Friday 30 January 2015

The Second " R "

Reading, 'Riting and  'Rithmetic  - they make up the basic three " Rs "  which form the foundation of modern education.  That was the makeup of my English language colonial education in the 1950s as well as the beginning of my training as a school teacher during the latter half of the 1960s.

Just the other day, the spouse and I were ruminating about the approaching demise of one signifier of our self as an individual :  writing - our handwriting!

This one .............

...... belongs to her.

This quaint handwriting  ........

.... was done by this quaint little nerd.

Oh dear, I am noticing signs of rebellion.


Nowadays we appreciate and take pride in all things that are hand made and we are willing to dig deep into our pockets for items made by human hands!

But more and more we are losing the one art that can be created only by us - our handwriting. Just think, there are millions of us (those who were lucky enough to go to school) able to scribble and identify themselves by their handwriting - each one distinct and unique, just like our fingerprints.
However, we now take to the keyboard and indicate ourselves less and less by our handwriting ( and signature) - but by passwords, codes and pin numbers.  Welcome to the digitised world!

We don't write letters anymore.  We do not keep envelopes in the house and neither do we buy stamps.  We only send e-mails!

Part of my primary school education included subjects like "Writing" and that was included as an examination subject.

A 'Writing' Examination - 1957, PPES.

'Letter Writing' was always part of the English Language Examination.

'Letter Writing' for a Primary Six examination, 1957, PPES

A few days ago, I received a comment - a very touching note - from Kalsom Taib -  from my cohort group, so to speak.

Kalsom, I hope the above images will bring a big smile to your face - and to remind you of our good (and at that time it seemed horrible), old days.

So, I thought I'd like to sit down and write you a letter - to overlay an electronic page with a letter written with a fountain pen  -  to thank you for the content and kindness in your message.

We, Kalsom and I,  are blessed to be able to observe and live the present life we have.  Materially and technically we have gained so much.  But the price we pay is too awful - at times - to bear.

Here's my 'Dictation' Examination - ideas still as valid - if not even more today - as  58 years ago.

The greatest honour is the honour which men give to you in their hearts. 

A song we heard on the radio in our kampung house in 1954/1955.

Saturday 24 January 2015

Appropriation - Ayam Hitam Terbang Malam.

" Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery ".

When you  dress, behave, and talk  like your favourite celebrity or your  hero or role model - then that imitation is regarded as flattery.

It is fascinating to discover so many other words that are synonymous with 'imitate'   and which provide so many different shades of meaning and interpretation.  This list is by no means comprehensive but here they are: words like copy, use, adopt, adapt, fit, employ, duplicate, reproduce, take, convert,  pilfer, purloin, filch, plagiarize and appropriate.

You may notice how towards the end of the list the words begin to mean more and more negative and unpleasant.

For instance;  this one of Madonna in Burqa cannot be designated as imitation-cum-flattery, it's just an ageing rock star desperately seeking attention and publicity.  Mama mia!  She did quite a lot of cultural appropriation in her younger days to boost her career , so you can't expect better of her.

From The Independent, 25 June 2014.

If there are are Muslim hotheads - young and old - seeing this out there, please do not start a je ne suis pas Madonna!

There are also other 'desperately-seeking-attention' pop stars like Beyonce.

Beyonce - Daily Mail 14 Nov.

Okay, no more flippancy!

Dr Wafa Sultan, another ex-Muslim female darling of the Islamophobes (See Comments page of my previous posting   'Pointed Views'),  describes herself as a  'Muslim' even though she said she does not follow and practise the teachings of Islam.  I was quite confused.  It's like claiming to be a vegetarian while still consuming meat!

I found her rationale when I was sorting out my files last night.

1.  From "Doors into Christianity / Christianity Today"  :

Here are a couple of pertinent extracts from the above.

Here I reckon,  is where ex-Muslim islamophobes find their ploy to  abuse and confuse   Islam's Muslims by claiming they are 'Muslims' as well.

The above is not imitation or adapting.  It is simply purloining and filching - another appropriation, like Madonna.


There's the proverb - ' a rose by any other name smells just as sweet'.   The rose  is named rosa (Italian),  roos (Dutch), ruzica (Slovak),  gulaab (Hindi), bunga mawar (Indonesian and Malay), warda (Arabic) whakatika (Maori)  -  just to name a few.  Consider this; would an Italian desire to substitute the name of his rosa to bunga mawar, or would Hindi speakers pick warda instead of gulaab?

In the same vein, the word God and Allah are both as fragrant and sacred whatever name one chooses.  In the case of East Malaysia (where the conversion to Christianity was a more widespread, and rather different, process to that in Peninsular Malaysia),  'Allah'  has been used in their Bibles right from the start.  As for Peninsular Malaysia (where Christians make up just 3% of the population) the word 'God'  was the choice word in the Bible like in all  European countries.  'Allah'  is the word for Muslims in Southeast Asia and for all 1.6 billion Muslims in the world.   In the same vein, please note, the word 'Muslims' refer only to the adherents of the religion Islam, just as there are specific words to apply to Christians (Christianity), Hindus (Hinduism), Buddhists (Buddhism), Atheists (Atheism), Pagans  (Paganism) and Agnostics(Agnosticism) and even Satanists (Satanism)!

Why are certain Christians in Malaysia so adamant, and so evangelical in wanting to take the word for the Supreme Being in the Quran to be used in the Bible?  This may provide the key.

Extract from "Doors into Christianity"

This is "contextualized"  evangelization.  This is dressing up the wolf to look like sheep. This is conversion and plagiarization - the clearest example of the end justifying the means.

This is from the horse's mouth itself.

The means applied for achieving the ends are "to remove 'westernized ideas of what it means to follow Christ' ", to translate into  'the local language'  and 'adapt' the music as well. 


By Joshua Lingel, Jeff Morton and Bill Nikides, eds. i2 Ministries Publications.

Warren Larson's review included this:

Two institutions responsible for translating the Bible for the purpose of conversion are Wycliffe Bible Translators and its sister organisation the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) - a Christian service agency..  Look up SIL's Website and you'll be hard put to find explicit indications of their  commitment to evangelization.  Of course they profess not to be directly involved  in  'building churches' and proselytizing.  But they have other objectives  - even though they claim they  work only to preserve 'ethnolinguistic identity'.  Is there much difference between the arms- manufacturer and the people who utilise their products?

There's just a little hint (note the underlined) to refer to  providing expertise, training or consulting  to  ' ....... or local organizations involved in education, development or Christian service.'

If any one can issue 'Muslim-friendly translations' for saying "Son of God",  SIL and Wycliffe will find the "loophole large enough".   After all, the word 'Allah' is well on the way to being appropriated - with the support of some Muslims and Muslim clerics here and abroad.  They, I'm afraid, have been outmaneuvered and  'contextualised'.

Next on the menu will be Chrislam, non-followers or ex-followers of Islam - converts to Christianity -  who claim to still calling themselves 'Muslims'.  According to their strategy; it  seems that they have the right to do so because  the term  'Muslims'  means 'those who submit to God' .  Consequently the term 'Muslim' would also be subjected to appropriation, away from the believers of Islam!  Hallelujah.

I reckon our Islamic experts, clergy and Islamic academics had better put on their thinking caps and figure out how to protect the  word "Muslim"  for the followers of Islam before the pseudo-'Muslims' start hammering at the gate

This is indeed scary, almost predatory  -   SEPERTI  AYAM  HITAM  TERBANG  MALAM 


3.  And now for another insight into   'Black Hens Flying in the Night'

All Hijabed and Kopiaked  - and with so many places to go !!!!  They managed to beat Madonna in this charade.  And oh my gosh!  Even the  'tikar' on the floor looked like they had just finished a 'kenduri' and 'baca doa selamat'.  Bravo, bravo!

Could you guess that the picture above is not of a group of Muslim ladies and gentlemen in Bangkok?  They are  'contextually'  dressed in Muslim garb but they are Thai pastors, leaders, Bible college students and professionals taking part in a Kairos Course in 2006.

One Thai pastor was so pleased and said,  "We praise God that he has opened our eyes through this course.  We have been receiving many missionaries in Thailand but we have failed to see our part in bringing the gospel to the nations.  It is time we stop making excuses and do our part."  ( Maybe their outfit will play a large part in their missionizing.)

The report further added, " The team in Thailand aims to continue mobilizing the Thai church for missions, i.e. to reach the least-reached people groups within Thailand and beyond."

For all you know, by now, they are already hard at work in  the predominantly Muslim Provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani, Yala and Satun - where some of the "least-reached people groups" are located.  Dressed like this they would be welcomed with open arms.  Throw in a couple of 'orang putih' in kopiak and hijab, the 'least-reached peoples' would be ecstatic!

Read :

Turun ka-sawah memakai tudong,
Padi di-huma layu lengkesa;
Sa-ekor sawa (1)  sa-ekor tedung,
Bersama2 mengadu bisa.

(1) Ular sawa tidak berbisa; senjata-nya kuat membelot dan mencherut sahaja.

The above pantun is taken from "Kalong Bunga"  Buku 1 - di-pileh dan di-susun oleh Z'ABA, DBP 1964.

That ends my case of serial pilfering, purloining, filching, deceiving, plagiarising and appropriation in our neck of the woods,  conducted by evangelists from the world's largest and most powerful  religion.

Friday 16 January 2015

Pointed Views

AsH - as you may have noted - practices freedom of speech and has given any comment received in my blog (except the inflammatory and vulgar) the oxygen of publicity. Ash will respond, whether they come from the pens (or rather, the mice) of  serious thinkers or serious cretins.

I am quite taken by 3 comments from my last posting.  They prefer to focus on the tendency for violence on the part of Muslims, and also  their impotency  and stupidity.  They also reflect a common belief that  Muslims have only got themselves to blame.  This is exactly the same argument when non-blacks decry the 'backwardness' of the blacks in UK and US.

As I have prepared quite a detailed riposte for the second and third comments, I think it deserves a posting of its own.  These comments  typify the usual  brickbats : made up of generalizations, snide innuendos and crooked thinking  thrown at Muslims - by non-Muslims  (and insecure Muslims) both in Malaysia and abroad.


Thank you Anon 11 January 2015 at 02:06

( Quotes from the comments are in italics.)

1.  You may be right but remember these are the immigrants from Islamic countries to a non-Islamic country which received them wholeheartedly.

Well, there are also many non-Muslim immigrants who migrate to Muslim countries and who not only prosper, but are allowed to maintain their culture with very little hassle from the host-people e.g. Malaya and Indonesia.
Name me the non-Muslim countries that "received them (Muslims)  wholeheartedly",  that is unless they bring in lots of dosh and gold bars?   Have you read carefully Gai Eaton's piece in my last post? 
As a Muslim living in a non-Muslim country  (UK)  I have received more than my fair share of abuse from my non-Muslim white hosts and officials and non-white, non-Muslim British residents.  By the way, are you making this comment from personal experience?  If you are, then it must be because you look like an 'honorary white' and you're not a Muslim.

2.  ...... yearning the help from powerful secular countries specially the US and Europe.

If  your homes, schools, hospitals, libraries, transport and sewerage systems have been blown apart by missiles and bombs and AK 47s etc  by 'secular' USA and European countries wouldn't you pack up your bags and go to  countries that are safe simply because they are powerful?

3.  As for your mention of the Sunni-Shite conflict, of Saudi Arabia colluding with Israel : if only Middle East politics were that  easy to understand.   I recommend Andre Vltchek's article "Who should be blamed for Muslim terrorism"  in Counterpunch January 9-11, 2015.  

Of course you may not agree with it but it should help to clear some of your naive and over-simplistic interpretation.

Furthermore Muslims do not have a monopoly of in-fighting.  I hope you have read enough history to figure out other examples (take only the 20th century) like the long drawn out conflicts between the Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland (thousands killed) and between the same two groups in Rwanda (hundreds of thousands killed).  What about the 'secular' in-fighting like the Civil wars in pre-Mao China and the North vs South  Civil War  in what is USA today?

4.   Muslim should not be so stupid to counter the threat with violence. Allah do not need  those stupid extremist Muslim to kill to protect his name.

Ask the Iraqis, Afghanis, Gazans (Palestinians) and Bosnians and Chechnyans and Rohingyas if they suffered merely 'threats'  and tell them off for being "extremist" and "stupid"  when they refuse to turn the other cheek?    Ask any non-Muslim  believer or country how they would react  if they were subjected to the same terror.

Just a little correction here :  It's not Allah's name that is being protected.  Both the right-wing and  'liberal'  fascists are intent on making fun (and profit) out of the Prophet of Islam.

5.  The Jews are killed in millions ........ they use their brain to ask others to fight the Arabs as their proxy.

Do you fully comprehend the ramifications of your "suggestion"?  Firstly, it was the
European Jews who were killed in millions (and who hardly had the opportunity to ask anyone to be their 'proxies'), but it was the Israeli Zionist Jews who 'asked others ... as their proxy'.  To follow through your argument, should the  'stupid' Muslims 'use their brains' and get others to be their proxy?  Now, while the few suicide bombers and 'terrorists' do their own dirty work, the rest of  the Muslim population and Islam are punished and reviled on account of them.

Do listen through the Video attached and you may learn a  thing or two.

Okey dokey, that's one comment dried and dusted.


Now for the next one:  Thank you "Said".

If the verb for referencing a comment  used the word "wrote"  instead of "said" ,  the commentator would have to find
a Malay-Muslim name that sounds close to "wrote".  Any suggestions anyone?  

1.  'Muslims have nobody to blame but themselves"  Only a non-Muslim would have the temerity and churlishness to believe that the Middle Eastern situation is the fault of Muslims alone.  A "Syed" certainly wouldn't.

2.  Middle East conflict is an Arab conflict that most Muslim mistaken it as a Islam vs the world conflict.  If the mahzabs can't even agree..... what do you expect.  World peace? 

According to your  interpretation  the bloodshed in the Middle East is an entirely Arab problem and construction and  should not affect the rest of the Muslim world.  In choosing  to separate issues of Muslim integrity and sovereignty  in the Middle East from the rest of  other Muslim countries and communities, you seem to imply that Muslims have no right to a sense of brotherhood with their suffering co-believers.   Shouldn't that also apply to HRH Prince Charles (and many others) who moan about the plight of  Christians in the Middle East?

Read :

What have the attacks on Gaza, the invasion of Iraq (twice by father and son) and Afghanistan, and  conflicts in  other non Arab Muslim territories, such as the razing of Bosnia and Chechnya, the Muslim struggles for autonomy in Southern Philippines, Pattani and the persecution of Rohingyas in Burma have to do with Muslims making a 'mistake' 

 Western countries do not  restrain their intervention when their Judaeo-Christian brethren are under threat or attack.  Most of the time they do not have to send in suicide bombers and undercover "liberators" - they have other means to teach these nations a lesson - and in the case of  Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and others in South America, they simply send in their boys and their bombs. 

Read : 

You must be familiar with  the First and Second  World Wars - tribal  wars in Christian Europe which dragged non-European and non-Christian countries outside of Europe into the line of fire - often as unhappy "proxies"!!

How grotesque! - to argue that the disunity of mahzabs  gets in the way of World Peace. It's tantamount to attributing the  present carnage in the Middle East to only the Muslims and absolving the Judaeo-Christian world of any culpability.

"World Peace"  is just a slogan for fluffy thinkers who are caught in the aura of John Lennon's 'Imagine' - a convenient tool that the powerful use to whitewash their "policing" of the rest of the world.  During the Cold War, the slogan was "The Free World".   

This reminds me of this interesting image/article from the Mail , on how the advertising world makes food look good.

Today the magic slogan is "World Peace" - and other 'look good, feel good'  concoctions like human rights, freedom of expression, multiculturalism, democracy,  free speech, free press - all used as vehicles for nefarious objectives. 

Liberal Political -Stylists  and Food- Stylists certainly have a lot in common!

3.  Like you I despair at the disunity of the Muslim world and closer to home, the Malay-Muslims of Malaysia.   Muslim brotherhood,  the unity of the Ummah, exists in  Islam and all the texts.  I leave it to our Islamic scholars, academics and professionals to chart the journey - to guide Muslims to maintain an equilibrium between our duties for  'Dunia'  and  'Akhirat'.

4.  As for the floods on the "East Coast of Malaysia" -  I think the people and authorities are doing a splendid job -  'kafirs' and  'non-kafirs' alike.   Surely, giving a hand to someone in need does not depend on the religious belief of the givers and the receivers.  Although sometimes one has to be careful of the hidden agenda of the givers who are out for 'saving souls for Jesus'.

By the way there is no "East Coast of Malaysia" - you must mean the east coast of Semenanjung/West Malaysia.  A true blue Anak Malaysia should know the difference.

Sorry to sound schoolmarmish - when you refer to 'harping on Free Palestine' - the verb 'harping' is an unfortunate choice of word.  To 'harp' is to talk or write persistently and tediously, to  nag, to complain.  Or maybe you are expressing what you actually mean - that the issue of a free Palestine for you  is tiresome and boring.   According to Mr/Ms Sai - "These people only have themselves to blame".


I would have loved to use these comments when I was teaching Critical Reading in USM many years ago.  

                                                    The Power of Words and Knowledge.

Saturday 10 January 2015

Je ne suis pas Anders Brevik

In the light of the recent series of murders and atrocities committed by our earthlings, as always Mark Steele of The Independent provides us with a very sane, even-handed and comic-satirical overview of the event that is leaving the world (well, some ) drenched in self-righteous anger and hurt.

Mark Steele's headline reads " Charlie Hebdo : Norway's Christians didn't have to apologise for Anders Brevik, and it's the same for Muslims now.  It's as if  no one in any Western country has ever gone berserk with a gun in a public place before."

Read :

 I reckon the worldwide rallying call of  'Je suis Charlie' should be supplemented with 'Je ne suis pas  Anders Brevik"!  Perhaps I should also add more denials from the Judaeo-Christian West (and from our non-JC liberals) as in 'Je ne suis pas George Bush (junior and senior), Tony Blair, Ariel Sharon, Benyamin Netyanahu', Sarkozy - and that's taking into account only the last 25 years.

Jerome Taylor, also from the Independent, wrote "It's Charlie Hebdo's right to draw Muhammad, but they missed the opportunity to do something profound ."

Read :

Taylor defended Charlie Hebdo's right to be 'offensive' but he also had this to say :  "What they have instead produced is predictably naff.  The few pages I have seen so far - and I must admit it's not the whole book - clearly pokes fun at the Prophet as much as it supposedly informs the reader about his life."

"Charlie Hebdo has a long and proud tradition (Taylor's underline, not mine) of being offensive and outrageous  ....  The West is a 'liberal democracy where free speech (which includes the right to be crass) is treasured'.

If that's the case - where is the much lauded right of the west to be irreverent, mocking and crass in the following cases?

1.  Why did the New England  Brewing Company issue an apology after "a legal action was filed in an Indian court claiming that the use of Gandhi's image on the beer cans    .......

...... was "condemnable" and punishable under Indian laws."  (5 January 2015).  Doesn't the Prophet of   1.6 billion Muslims ( 23 % of the world's population) deserve the same respect?


2.  Whatever inspired this 24 year old from Leicester to place a pig's head outside a Muslim place of worship on Boxing Day of 2012?  We know why.  But as he had apologised for "causing religiously aggravated harassment'  his 12 weeks' imprisonment was suspended.  But Liam Ferrar was no media bigwig , he had no choice but to do a retreat.


3.  A UKIP ( UK Independence Party) councillor who blamed the the heavy flooding of December 2013 on the legalisation of gay marriage was suspended by his Party. Some people have greater sensitivities to be protected unlike the Prophet of  1.6 billion Muslims.


4.  The Guardian in March 2012 had this headline  "Lib Dem peer resigns party whip in row over ant-Israel remarks."
See :

The Chief Rabbi , Lord Sacks regarded Lady Tonge's remarks as "dangerous, inflammatory and unacceptable."   Well, many Muslims feel the same way about the the surfeit of cartoons on the Prophet including that by Charlie Hebdo.   

But any mockery and disrespect for Islam is kosher meat for the believers of freedom of expression in the West  - though a sort of self-censorship is practiced for some  'protected cultural groups'.


5.   Suzanne Moore a writer of "proudly Leftist opinions", wrote that 'modern women were coming under pressure to look like Brazilian transsexuals'.  The result?  Moore was accused of being a fascist (remember the accusation of being Islamofascists?) and she was forced to close her Twitter account.  Her buddy Julie Burchill was incensed at this and  described the transsexual lobby as ' a bunch of bedwetters in bad wigs' etc etc.

This retort really riled up Lynne Featherstone the Lib Dem MP for Hornsey and Wood Green and International Development Minister in Britain's Coalition government.  She accused Burchill of  'inciting hatred' against transsexuals (exactly how Muslims feel about anti-Muslim cartoons including those spewing from Charlie Hebdo) and she wanted Julie Burchill  and the Observer's editor be sacked!!

Did the Observer ( which is owned by the 'impeccably liberal' Guardian media Group) stand on their right of free speech and the freedom of the Press?  No!  They removed Burchill's article from the internet.  It was replaced with a piece by ' a purple-haired woman called Roz accusing Burchill of "legitimising the currency of hate speech" '.   To hell with freedom of speech!!

If only, oh if only Muslims could have the ears and heart of such a caring Minister and a purple-haired woman somewhere who would sing her same words 'to soothe the savage beast' that we Muslims are.


6.  Ben Ari an orthodox Jew and an Israeli law maker, tore up the Bible and then posed for photographs with the dismembered holy book (July 18, 2012).

The reason? The copy of the New Testament was mailed to him by Christian missionaries.  Ben-Ari stated millions of Jews were slaughtered in the name of the Bible.

" Many Christians over the centuries persecuted Jews, holding them responsible for Jesus' crucifixion".  Read : 


7.  An American brewery company had to apologise for naming a beer after the Hindi Goddess Kali (May 15 2012).

The demand was made in Rajya Sabha that US Ambassador to India should be summoned and asked to apologise for it."

Read :

It's alright for some to demand respect.


8.  After a protest by  Buddhists ..........
Read :

 .........  a bikini lined with images of the Buddha  was removed from the market without a whimper by the American retailer 'Victoria's Secret'.


9.  A belated addition - 17 Jan 2015.

A matter of (French) sauce for the goose is (Muslim) sauce for the gander.


The  'Je suis Charlie'  deaths will certainly  justify and boost the agenda and the policies of  the right wing extremists not only in France but everywhere else in the West where immigrants are regarded as unwanted aliens. 

There is a moral in all this for Muslims.  They say the pen is mightier than the sword.  For decades, that has been the strength of Charlie Hebdo.  So, if Muslims must "take up arms" against the West's anti-Islam agenda (whether liberal or fascist) they must be proficient with the pen, with the books and the computer, with their own quick-wittedness, wisdom, and knowledge, knowledge, knowledge.

Know your enemy - they have a larger and more sophisticated arsenal, both of real swords, and of words they dress up as freedom of expression.

Finally, where were all the protestors wielding their pens and wearing their 'je suis Charlie' tags and switching off their lights all those years ago when the world looked at these grim images and then turned their faces away?

NOUS SOMMES PALESTINIANS :Bodies of Palestinians  killed by Israeli 'swords'

Nous Sommes Americains et Anglais.  Tu est Iraqi/Arab.
Je suis Americain aussi.

"Je suis Saher."   Elle a quattre ans, elle est morte.

What happened in Paris is more complicated than the issue of extremist fanatical Muslims against liberty and freedom of speech in France or anywhere else in the world.

France may be the purveyors of 'Liberte, Fraternite and Egalite'  but France also has a very dirty record of brutal occupation  and treatment of the Algerians.

The French conquered and ruled Algeria from 1830 until she had to abandon it in 1962.  In between there were a series of atrocities and blood baths that led to many deaths but mainly of the Algerian Muslims :  45,000 in May 1945 at Setif, 1.5 million Arab Muslims and thousands of French 'colons'  (white settlers in Algeria)  during the 6-year War of Independence from 1954 to 1961.  It was 'a brutal war of suppression of the Muslim sectors of Algeria because the French were intent to keep Algeria white.  From the very beginning France subjugated the Muslim population of Algeria - "building small French towns and chateaux across the countryside" .' The Catholic Church took this opportunity to "re-christianize"  Northern Africa  - converting mosques into churches.

  Read :

On the condition of Muslims in the West, let me quote this from Gai Eaton, a prominent British Muslim philosopher.

Our position as Muslims in the West is not an easy one, but it is my belief that this position is easier in the United States and in Britain that it is in France or Germany.  Particularly in France, the situation appears to be extremely dangerous.  The British will on the whole tolerate strangers in their midst.  They may not like them and they certainly do not understand them, but they tolerate them.  The French do not, unless these strangers integrate themselves completely into French society and French culture; in other words, unless they abandon Islam in everything but name  (my underline).   'The Muslims in the West'  8 August 2010.

Lastly give a serious read to this serious cartoon-satire by Joe Sacco.

From The Guardian 10 January 2015

Monday 5 January 2015

Remembering Frank

Since my last posting, about dear Frank Moule - among others - I've been thinking and recalling the great friendship between the Moules and the Buchanans.  When you reach our age, the heart and mind tend to look back, to good times, to precious friends and loving friendships.

When Frank passed away in 2002, Iain wrote and read the obituary in memory of  a former student who became a great friend. (see below)   I want this to go on the ether because it encapsulates the achievement and determination of a brave and stubborn working class Leicester man - who against all odds made his 70 years on earth so useful and fulfilling.   Iain and I often wondered if we could have achieved what Frank had : to embark on a university education in one's mid-40s  with a wife and family to look after as well.  No, we didn't think we could.

But as we well know, he could not have done it without the support, love and forbearance of Dorothy. His endearing and enduring Dot knew that Frank would not stop with his first degree, for he went on to do a part-time Master's Degree at Warwick University, which he completed at the age of 65.

It had to be a trio because the other one that could have made it a quartet was in Singapore.

This is for you Frank - and Dot - once again with all our love.   And here is that obituary, for all
 to see.

I hope you don't mind, Dot, just one little lecture.  It's the only chance I'll get to give a lecture about Frank - and I'm sure that Frank would approve.

I've known Frank, and through him the family, for twenty-five years - long enough to get a fairly rounded picture of the man.  But it is in the nature of Frank, and me, and our friendship, that we concentrated a lot on books and learning and things intellectual.  It is in this I got to know Frank best, and it is with this in mind that I'd like to say a few words.  

When I first met Frank, as his lecturer, 25 years ago, the thing I noticed most about him was that he was interested in the things he was studying - passionately, profoundly interested.  More than that, he saw how, in knowledge, and in the real world around him, everything connected.  Frank saw, in a way many of his lecturers and professors pretended not to see, how you just couldn't really separate knowledge into economics, and history, and politics and all the other boxes.  When Frank thought through a problem, he brought in a wide range of subjects to help him.  In other words, he grasped the essence of learning more fully, and more usefully, than most students could ever hope to.  When I first met this middle-aged house painter, this was my strongest impression.

But Frank still had a long way to go, and over the next 25 years it was my privilege to share large parts of his journey.  And what a journey it was.  There could, in the entire history of the world, be only a handful of house painters who had gained two University degrees and written a large book of memoirs.   Frank was one of them.   And through all this, Dot was there to give him support, and three wonderful children grew up and flowered in ways that made Frank feel very,very proud.

Here, in Frank's family - in the way he so scrupulously provided for them, and in the way he inspired his children - here lies much of Frank's legacy.  But today, and especially today, I want to go beyond this : I want to say a few words about what I saw, however imperfectly, as the spirit of the man.

Frank was not a religious man in the ordinary sense.  But Frank was, in important ways, a very spiritual man.  His demeanour didn't immediately suggest this : a painter and decorator for over thirty years, a sober, straight-talking man, a man who didn't warm easily to romance and frivolity, a man expert in many things like fiscal economics. 

 But in his own special way, Frank worshipped the same wonder of creation that the more religious amongst us would claim to worship.  For Frank was truly fascinated by the world around him : he was always, wonderfully, awake to the world and its complexities, he was always interested in a way most people are too lazy to be, and at the same time he was always aware of his very own human ignorance, of how little he knew, of how endless knowledge and learning really are.  Frank was the most frustrating of students - he always wanted more than mere lecturers and professors could give him, and he always saw through the tricks that academics used against people like him, people who really inquire, who really want to learn.

True, Frank was so excited with the world he was discovering through his learning, so, so, fascinated, that it was sometimes hard to get a word in edgeways.  But Frank only wanted to share what he'd newly learned, to have it confirmed, to debate it, and to learn still more.  Frank never used his knowledge as a kind of one-upsmanship, as a way of putting people down.  He was far too honourable a man for that.  No, most of all, Frank wanted to teach, to share, to uplift .........
 and in that, maybe, he was a better man than most academics.

But what if Frank had not had to go to work at 14 with no school qualifications?  What if he'd started University at the age most people start University?  Well, he would certainly have become a luminary of some sort in the academic or political world, and he would have gone a long way with it.  But would he have kept alive the spirit, the drive that was in him? 

 I'm not sure that he would.  It was Frank's spirit that drove him to go beyond the building sites and the semi-detached homes and transform his life in the way that he did.  But it was, in part, the adversity he faced that made his spirit even stronger.  And this is a big part of Frank's triumph, a big part of his legacy : he proved that a shaky start in life is no excuse for surrendering to mediocrity, no excuse for not being wide awake to the world around you, wanting to understand how it works, wanting to make it better.

But in this long and busy journey Frank was taking, he was never alone.  There were friends and teachers to inspire him.  And there were also those closer to home.  Only rarely did we get a glimpse into Frank's most heart-felt emotions.  But two glimpses, for me, are unforgettable.  When Frank tells his life story, he records how, for many years, he would go to work with his tools packed in an old handbag that had once belonged to his mother.  I can only imagine the tender feelings, the love, that made him do that.  And then, some half a century later, we are there with Frank in the flesh, in hospital, as his journey is coming to a close, and Frank says:  " I do appreciate all these people coming to see me, but, you know, all I really want is to have Dorothy here, and to hold her hand. "

In other words, Frank's achievements - as a union man, as an academic, as an author - were never solitary achievements.  The family was always in Frank's mind, and always close at hand.  It was a collective endeavour, and Frank always knew that.

So Frank, that's my lecture.  And now I'd like to give the last word to my pillar of support - to my own wife, Maznoor, from Malaysia.  This is Maznoor's own special message.

" When, in 1984, I came to study and live in Leicester, Frank was the first of the few who did not talk down to me, talk at me, talk through me, or ignore me.  He was, and he remains, like Dorothy, my first and best friend.  And so I wish to say to him today  ........  Goodnight, me duck ..... 'Goodnight sweet prince; and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.'  "

It has been 13 years Frank.  We both still miss you.

Friday 2 January 2015

Taboo or not to be.

 For the Senior Cambridge Examination, Mrs Quah, - my very inspiring literature teacher -  instructed us to learn by heart, and to quote, various passages from Shakespeare's 'Hamlet'.   Here are the first four lines of one of them:

To be, or not to be, that is the question -
Whether 'tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,

 According to Wiki,  the American-Muslim human rights activist Malcolm X or Malik El-Shabazz (1925-1965) quoted the above lines at a debate in Oxford (1963) about "extremism in defence of liberty".

Growing up in a Malay kampung in Singapore throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s,  we had a father who was worldly wise and street savvy about the world around him (and us).  He was fluent and knowledgeable in both his Malayness and the wider English language milieu that was present then in Singapore and in Malaya.  You would not describe him as "alim"  or  "warak".  His familiarity with  the Arabic language was limited to the ability to read the Quran.  He had  a Quran which also provided a Malay translation and when he was teaching us about 'Rukun Islam' and prayers he always wrote down the translation in English as well.  He wanted us to know the meaning and  the spirit of what we were reciting and doing.

I think  Akim and I were the most bolshie with our queries and I reckon we gave him a bit of a headache.  When Akim was in his early 20s  ( I was then 25),  I overheard him asking Abah:
"Abah, prove to me there's God."   Wow!!   I skedaddled away because this was really strong stuff coming from my very quiet and serious kid brother and I thought I'd better make myself scarce.  I regretted I did not hang around to hear my father's QED.  (QED is something you write when you have proven a theorem in Geometry).  It must have worked because Akim kept  his faith and I could see more strength and acceptance in him especially whenever he suffered his very frequent asthma attacks.

When I was teaching in Sekolah Menengah Yusof Ishak I found myself slowly but surely losing my patience with my Malay-Muslim colleagues (to be expected) and even my students.  When one of them complained to me that it was not 'halal' to buy hot drinks from the Chinese stall in the school canteen and that it was not 'right' to sit next to some one eating Chinese food,  I took a deep breath and said,
"Duit-duit  yang kamu pegang tu, tahu kah kamu jika apek jual babi yang telah  memegang-nya terlebih dahulu?   Dengan cikgu, cuba bincangkan lain perkara bersabit dengan cara membaiki latihan ilmu alam, ilmu hisab, mengaturkan jadual kerja sekolah sambil menolong emak di-rumah, dan bagaimana berjimat cermat dalam perbelanjaan  di-sekolah.  Cikgu perhatikan bagaimana murid-murid Cina tidak kesahkan apa jenis  kasut dan beg sekolah yang mereka gunakan, jelas pilihan mereka lebih murah dari pilihan murid Melayu!!  Satu lagi perkara,  berbanding dengan murid-murid Melayu, Cikgu jarang kali melihat murid-murid Cina merambu di tepi jalan selepas sekolah."

I saw a sea of mixed reactions: sheepish, resentful and approving.  AsH always seems to have this effect on people!!

In the midst of such an environment at work, I had to ask my Abah what's wrong with these Malays and Muslims?  Haven't they absorbed anything positive from their culture and their ugama?  He said, "There is nothing negative about our culture and ugama.  It all depends on the interpretation - on what we choose to select.  It's human nature to choose the easiest path and that choice is often based on irresponsibility.  Your choices can lead to good or bad and we are capable of both.  But remember in all your doings and thoughts you are only accountable to the One, to God.  There is no go-between, there is no excommunication in Islam - there's only you and God."

That advice abides with me from then till today and it has put me in good stead, guiding me through all my ups and downs

As Malays and Muslims -  though today the latter takes precedence - we are made aware of the various taboos, of the 'halal' and 'haram', of the 'dosa' and 'pahala',  from an early age.  These dichotomies seemed rational enough for us when we were growing up.  But today, I see my world being circumscribed and digitized by so many sets and sub-sets and binary applications of these rules that I might as well be living in a fishbowl instead of God's glorious and multi-faceted world.

As a consequence of these 'revelations'  and rulings I begin to wonder if  some aspects of my life would be deemed today as  'unacceptable' -  according to the interpretations of our clerics.


I have entered a Church, not once, but several times.  I have attended a Christmas Mass at Durham Cathedral with the spouse's Aunt Peggy in 1987.

When I was just 15, Mrs Darke. my Guide Captain came to our kampung house to ask my father's permission for me to attend a Thinking Day Service at St Andrew's Cathedral in Singapore.  Of course my father gave the green light - he did not have to sit me down to caution me about what I should or should not do while I was in the Cathedral.  He had faith in me and in the strength of my faith.  And Mrs Darke had no ulterior evangelistic motive!


When our dear neighbour Eva passed away in 2003, Iain and I, and our neighbours Celia and Philip accompanied her in the funeral limousine as we were the only 'family' she had.   For nearly twenty years, Eva was like a mother to me - wise, sweet, and understanding.   Iain wrote the obituary for the Vicar to read during the funeral service in Church.  We chose a song she often played on her piano - we could hear her doing so because we were at No 10 and Eva was just next door at No 11.    And when "The Ash Grove" was played by the Church Organ my heart got stuck in my throat and the tears could not be held back.


Peggy, the spouse's Aunt, was a regular churchgoer at St Anne's, Bishop Auckland.  She respected and loved animals enormously.  Once, she got fed up with the wife of the Bishop of Durham for shooting the magpies in the grounds of Bishop Auckland Castle.  So, very early one morning, she retrieved one of the magpies that had been shot by the lady of the house - and pinned it  on the front door of the Bishop's Castle!

Peggy, like the other Wicks sisters, had an indomitable spirit, creative and a strong sense of civic-mindedness and fair play.  At the height of the Salman Rushdie affair, she expressed to me that no one has the right to insult another religion in the name of freedom of speech.   Peggy did not have an easy life, she had no opportunity to travel far away from home but she was always fascinated about different worlds and different cultures.  So whenever we visited her, about 4-5 times a year, I made sure I cooked a Malay dinner, while Peggy cooked an English dessert,    I also made sure I left her a bottle-full of fried ikan bilis before we went home to Leicester  She could never get enough of it!   When she passed away in 2005, the Vicar had chosen her favourite hymn,  "All things bright and beautiful, the Lord God made them all".  And I joined in that hymn to celebrate the life and times of a loving and lovely lady.


When I settled down in Leicester around 1985, Dorothy and Frank Moule became our dearest friends. Frank was a painter-decorator who left school at 14 and who, through sheer hard work and determination, went to University as a mature student when he was in his mid-40s, determined to be a teacher.    In his first year, Iain was his lecturer/tutor and Frank - who was ten years older than Iain - was his favourite student. During my first winter in Leicester, Frank and Dot bought me an electric blanket so that 'the little tropical flower' would not suffer too much in the cold.   Frank went on to  take his Masters, and even wrote an autobiography about his life as a painter and decorator, a union man, and a university student: I gave him his title - "Sitting on a Paint Tin".

We attended the service for Frank's funeral at the Unitarian Church in 2002.  It was a non-denominational Church and Iain wrote and read his celebration of the life of a good friend, an honourable man and a noble soul.  I asked Iain to add this, from and of Hamlet at the end of  his reading;  "Good-night sweet prince; And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."

I sobbed my heart out for Frank and Dot and his three kids.  To the right of me, sitting by herself in the pew was another lady distraught with sorrow - it was Frank's estranged, older sister.


So there we are.   That's my admittance of the number of times I have attended Church.  It has not tainted my faith or diluted my commitment to Islam.  As for uttering Merry Christmas and enjoying Christmas trees, I have done that enough times, I think, to ensure me a place in hell - according to the instructions of  Malaysia's  clerics.

But I held firm to my Abah's words - " in whatever you do, you are accountable only to God".


Here is Frank's choice of the song (his personal hymn) to be played at his funeral service.

What profits now to understand
The merits of a spotless shirt -
A dapper boot - a little hand - 
If half the little soul is dirt? 
                (Tennyson 1809 - 1892)