Moving on to a new blog …

This is my last post on brideinwaiting.net. It has been a good run and I enjoyed what I wrote and, especially, discovering my insights into political and social issues.

I started the blog to write on faith issues for Christians but it got me into the political arena especially with regard to minority issues as I am from a minority religion here in Malaysia. That led me into the broader political and social issues and I became one of the multitudes of voices advocating change and participated in the momentous historical developments of the country.

As a result, I believe, I attracted a wider readership including non-Christians. So, I feel it is time to change the name of my blog to reflect a more inclusive community and to further explore writing on political and social issues.

From next week, I will be writing from my new blog 21stcenturycitizen focussing on whatever is current and relevant to life in the 21st Century!

Catch me on 21stcenturycitizencom.wordpress.com every Friday! Take note of the address and save it!

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The importance of engaging the right

I wonder if the gunman who went on a shooting spree at the two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand would have done what he did if the conservatives were engaged and felt part of the larger society in New Zealand’s political system.

The gunman is said to be an ultra-conservative person. No decent person whatever your political leanings or religion will commit the kind of crime he did. It was a lone attack and an evil crime and, frankly, no different from all the other terrorist attacks on communities of other faiths and nationalities.

But, would this gunman have been emboldened to commit such a hate crime if the far right conservatives were regarded as part of society rather than pushed into a corner? The trend in Western developed nations is to encourage multi-culturalism and respect of non-White cultures and religions. Political parties in these nations have the support of a majority of the people and that is one of the reasons for an open immigration policy allowing displaced immigrants to seek refuge in their countries and settle down there.

In the process, however, the conservative segments of the population have been, at best, sidelined if not altogether ignored. Now they have begun to assert themselves. In Germany, a new far-right party — the Alternative for Germany (AfD) — was founded in 2013. In 2017, for the first time, it won 94 seats in the Bundestag. It is the largest German opposition party and opposes Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union’s (centre-right) immigration policy and is known for its euroscepticism and belief in the alleged dangers posed by Germany’s Muslim population.

France’s far-right populist party, the National Party, after suffering several defeats in general elections, has rebranded itself as the Reassemblement National Party in the hope of winning more support for its conservative agenda of national sovereignty, native inhabitants “first”, euroscepticism, and strict immigration laws. Recent polls seem to suggest that it is ahead of French president Emmanuelle Macron’s LREM Party for the EU parliament elections in May.

Across Europe and in the United States, the far right conservatives are gaining ground in elections. The conservatives put Donald Trump in the White House.

If left and liberal political parties had been more engaging of conservative voters, I wonder if Trump would have become President of the United States. Left and liberal parties tend to totally dismiss the conservative segments of voters. The result in the US was Trump as President. In Europe and Australia, the tension continues between the far right conservatives and the left and liberals.

Whatever one’s political leanings, it is a dangerous trend to ignore or dismiss segments of society just because their beliefs don’t coincide with those in power. Disenfranchised voters or citizens will find some means to express their resentment or anger or discontent. People of all walks should be engaged and find some political representation. Otherwise, they may be driven to extreme acts in order to legitimize their cause or causes.

Rebel groups and terrorists are good examples of people who resort to violence in order to assert themselves. Modern-day politics understand the value of engagement and for that reason, many governments are prepared to negotiate with rebel groups and some are even accepted into the political systems or given autonomy as in the case of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) guerrillas who became interim leaders of an autonomous Muslim region in the southern Philippines.

The only people no one should engage with are terrorists and murderers because they are motivated by hate. It doesn’t necessarily follow that engagement will prevent terrorists and murderers. But, it will improve the morale of conservative communities where hate-inspired terrorists and murderers somehow move around quite freely. Perhaps, as a result of engagement, more people will feel less hate and be less driven to hate speech and action.

Everyone else should be engaged. The chances of working amiably with people who are very different are greater when we can engage them. To do that, however, requires developing emotional skills sets so that we can reach out to them. We may not agree with them but we can reach out. That simple gesture, perhaps, is all that is needed to include people rather than exclude them and drive them to extremes.

 

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Pasir Gudang pollution incident is a wake-up call for local councils

Regarding the students affected by chemical poisoning in the Pasir Gudang area in Johor, the most important question to ask is whether it could have been avoided.

What was the cause of it? The state government needs to undertake a thorough investigation of what went wrong that resulted in the pollution of Sg Kim Kim that is said to be the cause of chemical pollution that has affected the health of thousands of students in the area.

Why wasn’t the cause identified much earlier? Factories polluting rivers is not an unusual problem that it should have caught us by surprise. The problem may have existed for a very long time but probably ignored or was not given the priority it demanded. This can only be the responsibility of the state government and municipal councils. And, the time is past to put the blame on the previous administration.

The fact that an ongoing major problem like chemical pollution was left unattended is simply the fault of the authorities concerned. It is time that they took their jobs seriously and started prioritizing the issues affecting the people and addressed them before another major crisis happens.

Chemical pollution, illegal factories, the rise of dengue, potholes, rat pollution in alleys, unclean restaurants, swarming squirrels in residential areas, neglected landscapes, unmonitored domestic pets owners (whose pets mess up the neighbourhood) are all the responsibility of the municipal and district councils.

While municipal and district councils surely know their jobs, what is lacking is firm but kind enforcement and getting the job done efficiently and quickly. The old way of greasing palms and looking the other way has to stop.

Instead, council staff need to just do their job. The Pasir Gudang chemical pollution incident should be looked upon as a wake-up call for all municipal and district councils to work to put the interests of the people first before their own.

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Hadi’s efforts for Malay-Muslim rule will fail

PAS president Hadi Awang has declared that the reason for the PAS-Umno pact is to ensure that Malay Muslims rule over others in Malaysia. Essentially, it is the same idea that PAS has always advocated — an Islamic state — but now couched in a euphemistic term such as “Malay-Muslim rule”, thinking it will have a greater appeal to the primarily rural Malay majority.

Both parties have been playing on Malay sentiments in making it appear that Umno — and by extension the Malays who support it — is now the victim with the non-Malays in control. Umno succeeded in the strategy of whipping up Malay sentiments in Semenyih. So the Malays, feeling sorry for their leaders and for turning their back on them previously, came out in droves to support them. Apparently, Umno and PAS believe the strategy will work in other constituencies.

Perhaps, in the short term,  but definitely not in the long term for a number of reasons.

Firstly, the very phrase “ruling over” indicates the extent of Hadi’s medieval thinking. In the 21st Century, no government rules over its people except when that government is still steeped in medieval thinking such as Afghanistan! In the modern world, governments serve the people to improve the national quality of life. They don’t “rule” as one having power over the other.  The term will scare off non-Muslims and, I suspect, a lot of Muslims as well! Whether Muslim or not, who in the modern day want anyone “to rule” over them?

Secondly, If PAS and Umno go on this trajectory to get the Malay Muslim vote, which party will lead? PAS or Umno? If PAS gets more seats, will Umno go along with it? Unlikely. Umno politicians are used to the cushy life and if it appears that PAS is making headway in establishing a syariah state, Umno will be first to jump ship! The marriage will break up as quickly as it was made!

Thirdly, as long as PAS and Umno ratchet up the “anything goes in the name of party, race and religion” rhetoric — in that order! — they will estrange the non-Malays who will resist the PAS-Umno pact. Without non-Malay support how will the two parties form a government?

About 40% of the bumiputra population in East Malaysia are Christian. They will definitely not support Hadi’s Malay-Muslim so-called rule. About 30% of the Malay vote is urban — the educated, capable Malay intelligence — and solidly supporting the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government. They won’t support Hadi because these Malays are already ruling together with the non-Malays — contrary to what Hadi or Umno says!

So, it will be impossible for Hadi to achieve his notion of “Malay-Muslim rule” which in effect simply means Islamic state — by his thinking.

Fourthly, just imagine what would happen if by a twist of fate Hadi succeeds in heading towards his “Malay-Muslim rule”.  The non-Malays will all relocate to East Malaysia and so will all their capital and finances. Overnight, Peninsular Malaysia will be impoverished but East Malaysia will gain. If the East Malaysians would have had it with Hadi’s non-accommodating ways, Sabah and Sarawak will secede and do well after secession because they will have money and resources. They will develop, probably exponentially. Would the Muslims there leave a rising standard of life and run back to Peninsular Malaysia? Very unlikely.

What will happen to Peninsular Malaysia with a Muslim-Malay rule? It will overnight descend into another Afghanistan! Now, how many Muslims in Malaysia really want that?

All this talk about the supposed loss of Malay rights is plain baloney! A lot of hot air! It’s just a strategy being used by desperate unethical politicians who are exploiting Malay sympathies and the Malays don’t know it.

It may have been PAS votes which gave Semenyih to Umno. But, I see things a little differently — maybe it’s because I’m a woman! Umno won Semenyih because its politicians connected with the ground. Voters who have been left out of the system will appreciate being recognized. So Umno politicians rolled up their sleeves, came down from their high pedestals and hit the ground, engaging the grassroots and that strategy worked.

The Bersatu candidate’s party machinery was insufficient to match Umno’s and what was apparent was that the PH’s total grassroots machinery was not made available to Bersatu.

For PH to win in Malay-majority constituencies, it has to do two things. Firstly, it has to present a united front and bring its entire machinery to the ground and connect with the voters. Secondly, it has to come up with a counter-narrative to Umno’s and PAS’s “all in the name of party, race and religion” strategy and expose it for what it really is — empty talk! The opposition does not have a solid alternative to offer, hence it is playing a game of playing with the Malay mind. PH is the government. It has what the voters want and that must be clearly articulated and communicated to the voters to neutralize Umno’s and PAS’s narrative.

If PH gets its act together, it will succeed. It may not win all the seats but it will certainly win a number.

 

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Talking about faith to keep the faith

It is unfortunate that two people were charged in court on Wednesday for insulting Prophet Muhammad. If, indeed, their speech or action was offensive and considered a hate speech or hate crime, then the police action is understandable.

Hate crimes, whether it is hate speech or any form of hate action, or whether it is aimed at religion, or race or social or educational background or any aspect of human identity, should not be tolerated. No one should feel it is a right to spew hate in any form and get away with it. Those committing hate crimes should be charged under the law.

However, if people are just questioning some aspect of a religion, it must not be mistaken as a hate crime against that religion. Many people who respect a religion may still query some aspects of it that they don’t understand or struggle to come to terms with. When they express their doubts or criticisms of a religion, it is their right to express.

Legitimate queries about a religion should be separated from hate speech and hate crimes. Punitive action should be taken on the latter but the former should be encouraged.

When some members of the faithful question the actions or thinking of their religious leaders or raise some issue about a holy book, leaders should be quick to respond in a way to generate discussion over the point or points made.

People who raise these issues may see from a different perspective and it may not be wrong, just different. Leaders who insist it is wrong and demand conformity to their point of view would only be forcing their thinking on the followers.

This is one of the main reasons for the crisis of faith many people experience. They may believe in God and believe in their own religion but may not agree with some of the teachings and practices. Religious leaders, on the other hand, tend to stop the criticisms and raising of issues by stifling differences and insisting on conformity. Some may even go to the extent of excluding members from their communities because they don’t fit into the existing scheme of things.

When people can’t handle such stifling conformity, they rebel and many would reject some of the traditional practices. Unfortunately for them, they have few alternative choices.

This is one huge area which is not addressed by religious leaders. If discussions are not permitted, many of these doubters will simply abandon their faith. This has already happened in the developed nations with a Christian past and why the Christian populations there are dwindling.

To address this problem, there should be discussion of the holy books, especially with regard to current issues that the faithful can think about and apply to their own personal context.

Such discussion should begin with the scholars of the holy books. They should publish their studies on contemporary issues in light of the holy books so that the followers have access to this well-thought-of discussion of the issues confronting the 21st Century citizen. Such discussion should also include dissenting views so that readers can make informed choices.

It would help the faithful a great deal to know that they can hold different views and yet be accepted and included within the faith.

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The strategy is to raise an honest corps of influencers at grassroots level

Islamic party PAS lied about receiving election funding from Umno but says it is ok because it was done to protect the party. In a video, PAS central committee member Nik Abduh Nik Aziz admitted that PAS received money from Umno but in a dramatic turnaround he later denied it.

He said that his denial was on the instructions of PAS president Hadi Awang as long as the money was used for the sake of Islam, which, in this case, meant ensuring PAS’ wins in the general elections.

So, according to PAS leaders it is all right to lie as long as it is done in the name of party, race and religion? I don’t know if this is what their religion teaches them but for the rest of us, it is plain lying, dishonesty. And, that’s human weakness, not a religious thing.

It is human nature when we are caught with the pants down and can’t face the truth about our failings, we resort to lies, deceit and cheating to escape consequences and we see no reason to assume responsibilities for our crimes. It is the same characteristics shown by former prime minister Najib Razak. Slapped with a slew of charges, and on bail, he walks around shamelessly as if he were the victim. In denial and delusional.

If religious leaders like Nik Abduh and Hadi say it is ok to lie sometimes in the name of God, for the sake of religion, is it surprising that the majority of PAS and Umno supporters see no wrong in accepting a bribe here and there so that they keep supporting these parties, under the guise that it is for the sake of religion?

Culturally ingrained with the kind of thinking that PAS leaders subscribe to, these rural voters believe that they are truly protecting their religion by voting for them even with a little dishonesty here and there.

That is the primary reason Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) has failed to win the majority of rural Malay support. He is up against this mentality.

PAS and Umno leaders have exploited the rural Malays by keeping them enslaved to this thinking with handouts. They get pittance while the leaders spend on mansions, superbikes and Porsche Caymans! The simple-minded voters think that is ok because they are led to believe it is all in the name of party, race and religion. In other words, these leaders are simply misleading their supporters.

These are the current realities and some may say they can’t be changed. But, I am ever hopeful that people can rise up to be better than who they are. But, how to change a long-ingrained mindset? Slowly but definitely with a focussed plan of action, like the one that proved successful in putting Barack Obama in the White House in 2008.

His volunteers, armed with a survey and well-versed with what Obama had to offer, went house to house through the farming communities in the swing states of the Midwest. The survey gave them feedback and the face-to-face encounters enabled the volunteers to talk with the grassroots about what they stood to gain by voting for Obama. The strategy apparently worked.

It is the same strategy that Invoke founder Rafizi Ramli used to win the marginal constituencies in the last general elections. Invoke volunteers called up the voters one by one or went house to house and asked first what the voters wanted before “selling” Pakatan Harapan (PH)’s manifesto. Again, the strategy worked because nearly all the marginal seats (mostly in urban areas) swung over to PH.

It’s the strategy of engagement that needs to be employed to reach the B40 group which are mainly the rural communities. If the government trains a corps of ground workers to interact with the rural communities through its aid agencies without the promise of money, they will succeed in breaking through the mentality of accepting aid if it comes with or in the form of money.

The ground workers need to first find out what the people want. Then, they need to clearly show how government aid can bring them tangible, practical benefits. As the people are engaged they will feel connected with the larger government endeavour to help them and be more open to hear of ways to uplift their lot. When government aid bears real benefits, the people will learn how to fish by themselves and become less dependant on cash handouts and more confident of their abilities to live a better life of their choosing.

In the process, they would learn the priceless virtue of honesty, that when they can live financially independent lives, they will less likely need to live by dishonest gains. In the process, they can also be taught to pay taxes and repay loans.

People are not stupid; they will recognize a good thing when they see one! When their lives improve through honest work, they will learn the virtues of honesty and it will become easier for them to decline a bribe, pay taxes and repay loans.

It is the ground-level influencers of change who hold the key to developing the rural community.

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A way for Mars and Venus to become better lovers!

They say women are from Venus and men from Mars and the two can’t fathom each other because they are totally alien species! Jokes aside, here is something that can bring them closer to each other. An American counsellor has written a book on the individual’s language of love that would help people become better lovers!

I have never in my life read a self-help book! I am not into 10 ways to find a partner or improve your business or make a million or things like that. Browsing through the bookstore last Christmas, I looked at a display table and was glancing over when NOT the title but the tagline of this book caught my attention: #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER. Then, I looked at the title: The 5 Love Languages.

A book on love became a No 1 bestseller on the NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER list? Americans still want to know about love? The citizens of the most powerful and advanced nation in the world with over 200 years of physical and intellectual development still don’t know anything about love? Despite the intellectualism of free sex, feminism, human rights, pluralism and all other aspects of modern thought, they are still clueless about love? Even with their Christian history where love is the most dominant theme of the religion, they are still struggling over loving?

Hmm. Ok, I thought, let me read it and find out why it became so popular. Now that I have read the book, I know why.

It is a very down-to-earth book. It is no great treatise on love. It does not draw a picture of how love ought to be. Instead, it shows real and practical ways people in love can meet the other’s emotional needs. That is the crux of the author’s — Gary Chapman’s — book — a way to give emotionally.

He writes, “I am convinced that no single area of marriage affects the rest of marriage as much as meeting the emotional need for love.”

Chapman is a marriage counsellor and from his experience, he has identified characteristics of love which he categorizes into five “love languages”. When partners discover the love languages of their others, they are able to do things to show love in a way the other recognises as love. This would fill up what Chapman calls the “love tank” of the partner and when his or her love tank fills ups, that person will be able to love back.

Since both partners are giving emotionally and loving the way the other understands as being loving, the atmosphere of the relationship changes and love blooms again!

I am no expert on love but the 5 Love Languages shows very realisable ways of giving emotionally and, perhaps, that is the book’s appeal. What Chapman offers is something anyone can put into practice. His real-life examples show that his approach works. Of course, he has featured the successful examples and we may not know anything of the unsuccessful ones. But, if it has worked for some, I think it is a strategy that is worth trying out.

The book also has exercises to help men and women discover their love languages.

There are two things about this book that I like. Firstly, it addresses the great lack in loving — emotionally giving. Chapman has acknowledged it and has found a way to actually give emotionally. Secondly, it has no preconceived notions about how to love. He starts where the partners are at and helps them explore options. As they begin to speak/act the language of love of the other, the relationship turns around for the better.

Apparently, this is what people want to know and so buy his book! It also occurred to me that the people in the book love their partners. They don’t want to leave their marriages; separation or divorce is only the extreme last resort if nothing else works. Their preference is to hold on to their relationships and they have the will and in some cases the faith to persevere and make it work.

I would recommend this book to all married people. Both must read the book and learn to speak the other’s love language. If nothing else, it will make them realise the importance of engaging the other in order to give emotionally and recognising the need for affirming it.

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