30 November, 2007

Malaysia's biggest liability is racial discord ?

With ethnic Tamils under attack in Malaysia, the Government on Friday told the Rajya Sabha that New Delhi was taking up the issue with Kuala Lumpur.

"The matter is being taken up through diplomatic channel," Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Suresh Pachouri told the House during Zero Hour.

He was responding to the concerns of members who took strong exception to a senior Malaysian minister asking Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi to "lay off" from the happenings in that country.

Terming as condemnable the ill-treatment being meted out to ethnic Tamils, Pachouri said that after the matter was taken up with the Malaysian authorities, the External Affairs Minister would make a statement in the House.

Raising the issue, R Shanmugasundaram (DMK) drew the attention of the Governnment to the statement of the Malaysian Minister on the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister. "This is highly condemnable as the Malaysian Minister has no business to talk like this. The Governnment of India should take appropriate action," he said.

S S Ahluwalia (BJP) demanded that the Malaysian envoy to India should be called to explain.

B S Gnanadesikan (Cong) expressed serious anguish over the manner in which the Chief Minister was snubbed by the Malaysian minister. He was joined by his party colleague V Narayanaswamy.

- The Hindu News

Malaysia's biggest liability is racial discord

By Andy Mukherjee Bloomberg News

For a country that abhors public protests and suppresses them with strict rules against illegal assembly, Malaysia has had two big demonstrations in Kuala Lumpur just this month.

With elections expected to be held next year, a certain rise in political temperature isn't surprising.

However, two large street rallies within a month may also be a sign that the 50-year-old code defining the rules of engagement between the state and the three main ethnic groups - the "social contract" of Malaysia - is fraying.

The biggest source of discontent is race, a four-letter word in a country where three-fifths of the 27 million people are Malays, about a quarter of the population is Chinese and 10 percent is Indian.

Many in the minority Chinese and Indian communities are disenchanted with economic policies that favor the Malays. And while privileges granted to the Malays can't be taken away abruptly, the case for separating entitlements from racial identity is building.

There are, of course, limits to how far Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi of Malaysia may be prepared to go and how soon.

To the extent affirmative-action policies make Malaysia unattractive to foreign investors, Abdullah has already shown a willingness to respond. The government has said that companies setting up tourism or logistics businesses in the Iskandar Development Region of Johor won't need to comply with a rule requiring foreign companies to have at least 30 percent ethnic Malay ownership.

This is a welcome step because Malaysia received just $6 billion of foreign direct investment last year. Thailand got $10 billion and India received $17 billion.

Ending preferential treatment for Malays in lucrative government contracts is going to be more problematic.

Free-trade talks with the United States and Australia have been delayed and the ones with New Zealand have had to be suspended primarily because Malaysia's policy of discouraging non-Malays - including foreigners - from bidding on government tenders is unacceptable to these countries.

The same issue might also jeopardize a free-trade deal between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations - of which Malaysia is a member - and Europe.

The Federation of Malaya's 1957 Constitution, drafted as the British were leaving, recognized that the indigenous Malay community needed special help, including quotas in government jobs, business permits and university places, to improve their abject economic standing.

The acceptance of this arrangement by the minority Chinese and Indian communities - "foreigners" in the land of the ethnic Malay Muslims - was seen as the basis of their citizenship and participation in a grand political coalition that has ruled Malaysia uninterrupted since independence.

Following bloody race riots in 1969, the New Economic Policy of 1970 made it an avowed goal of state policy to lift the share of corporate ownership for the Bumiputeras to 30 percent, from just 2 percent.

There was an uproar last year when a Malaysian economist argued in a study that the goal may already have been more than met and that it was time to dismantle economic policies based on race.

The political rhetoric is still staunchly against any such dilution of affirmative action. At his party's annual congress this month, Abdullah described Malay interests and the social contract between communities as "sacred."

However, the economic reality is different.

Malaysia's annual per-capita income has jumped an impressive 26-fold in the past 50 years to 20,900 ringgit, or $6,200. But the decades of sustained, rapid growth in prosperity are now history.

The rise of China and India is forcing Malaysia to discover new sources of competitiveness; in such an environment, the policy of race-based discrimination is increasingly untenable.

The area where Malaysia has paid the heaviest price is education. In the 1980s, government policy reduced national schools to "Malay enclaves," in the words of a University of Sydney political scientist, Lily Zubaidah Rahim; as a result, the Chinese opted out in large numbers.

Thus, the ideal place to integrate the races became the starting point of segregation.

While ethnic quotas in higher education were removed in 2002, university entrance norms for non-Malays are still significantly tougher. Talent that Malaysia badly needs to build a knowledge-driven economy is forced to migrate.

The Nov. 10 protests called for an improvement in the electoral process so that the next elections are free and fair; the second rally, however, had an overt racial tone.

The Hindu Rights Action Force, which organized the demonstration, is suing the British government for not protecting the rights of the minority Indian community at the time of independence. The colonial rulers had brought in Indians as indentured labor to work on rubber plantations.

The real purpose of the protesters is, of course, to draw attention to the unfairness of the 1957 constitutional arrangement and to show that the Malays aren't the only underclass in Malaysia.

The Tamil-speaking Malaysians, not counting the very wealthy businessmen such as the pay-TV and telecommunications czar, T. Ananda Krishnan, remain rather poor as a community.

A renegotiation of the Malaysian social contract so that entitlements are realigned with real economic needs will be a slow, challenging process, though nothing short of it can really heal the wounds festering for half a century.

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29 November, 2007

Malaysia Rejects US Comments On Protest Crackdown

Malaysia rejected Thursday comments by the U.S. backing the right to hold peaceful protests, after authorities used tear gas and water cannons on rare mass rallies here.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has also warned he could use a draconian internal security law against protesters, drawing criticism from human rights groups and opposition parties.

The government has been badly rattled by two mass demonstrations in the streets of the capital Kuala Lumpur this month, one calling for electoral reform and the other by ethnic Indians to highlight alleged discrimination.

The U.S. State Department on Wednesday implicitly criticized the crackdown, which has included the arrest of hundreds of protesters, some of whom witnesses said were beaten by police armed with batons.

"We believe citizens of any country should be allowed to peacefully assemble and express their views," a U.S. State Department official said when commenting on the Malaysian crackdown.

Cabinet minister Nazri Aziz defended the government's response to the rallies, which went ahead despite police bans.

"What is good for their country is not necessarily suitable for our country. We are a sovereign nation," said Nazri, the nation's de facto law minister.

One of the leaders of the anti-discrimination rally, V. Ganapathy Rao, was arrested Thursday just days after being set free on sedition charges, according to lawyers for Hindraf, the ethnic rights group which mounted the protest.

The lawyers said he was expected to be charged on Friday with new sedition charges, after a court ruled that separate charges against him and two other leaders over speeches made earlier this month weren't properly documented.

The original charges, which carried a punishment of three years imprisonment, related to speeches earlier this month in which the activists criticized preferential treatment for Muslim Malays who dominate the population.

US defends peaceful protests in Malaysia

The United States underscored Wednesday the rights of Malaysians to hold peaceful protests, after Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi's government swiftly suppressed mass rallies and threatened to use a draconian law to detain protestors indefinitely without trial.

"We believe citizens of any country should be allowed to peacefully assemble and express their views," a US State Department official said when commenting on the crackdown of unprecedented street protests in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur this month.

One called for electoral reform which drew some 30,000 people, and another by at least 8,000 ethnic Indians last Sunday was aimed at highlighting racial discrimination.

The rallies were the biggest in a decade and took place despite bans ordered by police, who broke up the gatherings with tear gas, water cannons and baton charges.

The US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, did not go beyond his succinct statement, which was the first reaction by Washington on the rare outpouring of anti-government dissent in Malaysia.

The protests led to a veiled threat by Abdullah on Tuesday to use the controversial Internal Security Act (ISA) that allows for detention without trial to stem the dissent.

Rights groups, who have campaigned to have the ISA abolished, cautioned the prime minister against using such laws.

"It is a huge mistake for Prime Minister Abdullah to even consider using this unjust law to crack down on peaceful demonstrators," said T. Kumar, Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific advocacy director in Washington.

"We strongly urge him not to use it."

Amnesty has also called on the US authorities to check whether excessive force was used in quelling the recent demonstrations and to oppose any use of the ISA against peaceful protests, he said.

Abdullah argued that the ISA was "a preventive measure to spare the nation from untoward incidents that can harm the prevailing peace and harmony and create all sorts of adverse things."

"So, I don't know (when to invoke the ISA), but ISA will be there. When it is appropriate to use it, it will be used," he said.

Malaysia is holding more than 100 people under the ISA, about 80 of them alleged Islamic militants. Rights groups have long campaigned for them to be freed or brought to trial.

The legislation allows for two-year detention periods that can be renewed indefinitely. The government maintains that detention without trial is needed as a first line of defence against terrorism.

US intelligence consultancy Stratfor, in a bulletin to clients this week, said the Malaysian demonstrations signaled "instability" ahead of national elections expected early next year.

"The recent demonstrations signal chaos and unpredictability to come before elections are announced, but Badawi's grip on internal security is not going to loosen any time soon," it said.


28 November, 2007

Hindraf- Intolerant Malaysia, tolerant faith?

Unprecedented street protests by ethnic Indians have opened up a new fault line in Malaysia's tense race relations, posing a major problem for the government as it faces elections, analysts said.

While Malays control the political scene and the Chinese population is dominant in business, Indians complain they run a distant third in terms of wealth, education and opportunities.

Analysts said that although they had long been a silent minority, many ethnic Indians have become radicalised by the increasing
"Islamisation" of Malaysia, which minorities see as undermining their rights.

The destruction of hundreds of Hindu temples in recent years, sometimes with bulldozers moving in even as devotees were praying, has also caused intense anger.

"The Indians have become alienated and that has basically transformed the nature of resistance," said political analyst P. Ramasamy, noting that ethnic Indian professionals were well represented at the protest.

"The character of struggle has changed. It has taken on a Hindu form -- Hinduism versus Islam. And this is something that should not have taken place in a multi-racial society."

"I think it's very clear the MIC cannot speak on behalf of the Indian community any more," Ramasamy said. "Elections are around the corner and whether their majority will be reduced we will see."

Intolerant Malaysia, tolerant faith?

(28 Nov 2007, 1136 hrs IST,Tarun Vijay)

When Hindus gathered courage and protested in an unprecedented solidarity on November 26 in Kuala Lumpur, they were crushed brutally by the Malay police using chemicals in the water cannons. None of those who had put up a united front against a cartoon created in Denmark felt anything bad or condemnable in the injustices meted out to the Hindus in an Islamic country. When it's a question of Hindus getting unfair treatment in a Muslim majority region, the 'civil, sophisticated and articulate' Muslim intellectuals take refuge in the statement that it's a matter concerning a foreign country. But when it's a question regarding a cartoon or a fatwa for beheading a writer, they say -we are a global Ummah, anything happening anywhere to Muslims is our common concern! All big lies and a bigger hypocrisy traded in the name of a religion.

This year Diwali was not celebrated openly by Malaysian Hindus in protest against the demolition of one of their most revered shrines, the hundred-year-old Maha Mariamman temple in Padang Jawa. In the last fifteen years, hundreds of Hindu temples have been demolished and the number of forcible conversions and unfair treatment on religious grounds has been constantly increasing. The tragic case of Revathi was just a recent one.

Moorthy Maniam was a Malaysian Hindu hero. After he died, a group of Muslims claimed he'd made a deathbed conversion. Despite his widow's protests, the Sharia courts declared that he should be buried as a Muslim. “They used Moorthy to show that in this country, Islam is supreme", complained his lawyer.

In the 1980s, Malaysia's Sharia courts were given equal power to the civil courts, creating two parallel legal systems. But while the Sharia courts are constantly trying to extend their authority, secular courts are reluctant to challenge them.

Malaysia which tries to woo Indian tourists with an aggressive media campaign claiming-it's a 'truly Asian' destination, has become a hotbed of Islamic intolerance and barbarities on non-Muslims. It has sixty per cent Malay Muslim population with Chinese, mostly Buddhists, comprising twenty-five per cent. Malays of Indian origin constitute about eight per cent and Tamil Hindus are ninety per cent amongst the Indian origin population. There is a fair number of Indian Muslims too.

Indian Malays were taken there by the British as plantation workers in the late nineteenth century and have now become an inseparable part of Malay life. In fact, from the second century to the 14th century, Malay Peninsula has seen Hindu kingdoms and a way of life beautifully expressed in arts, culture, language and Shaivite values. Sanskrit's influence over their language is visible all over, yet the Malay Muslims choose to express their affinity with the Arabs and deny their ancestral heritage.

Politically, Indian-origin Malays follow the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), established in 1946 as an instrument of independence from the British rule. Malaysia, freed in 1957, remained a practising pluralistic society till Islamic fundamentalism grew in the last two decades bringing Arab money and intolerance with it. Now it has parallel Islamic courts, functioning along with the civil ones, which are obviously more influential.

Malay Hindus have their leader in Datuk Seri Samy Vellu, president of the MIC and a minister in the14-party coalition government who mustered courage to protest against temple demolitions by declaring a 'private' Diwali this year. However, instead of being supported by the country’s Muslim intelligentsia, he was booed, and in a rally addressed by Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, people demanded his ouster from the cabinet as a 'trouble maker'.

Hindus seems to be losing hope on all fronts and are making last-ditch efforts to attract attention by any which way to their sorry state of affairs. An umbrella organisation of thirty Hindu NGOs has been formed under the banner of Hindu Rights Action Force or HINDRAF that had called for the successful demonstration on November 26. Earlier a court had banned the rally – but HINDRAF workers – gathered in an unprecedented number – twenty thousand by a modest count –defied the ban and had their voice heard throughout the world. A nation, which has seen centuries of Hindu influence nurturing its socio-cultural milieu, suddenly turned against her own people when Arab-Islamic influence grew, resulting in the dispossession of minority rights. It has tried now to completely eradicate its Hindu history being taught in the schools, including the descriptions regarding ancient Ganga Negara (2nd to 11th century), Langka Asuka(2nd to 14th century) and Sri Vijaya empire(3rd to 14th century) in different parts of the earlier greater Malay Peninsula.

It's a reflection of India's secular government that the Malay Hindus of Indian origin chose to knock at the British doors, strangely petitioning the British government, Malaysia's former colonial ruler, to pay two million dollars each to every Indian-origin Malay as compensation for 'putting them in a situation of darkness and exploitation' which was a result of bringing their ancestors as indentured labourers a century before. They are discriminated on religious grounds and economic opportunities are not available to them.

"Over the years Indians have been marginalised in this country and we now want the same rights as enjoyed by other communities," M. Kulasegaran, opposition lawmaker with the Democratic Action Party (DAP), told the media. "This gathering is unprecedented, this is a community that can no longer tolerate discrimination." said HINDRAF leader P. Uthayakumar. The demonstrators had gathered at Batu Caves Hindu temple and many of them carried posters of Mahatma Gandhi. But, sadly, there was no murmur amongst the Indian authorities in Delhi or in their High Commission in Kuala Lumpur about it.

Indian secularism prevents South Block to go vocal on injustices meted out to Indian-origin people if they happen to be Hindus. Only Muslim sensibilities are deemed fit to be entertained by Indian envoys abroad. This message further emboldens the jihadi intolerant rulers to take Hindus in their country for granted as a forlorn people for whom none would bother. Malay Chinese are given a voice by Singapore's influential leaders of Chinese origin like Lee Kuan Yew and Christians get full support from the US, UK and other European governments. Only Hindus, who have no other country on this earth but India to look upon for any moral support, are left abandoned.

Sometimes I feel amazed to see that how highly educated people who shine in politics and academics can be so ruthless towards their own fellow citizens as to deny them basic human rights. Like a place of worship and a choice to adhere to a faith of choice. Why have the societal ruptures been so visibly strong in countries where Islamists form majority? We have enough such examples from Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Malaysian incidents that have a common thread – wherever the Muslims are in majority the rights and freedom of the non-Muslims are severely curtailed.

Take for example Kashmir. It's the only state in India which is a Muslim majority and see what happened there. Hundreds of temples were razed, Hindus were forced to flee, their women were raped, children were killed and houses forcibly occupied. The Muslims in Kashmir have been enjoying a special status under Constitution's Article 370, hardly any central law is enforced there, the number of income-tax payers is among the lowest and unlike other poor states, J&K gets 90 per cent central financial assistance as grants and only 10 per cent as loans. Still there are complaints that a 'Hindu central government discriminates'. The other minority, Buddhists mostly located in Ladakh , too, are harshly treated and discriminated against by the mainly Sunni Muslim governance in Srinagar. The Buddhist Association, Leh, has been submitting memorandums to the central government about how Buddhist youths are denied jobs and a fair chance to join the Kashmir Administrative service and professional colleges in spite of clearing the entrance exams. The number of Buddhist minorities is fast decreasing causing concern amongst their leaders. Even their dead are not allowed to be buried in Muslim-majority Kargil area and monasteries have been denied to be built.

If that can happen in a Hindu majority India's Muslim majority state, one can imagine the position of Hindus in a Muslim majority country like Pakistan. A report of the United Nations Committee on the International Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD Committee) says, 'The Constitution of Pakistan segregates its citizens on the basis of religion; and provides preferential treatment to the Muslims. While Article 2 of the Constitution declares Islam as "the State religion of Pakistan" and the Holy Quran and Sunnah to be "the supreme law and source of guidance for legislation to be administered through laws enacted by the Parliament and Provincial Assemblies, and for policy-making by the Government", under Article 41(2) only a Muslim can become President. Further, Article 260 of the Constitution differentiates "Muslim" and "Non-Muslim" thereby facilitating and encouraging discrimination on the basis of religion.

The Constitution is so glued to providing preferential treatment to the majority Muslims that even a Hindu judge has to take the oath of office in the name of "Allah". On 24 March 2007, Justice Rana Bhagwandas, a Hindu, while being sworn in as Acting Chief Justice of Pakistan, being the senior most judge after the suspension of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, had to take oath with a Quranic prayer - "May Allah Almighty help and guide me, (A'meen)".

The Hindus and Hinduism have been maligned and hatred against them is propagated in the text books approved by the National Curriculum Wing of the Federal Ministry of Education. Among others, Hindus have been stated as "enemy of Islam" in the textbooks of Class V.

I hate to look disillusioned and always try to see something positive and hopeful for my columns but to avoid the smoke around your neck is as calumnious as to see bad where everything is otherwise resplendent with nobility. Last week I met an important Malaysian foreign dignitary over lunch at Taj Chambers, when during the course of our discussion about Asians, I mentioned the plight of Malaysian Hindus. He simply rubbished all that had appeared in the international newspapers and channels saying 'small matters are presented hundred times larger than the real quantum of gravity'. 'We are a very tolerant society'. Really?

(The author is the editor of Panchjanya, a Hindi weekly brought out by the RSS. The views expressed are his personal.)

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27 November, 2007

Just what is an Islamic car?

Malaysian national car maker Proton plans to team up with companies in Iran and Turkey to produce "Islamic cars" for the global market

Proposed by Iran, the collaboration would include installing features in automobiles such as a compass to determine the direction of Mecca for prayers, and compartments for storing the Quran and head scarves.

"What they (Iran) want to do is to call that an Islamic car. We will identify a car that we can develop and produce it in Malaysia, Iran or Turkey. For Proton, we are more than happy because we have products that we can share," said Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir, the chief executive of Proton.

Just what is an Islamic car?

The term ‘Islamic’ betrays an activity (amalan), one that is derived from the fundamental elements of the world view of Islam and it is not something indicative of ritual appearance. It refers to an activity or action and by necessity an actor.

IT WAS another Sunday morning. It had been raining the night before and it was still raining the following morning. The sky was still overcast; the sun had not been seen for days.

Not exactly the kind of welcome to the day; certainly not the kind of day that could put one in a cheerful mood. So already my temperament, much like the weather, was indecisive.

It would not take much of an impetus to decide the mood my temperance would follow. I decided, perhaps due to a spell of fleeting boredom, to read the newspaper, and that’s when it happened.

I went from being wilfully undecided to angry and insulted. But you may ask, what could have caused this sudden swing in temperament?

That which caused me to become angry and insulted was an article on Proton's “Islamic car” concept.

Reporting from Tehran, the national news agency Bernama said that, “Malaysia, together with Iran and Turkey plans to produce ‘Islamic cars’ for the global market.”

This of course was according to Proton Holdings Bhd managing director Datuk Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir. He however, did not claim the proposal was his idea, rather, according to the report the idea was mooted by Iran.

The cars are apparently “expected to have Islamic features such as the compass kiblat reading and compartments for keeping the Quran and scarves.”

A complete perusal of the article betrays the fact that the focus was not on making a car “Islamic”, but rather on using the term “Islamic” as an advertising tool purely for economic gain.

The article quoted the managing director of Proton Holdings Bhd as having said that “the car will have all the Islamic features”, a statement which assumes he knows what the term “Islamic” means, and what those features are that make a car Islamic.

Is he correct? Does he indeed know what the term “Islamic” conveys? The term “Islamic”, contrary to popular modernist belief, is not something indicative of ritual appearance.

In truth, the term “Islamic” betrays an activity (amalan), one that is derived from the fundamental elements of the worldview of Islam. As such it necessarily requires an actor (pengamal). As far as the article is concerned, the term “Islamic” refers primarily to the features associated with an inanimate object, one that by definition is devoid of an actor and by virtue of which cannot act (mengamal).

Why is this so? Clearly by virtue of the fact that we have said earlier that the term “Islamic” refers to an activity or action and by necessity an actor, logically then there must be a system of laws governing that action, namely the syariah.

Yet, how can one assume that the possibility of conceptualising a car said to be “Islamic” exists when we have pointed out that such a notion is connected to an activity and therefore a system of laws, the syariah in this case, a system interpreted not only in accordance with erudite scholarship but defined by the fundamental elements of the worldview of Islam?

Clearly, in this case they have taken the meaning of the term “Islamic” merely to refer to a ritual cloak, an outer manifestation, and even then their description of such a manifestation is absurd to say the least.

How does having a “compass kiblat reading and compartments for keeping the Quran and scarves” make the proposed so called “Islamic” car fundamentally distinct from all other cars?

German automotive designers now include a GPS system capable of pinpointing the kiblat in many of their higher-end vehicles; as far as compartment space is concerned most, if not all, car manufacturers boast numerous compartments for the storage of items, scarves included.

These car manufacturers do not specify what items may be or should be stored in these compartments; that decision is left to the consumer.

Do these automobile manufacturers advertise their vehicles as “Islamic” simply because they include these features? If the answer is “No”, then why do the Muslims feel the need to do so?

So, another important question arises: is the car a proper justifiable place for one to keep the Quran? Any good Muslim understands that there is a “right place” for everything.

Once again this right place is defined by the worldview of Islam and its related fundamental elements. As such, once a thing is afforded its rightful place in accordance with that worldview, what results is justice.

Since we affirm that there is such a thing as a “right place”, then logically there must be such a thing as a “wrong place”.

A “wrong place” will most certainly not be in accordance with the worldview of Islam and its related fundamental elements by virtue of the fact that what results is injustice, a condition which may also be equally demonstrated.

The Quran is unlike any book one may purchase from a bookstore. As the Word of God, it is supposed to be accorded the proper respect it deserves.

As such, a car is not the right place for the Quran, neither is a car’s rear windshield the right place to display verses from the Quran.

Hence, the very idea of constructing a car having “compartments for keeping the Quran, is in fact unjust and subsequently antithetical to the worldview of Islam and its related fundamental elements.

Therefore, far from being “Islamic”, the act of keeping the Quran in a car is, in fact, un-Islamic.

My concern here is that Islam and all its associated elements – namely, Islamic, Islamisation and so on – are being corrupted by those who know not, and know not they know not (la yadri wa la yadri annahu la yadri).

Islam is not a religion for the feeble-minded, nor is it the handmaiden of politics or a cliché (cogankata) for advertising, business and economics.

The fact that the Muslim world today suffers politically, economically and intellectually is due in large part to the Muslims, and not Islam.

In my opinion, far from ennobling the Muslims and the Muslim world, such proposals like an “Islamic car” bring shame, and invite unnecessary ridicule.

By Dr Syed Ali Tawfik al-Attas,
Director General
(The Star Online )

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26 November, 2007

Another Local Demonstration Gone Global

Let there be no mistake about it: We live in a globalised world. But then again, what’s new about that? Only someone totally ignorant of the history of greater Asia would be surprised to learn that our neatly-compartmentalised nation-states are, after all, bound together by a common shared history that overlaps across so many levels and interfaces. Long before the European ships arrived on our shores, Asians have been travelling all across the great land mass, making tracks from the furthest end of China, across Southeast Asia and the land of the mighty Indus, all the way to the scorching deserts of Arabia and the Gulf and down the West coast of Africa. What colonialism did, however, was to interrupt this movement of peoples, cultures and ideas in two distinct ways: Firstly by dividing the nations of Asia into distinct nation-states with fixed (and artificial) borders; and secondly by attempting to control the movement of people by commodifying human brings into human capital instead.

The net result has been the creation of the world map as we know it today, with intrusive lines rudely and crudely drawn between areas that once overlapped and communities that were once closer united to each other. The Indian Ocean, for instance, was once the corridor between South and Southeast Asia, and that is why so much of Southeast Asia (til today) bears the cultural imprint of India. It was from India that the religions, philosophies, aesthetics and norms of society and governance of Southeast Asia were derived; and it was no mere coincidence that the Malay archipelago was once referred to as ‘Greater India’, testimony to how close the two regions were – both geographically and culturally.

Sadly today the division of Asia into neat compartments has managed to sever these long-established bonds, leaving the residents of both regions confused as to why they seem so similar yet different. Many a conservative nationalist in Southeast Asia is still loathe to admit that his or her culture shares so much in common with that of India’s, while many South Asians fail to realise that much of what they regard as familiar there is also present in Southeast Asia next door.

But perhaps the biggest tragedy of all is the fate of the millions of South Asians who have settled in Southeast Asia over the centuries, who were later categorised as colonial subjects and then systematically instrumentalised and exploited by the logic of colonial development and its divisive mode of racialised capitalism. Following the retreat of the colonial powers in the wake of the Second World War, millions of people of South Asian origin were left behind in countries like Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore. Having been classified as migrants by the Western colonial powers and denied a place by the newly emerging nationalist forces of Southeast Asia, the Indians of Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries stood in that liminal space where they were neither local residents nor alien migrants, with their identity and citizenship put on a probationary basis.

The Indians of Malaysia – who are, by the way, Malaysian citizens – stand out as one community that has been triply blighted by the injustices of history, the accidents of geography and the failure of Malaysia’s divisive racialised politics for decades. This week a huge demonstration took place in the heart of Kuala Lumpur that was organised by the Malaysian Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF) that aimed to highlight the inequalities that they have suffered under for so long. The HINDRAF demonstration that was 10,000 strong was met with the now-familiar response of tear gas and baton charges by the police, and the group’s leaders were accused of all things under the sun ranging from sedition to deliberately inflaming racial tension in the country. But while the Malaysian government predictably tries to dismiss this massive public outburst of anger and frustration, it remains a fact that Malaysians of South Asian origin still rank among the poorest in the country, are less represented in the local universities, and have largely been left to fend for themselves. Furthermore to add insult to injury over the past two years scores of Hindu temples have been demolished under the eyes of the same government that claimed to be sensitive to the voice of the Malaysian people. Needless to say, all of this has contributed only to worsening racial ties in Malaysia and has brought to the world’s attention the plight of one significant minority in multicultural Malaysia today.

Which brings us back to where it started, and the globalised world we live in today. Globalisation has merely developed upon the same communications and information technologies of the past, and accelerated the process of information gathering and dissemination as never before. While the Malaysian police were spraying the demonstrators with tear gas and water-cannons at lunchtime, by the afternoon of the same fateful Sunday images of the soaked and beaten demonstrators were already appearing on the internet via Youtube.com and other such sites. The reaction from Hindus worldwide has been quick, and now there is much speculation about how – or rather when – the Hindu lobby in India, Europe and the United States will react. As was the case of the concerted global reaction of the Chinese diaspora community to the anti-Chinese pogroms in Indonesia of 1998, the recent crackdown on Hindus of Indian origin in Malaysia may well lead to a wider-than-expected reaction from Hindus all over the world.

Globalisation has therefore proved to be a boon for minorities worldwide, who no longer feel that they are isolated and vulnerable before the onslaught of the majority around them. Thanks to the internet and improved media communication services today, even the plight of the smallest minority group anywhere may soon become a matter of international concern and debate. The Malaysian government, typically, has reacted to these developments with its own Jurassic brand of institutional inertia and denial syndrome, decrying any attempt to highlight the situation of the minorities in the country as yet another episode in the ongoing devilish plot to tarnish the country’s image by the ever-present ‘neo-colonial’ forces of the West. But it has to be remembered that those Malaysian Hindus were not being bashed and gassed by the police of a Western country, but rather by the Malaysian police themselves. And the Malaysian Hindu temples have likewise been levelled to the ground not by some multinational corporate hegemon but rather by the corporations and corporate interests of Malaysia, mostly homegrown. No, the plight of Malaysia’s Hindu minority is a singular Malaysian problem and the responsibility for it falls on the Malaysian government itself. In the meantime, while the government wrestles with yet another instance of people’s power taking to the streets, another local demonstration has gone global.

Written by Farish A. Noor
Taken from "The Other Malaysia"

Meanwhile, ethnic Indian activists claimed victory Monday as sedition charges against them were dropped, a day after they mounted an anti-discrimination protest broken up with tear gas and water cannons.

About 1,000 supporters carried the three freed activists out of the courthouse on their shoulders before a tense standoff with security forces outside a Hindu temple where they went to give thanks.

"We are seeking justice for the Indian community and today's verdict shows that we have made a small step in the correct direction," said P. Waythamoorthy, chairman of the Hindraf rights group, which organised the demonstration.

"It is a victory for the Indian community in Malaysia, but there is still a lot more work to do," he said, after the court ruled the charges must be dropped because prosecutors failed to provide transcripts of speeches.

The three Hindraf members had faced three years in jail for speeches earlier this month in which they criticised preferential treatment for majority Muslim Malays.

Hindraf said the speeches touched on freedom of religion and inequality for ethnic Indians, who make up eight percent of the population, against Malay Muslims at 60 percent and ethnic Chinese at 26 percent.

The Chinese population is dominant in business while Malays control the ruling party, the United Malays National Organisation. Indians complain they run a distant third in skills, wealth and education.

Analysts said the unprecedented street protests by ethnic Indians have opened up a new faultline in race relations that are already tense, and presented the government with a major problem as it faces elections tipped for early 2008.

"It is quite clear we will have an emboldened community willing to fight for their rights. It's almost a renaissance or a rebirth," said political commentator Charles Santiago.

Malaysian Indians interviewed Monday defended the protests, saying they were forced onto the streets by a government that had ignored their grievances for decades.

"I think its a stepping stone for a better future, although change may not come overnight," communications executive Thavamalar Muniandy told AFP in the city's ethnic Indian Brickfields district.

"In my opinion the protest achieved its objective. We got the world to focus on us and the government can no longer ignore our concerns," said 24-year-old law student Sivamalar Ganapathy.

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25 November, 2007

Hindraf - Ethnic Indians protest in Malaysia-update

Ethnic Indians protest in Malaysia

HINDRAF Rally, Kuala Lumpur 25/11/2007

Indian protest rocks Malaysia ahead of polls

Malaysia's ethnic Indian community staged its biggest anti-government street protest on Sunday when more than 10,000 protesters defied tear gas and water cannon to voice complaints of racial discrimination.

The sheer size of the protest, called by a Hindu rights group, represents a political challenge for the government as it heads toward possible early elections in the next few months.

"Malaysian Indians have never gathered in such large numbers in this way...," said organizer P. Uthaya Kumar, of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf).

"They are frustrated and have no job opportunities in the government or the private sector. They are not given business licenses or places in university," he said, adding that Indians were also incensed by some recent demolitions of Hindu temples.Police fired tear gas outside Kuala Lumpur's iconic twin towers and five-star hotels. Curious tourists ventured out to take a look but rushed back inside once the gas stung their eyes.

Political columnist Zainon Ahmad said the protest would shake the Indian community's establishment party, the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), a junior member of the ruling coalition.

"The MIC is severely challenged on this matter," he said.

MIC leader S. Samy Vellu, who is also works minister, denied the protest spelt trouble for his party. "We represent the Indian community and will remain so," he said in a statement.

But Vellu, who has himself voiced unease over a recent Hindu temple demolition by local authorities outside the capital, added: "There is still a lot to be done for the Indians and we will continue with our struggle."
Read more here

RIGHTS-MALAYSIA: Ethnic Indians on the Warpath

Malaysia’s Hindus -- mostly Tamil descendents of 19th century labourers -- on Sunday ignored warnings by Prime Minister Abdul Badawi and braved tear gas and police batons to protest alleged official discrimination and demand a fair share of the national wealth.

Their street demonstration, the first on this large scale since independence in 1957, shut down the city centre that is overlooked by the gleaming Twin Towers, the capital’s famed landmark.

"By protesting in large numbers we have shown that we are not cowed," said lawyer P. Uthayakumar, a key leader in HINDRAF. "The government cannot ignore us anymore. We are a force to reckon with," he told IPS between dodging tear gas canisters. He added that HINDRAF will step up its protest to fight for justice, mostly for poorly paid labourers in factories and giant plantation companies who are forced to compete with at least three million foreign workers for low-paying jobs.

An economic slowdown, rising food and fuel prices and competition for jobs has hurt the Indians harder than other races, including the majority Malays and the Chinese who control much of the business.

Opposition lawmakers condemned the excessive use of force against people who only want to voice their grievances in a peaceful manner.

"This excessive use of power is completely unjustified," said opposition leader Lim Kit Siang in a statement. "I hold Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi personally responsible for the injuries people suffered. The people will show their rejection of violence in the upcoming polls."

Ethnic Indians, who make up about eight percent of the population of 26 million, complain that majority Malays, using unchecked political power, have kept for themselves employment, education and business opportunities.

"We have been deprived ...we want our fair share," Uthayakumar said. "Not only are we deprived but our temples are destroyed, our schools neglected and our people suffer from terrible neglect."

Officials ignore such arguments saying all communities get a fair share. But the complaints have found a receptive audience among the long suffering Tamil masses.

Read more here.

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Hindraf - Ethnic Indians protest in Malaysia

Hindraf leaders give impromptu briefing at temple (24th November)

Hindraf’s promise that every Indian in Malaysia will get RM1mil through its class action suit against the British government is an ingenious way of attracting attention but logic tells us that the suit is unlikely to succeed.

IT’S mission impossible – to seek RM14tril from Britain for bringing indentured labourers to this country and exploiting them for the last 150 years.

And there is the promise that every Indian in Malaysia will get RM1mil through this class action suit filed by the lawyers of Hindraf, the Hindu Rights Action Force.


About 20,000 protesters demonstrated under the shadows of Kuala Lumpur’s iconic Twin Towers after their efforts to petition the British High Commission was thwarted by the police with tear gas and chemical-laced water cannon, according to Malaysiakini.

Malaysian police have used tear gas and water cannons against a street protest by thousands of ethnic Indians in the capital, Kuala Lumpur.

Many ethnic Indians have complained that they are marginalised in terms of employment and business by a government dominated by politicians from the majority of ethnic Malays.

Malaysian authorities had already cracked down violently on a protest that was critical of the government earlier in November.

Hamish MacDonald, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Kuala Lumpur, said on Sunday: "Ethnic Indians are one of the minority ethnic groups in Malaysia. These people believe they are given a raw deal by the government.

"The Malaysia government has laws which favour the Malay Muslim majority, and the ethnic Indians feel that they are not represented properly.

"They tried to hand over a petition at the British High Commission this morning, because they feel that this disadvantage goes back to the colonial days.

"Since then the protest has moved towards the city centre and turned violent.

"The police have fired water cannons and many, many rounds of tear gas into the faces of the protesters. The protest has since turned into a street battle," he said.


Protesters denied official warnings to stay away from the planned rally in the capital, which had been organised by a Hindu rights group to draw attention to complaints of government discrimination against the minority ethnic Indian community.

Witnesses said Indians had regrouped a few hundred metres from British High Commission to call on the former colonial ruler to make reparations for bringing Indians to Malaysia as indentured labour just over a century ago.

A lawsuit filed recently seeks $4 trillion in compensation for the estimated two-million ethnic Indians whose ancestors were brought over to Malaysia as labourers by Britain in the 1800s.

Ethnic Indians make up about seven per cent of the population.

Forming 60 per cent of the nation's 27 million people, ethnic Malay Muslims make up the majority, while 26 per cent are Chinese.

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24 November, 2007

PM warns ethnic Indian minority not to join banned rally

Malaysia's prime minister urged ethnic Indians Saturday to shun a protest aimed at airing their economic grievances, saying its planners were suspected of encouraging people to rebel.

The Hindu Rights Action Force, an influential non government group, wants thousands of people to demonstrate outside the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday to highlight how Malaysia's ethnic Indian minority has remained largely poor under both British colonial rule and the present government dominated by Malay Muslims.

Authorities have declared the rally illegal and stepped up security amid concerns of potential violence.

Three ethnic Indian activists were arrested and charged in court with sedition Friday, but Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi denied that it was because they were the key organizers of the rally.

"They are deemed to have gone against the Sedition Act and we had to take action," Abdullah told Malaysian reporters in Uganda, where he was attending the Commonwealth summit.

"We are not drumming up charges against them," the national news agency, Bernama, quoted Abdullah as saying. "For some time now, these three people have been getting carried away saying things that are against the law."

Twenty-five Indian non-governmental organisations here deny that they will support the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) rally tomorrow.
Federal Territory MIC chairman and national information chief Datuk M. Saravanan said: "Hindraf's claims are baseless and the Indians here will not support the gathering.

"As Malaysians, we have lived in peace and street protests are not a part of our culture.

"I urge the parties to discuss and resolve the matter. History has shown that demonstrations always end in violence."

MIC information chief M Saravanan today slammed the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) for allegedly being a used by opposition parties to garner support, reports Malaysiakini.

Meanwhile, The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) is deeply concerned about the arrest of three key figures of Hindu rights group, Hindraf under the Sedition Act for planning a rally on 25 Nov, in which 10 000 Indians are called to submit a memorandum to the British High Commission.

Police took Hindraf legal adviser, P. Uthayakumar from his office this morning and refused to confirm his whereabouts until about 3:00pm. Two more Hindraf leaders, Ganapathy Rao and P. Waythamoorthy were also nabbed around the same time in the afternoon. The trio are expected to be charged in court today under the Sedition Act.

Online news site Malaysiakini.com reported that the police also obtained a rare ex-parte order to ban Hindraf and all potential participants from attending the rally on 25 Nov. The application was made under Section 98 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

Prior to this, Inspector General Musa Hassan, Indian party President (MIC) S. Samy Vellu and the deputy minister of Internal Security, Johari Baharom issued warnings to the public not to attend the rally. Police has also rejected the permit for the rally and its subsequent appeal by Hindraf. Roadblocks have been mounted to prevent potential participants from entering the city. This is a repeat of the blocks imposed prior to the 10 Nov rally organised by civil society to demand for free and fair elections.

In September, Hindraf filed a class-action suit against Britain for bringing Indians to Malaya as labor and failed to incorporate their rights in the British-drafted Constitution of the Federation of Malaya, or the Reid Commission, to prepare for Malaya's independence. The rally is to petition the Queen of England to support the suit by appointing a Queen's Counsel to represent the Indians.

CIJ is concerned that the broadly worded Sedition Act has been used to stifle the expression of concerns of individuals and groups in Malaysia. The police also cited the Sedition Act to raid the offices of Uthayakumar and Waythamoorthy, on the pretext of confiscating a booklet entitled `50 years of Violations of the Federal Constitution by the Malaysian Government'. The Sedition Act is an outdated law that gives certain parties unchallenged power to decide on the definitions of sedition and the opportunity for abuse.

We are also concerned that the police and the government continue to employ high handed tactics to prevent freedom of assembly. The official claims that public rallies can turn violent have shown the contrary when, without police interference, participants were able to assemble peacefully as in the case of the recent BERSIH rally on 10 Nov.

The arrest, the constant rejection of permit for public rallies and other police attempts to thwart exercise of freedom of expression are blatant disrespect to the citizen's democratic rights.

CIJ calls on the police to immediately release the Hindraf leaders and allow the rally to proceed as planned and to provide sufficient opportunities for the people to exercise their rights to assemble peacefully, as guaranteed under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution.

CIJ calls on the government to abolish the Sedition Act or at least to limit the scope within which the law is applied, as history has shown its consistent use against political opponents of the government in Malaysia.

The Centre for Independent Journalism, Malaysia (CIJ) aspires for a society that is democratic, just and free, where all people will enjoy free media and the freedom to express, seek, and impart information.

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23 November, 2007

Saudi Kidnap, Rape Victim Faces Lashing for 'Crime' of Being Alone With Man Not Related to Her ?

* Woman, 19, gets six months prison, 200 lashes for meeting with unrelated man
* Group of seven raped her and the man, from whom she was retrieving photos
* After lawyer protests light sentences, rapists’ sentences increased
* Victim’s punishment doubled for talking to the media

A 19-year-old Saudi woman who was kidnapped, beaten and gang raped by seven men who then took photos of their victim and threatened to kill her, was sentenced under the country's Islamic-based law to 90 lashes for the "crime" of being alone with a man not related to her.

The woman is appealing to Saudi King Abdullah to intervene in the controversial case.

"I ask the king to consider me as one of his own daughters and have mercy on me and set me free from the 90 lashes," the woman said in an emotional interview published Monday in the Saudi Gazette.

"I was shocked at the verdict. I couldn't believe my ears. Ninety lashes! Ninety lashes!" the woman, identified only as "G," told the English-language newspaper.

Five months after the harsh judgment, her sentence has yet to be carried out, "G" said she waits in fear every day for the phone call telling her to submit to authorities to carry out her punishment.

Lashes are usually spread over several days. About 50 lashes are given at a time.

The woman's ordeal began a year ago when she was blackmailed into meeting a man who threatened to tell her family they were having a relationship outside wedlock, which is illegal in the desert kingdom, according to a report in The Scotsman newspaper.

She met the man at a shopping mall and, after driving off together, the blackmailer's car was stopped by two other cars bearing men wielding knives and meat cleavers.

During the next three hours, the woman was raped 14 times by her seven captors.

One of the men took pictures of her naked with his mobile phone and threatened to blackmail her with them.

Back at home in a town near the eastern city of Qatif, the young woman did not tell her family of her ordeal. Nor did she inform the authorities, fearing the rapist would circulate the pictures of her naked. She also attempted suicide.

Five of the rapists were arrested and given jail terms ranging from 10 months to five years. The prosecutor had asked for the death penalty for the men.

The Saudi justice ministry, however, said rape could not be proved because there were no witnesses and the men had recanted confessions they made during interrogation.

The judges, basing their decision on Islamic law, also decided to sentence the woman and her original blackmailer to lashes for being alone together in his car.

Meanwhile, a Saudi Arabian human rights attorney is asking the government to allow him to represent a woman who was gang-raped — and then sentenced to prison for speaking out about the case.

The attorney, Abdulrahman al-Lahim, had his license revoked last week by a judge for speaking to the Saudi-controlled media about the case, al-Lahim told CNN.

The judge more than doubled the sentence against al-Lahim’s 19-year-old client because she spoke to the media about the case, a court source told Arab News, an English-language Middle Eastern daily newspaper.

The case has sparked outrage among human rights groups.

Barring the lawyer from representing the victim in court is almost equivalent to the rape crime itself, said Fawzeyah al-Oyouni, founding member of the newly formed Saudi Association for the Defense of Women’s Rights.

This is not just about the girl, it’s about every woman in Saudi Arabia, she said. We’re fearing for our lives and the lives of our sisters and our daughters and every Saudi woman out there. We’re afraid of going out in the streets.

Human Rights Watch said it has called on Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah to immediely void the verdict and drop all charges against the rape victim and to order the court to end its harassment of her lawyer.

Help Young Saudi Woman "G", sign petition here.

Read also Lashing, stoning, mutilating: Islamic law is barbaric and outdated. Defend the case of Islam. by Abdullah Mohammed

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Punsters deserve to be drawn and quoted

There was a man who entered a local paper's pun contest. He sent in ten different puns, in the hope that at least one of the puns would win. Unfortunately, no pun in ten did.

Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, but when they lit a fire in the craft it sank -- proving once and for all that you can't have your kayak and heat it, too.

There was once a wise man who loved a beautiful maiden, but she lived in a marsh where his car always got stuck and, besides, her father had a gun, so he never did get close enough to tell her of his passion. However, she had a more energetic suitor who purchased amphibious tires for his car and, when her father was asleep, speedily carried her off.

Moral: Treads rush in where wise men fear to fool.

A lion was prancing through the jungle one day, roaring at the top of his voice for all to hear: "I am king of the jungle, for my mighty strength and lion-like prowess strikes fear into all other creatures!"

An eagle lands on a nearby tree branch and says, "Not so fast, Leo buddy!" the eagle calls. "For it is *I* who is the rightful king of the jungle, as my wings enable me to attack from above, and my beak and talons rip my victims to shreds!"

Whereupon a skunk walks calmly out of the trees. Approaching the ferocious feline and fearful flighted one, he meekly says, "You're BOTH wrong! Needing neither fight nor flight, I disable my would-be opponents most skillfully! Wanna sniff?"

And the three animals engage in a heated argument over who is the rightful king of the jungle. While they argue, oblivious to their surroundings, a huge grizzly bear walks up and eats them all - hawk, lion, and stinker.

One day, an elderly woman was walking along the street, coming home from the supermarket. Her bag of groceries was especially heavy that day, and as she passed Nathan Hale's Used Cars, she got an idea that she could drive herself to the store and save a lot of shoe leather, time and aching muscles. She walks into the car dealership and, as it just so happens, gets the owner himself. He asks her what kind of car she wants and she replies,

"Well, sonny, I can't remember the name exactly, but it has something to do with hate or anger."

The owner replies, "Well, let's see... Oh yes, you want a Plymouth Fury! We have a couple on the lot. What color do you prefer?"

The lady has some trouble explaining the exact color to him, so she reaches into her shopping bag, takes out an ear of corn, strips down the shucks and says, "I want this color sonny."

To which Nathan replies, "Ma'am I'm sorry, but we don't have any in this color. Could I show you a nice blue one?"

"No son, I want this color."

"But ma'am, they didn't make that color! Maybe a cherry red one would suit you?" says the owner, obviously worried about losing a sale.

By this time, the old lady gets mad, and starts throwing things at the owner, thereby chasing him out of the office and into the lot. One of the salesmen, coming into the office from the back door, notices the disruption and asks the secretary what the old woman was so upset about.

The secretary replies, "Apparently, Hale hath no Fury like the woman's corn!"

What do you call three rabbits in a row, hopping backwards simultaneously?

A receding hareline.

Show me where Stalin's buried and I'll show you a communist plot.

Show me a famous composer's liquor cabinet and I'll show you Beethoven's Fifth.

Tibetian housewife upon entering her smoke-filled kitchen: "Oh, my baking yak!"

Show me the first president's dentures, and I'll show you the George Washington Bridge.

A man recently invented a knife that cuts four loaves of bread simultaneously. He calls his invention a four-loaf cleaver.

Santa's helpers are subordinate clauses.

Modern philsophy: I'm pink; therefore, I'm Spam.

Two peanuts were walking in Central Park, one was assaulted.

As the great Jedi English teacher was quoted in saying, "metaphors be with you."

If I hated my house and fell in love with my office building, would that be an edifice complex?

Two molecules are walking down the street and they run in to each other. One says to the other, "Are you alright?"

"No I lost an electron!"

"Are you sure"

"I'm positive !"

A group of chess enthusiasts had checked into a hotel, and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After about an hour, the manager came out of the office and asked them to disperse. "But why?", they asked, as they moved off. "Because," he said, "I can't stand chess nuts boasting in an open foyer."

A doctor made it his regular habit to stop off at a bar for a hazelnut daiquiri on his way home. The bartender knew of his habit, and would always have the drink waiting at precisely 5:03 p.m. One afternoon, as the end of the work day approached, the bartender was dismayed to find that he was out of hazelnut extract. Thinking quickly, he threw together a daiquiri made with hickory nuts and set it on the bar.

The doctor came in at his regular time, took one sip of the drink and exclaimed, "This isn't a hazelnut daiquiri!" "No, I'm sorry", replied the bartender, "it's a hickory daiquiri, doc."

A hungry African lion was roaming through the jungle looking for something to eat. He came across two men. One was sitting under a tree and reading a book; the other was typing away on his typewriter. The lion quickly pounced on the man reading the book and devoured him.

Even the king of the jungle knows that readers digest and writers cramp.

A guy goes to a psychiatrist. "Doc, I keep having these alternating recurring dreams. First I'm a teepee; then I'm a wigwam; then I'm a teepee; then I'm a wigwam. It's driving me crazy. What's wrong with me?" The doctor replies: "It's very simple. You're two tents."

A man went to his dentist because he feels something wrong in his mouth. The dentist examines him and says, "that new upper plate I put in for you six months ago is eroding. What have you been eating?" The man replies, "all I can think of is that about four months ago my wife made some asparagus and put some stuff on it that was delicious...Hollandaise sauce. I loved it so much I now put it on everything --- meat, toast, fish, vegetables, everything."

"Well," says the dentist, "that's probably the problem. Hollandaise sauce is made with lots of lemon juice, which is highly corrosive. It's eaten away your upper plate. I'll make you a new plate, and this time use chrome." "Why chrome?" asks the patient. To which the dentist replies, "It's simple. Everyone knows that there's no plate like chrome for the Hollandaise!"

An Indian chief had three wives, each of whom was pregnant. The first gave birth to a boy. The chief was so elated he built her a teepee made of deer hide. A few days later, the second gave birth, also to a boy. The chief was very happy. He built her a teepee made of antelope hide. The third wife gave birth a few days later, but the chief kept the details a secret. He built this one a two story teepee, made out of a hippopotamus hide. He challenged the tribe to guess what had occurred. Many tried, unsuccessfully.

Finally, one young brave declared that the third wife had given birth to twin boys.

"Correct," said the chief. "How did you figure it out?" The warrior answered, "It's elementary. The value of the squaw of the hippopotamus is equal to the sons of the squaws of the other two hides."

Very early one morning two birds are sitting at the side of a large puddle of oil. They see a worm on the other side. So... the one flies over and the other one swims through - which one gets to the worm first?

The one who swam, of course, because "da oily boid gets da woim"

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22 November, 2007

Malaysia boleh, Malaysian sues Britain over ethnic Indians' woes

An ethnic Indian in Malaysia is using an audacious strategy to highlight the plight of his mostly impoverished community by suing Britain, the country's former colonial ruler, for $4 trillion.

The Malaysian government dismisses the case as baseless, but lawyer Waytha Moorthy is determined to pursue it, even vowing to appeal to Britain's Queen Elizabeth to appoint lawyers for the Indian community, which he says is too poor to find its own.
Moorthy wants Britain to pay damages of 1 million sterling ($2.06 million) to each of Malaysia's 2 million ethnic Indians for rights abuses he traces to colonial-era labor schemes that brought their ancestors to Malaysia as indentured workers.

"We are seeking compensation because we were permanently colonized during British rule, and now, under the government of the ethnic Malays," Moorthy told Reuters.

"We have lost touch with our roots and have been suppressed so far," said Moorthy, who accuses British officials of failing to honor their responsibility to protect ethnic Indians when they granted independence to Malaysia in 1957.

In colonial times, many impoverished Indians and Chinese flocked to work and settle in Malaysia, drawn by government schemes meant to attract cheap labor for the country's then lucrative rubber estates and tin mines, he added.


Some might feel that Moorthy, who paid court fees of more than 2,000 pounds to file his case in London's Royal Courts of Justice, has already got a run for his money from the Malaysian newspaper headlines that have trumpeted his story.

But the episode highlights a very real dilemma: after 50 years of independence, ethnic Indians, most of whom are Hindu, own just 1.5 percent of the country's national wealth.

The group, which forms about eight percent of Malaysia's 26 million people, says a decades-old affirmative action plan for the country's Malay Muslim majority has deprived it of opportunities, and the government has done little to improve living standards.

The affirmative action plan, adopted after deadly race riots in 1969, favors politically dominant Malays in housing, education, businesses, jobs and state contracts. Ethnic Indians say the policy is discriminatory.

Poor education further cripples their chances of upward social mobility, forcing them to continue being laborers, although some are now losing out to cheaper foreign workers.

"Indians have suffered under the Muslim-majority Malay government and also during British government rule for the past 200 years," said Moorthy.

His suit also asks the British courts to declare the Malaysian constitution void for not safeguarding the rights of ethnic Indians, and seeks British citizenship for the group.

Moorthy said he was gathering 100,000 signatures for a petition to Queen Elizabeth to appoint lawyers to represent the Indian community, which was too poor to pay its own legal costs, which he estimated would reach a million pounds.

"We only want justice in the United Kingdom courts," he added. "Whatever justice is given to us we will accept."

(taken from Yahoo! news - Oddly Enough News)

Malaysia and the Myth of ‘Tanah Melayu’ (Part I)

Yet the editorials in the vernacular press are baying for blood and Meng Chee, they insist, must be brought to book. Amidst this furore of chest-thumping theatrics and protestations of communal insult and outrage, we hear the communitarians among us blare out again and again: ‘Jangan tunduk’, ‘Defend our pride’, ‘kurang ajar’ and so forth. No, reason and rational debate are no longer welcomed in Malaysia that is ‘truly Asia’, and this homeland for some will demand its pound of flesh from others. Meng Chee is not the first and certainly will not be the last to suffer from the slighted sensitivities of those whose comfort zones and essentialised identities are sacrosanct and inviolable. Previously others have also been brought to the village tribunal of the mob for allegedly insulting race and religion as well. (Here I write from bitter experience myself.)

We are sustained by myths only as long as they are empowering, inspiring, instrumental and serve our interests; yet when those very same myths provide us with little else than the false comfort of an unreconstructed nostalgia for a past that never existed, then they turn into cages that imprison us for life. The myth of a unique European ‘civilisational genius’ has only helped to parochialise Europe even more; the staid discourse of ‘Asian values’ merely denies the fact that Asian civilisations would not have developed as they did without contact with the outside world; and the myth of a pure and uninterrupted development of Indo-Aryan culture has only opened the way for the rise of right-wing Hindutva Fascists in the Indian subcontinent. Notwithstanding their claims to standing proud and tall, the demagogues who utter such pedestrian nonsense remain stunted, as their logic, on the stage of global history: testimony to the claim that those whose confidence is founded in stilts can only remain handicapped for life…....

The skin of the demagogue is ever so sensitive, so fragile, in the face of the sound argument. As soon as the mention of a contrary idea is made, it bristles and reacts; the hand reaches for the keris; the foot steps on the soap-box; the mouth opens to utter the word ‘May’ to be followed by the cryptic number thirteen…

Read more from The other Malaysia, Written by Farish A. Noor here.