari north and south of the Causeway.

In true Malay fashion our hero washed his hands before eating. How I screamed with laughter when he said to me mum,  "Mak, saya sudah mandi tangan."  The old lady had to stifle a giggle and corrected him,  "Basuh tangan Iain, bukan mandi tangan."   Often, I am told to 'Tutup atas' when I remind him of this linguistic bungle.

He then departed to Sabah to conduct the real fieldwork....


Prelude to  FoL  -  25  April
Episode  1 - 28 April
Episode  2 - 7 May
Episode  3  -  30 May
Penultimate Episode  -  3 June


This is what little Shah looks like now.
Shah, Adam and Adila - about 39 days ago.

Sunday 14 August 2011

Running Riot

The recent riots in London  (and other English cities, which also included my 'kampung'  Leicester)  only reminded me of my experience of being caught up in racial riots in Singapore.  I especially remembered the September riots of 1964.  It was my first year at university.

I was on my way to the Union House for lunch and was surprised to see the place emptied of the usual hungry denizens.  Then I saw someone in a hurry to get somewhere and he advised me,  "Get home quick. Riot, riot!"

I recalled the earlier riot in July and knew what it was like.  I ran across the field between theUnion House and Bukit Timah Road to get to the Tay Koh Yat bus stop at Farrer Road.  "What if the buses have stopped running?"  That was my main fear.  This was not the era of mobile phones and our kampung house had no telephone connection at all.  Shortly after, the bus turned up.  It was almost full - with tense and anxious faces.  There were still two more buses to take.

As soon as I got to Alexandra Road, I crossed over to pick up the Hock Lee bus which would take me to the junction of Alexandra Road and Pasir Panjang Road.  I was in a desperate hurry to get that bus.  People around me, children, women and men were fleeing and panicking like frightened rabbits.  One scene I wanted to forget.  I saw a Chinese man brandishing a wooden bar in his hand and chasing a  Malay woman who was trying to escape into an alley between the shops.  I do not know and neither do I want to know what ensued.  I describe the man as Chinese and his victim as Malay not because I want to pass judgement on any particular race.  That was what they were.

The Hock Lee bus came and I pushed my way into the bus which was already packed with frightened passengers.  The bus started moving and some passengers just fell by the wayside.  All the while I was saying to myself, "Don't be frightened, don't panic, don't cry."

The bus made no more stops.  Some passengers rang the bell incessantly because they wanted to get down at their particular stops but it was to no avail because the bus kept on moving  until it got to the Alexandra/Pasir Panjang terminal.  I was lucky.  It was where I wanted to get to.

After a mad scramble out of the bus, I made another frantic dash across Pasir Panjang Road to get to the Keppel Bus stop.  The helpless faces I saw, about 20 to 30 of them, told me I'd run out of luck.  This was the last lap and  Keppel Bus was not coming to take me home.  So I stood by the roadside pondering what to do next.

Then a car stopped right in front of me.  The driver yelled, "Masuk, lekas masuk!!"  In the rush, I dropped one or two of my files - I squeezed into the packed car, landing on I-don't-know-whose-lap.  The little car sped down Pasir Panjang Road to Kampung Abu Kassim.  My saviour was also living in the same kampung.  We all thanked him most profusely.  I ran like the hounds of hell were after me to get to 691 Pasir Panjang Road, my house, my sanctuary.

I saw my father waiting at the front door.  I saw the pained anxiety turning to tears of relief and I grabbed both his hands,

I was the last one in the family to arrive home safely.  My family and I were very, very lucky.

And now, after watching the riots in England, my heart goes out to the two families in Birmingham who lost their sons, wantonly murdered by the looters, who deliberately ran their car into three young men, who were only doing their civic duty of  'protecting' the community's property.

But my heart also burst with pride at the gracious and big hearted father of one of the victims.  He advised the youth of his community to go home, to stop any further loss of lives.

He is Tariq Jahan, who had just lost his son Haroon Jahan.

Here is a Muslim, proclaiming and pleading for peace for all despite his traumatic loss. He asked only for justice, not vengeance.

Here is the ordinary, hard-working British  Muslim, a man of peace, the sort of Muslim that Britain does not want to know.  The British media, intellectuals and authorities much prefer to publicise the Muslims only as jihadists and terrorists.

In this holy month of Ramadan, Allah has shown them and the rest of the world what Muslims are made of.  A simple, bereaved father who walked the Straight Path without need of preachings and posturings.

Al Fatiha to Haroon Jahan, Shahzad Ali Khan and Abdul Musavir Khan.

N.B.  David Cameron, the British Prime Minister who condemned multiculturalism was in Birmingham that day when Tariq Jahan was appealing for peace. As far as I know, from my daily online readings of several British newspapers he made no effort to see this man who singlehandedly prevented a race riot in Winson Green, Birmingham.  Even the Bishop of Aston, the Right Reverend Andrew Watson had  warned of events "potentially having an ugly race dimension." 

It takes a lot of strength and courage for Tariq Jahan to do what he did.  David Cameron had none.  He could only offer platitudes - of  "a truly dreadful incident." 

I wonder, would David Cameron bother to visit  this man if he was not an Asian Muslim??????

Saturday 6 August 2011

Hope in Young Muslims - Sanum Ghafoor

About two years ago in Leicester, the spouse was walking behind two Muslim girls, elegantly dressed in their black outfit and the hijab (not the burka).  They were happily chatting in strong Leicester accent and if you close your eyes you would think they were two white Leicester lasses.

Then he heard this sentence,  "Y'know what the f.......  d....h....  said ?"  The spouse was astounded,  two primly dressed Muslim girls talking exactly like Leicester's white working class!  So what??

Tonight pickledherring was chatting to me about how shocked  Mary ( her mother) was on hearing her daughter's and son's language of frustration and anger.  "Where did you two learn to speak all this 'cakap kotor?  I was never like this when I was your age."  Now, Mary and I were born in the same year  and she would be aghast at the language ( Malay, English, Hokkien, Punjabi, Tamil and a little French)  I use when I'm coping with selfish, irresponsible, egoistic, arrogant, stupid and insane drivers and motor-cyclists  on KL roads.  Even the spouse was amazed at his wife's colourful vocabulary.  He has stopped saying, "Now, now!" - and now just rolls his eyes upwards and looks into the far distance.

But back to Muslim girls in Britain.  There is  this lively, brilliant girl from London, Sanum Ghafoor.  Her twitter on  "....blame the Muslims",  in the wake of the massacre in Norway by Anders Breivik (a  Christian, blond and blue-eyed Norwegian), gives Muslims a powerful tool on how to tackle Islamophobia - using irony and sarcasm instead of the usual defensive stances and outlandish, irrational rantings at everything non-Islam.


This 19-year old undergraduate is an excellent example of how you can be integrated into a Western environment without losing your religious and cultural identity.  Kudos to her wit and courage.  Here's a screamingly funny presentation of the life of a Muslim in Britain.  She goes for both  Muslims and non-Muslims.  It's such a refreshing change when a Muslim, and a young woman at that, can laugh at her own fellow Muslims and still manage to expose the ignorance of non-Muslims.

Here's a video on 'You know you're a Muslim when .......'

And another humorous and thoughtful video on 'The Language of War'

Thank God for this brave young Muslim ..... woman.